Westport 2022: We Stand On The Shoulders Of Giants

What a way to start the new year.

In less than 48 hours, Westporters learned of the deaths of 4 neighbors.

Larry Aasen, Dick Berkowitz, Akiko Ikeda and Nick Rossi — all passed away over the past few days.

Three were in their 90s. One was 81.

Three spent most of their adult lives here. One moved here just 3 years ago.

All added immeasurably to Westport.

Larry Aasen was an avid and proud Democrat. He contributed to his party — but he reached across this aisle on the non-partisan Representative Town Meeting (RTM). With friends of all political persuasions, he pitched in enthusiastically to do whatever needed doing with the Y’s Men, Rotary Club, Saugatuck Congregational Church and more.

Dick Berkowitz was an attorney who touched nearly every facet of Westport life. He was elected to the RTM and Planning & Zoning Commission; was president of the Kiwanis Club and Birchwood Country Club; served on the boards of Staples Tuition Grants and Temple Israel; helped found what is now the Youth Commission, and coached basketball, football and baseball.

Clockwise from upper left: Dick Berkowitz, Larry Aasen, Nick Rossi, Akiko Ikeda (Dick Berkowitz photo/Ted Horowitz)

Akiko Ikeda made her mark with the elderly. She served in a variety of positions at the Senior Center, helping build it from the ground up. But she also chaired Community Nursery School board for over 15 years, and was president of Church Women United too.

Nick Rossi lived here for only 3 years; he moved in with his son’s family after his wife died. But he immediately became a beloved presence at the Senior Center, and his grandchildren’s arts and sports performances. Last spring, the World War II veteran was grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade.

All led remarkable, productive and fulfilling lives. If you haven’t yet read their full stories, click the links above.

But let’s reflect too on what they gave to Westport — and what their legacy means to us today.

Dick Berkowitz was 29 when he helped form Westport’s youth commission. For the next 55 years, he did whatever he could to make our town a better place.

Larry Aasen, Akiko Ikeda and Nick Rossi kept making Westport better well into their 90s.

As we begin a new year, we’re a town in transition. Over the past 2 years, our ranks have swelled with newcomers. Many are young families, leaving cities for different lives. They chose this community because it is a community.

We are blessed with superb schools, wonderful arts and recreational facilities, an astonishing library, and vibrant organizations serving every interest imaginable.

But we need many more Larry Aasens, Dick Berkowitzes, Akiko Ikedas and Nick Rossis to sustain them.

And sustain us.

Whether you knew some or all of these remarkable individuals, or never heard their names, the challenge is the same: Honor their legacy by doing what you can to make Westport better.

As they proved, you’re never too young — or old — to start.

6 responses to “Westport 2022: We Stand On The Shoulders Of Giants

  1. Resonant and inspiring words

  2. Amen! Very well said Dan. Today’s generation seems more interested in stating views and battling opposition in most places around the country. Westport should be an example for most other towns. We have a lot of good people doing some great philanthropical things and societal things to keep Westport above the rest. Let’s keep that going!

  3. They were giants indeed. Westport has so many ways to get involved with the community, whether through boards and commissions, religious institutions, community groups and more. Make 2022 the year we all pledge to jump in and help!

  4. Ellen Zeisler Barnard

    Here are some remarkable community leaders who will be sorely missed. May their memories endure through their immeasurable contributions and remind us to help how we can. I had the pleasure of growing up knowing Dick Berkowitz and his offspring. What an inspirational example he set.

  5. Ellen Dale Naftalin

    Thank you for this Dan.

  6. Thank you Dan! We do stand on the shoulders of these giants of a generation which is sadly passing. How lucky we are!

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