The longtime (since 1958!) Westporter had kept a low profile. Hardly anyone here knew that he was a World War II paratrooper — let alone that he earned a Purple Heart at the Battle of the Bulge.
He’d never even participated in a Memorial Day parade.
This year, he will.
And he’ll have a special seat of honor. “Private Benjamin” is Westport’s 2023 Memorial Day parade grand marshal.
Ben Pepper: in the Army.
Pepper was born in the Bronx in 1923. He was drafted into the Army on New Year’s Day 1943, and trained as a paratrooper. He would have participated in D-Day, but a broken back suffered in an earlier jump put him in a near-full body cast.
He participated in the Battle of the Bulge though, in that frigid winter of 1945.
Ben Pepper’s Purple Heart, dog tag and other mementoes. (Photo/Dan Woog)
After discharge, he answered an ad to be a photographer. In 1953 he opened his own studio in Stamford. In 1958 he bought property in Westport. Nearly 70 years later, he lives in the same house off Cross Highway.
In 1960 Pepper and his wife Frances helped build Temple Israel on Coleytown Road. They spent the rest of their married life raising David (a Staples Class of 1966 graduate), traveling (including China before it opened to the West, the USSR, Africa and Asia), and working.
He still has his medals, his dog tag, his photos — and his Army jacket — but he has always been low-key about them.
Ben Pepper (Photo/Dan Woog)
This Memorial Day, Westport honors one of our last living World War II heroes.
The parade — with Ben Pepper as special honoree — begins at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 29. A special ceremony follows immediately, at Veterans Green across from Town Hall.
The 3-time Tony Award winner brings her “Don’t Monkey with Broadway” show to the Westport Country Playhouse. The special event is June 15 (8 p.m.).
It’s an appropriate concert for the 91-year-old stage. LuPone explores classic Broadway tunes by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jule Styne, Stephen Schwartz, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.
In between, she describes her life-long love affair with Broadway, and the unpredictability of the Great White Way.
Tickets are $250, $150 and $75. All audience members are invited to a post-performance party. Click here to purchase.
After an eggs-ceptional first year, Westport Moms’ 2nd annual Easter egg hunt is back. The magic is set for this Sunday (March 26), at the Long Lots Elementary School playground.
They learned a couple of lessons. They pre-stuffed eggs with toys — not candy — and will offer 2 different hunts. Ages 2-5 begin at 11:30 a.m.; kids 6 and up begin at 12:15 p.m.
Also on hand: food trucks, sweet treats, entertainment (dance party, sports games, art projects, make your own cookie, balloon twisting, face painting) — and of course the Easter Bunny.
Eggs-tra special: 40 gold eggs with gift cards to the Toy Post.
Westport Moms know that Easter is not until April 9. But with spring sports and the upcoming school break, they’re getting a (bunny-hop) jump on things.
The cost is $20 per family. Click here for tickets.
Westport Police report 7 custodial arrests between March 15-22
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, illegal carry of a firearm while under the influence, operating a motor vehicle without a license, operating an unregistered motor vehicle, misuse of registration marker plate, insufficient motor vehicle insurance (following a traffic stop on Post Road East for registration credentials that did not match the vehicle
Forgery (creating and selling fraudulent Texas license plates and paperwork)
Larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny (after shoplifting from Ulta Beauty in February, of merchandise with a GPS tracking device)
Disorderly conduct (2 people, both for domestic violence incidents)
Violation of parole, 2 counts (following a traffic stop)
Failure to appear (after a traffic stop).
The police reporting system still does not include citations.
The only legitimate Texas license plates are those issued by the Lone Star State.
The Westport Library is hosting “United Against Hate: Identifying, Reporting and Preventing Hate Crimes.” The interactive learning program focuses on the difference between a hate incident and a hate crime. Participants will learn who to contact when an incident occurs, and why reporting is important.
The event is set for next Tuesday (March 28; 6 p.m. reception, 6:30 program). Registration is required; click here.
“United Against Hate” is held in collaboration with the US Attorney’s Office, Westport PRIDE, Westport and Norwalk chiefs of police, and the Connecticut State Police’s Hate Crimes Unit.
As the Staples High School boys basketball team continues to bask in the glow of the Wreckers’ best season since 1937 — they reached the finals of both the state and FCIAC tournaments — former player Chuck Haberstroh sends along a reminder that the crew was destined for stardom from a young age.
Seven years ago, 6 members of this year’s squad were part of the undefeated Westport PAL Blue team. They were champions of both the Fairfield County Basketball League regular season, and postseason tourney.
