Remembering JoAnne Siebrasse

Westport has lost another longtime civic volunteer.

JoAnne Siebrasse died last month. She was 93 years old.

She and her late husband Dick spent most of their long married life as enthusiastic Westporters. They came here after several corporate transfers, requiring 2- and 3-year semi-permanent relocations in the Midwest.

While Dick first commuted to New York as an advertising “Mad Man,” and later climbed the corporate ladder at CPC International in New Jersey, Westport remained their home for over 50 years. JoAnne invested her time and significant effort to make many long-term friends and community connections here.

JoAnne Siebrasse

Her primary focus in life was to be of service to others. She was active with the Westport Woman’s Club serving on its board  and with the Curio Cottage, Scholarship Committee, Yankee Doodle Fair and more.

JoAnne also was an avid, longtime participant in American Red Cross blood drives; Meals on Wheels; board member of Christian Community Action food pantry (now Person-2-Person); Westport Senior Center; Westport Historical Society, and community outreach at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Greens Farms Congregational Church.

Her son Tom says, “Never one to take direction well, she always served on the boards of the organizations she joined to make her voice and enthusiasm heard. She gathered countless friends and interesting companions along the way.”

Donations in JoAnne Siebrasse’s name can be sent to CT Food Bank, Fidelco Guide Dogs or Homes for Our Troops.

Rebecca Yormark: Abilis Ambassador

For 14 years, Abilis — the non-profit that supports hundreds of people with special needs, through education, advocacy, recreational activities, life skills support, job training and residential options — has sponsored a fundraiser.

There’s a 1-mile wheelchair and stroller accessible walk, a 5K run, children’s activities like face painting, crafts and a bouncy house, plus music and food. This year’s event is tomorrow (Sunday, October 20, 9 a.m., Tod’s Point, Greenwich).

Hundreds of folks will participate and watch. The walk will be led by Rebecca Yormark — a Westporter.

Rebecca Yormark

The 22-year-old is a great Abilis “ambassador.” The organization has helped her and her family transition from a residential school to a supported apartment.

Rebecca attends Abilis’ young adult LEAP transition program. She also volunteers in the community, and is getting ready for a job.

The walk is free to participate, but a donation to Abilis is appreciated. There is a $40 registration fee for the run for adults; $20 for children 11 to 17. Prizes are awarded for the top 3 men’s, women’s and children’s run finishers; team awards go to those with the most members, and who raise the most money. Creativity awards are given for the most unique run and walk outfits.

Rebecca will enjoy the day. So will her many friends and fans.

Congratulations, Rebecca, on leading Abilis this weekend!

Pics Of The Day #914

Foliage at Ford Road …

… and Sherwood Island State Park (Photos/Andrew Colabella)

Friday Flashback #164

I’m not sure why a funeral home thought it was a good idea to send out clocks with their name on it. Can you imagine seeing this, every time you checked the time?

(Photo courtesy of Seth Schachter)

On the other hand, if you ever needed to call them — well, their 4-digit number was right there, staring you in the face.

Cribari Bridge Closed — Again

For the second time in a couple of weeks, the Cribari Bridge over the Saugatuck River is closed.

Once again, it’s stuck in the open position.

According to alert “0688o” reader — and nearby resident — Robbie Guimond, the last time it happened, a state Department of Transportation foreman said it “just stopped.”

A crew struggled to close it manually. The foreman told Robbie that the back-up apparatus is very old, and seldom used.

The scene on Riverside Avenue. (Photo/Robbie Guimond)

Seawater On Main Street — Or More?

Like a number of buildings on Main Street, #69 is under construction.

Developers are working hard to resuscitate downtown. In addition to the usual retail challenges — online shopping, the opening of the new Norwalk mall, finding the right “mix” — Main Street stores face frequent flooding.

A web of federal, state and local regulations cover building lots near rivers and wetlands.

