Honoring Annabelle

Alert “06880 reader” — and talented photographer — Jonathan Prager writes:

The setting sun draws sacred and spiritual attention. It is a lure and magnet for peace and soul celebration.

I share these photos because Tuesday was the first anniversary of the death of my mother, Annabelle Forsch Prager. She was 17 days shy of her 99th birthday.

Mom was an artistic force. As a 17-year-old girl she traveled to Provincetown to study with renowned painter Hans Hoffman, and trained at the Yale School of Art. As a freelance professional artist in New York City she illustrated books, created games and calendars, designed a version of the Domino Sugar Girl, and eventually became an award-winning author of 4 children’s books.

Her crowning achievement was creating and leading the InterSchool Orchestras of New York for the better part of 5 decades. Starting from an ensemble of 25 bewildered students in the gymnasium of a Manhattan church in 1972 (of which I was one), she shaped the ISO into a leading children’s organization that offered musical opportunity to generations of students.

At a time when budget cuts decimated music in schools throughout the nation, Annabelle served as a champion of children, music, and music for children. Her passion and determination turned the ISO into an 8-ensemble network for children ages 5 to 18.

The ISO gave gala concerts at Avery Fisher and Alice Tully Halls, and at public schools and neighborhood settlement houses. Included were the smallest kids in beginning ensembles, and virtuosic players of the ISO Symphony. All participated without any obligation to pay. Mom felt blessed to have world famous guest artists like Kurt Masur and Itzhak Perlman donate their time to guide and perform with the ISO children.

At the Westport Library each year, Annabelle did research for the ISO gala programs and musical booklets she authored. She made time to read her books to Westport’s children there, as well.

On this anniversary, I invite each of you who knew her — as well as those who have just learned about her — to take a moment to think about and honor Annabelle in your own unique and personal way.

(Photographs/Jonathan Prager)

Pic Of The Day #1745

Compo Beach basketball court, after a recent rain (Photo/Fred Cantor)

TEAM Westport Announces Teen Essay Topic

Sure, it’s tough to talk about race.

But it’s a crucial topic. And who better to talk about it than those who will one day lead our nation: today’s teenagers.

That’s the idea behind this year’s 9th annual TEAM Westport Teen Diversity Essay Contest. The Westport Library co-sponsors the event.

The town’s multicultural committee asks:

Why can it be so difficult to talk about race? Trevor Noah, award-winning comedian, writer and television host from South Africa says, “the first thing we have to do in any conversation is figure out what the words mean in the conversation we’re having.”

Here’s the essay prompt:

In 1,000 words or fewer, describe what you would like to explain to people in your community who avoid or struggle with talking about race, or acknowledging system racism, or who apply a “color blind” approach to issues.

The contest is open to anyone in grades 9-12 who lives in Westport, or attends a public or private school here. First prize is $1,000; 2nd is $750, and 3rd is $500.

Click here for full details, and an application form. The deadline is February 25. An awards ceremony is set for April 4, at the Westport Library. Questions? Email info@teamwestport.org.


Unsung Heroes #224

I’ve written a couple of times about the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce “Order Direct/Pick It Up” initiative. The goal is for Westporters to use restaurants’ actual websites (or phones) to place pick-up orders. That’s because services like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub take meal-sized chunks of the bill for themselves.

Which got me thinking: Most of us have no clue what it’s like to run a restaurant, even in the best of times. It’s unfathomable what owners, chefs, cooks, servers, bussers, dishwashers — and yes, delivery drivers — go through every day just to keep the doors open.

We probably wouldn’t want to know, either. We’re just happy to have a menu and a meal. Hopefully we leave a decent tip.

Tutti’s owners Pasquale and Maria Funicello make Tutti’s a warm, welcoming place — despite incredible odds.

So if you have anything to do with any restaurant in town –all of the above positions, plus everything else from landlord (if you cut them a COVID break) to the valet parker — you are our Unsung Heroes of the Week.

