Author Archives: Dan Woog

Pic Of The Day #1326

Reflections of 315 Post Road West (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Roundup: Accelerating Universe, Mozy Blanket, Knicks Memoir, More


You may not have heard of Alex Filippenko.

But astrophysicists have.

The University of California professor of astronomy is the only member of both teams that revealed the accelerating expansion of the universe, which led to a Nobel Prize. He’s been voted the Best Professor at Berkeley a record 9 times.

On December 15 (8 p.m.), he’ll visit the Westport Astronomical Society — virtually — for a free lecture on “A New Surprise in the Accelerating Universe.” It’s available on Zoom, and YouTube.


Mozy is a new member of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. The local company produces a “lower-body thermal wrap engineered to keep you 100% warmer than most blankets.”

It’s perfect for “game day, drinks on the deck or a sunset hike” — and the “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Blanket) outdoor dining initiative championed by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. Click here to buy online, or email for in-person pickup: hello@getthemozy.com.

A few Mozys.


The Strickland is a new website about the New York Knicks.

They just released their first book: “Fred From Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir.” Author Fred is also from Westport. The 1971 Staples High School graduate is well known to “06880” readers as a frequent commenter on a variety of topics, a documentary filmmaker, an off-Broadway producer, and a keeper of the flame of local musicians like the Remains and Charlie Karp.

Fred’s Knick bona fides go back decades. He was at Madison Square Garden for the “Here comes Wilis!” game. He stayed up late the night before the SATs to watch a big game on the West Coast. In law school he chose where to live based on which neighborhood had a team cable TV package, then chose an apartment in Manhattan based in part on proximity to Madison Square Garden.

Along the way, Fred might have inadvertently caused Jerry Lucas to have one of the worst shooting nights of his playoff career, drove with Earl Monroe to a business meeting, and sort of sued Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to get revenge for Knicks fans.

Fred is a truly good guy. He’s donating 100% of the royalties from his pandemic project to the John Starks Foundation, which provides grants to college-bound high school seniors with academic excellence, financial need and a commitment to community service.

Click here to order. Click here for more information about Fred’s memoir.


During COVID, many folks are drinking alone. Now you can do it without shame — and with the knowledge you’re helping raise money for great causes.

The Westport Woman’s Club is sponsoring a “Swirl & Sip” wine-tasting fundraiser (Wednesday, December 9, 6 to 7 p.m.). For just $25, Castle Wine & Spirits is providing sparkling wines from Italy and Spain. Silver Ribbon donates the door prize: a $200 gift certificate.

Proceeds from the virtual event help fund grants to local non-profits, and need-based college scholarships. Cheers!

Click here for tickets and more information.


MoCA Westport’s Holiday Open House has been postponed from this Saturday to next (December 12, noon to 5 p.m.).

The outdoor event includes caroling by the Staples High School Orphenians, free admission to the World Peace exhibition, performances by teachers and students of the Westport School of Music, and a holiday-themed project for kids.

There’s free hot chocolate and doughnuts, and food trucks for purchases. There is no admission fee, but MoCA suggests bringing an unwrapped toy for the Westport Police Department’s annual drive.

 


And finally … in honor of the Westport Astronomical Society’s lecture on the expanding universe:

 

RTM Upgrades Radio System, Seawall; Appoints Transit Director

This is Peter Gold’s report on the December Representative Town Meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, not in an official capacity.

December’s RTM meeting featured several housekeeping items, and 3 appropriation requests.

Dan Woog’s invocation gave thanks for America’s democratic traditions. He thanked the RTM for all it does for Westport, describing the RTM as ”its own tradition. It is non-partisan. It represents every segment of town. It is unique. It is quirky. It is ours.”

Members then reelected Velma Heller as moderator and Jeff Wieser as deputy moderator for the 4th time, and thanked retiring Town Clerk Patty Strauss for her 23 years of service to the RTM and the town.

The RTM also thanked Marty Fox and Patsy Cimarosa, who resigned as directors of the Westport Transit District, for their nearly 5 years’ service as directors.

The most expensive appropriation was $4,635,408 for a new public safety radio system. The current system is 15 year old, and has parts that can no longer be repaired.

The new system will piggyback on the state’s existing system. making it significantly less expensive than buying a stand-alone setup. The new system enables the Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services to communicate together for the first time, and expands the area covered by the system.

$230,000 was approved to repair the seawall along the river at Jesup Green. The project adds a railing atop the seawall to help minimize accidental falls into the river. While the RTM agreed safety should be a priority, hope was expressed that the railing will obstruct river views as little as possible.

Repairs will be made along the Saugatuck River seawall.

The RTM also approved $80,000 for the design and permitting stage of a project to repair the Old Mill walkway and tide gates.

The final agenda item was to appoint a new volunteer director for the Westport Transit District.

Peter Gold, former chair of the RTM Transit Committee (and the author of this article) was nominated, because of his familiarity with the Transit District’s operations. He would resign once the town came up with a plan for the future of the Transit District.

A motion was made to delay appointing a new transit director until February to give the town additional time to decide on a course of action.

