Category Archives: People

Remembering Shirley Mellor

Shirley Mellor — the beloved former owner of the almost-as-beloved Max’s Art Supplies — died yesterday. She was 92 years old.

Three years ago in March, over 100 people — from across town and across the country, and from Westport’s artistic present and past — paid tribute, on her 90th birthday.

Shirley Mellor (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Though she closed Max’s 7 years ago, she still did yoga 3 times a week, nearly until her death. She told wonderful stories, and dispensed excellent advice.

Among the attendees at her birthday celebration were longtime Max’s employees Nina Royce, Rita Engelbardt and Jay Cimbak. Miggs Burroughs called Max’s — one of the anchors of Post Road East, next to the former Restoration Hardware — “Westport’s town square for artists.” Much of that was because of Shirley’s care and concern for our town’s artists. Professional or amateur, she loved — and helped — them all.

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In May of 2014, I wrote about Max’s closing. It’s a fitting epitaph for a remarkable, much-admired woman.

In mid-September the Westport Y leaves downtown, for new digs at Mahackeno.

A few days earlier, another longtime Post Road anchor will also go.

Max’s — a legendary art supply store (and, just as important, social hub for painters, illustrators and cartoonists) — closes on September 1.

Max's Art Supplies -- a long and familiar Post Road store.

Max’s Art Supplies — a long and familiar Post Road store.

For 59 years Max’s has occupied prime real estate, directly opposite the Y. But the end of Westport as an “artists’ colony,” coupled with the increasing role of technology in both art and commerce, spelled the end.

Owner Shirley Mellor has held on longer than any other merchant would. It’s been years since she’s made any money. But — as much as she loves her employees, her town and her dwindling customer base — she can’t lose money forever.

Max’s dates back to 1956, when Max Kaplan bought Fine Arts Stationers. He replaced paper and candy with pens, sketch pads, paints, brushes and canvases.

Part of a shelf at Max's, last Friday.

Part of a shelf at Max’s, last Friday.

Shirley was Max’s wife. He died in 1983. The next year she married artist Gordon Mellor, a widower. He died in 2001.

“We played a huge role in the art life of Westport,” Shirley says proudly. “All the artists knew us. And they were a sizable number.”

They came to Max’s for supplies, and stayed to socialize. Whitney Darrow Jr., Stevan Dohanos, Bernie Fuchs, Mel Casson, Dik Browne, Mort Walker, Stan Drake, Leonard Starr, Eric von Schmidt, Constance Kiermaier, Tom Funk, Gill Fox, Naiad and Walter Einsel, Ward Brackett, Neil Hardy, Miggs Burroughs — the names roll off Shirley’s tongue, like the old friends they were.

She points to a photo from 1981. It was Max’s 25th anniversary. A hundred artists posed on the sidewalk outside.

The famous 1981 photo. Another was taken in 2006, for Max's 50th anniversary.

The famous 1981 photo. Another was taken in 2006, for Max’s 50th anniversary.

Today, at least half are dead. That’s one reason Max’s is closing.

Another is the new nature of the art industry. The advent of computers changed the way illustrators worked. The rise of e-commerce changed the way they bought supplies.

Through the 1980s too, Westport was known as a marketing mecca. Industrial designers and marketing corporations were steady customers. When they moved out, Max lost more business.

For longer than she cares to recount, the store has not made money. At age 70 — well over a decade ago — Shirley took herself off the payroll.

Shirley Mellor at her desk, surrounded by original art from grateful customers.

Shirley Mellor at her desk, surrounded by original art from grateful customers.

Then she started subsidizing Max’s, out of her own pocket. She’s lucky, she says — she owns half of the building, as well as those that house neighboring Fig (formerly Schaefer’s Sporting Goods) and Dovecote (the old smoke shop, Quick Copy and beauty salon). “It was a good investment,” she says.

But it does not make up for the money that Max’s has been losing for so long.

Things were different, back in the day. The Fine Arts Theaters (now Restoration Hardware and Matsu Sushi) brought people downtown. So did the popular Ships Restaurant (now Tiffany).

“People were around. Now they’re not,” says Nina Royce.

Nina Royce, with plenty of "stuff" still left at Max's.

Nina Royce, with plenty of “stuff” still left at Max’s.

Nina has worked at Max’s since 1969. In 1975, she created the first window display of Westport artists. Since then — every month — Nina has made that spot an ever-changing, always-intriguing exhibition of local creativity.

