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Hail To The Valedictorians

There’s never been a 2-way tie for Staples High School valedictorian.

There still isn’t. But this year, there will be 3 valedictorians.

Natalie Bandura, Zach Bishop and Julian Weng all have the same 4-year grade point average — down to hundredths of a decimal point.

All 3 will speak at graduation on June 16.

Though they finished in a deadlock, the tri-valedictorians have very different scholastic careers and interests.

For the first time in history, Staples High School will have three valedictorians: Natalie Bandura, Zach Bishop and Julian Weng.

Though all three are high achievers in the classroom, each charted their own way through Staples. They have a variety of passions, and each contributed in different ways to a host of extracurricular activities.

Natalie Bandura made news last fall, as one of the first 2 high school students ever appointed to the Connecticut Board of Education. She also served as editor-in-chief of Inklings (which this year earned its first-ever Columbia Scholastic Press Association gold crown), and captain of the math team (4thplace in the state competition).

Each of those activities provided Natalie with a different sense of community. Each allowed her to apply what she’s learned in class to real-life situations. She has appreciated the opportunity to write creatively, and apply logical thinking to solve math problems. Joining the state Board of Education gave her confidence to speak publicly, and use her voice to rally others around common goals.

Natalie Bandura

Natalie was surprised to learn she is a valedictorian. “I was always focused on pursuing my interests, not grades,” she says. “I don’t think any of the three of us set up our schedules to maximize our grades.”

Her favorite classes included Advanced Placement Chemistry with Dominick Messina (“a great teacher who allowed us to be ourselves, and talk about content in a fun way”); Journalism (“of course”) with Mary Elizabeth Fulco and Joseph Del Gobbo, and Calculus BC with Jonathan Watnick (“a real challenge”). AP Literature with Brian Tippy, and Freshman English with Heather Colletti-Houde, helped her grow as a writer.

She advises incoming students to “explore everything that interests you. Don’t think that something will be too much, or impossible. Don’t be afraid to try to figure out who you are, or what you want to pursue. Join a ton of activities. Don’t go by what other people say you should take or do.”

Natalie will attend Harvard University. She looks forward to exploring her passions for government, journalism, math and research. She hopes to join the Crimson newspaper, and attend law school after graduation. But she is unsure of a major, and has an open mind about how to tie her many interests together.

Valedictorian Zach Bishop is well known as a musician. A violist, violinist and composer, he plays with the orchestra, and chamber and pit ensembles, along with All-State, Norwalk Youth Symphony and the Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestra.

While playing classical music helps him feel connected to musicians from centuries ago, composing is a different creative outlet. He describes his compositions as ranging from neo-Baroque and Romantic, to experimental. His favorite composers include Mendelssohn and Sibelius, but he studies lesser-known composers to broaden his understanding of both music and culture.

Zach Bishop

Academically, Zach loved Suzanne Kammerman’s Advanced Placement United States Government “We the People” class. Students research, analyze, synthesize and present key constitutional issues, as part of a national competition. “We debate really important questions, and it’s very practical,” he says. Fellow valedictorians Natalie Bandura and Julian Weng are in the same class.

Zach also enjoyed Calculus BC with Jonathan Watnick (“he finds multiple ways to answer questions, and helped me understand math”), and Music Theory with Philip Giampietro. As part of the Coleytown Elementary and Middle School Workshop program for gifted students, Zach appreciated the opportunity to do group work, and make creative presentations.

Being valedictorian is “a cool honor,” Zach says. “But I really valued all my classes. And it’s really cool to share it with others.”

His graduation speech may include some of his personal philosophy on how to make life rewarding. In his free time he reads philosophers like Plato, Camus and Kierkegaard. “They help me question things,” he notes.

Like Natalie, he tells incoming Staples students, “if you think you can manage taking rigorous classes, don’t let people talk you out of it. But if you know yourself and they’re not right for you, don’t get pushed into them.”

This spring, Zach will do a senior internship at the Museum of Mathematics in New York City. In the fall he’ll attend Williams College, where he looks forward to small classes, the possibility of a double major in music and math, the chance to hike, and auditioning for the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra.

