Category Archives: religion

Afghan Refugees: A Local Update

Last month, as Afghan refugees prepared to arrive in Connecticut, the call went out: Help!

Westporters responded.

An “06880” post alerted readers to the need for clothing, household goods, backpacks with school supplies and more. Load after load was delivered to Greens Farms Congregational Church.

Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services also received a $10,000 gift.

Here’s how it helps.

Over the past few days, IRIS welcomed 40 Afghan evacuees. Forty-six more will arrive this week. That’s 96 people — 24 or families — in 17 days.

All came with just 48 hours’ notice to iRIS.

They join 42 Afghans who came in August. Another 100 are scheduled to be here next month — and 100 more in December.

An Afghan father and daughter, resettled in Connecticut.

A few arrivals spent a couple of nights in hotels. One stayed with a church. Some are living with Afghan families they knew back home, while IRIS tries to find apartments.

Many went directly into housing that IRIS signed leases for in August.

But 43 people — mostly mothers with children — remain hiding in Afghanistan. IRIS is organizing money drops to keep them fed.

Twenty-seven community groups around Connecticut are welcoming refugees. But 50 to 60 more groups are needed (including the rest of New England). For information on sponsorships, click here.

To learn more, watch the video below:

IRIS notes that paperwork to get Afghan families employed takes a long time. The organization feeds them, and pays rent, until work papers are finalized. IRIS needs funds to help — and to pay their own staff. 

To donate, and for more information, click here.

Remembering Claire Ford

Claire Moran Ford — a longtime Westporter and civic volunteer, whose beautification efforts enhance our town decades later — died July 28, at 89. She was surrounded by her loving family and parish priest.

The Long Island native thoroughly enjoyed Cornell University, where she received a BS in home economics and met Clark George Ford. They wed in 1954 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and lived in New York City and Germany, while Clark served in the U.S. Army. The couple settled in Westport in 1959, where they raised 3 children. Claire lived in their home on Timber Lane until 2015, and sold their home earlier this year.

She lived a full life enriched by family, social, professional, educational, religious, and volunteer experiences. She was an avid reader and gardener, and enjoyed cooking meals and hosting parties for family and friends. Claire was also an exceptional listener, problem solver and friend.

Claire’s early career was in marketing, starting with Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, then with Young & Rubicam in Manhattan. She later worked for the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, after which she was a realtor in Westport with William Raveis and Coldwell Banker.

Claire Ford

Claire’s numerous volunteer activities included first chair of the Westport Beautification Committee. Established by First Selectman John Kemish in 1968, in partnership with the Planning & Zoning Commission, under Claire’s leadership the committee purchased small parcels of land, transforming them (and existing town land) into beautiful parks.

Working with the town and Westport Woman’s Club, the Beautification Committee contributed to the success of the Greening of the Post Road initiative, responsible for the thoughtful planting and care of trees and shrubs along the heavily traveled route.

Nearly 50 years later, some of the first trees planted still add to the beauty of Claire’s favorite town. After stepping down as chair, Claire continued serving on the Beautification Committee for decades.

She also chaired the flower committee, taught religious education and managed audio/visual equipment usage at St. Luke Parish, where she was a parishioner from 1959 until her death.

Claire served on the Westport Republican Town Committee and was a member of the Westport Woman’s Club, Westport Young Woman’s League, League of Women Voters of Westport and Republican Women of Westport. She volunteered at STAR, supporting individuals with special needs. She also volunteered at the Connecticut Unemployment Office, bringing both assistance and compassion to those going through a hard time.

Claire served as a justice of the peace, and enjoyed providing joy by performing weddings. She was an active supporter of her children’s interest in scouting, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, serving as a Cub Scout den mother and a Girl Scout troop leader, while also serving on the Board of the Southwestern Connecticut Girl Scouts Council.

Claire’s social activities included the “Beach Bunch” (friends who celebrated and thoroughly enjoyed Compo Beach together for nearly 60 years); Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Community Theater, Westport Community Gardens (founding member), the Gourmet Club, Food & Friends, County Capers and Cotillion dance clubs, multiple book groups, Cornell Club of Fairfield County (president for 10 years), Cornell Class of ‘53 (reunion chair for many reunions, and Columbine Investment Club.

Claire was always curious and adventuresome. She said she lived vicariously through her children, encouraging and supporting them in pursuing their interests. However, generations of family and friends continue to be inspired by her involvement in the world around her.

Claire’s most recent return to the classroom was at Norwalk Community College where in her mid-80’s she took several courses, fueling her passion for learning about history and the ever-changing world.

In her teens during the 1940’s she loved to pilot airplanes. In her 20s she took racing lessons using her beloved 1953 Jaguar XK-120. Claire and Clark had a lifelong love of travel, and took their family on trips within the US, and across Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.

During her nearly 53 years of marriage to Clark, Claire exemplified the perfect partner. She was loving, collaborative, supportive, insightful, objective and independent, inspiring her children and grandchildren (among others) to live happy, healthy and balanced lives.