New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer — a former Westporter — once wrote of a New York City gallery, “I’ve seen better shows at Max’s than this one.”

Nina — whose husband David died last month — does not know what she’ll do now. Neither does 10-year employee Rita Ross Englebardt (whose husband died just a few days before Nina’s).

Talented framer Jay Cimbak is lucky. He will work on his own, once he finds a spot.

“We just can’t do it any more,” Shirley says wistfully. “We absolutely can’t make a living here. It’s a whole different world. We hung on as long as possible. Every day I lose money. Kids still come in with school projects. But we can’t make money on crayons.”

When the Fine Arts Theaters closed in 1999, Max's next door felt the effects. (Photo/ Miggs Burroughs)

When the Fine Arts Theaters closed in 1999, Max’s next door felt the effects. (Photo/ Miggs Burroughs)

So there is no longer a place for an art supply store in downtown Westport. But what does that mean?

“You’ll lose the personal touch, the interactions,” Nina says. “Our customers are familiar to us. We’ve watched them grow. You don’t get that in a chain store, or on the internet.”

“It’s a different Main Street now,” Shirley adds. “There’s no hardware store, drugstore, grocery store or gas station. That’s where you get the personal attention.”

She says — trying to smile — “We’re heartbroken. We’ve been so happy to be here. We want to thank our customers. We will sure miss them. Hopefully, they’ll miss us.”

Shirley looks at the wall full of art — gifts from grateful cartoonists and illustrators — hanging above her desk. She hopes to donate it to the Westport Historical Society.

It’s a history of Westport art, over the past 6 decades. It’s great, and all original.

But nowhere near as great, or original, as Shirley, Nina and Max’s Art Supplies have been to us.

If your browser does not take you directly to the Westport Historical Society’s oral history interview of Shirley Mellor, click here. Hat tips: Betsy Pollak and Miggs Burroughs.

Barbara Pearson-Rac Says Goodbye

After nearly 30 years in Westport, Barbara Pearson-Rac is leaving.

She has made a difference here in so many ways. That’s literal: Make a Difference Day was one of her wonderful projects.

So was First Night. For 2 decades, our town rang in New Year’s with a host of fun activities. Hundreds of volunteers made it work. But none of it would have been possible without Barbara’s prodigious passion, energy and talent.

Soon, Barbara will leave this town she has done so much for. She’s been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. As she explains below, she’ll spend precious time with her daughter and family.

Westport owes an enormous debt to Barbara Pearson-Rac. She’s done so much for us, for so long. Godspeed, Barbara, from the town that loves you just as much as you’ve loved us.

Dear Westporters,

In the early 1990s, my family moved to Westport. We visited many towns in Fairfield County, but were always drawn back here. We sensed this welcoming and inclusive town would be ideal to raise our elementary school age daughter.

Barbara Pearson-Rac

As a product of the ’60s, I experienced the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. These tragedies led to a conscious decision to devote myself to community service. I realized I couldn’t move mountains but any impact, no matter how small, was my goal.

Shortly after we settled in Westport, I participated in the ADL World of Difference program. The outgrowth of my experience became Westport’s Make a Difference Day.

We mobilized adults and children to work on projects for non-for-profit organizations. We went beyond our town borders to help people in need across Fairfield County. This day of volunteering in October grew every year. It was so successful that in our 10th year we received national recognition for our work.

During 2020, due to COVID we had to scale back dramatically, but we were able to help where we could. I am so proud of our many Westporters who have made this event an integral part of our town culture.

First Night, our town New Year’s Eve party, was designed to bring our community together to share in a joyous entertainment event and strengthen ties. I ran the event for many years with a dedicated board and many community volunteers. Together we enjoyed music, fun for all ages, and the beginning of a new year.

The evening always ended at Jesup Green. Everyone gathered around a bonfire watching the fireworks. The happiness in everyone’s faces kept me and the board active in this endeavor for over 20 years, until it was no longer financially feasible. But it was our gift to the town.

John Videler’s drone captured 2016’s First Night fireworks over Westport.

Now I am on a new journey. I have to say goodbye to my beloved Westport and all the wonderful friends I’ve made over the years.

I have been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Soon my husband and I will move to Pennsylvania to be close to my daughter, son-in-law and 2 small grandsons. I want to spend as much time with them as I have left.

Do not feel sorry for me, though. Diagnosed in August, I have responded to chemotherapy better than the doctors ever expected. I remain active, with 3 yoga classes a week, working on my 5th novel (it’s almost completed), participating in virtual author talks, serving on the Senior Center board, and in Zoom with my friends.

