Pic Of The Day #43

Flags fly on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Post Road Bridge (Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)

Remembering Frank Deford

Frank Deford — one of the most famous (and elegant) sportswriters of all time — has died. He was 78, and lived in Key West and New York.

But for many years, Deford was a Westporter. It was here that he wrote many of his 20 books, and some of the most important pieces in his 50-year career at Sports Illustrated. He spent 37 years as an NPR “Morning Edition” commentator, and recorded most of those stories just up the road, at WSHU’s Bridgeport studio.

It was in Westport too that his daughter Alex was raised, went to Greens Farms Elementary School and died, of cystic fibrosis. She was just 8.

Deford turned that tragedy into a poignant book and movie, called “Alex: The Life of a Child.” He also served as national chair of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, from 1982 to 1999.

After Alex’s death, Deford and his wife Carol adopted a girl, Scarlet, from the Philippines. Their oldest child, Christian, graduated from Staples High School.

Deford won countless honors. He was most proud of the National Humanities Medal, awarded in 2013 by President Obama.

In 2013, President Obama awarded Frank Deford the National Humanities Medal. He was the 1st sportswriter to earn that honor.

But he was also a local presence. He spoke at the Westport Library, and was a reader — in that voice familiar to so many NPR listeners — at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Deford had a remarkable career. But though he hit plenty of grand slams, he wouldn’t be human if he never struck out.

In 1990, he was editor-in-chief of a new launch, The National: America’s 1st-ever daily sports newspaper.

It folded after 18 months. One of its many obstacles was distribution. Deford even had to cancel his own home delivery when not enough Greens Farms neighbors signed up.

But he had great fun trying to make a go of the National. (The final front-page headline: “We Had a Ball: The Fat Lady Sings Our Song.”)

Frank Deford

The paper — and he — covered every sport imaginable.

Including soccer. Which — as every NPR listener knew — he hated.

A few months after The National began, I asked him — only half-jokingly — why he got to cover the World Cup in Italy, instead of a true soccer aficionado like me.

Deford was very tall. He looked down at me, both physically and journalistically.

He gave me a semi-smile.

“When you run The National,” he said, “then you can cover the World Cup.”

Frank Deford covered it all, in a storied and story-filled life.

His many fans — and his former neighbors — will miss him greatly.

Despite Rain, Westport Honors Its Heroes

For the 2nd year in a row, Westport canceled its Memorial Day parade.

But the men and women who gave their lives for our country — and all who served it — were memorialized in a moving ceremony at Town Hall.

2nd selectman Avi Kaner live-streamed it on Facebook. If you missed it, you can watch the impassioned speeches — and hear the stirring music — by clicking here. (The ceremony starts at the 10:30 mark.)

Among the speakers was 1st selectman Jim Marpe. He wove together the past and present, linking yesterday’s heroes with today’s “turbulent and unprecedented” times.

And — continuing a wonderful Westport tradition — he gave a sad roll call of the veterans we’ve lost within the past year. Here is his speech:

Good morning. It is an honor and privilege to be here today. First, I must salute the great gentleman we all love to call Mr. Parade, Bill Vornkahl, president of the Westport Veterans Council. Bill has orchestrated this special event for the last 47 years, in a true demonstration of love and commitment to his town and country. And thank you to everyone who has a role in making this great parade and these ceremonies happen.

Grand marshal Ed Vebell.

In just a few moments, we will hear from this year’s grand marshal, Edward Vebell. Ed is a World War II veteran who joined the Air Force in 1942. He was a member of the 904thCamouflage Unit, dropped behind enemy lines to sketch enemy equipment and positions.

He was also with Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper. We honor and recognize you, Ed, for your bravery under fire and distinguished service to our country.

We gather here today in our cherished annual tradition, to recognize those who sacrificed their lives for our great nation. We also honor the men and women right here among us who have served our country, whether in battle or in support of those who chose to put their country before themselves.

The contrast between our beautiful and peaceful town and the battlegrounds our soldiers experienced seems unimaginable right now. Technological advances and our societal demand for instantaneous news has shaped our experience of war, world conflict and political upheaval through high definition televisions, computer screens, and abrupt notifications on cell phones. We look at world politics, radical terrorism, chemical warfare, revolution and military oppression through a vastly different lens than we did a generation ago.

