Remembering Claire Ford

Claire Moran Ford — a longtime Westporter and civic volunteer, whose beautification efforts enhance our town decades later — died July 28, at 89. She was surrounded by her loving family and parish priest.

The Long Island native thoroughly enjoyed Cornell University, where she received a BS in home economics and met Clark George Ford. They wed in 1954 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and lived in New York City and Germany, while Clark served in the U.S. Army. The couple settled in Westport in 1959, where they raised 3 children. Claire lived in their home on Timber Lane until 2015, and sold their home earlier this year.

She lived a full life enriched by family, social, professional, educational, religious, and volunteer experiences. She was an avid reader and gardener, and enjoyed cooking meals and hosting parties for family and friends. Claire was also an exceptional listener, problem solver and friend.

Claire’s early career was in marketing, starting with Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, then with Young & Rubicam in Manhattan. She later worked for the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, after which she was a realtor in Westport with William Raveis and Coldwell Banker.

Claire Ford

Claire’s numerous volunteer activities included first chair of the Westport Beautification Committee. Established by First Selectman John Kemish in 1968, in partnership with the Planning & Zoning Commission, under Claire’s leadership the committee purchased small parcels of land, transforming them (and existing town land) into beautiful parks.

Working with the town and Westport Woman’s Club, the Beautification Committee contributed to the success of the Greening of the Post Road initiative, responsible for the thoughtful planting and care of trees and shrubs along the heavily traveled route.

Nearly 50 years later, some of the first trees planted still add to the beauty of Claire’s favorite town. After stepping down as chair, Claire continued serving on the Beautification Committee for decades.

She also chaired the flower committee, taught religious education and managed audio/visual equipment usage at St. Luke Parish, where she was a parishioner from 1959 until her death.

Claire served on the Westport Republican Town Committee and was a member of the Westport Woman’s Club, Westport Young Woman’s League, League of Women Voters of Westport and Republican Women of Westport. She volunteered at STAR, supporting individuals with special needs. She also volunteered at the Connecticut Unemployment Office, bringing both assistance and compassion to those going through a hard time.

Claire served as a justice of the peace, and enjoyed providing joy by performing weddings. She was an active supporter of her children’s interest in scouting, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, serving as a Cub Scout den mother and a Girl Scout troop leader, while also serving on the Board of the Southwestern Connecticut Girl Scouts Council.

Claire’s social activities included the “Beach Bunch” (friends who celebrated and thoroughly enjoyed Compo Beach together for nearly 60 years); Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Community Theater, Westport Community Gardens (founding member), the Gourmet Club, Food & Friends, County Capers and Cotillion dance clubs, multiple book groups, Cornell Club of Fairfield County (president for 10 years), Cornell Class of ‘53 (reunion chair for many reunions, and Columbine Investment Club.

Claire was always curious and adventuresome. She said she lived vicariously through her children, encouraging and supporting them in pursuing their interests. However, generations of family and friends continue to be inspired by her involvement in the world around her.

Claire’s most recent return to the classroom was at Norwalk Community College where in her mid-80’s she took several courses, fueling her passion for learning about history and the ever-changing world.

In her teens during the 1940’s she loved to pilot airplanes. In her 20s she took racing lessons using her beloved 1953 Jaguar XK-120. Claire and Clark had a lifelong love of travel, and took their family on trips within the US, and across Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.

During her nearly 53 years of marriage to Clark, Claire exemplified the perfect partner. She was loving, collaborative, supportive, insightful, objective and independent, inspiring her children and grandchildren (among others) to live happy, healthy and balanced lives.

In recent years Claire lived at Maplewood at Strawberry Hill and, when it opened, Maplewood at Southport, where she socialized with her many new friends. She served on the Residents Committee, participated in the book club, attended movie screenings and outings with family and residents, and hosted numerous family gatherings, much as she had done throughout her life.

Claire is survived by her children, Jeff, Suzie and Chris; grandchildren Blair, Jaime, Max and Chloe, along with nieces and cousins. Her brother, Lawrence Joseph Moran, passed away 22 days after she did. Her husband Clark died in 2007.