In recent years Claire lived at Maplewood at Strawberry Hill and, when it opened, Maplewood at Southport, where she socialized with her many new friends. She served on the Residents Committee, participated in the book club, attended movie screenings and outings with family and residents, and hosted numerous family gatherings, much as she had done throughout her life.

Claire is survived by her children, Jeff, Suzie and Chris; grandchildren Blair, Jaime, Max and Chloe, along with nieces and cousins. Her brother, Lawrence Joseph Moran, passed away 22 days after she did. Her husband Clark died in 2007.

A funeral mass will be celebrated at St. Luke Church on Saturday, November 6 (10:30 a.m.). It will be live streamed at https://www.saintlukewestport.org. A celebration of life luncheon will follow immediately.

Letters of condolence can be sent to Claire Ford Family, 606 Post Road East, Suite 3, #507, Westport, CT 06880 or clairefordfamily@gmail.com.

In lieu of flowers, donations “in memory of Claire Moran Ford” can be made to the Cornell Annual Fund online at www.giving.cornell.edu. There is a section online to specify “Cornell Fund” and another to specify “in memory of” information. Checks can be mailed to: Cornell University, Box 37334, Boone, IA 50037-0334.

Roundup: De Tapas, Pink Floyd, Pumpkins …

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One of the earliest casualties of COVID was Chez 180.

The patisserie at 180 Post Road East had been open just a couple of weeks in March 2019. It earned rave reviews, but could not weather the sudden, total town shutdown.

Now — 19 months later — a new tenant is moving in. According to a sign on the door, it’s De Tapas: a “Spanish gastropub.” Details to follow soon.

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Adventure, music, sports and motorcycles — all star in the upcoming Remarkable Theater schedule.

Films at the Imperial Avenue drive-in include:

  • “Pirates of the Caribbean” (Saturday, October 16)
  • “The Last Waltz” (Monday, October 18)
  • “Slap Shot” (with Westport’s own Paul Newman: Tuesday, October 19)
  • “Easy Rider” (Wednesday, October 20)
  • “Pink Floyd: The Wall” (Saturday, October 23).

All shows begin at 6:30 p.m. Click here for tickets and more information.

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As the leaves turn, Earthplace welcomes families for fun events. They include:

Pumpkin carving and painting (Saturday, October 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — click here to register)

Halloween stories and family campfire (Sunday, October 31, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. — click here to register)

Bicycle repairs (while you wait: Friday, November 5, 12 to 3 p.m.).

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You should never drive while distracted.

Especially from tomorrow through October 31.

That when the Westport Police Department joins the state Department of Transportation’s “distracted driving enforcement campaign.”

They note that sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph — the average speed on the Post Road, sometimes, ahem — that’s like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

And did you know that driving while texting is 6 times more dangerous than intoxicated driving?

If you don’t care about that, consider this: Tickets for distracted driving are $200 for the first offense, $375 for the second, and $625 for all subsequent violations. 

Considering the consequences, that’s low.

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Bob Cooper reports vandalism at the Riverwalk downtown. He noticed a bench that was missing, except for one leg. The other leg, as well as its engraved seat, were in the water.

Fortunately, he says, the bench look reparable. It’s made from 3 piece, and each appears intact.

He also spotted engraved bricks that had been thrown into the brush:

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Yesterday’s Roundup note about the upcoming webinar on the impact of family violence on children (October 18, 7 p.m.) was missing a linkClick here to register.

The event is sponsored by the Westport Domestic Violence Task Force, Westport Human Services Department and Westport Library

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What’s better than shopping and cocktails?

How about shopping, cocktails and supporting breast cancer research?

Savvy + Grace’s fundraiser offers all that. The date is Thursday, October 28; the time is 5 to 7 p.m. (146 Main Street). Funds raised for the Cancer Couch Foundation will be matched 100%.

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Congratulations, Avi Kaner!

The former 2nd selectman and Board of Finance chair has been named to the Algemeiner’s list of “Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life 2021.”

His writeup calls the co-owner of the Morton Williams supermarket chain a “social media activist on behalf of Israel. When ice cream manufacturers Ben & Jerry’s announced in July that its products would no longer be sold to Jewish communities in the West Bank, Kaner went on the counteroffensive, securing agreement from the Morton Williams Board to reduce the Ben & Jerry’s products it sells in its 16 stores in New York and New Jersey by 70 percent.”

Avi Kaner

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Congratulations too to Lucy Dockter.

A Staples High School Inklings editor, and editor of the literary journal Soundings, was quoted at length in a Guardian story about the school surveillance tool Gaggle. The reporter found her through an Inklings editorial she wrote last year. Click here for the eye-opening Guardian article.

Talk about surveillance!

Lucy Dockter

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The outdoor fall fun celebration (with ’70s singalong) at the Unitarian Church in Westport, scheduled for this Saturday, has been moved to Sunday (October 17, 12 to 3 p.m.) due to predicted rain.

