Joyce Olson Resnikoff, Olde Mistick Village developer, receives 2017 Athena Award

Joyce Olson Resnikoff, Olde Mistick Village developer, receives 2017 Athena Award

The Westerly Sun

NORTH STONINGTON — First a hush, then a gasp and then thunderous applause filled the banquet room at Lake of Isles resort Thursday night once the announcement was made.

Joyce Olson Resnikoff, the 80-year-old real estate developer who created and developed Olde Mistick Village, was the first and only woman on the board of the Eastern CT Chamber of Commerce, has empowered scores of women to succeed in business, founded the Mystic Coast and Country Travel & Leisure Council and fought the the Federal Railroad Administration when plans to run an alternative rail route through Mystic — had just been named the 2017 Athena Award winner.

Calling her a “powerhouse in the tourism industry,” and “a positive force for empowering women,” Geraldine Cunningham, president and CEO of Geraldine B. Cunningham Associates, one of the sponsors of the event, presented a statue of Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, to Resnikoff in front of a room packed with more than 200 people, many of them on their feet and applauding.

“I want to thank you very much,” began Resnikoff, “I am very, very honored.”

“I’ve had a wonderful life,” added the octogenarian who has been called “a pioneer,” and was the only woman on the board of the Bank of Mystic for 10 years, has supported a number of cultural and non-profit service agencies in the region, and who fought the Connecticut blue laws prohibiting retail business on Sundays during the 1960s and 70s. “And it’s because of how I was raised.”

The East Haven, Conn.-native went on to speak about a memory she has, of being an 11-year-old girl and listening to her father, the late Martin Olson, address a town meeting in faltering English.

“I heard a man stand up and speak the truth,” she said, “in a Norwegian accent.”

“I was blessed with a wonderful father and mother,” she continued, “I was the youngest of four children and before my father died, he established a trust, and he made me the head of that trust.”

It’s one of the reasons, said the mother of four sons, that she has been so determined “to see women do so well.”

Resnikoff said when she interviewed young women interested in opening a business in her iconic, eclectic shopping center, she always asked them one question in particular: What is your dream?

“Don’t give up on your dreams,” she told the crowd.

Every morning, said grandmother of six and great-grandmother of five, she gets up and goes into the office and she enjoys it.

“And,” she added, to the delight of the crowd, “I’m a cougar, I have a special young man.”

“And I am happy,” she concluded.

Earlier in the evening, Lisa Konicki, president of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, who emceed the event, called Resnikoff “a powerhouse of a business woman,” and “the ultimate collaborator.”

Konicki also highlighted Resnikoff’s eagerness to support the Westerly region following the devastation wrought by Super Strom Sandy in 2012.

Konicki recalled Resnikoff’s “incredible leadership help during the Bring Back the Beach” effort.

“She called and asked, ‘What can I do?’ and then she held a fundraiser that raised an incredible $57,000 in the first seven minutes of the event,” Konicki said. “She believes in love.”

The Athena Award is given each year to a local person who helps women realize their full potential, demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in their profession or business and who provides valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community.

The other 2017 nominees included Westerly residents Sandy Bliven, Linda Bongiolatti, Jan Chamberlain, and Ruth Tureckova, and Colchester resident Melanie Goggin.

Bliven is a real estate agent with RE/ MAX South County; Bongiolatti is a member of Westerly’s Zoning Board and serves as president of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters; Chamberlain, a physical therapist, owns First Physical Therapy in Westerly; Tureckova, is a professor at Three Rivers Community College and the student services coordinator for the Education Exchange; Resnikoff is a real estate developer who created Olde Mistick Village; and Goggin is the owner of Mel’s Downtown Creamery in Pawcatuck.

As part of the annual Athena ceremony each year, several scholarships are awarded to deserving young people in high school with records of community service.

Jessica Weber of Stonington was this year’s Falguni B. Hauser Memorial Scholarship winner, Kyla Trolan a Westerly High School senior, was awarded the Mary Lou Serra Memorial Scholarship, a $500 award given to a senior who has been involved in their community, church, or with drug and alcohol abuse prevention; Britney Lumsdon and Rashmi Hauser were awarded Konicki Family Scholarships, and Katelyn Laudone was awarded the 14th annual Athena Scholarship.

Despite the terrible news from around the country and a round the world, said Konicki when the program began, “things are good in Westerly-Pawcatuck, in our slice of heaven. They’re good because of the people.”


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