Category Archives: Obituaries

Roundup: New Ops Head, Recovery, Window Painting …

Meet Tom Kiely: Westport’s new operations director. He assumes the position immediately.

He graduated from Plymouth State University, with a BS in public management. He spent 21 years with the Connecticut State Police in a variety of roles and supervisory positions, including 11 years as a detective with major crimes. His work involved relationships with local, state and federal agencies.

His honors include Outstanding Service Awards from the State Police and United States’ Attorney’s Office; a District of Connecticut Department of Justice Award, and numerous Unit Citation Awards.

Kiely says, “My entire professional life has been in public service. I am very excited to begin a new career as operations director of this great community. I look forward to meeting new people, accepting new challenges, and collaborating with the team of town employees, business owners, and residents – confident that I bring a fresh perspective and life experience to this important role in town government.” 

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker welcomes Kiely, and thanks town audit manager and senior accountant Lynn Scully, whose work as interim operations director was “exceptional. Her input, advice and guidance as she deftly managed the multiple jobs that we asked her to perform on behalf of the town were invaluable, and we owe her a debt of gratitude.”

Thomas Kiely

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Some big names will attend the 9th annual Recovery Celebration — called “The Road Together” — this Sunday (October 9, Westport Library, 3 p.m.).

Liberation Programs and local partners — including Mitchells — host the event. There’s live music, refreshments, remarks from Senator Richard Blumenthal and 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, a panel moderated by NBC’s Craig Melvin, and a recovery story from Steven Stone.

Click here for more details.

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Calling all painters!

The annual Halloween Window Painting Contest takes place Saturday, October 22. Who wants to paint?!

Last year, over 100 children painted scary scenes on windows offered by local businesses. Participants can paint their own window, or team up with friends.

Judging follows. Winners get a gift certificate from Gofer Ice Cream.

Click here to sign up (or sign up your young Rembrandt) as a window painter.

Last year’s Best Halloween Theme winner: Hailey Kipperman (7th grade), at Bella Bridesmaids.

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Another call: This one is for all organizations, businesses, artists, crafters and sustainable groups:  Westport’s Holiday Green Festival is looking for exhibitors.

The event is Saturday, November 12 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Staples High School fieldhouse). Interested exhibitors should click here by October 31.

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“Black Excellence Night” — a free communal celebration of Black life and history — takes place next Wednesday (October 19, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Westport Country Playhouse). The event leads into an 8 p.m. preview performance of “From the Mississippi Delta,” a gripping tale of a Black woman’s rise from poverty to prominence.

“Black Excellence Night” is a spinoff of “Black Out,” inspired in 2019 by playwright Jeremy O. Harris, author of Broadway’s “Slave Play.” The goal is to create an environment for a Black-identifying audience to experience theater.

Guests will enjoy drinks from 822 Mixology, a Black-owned, New Haven-based business, and food tables. Live jazz is courtesy of the William Fluker Quartet.

“The Great Migration” — an exhibit curated by the Westport Museum for History & Culture — will be displayed, in conjunction with the “From the Mississippi Delta” storyline. The exhibit chronicles the relocation of more than 6 million Black Americans from the rural South to cities in the North, Midwest, and West from 1916 to 1970, sparked by economic conditions and segregationist laws.

Event space is limited. Click here for more information, and to RSVP. Click here for information on “From the Mississippi Delta, and to purchase tickets.

Goldie E. Patrick, “From the Missiissippi Delta” director.

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“When did you know you were LGBT or Q?”

That’s the question a panel of “experts” — lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans people and those calling themselves queer — will answer on October 11 (6 p.m., Westport Library Trefz Forum and Zoom).

The date is significant: It’s National Coming Out Day.

Panelists will talk about, and offer advice from, their own experiences. Audience members can ask questions too.

On the panel:

  • Brian McGunagle – President, Westport Pride
  • Kayla Iannetta – Chair, Westport Public Schools Pride Coalition
  • Anthony Crisi – Executive director, Circle Care Center
  • Sarah Ferro – Westport Pride member, activist, musician, mom
  • Staples Pride Coalition Members

The moderator is yours truly.

Interested, but not in person? Click here for the Zoom link.

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Peace came to the Westport Rotary Club yesterday.

John Miksad of Wilton — founder of Fairfield-based World Beyond War, a global peace advocacy group — spoke during the lunchtime meeting at Greens Farms Church.

He identified 3 existential threats to human existence: pandemics, climate change, and nuclear war. 

“We’re missing the big picture and no one nation can solve these on its own,” he said. “We need relentless diplomacy.” (Hat tip: Dave Matlow)

John Miksad (Photo/Dave Matlow)

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Arline Gertzoff’s family has released her official obituary:

Arline Patricia Gertzoff, 76, passed away peacefully at St. Vincent’s Hospital on September 28 from esophageal cancer. She is remembered as a true daughter of Westport, a dedicated, tireless volunteer for many organizations that contribute to the vibrancy of the town.

Arline was born in Norwalk. Her family moved to Westport, establishing a local dry cleaning business, where she often worked after school. Arline was active in Staples Players and SSTS, the backstage crews. She was head of costumes for several productions, and SSTS President as a senior.

Arline was a proud graduate of Staples and Westport schools, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees from Boston University in history and education. She taught in New Canaan, and at the International School in Antwerp, Belgium for 25 years, where she was involved with the Model UN.

Arline enjoyed people, the arts, travel, good food and wine, and Belgian chocolate. Students and friends from around the world stayed in touch with her. She returned to Westport in 1979 to help care for her mother, and dove into her community activism.

She loved Westport, and took great pride in its history and contributions. She was filled with local lore and stories, emphatically setting the record straight on Westport history with people newer to town.

For 20 years Arline was a tireless poll worker with the Westport League of Women Voters. Active with Westport’s Democratic Town Committee, she co-chaired the Community Outreach Committee. Arline served on the Board of the Democratic Women of Westport, and in 2016 received the DTC Dora Stuttman Campaign Leadership Award.

She was a familiar face and trusted cashier at the Library Book Sales, and a longtime member of the United Nations Association of Southwestern Connecticut, often bringing interesting speakers and dialogue to the community.

One of Arline’s favorite activities was jUNe Day, which for more than 55 years has welcomed UN delegates and staff to Westport for a day of food, fun and friendship. Serving on the board of directors as membership chair, she was also treasurer of UNASWCT, and on the advisory body for the national UN Association.

Long-time friend Melody James says, “Arline earned a seat at the leadership table of our town the old-fashioned way: through volunteerism, pitching in, and showing up. She was a doer. You could count on her. True in high school; true in 2022.”

When Arline died, she was serving a 3rd term as a District 3 member on Westport’s non-partisan Representative Town Meeting.

Another classmate remarks, “Arline was a connector. She had the ability to connect with different types of people, across age, sex, class, race, religious and nationality lines. She was the thread that joined together a very wide community.”

