Category Archives: Obituaries

Remembering Nicholas Rossi

Nicholas Rossi — the World War II veteran who won the hearts of Westporters after moving here 3 years ago, and served memorably as grand marshal of last May’s Memorial Day parade — died peacefully yesterday morning. He was 99 years old.

Nicholas Rossi

Before his Memorial Day honor, I had the privilege and joy of interviewing him. Here is the story I posted.

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Nicholas Rossi’s mother did not want him to join the military.

Her first-born son, with 3 brothers and 1 sister, had just graduated from Long Island’s Oyster Bay High School. But World War II was raging. Her father had fought in World War I. Nicholas ended up in the infantry.

If he was going to be in the service, his mother thought, at least get a different assignment. Thanks to someone his father knew — he worked as a caretaker on an estate — Rossi ended up in the Army Air Corps.

After training in Texas, his 305th Bombardment Group of the 364th Squadron was assigned to the 8th Air Force Bomber Command in England.

They flew B-17 “Flying Fortress” bombers in the European Theater. Rossi was a technical sergeant.

Technical sergeant Nicholas Rossi.

“I was not a professional engineer,” he recalls from his home in Westport, where — age 98 — he lives with his son Paul and daughter-in-law Marguerite. “But that aircraft was like a baby to me.”

Besides taking care of the planes on the ground, Rossi flew multiple missions. Seated behind the pilot and co-pilot, he handled fuel and any mechanical problems.

The Germans “shot the hell out of us,” Rossi says. But he was never shot down.

He survived the war. Now — over 75 years later — Nicholas Rossi is the grand marshal of Westport’s Memorial Day parade, on May 31.

When the war ended, Rossi’s mother hoped he’d come home. But superiors suggested he stay after his discharge, and help locate and identify the remains of military personnel.

He spent the next 4 years in Liege, Belgium as a civilian, employed by the government with the American Graves Registration Command.

Nick Rossi, during wintertime service.

“It was not a nice job,” he says simply. But it provided closure for families, particularly those that traveled to Europe to reclaim their sons and husbands.

After returning to Long Island in 1949, he entered Hofstra University on the GI Bill. “They treated soldiers well,” Rossi says. After graduation he earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering.

A successful career in the furniture industry followed, with Kroehler, Thomasville and Lexington. As a manufacturer’s representative and regional sales manager — and with an intuitive sense for sales and business — he earned accolades and awards.

After more than 40 years — by then in his 70s — Rossi retired. He had more time for hobbies like golf (he’d won the Brookville Country Club championship, and played into his 90s), gardening, Knights of Columbus, Oyster Bay Italian-American Citizens Club, and the country club board.

He especially enjoyed his many grandchildren.

Rossi first met Betty Braun on the Long Island Rail Road, heading home from work. Married for 60 years, they raised 5 children — Paul, Christine, Caren, Carla and Peter — in the house he built in Mill Neck.

When Betty died 3 years ago, Rossi moved to Paul’s house in Greens Farms. Almost instantly, he became a Senior Center regular. He had a regular lunch table group (ladies flocked to him), and enjoyed chair aerobics, bingo, conversation groups and Dr. Paul Epstein’s mind/body sessions. All that is now on hold, due to COVID.

“He’s taken full advantage of Westport,” his daughter-in-law — and ardent companion — says.

“The war made him resilient. He just picked up, came here and rolled with it.”

Nicholas Rossi in Westport. He and his grandson Nick built this model of the B-17 bomber Rossi serviced and flew in during World War II. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Rossi also got involved with St. Luke’s Church. He met fellow veterans at the VFW. He especially loved watching his grandchildren Caroline, Charlotte and Nick perform as actors, musicians and athletes at Staples High School.

Even before he moved here, Rossi attended the Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Green, where his grandchildren performed.

Later this month, he’ll be back for another parade, wreath-laying and “Taps.”

This time, it will be in a well-deserved seat of honor.

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Nick Rossi — the grandson and namesake of last year’s Memorial Day grand marshal — delivered remarks for his grandfather. It was a remarkable speech, one that deserves to be read today as we honor our friend, neighbor, and member of the “Greatest Generation.” Click here to see. 

Grand marshal/grandfather Nicholas Rossi, and his grandson and namesake. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Roundup: Masks, Ben McFall, Skating Rink …

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As COVID cases soar in Westport, a concerned “06880” reader writes:

“Our positivity rate is through the roof. The statistics as of Wednesday were near 18%. When other variants were circulating, an indoor mask mandate was in place.

“Currently there is no mask mandate, except government or municipal buildings. I cannot comprehend why there is no mandate reinstated for all indoor spaces in Westport.

“Masks have proven to work in preventing the spread of COVID. As we are all aware, the Omicron variant is extremely contagious. Westport residents, as well as people who work here, would be much safer with a mask mandate in place.

“Not having everyone wear masks indoors puts all of us in danger, especially the older and immuno-compromised populations.

“This has nothing to do with politics or the economy; it has to do solely with health. Whether people agree or not, it is honestly not much of an inconvenience to mask while indoors in order to protect people.

“Let’s keep everyone safe. Let’s reinstate a mask mandate.”

Masks did not detract from Staples High School’s Candlelight Concert earlier this month.. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Yesterday’s New York Times carried a fascinating obituary of Ben McFall. It calls him “the longest-tenured bookseller in the history of the Strand, New York’s renowned bookstore, who for decades peered above his spectacles at a line of acolytes, tourists and young colleagues for whom he incarnated the store’s erudite but easygoing spirit.” He died last week at his home in Jersey City. He was 73, and suffered from pulmonary fibrosis.

The story notes that after graduating from Olivet College with a degree in French and music in 1971, he moved with college friends to Connecticut — and worked at the Remarkable Book Shop in Westport.

“A co-worker told Mr. McFall she could see him at the Strand,” the Times says. “He had never heard of the place, but in 1978 he arrived in New York and interviewed for a job.” He was hired on the spot.

