Category Archives: People

“06880” Party In Pictures

If you couldn’t make last night’s “06880” blog party, I understand.

We competed with the Senior Center lobster dinner, and the Chamber of Commerce after-hours social.

Plenty of readers are on vacation. Others live far away.

But the 120 or so folks who made it to Compo Beach last night had a great time. Politicians, candidates and commission members (even the P&Z — thanks for canceling your meeting!) mingled with artists, bankers, retirees, stay-at-home moms and dads, teachers, lawyers and local merchants (thanks, Julie, for repping Savannah Bee Company!).

Special thanks go to Westport’s Parks & Rec beach crew, who went waaaay out of their way to be helpful, warm and welcoming.

We ate. We drank. We chatted about everything except politics.

We watched the sun set. We realized how grateful we are to live in Westport — or to have some ties to it.

See you at next year’s bash!

Nicole Klein and her son Carter came to their first “06880” party 5 years ago, just 3 weeks after moving to Westport. They’ve been regulars ever since.

Great minds think alike. They did not coordinate their outfits — but they sure looked great! (Photo/Susan Garment)

Sean Byrnes’ 1967 Corvette — a true 427, as the license plate notes — was a huge hit.

Author Prill Boyle and Homes with Hope CEO Jeff Wieser mixed and mingled.

Former Westporter Bonnie Bradley — whose family lived near Compo for many generations — came from Roxbury for the “06880” party. She brought a special gift: This painting of the Saugatuck River and National Hall.

It’s not an “06880” party without an 06880 hat. (Photo/Susan Garment)

Fire Department Tour: A Day To Remember

“06880” reader Sharon Maddern sent this letter to 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Fire Chief Robert Yost and Deputy Fire Chief Brian Meadows. But it’s worth sharing with a much larger audience:

I’d like to let you know about an outstanding experience my son and I recently had visiting the Westport Fire Department, and what an impressive, dedicated and professional team they are.

My son Derek is 21. Though he has some disabilities, he is a huge firefighter fan. He listens to all the calls over the scanners, and follows them online. For him this was a super-exciting day.

With the help of Sal Liccione, who set up the visit, we arrived on a Saturday morning. I expected a basic 20-minute overview. But our guide, Lt. Jonathan Piper — a veteran fireman of 20-plus years — gave us an incredibly informative tour of the facility. Even I was enthralled by the advanced technology, and his extensive knowledge of all the sophisticated equipment.

He explained the various roles of the department beyond firefighting, including HazMat and emergency responses like pulling cars out of ditches.

We also got a firsthand look at the new fire engines.

Derek gets a close-up look at a Westport fire truck.

I cannot tell you how meaningful this was to my son, and how appreciative I am of the time Jon took with us. Even I could follow his articulate, enthusiastic and patient explanations!

While I have spent the last 17 years working in commercial real estate in Westport, I was never aware of the extent that the fire department and these men are involved in: all the day-to-day aspects of our safety, including road hazards, building inspections, alarm responses, etc.

I hope that the WFD continues to receive Westport’s respect and the funding that it deserves, as they have an enormous burden of responsibility. They are an invaluable part of the community, and should be generously supported in their endeavors to continue to provide such an efficient, effective resource for the town.

This was a day both my son and I will always remember. Our thanks go out to the WFD!

Saugatuck Rowers Make Waves At Nationals

The Saugatuck Rowing Club continues to pump out national caliber athletes.

And a good number of them live right here in Westport.

Eddie Kiev was a coxswain on the US Under-17 junior national team. He helped his boat to a silver medal on Friday, at the US Rowing Club National Championships in Camden, New Jersey.

Eddie Kiev, national team coxswain.

Parker Cuthbertson was a member of the CanAmMex junior national team that won a gold medal last week in Mexico City.

Sven Herrman and Sam Kleiner were part of the men’s high-performance team, which also competed in Camden. Sam won a bronze in the U-19 4+ event.

And keep your eyes on these guys (and gals): Harry Burke will row for the men’s U-19 worlds team, and Kelsey McGinley, Alin Pasa and Noelle Amlicke are on the women’s U-19 worlds team. Both boats compete in the Czech Republic on August 8.

All are Staples High School students. And all of “06880” congratulates them for their great work!

Add To The List: 2 More Westporters Nominated For Emmys

Last week, “06880” reported that Kelli O’Hara and Justin Paul were nominated for Emmy Awards.

That’s only half the story.

Two other Westporters are also in the running for television’s highest honor.

