Hall of Fame Inductees

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Charles Parker (Business & Commerce)

1809 – 1902

When Charles Parker died in 1902 at the age of 93, his name and that of the company he founded in 1832 had long been synonymous with top-quality manufactured products that were sold all over the world. Born on January 2, 1809 in Cheshire, Connecticut to Stephen and Rebecca Ray Parker, Charles was a sixth-generation descendant of William Parker, a proprietor of the Hartford settlement in 1636.

Charles Parker was first introduced to manufacturing in Southington. There he learned the art of casting pewter buttons. He then moved to Naugatuck and finally settled in Meriden in 1828, where the first contract he received called for the making of coffee mills.

In 1831 Parker bought an acre of land between Elm and High Streets, and on it he built a stone shop. In the spring of 1832, this property became the foundation of the Charles Parker Company. As the years passed, the company added waffle irons, plated tableware (the first Meriden manufacturer to do so), lamps and lighting fixtures, spectacles, gas and electric portables, and builders' hardware. Other companies, formed from the parent company, took the lead in the manufacture of piano stools, music racks, cabinets, curtain fixtures, and nickel alarm clocks.

The Parker Shotgun, long recognized as one of the world's best made and most accurate, has been manufactured under the Parker Bros. name since the Civil War. The Parker Vise, originally patented in 1854, has had hundreds of applications all over the world. In the United States, the Charles Parker Company was the oldest and largest manufacturer of these vises and of other products as well, including its famed coffee mills.

Parker pioneered in the use of mass production methods for manufacturing in Meriden and in the introduction of steam to power his manufacturing empire.

A valued and important member of the Meriden community until his death, Parker had been elected the city's first mayor after it received its city charter in 1867. He was a member of the First Methodist Church, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the St. Elmo Commandery. Parker and his wife, Abi Lewis Eddy, had 10 children, all of whom are now deceased.

Frank R. Corkin, Jr. (Sports)

1915 – 2002

Frank R. Corkin, Jr., born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on September 19, 1915, came with his family to Meriden just six weeks later and, ever since, has called Meriden "home." Corkin is honored today for the roles he has played in enhancing the image and importance of sports and related activities through his own participation as an athlete, referee, umpire, sports writer, and for his significant contributions in the areas of community service and health care.

After 36 years as vice president of human resources and public relations at Middlesex Memorial Hospital, Middletown, Connecticut, Corkin currently serves as its Assistant to the President. In addition, Corkin was one of the founders of the Connecticut Blue Cross organization.

Corkin attended Meriden schools and is an honor graduate of St. Lawrence University from which he earned a B.A. in English, participated in varsity sports, and served as class president. He served as a U.S. Navy lieutenant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. This service spurred his writing career with the publication of Pacific Postmark, a book of wartime recollections.

Corkin expanded his writing experiences by authoring numerous articles for hospital and related journals on personnel and public relations.

Corkin distinguished himself as a sports writer, editor, and columnist for the then Meriden Journal (1947-1956). He also became widely known as a radio show host and theater, movie, and arts critic.

Corkin's involvement in the political, social, and sports life of Meriden has earned him many honors and awards. These include commendations from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Meriden's Citizen of the Year and Wilcox Technical School's Outstanding Citizen honors, and the Sportsman of Distinction Award from the Meriden Sports Reunion.

His more than quarter-century service as a basketball referee and a baseball umpire has earned him such accolades as selection as a College World Series official, the Distinguished Service Award of the Connecticut College Baseball Umpires Association, and the 1987 Arthur B. McGinley Meritorious Service Award from the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance. Corkin serves on the advisory board of Middlesex Community College and Fairfield University, and is a corporator of the Meriden Boys Club.

Henry D. Altobello (Community Service)

1907 – 1988

Henry D. Altobello, a native of Meriden and born October 1, 1907, has earned the title of "Mr. Meriden" through a lengthy list of achievements in the business and political world and through a timeless sense of dedication and commitment to the needs of others in and beyond the City of Meriden. A product of Meriden schools, including Meriden High School where he later served as the first president of its Fathers' Club, Altobello also attended Gettysburg Academy and Georgetown University.

He pursued a business career, primarily in the construction industry and with L. Suzio York Hill – one of Meriden's oldest businesses and a leader in the crushed stone and concrete materials industry. Rising through the ranks, he became the company's president and later chairman of the board. Altobello's business acumen led to his appointment to a Presidential Commission which drafted safety regulations for the U.S. mining industry.

