Author Archives: Dan Woog

Unsung Hero #123

Oops!

This one almost slipped by us.

Earlier this month, Nell Newman was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.

The ecologist, conservationist, biologist, organic farmer — and founder of Newman’s Own Organics, and the Nell Newman Foundation — joins a long list of amazing Nutmeg State women, including Helen Keller, Marian Anderson, Clair Boothe Luce, Ella Grasso and Katherine Hepburn.

Nell Newman

Her work in organic food was inspired by her youth in Westport. When she learned that her favorite bird — the peregrine falcon — was headed toward extinction because of the pesticide DDT, she began studying ecology.

In 2014 Nell received the prestigious Rachel Carson Award from The National Audubon Society, for her environmental leadership.

Westport is justly proud of Nell’s parents, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Both were active in a number of important causes, far beyond stage and screen.

We are proud now too that this Westport native is paying it forward. Congratulations, Nell, on your Hall of Fame honor!

(Hat tip: Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

Remembering Lou Dorsey

To generations of Westport students, Lou Dorsey was phys. ed.

The Saugatuck native, Staples High School graduate and longtime teacher died November 2, in Florida. He was 93 years old.

Dorsey was a member of Staples’ Class of 1943. He left school after the basketball season, to join the Navy. “It was more important to get in the war before it ended than to get my diploma,” he said in 2004.

Nine classmates (out of a graduation class of 100) also left school early, for the war. Dorsey received his diploma eventually, on leave, in a special ceremony with principal Douglas Young.

Dorsey served in the Pacific Theater, as a radioman third class. After his service he received his undergraduate degree at Arnold College (now the University of Bridgeport), and his master’s at Columbia University.

Lou Dorsey

He taught physical education for 33 years at Saugatuck and Burr Farms Elementary Schools, and Staples High School.

He was inspired to teach by his high school coaches, particularly Roland Wachob at Staples.

“Rollie would put me in charge of his 9th grade class when he’d go off on a baseball trip,” Dorsey said. “If you did that nowadays you’d get sued.”

Dorsey and his wife Pauline spent 60 summers in the western Maine mountains. They moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida 33 years ago, where Dorsey was an avid golfer.

He is survived by 4 children: Judith Dorsey and her husband Kenneth Gomberg; Kimberly Slimak and her husband Michael Slimak; Jiliane Dorsey and Louis Dorsey, Jr. and his youngest sister, Patricia Dorsey Wood, as well as 3 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held in Rangeley, Maine next summer. Click here to leave condolences.

Michael Friedman Enters The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

You saw them in a pop-up gallery on Church Lane.

You know the photographer: Michael Friedman. The Staples High School Class of 1961 graduate had a long career in music. He managed Todd Rundgren and Kris Kristofferson — as well as (with Albert Grossman) Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band, Odetta, and Peter Paul & Mary. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits.

Nearly 3 years ago, he discovered an astonishing series of photos he’d taken almost 50 years earlier.

Mick Jagger (Photo copyright Michael Friedman)

The Stones. Janis Joplin. The Band. Johnny  Winter. Gordon Lightfoot. James Cotton. Ian and Sylvia. Rita Coolidge. Tom Rush. Professor Longhair. Paul Butterfield — all were artists Friedman worked with in the 1960s.

Friedman spent several months printing, restoring and mounting the photos. Each was up close, and personal.

Michael Friedman in the Church Lane pop-up gallery. His photo shows Levon Helm, legendary drummer for The Band.

After the Westport show, the photos headed to the California Heritage Museum in Los Angeles.

Now they’re in Cleveland — at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The exhibit includes the guitar that Janis Joplin played on “Me and Bobby McGee” in concert. Friedman’s photos of her with the instrument — which she used onstage only twice, and only for that song — are the only ones known.

Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” guitar, with his photo of her.

It took more than a year for the exhibit to come together. His wife Donna Vita provided invaluable help.

Now it’s up, and attracting great attention. After the ribbon-cutting, Friedman was interviewed live by chief curator Karen Herman, at the Hall.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame interview.

