Category Archives: People

Jonathan Greenfield: ALS Warrior Needs Help

Jonathan Greenfield is a well-known Westporter, and great friend of “06880.” 

Jonathan Greenfield

He’s been an NYU dropout, photojournalist, documentary filmmaker, surfer, triathlete and tea specialist.

Three years ago we featured his amazing life in this story: “The Most Interesting Man in Westport Drinks Tea.”

A year and a half later — shortly after completing his 3rd triathlon — we reported on him again. He’d been diagnosed with cancer — and ALS.

With his trademark optimism, good humor and vigor, he took a leadership role in a crusade to help others with ALS. He organized fundraisers, and as a proponent of the Wim Hof breathing technique, he spread the word about innovative treatments.

Another story, last May, described his advocacy work for ALS research and treatment.

Jonathan Greenfield at a Washington, DC protest.

Here’s our latest update. It comes courtesy of WestportMoms, the multi-media platform. “06880” is honored to repost this. We hope you’ll share it too, with all your networks.

Iris and Jonathan Greenfield are going through an unimaginable situation.

In 2018 Jonathan was diagnosed with ALS. Over the past year his diagnosis took a turn for the worse. He is now confined to a wheelchair, without the ability to speak, write or perform basic motor functions.

Iris works her day job as an acupuncturist (a field significantly impacted by COVID), and spends her nights waking regularly to care for Jonathan. That’s in addition to raising their 3 amazing children: Zach (12), Skye (10) and Josie (8).

Jonathan and Iris Greenfield.

The Greenfields’ health insurance does not pay for the constant home care that Jonathan requires. That has created an incredible financial strain on the family.

As a community, we are defined by how we come together to help our neighbors in the greatest hour of need. Jonathan and his family desperately need our help, so they can pay for their basic living expenses.

Please click here to contribute to their GoFundMe page. The page contains more information about Jonathan’s life, as well as links to his Breathe4ALS organization, and a book of his photojournalism compiled by friends.
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Dr. Altbaum Hangs Up His Stethoscope

Medicine has changed a lot in the 42 years since Dr. Robert Altbaum began practicing.

Physicians know much more. They have better treatments and medications.

On the other hand, it’s much more of a business. Paperwork (on computers) has increased exponentially. There’s less time for each patient.

Another trend — “concierge” medicine — has widened the gap between those who can afford to pay for added access to doctors, and those who can’t.

Dr. Robert Altbaum

Several years ago, Internal Medicine Associates of Westport — where Altbaum has spent his entire career — began talking about a concierge tier. Four partners left, to open a strictly concierge practice

“It would have made life easier, and probably more profitable,” he admits.

“But my patients had been so loyal. I wanted to continue the same way to the end.”

He accepted 100 or so concierge patients. The rest — hundreds — he treated just as he’d always done.

“Emotionally, for me, it was the right decision,” Altbaum says.

This June, one of Westport’s longest-serving physician retires. He’ll hike, snowshoe, play tennis, travel, and enjoy his wife, children and grandchildren. All live nearby.

He’ll join the Y’s Men, and — a “perpetual student” — take courses at local universities.

Yet he won’t leave medicine behind. Altbaum will teach at Norwalk Hospital, and give talks at places like the Westport Library, on subjects like hospice, advance directives, and searching the internet for diagnoses.

Medicine has been a rewarding career for Altbaum. It’s what he always wanted to do.

He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science at 16. After New York University (Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude) and Harvard Medical School, he did a residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

His wife was a Staples High School graduate. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer. To be closer, he spent a year of ambulatory chief residency at Yale New Haven Hospital.

During his mother-in-law’s illness, Altbaum met Paul Beres and Harold Steinberg. They were looking to add an internist to their practice, established by others in the 1950s.

Altbaum joined them in June of 1978. He’s been there nearly 43 years.

“It’s gone by quickly,” the doctor says. “There have been different partners. But it’s the same shingle. The same name.”

Altbaum still works 70 hours a week. Each day, after 8 to 12 hours with patients, he spends 2 to 3 hours updating records on the computer.

He takes his laptop into the examining room too. He regrets having to look down at the screen, rather than always into his patients’ eyes.

But that same technology allows him to retrieve information quickly. It eliminates possible errors in medication. He’s come to embrace it.

Technology has also made his patients — always intelligent — much more aware of their own medical care. “They walk in well prepared with information,” Altbaum says. “That can be good or bad.”

And although he sees each patient less than before — 15 to 20 minutes, rather than 20 to 30 — he never sensed a change. “There’s still a strong bond,” he says. “They’re loyal to their doctor, and their doctor is loyal to them.”