The 2016 Westport PAL basketball team (top row, from left): Coach Drew Carothers, Henry Levin. Jack Watkins, Will Holleman, Cameron Lyons, Chris Zajac, Gavin Rothenberg. Bottom: Noah Ambrifi. Cody Sale, Gavin Murphy, Charlie Honig. Ty Levine. Holleman, Zajac, Rothenberg, Sale, Honig and Levine went on to play for Staples.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport hosts 2 great activities this weekend.
Hone your Jeopardy skills at Trivia Night tomorrow (Friday, March 24, 7:30 p.m.). Everyone is welcome (adult-supervised childcare available).
The annual Spring Choral Concert presents “Sondheim” at the church’s Sunday service (March 26, 10 a.m.). The choir will sing several works, offering attendees a look at their own lives and relationships. Chris Beaurline, Mike Costantino and Marcella Calabi are guest singers. The public is invited.
Stephen Sondheim will be at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Sunday — well, his songs will be, anyway.
Y’s Men of Westport and Weston and guests enjoyed a tour of the Housatonic Art Museum this week.
There were a couple of local connections, on the Housatonic Community College campus. The museum’s Burt Chernow Galleries are named for the longtime artist, teacher and founding member of the Westport Arts Center. Chernow also played a key role in establishing the Housatonic collection of modern art.
And included in the permanent collection: 2 pieces by Westport artist, Staples High School graduate and Artists Collective of Westport co-founder Miggs Burroughs.
Y’s Men member and event organizer Jay Dirnberger welcomes the group at the Housatonic Art Museum. (Photo and hat tip/Dave Matlow)
College students are invited to apply for a very cool local internship.
Vanish Media Systems — the Post Road showroom for huge TV screens, which innovatively disappear into custom-built cabinets and other furniture — is looking for 2 talented and energetic interns.
Skills needed are product design and engineering, digital marketing and social media, creativity, website design, e-commerce and easy relationships with people.
To apply, send a resume, plus 5 sentences explaining Vanish Media Systems products, and how you’d market them, to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Mark Motyl’s Westport-based company, click here.
A room with water views on Beachside Avenue becomes a screening center, with a Vanish Media system.
La Plage — the popular Longshore restaurant — offers a special 3-course prix fixe Easter menu on Sunday, April 9 (noon to 7 p.m.). Click here to see how chef Frederic Kieffer showcases the flavors of spring.
The cost is $85 per person; $45 for children under 12. For reservations, click here for reservations, email laplagewestport.com, or call 203-684-6232.
PS: For information on a variety of Westport restaurants, click on our “Restaurants” at the top of the page (or click here).
Green’s Farms Church will livestream this Sunday’s 4 p.m. Duruflé Requiem Memorial Concert, honoring the life of longtime organist Rick Tripodi.
Click here to see. The concert will also be recorded, and available at that link.
And finally … Bobbi Kelly Ercoline — the 20-year-old woman whose photo, wrapped in a blanket with her boyfriend of 2 months (and then, for 54 years, her husband) became a symbol of Woodstock when it became the cover for the album that was the movie soundtrack of the same name — died Sunday.
She was 73 years old. (Click here for a full obituary. Hat tip: Matt Murray)
Bobbi and Nick Ercoline, well more than 10 Years After Woodstock.
(From Westport to Woodstock, “06880” has got you covered. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)
But that’s not the only way BMS engages with the world outside Westport.
Yesterday, 6th graders capped off a 2-month “Walk for Water” fundraiser. It coincided with their social studies Africa unit, featuring the book “A Long Walk to Water” to Linda Sue Park.
Students learned that many people around the globe lack reliable access to clean, fresh water. They walk an average of 3.7 miles — sometimes several times a day — to access potable water.
Over the course of 2 months, each BMS 6th grader and member completed a 3.7- mile walk, to understand the struggles that come with fresh water insecurity, and raise awareness and funds for the cause.
Bedford’s 6th grade students and associated community raised over $10,000 to support the “Iron Giraffe Challenge 2023.” The non-profit organization provides safe, fresh water and hygiene to villages in South Sudan.
The cost to build a new well is $15,000. As thanks, a plaque will be placed next to a new well in the village when it is built.
Yesterday, BMS 6th graders participated in a virtual meeting with Elissa Rowley from the Water for South Sudan organization. She described their work, and answered questions.
Then the 6th graders, teachers and staff walked to the Staples High School track, to recreate their Walk for Water.
Contributions are still being accepted. To give, and learn more, click here.
“Free Renty” is a documentary about Tamara Lanier, an African American woman now living in Norwich, Connecticut, who was determined to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes of her great-great-great grandfather, Renty Taylor — an enslaved man — and his daughter Delia.