A funeral mass will be celebrated at St. Luke Church on Saturday, November 6 (10:30 a.m.). It will be live streamed at https://www.saintlukewestport.org. A celebration of life luncheon will follow immediately.

Letters of condolence can be sent to Claire Ford Family, 606 Post Road East, Suite 3, #507, Westport, CT 06880 or clairefordfamily@gmail.com.

In lieu of flowers, donations “in memory of Claire Moran Ford” can be made to the Cornell Annual Fund online at www.giving.cornell.edu. There is a section online to specify “Cornell Fund” and another to specify “in memory of” information. Checks can be mailed to: Cornell University, Box 37334, Boone, IA 50037-0334.

Roundup: Community Garden, Dog Fest, More Marathon …

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The Westport Community Gardens are one of our town’s true hidden gems.

Located just south of Long Lots Elementary School, they’re more than a place to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers — though the dozens of plots are great for that.

It’s also (as the name says) a true community. Gardeners trade tips, bounty and gossip. They socialize, and throw parties. They nurture the soil, and friendships.

A few openings may come up soon. Some more may be available next spring. Westport residents and Westport town employees are eligible. To get on the waitlist, click here.

Remember: The early bird gets the worm.

Taking a quick break at the Westport Community Gardens.

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Among the winners at yesterday’s Dog Festival: Oliver, with best trick. He did a few sits, downs and shakes. His grand finale was a “big baby”: He jumped into owner Scott Martin’s arms.

Afterward, he posed (below) with Scott Martin, and kids Cody and Emrys Martin.

Missed all the action? What a bitch!

But the next Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Dog Fest is less than a year away. In 2022, it returns to its regular spring slot.

(Photo/Kelsey Martin)

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Yesterday’s Roundup highlighted Todd Suchotliff. A newcomer to town, he’ll be running during next Sunday’s New York Marathon — through Westport. It’s a fundraiser for his mother, who died of leukemia 9 years ago tomorrow.

He created a Google Sheet — with mile markers and approximate times — for people to sign up to run or cheer for each mile along the route. He will start at 9 a.m., and plans to run an 8:42 mile pace.

For more information, email coachtoddwestport@gmail.com. To donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, click here.

Todd Suchotliff and his kids.

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Bamboo grows wild — and rapidly — in Westport.

I wrote about it in 2013. It continues today, as this “Westport … Naturally” photo from Narrow Rocks Road, off South Compo, shows.

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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And finally … happy 74th birthday to Laura Nyro. The singer/songwriter made many great recordings. But she’s best known for the many artists that had great success covering her tunes.

JC Martin adds: “Laura lived in Danbury for many years, and recorded some of her last material in a studio she built on her property. It was one of the first studios to have a separate floor for the drummer, detached from the rest of the band. For ‘Mother’s Spiritual’ she brought in Todd Rundgren to help produce some of those songs, along with her friend and Danbury neighbor Felix Cavaliere.

“She died of ovarian cancer in Danbury in 1997, at 49. Her ashes were scattered beneath a maple tree on the grounds of her house.”

Remembering 70 Compo Mill Cove

On the one hand, it was just another in Westport Journal’s continuing coverage of teardown homes. Last week, they reported that 70 Compo Mill Cove will soon be demolished.

The website noted the facts: “Built in 1922, the 2-story cape has 1,000-square-feet of living space, four bedrooms, one and a half baths, piers, a deck and a finished upper story.”

It’s just one more loss of an old house — though more visible than most, to anyone gazing across Old Mill Beach, while walking on Hillspoint Road.

70 Compo Mill Cove (Photo courtesy of Westport Journal)

But this is a particularly historic house. It belonged to longtime town historian — and beloved civic volunteer — Allen Raymond.

It also was the scene of one of my most memorable moments as publisher of “06880.” In the early spring of 2014 I was privileged to be with Allen, as he made his last visit to the home that had belonged to his family since 1922.

He was 91, and dying. But as we sat in a sun-filled room by the water, his eyes shone.

