Category Archives: History

Roundup: Pushups, Steffi Friedman, Roses …

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There was a lot going on this beautiful weekend.

A beautiful sight was Staples High School’s Jinny Parker Field, where hundreds of Westporters of all ages banged out pushups for a great cause.

The 12th annual Push Against Cancer is a fundraiser for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — the wonderful respite for kids battling life-threatening diseases. It was developed by Westport’s beloved Paul Newman.

Participants solicited pledges, in return for pushups. The top 2 teams were Staples girls soccer ($24,178) and Staples boys soccer ($23.311).

It costs $2,500 to send one youngster to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for a week. Those 2 soccer programs alone will send 18 children there.

Add in the $140,000-plus raised by everyone else, and that’s nearly 80 boys and girls. Well done, Westport!

The Staples High School girls soccer team at the Push Against Cancer … (Photo/Charlotte Strandell)

… and the boys.

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On Saturday, friends and family of Steffi Friedman honored the Westport artist who died 2 years ago at 94, and dedicated a new work.

Her bronze “Pas de Deux” (2002) is now part of the Westport Public Art Collections. Installed for years on her Yankee Hill Road lawn, it now sits proudly in the Staples High School courtyard. The work was donated by her family, in gratitude of Westport’s cultural legacy, and Staples’ commitment to the arts.

The event was organized by Steffi’s daughter Margie — a 1972 Staples graduate — and town arts curator Kathie Bennewitz.

Performances include poetry from town poet laureate Diane Meyer Lowman, and dance by Staples alum Grace Bergonzi.

Friends and family admire Steffi Friedman’s sculpture. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

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The River of Roses is one of Westport’s best fundraisers.

It’s probably the most colorful too.

The Survive-OAR program provides mental, physical and emotional healing after traditional treatment ends. It’s an empowering, supportive community for women to heal.

During next Sunday’s celebration (October 10, 4 p.m.) — honoring the Saugatuck Rowing Club’s Survive-OARS crew, plus anyone who has battling breast cancer (or is now) — names are read aloud, as rose petals are scattered into the Saugatuck River at high tide. They’re then swept out to sea.

Survive-OAR’s Kimberly Wilson will sing. There’s live music by Fake ID, plus Copp’s Island Oysters, a raw bar from Pagano’s Seafood, drinks, Chef Jason’s clam chowder and lobster bisque, and Donut Crazy treats.

Click here for tickets, donations, positivity bracelets and more. Questions? Email president and head coach Diana Kuen: diana@survive-OARS.org.

PS: Throughout October, new members can buy a one-month membership to the Saugatuck Rowing Club. 100% of the dues goes toward Survive-OARS.

Strewing rose petals, in 2019.

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Yesterday’s Roundup gave an incorrect date for Westport Pride’s Zoom presentation: “When did you know?” (As in: When did you know you were LGBT?).

It’s tomorrow (Tuesday, October 5, 7 p.m.). Panelists include

  • John Dodig, former Staples High School principal
  • Zac Mathias, Weston High School senior and media influencer
  • Samantha Webster, Staples High graduate and former Staples Player
  • Luke Foreman, Staples grad and varsity tennis captain
  • Jen DeLoyd and Bethany Eppner, Westport parents
  • Kayla Iannetta, Staples teacher and founder of the Westport Public Schools’ Pride Coalition
  • Brian McGunagle, Westport parent and founder of Westport Pride.

Click here for the Zoom link.

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Westporter Lisa Seidenberg had a letter published in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review.

It was a response to a review by Simon Winchester that mentioned the Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair, and how General Motors drove many Americans into debt with the purchase of automobiles. That was a huge expense, in the post-Depression years.

Seidenberg knows the subject well. Her 2010 documentary on the Fair — “I Have Seen the Future” — premiered in Westport, before screenings at film festivals nationwide. It included commentary by the late Westport futurist Watts Wacker.

General Motors’ Futurama, at the 1939 World’s Fair.

