Remembering Tina

Tina died today. Or maybe yesterday, or the day before.

I don’t know Tina’s last name. I never really talked to her — once or twice, at the Y when it was downtown.

You may not think you knew Tina. But if you live in Westport, you did.

She was the homeless woman with the limp.

We saw her everywhere. Tina was at the library. Gold’s. Oscar’s, before it closed.

And of course, we saw her limping all around town.

A Weston native, Tina was an independent spirit. She didn’t care for rules. She lived life her own way.

Sometimes she panhandled — downtown, or in front of CVS. Some Westporters gave her money. Others didn’t. They thought she’d spend it on alcohol or drugs.

Tina didn’t drink or do drugs. Mostly, she spent what she had on food for her cat.

helping-hands

She ate meals, occasionally, at the Gillespie Center. Volunteers there got to know her, as best they could. Tina was not an easy person to know.

Many people — and organizations — did what they could to help. Homes With Hope tried. Human Services tried. The police tried. Sometimes they succeeded. Sometimes not. But they never stopped trying.

They always treated her with dignity and respect.

Tina got through winters her own way. She lived in a shed downtown.

That’s where she died. Someone who had not seen her in a while went looking for her. He found here there, in the shed.

She’d had a bad leg wound recently. She may not have taken care of it. That was the way she lived, and it may have been the way she died.

Tina’s mother died, not too long ago. Her brothers are also gone.

But Tina may have a funeral. Rev. Pete Powell — a founder of Interfaith Housing (now Homes With Hope) — often leads services for homeless people.

If there is one, I’m sure Westporters will attend. They’ll try to do what they can in death for Tina — the woman with the limp — just as they did in her life.

114 responses to “Remembering Tina

  1. Trish Lawrence

    I’m so sorry to hear this. I saw her not to long ago in CVS and was thinking how great she looked. Someone was shopping with her. She was all cleaned up and wearing a nice suede blazer. RIP Tina, hopefully you have joined your family somewhere more peaceful.

  2. Carmine Picarello

    How sad, she was a nice lady. We would see her behind CVS often. I recently complimented her on her new winter coat. She thanked me and asked if I had any spare change. My daughter and I gave her what few dollars we had and she thanked us. I looked for her during the past weekend; Thanksgiving.

  3. Michelle Titlebaum

    Thanks for sharing this Dan, we would have never known.

  4. Michelle Hogue

    Thanks for sharing, Dan Woog! Very touching and caring. Everyone knows Tina! Even if not by name, by her Spirit and face. Thank you for keeping the humanity in this town alive, if only a bit more by sharing of her life and passing.

  5. Christine Bisceglie

    I never knew her name but she was a striking figure in town.
    Whoever went to look for her , is a hero in my mind.
    Pope Francis “Year of Mercy ” is wrapping up.

    ” If you can’t sit down beside a homeless person to talk for a while today, at least send a donation to a ministry that does do this (such as Christ in the City). – See more at: http://aleteia.org/2015/12/07/54-ways-to-be-merciful-during-the-jubiliee-year-of-mercy/#sthash.KWlQuJEu.dpuf

    This is not “Christian message.” It is Human message. Forgive the suggestion to donate to a Christian organization. Today is a day of giving to whatever charity you believe in. How appropriate Dan- As usual. You live by example.

    • I am sending my donation to the Gillespie Center (Homes with Hope) today. This local charity helped Tina time and time again.

  6. Rebecca Herman

    If anyone hears about a service for her, it would be great to spread the word. Thank you for writing this story. I always enjoyed seeing her when I served dinner at Gillespie.

  7. So sad. I remember her from high school. She was so pretty but always aloof. God rest her soul.

  8. Sylvia Robinson Corrigan

    This is very sad news! I do think that leg wound was there for quite some time, and I know she just “didn’t like hospitals,” as she put it to me at SoNo one day last summer as we chatted over a cup of coffee. She talked of a possible offer to live at Canal Street. “Take it, take it,” I said. She had the manner of someone who seemed to be of a particular, maybe once well-off background, I thought: – and yet, and yet, she had that fiercely independent spirit. Sorry to hear she has gone.

  9. I often served Tina dinner at the Gillespie Center. The last time I served dinner there Tina was conspicuous by her absence. I was hoping this wasn’t the reason. May she Rest In Peace!

  10. Thank you Dan for writing this piece on her. I remember purchasing coffee and breakfast for her at the Granola Bar and seeing her everywhere all the time. I hope we can attend the service.

  11. Robin Scarella

    i could never see her without feeling so bad, it must have been so hard on her. I almost always gave her a little money, just could not. Once she was on line to buy something and did not have enough and I was so glad I could help. She did live her way. I hope people will attend and remember her.