The images were commissioned in 1850 by a Harvard professor to prove the superiority of the white race. The film tracks Lanier’s lawsuit against Harvard, and features attorney Benjamin Crump and author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The documentary will be screen on March 18 (6 p.m.), at The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport — followed by a discussion led by Lanier herself.
Admission is free. A potluck dinner is served before the viewing, at 5. For more information, email email@example.com.
Brian Marsella headlines this week’s Jazz at the Post (Thursday, March 9, 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. shows; dinner at 7 p.m.; VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399).
Called “a psychedelic Art Tatum,” Marsella recently finished a world tour. He’s joined by bassist Reid Taylor and drummer Brian Floody — returning after a fall appearance at The Post — and series curator/saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall.
Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.
New to Westport: Vanessa Lewis’ latest iteration of her Penfield Collective retail concept, in Sconset Square. She brings the physical store from Fairfield, and a customer base from far and wide.
Penfield Collective is a “highly edited collection of must-have apparel and accessories.” That fits in well, with many of its design and lifestyle neighbors in the recently renovated shopping center on Myrtle Avenue.
And finally … Gary Rossington, a founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd — and their last surviving original member — died Sunday at 71.
The guitarist survived both a bad car accident in 1976 (which inspired the song “That Smell”), and the 1977 plane crash that killed 3 band members. Rossington suffered 2 broken arms, a broken leg, and a punctured stomach and liver.
He had quintuple bypass surgery in 2003, suffered a heart attack in 2015, and underwent several heart surgeries later. Click here for a full obituary. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)
(From Westport’s budget process to VersoFest — and on to Lynyrd Skynrd — the “06880” daily Roundup is your place for news and information. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)
Club 203 — Westport’s social group for adults with disabilities — celebrates St. Patrick’s Day at The Porch @ Christie’s (March 16, 6:30 to 8 p.m.).
It’s a perfect place. The Cross Highway spot has always offered training and employment to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — and all pastries come from Sweet P Bakery, which does the same.
Click here for more information on this month’s party.
Future Frogmen is a non-profit organization that empowers high school and college students to be ocean ambassadors and future leaders. Through experiential learning, communication, action, leadership and exploration, they generate public awareness about the ocean and deepen the connection between people and nature.
Future Frogmen have a new home. Save the Sound will now handle its archive of original environmental content, including videos, a blog and the “Blue Earth” podcast.
Save the Sound — a 50-year-old environmental action organization — will expand its own content creation efforts, launching a podcast series with the Westport Library’s Verso Studios. A 6-episode season will explore environmental issues challenging the Long Island Sound watershed.
Future Frogmen was founded by Richard Hyman, a local educator, conservationist, businessman and former crew member for Jacques Cousteau.
Vibraphonist and composer Chris Dingman and his trio rock Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church’s Branson Hall next Saturday (March 11, 5 p.m.). They merge jazz and global influences in exciting ways.
Click here for tickets; they’re also available at the door.
Adam Stolpen moved to Westport with his parents in 1958, and has lived here on and off since then.
As he heard stories of impressive men and women during February’s Black History Month, he remembered Ernestine White. She is not a famous name — but she made an impact he has never forgotten.
When I started 7th grade at Bedford Junior High on Riverside Avenue in 1959 we had most of our academic classes in the “new” building, which exists today as Saugatuck Elementary.
Our enrichment classes (such as mechanical drawing, metalwork and shop for the boys) were held in the adjacent old Stapes High School building, regrettably torn down and now replaced by an auditorium. Music classes were on the top floor of the Staples building, tucked under the rafters.
The original Staples High School. When it became part of Bedford Junior High in 1958, music classes were taught there.
Chorus was taught by Mrs. Ernestine White. She was the best teacher I have ever had and was, I believe, the only Black teacher in the school at that time.
She was tall, elegant and definitely the kindest, most caring and compassionate teacher I had in all my schooling. Her skill as an educator who somehow magically coaxed actual choral music out of rambunctious pre-teens was only surpassed by the self-awareness, respect and deference she awoke in her classes.
You had to earn her accolades, and you definitely had to deserve one of her hugs. It was a singular privilege to have been in her classes.
In May 1960 I was being Bar Mitzvah. My parents asked me to choose who I wanted to invite to my party, which would take place at our home. My request to invite one of my teachers who they had never met surprised them, but they offered no resistance.
I took the invitation to Mrs. White in school. The following day she asked me to stay after class. She said she would not be able to come, as Mr. White was still living in Washington for work.
She said it would not be appropriate to come alone. I asked if she had any other family around. She said her sister-in-law was in the area, so I invited her also.
