Remembering Jim Conant

Midway through 6th grade, a new kid suddenly entered Burr Farms Elementary School. Our friend groups were well established, but everyone liked Jim Conant. He was funny. He was smart as hell. And — this is not something one generally says about almost-teenage boys — he was kind.

As we moved through Long Lots Junior High and Staples, Jim and I remained friends. Not best friends — we hung out in different circles — but we shared classes, senses of humor, and ways of seeing the world.

Jim Conant

Jim Conant

Jim always seemed to know who he was. I had no clue whatsoever. I admired his calm sense of self, even if I couldn’t describe it at the time.

Jim went to Princeton, and made a name for himself academically (graduating magna cum laude) and musically (he was a fantastic trumpet player). I went to Brown, still trying to figure things out. We shared a good-natured rivalry.

Jim then earned a master’s in electrical engineering from UCLA. He went on to work with radar, sonar and software. He held two patents.

I went on to do whatever it is I do. We lost touch, though he lived just an hour away in Brookfield.

Three years ago, at a Staples reunion, we reconnected. I told him how much I’d admired him when we were younger. He seemed surprised.

At the Staples reunion 3 years ago, I had a great time with old friends. From left: myself, Jim Conant, Steve McCoy and Fred Cantor.

At a Staples reunion 3 years ago, I had a great time with old friends. From left: myself, Jim Conant, Steve McCoy and Fred Cantor.

A few months later we met for dinner in Ridgefield. We caught up on our lives. He told me about his marriage and divorce, his 3 kids, his involvement in youth sports and a youth math program, and his civic volunteer work.

But Jim seemed distracted. A couple of months later, he called to say why. The afternoon of our dinner, he’d been diagnosed with ALS.

He relayed the news matter-of-factly. With his scientific mind, he’d already done plenty of research. Lou Gehrig’s disease sufferers generally live 2 to 5 years, he said. Before dying, they lose the ability to move their limbs, talk, swallow, and breathe on their own.

Their minds, however, remain fine. They know exactly what is happening to them.

At that point, he was in good physical shape. He kept active. His spirits were strong.

A couple of summers ago, Jim invited a group of old friends to his house on Lake Lillinonah. The setting was beautiful; the evening was fun. He was an animated tour guide as he piloted his boat across the water.

Jim at the helm of his boat on Lake Lillinonah. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Jim at the helm of his boat on Lake Lillinonah. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Our next dinner was at Rizzuto’s. He wanted to come to Westport. He didn’t get out much, but he could still drive. He apologized for having to prop his head up from time to time. His muscles were already weakening. But he talked about today and tomorrow much more than yesterday.

As with all ALS sufferers, his decline was steady. His preferred method of communication became email. A few months ago, he wrote that he had always wanted enough time to read and listen to music. Now he had that time, but for the absolute worst reason.

This summer, Jim emailed me that at some point — not then; in the future — he would have to make a decision about living life as a quadriplegic, or not. He described that choice matter-of-factly. Right now, he said, he was doing fine.

Jim Conant, his son Dan, and an unidentified family member at Jim's Brookfield home.

Jim Conant, his son Dan, and an unidentified family member at Jim’s Brookfield home.

On Friday, I emailed Jim:

I hope things are going okay, and you’re able to enjoy your surroundings. Your comment about having time you always dreamed of to read and listen to music – but not the way you wanted to – really resonated with me. It made a profound impact. So please know that – long after our elementary school days – you continue to influence my life, in very positive ways. For that, I am very grateful.

I am thinking of you.

Coincidentally, early on Monday, I saw on Facebook that Jim’s birthday had been Saturday. I had no idea.

Two days late, I posted a generic greeting on his timeline. Dozens of others were already there.

Jim never saw those good wishes, from his many friends. He did not get my email, either.

On Monday afternoon, his brother Scott sent the news.

Jim died Friday night, at home. His sister, son and a good friend were there.

One day before his birthday.

