Category Archives: Politics

Polls Open Until 8 PM

Action was slow at polling places around town today, for the Republican and Democratic Party primaries. Click here to find where you vote.

These poll workers, at the Westport Library, were on the job — with little to do.

Meanwhile, Mark Mathias reports that he ordered this blinky “I Voted” badge online, and soldered it together.

They take about 30 minutes to assemble, with basic tools and a soldering iron, he reports.

Roundup: Barak, Broadband, Bees …

Today is Primary Day in Connecticut.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties are fielding candidates, for a variety of statewide offices.

Polls close at 8 p.m. Click here to find your polling place.

Turnout was very light early this morning, at the Greens Farms Elementary School polling place. (Photo/John Karrel)

 

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It’s a beautiful day — if a tad bit hot and humid.

There’s no wind. No storm.

Yet this morning, for no reason other than (probably) old age, a large tree toppled onto Punch Bowl Drive.

Be careful out there!

Tree down on Punch Bowl. (Photo/Tommy Greenwald)

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In 1964, Martin Luther King spoke at Temple Israel.

Nearly 60 years later, the synagogue prepares to host another internationally known guest.

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak will speak on September 20 (7:30 p.m.). He will discuss current events, including Israel’s coming election and the war in Ukraine.

Click here for details, including in-person and livestream registration.

Ehud Barak

Barak, who became the most decorated soldier in the history of the Israel Defense Forces over a 36-year career, served as the nation’s prime minister from 1999 to 2001.

He also has held other prominent posts in Israel’s government, including as defense minister and as minister of internal and foreign affairs.

For more information, contact Temple Israel at 203-227-1293.

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“06880” has been buzzing recently with stories (and comments) about broadband (and prices).

Western Connecticut Council of Governments — a planning organization for 18 area town, including Westport — is conducting a quick survey on internet service and pricing.

Residential and business customers can complete the survey. Click here for the link.

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Speaking of buzzing … Hans Wilhelm writes:

“In our Weston garden stands a majestic old Japanese pagoda tree (also called scholar tree).

In summertime when it is in full bloom, you can ‘hear’ the tree from far away. It is the happy humming sound of thousands of busy bees. They are not only in the tree but also on the ground, which is covered with blossoms. It’s not a good idea to walk under the tree at that time.

“But during the last years we noticed a sharp drop in the bee population.

“This summer the tree is again in full bloom –- but completely silent. Hardly any bees at all. Sadly, the prophecy made by Rachel Carson in her 1962 book ‘Silent Spring’ has come true — right here in our garden, where we never use insecticides or herbicides.

The usual swarms of bees are gone from Hans Wilhelm’s garden.

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For nearly 75 years, Westport PAL has served youngsters with sports programs and scholarships. That’s impressive.

And for 60 years, they’ve raised funds through the Chief Samuel Luciano Golf Tournament. That’s impressive too.

This year’s event is September 12. The day includes continental breakfast, lunch, morning and afternoon shotgun starts, cocktails, dinner, a raffle and prizes.

Single, twosome and foursome spots are available. Click here for more information, including registration and sponsorships.

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Sunday’s New York Times included a great review of Mary Rodgers’ new memoir, “SHY: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers.” Jesse Green continued working on it for years, after her death in 2014.

Mary Rodgers Guettel is Richard Rodgers’ daughter. They lived in Fairfield, just over the Westport line. She became an apprentice at the Westport Country Playhouse in 1950.  She later earned fame writing the music for “Once Upon a Mattress.”

In 2009, the Playhouse honored Rodgers Guettel, at their annual gala. Among the celebrants: Stephen Sondheim, a fellow 1950 apprentice.

Also on hand that night: Weston’s Jim Naughton, and Westporter Kelli O’Hara.

Rodgers’ son, Adam Guettel, wrote “Light in the Piazza.” The musical starred O’Hara — whose father-in-law is Naughton.

The memoir includes references to Rodgers’ internship. She describes their intense work schedule (which she enjoyed), and that afterwards they wanted to go drinking.