Ernestine White, from the 1959 Staples yearbook. In addition to Bedford Junior High, she also taught at the high school.
Weeks later when I had my ceremony, Mrs. White and her sister-in-law listened as I sang my portions of the Torah. Immediately after my grandmother. there was my teacher to give me a big hug and congratulate me on my singing. It felt good; I knew I’d earned it.
At the party that afternoon, there were reactions I remember to this day. Eisenhower was president. The Civil Rights Act had not been passed; Dixiecrats controlled federal legislation, and it was only 5 years since Rosa Parks had refused to give up her seat, and Emmett Till was murdered.
When my favorite teacher and her sister-in-law walked into the party, the room fell silent. My mother immediately walked over to the 2 ladies, who were clearly uncomfortable. My mother said how pleased she was to have them there, and ushered them over to the chair right next to my grandmother: the best seat in the house.
The room divided. I heard someone tell my mother that she wouldn’t stay at a party with a person of color. My mother replied that it was a shame she would be leaving, but Mrs. White was our guest too. It mattered to us that she felt welcomed.
It’s interesting that those who were nicest to Mrs. White turned out in later years to be those people I remained closest to, while those who scorned her were those I subsequently found reasons to avoid.
The party was wonderful, but I find that what I recall most vividly from that day was my teacher’s smile while sitting alongside my grandmother, both kibitzing away and as happy as if they were old friends.
I’m sure I was not the only student this marvelous woman encouraged in a positive way. I’ve often wondered what her career was like in the years after I left Bedford. She is an important part of Westport’s Black history.
Adam adds one final note:
By Monday morning word had spread at school that a teacher had attended a party. That day, in the crowded hallway passing between classes, and for the first and only time in my life, I faced prejudice.
Someone loudly yelled, “Adam Stolpen is a kike.” I never knew for certain who it was, and it never happened to me again, anywhere else.
But for that moment I experienced — in my safe place — what Mrs. White had to face daily in society.
For many youngsters, that was a chance to play. For older folks, it meant the chore of shoveling.
But all kids did not play, and all adults did not shovel. Let alert “06880” reader Bill Hall tell this tale:
“Imagine my septuagenarian joy yesterday morning when I heard a knock on my front door. Two young neighbor lads, ages 8 and 11, were there with shovels in hand.
“They said they would help shovel the heavy, wet snow — a frequent widow maker. I welcomed their offer. They went to it right away. clearing a walk ramp, paths to cars, accumulated snow from limbs of bushes and more. Their industry is to be admired.
“I remember thinking years ago, ‘where are the young folks who used to come to mow lawns and shovel snow?’ That breed seemed to have vanished.
“But not completely. Apparently there are still some ambitious young folks who offer their youthful strength (and charm).
“I asked before they started what their charge would be. They shyly said, ‘I don’t know, 5 or 10 dollars.’ I said, “you’re on!”
It was a joy to see them work so hard and fast. It was an equal joy first to meet these young lads, and see their joy upon completing my requests and receiving their cash. No Venmo here.
“Many years ago when I was a student at the University of Michigan, I sang a song in a musical with the lyric, ‘Where Is America, what has become of her? What strange place do I see?’
“I saw a glimpse of some good ol’ American and altruistic values today embodied in 2 boys, Drew and Leo. Thank you. guys!”
Beginning today, Westport Emergency Services dispatch moves from Westport Police and Fire headquarters to Fairfield County Regional Dispatch.
This joint venture between Westport and Fairfield has been in the works for several years. Fairfield moved its dispatch to the combined center at Sacred Heart University a year ago.
Westport residents will not see any change in service. All calls will be routed to FCRD, to be handled by civilian call takers and dispatchers.
Westport’s knowledgeable, expert civilian dispatchers possess have moved to the new center.
Police Chief Foti Koskinas says, “We expect to provide better service to Fairfield and Westport, with better access to public safety in one combined dispatch center. Our officers, firefighters and emergency telecommunicators working in conjunction with each other, in one center, will enhance the level of service provided to our communities.”
Fire Chief Michael Kronick adds, “At the FCRD, there will be a call taker and a dispatcher to help expedite dispatch efforts to handle emergency situations more effectively. The FCRD includes built-in redundancy and an extra level of back-up to keep emergency communications operational should the need arise.”
The Police Department’s non-emergency phone number remains the same: (203) 341-6000. 911 is still the emergency number. And every firehouse has an outside phone to report emergencies.
Author and historian Richard DeLuca brings his illustrated lecture “Motion: Transportation, Climate Change and Big History” to the Weston History & Culture Center on March 26 (4:30 p.m.; free for members, $5 for non-members).