The Internal Medicine Associates staff. Dr. Altbaum is standing, far right.

What kept Altbaum going for over 4 decades? “I really like medicine. I like the science. I like the feeling at the end of the day that I helped people.”

His greatest worry when he began was that internal medicine would be “colds and influenza.” In fact, he says, as his patients have aged — the majority are now older than he is — their issues have grown more complex. That’s a challenge. And in that challenge, strong relationships are forged.

In the weeks since announcing his retirement, Altbaum has been heartened by his patients’ responses. “People say I’ve made a difference in their lives. That’s so rewarding,” he says. “That far outweighs the burden of the hours.

“I’m grateful that I’ve gotten a lot of intellectual and emotional reimbursement from what I’ve done.”

He always planned to retire at 70. Had he left a year ago — before COVID — he says, he probably would have come back.

“This has been very hard on our partners,” he notes. “But from a medical perspective, it’s been a very stimulating time. We learned a lot. We digested a lot of information in a short period of time.”

Much of Altbaum’s life has been focused on medicine. But he has another passion. It’s been on display for years: music.

Not just any music. Rock ‘n’ roll.

Dr. Albtaum (front row, far right) and his band.

As a child, Altbaum took piano lessons. At 13, he and few friends formed a band: The Blue Shades.

“It was 3 months of acne and voice changes. We had no gigs. We were pretty bad,” he recalls.

At 18, he got a gig: accompanying youngsters at Hebrew School. When his own children were part of the Staples elite Orphenians choral group, he played piano for them.

Then, 20 years ago, he and fellow physicians Fred Kaplan, Andrew Parker and Frank Garofalo formed a band.

DNR plays at the Levitt Pavilion. Keyboardist/vocalist Dr. Altbaum is at right. (Photo courtesy of WestportNow)

“It was like a Mickey Rooney movie,” Altbaum says. “We were a garage band. We actually practiced in Frank’s garage.”

Other doctors joined. They got good. They called themselves DNR (medical-ese for “Do Not Resusciate”). Their website claims that former Surgeon General Everett Koop called them “the best multispecialty rock group in Fairfield County.”

Through the years, more doctors have played with DNR. (And one attorney: bassist Fred Ury.)

The current lineup has been together about 15 years. They’ve got a devoted classic rock following. Their Levitt Pavilion show — a fundraiser for Westport’s Volunteer Emergency Medical Service — is always jammed.

COVID canceled last year’s show. But Altbaum is eager to get back on stage.

And he’ll have as much time as he needs to rehearse. (Hat tip: Amy Schafrann)

Meghan Ward Charts A New Path

At most schools, the assistant principal handles discipline. He — and it’s often a male — breaks up fights, hands out suspensions and tracks down truants.

Staples is not most schools.

There, assistant principals have a wide range of tasks. They handle every aspect of student life, from curriculum and the daily calendar to clubs and activities. They’re involved in attendance, academic integrity, even proms.

That’s just part of the job description. Meghan Ward, for example, oversees online courses, the independent learning experience and Pathways, Staples’ alternative school program. She works with academic support classes, and — particularly this year, with COVID complications — collaborates closely with guidance counselors, pupil personnel services, social workers and psychol0gists to keep students on track.

All of those skills and experiences will help Ward when she leaves Staples this summer. The assistant principal has been named principal of John Read Middle School in Redding.

Meghan Ward (Photo/Dan Woog)

It’s a homecoming of sorts. Ward attended Joel Barlow High School — which her new school feeds into — and loved it. Among other activities, she was Student Council president.

She enjoyed an introductory education class at Providence College, but graduated from Southern Connecticut State University as a political science major.

Her first job was with US Tobacco in Greenwich. Working in governmental affairs, she met an intern who headed back to school for a master’s in education.

That piqued her interest. Ward shifted gears, got her own master’s at Sacred Heart University, and student taught in social studies at Trumbull High, under Jon Shepro.

In 2004, 2 positions opened up a Staples. Shepro and Ward filled them both.

Ward spent 9 years in the classroom. She credits “awesome administrators” with allowing her to “take risks and try new things.” Student-centered classrooms encouraged students to think for themselves.

“I was given a gift to be creative and independent,” she says. “We teach to common standards, but the way we deliver education is our own. The 25 kids in my classroom may be very different from the ones next door.”

Along the way, Ward became certified as an administrator. When she and her husband moved to Maine, she was hired as dean of students for a regional high school.