Numerous commissions, committees, and boards have benefited from his expertise. Since 1968 he has served as a director of the National Crushed Stone Association and was a recipient of its distinguished service award. He has also been a member of Connecticut's Infrastructure Commission to study bridge and highway rehabilitation; a former president of the Connecticut Ready-Mix Concrete Association; and a member of the Connecticut Construction Industry Association, which named him its "Man of the Year" in 1985.

Altobello's concern for his native city is reflected in his long-time, active involvement in Meriden's social, cultural and political life. He was elected mayor, serving from 1954 to 1959. A former state representative from the 13th District, he has been the secretary of the Connecticut Democrat Party since 1961.

Altobello's love and concern for the youth of Meriden and of Connecticut was recognized when a state youth center on the grounds of the Undercliff Hospital was renamed the Henry D. Altobello Children and Youth Center. Governor John Dempsey named him chairman of the State Commission on Youth Services in 1965. Numerous fundraising drives have been enhanced by his leadership. Altobello's list of honors and awards for community service include those from Junior Achievement; the former Connecticut School for Boys; the Meriden Housing Authority; Disabled American Veterans; Falcon, Unison, Eagles', and Franco-American Clubs; YMCA and YWCA; and the Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center.

Altobello and his wife Josephine reside in Meriden. They are the parents of five children.

John "Beau" Billingslea (Performing Arts)

1944 –

Born in 1944 in Charleston, South Carolina, John "Beau" Billingslea moved to Meriden with his parents in 1945 where the family has resided ever since. Educated in Meriden schools, Billingslea graduated from Maloney High School in 1962. At Maloney, he was an outstanding student and athlete.

He continued his academic and athletic career at the University of Connecticut, graduating in 1966 with a bachelor's degree in political science. While at UConn, Billingslea captained and led the Huskies' football team to its first victory over long-time rival Yale University.

Following his UConn graduation, Billingslea pursued and earned a law degree at the UConn School of Law. Billingslea served as a charter member of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities project and has been a leader in the movement for equality and civil rights. Then he entered the U.S. Army and served as a legal officer in West Germany and California.

After his discharge from the Army, "Beau” (his stage name) settled in California to pursue a career as an actor. His long list of stage, screen, and television credits attests to his success in this career as well.

Billingslea has appeared in such television successes as MacGyver, A-Team, Dallas, North and South II, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Moonlighting, Call to Glory, The Young and the Restless, and T. J. Hooker. His movie roles have brought him to the silver screen in such films as Night Shift, Escape Artist, Real Genius, and Ten to Midnight.

Billingslea, the father of two children, has played feature parts in stage productions of The Great White Hope, The Fantasticks, and in Shakespearean dramas including Macbeth, The Tempest, and The Taming of the Shrew.

Nicholas P. Scalise (Art)

1932 – 2009

Born in Meriden on June 4, 1932, Nicholas P. Scalise became interested in art at an early age. His parents are Rosina Scalise and the late Peter Scalise. Always interested in art and educated in Meriden schools, Scalise graduated from Meriden High School and began his formal art education at Meriden's Horace C. Wilcox Technical School. He then attended the Paier School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut, from which he graduated with honors in 1959.

From 1959 to 1970 Scalise taught commercial and other art forms at the Famous Artists' School, Westport, Connecticut. Since then, his artistic achievements have brought him international acclaim. His primary medium is watercolor, but his total work also includes oil, mixed media, and sculpture. The art of Nicholas Scalise may be found in public and private collections throughout the United States and abroad, including Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Poland.

Scalise and his work have been the subjects of articles in publications such as American Artist Magazine, the North Light Magazine, Palette Talk, and the New York Art Review. A member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, the Academic Artists Club of Springfield, Mass., and several other groups, Scalise is listed in Who's Who in American Art.

To date, he has received 61 awards in national and regional competitions, including those sponsored by the American Watercolor Society, Wintonbury Art League, Connecticut Watercolor Society, Meriden Arts and Crafts Association, the Greene Art Gallery and the New England Silvermine exhibitions, and the Italian Cultural Center national exhibition. He has had 20 one-man shows, and his work is included in several traveling exhibitions here and abroad.

Scalise and his wife Henrietta live in Meriden. They are the parents of two daughters, Lisa and Rosann.