Britt Baron (Brittany Uomoleale)

Britt Baron is part of the “GLOW” ensemble that’s up for Outstanding Comedy Series.

If her name is not familiar, try Brittany Uomoleale. That’s how she was known at Staples High School, where the 2009 graduate starred in Players productions like “Romeo and Juliet.”

Jeanie Bacharach-Burke, meanwhile, is nominated for her part in Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series. The 1981 Staples alum works on Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

Congratulations to all 4 nominees. We’re rooting for you — and any other Westporters we may have missed!

 

Historical Society Shines A Light On Westport’s Troubled Past

Iron shackles. Burned timbers. “Negro child.”

They’re not the usual things you see at the Westport Historical Society.

But this is not the usual WHS exhibit.

Slave shackles, on exhibit at the Westport Historical Society.

“Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport” opened in May. It’s one of the most creative and compelling shows ever mounted at Wheeler House. (Which, the exhibit notes, sits across Avery Place from a building that may have been built by slaves.)

It’s also one of the most important.

I attended the opening reception. It was packed. I talked with people who recalled some of the important events, like Martin Luther King’s visit to Temple Israel, and the fight over bringing Bridgeport students to Westport through Project Concern.

But it was too crowded to really see the artifacts and photos, or read the texts.

So the other day I returned. The Sheffer Gallery was quiet. I had time to study the exhibit.

And to think.

I learned a lot. I’m a Westport native and lifelong New Englander. But I never knew, for example, that slavery was not fully abolished in Connecticut until 1848. (The decades-long process spared white farmers the loss of free labor while they were still alive.)

Some of Westport’s biggest names — Coley, Nash, Jesup — were slave-owners. The property deeds — as in, these human beings were their property — are right there, for all to see.

A 1780 payment voucher for a black patriot soldier who bought his freedom, and immediately enlisted.

We see too a recreated hearth, from a Clapboard Hill home. It’s cramped and dark — and it’s where a young slave girl might have slept.

The reconstruction of sleeping quarters in a crawl space, from a Clapboard Hill Road home.

I did not know that black Westporters fought for the Union in the  Civil War. Nor did I know that an unknown number of slaves are buried in unmarked graves in Greens Farms Church’s lower cemetery.

I did know — on some level — that African Americans have a long history here. But I had not thought about what it meant for them to work on our docks, in our homes, or at our farms.

Black Westporters were domestics, chauffeurs and seamstresses. But they were also, the exhibit notes, teachers, artists, physicians, activists and freedom fighters.

The exhibit includes a 1920s painting by J. Clinton Shepherd, “The Waffle Shoppe.” It may well be based on an actual restaurant on Main Street.

In the 1920s and ’30s, the Great Migration drew millions of African Americans north. Westport — offering work on farms and estates — was one destination. Black families lived on the Post Road, Bay Street — and 22 1/2 Main Street.

I have known for years that that address — set back in an alley that later became Bobby Q’s restaurant — was the site of a boardinghouse, where dozens of African Americans lived.

I knew that in 1950, it burned to the ground. Arson was suspected.

Photos and text about 22 1/2 Main Street.

But until the WHS exhibit, I did not know that a few months earlier, black Westporters had asked to be considered for spots at Hales Court, where low-cost homes were soon to be built. The Westport Housing Authority grudgingly agreed — but only after veterans, and others “with more pressing needs,” were accommodated.

Was that a cause for the fire? The exhibit strongly suggests so.

(Nearly 70 years later, construction at the old Bobby Q’s has revealed charred timbers — vivid testimony of that long-ago tragedy. It’s worth a look.)

I have long been fascinated by this photo, of one African American standing apart from everyone else in the Shercrow School photo. The WHS exhibit gives her a name — Anna Simms — and notes that she may have been a student or teacher.

The exhibit pays homage to African Americans like Drs. Albert and Jean Beasley, beloved pediatricians; Martin and Judy Hamer, and Leroy and Venora Ellis, longtime civic volunteers, and educator Cliff Barton.

It also cites the contributions of white Westporters like Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein (arrested with Dr. King in St. Augustine, Florida); Board of Education chair Joan Schine, who fought for Project Concern, and artists Tracy Sugarman and Roe Halper, staunch supporters of the civil rights movement.

Roe Halper presents woodcuts to Coretta Scott King. The civil rights leader’s wife autographed this photo. The artwork was displayed in the Kings’ Atlanta home for many years.

But ultimately, “Remembered” remembers the largely forgotten men, women and children who helped shape and grow our town. Some came freely. Others did not. All were, in some way, Westporters.

