Saturday, December 03, 2022

Local News

Memorial Bench Installed at Jennings Pond in Chester


From right, Vicki Iafrate, John Schroeder, Jared Hardell, Jenny Watrous, and John Divis gather at the bench installed in memory of Anthony “Tony” Iafrate at Jennigns Pond. Photo by Elizabeth Reinhart/The Courier

From right, Vicki Iafrate, John Schroeder, Jared Hardell, Jenny Watrous, and John Divis gather at the bench installed in memory of Anthony “Tony” Iafrate at Jennigns Pond. (Photo by Elizabeth Reinhart/The Courier)

There is a new community amenity at Jennings Pond in Chester, an ipe wood bench installed this spring in memory of Anthony “Tony” Iafrate.

“It’s kind of a simple thing, a bench, but we really did put it in a nice spot,” said John Schroeder, a friend of the Iafrate family and longtime Chester resident.

“I think people are really going to enjoy it. I’m sure they already are and then especially in the winter when the pond freezes and we have a nice skating season, it will come into very good use,” he continued.

Iafrate died on July 20, 2020, shortly after receiving a lymphoma cancer diagnosis. He and his wife, Vicki Iafrate, had recently moved to Chester and were newlyweds.

“He loved Chester,” said Vicki. “He always talked about how he wanted to be a townie as he got older and to just be here and become ingratiated in the town.”

The Iafrate home in Chester is uniquely situated on the banks of Jennings Pond.

“It’s kind of an iconic contemporary house that is right next to the dam, next to Jennings Pond,” said Schroeder. “And there are several houses that are kind of nestled down into the valley there as the Pattaconk Brook goes over the dam and then comes into town. [T]heir house is one of those houses.”

Schroeder, who owns an architectural and interior design firm in Chester, became involved with the home, as he worked with the Iafrates on designing a complete remodel.

The project showed what an “amazing thinker” her husband was, said Vicki.

“He just was very deliberate and thoughtful,” she said. “John and I have talked about what I miss most about him, is just his clarity of thought. He knew what he wanted, and he just took the steps necessary, methodically, to get where he needed to go.”

Iafrate was originally from Stamford and worked as an actuary for Gen Re Insurance for 27 years. He was the chief product officer for middle and large commercial at The Hartford Insurance Group in Hartford at the time of his death.

He was also a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society and was a member of the American Academy of Actuaries, according to his obituary.

In his free time, he enjoyed “riding his motorcycle, gardening, and watching soccer, especially his favorite team, Roma of the Serie A in the Italian League,” according to the obituary.

Schroeder said that the town of Chester immediately supported the idea of memorializing Iafrate with a memorial bench.

“It’s great because when a town cooperates and supports an effort, it’s just a really nice thing,” said Schroeder.

After Schroeder selected and ordered the bench, Chester Public Works Foreman John Divis installed it.

“It’s a nice addition to the town,” said Divis. “It’s a picturesque place to come down here and to sit down and just think and look around over the pond, Jennings Pond. It’s just a nice place to come and relax.”

Vicki, who can see the bench from the window of her home, said providing a relaxing spot for Chester residents is something that Iafrate would have wanted.

“I just want the people of Chester to know that…[with] everything that is crazy and going on in the world, he just always wanted a place that he could feel like he could decompress and this, for me, is exactly what he would want to do,” said Vicki.

A full obituary is available at

Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email Elizabeth at

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