She loved the opportunity to get to know both “the whole student” — not just the one in a Global Themes or US history class — and the entire sophomore class. The challenges — academic, social, interpersonal, family dynamics — were fascinating. Her principal and administrative team were “totally student-centered.”

The school included an alternative program. It was Ward’s first experience with teenagers who — though school was “not their thing” — followed a positive path.

“Every kid had a passion for something,” Ward says. “One of them loved welding. We figured out how he could get credit for it. Creativity can change the course of someone’s life. If you listen and believe in them when they’re at their lowest point, they’ll respond.”

Ward’s next position was assistant position at Old Orchard Beach High School. She was involved in the alternative education program there too.

She moved on to the principalship of York High School. “An amazing experience!” she says. “The staff and Board of Education were very supportive. The amount of time they committed to kids was incredible.”

She left with regrets, when her family returned to Connecticut. Fortuitously, an assistant principal’s position opened up at Staples, in the fall of 2016.

Ward worked with then-principal James D’Amico to develop the Pathways program. Among her dozens of responsibilities, it’s been among the most rewarding.

The main classroom at Pathways. Other rooms — and the lounge — branch off from here.

She takes the “path” idea literally. “We can actually help create a way for each kid to get what they need to succeed,” she says.

Returning as an administrator to the high school where she once taught was eye-opening. She gained a deeper understanding of the interrelationships between all staff members, and the importance of listening closely to others in order to make the best decisions for “the student, the building and the town.”

Staples is the only Connecticut school building Ward ever worked in. She is grateful for the support and opportunities she’s received, from “special, incredible” colleagues.

Now she heads to a different one — and with a different age group.

“After embracing 9th graders coming to Staples, I’m excited to work with middle schoolers,” Ward says. “Fifth through 8th graders: What do those pathways look like?”

As usual, she’ll listen — to students, their families, the community.

Then Ward — the mother of a 5th and 7th grader herself — will take the lessons she’s learned in Westport and Maine, and apply them to John Read Middle School.

A new path awaits.

Remembering Steve Lyons

Steve Lyons — the Cape Cod artist who opened a gallery in Westport in 2019 — died peacefully Sunday at his Chatham home, surrounded by family. He was 62 years old, and had battled brain cancer.

When Steve opened Bankside Contemporary on Post Road West, next to National Hall, he envisioned it as both a gallery and a communal gathering place. The pandemic — which struck just a few months later — and his illness forced Bankside to close last year.

Art was his second career. Steve spent most of his adult life as a corporate writer for a mutual fund. But 9 years ago he went back to a hobby he loved. He began painting on scrap wood. Within a few years, he was named one of the Top 5 Expressionist Artists in the World.

During treatment for his cancer in California, Steve and his partner of 36 years, Peter Demers, both contracted COVID. On January 10, Peter died. Friends raised funds for Steve to return to his beloved Cape Cod.

Click here for a full obituary.

Peter Demers and Steve Lyons.

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In February 2020, I featured Steve Lyons in an “0688o” post:

Westport has plenty of art galleries.

But it may never have seen one quite like Bankside Contemporary, Steve Lyons’ new one on Post Road West.

Modeled on his successful gallery in Chatham on Cape Cod, this one — formerly Mar Silver Design, opposite Winfield Deli — is far from the very quiet/let’s examine the works/wine-and-cheese reception traditional gallery space.

Lyons prefers a “communal gathering space.” He wants people to wander in, say hi, enjoy cookies and candy and coffee, and just hang out.

“If you want art, we’ve got it,” he says. “But everyone is welcome.”

Steve Lyons’ art at Bankside Contemporary, 14 Post Road West.

If that sounds like a different kind of art gallery, well, Lyons’ path as an artist has been untraditional too.

Growing up poor in the foothills of Appalachia, he always painted. In college he minored in art and art history, but majored in something more career-oriented: journalism.

He moved to New York. He did PR for films and TV (and served a stint as critic Judith Crist’s assistant). He painted in his spare time, on weekends.

A job offer — corporate writing for a mutual fund — brought Lyons to New Haven. He bought a house on the Cape, and displayed his work at “casual shows” there.

He had some success. But he never thought about quitting his day job.

Steve Lyons

Eight years ago, Lyons began working on his back porch, painting on small pieces of scrap lumber. He put the finished art out front, with a sign asking anyone interested to put $40 or $50 in a nearby jar.

He sold 400 pieces that summer. Encouraged, he took a leap of faith to pursue art full time. “I know I’m one of the lucky ones,” he says.

Lyons opened a studio on Chatham’s Main Street — a homey place with a welcoming vibe.

