When he graduated from South Windsor High School in 1963, Hal Cummings never could have predicted that just 10 years later his law career would lead him back to the town in which he was raised.
“If you had told me that I would set up an office just two miles down the road from where I grew up, I’d have told you that you were crazy and you needed to be on medication,” Cummings said Thursday evening.
Yet there Cummings was, nearly 50 years after his high school graduation, not only having practiced law in his hometown for four decades, but also having been named the 2012 South Windsor Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year.
Cummings, a partner in the firm of Cummings, Lanza and Purnhagen, accepted the award at the chamber’s annual meeting and awards ceremony at Maneeley’s Banquet and Catering on Thursday night.
With the award’s acceptance came much humor, both from Cummings and from his law partners - Michael Lanza and Vincent Purnhagen - who took the opportunity to poke fun at Cummings’ attempts to start his own small businesses outside of his law practice.
Lanza and Purnhagen mentioned failed ventures involving laser tag, paintball, radiology and an environmental lab - none of which took root for very long.
The punchline from Lanza and Purnhagen was that they should share in Cummings’ award, as they helped keep him focused on his law practice.
But once the jokes stopped and the laughter subsided, no one could quibble with Cummings, who has resided in Vernon since the early 1970s, receiving the award, as his list of accomplishments is extensive and his contributions to the South Windsor community - business and otherwise - are myriad.
Indeed, Cummings, a graduate of Trinity College and Georgetown University Law School, has been the chamber’s pro-bono legal counsel since he became a member in 1978, served on the chamber’s board of directors for 18 years and wrote the organization’s bylaws.
What’s more, he is the Vernon town attorney, the chairman of the Vernon Republican Town Committee and serves as general counsel and is a director of the South Windsor Land Conservation Trust.
He has represented numerous religious organizations pro bono in addition to serving as a zealous advocate for various other clients.
Oh, and he also served in the U.S. Army in some capacity for 25 years, including active duty with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam.
And though he has lived in Vernon for 39 years, Cummings said that South Windsor has always been near and dear to him - despite representing developers in controversial projects in town that were not always popular with some residents.
“There are those who say that my living in Vernon was South Windsor’s gain and Vernon’s loss,” he quipped. “[But] my heart is still in South Windsor.”
The end of Cummings’ speech - his voice audibly cracking - was greeted by those in attendance - including all six Republican town councilors, state Sen. Gary Lebeau, state Reps. Bill Aman and Tim Ackert - with a standing ovation.