(A reception for Jim Conant will be held tomorrow — Friday, September 19 — at 10 a.m., followed by a memorial service at 12 p.m., at the Brookfield Congregational Church. He requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Massachusetts General Hospital ALS research clinic, the ALS Association, ASTDI or Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut.)

 

Valerie Seiling Jacobs On Senior Housing: Say “No” To Text Amendment

Valerie Seiling Jacobs read Bart Shuldman’s letter advocating a “yes” vote on the Baron’s South senior housing text amendment. She takes the opposite view:

In 2011, after careful deliberation, P&Z adopted regulations to allow the construction of senior housing on Baron’s South and twelve other town-owned sites so long as 60% of the units meet the state test for “affordable.” Now, P&Z is being pressured to loosen those regulations, including reducing the required percentage of affordable units from 60% to 20%. Indeed, some people are claiming that without these changes, Westport will never get senior housing.

This is simply not true and P&Z should not give in to this pressure. First, these regulations pertain only to town property. Developers will still be free to construct senior housing on privately owned property.

Second, reducing that percentage runs afoul of the very rationale that P&Z originally used to justify the use of town-owned land for this purpose. As P&Z previously recognized, if the Town is going to donate an asset for this purpose—as opposed to putting the asset to its highest and best use, which P&Z recognized was NOT senior housing—then the town still needed to receive something valuable in return.

Under the existing regulations, that value consists of: (1) senior housing for a tenant population that is predominantly needy and which might not otherwise have housing options; and (2) credits toward a moratorium against some of the more onerous provisions of §8-30g, a state statute that applies to towns (like Westport) that fail to meet a threshold level of affordable housing.

The proponents of this amendment have tried to justify this switch from 60% to 20% on the ground that an additional 20% of the units will be restricted to “moderate-income” tenants.

But that argument is misleading. If adopted, this Amendment will likely result in a tenant population that is overwhelmingly well-to-do.

Part of the Baron's South land.

Part of the Baron’s South land.

The income test for those so-called “moderate” units is so high (just under $113,000 for a one-bedroom) that wealthy people will still qualify. A person could have $4.5 million in the bank and be collecting maximum Social Security and still meet the income test. Why should the town donate a valuable asset for the benefit of people with those kinds of means—folks who can afford to live anywhere? It’s one thing for Westport to subsidize a project for the genuinely needy, but a whole other thing to subsidize this population.

Moreover, these so-called moderate-income units will not satisfy the requirements of §8-30g, which means that they won’t gain the town any points when it comes to the moratorium. Basically, the town is getting very little in return for giving up a valuable asset (not to mention open space).

To make matters worse, this amendment proposes to exclude all of the units, including the market-rate units, from the existing town-wide cap on multi-family units. (Currently, no more than 10% of Town’s housing units can be part of multi-family projects.)

But there is no principled reason to allow that kind of increased density. With thirteen potential sites in play, we could easily find our fire, police, ambulance, and other town services seriously overtaxed.

This proposed amendment is being driven solely by a developer’s financial demands—and those demands cannot be reconciled with the core rationale of P&Z’s previous decision, nor can they be reconciled with our existing zoning regulations or the Town Plan of Conservation and Development, which place a premium on open space.

I recognize that P&Z is in a difficult spot. Some seniors are truly desperate for this kind of housing. And I understand that some people are saying that the 60% requirement is not workable.

They may be right—but the answer is not to roll over and settle for nothing more than what is already required. Developers are already required to dedicate 20% of any multi-family project to affordable housing (or to make a payment in lieu).

And, by the way, the promise that we will reap the benefit of property taxes is also only what taxpayers are already due. Of course these developers should pay real estate taxes—after all, they are not paying rent.

The answer is to go back to the drawing board to see what other types of concessions the town can negotiate in exchange for providing this kind of subsidy.

Let’s hope that P&Z has the courage to stand up for all of Westport and to do what is right for everyone. Settling for 20% is simply not good enough.