In 2016 he was named one of the Top 5 Expressionist Artists in the World by the American Art Awards. The following year they named him #2 in the world for abstract expressionism. In 2018, Art Tour International Magazine listed him as one of the Top 15 Artists in the World to Watch.

It’s not quite a Grandma Moses story — she gained her first fame after age 80. But Lyons is 61 years old. Most “Artists to Watch” are not so close to Social Security.

Among the collectors paying attention was Phil Nourie. Last year — after a career in public relations and marketing — the 51-year-old Westporter started a new company.

Called GigSuite, its mission is to help people realize that after decades in a structured career, their skills actually are transferable. They can own, manage, advise and/or invest in a new, entrepreneurial field — even as their peers think about retirement.

The pair have formed an unusual business alliance. Lyons serves as Gig Suite’s art advisor. He helps clients who want to learn more about art, for aesthetic or business reasons (or both).

Steve Lyons’ “Dancing Clouds.”

Nourie, meanwhile, has helped Lyons open the Bankside Contemporary gallery.

“Steve changed careers in mid-life. He’s able to help others see it’s possible,” Nourie says.

Lyons’ artistic style is an important element in what both men do.

GigSuite’s research showed that “people need an open mind first, to overcome fear of trying something different later in life,” Nourie says. It also shows the human brain responds well to abstract expressionism.

So Lyons’ work hangs on the walls of Gig Suite’s office at 500 Post Road East, inspiring all who come to their workshops. And Gig Suite is the official host of the “Agility Through Art” series at Bankside Contemporary.

Grandma Moses, eat your heart out.

(For Steve Lyons’ website, click here.)

Roundup: Operation Varsity Blues, Christopher Lloyd, Women’s Voices …

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Operation Varsity Blues” — the Netflix movie about the rich-and-famous college admissions scandal — has taken America by storm.

There’s a Westport angle. Thankfully, it has nothing to do with a parent pretending his or her child was a star water polo player, even if he or she cannot swim.

“Operation Varsity Blues” was written and edited by Jon Karmen. He’s the 2008 Staples High School graduate who made a huge name for himself there as half of “Rubydog” — a moviemaking duo who, working with media instructor Jim Honeycutt, made a number of way-beyond-high school videos back in the day. (Click here to see some of their pioneering work.)

Karmen is known too as the writer/director of “Fyre” (2019), a behind-the-scenes look at that infamous music festival.

“Varsity Blues” was #3 on Netflix’s Top 10 Most Watched Movies & TV Shows yesterday. But it wasn’t the only one with an “06880” connection. Jamie Mann’s “Country Comfort” checked in at #7. (Hat tip: Kerry Long)

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Speaking of Staples: More than 60 years after helping found Staples Players, Christopher Lloyd is still acting.

In 1958 he was a Staples High School student who wanted to do more than just act in a class play. He found a mentor in English teacher Craig Matheson. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lloyd went on to a career that includes “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Star Trek III,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and 2 “Addams Family” films.

At 82 years old, he’s got a new movie: “Senior Moment.” He stars with Jean Smart and William Shatner, who play a pair of older star-crossed lovers in an old-school romcom.

Lloyd talks about that project; his 5 wives — and growing up in Westport — in a wide-ranging Guardian interview. He was the youngest of 8 children, though the closest in age was 7 years older. Click here for the full interview. (Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)’

Christopher Lloyd in “Senior Moment.”

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Speaking again of Staples: Staples history classes absolutely crushed the National History Day regional competition.

Their papers, documentaries and exhibits examined everything from the Daughters of the Confederacy and Queer Communications in the Age of Oppression to Crypto-Analysis in World War I, Cigarette Advertising and the Freedom Riders.

How dominant was Staples? 32 students placed. There were only 5 other winners in the entire region, from just 2 other schools.

Placing first were Ishan Prasad, Sabrina Paris, Maya Hruskar, Lilly Weisz, Srushti Karve, William Jin, Michael Nealon, Zachary Brody, Jeffrey Pogue, Jack Ginsburg, Preston Norris, Tyler Clark and Matthew Gatto.

Finishing second were Nikos Ninios, Franca Strandell, Camille Vynerib, Julet Tracey, Lily Klau, Olivia Stubbs, Hannah Fiarman, Franky Lockenour, James Dobin-Smith, Coco Laska, Karlie Saed and Sarp Gurdogan.

Taking third were Sebastian Miller, Analise Vega, Emma Porzio, Arda Ernamli, Hannah Conn, Samantha Paris and Ethan Cukier.

Their (superb) teachers are Drew Coyne, Nell-Ann Lynch, Cathy Schager and Kelly Zrenda.