Click here for the full obituary. (Hat tips: Tom Prince, Jackie Kaplan, Adam Stolpen, Mark Lassoff and Fred Cantor)

Ben McFall (Photo/Julie Glassberg for the New York Times)

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The Longshore skating rink is sponsored by Westport PAL. That stands, of course, for “Police Athletic League.”

To promote this year’s season, the Police Department took this image:

It’s a great one. And we’re not the only ones who think so.

It’s now the Photo of the Week on Police1.com — the go-to site for national police news.

Like the rink itself, that’s very, very cool.

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If you’re like 90% of Westporters*, your New Year’s resolution is: “Get fit” (or “fitter”).

Why wait?**

The Joggers Club starts 2022 on the right foot (ho ho), with their annual 3.5-mile run (Saturday, January 1, 8 a.m., Compo Beach).

But wait! There’s more! Cool off with a Polar Plunge at 10.

For a $50 annual fee, you’ll get access to exclusive parties, 41 group runs, post-run coffee and treats, a Brooks running shirt ($35 value!), a ton of fun — and you’ll get in great shape.

Click here, or check out Instagram (@TheJoggersClub).

PS: Save the date: Joggers Club Jr. (ages 5 to 13) returns April 3. Six weeks of 75-minute coached sessions, for just $99.

*The other 10%? See below.

**Because then you won’t do it.

This could be you! (Photo/Armelle Pouriche-Daniels)

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Perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to find inner peace.

Pause + Purpose is ready. A new studio on 21 Jesup Road — right near Westport Book Shop — they offer drop-in meditation weekdays (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.). They also plan to launch mindfulness gatherings soon.

Founder Emily Vartanian-Tuttle says: “The world is especially stressful right now, and our collective mental health and wellness is suffering. We have built a positive communal space for meditation and discussion in the heart of Westport.

“Scientists are beginning to understand that meditation is essential to a healthy mental landscape, and there is no better way to dedicate yourself to a practice than with the backing of a whole community behind you. We offer meditation modalities and group support, backed by science to improve mental, social, and emotional wellbeing.

“Our professional staff includes psychologists, counselors, nutritionists, and the like, addressing issues such as postpartum depression, social anxiety, dietary challenges, and mourning, among others.

“Drop in for a self-led practice or join one of our high-quality children and adult mindfulness gatherings, where a seasoned meditation teacher will lead you and a group in meditation and discussion.” Click here to learn more.

The soothing interior of Pause + Purpose.

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Jolantha — Weston’s most famous (or at least most visible) sculpture — greets the New Year:

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

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Our final “Westport … Naturally” photo of 2021 shows one of our town’s most popular (and most photographed) scenes: Grace Salmon Park.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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And finally … good riddance, 2021!

There was not a lot to laugh at this year. But try this:

 

Roundup: At-Home COVID Kits, Tree Recycling, Keith Richards …

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The State of Connecticut has procured 500,000 at-home COVID test kits; each contains 2 tests. Westport’s allotment 3,420 kits.

The kits will be distributed to Westport residents tomorrow (Thursday, December 30) at Staples High School, beginning at 1 p.m.

Each vehicle will receive 2 kits, on a first-come, first-served basis. A driver’s license will be required to receive the test kits.

As early as next week, the state will also distribute N95 masks. Details are still being finalized.

Connecticut Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani says:

I strongly encourage people to limit gathering sizes during this holiday week. Because of the scarcity of these kits, I ask residents to please take only the kits that you need for your immediate family so that we can distribute as many as possible to help flatten the Omicron curve.

Residents testing positive via the home test should stay home or isolate for 5 days if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. There is no need to obtain a follow up PCR test.

Given the highly infectious nature of the Omicron variant, it is vital to wear a mask both in public, and when interacting in close contact with individuals outside of your household. For the latest CDC guidelines, please click here.

Westport Public Schools families should report positive COVID cases of students using the district’s reporting voicemail or email (click here for details). It is not necessary to report positive results from at-home testing to the Westport Weston Health District. (Hat tip: Ernie Lorimer)

An at-home COVID test.

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COVID did not stop you from buying a Christmas tree.

And it won’t stop Boy Scout Troop 39 from hauling yours away, either.

The Scouts’ annual tree pick-up project — one of the town’s most-awaited post-New Year’s events — is set for Saturday, January 8.

It’s simple: First you register (click here).

Then put your tree by your mailbox by 6:30 a.m. on January 8. Tape an envelope with a donation (suggested: $20 per tree) to your front door (cash or check, payable to “Boy Scout Troop 39”).

They’ll do the rest. Scout’s honor! (Hat tip: Jenny Rago McCarthy)

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This has been a tough year for many. It’s been especially difficult for the Colletti family.

Chuck and Roe Colletti have been active with Westport organizations, events and charities since 1974. Their daughter Cassie is married to Sean Mecsery. They have 2 children, 6 and 2 years old. For the past 2 years Sean has battled stage 4 brain cancer for 2 years.

They’ve shuttled between hospitals on both coasts for surgeries, chemotherapy radiation and trial medications. It’s been brutal.

Cassie has been strong, focused and committed throughout the ordeal. Meanwhile, she’s managed Sean’s family’s business — Cos Cob TV & Audio — to help keep the family afloat. COVID has made that especially hard.

Many daily medications and infusions are not covered by insurance. A GoFundMe page has been set up, to help. To donate, click here.

Sean and Cassie Colletti Mecsery, with their kids.

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The “06880” tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.”

It doesn’t get more global than this.

Bert Spenkelink lives in Amsterdam. He loves the Rolling Stones. He has 25,000 photos of them in his library, and posts about them often on Instagram.

He just uploaded this one:

The photographer — uncredited — took this shot of Keith and his daughter Theodora the other day, at Sherwood Island State Park.

Avid “06880” reader (and Stones fan) Fred Cantor sent it along to me. He got it from our former Staples High School classmate Alan Bravin, who now lives in California.

So, to be clear: A fan in the Netherlands found this photo of Weston’s most famous resident, celebrating the holidays in Westport — and it came to me, a couple of miles from where it was taken, by someone on the West Coast.

