Category Archives: Organizations

Hollywood Comes To Westport (And Easton)

I never heard the name Joel McCrea.

Joel McCrae. After the success of "The Virginians" in 1946, he appeared almost exclusively in Westerns.

Joel McCrae. After the success of “The Virginians” in 1946, he appeared almost exclusively in Westerns.

But, I’m assured, many Westporters — particularly of a certain age — have.

He was an actor, whose career spanned 50 years and more than 90 films. He starred with Barbara Stanwyck (who I have heard of). He played the first film Dr. Kildare (ditto). He’s got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I do not know Peter McCrea, either. But he’s married to Jack Lemmon’s daughter. (I’ve heard of him.) And he — Peter,  not Jack — lives in Westport.

I have never heard of the Easton Public Library (though I’m not surprised there is one). I did not know, then, that they sponsor a Classic Film series.

But they do.

This Tuesday (January 24, 7 p.m.) they’ll show “The Palm Beach Story.”

It starred Joel McCrea. And his son Peter will be there, to answer questions and tell stories about his parents.

Oh, yeah: His mother was Frances Dee. She was also an actress.

I haven’t heard of her.

But she starred with Maurice Chevalier. I do know of him.

Teens: What Do You Think Of White Privilege?

Since its founding in 2003, TEAM Westport has tackled some of society’s — and Westport’s — most intractable problems.

Now the town’s multicultural committee is asking teenagers to join them — and write about it.

TEAM Westport’s 4th annual essay contest focuses on the hot-button issue of white privilege. In 1,000 words or less, students are asked to describe the term; reflect on the extent to which they think white privilege exists, and address the impact it has had on their life — whatever their own racial or ethnic identity — and in our broader society.

TEAM WestportTEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey says, “A primary focus and concern of our organization since its inception has been the impact of the town’s relatively low levels of racial and ethnic diversity on our children. This year’s essay topic provides our young people an opportunity to reflect upon that impact, and make their personal statements about it in very meaningful ways.”

The 1st place winner will receive $1,000. Second prize is $750; 3rd is $500.

All students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or who live in Westport but attend school elsewhere, are eligible.

That’s a somewhat diverse group. And if past essay contests are any indication, this contest will spur diverse reactions — and plenty of insightful essays.

TEAM Westport’s acronym stands for Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism. In many discussions of multiculturalism, the default identity of whiteness is simply assumed. That can be particularly true in Westport.

Let’s hear what today’s teenagers — tomorrow’s leaders, in an increasingly multicultural society — think.

The winning essays will be published on “06880,”

(Click here for contest applications. Essays are due February 27. To help sponsor the contest, click here or email info@teamwestport.org.) 

Cayla Yang Wears The Pantsuit

Donald Trump’s election took a lot of people by surprise. Many were “paralyzed or scared,” says Cayla Yang.

“I don’t do well with those emotions,” says the 2009 Staples High School graduate. “I’m not like, ‘woe is me.’ I’m more, ‘what can I do?'”

Cayla Yang

Cayla Yang

Cayla — a Staples field hockey player and yearbook editor who graduated from Northeastern University and now lives in Weston, while working as a consultant for a cloud computing company — always assumed that politicians would take care of her.

Now she’s not so sure.

But instead of paralysis, she chose action.

In the aftermath of Trump’s win, she reached out to Pantsuit Nation. The group of nearly 4 million (mostly) women had used Facebook to share stories of their support for Hillary Clinton. After her loss, it became a place to vent, express fears and frustrations, and find hope.

It also spun off local organizations, where (mostly) women began working together to do more than talk.

The Fairfield County group is called PSNCT — Pantsuit Nation without the actual name. And Cayla is one of its leaders.

“Telling stories is incredibly important. But this group is about advocacy,” Cayla says. “It’s about issues, concerns, and how to help.”

PSNCT has forged connections with politicians. A recent Town Hall meeting with Senator Chris Murphy in Bridgeport was “fantastic,” Cayla says.

Congressman Jim Himes came to an early PSNCT meeting. He discussed his priorities, and offered his assistance.

A photo posted to the PSNCT Facebook page shows a statue of PT Barnum in Bridgeport, "supporting" Saturday's women's march on Washington.

A photo posted to the PSNCT Facebook page shows a statue of PT Barnum in Bridgeport, “supporting” Saturday’s women’s march on Washington.

“We’ll do local fundraisers, and put our money where our mouth is,” Cayla promises.

“We recognize we have a privileged position here in Fairfield County. We want to use our influence to help people and organizations that don’t have our resources.”