And if you are an “06880” reader: Remember those heroes the next time you visit a restaurant.

Whether you’re dining in, or picking up an order.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

Roundup: Restaurant Pickups, Winter Olympics, The Walters …


The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce “Order Direct/Pick It Up” initiative has educated Westporters to use restaurants’ actual websites (or phones) to place pick-up orders. That’s because Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub and similar platforms take huge chunks of the bill for themselves.

Now the word has spread throughout the state. Other Chambers of Commerce are educating their residents too.

Now the Westport Weston Chamber is going a step further.

Click here, then scroll down for “direct” clickable links and phone numbers of Chamber restaurants. Now there’s no excuse to hand over much of a restaurant’s profit to 3rd-party apps.

The list includes:

  • 190 Main
  • Allium
  • Amis
  • Bistro du Soleil
  • Black Duck
  • Boathouse at Saugatuck Rowing Club
  • Don Memo
  • Dunville’s
  • Gabriele’s
  • Granola Bar
  • Harvest
  • Kawa Ni
  • Little Barn
  • Manna Toast
  • Match Burger Lobster
  • Naan
  • Pane e Bene
  • Rive Bistro
  • Rizzuto’s
  • Romanacci Express
  • Sakura
  • Sherwood Diner
  • Spotted Horse
  • Tarantino
  • Tarry Lodge
  • Terrain Garden Café
  • Tutti’s
  • Via Sforza
  • Viva Zapata
  • Wafu
  • Walrus Alley
  • The Whelk

(Graphic courtesy of Miggs Burroughs)


The Winter Olympics open in 9 days, in Beijing. Of course there’s a Westport connection.

Our neighbor Julia Marino is on the US snowboarding team (slopestyle/big air).

With no fans, friends or family — plus COVID rules, political pressure, burner phones (!) and zero real snow (!!), it will be nothing like her previous Olympics.

Westport journalist Dave Briggs interviewed our local Olympian for his Westport Lifestyle Instagram Life series. Click here for her candid, up-close-and-personal view of these very unusual Olympics Games.

Dave Briggs and Julie Marino.


Last month, “06880” reported on The Walters. The band — fronted by 2010 Staples High School graduate Walter Kosner had broken up, but became social media-famous thanks to a sudden slew of TikTok videos.

I included a link to their biggest hit, “I Love You So.”

But tomorrow (Thursday, January 27, 11:35 p.m.), Westporters — and everyone else in the world — can watch The Walters live. They’ll be on Jimmy Kimmel Live, on ABC.

They probably won’t be on for 15 minutes. But they will be famous.


Several Staples students have taken the first step toward national recognition.

Judges have chosen winners in the PTA’s annual Reflections contest. They advance to the state level; after that comes the national competition.

Congratulations to 1st place winners Charlie Jandora (Literature), Jason Capozucca (Music) and Shivali Kanthan (Visual Arts), runners-up Josh Gordon, Jadon Laitman and Camille Vynerib, and 3rd-place finisher Hugh Kennedy.

Reflections winners: Front row (from left): Charlie Jandora, Shivali Kanthan, Camille Vynerib Rear: Jason Capozucca, Jaden Laitman, Hugh Kennedy, Josh Gordon, principal Stafford Thomas.


We’re midway through dog season at Compo Beach. They take to the sand and shore like they own it. Which — from October to March — they do.

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo comes courtesy of Karen Como.

(Photo/Karen Como)


And finally … on this date in 1934, the Apollo Theater reopened in Harlem. Begun as a white-only burlesque house in 1914, it fell into disrepair. It was transformed 2 decades later into a jazz venue, with primarily Black performers and patrons.

Duke Ellington was on the opening day bill in 1934. So was Benny Carter and his Harlem Club Orchestra. He probably played this hit, recorded 3 months earlier:


Facing Grief, To Live A Full Life

Dustin Lowman and Julie Blitzer met at a Westport Little League field.