  12. Christine Bisceglie

    Does anyone know the fate of Tina’s pet ?

    • Yes, we took in her cat early last year. We named her Kitty Gato. She was a tough old cat. Coincidentally she passed away peacefully on Saturday night.

  13. Robert Mitchell

    Now that I think of it, she was not at the Community Thanksgiving Feast at Saugatuck Church this year. That must be why. Thanks for the notice, Dan.

  14. Thomas Orofino

    Will you let me know about any funeral arrangements please

  15. Merri Micale Mueller

    This is so sad. I just saw here in the CVS parking lot just last week. I wanted to talk to her, at least say hello, but I was scared to, so I didn’t. Now I wish I had…

  16. Dan,

    Tis makes me very sad, I just saw her last week…. Limping around.

    Let us know if there is a service. Lee at Oscars would have been bummed out. That is where I always saw Tina.

    So sad.

    [Gary signature 12-15]

  17. Prill Plantinga Boyle '72

    I’m in shock. I just chatted with Tina a week or two ago, no more, and left some gloves and a hat in the shed where she often slept. She said she’d been so cold lately. Like Christine B., above, I wonder about her cat. And Jeff G., you mentioned having known her in high school. Was she in our class?

  18. My husband and I got to know her through serving meals at Gillespie and I know her from crossing paths at old Y as well as Westport Woman’s Club. Please post funeral details and I will try to attend.

  19. If we can we would attend her service, like you said, she was tough. But a substantial human being, very independent. Can you post when it is, Dan?

    I suppose in this proactive town there’s a plan for her cats?

    Although she gave my daughter a very hard time when she was a volunteer at Gillespie, she had issues and our society needs to flex for that and provide care. What really amazes me is whenever I offered Tina help she asked me for help for her cats, she would load up on bagfuls of tiny cans of high end food, I think Little Ceasars?? She never asked for anything for herself. And after she loaded up on food for a couple of hundred dollars she would refuse a ride and went off into the distance with heavy bags of stuff I never knew but wondered where she was going.

    I can’t count how many times she limped along in a downpour and I’d offer her a ride and she would say no I’m fine. She had very aristocratic, Yankee features, piercing blue eyes, and when she was on an even keel always,with me, I always thought she was fascinating but to my daughter, she was volatile and scary. She seemed a descendant from a wealthy background or lineage who had been struck by mental illness, which always deserves comas sion even though it is horrible sometimes to deal with it.

    I will miss her presence as our increasingly affluent town loses the funky flavor we had when I moved here.

    Rest in peace, Tina, thank you for forcing us to think outside our cushy worlds.

  20. I knew Tina. Like many of Westport’s less fortunate, she wound at the Pizzeria. She would come in, often just to cut through, but sometimes to ask for a cup of coffee or a slice. She would tell us she would pay tomorrow, but we all knew tomorrow was very going to come. She would ask to use the bathroom, and we always said yes even though we knew was going in to bathe herself and would leave an awful mess. We knew her name, and always addressed her by it. Always a person, never just a derelict.

  21. Whenever I gave Tina a ride she insisted on keeping her bag on her lap as huge as it sometimes was. It never took a back seat! And neither will the memory of her twisted body limping through life. Poor soul.

  22. Thank you for writing this nice remembrance. Tina was a survivor and she lived and died on her terms. She will be missed and I hope she has found peace.

  23. Wow how sad I have known Tina fir at least 15 years she always came to the WWC to the Curio Cottage she always found something there sometimes people were annoyed because was not easy to talk to her and me as an immigrant and working for the WWC never had a problem with her we talked mostly about everything: Mexico, my kids which she got to know them, now adults and are of Collage, hr her family, her mom when she passed and of course her cats which I gave her food for them as the WWC runs a Food Closet sometimes people donated cat food and she always happy to get the cans. Sure she will be missed I WILL Rest In Peace Tina

  24. Tina was a distinctive presence at Gillespie – sometimes happy, sometimes not, but always herself and always with something to say. I’m among those who would like to say goodbye if there is a service.

  25. Rest In Peace Tina! You were a sweet soul. I’ll miss seeing you at CVS.

  26. Sorry to hear this. She was a tough woman. I used to pickup her cat food tab at the pet store across from CVS if she was there when I was. RIP Tina.

  27. Ann Marie Flynn

    Dan you were my introduction to Tina. Quite some time ago, in one of your blogs, you encouraged us,that when We see her, to put our hand in our pocket and make it a giving hand when It was taken out. I’m very glad you did. I believe some did as you requested.
    I hope her passing on wasn’t too painful…and her pet offered her some comfort. I guess she wanted to do it alone…..what a shame.
    Dan please keep us all in touch as to when her services will be. You were a good friend to her.