Bart Shuldman: Baron’s South Text Amendment Must Pass

Alert “06880” reader Bart Shuldman has followed the Baron’s South senior housing issue closely. He writes:

Dear Friends and Neighbors in Westport:

I want to make you aware of a very important issue regarding the proposed new senior living facility in Westport that needs your immediate attention.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is debating a new text amendment that must get passed. If it does not, there is little chance the facility gets built. If somehow it does get built, there is a very real possibility that no Westport senior citizens will have the opportunity to live in the facility. The current text amendment leaves almost every senior citizen in town ineligible to live in the facility, as it requires 60% affordable housing.  The asset test will cause most, if not all, Westport residents to be ineligible.

Many in town know I argued this point a few years back. Now it is here, and Westport senior citizens will lose. Westport residents will have too much money, or should I say assets, to be eligible. The units will go to people who have not lived in Westport, and Westport will have wasted Baron’s South.

Proposed housing at Baron's South.

Proposed housing at Baron’s South.

This is not a judgment. It is the truth. Even 1st Selectman Jim Marpe wrote about this in Friday’s Westport News. If the text amendment is not changed it truly “screws” Westport.  We give away valuable land with no benefit to Westport. Very few Westport senior citizens will live in this facility, which will be built as a Class B type building. This is not anything we would be proud to have in Westport.

To add insult to injury, there is no tax revenue for Westport. It is a disaster.

The new text amendment that needs to be passed by P&Z addresses these issues. If the new text amendment gets passed, the town will have the opportunity to get a quality senior living center that will house Westport residents. It will be a Class A building and add to our town.

Since the developer will make money, once completed the facility is projected to be the 3rd largest taxpayer in Westport.  Our schools will benefit. Our residents will benefit. But, more importantly our senior citizens will benefit. It is a win-win solution.

The current circumstances have created a terrible situation for town-owned land. Every selectman is in favor of approving the new text amendment — so should the P&Z. Every resident needs to support this. If not addressed now, Westport could give away Baron’s South and get nothing for it.

The entrance to the Baron's South property.

The entrance to the Baron’s South property.

Many residents and town leaders have worked hard on this project. We must thank them for their efforts. The mistake that P & Z needs to correct is the amount of affordable housing. It is a mistake I and others tried to highlight a few years back.

The existing text amendment that was passed locked the town into an asset test that will now truly eliminate the people they wanted to help: Westport senior citizens. Those who disagreed with me back then, now understand the issue.  Westport has an opportunity to change the situation and make this facility a real benefit to the town and our senior citizens.  Our selectmen took the time to analyze the project, and they all understand what is needed. Westport’s board of selectmen unanimously voted on this subject.

Westport needs the text amendment changed. I hope you will help. Westport could face the loss of Baron’s South forever for the correct intent, but the wrong reasons. However, Westport now has the opportunity to build a Class A facility that will allow Westport senior citizens a place to retire, while also giving something to Westport.

Looking Down On Westport

This weekend’s charrette — a chance for ordinary Westporters* to speak up about the future of downtown — features a walking tour, work sessions, panels and discussions.

Wonky, but important.

There’s also a great video, offering a bird’s-eye view of downtown.

Produced by Rick Eason — the Staples freshman who is quickly becoming Westport’s go-to drone master — it allows us to see the relatively tiny section of town, and its surroundings, in a way we’ve never visualized (mentally or optometrically) before.

But you don’t have to wait until Saturday to see Rick’s video.

Here it is:

Enjoy it. Savor it. Think about it.

Then bring your insights and ideas to this weekend’s charrette. (For times and more details, click here.)

*if there is such a thing

The Future Of Westport: Don’t Say You Weren’t Asked

With 2 major planning projects underway — for downtown and the beach — town officials are urging Westporters to make their wishes known.

Sure, you can click on the “Comments” section of “06880.” But nothing beats showing up in public, and opening your mouth.

The Downtown Steering Committee holds a “charrette” this weekend (September 20-21) at Town Hall. Satellite events are set for other downtown locations too.

your-downtown-logoCharrettes are collaborative work sessions in which design professionals, residents, merchants, municipal experts and others discuss and draft solutions to address specific opportunities and challenges.