Happy holidays, Bert, Fred, Alan, Keith and Theodora!

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As reported on “06880” last month, Savannah Bee has left its hive.

The Bedford Square store — which branched out from (great) honey products to become both an educational center and gathering place for ecologically minded Westporters — was shut by the owners of the largely Southern chain.

There’s a big hole in the heart of Church Lane today. No word yet on what will fill that very sweet spot.

Meanwhile, just a few feet away, Franny’s Farmacy closes Friday (December 31). Click here for details, reported earlier this month on “06880.”

It too is for rent.

The former Savannah Bee. (Photo/Sal Liccione)

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Fourth-generation Westporter Jonathan Maddock died December 19, after fighting a courageous battle against ALS. He kept his positive attitude and wonderful sense of humor until the end. He was 66 years old.

Jon grew up here surrounded by the love and friendship of his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins,  sisters and parents Larry and Fran Maddock, who he believed were the best parents anyone could have.

Jon loved the outdoors, and enthusiastically embraced life. He bicycled more than 5,000 miles from Westport to California and back, alone. He served as commodore of the Sandy Hook (New Jersey) Catamaran Club, sailing and racing catamarans.

He skied, mountain biked, ran long distances, ice skated, and enjoyed trout and fly fishing. He was an avid photographer of nature, as well as silly things. Jon was a skilled woodworker, building furniture and special wooden boxes as Christmas gifts. He loved listening to music, played trombone (which he laughingly balanced on his nose), and long ago enjoyed being part of the Fred Robinson Big Band.

Jon graduated from Staples in 1973, then from the University of Maine in 1977. After following a variety of career paths he and his family settled in Wolfeboro. New Hampshire, where he was employed as senior designer at Lars Heating Systems. He worked there for 20 years, and made good friends who supported him through his ALS journey.

Jon is survived by his wife Karen; daughter Kelsey; loving sisters Becky (Ray) Racine, Judy Anderson and Sandy Hasket, and many nieces an nephews and good friends. He was predeceased by his parents.

Until the end Jon was was loving, kind, understanding, compassionate, smart, funny and brave. To help carry on Jon’s fight to stop ALS, click here.

Jon Maddock (Photo/Barbara Marks)

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For a few days now, a Christmas tree has dangled from a crane over the boatyard near the railroad station.

(Photo/Nancy Vener)

There must be a back story. But I sure don’t know it. If you do, click “Comments” below.

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We like serene scenes for our “Westport … Naturally” feature — especially at the end of this chaotic year.

It doesn’t get more calming than this:

(Photo/Bobbi Essagof)

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And finally … in honor of the Keith Richards/Amsterdam/California story (above):

Remembering Horace Lewis

Horace Lewis — Staples High School’s hugely respected, always helpful, ever-smiling head custodian for many years — died last night.

Horace Lewis

He suffered a major stroke this summer, just a few months after retiring from the Westport Public Schools. For 32 years, he gave his heart and soul to our district

After fighting to recover, he suffered a setback earlier this month when he was diagnosed with COVID. His wife Bonnie said:

Horace went quietly and comfortably. He was just too tired too fight. The love, concern,. and support from all is amazing. He would be humbled, and so grateful for everything. All the thoughtful, kind, encouraging words have lifted his spirits.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

In September, “06880” honored Horace Lewis. Here is that post:

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For 32 years, Horace Lewis did everything for everyone in Westport.

Now it’s time for Westport to do something for him.

When he retired in July of 2020, he was honored as “06880’s” Unsung Hero of the Week. I wrote about his devotion to Staples High School. Horace was head custodian there — following the same role at Coleytown Middle School — and though he was a stay-out-of-the-limelight guy, I wanted to shine a light on the care and love he lavished on the building.

Classrooms, hallways, auditorium, a gym and fieldhouse and athletic fields, a cafeteria and 2 teaching kitchens, a library, TV studio, storage areas, boilers and HVAC systems — Horace knew them all. He made them sparkle, shine and work.

Horace Lewis, in a typical pose.

He hired and supervised a superb staff. He held them to high standards. But whenever something went wrong, he was the one who got the call. Broken pipes, a bad odor, a security alarm: Horace was there.

His was a stressful job. But never stopped smiling, working, or serving the building and everyone in it.

Horace Lewis (right) and shift supervisor Tom Cataudo greet the staff and students during the 2015 graduation processional.

Even after his official retirement, stayed on. Staples was coping with COVID. Every hand was needed, so Horace lent his.

Five months ago, he got the chance to retire fully. He helped his daughter with her business. He enjoyed his kids and grandchildren. It was what retirement should be.

But on the day of his 35th anniversary a major stroke derailed his plans, and his life with his wife Bonnie.

Horace went into cardiac arrest twice. He is now in recovery, working to regain his motor skills, speech, and walking capabilities.

When Horace returns home, he will need a wheelchair ramp and other necessities. Meanwhile, bills not covered by insurance pile up. It’s a very tough situation for the entire family.

Horace faced many tough situations, at Staples and Coleytown. With intelligence, creativity, patience — and always a smile — he solved them all.

Family and friends have set up a GoFundMe page. Click here, to pay forward a little bit of the large debt we all owe Horace Lewis.

Remembering Larry Michaels

Longtime Westport architect Larry Michaels died last month. His family sends this remembrance:

“I want to live to 100 so I can be on the Smucker’s jar!” was what he always said, but that wish was not to be fulfilled. Larry passed away November 24. Despite not reaching his goal, he lived a very happy, full life, with a most positive attitude till he was 90 1/2.

In May we had many wonderful celebrations to commemorate his big 90th birthday, Though he was a man of few words, Larry made a beautiful speech, saying something to each person.

Larry was born and raised in Norwalk. He found his passion when he visited a friend in the Architecture Department, and saw models of structures that students had built. He studied at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s 5-year program, graduating in 1953.

For 46 years he practiced architecture in Westport, and was published in national and international magazines. His work included residential, commercial buildings, shopping centers and malls, stores, condos, in and around Connecticut, New York, California, St. Martin and more.