It was both a difficult piece to write, and an easy one. The words flowed, but I knew they had to be right.

Here’s how I began:

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Allen Raymond has lived on Compo Cove since 1922.

The unique, beautiful spit of land drew his parents to Westport nearly a century ago, and kept Allen here ever since. (He added a house on King’s Highway, which is perfectly fitting. It’s the most historic part of town, and no one knows Westport’s history better than Allen Raymond.)

Allen is 91 years old now, and his heart is failing. This afternoon — the first sparkling day of spring — he visited his beloved Old Mill home. It’s rented out, but he sat on the porch, gazed at the rippling high tide and spectacular views of Compo Hill, and reminisced.

Allen Raymond this afternoon, in the Compo Cove home he has loved for 91 years. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen Raymond this afternoon, in the Compo Cove home he has loved for 91 years. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen spoke about his childhood days on the water, his summers growing up, and the life he’s lived here — and loved — ever since.

What a remarkable 9 decades Allen has spent in town.

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You can click here to read the rest of the story, and learn more about the amazing Allen Raymond. (Spoiler alert: He’s one of the main reasons the town owns Longshore today.)

We should not forget people like him — the men and women who made Westport what it is.

And though it soon will be gone, we should not forget the small homes like his, which nurtured his lifelong love for the town — and contributed mightily to its beauty.

Allen Raymond, March 2014. (Photo/Scott Smith)

 

Pics Of The Day #1643

The shore was the place to be late this afternoon.

A spectacular rainbow appeared. And a ton of “06880” readers had the same idea.

Burritt’s Cove (Photo/Daniel Vener)

Minute Man Monument (Photo/Sean Costello)

Buena Vista Drive, on Compo Hill (Photo/Deborah Greenberg)

Compo Cove, from Hillspoint Road … (Photo/Maureen Aron)

Old Mill Beach (Photo/Jarret Epstein)

Of Course, It’s Restaurant Week

There’s always something new on Westport’s dining plate.

Even during the pandemic, new restaurants opened all around town. Long time eateries adapted, tweaking menus, offering takeout, and rising to challenging times.

Now’s your chance to sample them all — old and new.

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s “Restaurant Week” starts today (Sunday, October 17).

Actually, that’s a misnomer. The event is 2 weeks — it runs all the way through October 31.

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event features 15 spots (one for each day of the promotion). They offer prix fixe meals, from one end to the other, with a variety of cuisines and price points.

Lunches begin at $20; dinners, $25. Brunch, from $25 up, is also offered at some locales.

California-Mediterranean fusion is on the menu at Capuli, in the former Westport Pizzeria Post Road East space.

This is a perfect chance to head to new spots. Then visit an older one you’ve always wanted to try.

And after that, hit up an old standby.

On November 1, you can head to the Y.

Participating restaurants:

  • 190 Main
  • Allium Eatery
  • Boathouse
  • Capuli
  • Gray Goose (pending)
  • Harvest
  • La Plage
  • Pane e bene
  • Rive Bistro
  • Rizzuto’s
  • Romanacci
  • Spotted Horse
  • Tarantino
  • Tutti’s
  • Via Sforza

For more details — including menus — click here

Photo Challenge #355

If you’ve been to Hudson Malone, you knew the answer to last Sunday’s Photo Challenge.

If you haven’t, you didn’t. (Which leads to: Why not?)

Doug Quinn’s popular restaurant at the corner of Main and Canal Streets has plenty of artwork. Much of it relates to Westport (including Paul Newman, who would have loved the place).

Then there’s a woman reclining on a wine bottle, underneath a cow’s head. (Click here to see.)

Jacqui Bidgood, James Weisz, Rachel Halperin-Zibelman, Robert Mitchell, Andrew Colabella, Phil Kann and Deirdre O’Farrelly all knew that both could be found on Hudson Malone’s outdoor patio.

This week’s Photo Challenge is semi-artistic — and semi-grungy. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

Roundup: Car Robbery, NY Marathon, Election Debate …

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The weather was great — and crowds large — for yesterday’s Westoberfest.

