As I ran today past Longshore and Compo Beach, I was filled with gratitude. Not just for our town’s stunning beauty and incredible wealth of resources, but for the optimistically scrappy people who make a transformational difference one person at a time.
Staples High School coach Matty Jacowleff inspires the kind of compassionate trust that made our eldest son feel comfortable reaching out this winter when he was struggling to find academic motivation.
It was off season. But Coach Matty reached back immediately, normalized the anxiety, and with his signature contagious enthusiasm set up an accountability partnership where they’d check in with each other daily. Who does this? Coach Matty does.
Several years ago, our youngest son struggled with lacrosse. His skills were not up to those of his peers. He had trouble focusing, didn’t really get game IQ and felt poorly about himself. He decided lacrosse was not his sport.
Westport PAL Lacrosse board member Dan Clark told him he thought he should stick with it. He put him on his team – a team built around love of sport and camaraderie.
Dan champions the underdogs. He makes sure they aren’t overlooked. Three years later, our son is thriving. He has learned resilience without sacrificing self-worth. Working hard and having fun are not mutually exclusive, and compassion trumps winning hands down.
These are just 2 of the countless people who quietly make a ginormous difference in our children’s lives. They do it because it is what they believe – who they are. Lucky us.
One of the many grateful moms in our incredible town
The adult female who was found deceased in the home at 1 Lyndale Park has been positively identified as 46-year-old Tracy Do. The deceased juvenile also resided at the above address, and is Ms. Do’s daughter.
On June 18, the 2 deceased individuals were brought to the State Medical Examiner’s office in Farmington to be autopsied. The Medical Examiner determined that the 7-year-old had drowned, and ruled her death a homicide.
The Medical Examiner ruled Ms. Do’s death a suicide. The Westport Police Detective Bureau, along with the State Police Western District Major Crimes Unit, continue to investigate the circumstances related to these 2 deaths.
Chief Foti Koskinas said, “this is a horrible tragedy, and the police department is keeping the family as well as the community that was so deeply affected by this in our thoughts and prayers.”
At this time, we are not releasing any further information.
1 Lyndale Park is off Weston Road, near Merritt Parkway northbound Exit 42.
First Selectman Jim Marpe adds:
The community is dealing with an awful tragedy. Since this terrible event is still under investigation, I cannot comment on the details. My prayers and condolences are with the family.
Police, first responders, public school personnel and students have been directly impacted by this devastating event. The entire community shares in their grief and sadness. Westport is a caring community. and I know we will come together to support those who need to begin the healing process.
With more and more people wearing fewer and fewer masks, it may seem like that’s one part of the pandemic now in the rear view mirror.
But unvaccinated children still need them. And youngsters in Bridgeport summer camp programs don’t always have access to nice masks.
Since March 2020, Virginia Jaffe and her crew of volunteers has sewn over 8,500 masks. They gave them all away — and they’re still doing it.
Last month, they donated 200 masks to New Beginnings in Bridgeport. A thank-you note cited the “wonderful craftsmanship,” adding, “Their beauty will bring joy to our students. This donation has provided some of the most vulnerable children in the state with the resources they need to thrive.”
Virginia wants those youngsters to feel that brand new, unused masks show they feel cared for, and just a little bit safer.
To help in any way, email email@example.com.
Two of Westport’s most creative institutions are the Library and Artists Collective.
This summer, they’re collaborating on a very creative project.
“Piece by Piece” is a grid of 60 12-inch squares. Each of those 60 artists contributes one square. When assembled together, they form one image.
The work represents the artists’ response to the isolation they felt during the pandemic. E
Each square is available for sale. For $100, you can select one or more of the squares from a grid. Proceeds will be divided between the Library and the artist. The name of the artists, and the iconic masterpiece on which Piece by Piece is based, will be revealed on July 10th.
It, and more works by the Artists Collective, will be on display at the Library from July 10 through September 28.
For more details — including how to own a piece of “Piece” — click here.
Speaking of the Artists Collective: Their great live (!) exhibit ends this Saturday, with artist talks.
Works hang in the barn gallery at Westport Country Playhouse. Among the participants: Miggs Burroughs, Elizabeth DeVoll, Charles Douthat, Susan Fehlinger, Noah Fox, Toby Michaels, Nancy Moore, Melissa Newman, Diane Pollack and Ellen Schiffman.