    • Thanks, Ann Marie — much appreciated. I think these comments are wonderful. How nice to know so many people did what they could. I will certainly pass along any news of a service, if and when I hear of one.

  28. Linda J Mezzullo

    Very sad news indeed. What has happened with her cat? Has someone taken the cat? Wondering if I can in some way help.

    • Eileen Lavigne Flug

      Hi Linda: Animal Control is actively looking for the cat/cats to bring them in and get them medical treatment.

      • Hi Eileen,
        Someone posted earlier that they took her cat in early last year, so I believe it has a safe home.

      • Eileen and Linda, we took in one of her cats several years ago which is the post mentioned above. We do not know about the current animals in her care. L

  29. Michael Don Sullivan

    With great sadness, I have just read that Tina had passed.In a place that I had imagined and worried she might. I had been well aware of her dwelling,as she described housework and improvements to me daily. Tina’s cat was never left out of our daily,early morning conversation.I had the pleasure of her greeting me,or me greeting her almost daily,for years I can’t count right now.They were not always consecutive! All of this was shared with my twin brother,David at Oscar’s Deli. Thanks Tina,for showing up at 6:45 in the morning,with 7 inches of snow on the street,sometimes more, that grateful look that David and I had made it to the store! And our sense of relief,that you had made your way to us! We love you Tina! Michael and David Sullivan. Thank you Dan Woog,for the opportunity to say goodbye to Tina! Hey,Dan we have always missed you too!

    • Tina loved Oscar’s — and Oscars (the Sullivans, Lee and everyone else) were very good to her. This is really quite a town. Thanks, Michael!

    • Michael! So good that this sad news gives news of you and Dave. Hope you and all the folks at Oscar’s who took such good care of Tina are well. We miss you, Lee and Oscar’s as we will Tina, who added much in her very Westport way to the wonderful giving fabric of this community. Be well.

  30. Camille Addario

    I’m so sorry got Tina. She lived as she died o
    In her own way. I tried to help when I saw her
    May she Rest In Peace and hopefully she will have a funeral and resting place

  31. She had gone to Staples with Lee Papageorge and he would always give her something to eat.
    We will miss you, Tina.

  32. Judy Kelhoffer

    She would come into Patagonia once in a while to chat and get warm. Over the years we gave her slightly used clothes. She always carried around law books and I always wondered if that was what she was passionate about. Sorry now that I did not stop what I was doing and talk to her more.

  33. Thank you for posting this. As a genealogist and a former Westporter, I so hope an obit is eventually submitted to the Westport News. As she was a lifetime resident, I hope that someone can help peice together her story. All people deserve the respect to be remembered. Dan you have done a wonderful job with this post, thank you.

  34. May God bless you, Tina, and all the people that helped her in even the smallest of ways, even by just a smile, or a hello. We’d talk often, and sometimes I would give her a ride to wherever she needed to go. She passed by my office every so often. One day, she asked me if I wanted to see where she lived, and when she showed me I was in shock. It was the back of an old garage-like shed, and in front of her bed was an old lawn mower you could ride on. Her cats had free reign and she loved them like her children. I saw her the other day and was too busy to stop. I regret that now. We never know when our last hello will come, or when someone we have seen for years in town will no longer be around to see, talk to and share with. We had an ongoing joke between us about her being the naked, surfer girl on the west coast that I had seen one day on my many visits to California, because she was as free as nature itself in the way she lived. God bless you, Tina, you were a living embodiment of our struggle and our lesson of humanity. Love to You now and always.

  35. I never met Tina, but from the other posts she must have been a special person to have affected so many. I’m glad that considerable efforts were made to reach out to her in such a friendly manner.
    When I was fairly young in Westport there was a giant of a man who often walked the sidewalks but had no home that I knew of. He was fully bearded, dressed in shabby clothes and looked quite fierce. I never got to know him either, but he was reported to be a gentle person – very self contained – and isolated. Perhaps some older posters did know him.
    Hopefully some folks reached out to him as they did for Tina, as our homeless need our help and understanding. Sorry for the ramble.

    • Thanks, Art. Both Herbie and Tony were the same types of individuals. Whatever was going on in their worlds, they lived life on their terms. And many Westporters did what they could to help.

