Quite A Quintet: 71 Years Of Friendship And Fun

The other day, Patricia McMahon threw a party.

She had 5 guests. The youngest was 86 years old.

They started out as the Tuesday Night Club — in 1949. There were 10 women them. Some have moved; others died.

But — 71 years later — what a group they are!

Patricia’s mother, Jeanette McMahon — 89 — was a legal secretary. She’s known Angie Spanoghe — 90 — since they were 5 years old, in grade school.

Angie worked as a manager in South Norwalk. She’s planning a trip to Greece, once this stupid coronavirus has passed. (Patricia volunteered to be her chaperone.)

Patricia McMahon and Levon (front) with, from left: Angie Spanoghe, Judy Lamatta, Mary Toss, Elenor Bottler and Jeanette McMahon.

Mary Toss — 88, and a former legal secretary — was at the party. So was Elenor Bottler, 87, who grew up on Murvon Court by Compo Beach, and was a manager at Kiddytown in Norwalk.

The baby of the group — 86-year-old Judy Lamatta — worked as a secretary at Norwalk Hospital. All 5 retired in their early 80s.

Which gives them time to get together 3 times a week. They have dinner, or watch a movie at someone’s house. Except for Mary, who has vision problems, all still drive.

“These ladies have been in my life forever,” says Patricia. “They mean the world to me.

“I learn from them constantly. Their admiration and respect for each other is intoxicating. Plus, they are hilarious!

“They are fully aware of how unique they are, and the bond they have. They take nothing for granted.”

Let’s not take them for granted, either. To Jeanette, Angie, Mary, Elenor and Judy (and their combined 440 years): May you stay forever young.

Another shot, with Patricia’s husband Matthew Levine.

Pic Of The Day #1253

Sign of the times (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

It’s Election Season. Sign Here.

The Westport Police Department is non-partisan. But — like every Westporter – every fall they get caught in the great political sign crossfire.

They say:

With the approaching November elections comes the traditional posting of political signage.

Once again the Westport Police Department has begun to receive complaints related to the disappearance, removal, and/or theft of these signs.

Residents and visitors are advised against taking it upon themselves to remove
signs that do not belong to them, from either public or private property. The
enforcement of the town’s rules is the responsibility of the town of Westport, not
private citizens.

The removal of signs from public or private property by someone not authorized to do so by the town, or by the owner of the sign, may constitute theft.

Entering onto private property to remove signs may also constitute
trespassing. Both of these acts can ultimately result in arrest.

Political signs are considered an expression of free speech, and are allowed on
public property.

It is not advisable to place signs on state property (including rights of way and islands along Routes 1, 136, 57, 33, and the Sherwood Island Connector, nor on the exit or entrance ramps of I-95 or the Merritt Parkway), as the state may remove them.

No sign may be placed on any school property without the prior permission
of the Superintendent’s office.

No sign may be placed within the interior of Compo Beach or Longshore.

No sign may be placed on Town Hall property.

No sign may be placed on trees or utility poles.

No sign may interfere with traffic visibility.

Signs on private property require property owner approval. Signs on private
property must not extend beyond the property line or into the town right-of-
way. It is suggested they be removed within 2 days after the election.

Finally! A candidate we can all agree on. (Photo/Luke Garvey)

Roundup: Shorefest, Trader Joe’s, Fall Fashion, More


Yesterday’s “Shorefest on a Roll” — Friends of Sherwood Island’s reimagined, socially distanced annual fundraiser — was different than the usual lobsterfest.

It was also wonderful, fun, and made even better by spectacular weather.

Board members Cece Saunders and Steve Axthelm produced the clever, all-ages event. Riding in cars through the 232-acre state park, families listened to a podcast while enjoying kites, disc golf, music, and getting a purple martin education.

At the last stop, they picked up lobster roll dinners, courtesy of Westfair Fish & Chips.

Click here for a full report, and tons of photos.

Lobster roll dinners, at the end.


That’s one small step for a man. And one giant leap for faster checkouts.

Trader Joe’s has all registers open, for the first time since COVID struck in March.


The other day you worked out, at Main Street and Church Lane’s Fitness & Wellness Expo.

This Saturday, you can show off your new look. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association is sponsoring a Fall Fashion & Beauty Day.