DeLuca will discuss 4 centuries of transportation history in Connecticut — from stagecoaches to interstates — and how that story has led to our current environmental crisis.
This event is part of the closing reception for the exhibition “The Curious Case of Eleven O’clock Road: How Weston Got Its Place Names.” It’s open every Thursday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m., through March 26,
Thomas “Bo” Hickey — the legendary athlete and coach who died Tuesday at 77 — is best remembered as a football, basketball, baseball and track star at Stamford Catholic High School, Denver Broncos running back, and a state champion football and boys ice hockey coach at New Canaan High.
“Westport … Naturally” frequently features deer photos.
It’s been a while though since we saw one in the snow.
Claudia Sherwood Servidio snapped this shot yesterday, at (appropriately) Earthplace.
It’s much colder in Lyman, Ukraine than Westport, Connecticut.
But hearts in our sister city have been warmed by gifts this winter. The latest delivery is good news for hundreds of freezing bodies.
A 20-ton truck headed out yesterday to the town in the Donbas. It was filled with construction material, to shore up 6 apartment blocks devastated during 5 months of Russian occupation.
Residents have been living in basements. Soon, the rebuilding of those apartments can begin.
Ukraine Aid International and Alex21 — Westport’s partners on the ground — also delivered armored vests for utility workers. That will enable them to work more safely, restoring power in areas still under attack by the invaders.
The construction material and armored vests were paid for by Westporters. During the holiday season, our town raised $252,000 to aid our sister city. More projects are in the works.
Click below for a video showing delivery of the building materials and armored gear.
Tax-deductible donations can still be made to Lyman through Ukraine Aid International — the non-profit co-founded by Westporters Brian and Marshall Mayer. Pleaseclick here. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” Scroll down on that page for other tax-deductible donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo). You can also donate directly, via Stripe (click here).
Tomorrow (Thursday, February 23) is Fairfield County Giving Day.
Friends of Sherwood Island State Park is raising funds for their garden team. They’ll plant natives in their Pollinator Garden, and the East Beach dunes. Among them: seaside goldenrod, switchgrass, rose mallow, maritime marsh elder, Virginia rose, blue-flowered spiderwort, yarrow, white heath aster, pink-flowered showy tick-trefoil (pea family), thin-leaved sunflower, boneset, New England blazing star and marsh fleabane.
The dune restoration will be extended with 150 feet of American beach grass, 12 feet wide. They’ll add 12 red maple, white oak and pitch pine trees in the picnic area.
The goal is $1,700. To donate, click here, or send a check to: Friends of Sherwood Island State Park, PO Box 544, Westport, CT 06881. Memo line: “Giving Day 0- Garden Team.”
Westporters Orna Stern and Debbie Ritter — members of the Friends of Sherwood Island State Park garden team — planting a red maple tree. It will one day shade East Beach picnic areas.
But I am not making this up. I’m just paraphrasing (and quoting) a press release.
“Celebrity psychic medium Karyn Reece” comes to Child’s Pose Yoga (8 Church Street, April 1 7:30 p.m.) for “the most coveted event this spring that has everyone talking.”
During the “intimate VIP evening (guests will) be given the opportunity to connect with their past loved ones and hear about their future through live audience-style readings with Reece. She will allow ‘the other side’ to guide her around the room as she gives inspiring and specifically detailed personalized messages of healing and hope to some lucky winners in attendance.”
But wait! There’s more! Attendees will enjoy “exceptional food and spirits” (ho ho), “delectable desserts,” and gift bags too.
Reece “has been featured on TLC, Discovery, Lifetime, The CW, FYI, Travel Channel and A&E. She is also the go-to psychic medium for celebrities on Bravo. She has worked with some of the world’s most A-list celebrities and brands including Deux Moi, Reebok, Kyle Richards, Leah Remini, Margaret Josephs, entrepreneurs, and media who featured her as one of the most accurate psychics with over 98% accuracy per reading (average psychics being only 50%).”
Tickets are just $200 per person (non-refundable or transferable). For reservations, call 716-580-2520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The press release concludes: “Reece is ready, spirit is ready, but the real question is, are you ready for a spring night like none other?”
If you have, you’ll know to mark March 1 (6 to 8 p.m., Westport Country Playhouse barn) for hors d’oeuvres, wine, great conversation, and of course a diverse array of art by talented Collective members.
Then on March 5 (5 p.m.), several artists will talk about their process and answer questions about their work and careers.
The show runs March 2-5 (2 to 6 p.m.). Artists exhibiting include Nina Bentley, Suzanne Benton, Eric Chiang, Lynne Knobel, Joanie Landau, Susan Murray, Dale Najarian, Judy Noel, Julie O’Connor, Eileen Panepinto, Gay Schempp, Renee Santhouse, Joan Wheeler and Marc Zaref.