Larry Michaels

As a young architect Larry was an active member of the board of Westport Community Theater, and designed sets for their shows. He was also member of the Westport Zoning Board of Appeals and Architectural Review Board.

One of his most exciting projects was designing Dave Brubeck’s home in Wilton. A formal Japanese garden enhanced the entrance to the “strongly Oriental- influenced estate.” This project was particularly meaningful, because Larry was a jazz enthusiast.

His work was toured several times, including the Westport Historical Society’s 2010 exhibit, “Westport Modern: When Cool Was Hot”.

Larry was a member of the Connecticut Society of Architects. He was licensed to practice by the State of Connecticut Architectural Examining Board and the National Council of Architectural Registration Board Examinations.

Retirement came in 2006, when Larry and Linda moved to Los Angeles. Along with the wonderful weather, he looked forward to taking classes at the Santa Monica Emeritus College. His favorite was “Exercising the Brain.” He looked forward to word puzzles each week where his humor and intellect were greatly appreciated. He also enjoyed the Survey of Art, and the music classes.

Every day, for decades, he did the puzzles in The New York Times or Los Angeles Times. Larry was always learning.

Larry had a passion for sports. For many years he coached the Little League Pontiacs team in Westport. He was an ardent Mets fan when living in the East, and a Dodgers fan on the West Coast.

Linda and Larry had many adventures, including travels to Canada, Europe, and the Middle and Far East. His most memorable was to China and Bali. For 22 years, they vacationed in St. Marten where Larry had designed The Ocean Club.

He leaves behind his wife, architectural designer Linda Zamelsky, of 36 years. They worked together for 22 years. He also leaves his East Coast family of daughter Jennifer (Scott) Soodek and grandchildren Jessica, Sara and Jake (and their spouses/partners); son Eric (Sharon) and grandchildren Jonathan and Jordan (and their spouses/partners). His previous marriage was to Toby Michaels of Westport.

On the West Coast, he leaves behind Dr. Janeen Locker (and partner) and grandchildren Anji and Rafa, and Dr. Brendan Armm (Winter) and grandchildren River and Leaf.

Larry died peacefully at home, surrounded by family singing to him “Amazing Grace” and his favorite, “It’s a Wonderful World.”:

The funeral was private. Donations in memory of Larry may be sent to the charity of your choice, or Santa Monica Emeritus College.

Roundup: Jose Feliciano, Fred Cantor, Angelo Veno …

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There are lots of Christmas songs I get sick of.

“Feliz Navidad” is not one of them.

José Feliciano’s buoyant, jangly tune is 51 years old. Now — just in time for Navidad — a documentary about the life and music of the longtime Weston resident will be screened just a couple of miles away.

The Norwalk Film Festival will screen “Behind This Guitar” on Saturday, December 18 (7:30 p.m.) at the Wall Street Theatre. The movie follows Feliciano’s journey from growing up blind in Puerto Rico, to his 9 Grammy Awards and international acclaim. Click here for details and ticket information.

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Speaking of entertainment: Monday’s “06880” story about next month’s “Stars on Stage From Westport Country Playhouse” PBS series noted a major gift from Roz and Bud Siegel.

But several other Westporters were big contributors too. Hats off to Judy and Scott Phares, Eunice and David Bigelow, Kate and Bob Devlin, Joyce Hergenhan, Anna Czekaj-Farber, Mary Ellen and Jim Marpe, Christian J. and Eva Trefz, and Stacy and Howard Bass. 

The show will go on — thanks to some very generous neighbors!

(From left): Shoshana Bean, Brandon Victor Dixon, Gavin Creel: stars of “Stars on Stage.”

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Have you found “Finding Westport”?

That’s the online site for local-themed apparel and more.

Jillian Elder has just added a new Minute Man design. It’s available on tank tops, t-shirts, hoodies, tumblers, mugs and tote bags.

It’s a great way to show off your town pride (and a lot cheaper than that other Westport icon: a Range Rover). Click here for styles and orders.

“Finding Westport”‘s Minute Man hoodie.

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Yesterday’s “06880” story on fences reminded June Rose Whittaker of this one:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

It’s one of Westport’s most visible: Riverside Avenue, at Treadwell.

The intricate, whimsical fence — designed by Andrew Hamilton Reise — was the subject of an “06880” Photo Challenge in July.

As many readers knew, the owners are Pietro and Janine Scotti. He’s the owner/chef of the former and still beloved Da Pietro’s restaurant, just down Riverside (and across the street) closer to town.

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A Conservation Department reminder:

If your property has or is adjacent to wetlands, a watercourse or a pond, all residents and contractors should “call before you dig.” If you’re unsure whether the property contains wetlands, call the Conservation Department: 203-341-1170.

The last year has seen an increase in violations. resulting in unpermitted building, cutting, clearing and filling of wetlands.

Violations cause owners having to cease work, appear at public meetings, pay fines and post bonds. Violations are also part of the public record.

Property owners and/or contractors should contact the Conservation Department before work starts, to determine what permits are required.

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Looking for a gift for a sports fan?

It helps if he or she loves the New York Knicks. But a fan of any team — or any sport — can appreciate the passion of Fred Cantor. The 1971 Staples High School graduate and longtime “06880” contributor recently wrote Fred From Fresh Meadows.

It’s a loving account of the ups and downs of fandom, sure. There’s another reason to buy it though: All proceeds go to the John Starks Foundation. The Stamford-based nonprofit helps high school students afford college.

Click here for more information. Click here for last night’s News12 story on Cantor and the book.

Screenshot from last night’s News12 interview with Fred Cantor.

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Angelo “Cookup” Veno — a true son of Saugatuck — died earlier this month, after a long and happy life.

Born in Saugatuck in 1928 to Louis and Mary Veno, he went through the Westport public school system. After school each day, Angelo manually set pins at the bowling alley downtown.

He was a 3-sport athlete at Staples High School, starring in football, basketball and baseball. After graduating in 1946 he played semi-pro football with the Westport Advertisers, and basketball with the Saugatuck Veterans, Westport YMCA and Clam Box 5.