This weekend’s charrettes follow a kickoff event on Monday. A couple dozen people heard about, and saw visuals of:

  • A park-like walkway along Parker Harding Plaza, with a footbridge leading to the former Save the Children property on Wilton Road.
  • A new 2-story retail shopping center between the relocated Kemper-Gunn House on Elm Street, and Brooks Corner — effectively hiding the Baldwin parking lot.
  • A redesign that cuts Jesup Green in half. All parking would face Matsu Sushi; half of the current lot becomes an expanded green from the river to the police lot (with gazebo and paths). At the top of the green is a new “community arts space.”
  • An area in front of the current Y will force Church Lane traffic heading to Main Street to turn onto the Post Road first.
  • New buildings on the Imperial Avenue upper parking lot.
  • Possible relocation of the police department, and construction of — yes — a new retail shopping complex.
The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The charrette begins this Saturday at 8:30 a.m., at Town Hall. A “walking tour” of downtown follows at 9 a.m. From 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.  back at Town Hall, there are work sessions, panels and discussions. From 3:30-6 p.m., “open studio workstations” allow discussions with experts about specific ideas and plans.

Sunday features more open studio exhibits and workstations (9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.), followed by a closing presentation (1:30-3 p.m.).

JP Vellotti — a longtime Westporter who attended Monday’s kickoff — says, “This is our chance to define how we want our downtown to look, and how we interact with that space.”

The charrette will also include a special aerial video of downtown, produced by Staples freshman Rick Eason. For more information on the charrette, click on www.downtownwestportct.com.

Rick Eason's video shows downtown from an angle never before seen.

Rick Eason’s video shows downtown from an angle never before seen.

Then, on Monday, September 29 (7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee presents its recommended draft master plan to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Public comment is invited.

The Commission will make formal recommendations to the committee at a future public meeting. “It is important that the commissioners have sufficient time to digest the recommendations of the committee and the public input,” says Parks & Rec Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh.

The full draft of the master plan is available at www.compobeach2.com.

Both downtown and the beach are important, and vital, parts of Westport. The changes to one (or both) may be large (or small).

How close they come to what you want may depend on how clearly (and strongly) you (and your neighbors) express yourselves.

Day On Bald Mountain

Jono Walker’s family — the Bennetts — settled in Westport in the 1700s. They lived on South Compo Road through the early 21st century.

Jono is in Pennsylvania now, but his roots here remain strong. The other day, Googling for background info on a piece he’s writing, he found a few “06880” posts about Bald Mountain. He sent along this excerpt from his longer story.

Skonk!

My snowball splattered the middle of another Redcoat’s roof. Not a bad shot.

Snow-packed Imperial Avenue was directly below the steep hill I perched on top of. It was harder than you’d think for this wily Minuteman, on his home terrain, to hit the hapless British soldiers. I’d been at it for half an hour, and hadn’t made a perfect shot — the driver’s side windshield — but the accuracy of my sniper fire on that blustery February morning was steadily improving.

The site of this ambuscade was Bald Mountain, a 90-foot promontory overlooking the Saugatuck River. The name always confused me. The rounded top of the bean-shaped hill was covered in towering hemlocks, looking nothing close to bald.

blog - Bald Mountain

From its summit I peered over the brow, at the Gault Field Little League diamond covered in snow. Directly across the river, red-bricked Bedford Junior High and gold-bricked Assumption Church gleamed in the morning sun.

Upriver, I saw the stand of trees surrounding the Woman’s Club and police station. Further away, just over the roof of the Fairfield Furniture Store on the far side of the river, was Old Hill. 200 years earlier 1,000 Minutemen dug in, lying in ambush hoping to wreak havoc on an advancing column of Redcoats.

The Gaults were just starting to gouge out the eastern perimeter of Bald Mountain in those days, felling trees and mining the moraine for sand and gravel. It would take 20 years to flatten the place, at which point they paved a road and built a dozen McMansions on the level ground that had been a rolling hill ever since the last Ice Age.

