The Pinnacle Of Fitness, For An Aging Population

In 1992, personal trainer Phil LiCastri moved here from New York. He figured a good way to learn the area was to volunteer.

He found Elderhouse in Norwalk, and taught a chair exercise class.

He’s been doing it twice a week ever since.

“I fell in love with that population,” Phil says. ” I didn’t know my own grandparents well. So working with them was a great connection.”

In 1997, Phil and a partner opened Fast Fitness. It’s still in existence.

But in 2005 he started Pinnacle Health & Fitness, near Shake Shack. It’s not far from the Lansdowne and Regents Park condos. Older residents there have found a warm welcome at Pinnacle.

Many of Phil’s clients are in their 70s and 80s. He’s 52. But, he says, “As I’ve aged, I know my body is changing too.”

Kaye May (left) and Pam Gau have trained with Phil LiCastri (center) for nearly 2 decades.

A lot of trainers want to work with younger athletes. Phil does too: In his spare time, he coaches the Joel Barlow High School wrestling team. But he loves the challenge of the aging population.

“I’ve always been interested in flexibility and movement,” Phil says. “As you age, you lose balance and strength. Those are sometimes overlooked. I wanted to focus on them.”

He remembers fondly a retired high-level TV executive, who was battling Parkinson’s.

“He had so much knowledge, and such a love for life,” Phil says. At first he walked slowly in. Later, he came in a wheelchair.

“He had such drive. People like that keep me coming here every day.”

An engineer with cancer came throughout his chemo. He too had a great will to live. And — like the television exec –both were at Pinnacle the week before they died.

Phil trained a retired eye surgeon beginning at age 80. He was a client for 14 years. Now he’s 95. The other day, Phil visited him in the hospital.

Current clients include 87-year-old Bernie Perry, a travel writer and photographer who 2 years ago wanted to build up his leg strength and endurance, so he could carry 15 pounds of equipment to Iran.

Bernie Perry works out at Pinnacle.

Another 87-year-old, Mel Hyman, still runs a company in Florida. He spends a week there every month, overseeing production and the warehouse.

An 83-year-old woman is an educational consultant for children’s television and movies. An 84-year-old teaches writing at a college in Manhattan.

“Everyone has such interesting stories,” Phil says. “I love listening to them talk.”

Pinnacle is different from other fitness clubs in another way: It has no member fees.

“If you come for an hour a week with a trainer, you can come in the rest of the week and work out on you’re own,” Phil says. “That’s why we’re here. We love what we do.”

His staff includes yoga and aerobics teachers, a kettlebell competitor, a Romanian national track champion and a boxing instructor, among others.

Phil’s clients inspire him. “If they can do what they’re doing, I want to help everyone I can,” Phil says.

“Hopefully I’ll be around long enough to help people who are younger now, as they age.”

Pic Of The Day #525

Today could have been tough. With their building closed due to possible mold issues, Coleytown Middle School 6th and 7th graders moved to Bedford Middle School. Eighth graders headed to Staples High. No one knew what to expect.

The day went great. Staff adapted. Students smiled. There were warm welcomes all around.

And it started even before the Coleytown youngsters entered their new schools. This sign outside Bedford said it all.

(Photo/Michelle Howard)

Retired Staples Teachers Chart A New Course

There is life after high school.

The annual Retired Staples Golf Tournament was held recently at Newtown Country Club. For decades, they could not dream of getting on the course on a lovely September afternoon. Now it’s no problem.

This year’s champion is Gerry Kuroghlian. However, his scorecard is still being examined by the rules committee.

Can you identify all these legendary educators? Answers below.

(Left to right: Pete Van Hagen, Bill Walsh, Gerry Kuroghlian, Jim Wheeler, Ed Bludnicki, Tom Owen, Bruce McFadden, Bill Brookes)

[OPINION] As Coleytown Moves: Be Adaptable, Flexible, Welcoming

Marcy Sansolo is the administrator of What Up Westport. Usually, she and the 3,000-plus members of her Facebook group share comments and photos about life in Westport. There are notices about upcoming events, observations on life at Whole Foods, and quirky photos.

Marcy is an upbeat, glass-half-full woman. What Up Westport mostly steers clear of controversy.

