Sportsmen (And Women) Of Westport

The Sportsmen of Westport annual dinner is always an interesting affair.

The event — now in its 51st year — honors an eclectic group of former athletes. Many competed as youngsters in Westport; some arrived here after their playing days were over, but got involved in town sports.

All have intriguing stories to tell.

Three wrestlers will be honored at this year’s dinner (Tuesday, May 22, 6 p.m., Continental Manor in Norwalk). Nick Garoffolo, Mike Breen and Andy Lobsenz were all stars during Staples’ grappling heyday; all continue to give back to their sport, long after their days on the mat are over.

Ex-Staples baseball and football standout Jeb Backus — later a softball star, now a youth coach — will be feted. So will Danbury High basketball, field hockey and track ace Janet Zamary, who went on to become Staples’ first athletic trainer, and now as a phys. ed. teacher heads up the school’s highly regarded Unified Sports program for students with disabilities. And longtime Little League volunteer Joe Nixon too.

Three other honorees have gone on to non-athletic careers.  But they may not be where they are today without the lessons they learned as kids, on the fields.

George Barrett

George Barrett was a superb soccer, basketball and baseball player at Staples. A back injury ended his soccer career at Brown University. He coached and taught at the Horace Mann School in New York, and got an MBA at NYU. Today he’s chairman and CEO of Cardinal Health, ranked #19 on the Fortune 500, and a major healthcare company. He serves on numerous civic and charitable boards, and has an honorary doctorate from LIU.

Suzanne Allen Redpath

Suzy Allen played field hockey and ran track for legendary Staples coach Jinny Parker. After Hollins College she joined CBS News, where she’s had an astonishing 40-year career. She was Walter Cronkite’s researcher during Watergate; covered earth-shaking events like the rise of Solidarity in Poland and the Falklands War, and then — as CBS Evening News senior producer for foreign coverage — directed and oversaw stories like the fall of communism, the emergence of democracy in China, and 9/11. Suzy — now Suzanne Allen Redpath — has won Emmy and DuPont Awards, and received an honorary doctorate from Hollins.

Rich Franzis

Rich Franzis is known to many Westporters as an assistant principal at Staples. Many do not know that he played football at Shelton High. A longtime U.S. Army reservist with the rank of colonel, he was deployed to Iraq where he oversaw the intelligence operations of 5 brigades. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service.

George, Suzy, Rich and the other very worthy honorees may or may not discuss the role athletics has played in their lives, when they make their speeches May 22.

But — if they’re anything like the five decades of Sportsmen honorees before them — they’ll definitely tell tales of games, coaches, teammates and opponents in the social hour before the dinner, all during the meal, and long into the night.

They’ve accomplished plenty professionally, in the years since the last whistles blew.

But at this month’s banquet — and, really, their entire lives — they’re sportsmen. The capital letter — Sportsmen — is just one more feather in their caps.

(Tickets, at $50 each, are available at Settlers & Traders Real Estate, 215 Post Road West; Junior’s Hot Dog Stand, 265 Riverside Avenue, or by emailing For more information call 203-341-1365, or click here. )

7 responses to “Sportsmen (And Women) Of Westport

  1. Anne Hardy

    Congratulations to this year’s honorees and to Sportsmen of Westport too! Each year at this wonderful event, Sportsmen of Westport also honors 5 senior student athletes from Staples with a Sportsmen of Westport Award from Staples Tuition Grants. These grants honor the commitment of these athletes and support their dreams of going on to college. Staples Tuition Grants is grateful to the men and women of S of W for their annual support of these terrific young Staples athletes!

  2. Tom Allen '66

    A great group, as always, Dan. This year, though, I’m especially partial to my sister, Suzy ’65, a great athlete at Staples and in college pre-Title IX and a wonderful sister who cherishes her time growing up in Westport.

  3. Westporter4ever

    Dan, you should get the full program from someone! The PAL also honor’s a volunteer of the year as well!!

  4. Congratulations to this year’s honorees.

    Enjoy your special evening!! You have earned it and it is well deserved!!

    Tom Wall

  5. Congratulation to Suzy Allen (Redpath). There was never a doubt she was going to have a great career. Bob Kyle

  6. Ned Batlin

    Congratulations to all the recipiants. I was one of those Seniors who received an award many years ago. The Sportsmen of Westport and the Tuition Grants Commitee were instrumental in helping go to college. Thank you.

  7. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Congrats to all the honorees!!! I was lucky enough to be influenced or beat up by three of the honorees and a fourth I played softball against. Mike Breen was a well versed and beyond accomplished wrestler at a very young age. His brother Jaimie(sp?) was a great wrestler too, I wrestled against Mike. At a tournament in the late 70’s a very young and totally over match wrestler namely me had to go against Mike. We are three years apart in age and he was far superior, but he let me go three periods before pinning me. His father had kind words for me and that was the end of my day. That memory and Mike’s generosity to let a fellow teammate go three periods and not pin me in speed was the Sportsman he is. I have many more memories of Andy and Nick and there contributions in my life and others but Mike’s sticks out to this day!!! See you at the dinner!!