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MoCA Westport has announced its fall music series. It includes:

  • Marielle Kraft (pop): Friday, October 8
  • The Figgs (rock): Friday, October 15
  • Priscilla Navarro (classical): Saturday, November 20
  • The Mark O’Connor Duo (violin/fiddle/bluegrass): Thursday, December 9.

Shows begin at 7 p.m. Click here for details and tickets.

The Figgs

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Congratulations to the Longshore Ladies 9 Holers. Their annual charity golf event at Longshore raised an enormous amount of food donations for the Westport Woman’s Club food closet, plus $1,175 in cash.

Longshore ladies who golf — and raise money for good causes. From left: M.J. Fusaro, Eileen Hart, Mandy Germishuys, Julie Gray.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is sweet!

Here’s a honeybee enjoying a dahlia:

(Photo/Nancy Diamond)

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And finally … I had never heard of the Figgs — the band that’s headlining at MoCA Westport next week.

Then again, there are lots of bands I’ve never heard of.

Now here they are:

Westport Arts: Adding Diversity, Color

Westport’s arts scene has a long, vibrant history.

Okay, to be honest: It’s a long, vibrant, white history.

The men and women who — from the early 1900s on — made our town a magnet for illustrators, painters, sculptors and others were (like the rest of the town) largely Caucasian.

But our town’s heritage includes important contributions from (and exploitation of) people of color. The arts today must reflect more than one perspective.

The Westport Arts Advisory Committee is addressing those issues in two big ways.

In the alley between Main Street and Bedford Square are floodgates no longer in use. David Waldman — the developer of the mixed-use center between Main Street and Church Lane — asked the WAAC how the gates could look more attractive.

The arts organization commissioned 5 artists to turn them into a history of our town: Westporters Eric Chiang, Jana Irejo and Rebecca Ross, Norwalk’s Hernan Garcia and Iyaba Mandingo of Bridgeport.

At 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 16, the WAAC will unveil their 5 paintings at the Main Street entrance to the Bedford Square courtyard. The works include early life among Native Americans, and Black life and culture here.

A “concept slide” of what the floodgate art might look like. These are not the finished pieces.

In addition, the WAAC — working with the Westport Public Art Collections — has acquired several pieces by artists of color.

Among them: art by Charles Joyner.

A professor at North Carolina State University College of Art and Design, and a noted collagist whose colorful, culturally symbolic work incorporates themes from his extensive travels to Ghana, he’s no stranger to Westport.

In 1964 he came to Westport through an American Friends Service program that brought 35 Southern students to the North to promote integration. Joyner lived with the Ader family.

After graduating from Staples High School he headed to Iowa State University on a football scholarship, transferred to North Carolina A&T, then earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Joyner’s, and other newly acquired art, will be part of the WPAC’s first-ever public showing of dozens of works at MoCA Westport. The event opens January 28, and runs through March 13.

Charles Joyner’s mixed media work “Village @ Ntoso” has been acquired by the Westport Public Art Collections.

Roundup: Pink Aid, Bagels, Pickleball …

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Like many charities, Pink Aid CT has pivoted this year to a virtual event.

They’re calling it “virtuous.” Hundreds of items –will be auctioned off starting Tuesday (October 5, 9 a.m.). Among them:

  • A flight on Marc Lasry’s private jet to sit courtside and watch the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks
  • Private safari for 2 in Tanzania
  • VIP seating at Christian Siriano’s fall 2022 show, with backstage passes.

All funds raised benefit women with breast cancer in underserved communities.

A video about the event features the auction’s host, Westporter and “A Million Little Things” star Stephanie Szostak.

For auction tickets and more, click here.

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Adam Goldberg’s pop-up bagel project at the Manna Hub kitchen has grown into a full-time operation. It’s packed on weekends, and a full-time store opens soon in Georgetown.

Now he’s going even bigger time. Adam was the only out-of-state vendor invited to compete at this weekend’s Brooklyn Bagelfest.

Can a little Westport bagel guy beat the big boys at their own game? Fingers crossed. Stay tuned!

Behind the scenes in the Don Memo kitchen. From left: Rachel Golan,.David Levinson
Jason Epstein, Adam Goldberg. (Photo/Ria Rueda)

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Leonard Everett Fisher is a Westport icon. He’s a World War II veteran, a civic volunteer — and, for over 70 years, a nationally enowned illustrator, painter and designer.

