Getabout dispatcher hangs it up
Ray Guthke, who has manned Getabout dispatch since 2004, will retire at year's end.
Getabout is a van-based transportation service for New Canaan's senior and special-needs residents.
While serving as district manager for West Point Pepperell (later Martex), he moved to New Canaan with his wife, Mary, and daughter, Elizabeth, who is now active with the town's emergency medical services.
He and his wife lived in town for 26 years and recently moved to Norwalk.
As a second career, he first came to Getabout as a part-time driver when Bob Witt, the current president, handled day-to-day operations of the nonprofit.
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Guthke later became the chief dispatcher. He has also been an officer at the Masonic Harmony Lodge in New Canaan for many years, and was the master of the lodge, working on state levels.
In the early days, Ray said, "We had three drivers, including myself, and only two vehicles. Today, Getabout has nine drivers -- all part-time -- and five vehicles. Originally, we only drove New Canaan residents to locations within the town. Now, we travel to Stamford, Darien and Norwalk for medical appointments, making more than 40 such trips per week.
"In addition to rides to both Stamford and Norwalk hospitals and The Tully Center, we give many trips to local hairdressers, the St. Mark's Mayfair, to the polls on election days, to veterans events, to Lapham Community Center, Waveny Care Center, the New Canaan Inn, and the Schoolhouse Apartments. We carry people to wherever they want to go within New Canaan.
"We were closed on the Monday when Hurricane Sandy hit, but were calling our riders throughout that week to check on their welfare whenever possible, even visiting those whom we were unable to reach."
Guthke will be honored at a farewell luncheon on Monday, Dec. 31, along with Rod Aspinwall, a part-time driver, who will also be retiring at the end of the month. Guthke is known for his friendly and helpful voice on Getabout's phone.
Judy Fuegner, a Getabout driver for almost eight years, will be assuming the dispatching responsibilities effective January.
In one of his final calls, Guthke hopes that the town will respond again to the appeal for funds that has been mailed to New Canaan residents.
While the Getabout is funded by the town of New Canaan, the New Canaan Community Foundation, a State of Connecticut grant plus a number of local organizations and churches, donations from residents are important in helping to fund the cost of the community service.
For information, call 203-972-7433.