The event includes a musical mural, cake carousel, rock painting and bobbing for apples. For COVID safety, bring your own food.

Westport’s Unitarian Church

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The VFW is collecting new hats, scarves, mittens, gloves and socks, for men women and children.

There will be a drop-off box in the lobby (or patio, if closed) at their building (465 Riverside Avenue), from October 23 through November 20. They ask for only those items listed above.

VFW Joseph Clinton Post 399.

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Westporter Jim O’Donoghue died Sunday. He was 83 years old.

The Dublin native captained the rugby team at University College Cork. He earned a bachelor’ degree in electrical engineering there, and also met his wife Margaret.

Working for Quigley steel refractories, Jim travelled extensively, and brought his 3 daughters mementos from all over the world. The company was bought by Pfizer, and the family moved to Westport in 1984.

Jim ran regularly, golfed and rowed. He loved fishing, especially on Waterville Lake. He was a historian, a great conversationalist and a gripping storyteller. Dinner was punctuated with discussions on politics, as well as anecdotes about travel.

Jim wrote several books, including children’s stories, and read avidly. He was a fan of Russian classics and spy novels.

Jim is survived by Margaret, his wife of 58 years; daughters Elina (Dan), Sharon (Jack) and Lisa (Ilair); brother Neil; sister Anne, and grandchildren Ryan, Ciara, Maija and Sophie.

A viewing and farewell is set for Harding Funeral Home in Westport this Sunday (October 17, 3 to 6 pm). Mass will be held at St Luke Church also in Westport on October 18 (11 a.m.) The service will be live streamed (click here).

Jim O’Donoghue

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Fall is all about colorful leaves. But today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo takes us to Bonnie Brook Road, and a different kind of scene.

(Photo/Liz Blasko)

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And finally … Paddy Moloney died Monday in Dublin, at 83.

The New York Times called him “the playful but disciplined frontman and bagpiper of the Chieftains, a band that was at the forefront of the worldwide revival of traditional Irish music played with traditional instruments.”

They won 6 Grammys, and collaborated with everyone from Van Morrison, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney to Luciano Pavarotti. Click here for the full obituary.

Roundup: Coming Out Day, Family Fun Day …

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Tomorrow is National Coming Out Day.

If you’re LGBTQ (the “Q” stands for either queer or questioning) — or you know someone who is — you can celebrate by watching “When Did You Know?”

That was last week’s webinar, sponsored by Westport Pride. Panelists — including former Staples High School principal John Dodig, former Staples High School tennis captain Luke Foreman, Staples Players alum Samantha Webstier, Weston High media influencer Zac Mathias, Staples teacher Kayla Iannetta, Westport moms Julie DeLoyd and Bethany Eppner, and Westport dad Brian McGunagle discuss their growing-up experiences, and life today.

It’s wide-ranging, informative and very, very human. Click here for the link. The passcode is “Westport06880!” (without the quotation marks).

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You don’t have to be a Unitarian — or even religious — to enjoy next Saturday’s Fall Family Fun event. All (even singles) are welcome at (October 16, 2 to 5 p.m., Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road).

Entirely outdoors, it includes a “Best of the ’70s” singalong with the lead singer of DizzyFish, a musical mural, cake carousel, rock painting and bobbing for apples. For COVID safety, bring your own food.

The Westport Unitarian Church welcomes everyone.

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Lifelong Westporter Samuel DeMeo has died. He was 94.

A US Army World War II veteran, he was a member of Joseph J. Clinton VFW Post 399. He was an avid hunter, fisherman and gardener, and loved spending time at Compo Beach in Westport. He also played the accordion in a band.

He is survived by daughters Suzy DeMeo, Karen Sternberg and Lynn Smith, 6 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren. He was pre deceased by his sisters Ellen Barker, Lynn DeMeo and Palma DeMeo. Services were private.

Samuel DeMeo

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Claudia Sherwood Servidio has been a Westporter for only a few days. But she’s already contributed a striking “Pic of the Day.”

Now she’s nailed a “Westport … Naturally” feature too. Claudia has a wonderful newcomer’s eye for local beauty — and Saugatuck River scenes that never get old.

(Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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And finally … today is the 104th anniversary of the birth of Thelonious Monk. The jazz pianist/composer died in 1982, age 64. But he lives on, in recordings like these.

Roundup: Staples #1, Tyler Hicks, Young Authors, MoCA Show …

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“06880” does not post most “ranking” stories (Best Beach Towns in America, etc.). The criteria are random, the headlines are often clickbait, and — particularly with education — if, say, our school district is #1 one year and #2 the next, Westporters demand to know “What happened?!”

So this story is not about Niche’s ranking of Staples as the #1 school in Connecticut — for the 3rd year in a row.

Instead, it’s about the Channel 8 news report about that honor. Click here to learn more, from (very proud) principal Stafford Thomas.