He’s being honored through the end of the year by the Westport Library. An exhibit of his work — “A Life of Art” — is open at the Sheffer and South Galleries.

Fisher has written and illustrated hundreds of children’s books, and created over 700 paintings and 6000 scratch boards. The Library show features many original illustrations and acrylic paintings. 

It’s an exhibit not to be missed. Before you go, click here (then scroll down) for a virtual studio tour of this remarkable man.

Leonard Everett Fisher at Westport’s 2016 Memorial Day ceremonies.

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The agenda for Wednesday’s Parks & Recreation Commission meeting (7:30 p.m., Zoom) includes a discussion of possible pickleball sites.

The meeting ID is 879 8059 1192. The passcode is 480909.

The Compo Beach pickleball courts get plenty of use.

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Two great Nash’s Corner businesses are offering 20% off deals for new customers. You can combine them, or just take advantage of one.

Felicia’s Salon Nash — run by the wonderful Felicia Catale — provides cuts for women, men, girls and boys. with blowouts and coloring too. Call 203-747-9753 and 203-349-5814.

For 20% off 3D synthetic mink eyelashes — usually $180, now $144 — at Nash’s Lashes by Judy, call 203- 557-8964,

Felicia Catale

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On October 1, 1961 — 60 years ago yesterday — Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.

A young Westporter named Robert Mull was there. It was the first Major League game he ever saw. His father captured all of Maris’ at-bats that day — including the shot off Tracy Stallard, his hat tip and more.

Now Mull has posted the video online. Click here to see. (Speaking of hat tips: thanks, Fred Cantor!)

Screenshot from the Roger Maris video.

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The other day, Chris Grimm was scrolling through a site that sells t-shirts of defunct Connecticut businesses. (I didn’t ask for details.) He found this classic for Arnie’s Place, the video game arcade that is now Ulta:

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Next up for the Westport Astronomical Society: NASA astrophysicist Scott Guzewich discusses “Roving Mars with Curiosity and Perseverance.”

It’s a clever title, and is sure to be out of this world. Click on the October 19 (8 p.m.) links: Zoom and YouTube livestream.

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The National Charity League’s Westport chapter invites 6th grade girls to apply for the 2022-23 year. NCL With over 275 members, the local group provides volunteer service for over 30 community organizations. Members are women and their daughters in grades 7-12.

The 6-year core program includes leadership development and cultural activities. For more information click here, or email lisa22607@gmail.com.

The National Charity League gang takes a break from volunteer work.

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The good news: Rebecca Schussheim, Lucia Wang and Tom Zhang  will represent Staples High School at the 8th annual Normandy International Youth Leadership Summit next month.. They were chosen because of their academic performance and interest in world affairs.

The bad news: This year’s event is virtual, so they don’t get to go to France.

But congratulations anyway, on a great achievement!

(From left): Rebecca Schussheim,Lucia Wang, Tom Zhang.

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Samera Nasereddin describes today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo:

“Two baby raccoons visited our garden, and delighted my cat and me. They were very curious, unafraid and non-aggressive. We sent a photo to a local expert, who told us they were healthy 3-4-month-olds, learning how to fend for themselves. I’m so grateful for their sweet visit. I hope that they continue to be safe and healthy, wherever they are now.”

(Photo/Samera Nasereddin)

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And finally … It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of Roger Maris. But seeing his name — and the video of his 61st home run — made me think of other famous players.

And of course:

Roundup: Thoreau, Yankee Doodle Fair, Politicians …

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The Yankee Doodle Fair ends its 4-day run today (Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.), at the Westport Woman’s Club and adjacent parking lot on Imperial Avenue.

Youngsters (and adults) have enjoyed the many rides, games, activities (and all the food). A raffle is set for this afternoon, with prizes including the furry friend below.

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Henry David Thoreau was a prophet of environmentalism and vegetarianism; an abolitionist, and a critic of materialism and technology — a century and a half before our time.