I may have cancer, but my life goes on. I hope I’ve been a role model for my daughter on how best to cope when life throws you a curveball.

So with sadness I say goodbye to Westport, all my friends and colleagues, and the opportunities it has given me.

Lyfebulb: “Aha!” Idea For Managing Chronic Disease

Karin Hehenberger has led a lucky life.

She grew up in Sweden, graduated from an international high school in Paris, attended medical school and earned her Ph.D. in Stockholm, and did post-doctoral work at Harvard.

Karin Hehenberger

In Cambridge she became friendly with Business School students. At 26 she was hired by McKinsey as a healthcare consultant. Then it was off to Wall Street, to work for a hedge fund.

But Karin’s life has been filled with bad luck too.

In her teens she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She kept it secret from everyone except her family. If others knew, she thought, they’d view her as “weak.”

Over the next 20 years, she suffered complications. Diabetes affected her eyes; her kidneys and pancreas were failing, and she had a pacemaker. “I was a walking stroke risk,” Karin says.

Her father Michael — an IBM executive who had moved to Westport with his wife and Karin’s younger sister Anna, when she was in high school — donated a kidney. Karin’s eyes were treated with a product she’d worked on in her healthcare days. Her vision was saved; she did not dialysis.

She also made the list for a pancreas transplant. On New Years Eve 2009, she got a call: Get to Minneapolis immediately. A second pancreas was available.

But it was damaged in transit. “Frozen and dejected,” Karin says, she got ready for the new year.

Providentially, almost immediately she got another call. Another pancreas was on the way.

Karin Hehenberger, after her pancreas transplant.

On January 2, 2010, Karin’s life changed. She has not injected insulin since. She’d performed that life-saving ritual 5 to 10 times a day — and spent many more hours checking her blood sugar.

As she recovered, Karin thought about her career.

She had never connected with any other diabetic. “Patients need patients just as much as much as we need doctors,” she realized.

And, she says, “even though I was so involved with innovation and technology, I’d never allowed my own experience to be part of the assessment. I didn’t want to think I was biased.”

Gradually, Karin says, “I understood that patients can be innovators. We know the problems. We can have solutions.”

That set off a light bulb in her head. In 2014 she started Lyfebulb. The name combines that idea of innovation with the optimism of “life.” (The “Y” resembles a light bulb — and the logo colors are the same as Sweden’s.)

Lyfebulb’s mission is to “reduce the burden of living with chronic
disease through the power of the patient.”

Karin started out thinking only of her experience as a transplant recipient. “It’s very complex to be alive because someone else died, or gave up a part of themselves,” she explains. “But we were all alone. I thought there needed to be a community of transplant patients.”

As she tried to find ways to empower people with transplants — “not just to take charge of their lives, but to be valued and respected” — she realized there were commonalities with people suffering from chronic diseases who did have “communities” (for example, cancer patients and those with inflammatory bowel disease).

Through digital solutions, innovation challenges, events, panel discussions, workshops, social media, newsletters and blogs, her company works with patients in 11 disease areas: transplantation, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic kidney disease, IBD, migraine, substance use disorders, mental health, psoriasis and chronic cough.

Karin Hehenberger and her daughter, in Westport.

Lyfebulb — which, since COVID, Karin has run out of her Westport home — is a for-profit company. It pays patients for their insights, and uses their ideas to build products for the marketplace.

For example, a young diabetic realized he did not always remember the last time he dosed himself.

“It’s not easy to keep track of,” Karin notes. “You’re making 300 decisions a day related to food, checking blood sugar and insulin.”

The simple solution: a pen cap that allows people to record the time and amount of each dose.

“Diabetics want to live without thinking about their disease,” Karin says. “Doctors want them to test constantly, to optimize glucose control. Those two things completely contradict each other.”

But without seeking patients’ input and insights, no company would think to manufacture an insulin pen cap like that. Three now do.

Similarly, Karin says, Lyfebulb learned that diabetics wanted an insulin device that’s less bulky and institutional-looking than the standard gray ones. Nothing stopped that — except no one ever asked.

“That’s a consumer insight,” she notes. “In every other field, consumers drive product development. In healthcare, consumer marketing has always been an afterthought.”

Karin’s goal is for Lyfebulb to “replace Facebook for health information.” On the ubiquitous social media platform, she says, “there’s no moderation. Anyone can say anything about a product or remedy. It’s not safe.”