    • That gent was Herbie. My mother was a volunteer for the Westport Red Cross — but also as a Berliner she talked more to the butcher & shopgirl etc. — and so otherwise taciturn people would tell her a lot of elaborate backstories of locals. I won’t tell his story here. He practically lived on The Green & I think the Gillespie Center should have a little plaque to him there — since he lived outside their door & could have used them then.

      Then there was the man (though not homeless) we called “The Captain” because he wore all white & a captain’s (nautical) cap & sat in a chair in the alley entrance — almost everyday — next to Westport Pizzeria. I think he lived in the buildings behind — in that little mews. I never saw him speak to anyone once.

      Then there was a very elderly man from Germany who used to walk down Riverside to town at the same time every morning from Kings Highway North — wearing an immaculate dark suit & tie & trilby. (Also not homeless).

      Westport had people you could set your watch by then. Like in the film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Very distinct & predictable & original small town characters.

      • *The police let Herbie sleep in the jail — so he was looked after by them when it got cold etc. The story of his life & family is too tragic for me to tell here. ❤

        • Sanrdra Calise Cenatiempo

          So sorry to hear about Tina – I helped when I saw her but she was definitely her own person! I also remember Herbie….my Grandfather and Uncle, Frank Calise & Dominic Calise, would always give him a sandwich & a drink whenever he passed by. He was a quiet and gentle man.

          • That is great that your family did that for Herbie Sandra. I remember feeling a lot of empathy & sadness for him as a child. So I’m glad there were adults that helped him. I’ve said nothing about Tina because I haven’t lived or been in Westport for decades (though back in Fairfield now) — so never saw or met her. May she *fall asleep in the Lord*.

      • *My mother was told that Herbie was the son of a local wealthy family as well. This was in the 1960s btw — everything / everyone I’ve written of here.

  36. RIP Tina. Frequently saw you and shared smiles.

  37. Thank you for the article Dan! Me and my family were so sad to get the news about Tina. My dad and her had quite a relationship! It’s heartbreaking that she always had Oscars and my dad to go to.
    It is so heartwarming to see that Westport openly and warmly celebrates the life of someone recognizeable and genuinely appreciates within the community.
    My dad would want us to make sure she is laid to rest respectfully and celebrated for her part in the brief and amazing history of what made Westport the amazing place it is and will hopefully continue to be. Let’s all make sure to come together for Tina!
    -the Papageorge family

  38. When I was a kid back in the 80’s there was a man named “Tony” who would often sit on a stool at the Westport Pizzareia and while drinking his coffee would go into a hysterical fit now and then. Rumor had it he was war veteran who “owned Main St.” but lived in the alley behind Bullwinkles because he wanted to and carried a hammer in his pocket. Joe and Mel always took care of him and if any us kids started to mock him they would put us in our place so fast we never made fun of him again. They did it in a way though that acknowledged we were just scared of Tony and helped us see him differently. Tina always kind of reminded me of Tony but was around much longer. Rumor had it she was super wealthy and and chose to live the life she did. As I got older and my folks moved from Bayberry to Myrtle I got to “know” Tina . My parents and I always helped her when she was open for help and served her many meal at Gillespie. She liked my dogs whom I walked almost every day along Parker Harding and can envison her smiling face petting Cooper today. She often told me “we can only trust animals”. I hope she finds what she was looking for and is resting in peace. Thanks Dan for this…

    • Tony was a veteran, and had severe PTSD. Though in his day “Shell Shock” went mostly untreated. His family did own the building were Vince is now located, and he lived upstairs. From his perch at the end of the counter, he was the last person allowed to smoke in the Pizzeria.

  39. Christine Bisceglie

    Wow- the compassion here is so refreshing. I had no idea, she was helped along her limping path by so many gracious folks. I tried once, but she snapped at me so I avoided her. I saw her last week crossing the street by the WPD headed down towards the river. She looked just a little more defeated with an even slower gait. She came to my door last night on the face of my regular homeless cat, looking to me for food and kindness.
    Sounds like all of you and her cats, was how she survived. RIP, Dear.

  40. Lynne Betts Baker

    RIP Tina.
    Dan, Pls post any funeral or memorial arrangments. Thks for letting us know.

  41. I adopted one of her cats due to it’s medical needs that she was unable to meet. She had brought her cat by the farmers’ market where many of our vendors had gotten to know her. Kitty, as her cat was called, passed away of old age at home this Saturday. RIP Tina – may we all walk to our own beat and remember to be kind to others.
    Please do post about her service, if possible.

  42. Tina would stop by Max’s occasionally. She worked there for a week in high school. Tina told me she left Westport, and went to California to pursue a modeling career, then lived several years on a horse ranch in the NW. She had grace and poise under that rough exterior, and I’m truly sad to hear about her death. I believe her last name was Wassel.