The third valedictorian, Julian Weng, is used to sharing honors. He was co-president of the Debate Club (in a tied vote). He also founded Code for a Cause, a group that provides resources and support for virtual hackathons. His team won one of those events, for their work mapping economic data to optimize college selections for undergraduates. In his spare time, Julian plays tennis.

Like Natalie and Zach, he cites Suzanne Kammerman’s Advanced Placement United States Government “We the People” as a favorite course. “We did in-depth research on constitutional topics, and defended it against experts who spend their entire lives studying this,” he says. “It had a real impact on how I approach team-based work, and how I speak. It was a very different experience than other social studies classes.”

Julian Weng

A self-described “big STEM person,” Julian especially enjoyed Applied Algorithmic Design with Dr. Nick Morgan; Statistics and Discrete Mathematics with John Wetzel; Building Web Applications with David Scrofani, and Advanced Placement Chemistry with Will Jones.

In his Independent Learning Experience with Mr. Scrofani, Julian created a chatbot. It helps students review class concepts by generating customized practice questions, then tracking their progress. It was inspired by his work as an instructor for an after-school STEM program and math tutor with Mu Alpha Theta, the national mathematics honor society.

Julian’s route to the Class of 2022’s top spot included “taking every class I could that sounded interesting.” Like his co-valedictorians, he did not plan his schedule with the goal of finishing with the highest GPA.

Julian notes, “A lot of people say Staples is a very competitive place. It is. But there are lots of supportive people. Try to surround yourself with people you can talk to at lunch about more than your chemistry grade. I found lots of real support.”

Julian will study management and technology at the University of Pennsylvania. He plans to pursue a dual degree, through the Wharton School and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Accidents Happen. Amanda Is There.

Life has been challenging for Amanda DeRosa.

She has a long QT syndrome, a congenital abnormality of the heart’s electrical system that can lead to sudden death.  Her 2nd-grade son has inherited the condition. Both take beta blockers.

But those — and other hardships — have not deterred Amanda. Since moving to Westport 5 years ago, she’s jumped into community life. She always looks to help. Last year, for example, she rallied Starbucks regulars to fund a gift card for a pregnant barista who needed help.

Amanda DeRosa (right) and her Starbucks friend.

She’s been active too in ensuring that AEDs (portable devices that deliver electrical shocks to cardiac arrest victims) are in as many places as possible — and that their batteries are replaced when needed.

It’s not only the elderly and people with long QT syndrome who may need help, she notes. Youngsters hit the wrong way by a ball can go into cardiac arrest too.

Amanda’s 64-year-old father is a volunteer firefighter in Chatham, New Jersey. “This stuff is in my blood,” she says. “I run to the fire, metaphorically.”

To be prepared, last July she took a Red Cross adult and pediatric first aid/CPR/AED course. She gave up 6 1/2 hours on a beautiful summer day, and it cost $117, but the certification was important to her.

Almost immediately, she put her training to use. An older woman fell on the sidewalk, near (of all places) the Post Road Starbucks where Amanda had aided the barista.

The woman bled profusely. Amanda put on her N95 mask, announced who she was, and got the bleeding under control. She kept the woman calm, until EMTs and firefighters arrived.

Not long after — at nearly the same location — Amanda saw a pickup truck hit a young man on a moped.

Again she raced into action. He was shook up, but not injured. She stayed with him, and made sure he was okay.

On Tuesday, Amanda again ran toward the metaphorical fire. Driving on the Post Road, she saw a serious 2-car accident at Turkey Hill. First responders had not yet arrived. A couple of people had stopped, but did not know what to do.

Amanda parked in the closest lot, grabbed her mask, and assessed the scene. A woman was out of her car, using her cellphone. A young man was still in the vehicle, dazed.

She introduced herself, and said she could help if needed. He nodded yes.

He said his wrist and chest hurt, and he felt dizzy. “I think I’m in shock,” he said.