However, she wrote, “In Westport, everything closed up tight as a drum at one in the morning.” So the interns frequently  “ran our own bar at Frank Perry’s house at night, often accompanied by a low-stakes poker game.”

Yes, that Frank Perry. The future film director (“David and Lisa,” “The Swimmer,” “Diary of a Mad Housewife”) was another member of that amazing Class of 1950 Westport Country Playhouse apprentices. (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Richard Rodgers’ daughter (2nd row, 4th from left) posed with other Westport Country Playhouse apprentices in 1950, at the Jolly Fisherman restaurant. Other notables in the photo: Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo) and Frank Perry (front row, left).

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Today’s stunning “Westport … Naturally” egret Sherwood Island Mill pond photo comes courtesy of Dan Johnson:

(Photo/Dan Johnson)

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And finally … Olivia Newton-John died yesterday, after battling breast cancer. The versatile singer was 73. Click here for a full obituary.

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Friday Flashback #308

The other day, Ronnie Presha posted some very interesting memories on Facebook.

They provide a fascinating look at Westport in the late 1960s and early ’70s, as seen through the eyes of a Black teenager in a neighboring town. Ronnie writes:

I was raised in Norwalk. But in my teens, I succumbed to the lure of Westport.

As a Black “spade” hippie, Westport had so much of what I believe contributed to my progressive liberal views that I still hold dear.

When I was 16 in 1966, my lifelong friend Rudy Costa would pick me up on Saturdays to stand with other progressive youth and adults along Route 1 in Westport, to protest the Viet Nam war at weekly peace vigils.

In addition to weekly peace vigils on the Post Road bridge, there were larger rallies against the Vietnam War. This is a portion of the crowd near the Fine Arts Theater (now Barnes & Noble).  (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

It was there that I met a group of kids who became my first Westport friends. They belonged to a social club called NEYO ( National Ethical Youth Organization). Their parents let them have weekly meetings in their homes. Rudy and I became popular members.

Westport had all sorts of activities for its youth. There was a coffee shop in a church, where local folk singers and poets performed. There were all manner of activities at Staples High School: concerts, films and sporting events.

Kids were given a wide berth by their very liberal parents. Sometimes, they were more liberal than I was accustomed to. Westport was the first place where I ever heard kids curse around or even at their parents with reckless abandon. I was 24 before my mother ever heard a curse roll off my lips, and that didn’t go over well.

These kids, predominantly white, all had long hair, and wore bell bottoms, paisley, moccasins and beads. Those who had religion belonged to the Unitarian Church.

Not far from the Post Road Bridge, teenagers hung out at the park by the Westport Library (now a concrete plaza at 1 Main Street).

One of my friends, Leigh Sobel, was friends with a local band that was looking for a singer and a sax player. Rudy played sax and I fancied myself a singer. I became one of 3 lead singers in this dynamite band.

The band included 15-year-old phenom Charlie Karp. He went on to play with Buddy Miles and Jimi Hendrix. Those were amazing days.

Managed by WICC program manager Mike Fass, the Soul Purpose played songs by James Brown, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and other Black artists. They gained plenty of regional recognition. In Westport, they opened for the Rascals and Sly & the Family Stone. Sly was not yet well known, but through word of mouth the auditorium was packed.

Ronnie Presha posted this Woodstock-era photo on social media.

Ronnie wrote much more, about his later years in music. But for a while, he and his Norwalk friend Rudy provided Westport with a welcome beyond our borders — and a wonderful way to “dance to the music.”

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Ronnie Presha and his wife, in Norwalk’s Cranbury Park. They were not yet a couple. He was 19, she was 15. They eventually got together. Fifty years later, they remain happily married.

Ronnie Presha and his wife Karen, today.

Roundup: Lynsey Addario, Lunch And Learn, Co-Working …

This fall, New York’s School of Visual arts honors Lynsey Addario.

The New York Times photojournalist, MacArthur genius grant and Pulitzer Prize recipient — and 1991 Staples High School graduate —  takes part in the 32nd annual Masters Series Award and Exhibition.