  43. Julie Fatherley

    My husband, Bob, and I will miss seeing Tina about town. We had some nice conversations with her although, at times, I was on the vitriolic end of her
    conversation. I always admired her perseverance dealing with a very painful
    and debilitating physical issue. Her lifestyle of living much of the time under a pine tree in Baron’s South with her cat brought intrigue but also
    admiration of her wanting her own lifestyle. She always seemed well maintained and in nice clothes due to the generosity of many of our town
    citizens. I thank all of the town individuals and services who kept a watchful
    eye over her comfort. She was truly unique…..Julie Fatherley

  44. i heard the cat is ok as off a couple off minutes ago trew a source but I hope t the police and animal control to put a stament on the cat please everybody in is asking so thanks to the police for doing a great job. And animal control

  45. Leslie Petersen

    I also knew Tina, but from a distance.I first saw her many years ago when serving meals at The Gillespie Center and it was immediately clear that she had come from a wealthy background. I always wondered about her circumstances.I saw her recently at CVS and her leg wound was in horrific condition but there was a very kind woman there who had obviously tried to help her in the past and was trying to do so again. Westport is a compassionate community and how welcome to hear of the many who regularly reached out to support her. Tina will be missed by many.Rest in Peace.

  46. I’m so saddened by this story..and heartsick with myself for never talking to Tina…I swore that the next time….she always gave me a very inviting look with her beautiful blue eye ,like ” do we know one another”…I will never let this happen again!…not only was there Tony and Herbie…there was a beautiful young man named Jonathan Towers,who also walked back and forth on the PostRd….after his death a book of his poetry was published…it was titled Westport Poems…I urge anyone who is interested in troubled souls to read this …he came from a background of wealth.private schools and an Ivy League education…having worked in the food and catering business I saw all of Westport lost roaming the streets and probably the one that was particularly troubling to me was the little old lady with many bags who walked in the vicinity of my home and along the post road(near Balduccis) …she would stop in the bakery where I was the cookie lady and was always greeted and treated with great respect…then on to the first Hay Day run by the Van Rensselaer family….I did learn her interesting story but what really hurt was the way she met her end….After Hay Day relocated to the current location of Balducci under the ownership of a big N.Y food empire the old woman who was always welcomed to taste the little food samples the new owners called the police on her…told her never to come back..made the front page of the local paper…I read her obituary the next week….I promise you,Tina that I will talk to you and others who roam thru the town….I’m hoping that there is a funeral so I can at least say good-bye…just want to make one thing clear,the police knew her and treated her kindly…it was the store who didn’t and it was not the current Balduccis

  47. The recollections that people are sharing are great, but let’s hope that some good can come out of this woman’s death. Was she mentally ill , and if so, what services if any could have been given to her that weren’t ? Maybe none, maybe she was “all there” and simply didn’t want to try and live somewhere that was more stable. It sounds as if many, many people interacted with her successfully for years, but many others were subjected to her angry verbal outbursts. I do know she was known to walk into stores on occasion and help herself to products and walk out without paying. That sense of entitlement because she was technically ” homeless” is obviously not a good thing and certainly put store owners in a bad position. My point is that there will be others in this town (or any town !) that will be like her in the future to some degree, so can we help them in a more productive way to better their situations ? I don’t know that answer, and maybe people will say that Tina didn’t want help, but the reality is that she did want it and need it, because people were always buying things for her and she asked for money constantly.
    I do hope that our response to these troubled souls on a local and state level can be more “effective” in some way.

  48. Karl Taylor, Southport, NC

    Westport-Now had one comment to the rather cold, newsy article included in their paper as compared to the eighty plus outpourings of heartfelt warmth in Dan’s 06880 blog. I am sure Tina’s funeral will be well attended and further show the Westport warmth we have always known.

  49. I looked for Tina, thought I did not know her name, yesterday as I exited CVS in a heavy down pour. The last heavy rain, she was just inside the door as I entered, and she asked if I could give her a ride to the Senoir Center. I said that I could, just as soon as I picked up a birthday card. It was with great difficulty that Tina got her bad leg into my car.
    “Will you be able to stop at the gas station a minute, she requested, before taking me to the Senior Center”. We stopped, I wondered what she was getting there that CVS didn’t have, but I didn’t ask. We arrived at the center, Tina asked after my dog as we sometimes crossed paths in downtown WESTPORT. She thanked me for the ride and we wished each other good day. I was glad that I had helped a neighbor, for always, I will wish I had done more.