Up next: state and (hopefully) national competition.

A US championship? That would be historic.

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Speaking once again of the arts: On Tuesday (March 30, 7 p.m.), the Westport Country Playhouse presents a world premiere of “New Works/New Voices.” These 4 new pieces — all written by community members — honor women who inspired them: Constance Baker Motley, Anne Bogart, Mary Freeman, Mary McLeod Bethune and Gloria Steinem.

Local storytellers and actors will bring to life these very personal, beautiful stories recorded on the WCP stage.

Viewers are invited to pay what they can. 50% of ticket sales and donations during the broadcast go to the Playhouse’s community partner, Women’s Mentoring Network, providing career, educational and personal resources for the economic empowerment of low-income women and their families.

Click here to register for “New Works/New Voices.”

The artists and storytellers who will bring 5 women’s stories to life.

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Westporter Rob Simmelkjaer was confirmed yesterday, by a bipartisan State Senate vote, as chair of the Connecticut Lottery.

It’s a volunteer — but quite active — role he’s served in since May. Area senators Will Haskell and Bob Duff spoke warmly on the media executive’s behalf.

Rob Simmelkjaer

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Update from Parks & Rec: The concession stand at Compo Beach will open in mid-April. Last year, during COVID, it opened late, and ran only from a trailer adjacent to the brick building.

The concession stand at Compo Beach will be open next month.

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MoCA Westport has added 5 members to its board of directors. Two are from Westport.

Jennifer Kanfer has served on the board of The Conservative Synagogue, including co-chair of the Social Action, Membership and Fundraising Committees. and with the Coleytown Elementary School PTA. She previously worked in healthcare communications for 14 years. She holds a BA in political science from the University of Michigan, an MPA in healthcare policy and administration from NYU, and an MBA in Finance from NYU’s Stern School.

Samantha Yanks is an award-winning editor with over 20 years experience in luxury fashion and lifestyle publishing. In 2018 she launched a social, digital and branding agency, Samantha Yanks Creative. She was most recently editor-in- chief of Gotham and Hamptons magazines. As senior accessories editor at O, she collaborated closely with Oprah Winfrey. Yanks has discussed fashion, beauty and lifestyle on “The Today Show” and “NBC Nightly News,” “New York Live,” “Good Day New York,” E!, the Martha Stewart and Howard Stern shows, and more. She graduated from Tulane University.

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‘Tis the season — for both holiday lights and daffodils.

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

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And finally … the great — and greatly underrated — Billy Stewart was born today, in 1937. He died in 1970, only 32 years old.

If you only have time to listen to one song, it’s “Summertime.” But everything he touched was a classic.

 

Randy Herbertson Has Plans For The Downtown Plan

Better parking. Enhanced river access. Tech upgrades, including vibrant WiFi.

Those are some of the initiatives planned for downtown.

Now all Randy Herbertson has to do is implement them.

He’s not alone, of course. The revitalization of Main Street, Jesup Green and environs is a huge task, with public and private partnerships and investments.

But as the new chair of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, it’s Herbertson’s job to see it all through.

Randy Herbertson

He’s hardly parachuting in. He and his wife Deborah have been here since 1998. But although they chose this town in part for its cultural offerings, for more than their first decade Herbertson was “that guy who saw Westport only in the dark.”

He owned a marketing and design firm in New York. She commuted too. It was only after he sold his business and opened The Visual Brand on Church Lane — and Deborah became creative director at Terrain — that he got involved in local affairs.

He went big. David Waldman encouraged him to join the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. He sat on the town website steering committee and the Westport Library board.

And Herbertson joined the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

The “plan” is the town’s Master Plan. Developed 7 years ago, it is now “a bit outdated,” Herbertson admits. But it’s a start.

The new chair hopes to prioritize the plan’s 4 or 5 major initiatives, by cost and complexity.

One key issue: Reimagining parking. First up, Herbertson says, is the Baldwin lot off Elm Street. That’s the easiest

Parker Harding Plaza is more complex. It involves rethinking green space, and the lot’s relationship to the Saugatuck River.

A slender ribbon of green separates the Saugatuck River from Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Amy Berkin)

Jesup Green is the most complex. The ultimate vision, Herbertson says, is to flip the current parking with the adjacent green space. That would emphasize and maximize river access, while adding perhaps a playground or skating rink.

The greening of downtown, including technology upgrades, could solarize much of the area. A stronger WiFI network would enhance music capabilities.

Herbertson’s committee will also figure out how to create “more stop-and-pause places. People want room to move freely outside, then stop and dwell.”