But as Coleytown Middle School 6th and 7th graders prepare to move today to Bedford Middle School, and 8th graders to Staples High, for about a month — while experts explore whether mold or mold remediation has caused dizziness, nausea, itching and headaches — they’ve faced another issue: pushback from some parents at the host schools, concerned about the impact on their own buildings.

Coleytown Middle School

Marcy did not want to post anything that would fan the flames. But she did not want to downplay the situation either. What she wrote deserves the broadest audience possible. So, with her permission, I’m re-posting it here.

S— happens. Kids who are faced with adversity will become more resilient kids and eventually resilient adults.

This is my free advice, and you don’t have to take it.

If you have a student who is in one of the 3 schools, have them look at this as an adventure.

An opportunity to meet new people, to experience a new setting, to be a host, to help thy neighbor.

Children are incredibly accommodating and figure things out quickly.

They will take their cues from you. You stay positive, understanding, friendly and flexible, and so will they.

For those students who require more emotional or physical support, their support team is there for them.

Have faith in your kids and those making the decisions.

Bedford Middle School 2

Bedford Middle School

Reaction was quick, and largely positive.

“Amen!” one woman wrote. “Kids adjust much more easily than adults. Parents, give your kids the chance to deal with a problem, disappointment, and adversity. Make this a positive and they will be better for it.”

Another noted: “Westport has a history of coming together and making things happen — big and small — from buying the Longshore Club to banning plastic bags in stores. As someone who sells this wonderful town to new residents, I love sharing these stories. This can be one more of them. We control the narrative about how we come together as a community and handle this.”

A third said: “This is one town, these kids are kids, they adjust, they are resilient, they are friends in their swim teams/ basketball/ ballet/theatre, they will be in Staples together, their moms take the same spin classes at the Y. This is ONE town. Let’s just all show love and not scare these kids with our own negativity, because they know better.”

It won’t be easy for the Coleytown students, as they move to a new school (for the 6th graders, their 2nd in a month). It will be hard — but certainly less difficult — for those at Bedford and Staples.

It will be a learning experience for all — staff as well as students. Let’s hope the lessons of welcoming and adaptability are taught everywhere — not just in school.

Staples High School (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Pic Of The Day #524

Compo Beach at dusk (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Photo Challenge #195

Last week’s Photo Challenge was a tad different. Peter Barlow’s photo showed an object in the ground.  But — as the story explained — that’s not where it originally was. (Click here for the photo.)

It’s one of the spires from the Compo Beach bathhouse.

Peter — a longtime but now former Westporter — says that one of the spires, and some brickwork, fell off in a long-ago hurricane.

He dragged it over to the sand, photographed it, then used the image in several paintings.

At some point, he says, the town decided to remove all the spires. They were knocked off with sledgehammers, with no attempt made to save them.

Peter asked Randy Eaton, on the Parks and Recreation Department’s maintenance staff, if he could have one or two. Randy took a couple for himself, and told Peter he could have any others.

He took 5 or 6 home, in his car — one at a time. (“They’re large and heavy,” he notes.) He’s often thought about restoring one, but never got around to it.

Peter says that at least one of the spires still exists in Westport. But, he adds, “I don’t know if the current owner knows what it is.”

Jonathan McClure was the reader whose guess came closest. He wrote, “Concrete architectural finial from a long ago demolished Compo Beach structure?” The bathhouse is still there, though the spires/finials are just memories.

Peter also sent along this photo:

If you know where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.

Hint: Unlike the Compo bathhouse spire, this one is definitely still standing.

Kathryn Cavallaro’s Marathon Year

Running a marathon is impressive.

Running a marathon in 4 hours, 15 minutes is outstanding.

Running one when you’re Kathryn Cavallaro is miraculous.

Last month, when Kathryn — the daughter of Westporter Fiona Hodgson — crossed the finish line of the New England Green River Marathon, from Vermont into Massachusetts, she was just out of treatment for breast cancer.

In fact, she’s still doing chemo.

But the 38-year-old busy professional — and mother of 3 — did not let her year of hell (including 2 very extensive surgeries) slow her down.


Kathryn Cavallaro

For Kathryn, running is a relaxing chance to be part of the natural world. At 5 a.m., she says, she’s alone — except for other runners, and deer.

“I see the sunrise. I run with snowflakes on my eyelashes. I watch the seasons change, and I’m grateful to be part of this beautiful world.”

Kathryn trains in many places. Among her favorites: Westport, particularly Compo Beach.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, many people told Kathryn that her life would never be the same. “Get used to the ‘new normal,'” they said.