Though Pantsuit Nation was created by Hillary Clinton supporters, Cayla says, “we shy away from labels. We want Republicans like Gail Lavielle and Toni Boucher” — state legislators representing this area — “to speak to us, and break down barriers.” Rep. Tony Hwang — a Republican state senator — attended Murphy’s Town Hall session.

As Inauguration Day looms, Cayla says PSNCT is focused on the days after.

“We’re looking to do good, and do it well,” she says.

(Click here for the PSNCT Facebook page. Hat tip: Julia McNamee)

Farrow & Ball’s Window On Westport

Unless you’re a 5th Avenue department store at Christmas, it’s tough to get folks to look in your window.

It’s especially difficult when you’re located next to Trader Joe’s in Westport. You’re set back from the Post Road — and who can pay attention when you’re weaving in and out of traffic at 40 miles an hour, anyway?

But that has not stopped Farrow & Ball from trying.

The intriguing Farrow & Ball window invites you to peek inside.

The intriguing Farrow & Ball window invites you to peek inside.

The UK-based paint-and-paper crafts shop has 14 US showrooms. As part of an AIDS awareness and fundraising initiative with DIFFA — Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS — each location chose a local designer to create a window based on the theme “Comfort and Cure.”

Westport’s Farrow & Ball selected Connie Cooper. She wanted to make her design intriguing from inside the store, as well as the street.

She imagined the vignette as the home office of an international doctor, home relaxing during the holidays. She found an antique bag from 1948, filled with all kinds of vintage doctor tools. It belonged to an actual naval physician.

And here's the view from inside.

And here’s the view from inside.

It’s a cool window. But you should do more than just glance at it, as you fly toward your parking space by Trader Joe’s.

Every time someone shares a photo of the window on social media (#FaBForDIFFA), the firm donates $1 to AIDS research.

It’s up for a couple of more weeks. So hurry! (But drive safely…)

(An open house at Farrow & Ball from 5-7 p.m. this Thursday [January 19] salutes window creator Connie Cooper. Guests receive a goody bag, while supplies last.)

Remembering John Skinner

John Skinner — a pilot who leveraged his travel experience in his 2nd “career,” as co-founder with his wife Jeri of Builders Beyond Borders — died Friday evening, from complications of a fall the day after Christmas. Surrounded by family, after a happy day of sharing memories and music with loved ones, he was 80 years old.

A native of San Jose, California, he grew up in Sacramento. John joined the Navy at age 18, and served as a fighter pilot for 12 years. He met his future wife Jeri at the Officers’ Club at Moffett Field. Their sons Christian and Craig were both born on February 9 — though 2 years apart.

After the Navy, John continued his flying career as a captain for Pan American Airways. The Skinners moved to Westport so he could be based out of New York.  With Pan Am he flew to Beirut, Johannesburg, London, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, Tel Aviv and Tokyo. John finished his career with Delta Airlines, after their acquisition of Pan Am.

john-skinner

John Skinner

John loved flying and anything with an engine, especially cars. He enjoyed attending car races with Chris. His son’s friends used to line up their cars in the driveway so John could fix them.

Following retirement John, Jeri and Craig led Kingdom Builders and Builders Beyond Borders. He put his handyman skills to use building and repairing homes, clinics and daycare centers for the less fortunate. John and his family assembled groups of teens to travel to places like Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Honduras. Over 1,700 teenagers participated in these programs.

John leaves his wife of 57 years, Jeri; his son Christian and wife Tammy; his son Craig and wife Elizabeth; 4 grandchildren, and his French bulldog Winston.

In recent years John suffered from Parkinson’s disease but always kept a positive attitude. The effects of the disease contributed to his fall. In keeping with John’s generous nature, he donated his body to Yale University for research purposes.

John has requested that donations be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

A celebration of John’s life will be held this Wednesday (January 18, 3 p.m.) at Southport Congregational Church.

Glenn Hightower Memorial Set For Saturday

The life of Glenn Hightower — educator, civic volunteer and coach — will be celebrated this Saturday (January 21, 2 p.m.) at the United Methodist Church on Weston Road.

The longtime Westport resident died New Year’s Day, age 76. Throughout his life he was devoted to his wife Beverly, and his daughters Holly, Julie and Heather.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Glenn graduated from Mangum High School as valedictorian and class president. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University, his master’s degree at Kansas State University and his Ph.D from the University of Iowa.

Glenn Hightower at the former Bedford Middle School (now Saugatuck Elementary).

Glenn Hightower at the former Bedford Middle School (now Saugatuck Elementary).

Glenn and Beverly moved to Westport in 1969. He spent over 30 years as principal of Bedford Middle and Junior Schools, serving briefly as interim assistant superintendent.

He led through times of both consolidation and expansion, including working on the design of the new Bedford school on North Avenue.