Choral Chameleon’s previous 2 appearances at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport were great success.
The New York-based group returns this Saturday (February 25, 7:30 p.m.). Their “Music for Chameleons” concert — part of their 15th anniversary tour — is a “thought-provoking narrative on the ever-changing landscape for the world, and the power of human beings to have meaningful discourse and invoke transformation.”
They’ll include music by di Lasso, Pulenc, Nobuaki, Rimmer, Trmbore, Jamiroquai and Janet Jackson, plus premiers from Choral Chameleon Institute composers inspired by a Truman Capote short story.
Dr. Arthur Brovender, a longtime Westporter, died peacefully at his Boca Raton, Florida home on Saturday. He was 92 years old.
The Bronx native earned a BA with Phi Beta Kappa honors from New York University in 1952. He received a medical degree with distinction from L’Université Libre de Bruxelles 6 years later.
He completed his internship in general surgery at Norwalk Hospital. Arthur then specialized in orthopedic surgery, finishing his surgical residency in New York.
In 1962, during his children’s surgical residency at The House of St. Giles the Cripple in Brooklyn, he met his future wife, Paula on a blind date. They were married for 59 years.
Throughout his medical career, he held many memberships as a Fellow in medical societies (International College of Surgeons, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, New York Academy of Medicine, American College of Surgeons and the American Geriatrics Society) and was a Charter Member of the Eastern Orthopaedic Association. He was a regent in the State of Connecticut International College of Surgeons, and president of the Norwalk Medical Society. He taught at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the Police and Fire Departments in Westport and Norwalk.
In 1963 Arthur opened a private practice and joined the medical staff at Norwalk Hospital. At the same time proudly served in the Army Reserves, rising to captain. He served as the chief of orthopaedics at Norwalk Hospital from 1981-1985.
He enjoyed playing golf and tennis, skiing, hunting and fishing. He was an avid photographer and history buff, and enjoyed traveling with family and friends. Arthur took classes throughout his life.
His religious observance was important. Heserved as president of Temple Shalom in Norwalk from 1976-1979.
After retiring from his private practice of 37 years in 2000, he continued to provide medical service to the Social Security Administration as an independent medical expert on orthopedic cases throughout the United States.
For the last 20 years he enjoyed retirement at Boca West Country Club, where he served on the Board of Governors and numerous committees. He made many wonderful new friends in Florida.
Arthur was predeceased by his brother, Dr. Stanley (Patricia) Brovender. In addition to his wife, Arthur is survived by his children Leslie Serena and Lisa (Arthur) Hayes; grandchildren and step-grandchildren Max, Malisia, Rebecca, Olivia, William and James; niece, Dana Parillo, and nephews Matthew and David Brovender.
Funeral services will be held this Friday (February 24, 1 p.m., Temple Shalom, Norwalk). Burial will follow at the Temple Israel Cemetery behind Beth Israel Cemetery in Norwalk. The family will sit shiva on Saturday (6 to 8 p.m.) and Sunday (1 to 4 p.m.)
The 10th annual event focuses on “The Dialogue Challenge: Effective Engagement on Race, Ethnicity, Religion and LGBTQIA+.”
The prompt says:
Team Westport’s mission is to make Westport a more welcoming community with regard to race, religion, ethnicity, and LGBTQIA+. In order to achieve its mission, one of TEAM Westport’s goals has been to promote opportunities for people to come together in dialogue to better understand each other’s experiences, decrease bias, and learn what we have in common. Meaningful dialogue depends on a good faith effort to set aside preconceived beliefs or what we think we know about other people.
In 1,000 words or less, reflect on your own interactions with people who have different racial, ethnic, religious, and/or LGBTQIA+ identities and/or perspectives. What kinds of conversations were particularly helpful in prompting you to rethink your beliefs or opinions, perhaps causing you to change your mind or enabling you to better understand others’ points of view? Based on these experiences, what specific actions would you suggest that individuals, schools, and/or town entities in Westport take to promote good-faith dialogue, reduce bias, and foster understanding?
It’s an important, in-depth and nuanced question.
But there’s no reason it should be limited to high school students.
Alert “06880” reader — and back-in-the-last-millennium Staples High School graduate — Clark Thiemann wrote in the Comments section:
Would love to see a version of this contest for all town residents. While I’ve found our high school students among the most thoughtful on these topics, I’d like to hear about how to have good conversations with people of different backgrounds and generations that might help break through walls.
Clark nailed it.