Westporter Andrew Blauner’s new book — “Now Comes Good Sailing” — will be published next month. It’s a compilation of original essays from 27 writers, exploring how this remarkable man influenced and inspired them.

On November 8 (7 p.m., Westport Library, in person and virtual), Blauner discusses all things Thoreau. Click here to register, and to buy his book.

Henry David Thoreau

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The Staples High School boys soccer team’s car wash was a rousing success yesterday. They blew the previous record profit out of the water.

The event drew scores of drivers — and a few politicians. The boys soccer program is scrupulously non-partisan.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe, and 2nd Selectman (and candidate for the top spot) Jen Tooker (center) stopped by …

… and so did State Representative (and 1st Selectman candidate) Jonathan Steinberg (far left) and his running mate, Board of Education chair Candice Savin (2nd from right).

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“Westport … Naturally” features all kinds of living things. We’ve highlighted hummingbirds, egrets, bears and more. Today we introduce our first snake.

This beauty was seen yesterday on Roseville Road.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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And finally … legendary farmer and environmentalist John Chapman “Johnny Appleseed” was born today, in 1774. He introduced apples to large portions of North America, as every schoolchild learns.

 

 

Dean Powers’ 9/11 Memorial Lives On

Saturday marked 20 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. From Westport to the West Coast, ceremonies recalled that tragic day.

Here’s another 9/11 story. Though a couple of days old, it’s still timely.

And timeless.

A new memorial in Fairfield honors the nearly 3,000 victims killed, at 3 separate sites. It’s housed at historic Oak Lawn Cemetery & Arboretum — a 100-acre site where people have remembered loved ones for more than 150 years.

The new memorial — a pair of 9-foot granite towers atop a pentagon-shaped granite base, with a rock engraved with “Let’s Roll” that honors the heroes of Flight 93 — is impressive.

Oak Lawn cemetery’s granite towers. (Screenshot courtesy of News12 Connecticut).

So are the trees along the walkway. A cemetery board member visited the 9/11 site in New York, gathered acorns, brought them to his home nursery and raised the trees.

It’s all the handiwork of Dean Powers — Oak Lawn’s longtime groundskeeper (and native Westporter).

Bronson Hawley called Powers “very, very dedicated (and) hardworking.” The cemetery board member told News12 Connecticut: “He worked here literally 7 days a week. He saw this site and he said, ‘boy this is great and I’d like to do something to memorialize the victims,'” says Hawley.

Rock and trees at Oak Lawn Cemetery. (Screen shot courtesy of News12 Connecticut)

Powers never saw the finished work. He died of cancer in June last year. He was 69.

“Dean started designing maybe 3 years ago. He literally worked on those designs until the day he died. It was just amazing,” says Hawley.

Powers prepped the site, cleared it, planted bushes and moved trees. He even stood in the pouring rain, to watch how water flowed there.

Powers gave another gift too: His estate is paying for the cost of the memorial.

Previously, he paid for the granite. He had selected it himself, from a Vermont quarry.

A dedication ceremony this week will feature Jed Glick. He’s the brother of one of the men who rushed the cockpit of Flight 93. They prevented the hijacked plane from crashing into the US Capitol.

Dean Powers

“Powers” is a common name. But it’s special in Westport. Dean Powers’ grandfather is the namesake of Powers Court, the official address of the Westport Country Playhouse.

His mother Eunice taught in Westport schools for many years, and played piano at the Unitarian Church.

His family did not seek fame or fortune. Instead they found satisfaction in doing their absolute best, all the time. They worked hard, and took no shortcuts.

Just like the heroes of Flight 93 — and so many others — now honored, thanks to Dean Powers, at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield.

(For the full News12 story, click here.)

Roundup: 9/11 And Westport, New Restaurant, Young Chefs …

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Peggy Lehn is a 1979 Staples grad. Her family has been in Westport for 11 generations (her grandmother was born on the property that is now Longshore).

She is also an American Airlines pilot.

She flew both of the airplanes that the carrier lost on September 11, 2001. For 2 decades, Peggy has kept the answering machine messages from family and friends, wondering if she was alive.