It wasn’t just about the craft beers. Among the scenes at the Westport Downtown Association-sponsored event: fun for kids.

(Photo/JC Martin)

A Post Road West business owner writes:

A technician was in my store Thursday evening, fixing our Wifi network and cameras.

Around 10 p.m. he saw a guy trying to break into his car, which was parked in front. He banged on the window to get him to stop. He didn’t want to step outside, because the man had a backpack. My network guy didn’t know if there was a weapon inside.

My guy called the police. The cops arrived very quickly.

Incredibly, while waiting for the police, my guy started praying for a safe resolution. When he looked outside, the robber stopped trying to break into the car. He started sobbing and praying as well.

My guy said that somehow his prayer had something to do with the change of heart of the would-be robber.

The police took him in without incident. But they said that was the third call of a car break-in that night.

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Todd Suchotliff moved to Westport this summer. He’s enjoyed running through town. Next Sunday (October 24) he’ll run the New York Marathon — right here.

He encourages his new neighbors (and strangers!) to cheer him on, or join him for part of the route.

It’s his 9th straight NYC Marathon — and the 2nd virtual one. He runs in memory of his mother, who died of chronic lymphocytic leukemia 9 years ago this Tuesday. It’s his way of keeping her fighting spirit alive (and supporting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society — click here to help).

Todd has been training with his kids, and been motivated by the beauty of Westport.

His long runs start at his home on River Lane. He goes down Wilton Road, across the Saugatuck, up Cross Highway to Sturges Highway, down across Post Road to Greens Farms Road, turning at Hillspoint Road to Compo and through Longshore, then back across the Saugatuck on Bridge Street, up to Wilton Road and home.

“I realize it looks crazy, written out like that,” todd says. “But that’s more or less (actually more) the marathon route.”

His shorter runs, with his kids, include Compo and Longshore. They finish at the beach playground, and top the day off with donuts from Coffee An’ on the way home.

Todd Suchotliff and his kids.

Todd’s “NYC Marathon” route through Westport.

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As the days dwindle before the election, the League of Women Voters Westport is gearing up for a pair of debates. They’re set for Monday and Tuesday, October 25 and 26 (7 to 9 p.m.).

The first debate includes candidates for first and second selectmen, and the Boards of Finance and Assessment Appeals.

The second is for the Board of Education, and Planning & Zoning Commission.

Candidates will be in Town Hall, but there is no live audience. The debates can be watched on Cablevision Channel 79, or livestreamed from the town website.

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There must be a reason this driver chose this parking spot at Long Lots Elementary School.

But I sure don’t know what it is.

Guesses are welcome. Click “Comments” below.

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In the midst of COVID, Staples High School Class of 2002 graduate Sarah Kesselman and her boyfriend Hermes Arriola filmed a series for YouTube. it features snacks from other countries.

It was a hit. Viewers soon sent in their own snacks,. Sarah likes the sweet ones; Hermes, the salty ones. Hence the name: “Salty and Sweet.”

Click here for the channel. below to enjoy “Oreos from Around the the World.” Who knew?

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Halloween comes early to the Westport Weston Family YMCA.

Nest Saturday (October 23, 5 to 6:30 p.m.) — 8 days before the holiday — they’re sponsoring a “Spooktacular,” for children 10 and under.

Events include costumes, cookie decorating, Halloween crafts, face painting, ring toss, bean bag throw, and free play in the gym.

The cost is $5 per child. A parent or caregiver must attend. Click here to register.

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Speaking of the Y: Collette Winn took today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo at the parking lot there.

I wonder: “Y” did these 2 birds choose that particular car?

(Photo/Collette Winn)

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And finally … happy 79th birthday to Gary Puckett!

 

Question Box #4

Our Question Box is once again full.

Here are the latest answers — to the best of my ability, anyway. I’m stumped by many of these queries. So readers: Please chime in with any additional information. Click “Comments” below.

And if you’ve got a question for our box, just email dwoog@optonline.net.