During 8 years as principal of Westport Continuing Education, he expanded programming and grew enrollment. Glenn was committed to music, the arts and technology. He created compassionate learning environments that valued students and enabled them to excel.

Glenn was an avid sportsman. In junior high and high school he captained varsity football, basketball and baseball teams. He played handball competitively, served on the Bridgeport YMCA Board of Directors, and enjoyed playing in recreational basketball leagues around Fairfield County.

Glenn Hightower, during a Westport Road Runners race.

Glenn Hightower, during a Westport Road Runners race.

Glenn was often seen running throughout town. He competed in Westport Road Races, and completed 16 New York City marathons and 10 ultra marathons. Glenn was a competitor, but most of all he cherished lifelong friendships created along the way.

Actively involved in the Westport YMCA board of directors and Water Rats swim team, as well as the Staples High swim team, Glenn and Bev spent many days by the pool.

When his daughters played team sports, Glenn coached rec basketball. He helped grow Westport Little League softball, coaching for over 10 years. He later returned to a sport he loved, football, to coach middle school PAL football players.

Glenn served in the Rotary Club, and over many years dedicated himself to the United Methodist Church as a Sunday School teacher, lay leader and chair of the Administrative Council, among other activities.

Glenn was known for his warmth, kindness, generous spirit and devotion to his family. He held an unwavering belief in the power of public education and the importance of helping others. Glenn encouraged people to do their best, whether with their family, school, work, faith or on the ball field.

Glenn was predeceased by his wife Beverly. In addition to his daughters he is survived by 4 grandsons, and brothers Richard and Phillip and their families.

In honor of Glenn, the Hightower family encourages everyone to take time to talk with and truly listen to their children, look for the good in those around us, and strive to make a positive impact on our communities.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the United Methodist Church of Westport/Weston, 49 Weston Road, Westport, CT 06880; Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881, or Magnum High School Alumni Association (c/o Mary Jane Scott, 414 South Robinson Avenue, Mangum OK 73554).

Ring In The Year Of The Rooster — Right Here

Westport’s Chinese population is small.

But it’s diverse. There are doctors, financiers and restaurant owners.

Some are immigrants from mainland China. Others are transplants from New York. Some have lived here for over 30 years. Others moved in the other day.

Some came here for work opportunities. Many chose Westport for its excellent public schools, safe reputation and/or affordability (compared to towns closer to the city).

Some of Westport’s Chinese residents are involved in community affairs. Others are not. In that way, they mimic the rest of the town.

But all know that their new year begins this Saturday (January 21). Many — and many other Chinese, from throughout the area — will celebrate the Year of the Rooster right here in Westport.

happy-chinese-new-year

They won’t be at Shanghai Gourmet, Little Kitchen or Tengda though. Instead, they’ll head to … the Westport Woman’s Club.

That’s where the Organization of Chinese Americans of Fairfield County is holding their annual New Year’s bash. There’s food, entertainment, raffles, an art show, book signing — in fact, there’s so much to do, there are 2 different sessions (12-3 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.).

The OCA is a social, political and economic group, promoting Chinese heritage, ethnicity and culture. The local group also operates a Mandarin language school in Stamford.

Steven Chin is the new president of the Fairfield County chapter. An “ABC” — American-born Chinese — he’s a 6-year Westport resident eager to bring the New Year’s celebration to his town.

“As our children grow older, we want them to recognize their parents’ struggles to attain the American Dream,'” Chin says. “But we want to them to be good citizens of their communities too. OCA members of all ages perform a variety of charitable services.”

Organization of Chinese Americans working at a food drive last spring.

Organization of Chinese Americans working at a food drive last spring.

OCA has held events in Stamford, Darien and Norwalk. Last May, they sponsored a beach party at Burying Hill.

Chin’s wife Lina is a member of the Westport Woman’s Club. So the venerable building on Imperial Avenue seems a perfect place to celebrate a much, much older holiday.

新年快乐

(For more information about the Chinese New Year celebration on Saturday, January 21 —  and to make reservations — click here. Non-members are welcome!)

 

What Would Martin Do?

Looking for a way to honor Martin Luther King?

Excited — or frightened — about the presidential inauguration?

Westport’s 11th annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration fills both bills.

This Sunday (January 15, 3 p.m., Westport Country Playhouse), check out an intriguing talk. It’s called “WWMD: What Would Martin Do in the Era of Post-Race Racism?”

Professor Tricia Rose

Professor Tricia Rose

The keynote speaker is Dr. Tricia Rose. She’s a Brown University professor of Africana studies, director of its Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, and a well-respected scholar of post-civil rights and black US culture.