Merchandise will be displayed on sidewalks — meaning there’s plenty of room to walk around in stores too. And despite the name, all downtown merchants — not just fashion and beauty retailers — are invited to participate.

All of Main Street, Elm Street and Church Lane will be closed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Local merchants not on those streets are being offered spots, so there’s plenty to see and do. Of course, masks and social distancing rules apply!

 


World peace comes to Westport.

That’s the name of the next MoCA Westport exhibit. It opens October 8.

Works in the show reflect “the culture of identity, and the divided and fractured political climate of America’s past and present.” The multi-media exhibit includes photography, sculpture, video, site-specific installations, works on paper, and protest art.

The group show features local and world-renowned artists, highlighting contemporary media culture, the criminal justice system, and the relationship between science and religion. 

Westporters include illustrators Tracy Sugarman and Naiad Einsel, and photographers Spencer Platt and Richard Frank

Local politicians, and experts on climate change and the media, will be featured in panels throughout the exhibition. It runs through January 17.

For more information, click here.


And finally … today is the International Day of Peace. Enough said.

 

Russ And Isabel Blair: No Stone Unturned

In 1954 a young couple bought a new home in Westport, near what is now Fresh Market. On April 16, they engraved their names on a stone.

Russ and Isabel Blair are still here. They’ve done a lot in their 6-plus decades in town, from EMS to local boards and commissions. She was a beloved Coleytown Elementary School nurse; he led many building projects, including the modern Staples High School.

As they raised their kids, moved to Woodside Avenue and enjoyed all that Westport offers, they forgot about that stone.

The Blairs’ stone.

But 66 years and 1 week from that date Carlos Colorado, his wife and young daughter moved to Westport.

While redoing their patio, they unearthed the stone. They thought about placing it somewhere prominent in their yard.

But after a quick Google search, they realized the Blairs are still alive. And still here.

Carlos posted that story on a local Facebook page. He asked anyone who knew the Blairs to please let them know.

“I am sure they would love to see this piece of their story and their memories, after so many years,” he wrote.

After 2/3 of a century in town, the Blairs are well known. Several people responded — including longtime EMT Mark Blake.

He’s known the couple for decades. He made the connection.

Mark Blake, with the stone.

Carlos showed Mark around his property — including the stone. Carlos cleaned it up, and invited the Blairs over to see “their” house.

“This is just another reason I love Westport, and am proud to serve the community,” Mark said. “These 2 families epitomize what Westport is.”

And on Friday, Carlos, his wife and daughter headed over to Woodside Avenue.

They heard all about life in Westport, when Eisenhower was president and the town was just starting to grow.

The Blairs and Colorados on Woodside Avenue, Friday afternoon.

“The Blairs are incredible people,” Carlos said. “They gave us a warm afternoon. Their strength and vitality left us amazed.

“I just hope that decades from now, my wife and I will be able to receive a young couple that happened to find a rock in the back yard of their recently purchased home in a quiet corner of Westport.

“And I hope we’ll be as bright, hearty and affection as the couple we met yesterday. In the meantime, I’ll take care of their house, as promised.”

Pic Of The Day #1252

The Saugatuck River and Riverside Avenue last week, framed by smoke from wildfires 3,000 miles away. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Cockenoe Is A Hike

There are many ways to get from Westport to Cockenoe Island.

You can sail. You can paddle. You can JetSki.

Or — if you are particularly adventurous — you can walk.

Alert — and creative — “06880” reader Jeff Manchester reports:

“With a super low tide at 8:09 this morning, some intrepid souls took their soles and walked from Saugatuck Island to Cockenoe Island.

From left: Jeff Manchester, Eric Sugerman, 9th graders Jake Coykendall and Tucker Peters, and 8th grader Max Manchester, with their “support vehicle”: a mega-kayak.

“It was a brisk morning in the high 40’s when we started, and only in the 50’s when we returned. However, the water was warmer than the air, so it made for a much more enjoyable journey.

“This is a bucket list item for sure, when the tides and weather cooperate.

En route. (Photo/Mary Sugerman)

“And of course, we have the Einsels, Greens, Jo Fox Brosious and many more to thank for their herculean efforts, saving Cockenoe for future generations from an attempted nuclear power plant over 50 years ago.”