Friedman’s exhibit runs for 6 months. Yet when it ends, it’s not over.

His entire collection of over 100 images will be archived, in perpetuity.

Which makes sense. As Neil Young sings, “Hey hey, my my/Rock and roll can never die.”

(Click here to see many of the photos on exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)

Pics Of The Day #939

Tonight’s spectacular sunset: Soundview Drive … (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

… and South Beach (Photo/Isabelle Taglia, Bedford Middle School 6th grader)

Candlelight Tickets On Sale Soon

The weather may be cold.

But it’s the hottest ticket in town.

The 79th annual Staples High School Candlelight Concert will pack the auditorium for 3 performances next month: Friday, December 13 (8 p.m.), and Saturday, December 14 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.).

This annual gift to the Westport community showcases the diverse talents of Staples musicians (and their teachers). There’s music from around the world, and of course the opening “Sing We Noel” processional, inspiring “Hallelujah Chorus” and creative production number.

Performers include choral and chamber groups, orchestras and bands. This year marks the Candlelight debut of band director Phil Giampietro.

Because it’s a gift from the Staples music department, tickets are free. But they go very fast. They’re available to the public starting at 9 a.m. on Monday. November 25. Click here then to get yours!

The timeless “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Fathers And Daughters Dance In The Spotlight: The Sequel

Two years ago, the Westport Weston Family YMCA sponsored a “Father Daughter Dance.”

I was surprised. I wrote:

This is 2017! How could they single out fathers? What about girls whose dads were away on business? Girls with divorced fathers, living far away? How about girls whose dads had died — or those with 2 moms?

They’re all “families” — as the “Family YMCA” should know.

The Y responded that the name of the dance “does not stem from a desire to be traditional, nor was it meant to exclude other family types.”

Instead, it was “intended to honor and strengthen the relationship our community of fathers has with their daughters, and for the Y to provide a space for them to share time together.”

In fact, the Y’s flyer noted (at the very bottom): “If dad is not available, substitutes are welcome. Preferably grandfathers, uncles, older brothers, close family friend etc.”

Malia Daniels (2nd from left) attended the 2017 Y’s Father-Daughter dance with her uncle.

Okay. Good info. Important, for sure.

So why cling to the outmoded name? I ended my piece:

“Now — as a way to make all girls feel comfortable, welcome and accepted — maybe they can come up with a more inclusive dance name.”

Nah.

This year’s “Father Daughter Dance” is this Friday (November 15, 7 p.m.).

The tagline says: “Her fingers are small but she has her dad wrapped around them.”

Yep — dad.

Dabbing at the 2017 Westport YMCA’s Father-Daughter dance.

At the bottom of the flyer, there’s this: “Enjoy a great night of fun with your little girl, complete with music, dancing, snacks, pictures, and a best dressed contest!

“If dad is not available, substitutes are welcome including grandfathers, uncles, older brothers, close family friends, etc.”

If dad is not available? 

Dad may be traveling on business, sure.  But he also may have walked out on the family. Or died. Or been an anonymous sperm donor.

I’ll say it again (updated): This is 2019. Families come in all shapes and sizes.

All of them are members of the Westport Weston “Family” YMCA.

This is not a question of being PC.

It’s about being realistic.

And really caring about all members.

Come on, Y: Walk the talk.

And then dance the night away.

 

Pics Of The Day #938

Veterans Day sunrise on Hillspoint Road … (Photo/Tammy Barry)

… while later in the day, a short distance away, a Navy veteran reflects at Compo Beach. (Photo/Jennifer Pilking)

Colin Corneck: Veterans Inspire Me To Serve

Colin Corneck is a Staples High School senior. A soccer team member and swim team captain, he’s already received a Naval ROTC college scholarship. He’s also applying to the US Naval Academy.

