Remembering Junior Bieling

Another piece of old Staples, old Saugatuck, and old Westport is gone.

Junior Bieling died yesterday at Bridgeport Hospital. He was 80, and had been ill for several years.

Junior Bieling

A celebrated athlete at Staples, Junior — no one, then or now, ever called him “John” — returned to Westport after earning a Silver Star in the Korean War. He played football with the legendary local Advertisers team, and semi-pro softball for the Raybestos Cardinals. He is a member of the Connecticut Fast Pitch Hall of Fame.

Long-ago Westporters knew him as the owner and operator of the Jockey Club restaurant/bar in Saugatuck. He served as a bartender at the VFW, then opened Jr.’s Hot Dog Stand on Riverside Avenue — not far from the original Staples, where he had starred. He sold the restaurant in 2004.

Junior was also known as an avid Staples sports fan. For decades he was a fixture at football and basketball games. Though confined to a wheelchair in recent years, he seldom missed a game.

Junior’s wife — well-known Bedford teacher Carol Digisi Bieling — died this past November.

Friends are invited to the Harding Funeral Home (210 Post Road East) on Monday (April 2, 4-8 p.m.). A funeral will be held Tuesday at Assumption Church (10 a.m.). Interment with full military honors will follow.

To leave an online condolence note, click here. Contributions in Junior’s name may be sent to the Staples High School Athletic Department, c/0 Marty Lisevick, 70 North Avenue, Westport CT 06880.

15 responses to “Remembering Junior Bieling

  1. I loved Jr.s playfulness. You were never in his presence without realizing that he loved life, and that he liked you. His eyes smiled when he talked. He will be missed.
    RIP, Sir.

  2. What a character! And a Huge fan of Staples sports. He will be greatly missed.

  3. A Silver Star! It’s our country’s third-highest combat military decoration that can be awarded for valor in the face of the enemy.

  4. I remember Junior well. We were both Korean war veterans, and we pitched against each other in the late 50s, early 60s. I was sort of fast, he was far faster. We worshiped at the feet of another Westport pitching legend, Johnny “Cannonball” Baker. Rest well, Junior.

  5. So sorry to hear… what a great man. Big loss for Westport.

  6. Joanne Romano

    Never a time he didn’t make me laugh…always a kind man and a good friend..R.I.P. my friend! I’m sure Carol and all your buddies from Saugatuck welcomed you home in great style!

  7. RIP – He was always kind, with a big smile and laugh!

  8. Great Guy. Very modest about his Silver Star. Junior and I were talking on Veteran’s day at Town Hall with a small group. I said “When an enlisted Infantryman receives The Silver Star, he really earned it.” Junior turned to me and replied “Not a lot of Officers would say that.”
    Sometimes I’d stop in at his hot dog stand for Dogs and Happy Hours…we’d laugh up a storm. He was quick. And I soon learned that if you didn’t order “THE DOG” Junior’s way, he would shake his head and make it, but it wouldn’t be quite as good…and he was right. If there are any unnamed bridges around, they would be proud to wear Junior Beiling’s name tag.
    God Bless.
    TAPS…taps.

  9. Stephen Rubin

    He was a good man and will be missed. Rest in peace Mr. Bieling

  10. Steve Markus

    Another great one gone

  11. michael demattio

    i remember making my own french fries at the jocky club, my own hot dogs at the hot dog stand . and when i got older a little jungle juice for a nice day with jr. there was not one day out of it seems like countless days , that he did not make my time with him the most enjoyable days of my life by far. words could never express how much i will miss him! i cant remember even one time ever that the time we spent together was filled with smiles and laughter, not even once! i will cherrish his life and friendship as long as i live. i love you j.b. your friend michael “d”

  12. I had the distinct honor of meeting Mr. Bieling last year when I worked with Staples Seniors completing their annual service project. I could have stayed late into the evening speaking with with Mr. Bieling. He was an incredibly warm, funny, and intelligent man.

    After speaking for a short time, I noticed a yellowed article framed on his wall, and when I began to read the details, I was blown away by the details of his Valor and courage displayed under the devastating conditions of combat. When I asked about his Silver Star, Mr. Bieling refused to speak about the actions; however, the story captured in the article spoke of a man–at the time a very young man barely out of Staples–who was willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.

    Mr Bieling was clearly a selfless man who loved his community, his former high school, young athletes, and life in general.

    That moment is a precious memory for me. Rest in peace, Mr. Bieling.

  13. Peter Demattio

    R.I.P Johnathan (J.R) Bieling. You will be forever in my heart. My thought, my tears, and my prayers are with you as you commense into your journey to the after life. At least you are in a better place with Carrol, Pop, Grandpa Joe, Grandma Helen, and all those other great souls… You touched many with your dedication, bright look on life and your sarcastic sense of humour… Love ya “JEFF”… ;’( Tell Caroll I love her to…

  14. The Dude Abides

    One of ole Westport’s best. I had his wife for language at BJHS in the early 60′s. We Vietnam Vets salute you, Junior.

  15. I remember when he returned & the story of what he did in Viet Nam circulated all over town. I always looked at him in awe ever since. We all thank you Jr. & the rest of you Vets out there. We will always love & cherish all of you.

    Bev Breault