So let’s open it up to all “06880” readers.
What do you think? How can we have “good conversations with people of different backgrounds and generations that might help break through walls”?
Feel free to post in the Comments section. You can email too: email@example.com. I can post those in a stand-alone story.
Unlike the TEAM Westport Teen Essay Contest, there are no cash prizes.
But the payoff will be a much-needed town-wide discussion, on a topic that’s crucial to us all.
(NOTE: Most readers often fire off their comments — that’s the nature of a blog. For this one, please take time to consider what you’re saying, and how you say it. Please be civil; no ad hominem attacks. And of course, please use your full, real name.)
(“06880” is your place for discussions — important, interesting and occasionally trivial. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)
After 74 years, the Unitarian Church in Westport is no more.
But the diverse, welcoming community on Lyons Plains Road is not going anywhere.
The new name is “The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport.”
The simple change was years in the making. And it speaks to a recognition of changes in the congregation itself, and American life.
The local church was founded in 1949, as The First Unitarian Fellowship of Fairfield County. It became The Unitarian Church in Westport in 1964 — a year before their move to the modernistic building in the woods, designed by Victor Lundy.
Noted architect Victor Lundy designed the striking building.
Three years earlier, the Unitarian and Universalist sects had formally joined. (“Unitarian” means rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity. “Universalism” refers to the belief that all will eventually be saved.) The Westport congregation is part of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The local mission statement says the church is “free of creed and dogma, and open to people of all backgrounds and beliefs.”
The Westport church has 350 members. Another 150 people participate in their programs. Among the best known: Our Whole Lives (OWL) sexuality education for various ages; social justice work, and outreach to singles and the LGBTQ community.
For quite a while, there was discussion about including “Universalist” in the name. More recently, another issue arose: the word “church.”
Some members were raised Jewish; to them, a church is a gathering of Chrsitians. Others are former Catholics; they associate “church” with Catholicism.
Though Unitarians are known for addressing hot-button issues, a name change was put on the back burner. During COVID, however, they began addressing it.
The longtime logo
According to board member Beth Cliff, a name is “an invaluable part of our identity as a spiritual and religious home. it creates a sense of who we are, of our community in which we belong, and our place in the world.”
It also identifies the community to others who know nothing about them, and distinguishes it from other religious institutions.
In February 2021, the board of trustees discussed whether the name “The Unitarian Church in Westport” limited its reach to newcomers, and if it was “as diverse, inclusive and open as we are in practice, as a non-creedal, non-dogmatic congregation that is welcoming to everyone from all faith traditions.”
Dozens of people participated in virtual meetings, discussing pros and cons of possible names. A November 2021 meeting sparked plenty of energy, questions and concerns.
A Naming Committee was formed. The goal was to oversee a process that was “inclusive, transparent, neutral, democratic, and designed to empower and give voice and vote to the congregation.”
Members — not the committee — were to come up with options.
Ultimately, 85 different names were offered. They included not changing at all, incorporating words like “sanctuary,” “fellowship” and “association,” plus references to the ship-like roofline, and locations near Silver Brook and the Aspetuck River.
The sanctuary on Lyons Plains Road.
Another discussion involved Westport itself. Should it be “in” Westport? “Of” Westport? With members coming from as far as Greenwich and West Haven, should there be no reference to the town at all?
The process played out in Zoom meetings, services and a town hall. The 3-step selection process culminated in ranked voting. 232 members participated.
The final choice — The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport — incorporates both branches of the faith. And “in” Westport is a descriptor, for those who may not know where it’s located — without limiting it to one town, the way “of” Westport might.
The name change passed with an 87% majority in a December vote. It was ratified late last month, almost unanimously.
Rev. John Morehouse
Rev. John Morehouse — who served 2 previous congregations that changed their names while he was there — says:
Our new name embraces the full depth of our religious identity, Unitarians known for their fearless questioning and the Universalists known for their radical welcome of all people.
We decided to drop the word “church” and replace it with “congregation” to recognize that we are as diverse theologically as we are culturally. This name invites all who are spiritually searching into the midst of our beloved community.
In a congregation that honors the worth and dignity of all, it is a hard process to come to consensus on such an important issue; we worked hard and got to know each other better, and came out stronger. This new name may open new doors for us as we connect with new groups of people in our neighborhoods who seek a spiritual home where they can be accepted simply for who they are: a “judgment-free zone” for themselves and their children.
It’s difficult to make sense of so much in our world that seems off-balance. Getting strength and solace with one another helps keep us all moving in a direction that feels right and purposeful, in the spirit of peace, love and justice. We hope our new name will signal to many what we’re about as a spiritual community.