He was chosen to represent Staples, at this morning’s Veterans Day ceremony in Town Hall. Here’s Colin’s address:

I am honored to come before you today. I was recently selected to give this speech because of my passion for serving our country. I’m fortunate to attend a school where there are several of us with the same interest – so on behalf of all of us, thank you.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity. And thank you for allowing me to join you today where I am surrounded by greatness — the greatness of each and every one of you – our American veterans.

Colin Corneck

Right now, I’m in the midst of the college application process. My goal is to become a naval officer after attending university. I have been fortunate enough to receive an NROTC scholarship and am applying to the Naval Academy.

I would like to thank our veterans for your heroic sacrifices. Your bravery and willingness to serve made it possible for my generation to be here today, a debt that can never be repaid but that instead should be paid forward.

When I was in 8th grade at Bedford Middle School, I was given the opportunity to hear from veterans, possibly even from some of you sitting before me today. I remember a particular story from a World War II veteran, who enlisted at the age of 16 and fought in the Pacific.

While I looked around and saw that my classmates were captivated hearing the courageous story, I felt touched on what I think might have been a deeper level. I don’t think I fully appreciated that many World War II veterans were my age when they began their service, but I was able to realize the momentous sacrifices that members of our armed forces make for the safety of the rest of the country. This was the first time I felt the calling, and the desire to try and follow the extraordinary footsteps each and every one of you has left behind.

I’m privileged to come before you today to talk about service and what it means to me. I come from a long line of people who served in the armed forces, including great-grandparents who fought in World War II and my father, who was a naval intelligence officer assigned to a Marine Corps F-18 squadron and then to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. I often talk to my dad about his military service.

He speaks of his time in service with the highest degree of pride, and tells me that it was one of his greatest life choices. It has developed him into a great leader, father, and overall person.

Veterans salute during the national anthem, at today’s Town Hall ceremony.

My discussions with him excite me to serve as I want to look back on my life knowing that I made a difference in the world, and that my time on this earth was well spent.

Service to me means the opportunity to protect our nation’s values. Just as the veterans we honor today put their lives on the line to protect our democracy and the ideas we stand for as a country, I want to do the same.

We are blessed to live in the greatest country on earth, created by ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and embedded in the Constitution. The ideals of personal freedom and self-government are enabled and protected by our Armed Forces.

The veterans among us today who fought in World War II protected our democratic style of government, and defeated armies fueled by the fascist fire of hatred. The veterans among us today who fought in Korea and Vietnam traveled halfway around the world to protect our allies and give them the opportunity to live democratically just as we do.

The veterans among us today who served in the Middle East and Afghanistan worked to stabilize regions and fight off terror before it gets to the front lines of our nation.

For your sacrifices and accomplishments, I thank you. Each and every one of you has been an inspiration to serve, and I hope to be able to protect our country in the same fashion that you have.

I was asked during one of my Academy interviews how I thought I would fit in with people who have very different backgrounds. Recently, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a group of West Point cadets: male, female, ethnically diverse, and from many different parts of the US. Regardless of background, what brought each and every one of us to that table was a strong connection forged by both a common belief in our country’s values and a commitment to defend those values.

Color guard, at today’s ceremony.

The same can be said for the various branches represented in this room. While there will always be friendly rivalries, there is a broader bond that unites anyone who has served in any capacity in any branch of our military.

I have a lot to learn – and relish moments like this where I can be in the company of each of you. You can teach us all so much. I also have a lot to give. I am extremely excited to enter the next chapter of my life, and to have the opportunity to serve.

One last time I would like to thank each and every one of you for your service. I am inspired to stand among you.

Today’s Veterans Day ceremony also included remarks from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He noted Westport’s support of all service members — from the Catch a Lift events, to the VFW and its fundraisers, to Homes with Hope’s supportive housing.

He urged all Westporters to re-commit to making sure that “all our veterans are able to live their lives in dignity, accessibility, and with a peace of mind that comes with our ongoing support.”

The Wilkinson family — Emma, Augie, Jack and Melody — remember their grandfather and great-grandfather who served.