There — as Dustin coached Julie’s son’s team of young boys — he and she talked about death.

We all experience loss — but we seldom know how to deal with it. Julie — who has been trained by the Grief Recovery Institute — shows us how, with insight, wisdom and compassion.

Dustin is still in his 20s. A 2011 Staples High School graduate, he’s now a freelance writer and musician. Most people his age, doing what he’s doing, don’t think about loss and grief.

But he immediately got what Julie said.

“The general perception of grief is that it’s unpleasant,” Dustin notes. “It actually gives you a chance to reflect, and go inward. If you face it head on, it doesn’t have to be negative.”

Julie Blitzer

When Julie encourages people to tell stories and share memories during the grieving process, she says, it inevitably leads to lightness and laughter. It’s fulfilling, offering opportunities to share, connect, and appreciate life.

“Looking at the monster under the bed makes it less scary — especially when you do it with others,” adds Diane Lowman. She’s Dustin’s mother, and Westport’s poet laureate.

On February 2 (6:30 to 8 p.m.), Diane and Julie team up to offer a free workshop at the Westport Library.

Through writing and mindfulness exercises, “Exploring Grief, Mortality and Vitality” will help participants address the 4 aspects of the human experience –mental, physical, emotional and spiritual — in order to gain a life-affirming perspective about death.

“You don’t have to be grieving to find a benefit” from their session, Diane explains. It’s designed for anyone who wants to lead “a more vital life,” and be prepared for loss whenever it arises.

“The biggest pain point is unresolved grief,” Diane says.

“If we can be more mindful of grief during life, we can lessen that pain.”

(For more information, and to register for “Grief, Mortality and Vitality,” click here. For Julie Blitzer’s website, click here.) 

Pic Of The Day #1744

Horses at Sherwood Island (Photo/Claudio Sherwood Servidio)

Roundup: State Of The Town, Cheesecake, Bagels …


We have the State of the Union speech, and the clumsily named State of the State speech.

But what about Westport?

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Board of Education chair Lee Goldstein address the “State of the Town” on Sunday, February 6 (2 p.m., Westport Library).

The pair will review accomplishments during the past year, and preview some upcoming initiatives. A question and answer session will follow, led by RTM moderator Jeffrey Wieser.

Questions may be emailed before and during the State of the Town to WestportSOTT@gmail.com.

The event will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and broadcast on public access channels 79 (Optimum) and 6020 (Frontier). Click here to register for in-person attendance or a Zoom link. The event is co-sponsored by Westport Sunrise Rotary and the Westport Rotary Club.


What’s the state of our town? Find out on February 6. (Photo/JC Martin)


Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist — and 1991 Staples High School graduate — Lynsey Addario spent nearly 3 years photographing Marieke Vervoort as she prepared to die. The Belgian woman — a Paralympics gold medalist as a wheelchair sprinter — suffered from a painful degenerative muscular disease.

Under Belgian law, she chose to end her life. Addario’s 2019 New York Times story was raw, intimate and powerful. She also wrote about what the reporting and photography of that story meant to her, personally.

Yesterday, the Times released a podcast of that story. Addario revisits that story, and all its emotions, in a riveting episode. Click here to access it. (Hat tip: John Hartwell)

In her final hours, Marieke Vervoort embraces her parents. (Photo/ copyright Lynsey Addario for New York Times)


The Joggers Club Jr. is back for a 2nd season of fun.

Youngsters in kindergarten through 8th grade can train with accomplished athletes, including speed and strength coaches.

It “runs” (ho ho) Sundays (2 to 3:15 p.m.), from April 3 to May 22, at the Staples High School track. The cost is $49 for Joggers Club members, $99 for non-members.

The camp is open to only 35 runners, and sold out last year. To join, Venmo @TheJoggersClub.ct.

Registration opens this Sunday (January 30, 6 a.m.). Click here, then complete the waiver under the “Members” section. Once that is complete, email the name and age of the registration to TheJoggersClub@gmail.com. Confirmation will be sent within a day.