Back in Westport, Arline became lead coordinator for her Staples Class of ’64, orchestrating several class reunions. At the 50th she appeared with arms full of roses to cast on Long Island Sound for fallen classmates.

She was the confidante, treasurer and detail master who tracked marriages, divorces, deaths, births and career changes. Arline supported her friends and local artists, showing up often to performances and exhibits.

Arline was a leading voice to establish the Laddie Lawrence Track at Staples High School, challenging the argument that a great teacher and coach could only be honored after they died.

Her friend Jennifer Johnson calls her “a lifetime Westporter, and a citizen of the world.  She was a champion of democracy and international understanding.”

DTC chair Mark Friedman adds, “Through her work, she strengthened the fabric of our civil society and touched the lives of people in Westport and around the world, creating a family of friends and admirers, imbuing her friendships with insight, wit and love.”

Arline was predeceased by her brother Stewart. She is survived by cousins Steven Gertzoff of Florida, Ken Bean of Colorado and their families. A memorial service is planned for November 12th (Westport Town Hall, 2:30 p.m.).

Arline Gertzoff, at the Grand Canyon.

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There’s still plenty of greenery here — as seen in today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo, taken at Hillspoint Road.

But it’s October 5. We’ll see lots more color soon.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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And finally … Loretta Lynn — who overcame harsh poverty to become a beloved country star — died peacefully in her sleep yesterday, in Tennessee. She was 90.

Click here for a full obituary.

 

Roundup: Qatar, Kids, Service …

Giles Goodburn lives in Westport. But he grew up in the UK, where he became great friends with rugby teammate Marc Bennett.

They stayed close over the years. Their families celebrated special occasions together; they vacationed together too, all over the world.

Most recently, the Goodburns would visit the Bennetts in Dubai, where Marc — a travel industry executive — worked. Marc, Nancy and their 2 boys would reciprocate, in Westport. Marc loved fishing off the Westport shoreline, and Cockenoe Island.

One memorable Christmas Eve, Marc, Giles and and their sons  skated at Longshore. Marc fell, dislocated his shoulder, and spent that night in the ER.

“He was the life and soul of the party, and a dear friend,” Giles says.

Marc’s most recent job was with Qatar Airways to boost Qatar’s tourism trade, in the runup to the coming soccer World Cup.

Near the end of 2019, he was found hanging in a Doha hotel. He had been arrested at his office 10 weeks earlier. He told friends he had been detained for 3 weeks, blindfolded, stripped, blasted with high-pressure hoses, slammed against wall and deprived of sleep, by the country’s secret police,

After his release he could not leave Qatar. Authorities there called his death a suicide. But British officials, and Marc’s family, are not so sure.

Last week, the Times of London published a story about the case, and of the secret Qatari unit that was involved. In the run-up to the World Cup, Qatar has attracted international attention for its human rights abuses, and the deaths of foreign workers building stadiums and other infrastructure.

Click here for the full Times story.

Marc Bennett at Longshore, just before he fell.

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Westport Zoning Board of Appeals member Thomas Hood Jr. died on Thursday at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. The New Jersey native was 65.

Thomas received his BS in civil engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, an MBA from the University of Connecticut, and a master’s in architecture from NJIT.

He had over 40 years of experience in the design, planning and construction of buildings, software engineering, advanced product development, marketing, and consulting.

Thomas was appointed to the ZBA in 2018. Previously, he spent 2 terms on the Flood & Erosion Control Board.

He was a member of the United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston for more than 30 years, where he served as a trustee and sang in the choir.

Thomas’s favorite activities were spending time with his family, painting, cooking, and being near the water. An avid sailor, he was a member of both Cedar Point Yacht Club and the Mantoloking (New Jersey) Yacht Club.

Thomas is survived by his wife of 40 years, Mary Jane (Pascale) Hood; their children, Elizabeth (James Ifert) of Philadelphia, and Thomas and Meredith, both of Brooklyn; his sister Barbara Hood Benz (Charles) of Mantoloking, and extended family.

Visitation will be held Thursday, (October 6, 4 to 8 p.m., Magner Funeral Home, 12 Mott Avenue, Norwalk, CT). A memorial service is set for Friday (October 7, 11 a.m., United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston).

Memorial contributions can be made to the American Diabetes Association.

Thomas Hood

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Sure, there’s a lot going on this month.

But if you’ve got children, try to make time to the 2nd annual Fall Family Festival (Saturday, October 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Greens Farms Academy; $20 per family).

Sponsored by WestportMoms — the multi-platform we’ve-got-kids-covered organization — it features food, crafts, games and fun (bouncy houses, ninja course, music, art projects, DJ, pumpkin and cookie decorating, face painting, hair extensions, glitter tattoos, magic, STEM activities and more).

Many businesses will show off their products and services — all with activities for kids.

Organizers Megan Brownstein and Melissa Post ask attendees to bring gently worn jackets, for donations to a local non-profit.

A scene from last year’s Fall Family Festival.

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Speaking of kids: They love nature. They also love Victoria Kann.

This Sunday (October 9, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), they can combine both. The author will read from her popular “Pinkalicious: Treasuretastic” book, and sign copies. There’s also a scavenger hunt for natural treasures through the remarkable Blau House gardens, and a chance for children to take a bean home and watch it grow.

The gardens are at 9 Bayberry Ridge Road. Registration and payment ($10 per child, which includes a copy of the book) must be done by October 7. Click here for details.

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Speaking still of kids:

The 3rd grade Brownies troop from Long Lots School recently raised funds through cookie sales to purchase a native tree for the Long Lots Preserve, next to the Community Gardens.

The Preserve protects land for future generations, while educating Westporters about a healthy environment. It is turning open space overrun with invasive plants and pests into a native New England forest.

The girls — who have been a troop together since kindergarten — worked with Long Lots Preserve director Lou Weinberg, and their troop leaders to dig a hole and plant their tree. It was a great project — one they can see every day, outside their school.

Long Lots Brownies, Lou Weinberg and their Preserve tree.

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Westport’s National Charity League chapter invites 6th grade girls to apply for the 2023-24 year.

With over 275 members, NCL Westport has more than 275 members (women and their daughters in grades 7-12) provide volunteer service for over 30 community  non-profits.

The 6-year core program includes leadership development and cultural activities. Click here or email mmurphy33Wyahoo.com.

National Charity League seniors, at Ned Dimes Marina.

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Lynn Flint writes: “I’m really concerned about the number of people walking on the side of the road with traffic, not against it, wearing dark non-reflective clothes, in the early twilight and darkness — especially where there are no sidewalks, and the streets are poorly lit.”

As darkness falls earlier, this long-running (and walking) problem gets worse. “06880” readers: Please wear light clothing. Walk against traffic, not with it.

And if there’s a sidewalk nearby, use it. Taxpayers have paid good money to save your life.

Light clothing is good. Walking with traffic is not.

