Category Archives: Environment

Westporter Safe In Woolsey Fire

The Woolsey fire in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties burned more than 83,000 acres. 

Celebrities were not spared. Miley Cyrus, Neil Young, Robin Thicke and Eric Wynalda were among the hundreds of residents who lost their homes.

Kerri Kenney was lucky. 

The 1988 Staples High School graduate — known for her roles in “Reno 911,” “Counter Culture,” and “All About Steve” — posted this report on social media:

My husband and our dear friends took a boat to our neighborhood to see what was left. This is our neighbor’s home directly across the street.

Miraculously, our home is still standing. So many close friends and neighbors have lost everything. I cannot wrap my brain around what has happened and my heart breaks for our community.

The outpouring of love and support has been enormous. Thank you for all of your messages and prayers. Hug your family tight. #malibustrong

(Photos/Kerri Kenney)

We hope other Westporters with California connections are safe too. Please click “Comments” below to check in — and let us know what you need.

Misty Mae Finds A Home

Last summer, “06880” ran a story on Misty Mae.

The old, blind, long-haired chihuahua was found in a beat-up dog carrier on a Winslow Park bench.

Westport Animal Control, Schulhof Animal Hospital, and Westport Animal Shelter Advocates came to the rescue. They sheltered, treated and loved the abandoned animal.

Kayla Damiano with Misty Mae. She set up a GoFundMe page that raised $1200 for the dog’s eye and dental work.

Then they searched for a loving home.

The other day, WASA president Julie Loparo reported success.

Volunteers drove to Enfield, near the Massachusetts border. They met the couple who will adopt Misty Mae.

They’re skilled and knowledgeable in the care of special needs dogs (they already have 3). Their home is warm and inviting.

Later this month, WASA funds surgery for Misty Mae. After recovering at Schulhof, she heads to her new home.

Julie says: “Unfortunately, Misty Mae was not the first dog abandoned in Westport. She won’t be the last. But we thank Westport for helping us in our efforts to help dogs like her.”

Pic Of The Day #583

Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center: ready for the holidays (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Janet Beasley Memorial Service Set For Sunday

The life of Janet Beasley — Holocaust survivor and educator, wildlife advocate, and beloved wife of Dr. Albert Beasley — will be celebrated this Sunday (November 18).

A memorial service is set for Earthplace — an organization she served well for decades — beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Janet Beasley

Winter Farmers’ Market Makes Merry

Winter is here!

Well, not quite. It’s still fall.

But the Westport Farmers’ Market is moving from outdoors to inside. To celebrate, they’re throwing a party at their winter home: Gilbertie’s Herbs and Garden Center (7 Sylvan Road).

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday (November 17), everyone can enjoy lawn games, fairy house making and pumpkin bowling (?!). There’s live music, a giving tree, and a special giveaway.

Of course Farmers’ Market vendors — old and new — will be on hand.

Food trucks will offer a variety of eats. And Athletic Brewing Company will offer adult beverages.

Hey, it’s 5 p.m. somewhere.

 

Photo Challenge #202

Westport is a beautiful town. There are so many stunning scenes — like Jamie Walsh’s shot of a serene pond, framed by glorious fall foliage — that it’s tough to figure out exactly where they all are.

But Jerry Kuyper, John D. McCarthy, Julie Fatherley and Wendy Cusick all knew that last week’s Photo Challenge was taken at the Caryl & Edna Haskins Preserve.

Part of the Aspetuck Land Trust, off Green Acre Lane, it’s one of our town’s true hidden gems. (Click here for the picture.)

I wrote about the Haskins Preserve in 2011. Thankfully, it has not been overrun. At the risk of revealing a spectacular secret to the world (again), here’s a link to that story.

Today — Veterans Day — we offer this plaque, honoring some of the Westport soldiers killed in World War II.

If you know where in town you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

 

 

Bert’s Firewood

Bert Porzio is one of Westport’s all-around good guys.

The tree service owner lends a hand — no questions asked — in emergencies large and small. He helps families in need, Little League fields — you name it, Bert’s there.

With all those trees, it’s no surprise that a side gig is selling firewood. For years, customers picked up cords at the Mobil Self-Serve next to Barnes & Noble. Many say it’s the best wood around.

Unfortunately, the gas station closed earlier this fall. With winter near, what’s a Westporter to do?

Lloyd Allen to the rescue!

The owner of Double L Farm Stand less than a mile west of the Mobil station told Bert he’s happy to sell his firewood.

It’s a warm win-win for everyone.

Bert Porzio at the Double L Farm Stand

Pic Of The Day #572

Aspetuck River, at the Newman-Poses Preserve (Photo/Seth Schachter)

Bear Necessities

Last year, there were 2,251 bear sightings in Connecticut. As many as 700 adult and cub bears live in the state. Residents spotted 3,249 bobacats too.

That’s a big change from a century ago. According to Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse, by the late 1800s, almost all forest here had been logged for agriculture, fuel and construction.

Bears, bobcats and deer were rare.

But forests grow back. And — with strong laws also regulating hunting — large animals have habitats in which they thrive.

Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse, and a black bear.

Dr. Rittenhouse should know. She is a wildlife expert, and an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Connecticut. Her long-term research project examines how black bears have expanded their range to include suburban areas of the state.

Next Wednesday (November 14, 7:30 p.m., Westport Unitarian Church) she’ll speak about bears and other large mammals — specifically, why we see so many more of them these days, and what it means for folks like us.