Karin’s goal is for Lyfebulb to “replace Facebook for health information.” On the ubiquitous social media platform, she says, “there’s no moderation. Anyone can say anything about a product or remedy. It’s not safe.”

This month, Lyfebulb launched TransplantLyfe, an online engagement platform for the transplant community.

Lyfebulb ensures scientific and medical reviews. “We want to harness the power of a crowd to change the way people deal with chronic disease. We take over when doctors and nurses leave,” Karin says.

“You’re not alone. You’re not different,” she says to people living with chronic diseases. “You can be helped by people just like you.”

Roundup: Super Bowl Raffle, End Of The World, More

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Each year, hundreds of Westporters enjoy Westport Rotary’s Duck Race and Wine Tasting events. Their support enables the organization to support worthy causes here and abroad.

Both events are COVID-canceled. Yet charities need help more than ever. Fortunately, the Rotarians have a plan.

Their new fundraiser is The Great Rotary Raffle: Super Bowl Edition.

Tickets are $50 each. On February 5 — 2 days before the game — each ticket will be assigned a randomly selected pair of numbers.

Winners will be determined by the scores at the end of each quarter. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarter winners each get a $500 Visa gift card. The winner of the final score snags a $1,000 card.

50% of all ticket sales go to those prizes. The other half goes directly to charities.

Click here to buy raffle tickets.

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At Staples, 2015 grad Rachel Treisman wrote for the school paper Inklings. In college, she became editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.

Now Rachel writes for NPR.

Yesterday, she wrote an important, comprehensive piece. Headlined “The Vaccine Rollout Will Take Time. Here’s What The U.S. Can Do Now To Save Lives,” it covers governmental, private and personal responses to the pandemic. Click here for the story.

Rachel Treisman

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There are 72 films at Sundance 2021. According to IndieWire, 15 are “Must-See,” and can be streamed at home.

Among them: “How it Ends.” Written, directed and produced by 2002 Staples High School graduate Daryl Wein and his “partner in work and love” Zoe Lister-Jones, it is “a star-packed comedic rumination on nothing less than the end of the world.”

“Timely, no?” IndieWire adds.

The film stars Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Helen Hunt, Lamorne Morris and Cailee Spaeny.

Daryl Wein

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Don O’Day’s work as chair of the Coleytown Middle School Reopening Committee ended this month. The new school looks beautiful.

As one of his last acts, he hired a new security guard.

(Meme courtesy of Don O’Day)

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And finally … Jimmie Rodgers, the pop/country singer known for “Honeycomb” and other 1950s hits — died Monday in California. He was 87.

Hank Aaron: The Westport Connection

In death, Hank Aaron has been treated with respect, admiration, even reverence.

Hank Aaron

Yet in life, the Black man who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record was hounded by racist attacks, including death threats.

He heard them again nearly 4 decades later, when he defended Lebron James and President Obama.

Carla Koplin Cohn knows exactly what was in those letters thousands of letters.

She lives in Florida now, after more than 25 years in Westport. But in the early 1970s she was a young secretary, working in the basement of Atlanta Stadium. Aaron asked for help with his correspondence. She became his full-time secretary — a first for any baseball player.

The next year, she handled his 900,000 pieces of mail. She sent a form letter for fans. Aaron kept the hate mail in his attic — after Carla reported the threats to the FBI.

One of the thousands of pieces of hate mail received by Hank Aaron — and read by Carla Koplin.

Those letters were nasty. Some included KKK hoods.

Carla got some herself. “They knew I was white, Jewish, and working for a Black man,” she told Slate.

She remained Aaron’s personal assistant for the next 10 years. Cohn sat in the stands and taught Aaron’s second wife Billye all about baseball.

After he retired, they stayed close. Aaron was a guest at her wedding.

He was a frequent guest too at the Cohns’ Punch Bowl Drive home, including her 40th birthday party. Carla ran the annual Bargain Fest; one year, the star helped raise funds by signing baseballs and books.

Hank Aaron and his wife Billye, with Jenn, Carla and Al Cohn, at Carla’s 40th birthday celebration in Westport.

Carla, her husband Al and daughter Jenn visited the Aarons every Christmas, in West Palm Beach.

Carla and Aaron last spoke a few days before his death. He’d just gotten his COVID shot, and hoped to see her soon.

Though he was 86, his death came as a surprise. Cohn’s daughter Jenn Falik — who graduated from Staples High School in 1997, is an on-air trend reporter for “The Today Show” and “Rachael Ray,” writes the “Ultimate Edit” newsletter and moved back to Westport in 2012 — is gaining a new appreciation for the achievements and life of the man she calls “just he nicest, warmest, humblest and low-key person.”