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Speaking of taking care of accident victims:

This weekend at the VFW, Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service honored the achievements of our volunteers. Among them:

  • Crew Chief of the Year: Jamie Bairaktaris
  • Volunteer of the Year: Stew Reifler
  • Youth Corps Member of the Year: Jenna Baumblatt
  • EMT of the Year: Ryan Blake
  • Presidential Service Awards Lifetime Recognition: Danielle Faul
  • Presidential Service Awards Lifetime Recognition: Audrone Tarnok
  • Carol Dixon, Danielle Faul: 20 years of service
  • Dorrie Harris: 30 years of service
  • Pat Salvo, Jay Paretzky: 40 years of service

Click here, then scroll down for more information on each honoree.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo features just one autumn leaf.

It’s October 3. Believe me: There are many more to come.

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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And finally … Happy 81st birthday, Chubby Checker. Let’s dance!

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Remembering Arline Gertzoff

Longtime jUNe Day hospitality chair, poll worker, RTM member, proud Staples High School graduate and avid “06880” reader and commenter Arline Gertzoff died peacefully yestrday morning at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

She had been diagnosed recently with esophogeal cancer.

Her friend Jennifer Johnson called her “a lifetime Westporter, and truly a citizen of the world. She was a proud, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat,” but also “a champion of democracy and international understanding.”

She had many friends across the political aisle too. She was serving her third term as a District 3 member on Westport’s non-partisan Representative Town Meeting.

In her 25 years as hospitality chair for Westport’s jUNe Day, she promoted world peace through friendly interaction between UN visitors and their local hosts.

She spent 20 years as an Election Day poll worker, through the Westport League of Women Voters.

Arline also served many years as co-chair of the Community Outreach Committee of the Westport Democratic Town Committee (from which she received the 2016 Dora Stuttman Campaign Leadership Award). She was a longtime member of the board of the Democratic Women of Westport.

DTC chair Mark Friedman said, “Arline devoted her life to service and to community.Through her work in education, politics and civic organizations, she strengthened the fabric of our civil society and touched the lives of people in Westport and around the world…..

“Arline created a family of friends and admirers and imbued her friendships with insight, wit and love.”

Arline Gertzoff

 

Roundup: Capital Projects, Rosh Hashana, Elon Musk …

As Westport plans major capital projects — a renovation or new Long Lots Elementary School, reimagining of Longshore and others — the Board of Finance does not want to reinvent the wheel.

A special meeting on October 3 (7:30 p.m., Town Hall Room 201/201A) has only one agenda item: “Preparation workshop for the upcoming School and Town Building Program.'”

The board will listen to and question former Finance Board members, and officials who served Westport during the most recent major Westport building program (1998-2008, including Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools).

The public is invited. If there is time, they can ask questions.

Other workshops will be scheduled at later dates.

Westport has begun planning next steps for Long Lots Elementary School. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

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Storm clouds did not detract from yesterday evening’s Tashlich ceremony, at Compo Beach.

Members of The Conservative Synagogue gathered for the traditional rite. On the first day of Rosh Hashana, Jews symbolically casting away sins by tossing pieces of bread in the water.

Gathering together … (Photo/Fred Cantor)

… and casting sins away. (Photo/Diane Yormark)

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Also last night: Another rainbow appeared over Westport.

This one was seen on Weston Road.

(Photo/Stephanie Webster)

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We’re lucky indeed. We’re getting much-needed rain. And gorgeous rainbows that follow.

Saturday was special in Stamford — and in Staples Players’ history.

The award-winning high school troupe added another professional page to their overflowing scrapbook. They performed at a benefit concert for Orchestra Lumos (formerly the Stamford Symphony) at the Palace Theater.

Well, not just “performed.” Players shared the stage with actor/director Mari Friedman, who paid tribute to 3 great composers: Marvin Hamlisch, Stephen Sondheim and Michel Legrand.

Staples Players perform “I Hope I Get It” from “A Chorus Line” …

Friedman spent several hours rehearsing with the high schoolers. “She was fantastic with them, and they loved her,” says Players co-director David Roth.

… and dance to “I Hope I Get It” at the Orchestra Lumos benefit.

The invitation came from Halmisch’s widow Terre Blair. She saw a Players production of “A Chorus Line” — her husband’s work — and was “blown away.”

Maria Friedman thanks the audience, with Staples Players behind her.

Also starring on Saturday: vocalists Ross Lekites (“The Tina Turner Musical”), Lewis Cleale (“The Book of Mormon”) — and Players alumni Camille Foisie and Nick Rossi,

From left: Lewis Cleale, Ros Lekites, Maria Friedman, Camille Foisie, Nick Rossi. (All photos/Kerry Long)

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DJ Sixsmith cut his teeth — and honed his voice — at WWPT-FM. You can still hear the 2011 Staples High graduate giving the school station’s call letters at the top of every hour.

He’s now first senior manager for digital and social media at CNBC. Last week, he headed to California to interview Jay Leno — in the TV host’s iconic garage.

That makes sense. They were on YouTube Live, promoting Leno’s exclusive tour of SpaceX with Elon Musk — on the web series “Jay Leno’s Garage.”

Sixsmith gave fans the chance to ask Leno questions directly, and peek behind the curtain about the episode.

It went viral, when Musk himself commented on the video, on Twitter.

Sixsmith said on LinkedIn: “I love working for a company that is willing to let me run with new social and digital ideas like this one.”

Click below, for the full YouTube Live. (Hat tip: Mark Lassoff)

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This week’s Jazz at the Post features Serbian guitar master Rale Micic; bassist Steve LaSpina and drummer Steve Johns; of course the Jazz Rabbi, Greg Wall — and new start times for the 2 sets (7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; Thursday, September 29, VFW Joseph J Clinton Post 399, 465 Riverside Avenue). Dinner service begins at 7 p.m.

There is a $10 cover. Reservations are strongly suggested: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Rale Micic

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This is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. On Friday (September 30, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Westport Library), the Westport Prevention Coalition offers a free “Suicide Prevention Lunch and Learn.” It’s open to all residents, plus town employees, elected officials, commissioners and volunteers.

An RSVP is required. Click here to register.

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The Traveling School offers girls and non-binary students ages 15-18 a chance to see the world, build leadership skills, and grow personally. The semester-long program travels to Africa, South America and around the western US. 

It’s nearly 20 years old, and boasts 450 alums. Students receive academic credit from their home schools, and stay on track to graduate. Nearly 60 percent receive financial support.

They host an open house on October 12 (6:30 p.m., Rowayton). For more information, click here or email admissions@travelingschool.com.

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Longtime Wesetporter Salvatore Mastromatteo passed away peacefully earlier this month. He was 90 years old.

He worked many years for Arnold Bakery. Sal enjoyed time off by going to New York City, the movies, walking at the mall, and spending time with his family.  