  50. Ali papageorge

    Tina.. a woman my father took care of. She was always welcomed into oscars. I was saw her at cvs in Westport and she gave me a $20 gift card.. she told me to take it.. because my dad always gave her food and good company. Rip tina❤️

    • Wow Ali — that is a beautiful vignette. I LOVE your dad — he exuded warmth & kindness. What you have described is a perfect indication of that. You are blessed w/ such a father. I have faith that your father Elias is *asleep in the Lord*.

    • Ali, they don’t make folks like your dad anymore, I sure do miss him.

      His kindness toward Tina, and all the others like her he took care of, taught us all how to treat our fellow man.

  51. Dan posted a more in-depth article about Tina in 2010:

    https://06880danwoog.com/2010/12/14/homeless-in-westport/

    It is interesting that the writer of the 2010 article, whose identity was not disclosed by Dan, states that Tina had brown eyes. I stopped to offer Tina rides several times over the years, and recalled that she had blue eyes. She never accepted a ride from me, but she was always gracious and spoke clearly. She seemed fiercely independent. I would assume that she faced death completely alone. Although we may feel uncomfortable about the manner in which she lived, she lived on her own terms. I hope that she died on her own terms. May she rest in peace.

  52. Dan, I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but if this is who I think it is, she was very nasty;( She yelled at you for no reason even when you were attempting kindness toward her. May she RIP.

    Susan R. Holden Realtor, ABR Licensed in CT & NY Westport, CT. 06880

    Cell: 203-209-2223 Email: susanrholden@gmail.com

    >

    • But you went ahead and did it anyway? What did that accomplish Susan? Why not just let it be? And why are you advertising your Real Estate services?

  53. I was sorry to hear about Tina, whose name I didn’t know until this story. I always saw her behind CVS, even up until last week, and occasionally walking up the Post Road from downtown. Although I never spoke with her, I was glad to hear that people were always kind and helpful to her over the years.

  54. I too saw her walking around town and was aware that I had not seen her recently. I felt sorry for her and could see that she was troubled. I am not surprised to hear that she often rejected help. My only direct experience with her was of the sort that Susan Holden refers to above. Once several years ago as I was walking into the library she was directly in front of me and a lady with a grade school child. Tina suddenly tripped and as she pitched forward I grabbed her arm and stopped her fall. She yanked herself away and snarled “Don’t touch me!” I back away and as she continued on into the library the lady with the child and I exchanged surprised/sad looks. And the child, also startled asked the lady to explain whathad just happened. That said if I’m free when her memorial service is held, I very much want to go. I’ve never seen such a large response here. I found it very moving and am glad that so many people/agencies tried to help Tina.

  55. Her last name was Wassel (or perhaps spelled Wessel). Funeral arrangements are pending.

  56. So sad to hear about Tina. May she rest in peace.

  57. I remember my cousin carol and junior bieling used to feed her a lot at the hot dog stand. Carol would give her food warm clothes and some money. Rip Tina

  58. Susan and Byron…I can’t believe in this day and age you don’t know that people with schizophrenia are not in control of what they say or do…I suggest you see a movie made several years ago titled “The Soloist” with Robert Downey jr and Jamie Fox…or look for the book by Jonathan Towers,a schizophrenic poet, who was very much like Tina.i can guarantee that Tina was not being nasty to you personally but to her voices or demons.I

  59. So sad to hear this, can someone find her cat so it will be cared for?

  60. Kendall Gardiner

    I’m so sorry to learn of Tina’s death.
    May she Rest In Peace.

  61. I did see her years ago several times at Oscars and walking on Main Street in early morning hours . I wondered who she was and what was her story . She seemed hardened by life . Angry .

  62. Christine Bisceglie

    Angry ? Mentally ill. And how wonderful, Tina did trust certain people into her life. And people responded. Let’s hope as the Dr. mentioned that , we as a society can do more to help people who have either mental illness like Tina , or those who have a drug /alcohol problem and or both.
    The CDC has finally defined addiction as a disease.

  63. Thank you Dick Lowenstein…I have his book ,but did not know where I could direct people who were interested…..there were several responders to the article who seemed to take offense at things she did and said…I’m a “senior citizen ” and rembember tha days when anyone with mental disease was put into mostly terrible institutions…now many sick people are fending for themselves and are part of main society as are those traumatized by war,dislocation etc….there are many societies around the world who take care of their mentally ill as if it was all just part of life …well,nuff said and again thanks for the info……Audrey Doniger

    • A whole town in Belgium does that. People take mentally ill people — often not known to them at all — into their homes. They have been doing this for ages & ages. It’s amazing. ❤

  64. Yes, Tina, had a form of schizophrenia and sometimes yelled at people when she was particularly frustrated with her life and in tremendous pain both from her leg and her loneliness. Like the rest of us, she still needed love, and when she smiled and laughed, we could even feel loved by her.