For thousands of years the Paugussett Indians maintained a fishing and trading post in the “faire fields” and salt marshes around Bald Mountain. They called the place Machamux (“the beautiful land”).

In 1661 the Paugussetts were hoodwinked into selling a portion of their lands east of Bald Mountain (today’s Green’s Farms) to the newly established town of Fairfield for 13 woolen coats, plus a little wampum.

A member of the Paugussett tribe.

A member of the Paugussett tribe.

It only took another decade or so for the rest of Machamux — from today’s Sherwood Island west to the Saugatuck River, and north to the Aspetuck River — to be appropriated by colonists. By the early 1680s all of modern-day Westport was settled by dozens of industrious freemen and their burgeoning families.

Among them were my ancestors Thomas, James and John Bennett. They were granted nearly 1200 acres. The land they “improved” ran on either side of today’s South Compo Road, from roughly the Post Road south to what was once called Bennett’s Rocks (the jagged granite outcropping now bisected by Narrow Rocks Road).

Within their property was a steep-sided hill rising from the marshy banks of the Saugatuck River. They eventually cleared it for pasture, and it became known as Bald Mountain.

At 10 years old I knew nothing about this history, beyond a vague awareness of that patriotic military action atop Old Hill. So there I was, armed and ready — a brave patriot using his insider’s knowledge of the local landscape to defend his homeland from the foreign invader.

Bald Mountain.

Bald Mountain.

The enemy approached: a bright red Studebaker negotiating the wide turn around the base of Bald Mountain. My snowball landed with a splatter more spectacular than I could have dreamed, right on the driver’s side of the windshield.

The car skidded along the snow bank. Out sprang the driver, scanning the hillside. He was a surprisingly young soldier — and mad. When he spotted me high above him he shook his fist, swore, dashed across the road and up the hill.

But — like his hapless forebears — this man’s entire military strategy (and his attire) were ill-suited to the wilds of the new world. The enemy was angered and dangerous, fully capable of rendering me to shreds, yet dressed in slippery business shoes, he was completely outfoxed.

I watched his 3 vain attempts to scale the formidable redoubt. Then I calmly turned, melting into the deep and shadowy woods, unbowed and ready to fight another day.

 

Jono Walker, back in his soldiering days.

Jono Walker, back in his soldiering days.

Qdoba Is No Longer The Newest Mexican Restaurant In Town

Last winter, word on the calle was that 2 popular Mexican restaurants were coming to town.

Qdoba came. Chipotle did not.

But when no one was looking, Señor Salsa snuck up on us.

Senor Salsa

The Westport outpost of the Fairfield-based Mexican grill just opened on Post Road West, at the corner of Sylvan Road South.

For years, that was the site of Connolly’s. During its long vacancy, there were rumors that Señor Salsa was coming in. Finally — long after everyone forgot — it’s happened.

The menu features burritos, tacos, fajitas, tamales, quesadillas and more. It seems on the Qdoba end of the scale — perhaps Cuatros Hermanos — rather than Bartaco or Villa del Sol, both of which are quite different from each other.

And then there’s Viva’s, which has been here since (it seems) Emiliano Zapata himself was alive.

But Westport’s restaurant scene is a big tent.

¡Bienvenidos, Señor Salsa!

Senor Salsa menu

(Photos by — and a hat tip to — alert and hungry “06880” reader Lisa Shufro.)

Last Ollie For The Skate Park

Everyone’s talking about the big changes proposed by the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee: a new entrance, renovation of the bathhouses, elimination of perimeter parking.

Hardly anyone has mentioned a smaller plan: the end of the skate park.

Eddie Kim knows the stereotypes of skateboarders: “hooligans, drug dealers and delinquents.” He also knows the Compo park attracts a wide variety of people, like a fearless 8-year-old girl who loves riding down ramps.

She loves the park, and would be devastated to see it close.