“The Masters Series: Lynsey Addario” will be a comprehensive retrospective of her fearless, 2-decade journey documenting humanitarian issues around the globe.

The free exhibition runs from September 2 through October 29. Addario gives a special talk on September 9.

The exhibit showcases the photographers’ career, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Congo, Libya, Somalia, Syria, South Sudan, and most recently, Ukraine. She brings a strong focus on women’s issues to her work, including gender-based violence and rape as a weapon of war.

Addario is the author of Of Love and War, a solo collection of photography, and the best-selling memoir It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.

Click here for the CVA website on the exhibition.

in the early days after the Russian invasion, Lynsey Addario’s photo of this bombed-out apartment building in Kyiv brought the war’s reality to people around the globe. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for The New York Times)

Screenshot of Lynsey Addario from “Firing Line.”

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You’re never too old to “lunch and learn.” Even in August.

Aspetuck Land Trust announces 2 upcoming sessions.

“Green Corridor: From Vision to Reality” (Wednesday, August 10, noon to 1 p.m.). features director of landowner engagement. Mary Ellen Lemay. She’ll explain why the Green Corridor initiative helps heal the fragmented and toxic landscape that surrounds us.

Using simple eco-friendly steps in yards and other private properties, the Green Corridor allows species to move across the landscape, improving biodiversity. Click here to register.

At “Think Like a Forest” (Friday, August 26, noon to 1 p.m.), Anna Fialkoff explains how planting native trees supports local food webs. Benefits include
purifying air, shading and cooling in hot weather, storing atmospheric carbon, minimizing flooding and storm water runoff, and helping sustain vital pollinators, birds and other wildlife. Click here to register.

And you thought there were no holidays in August!

This coming Tuesday (August 9) is International Co-Working Day.

To celebrate, Office Evolution — the great, airy, flexible and filled-with-all-you-need space at 500 Post Road East (opposite Westport Fire Department headquarters) offers free one-day passes to anyone looking for a new work environment.

The holiday is Tuesday, but the offer is good all next week (August 8-12).

For more information, email Westport.CT@officeevolution.com, or call 203-635-8770. Click here for the Westport website.

Westport Office Evolution owner Laura Kaufman (left) and business center manager Lindy Steinorth, when Office Evolution opened in 2019.

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The eagle landed yesterday at Compo Beach — and posted majestically for its “Westport … Naturally” shot.

(Photo/David Anastasia)

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And finally … in honor of International Co-Working Day (story above):

Ken Bernhard: Report From Ukraine

Ken Bernhard has a very impressive resume, as an elected official and volunteer. 

He spent 8 years representing Westport in Connecticut’s General Assembly, rising to assistant minority leader. He was our 3rd selectman from 1987 to ’89, then served on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Ken Bernhard

The longtime Westporter has been a board member of the Westport Library, Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, Norwalk Human Services Council, Earthplace, Westport Historical Society, Levitt Pavilion, Aspetuck Land Trust, Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, and Connecticut League of Conservation Voters,

Further afield, he has worked with Syrian refugees. His latest project is in Ukraine. Ken writes:

I just returned from Poland/Ukraine. I helped deliver medical supplies, including (tourniquets, compression bandages, catheters, bandages and more.

All was donated locally, to Westport EMS, Colonial and Achorn’s Drug Stores, Walgreens, CVS, and Norwalk Hospital.

The equipment was requested by Westporter Brian Mayer, who has been in country for 3 months helping with the crisis. His parents, Jeff and Nancy, joined me with duffle bags of their own list of requested supplies.

(From left): Ken Bernhard, and Jeff, Nancy and Brian Meyer, unloading supplies.

Brian is a remarkable young man (34), who helps, works and coordinates efforts  in Ukraine each day until 3 p.m. Then, with the 6-hour time difference, he goes online to work at his US office for hours.

He is connected with a  group of fascinating young volunteers (in their 20s) from all parts of the world. They drive supplies from Kviv to the troops on the front lines (round trip takes 40+ hours).