The DPIC head points to the COVID-induced closing of Church Lane as successful. It led to increased dining and shopping, Herbertson says. Now he wants to build on that success.

Another issue: the best way to manage services like trash pickup and recycling.

“A good downtown is the heart and soul of a community,” Herbertson says. “It’s great to see that ours is becoming that again.” New businesses — restaurants, book stores and more — are opening up. Some are start-ups; others have relocated from elsewhere in town.

Among the new businesses downtown: Capuli restaurant.

During his time as president, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association reinvigorated the Fine Arts Festival. They added special events for different populations — a fashion show, beer fest and more — and advocated for enhanced public/private partnerships. Cables were buried; sidewalks and curbs added.

Herbertson calls his roles with the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee and Downtown Merchants Association “synergistic.” The DPIC is an advisory body, he notes; the town controls all rules and regulations.

But, he notes, “everything the DPIC touches is something the WDMA is involved in.”

He also sees synergy with other initiatives in town — for example, the revitalization of Saugatuck.

“COVID taught us the importance of the retail community, as part of our town as a whole,” he says. “Whatever happens in one place affects the rest.”

So what does Herbertson’s idea downtown look like?

“Highly walkable,” he says.”Real strong integration of natural resources, especially the waterfront. Every space filled with a selection of things that are unique an good for the town, where people can stop and pause.

“And something for all ages.”

Downtown Westport. (Photo/John Videler for VIdeler Photography)

Remembering Joan Walsh Anglund

Joan Walsh Anglund — a poet and children’s author who sold over 50 million books worldwide, and was a longtime Westport resident — died this month, surrounded by 3 generations of family. She was 95.

Three years ago, Tim Jackson — like Anglund’s daughter Joy a 1967 Staples High School graduate — made a documentary film about her.

The other day, he posted this remembrance on the Arts Fuse blog:

Joan Walsh Anglund’s words and delicate pen and ink illustrations of dot-eyed waifs were the source of poetic observations on love, nature, family, friendship, and faith for children and adults around the world for 60 years.

Joan Walsh Anglund (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Her gentle drawings were filled with small details. She often wove the names of children of friends and family into the leaves and branches of trees. Beyond children, she had legions of admirers, from Queen Elizabeth to Midwest housewives.

Beyond her artistic achievements, Joan possessed an inner light that inspired all who met her. I knew her and the family for 60 years and, in 2015, produced a documentary of her life called Joan Walsh Anglund: Life in Story and Poem.

Joan learned her craft from her artist parents, Her grandmother instilled a passion for language.

Joan’s love of drawing and poetic language, of spirituality and family remained central to her life and an inspiration for her art. Prior to the success of her own books she had been a literary illustrator, most memorably for The Golden Treasury of Poetry by Louis Untermeyer.

For more than 50 years she was married to producer and actor Bob Anglund, who passed away in 2009. They met when Joan was a student at The Art Institute of Chicago and he was a student at the Goodman Theater….

They had a radio show together in Los Angeles in 1948. In 1959, after moving to Connecticut, unbeknownst to her, Bob brought the manuscript for her first book to Harcourt, Brace, and World. She later read in the newspapers that the book, A Friend is Someone Who Likes You, had sold over one million copies. Her career was born.

When her children were young, they scrambled about under her father’s original drawing board as she worked on illustrations, just as she had done with her father. Her 120 books went on to sell 50 million copies around the world in multiple languages. With the books came an array of figurines, calendars, dolls, and Joan Walsh Anglund accessories. She and her husband had numerous friendships in the theater and literary world but she remained humbled and amazed by her success, maintaining a quiet and private life….

Joan Walsh Anglund and her husband Bob. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

In the film she confides: “I realize I can’t stay here forever but I feel that I can. I don’t have any sense of being old and sensible. Because every day the world is so new to me.” She spent 60 idyllic summers with the extended family at her small beach house on Nantucket. Days before she passed she said to her daughter Joy: “I’m going into the deep, deep waves. I’m going to a homecoming.”

She was pre-deceased by her husband Bob and son Todd. She is survived by her daughter Joy Anglund and husband Seth Harvey; grandson Thaddeus Harvey, granddaughter Emily Anglund-Nellen and her husband, Gregory Martin, and their twin daughters, Rose and Elizabeth.

The family requests any donations be made in the form of a children’s book to The Jonestown Family Center. PO Box 248, 401 Main Street, Jonestown, MS 38369.

(Click here for the full Arts Fuse link.)

Joan Walsh Anglund and Tim Jackson. 