Her children — in 4th grade and kindergarten — are learning too. “They recognize all these celebrities saying great things about him,” she notes. “To them, he’s just Uncle Henry.”

Hank Aaron with Goldie Fralik, 5 years ago at Christmas in Florida. Goldie is now a kindergartner at Greens Farms Elementary School.

Aaron was Uncle Henry to Jenn too.

Which leads to a story the Hall of Famer told at her wedding.

In his toast, Aaron said that when Jenn was a Coleytown Elementary School 1st grader, students had to write biographies on either Helen Keller or Hank Aaron. All the girls chose Keller — except Jenn.

Surprised, the teacher asked why. “He’s my uncle,” she replied.

Worried that Jenn had a problem, the teacher and guidance counselor called her parents for a conference. They explained that yes, Jenn really did call Hank Aaron “Uncle Henry.”

Because to her, he was.

(Click here for a great Slate story: “The Woman Who Read Hank Aaron’s Hate Mail.”  Click here for an in-depth New York Times story on him.)

Hank Aaron, at Jenn Cohn and Brian Falik’s wedding in 2005. The Presidential Medal of Freedom winner spoke right before Brian — “a daunting lead-in for the groom,” Jenn notes.

Roundup: Theater, Sports, Bernie, More

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Good theater is hard to find right now.

But a pair of Staples High School graduates are collaborating on an intriguing work, available from the comfort of your home. And it was filmed right in Westport.

Class of 2016 graduate Adam Riegler is directing a virtual play. “Albert Names Edward” by Louis Nowra is a taped theatrical production about 2 men who meet unexpectedly. One has no memory; the other is at the peak of his philosophical musings. Albert teaches Edward about the world he has forgotten, and introduces him to new ways of thinking that Edward does not always accept.

The company of recent graduates of Dartmouth College includes Max Samuels (Staples Class of 2011). They rehearsed on Zoom before getting tested for COVID. They took all precautions as they to met to film the show here.

The budget was low. Riegler built a camera dolly out of medical equipment from his father’s office. But the quality is high.

Riegler is finishing the footage now, with an original score.

“Albert Names Edward” will be available on demand on January 29 and 30, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but should be reserved ahead of time (click here). 

Max Samuels (right) in “Albert Names Edward.”

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Last month, the Hackett family collected new and gently used sports equipment for a group called Leveling the Playing Field.

This was not just a bin-ful. Westporters donated enough cleats, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bats, skates, footballs and softball gloves to fill a truck. It’s all been delivered to youngsters who want to play, but could not afford to.

The Hacketts thank The Granola Bar, WestportMoms (and “06880”) for getting the word out — and to everyone who contributed.

Play ball!

hloe Hackett (organizer) and Max Levitt (founder of Leveling the Playjng Field), Chloe Hackett and Marley, the Hacketts’ rescue dog.

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Patricia Wettach — a 50-year resident of Westport — died peacefully at home on Wednesday. She was 97 years old.

The Pennsylvania native and World War II Navy WAVES veteran met her future husband, Bob, in the service. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, and they married in 1951.

In 1971 GE transferred Bob to New York from Cincinnati. Patricia lived in that house ever since.

Gracious and warm, she built strong, loving friendships everywhere. She welcomed everyone to her home, and fed them well. She enjoyed bridge, book and gourmet clubs, and was a longtime member of the Westport Woman’s Club, St. Luke New Horizon Society, Delta Gamma of Fairfield County Alumnae, and Food and Friends. Patricia also volunteered with Fairfield County Hospice, and was a liturgical minister at St. Luke Church.

She traveled internationally with friends and family, but her favorite destination was the Wettach cottage in Vermilion, Ohio, overlooking Lake Erie. She spent many hours on the front porch reading, talking and enjoying the view.

Patricia is survived by her children Mary Ann Roehm (Edward), Jane (Paul Baldasare Jr.) and Robert III (Gayle); 6 grandchildren; 2 great-grandchildren; sister Mary Werbaneth; stepbrother Colman Studeny, and 6 nephews.

She was predeceased 27 years ago by her husband Bob, whom she missed intensely.

As she approached her 90s Patricia was joined by Inga Durante, an aide whose tender care allowed her to stay at home until she died. Patricia’s family is deeply indebted to Inga for her service.