After working all day, these volunteers stopped for a beer. One has been in Poland/Ukraine since the first week of the war. He plans to stay a year. Another drove 18,000 miles in June, taking wounded soldiers to Germany for medial care.

Their stories of determination and courage of providing supplies and equipment, where the government and not-for-profits are overwhelmed, leave me in awe.

For 5 days we met dozens of other volunteers who have come to Ukraine because they felt the need to do something to help. The internet and chats groups are remarkably effective. Strangers connect, meet, organize and mobilize in efforts to bring food and medical supplies where they are needed.

This young volunteer has driven several times to the border towns, delivering supplies. She saw Russian drones overhead, and sped up to hide. She has helped wounded people after missile strikes. She is 25, speaks 5 languages (including Russian), and feels she has found her mission.

It was a true honor working with each and every one of them. The crisis is so much more palpable and critical when seen first hand.

I would be remiss if I didn’t pass along a request.

Mykolaiv (population of 200,000) is a key shipbuilding city in the south. Its infrastructure, including water purification systems, was destroyed by Russian missiles. Most drinking water is contaminated. There is a need to construct new systems.

The group that Brian works with has located a supplier who will deliver and construct small purification systems, each capable of providing enough daily potable water for 4000 people.

The first system was installed at the local firehouse a few weeks ago. Water is piped from a tributary off the Black Sea, and exits at a pipe in the firehouse where it can be accessed 24/7. Each system costs $6,000.

Jeff, Nancy and I can vouch for the dedication and trustworthiness of this hard-working international team of volunteers. For more information, click here. for Brian’s blog.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made to Brian’s newly created not-for-profit, Ukraine Aid International.

The need is urgent. Our help is impactful, and greatly appreciated by the people of Ukraine. Thank you in advance.

Lines of cars leaving Ukraine for Poland. (All photos courtesy of Ken Bernhard)

Wings4Peace Soar In Westport

Sandy Hook. Parkland. Buffalo.

After each new mass shooting, Americans express shock, outrage and sorrow. We think: Now something must change.

When nothing does, we wonder what we can do.

Lorie Lewis and Darcy Hicks are making wings. They want all the rest of us to make them too.

Darcy Hicks, with her “Wings4Peace.”

As communications and marketing director at the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County, Lori knows that the arts have a powerful impact on society. Theater, music and visual art have the power to get people thinking, talking — and eventually, creating change.

After the latest horror, in Uvalde, she had an idea: a nationwide art project, focused on wings.

Wings make things move. They propel us forward, safely and freely. Plus, they’re beautiful.

Lorie messaged David Hogg, the Parkland survivor and Harvard University student who has become one of the nation’s leading advocates for gun safety reform.

He loved the idea. Together, they created Wings4Peace.

The group put out a call to all Americans: “artists, non-artists, students, teachers, builders, artisans and activists.” On the 24th of each month*, from July through October, everyone is encouraged to create pieces of wing-themed public art. All 4 works will be displayed next to each other.

Each piece should incorporate special words, revealed each month on the Wings4Peace website. The first word, for July, was “peace.” The words for August are “in America.” The full message will be revealed at the end, right before the mid-term elections.

“Wings4Peace” in California …

Westport artist and longtime social justice advocate Darcy Hicks is all in.

“Social media is important,” the 1984 Staples High School graduate says. “But public art is live. It’s visual. It’s 3D. It really engages people.”

“Public art” is just that. It can appear on trees, ladders, poles,  fences, bridges, windows, yards, walls, sidewalk or rocks.

It can be any medium: a billboard, canvas, sculpture, projection, chalk or anything else.

… and Virginia.

Hicks’ work is displayed at the Westport Museum of History & Culture. She hopes local artists (and non-artists) will place their wings at spots like the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, Jesup Green, Veterans Green, beaches, public parks — wherever Westporters gather.

Among the local artists planning to join in: Miggs Burroughs.

Seeing wings all over Westport — and across America — won’t magically end gun violence. But, Darcy says, raising awareness through this project could lead to concrete action, like voter registration or letter-writing.