Angelo also took up boxing, and had a 12-2 record as a pro. In 1986 he earned a Sportsman of Westport award.

In 1951 Angelo joined the Navy. He served for 4 years on the USS Howard D. Crow as an engineer. He joined the fleet’s boxing team, and lost only one fight.

Following his service he came back to Westport and helped coach the Westport PAL football team. He and his first wife, Judith Lissberger, had 2 children, Timothy and Belinda. Both remember their trips to New York Giants’ exhibition games in Pittsburgh, then straight to the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy for dinner.

Angelo married Theresa Karutz in 1984, a former Miss Atlantic City winner. He enjoyed spending time with his stepsons Wallace and William Karutz.

Angelo had a long and successful career in the world of construction as president and CEO of his company, AJ Veno Construction. He started the business as a window replacement company, and grew it into a full-fledged construction company. He built corporate buildings and residential homes for many years.

Angelo made friends and made people everywhere, from the local pizza restaurant to nurses caring for him. He loved spending time at Compo Beach, with friends or alone feeding birds.

Angelo is survived by his brother Joe and sister Theresa (Richard Valentine). He was predeceased by his sister Ida Lockwood. He is also survived by his children, Timothy Veno (partner Gwen Purcell) and Belinda (Richard Benincasa); grandchildren Richard (Nora Benincasa), Ryan (Noelle Benincasa) and Morgan Benincasa; many cousins, nieces and nephews, and his recent great-grandchild, Ryan Casey Benincasa.

A funeral is set for Monday (December 13, 10 a.m., Assumption Church) for a Mass of Christian Burial. Interment with full military honors will follow in Assumption Cemetery on Greens Farms Road. The family will receive friends in the Harding Funeral Home on Sunday (December 12, 2 to 6 p.m.) Click here to leave online condolences.

Angelo Veno

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The family of Joel Hallas has announced 2 options for donations in his memory. Click here for the Connecticut Food Bank; click here for the American Radio Relay League, for ham radio operators.

Joel Hallas

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It’s already gone. But yesterday morning’s snow provided the perfect subject for today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo, from Bob and Karen Weingarten’s lawn:

(Photo/Karen Weingarten)

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And finally … Emily Dickinson was born today, in 1830. She may be the only 19th-century poet immortalized in the words of a 20th-century singers.

Roundup: La Plage, Indigo Wellness, Ed Van Gelder …

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La Plage — the Longshore Inn restaurant — is much more than a summer place.

They’re offering prix fixe holiday menus that reflect holiday traditions, while incorporating “coastal flavors.”

The Christmas Eve (4 to 10 p.m.) and Christmas Day (noon to 6:30 p.m.) menus ($79 per person) include starters like crispy Copps Island oysters with green tomato remoulade, and Maine lobster mosaic; entrees such as Stonington sea scallops risotto and Alen Brother filet mignon; and desserts like Christmas trifle and Connecticut maple syrup panna cotta. Click here for the full menu.

New Year’s Eve features an a la carte menu, with the first seating from 4 to 6:30 p.m.

There’s dancing and a 5-course prix fixe menu ($175 per person) from 8 to 10 p.m. Specialties include wild salmon tartare, Périgord truffle salad, local black sea bass a la plancha, and crispy duck breast. Click here for the New Year’s Eve menu

New Year’s Day brunch is served a la carte, from noon to 2:30 p.m.

Click here for reservations, or call 203-684-6232.

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The third time’s the charm for Indigo Wellness Group.

When Sarah Swanberg owned her first acupuncture location in Stamford, many customers came from Westport. They urged her to open here.

Right before COVID struck, she signed a lease near Terrain. She never opened — and closed her Stamford studio for 3 months, too.

Then she found a space by the Delamar Hotel in Southport. But that didn’t feel right either.

Then Roger Leifer offered an office at the Willows medical complex, on Kings Highway North at Wilton Road. Indigo offers acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, with a focus on women’s health, fertility and pregnancy, insomnia, anxiety, headaches and chronic pain.

Indigo also offers facial cosmetic acupuncture and micro needling, pelvic floor physical therapy, virtual nutrition consultations and online courses.

Sarah loves Westport. She’s been welcomed by the community.

Last month she was also welcomed by Governor Lamont, when he toured local businesses with actress and social media influencer (and Westporter) Eva Amurri. Click below to see:

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In case you missed the previous notice: A memorial service for Julie Belaga — our former state representative, gubernatorial candidate, regional EPA administrator and Export-Import Bank director — is set for 10 a.m. on December 19, at the Westport Library.

She was one of Westport’s great public servants — and a wonderful woman too.

Julie Belaga

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Longtime Westport resident Edgar Louis Van Gelder died Thanksgiving Day at his residence in Meadow Ridge in Georgetown. He was 98 years old.

He spent his childhood in Hilversum, Holland with his sister Ada and brother Joost. His family fled the Nazi regime, and arrived in the US in 1939.

After graduating from Windsor Mountain School in Vermont, Ed enlisted in the Royal Netherlands Army Air Force. After training in Jackson, Mississippi he was assigned to the No. 18 (NEI) Squadron RAAF. They fought in the South Pacific against Japanese occupation of what was then the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).

As a navigator Ed took part in over 40 bombing raids, facing heavy enemy defenses. The squadron was based on the northern coast of Australia under American-British-Dutch-Australian Command. After the war, he transported prisoners from Japanese internment camps. For his service, Queen Juliana awarded him the Silver Flying Cross of the Netherlands.

After discharge, Ed attended New York University. He soon joined the Van Gelder-Fanto Corporation in Manhattan, specializing in pharmaceuticals. In 1958 he became a full partner. With his partner Stan Hier, he expanded the business to become a global competitor.

In 1949 Ed married Inge Lange. She was born in Germany, but as a small child in 1927 immigrated to the US with her mother. The couple lived first in Tarrytown, New York,, then moved to Westport in 1952. In 1961 they purchased the Guyer Farm on Hillspoint Road, and spent the next half century refurbishing the house and barn.

