Friends of Heublein Tower Board of Directors

Jay T. Willerup, A.I.A.

Board President

In 2001, Jay and his family hiked up to the Heublein Tower. Being a native of Avon and a current resident of Simsbury, the Heublein Tower has always been a touchstone representing home. On this particular hike he had his small children, who were looking at it with new eyes. As he reached the guest book he signed his name and profession, architect. That seemingly simple action set him off on the great adventure to today. As the current President of The Friends of Heublein Tower, Jay is proud of the things the board has accomplished towards the goal to restore the Tower back to the grandeur of its earlier days.

The global community spirit is most evident at the Tower where between 100K and 130K people, from from 48 states and 44 countries, hike the park in a typical year.

Jay is also currently on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Connecticut State Parks, where he serves to gather the knowledge from one Friends group and share it with another, all for the betterment of Friends of State Parks throughout Connecticut.

One of his greatest joys is knowing that the Tower is still relevant today, as his three daughters enjoy hiking up to the tower with their friends just like he and his wife did in their youth with their friends.

During the Times Tower era, Jay’s father was be hired to play piano for guests at the many parties there. Little did he know nearly 50 years later his involvement would be what it is today.

As Jay looks to the future, the board continues to grow in strength and dedication. “We are fortunate to have a board that is dynamic and committed to making the tower experience the best it can be today and looks forward to expanding that experience in the future. Come to the tower to see what we do, how we do it and why we do it. We do it for you and with your generous support!”

Interesting fact: Jay loves winter. He floods the front lawn to make a skating rink and with the right snow an igloo. He also makes delicious "Rink Side Maple Syrup" for his friends and family.

William T. Case

Vice President

William T. Case is a partner in the Avon law firm of Case & Case, P.C where he practices commercial transactional law with his father Richard. Bill has been a member of the Friends of Heublein Tower Board since 2011. Having grown up in Simsbury where he regularly hiked the Talcott Mountain Trails to the Heublein Tower, he has fond memories of scaling the rocks and making it to the crest of the hill to find the majestic Tower locked and boarded up. Now, thanks to the decades of hard work and perseverance by the Friends, the Tower is being restored and enhanced and Bill is honored to be a part of this hard working and dedicated Board. Bill has spear headed the successful Hike to the Mic – Music and Art Happenings at the Tower and looks forward to the next phase of the Tower’s restoration and improvements.

When not at his desk, Bill enjoys cooking, fly fishing the Farmington, cheering on his two great kids at whatever they are doing and spending time with his beautiful wife Tria.

Interesting Fact: While a student at Union College, Bill spent a semester in Barbados and had the good fortune of being hosted by the owners of Mount Gay Rum known by the locals as “Daddy’s Farm.”

Greg Smith

Board Member, Treasurer

Pam Simmons

Board Member, Secretary

Pam and her family moved to Simsbury from Boise Idaho back in 2001. She researched the town online and decided it was the perfect place to raise her daughter. Born and raised in Saratoga New York, she has lived all over the country (Palm Beach Florida, Boston Massachusetts, Atlanta Georgia, Melbourne Florida, and Boise Idaho).

In 2004 she moved into a home across the river from Rosedale Farms, and can see the tower in the winter from her front yard. She is a PMO Manager at GlassHouse Systems and is lucky enough to work from her home office.

As organization is one of her key skills, she volunteered to run the Central School Playground rebuild committee (2006-2007). In 10 months the “small but mighty” committee raised 100K, and with parent and community volunteers, tore down the old and put in a totally new playground environment in time for the start of the school year. The look on the faces of the students made all that hard work totally worthwhile. Meeting and working with Jay and Tara Willerup on this committee was one of the highlights of that opportunity!

Interesting Fact: Pam was a Girl Scout leader from her daughter’s K-12 grades and also ran the Simsbury Service Unit for Girl Scouts of CT for 4 years.