The Norwalk synagogue — which includes many Westporters — celebrates the installation of Rabbi Cantor Shirah Lipson Sklar to Senior Rabbi. She succeeds her father, Rabbi Cantor Mark Lipson, and is Temple Shalom’s first female spiritual leader.
Sklar — a Staples High School graduate — has served Temple Shalom as cantor since her ordination in 2005. At Staples she sang in the elite Orphenians under the direction of her mother, Alice Lipson.
She and her husband, Rabbi Cantor Dan Sklar, live in Westport with their 3 sons.
The installation takes place at Friday evening services (February 10, 7 p.m.). Special musical guests include the folk/Americana/bluegrass band Nefesh Mountain.
The celebration continue on Saturday (February 11, 5 p.m.), with a special wine and cheese reception, followed by a concert by Nefesh Mountain.
The Friday night installation service is free and open to the public (RSVP: 203- 866-0148). Tickets to Saturday’s Nefesh Mountain concert are $36 (children 12 and under free). Click here to purchase. (Hat tip: Martin Gitlin)
The next morning — 8 a.m. on Saturday — a college student driving an SUV southbound on that road plowed onto the sidewalk and obliterated 3 mailboxes anchored next to each other, just south of Cross Highway.
Neighbor Ed Paul notes: “The accident occurred about 50 yards from a stop sign. The car had to accelerate very quickly to cause such destruction.
North Avenue mailboxes before (courtesy of Google Earth) and afterward (photo/Ed Paul).
“North Avenue is frequently used by bikers, joggers, walkers with strollers, students, dog walkers and more, on the shoulders and sidewalk.
“If you’re out enjoying the day on one of our beautiful streets, don’t get so absorbed in your phone call, music or podcast to not be aware of what’s going on around you. Unfortunately, going out for a walk is not a guaranteed safe activity.”
On a more positive note: Site by site, citizens are cleaning up Westport.
The almost-weekly pick-ups — organized by RTM member Andrew Colabella, and open to everyone — continued this weekend, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.
Interested in helping? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cleaning up on Imperial Avenue (from left): Diane Wildman, Mayo and Karin Smith, Julie Whamond, Alice Stratton, Rob Grodman. Not pictured: Tracy Carothers, Nancy Kail, Paul Conti. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)
Our longtime (though soon-to-be-former) neighbor was on stage in Los Angeles again last night — but as a stand-in, to accept Beyoncé’s 29th.
The singer/songwriter had not yet arrived, 40 minutes into the event, when she was announced as the winner for Best R&B Song.
Her longtime collaborator, The-Dream, stepped in, and gave a brief speech that included the n-word (though it was censored by CBS).
Let Yahoo take it from there:
Fortunately, the legendary Nile Rodgers — a joint winner for “Cuff It,” due to his additional writing credit on the song — was on hand, and (host Trevor) Noah practically begged the renowned musician and producer to emerge from the stage wings and give a more eloquent speech. “Nile, please say something before we go. Please say something. The legend, ladies and gentlemen!”
While Rodgers presumably didn’t have any speech prepared, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winner was as articulate as ever. And the anecdote he shared demonstrated that he is always skilled when it comes to reacting in the moment, on the spot.
Click here for the full story. (Hat tip: Patti Brill)
Native Westporter — and former owner of the Arrow and Red Barn restaurants — Virginia Pianka Nistico died Saturday at Bridgeport Hospital, following a brief illness. She was 95.
As an owner of 2 of Westport’s most popular restaurants, she dedicated her life to working with her family, children and grandchildren. She spending time with patrons, and the young employees who passed through over many years.
In her free time Virginia enjoyed vacationing in Florida, first in Hollywood and then Naples. having great times with her brother Ben.
She is survived by her children Frank Nistico, Thomas Nistico, Sr. (Joan), Louis Nistico (Dee), Pamela Nistico, Richard Nistico (Cindy), and daughter-in-law Sue Nistico; 17 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren. and many nieces and nephews.
Virginia was predeceased by her son John Nistico, brother Bernard Pianka, sister Philomena Bachman and daughter-in-law Janet Nistico.
The family will receive friends and family at Collins Funeral Home (92 East Avenue, Norwalk) on Wednesday (February 8, 4 to 7 p.m.). The funeral Mass will be held Thursday (February 9, 10 a.m., Church of the Assumption). Burial will follow at Assumption Greens Farms Cemetery.
And finally … in honor of Lomito, Westport’s newest restaurant, here is the only Peruvian song I know:
(From the newest restaurants, to mentions of old favorites like the Arrow and Red Barn [see stories above], “06880” has Westport covered. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog. Thank you!)
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