When PJ Pacifico plays the Levitt Pavilion June 25 (7 p.m.), the Westporter won’t have far to go. He lives right around the corner.
The singer/songwriter’s new single, “Every Little Heartbreak,” speaks to a world eager to embrace a fresh new day after a time of intense challenges. Sound familiar?
PJ’s perspective on the ups and downs of being an indie artist and songwriter are influenced by his experiences as a survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Beating cancer after undergoing months of chemo and radiation, and losing his spleen and part of his liver, made him feel like he had a second chance.
But he suffered with survivor’s guilt and “impostor syndrome.” He’s battled through all that — and is ready to rock the Levitt.
Just down the hill from his home.
The event is free, but tickets are required. Click here to register.
Monday — the first full day of summer — is the longest day of the year.
Recognizing that for those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, every day is “the longest” — but also, that art has the power to inspire and excite — RaRa (“Real Art. Real Artists.”) is partnering with the Residence at Westport to produce an art exhibit.
The show (June 21, 3 to 5 p.m., The Residence, 1141 Post Road East), is open to the public. There’s wine and cheese, plus live entertainment. A portion of art sales will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Can’t get out (even on the longest day)? Click here for information on the virtual version of the exhibit.
In this hybrid summer, the Westport Library offers 2 learning clubs. Both are “blended” — meaning in-person classes at the Library, and a remote option for distance education.
The program for grades 1 to 5 includes week-lonf literacy, math and STEAM sessions. Grades 6 to 8 enjoy STEAM, book clubs, and other programs that encourage academic independence. They beginning June 29, and end August 19.
Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo includes a Fresh Mark osprey update.
Carolyn Doan reports: “We checked on the nest Monday and Tuesday. The parents were doing such a great job at shielding the chicks from the rain that they were impossible to see. The next day was a different story. Making lots of noise and waiting for an incoming fish, these two were front and center — literally.”
The Netflix crew that’s spent several weeks filming “The Noel Diary” in Westport has inconvenienced some residents. They’ve also taken taken over the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot, for use as a staging area. Several large trucks are camped there. Closure of the lot has upset some dog-walking regulars, who prefer that spot to the North Compo lot.
But some were particularly upset yesterday, at the mess left in the northeast corner of the lot. A temporary tent used by the production crew was gone.
Lisa Doran’s Greens Farms Elementary School distance learning 1st graders welcomed a very special visitor yesterday.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe took time out of his day to pop into her classroom — via Zoom — to chat.
The students were enthralled — and inquisitive. When one asked what Marpe likes best about his job, he got up from his desk, and grabbed the giant pair of scissors — a present from his wife after his first election. He uses them at ribbon cutting ceremonies, which he says is his favorite task.
Another student asked if he knows everyone in Westport. He said that he knows quite a lot of people — especially since COVID, when he met so many Westporters online.
The next student asked if he was like the president of Westport. That’s a great analogy. And Doran’s class thanked the “president” for spending some quality time with them.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe (lower right), Greens Farms Elementary School teacher Lisa Doran (top row, 2nd from left), and her students on Zoom.
For 2 years, Rosemary Cass has enriched the lives of people 55 and older.
Her “Seeing it Clearly Now” blog inspires everyone — retired or not — to learn new things, find purpose, and explore the arts.
Rosemary has just added a 2nd blog. It’s aimed at a special niche: grandmothers.
She says that “This Granny Rocks” — clever name, no? — provides a place where “grannies can brag about their perfect grandchildren, without everyone rolling their eyes. No judgment here.”
Readers can submit stories, their grandkids’ photos and clever sayings, and warm, nostalgic stories about their own grandmothers. The site will also offer helpful granny information, and advice on the art of grandmothering.
It launched with stories from Joan Isaacson (Westport author of “The Red Velvet Diary”), and Sharon Citrin Goldstein of Fairfield. To learn more, click here.
The arts are crucial to Westport. But — like anything beautiful — they must be nurtured.
To help, MoCA Westport is hosting an open meeting. Representatives from local arts organizations and 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker will talk — and listen — about the best ways to support our arts institutions and community.