A businessman, husband, father, passionate sailor and aviator, Ed spent his retirement traveling with his wife. His most memorable voyage was to Antarctica on a Russian research vessel. Ed and Inge were active members of the Westport Community Theater throughout the 1960’s. After his retirement, they delivered Meals on Wheels.

He became a member of the Y’s Men, and was elected to Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

Ed was predeceased by his wife and siblings. He is survived by his son Jeff, daughter Caroline, and grandsons Robin, Alex and Erin.

Ed Van Gelder

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Sure, the holidays are hectic. Hopefully, you can take a few moments and “reflect” on today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo:

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … in honor of our new acupuncture spot, Indigo Wellness:

Roundup: Techno Claus, Tree Lights, Trailer Park …

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Santa Claus comes once a year.

Techno Claus too.

The “CBS Sunday Morning” staple — aka David Pogue (don’t tell the kids!) made an earlier-than-usual appearance in 2021. He told “06880” he wanted to make sure there were no supply chain issues with any suggestions.

As usual, much of the segment was filmed in David’s Westport home. Both Santa and Techno Claus know it well.

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David Meth likes the Wakeman Town Farm Christmas tree lights. A lot.

He does not like the lights on the Town Hall tree.

(Photos/David Meth)

David says: “The lack of warmth lighting up the Christmas tree at Town Hall is its usual, typical, surgical, antiseptic white—an embarrassment to the town. Yet it goes on year after year without change or care by the administration, who seem to lack an understanding of how color positively affects people.

“The town is very clear as it  expresses an attitude that announces: ‘Get it done to say it’s been done.’ The warmth exuded from the tree at Wakeman Farm is what we should expect—welcoming, full of life and color for all.”

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Rod Serling has not lived in Westport for 60 years. And he’s been dead for 45.

But visitors to Sherwood Island have recently experienced a “Twilight Zone” moment. There — in the middle of our beautiful, wooded beachside state park — sits a decrepit trailer park.

(Photo/Werner Lipeolt)

Has it sat there — unnoticed — for years? But wait — why is there a trailer park in a state park?

Because it’s a movie set, silly!

As “06880” has reported several times, Netflix is filming “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” there. The Stephen King thriller stars Donald Sutherland and Jaeden Martell, and will be released next year. 

When, presumably, the Black Bear Trailer Park is just a long-ago memory.

PS: How about some kind of Oscar for that set designer?!

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Youn Su Chao has resigned from the Board of Education.

Her replacement must be a registered Democrat. Letters of application should be submitted by email (lgoldstein@westportps.org) or to Westport Board of Education, Town Hall Room 307, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880. The deadline is next Monday (December 13).

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The Greens Farms Garden Club does wonderful work. And not just in the 06838 zip code.

The other day, members beautified the Gillespie Center men’s shelter downtown. They weeded, trimmed, raked, pulled vines and planted daffodils all around the property across behind Barnes & Noble (and around the corner from Tiffany).

The area was so overgrown, it was hard to find the stone wall or bench in the area.  Now it looks great.

Early next spring, Garden Club members will trim back larger shrubs, and add more plantings.

Greens Farms Garden Club members take a brief break at the Gillespie Center.

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Tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m., the state Department of Transportation hosts a virtual public information meeting about the replacement of the Greens Farms Road Sasco Brook bridge.

The presentation will be recorded. Click here for instructions on how to access the meeting, and how to provide comments or ask questions.

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Joel Robert Hallas (W1ZR) died peacefully at home in Westport on Thanksgiving morning, with his family by his side, after a hard 3 -year fight against pancreatic cancer. He was 79.

Joel was an electrical engineer, sailboat owner and expert in telecommunications and amateur radio. He wrote 7 books about ham radio and antennas.

A 1960 graduate of Greenwich High School, he served in the Army from 1962-65. Stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, he earned the rank of E5 in the Signal Corps. He then graduated with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from the University of Connecticut.

While working at Raytheon, Joel earned a master of science in electrical engineering from Northeastern University. He also worked for Norden Systems, GTE, IBM, Seagram’s and AT&T, on radar and telecommunications projects. He taught telecommunications at the Rochester Institute of Technology from 1993-1997.

In Westport he was known for sailing his sloop Windfall on Long Island Sound, with family, friends, co-workers, Y’s Men and his golden retrievers. He twice served as commodore of the Minuteman Yacht Club. He was appointed to the Parks & Recreation Commission, where he headed the committee that was instrumental in improving Compo Beach’s Ned Dimes Marina, including the concrete flotation docks that increased capacity and convenience.

At the end of his career Joel joined the staff of the National Association of Amateur Radio as technical editor of their journal QST. He wrote a popular monthly column and did a podcast called “The Doctor is In,” answering technical questions from hams.

Among the books Joel wrote are Basic Radio; Basic Antennas; The ARRL Guide to Antenna Tuners; Hamspeak; The Care and Feeding of Transmission Lines; Understanding Your Antenna Analyzer, and The Radio Amateur’s Workshop.

Joel is survived by his wife of 58 years, Nancy Gatrall Hallas; daughter Katie J. (Mike) Phillis, and son Dr. Stephen J. (Dr. Sabrina Noel) Hallas.

Burial will be private. A memorial service will be held this spring.

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Our “Westport … Naturally” feature includes many wild animals.

Today we feature man’s best friend. James Melino and Nellie work together in James’ home office. What a team!

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And finally … today in 1842, the New York Philharmonic presented its first concert ever. Happy 179th birthday!

Roundup: Nile Rodgers, David Hidalgo, Bob Dole …

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Like many musicians, Nile Rodgers has an impressive collection of guitars.

Like very few, he is selling them at auction.

Like even fewer, he’s auctioning them not for personal gain, but for charity.

This month, Christie’s is offering more than 160 pieces from his personal collection. Besides guitars, there are amps, synthesizers and mixing boards — plus clothing and classic cars.

Many are housed right here in Westport. The Grammy-winning composer, producer, arranger, guitarist and Chic co-founder has lived here for years.