So how do we manage to uphold traditions and honor our past, but keep up with the technology and fascination with newer and faster means to gather information? What is our responsibility as Westporters in this fast-paced, ever changing world in which we live?

My answer is simple.  Like we have done for decades, we take a breath on the last Monday in May, reflect on our country’s history of great sacrifice and we honor those who have served and continue to serve. We recognize the tradition of Memorial Day. We value the sacrifices made by others to preserve our history and our tradition of civil discourse, where we constantly witness democracy in action despite strong and sometimes opposing views.

This sign on the 2014 parade route said it all.

The issues of the day make it appear as if the divide grows ever greater. But if we look back on our history, and recognize just a few of the lessons of the past, we can see that our democracy has withstood the test of time, despite tremendous cost.

It is almost a cliché to say that the Civil War pitted North against South, brother against brother; that the country could never unite again. Before World War II,the US was stubbornly isolationist. Today, many believe the decision to fight was an easy one, but it was not…it took the attack on Pearl Harbor to hurtle the US into war.

The Vietnam War tore our nation apart, pitting a younger generation against an older one, liberals against conservatives, and those who served against those who objected. Our political climate today, which for many feels turbulent and unprecedented, has in fact mobilized many who are trying to effect change peacefully, through demonstrations and lawful means, which is the bedrock of our country.

As Westporters, we celebrate the ability to disagree in a civil manner, but when the time comes to defend our great nation and the liberties we cherish, our men and women continue to place service to our country above themselves. We honor and thank them all today.

And now, as we have done in years past, I will make special mention of those war veterans who lived in Westport who have passed away this past year, with apologies in advance for any we may have inadvertently omitted.

Bertram Aber
Bruno Arcudi
Ernest (Ernie) Arnow
George F. Avery, Jr.
Alexander (Al) Balas
Robert Brannigan
Russell Brenneman
Erwine T. Buckenmaier, Jr.
Donald Evans Casciato
Frank Clark
C. Steven Crosby
Daniel B. Driscoll
Mary T. Ferruccio
Edward B. Gill
Thelma Gordon
Brett Matthew Hauslaib
James R. Hurley
Robert Kochiss
Kenneth H. Lanouette, Jr.
John Lomartire
Henry R. Loomis
Delmor B. Markoff
George H. Marks, Sr.
James P. McCabe
Frederick Meier, Sr.
Durwood (Woody) C. Milone
Jonathan B. Morris
John Nazzaro, Sr.
H. Elliott Netherton, Jr.
John G. Petti, Jr.
Alan Phelan
Charles T. Raymond
Philip W. Reeves
Estelle Reitano
Warren Rossell
Jack Rotman
Harold Scher
Frank Scotti
John C. Skinner
Jerome T. Spinola
David S. Stein
George L. Sterling
William E. Surrette
Walter (Wally) J. Sutherland
Ronald J. Swenn
Hugh B. Sweeney, Jr.
Albert R. Tremonte
William G. Turner, Jr.
George W. Underhill
Lawrence N. Waterbury

Let us always remember the service that these veterans gave to our country.

When you return to your homes today, enjoy your holiday, and take the time to reflect onwhat the flags, the music, the traditions and the speeches mean, and what you want your children and grandchildren to remember about Westport’s Memorial Day. That it means placing service to your country above yourself, and that the price of democracy, of the ability to debate and disagree in a civil and respectful manner, may mean making the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation. Today, we honor those who made that sacrifice for us all.

Thank you, and best wishes for a wonderful Memorial Day.

On Myrtle Avenue the quintessential Memorial Day view.

So Proudly They Served

For the 2nd year in a row, it rained on Westport’s parade.

But a standing-room-only crowd gathered at Town Hall, for a moving ceremony honoring all who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Gathered quietly among them were many some of the many Westporters who served — and still serve — our nation.

We thank them all. We would not be here today without them.

Grand marshal Ed Vebell recounted stories as an illustrator behind World War II enemy lines.

Bill Vornkahl has organized Westport’s Memorial Day celebrations for the past 47 years.