Peter Gold

While some thought the absence of a director would prod the town to take action more quickly, others noted that a director must be in place now to deal with day-to day operations, including the new Wheels 2U Westport on-demand door-to train station commuter service, and to prepare the Transit District’s budget for the next fiscal year.

The appointment of a director would not prevent the town from formulating its own solution. Based on this, and Gold’s knowledge and experience with the Transit District, he was appointed as a director by a vote of 34 in favor, and 1 abstention.

 

 

Cathy Walsh’s Westport

After 30 years in town, Cathy Walsh knows Westport.

But despite all that time — and her long service on the Planning & Zoning Commission — it took a pandemic for her to really appreciate the things she sees every day.

For the past 9 months, Cathy has walked all over town. The day after Thanksgiving she did a 7 1/2-mile loop to Burying Hill Beach. The next day she took her regular 6 1/2-mile neighborhood walk.

Like many other Westporters, COVID helped Cathy see Westport through new eyes.

Unlike many others, Cathy stopped along the way to take photos. Here are some scenes from last week’s walks.

Burying Hill Beach jetty.

Burying Hill tidal creek.

Nyala Farm.

Greens Farms Church cemetery.

Saugatuck River, behind Belden Place.

Parker Harding Plaza footbridge.

Canoeing on the Saugatuck River, downtown.

Saugatuck River west bank, behind Arezzo.

Riverside Avenue walkway.

Rive Bistro restaurant.

Saugatuck River, looking north.

William F. Cribari Bridge, and Bridge Square.

Seahorse in Saugatuck. (Photos/Cathy Walsh)

Even during a crisis, Westport is beautiful. Thanks, Cathy, for helping us notice so much we don’t always see.

Pic Of The Day #1325

Saugatuck Shores morning (Photo/Gene Borio)

Unsung Heroes #168

Even before COVID, it was our mantra: “Buy local.”

Since the pandemic, we’ve paid even more attention to the importance of supporting the men and women who — against ever-more daunting odds — make this town go.

They stock stuff we need. They employ our kids and grandparents. They support every school and civic fundraiser. They answer our calls. They know our names.

And — this is really cool — they support each other. I posted this story last weekend, but it might have gotten lost over the holiday. So here it is again:

There’s a new Christmas tree on Main Street, right next to the old Tavern on Main restaurant. But it’s more than just a handsome holiday sight.

Annette Norton — owner of the nearby Savvy + Grace gift shop — works with the Ralphola Taylor Charity, a YMCA community center serving low-income Bridgeport children. They earn points for good behavior during after-school activities, then redeem those points at the center’s Holiday Store by buying presents for their families.

Annette Norton and the Christmas tree, near Savvy + Grace.

In return for purchasing a gift for the Ralphola Taylor Charity, Annette will personalize a white dove ornament with the donor’s name, and hang it on the tree.

Gifts can be bought 3 ways:

  • At Savvy + Grace (next to the former Tavern on Main restaurant)
  • Online (at checkout, just choose free delivery to the charity)
  • Purchase something from any other local store, then drop it off at Savvy + Grace. What a great way to support all Westport merchants, and kids in Bridgeport.

Donations are accepted now through Monday, December 7.

How great that Annette wants you to purchase a gift at any local store. And how wonderful that she’s a local merchant.

Which is why Annette Norton — and all Westport business owners, struggling but still giving in this holiday season — are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

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

Roundup: Holiday House Decorating, Grandparents, More


Okay, so maybe you didn’t win the town’s 4th of July house decorating contest.

Or the Halloween one.

Hey: The 3rd time’s the charm.

Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department is sponsoring its first-ever Winter Holiday House Decorating Contest.

People can decorate the outsides of their homes to show a winter theme, or any holiday they celebrate.

Registration must be done first (click here). Then submit no more than 5 photos or videos of your decorations to mrobbins@westportct.gov by December 20. Prizes will be awarded for the top 3 entrants.

And if you don’t win this time, maybe they’ll do a Presidents Day house decorating contest …

One of the first houses decorated in Westport this year. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)


Congratulations to Westport’s newest grandfather: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

He announced before last night’s RTM meeting that his daughter Samantha gave birth hours earlier at Greenwich Hospital. Charles James Sandor weighs 6 pounds, 13 ounces — and brought his grandparents great joy.

Jim and Mary Ellen Marpe, with their daughter Samantha in 2017.


And finally … happy 59th birthday to Def Leppard guitarist Rick Savage.

Jean Donovan: Not The Westport Girl Next Door

John F. Suggs is a longtime Westporter, regular “06880” reader and former Jesuit. He is also passionate about keeping Jean Donovan’s memory alive. John writes:

Jean Donovan

Forty years ago today, 4 U.S. churchwomen were kidnaped, tortured, raped and killed in a remote section of El Salvador. They were targeted for openly living with and caring for the poor in the midst of El Salvador’s bloody civil war.

According to a 1993 United Nations Security Council report, the women were ordered killed by the US-trained and funded Salvadorian military, which covered up their involvement in the murders and obstructed initial investigations.