Rodgers will donate app proceeds to the We Are Family Foundation. He and life partner Nancy Hunt set up the organization after 9/11. It “promotes cultural diversity while nurturing and mentoring the vision, talents and ideas of young people who are positively changing the world.”

And it’s named, of course, for the smash song he wrote for Sister Sledge.

Click here for the full story. Click here for the Nile Rodgers collection, from the Christie’s catalogue. (Hat tip: Adam Stolpen)

Nile Rodgers, at his Westport home. (Photo courtesy of Sky Arts)

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College a cappella came to Westport last night.

Dartmouth College’s Brovertones brought their bowties and harmonies to the Christ & Holy Trinity courtyard last night. There was a bonfire, s’mores, hot cider — and a heartfelt speech by Brovertone Sam Laskin. The Staples High School grad spoke about how great it was to grow up in a town that fosters the arts.

Dinner was next for the group, hosted by Randy Herbertson in his Church Lane studio. Most of the food was donated by Rye Ridge Deli.

Today — after they all slept at the Laskins’ — it was off on the next stop of their holiday tour.

The Brovertones, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church. (Photo/David Goldstein)

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Like many downtown stores, Savvy + Grace has a gorgeous Christmas tree.

But this one is more than decorative.

Owner Annette Norton is working with the Ralphola Taylor Charity, a YMCA community center that serves low-income Bridgeport children. They earn points for good behavior during after-school activities — then redeem those points at the center’s Holiday Store by buying presents for their families.

In return for purchasing a gift for the Ralphola Taylor Charity, Annette will personalize a white dove ornament with the donor’s name, and hang it on the tree.

Gifts can be bought 3 ways:

  • At Savvy + Grace (next to the former Tavern on Main restaurant)
  • Online (at checkout, just choose free delivery to the charity)
  • Purchase something from any other local store, then drop it off at Savvy + Grace. What a great way to support all Westport merchants, and kids in Bridgeport.

Donations are accepted now through December 12. Let’s fill that tree — and the Ralphola Taylor Charity Holiday Shop shelves!

Annette Norton at Savvy + Grace last year. This season, the tree is inside her store.

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In 2020, I reported on David Hidalgo’s battle against leukemia.

The carpenter/handyman/home improvement contractor extraordinaire is beloved by Westporters. They adore his workmanship, care, willingness to tackle any project; his problem-solving, humility, politeness, and ear-to-ear smile.

He had no disability insurance. But many friends — and strangers — stepped up to help. On his 32nd birthday, David was pronounced cancer-free.

Devastatingly, it’s now returned.

He starts treatment tomorrow, and hopes for a bone marrow transplant.

Without health insurance, he, his wife and 2 young children need lots of help.

He has 2 young children and a lovely wife. They have no health insurance and will need a lot of help.

A GoFundMe drive can defray medical costs. A meal train can help too.

David’s many friends and very pleased clients hope that Westport can give generously to this special man, and his family. (Hat tip: Jennifer Zorek-Pressman)

David Hidalgo and family.

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Bob Dole — the World War II hero, Senate majority leader, presidential and vice presidential candidate, veterans’ advocate, and skillful politician in all the positive senses of the word — died yesterday, at 98.

His long and varied life no doubt brought him at least a few times to Westport, for fundraising and other events. I met him once, at the Apple Festival at Staples High School.

That’s been gone for a while, but it was an old-fashioned, community celebration every October. It must have been a presidential election year, though I can’t remember which one.

I was surprised that a man of his stature would be shaking hands at a small event like that. But I was impressed that he met voters with grace, a smile, and a couple of jokes.

I shook his hand — his left one, because his right hand was severely injured during his service with the 10th Mountain Division. I was not going to vote for whoever he was stumping for, but neither would I pass up the honor of meeting him.

It remains a fond memory. If only we had iPhones back then.

Senator Bob Dole

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Former Westporter — and longtime Planning & Zoning Commission member –Ed Van Gelder died last week, at Meadow Ridge in Redding. He was 98 years old.

In 2009, he and his wife Inge celebrated their 60th anniversary. Their son Jeff wrote a beautiful piece for “06880,” about what Westport meant to them both. Click here to read.

An obituary has not yet been published. Condolences may be sent to Jeff Van Gelder, c/o1326 Meadow Ridge, Redding, CT 06896. (Hat tip: Rose Jordan)

Inge and Ed Van Gelder

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“06880” readers are not the only people who love Werner Liepolt’s artwork.

The regular contributor to our Saturday online art gallery has just had his en plein air painting of Sherwood Island State Park juried into the Mart Twain Library‘s 49th annual art show. Submissions came from across the country.

The fundraiser for the Redding institution — which was founded by the legendary writer — runs through December 12.

The Mark Twain Library is a fitting spot for Liepolt’s work. He spent over 30 years in Westport as an English teacher.

Werner Liepolt’s Sherwood Island artwork was featured in the “06880” art gallery last March. It’s now in the juried Mark Twain Library show.

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Speaking of Sherwood Island: Mill Pond residents were surprised to wake up this morning to lights and action.

It was presumably Netflix, filming “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone.” The Stephen King thriller stars Donald Sutherland and Jaeden Martell, and will be released next year.

A temporary “trailer park” has been erected at the state park. To answer questions from readers: No, it’s not permanent.

Sherwood Island State Park, as seen from the Mill Pond early this morning. (Photo/James White)

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The deer keeping coming. Jill Grayson took today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo at her Berkeley Road home, off Easton Road.

(Photo/Jill Grayson)

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And finally … in honor of Nile Rodgers’ charitable gifts (above) — well, you knew this was coming:

Roundup: Holiday Stroll, Kids’ Vaccine, Larry Aasen …

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New merchants are signing up every day for “06880”s first-ever Holiday Stroll.

It’s next Saturday (December 11), 4 to 7 p.m., downtown.

Staples’ elite Orphenians will sing. Don Memo will provide hot apple cider, on their patio. There’s face painting for kids, and an ugly sweater contest for everyone.

Santa will hang out by Savvy + Grace. He’ll pose for photos with kids, who can also drop off self-addressed letters to him. They’ll be mailed back, with a personal note.