Screenshot of Staples principal Stafford Thomas, on Channel 8’s “What’s Right With our Schools” feature.

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As the US withdraws from Afghanistan, the New York Times looks back on Tyler Hicks’ 2 decades of chronicling life and death in that faraway land.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate/Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer arrived there soon after the October 7, 2001 invasion — 20 years ago today. One of the first sights he saw was the execution of a Taliban fighter.

His most recent assignment, in July, was near Bagram Air Base — the same spot he saw that harrowing first scene.

Click here for today’s Times retrospective of Hicks’ haunting photos. (Hat tip: Gil Ghitelman)

In 2001, Northern Alliance fighters dragged a wounded Taliban fighter out of a ditch. They shot him dead. (Photo/Tyler Hicks for New York Times)

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When COVID put the kibosh on after-school activities, Jordan Razza created her own.

She arranged classes for her daughters Daisy and Ainsley, and 2 other Westport youngsters, with children’s book author Jacky LaMenzo.

She lives in Massachusetts, but no matter. This was COVID; classes were held via Zoom, on Tuesday evenings.

This was more than just “how-to.” LaMenzo emphasized “do it!”

Brainstorming ideas was key. Daisy — now a 7th grader at Coleytown Middle School — wanted to write about LGBTQ people.

Ainsley — a Coleytown Elementary 5th grader — loves alligators, crocodiles and frogs. She focused on an alligator who makes friends.

Both girls honed in on the theme of acceptance. Now, both are now published authors.

Daisy’s book is “My Colors.” It’s illustrated with her own digital art.

Ainsley wrote “Outcast.” Her drawings are freehand.

The books are available on Amazon. Part of the proceeds go to a literary charity.

The girls are interested in many things. Daisy does gymnastics, the school play and swimming. She’s also in CMS’ Pride Club. Ainsley enjoys synchronized swimming and art. Both continue to write.

The Razzas may not be Westport’s newest authors. But they definitely are our youngest!

(Click here for more information on Daisy’s book. Click here for Ainsley’s.)

The Razza sisters’ books.

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“When Caged Birds Sing” — a teaching exhibition created by Westport artist Ann Weiner — opens to the public on October 29. An opening reception is October 28 (6 to 8 p.m.).

The exhibit features 8 life-size sculptures representing women’s rights activists who suffered and survived abuse because of their gender, yet continue to advocate for the rights of others at risk.

Weiner’s work shines a spotlight on sex trafficking, kidnapping, transphobia, female genital mutilation, honor killings, domestic abuse, the conversion of kidnapped girls into sex slaves and killers by rebel armies, merciless Taliban law and transphobia.

Visitors are invited to write stories, experiences or feelings on pieces of paper that will then be folded into the origami shape of a bird and placed in a bird cage, for release later. A 45-minute documentary about the women featured in the exhibition will also be shown.

For more information, click here.

Part of MoCA’s “Caged Bird” exhibition.

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The Tailored Home is known for its custom furniture, window treatments, accessories, reupholstery, refinishing and design services. It’s a great place, and it knows its Fairfield County clientele.

But last night the Sconset Square store sponsored a funk band. It was something different, for sure.

(Photo/Paul Delano)

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For 10 years, Voices Cafe at the Westport Unitarian Church has featured great folk music. Peter Yarrow, Paul Winter and Suzanne Sheridan have performed there; Brother Sun chose it their final concert. Many events support social justice causes.

Voices Cafe begins its 2nd decade on Sunday, October 24 (7:30 p.m.). with double bill: Newtown-born Sawyer Fredericks (winner of The Voice’s season 8) and The Accidentals, a powerful female-led indie rock and punk folk band.

The concert will be both in-person at the church, and livestreamed. Click here for tickets, and more information.

Sawyer Fredericks

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Sorelle Gallery’s final exhibition of 2021 features abstract artist Ned Martin. Beginning Saturday (October 9). Light refreshments will be served in the Bedford Square spce.

Martin’s work includes birds, female portraiture, natural forest-scapes, and pure abstraction.

“Fragmented in Time” (Ned Martin)

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James Goodenough died peacefully at his Westport home on September 29, surrounded by Gloria, his wife of 73 years, and his 4 children. He was 95 years old.

He was born in New Haven to Dr. Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough, a professor at Yale University, and Helen Miriam Lewis. Jim  graduated from Yale University.

In 1954 Jim and Gloria moved to Westport. He worked at a specialized business magazine company, Cleworth Publishing, rising to publisher of several magazines, then vice president and treasurer.

Jim was a man of consummate integrity, wisdom and humbleness. He is survived by his wife Gloria; children Sandra, Janice, Andrew and Elizabeth; 6 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, and his brother John B. Goodenough, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry last year for his work on the lithium ion battery.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, October 17 (2 p.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church). Memorial donations are suggested to Saugatuck Church or Westminster School in Simsbury.

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In our never-ending quest to feature every living thing possible, “Westport … Naturally” today turns to termites.