 

Menu Moments: What To Eat At Little Barn

If you want rustic-chic, American-style food, search no further than Little Barn. With delicious food, great drinks and lively entertainment — all in a barn-like building, served by friendly staff — Little Barn has a special charm.

From lobster mac n’ cheese to a Tuscan kale salad, they offer a wide selection of food for everyone, including vegetarians, vegans, and those on a gluten-free diet.

Enter here for the Little Barn.

Westport-based nutritionist Heather Bauer serves up her top healthy picks for Little Barn.

NOTE: Because the portions are so generous, all starters can be shared.

For Vegetarians

Appetizers

  • The Tuscan kale salad is the perfect way to start your meal. To lighten things up, order it without cranberries and pecans.
  • More traditional? Go for the fork-and-knife Caesar (without the croutons, and with a vinaigrette dressing instead).

Entree

  • Dig into the Shrooms or another veggie burger; request any salad on the side. To reduce carbohydrates, take off the top bun and eat your burger “topless.”

For Pescatarians

Appetizers 

Pair up with your partner and share one of the following:

  • Tuna blocks
  • Brussels and chorizo
  • Tuna tacos wrapped in lettuce.

Entrees

  • Brussel sprouts salad with grilled salmon or tuna on top
  • Fork-and-knife Caesar salad without the croutons; dressing on the side; add salmon or tuna
  • Tuscan kale salad with either cranberries or pecans; add salmon or tuna
  • Tuna tacos.

Shaved Brussels sprouts salad.

For Carnivores

Appetizers

  • Beef or pork taco wrapped in lettuce
  • Fork-and-knife Caesar without the croutons, but with vinaigrette (ask for dressing on the side).

Entrees

  • Cobb Salad (skip blue cheese). with the option to add steak over grilled chicken
  • Any Brussels sprouts salad with grilled chicken or steak
  • Tuscan kale salad with either cranberries or pecans, with grilled chicken or steak
  • The DQ burger without the bun — or eat it “topless” with a side salad.

Heather’s Tips

Because this restaurant is so laid back, you can add up your special requests as long as you are with good family or friends. In this casual atmosphere the entire table shares a few appetizers; then everyone each chooses their own entrees.

If your table is sharing appetizers you can’t really make special requests, but you can try to add in an appetizer (like the ones noted below) for a healthier option.

But if your appetizer feels “heavier” to you and you already had protein in your appetizer, go for one of the salad recommendations sans protein.

Keep the “3/4 rule” in mind: Since food can be heavier at a restaurant than at home, eat 3/4 of your meal; leave ¼ to take home for lunch the next day.

However, remember that fat and flavor are important in satiety and staying healthy. When you deprive your body of too much fat and flavor, you end up craving less healthy food. So be mindful of what and how much you’re eating, while still enjoying things that sound good to you.

Westport Students Honor Vets

For several years, Westport schools have been in session on Veterans Day.

At first, the move was controversial. Why, some residents wondered, did our students and staff not get the federal holiday off, to honor all those who have served our country?

Of course, that’s not what most people do on Veterans Day. If you’ve got the day off, odds are you spend far less time thinking about America’s vets than you do about going to the gym, walking the dog and what’s for dinner.

Things are very different inside our schools.

Many make the day meaningful, by prepping students with special programs.

Jay Dirnberger, with a plastic helicopter made for him by a Bedford Middle School student. (Photo/Molly Alger)

Every year on or around the holiday, Bedford Middle School invites veterans to meet, in small groups, with 8th graders. The vets talk about their experiences, and lessons learned. Students ask questions, and have meaningful conversations.

Jay Dirnberger has participated for the past 8 years. He always looks forward to it — especially the attentiveness of the youngsters, and their insightful questions.

Sometimes, he says, they help him uncover long-forgotten incidents or emotions.

Jay and his wife, Molly Alger, always look forward to the thank-you notes that arrive from students a few days later. They are detailed and meaningful, she says. Every year, one or two bring her to tears.