Amanda calmed him down. She breathed slowly, and got him to follow. “He was terrified,” she says. She stayed with him until EMTs, firefighters and police arrived.

Those 3 incidents reinforced Amanda’s decision to take the Red Cross course.

“I know not everyone can handle blood,” she says. “But if you can, you really should do it.

“It takes time for first responders to arrive. If that young man needed CPR because of the airbag impact, I could have done that.”

A few days before that Turkey Hill accident, Amanda’s father had called. The firefighter said that a 52-year-old father of 4 had just died in Chatham, after his car was struck broadside.

“That was my hometown,” she says. “But Westport is now home. I just want to help, and I know there are millions of people like me.

“I’m just a mom. If that was my son in that car, I hope someone would be there for him.”

Amanda DeRosa has done plenty already. But she’s not stopping with the first aid/CPR/AED course.

This summer, she’ll start courses for a nursing degree at Norwalk Community College.

(To find a Red Cross first aid/CPR/AED course — or any other type — click here.)

Unsung Heroes #233

The drumbeat of news from Ukraine is relentless. It’s tragic, horrific, frightening  — there really are not enough words to convey how Westporters feel.

Sitting safely thousands of miles away, we wonder what we can do.

Some, like Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn and Buck Rosenfeld, travel overseas to help.

Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn, with supplies.

Others, like Stephan Taranko and Mark Yurkiw — both with Ukrainian heritage — use their words and art to keep the plight of their countrymen in the forefront of our minds.

Mark Yurkiw, with his Ukraine installation on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

Still others, like Darcy Hicks and Bean Corcoran, organize rallies.

Miggs Burroughs at last weekend’s rally. The QR code provides quick access to donations through Save the Children Ukraine. (Photos/Rowene Weems Photography)

And many, many more — our neighbors and friends — respond to requests by organizations like Wakeman Town Farm to collect clothes, toys, medical supplies and money.

Those who help are not doing it to be heroic. The true heroes are on the ground, 4,500 miles from Westport.

But many people here do what they can. If you’ve done anything over the past month — organized or attended a rally, donated needed goods or funds, posted information on social media, flew a flag, whatever — thank you.

It’s a small gesture, but it speaks volumes. Mark Mathias has changed his outdoor lights, to show support for the embattled nation of Ukraine. (Photo/Mark Mathias)

And keep doing it. It does make a difference.

(Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

 

Teaming Up For Genius Ukraine Help

It was one of those small-world/Westport moments.

Years ago Jeff Manchester met Mehmet Sezgin, a potential banking partner, in Istanbul.

They discovered a connection: Jeff graduated from Staples High School in 1985, Five years earlier, Mehmet was a Turkish exchange student there.

Jeff Manchester

Jeff moved back to Westport several years ago. Mehmet is now in Miami. But they’re collaborating on a project with global implications. It’s a way for American credit card users to raise money to help Ukraine, through purchases at 20,000 retailers and restaurants — including several here in town. It aids Ukrainian merchants too.

Jeff has over 25 years experience in the “payments space,” as an executive vice president and the leader of card programs at GE Money. He’s now in charge of business development at myGini. The  company that helps banks and financial institutions provide loyalty programs and personalized promotions to customers.

When a consumer downloads the Worthy app on their phone, and enrolls their Mastercard or Visa credit or debit cards, whenever they dine or shop at a participating merchant, they get cash back — and cash will be sent to UNICEF for Ukrainian children too.

For example, one Westport merchant — Iganzio’s — offers 4% cash back: 2% to the purchaser, 2% to the charity.

Ignazio’s Pizza helps customers earn cash back — and help Ukrainian children.

Other Westport participants include

  • Capuli
  • Finalmente
  • Julian’s
  • Mexica
  • Pane e Bene
  • Romanacci
  • Rye Ridge Deli
  • Shake Shack
  • Via Sforza
  • Village Bagels
  • Vineyard Vines

In addition, for any Ukrainian-owned small business in the US that joins myGini’s network to offer cash back to American cardholders, myGini will waive set-up and marketing fees. myGini will also match that merchant’s total amount given as cash back to consumers, and donate it to UNICEF USA.