Among the special shopping offerings:

  • 20% off at Allison Daniel Designs (Sconset Square) and WEST.
  • Free topaz or pyrite crystal at Age of Reason.
  • Something special from Franny’s Farmacy.
  • Garlic knots at Joe’s Pizza.
  • Silk mask giveaway at Calico.
  • Spend $150-$250, get 10% off. Spend $250-$500, get 15% off. Spend $500 or more, get 20% off at Kerri Rosenthal.
  • Sorelle Gallery offers festive beverages to sip while browsing artwork, plus a giveaway. Sign up for their email list and select a free print, while supplies last.
  • A free gift to children who stop by The Toy Post between 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday (they close at 6).
  • Buy one, get 1/2 off of Whip Salon brand products
  • 20% off all holiday items at Westport Book Shop.
  • Adult holiday beverages and 10% off a full-price purchase to anyone mentioning the “06880” blog at Nic + Zoe.
  • Hot chocolate at Le Rouge ChocolatesRye Ridge Deli and Winfield Street Coffee.
  • Hot chocolate and holiday treats at The Fred Shop.
  • 1 free health and wellness coaching session from Dark Horse Health and Wellness (Playhouse Square; stop by or call 203-349-5597).

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Meanwhile, earlier next Saturday — from 10:30 a.m. to noon — Westport Book Shop sponsors its own first-ever Winter Family Fest. It’s on Jesup Green, right across from our favorite used book store.

Kids will enjoy snowflake-themed crafts, games and story reading (indoors!). There’s hot chocolate and goodies for all too, courtesy of The Porch @ Christie’s.

The Family Fest takes place on Jesup Green, across from Westport Book Shop.

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Yesterday’s second COVID vaccine clinic for 5-to-11-year-olds was another hit.

Kids and their parents poured into the Staples High School fieldhouse, for their second dose. Westport Weston Health District, school district and Westport Community Emergency Response Team personnel handled the crowd efficiently. Youngsters were excited to receive another jab. (Their parents were too.)

One protester stood near the entrance. Whitney Krueger (photo below) held signs reflecting her belief that not enough information has been provided about the vaccine.

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Today is Larry Aasen’s 99th birthday.

He heads any list of great Westporters — and not just because his last name is first.

A World War II veteran and Westport resident since the 1950s, he’s had a long, distinguished career serving our town, in politics and many other ways. In 2018, Larry was the Memorial Day grand marshal.

He’s also the author of 4 books about his beloved home state, North Dakota.

Larry’s wife, his beloved Martha, died in October 2020. She was 90. They had been married for 66 years.

I know all of Westport joins me in wishing Larry Aasen a wonderful 99th birthday!

Larry Aasen, with his books. (Photo and hat tip/Dave Matlow)

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The inaugural Chris Frantz Emerging Artists concert — produced by the Westport Library and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — was a hit.

Last night, 200 music lovers enjoyed Lulu Lewis and The Problem with Kids. The next concert will be announced soon.

The Problem with Kids, at the Westport Library’s Trefz Forum last night.

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For 2 months, Netflix has been filming “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” all around the area. The Stephen King thriller stars Donald Sutherland and Jaeden Martell.

The most recent site was Sherwood Island State Park, by the old stables. Intrigued beach-goers spotted tents, trailers and lights near the wood last week.

Preparing to shoot “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone.”

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“Extraterrestrial Life: Are We the Sharpest Cookies in the Jar?”

That’s the provocative title of the Westport Astronomical Society’s next virtual lecture. Harvard professor Avi Loeb speaks via Zoom (click here) and YouTube (click here) on December 21 (8 p.m.).

PS: No one know the answer. But I do know this: If we were the smartest beings in the universe, we wouldn’t have to ask.

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Chris Robison — noted musician, teacher, gay rights activist and a longtime Westporter — died this week. He was 73.

Born Harold Alton Meyer in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Chris made his mark in the New York City rock ‘n’ roll scene of the 1970s as a member of the New York Dolls, Elephant’s Memory, Steam and Stumblebunny. He was also a music teacher here for over 30 years.

Chris recorded with John Lennon, Keith Richards, Papa John Phillips and Gene Simmons.

With Elephant’s Memory he toured with Aerosmith, Rare Earth and Billy Preston, and played a Circle Line tourist boat gig — hosted by the Hell’s Angels — with Bo Diddley and Jerry Garcia.

The New York Dolls toured Japan with Jeff Beck and Felix Pappalardi. A crowd of 55,000 jammed Tokyo Baseball Stadium to hear them play. Click here for a longer “06880” story on Chris’ musical exploits.

His family says, “His relentless passion for artistic expression and civil rights will be treasured for years to come.”

Chris is survived by sons Dexter Scott of Brooklyn and Tiger Robison of Laramie, Wyoming; sisters Laurel Meyer of Wellesley, Wendy Woodfield and Marilee Meyer of Cambridge, Massachusetts; brother Bruce Meyer of Camden, Maine, and 3 grandchildren.

A memorial service is set for this Tuesday (December 7) at MoCA Westport, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Chris Robison

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If every business was as well landscaped as Tiger Bowl — well, they’d all be featured on our “Westport … Naturally” page!

(Photo/Ellen Wentworth)

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And finally … Chris Robison led quite a life (see his obituary above). We honor him here with these videos.

He was not in “Steam” when they recorded their signature (and only) hit (in Bridgeport). The band did not even exist; “Steam” was just studio musicians.

But the label wanted a tour. Chris joined the group that played 28 states, in a  grueling 3-week tour of 1-night stands, TV shows and festivals. They shared the bill with Bob Seger and MC5, among others. “Steam” played all original material; the only obligation was to start and end each set with …

His next gig — with Elephant’s Memory — included this 1974 song:

Then it was on to the New York Dolls. They were a key influence on later punk, new wave and glam metal groups like the Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads.

Later Chris formed his own band, Stumblebunny, which toured the UK and Germany with the Hollies.

He recorded solo, too.

Thanks for the music and the memories, Chris!