Steve Kanter and Laura Mintz Share Their Memories
Steve Kanter and Laura Mintz are lifelong companions who attended Chapel Haven in its earliest decade – the 1970s. The couple live together now in their own apartment on Fountain Street and receive a la carte supports from the Supported Living program. Photo by Jack Spahr.
Steve Kanter came to Chapel Haven in 1974 from a boarding school in Pennsylvania and lived in the original location at 1599 Chapel Street.
Today, at age 69, he lives with his lifelong companion, Laura Mintz, also a Chapel Haven grad and also 69, in their own apartment in the Towers on Fountain Street. The two have been together as a couple for several decades and have a special fondness for stuffed animals. Their collection spills into an adjacent room in their apartment.
“I couldn’t get out of a store anywhere without buying a stuffie,” Steve says with a smile. “We’re loaded with them.”
Asked about his earliest memory of Chapel Haven, Steve says candidly, “At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it with all their rules. But surprisingly, I did.” Steve recalls being a little homesick at first and he recalls some pushback from neighbors of the original Chapel Street location, who weren’t thrilled to have a special needs population living in their midst.
“I remember once we were going out in one of the vans and someone threw a firecracker. We’re lucky we didn’t get blown to bits,” he recalls.
But eventually, things settled down. Steve got to know the original students of Chapel Haven and moved over to 1040 Whalley Avenue when Chapel Haven shifted to its current location.
Steve has a lot of fond memories of his early years in the Chapel Haven community, including going on a lot of fun recreation trips to places like the Whalley Avenue movie theatre, out to shopping centers and other “rec runs” with then-recreation director Tim Sharon. Steve also enjoyed his job at the Yale dog kennel, where he helped out with feeding the dogs, cleaning their pens and doing maintenance around the building.
For her part, Laura remembers meeting Steve when she came to Chapel Haven in 1979 from South Bend, Ind. She had been enrolled in a day program in Indiana that was a sheltered workshop. “They had every disability under the sun at the workshop and my functioning level was at the top of the heap,” she recalls.
“My family found out about Chapel Haven through Regina Skyer,” she said. They also saw an ad in the New York Times and Laura’s mother called Chapel Haven to inquire.
Laura remembers doing her week visit in 1978. She was 27 at the time. “It took me awhile to get to know people and to adjust…My mom would call me every week. I remember Ron Berkowitz was worried that my mom wouldn’t let go.”
But eventually, Laura landed a dream job working for a downtown New Haven brokerage that later became Morgan Stanley. She held that job for 32 years, starting as a “gal Friday” and moving through the ranks as librarian, new accounts clerk and finally mailroom clerk. She is still very close with all her co-workers at Morgan Stanley. And she met Steve at Chapel Haven, who became her lifelong companion.
“When I met him in 1979, he was still living at the old building (Rossman residence). He was very shy. Steve and John (roommate at the time) graduated ahead of us. It took him awhile to get to know me,” she said.
Steve recalls Laura as “a hard worker” who was nice to be with. “I got her a ring to wear on her finger. We became boyfriend and girlfriend,” he says with a shy smile.
Asked what is special to her about Chapel Haven, Laura says “being on the golf tournament committee, as a graduate resident. I’m able to get some of my former workers and friends to come and support the golf tournament.”
Laura also loves the staff. “They understand what I’m trying to say. Growing up, people would laugh at me because I couldn’t get the right words out,” she said. “I ran awkwardly, I guess because of cerebral palsy.” Laura also has struggled with severe to profound hearing loss.
Thank you to Laura and Steve for sharing their memories! We wish them all the best!