It’s a win-win-win: for consumers, merchants, and (especially) Ukrainian children.

Thanks to Jeff Manchester and fellow Staples alum Mehmet Sezgin, myGini is pure genius.

The myGini app.

Devin Sussmane: A Real Trooper

March is National Disability Awareness Month. Which means it’s a great time to let the “06880” community know about New Canaan Mounted Troop.

Executive director Sara Tucker — a Westport resident for 33 years — sent information about the non-profit youth development and therapeutic equestrian center.

Founded in 1939, it serves lower Fairfield County. Over that time, hundreds of Westporters have benefited from their time with the organization’s volunteers — and its horses.

Here, from the NCMT newsletter, is a story about one of those young people.

When Super Trooper Devin Sussmane, 27, started coming to New Canaan
Mounted Troop about 5 years ago, she was so shy she yanked her jacket over her face so no one could see her.

Now, she loves being at the barn so much she cries when it’s time to leave.

Devin lights up around animals, says mom Elaine Zapfel, and the horses “accept her without judgment.” They also don’t mind her enthusiastic embraces, which often scared the smaller rescue cats and dogs at another program she attended,
her mom said.

Devin Sussmane

The COVID pandemic has been hard on Devin, who doesn’t understand why beloved activities are interrupted. Although she doesn’t enjoy participating in most Zoom calls, she never missed a chance to see the horses at Troop — even if it was only through a screen.

Still, quarantine left Devin largely stuck at home with nothing to do unless her mom came up with reasons to leave the house. So when restrictions eased and NCMT offered Devin the chance to attend one-on-one equine care lessons during the summer, it was everything, her mom said.

“Having something like New Canaan that she can look forward to every week is more than I can say.”

Zapfel also calls Super Troopers instructor Stacy Gendels (a longtime Westport resident) “sent from heaven.” The two are so close that Devin visits Gendels at her home to play with her dogs.

“Certain people just get it, and Stacy is very good with Devin. She understands that Devin can be anxious and cranky, and she doesn’t treat her like a baby,” Zapfel said.

“Devin has a lot of anxiety, but when she is at Mounted Troop her anxiety is so much less — she’s able to function.”

Yoya: From The West Village To Sconset Square

During her 20 years as owner of Yoya, Christina Villegas grew the West Village children’s fashion store into a 60-brand neighborhood mecca. It was a true community, with European fashions moms loved.

She enjoyed living in the city. But Colombia-born Christina and her Danish husband realized they needed more space for their children. They visited nearly every town on the water, in every direction from Manhattan.

Christina Villegas, with her daughters.

Westport was love at first sight. “The vibe, the people, the beauty, the beach — I just had a feeling this was the right place,” Christina says.

They bought a house that had been on the market a while. She commuted to Yoya, while also renovating her new home.

Then COVID struck. Her rent — which had already increased dramatically — proved too much to handle. Christina made the heartbreaking decision to close.

But as that West Village door closed, a new Westport door opened. Christina found 2nd-floor space in Sconset Square — above Bespoke Designs — to open a new Yoya.

Sconset Square Yoya, above Bespoke Designs.

That too felt right. She’s surrounded by “cool stores and creative people.” She loves the vibe that property owner David Waldman has created there.

Yoya highlights Christina’s multicultural perspective on children’s clothing, carrying nearly 2 dozen brands. She also offers fun women’s wear, and interior design.

The shop opened at the end of December. Customers are excited, the owner says. “There are some cute kids’ stores in Westport,” she notes. “But this really focuses on design and visuals.”

Christina Villegas, with some of her selections.

Sconset Square is not the West Village. But, Christina says, her New York neighborhoods “seemed like a small town.”

Now she’s in a real one. starting her second act on the second floor.

Ted Aldrich: A Commuter’s Tale Of How George Marshall And Henry Stimson Won The War

As Metro-North trains grew progressively slower, Fairfield County commuters groaned.

