“We Love Our Dogs In Westport”

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates posted this on Facebook:

Last week at about 6:15 p.m., when the air was still very muggy with the temperature in the high 80’s, a group of diners (and Westport residents)  at Sherwood Diner became aware of a large SUV in the parking lot with a small dog inside — and New York plates. The windows were completely shut.

It was determined that the car had been there at least 45 minutes. A call was made to Westport Police, as Westport’s animal control officer was off duty.

Officer Wong Won and another officer (whose name we don’t know) responded quickly. The owner of the car was identified (mid-meal). She became belligerent and defensive, and stated, “this wouldn’t be an issue in Westchester.”

Officer Won responded, “Ma’am, this is Westport. We love our dogs in Westport.”

The dog owner was ticketed, and warned about leaving her dog in a hot car.

Westport Animal Shelter AdvocatesWASA would like to thank Officer Won and his fellow Westport officer for coming to this dog’s rescue, and handling the situation so beautifully. Tails are wagging all over Westport in appreciation.

Our thanks too to the Westport residents who were advocates for the little dog.

Yes, Officer Won, this is Westport. And we do love our dogs!

(Hat tip: Kendall Gardiner)

Cross At Your Own Risk

As construction on the North Compo/Main Street culvert continues, drivers are forced to use alternate routes.

A short stretch of Cross Highway has long been closed at Main Street. But that doesn’t stop impatient folks from using it.

Alert “06880” reader Susan Isenman was startled to see a car speed past her — and roar onto Main Street without stopping.

A while later she spotted a “friendly policeman” on Main, writing a ticket to a similar offender. He told Isenman he’d written 4 the previous day.

Cops hear all kinds of excuses. But — as the photo below shows — “I didn’t see the signs” won’t fly here.

(Photo/Susan Isenman)

(Photo/Susan Isenman)

Custodians’ Kudos

Thousands of Westport students return to school this week. They’ll be greeted by hundreds of administrators, teachers and paraprofessionals who work hard to help our youngsters grow into wise, empathetic and confident adults.

Those students and staff work every day in buildings that are maintained with skill and care by men and women we always see, but seldom acknowledge. Often, we look right past — or through — our custodians.

David Johnson did not. A retired administrator from upstate Connecticut, he has spent the past 7 summers traveling to Westport to run a certification coach for area middle and high school coaches.

The other day, he wrote to Staples principal James D’Amico:

I have come to enjoy my journey to Westport. I am also enriched by being able to share important knowledge and information with those working with our student-athletes. What I have come to look forward to the most, however, is my interaction with your custodial staff directed by Horace Lewis.

Staples' popular head custodian Horace Lewis leads a great staff.

Staples’ popular head custodian Horace Lewis leads a great staff.

I travel to numerous high school facilities to teach these classes throughout the year. Nowhere is there a custodial staff as professional and welcoming as the one at Staples. I am always greeted with a smile, which makes me feel like I am visiting family.

Horace is there to meet my needs, making sure I have whatever is necessary. Then he asks what more he can do. He and/or one of his staff check and make sure we are ready to go. He checks with us during the class, and also at the end.

It is not easy to go into someone else’s facility and use unfamiliar equipment. But I never have a concern at Staples. I always know I have the support of Horace, Tom Cataudo and their staff.

Shift supervisor Tom Cataudo and maintenance head Horace Lewis greet the staff and students during the 2015 graduation processional.

Shift supervisor Tom Cataudo and maintenance head Horace Lewis greet staff and students during the 2015 graduation processional.

We have no problem complaining when something is not right or does not go well. Therefore I feel we have an obligation to recognize work that goes “above and beyond” the  call of duty. After 35 years in public education, I know that these individuals (especially a custodial staff like yours) are the lifeblood of the school community. You are most fortunate.

Thank you again for not only sharing your facility with us, but also for sharing such professional staff as well. Best wishes for a great school opening, and an even better school year.


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Remembering Jim Soroka

It’s been a long time since Jim Soroka left Westport.

But the death of the 1965 Staples High School graduate earlier this month — in a cycling accident in the White Mountain National Forest, while on a 100-mile training ride for his next Ironman — hit his adopted and beloved community of North Conway, New Hampshire hard. He was 69.

Jim Soroka, competing in one of his many races.

Jim Soroka, competing in one of his many events.

