Friday Flashback #240

Jim Marpe will not run for a 3rd term as first selectman.

It’s a 24/7 job. He’s on call every night, for everything: hurricanes, blizzards, fires and floods.

That’s in addition to his daily routine: meetings with department heads, commission chairs and state officials. Phone calls and e-mails. Budget preparation, constituent problems, COVID concerns.

Then there are the ceremonial duties. Marpe carried oversize scissors to scores of ribbon cuttings. He welcomed restaurants, real estate offices, banks and stores to town.

The famous scissors. First Selectman Jim Marpe joined Munoz del Castillo family members and friends at the official opening of Bistro du Soleil, near the train station.

Those are typical ops. But our first selectman also knows how to have fun. Here’s a look back at some of Jim Marpe’s less-typical tasks:

Andy Berman, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and First Selectman Jim Marpe assume the push-up position at a charity event.

Marpe sent an electric car on its way at the 2014 rally. Earlier that year he drove Robin Tauck’s Tesla for a week. He loved it.

Enjoying the 2016 Staples High Pops Concert at Levitt Pavilion.

The first selectman and his wife Mary Ellen volunteered at the Rotary Club’s 2016 Lobster Fest.

In 2016, he also volunteered at First Night.

A gaggle of children joins 1st Selectman Marpe (center), 2nd Selectman Jen Tooker (left) and the Staples Orphenians, counting down before Westport’s 2019 holiday tree lightning ceremony at Town Hall.

Roundup: Hazardous Waste, Health & Wellness, Kings Highway Bridge …

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The Westport Weston Family YMCA gets a nice shoutout in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Joanne Kaufman — who with her husband has “perched temporarily” in Fairfield County since fleeing Manhattan during COVID — writes about her return to swimming, at our Y.

The piece is called “Dear Locker Room, You Have No Idea How Much I’ve Missed You.” I thought it would be about the joys of the pool, even in a pandemic — my daily swims at the Y have kept me both physically and mentally fit since it reopened last June — but it is mostly about the camaraderie of the locker room.

Click here to read. (Hat tip: Scott Smith)

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Don’t waste a moment!

Westport’s annual Household Hazardous Waste Day is Saturday, April 24 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.,) at a new site: the Greens Farm train station.

The free program is open to residents of Westport, Wilton, Norwalk, New Canaan, Darien, Stamford and Greenwich.

These are some of the items that may be hanging around your home:

Garage: Paints, gasoline, kerosene, mineral spirits, spray paint, paint strippers, paint thinners, solvents, stains, turpentine, varnishes, wood preservatives, degreasers, etc.

Garden shed: Fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, etc.

General household:  Bleach, charcoal lighter, cleaning chemicals, drain cleaners, flammable liquids, mercury thermometers, moth balls, pet flea shampoos, photo chemicals, rug shampoos, spot removers, art supplies and paints, etc.

The following items are NOT acceptable: Propane tanks, ammunition, flares, explosives, commercial hazardous waste.

Before bringing hazardous household items to the collection site:

  • Make sure items are clearly labeled. Never mix chemicals!
  • Keep products in their original labeled container.
  • Place leaky containers in clear plastic bags.
  • Tighten lids of all containers, and pack items in sturdy cardboard boxes lined with newspaper.
  • Put boxes in the trunk or in back of the vehicle, away from passengers.
  • Leave pets and children home.
  • Keep your windows open. Drive directly to the collection site.
  • Do not smoke or eat while handling hazardous materials.
  • Antifreeze, motor oil, batteries of any type, fluorescent bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs and electronics can also be recycled at the transfer station on the Sherwood Island Connector, weekdays from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.

Put all household hazardous waste in the trunk or rear of vehicles. Only fuel containers will be returned to residents.

Questions> Call the Public Works Department (203-341-1793), or click here.

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It seems like the only miserable thing that’s dragged on longer than COVID is the replacement project for the Kings Highway North bridge, by Canal Street.

Public works director Pete Ratkiewich reported yesterday:

“The contractor has just finished setting the first 3 of 6 bridge sections today in the pouring rain. The last 3 will be set Friday.

“The schedule has not changed, with completion expected by the end of June. Once the precast sections are in, they will be working on putting the bridge back together and finishing the project as quickly as possible.”

From his lips to …

Once upon a time, traffic flowed easily on Kings Highway North.

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Speaking of a long 13 months: Westporters are ready to get back to the fitness routine.

So the timing is great for the Westport Downtown Merchants Association’s Fitness & Health Day. It’s set for Saturday, May 1 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

The event takes place all along Main Street, but many more businesses and organizations are involved.