When bad weather, aging infrastructure or acts of God turned delays of minutes into hours, men and women gnashed their teeth, or wished the windows opened so they could jump out.

Ted Aldrich was thrilled.

For 8 years, the banker used his time between Greens Farms and Grand Central not to try to answer emails, watch movies on a phone screen or wish he were anywhere else.

Aldrich read history books. He organized notes. Then he wrote a book.

Ted Aldrich

Not just any book. He wrote 800 pages — then edited it down to 500 — on the odd relationship, and amazing success, of George Marshall and Henry Stimson.

The general and diplomat, Aldrich says, are hugely responsible for America’s logistical success in World War II. It’s a fresh area of study, one no historian has previously examined.

Yet Aldrich is not a historian. He’s a banker.

And this is his first book ever.

The Rowayton native and former Brien McMahon High School all-state soccer player has been a history buff as long as he remembers. But after playing at Colgate University, living and working in Europe, then moving to Westport in 1999, that passion was limited to reading on trains.

In 2008 he realized he could put that commuting time to productive use, by writing a book he’d long thought about. He had a subject: the collaboration between the unlikely duo of the U.S. Army chief of staff and President Roosevelt’s Secretary of War.

From adjoining offices at the Pentagon, the career military man and the Wall Street lawyer — both from vastly different backgrounds — created and led a war machine that helped crush a powerful enemy.

Blending politics, diplomacy, bureaucracy and war fighting, they transformed an outdated, poorly equipped army into a modern fighting force.  They developed strategy and logistics, coordinated with allies, and planned for post-war peace.

General George Marshall, and Secretary of War Henry Stimson.

Aldrich had the idea for the story. But with Metro-North’s spotty cell service, conducting the all-important research — during the only time he had available — was impossible.

Then he stumbled on Stimson’s 10,000-page diary. Because the men occupied adjoining offices, most of their collaboration took place in conversations. Little was written down — except in the diary.

It was housed at Yale, but not digitized. Aldrich paid to have it converted, and put it on a thumb drive. Suddenly, the train became his office.

The longer the commute was, the more productive and happier he became. Research took 3 years. Writing took 5 more.

Adlrich looked forward to to long business flights to Asia too. While most passengers slept or watched movies, Aldrich wrote, edited, and wrote some more.

That was the easy part. Selling his work to publishers seemed impossible. Major houses were not interested in a long book by a non-historian who had never written anything before.

Neither were smaller publishers.

Finally, Stackpole Books responded to Aldrich’s cold call. Three days later, they offered him a contract.

The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson, and the Extraordinary Collaboration That Won World War II will be published April 15. Best-selling author Walter Isaacson calls it “a valuable addition to history.”

Noted writer Evan Thomas adds:

The contrast to the current day will pop out at readers. Aldrich writes with a confident, readable style that carries you along. Through these men we remember how America truly did become great. At the same time, Aldrich has a clear eye about their foibles and blind spots. Stimson and Marshall were Olympian figures, yet in Aldrich’s capable hands, human and relatable.

Unlike many writers who head out on book tours, Aldrich has a full-time job. His personal promotion will be limited to groups in the tri-state area, and Washington — talks he can give while still working his day job.

Meanwhile, he’d love to write another book. But he has to find the right subject — and make sure much of the material is available on a thumb drive.

On the other hand, at the rate Metro-North is going, Aldrich may have even more time to write than before.

(For more information and to order Ted Aldrich’s book, click here.) 

State Housing Bill Targets Train Station Neighborhoods

Last week, “06880” reported on a bill making its way through the General Assembly that could prohibit Connecticut towns from charging higher beach access fees to non-residents than residents.

Another bill introduced this week could cause even greater changes.

Bill #5429 — “An Act Concerning Transit-Oriented Development” — was introduced by the Planning and Development Committee. It would allow “as of right” development of up to 15 units per acre within a half-mile radius of any rail station. Ten percent of the units would be “affordable,” as defined by state statute. (Towns could opt to increase the affordable component.)