Ted Diamond is a longtime participant too. The World War II Army Air Corps combat navigator was there again last Friday — at age 102. So were 96-year-old Larry Aasen, and 95-year-old WWII vet Leonard Everett Fisher.

Leonard Everett Fisher, at Bedford Middle School. (Photo/January Stewart)

“This is a terrific program,” Molly says, “particularly in a town that does not have a lot of family members on active military duty.” She thanks Courtney Ruggiero, David Deitch and the social studies staff for organizing this event for “the future leaders of our country.”

Bedford Middle School student thanks a vet. (Photo/January Stewart)

Veterans at Bedford Middle School. (Photo/Bob Fitzpatrick)

Greens Farms Elementary School usually holds a Veterans Day event on the actual holiday as well. This year, due to scheduling issues, it was last Friday.

For the past 7 years, 3rd grade teachers have run an all-school assembly. That’s no coincidence: instructors Amy Murtagh, Karen Frawley, Dan Seek and Michelle DeCarlo all have immediate family members who are veterans.

Murtagh’s husband is on active duty in the Marine Corps Reserves. He recently returned from a year-long deployment, including 7 months in Afghanistan. He presented GFS with a flag flown over his base.

Capt. John Murtagh, UMSC, and 3rd grade teacher Amy Murtagh. (Photo/Jenn Falik)

Frawley’s mother is a retired Air Force member. It’s important, Murtagh says, that Greens Farms students meet a female vet.

Seek’s father is also retired from the Air Force — and a former POW. DeCarlo’s father-in-law is a veteran too.

Every year, the GFS program begins with a reception. Veterans, their family and school students or staff members they’re related to swap stories.

Clockwise from bottom: Greens Farms 3rd grader Lily Jumper; Lily’s mother Lauren; Lily’s grandparents Marie Jumper, and James Jumper, electrician’s mate 3rd class, US Navy. (Photo/Jenn Falik)

The 3rd graders then run the assembly for the entire school. There is a Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem, and a discussion of why Veterans Day  is important. Then everyone sings songs from each branch of service.

Third graders teach the rest of the school about something related to the day. Past lessons have included a Missing Man table, and discussions of the Oath of Enlistment and the sacrifices veterans and their families make.

This year, the subject was the importance of our flag — including flag-folding. That was especially poignant. The ceremony was conducted by 2 vets who recently returned from deployments to Afghanistan. One — Lt. Ryan Weddle of the Navy — is the father of a current 3rd grader. On Friday, he folded the flag with Capt. John Murtagh of the Marine Corps

After the ceremony, each veteran was presented with a flag that had already been folded the traditional way. Each vet’s background and honors was noted.

Among the attendees this year: a female veteran, a Purple Heart recipient, a Combat Action Medal recipient, and veterans from multiple wars.

Veterans at Greens Farms Elementary School. (Photo/Jenn Falik)

Like Molly Alger, Amy Murtagh believes that honoring veterans in schools takes on added significance here. “Westport doesn’t have the biggest military presence,” the GFS 3rd grade teacher says. “So this is an incredible learning opportunity for our students.”

Meanwhile, it’s a regular — if special — school day today, in Westport. But Colin Corneck won’t be in class this morning.

The Staples High School senior — a member of the boys soccer team, boys swim team captain, and recipient of a Naval ROTC scholarship — will deliver the address at the town’s annual Veterans Day service.

The program begins at 10:30 a.m., with a patriotic concert by the Westport Community Band. In addition to Colin’s remarks, there’s an invocation and benediction by the Rev. Alison Patton Buttrick of Saugatuck Congregational Church; remarks from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe; placing of a memorial wreath by members of VFW Post 399 and American Legion Post 63; taps played by Community Band trumpeters, and the “Armed Forces Salute.”

Colin will represent all Westport students well. They won’t be there, because school is in session. They wouldn’t have been there if school was out, either.

But thanks to the work of teachers and staff at all levels, our youngsters today have a great knowledge of — and appreciation for — what today is all about.