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Is there a noise ordinance regarding parties in Westport? (Chris Grimm)

No. According to Police Chief Foti Koskinas, the only noise ordinance covers “reasonableness” and “time of day.”

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What is the history of the canal that runs under the Kings Highway Bridge, and empties into the Saugatuck River. Where does it begin? What is its purpose? (Nancy Beard) 

A very interesting question — and one I’ve never thought of.

It begins near Richmondville Avenue, not far upstream. It’s listed on maps as a branch of the Saugatuck River. It appears in its present form on an 1878 map of Westport, so perhaps it is natural.

Jeanne Reed grew up on Short Street, off Richmondville. She says they called it a “brook,” not a canal.

Wendy Crowther adds more. She writes:

“A few years ago, Morley Boyd and I did historical research on the mills that once existed along the Saugatuck River north of the Post Road.

“The most well known is Lees Manufacturing Company, located off Richmondville Avenue. Portions of this mill stand today (and are being converted into housing).

“Another mill, Phoenix Manufacturing, no longer exists. It was located on the land where the water company sits today, on Canal Street.

“Both mills used water power from the Saugatuck to manufacture their goods.  To do this, they dug canals off the Saugatuck to siphon water from the river and direct it toward their turbine blades. The canal that leads to the turbine is called the head race. The canal that leads water away from the turbine to return it to the river is called the tail race. Small signs of these original races still exist today (if you know where to look).

“During our research, Morley and I heard stories that the canal/tail race would often turn the colors of the rainbow during the day, when Lees Mfg. was dying their threads and yarns. According to a historic site plan of Lees mill, its dye house was located immediately beside the tail race. We theorize that the race was pressed into service as a convenient way to dispose of wastewater from the company’s dye operation.

“When the water company was established downriver from Lees Mfg. in the early 1900s, dyes were not a good thing to flow into the water supply from upriver.  Morley and I speculate that Lees’ original tail race was redirected and lengthened to parallel the Saugatuck River all the way down to the area just behind Coffee An’, where it was joined with Willow Brook. From there, the combined waters from the canal/tail race and Willow Brook emptied into the Saugatuck, downriver from the water company. This way, the dye bypassed the water company’s section of the Saugatuck.

“This is the canal that remains today. We believe that it served as a very long tail race for Lee’s Mfg. Co.

“We suspect Canal Street got its name not only from this canal, but also due to the two supply/tail races (canals) used by the  Phoenix Mill (where the water company stands today).”

“This was just a theory.  We paused our research then to focus on other projects.”

Traffic nears the Kings Highway North Bridge, near Canal Street — and the “canal.” (Photo courtesy of Google Street View)

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Nicki and I were walking in Winslow Park. Deep in a woodsy area we came upon what appeared to be an outdoor forest church, complete with pews and a dismantled podium (see below). What’s that about? (David Pogue)

According to Bob Mitchell, this is the Woodland Chapel of nearby Saugatuck Congregational Church. It was constructed by Tobey Patton (son of the church’s minister, Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton) as his Eagle Scout project.

Interestingly, that part of Winslow Park is not town property. It’s owned by the church.

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What is the back story of these oars on the building just over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge on Post Road East? (Jilda Manikas)

I am not very helpful today. Beats me!

Readers: If by a “stroke” of luck you know, click “Comments” below.

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Why is this deactivated (?) squad car seemingly permanently parked in the Petco/Michael’s/Home Goods/Panera plaza? I don’t think it ever moves. Does it deter crime? (Chris Grimm)

No clue! But for a long time there was also one parked behind what used to be Blockbuster (!) at the Post Road/North Maple corner, across from the Exxon gas station.

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Are there any open water year-round swim groups here? And are there any mushroom foraging organizations? (Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

Finally! A two-fer I can (sort of) answer.

Burying Hill Beach’s High Tide Club is still active, as far as I know. They don’t swim all year, but they did go through October. Click here and also here for a pair of “06880” stories.

As for the ‘shrooms: Try Earthplace.