Sal is survived by nieces Claudia Bradley fiancé William Thomas) of Tamarac, Florida and Tammy (Vinny) Guarente of Beacon Falls; great-niece Angela Guarente (Joe Darrah); great-nephew Joe (Megan) Guarente, and great-great nieces Michaela Darrah and Izabella Guarente.

He was predeceased by his sister Annamay Bradley, with whom he shared a home with after the death of their mother.

His family thanks June Richardson (conservator), and the staff at the Westport Rehabilitation Complex and Long Ridge Acute Care, for taking great care of Sal.

Private services were held at Assumption-Greens Farms Cemetery.

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Very appropriately, Jilda Manikas sent this “Westport … Naturally” photo of this insect on a screen door yesterday — Rosh Hashana, one of the Jewish High Holy Days.

It’s a praying mantis.

(Photo/Jilda Manikas)

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And finally … Jim Post died earlier this month in Iowa, of congestive heart failure. He was 82.

He and his then-wife Cathy Conn were Friend & Lover — one-hit wonders in 1968 with the song “Reach Out of the Darkness.”

Although — as this New York Times obituary explains —  his lyrics “reach out in the darkness” suggest a very different message.

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Roundup: Lynsey Addario, Kowalsky Farm, Moon Gazing …

Before next month’s School of Visual Arts solo exhibition, Pulitzer Prize- and MacArthur “genius grant”-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario sat with NPR’s “The Takeaway” for an interview.

The 1991 Staples high School graduate spoke yesterday about her long career capturing intimate, human moments during devastating wars and disasters.

She discussed too why photojournalism is important, how she keeps her cool in unspeakable danger, and why she is such a positive person (spoiler alert: her parents and sisters help).

Click here for the story. (NOTE: An ad about “quicksand” may precede the interview.)

Lynsey Addario (2nd from left) says sisters Lauren, Lisa and Lesley keep her smiling.

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“06880” has reported on the gradual teardown of 117 Morningside Drive South — the famed Kowalsky farm.

Now it’s complete:

(Photo/Wynne Bohonnon)

Wynne Bohonnon lives nearby. His kids are now grown, but he remembers taking them often to see the goats, sheep and llamas there.

The new owners may not be putting up a parking lot. But, in Joni Mitchell’s famous words: “… ’til it’s gone.’

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“06880” readers sent plenty of moon photos — particularly special full ones, like harvest, wolf or strawberry.

But why watch from your back yard or Compo Beach, when you can gaze at the moon through the Westport Astronomical Society’s powerful telescope?

The public is invited to the observatory for International Observe the Moon Night. It’s next Saturday (October 1, 8 p.m.).

Green cheese is optional.

 

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Westport native James Backiel died last Sunday in Norwalk Hospital. He was 81 years old.

Son of Stanley and Mary Backiel. Jim grew up on Old Road, and graduated from Staples High School.

He was a US Navy veteran, and an avid bowler. In the late 1950s and early ’60s he worked at Westport Lanes and the Westport Batting Cages, which was connected to the Westport Golf Range.

Jim also worked at Nash Engineering in Norwalk.

He was predeceased by his wife Joyce,, and brothers Stanley and Michael. He is survived by his son Christopher, and cousins Jack Backiel, Barbara Cieplinski, Janet McGoldrick and Irene Hubbard.

Calling hours are Tuesday (4:30 to 6 p.m., Edmund Dougiello Funeral Home, 36 South Pine Creek Road, Fairfield). A committal service with military honors are at noon on Wednesday, at Willowbrook Cemetery.

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This guy — or perhaps it’s a gull — posed for a “Westport … Naturally” photo at Sherwood Island State Park.

(Photo/Beth Berkowitz)

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And finally … Wynne Bohonnon reminded us of the prophetic song, “Big Yellow Taxi.” Here are 3 great versions:

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Remembering Mark Blake

Mark Blake’s family has released this obituary. The very popular 30- year Westport and Weston Emergency Medical Services volunteer died Tuesday.

Stratford resident Mark Blake died peacefully Tuesday with his family by his side, after a valiant battle with COVID. He was 61 years old.

The Boston native was an EMS Supervisor on the Westport Emergency Medical Service. After first serving as a volunteer, he was employed there for more than 30 years. His greatest sense of accomplishment was doing what he loved: assisting others when they needed it most.

He was honored to be a Life Member of the Weston Volunteer Fire Department and Emergency Medical Service. He served the WVFD as vice president and lieutenant. He was also chair of the WVFD Benevolent Committee, Public Relations Committee, and Explorer Post, among others.

Mark established the Child Passenger Safety Program in Weston, and the Fairfield County Chapter of Safe Kids. A child passenger safety instructor, one of his greatest joys was working with parents and families to teach them how to safely transport their children.

Mark Blake

Mark received numerous awards including Firefighter of the Year, the President and Chief Award, and was recognized for Outstanding Service at the Blue Mass by the Diocese of Bridgeport and the Knights of Columbus.

Mark also was a board member and president of the Southwest EMS Council, and vice president of the Southwest Regional Communications Center.

Mark was a mentor to members of his Fire and EMS families. His family and friends have found comfort in the stories and tributes shared by so many individuals whom Mark aided and inspired over the years.

Mark was very proud of his work during the L’Ambiance Plaza building collapse in 1987, and his involvement with the Red Cross, supporting its response to the 9/11 attacks. Mark instilled his love of, and dedication to, community service in so many others, most significantly his brother and sons who carry on his legacy.

Mark was a wicked Boston sports fan. Going to the Boston championship Duck Boat parades and Red Sox games at Fenway with his brother and sons were among his most cherished memories. A member of the Norwalk Police Emerald Society, Mark took every opportunity to celebrate and share his Irish heritage.

Mark and his family express their gratitude to his angels at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Gaylord Healthcare, who cared for him from their heart. They helped him find the silver lining during his battle, and made his journey more bearable. He always expressed his appreciation to them.

Mark is survived by his wife Eileen; children Ryan (16) and Liam (13); mother Mary Blake; brother Terry Blake (Tracy Dayton) and their children Jillian and Jackson; in-laws Mike and Alexine Henzy, Tim (Kerry), Bill (Wendy), and Catherine (Ryan Eastwood), and their children, and many aunts, uncles and cousins whom he loved dearly.

Visitation will be at the Harding Funeral Home in Westport (Monday, September 26, 4 to 8 p.m.).

A Mass will be held on Tuesday, September 27 (2 p.m., St. Matthew Church, Norwalk). Burial will follow at Willowbrook Cemetery in Westport.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Mark’s memory may be made to St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, where his family has established the Mark A. Blake scholarship to be awarded to a student interested in pursuing a career as a first responder. Donations in Mark’s memory may also be made to the Weston Volunteer Fire Department. The Mass of Christian Burial will be livestreamed here.

(A GoFundMe page has been set up, to help with the education of Mark’s children. Click here to donate.)