Three of the churchwomen were Catholic nuns. The fourth — Jean Donovan — was a 27-year-old lay Catholic volunteer who grew up in Westport.

In many ways, Jean was like any other Westport kid. She marched in the annual Memorial Day parade with her Girl Scout toop, made her first communion at Assumption Church and her confirmation at St. Luke.

A member of the Staples High School class of 1971, she played on the basketball and field hockey teams. An accomplished equestrian at Westport’s Fiddle Horse Farm, Jean managed the tack room after school and supervised youngsters assigned to work in the stables.

Jean Donovan, at Fiddle Horse Farm. (Photo courtesy of Ray and Patricia Donovan)

She was the quintessential Westport girl next door.

Until she wasn’t.     

Only 6 years after graduating from Staples, after finishing grad school and starting as an account executive at Arthur Andersen, Jean put her career on hold to pursue something radically different.

She applied for a volunteer position with the Catholic Maryknoll Lay Mission. The program required a 2-year commitment living with and serving an impoverished community in El Salvador.

Accepted into the program, Jean quit her job, to begin training and coursework.

Today it is common for young Westporters to go on service or mission trips. Some expect a transformational experience. Others pad their resumes to help get into competitive colleges.

As parents, we sign permission slips and write checks, knowing that at least the trip gets our kids out of the Westport bubble. We hope their experiences in communities of poverty might have a beneficial impact on them — something lasting, beyond serving as a great subject for a college application essay.

I believe it was here that Jean began to differentiate herself from the quintessential Westport girl next door.

A tribute to Jean Donovan and fellow churchwomen, near the spot of their murder in El Salvador.

Jean had already been accepted into the right undergrad and graduate schools. She had completed her studies, and landed that important first professional job.

Jean had no need to make this 2-year service commitment to help advance her career. If anything, her decision derailed it — at least with Arthur Andersen.

So why did Jean do what she did?

Though I never had the pleasure of knowing Jean personally, I’ve worked hard over the years to help keep her memory alive in Westport. So I have given this question a lot of thought.

Based on all the information that I’ve gathered, I believe her decisions to not only quit her job and make this commitment, but also to stay in El Salvador as the violence escalated, were the result of her making a spiritual discernment.

This centuries-old decision-making process seeks to assist an individual in determining their best course of action. The person first becomes aware of the interior movements and deepest desires of their heart, then tests and evaluates its validity in alignment with God.

A tribute to Jean Donovan hangs outside Assumption Church. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Two weeks before Jean died, she wrote a friend in Connecticut about the final decisions and actions she was about to take, based on what I believe were the results of her spiritual discernment.

The Peace Corps left today and my heart sank low. The danger is extreme, and they were right to leave….

Now I must assess my own position because I am not up for suicide. Several times I have decided to leave El Salvador. I almost could, except for the children, the poor, bruised victims of this insanity. Who would care for them? Whose heart could be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and helplessness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.

Today let’s remember and honor this once quintessential Westport girl next door, whose discernment and subsequent action culminated in making the ultimate commitment to protect and care for the most vulnerable of all.

(Jean Donovan will be remembered this Sunday [December 6]. during the 11 a.m. mass at Assumption Church. Attendance is limited, due to COVID; click here to reserve a seat. The mass will be livestreamed.

(In progressive Catholic social justice networks, Jean Donovan is considered a saint. A Jean Donovan Summer Fellowship at Santa Clara University — a Jesuit school — supports students interested in social justice, while in Los Angeles the Casa Jean Donovan Community Residence houses members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

(Her story was told in “Salvador.” Written by Oliver Stone — who directed it too, as his 1st major film — the character based on her life was played by Cynthia Gibb. Amazingly, she too is a Staples High graduate, exactly 10 years after Jean Donovan.)

Pic Of The Day #1324

Grays Creek (Photo/Jimmy Izzo)

Roundup: Turkey, Wind, More


Thanksgiving is already in our rear-view mirror. But this story from last week will keep you smiling through Christmas.

From noon through 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Westport Housing Authority delivered 376 holiday meals to residents at 4 sites: Canal Street, Hidden Brook, Sasco Creek and Hales Court.

Boston Market on Black Rock Turnpike supplied the turkeys, hams, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, mac and cheese, salads, cornbread, and apple and pumpkin pies.

Housing Authority officials Amanda Sayegh and Andrea Santamaria organized it all, and distributed the meals with the help of interns.

“Our residents are fabulous,” says WHA executive director Carol Martin. “This made them so happy. A little bit of safe, social contact — and a Thanksgiving meal — goes a long way.” (Hat tip: Jim Ezzes)

 


How windy was it yesterday?

Westport had nearly 750 power outages at 2 p.m. By 4:45, that number was below 5.

At the storm’s height, even heavy sandbags could not keep Finalmente’s outdoor dining tent down.

That’s not what any restaurant needs now, for sure. But then again, what do you expect from 2020?


And finally … December 1 is World AIDS Day. This song is dedicated all the men, women and children, taken far too young by this dreadful disease.