The event is next Monday (June 21, 5 to 6 p.m., outdoors at MoCA, 19 Newtown Turnpike. It’s free; no registration required. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-222-7070.
Connecticut is one of the healthiest states in the country. Yet there are huge disparities between white people, and those of color.
Wesport’s Unitarian Church — long devoted to social justice — hosts a webinar about health inequities, and what can be done about them (including what audience members can do).
“Racial Health Inequities” is set for June 28 at 7 (p.m.). Guest speaker is Rev. Robyn Anderson, director of the Ministerial Health Fellowship. The event is free to all, but advance registration is required.
The webinar is the Unitarian Church’s second in their series “Revealing History: How We Got Here, Why it Matters.”
And finally … on this day in 1967, the 3-day Monterey Pop Festival opened in California. Over 50,000 people were there for the first major American appearances by Jimi Hendrix, the Who and Ravi Shankar; the first large-scale public performance by Janis Joplin and the introduction of Otis Redding to a mass American audience.
If you never watch another “06880” music video, you can’t miss Otis:
A grateful group of Saugatuck Elementary School parents writes:
We are incredibly lucky to have the best teachers here in Westport. Our schools are filled with smart, creative educators who not only teach, but inspire our kids every day.
It would be hard to stand out in a crowd of teachers that already lives so far above the standard. Yet when Peter von Euler announced his retirement this spring, it became clear that he has done just that. Reactions were universal: dismay from parents who still have kids at Saugatuck El, and gratitude from the students (and their parents) who were already taught by him.
Peter von Euler
Mr. von Euler has taught in Westport for 36 years. He began with 4th grade at Long Lots and Kings Highway Elementary Schools, before settling into his 5th grade classroom at Saugatuck in 2002.
He has remained in that classroom, aptly nicknamed the FIvE HIvE (creative punctuation of his initials intended), ever since.
When he announced his retirement, SES parents and teachers sent out a call to former students and colleagues of Mr. von Euler’s, asking them to submit notes to be compiled as a retirement gift.
The letters came pouring in — over 100 pages’ worth. Current students, former students now in middle and high school, and grown adults all responded to the call. The themes were universal: Peter von Euler was creative, funny and obviously, memorable. He pushed kids to be their best, yet had a way of making every student feel seen and understood.
One student from his 5th grade class of 2017 said:
You understand that every student learns differently but deserves a full chance just the same. You nurtured everyone’s special abilities and gave us the appropriate pushes to get out of our comfort zones. Years after I left your class I wondered if you had had super powers.
Many of his former students recalled his “read alouds,” the homemade Valentine’s mailboxes his students make every year, and the custom awards his students create for one another at the end of year — a project that encourages his students to see the best in each other.
A happy class, with Mr. von Euler (rear) on Field Day.
When the pandemic struck, like all teachers, Mr. von Euler was forced to pivot. But he did so with calm and creativity. On the first day of remote learning last spring, he sent his students an email that included great advice.
“First, take care of yourself. Do all of the things that keep you healthy and happy. Second, take care of your mind. Read…A LOT. Think about what you’re reading and write it down somewhere. Send me a letter. I promise I’ll write back. Third, look for ways to be constructive and positive. Start a project that you’ve wanted to start. Build something. Draw something.
Fourth, try really hard to avoid doing things that just kill time. I think there are ways to make this time have some value. Let’s see if the FIvE HIvE can still do great things, even when we’re away from the hive. -Mr. vE
One of his “Pandemic Class” parents submitted this to the memory book:
We had both the privilege and fear of being vulnerable with you about our struggles in returning to “normal,” just as you were vulnerable with us on Day One of a year where we knew we were going to need each other in new and unusual ways. You set the tone for a year of doing our best as humans, not just students, parents and teachers.
Learning remotely, with Mr. von Euler.
Perhaps one of the most “fun facts” about Peter von Euler’s classroom years is that despite it being an elementary school classroom, it served as the birthplace for a marriage! Vibeke Borgia wrote:
It’s hard to believe it’s been 35 years since I was in your 4th grade class. What might be even harder to believe is that 2 little 10-year-olds in your class fell in love, got married, moved 6 times, endured several career changes, traveled the world, had four amazing children, and will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary this September. I’m not sure if the sparks flew in 4th grade, but I sure am glad you were our teacher.