So when Chip Stephens and Al Gratrix — both members of the Planning & Zoning Commission — noticed excavation work at #69, and saw water being pumped into storm drains in Parker Harding Plaza, they wanted to know more. When they smelled a strong odor in the water, they grew concerned.

The back of 69 Main Street, on Parker Harding Plaza, in an undated photo.

That night, coincidentally, the P&Z met. The developer sent a representative to ask for approval of work they’d already begun.

Stephens asked about the pump, and smell. The representative replied that it was seawater, brought in by high tides. She said the work involved removing slab, replacing a drainpipe and bathing the project.

The next day, Stephens and Gratrix returned. This time, they noticed soil work. Town engineer Peter Ratkiewich told them there were 7 fuel tanks there. Two still contained fuel. He said the smell from the excavation reached Elm Street — and one store in the area had to be closed at one point, due to the strong oil odor.

A number of old oil tanks are located by the river. They date back decades, to the days when the Saugatuck River lapped up against the back of stores on the west side of Main Street. Parker Harding Plaza was developed on landfill, in the 1950s.

P&Z staff discovered documents that showed the developer knew back in 2018 that the oil tanks and oil contamination would be a problem. However, at the P&Z meeting the representative simply said that the odorous water — being emptied into storm drains — was “seawater.”

Last night, Stephens and Gratrix requested a new meeting to reconsider the decision; for the developer to explain why the P&Z was not informed of contamination at 69 Main Street, and the remedies required; a timeline of knowledge of contamination, and why excavation and demolition occurred without a permit for new construction — and, most important, an outline of steps going forward for remediation of 69 Main Street, so construction can continue properly under Coastal Area Management code.

Pic Of The Day #913

Winds whipped the Ned Dimes Marina today (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Make A Difference — And Help For the Holidays

It started out as “Make a Difference Day.” Now, the Westport event spans the entire month of October.

The goal is for volunteers to help local non-profits. They register their projects; willing hands are then matched with needs.

Projects are updated regularly. They include painting, maintenance, helping with compost piles, collecting used eyeglasses and children’s clothes — you name it. Click here for a list.

To register a project — or volunteer for one — click here.

It’s a month-long event — but Saturday, October 26 is special. Volunteers will gather at Christ & Holy Trinity Church at 9 a.m. They’ll assemble toiletry bags for homeless men, comfort bags for abused women, arts and craft kits for children in need, and Hug a Senior bags.

Click here for the full Make a Difference Day Month website. For more information, call Barbara Pearson-Rac: 203-226-1390.

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Meanwhile, it’s not even Halloween. But Westport’s Department of Human Services is already thinking about the holidays.

They see a side of town most Westporters never do. The Town Hall staff knows our neighbors are coping with layoffs, reduced work hours, even foreclosures.

For years, Human Services has facilitated a Holiday Giving Program. It’s as important today as it ever was.

Residents can donate grocery and gas gift cards of any amount, as well as gift cards to local stores.

Cash donations are always welcome. They allow for the purchase of last-minute gift cards for clients. Residents who wish to shop for a family’s actual gift requests can do so, at whatever level the donor feels comfortable.

Organizations — including non-profits, religious institutions and businesses — can donate too.

The more the “merrier,” for sure.

(To donate online, click here; select “Holiday Giving” in the the “Seasonal Program” dropdown prompt. Checks made payable to “DHS Family Programs” — with “Holiday” on the memo line — may be mailed to Human Services, c/o Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880, or dropped off there in Room 200. For more information, email familyprograms@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-1183. Families that need support during the holidays should call 203-341-1050.)

Pics Of The Day #912

Compo Beach this afternoon. The weather has deteriorated since then. (Photo/Pat Auber)

Earlier, storm clouds gathered over South Beach. (Photo/Tammy Barry)

Water, Water Everywhere …

As Westport prepares for heavy rain and possible thunderstorms tonight — with  coastal flooding and shoreline impacts from midnight through 4 a.m. — alert “06880” reader JP Vellotti forwarded this text:

His only comment: “Kinda ironic.”