In lieu of flowers, Patricia asked that donations be made to Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County (22 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 06897). Click here to leave online condolences.

Patricia Wettach

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Cohl Katz is a hair stylist and makeup artist to the stars.

Her clients literally span A (Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin) to Z (Zelda Williams) — with everyone from Jodie Foster, Tracy Morgan, Al Hanks and Bill Clinton thrown in.

But on Wednesday, Cohl — who counts many Westporters among her devoted fans — had one of her most demanding clients ever.

Look familiar?

And after that, Bernie headed off to Compo Beach …

(Posted by Todd Zegras to Facebook)

(Courtesy of Mary Lou Roels)

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And finally … today is January 23. In other words, 1/23. So …

 

Roundup: 103rd Birthday, COVID Vaccine, Insurrection Arrest, More

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Happy 103rd birthday today to the incomparable Lee Greenberg.

The long-time — very long-time — Westporter (and Rotary Club member) — is as active as ever.

Arlene Yolles writes: “I first met her at Compo, where we played backgammon (she’s pretty good) with a set with 2 checkers missing. In their place, she used stones from the beach.

“You can find her there, with her lady Gina, around 3 p.m. almost any day of the year, by the one tree on South Beach. Her car tag says ‘Lee Gee.’

“I’ve attended several of her Cultural Salons (think Gertrude Stein in Paris) in her lovely home. She has a grand piano, and invited accomplished, talented musicians to perform.”

Lee Greenberg is a Westport treasure. The entire town honors her today!

PS: Just how “long-time” a Westporter is Lee? She’d already been here for years when, in 1957, she and her husband Nat rented their Long Lots Road home to Liz Taylor and her husband, Mike Todd.

Lee Greenberg celebrated her 100th birthday with Zefera, one of 4 great-grandchildren.

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All around town, Westporters are asking friends and neighbors about the COVID vaccine.

On Thursday, February 11 (7 p.m.), you can hear all about Pfizer’s creation and rollout of it, from 4 of the company’s top executives. They’re familiar to us, too — they’re our friends and neighbors.

The Westport Library virtual event features Jeremy Price, director of clinical innovation and strategic partnerships (and a Library trustee); Westport resident Rady Johnson, executive vice president and Pfizer’s chief compliance, quality and risk officer; Southporter John Kelly, vice president, quality operations and environment, health and safety, and Rob Goodwin, vice president and head of global product development operations’ Center of Excellence.

They’ll provide an in-depth look at the Pfizer vaccine, from the first days of research to manufacturing and distribution.

Click here to register for the free online event. Unfortunately, samples are not available.

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Speaking of vaccines: The Senior Center was a site yesterday. This was the scene.

If you are a glass-half-empty person, you’d see a long line.

If you’re glass-half-full, you’d think about all the folks who already got inside, and received shots.

(Photo/Ted Horowitz)

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And speaking still of vaccines:

According to State Senator Will Haskell, Connecticut has released more information the vaccination rollout, although all dates are tentative and largely dictated by federal supply chains. Individuals over the age of 75, health care workers, and seniors who reside in long term care facilities are currently eligible to receive the vaccine.

Individuals over the age of 65 will likely be able to sign up for their shots in early February. Frontline essential workers and adults with health conditions that put them at higher risk will be able to sign up in late February or early March. Future phases, which will include residents under the age of 65 who are not frontline workers and do not have high-risk conditions, are likely to go into effect in May and June.

According to state statistics, people over 75 make up just 8 percent of Connecticut’s population, yet represent just over 71 percent of all COVID deaths in the state. Those over the age of 70 also make up half of all COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state.

Meanwhile, individuals over 65, who represent 18 percent of the population, make up 88 percent of all deaths in the state. By focusing high-efficacy vaccine doses on this vulnerable population, Connecticut aims to save lives and reduce hospitalizations.

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The FBI has arrested another man accused of carrying several guns to Washington, for the insurrection at the Capitol.

Samuel Fisher lives on the Upper East Side. But he’s a 2007 graduate of Weston High School.

Using the name Brad Holiday, he’s got a series of YouTube videos and a website dedicated to sales and business.

But he also wrote provocative posts — like this one in which he predicted that on January 6 Ted Cruz and others would betray “Trump and We The People”; that “they will allow Antifa and BLM to run roughshot [sic] in the streets of D.C. and bear spray, search and arrest patriots,” or that perhaps if “1 million Patriots”  showed up for Donald Trump’s speech, he “just needs to fire the bat signal… deputize patriots… and then the pain comes.”