In the foyer outside the exhibit, a stark wall serves as a final reminder of the African Americans who lived quietly here, long ago.

It lists the 241 slaves, and 19 free blacks, found in the Green’s Farms Congregational Church record books between 1742 and 1822. Most were listed only by first names: Fortune. Quash. Samson.

Some had no names at all. They are called only “Negro Child,” or “Negro Infant.”

The wall does not carry the names of all the white people listed in the church books during those 80 years. Many are well known to us, centuries later.

And most of them, the exhibit notes, owned the men, women and children who are now honored on that wall.

(For more information on “Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport,” click here. The Westport Historical Society, at 25 Avery Place, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors. Members and children 10 and under are free.)

(WHS is also memorializing the names of over 200 Westport slaves, through bricks in the brickwalk. The $20 cost covers the brick and installation. To order, click here.)

In 1964, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke at the 5th anniversary of the dedication of Temple Israel. He autographed this program.

Seymon And Lynne Need Our Help

Seymon and Lynne Ostilly are longtime Westporters. Their 2 kids — now in their 20s — are Staples High School graduates.

And they’re dealing with quite a lot.

For the past 8 years, Lynn has been the primary caregiver as her husband struggled with dementia. Over the past 6 months, as his condition grew much worse, it became increasingly more difficult for her to help him.

In May, Lynne suffered a hemorrhage stroke. The brain bleed was so deep, it was too unsafe to operate. Emma flew home from California.

Lynne is fighting to recover. She must relearn how to walk, use her right arm, and remember words she once knew.

When she is finally discharged from rehab, she will need extensive physical and occupational therapy.

Emma Ostilly and her mother Lynne.

A month after Lynne’s stroke — when she was stable and on the path to recovery — Emma returned to California, and her work. (She’s also planning her wedding, for next year.)

On her way to the airport, she learned that her father had suffered multiple mini-strokes. Two days later, he had a very large and severe basal ganglia stroke.

Seymon has now joined Lynne at a rehab facility. Both are trying to recover. But his dementia has greatly slowed his progress. And his Medicare coverage is ending.

Meanwhile, Seymon’s strokes resulted in a series of blood clots, which have moved to his lungs. Some were dissolved with blood thinners, but he has deep vein thrombosis. His leg is extremely swollen, making it even more difficult to walk. Doctors say he will probably never live at home again.

Dane has put his career on hold to care for his parents.

Lynne and Seymon Ostilly.

Fortunately, the Ostillys have some long-term health care. However, their care is extremely expensive. Coverage will eventually run out.

More costs — a caregiver for Lynne, and a nursing home for Seymon — loom.

Emma and Dane have set up a GoFundMe page. It’s a chance for all of us to help our neighbors — whether we know them or not. Click here to contribute, or for more information.

“Anything you can give would be an absolute blessing,” Seymon and Lynne’s children say.

“Love you all. Life is precious.”

Westport Is Really Anytown USA

Sure, we may be entering the mother of all global trade wars.

No, you probably don’t want to buy t-shirts or sneakers made by 9-year-olds in an overseas sweatshop.

But how can you know which products were made in a foreign country, and which come from the good ol’ USA?

Just click on AnytownUSA.

The website — which calls itself the first-ever “American Made Marketplace” — is Geralyn Breig’s brainchild. A high-powered Wharton grad who served as president of Clarks America, Avon North America and Godiva Chocolatier International, she may be promoting Anytown.

But she lives and works in Our Town.

The site went live less than a month ago. It offers thousands of products, and dozens of sellers. Its bread and butter is local artisans, small businesses and locally made products. They range from apparel and accessories to home goods, and from individually crafted one-of-a-kind pieces to large-scale manufactured merchandise.

The only requirement: Every product must be made in this country.

Geralyn Breig (right) and seller Michelle Ciarlo Hayes on the recent SiriusXM “Tastemakers” program.

Consumer Reports says that 80% of Americans would prefer to buy American-made goods than comparable, imported ones. Over 60% say they’d pay a slight premium.

Breig spent the past year traveling across the country, meeting people who make items domestically. She also found some right here, at last winter’s Westport Young Woman’s League holiday crafts show.

Now — from her office on Post Road West — she’s given them all a platform to connect with shoppers from coast to coast.

(Click here for AnytownUSA. Social media links include Twitter  @anytown_usa_; Facebook @AnytownUSA.marketplace; Instagram @anytown_usa_ and Pinterest: @AnytownUSAcom.

A Dog Named Misty Mae

Julie Loparo — president of Westport Animal Shelter Advocates — loves dogs. 