Yet despite major surgery in June, she began training for August’s marathon.

Now she wants to help others push through cancer’s “new normal” barrier. She hopes to start a blog for “runners who are cancer survivors, and cancer survivors who want to be runners.”

Also on the (26.2 mile) horizon: running the St. Jude’s Marathon in December.

It’s a fundraiser for children’s cancer research.

(Kathryn Cavallaro helps many others. But her own medical bills are steep. To help her, click here.)

Fiona Hodgson and her daughter, Kathryn Cavallaro.

Pic Of The Day #523

An important small sign at ASF

And The Barber Is …

Occasionally, “06880” readers ask for crowd sourcing help. In the past, our online community has offered advice on the best plumbers, restaurants and tutors.

The other day, someone wrote:

My son-in-law wants a cheap (are we allowed to use that word in Westport? — er, well-priced) barber. He wants the same person every time — someone who knows how to do longer men’s cuts.

Readers, let’s get on it! Click “Comments” with your recommendations — and reasons why. Of course, use your full, real name.

Remember, the son-in-law does not want to pay a lot. Though probably a bit more than 2 bits.

Remembering Corey Hausman

Corey Hausman graduated from Staples in June. This month, he died in a tragic accident in Colorado.

Corey and his older brothers, Lucas and Casey, grew up in Westport, and were excellent athletes. Corey ran cross country and outdoor track for 4 years at Staples High School. He was a 2-year varsity skier too.

His parents, Joel and Nanette, and his brothers have written this tribute to Corey:

Corey Hausman was a 2018 graduate of Staples High School who had just started his 3rd week at University of Colorado-Boulder when suddenly he was physically taken from this Earth. A simple yet fatal accident occurred September 12 while he was riding his skateboard across campus to a friend’s house after class on a Tuesday afternoon. It is still too shocking and soon to comprehend this loss or answer the begging question: Why Corey?  Those closest to him are focusing on the spontaneous joy that he brought to the world and that, as a freshman just beginning his most exciting journey, he had hit a personal high note.

If Corey considered you a buddy, you were in for a treat. As the stories from brothers, friends, neighbors, teachers and Staples teammates bubble up, it is clear that Corey had a gift: making people laugh. His range of material was broad including hysterical impersonations, physical gyrations, facial expressions and classic sarcastic quips.

His audiences included all ages and personalities.  Whether it was a shy 3-year-old boy who struggled to make eye contact or the senior citizen having trouble opening a car door at Stop & Shop, Corey would find a way to cheer them up, and to get under people’s skin and produce a smile or laugh. Simple, yet so powerful; it was Corey’s way of giving a little joy to the world.

Corey Hausman (center) with Lucas (left) and Casey (right): “The Brothers.”

Like many Staples students, Corey had excellent grades, scores and credentials enabling him to attend several formidable colleges. But once he heard from CU, all other admission letters remained unopened. He had found his home for the next 4 years; end of conversation.

Far far away from the comforts of home, Corey was outside absorbing all that Boulder has to offer, jamming on his guitar with his roommate ‘til all hours of the morning, making new friends and impressing his professors with his proactive approach to his studies. All of this with the back drop of the Rocky Mountains still covered with snow at the tippy-tops.

Corey was overjoyed with his new day-to-day routine and the anticipation of ski season when he could freestyle with an old teammate from Mt. Snow-Vermont. Corey beamed during the Facetime calls home to just “check in.” Without a doubt, he was the happiest person in the world.

It is unbelievable to think that Corey’s story on Earth ended so abruptly. All of the lingering questions will never be answered. Especially, for his family and many close friends, when will the sadness and longing pain stop?

Experts insist that it is critical to mourn for a loved one that passes. Beyond honoring the deceased, acceptance and mourning is needed for survivors to eventually move forward with life. What would Corey want?  “Sure,” you can hear him say, “a little mourning would be OK – but, please, not too much.”

Why? Because he was able to hit the high note at 18 years old. He was the happiest person on Earth, and he was able to bring his joy to others. Corey would want us to honor him by following in his footsteps — find personal happiness every day, and bring joy to the world by simply making others smile and laugh.

(Services will be held at the Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road, Westport, on Saturday, September 29, at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to any environmental charity in Corey’s name. For a website tribute to Corey, click here.)