Peter von Euler’s retirement is a true loss for Westport schools and future students. But it’s a gain to his family — wife Nancy, daughter Sarah and dog Farley — with whom he now intends to spend more time.
In 1993, Mr. von Euler was interviewed for a New York Times “Back to School” article. The columnist wrote, “Mr. von Euler said he wanted to be a good teacher, like those special few he had as a young person or those he sees around him each day.”
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email nominations to email@example.com)
During the darkest days of the pandemic, Amanda DeRosa was heartened by regular trips to Starbucks.
With several health issues, the 37-year-old Westporter used the drive-thru. She got to know one of the regular order takers.
“She’s so lively and bubbly,” Amanda says. “She’s spunky and young. I’d think about her while I was waiting to pick up my order. She made me feel secure.”
At the drive-thru window, Amanda adds, “she wore a mask. But I could see the smile in her eyes.”
A Starbucks worker brings joy to customers.
Recently, Amanda noticed the woman was pregnant. But when Amanda congratulated her, she looked sad.
Amanda wanted to help. She asked for the woman’s phone number; a tear rolled down her cheek.
They began texting. Amanda learned her new friend lives in a Bridgeport studio apartment. She has a 3-year-old son, and a longtime partner. When she was 12, her mother died. She’s struggling.
She’s been at Starbucks more than 3 years, and hopes for a promotion.
“This is a dig-her-heels in woman. She works hard for her family,” Amanda says.
The Westporter wanted to offer more than encouragement. When her own son was born, she was registered with Buy Buy Baby. Suddenly, she had an idea: collect donations, and present the woman with a gift card.
“I want her to have the joy of walking into the store with her partner, and pick out the stroller, car seat, crib, bassinet, toys, books and formula they need,” Amanda says.
Babies need lots of “stuff.”
She put the word on social media last night. As of this morning, grateful Starbucks customers — and those who do not even know the woman — had contributed $440.
Amanda hopes for much more. She’s cleared her own personal Venmo account. All donations (Venmo: @AmandaDeRosa) will go directly to the woman. (To ease concerns, Amanda will send “06880” a screen shot of the balance, plus the gift card receipt.)
Amanda will present Westport’s gift to the woman on Monday. (She knows she’s getting something, but has no idea what.) A florist — who did not want to be named — will contribute a bouquet, to accompany the gift card.
“We’re all human beings,” Amanda says.
“We all do what we can, with what we have. This is a wonderful woman, someone in need. I’m proud of how this great community is helping her.”
Two town-owned buildings with important tenants are getting upgrades.
Tomorrow (Thursday, June 10, 5 p.m., livestream) the Public Site and Building Commission considers renovations to the Longshore restaurant, and Homes with Hope.
Greenwich Hospitality Group — owner of the Delamar Hotels, and the new operator of the Inn at Longshore — will be making improvements to the restaurant, which is currently closed. The Inn remains open.
The town has received a $500,000 grant for work on the Gillespie Center. The shelter behind Barnes & Noble will undergo ADA improvements, and air quality systems will be upgraded.
The PS&BC meeting is available on Zoom (868 1556 4709; passcode: 266287).
There’s nothing funny about the Westport Country Playhouse’s productions being pushed back from this summer to next.
But there will plenty to laugh about onstage soon. From June 18-25, there’s live, stand-up comedy, on the fabled stage.
In partnership with Fairfield Comedy Club’s 3rd annual festival, comedians Mike Birbiglia, Boomer Funny Ladies, Harrison Greenbaum, Jessica Kirson, Dan Soder and others will bring smiles (and belly laughs) to real, live faces. (“Content is appropriate for age 18 and up,” the WCP says.)
Audience members must be fully vaccinated, or receive a negative COVID test with 72 hours of the performance. Concession stands are open. Click here for tickets, and more information.
Westport’s National Charity League chapter has donated $3,750 to 3 Bridgeport charities serving people hit hard by the pandemic. Grants include $1,250 each to Homes for the Brave, Mercy Learning Center and Caroline House.
While NCL normally only donates time and talent, they made an exception in these critical times.