Soroka moved north 35 years ago. A graduate of the University of Miami and president of his own construction firm, he built over 30 custom homes, and many more additions and remodeling projects, around the Mount Washington Valley. He also built surfboards, for sale and to use on his own trips throughout the Caribbean and Central America.

But he was best known as a sports enthusiast. A noted baseball player, surfer and nationally ranked Masters swimmer, Soroka became a passionate triathlete at age 58. In 2012 he competed in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

He also helped develop the White Mountain Aquatic and Fitness Foundation. The organization is planning a complex with 2 swimming pools, a weight room, childcare room, fireplace, lounge, basketball court, walking track, and rooms for yoga, exercise, Pilates and spinning.

Soroka donated time and money for many Conway-area projects, including playgrounds and baseball dugouts. He coached baseball, basketball and football.

A column in the Conway Daily Sun said:

Jim Soroka

Jim Soroka at a triathlon.

“Jim embodied everything great in sports and life, and he amazingly intertwined both into his world. When you spent a minute with Jim it was a quality minute….

“[He was] humble, always upbeat and loved life. He loved his fellow competitors as much as he loved to compete.”

Friend Paul Kirsch thought Soroka would “live forever. He seemed to be getting stronger with age, his muscles bigger, his drive a little stronger.”

Soroka is survived by his wife of 39 years, Margie; his daughter Jessi and son David. His brother Stuart, a well-known Boston meteorologist, predeceased him.

Donations may be made to the White Mountain Aquatic and Fitness Foundation, PO Box 767, North Conway, NH 03860. For more information or to leave an online condolence message, click here.

Beatles’ Final Tour Remains In Westport’s Memory

Today marks the final concert of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ last US tour.

Also, the Remains’.

For local musicologists — and fans of the regionally famous band that included 2 Westporters, and lives on in the hearts and souls of anyone who heard them — that 2nd fact is as least as important as the 1st.

Fred Cantor — the band’s Boswell, who makes sure his fellow Staples High grads Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs (plus Vern Miller and Chip Damiani) “remain” alive, with an off-Broadway musical (“All Good Things”) and documentary film (“America’s Lost Band“) — sent along a reminder of the legendary summer of ’66 tour.

By then the Remains had already appeared on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.” They’d relocated from Boston to New York, and had a contract with Epic Records. But they had not yet broken into the big time, when they got the offer to tour with the Beatles (along with the Ronettes, the Cyrkle and Bobby Hebb).

Untitled

Tashian — the front man, just 3 years out of Staples — remembers not being able to get out of their car, on the way to their 1st concert in Chicago. Screaming fans thought they were the Beatles. He found it funny — and scary.

They could not use their own amps there — and did not even have a chance to try out the ones they were given. To musicians, that’s like walking on a tightrope without a net.

Indoor arenas — like Detroit, where the band could see the crowd — were excellent. “They were digging us,” Tashian told Cantor. “We were saying, ‘This is great. This is elevated to another place.”

But in large stadiums like Cleveland, the audience was too far away to make the connections the Remains thrived on. After that show, they met with their road manager. They second-guessed everything they did wrong — and right.

Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot.

Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot. (Photo/Ed Freeman)

Their interactions with the Beatles were limited, but memorable. Tashian says they had tons of energy, and great senses of humor. They did not take things too seriously.

Tashian learned a lot. “The world was a different place when you were with John Lennon,” he says.

The Westport guitarist also listened to Ravi Shankar with George Harrison. Indian music was a revelation. So was a new invention Harrison had gotten hold of: tape cassettes.

Six days before the end of the tour, the Remains and Beatles played Shea Stadium. Tashian calls it “an emotional moment.” The lights were the brightest of any place they played. With a rare break the night before, he felt rested, “a little more balanced and grounded.”

The Remains, back in the day.

The Remains, back in the day.

In California, near the end of the tour, Harrison sent a car to pick up Tashian. Meeting the Beach Boys, Mama Cass Elliot, Roger McGuinn and others, he was “speechless.”

Briggs — the Remains’ keyboardist — recalls the final concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park:

“It just seemed like you were playing on a mountaintop and there was nobody there. They shut off the lights, all in the stadium proper and they just left a row of the lights on the top. It was like we were playing there by ourselves.

“I really enjoyed it. That was probably the most relaxed I was on the whole tour.”

What came next was tough. “It was like being dumped from a dump truck down over a ledge into a quarry or something, just left down there in the dust,” Tashian says.

He realizes now that his band had been breaking up — for various reasons — even before the tour began.