She was not on duty that morning, 20 years ago today. But her brother Tom — Staples Class of 1985, and also an American Airlines pilot — was.

Peggy sent along this message he received, from a dispatcher in Texas. It’s a chilling reminder of the terror that day — and how close to home it struck.

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One more 9/11 story, with a local connection:

On that day, Westporter and Vietnam veteran Tony Anthony was a marketer on an assignment for AmeriCares. He was at their office when the news came that the World Trade Center had been hit.

AmeriCares has a helicopter. Their pilot flew around the towers, but was unable to help. He had to leave the airspace.

Tony was on board, taking photos. Jack Farrell shared this one, with “06880”:

(Photo/Tony Anthony)

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There’s action at Railroad Place — specifically, the former Cocoa Michele, and the spot Romanacci recently moved from.

It looks like another eatery is moving in.

(Photo/Gary Nusbaum)

This “Allium Eatery” is not to be confused with Allium Pizza Co. & Mo’ in — of all places — Westport Island, Maine.

“06880” will pass along info when we get it.

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Farm to Local — the new food-crafts-and-more Main Street store opposite Colf Fusion — has a soft opening this weekend (12 to 5 p.m.).

New products and merchandise are added daily. Another new feature: the Westport Artists’ Collective has a mini-gallery inside the store.

Local to Market – the first stocked shelves.

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The Westport Library is b-a-a-a-c-k!

On Monday, full operating hours resume. That’s Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

There’s another chapter: The Café opens weekdays (9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.), Saturdays (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), and Sundays (1 to 4:30 p.m.).

The Café has partnered with Gruel Brittania, in addition to existing vendors Sono Baking Company and Cloudy Lane Bakery. The menu includes salads, sandwiches, pastries, cookies and quiche.

Though the Westport Library reopens full-time on Monday, we still won’t see scenes like this for a while.

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Mark your calendars: Westoberfest returns on October 16 (1 to 5 p.m.).

The Craft Beer Festival on Elm Street also includes live music, classic car rally and exhibition, kids’ activities and — because Halloween will be right around the corner — a pumpkin giveaway.

Click the QR code below, or click here for more information.

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Forget Easy-Bake ovens. (Do they still make them anymore?)

Among the fall class offerings at Wakeman Town Farm: a new cooking class for youngsters in kindergarten through grade 3.

“Pint-Sized Cooking: Everything Mini” teaches cooking, baking and “food experimentation, while creating meals in miniature. Young chefs will be put on a path to understanding the appeal of delicious food.”

Popular favorites for older kids — including Cooking Around the Globe and Young Chef’s Club — continue too.

Click here for more information, and registration.

Eager students in Wakeman Town Farm’s “Cooking Around the Globe” class.

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Worried about heating bills?

Low-income residents can apply for Connecticut’s Energy Assistance Program through Westport’s Department of Human Services. Applications are available starting October 1, and run through April 30.

Individuals and families qualify for CEAP based on annual income and household size. Click on the state website for full details.

Households with previous CEAP applications on file will receive mailed application instructions in the coming weeks.  New residents can contact Human Services for application information (203-341-1050) or email humansrv@westportct.gov.

DHS also operates a separate Warm-Up Fund.

For more information, click on Westport Energy Assistance.

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Duncan Hurley — father of 3 children, and a longtime Westport Soccer Association volunteer coach — died this week.

A grateful parent remembers seeing him on many Saturday mornings, with a toddler on his hip coaching older players.

“They were the most jovial and effervescent family, even in the midst of health struggles they dealt with privately,” she says. “I reflect on this passage from The Little Prince in his honor: ‘In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And when your sorrow is comforted 9time soothes all sorrows), you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. I shall not leave you.'”

She adds: “He was a king, raising princes and a princess in the best form. He was a gem, to any and all who had the pleasure of crossing his path.”

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When I was young, the only turkeys I saw were at Thanksgiving.

Now they’re all over town. This crew was “stuffing” itself at Earthplace — and posing for today’s “Westport … Naturally” shot.