Rose — who has been featured on PBS, CNN, NPR and many other media outlets — will talk about race in the current political environment, from the perspective of King’s philosophy. A Q-and-A session follows.

There’s also music from the Men’s Community Gospel Chorus of Norwalk; a spoken word piece based on King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” presented by students from Trumbull’s Regional Center for the Arts, and refreshments.

The event — co-sponsored by the Playhouse, Westport/Weston Interfaith Council and TEAM Westport — is free. The Westport Weston Family YMCA will provide childcare and activities.

For more information on “WWMD: What Would Martin Do?” click here. For highlights of last year’s Martin Luther King Day celebration, click the video below.

 

School Daze

It’s midterm time at Staples High School — so how about a pop quiz for everyone?

The subject is “Westport schools.” The answers are below. No cheating though — and no Googling!

  1. How many students were in Staples’ first graduating class? And what was special about them?
  2. Edward T. Bedford provided the funds for Bedford Elementary School and Bedford Junior High. But he also helped build another Westport school. Which was it?
  3. If you went looking for the old Burr Farms Elementary School, what would you find there today?
  4. True or false: The Doors, Eric  Clapton, Rascals and Rolling Stones all performed at Staples.
  5. Name 2 predecessors of Greens Farms Academy.
  6. If a sneaker brand was associated with Bedford Middle School, what would it be?
  7. A longtime principal of the original Saugatuck Elementary School on Bridge Street shares the same last name as the founder of one of Westport’s first private academies. What is that name?
  8. The 2nd principal of Staples High School has a parkway in Connecticut named for him. Who was he?
  9. Two  Staples High School athletic teams practiced in the basement of the old school, on Riverside Avenue. Which teams were they?
  10. Many decades ago, the Westport Board of Education rejected a proposal to add Spanish to the foreign language curriculum. Why?
Edward T. Bedford is the benefactor of not 1, not 2, but 3 Westport schools.

Edward T. Bedford is the benefactor of not 1, not 2, but 3 Westport schools.

Before I give the answers, here’s the reason for today’s quiz:

On Sunday, January 29 (3 p.m.), the Westport Historical Society hosts a reception for its new exhibit.

“Westport School Days: 1703-Present” offers a wide and fascinating look at the evolution of education here in town. From the first formal class (on “Green’s Farms Common”), through the growth of private academies and public schools, to today’s nationally renowned system, there’s a lot to learn.

Maps, photos and memorabilia — report cards! a bench from the original Adams Academy! — make for intriguing viewing.

Whether you went to school here or not — and whether you were an A student or spent all your time in the principal’s office — this is one exhibit not to be absent for.

And now, your test results:

  1. There were 6 students in Staples’ first graduating class. All were girls.
  2. Edward T. Bedford helped build both Bedford Elementary School and Bedford Junior High — and also Greens Farms El.
  3. Burr Farms Elementary School is now the site of large homes, on Burr School Road. The athletic fields are still there, however.
  4. False. All of those acts actually did appear at Staples — except the Stones.
  5. Greens Farms Academy’s predecessors include Mrs. Bolton’s School and the Kathleen Laycock Country Day School.
  6. A sneaker brand associated with Bedford Middle School would be Nike. The school is built on the former site of Nike missile silos.
  7. Both the boys and girls rifle teams practiced in the basement of Staples High School, when it was on Riverside Avenue. There was a shooting range down there.
  8. Dorothy Adams was the longtime principal of Saugatuck Elementary School. Ebenezer Adams founded Adams Academy. Both buildings remain. Saugatuck is now elderly housing on Bridge Street; Adams Academy is a historic site on North Morningside Drive.
  9. The Wilbur Cross Parkway is named for Staples High’s 2nd principal. He went on to become a distinguished professor at Yale University — and the governor of Connecticut.
  10. The Board of Education rejected a proposal to add Spanish to the foreign language curriculum because they believed it would have little value for Westport students.

(For more information on the Westport Historical Society exhibit, click here.)

The original Staples High School on Riverside Avenue ...

The original Staples High School on Riverside Avenue …

... and the school today.(Photo/Julie Mombello)

… and the school today. (Photo/Julie Mombello)

Tavern On Main: Yesterday On “Today”

If you watch the “Today” show, you may know that Craig Melvin has made a commitment to a vegetarian, alcohol-free diet this year.

You may also have seen yesterday’s segment on his “healthy reboot.” Filmed at Tavern on Main, it showcased the restaurant’s emphasis on incorporating healthy, seasonal produce in its menu. The Westport Farmers’ Market, for example, is a frequent source of food.

Tavern on Main

Melvin and his wife, ESPN’s Lindsay Czarnink, are frequent Tavern guests. Click here to see the segment.