At the very least, she notes, “it will show kids that their community cares.”

Wings4Peace is not about taking away guns, she adds. It’s about safety.

“I haven’t met any gun owner or 2nd Amendment proponent who thinks that mass shootings are okay, or who wants children killed.

“This is a way for us to reflect, and hopefully act, in a positive way.”

*The 24th is the anniversary of the Uvalde shooting.

(“06880” is fully reader-supported. Please click here to contribute.)

Officials Respond To Racist Graffiti

Late last evening, Parks & Recreation Department employees discovered racist graffiti on the Compo Beach basketball courts.

They contacted their supervisor, and the Westport Police Department. Officers opened an investigation, which continues.

The graffiti was removed, nd the courts cleaned.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker says, “In my short term in office, I have repeatedly talked about ensuring that Westport is a community where everyone feels like they belong. This incident runs completely contrary to that goal and is inexcusable.

“I am grateful to the Parks & Recreation Department employees and the Police Department for the swift action they took to address the situation professionally and respectfully.”

Anyone with information about the incident should call t the Police Department: 203-341-6000.

The site of racist graffiti. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

 

Corey Hausman’s Safety Bill Goes National

Four years ago, Corey Hausman died after falling from his skateboard on a steep path at the University of Colorado. A freshman, he had graduated from Staples High School just 3 months earlier.

His parents and 2 older siblings mourned the loss of the bright, energetic runner and skier.

Then — determined to make something good out of the tragedy — they went to work.

They formed College911. The non-profit helps prepare college students for medical emergencies, while improving campus safety.

Corey’s mother Nanette spearheaded an effort in the Connecticut General Assembly to make universities safer, by ensuring that serious incidents are included in their safety reports.

Corey Hausman and his mother Nanette.

Now the initative has gone national.

Connecticut Representatives Jim Himes and Joe Courtney introduced House Bill 8406 this year. The “COREY Safety Act of 2022” would require colleges nationwide to report campus accidents that result in the serious injury or death of students.

They include “transportation incidents (on foot, bikes, scooters, skateboards, longboards or cars), ground level and high height slips and falls, alcohol or drug overdoses and choking or drowning,” ABC News says.

The bill’s name is an acronym for the College Operational Reporting of Emergencies Involving Teens and Young Adults. Of course, it’s also an homage to Corey Hausman.

Last week, it was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.

The Hausmans say that CU knew the area where Corey was skateboarding was unsafe. In addition, he was taken to a community care center after his accident — but died 7 hours later. A transfer to a Level 1 trauma facility was not considered.

Nanette Hausman says that right now, colleges are required to report only crimes and fires. However, accidents are the leading cause of college deaths.

(Click here for a full story from ABC News. Click here for more information on the bill. Click here for the College9111.net Medical Emergency Checklists for parents and college students. Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

(“06880” is a reader-supported blog. Please click here to donate.)

Corey Hausman (center) with his brothers Lucas (left) and Casey.

Remembering Lois Schine

Lois Schine — one of the last members of a remarkable group of women who moved to Westport in the postwar years, and helped make our community what it is today — died at home July 7, surrounded by her family. She was 95 years old.

Lois was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, to Daniel and Florence Grimm Gildersleeve.  The Gildersleeve family came to Massachusetts from England in 1635, and eventually settled in Connecticut.

Lois was a pioneer. She graduated second in her class from Pratt Institute in 1947, with a degree in mechanical engineering. She was the only woman in that program.

She was elected to the Tau Beta Pi honorary engineering society with special designation as an “Honorary Member,” because it was a male-only fraternity. (In the 1960’s Lois was retroactively named a full member.)  At Pratt she was a founding member of the Society of Women Engineers. It has since grown into a large international organization.

After college Lois worked for General Electric, in advanced engineering and research. GE was one of the few companies to hire female engineers in the 1940s and ’50s.  She also taught engineering courses at Bridgeport University.

Lois met Leonard Schine, an attorney, when he hired her as a consulting engineer. In 1951, they married and had 5 children.