(Photo/Abby Gordon-Tolan)

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And finally … there are 2 great songs that stood on their own for years. For the past 2 decades though — and for the rest of my life — I’ll always associate them with 9/11.

They were played often then, on the radio, funerals and memorial events. They became the deeply comforting soundtrack of those truly awful days.

Gabi Dick: A 9/11 Child Grows Up

Every September 11 — and the other 364 days of the year too — countless people mourn loved ones lost on that tragic day.

Others mourn loved ones they never knew.

Gabi Jacobs Dick is a 2020 Staples High School graduate, and sophomore at Purchase College. His father, Ariel Jacobs, was killed in the World Trade Center.

“All crews recovered was his briefcase,” People magazine reports. “Yet it was not all he left behind. Six days later, his widow Jenna Jacobs McPartland gave birth to their son Gabriel.

People has followed Gabi, and others — perhaps 100 — who never knew their parents, since then. Now they’re part of a documentary, “Rebuilding Hope: The Children of 9/11.” It’s streaming on Discovery+.

“I have no tangible memories of my dad, so there’s nothing concrete,” Gabi says, in the current People story. It includes him on the cover.

Gabi Dick, upper right in the group of the 4 “Children of 9/11.”

 

“I can’t grieve him the way my mother does. She can recall memories. For me, it’s not so much a missing feeling, as a longing. I have questions and ideas. But I don’t ask what-if questions. There’s no answer.”

Gabi recently saw a video of his father. He told People: 

Gabi Dick (Photo courtesy of People Magazine)

“Something about being 19 and hearing my dad’s voice for the first time — that pushed an emotional button I didn’t know I had,” he says. “My whole life it was up to my imagination to turn him into a person. There was never anything to go off of except for photos. Seeing him on film with his friends and traveling to Buenos Aires, I was like this is a real person. He’s right in front of me.”

“It was sad,” he says, “but it did not make me sad.

“I think of how he would have wanted my life to be,” he says. “I honor him by being alive, being happy and living a great life

(Click here for the full People magazine story. Click here for People‘s 2016 story on Gabi Dick. Hat tip: Kerry Long)

One Morning That Changed The World

No matter what else goes on this Saturday, the shadow of a Tuesday weekday 19 years ago — September 11, 2001 — hangs over us all. 

That horrible day changed our lives forever. We know it now — and we sensed it then.

Here’s what I wrote 3 days later — September 14, 2001 — in my Westport News “Woog’s World” column.

It was a bit past noon on Tuesday, the Tuesday that will change all of our lives forever.

Fifty miles from Westport smoke billowed from what, just hours before, was the World Trade Center.

A number of Westporters once worked there. The twin towers were never particularly beautiful, but in their own way they were majestic. Whether driving past them on the New Jersey Turnpike, flying near them coming in to the airport, or taking out-of-town friends or relatives to the top, we took a certain amount of pride in them.

We’re Westporters, but in a way we’re also New Yorkers. The World Trade Center symbolized that, though we live in suburban Connecticut, we all feel in some way connected to the most exciting, glamorous, powerful city in the world.

And now that same city was under attack. From the largest McMansion to the most modest Westport home, men and women frantically tried to make contact with spouses, relatives and friends who work in downtown Manhattan.

The iconic 9/11 photo was taken by Westport’s Spencer Platt. He lived near the Twin Towers on that awful morning.

At Staples High School, teenagers who grew up thinking the worst thing that can happen is wearing the wrong shirt or shoes, were engaged in a similar quest.

Many of their fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers work in New York. Many others knew loved ones who were flying that morning, or in Washington, or somewhere else that might possibly become the next city under siege.

Meanwhile, on Whitney Street, a pretty young woman dressed in her best late-summer clothes rode a bicycle down the road.

It was, after all, a beautiful day. Along the East Coast there was not a cloud n the sky — not, that is, unless you count the clouds filled with flames, dust and debris erupting from the collapse of the World Trade Center.

It was a perfect day to ride a bicycle, unless of course you were terrified you had lost a loved one, were glued to a television set wherever you could find one, or were so overwhelmed by grief and rage and fright and confusion because you had no idea what was next for America that riding a bicycle was absolutely the furthest thing from your mind.