Speaking of jogging: It’s a good way to work off any extra pounds from The Cheesecake Collection.

Westporter Anthoula Pantzos now makes beautiful, custom — and superb — cheesecakes. She grew up around the desserts — including at her family’s Greek restaurant in Stamford — and her husband (a chef) makes them too.

They come in Classic, Trendy and Seasonal varieties. Customers can also build their own. Pantzos offers 8-inch and 10-inch cheesecakes, plus mini-cakes, cheesecake bars, and special items for Valentine’s Day. Click here for the website.

Pick-up is available with 2 days’ notice. Free delivery is available on Saturdays, within a 10-mile radius of Westport.

Click here for the full story on CTBites. (Hat tip: Christine Meiers Schatz)

Anthoula Pantzos, with one of her cheesecakes. (PHoto courtesy of CTBites.com)


Speaking of food: A Westport bagel maker has made the New York Post‘s list of “the most sought-after pastries at NYC’s best bakeries.” The paper says:

“Putting it bluntly, New Yorkers are begging for these bagels. Popup Bagels, a subscription-based bakery with roots in Westport, Connecticut, won the vaunted title of best bagel at the Brooklyn BagelFest last October.

“Owner Adam Goldberg, 47, told The Post that his bagels’ ‘fun collaborations and freshness’ make them real winners. His recent ‘awesome flavors’ range from dill pickle and caramelized onion to Utz Cheese Ball powder and Mike’s Hot Honey.”

Adam Goldberg with his Brooklyn Bagelfest award.


As of this week, the FCIAC is allowing non-parent fans back into winter high school sports events.

The Staples gym was packed last night, for the first time in 2 years. Students from the home team and Wilton were equally raucous in support of their squad, 2 of the top in the league. The Warriors prevailed 50-47 in overtime.

The 2021-22 Staples High School boys basketball team.


The link provided by AAPI Westport for the February 5 Lunar New Year celebration (Westport Weston Family YMCA, 1 p.m.) was broken. Registration is requested, but not required. Click here for the correct link.


Dale Eyerly Colson — a Westport resident for over 60 years, and a 1963 Staples High School graduate — died last week in Pittsboro, North Carolina. She was 76.

While studying sociology and economics at Salem College in Winston-Salem, she met West Point Cadet Robert Colson on a blind date before the Army-Navy football game. In June of 1967, they both graduated college and were married — all in the same week.

During 54 years of marriage they lived in 7 states, courtesy of the US Army. They were apart only while Robert served in Vietnam.

When he left the Army in 1976 they returned to Connecticut. Dale joined Travelstar, a full-service travel agency started by her mother. She was influential in the industry. She wrote “View from the Bilge,” a humorous column that ran regularly in a travel industry trade publication, and started the Cruise Compendium, which offered training to travel agents who hoped to specialize in cruises.

When her mother retired, Dale took over Travelstar and led the agency to a national award.

After closing the agency in 2003, she worked for 10 years with Tauck World Discovery as a proofreader and fact checker. Her work in the travel industry was matched by her love of travel itself. She visited relatives in England and Scotland, and traveled to 5 continents.

In 2013, Dale and Robert moved to Fearrington Village in Pittsboro. Their home became known as the “house on the edge of the deep, dark woods.” Friends on social media read frequent accounts of her adventures there.

She was active in her community, editing the newsletter for Women of Fearrington, volunteering in elementary schools in Chapel Hill and Chatham County, and singing first alto with the Fearrington Village Singers.

Dale is survived by Robert; daughter Amanda (David) of Chapel Hill; granddaughters Claire of Berlin, Germany and Lucy of Chapel Hill; sister Beth van Dijk of Little Britain, Ontario, and many nieces and nephews.

Because she made an anatomical gift to Duke Medical School, no funeral arrangements are planned. Those wishing to honor her life may make donations to the Jordan-Matthews Arts Foundation in Siler City, NC or CORA Food Bank in Pittsboro, NC, 2 organizations she supported.