Susan Garment writes: “I came across this swarm of termites in a tree on my yard. I called several exterminators and sent them this picture. They  became extremely excited, because they had never seen anything like it. They wanted to send the picture to the Connecticut Department of Entomology.

“We removed the tree. Fortunately,  none of the termites migrated to my house.”

(Photo/Susan Garment)

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And finally … the next MoCA exhibition — “When Caged Birds Sing” (see above) — reminded me of this seriously underrated Beatles song. Sure, there’s no connection between the tune and the Maya Angelou-inspired museum title, other than the bird theme. But I love this track:

Roundup: Yankee Doodle Fair, Affordable Housing, Animal Blessings …

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The Yankee Doodle Fair is back!

After missing 2020 because of COVID, the annual Westport Woman’s Club carnival has shifted from its traditional June date to September.

What hasn’t changed are the site — the Imperial Avenue parking lot next and adjacent WWC — and the attractions: rides, games, raffles, food, sand art and more.

Or the cause: raising funds for philanthropy.

The Yankee Doodle Fair runs today (Friday, 6 to 10 p.m.), tomorrow (Saturday, 1 to 10 p.m.) and Sunday (1 to 5 p.m.).

Click below for a special video, created last year by Doug Tirola’s 4th Row Films, highlighting the 2019 event.

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Affordable housing — what it means, where to put it, how it fits in to the suburban and statewide landscape — is a controversial topic.

Next Tuesday (September 28, 6:30 p.m., Zoom), State Senator Will Haskell and State Representative Stephanie Thomas host a bipartisan panel: “Affordable Housing in Our Community.”

Panelists include Westport Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin, and her Wilton counterpart Rick Tomasetti. The moderator is Heather Borden Herve, editor of “Good Morning Wilton.” Click here to register.

Among Westport’s affordable housing options: Sasco Creek Village.

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Wednesday’s Roundup included details of the upcoming Blessing of the Animals, at Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Looks like Westport’s animals will be twice blessed.

On the same date (Sunday, October 3, 9:30 a.m.), Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church will offer its own courtyard Blessing of the Animals. It’s part of the annual Feast of St. Francis.

All animals — and humans — are welcome.

Blessing of the Animals, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church.

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It’s almost October. Almost time to say goodbye to your garden, for the year.

How do you do it? On October 18 (7 p.m.), Wakeman Town Farms hosts “Putting Your Garden to Bed: The Pollinator Friendly Way.

Nathalie Fonteyne joins WTF master gardeners and coaches Alice Ely and Ryan Brunelle to share tips on what to cut down and what to leave, how to recycle and compost the last greens as the garden prepares for its long winter nap, and what vegetables you still have time to plant to ensure a healthy, beautiful garden next spring.

Click here to register.

Back to the garden.

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Fairfield County has a lively music scene.

But there’s no band livelier than Band Central. The “house band” for CLASP Homes — the Westport-based nonprofit serving adults with autism and other developmental disabilities — headlines the organization’s first in-person, indoor event in nearly 2 years.

On October 15 (6:30 p.m., Fairfield Theater Company), they’ll play songs from Motown, and soul greats like Aretha Franklin, the Commodores, Earth Wind & Fire and more. Special guests will join in.

$40 tickets to the benefit include a pre-party, and an art show with work by CLASP residents. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

Two members of Band Central in action.

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Speaking of music: Scott Barr loves venues like FTC, the Levitt Pavilion and Capitol Theater, plus bars and other spaces to see local (and national) acts. He particularly enjoys seeing bands in small, intimate spaces, then watching as they achieve great success.

Every so often you stumble upon an entertainment event or a scene that must be witnessed and it usually happens where you least expect it.

He’s done it with the Spin Doctors, Blues Traveler, Joan Osborne and Phish. More recent examples include The Record Company playing at Roton Middle School, and the Revivalists and Black Pumas playing at StageOne.

Now, Scott says, a music scene is happening in Westport “right under our noses.”

Every Tuesday night at 8, a band called Residual Groove (aka KRIS or JEDD ) plays at Dunville’s. This week, members of Goose played with them.

“They have special guests all the time, and their playlist is for all ages,” Scott reports. “If anyone is looking for a fresh new scene and great music, check it out.”

He gives a special shoutout to Dunville’s owner Steve Carpentieri, for making it all happen.

Residual Groove (with special guest Peter Anspach from Goose, center) at Dunville’s.

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Jayne Mauborgne was moved by yesterday’s Roundup story about the rescue of 11 turtle hatchlings. A wildlife conservationist came from Madison to help.

She wants readers to know about Wildlife in Crisis.

“We are lucky to have this wildlife rehabilitator right in Weston,” Jayne says. They are great, dedicated people. Over the years I have brought them birds, squirrels, opossum, and all manner of forest creatures.”

Call 203-544-9913 (ask for Darrah or Peter), or email wildlifeincrisis@snet.net.

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Lifelong Westporter John Stahursky died Tuesday at Fairfield County House in Stamford. He was 86 years old.