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In 2016, I posted this tribute for her 90th birthday:

The poet/author/illustrator — who spent many years in Westport, and raised her children here — wrote over 120 children’s and inspirational books. They’ve sold more than 50 million copies, and been translated into 17 languages.

Among her most famous quotes:

  • Do not be sad that you have suffered. Be glad that you have lived.
  • Life is in the living. Love is in the giving.
  • Where is the yesterday that worried us so

Joan Walsh Anglund, on Nantucket. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Wikipedia says that last year, a US Postal Service stamp commemorating Maya Angelou contained Anglund’s quote “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song” — seemingly tying it to Angelou.

That’s not the first time. President Obama wrongly attributed the sentence to Angelou when he presented the 2013 National Medal of Arts and Humanities to her.

“I hope it’s successful,” Anglund said of the stamp when it was issued.

In the 1960s and early ’70s, Staples High School principal James Calkins — who spoke often of the importance of love — frequently quoted Anglund to the student body.

“Do You Love Someone?” — one of Joan Walsh Anglund’s many illustrated books.

When Calkins left Staples, Anglund’s daughter — a student there — thanked him using her mother’s words: “I did not hear the words you said. Instead, I heard the love.”

website dedicated to Anglund lists a few of her famous fans: Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Elizabeth, Cary Grant, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Ethel Kennedy, Carol Burnett, Helen Hayes, Phyllis Diller, Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Rosemary Clooney, Shirley Jones, the Emperor of Japan and Elizabeth Taylor.

And, it adds helpfully, “etc.”

“06880”  joins Joan Walsh Anglund’s many admirers — in Westport, and the world — in saying: “Happy 90th birthday!”

Or, to quote herself: “A (person’s) health can be judged by which he takes two at a time: pills or stairs.”

Roundup: Medicine, March Madness …

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Amy Crane posted on a local Facebook group:

“I am the mother of a seventh grader at Coleytown Middle School. Unfortunately I have developed a secondary cancer as a result of my original treatment, and will need a bone marrow transplant. If you are willing and able please register as a donor (click here). Most of the time it’s just like donating blood and not painful at all. Bonus if you are 18-44!”

The more matches, the more chances someone like Amy can be helped. (Hat tip: Frank Rosen)

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

You can celebrate with Charlie Heath. The Staples High School Class of 1987 graduate  was in the 1994 horror classic “Leprechaun 2.” It runs all day — with the other “Leprechaun” films — on the Syfy network. (Hat tip: Rich Stein)

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March Madness begins soon. And what better way to dive in than with FastBreak.

The digital show — which covers the NCAA basketball tournament in a variety of platforms, with wall-to-wall, fast-paced coverage — is hosted by Westporter Dave Briggs.

It’s a perfect role for the former NBC Sports, Fox News and CNN star.

He’s joined by Kentucky basketball legends Rex Chapman and Tony Delk for every game in the first 2 rounds this Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

You can watch on the NCAA website, or the March Madness Live app.

Dave Briggs (left) and friends.

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Registration for Westport Parks & Recreation spring and summer programs begins online on March 22 (9 a.m.). Click here for all offerings, including sports, Camp Compo and RECing Crew. Click here to register.

The Parks & Rec office remains closed to the public. Staff is available via email (recreation@westportct.gov), phone (203-341-5152 weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and mail (260 Compo Road South, Westport, CT 06880).

For registration, check your online account tnow. Log in, then click “Manage Family Members” on the bottom right. To view more details, click the name of a specific family member. Make any changes, then hit “save.” For address changes, email recreation@westportct.gov.

If you cannot log into your online account, do not create another profile. Email recreation@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-5152.

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And finally … “06880” (or should I say 0’6880) wishes all readers — Irish or (unfortunately) not — a happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Remembering Jeri Skinner

Jeri Skinner — who in various careers in the arts, hospitality and as a founder of Builders Beyond Borders impacted and influenced countless Westporters — died peacefully on March 6, of congestive heart failure.  She was 82 years old.

She was born in 1938 in Sioux City, Iowa. After high school her family moved to California, where Jeri worked as a secretary for Lockheed. She met her future husband, John Skinner, at the Officers’ Club at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale.

They were married in 1959. Their son Christian was born on February 9, 1960. Craig followed exactly two years later, on February 9, 1962.

Jeri and her family moved to Westport in 1969. She lived there for over 45 years. Jeri found great joy as a public relations specialist for the Levitt Pavilion, then as public relations director for the Darien Dinner Theater.

She made lifelong friends through her career in the theater, and often invited actors to stay at her home during their run.