Dale Eyerly Colson


Okay — so the Compo Beach jetty doesn’t qualify as “natural,” for our “Westport … Naturally” feature.

But the dusting of snow yesterday, and the waves lapping up against it, sure do.

(Photo/Betsy Amitin)


And finally … on this date in 1858, Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” ws played at the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter (also named Victoria), and Friedrich of Prussia. It’s still heard 164 years later, at nearly every wedding, everywhere.

Jen Tooker Celebrates Her Father’s Life

Bob “Pops” Salmon died suddenly last week. He was the father of 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, and lived the last 18 months of his life with her and her family.

He attended campaign events, and reveled in her election 2 months ago.

Tooker says: “He was a special man. Our whole family has felt blessed with him living with us these last 18 months. It was the opportunity of a generation to have a beloved father/grandparent
in our house.”

Bob “Pops” Salmon with 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and her husband Mo.

This weekend, she posted a message on social media:

Today we celebrated the happy, full life of Pops (Bob Salmon), surrounded by family.

He was selfless, kind-hearted, generous … silly, goofy, funny … thoughtful, loyal, devoted … warm, personable, good-natured.

With a twinkle in his blue eyes and a smile on his face, he searched for and found the good in everyone he met. Pops was a devoted and loyal husband, a proud and caring father, and a fun and loving grandfather.  We are all heartbroken.

Bob Salmon with his daughters: 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker (left) and Shawna saussus.

We know Pops will live on within each of us, and for that we are so grateful.

If you’d like to honor Pops (Bob Salmon), we’d be delighted to have you make a donation to the Friends of the Westport Center for Senior Activities, a place he greatly enjoyed while living in Westport.

Huge hugs to all!

Bob Salmon (2nd from right) with (from left): son-in-law Mo Tooker, granddaughter Riley Tooker, daughter Jen Tooker, granddaughter Nicole Tooker, and daughter Sawna Saussus, at 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker’s swearing-in ceremony in November.

Bury The Wires? Not So Fast!

Recent tree cutting by Eversource and Metro-North at the Westport train station evoked a predictable response: Bury the power lines!

It sounds doable, though probably expensive.

Recent tree removal (and overhead wires) at the Westport train station. (Photo/Matthew Mandell)

But that’s not the only issue. A Westporter with long experience in areas like this writes:

To “burying the lines” — and not just those owned by Eversource, but also phone (now owned by Frontier) and cable (Optimum) — you’d need to:

  • Get all 3 companies working on the project simultaneously
  • Get 100% of every house, building, traffic signal, street light, closed circuit TV camera, fire siren, crosswalk signal, etc., to agree to go underground
  • Every existing overhead service would need to be prepared for the new underground connection in advance (and all work on private property up to and including the meter box and service panel at the home or building is the responsibility of the owner — costing at least several thousand dollars for just a simple home (200 amp, which is not the average with today’s large homes)
  • Once all are agreed 100%, the underground system would be installed in conduits in trenches alongside or within the street, including pad-mounted transformers (boxy containers roughly 3 x 4 feet by 3-foot high, located along the street on the shoulder of the road)
  • Each home or building owner would trench from the transformer pad to the location on the house or building where the meter would be (all trenching on private property is done by the home or building owner’s contractor, paid for by the owner)
  • Once all is ready (as in 100%), the system would then be transferred to the new underground wiring from the overhead
  • Only when all the above is done 100%, and every building is operating on the new underground system (electric, phone and cable), can the old overhead system of wires, poles and transformers be removed.

If all this sounds very complicated, very expensive and nearly impossible: It is!

Which is why the overhead system we look at continues as the source for somewhere around 90% of most towns’ residences and commercial buildings in this area.

Cables on South Compo Road. Burying these lines is far easier said than done. (Photo/Morgan Mermagen)