Larry Aasen

Ted Diamond

Leonard Everett Fisher

Bob Satter

Bob Custer

Malcolm Watson

Rick Benson

Buyile Rani

Bill Delgado and Geoff Gillespie (active)

Memorial Day Parade Canceled; Ceremony Set For Town Hall, 10 am

For the 2nd year in a row, bad weather has forced the cancellation of Westport’s Memorial Day parade.

A ceremony — including a speech by grand marshal and World War II veteran Ed Vebell — is set for 10 a.m., in the Town Hall auditorium.

See you there!

Memorial Day: We Remember

The World War II memorial on Veteran’s Green, across from Westport Town Hall, where a ceremony takes place after today’s parade (approximately 10:30 a.m.). Other monuments there honor veterans of other wars.

Pic Of The Day #42

Yesterday, Boy Scout Troop 39 placed flowers on the graves of veterans, at 5 Westport cemeteries. Here, they decorated the entrance at North Kings Highway. The flowers were donated by VFW Post 399. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Photo Challenge #126

When Ed Simek sent in a photo for last week’s challenge, I had to admit: I’d never noticed it.

But there the statue sits, hidden in plain site, on the Canal Street/Kings Highway North corner, near Canal Park. Click here to see the image, and the (mostly wrong) guesses.

It honors the Izzo family, longtime residents of the area. Think Izzo Lane, off Richmondville — and Crossroads Hardware, right around the corner.

Complimenti to Kathi Sherman, Lee Fleming, Wendy Cusick and Alec Head. And special congrats go to Kitty Graves, who supplied this info:

The sculpture was created by Chris Ray, son of noted landscape architect Eloise Ray. She designed Canal Park — and many others around Westport. This is a copy of the original, which was stolen.

This week’s photo challenge is special. Click “Comments” to tell us where in Westport you’d find this; how it got there, and why we’re posting this today.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Watch The Parade — Then Send Us Your Photos!

The Memorial Day parade is one of Westport’s favorite town events.

Everyone has a favorite spot to watch from. Everyone has a favorite band, float or marcher to photograph.

But why share them only with a few hundred dear pals, casual acquaintances and random how’d-they-get-on-my-list Facebook “friends”?

Tomorrow — weather permitting — let all of Westport see “your” Memorial Day parade. Send a few (not all!) of your photos to “06880” (email: dwoog@optonline.net). Deadline: 1 p.m. Please include brief identification, if needed, and of course your own name.

I’ll post some (not all!) in the afternoon.

And be creative! We want special photos, for our special parade.

Westport celebrates Memorial Day in many ways. Here's a simple shot from the parade route.

Westport celebrates Memorial Day in many ways. Here’s a simple shot from the parade route.

Long May It Wave

This Memorial Day weekend, an alert “06880” reader — who asks to be called “a local military vet” — is concerned that too many of us fly the American flag improperly. He writes:

I often see the flag hanging outside of houses in the dark and rain. The flag should traditionally be displayed only from sunrise to sunset. It may be displayed at all times if it is illuminated during darkness.

The flag should not be subject to weather damage, so it should not be displayed during rain, snow and wind storms, unless it is an all-weather flag.

When displayed on a float in a parade, it should be hung from a staff or suspended so it falls free. It should not be draped over a vehicle.

Hang a flag vertically against a wall, with the union at the top and facing the observer’s left. Over a sidewalk, ensure the union is at the top at the side farthest away from the nearest building.

The flag should never touch anything beneath it (ground, floor, water, merchandise). It should not be carried horizontally — always aloft.

It should never be used on a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be attached to the uniform of patriotic organizations, military personnel, police officers and firefighters.

The flag should not be used for advertising or promotion purposes, or printed on napkins, boxes, or anything else intended for temporary use and then discarded.

When the flag passes in parade, Americans should stand at attention facing the flag, and place their right hand over their heart.

On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon.

The Westport veteran adds:

It may seem pedantic to spend time on properly displaying the flag.

But it is not. It is important.

In the time of Trump, with so much of the population in open resistance to our elected leadership, proper respect for the flag is a way to show our commitment to the country, not the president.

Commitment can be given meaning by the individual. It does not require any notions of national defense.

For what it’s worth, everyone who enters the military takes an oath to defend the Constitution — not the president.

(For the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Guidelines for Display of the Flag,” click here.)