As written, that would allow a developer to acquire and tear down some of Westport’s most affordable current housing — around Franklin Street, Saugatuck Avenue and Hiawatha Lane — and replace it with luxury condos or apartments. Only one or two would have to fit the “affordable” criteria.

Some of Westport’s most affordable housing, like these homes on Saugatuck Avenue, could become luxury units …

It would also allow a developer to buy a home on Stony Point — the exclusive road off the Westport train station eastbound parking lot — and tear it down. In its place, he could build 15 condos or apartments, with the same provisions as above.

The half-mile radius from that train station extends toward Saugatuck Shores; across the river to include portions of Imperial Avenue, Bridge Street, Ferry Lane East and Manitou, and along Riverside Avenue.

But we’ve got 2 train stations in town. The bill would impact Greens Farms too, opening the door to 15 housing units per acre within a half-mile radius. That includes Greens Farms Road — and Beachside Avenue. Wetlands and land in the flood zone would be exempted.

… and so (conceivably) could property on Beachside Avenue.

A public hearing is set for this Monday (March 14, 10 a.m.). Residents wishing to testify virtually must register here by 3 p.m. Sunday.

Click here for the full text of Bill #5429.

 

For Westporter, Ukrainian War Is Personal

Many Americans became aware of Ukraine only recently. We’d heard the name for years — usually as “the Ukraine” —  but knew little about its remarkable history, culture or people.

We’re learning quickly. Just as Ken Bernhard did, a few years ago.

A former state legislator (now running again), and a volunteer working hands-on with a long list of local and international organizations, his day job is attorney.

Ken Bernhard

In 2005 he was invited to join the Center for International Legal Studies. One of the non-profit’s goals is to spread understanding of legal principles around the globe.

After a week-long course at its Salzburg, Austria headquarters, Bernhard headed off every year to a new country. Latvia, India, Mongolia — wherever he was, he explored the land, taught, and learned.

Three years ago, Bernhard traveled to Ukraine. After a 12-hour train ride from Kyiv (the country is nearly as large as Texas), he was warmly welcomed in Berdyansk, on the Sea of Azov, a northern extension of the Black Sea.

He knew little about Ukraine before he went. But he was captivated by the museums and architecture of Kyiv, and the friendliness of the people he met everywhere.

His Berdyansk University law students were “terrific,” Bernhard says. “They were very engaged. They had a real desire to become effective advocates for the rule of law.”

Berdyansk University

They acknowledged their nation’s “endemic corruption,” he says. And they had “a palpable desire” to change it. Their enthusiasm inspired him.

“We don’t fully appreciate in this country what we have,” Bernhard notes. “Our concerns here are minor, compared to what people endure there, and in other places around the world.”

When he returned to Westport, Bernhard — a Sunrise Rotary Club member — wanted to do more. At his urging, the Sunrise Rotary and noontime Rotary Club joined in raising funds to construct a moot courtroom in Berdyansk. It was another way for students to learn courtroom skills.

Ken Bernhard (left) with students in Berdyansk, Ukraine. They hold a Connecticut state flag.

The news from Ukraine has become very personal. He fears for the professor he worked most closely with, and who became a good friend, along with his former students.

Bernhard — who helped found The Syria Fund, a non-profit providing education, medical supplies, household goods and food to families living in dire, desperate areas — draws parallels between that nation, Ukraine, and other trouble spots around the world.

“People are the same all over. They worry about putting food on the table, getting their car repaired, educating their kids. They are normal, productive people, wanting to live a decent life.

“Suddenly they are uprooted. I can’t imagine having to grab luggage and flee, before a missile strikes. Americans don’t have any sense of what that’s like.”

Ukrainians, Bernhard says, “had worthy aspirations, which they thought were achievable. The last few days have quashed that.”

He waits for the next update from his professor friend in Berdyansk. And he worries about the 40 million people who want to live free and in peace, in a land now under siege.

A bombed-out apartment building in Kyiv. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for The New York Times)

Dr. Loveless’ Wasps: The Forgotten Story

 Dan Doniger had his first anaphylactic reaction from wasp stings at age 15, on a 30-day wilderness survival course in the Adirondacks. It was his first near-death experience.