The Beatles kept recording, until they too broke apart. Today, of course, they’re still big — perhaps bigger than ever.

The Remains are just a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history.

But to anyone who heard them play — particularly at small clubs, not the big arenas and stadiums of that 1966 tour — what a footnote they are.


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

9/11 Memorial: Friends Of Sherwood Island Respond

The other day, “06880” reader Ellen Bowen complained about the unkempt, goose-drop-filled state of the 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park.

Yesterday, Friends of Sherwood Island State Park co-president Liz-Ann Koos said:

First, it is  very important that you understand  some facts about birds nests. If house sparrows are making nests in the indoor memorial, they can be removed, even while they are building their nests. They are one of the few bird species not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

A volunteer Friends member (and dedicated birder) will check and remove whatever  nests are in the 9/11 Memorial area now. However, if a protected bird such as a swallow built a nest, nothing can be done until after the birds leave the nests. Most migratory birds have left their nests by now.

Second, please understand that controlling the Canadian geese is impossible. No one, including the Town of Westport, can remove every goose dropping..

The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)

The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)

Third, the Sherwood Island supervisor and his staff work  hard to keep the Park looking its best, in spite of the many visitors leaving garbage all over the grounds and not using dumpsters. You are correct that the  responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the 9/11 Memorial  is indeed part of the staff’s responsibilities. Rest assured it will be in order for the September 8 (5:30 p.m.) service.

However, I am sure that you have been reading about the huge budget cuts impacting the size of the staff and other matters relevant to your concerns, which brings me to my last point.

One of the reasons for the founding of Friends of Sherwood Island State Park was to supply assistance to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in the form of advocacy, volunteers, and funds (through memberships, donations, fundraising projects and events). We need concerned people like yourself to join our ranks to produce positive changes and support for our beautiful Sherwood Island  State Park, where state budget dollars fall short.

Friends of Sherwood Island logoPlease consider buying a ticket or two for our upcoming ShoreFest in the Pavilion (strikingly reconstructed including solar-heated year-round restrooms, with your tax dollars) on Friday September 9 (6 to 9 p.m.). Proceeds from the silent auction will be specifically targeted for our 100 Trees for 100 Years Project, aimed at replacing and maintaining trees and shrubs that were devastated in major storms.

Please go to our website (www.friendsofsherwoodisland.org) to learn about joining Friends, or purchasing tickets for ShoreFest (where you will have an opportunity to discuss your concerns with the park supervisor, State legislators who have adopted the park, and our board and other Friends).

Please contact me directly at  lizannlwv@gmail.com if you would like to know more.

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #87

The dog days of summer brought a doggone-easy photo challenge.

Last week’s image — of the brick wall between the Compo Beach lockers and Joey’s, damaged during Hurricane Sandy — was quickly and easily identified by Andrew Colabella, Kathi Sherman, Rich Stein, Brandon Malin, Matt Murray, Jonathan McClure, Susan Huppi, Billy Scalzi, Jill Turner Odice and Rebecca Wolin. (Click here for the shot; then scroll down for comments.)

This week’s photo comes courtesy of Peter Tulupman. If you know where it is, click “Comments” below — and add any details you can.

Oh My 06880 - August 28, 2016

(Photo/Peter Tulupman)

 

Ellen Bowen: Sherwood Island 9/11 Memorial Now An “Embarrassment”

“06880” reader Ellen Bowen recently visited  Sherwood Island State Park. She was stunned at the condition of the state’s official 9/11 memorial. Among the Connecticut residents honored there are several Westporters. 

With the 15th anniversary of that tragic day near, Ellen writes:

Imagine my surprise and disgust to find the plaques covered with goose poop,  and the walkways and grassy areas (including near the water fountain and picnic area) overrun and filled with weeds. The condition was disgusting. And I paid $9 to park.

(Photos/Ellen Bowen)

(Photos/Ellen Bowen)

I am appalled and saddened that a beautiful and contemplative place remembering the victims and heroes who lost their lives that day has become an embarrassment to our town and the state of Connecticut. I will share some of the pictures I took with the Friends of Sherwood Island, local and state government officials, and anyone else I can think of.

I hope they clean it up in time for the governor and 9/11 families’ visit, and the memorial service, on September 8. But I sincerely hope they consider maintaining the memorial on a year-round basis, and not just “for show.”

Remembering George Marks

A bit of Westport died Thursday.