Roundup: Chief Foti, Mark Blake, Food Inequality …

The other day, Police Chief Foti Koskinas took CNN’s Alisyn Camerota for a spin.

The footage wound up yesterday on the network’s “Champions for Change” segment.

Foti was cited for his innovative community involvement, including helping the department handle demonstrations calmly and respectfully. He spoke candidly about the state of American policing, noting that he would take a knee with George Floyd protesters in solidarity, prayer and against police brutality — but not against police or the flag.

TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey praised Foti’s ability to listen. “There was some change in his position” during discussions after the Michael Brown incident, Bailey said — “and change in ours as well.”

The piece will be rebroadcast this Sunday (September 25, 8 p.m.), as part of a CNN special hour-long “Champions of Change.”

Click here to see the segment. Spoiler alert: I’m on camera for a few quick seconds. And I provide the voice-over intro, conclusion and other thoughts.

It was an honor to be included.

Screenshot from CNN: Alisyn Camerota and Chief Foti Koskinas.

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Autumn arrives tonight at 9:04.

This morning, Westport said goodbye to summer with a quick thunderstorm. Andrew Colabella captured this dramatic lightning strike over Cockenoe Island:

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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The Westport Police Department and Emergency Medical Services mourn the death of Mark Blake. The popular and generous EMS crew chief died Tuesday.

He was hired in May of 1990, and had a long, rewarding career serving Westport. He was a representative for the Southwest EMS Council for over 10 years, and was most recently its president.

Blake was a certified child safety seat instructor, and organized many car safety seat clinics throughout Fairfield County.

Blake also volunteered with Weston’s fire department and emergency medical services, for over 39 years. He was the department’s vice president, and earned the rank of lieutenant.

Westport Police and EMS say: “Those who knew Crew Chief Blake quickly realized that his passion was to help any way he could. Whether organizing a safety clinic, treating a sick patient or helping at the scene of a fire in Weston, he  was there.  His dedication and passion will most certainly be missed.

Deputy Chief Sam Arciola oversees Westport EMS. He says: “Mark was an incredibly dedicated public servant as well as a widely respected EMT. He never hesitated to put the needs of others above his own.”

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker adds, “I was saddened to hear of the passing of Crew Chief Blake. On behalf of the town, I want to extend my condolences to his friends and family as well as express how appreciative the town is for all his years helping our community.”

Mark Blake

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One more police item: Local departments were recognized recently, in a ceremony at Beth Israel Chabad in Norwalk.

Westport was represented by Police Chief Foti Koskinas, Weston by Police Chief Ed Henion. The event included plaques of appreciation, music and brunch.

Among the officials at the Beth Israel Chabad ceremony: Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht (far left), Weston Police Chief Ed Henion (4th from left), Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (5th from left) and Westport 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker (6th from left).

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The state of Connecticut will help fund replacement sidewalks near Greens Farms Elementary School, and renovations at the Weston Police Department.

The sidewalk project includes $250,000 from the state, and $100,000 in town funds. The police building includes $500,000 in state funds, and $264,926 from Weston.

State grants come from the Small Town Economic Assistance Program.

A sidewalk replacement project is coming soon to Greens Farms Elementary School.

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Up Next Teens is a Staples High School student-founded and run organization. They’ve just launched a new project: #FeedFairfield County.

The goal is to raise $25,000. That would supply meals for nearly 10,000 hungry residents.

They asked Wakeman Town Farm for help. The result is a great partnership.

On October 6 (6 p.m.), WTF hosts an intimate chef’s dinner. Marcia Selden caters; Greens Farms Spirits supplies the wine and bubbly — and UpNext Teens will serve.

They’ll also speak to guests about their goals and projects. Click here for tickets, and more information.

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Massimo Tabacco — the former owner of Bar Lupa, and other restaurants — has a new venture.

He’s partnered with lifelong Westporter Matthew Balk to open Il Pellicano, at 1460 Post Road in Fairfield.

The Italian restaurant features classic and contemporary dishes, including small plates, steaks, fish and piadina (an unleavened thin bread with delicious fillings).

There’s an extensive cocktail menu too, with experienced mixologists.

Il Pellicano opens tomorrow (Friday, September 23). A roof patio has just been approved, and will be ready soon. Click here for more information.

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The Westport Library’s Verso Studios are leading-edge.

So they’re a perfect spot for a new education initiative. The Fairfield County-based LiveGirl non-profit will co-host a 9-week Leadership Lab for high school girls there. Sessions start October 3, and run each Monday through December 14.

Founded in 2014, LiveGirl’s mission is to “prepare the next generation of diverse, brave female leaders with the skills, community, and connections so that all girls may thrive and make a positive impact on the world. LiveGirl’s vision is to contribute to a world free from both gender and racial inequality.”

Utilizing state-of-the-art Verso Studios media facilities, the LiveGirl Leadership Lab will focus on creative arts empowerment, multimedia expression and training. Participants will develop storytelling skills through creative channels like video, music and podcast production.

The program is free. Spots are limited, and pre-registration is required.

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The next Amy Simon Fine Art show is “Slow Motions,” with Liz Barber, Christopher Jeffries, Carolanna Parlato and Paul Shakespear.

It runs September 24 through November 5, at 123 Post Road East.

“Summer Fold 2” — mixed media on canvas (Liz Barber)

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Longtime Westporter and former Planning & Zoning Commission member Michael Stashower died yesterday. He was 96 years old.

The Cleveland native attended Hobart College as part of the US Navy’s V-12 Officer Training program, then received BA degree and MBA degrees from Cornell University.

After retiring from a long and successful career in corporate finance, Michael continued used his expertise as an overseas volunteer with the International Executive Service Corps, and to help with New York City’s 2012 Olympic bid.

In more than 50 years in Westport, he was actively involved in the community. He was elected twice to the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission. He was a past president of the UJA/Federation of Westport-Wilton-Norwalk, treasurer of Temple Israel, and served on the board of directors of the Council of Jewish Federations and the Jewish Home for the Elderly.

He loved sailing, tennis, and playing clarinet with the Westport Community Band.

Michael is survived by Gloria, his wife of nearly 72 years; their Susan (Paul Milbauer), Debby Missal (Michael) and Jon (Allison), and grandsons Jordan, Scott and Matthew.

A service is set for tomorrow (Friday, September 23, 10 a.m., Temple Israel). Shiva will be observed tomorrow from 1 to 5 p.m. at 321 Lansdowne.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests consideration of a donation to Temple Israel of Westport.

Michael Stashower

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Staples High School Class of 2010 graduate Keith Gelman moved back to Westport with his wife, in June.

The other evening he saw this barred owl, in his front yard. Classmate Stuart Schmerzler snapped this stunning “Westport … Naturally” photo. Follow @schmerzlertakesphotos on Instagram, for more great shots.

(Photo/Stuart Schmerzler)

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And finally … in honor of the great “Westport … Naturally” photo above, I had to include this song, by this band.