John graduated from Staples High School in 1953, and retired as a mechanic from Slez Garage in Westport. He loved gardening and farming, and volunteered for many years maintaining the lawns and flower gardens at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fairfield. John grew from seed, then donated, countless plants to the parish for sale at their annual picnic.

He was honored with the St. Augustine Medal, from the Diocese of Bridgeport.

John enjoyed restoring Model A Fords, which were driven in Westport’s Memorial Day parades.

His family remembers him as “a hard working man, always ready with a smile and happy to help others in need.”

Survivors include his siblings Bernard Stahursky of Westport, Wanda Ornousky of Norwalk and Bertha Matis of Westport, and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews.

John was predeceased by sisters Jean Kral, Helen Rutski and Sophie E. Stahursky, and brothers, Joe, Frank and Steve Stahursky.

A funeral will be held Monday (September 27, 9:15 a.m. from the Dougiello Fairfield Funeral Home, and 10 a.m. in St. Anthony of Padua Church with a Mass of Christian Burial. Interment will be in Assumption Cemetery in Westport. Friends may call Sunday (noon to 3 p.m).

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in John’s memory to St. Anthony Parish, 149 South Pine Creek Road, Fairfield, CT 06824 or Fairfield County House, 1 Den Road, Stamford, CT 06902.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” scene is familiar, yet fresh:

(Photo/Wendy Levy)

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And finally … singer Sarah Dash died Monday. She was 76.

According to the New York Times, she “brought her church-rooted soprano and high harmonies to Labelle, which began as a 1960s girl group before reinventing itself as a socially aware, Afro-futuristic rock and funk powerhouse, costumed in glittery sci-fi outfits and singing about revolution as well as earthy romance.”

Click here for her full obituary.

Roundup: Animal Blessing, Footloose, Fall …

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The Saugatuck Congregational Church’s front lawn — broad, green and very “New England” — has hosted social justice gatherings, plant sales and a labyrinth.

On October 3 (noon to 1:30 p.m.), it’s the site of a Blessing of the Animals.

The event will be led by Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton. Pets should be leashed or safely contained.

“At this time of environmental upheaval, pesticide use and habitat destruction, there will be blessings bestowed upon the wildlife that share our planet, as they struggle to survive,” says co-sponsor Westport Animal Shelter Advocates.

Attendees will also consider how to be a blessing to other creatures.

Peter Reid, outreach coordinator at Wildlife in Crisis, will speak about protecting habitat for wildlife, and provide tips for the peaceful co-existence between wild animals and pets.

Earth Animal will provide treats for dogs and cats.  Light refreshments will be served for humans.

To learn more, call 203-557-0361 or email wasa1@optonline.net

Blessing of the Animals at Saugatuck Congregational Church.

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Fall is here. But the Remarkable Theater is not about to fold its tent — er, screen — and go away.

The dance classic “Footloose” highlights the upcoming schedule. The October 1 showing benefits the Westport Rotary Club. The admission price includes snacks.

Other films include “Soul” (September 30), “On the Waterfront” (October 5) and “Clueless” (October 7). Click here for show times and tickets.

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“Night at the Museum” was a 2006 comedy film.

This Saturday’s MoCA Westport event by the same name is no laughing matter. But it will be tons of fun.

Parents are invited to drop off their pre-K through 2nd grade youngsters this Saturday (September 25), from 6 to 9 p.m. Staff members will lead them in art activities, a dance party and games. Pizza is provided; pack a water bottle. (You can provide your own, nut-free food in a labeled bag.)

Click here for details and registration.

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Fall arrives today, at 3:21 p.m.

A Wilton Road family offered this “Here Lies Summer” RIP tableau.

Perhaps it’s also the first Halloween lawn decoration in town.

(Photo/Karen Kosinski)

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Meanwhile, Harvest Moon photos keep on coming. This well-composed one is courtesy of David Loffredo.

(Photo/David Loffredo)

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NextStep is a non-profit offering rehabilitation and fitness services to paralyzed people — is sponsoring a fundraising ride, from Boston to Washington.

Yesterday afternoon, the group stopped in Westport. They ate, drank water, enjoyed Main Street hospitality — then headed off again on their long, important journey.

A brief respite in Westport. (Photo/Jerri Graham)

 

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Ten years later, the killing of Osama bin Laden still resonates.

Next Tuesday (September 28, 7 p.m.) Mary DeRosa — deputy assistant and deputy counsel to President Obama, and National Security Council legal adviser in his administration — discusses her role during the planning and execution of the Navy Seal raid.

She’ll be interviewed by Westporter Steve Parrish. The event will be held live (click here for a seat) and via Zoom (click here to watch).

Mary DeRosa

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Many Westporters support Neighborhood Studios. The Bridgeport non-profit transforms lives, through high quality art, music, theater and dance instruction to underserved children.

