In 1989, Darien resident Steve Fritsch was looking to make more social connections in town. A friend told him about the Darien Lions Club. He went to a meeting, joined, and never looked back.

“It’s bunch of great guys,” Fritsch said.

Established in 1949, the Darien Lions Club is part of Lions Club International, a nonprofit social welfare organization that was developed in 1917. It now has with 1.4 million members.

Its mission is to serve. Members volunteer their time to improve the lives of those in their community and around the world.

“One hundred percent of everything we get, we give out,” Fritsch said.

There are over 48,000 Lions clubs worldwide.

Since it was founded, the Darien Lions Club has raised and donated more than $3 million to causes that include diabetes, vision, the environment, hunger, and childhood cancer.

The Darien Lions Club has just celebrated its 70th birthday. Through the decades, it has raised funds for The Yale University Eye Research Center, EMS-Post 53, Person-to-Person, Darien High School scholarships, the Connecticut Lions Eye Research Foundation, the Darien Special Olympics, and the Darien Department of Social Services.

Several years ago, Lions Club members organized a pancake breakfast with the town’s fire departments to raise money for a wheelchair-accessible van for Freddy Tucchinardi, an honorary volunteer firefighter.

More recently, the club made a donation to help purchase a handicap-accessible van for Darien resident Charlotte Butler, a seventh grader at Middlesex Middle School.

During Fritsch’s membership in the Lions Club, he has served as the club’s president three times.

Monthly meetings are held at members’ homes or the Country Club of Darien.

In the past, the club raised money through such activities as car raffles and Easter egg hunts. Due to a shortage of members, however, the club can no longer hold those kinds of events.

Currently, there are only about seven active members left in the club. When Fritsch joined, there were about 45.

“All the service clubs are hurting,” he said.

Time is also an issue, he said. People will write a check but many don’t have the time to commit to the club.

“We meet once a month, but if you get involved in a project, then it can become very time consuming, he said.

“We’re a bunch of good people doing good things, and I like to be a part of that,” Fritsch said.

For more information on the Darien Lions Club or to make a donation, send an email to president Peter Rogers at progers1optonline.net.

Artwork

Fritsch has been a painter his entire life. He currently has about 50 oil paintings at the Atria Darien assisted living facility, which will be on display through the end of January. Admission is free and everything is for sale. Originals as well as reprints of all pieces are available.

His work has recently been on display at the Royaton Art Center, Darien Library, and Darien’s Grove Street Plaza’s annual art show.

Fritsch, who paints in his home studio, is very interested in birds. He particularly likes painting herons, egrets, eagles and ospreys.

“Herons are absolutely beautiful, either when they’re flying or standing,” Fritsch said. “Their wings are wide and they’re graceful when they fly.”

Many of his paintings are of birds in flight.

“Flight is freedom to me,” Fritsch said. “Who doesn’t wish they could fly?”

Fritsch has a dock at his Holly Pond home. He takes photos of birds from his dock, and paints from the photos.

“This morning, there was a heron standing out on it,” he said. “Swans go by, egrets, they are all out there — about 50 different kinds of birds. Some real big, some not so big. It’s wonderful to watch.”

On other occasions, he researches what certain types of birds look like, and creates paintings from what he learns.

What he finds most challenging about painting herons, he said, is to “get more movement in them.”

He’s currently at work on a painting of a heron flying down to its nest. He’s striving to capture this motion in his painting, he said.

Inspiration for his paintings can come at all hours, according to Fritsch.

“I wake up in the middle of the night, rethink something, and go back to it,” he said.

Aside from birds, another passion is painting lighthouses, and has painted the lighthouses at Sheffield Island, Greens Ledge and Pecks Ledge, and Roton Point, which are all in Norwalk.

Many of those lighthouses are visible from Darien, he added.

“I have one lighthouse I drew getting beaten up by the waves from Hurricane Irene,” he said. “It was the worst weather in the world. Waves were smashing up against it.”

When he goes with his family to the beach, he said, he stares out at the lighthouses.

“I call them the silent sentinels of the sea,” he said.

For more information on Fritsch’s paintings, send an email to fritsch3344@gmail.com.

Children’s book

Fritsch is now at work writing and illustrating a children’s book about the alphabet, which is years in the making.

“It’s on my bucket list,” he said.

The book is a combination of humorous illustrations of animals and poetry. It’s designed to entertain adults and to teach children, according to Fritsch.

“There is a page for each letter,” he added. “There is a lot of artwork and writing in it.”

To date, he has completed about 10 letters.

“It’s going to be very funny — very amusing for the child and for the parent,” he said.

About Fritsch

Fritsch, who is 75, moved to Darien in 1972 from Stamford. He is originally from Wethersfield.

He graduated from the Paier School of Art (now called the Paier College of Art) in Hamden.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Korea from 1966 to 1968 at a PIO (Public Information Office). He worked as a newspaper reporter, writing articles about his unit.

His work was featured in art shows up and down the East Coast, including Atlantic City, Nantucket, Newport, and Greenwich Village.

Later, he worked for the worldwide advertising agency network BBDO (now part of the Omnicom Group) in Manhattan for 10 years, as an art director. He was involved with such high profile accounts as Pepsi Cola and Citibank.

In 1978, he left BBDO to open his own studio in New York called Steve Fritsch Humorous Illustrations, where he worked for 25 years.

“I drew cartoons,” he said. He worked on such projects as the Nestle Quik Bunny and the Kool-Aid Man.

Fritsch and his wife Linda of 50 years have two children and a 20-month-old grandson named Marvin.

sfox@darientimes.com