Indeed. Although if that Chernobyl-style structure had actually been built there, today’s water would be a lot warmer.

Roundup: Dancing At Bedford Square, New Novel, New Spa, More


Broadway is dark. But the catchy song “On Broadway” — you know, about neon lights — inspires Westport youngsters to keep their musical theater dreams alive.

Right here in Bedford Square.

The dance floor is concrete. The kids use store windows as mirrors.

But they’ve got a real-live Rockette — 15-year veteran Stevi Van Meter — as their dance instructor.

The Saturday morning classes are the brainchild of Laura Prendergast. The Theater Camp 4 Kids Broadway Academy owner vows to keep musical theater going, whatever it takes.

Bedford Square owner David Waldman donated the space.

When the weather gets cold, the kids will just bundle up and keep dancing. Hey — they’ve already got their face masks. Click below for the video!


Westporters know L.J. Peltrop as a server at Rye Ridge Deli.

He’s also a writer. His debut novel, “Waiting Face,” is a thriller involving addiction, mental health, and the fight to “belong.”

It launches this Tuesday (September 22) on Amazon.


There’s a new holistic business a few feet over the border.

Veda Healing Spa (596 Westport Avenue, Norwalk — just past Whole Foods) is a spa. Owner Harpreet Kaur was born and raised in Punjab, India and has 20 years’ experience as a licensed esthetician in Ayurvedic skin treatments, healing and wellness.


And finally … 50 years ago, Black Sabbath’s “Paranoia” offered not-very-uplifting songs about war, corruption and trauma. Happy half-century! (Hat tip: Mark Yurkiw)

Photo Challenge #299

Last week’s Photo Challenge gave readers a sporting chance.

Sportsmen Dave Harrison, Rich Stein, Dan Vener, Tom Wall and Andrew Colabella all knew that Werner Liepolt’s shot showed the small field next to the original Saugatuck Elementary School on Bridge Street (now senior housing).

Give credit to Fred Cantor too, whose cryptic comment (“home field advantage”) references both Liepolt’s home next to the field, and the fact that Fred has an apartment at The Saugatuck himself.

Donna Hansen kicked herself for guessing it was the softball field behind Town Hall — though she attended Saugatuck El, and lived around the corner on South Compo. Click here for the image — and all the wrong guesses too.

If you thought last week’s photo was a bit unkempt (like Darcy Sledge and Wendy Cusick, both of whom commented about invasive vines), you probably won’t like this week’s challenge either.

But it’s pretty recognizable. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Hal Hutchison)

[OPINION] Chop Down Current Tree Law

In the wake of last month’s storms — Isaias and an unnamed one that caused massive damage — many Westporters learned that if a neighbor’s tree lands on your property (or house), and you have not warned him or her about the danger, you are responsible for removing it.

And for repairing any damage on your property.

Alert — and concerned — “06880” reader Marliese Aguele writes:

The law that requires a neighbor to remove and pay for a fallen tree is most unfair. It puts the burden and expense on somebody else.

No more free rides. I wanat the law be changed immediately. Owners make no effort to pay, or offer any help. This is unacceptable to a neighbor, who takes care by trimming his own trees.

Because residents know they are not liable to pay for the removal of their fallen trees on the neighbor’s property, they have no incentive to take care of them.

Falling trees do not respect property lines.(Photo/John Kantor)

I have had personal experience. A friend lives in a small house near the beach, with a neighbor located on an elevated property behind him. She has refused for over 20 years to trim her tree. It gets larger every year. He is struggling financially. He constantly worries that should the huge tree fall, his house and cars will be destroyed, and maybe the lives of his family.

A property owner must be responsible to trim his trees regularly to avoid unfair arboreal problems, making it easier for the town to deal with overgrown branches entangled in communication and electric power lines, incurring major expenses to the town and heavy losses to its citizens.

With predictions of more frequent storms in the future, it is in the best interest for citizens to do their share, helping with an already stressed town budget.

I have decided, at great expense, to have several tall trees removed. I can no longer live with the fear, and alone, worrying if my trees should fall and destroy my home, or were to fall on a neighbor’s house.

It is time to change the law. Someone who owns a tree should be responsible for removing the debris, and pay for all damage caused to a neighbor’s property.