The latest addition: Yvette Trujillo Rose. The longtime resident is the organization’s new development director. She’ll be reaching out to Westport businesses and residents to get involved in Neighborhood Studios’ many programs. Click here for more information.

Yvette Trujillo Rose

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Pippa Bell Ader and Diane Yormark were kayaking near Saugatuck Shores’ Bermuda Lagoon yesterday morning. They stopped long enough for Pippa to snap this beautiful “Westport … Naturally” photo.

(Photo/Pippa Bell Ader)

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And finally … as noted above, fall arrives this afternoon. John Coltrane says hello.

Roundup: Barista’s Baby, Election Questions, Afghan Refugees …

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In June, “06880” posted a plea from Amanda DeRosa. The Westport mom sought help for her favorite Starbucks worker, a woman in dire straits due to deliver a baby 3 months later.

Readers responded quickly, and generously. Amanda soon gave the woman $4,550 in gift cards, for stores like Buy Buy Baby, Target and Stop & Shop.

On Wednesday — after 3 days in labor — the barista delivered a healthy, 8-pound baby boy. Both are doing well. Amanda, the new mom (and her infant) thank the Westport community for helping start him on a new life!

A new life!

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What would you like to ask candidates in the upcoming local election?

The League of Women Voters Westport is sponsoring 2 debates — and they invite questions from the public.

Sessions are set for the Boards of Selectmen, Finance and Assessment Appeals on October 25, and the Planning & Zoning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Education on October 26. Both begin at 7 p.m.

Questions can be emailed to speechbyrachel@gmail.com.

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This week’s “06880” story on Westport’s efforts to help resettle Afghan refugees in this area contained an error in dates, and an outdated reference.

On Tuesday (September 21, 12 p.m., Christ & Holy Trinity Church), there’s a free, open-to-the-public lecture about the Afghan crisi by Ann O’Brien, director of community engagement for Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.

On the weekends of September 25-26, October 2-3, 9-10 and 15-16, Greens Farms Congregational Church will accept drop-offs of winter coats, raincoats, and boots for adults, teenagers and children; school supplies and backpacks; new toiletries; cleaning and household supplies, and small appliances. “Boxed and labeled” is appreciated. Furniture and other clothing is not needed.

The IRIS/Westport Rotary Club effort to house and assist a family in East Norwalk includes the United Methodist Church, Temple Israel, Greens Farms Congregational Church, the Religious Society of Friends, Saugatuck Congregational Church, and 15 Westport families identifying as a Muslim community.

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Peter Cuseo — part of a noted Westport family — died at home Tuesday morning. He was 74.

Son of the late Albert R. Cuseo Sr. and Yvonne Cuseo, he was an Army veteran, having served in Vietnam. He worked alongside his family at Albert R. Cuseo Refuse Service and Cuseo Exxon Service Station. He then worked at Masiello Bus Service and the Connecticut Department of Transportation in New Canaan.

Survivors include his wife Teresa; son James Cuseo (Laura), daughter Christina Gudzik (John) and grandchildren Arlo and Riley.

Friends are invited to attend the funeral ceremony and internment Saturday (September 18,  at Willowbrook Cemetery395 Main Street Westport, CT. Click here to leave online condolences. Contributions in Peter Cuseo’s memory may be made to the American Cancer Society.

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Dennis Gibson died peacefully on Tuesday, surrounded by his family. He was 77.

His family says: “Denny loved people. He was a friendly man who always made time to connect with others, whether at a dinner party, a Staples football game, or on the sidewalk downtown. He was a proud Westporter and loved the friends he made in the town he called home since 1999.”

The Michigan native spent the first years of his life in a house with no toilet — only an outhouse. At 21 years old, in a Grand Rapids home with plumbing, Denny had his first son, David. His son Kevin and daughter Leigh Ann followed shortly after. He committed himself to fatherhood as he moved with his family from Indianapolis to Jacksonville, Bethel, Syracuse, Youngstown and Manhattan.

Denny met the love of his life, Patty Burke, when they were working at General Foods. They married in 1982.

After 23 years at General Foods, the natural salesman struck off on his own, as a successful entrepreneur. He built a business from the ground up alongside his son David.

Nearly 30 years after his first child, Denny had triplets: Jack, Max, and Bo. They will cherish his whippy one-liners and memories of stretching him before his weekly tennis games.

He became Grandpa Denny to Bill, Jenna, Dan, Grace, Ellen, Claire, Daniel, and Delaney, who he loved dearly.

He is survived by his wife Patty; brother Lynn of Grand Rapids; sister Nancy Roberto of Cincinnati; sons David (Sheri) of Coronado California, Kevin (Kris) of Canfield Ohio; daughter Leigh Ann Dwyer (Bob) of Fairfield; sons Jack of Westport, Bo of Brooklyn and Max of New Yor.

Calling hours are today (Friday, September 17, 4 to 8 p.m., Lesko & Polke Funeral Home 1209 Post Road, Fairfield). A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated tomorrow (Saturday, 10 a.m., Church of the Assumption). Interment will be private. Contributions in his name may be made to Tunnel to Towers.
To sign his online guest register, click here.