And finally … in 1968, President Johnson declared this a national day of mourning. Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy died 3 days earlier, from an assassin’s bullet. Two months earlier, Martin Luther King was similarly slain.
The Board of Education heard good news on several fronts last night. Reporter Brian Fullenbaum says:
Meeting for the first time since 2020 in person, members began with an update from Westport Public Schools supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur. Staples High School has not experienced a COVID case since May 2, and there have been no reported cases in the district since May 25.
In fact, there were no cases at all in Westport this week.
At this point, local schools will not require COVID vaccines for the fall. The state is not expected to mandate them either.
Summer schools will have a nurse in the building this year, and masks will be needed.
Director of human resources John Bayers reported that for the coming school year, 112 sections are budgeted at the 5 elementary schools. As of June 3, confirmed enrollment suggested 115 sections. Principals of Kings Highway and Long Lots are also predicting one more section each, which would bring the total to 117.
Enrollment at Long Lots Elementary School — as at the other elementary schools — may rise this fall.
Bayers speaks with the principals every day. All school buildings can handle the predicted extra classes.
Assistant superintendent Anthony Buono noted that Tri-State — the professional network of 55 area districts — said that while the district faced numerous daily obstacles during the pandemic, it provided students with a positive experience.
The board engaged in a long discussion about learning loss. Board members brought up the amount of screen time, lack of socially rich experiences, and frustration with technology.
In other matters, the board postponed a decision on a provision in the proposed “deadly weapons or firearms policy” about allowing a registered and accepted gun on campus. Members also discussed the hate-based speech policy.
Educators also established tuition rates for out-of-town students, including children of school employees and those in other circumstances.
Currently, 35 children of employees attend school here; the number is expected to be approximately the same in 2021-22. They are charged 25% of the tuition rate for various grade levels. A 3% increase for the coming year was approved.
World Language Department coordinator Marie Zachery described the success of Westport’s exchange programs in Singapore and France, and suggested expanding opportunities to Spain, Germany, Greece and Panama.
The board will move forward on a proposal to name the Staples stadium for former football and track coach Paul Lane.
VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399 is one of Westport’s underappreciated, often-overlooked gems.
In addition to providing a home and community for veterans, the building at the Saugatuck Avenue/Riverside Avenue merge offers a restaurant and bar — and a state Veteran’s Service Office, assisting with disability support.
Thanks to 4th Row Films — Westporter Doug Tirola’s great documentary film company — you can learn all about the 100-year-od Westport VFW post, from members themselves. Click the link below; the password is “4throw” (without the quotation marks).
“We are a family of 4, with 3 dogs. When one was hit by a car, we wanted to find another. We ended up at Puppies of Westport (although we said we wouldn’t ever go to a ‘puppy mill’). Lauren Meren, the owner, was very kind. We had health issues with our dog, and she immediately reimbursed us for the hospital stay.
“y vet told me that Lauren recently died. Her children are trying to find homes for all of the dogs in the store. Please highlight this story, so the dogs end up in a loving home instead of a fate much different.”
There has been no answer to phone calls. If “06880” readers have any idea of the fate of the dogs — or how to help — click “Comments” below.
For years, an unattractive concrete tower marred the playground and baseball field behind the Learning Community Day School (formerly Hillspoint Elementary).
Now — thanks to art teacher Lauren Beusse, her colleagues and (especially) the talented kids, it’s been transformed beautifully.
Lauren was inspired by Tyree Guyton, a Detroit artist who creates large installations out of dilapidated properties and recycled materials.
Children worked on 6 individual panels, exploring colors and adding their own touches. LCDS says: “the flowers reaching for the sun, and birds and insects flying above, will always remind us of the way young children grow, bloom and take flight during their time here.”
Voices Café — the Unitarian Church’s music series — premieres its livestream season on June 19 (8 p.m.). Featured performers are Goodnight Moonshine with Molly Venter (of Red Molly), and Eben Pariser, who also performs with Roosevelt Dime.
For nearly a decade, Voices Café has supported social justice programs. Recognizing the historical significance of this year’s concert date — Juneteenth — proceeds from the performance will benefit the Mary and Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community in Bridgeport. Click here for tickets, and more information.
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