Dan was raised in Westport, and spent many hours outdoors in nature and on basketball courts. He graduated from Staples High School in 1976.

After 20 years of writing and occupational adventures, he “shot myself into the air and landed as a nurse.” Now he is home hospice nursing in New York City, meditating and growing veggies, herbs, mushrooms and flowers in the Hudson Valley, working on prison reform, and being “as noble a husband, grandfather, son and householder as I can be.” His mother Audrey has lived in Westport for the past 60 years.

Dan writes:

If you were in downtown Westport in the 1970s or ’80s, sitting at a table outside Oscar’s Deli perhaps, and it was a sunny, mild early autumn afternoon, you may have noticed a woman with a butterfly net.

She hovered over the garbage cans on the street, a shoulder sack slung across her body. Out of that she brought a glass jar, unscrewed the lid, placed a honeybee or wasp, and put back the cover. She waved the butterfly net among the pastrami rinds, black-and-white cookie crumbs and corned beef debris, collecting one yellowjacket after another.

But this was no garbage picker, no vagrant. She was a wasp whisperer, an immunologist pioneer, a master of medicine. She was a doctor who opened my mind and changed my body: Dr. Mary Hewitt Loveless.

Dr. Mary Loveless was featured in a 1963 Life magazine story.

I first met Dr. Loveless with a butterfly net not on Main Street, but 22 Cavalry Road. It was both her home and medical office. She roamed the bushes and flowers in her yard, collecting wasps and putting them in glass jars.

I went to her because I recently had a severe anaphylactic reaction to wasp stings. It came close to being fatal, until a shot of epinephrine reversed it.

The visit to Dr. Loveless became a 4 to 5 hour session. She induced wasps to sting me by holding their wings in tweezers and directing their stingers into my forearm, then monitoring the reaction. T

These treatments, given once a year or every other year, led to the production of protective antivenom antibodies. They have proved successful in preventing severe anaphylactic reactions.

My family was already familiar with Dr. Loveless because my sister had been stung several years before when she was 5. My panicked mother called her beloved pediatrician, Dr. Albert Beasley, who told her to bypass the ER and take her directly to Mary Loveless.

My mother held Dr. Beasley in high regard. She did as he told her, and did so without regret.

Getting stung on purpose.

Dr. Loveless lived and practiced medicine in Westport after retiring in 1964 from a distinguished career in clinical work and research, mostly in New York. In developing live venom immunotherapy, she bucked mainstream immunologists who were using a derivative extract made from wasps’ crushed whole bodies. Dr. Loveless believed there were impurities in this method, and a more effective treatment existed in the venom itself.

It was courageous of her to treat her patients with the very venom that could produce a severe or fatal reaction. But she combined a shaman’s confidence in the laws of nature with a medical scientist’s trust in rigorous, evidenced-based results. She flirted with harm, while producing immunity.

Dr. Loveless guided me to be calm and observe myself, should I be stung outside the clinical setting. With each future wasp sting, I sat calmly and observed the reaction. I’ve had swelling, itching, hot hives rise up my trunk and arms towards my neck, with a pulse slowing down. Each time I remained calm, and my body reversed the reaction.

I didn’t get my first epi-pen until the mid-1980s. I continue to refill prescriptions, but they expire unused every year. With Dr. Loveless’ doses of native wasp medicine, and her prescription to remain calm and observe myself, I’ve received precious gifts.

Dr. Loveless’ former home and office at 22 Cavalry Road is gone now. In Westport, where she lived and worked for decades, there are only ghosts of her achievements.

Elsewhere, her legacy of antivenom antibodies in the hundreds of people she treated are also vanishing, as we age out.

It makes sense that someone, somewhere is practicing medicine with live wasps and using Dr, Loveless’ research to good effect, but I do not know who. Since Dr. Loveless’ death I have neither met another practitioner who works with live wasps, nor learned how to induce wasps to sting me.

But as it has been 35 years since my last treatment, I’m game for one or the other.