Denny Gibson

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Elena Nasereddin writes: “The recent heavy rains have helped produce both familiar, fairy-tale mushrooms and large, white skull-shaped forms with Halloween creepiness.” She sent several photos of the ‘shrooms growing on Iris Lane. This one is today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature:

(Photo/Elena Nasereddin)

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And finally … in 1916, World War I German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen (aka “The Red Baron”) won his first aerial combat near Cambrai, France.

Remembering Bill West

The Reverend William Henry (Bill) West — former assistant Greens Farms Congregational Church minister, strong youth advocate and, later, Custom Printing & Graphics business owner — died peacefully at the Connecticut Hospice in Branford last week, after a long battle with cancer. He was 76 years old, and lived in Old Saybrook.

The Long Island native graduated from Manhasset High School and Alfred University, then earned a Masters of Divinity from Andover Newton Theological Seminary.

After student ministry in Andover, Massachusetts, West moved to Greens Farms Church here. He served as director of the Youth Adult Council — predecessor of the Youth Commission — in the 1960s and ’70s.

Rev. Bill West

After operating his printing company, he worked with organizations that serve the disenfranchised and needy, including United Way and Literacy Volunteers of America. He also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, and Operation Hope of Fairfield and Bridgeport.

West returned to his true passion: working one-on-one with individuals in need. After earning certification as a chaplain from Hartford Seminary, he served as a protestant chaplain at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford and St. Raphael’s in New Haven. He also counseled men suffering from drug and alcohol addiction at the Relapse Prevention Program in New Haven. He retired in 2018.

His family notes West’s “unswerving commitment to others, his smile, his welcoming demeanor, and his compassion. Patients and staff at St Raphael’s and Yale-New Haven repeatedly cited his presence as comforting. He loved his work, even as he was loved by those he served and those with whom he worked.”

West was predeceased by his wife Margaret. He is survived by his daughter Elizabeth; grandsons Theo and Quinten Ewasko of Newtown; brother Robert of Farmington; 2 nieces, a nephew, cousins, and many friends and colleagues.

A service in his memory will be held at the First Congregational Church, Deep River, on September 25 (1 p.m.)

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital’s Closer to Free Program (Office of Development, Box 1849, New Haven CT 06508); First Church Congregational in Deep River (DRCC, Box 246, Deep River CT 06417), or Dylan’s Wings of Change “Wingman Program (Box 3489, Newtown CT 06470).

Roundup: EMS, NASA, Tashlich …

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Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service‘s first certification course since the pandemic began starts September 21. A decline in membership during COVID makes the call for volunteers more important than ever.

The course is open to any 14 and over. High school students earn EMR certification before age 16; then they become EMT-certified. Prior experience is not needed.

Full tuition reimbursement is available to those who successfully complete the course, and go on to volunteer with WVEMS.

For more information, email training@westportems.org.

After state certification, new EMTS can volunteer on Westport’s ambulances.

A few of Westport’s Volunteer Emergency Medical Service heroes.

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When things go wrong in space, who you gonna call?

Dr. Bob Dempsey, for one. The NASA flight director has had plenty of experience, working with Mission Control to solve problems with the International Space Station.

On September 21 (8 p.m.), he’ll join the Westport Astronomical Society for a free virtual lecture on “When Things Go Wrong in Space.

Click here for the Zoom link; click here for the YouTube livestream.

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Tashlich is a ceremony performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Jews symbolically cast off the sins of the previous year by tossing pebbles or bread crumbs into flowing water.

A group of Y’s Women gathered yesterday at Compo Beach. They threw bad thoughts and actions into Long Island Sound, preparing for the start of a good new season.

(Photo/Barb Stephen)

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Fortunately, the dystopian Los Angeles of 2019 predicted in the 1982 film “Blade Runner” did not come to pass (mostly).

It’s still a great movie. And you can see it again, tomorrow night at 7:30 at the Remarkable Theater. Click here for tickets to the drive-in theater on Imperial Avenue.

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Katie Spector has just published her first picture book: “Katie Spector the Art Collector.” It’s about a creative little girl who can’t part with her art. Katie’s story celebrates community, art, and staying true to yourself.

She’s celebrating too, with an outdoor event at Wakeman Town Farm on September 25 (1 to 3 p.m). There will be book readings, art projects and live music. RSVPs required; click here.

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“Westport … Naturally” doesn’t get any more delicious than this:

(Photo/Wendy Levy)

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And finally … on this date in 1900, the US suffered its deadliest natural disaster.

A hurricane roared ashore at Galveston, Texas. The death toll was estimated at 8,000; 7,000 buildings were destroyed, and 10,000 left homeless, out of total population of fewer than 38,000.

It marked the end of the “Golden Era of Galveston” too, as investors turned their sights on the more sheltered city of Houston.