The High Tide Club’s recent late-summer picnic at Burying Hill Beach.

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Have a question for the Question Box? Email dwoog@optonline.net.

Pic Of The Day #1642

Judith Shaw writes:

“Westport will always be home. I regularly visit my mom, Freda Easton, who came here in 1955 and still lives in the area. My visits always include a trip to Compo Beach.

“This morning was no exception. I couldn’t help smiling when I came upon the Remarkable Bookcycle. It warmed my heart, as the beach and bookstore are 2 venerable locations embedded in my memory.”

(Photo/Judith Shaw)

Roundup: WWPT, Afghan Refugees, Dog Festival …

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They might have to rename the John Drury Awards “The WWPT Awards.”

For the squintillionth year in a row, Staples’ FM radio station cleaned up in the annual high school broadcast competition.

The station — 90.3 on your dial! — won 4 categories earlier this month:

  • Best Radio Drama — Original or Adaptation (“The Wizard of Oz,” with Staples Players)
  • Best Sportscast (Zach Brody)
  • Best Sports Talk Program (“Bold Predictions,” with Rory Tarsy, Max Udell and Caleb Tobias)
  • Best Sports Play-by-Play (FCIAC lacrosse championship, Staples vs. Darien, with Cam Manna and Max Dorsey).

Radio is alive and well. Congratulations to all, and of course to instructor Geno Heiter.

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Westporters have responded generous to a call to help Afghan refugees resettling in the area.

A final collection of needed items is set for this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, October 16 and 17, 12 to 3 p.m.).

Men’s and women’s coats; teen and children warm clothes; boots, scarves, warm hats and umbrellas; backpacks filled with school supplies, and household toiletries, towels and cleaning supplies can all be dropped off at  Greens Farms Congregational Church.

Backpacks and school supplies are among the items needed for Afghan refugees.

 

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The weather looks great for tomorrow’s oft-postponed Dog Festival.

The event is set for Sunday (October 17, Winslow Park, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and TAILS, it features demonstrations, fun competitions, police K-9 presentations, kids’ activities, vendors, food trucks, a special appearance by Piglet (the blind and deaf chihuahua) and more.

Tickets are $10 per person, $25 for a family of 4. Dogs go free. Proceeds benefit non-profit organizations.

Dog owners can register for the competitions online or at the festival.

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Interested in the kind of world today’s students will inherit? Do you have ideas how our schools can prepare them for it?

The Westport Public Schools invites all Westporters to an Education Summit next Wednesday (October 20, 6 to 8 p.m., Bedford Middle School auditorium).

Futurist Michael Weiss offers a keynote address, then lead an interactive discussion. It’s part of superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice’s Strategic Plan, aimed at taking our district into the next decade and beyond.

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Three residents of the Gillespie Center are moving on to permanent supportive housing.

Homes with Hope is proud of the success of these formerly homeless men. And they’re asking Westporters to help them succeed.

They’ve created a Signup Genius for donations of bedding, household items, furniture and gift cards. Click here to help.

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Fred Cantor is many things: an attorney, off-Broadway and documentary producer, longtime Westporter and avid “06880” reader.

he’s also the author of “Fred from Fresh Meadows,” a memoir of his many years as a New York Knicks fan.

Now the NBA team has repaid the honor.

A 15-second commercial spot featuring Fred, his brother’s older son and brother’s almost 3-year-old grandson premiered last night, during a Knicks preseason game.

It’s part of an MSG Network promotional campaign spotlighting diehard fans. Fred’s spot focuses on his book, and his 6 decades of fandom.

It was filmed earlier this month in the schoolyard behind his former elementary school in Queens.

Fred Cantor (right), being filmed with his nephew Sam and great-nephew Brody.

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It’s been a while since we ran an osprey update. The other day, Franco Fellah spotted this young bird in the trees over the Saugatuck River, opposite his office on Riverside Avenue. Ospreys epitomize “Westport … Naturally.”

(Photo/Franco Fellah)

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And finally … on this date in 1875, Brigham Young University was founded in Provo, Utah.