On the other hand, perhaps riding a bicycle was exactly the right reaction. Perhaps doing something so innocent, so routine, so life-affirming, was just was some of us should have been doing.

If tragedy teaches us anything, it is that human beings react to stress in a variety of ways. Who is to say that riding a bicycle is not the perfect way to tell Osama bin Laden, or whoever turns out to be responsible for these dastardly deeds, that America’s spirit will not be broken?

But I could not have ridden a bicycle down the road on Tuesday. I sat, transfixed, devouring the television coverage of events that, in their own way, may turn out to be as transforming for this world as Pearl Harbor was nearly 60 years earlier.

I could not bear to watch what I was seeing, but neither could I tear myself away. Each time I saw the gaping holes in those two towers, every time I saw those enormous symbols of strength and power and (even in these economically shaky times) American prosperity crumble in upon themselves like a silly disaster movie, the scene was more surreal than the previous time.

Life will be equally surreal for all of us for a long time to come.

I wondered, as I watched the video shots of the jet planes slam into the World Trade Center over and over and over again, what must have been going through each passenger’s mind.

Like many Westporters, I fly often. Like most I grumble about the delays and crowded planes, but like them too I feel a secret, unspoken thrill every time the sky is clear, the air is blue and the scenery terrific. Tuesday was that kind of day.

For the rest of my life, I suspect, flying will never be the same. And the increased security we will face at every airport, on each plane, is only part of what I fear.

So much remains to be sorted out. We will hear, in the days to come, of Westporters who have lost family members and friends in the World Trade Center. We will hear too of those who have lost their jobs when their companies collapsed, either directly or indirectly, as a result of the terrorism.

Sherwood Island State Park is the site of Connecticut’s official 9/11 Memorial.(Photo/David Squires)

We will drive along the New Jersey Turnpike, or stand on a particular street in Manhattan, perhaps even take out-of-town guests to gaze at the landmark we will come to call “the place the twin towers used to be.”

Our casual grocery store and soccer sideline conversations will be filled with stories: who was where when the terror first hit, and what happened in the hours after.

Our newspapers and airwaves will be clogged with experts trying to explain — though that will never be possible — what it all means for us, in the short term and long term, as individuals and a society.

Our world has already changed, in ways that will take years, if not decades, to understand. We are nowhere close to comprehending the meaning of all this.

The world will go on, of course. Our planet will continue to spin; men and women will continue to commute to New York, and pretty women in Westport will continue to ride bicycles down Whitney Street.

At the same time, sadly, none of that will ever be the same.

Among the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11, 161 were from Connecticut.

Two lived in Westport: Jonathan Uman and Bradley Vadas. Brothers Keith and Scott Coleman grew up here. All worked at the World Trade Center.

They were sons, fathers and brothers. They had much of their lives still ahead of them.

Today, we remember all those killed that day. Twenty years later, we still grieve.

Adam J. Lewis Academy: Out Of Ashes, Hope Thrives

It’s late August. That means school starts sooner than anyone realizes.

And it’s 2021. That means next month marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Both events are significant for a sizable number of Westporters. They’re part of the heart and soul of Adam J. Lewis Academy.

Adam J. Lewis

The Bridgeport elementary school — named for a local man killed that horrible day, and nurtured ever since by his wife and friends — has been a life-changer for hundreds of Bridgeport youngsters and their families.

Now it’s expanding — charting an even more important path than ever.

Adam J. Lewis grew up poor, in the Bronx. But he seized the educational opportunities he was given — scholarships to Dalton and Hamilton College — and made a great, successful and fulfilling life for himself.

Then, on September 11, 2001 he was killed at his World Trade Center desk.

That tragedy sparked a superbly fitting tribute.

His wife Patty Lewis and Westporter Julie Mombello — friends from their days working together at Greens Farms Academy — knew the importance of pre-school education.

In Westport, pre-school — where children explore the world using all their senses, and learn letters, numbers, scientific observation, music, art, language, problem-solving, cooperation, coordination and many other skills — is a given. That’s far less true in Bridgeport, where the cost of preschool can be daunting.