Prati Kaufman

Board Member, Gift Shop Manager
In 2014, Prati, with her then 5 year old son, moved from New London to West Hartford to minimize work commute to Bloomfield while her husband served his country in war zones. She didn't know anyone except people at work. She was looking for a family friendly hike when someone at work suggested Heublein Tower. It was love at first hike and with every visit her love for Heublein Tower deepened. Soon, Heublein Tower became her sanctuary.

In 2018, she applied to be a volunteer at the tower shop and spent every weekend there while her son played outside. She is grateful for the opportunity to give back to the tower as one of the board members.

Today Prati has her own marketing agency to help small businesses. When she is not working, you will find her hiking to the tower during all seasons. Each hike to the tower is still as magical as it was on the first hike.

Craig & Lisa Hugel

Board Members

Craig and Lisa grew up, married in the Farmington valley and raised three kids in the Simsbury. Over the years Craig participated coaching Simsbury youth soccer, and Lisa worked at Hop Meadow Nursery School. The Tower has always been a part of our lives based on growing up and raising our children in the valley. Craig works for Arch Insurance, and Lisa is active board member of Hop Meadow Nursery School.

Interesting Facts: Craig father was one on the original board of Friends of Heubein Tower board of directors.

Darrell Cookman

Board Member
Darrell, or “Cookie” as he is known to friends, moved to Connecticut in the mid-90’s with his wife, Starr. Born in Tucson, Arizona, he gladly calls Burlington his home now. They have been fortunate to raise two wonderful children here and hikes up Talcott Mountain to the Heublein Tower became a poignant part of their childhood. Eventually, his children’s musical talent would help inspire the Hike to the Mic event that takes place at the foot of the tower each summer. After serving as a volunteer for that event, Cookie is honored to take on a greater role in preserving the Tower and making its splendor available to a growing number of enthusiasts.

Cookie currently teaches project-based learning at the Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy in Hartford. When he is not working, you might see him on an area stage, pretending to be someone else.

Interesting Fact: One of Cookie’s prized possessions is a 2000 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship ring. While working on his graduate degree at UConn, he served as a media relations intern for the team the year that UConn beat Tennessee for the title. Go Huskies!

Kyle Surprenant

Board Member

Kyle is a lifelong resident of Connecticut and grew up in the northeastern part of the state. He first came across Heublein Tower while hiking the New England Scenic Trail and became interested in its history. Kyle volunteered at Hike to the Mic a few months later and now serves on the board.

Kyle works for an environmental organization and enjoys hiking New England Trails, biking through towns and cities, watching Chelsea FC, and of course spending time with his lovely girlfriend Genevieve.

Interesting Fact: Kyle has completed the Connecticut section of the New England Scenic Trail hiking from the Long Island Sound to the MA/CT border.

Martha Hickey

Board Member

Martha's family moved to Bloomfield from Hartford when she was 6 months old. When she was up and walking her dad would bring her and her 3 siblings to hike up to The Tower. When she was 8 years old her dad’s friend was actually the caregiver of The Tower and had the key! So, between her family and his friend there were 9 crazy kids running up and down those 120 steps!

Martha worked in corporate America for 20-odd years in human resources, starting at the Travelers, moving on to CIGNA and eventually at Fidelity Investments when she moved to Boston. She returned to Bloomfield in 2005 when she moved to Simsbury and she and her sister opened Doggie in the Window in Simsbury. Every evening while driving home she would gaze up to see The Tower as the sun set. The Tower has been a big part of her life.

Interesting Fact: After completing her core courses at St. Joseph's University, she transferred to CCSU where she met a woman in Calculus (not her best subject!). Her new friend convinced her to get a passport and Eurail pass and together they ventured off to Europe where they traveled through 10 counties for 2 months. They stayed at youth hostels, B&B's, slept on the train, crashed at family friend’s homes and yes, the occasional park bench. An adventure of a lifetime!

Liz Harrington

Board Member, Volunteer Coordinator

Loren Amico-Clarke

Board Member
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