Get it?

(“Who” is going to support “06880”? Please click here to help!)

Roundup: Father Chip, Mark Blake, Downtown …

The recent news that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard had a Westport connection — and not just because Westporters know the island well.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown helped lead the Vineyard response. The church provided shelter for 2 nights, and many meals.

That’s not unusual. St. Andrew’s already runs a winter shelter at the parish house, with cots, a large kitchen, showers and laundry.

The church’s minister is Rev. Vincent Seadale — though everyone on Martha’s Vineyard calls him Father Chip.

He was Chip at Staples High School too, where he was part of the Class of 1978. He was called to St. Andrew’s in 2009, after serving at the Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville, Florida.

After Staples, Father Chip graduated from Colgate University and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He spent 16 years as an attorney, before graduating from Yale University Divinity  School in 2004.

Father Chip Seadale

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Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services says:

“We, and every person who Crew Chief Mark Blake inspired, are heartbroken.

“After 61 years blessing our earth with his kindness, and over 30 years of compassionate, dedicate, and excellent service to our community, Mark passed away yesterday morning.

“An incredibly dedicated public servant and a widely respected EMT who always put the needs of others above his own, Mark leaves behind a legacy of not only thousands of lives saved on the ambulance, but countless more (for decades to come) as he educated and helped raise the future generations of EMS personnel through educational classes, state and regional programs, and as a mentor to many of our community’s emergency medical technicians.

“Always looking for a bright spot in the day, the background of this photo — a brilliant Compo Beach sunrise — was taken by Mark during one of the many sunrises he witnessed while serving the community on duty.”

Visitation is set for Monday (September 26, 4 to 8 p.m., Harding Funeral Home). A funeral Mass will be held Tuesday (September 27, 2 p.m., St. Matthew Church, Norwalk, followed by a graveside service at 3:30 p.m. at Willowbrook Cemetery.

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As plans for “Reconnecting the Riverfront” — the project to redesign parking and pedestrian areas downtown — move forward (a bit more quickly than Parker Harding traffic), the public is invited to participate.

A public survey is now open, Click here to begin.

A “visioning charrette and open house” is set for September 29 (7 to 9 p.m., Westport Library). Residents and stakeholders are encouraged to attend.

The Downtown Plan Implementation Committee is coordinating the project. with Langan Engineering and Environmental Services. The DPIC includes town department heads and residents. They hold public meetings on the 2nd Thursday of each month, at 8:30 a.m. Click here for details.

Screenshot from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

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Compo’s South Beach at sunset was the setting yesterday evening, for a renewal of vows.

After 25 years of marriage, Dr. Lynn Wilson held his bride Nancy’s bouquet, as she read their words to each other. Justice of the Peace Rhona Lieberson was the officiant.

(Photo/Stacie Curran)

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Staples High Class of 2015 graduate Rachel Treisman has covered human interest stories around the royal funeral for NPR. She gained journalism experience while working for Inklings, the school newspaper — and then served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.

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Registration for Westport Parks & Recreation Department winter programs begins online at 9 a.m. on October 3.

Click here to view the offerings. Click here to begin registration.

If you are unable to log into your online account, email recreation@westportct.gov or call 203-341-5152.

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On February 29, 2020, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library sponsored another successful Supper & Soul dinner/concert.

A few days later, COVID clobbered the town.

The event was set to resume this past May. But the band got the virus, and had to cancel. The Chamber refunded all tickets.

Now, it’s full speed ahead.

The next Supper & Soul — the first in over 2 1/2 years — is set for Saturday, October 22. Cris Jacobs — who rocked the 2018 Blues Views & BBQ — brings his high energy to the Library Forum, following dinner at a variety of downtown restaurants.

One ticket entitles attendees to a 3-course meal at any of 11 eateries, plus the show, then a stop at any of the restaurants for happy hour-priced post-concert drinks.

Participating restaurants are 190 Main, Amis, Arezzo, Basso, Capuli, Da Tapas, Don Memo, Manna Toast, Spotted Horse, Goji (Wafu) and Walrus Alley. Dinner is 6 p.m.; the concert is at 8.

Tickets are $90 each for the dinner and concert. Concert-only tickets are $40. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Cris Jacobs and his band.

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Westport Country Playhouse is launching a new mobile unit. It will travel to audiences, grades 6 to 10, for live theatrical performances.

Designed to be adaptable for any kind of space, including cafeterias, libraries and classrooms, the Playhouse Mobile Unit brings to schools a 45-minute, fully staged production with professional actors, sets, costumes and special effects.

The performance is followed by a Q&A with the actors. A study guide and curriculum are provided, with classroom activities and games.

Funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Town of Westport’s American Rescue Plan Act funding for the arts.

 The inaugural play — “Scaredy Kat Presents” — captures the joys and struggles of adolescence, while attempting to destigmatize anxiety and panic disorder. Bookings are underway, for performances beginning in January.

The Playhouse offers financial aid and payment plans, along with group sales and discounts for multiple performances in one day.

For more information, email education@westportplayhouse.org or call Kendall Driffin, education and community engagement associate: 203-571-1133.

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Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church is gearing up for a full season of musical events.

On Sunday October 9 (5 p.m.), noted English vocal ensemble VOCES8 stops by on their international tour. The program includes Renaissance, jazz and the American song book.

Tickets include a post-performance reception. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

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An opening reception for the new show at the George Billis Gallery is set for tomorrow (Thursday, September 22, 4 to 6:30 p.m., 180 Post Road East).

Featured artists include Glen Hacker, Chad Holliday, Karen O’Neil and Stephanie Reiter.

“Fervent Zeal” (Chad Holliday)

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Today’s interesting “Westport … Naturally” photo — of a woodpecker, at the Westport Community Gardens — comes courtesy of Peter Swift:

(Photo/Peter Swift)

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And finally … if you haven’t heard of Cris Jacobs — the star of next month’s Supper & Soul dinner/concert — click below.

Actually, click on if you have heard of Cris Jacobs, too!

(There is a lot going on in Westport — and “06880” covers it all. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)

Roundup: Ned Lamont, Emergency Prep, Queen Elizabeth …

Last week, the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston hosted gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski at the Westport Library.

Yesterday, it was Ned Lamont’s turn.

Former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe moderated the discussion. Asked about affordable housing, the Democratic incumbent said that local communities need to take the lead.

Traffic is a problem in the state, Lamont said — and entrance/exit ramps on highways are the source of the greatest congestion. He also noted that train bridges were not build for high-speed rail traffic, and cause slowdowns.

With unemployment very low in Connecticut, Lamont said there is a job for everyone who wants one. Though recession headwinds are ahead, he said, the state is in good shape.

The governor also noted that Connecticut has the largest unfunded pension debt in the country. However, he said, his administration has reduced interest debt, saving $400 million in interest payments.