George Marks Sr. — the former police officer who marched, ramrod straight, in dozens of Memorial Day parades, and then rode with grace and dignity in many more — passed away in Norwalk Hospital. He was 96.

One of his greatest honors came in 2010. He and his son, George Marks Jr. — also a former police officer, who looked like he could have been his father’s brother — served as dual grand marshals of the annual parade.

At the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony (from left): First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, and grand marshals George Marks Jr. and Sr. (though it's hard to tell which is which).

At the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony (from left): First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, and grand marshals George Marks Jr. and Sr. (though it’s hard to tell which is which).

George Marks Sr. was born in Brooklyn. But he moved here with his parents at age 2, so calling him a “native Westporter” is no stretch.

He graduated from Staples High School on Riverside Avenue in 1938, then worked as a pressman for the Westporter Herald. In 1940 — as war loomed — he joined the Merchant Marine as a navigation officer.

His first ship left New York and stopped in Baltimore for refueling. While there, Marks became sick and was hospitalized.

Shortly after leaving port, the ship was hit by a German torpedo. All aboard were killed. Marks served on other ships crossing the Atlantic, loaded with troops and supplies. In 1944 he participated in the D-Day landing at Normandy.

George Marks Sr.

George Marks Sr.

Marks joined the Westport Police Department in 1948. He rose to the rank of lieutenant detective before retiring in 1974. He then joined Westport Bank and Trust as a security officer, continuing his familiar presence in town.

Marks was president of the Westport Fish & Game Club. He also was a life member of Temple Lodge No. 75 AF&AM, a member of the American Legion, an original member of Westport PAL, and a 20-year volunteer at Norwalk Hospital.

Survivors include 2 sons — George Marks Jr., who retired from the police department in 2006, and his wife Jacqueline of Seabrook, South Carolina, and William D. Marks and his wife Sandra of Missoula, Montana — his daughter Sandra M. Marks of Tucson, Arizona; 4 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

The family will receive friends tomorrow (Sunday, August 28, 4 to 8 p.m.) in the Harding Funeral Home. Graveside services with full military honors will take place Monday, August 29 (10 a.m.) at Willowbrook Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to Alzheimers Association of Connecticut, 200 Executive Boulevard, Suite 4-B, Southington, CT 06489.

Westport’s Charter Oak Connections

If you’re new to Connecticut, you may not know about our charter oak. They don’t teach state history in school — I don’t think so, anyway — and most of the state quarters that were minted nearly 20 years ago are out of circulation.

But longtime residents know the charter oak. And one of its descendants may still live in Westport.

The story involves a large white oak tree that dates back to the 12th or 13th century.  Apparently our royal charter — given by King Charles in 1662, to the Connecticut colony — was hidden in a hollow in 1687, to prevent the governor-general from revoking it.

Connecticut's charter oak.

Connecticut’s charter oak.

The tree was destroyed in 1856, during a strong storm. But its legend remains.

So, supposedly, do many of its seedlings.

In 1965, a “Committee for the location and care of the Charter Oak Tree” was formed. Its purpose was to “accept the seedling  descendant of the Charter Oak from Mr. John Davis Lodge, care for it during the winter, select a location in which it can be planted in the Spring, and organize a planting ceremony.”

Lodge — a former governor of Connecticut and ambassador to Spain, and future ambassador to Argentina and Switzerland — lived in Westport.

Minutes of a November 20, 1965 meeting show that a seedling was intended to be donated to Staples High School in the spring.

Legend has it that the seedling was planted in the school courtyard on North Avenue. No one today knows authoritatively if that was done, or exactly where. If it ever existed, it was bulldozed away during construction of the new building more than a decade ago.

Connecticut state quarterThe committee also discussed the best location for another seedling, downtown. Members — including representatives of the RTM, Westport Garden Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Daughters of the American Revolution — agreed that Jesup Green was the best area. It could be “the first step in setting a centrally located civic center.”

Discussion then turned to the erection of a plaque, commemorating the gift to the town by Lodge.

“It was agreed that watering and care after the planting should be delegated to a Town employee who would be responsible for its care,” meeting notes read.

Arbor Day in April was suggested as a good time for the planting, and that school children should be involved.

The committee then went outdoors to study possible locations. They agreed to store the 2 seedling oaks in the “cold barn cellar” of Parsell’s Nursery. Garden center owner and civic volunteer Alan U. Parsell was a committee member.

And that’s the last bit of information I dug up about Westport’s charter oak.