The Compo Beach skatepark

The Compo Beach skate park.

Kim works at the park. But during the school year he’s a teacher. He practices Bikram yoga daily, and founded his own theater company. He’s a skater too. For him, skating is a creative way to relieve stress.

Kim wants Westporters to see the value of the skate park, and the community that has grown around it. He asked several regulars to offer insights. One of the most eloquent is James Bowles, a Staples freshman.

James knows that many people can’t understand why he’s spent “every free minute” of the past 6 years on a skateboard.

He says that when he was 6, at Long Lots Elementary School, he was diagnosed with OCD. For the next couple of years he hated his life. But the moment he set foot in the Compo skate park — “heading into the great unknown” — he was hooked.

His fears and stresses vanished. He was hooked.

He visited the park every day. He dreamed of skateboarding at night. He met his best friends there. They’re different ages, but they gave him a sense of self-worth, of potential, of community. That’s something every kid needs.

The Compo Beach skate park draws quite a mixed crowd.

The Compo Beach skate park draws quite a mixed crowd.

This summer, James worked as a counselor-in-training at the Compo Beach Skate Camp. “Seeing the joy on kids’ faces when they finally roll away from a trick they worked extremely hard to land is mesmerizing,” he says. Some of them may have been going through their own troubles, as he had.

He adds:

Even though I’m still young, I’ve seen bad things happen to good people. Kids my age are swept up into partying, drinking and general idiocy. Most people assume that because I skateboard, I get caught up in that sort of stuff.

I believe that if it weren’t for skateboarding, I would have been more likely to do that. The amount of times I’ve turned down plans to do ludicrous things, because I wanted to go skate, is enough to know I’m doing something right. Skateboarding has been one of the best investments of my time.

James says that the freedom of skateboarding has allowed him to work through his OCD. It has also helped him learn to be polite, pick up after himself, and look after others.

“Compo has always been a safe haven for people to skate legally,” he notes. “It’s a space where parents feel safe leaving their children. Compo has been my favorite place for 6 years, and I can’t imagine what losing the park would be like.”

Plenty of skaters gained confidence and a sense of independence at the park.

Plenty of skaters gain confidence and a sense of independence at the park.

Others agree. University of Colorado sophomore Casey Hausman made lifelong friends at the Compo park. “It’s a great community,” he says. “Everyone is supportive. Kids don’t need to worry about disappointing teammates or parents. Any progress is encouraged and applauded by everyone, no matter what the skill level.”

Kim Celotto’s 13- and 8-year-old boys have been skateboarding at Compo for years. She calls the instructors “patient, wonderful teachers who all the boarders look up to and admire. They learn skills and confidence, while having fun with friends.”

And, she says, skateboarding’s emphasis on fun and individual growth — not “fierce competition” — appeals to youngsters who may not be interested in team sports.

Parent Debra Newman has seen many kids flocking to the park in 90-degree weather, with no shade. “Would we rather have them sitting in front of the TV, exercising their thumbs?” she wonders.

But the final word belongs to James Bowles, the OCD sufferer who found a haven and a home at the Compo Beach skate park:

“I know that the argument of a 14-year-old high school freshman hardly compares to that of a town representative. But I hope anyone reading this will see my point of view.”

Slice Is Nice!

Hundreds of Westporters — and many more out-of-towners — poured into the narrow streets of Saugatuck today.

They ambled along Riverside Avenue, Railroad Place and Saugatuck Avenue, enjoying our 3rd annual Slice of Saugatuck festival.

Food and drink was the main attraction. Over 25 restaurants and merchanats — including Viva’s, Mansion, Rainbow Thai, Craft Butchery, Saugatuck Sweets, The Duck, Chinese Takeout, Cuatros Hermanos — even 99 Bottles and Dunkin’ Donuts — offered treats.

But there was music too, ranging from School of Rock and folk to steel drums, along with stuff from hair salons, galleries and a tae kwan do place.

The weather was perfect. The vibe was cool.