Fleet Feet in Sconset Square kicks things off, hosting a 5K run throughout downtown. Click here to register (spots are limited).

Westport’s leading studios and clubs — including JoyRide, Pure Barre, Row House, Elliptica, Intensity, Physique57, Club Pilates, Saugatuck Rowing Club, The Dance Collective, Stretch Lab, Kaia Yoga and the Westport Weston Family YMCA — will organize fun (and challenging) classes on main Street.

Walk-ups are not permitted for classes. To register, contact each studio directly. Observers are welcome, of course!

Other health and wellness folks will have a presence too: Franny’s Farmacy, RESTORE Cryo, Cparkly Soul, Wisdom and Youth MedSpa, Embrace Orthodontics, New England Hemp Farm, TAP Strength Lab and Organic Krush.

Other sponsors include Andersen Renewal. Wildflower Land Management, Manna Toast and David Adam Realty.

Working out at last year’s Fitness & Health Day.

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On Tuesday, “06880” reported that Bank of America’s Post Road East branch next to Starbucks — across from Carvel — is now closed permanently.

A mailing with the news directed customers to the downtown branch, next to Design Within Reach. There was no work about the fate of BOA’s 3rd Westport office, on the Southport line.

Now there is. A second mailing yesterday notified customers that that branch — at 1815 Post Road East — has also closed for good.

Banks are supposed to be prudent with their money. I have no idea how much it cost to send 2 separate mailings to all Westport customers.

But perhaps that kind of decision is part of the reason Bank of America just reduced its presence here by two-thirds. (Hat tip: John Karrel)

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Why did the gull cross the Old Mill parking lot?

To get to the other side? Or some other reason?

Who knows? But whatever the reason, it makes for a cool photo.

(Photo/Teri Klein)

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And finally … Today in 1943, Albert Hofmann accidentally discovered the hallucinogenic effects of the research drug LSD.

Fred Cantor: Seeing Westport Through SoCal Eyes

“06880” readers know Fred Cantor as an avid commenter, with a keen eye for Westport’s history, and a passion for its present and future. He’s also a multi-talented writer, movie and play producer, and attorney

Fred Cantor (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The 1971 Staples High School graduate has had health issues, so for the past few years he and his wife Debbie have spent winters in Southern California. They were there last year, when the pandemic (and his doctor’s advice) turned a few months’ stay into more than a year. It was the longest time he’d been away from Westport since moving here at age 10.

After 17 months, Fred and Debbie are back. Here’s what he sees.

The first thing that grabbed our attention coming off Exit 17 was the empty train station parking lot. We had read about the large number of people working at home, but that was an eye-opener.

Yet then, almost instantly, there were old welcome sights: the approach to the distinctive Cribari Bridge — with early signs of spring (daffodils in full bloom) — and just past the bridge, 19th-century homes with yards fronted by quintessential New England stone walls or wrought-iron fences.

Daffodils near the William F. Cribari Bridge.

I don’t think Debbie and I crossed a bridge over a river once in our area of SoCal— and certainly not a bridge on the National Register of Historic Places — even before the pandemic, when we did more driving. Southern California has much natural beauty, but in the area of Orange County where we rented, numerous rivers and streams are certainly not among them.

And historic 19th century homes — well, they did not exist there. Some of those towns were created in the 1960s or later.

Handsome home on Bridge Street.

Westport’s historic homes, stone walls, rivers and meandering tributaries — such as can be seen along Ford Road — are among the sights I missed the most.

The scene along Ford Road.

Forsythias blooming all around Westport were another “welcome home” sign; that too was much rarer in our part of SoCal.

Forsythia blooms outside a 1930 Imperial Avenue home.

Heading to the beach, I had to stop at Joey’s By The Shore at its new location. I hoped to see Joey after all this time. but he’s away.

Back in business: Joey’s by the Shore.

That reinforced my feelings that, while many of us embrace longtime local establishments, it is largely the proprietors we really have such warm feelings about. That was certainly true when the Nistico family switched its restaurant operation from the Arrow to the Red Barn.

Walking across the street to Old Mill Beach instantly reminded me why that has long been a personal favorite. It’s not only beautiful; it’s often serene, as exemplified by a couple quietly reading their iPad and newspaper on a nearly empty beach.

Old Mill Beach.

When I was away I stayed in touch with Westport friends via email, texts, social media, occasional phone calls and Zoom.

I followed local Westport news via “06880,” so in certain respects I didn’t feel 3,000 miles away from what was happening here.  By contrast, I vividly recall the summer of 1964. I was at camp in Pennsylvania, and learned of my Little League team winning the Minor League World Series a week after the fact, when I received a letter from my parents with a clipping from the Town Crier.