Jeri loved playing hostess and planning gatherings. She started her own event business, Fête Accompli, in 1988. She planned upscale events for Fendi, the Isle of Man, Harvard, and many more.

Jeri Skinner

As the wife of a naval officer and international commercial pilot, Jeri loved traveling the world. She enjoyed experiencing different cultures, and sought out unique gifts for family and friends.

Following their retirement, Jeri and John became leaders for Kingdom Builders at Greens Farms Congregational Church. This laid the foundation for not-for-profit Builders Beyond Borders, to build and repair homes, clinics, daycare centers and more for the less fortunate.

Jeri and her family assembled groups of teens. They traveled to Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Honduras, instilling values of generosity, service, and goodwill.

Jeri was also proud to serve as historian for the Southport Congregational Church. She and John traveled to Boston to have the pulpit Bible restored. She also commissioned the restoration of the 115-year-old stained glass windows in the church. She found the studio in New Jersey that made the original windows to complete the work.

Jeri and John loved Charleston, South Carolina, and often spoke about moving there. Jeri moved to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina last September. She quickly made friends. She loved sitting on her balcony, and often boasted she had the best apartment there.

Jeri was often described as candid and spunky, attributes she wore as a badge of honor. She often claimed she had a filter, but said she never saw fit to use it.

She died at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Her son Chris and his wife Tammy were with her. Though COVID restrictions made it difficult for visitors to gather, the caring and attentive staff ensured that Jeri’s loved ones could speak to her, share memories, and play her favorite music during her final hours.

Jeri was preceded in death by her husband of 57 years, John. She is survived by her sons Christian (Tammy) and Craig (Elizabeth); granddaughters Jennifer Skinner, Amanda Dempsey and Emily Skinner; great-grandson Killian, and great-granddaughter Maeve; step-grandson Howard Dias; sister-in-law Patricia Peck various nephews and nieces; “daughter-in-heart” Marianne Challis-Root, and her French bulldog Winston.

In addition, Jeri leaves behind dear friends who are like her extended family: her “son-in-law” Frank Root; “grandson” Alanson Root, his wife Ashley, their son Atlas and daughter Arden; “granddaughter” Abigail Root Mulgrew and husband Ben; “grandson” Phillip Bettencourt; “Uncle” Bob Logan; “Uncle” Rick Donner,  and many others who held Jeri in their hearts.

Like her husband John, who donated his body to Yale University, Jeri donated her body to Anatomy Gifts in the hopes of furthering scientific research.

As a tribute to her husband and his battle with Parkinson’s disease, donations can be made in her and John’s name to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

A celebration of Jeri’s life will be arranged at a later date. (Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)

Unsung Heroes #181

Peggy Leyden Holda writes from South Easton, Massachusetts:

My mother (Rita Leyden) and I read with great interest your recent Roundup. You reported that the Westport Young Women’s League has distributed more than $4 million in grants since 1956.

Just a few days prior, I had unearthed a gem while going through the boxes (and boxes and boxes) of memorabilia recently relocated from Westport to Massachusetts, after Mom sold her Bradley Street home of 40 years.

Rita Leyden

Mom typed a draft of her President’s Report on onion skin (which remarkably withstood the test of time) for publication in the League’s 1976-1977 Annual Report. It chronicles the contributions of an extraordinary group of leaders who measurably enriched the lives of their neighbors. Their names read like a Who’s Who of Westport’s great families.

Mom and her WYWL friends were role models for the 14-year-old I was at the time. Through them I learned that women can do just about anything they set their minds to … and have fun while doing it.

As then, so now: The Westport Young Women’s League is proof positive that “in the big things of life we are as one.”

Peggy is right. Her mother’s report lists phenomenal accomplishments of a group of women. There’s Geri Lawrence, Katie Chase, Ellie Hoyt, Ginny Koscomb, Pat Shea, Cathy Ryan and many more.

Some are still around Westport. Mimi Greenlee — who “printed over 47,000 pieces on our Gestetner mimeo machine” — nonetheless always kept smiling. She still does, now as one of the movers behind the new Westport Book Shop.

One page of Rita Leyden’s president’s report mentions Mimi Greenlee — and many other women.

Sue Kane and Joyce Barnhart are still involved too, after a lifetime of volunteerism. Marianne Harrison is retired in North Carolina, where she leads a very active life.

All of which reminds us of the work that the Westport Young Woman’s League — and many similar organizations do — is both important, ongoing, and builds on the shoulders of many who came before.

Today we honor all those civic volunteers who give their time. And we also recognize that they would not be here, doing what they do, without the Unsung Heroes of yesterday.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)