Lamont also recalled that he met his wife Annie in Westport. (Reporting by Dave Matlow)

Governor Ned Lamont and former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, at yesterday’s Y’s Men event at the Westport Library. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

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Last night’s storm knocked out power to 239 customers in the Old Mill Beach area. This morning, Eversource’s map showed no outages remaining.

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Dozens of rescue vehicles — helicopters, tanks, ambulances, you name it — converged on Sherwood Island State Park yesterday.

Fortunately, it was just a drill.

Local and regional authorities and incident management teams shared knowledge, and demonstrated technology for Connecticut politicians and other services. The event was organized by the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, for the 14-town area.

!st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Deputy Fire Chief Nick Marsan represented Westport.

Among the activities:

This bomb squad robot has X-ray vision, and can shoot projectiles.

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There was plenty of pomp yesterday, when Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest.

There was also plenty of music.

Staples High School Class of 1966 graduate Paul Gambaccini is a longtime music journalist. Based in London, he also hosts of “Her Majesty’s Music” on the BBC.

Gambaccini was interviewed by NPR, about the songs that “inspired and defined” the late queen. Click here to listen. (Hat tip: Mary Ann Meyer)

Paul Gambaccini

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Pumpkin spice lattes and muffins have been here since around Independence Day.

Now it’s time for “Fall Pumpkin Centerpieces.”

That’s the title of a session at Wakeman Town Farm (October 4, 6:30 p.m.). Chryse Terrill will instruct attendees on how to create a fall harvest centerpiece inside a pumpkin. Some materials will be harvested from WTF’s gardens.

Of course, everyone can take home their work of art. Click here to register.

A pumpkin centerpiece.

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This Thursday’s Jazz at the Post (September 22, 7 and 8:30 p.m. shows, 6:30 p.m. dinner, 465 Riverside Avenue, $10 cover) is a feast for local music lovers.

“Jazz Rabbi” Greg Wall brings world-class Gospel pianist, choir director, bandleader — and local legend — Chris Coogan to VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399.

The musicians met almost 10 years ago. They share a deep spiritual attachment to American music that digs deep into its roots, and extends up from there.

Joining in are John Mobilio and Jim Royle, both longtime rhythm-mates of Coogans.

Reservations are strongly suggested: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Greg Wall and Chris Coogan

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Saturday’s Westport Country Playhouse gala — the first in-person benefit in 3 years — lived up to its hype.

Broadway star Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler in “Hamilton”) headlined the event, with a high-energy concert of Broadway pop and soul music, backed by a 7-piece band.

Attendees also enjoyed a pre-show cocktail party, live auction and after-party with a DJ and dancing.

Renee Elise Goldsberry and her band, at the Playhouse. (Photo/Coppola Photography)

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The other day, Peter Marks complained about “visual pollution” in Westport.

Yesterday, he sent along this example, at the Compo Road South/Post Road traffic island:

(Photo/Peter Marks)

He’s particularly concerned about signs advertising upcoming events that stay up long after they’re over.

Of course, the political season has just begun. We’ll see more — not fewer — signs everywhere, in the weeks ahead.

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Former Westporter Ellen Wisser died Friday in Norwalk. She was 92.

The Brooklyn native attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with classmates and friends Grace Kelly and Vince Edwards. At Brooklyn College she met her future husband and lifetime love, Allen Wisser, who had already performed with the Broadway show “Showboat”‘s national tour.

After they married Ellen taught at James Madison High School in Brooklyn.

Ellen and Allen moved their young family to Westport in 1960. Ellen continued commuting to Brooklyn, then began teaching English, speech and drama at Harding High School in Bridgeport. She also produced and directed the annual school play, influencing the lives of many teachers and students, who continued to stay in touch for decades.

Ellen was active in the Bridgeport, Connecticut and National Educational Associations. She ran for the NEA presidency in 1976.  She was an advocate of the women’s liberation movement at the local and national levels.

Ellen changed careers in her 50’s, attending Bridgeport Law (now the Quinnipiac School of Law). She then practiced family and worker’s compensation law until age 88. Ellen recently survived 3 different types of cancer, forcing her retirement, and defeated unbeatable odds.

She was predeceased by her husband, grandson Tyler Wisser and brother Marvin Borenstein. She is survived by her children, Dr. Jamie R. Wisser (Natalie), Kerry M. Wisser (Debbie), R. Ilise Gold (Fritz Heilbron); grandchildren Davin Gold, Alanna Dayton, Evan Wisser, Caitlyn Wisser, Ryan Wisser; great grandchildren Jack, Sam and Beck Dayton, Claire and Penelope Wisser; sister-in-law Gladys Floch, many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral services will be held today (Tuesday, September 20, 1 p.m., Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home, Fairfield), with interment following at Temple Israel Cemetery in Norwalk.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Connecticut Education Foundation – Children’s Fund.

Ellen Wisser

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Roger Ratchford died earlier this month, at 88. He was a teacher, golf coach, and advocate for people with disabilities.

The Norwalk native was raised mostly by his mother, with the help of the large Hungarian side of his family. Though she died when he was 13, Roger went on to become valedictorian of his class at Fairfield Prep. To supplement a tuition scholarship to the College of the Holy Cross, he worked afternoon shifts at Worcester Quilting Company.

After graduating he returned to Prep to teach Latin, classical Greek, French and English, and coach the golf team for 40 years. He was inducted into the Prep Athletic Hall of Fame, was named National High School Golf Coach of the Year, and held a national record for wins.

Roger was also one of the first to bring American high school students to the French Alps for homestays with French families. He strongly felt that immersion was the best way to master a language.

Until the end of his life, heh could recite by memory passages from Homer’s “Odyssey” — in the original Greek. He was proud of his work helping the nuns at the Convent of St. Birgitta in the proper pronunciation of Latin chants.

But Roger felt his greatest legacy was improving opportunities for people with disabilities. Inspired by his son Mike, he and his wife Gail became actively involved in the growth of STAR, Inc.

He lobbied for the closure of Mansfield Training Center in 1993, and advocated for a shift to group homes and the full integration of people with disabilities into the community. Two-time president of STAR, he was named Volunteer of the Year by the ARC of CT in 1988.

He was a walking encyclopedia of Norwalk history, and was proud of the Ratchfords’ long legacy in this town, from the Ratchford Hotel & Saloon in the first part of the 20th century, to his Aunt Helen’s tenure as a teacher at Norwalk High.

Roger was predeceased by his wife. He is survived by 3 children and 1 grandchild. His family is indebted to Dorrean, Sharon Mack, and her staff for their loving care during hospice. 

A funeral mass will be held on Thursday (September 22, 2 pm, St. Mary’s Church, Norwalk. A Celebration of Life will be held at Fairfield Prep some time in October. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to STAR Lighting the Way.