Patty and Julie vowed to do what they could to give little children just a few miles from Westport the same advantages their own kids had.

A well-equipped Adam J. Lewis Academy room.

The goal was to provide youngsters from every background with an intellectually, socially and personally transformative educational experience. Students will leave empowered, ready to make a difference in the world.

The Adam J. Lewis Pre-School was born. And — despite daunting obstacles including fundraising, site selection and city bureaucracy — it has thrived since opening in 2013.

From its start — with just 12 children — it has grown steadily. In 2018 the school relocated to a downtown Bridgeport campus. They’re adding one grade each year. They’ll serve over 200 students through grade 5 by 2023, over 400 as a pre-K through grade 8 independent school by 2030.

Adam J. Lewis Academy pre-K class, 2018-19.

Including middle school is important. Adam J. Lewis Academy will be able to provide a link between elementary and high school, at a challenging time in life that’s already difficult for many.

The school is a true community. Families are embraced, and supported. A scholarship program at Housatonic Community College enables parents to take certification classes at no cost to them, often leading to high-demand, higher-paying jobs and careers.

A staff psychologist bridges the gap between home and school — just like a private boarding school.

From the start, Westporters have supported Adam J. Lewis Academy, with donations, board service and sweat equity.

The other day, co-founders Patty Lewis and Julie Mombello — still deeply involved as ex officio board members — talked excitedly about the school’s direction.

They offered stories, like a girl with a turbulent home life whose mother took advantage of resources to support her child — now confident and proud — and turned her own life around too.

“The 20 years since 9/11 have gone both fast and slow,” Lewis says.

“The idea that we’re going vertically means we can have an even bigger impact — just like his schools had on Adam. We’re looking at nearly 10 years of a student’s life in one school.”

Adam J. Lewis’s football jersey hangs in the school office. Students learn about, and understand, his story.

Nearly 20 years after an unspeakable tragedy, his name — and impact — live on.

(For more information on the Adam J. Lewis Academy, click here.)

 

[OPINION] Old Historical Plaque Belongs Near New

Thursday’s “06880” story on the installation of a new historical plaque behind Town Hall — one acknowledging that Westport’s founding fathers built a prosperous agriculture community using “forced labor of enslaved Africans and Natives” — drew comments from several readers noting the simultaneous removal of a similar nearby plaque.

This plaque behind Town Hall has been removed. (Photo/John Suggs)

That one — dedicated in 1980 — began:

“For nearly 200 years after the first white settlement here in 1648, the area east of the Saugatuck River belonged to the west parish of Fairfield; that west of the river to the Town of Norwalk.”

The text then describes the village of Saugatuck’s growth as a “thriving port for regional produce and goods”; the incorporation of the town of Westport in 1835, and our history as a farming community, artists’ colony and post-war suburb.

Text on the now-removed 1980 plaque (Photo/John Suggs)

Longtime Westporter John Suggs provided “06880” with photos of that now-removed plaque. He says:

I want readers to see what the old plaque actually said. Hopefully many other Westporters are as shocked as I am that this historic plaque was somehow deemed “offensive” and was unilaterally — and without any public discussion — removed from its setting 41 years after the town, the Westport Historical Society and the Connecticut Historic Commission first installed it in a place of honor.

This was not created during the dark days of Jim Crow. This plaque was installed in 1980. Many Westporters who were there when it was installed and were part of that day are still alive, and still live here.

I think it should be returned. And it, along with the newer plaque, can jointly offer a comprehensive and informative commemoration of Westport’s history.

The new plaque behind Town Hall. The old one (right of the double doors) has been removed.

This original plaque represented the best thinking of this community just 41 years ago — including 2 of the same entities who have brought forth this new plaque. It does not deserve to be consigned to the dustbin.

Not to restore it and return it to its proper place at Town Hall is unconscionable.  Hopefully, when people read what it actually says, they will understand and agree.

This isn’t a case of “either/or” between the old and new plaque. Rather, it is “both/and.” The way forward is to display both.

The new Town Hall plaque.