  65. One time, about a year ago, I met Tina behind the Chase branch on Main Street. I was going in to deposit a check, and left my purse in the car. Tina asked me for a dollar, which I did not have. She grumbled and moved off, obviously annoyed with me. The next week, I saw her behind CVS and gave her $20 and offered her a ride, which she accepted. I apologized for not having my purse the last time. I asked her if she had a home, to which she replied, “Oh yes, I have a nice place.” To learn she lived in an outdoor shed is so sad, in this town of great wealth. Why wasn’t a home found for her? All this time I thought she was just supplementing her Social Security by pan-handling, which I didn’t mind, but no, she was homeless. Some people cannot live in congregate housing. I think Westport could easily build some mini-houses, spaced around town. Wandering dogs in Westport have a home with Animal Control. Why do we treat our dogs better than human beings? R.I.P. Tina.

    • John Gaynor

      • Exactly, Martha Deegan. Many people feel that a few dollars and a kind word were all Tina Wessel needed. She was treated more like an interesting character who played out her life for the amusement of curious Westporters. There are proven methods and interventions to get mentally ill people off the street. Her physical and mental condition was obvious. In her last days, it was reported that she was seen with a gaping and infected leg wound. Still, she was denied medical attention. Most of the time homeless, mentally ill people are not capable of making sound decisions on their own. A complete medical and social service intervention is required. Mental illness is treatable. To deny a person basic human needs such as adequate shelter, nutritious meals, medical attention and the pursuit of happiness is criminal.

        • Thomas Orofino

          Mr Gaynor, while your comments are so very very true there are times when intervention is so very very difficult. Tina was afforded all the support our community could give but it was not enough to attract her to take advantage of the community’s resources and we have never understood how to address those with issues like Tina’s. How do address issues like her’s takes a real initiative into understanding what will help people like Tina is key. We need greater dollars spent on our mental health issues as we spend on cancer etc. Hopefully,
          we will find the dollars to support mental health issues as it has been the “step child” of our country’s health spending.

          • Thank you, Thomas Orofino. I’m glad you understand the issue regarding the general ignorance of mental illness and the lack of resources available to treat these disorders. However, the issue with Tina Wessel is not so much medical as it is moral. Take a good look at Westporters. Take a good look at the nearly empty places of worship. God gave Westporters many years to get Tina Wessel of the street. Finally God took her unto heaven. Westporters, I fear, might very well go the other direction.

            • Sorry, John. For you to post this comment on a story about her service that was attended by 150 people — of all faiths — and to castigate Westporters for not helping Tina, when a series of posts and comments tells a different story, is both ignorant and cruel.

              • I completely agree, Dan. It is simply amazing to me the number of people in our community who were quietly helping Tina in myriad ways. I was at my dentist on Imperial this week and asked her if she knew Tina. Both she and the tech immediately said yes. Turns out that, in addition to handling her dental needs for years, the office had been supplying Tina with coats and many other items. As everyone who knew Tina knows very well, she refused the multiple offers of housing and other assistance which were extended with regularity. So the community did the best it could to compassionately help her – on her terms.

              • Dan Woog. Helping and caring for someone like Tina Wessel, though noble, is not the same as saving a her. Since Tina Wessel was unable to make sound decisions regarding her well being, an intervention should have been initiated. This intervention would have required hospitalization, medication and legal authority to commit. Social service agencies should have been utilized to provide Medicaid, food stamps and Sec. 8 housing. This requires a lot of work, but it would have saved her life. To say I was ignorant and cruel to comment about her tragic death is disingenuous. What is cruel is that you remember Tina more in death than life. What is cruel is that you allowed her to suffer for many years. What is cruel is that you memorialize her with a service, but you do nothing to institute a process that would not allow this to happen again.

                • John, if you knew the nuances of the back story, you wouldn’t keep pontificating like this. Please tell me exactly how many lives you have saved, and how you have done it.

                  • I understand John’s point, especially the need for Social Workers.
                    While I’m not familiar with the US medical system, I would have hoped someone/some service could have transported this woman to hospital for care — from what I’ve read, her health issue was quite evident.

                    Universal Health Care.

                  • Dan Woog. I do know a back story about Tina Wessel. In 2008 Jack and Elfrda Laffery along with some members of a Twelve Step Program intervened on Tina Wessel. She was admitted to Yale University Hospital where she was treated and released to a family in Redding. The bank crisis hit and many people’s lives went into disarray. I moved to Florida and lost touch until a FB friend told me about her tragic death. There is a plaque in The Westport Womens Club dedicated to people such as Elfreda Lafferty. As for saving lives, I think that only a higher power can be so magnificent, but I know god has worked through me at times while volunteering at homeless shelters and Twelve Step Programs in the Northeast and Florida.