The talk is part of Aspetuck Land Trust‘s Haskins Lecture Series. Scientists Caryl and Edna Haskins donated their Green Acre Lane estate to the trust in 2002. It’s now a 16-acre preserve, just off South Compo Road.

Caryl Haskins earned renown as an ant biologist.

Bears and bobcats are somewhat larger. But they’re all part of our Westport world.

For anyone hoping to understand our changing town, Wednesday’s talk should be fascinating.

(Dr. Rittenhouse’s talk is open to the public. Admission is free to Aspetuck Land Trust members. A $5 donation is suggested for non-members.)

Remembering Janet Beasley

Janet Beasley — the wife of Dr. Albert Beasley, and a longtime Westport resident and volunteer — died Saturday, after a long battle with cancer. She was 82 years old.

Janet was a staunch protector of wildlife, through Earthplace and other organizations. She was an avid member of the Westport Weston Family Y, where she loved swimming.

Janet and Dr. Albert Beasley

She was also a Holocaust survivor, who spoke out about the horrors she endured.  She participated in Stephen Spielberg’s project to collect testimony from survivors.

In 2013, the Connecticut Jewish Ledger profiled her. The story said:

Nearly 200 years ago, in 1826, the Jewish community of Berlin, Germany opened a school for boys, moving to a newly constructed building at 27 Grosse Hamburger Strasse in 1862. The school would thrive for 80 years, until the Nazis transformed the site into a deportation center for the city’s Jews from 1942 to 1945. After the war, under East German authority, the building was used as a vocational school.

By 1993, the city’s Jewish population had grown enough to re-establish a Jewish high school. After extensive renovation, the building opened again, this time as the Jewish High School. From 27 students in its inaugural year, the school now boasts nearly 300 students of all faiths, ranging from middle school (grades 5-7) and high school (grades 8-13). The curriculum comprises both Judaic and secular studies, with Jewish holiday observances and kosher lunch regular parts of student life.

This year, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, the Jewish High School published a book tracing its history. Included among the articles is a story about a special visit to Westport in 2009.

In 2006, Westport resident and German-Jewish Holocaust survivor Janet Beasley donated wartime artifacts, documents, and photos to Jewish Museum Berlin. She was invited by the museum to lead workshops for two groups of German high school students on her experiences as a Jew surviving in Hitler’s Berlin. The first group comprised 13th-grade art students from the Jewish High School, led by teacher Sabine Thomasius.

Janet Beasley

In November of 2006, a workshop took place in the Archives of the Jewish Museum Berlin, where students in my art course met with Janet Beasley. Janet grew up in Berlin, the child of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, and as an 8-year-old was deported to Theresienstadt with her mother. The personal memories which Janet Beasley shared with great candor and intimacy led to the creation of paintings and collages during the lessons in the classroom. These were exhibited in the Jewish Community Center Berlin during the summer of 2007.

Janet Beasley was so touched by the students’ pictures that she arranged for an exhibit in her hometown, Westport, Connecticut.

Through this exhibit and reports in the newspapers, many people in her area learned for the first time about the details of this chapter of her life story.

We were invited to the opening of the exhibit in Westport and along with the exhibit opening, we had a tight schedule of meetings arranged and supported by Aubrey Pomerance [chief archivist, Jewish Museum Berlin], Janet Beasley, [Westport artist and German-Jewish Holocaust survivor] Steffi Friedman, and the host families. We had the opportunity to meet with and have lively conversations with students from totally different social spheres as well as with youth groups from a Jewish congregation [Kulanu Stamford]. In particular, the youths in Connecticut wanted to know how Jewish life in Germany is shaped now. The program included conversations with witnesses to history as well as visits to artists in their studios and a trip to New York.

The students’ paintings, depicting incidents from Beasley’s childhood in Berlin and in Theresienstadt, were combined with artists’ statements and copies of the archival materials Beasley donated to the museum, into “Memories of a Childhood Lost,” an exhibit shown at Earthplace in Westport in April 2008.

Janet Beasley gave interviews about her experiences during the Holocaust. This is a still image taken from one.

Janet Beasley’s story is a unique one. She was born Jutta Grybski in Berlin in 1935, the child of Käthe, a Jew, and Hans, a Catholic. Jutta’s parents divorced when she was three, when Hans wanted to serve in the German army. He remarried three years later and had a son.

As long as Hans stayed alive, Jutta, Käthe and Käthe’s parents were safe, though they were rounded up every month or so and taken to Nazi collection centers, only to be released a few hours later or the next day.

In 1941, Jutta’s maternal grandfather, a decorated World War I veteran, was taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and shot to death. Two years later, her grandmother died in Auschwitz or on the way there.

In 1944, Hans was killed in action and Jutta and Käthe were taken to Thereisenstadt, where they spent nine months before the camp was liberated. They returned to Berlin and lived with Hans’s father, then emigrated to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1946. Jutta changed her name to Janet, partly because Americans didn’t know how to pronounce Jutta, partly because children had taunted her with the nickname “Jutta-Jüde,” “Jutta-Jew.” She moved to Norwalk in 1964 and to Westport in 1973, the same year she returned to Berlin for the first time since emigrating. Her mother died at the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield in 1992. Janet is married to Dr. Albert Beasley, a longtime Westport pediatrician.

“What is really weird for me is that, when the Nazis closed the school, it became a collection center for Jews before their deportation and my mother and I were sent to the concentration camp from there,” Beasley says. “I had an idea that that was the place but wasn’t sure until I read in the book’s index that it was indeed used for that purpose. It stirred some very vivid memories.”

(Click here for the Connecticut Jewish Ledger story. Hat tip: Bob Knoebel)