The most difficult thing about being so far away was not being able to see our 93- and 95-year-old moms. Daily phone calls and occasional FaceTime calls didn’t quite suffice.

So that first weekend back in town generated a teary reunion hug between Debbie and her mom. It was coupled with a culinary discovery: delicious mini-babka at the new Kneads Bakery, which we all enjoyed at their outdoor dining area.

Fred’s wife Debbie Silberstein, Debbie’s mother and aide, at Kneads Bakery. (All photos/Fred Cantor)

That first weekend back also generated our first experience with traffic. At 4 p.m. Saturday there was a big backup on Bridge Street toward Saugatuck. Traffic crawled on 95, spilling over onto local streets.

Other than on the single-lane canyon road leading to Laguna Beach, we never experienced major backups in SoCal. The main local roads have 3 lanes in each direction — with an additional two left-hand turn lanes at major intersections.

During that traffic tie-up on Bridge Street I witnessed an “only in Westport” moment (and something I had never seen in close to 60 years here). Moving right by the traffic on a highly unusual mode of transit were two cyclists on penny-farthings (you can look it up🤨).

Seeing that, I knew for sure I was back in Westport!

Pic Of The Day #1459

Saugatuck Fire Station (Photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

Hey, Gardeners! Grow Your Own — And Share

The Westport Community Gardens is a wonderful place. Dozens of gardeners — from  families with little children to folks in their 80s — grow fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs and grasses, in all kinds of designs and configurations.

They joyfully share their bounty with others. The Grow-A-Row fresh food  initiative encourages gardeners to grow an extra row — or more — to donate.

Last year the program donated nearly 100 grocery bags loaded with fresh, organically grown produce to the The Center for Food Equity and Economic Development (FEED) in Bridgeport. Their culinary training program team prepares the donated food, distributes meals to soup kitchens throughout Bridgeport, and runs a food truck to reach neighborhoods that lack access to fresh food.

Some of the food donations grown and collected at the Westport Community Garden through the Grow-A-Row initiative last  summer.

This year, Grow-A-Row — with partners Sustainable Westport and the Zero Food Waste Initiative — invites all Westport home gardeners, everywhere in town, to participate.

They’ll even get you started, with seeds.

The Grow-A-Row Project received a generous donation of vegetable seeds from the University of Connecticut Extension Master Gardeners Program. They include radishes, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra and squashes. Seeds are available for pickup at Branson Hall, at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Seeds are limited to first come, first served. But all home gardeners in Westport are welcome to donate whatever they grow.

Once harvested, all fresh produce and herb donations can be dropped off at Branson Hall.

Questions? Email amyunikewicz@gmail.com.

Roundup: Memorial Day Parade, Yankee Doodle Fair, Waterspout …

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In one more sign of approaching normalcy, the town is moving forward with plans for an actual Memorial Day parade.

This year’s theme for the float contest is “Honoring Women Veterans.” Certificates will be awarded for Best Development of Theme, Best Youth Organization Float, Most Creative, Best Community Organization, Most Colorful, and the Best Overall Float.

If past form holds true, the Y’s Men will win the Overall award. They’ve won it nearly every year for the past 20 or so.

And the only reason the Y’s Men did not win in 2020, 2017 or 2016 was because there were no parades. (COVID last year; rain those other 2.)

Weather and COVID permitting, this year’s event begins at 9 a.m. on May 31, at Saugatuck Elementary School. Veterans — and thousands of others — will march north on Riverside Avenue, trn right on Post Road East, then continue to Myrtle Avenue.

 

The Y’s Men’s float won, as usual, in 2012. This one honored Korean War veterans — complete with freezing mist.

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The Memorial Day parade is not the only tradition that’s returning.

The Westport Woman’s Club’s Yankee Doodle Fair returns this year — but not in its century-old mid-June, end-of-school, welcome-summer slot.

Yesterday, the Board of Selectmen approved the event for September 23 through the 26th.

So it will be a start-of-school, welcome-fall fair.

But it’s still at the Woman’s Club site on Imperial Avenue.

Even after 100 years, little changes.

The 2017 Yankee Doodle Fair (Drone photo/Ryan Collins)

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Yesterday was spring-like — warm and mostly sunny. Guy Sherman wanted to  photograph a few interesting clouds over Saugatuck Shores.

He got a bonus: this rare and remarkable waterspout:

(Photo/Guy Sherman)

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A month ago, the old wood-shingled house at 19 Soundview Drive bore a demolition sign.

Then it was gone.

Now the home — one of the oldest, as-yet-unrenovated along the Compo exit road– has been painted and spiffed up. It looks eager to greet renters and beachgoers.