They made their home in Westport, where Lois remained for the next 70 years.  While raising children, Lois earned a master’s degree in administrative engineering from New York University.

When her children were of school age, Lois returned to work as an engineering consultant. She then shifted careers, and became director of volunteer services at Bridgeport Hospital, overseeing 700 volunteers. She was president of both the Connecticut Association of Directors of Volunteer Services, and the New England Association of Volunteer Directors.

In 1988 she was named executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, a post she held for 16 years.

In addition to her professional career, Lois contributed much to Westport and the surrounding area. Among her many civic activities, she was a Sacred Heart University trustee for 37 years, a Near & Far Aid Association board member, and a member of the Westport Rotary Club and the Westport Weston Family YMCA.

She served on the Westport RTM for 20 years. She was particularly proud of her work helping create Winslow Park, and having the Planning & Zoning Commission designate it as Westport’s first “Open Space Zone.”

An intrepid traveler, Lois visited far corners of the world.  She was an avid skier, and reluctantly gave up the sport at 85 years old.  She also played tennis and pursued ice dancing.

Her parenting philosophy was “survival of the fittest.” She took her children whitewater rafting, helicopter skiing, sailing and on safaris, exposing them to a wide range of people, places and experiences.

(All photos of Lois Schine, courtesy of the Schine family)

Lois is survived by her children Leslie Schine (Nils Nilsen), Daniel Schine (Patty Sullivan), Lindsay Schine (Michael Klingher), Lauren Schine and Edward Schine (Brigitta); grandchildren Caleb, Christian and Thomas Schine; Cody Nilsen; Ben, Nathan and Natalie Klingher; Tyler and Kyle Schine and Shannon May, and her beloved dog Kirby.  Lois was predeceased by her husband Leonard, grandson Jonathan Schine and sister Joyce Feigenbaum.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Leonard and Lois Schine Scholarship Fund at Sacred Heart University or the Aspetuck Land Trust.

A memorial service will be held in the fall.

Roundup: Blight, Rotary Club …

Last week’s stories on a blight house on Maple Avenue North prompted an “06880” reader to send info on another one. It’s on Ulbrick Lane off Bulkeley Avenue North.

The reader says: “#6 Ulbrick has been unoccupied for 10 years, and abandoned by the absentee owner investor (GLAD Enterprises LLC, a PO Box in Southport).

“The interior is uninhabitable, and the last renter was hospitalized with a mold- driven infection. The interior is rodent-infested, with a huge hole in the ceiling where a chandelier fell.

“I am a bit mystified that the abutting property owners have been rather docile. One person said she ‘likes the peace and quiet.’

“This is a direct result of mortgage fraud. The 2 existing mortgages (one of which was fraudulently obtained) have a combined loan amount that exceeds what the property is worth. As a result, the chances of this parcel changing hands on the real estate market is nil, unless one of the banks forgives the loan (which is highly unlikely).

“The Blight Commission is still mulling this over.”

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State Senator (and Staples High School graduate) Will Haskell addressed the Westport Rotary Club yesterday, at Greens Farms Congregational Church.

Haskell, who is finishing his 2nd and final term in the State Legislature, offered details of the state’s recent $600 million tax cut, which includes a $125 million child tax credit and a cap on the property tax for cars.

Other topics included Connecticut’s clean air and environmental initiatives, and the push for expanded abortion services. Future goals for the state government include alleviating traffic and slow commuter train times. (Hat tip: Dave Matlow)

State Senator Will Haskell at yesterday’s Rotary Club meeting. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

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Theresa Kovacs is 82 years old. A native Westporter, she lives near Kings Highway School — not far from the old Staples High (now Saugatuck Elementary), from which she graduated in 1958.

She has an active social life, with 3 kids and their spouses, 8 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, plus many local friends.

Every once in a while, she has special visitors: white deer. They wandered over the other day again. Theresa sent this great photo, for our always interesting “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Theresa Kovacs)

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And finally … on this date in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. Ten others have followed. The last 2 — Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt — made the journey in 1972.