Fisher/Holiday had a handgun, rifle, shotgun, 1000 rounds of ammunition and 2 bulletproof vests when the FBI took him into custody.

He was not hard to find. He posted photos of himself inside the Capitol on social media, and was quoted in the Daily Beast: “It was awesome. It was dangerous and violent. People died … but it was fucking great if you ask me …. i got tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed.”

And now, arrested.

Click here for the full New York Post story.

Samuel Fisher in Washington on January 6.

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And finally …  The Apple Macintosh 128 — the first consumer computer to popularize a mouse, built-in screen and graphical user interface, bundled with the brand-new MacWrite and MacPaint — was introduced through a now-historic “1984” Ridley Scott Super Bowl XVIII ad.

Meanwhile, do I know what the #1 song was on January 22, 1984? Yes …

 

 

 

 

 

Don O’Day’s Joe Biden Story

Every 4 years, Don O’Day spends February in New Hampshire.

The former Board of Education (and, more recently, Coleytown Middle School reopening committee) chair is not there to ski.

A political junkie since 1968, he takes a first-hand look at the men and women who — early in the presidential campaign — crisscross the Granite State before its first-in-the-nation primary.

O’Day is there as they speak to small crowds, mingle afterward, and engage in the type of retail politics that the rest of the country only dreams about.

Eleven months ago he was there, up close and personal with Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang.

And very, very personal with Joe Biden.

Don O’Day, with Joe Biden. At left: Don’s son Mike O’Day and his fiancee Nicole Sockett.

O’Day attended a small campaign event. Afterwards, he spoke to the former vice president.

I attended a small Biden campaign event in New Hampshire and spoke to him afterwards.

O’Day said he had used the former vice president’s words several years earlier, when he delivered a eulogy for his brother-in-law.

Biden stopped the rope line, and listened.

Speaking personally, and listening intently.

“He only seemed interested in how my sister was dealing with the loss of her husband,” O’Day recalls.

“His New Hampshire opponents didn’t seem to matter. When I told him it’s still a day-to-day thing, even though several years have passed, he took her number and said he would would call.

“I wasn’t sure he would.  But the next day — in the middle of a primary campaign — he called. They spoke for 15 minutes. No politics — just family, grief, joy and life. ”

O’Day’s sister was “overwhelmed.”

Two days later, he went to another Biden event. O’Day thanked him. They spoke about again — about his sister, the call, and Biden’s approach to dealing with loss.

“He took the time,” O’Day says about America’s new president.

“He’s the real deal.”

Joe Biden in New Hampshire, with Don O’Day’s wife Toni and son Donny.

 

Roundup: School Reopening, Seed Exchange, Leadership, More

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Westport’s elementary and middle school open for full in-person on February 1.

A new Westport Public Schools website offers information on the transition. it includes details on schedules, specials, health and safety, lunch and recess, mitigation and hygiene strategies, classroom cohorts, special education, transportation, technology and more.

Click here for the elementary school page. Click here for the middle school page.

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Talented Westport photographer Ted Horowitz posted this photo to his Instagram this morning:

He took the shot years ago at sunrise, in the Lincoln Memorial.

“In the silence of dawn, with golden light reflecting on the statue, the  the sense of gravity and majesty was overwhelming,” he says.

“It was a hopeful moment, as morning light poured in and a  day dawned once again. I felt that this image was appropriate for today, as we seeking relief from the past 4 years, and are hopeful for the new day which is about to begin.”

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Next Thursday (January 28) is National Seed Exchange Day.

Stumped for a celebration? Head to the Westport Farmers’ Market. It’s (no coincidence) their annual seed exchange.

People can bring seeds saved from their gardens — or take home a few saved by others.

WFM farmers will donate seeds from their favorite crops for the community to try at home. All seeds except invasive species are welcome, but the market urges people to bring and take home heirloom or organic varieties. (Click here for a list of invasive plants.)

Heirloom seeds are critical to reclaiming the food system. They’re open-pollinated plants passed down from generation to generation, without human intervention or manipulation. They taste better, are more nutritious, and help protect plant diversity.

“Collecting, sharing, and growing seeds saved by our very own shoppers, farmers and vendors – especially heirloom varieties – involves the community personally in the promotion of local food and flora,” says Farmers’ Market executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall.

“This year more than ever we want to seed the year with love and health.”

The seed exchange runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — or until all seeds are shared —  on January 28th at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, 7 Sylvan Avenue.

Experts will be on hand to informally discuss the importance of seed saving.