And ready to last another 100 years.

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The Learning Community Day School celebrates its 50th anniversary on April 28th.

The institution — housed for many years on Hillspoint Road — is not just patting themselves on the back. They’re raising money for kindergarten scholarships, with their first-ever golf outing.

It’s set for Monday, April 26 at Longshore. Check-in and breakfast are 9 a.m.; tee times start at 10 a.m. You can play 9 or 18 holes.

The cost is $250 per player, $900 for a foursome. You can form your own twosome or foursome, or be paired up.

Popup Bagels and Manny’s Ultimate Bloody Mary Mix are sponsoring food and drinks. Of course, there are prizes and giveaways.

For more information, email learning_community@yahoo.com or call 203-227-8394.

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Longtime Westport resident Judith Portner Sappern died peacefully on Saturday. She was 88 years old.

The Rumson, New Jersey native was an adventurer who, after serving as managing editor of her high school newspaper, took the unusual step at the time to go out of state for college. A

t the University of Connecticut she served as president of Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority, made lifelong friends and fell in love with Donald Sappern. Married shortly after graduation, they started a telephone answering service in Norwalk.  As Don’s career progressed and he became a successful insurance executive, Judy managed office operations and bookkeeping.

Judy Sappern

As the couple’s children grew, Judy helped with their studies and supported every interest, from the choir room and pool to the baseball diamond and the rock band that practiced in the basement. She fed generations of Staples High School students who used their nearby house on Wedgewood Lane as a home base throughout the day.

Judy pursued a master’s degree in social work, and volunteered at Norwalk Hospital. She loved helping others work through tough times, and passed that empathy on to her children. When not at the hospital or office, Judy worked on needlepoint, and played golf or bridge with friends. She also became a personal computer enthusiast and fanatical supporter of UConn basketball.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 63 years, Donald, and her older sister Joyce Cooper. Judy is survived by her children, Laurie Sappern Gaugler  (Dean), and Matthew (Rianne), both of Fairfield, and Adam (Margot)of Bethel, Vermont. Judy enjoyed frequent visits and calls with her 7 grandchildren: Billy, Chloe, Brian, Geoffrey, Rachel, Carly and Tobey. She is also survived by her beloved sister-in-law, Pietrina Sappern of Milford.

A memorial service will be held when travel and gathering is less limited. Memorial contributions in Judy’s memory can be made to the IGA Nephropathy Foundation, PO Box 1322, Wall, New Jersey 07727.

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And finally … sure, the IRS has extended this year’s filing deadline to May 17. But April 15 will always be, um, special.

 

Turkey Hill House Earns Historic Preservation Award

It’s easy to see all the teardowns in town.

Sometimes we focus on them so much, we miss the preservation efforts going on nearby.

Preservation Connecticut notices. In fact, they’ve given the owners of 70 Turkey Hill Road South a Connecticut Preservation Award — one of only 10 in the state. The virtual ceremony is May 5.

The 2-story, 1,230-square foot 1892 farmhouse was completely restored last year.

Rahul Ghai and his wife Priyanka Singh bought the property in November 2019. They had several options. They could demolish the 127-year-old house and build a new one; a demolition permit had already been issued to the previous owners.

They could keep the building as it was, and build a new home on the premises.

Or they could restore it — and also build a new house nearby.

70 Turkey Hill Road South in 2019, before restoration …

The couple decided to restore the 1892 structure, and also build a large house, using a Westport 32-18 regulation obtained by the prior owners. Such a plan — which has prevented 22 other historic structures from being demolished — must be approved by a joint Architectural Review and Historic District Commission committee, then by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Ghai and Singh hired Christopher Pagliaro, the architect for the previous owners. He worked with them to restore both the exterior and interior.

Work was extensive. All vinyl siding was removed, and replaced with wood. The asphalt roof was replaced with cedar shingles. All windows were replaced. The original front and rear porches — which had been enclosed as living space throughout the years — were recreated.

… during the project …

A number of homeowners have demolished homes the size of 70 Turkey Hill South, replacing them with larger, more modern houses. The Preservation Award press release notes that Westport is “sometimes called Connecticut’s teardown capital.”

The 32-18 regulation shows that those older homes can be retained — while simultaneously allowing construction of new ones.

Singh noted, “We are strongly committed to restoration and preservation of historical structures. Our school-age daughter is also passionate about history. But we couldn’t have done it without our architect Chris, and Ryan Fletcher of Fletcher Development.”

… and after.

Certificates will be presented to the owners, architect, contractor, town of Westport and the Westport Museum of History & Culture.