And — because most people stayed off the roads — even the traffic was fine.

It was a fantastic slice of life, on a wonderful Sunday afternoon. With proceeds benefiting the Gillespie Center food pantry too, what’s not to like?

Tutti's was 1 of many Saugatuck restaurants dishing out some of its most popular items. Lines formed instantly, and stayed long.

Tutti’s was one of many Saugatuck restaurants dishing out some of its most popular items. Lines formed instantly, and stayed long.

The plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk rocked all afternoon long.

The plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk rocked all afternoon long.

What's a street festival without a bounce house? This one was in the Rizzuto's parking lot.

What’s a street festival without a bounce house? This one was in the Rizzuto’s lot.

Mr. Sausage showed up too, to help promote Saugatuck Craft Butchery's carnivorous samples.

Mr. Sausage showed up too, to help promote Saugatuck Craft Butchery’s carnivorous samples.

Downunder was busy all day, offering kayak and paddleboard rides. Nearby, boat owners tied up at the dock.

Downunder was busy all day, offering kayak and paddleboard rides. Nearby, boat owners tied up at the dock.

 

After Nearly 50 Years, The Remains Come Home

The last time the Remains played in Fairfield County was 1966. The legendary rock group was a few months away from opening for the Beatles, on that legendary band’s final tour. Now they were at Staples High School, the alma mater of half their members: guitarist/vocalist Barry Tashian and keyboardist Billy Briggs.

Rock critic Jon Landau had already described the Remains as “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

That 1966 gig was to raise money for the Orphenians’ — Staples’ select choral group — upcoming tour of the Virgin Islands.

Westporters and Remains Barry Tashian (left) and Bill Briggs flank Staples music director John Ohanian in 1966.

Westporters and Remains Barry Tashian (left) and Bill Briggs flank Staples music director John Ohanian in 1966.

After that Beatles tour, the Remains broke up. Rolling Stone magazine later called them “a religious totem of all that was manic and marvelous about mid-’60s pop.”

They reunited a decade later, for a few dates. But Tashian joined Emmy Lou Harris’ band, and moved to California. In the 1990s, he and his wife — 1964 Staples grad Holly Kimball — formed a Nashville-based duo.

Then, in the mid-’90s, a promoter invited them to play in Spain. They were up for it — and so were their rabid European fans. They played a couple of dates every year since.

In June 2013 they rocked the Bell House in Brooklyn. They were excited about their half-century return to this area: a gig in Fairfield this past April.

But in February, drummer Chip Damiani died of a brain hemorrhage.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield History Museum's opening reception for its rock 'n' roll exhibit. He posed in front of posters of his legendary band, the Reamins.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield History Museum’s opening reception for its rock ‘n’ roll exhibit. He posed in front of posters of his legendary band, the Reamins.

The loss of their “brother” — whose pounding drums helped drive the group to cult status in the 1960s, and who still played as energetically 5 decades later — stunned the 3 remaining Remains.

But the show must go on. In August — the day after Holly’s 50th Staples reunion, where she and Barry (SHS ’63) played and sang — the band auditioned new drummers. They chose George Correia, who played with Clarence Clemmons and, Tashian says, “locked right in to what we do.”

On Friday, September 26, the Remains return to Fairfield County for the 1st time since 1966. They venue is the Fairfield Theatre Company (7:45 p.m.), and they are as amped as when they played with the Beatles (and Bobby Hebb, the Cyrkle and the Ronettes).

The Remains, back in the day.

The Remains, back in the day.

“When Chip died, we really understood the saying ‘You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry,” Tashian says.

“Losing Chip makes us appreciate what we have even more. We look at each other and say, ‘How could it be 50 years?’ But it is. And we’re committed to each other — to our brothers — totally. We’re spread across Massachusetts, New Jersey and Nashville, but we really are a family.”

In just a few days, they’ll see plenty of Westport fans who for years have been part of that Remains family too.

(For information and tickets to the Remains’ September 26 show, click here.)