  66. Holly Wheeler

    I am brought to tears reading the almost 100-post tribute to Tina, a well known homeless woman in Westport. Clearly, she had an impact on this town, as the warmth and caring of most of these posts indicate. I’m sorry I didn’t know her. May she rest in peace … And may Schulhoff Animal Hospital find her cat a loving home.

    • So profoundly sad. She was much too young. I was always struck by her beauty and often wondered how her life came to be. I think she had a really keen sense of people. If you were someone she opened up too in her short life on this earth then you too are pretty special ! That gift was not bestowed on just anyone. Rest In Peace beautiful Tina with the striking blue eyes….you will be missed for certain !

  67. Maxine Bleiweis

    Tina was a big reader and devoured 50 cent paperbacks from the Westport Library. On the days she wasn’t able to come into the library, staff would deliver paperbacks of her favorite authors to her in the parking lot.

    Tina also had a sense of management. One day, I was returning to the library through the Riverwalk level and Tina passed me and said, “You’re needed upstairs in the lobby!” I knew I should pay attention and, just as she said, a large crowd of students with big suitcases were stuffed into the upper lobby completely clogging it. They were meeting a bus that was transporting them to the airport for a two-month stay abroad. I was able to deal with the unique situation quickly because of Tina.

    Her challenges were many but she was observant and felt ownership. I’m heartened by the writing of so many people who watched out for her and helped her.

  68. Diane Sorrentino

    I knew Tina from working many years in the Beauty Department at CVS in Westport, Ct. She would come in on a daily basis and would always seek me out. We had many interesting conversations. I found Tina to be very intelligent and she was someone who really loved her cats.Thanksgiving week I was off Wednesday and Thursday; when I returned to CVS on Friday I asked if anyone had seen her. They told me no. I was then off for the weekend. When I returned on Monday and still did not see her – having dreamnt of her the night before – I knew something was wrong. When I got home after work I used my computer to search for the Gillespie Center. I called them on Tuesday morning and spoke with Rob. I told him I was very concerned about Tina as she never stayed away from CVS for a week.I asked could he or the police go to where she lived to check on her. At this point they did. Rob called CVS on Wednesday and said she had been found. Then my great concern was for her cat.I finally called a Mrs. Valiant on South Compo who was kind enough to go and look for the cat. I knew Mrs. Valiant knew where Tina lived. And her daughter Barbie also knew and was kind enough to go down and look.She called me later that day to let me know Animal Control had her cat and that the cat was safe and would be taken to the Vet fixed up and they would find the cat a good home. Tina I know you are now with the Angels in Heaven above and we all miss you dearly. Diane Sorrentino

  69. Tina Wessel was a mentally ill, homeless person who should never have been allowed to die alone in a filthy tool shed just a couple of hundred yards from the downtown of one of the wealthiest towns in the country.

  70. I think it may be time to identify all of the homeless and truly needy people in our town, and attempt to do as much as we can for all of them. I for one, with an office behind the old post office am willing to help anyone who I become aware of as a clinical social worker and modern psychoanalyst. In the past, I have helped many homeless people in NYC and the local area of Fairfield County find food, clothing, and shelter, as well as Sect. 8 housing, and good mental health services. With Tina, I just thought I had a little more time. We were working on finding her housing within the Westport Canal Street and associated housing opportunities, but had just begun. When last I saw her, she told me her leg had a fungus, so at CVS I gave her money for medication. It was a month before she passed. I did not realize how serious the infection was. Since I am not a medical doctor, I did not have a right to examine her leg or look at it. Had I really known, I would have brought her to a doctor myself and asked him to treat her, or the hospital. I am so sorry! I wish I acted sooner and could have done more. I know our community has many members who have tried their best to help Tina through the years. Sometimes these actions fall short only because we are not aware of a really deep need. TIna was a very difficult nut to crack in terms of getting her the help she really needed. I know for one, she did not trust mental hospitals and psychiatrists. But there may have been better work-arounds and options that went unexplored for many reasons. We all tried to do our best, but in Tina’s case, it just wasn’t enough. Let’s learn from her suffering, and try to grow together for the betterment of our less fortunate citizens in the community. Our beneficial actions are always what count the most.

  71. Sorry correction to: Had I really known, I would have brought her to a doctor myself and asked him or her to treat her, or the hospital.