Gail and Roger Ratchford

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Michael Szeto describes today’s “Westport … Naturally”photo:

“We are infested with deer in Westport, since they lack natural predators and we are not allowed to hunt them. A herd of 5 or 6 deer constantly roams through my backyard.

“But yesterday was a first for me. I saw 2 bucks butting heads in my back yard, apparently fighting for territorial dominance. They don’t seem to realize that I own the land, not them.”

(Photo/Michael Szeto)

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And finally … to honor the Queen (and Paul Gambaccini — story above), here is the quintessential British song:

 

Roundup: Motorcycles, Daffodils, Kelli O’Hara …

For 21 years, Stacie Curran and friends have ridden in the CT United Ride. The largest motorcycle ride in Connecticut pays tribute to the victims and first responders of 9/11.

Yesterday’s event took place on the actual date: September 11. Before the start at Sherwood Island, the group met at Stacie’s house:

The entire group — hundreds strong — gathered at the state park:

(Photo/Tom Lowrie)

Soon — with a police escort from several towns — they headed onto I-95. Their route of remembrance took them to Exit 17, Riverside Avenue, Wilton Road, and through 8 other Fairfield County towns.

(Photo copyright by Ted Horowitz)

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Every year, the arrival of spring in Westport is heralded by the “Daffodil Mile” — the long, winding rows of daffodils at Willowbrook Cemetery on Main Street.

Daffodil Mile, at Willowbrook Cemetery … (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

For the past few years, daffodils have also bloomed throughout the rest of Westport. On Prospect Road, in Saugatuck, in traffic islands everywhere, the week of yellow flowers brings smiles to Westporters sick and tired of snow and slush.

Greens Farms Road, at Prospect Road.

Those daffodils don’t just fall from the sky (to mix metaphors). They’re the product of plenty of planning — and planting.

“Paint the Town Yellow” is a project begun 4 years ago by Debra Kandrak. This fall — prime daffodil-planting time — she encourages everyone, of all ages, to plant “around our neighborhoods, around street signs, mailbox posts, in front of your business, in front of the Police and Fire Departments.” She’d love for schools to be involved too.

This year’s theme is “plant in memory of a loved one lost.”

The easiest way to plant, Debra says, is to dig a trench and pop the bulbs in (pointy side up). Costco sells 50 bulbs for $13.99.

After you plant, email the location to debra.kandrak@raveis.com. She’ll come around next spring, and take photos.

Which, of course, she will share with “06880.”

So get going. Spring is only 7 months away.

Daffodil bulbs from Costco. (Photo/Debra Kandrak)

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The New York Times says that this November’s Metropolitan Opera staged premiere of “The Hours” is “New York City’s opera event of the fall.”

In addition to renowned soprano Renée Fleming, it stars Kelli O’Hara. The Times calls the Westport resident “a Tony Award-decorated musical theater actress with opera bona fides (even at the Met, where she was a standout as Despina in Mozart’s ‘Così Fan Tutte’).”

That’s part of the intro to an interview published yesterday with Fleming, O’Hara and Joyce DiDonato.

Click here for the full (and very interesting) piece.

Kelli O’Hara (Photo/Thea Traff for New York Times)

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Every Staples High School reunion is a cause for celebration and remembrance.

COVID caused the Class of 1980 to wait an extra 2 years to gather for their 40th. But as they got together last month (and shook their heads that they’re all now 60 years old, or about to be) they turned their thoughts to classmate Susan Lloyd.

The popular, always-active native Westporter was diagnosed with cancer as a senior. She passed away while at Colgate University. Her parents and friends created the Susan Fund in her honor. For 4 decades, it has provided important educational scholarships to Fairfield County students diagnosed with cancer.

Ten years ago, the reunion class raised $2,300 for the Susan Fund. This year, they contributed $5,500.

Kelly Frey Pollard — Susan’s good friend, and a Susan Fund board member — created a beautiful display, with letters from classmates to Susan and her family during her battle with cancer. Classmates were encouraged to take their letters home, as mementoes.

Over 130 alumni attended the reunion. A 45th is planned for 2025 — with another contribution to the Susan Fund. To find out, more follow the “Staples Class 1980” Facebook page, or email Amy Potts: amy@aapk.com,

The Class of 1980 display, of cards and letters sent to Susan Lloyd.

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The Westport Woman’s Club big clothing tag sale is next month. They’re getting ready — which means, they need items to sell.

Tax-deductible donations of new or gently-worn women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, and accessories like shoes, handbags, scarves, hats and jewelry, can be dropped off weekdays (9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m.) at the WWC (44 Imperial Avenue).

Funds raised from this clothing tag sale support the town food closet, local charities throughout Fairfield County, and student scholarships.

The clothing tag sale is set for October 28-29 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and October 30 (noon to 3 p.m.). For more information, call 203-227-4240 or email  wwc@westportwomansclub.org.

Westport Woman’s Club tag sale.

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Longtime Westporter Geoffrey Hooper died last week. He was 87 years old.

He was born in Victoria, British Columbia. After serving in the Canadian Air Force he met his first wife, Jeannette Lauzon, and moved to Connecticut to work for his father-in-law at Stamford Typesetting Corporation. In 1976 he bought the company with a partner, Frank DeBartolo.

At Stamford Type Geoff was a force to be reckoned with as a typesetter, salesman, accountant, proofreader and generous employer. He loved taking clients out charter fishing from Old Saybrook, and delivering bags of bluefish fillets to clients and friends. As the business changed from linotype to computers to desktop publishing and scanning, he kept up with all the new technologies.

When his children were growing up in Westport, Geoff was active in the Westport Community Theater and other acting groups. 

After retiring in 2008 he spent most of his time at his favorite place: home. Geoff was a talented gardener who always grew too many seedlings, but was happy to share them with family and friends. He enjoyed reading, cooking, traveling, theatergoing, and the YMCA’s water aerobics classes.

He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Suzy; his brother Murray (Barbara); his children and their partners Debbie (Norman), Lynne (Gary), Geoff Jr. (Susan) and Kenneth (Kim); his grandchildren and great-grandchildren; his brother- and sister-in-law, Ken Solomon and Janice Lakey, and many other relatives and friends.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to a cause of your choice.

Geoff Hooper, in the water.

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Last March, 3 dolphins hung out for a few days in Bermuda Lagoon, by Saugatuck Shores.

Westport architect Peter Cadoux did not see them. In all his years has boating on Long Island Sound, in fact, he has not seen a single dolphin.

Yesterday he made up for that. Peter was awed by a pod of about 100 dolphins, cavorting a couple of miles off Smithtown Bay. That’s almost directly across the water from Westport.

Here’s a close-up, for today’s fascinating “Westport … Naturally” feature:

(Photos/Peter Cadoux)

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And finally … in honor of the pod of dolphins, last seen frolicking in Long Island Sound:

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(Without “06880,” would you know there were dolphins right off our coast? Please click here, to help us continue to bring you all the stories of where Westport meets the world.)