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Yesterday’s mention of Capuli — the new restaurant in the old Westport Pizzeria location across from Bank of America — may have left the impression that it’s a pizza place.

It’s not.

The California-Mediterranean fusion menu — filled with healthy options — includes appetizers like chimichurri shrimp skewers and grilled octopus, and entrees like eggplant polenta Napoleon, pansotti, classic New York steak and California hamburger.

Click here for the mouth-watering lunch and dinner menus.

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Mike Hayes is a 20-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, with service in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. He had defense policy and strategy roles in the Bush and Obama administrations.

He’s got a master’s in public policy from Harvard, and is the author of an inspirational book, “Never Enough.”

Hayes is also a Westporter. And on February 4 (7 p.m.), he’ll share his thoughts on leadership with former Westport Library trustee Maggie Mudd.

He’ll talk about how decisions get made, particularly under duress; crisis management, conflict resolution and more. Leadership lessons are applicable to every walk of life, Mudd notes.

Click here to register for the free virtual program.

Mike Hayes

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And finally (and I do mean “finally”) …

Marc Selverstone: Presidential Scholar Looks Back, And Ahead

Our country is deeply divided. We’ll remain so for some time.

The Biden administration will move quickly to get things done. It only has a year to do so, before the mid-term elections move into high gear.

We’ll continue to reel from assaults on both truth and an array of institutions vital to the maintenance of a healthy democracy.

Those are not novel concepts. But they — and others, much more in depth and nuanced — have particular resonance, on this inauguration day.

They come from Marc Selverstone. The 1980 Staples High School graduate is an associate professor in presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s famed Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Marc Selverstone

With a doctorate in American history, he also chairs the center’s Presidential Recordings Program; teaches courses on foreign relations, and consults with filmmakers, authors and educators.

Over the last 4 years, Selverstone says, it’s been a challenge to figure out how to avoid using the word “unprecedented.”

Beyond trying to understand policy choices, he’s tried to understand President Trump’s appeal to “a durable segment of the population, and an extraordinary percentage of the Republican Party.”

“His most dramatic departures had less to do with policy than with his approach to norms and conventions, to personnel and institutions and, most consequentially, to truth and fact-based reality,” the scholar says.

Selverstone calls the Biden transition “one of the most professional in memory. That augurs well for a country reeling from intersecting health and economic crises, and against the backdrop of really seismic and fundamental challenges in our politics, in social and race relations, and with respect to the environment.

“Whether or not the Capitol insurrection functions as a modern-day Beer Hall Putsch remains to be seen,” he adds. “1923 is a far cry from 1933, let alone what came after. But reporting seems to indicate that the assault has galvanized groups of well-armed violent extremists who are fanatically loyal to the outgoing president and all he represents.”

Until January 6, the Confederate flag had never been paraded through the US Capitol.

Selverstone’s looks ahead are informed by his study of the past. The Recordings Program transcribes and analyzes White House tapes that 6 consecutive presidents of both parties — from Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 to Richard Nixon in 1973 — made in secret.

Most of the work focuses on the period between 1962 and ’73. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were the most active in taping aides, journalists, cabinet officials, legislators, family members and private individuals.

In 2005, Selverstone was part of a Brown University-led oral history research project, exploring the Kennedy/Johnson transition and its impact on Vietnam policy.

Intrigued, Selverstone began exploring Kennedy’s thoughts on withdrawal planning (“real and extensive”), and his Vietnam policy overall — cut short, of course, by his assassination.

President John F. Kennedy and the primary architect of his Vietnam policy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

That led to a book, due to his publisher March 1: “The Kennedy Withdrawal: Camelot and the American Commitment to Vietnam.”

Selverstone has become impressed with how much the president was souring on the war. He had always been wary of deep involvement, the professor says, though he went to Dallas still committed to fighting it.

The question of withdrawal deadlines — at least, their public announcements – is relevant today. “Calendars factored into the Bush , Obama and Trump policies toward Iraq and Afghanistan,” Selverstone says.

Such deadlines “don’t have a very good track record,” he notes. “They rarely served the political or military objectives they were designed to achieve.”

Meanwhile, Selverstone, the Miller Center and the US prepare for a new administration.

He’ll continue to work on the presidential tapes, then undertake new projects beyond the election of 1964 and Vietnam.

“With the Kennedy book in the rear view mirror,” he says, “I’ll join my colleagues in thinking about what this turbulent era of American public life means for us, as well as what it means in the stream of time.”