She loves dog stories too. Here’s one she shares with “06880” readers:

Winslow Park may not be the place where everybody knows your name.

But they do know your dog’s name.

Regulars at the downtown park are quick to share stories about their own dogs, and answer questions about yours.

When a dog gets distracted by a squirrel or another canine buddy, the group watches closely until it’s reunited with its owner.

Just another day at Winslow Park.

Several weeks ago however, the crowd discovered a little one that’s a poster dog for the ever-growing number of abandoned dogs (and cats) in Connecticut.

A senior, blind long-haired chihuahua was found in a beat-up dog carrier on a park bench. How she got there, and how long she’d been there, were mysteries.

But clearly, she’d been left there.

Westport Animal Control quickly responded. She was transported to Schulhof Animal Hospital for evaluation and care.

Once stabilized and treated for a possible flea situation, she was brought back to Animal Control.

It became clear she was not keen on the food being served (though it’s very high quality dog food). A Westport Animal Shelter Advocates volunteer prepared healthy meals of organic meats and vegetables. The little one liked that.

Misty Mae

On Wednesday, WASA officially adopted “Misty Mae” into their foster family.

With the help of Schulhof’s staff, WASA will bring her up-to-date on vet care, with vaccinations, and detailed blood and dental work. They’ll consult with eye specialists, to see if she’s a candidate for cataract surgeries.

They’ll also search for a new, loving home for Misty Mae.

She’s sweet, quiet, and 10 to 12 years old. She has not been reactive to other dogs, though additional testing will be done. She loves to be brushed and cuddled. She’s a lap dog in every sense of the word.

For additional information about Misty Mae, call 203-557-0361, or email wasa1@optonline.net.

To donate for her vet care, click here (and note that you are contributing for Misty Mae).

Winslow Park is definitely the place where everyone knows your dog’s name.

And Westport is where Animal Control, WASA and Schulhof all come together to help a dog named Misty Mae.

Plastic Straws: The Sequel

The drive to eliminate (or diminish) plastic straws in Westport — reported yesterday on “06880” — is a multi-pronged battle.

RTM member Andrew Colabella — the youngest elected official, and a member of the body’s Environment Committee — brought up the idea and started researching it then.

He has met with over 16 managers, owners, chefs and staffs of Westport’s many restaurants.

His goal is “to change the material of a product that we use for a couple of minutes at convenience” — which then sits in a landfill for hundreds of years. 

Colabella is taking aim too at styrofoam containers and cups, even plastic foodware.

He has gotten signatures on a petition, and has drafted an ordinance. He’s contacted the Westport Weston Health District and Conservation Commission about enforcement, and is using their feedback for a final edit.

As of now, these restaurants have joined the campaign:

  • Terrain
  • Amis
  • Spotted Horse
  • The Granola Bar
  • Westport Farmers’ Market
  • Joey’s By The Shore
  • Little Barn
  • Saugatuck Sweets
  • Viva Zapata’s
  • Match Burger Lobster
  • Rizzuto’s
  • Sakura
  • The Pearl at Longshore
  • Westport Pizzeria
  • Bartaco
  • Winfield Street Coffee & Deli

Meanwhile, Staples High School students — and even younger ones, like Bedford Middle Schooler Michael Rossi Pontoriero —  have worked to eliminate plastic straws, and plastic wrapping on individual utensils in Westport schools. Details will be finalized this fall.

It takes a village — to rid a village of plastic.

2 Westporters Earn Emmy Nominations

Westporters will have 2 favorites, when the Emmy Awards are broadcast in September.

Justin Paul — the 2003 Staples High School graduate who has already earned Grammy, Oscar and Tony honors — could become a legendary EGOT.  The songwriting duo were nominated for “In the Market for a Miracle.” They composed the tune for “A Christmas Story Live” — Fox’s adaptation of their 2012 stage musical.

Justin Paul was in Westport last month, entertaining and inspiring the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” crowd.

(Speaking of legends: John Legend is up for an acting Emmy. If he wins, he becomes an EGOT too.)

Kelli O’Hara‘1st-ever nomination comes for Outstanding Actress In A Short Form Comedy Or Drama Series. She plays Katie Bonner in “The Accidental Wolf.”

Kelli O’Hara performed earlier this year at a fundraising cabaret for Staples High School’s Orphenians. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

We’ve got 2 months to wait. The 70th Emmy Awards will be broadcast on Monday, September 17 (8 p.m., NBC).

(Hat tip: Kerry Foley)