(Hat tip: Bob Weingarten, house historian for the Westport Museum of History & Culture, who nominated 70 Turkey Hill Road South for the 2021 Preservation Award.)

Pic Of The Day #1458

Peaceful Compo morning (Photo/Roseann Spengler)

Unsung Heroes #186

“06880” has already saluted the COVID vaccinators as Unsung Heroes.

But a recent email got my attention. Susan Maya writes:

The hard working pharmacists at Walgreens are unsung heroes.

Rose Stillo and the pharmacists at Walgreens are busy vaccinating Westport, while still filling our prescriptions and answering our questions.

Staples High School Key Club members, wanted to say “thanks.” They put together goodie bags to thank them for all they have done over the past year.

Staples Key Club at Walgreens.

Which got me thinking. Why not give a shout-out to all the vaccinators again? And everyone else who has made it happen: the Westport Weston Health District, officials who have turned places like Walgreens, CVS, hospitals, college campuses — and the Staples High School fieldhouse (for educators) — into vaccination sites.

But let’s also thank the people like the Staples Key Club, who go out of their way to make people smile in these still-too-difficult days.

Unsung Heroes is not a finite category. There are more than enough people doing more than enough good things these days. So if you’ve given a vaccine, helped someone get one — in a group or individually — or simply made someone at a vaccine site smile: You are our Unsung Hero!

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

Roundup: Pizza, Pequot Library, Parkway …

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The Westport Farmers’ Market opens next month. But if you thought you were following them on Facebook, you might have missed the news.

During the winter, the WFM page was hacked. They lost over 8,000 followers — and the chance to inform them about news, vendors, special events and more.

They created a new Facebook page, and are rebuilding their following. But many people don’t realize they’re no longer “friends” with the WFM.

A generous supporter offered a “matching” Facebook challenge. If they reach 1,000 followers, the supporter will make donate $1,000 for WFM programs.

So, whether you think you follow the Farmers’ Market on Facebook or not, click here, then click the “Like” button. Then share that post with friends and family.

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Speaking of farms and food, here’s a way to keep ’em down on the farm: Pizza.

On Tuesdays starting May 4 (4 to 7 p.m.), “Tony Pizza Napolitano” will make 16-inch wood-fired cheese pizzas live at the Wakeman Town Farm oven.

Tony lives in Weston, and the pizzas he makes at The Grange are an 0688e legend. He uses “only top-quality local, organic ingredients — and love.” Click here for a rave review from Stephanie Webster’s CTBites.

Go to Facebook. Find “Tony Pizza Napolitano,” click “like” and follow the page. The weekly menu is posted every Monday morning. To order, send Tony a private message for a time slot. Once it’s confirmed, pick it up the next day at the Cross Highway farm..

It’s a perfect dinner — particularly if you’re already at Wakeman Field picking up the kids.

Tony Pizza Napolitano

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I don’t know whether the long-running Merritt Parkway project is done.

But — after a couple of years at least — all the construction equipment is gone from the Exit 41 parking lot.

It doesn’t look great. But it sure looks a lot better than it did.

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The Westport Library is seeking candidates for its Board of Trustees. Of particular interest: people with expertise in finance, fundraising and development for non-profits; knowledge and understanding of current trends in digital media and information technology, or a background in municipal government and/or not-for-profit law.

Trustees serve 4-yeare terms. Click here for more information.Interested candidates should email a resume and letter of interest to rpowell@westportlibrary.org. The deadline is April 23.

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Speaking of libraries: The Pequot’s great John James Audubon “Birds of America” exhibit is on display through May 2.

What’s the Westport hook (besides the fact that many “06880” residents love the historic Southport institution)?

The exhibit — and the many Pequot collections — are now safe for (hopefully) another 125 years.

A $1.5 million project to rehabilitate the endangered terra cotta roof was steered by 2 trustees, both from Westport.

Coke Anne Murchison Wilcox — member of a famed Texas family — majored in architecture at Princeton, then studied at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture. She worked for several architects, including Philip Johnson. In the early 1990s Wilcox purchased The Maidstone Arms in East Hampton. She and her husband, Jarvis Wilcox, have 3 adult children.

Charlotte Rogan spent 25 years as a writer before her first novel was published in 2012. The Lifeboat was included on The Huffington Post’s 2015 list of “21 books from the last 5 years that every woman should read,” and has been translated into 26 languages. Her second novel, Now and Again, continued to explore issues of morality and justice. Rogan attended Greens Farms Academy when it was an all-girl’s school, studied architecture at Princeton University, and worked for a large construction firm before turning to writing.

The Pequot Library. with its famed roof.

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And finally … in honor of Tony Pizza Napolitano (above):