- Associated Press - Saturday, August 9, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - After 28 years on staff, Riverfront Recapture Executive Director Joseph Marfuggi is planning his retirement from a job he never imagined he’d have in the first place.

“I never thought I’d be doing what I’ve been doing, but I’m glad I did. This has been a very rewarding experience,” Marfuggi said.

While no firm date has been set for his official retirement, Marfuggi recently informed the nonprofit organization’s board of directors that he’d like to step down from his position within the year.

“I told them it’s time to step aside, but I want to give you the time to do a thorough search for a replacement without a deadline hanging over everyone’s head,” Marfuggi said.

Marfuggi has been with Riverfront Recapture since 1986, though his work with the organization began “purely by accident,” he said.

Before coming to Riverfront Recapture, he worked with the University of Connecticut Health Center, where he was responsible for putting together a quarterly newsletter on nonprofit organization events. While on a boat trip on the Connecticut River to promote Riverfront Recapture, he began talking with the organization’s then-executive director, Denise Nappier, who now serves as state treasurer.

Nappier mentioned an open position at the organization for a deputy director, though Marfuggi was skeptical about moving from his background in writing.

“I couldn’t get off the boat. I was a captive audience,” Marfuggi joked. “But the more time I spent on that boat, the more I heard, the more I enjoyed being on the river that night. So I thought, ‘maybe I’ll take a look at this.’”

Marfuggi said that when he began his work at the organization - just five years after its 1981 founding - it was at a time when residents had no direct access to the river and there was little development in the area.

Marfuggi said that he was initially surprised at the skepticism the group’s work faced early on.

“There’s so much pessimism in Connecticut. So much pessimism then about, well, ‘if it’s really gonna be good, why hasn’t someone done it already?’” Marfuggi said. “We started doing things incrementally and we started whetting their appetites and they wanted to see more.”

Since then changes to the state’s highways have allowed the organization, with the help of Hartford, East Hartford and groups like the Metropolitan District Commission, to provide residents with open park areas on the riverfront and a plethora of events throughout the year.

“We wanted to create events that would embrace the various cultures you’d find in the area. Because no matter where you’re from, people like to be near water,” Marfuggi said. “How could you have a Caribbean Festival without water?”

Since the changes to the riverfront, Marfuggi said he never hears skepticism from residents.

“The big problem for us now is sustainability. Some of the park improvements are about 30 years old,” Marfuggi said. “We need to find a way to sustain these parks.”

Though he’s still happy to help rally funding for the organization beyond his retirement, Marfuggi said that at 73 years old, “it’s almost time for me to move on.

“I keep having birthdays, funny thing,” Marfuggi joked. “I’d like to leave while I can still walk out the door.”

Marfuggi said that because of his unconfirmed retirement date, he’d rather not focus on what he’ll do once he parts ways with the organization. Though he can guarantee he’ll be watching a lot more UConn basketball.

“I’m not moving to Florida. I’m not looking to relocate or to get a second career and I hope that I can find a way to remain involved. But it’s a lot of work,” Marfuggi said. “It’d be nice to be able to just step back and enjoy the riverfront without the day-to-day pressures.”

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Information from: Journal Inquirer, https://www.journalinquirer.com

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