Category Archives: religion

Pics Of The Day #779

There’s something new at Westport’s venerable Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

For decades, worshipers have admired the stained glass windows in the sanctuary.

But — as shown above — they’ve been removed for restoration.

Until they’re back in place this fall, beautiful art has been replace by equally gorgeous, ever-changing natural scenery.

If you miss the stained glass (or never saw it): Here’s a photo.

Remembering Dan Long

Dan Long — noted artist, beloved diving coach, civic volunteer and longtime Westporter — died last month, while on vacation in Italy with his wife Priscilla.

They celebrated their 45th anniversary last summer. Dan would have been 71 years old on June 10. His daughter Kerry, and son-in-law David Roth, are co-directors of Staples Players.

Dan and Priscilla Long (Photo/Kerry Long)

Priscilla shares these remembrances of Dan, with his many friends and fans.

Dan Long was a good Midwestern guy. He was born on June 10, 1948, and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Son of a talented well-known regional landscape and portrait artist, Dan was exposed to art early in life. He also spent much time in the woods with his dad and brother Steve, learning to use their rifles and hunt food for dinner. It was a typical 1950’s way of life in Michigan.

Dan was a great swimmer. He took advantage of his small physique and started diving for his high school swim team. He was an amazing, fearless diver who was elected to the all-state team during his senior year at Ottawa Hills High School. He was the undefeated city diving champion. Dan loved Coach Collins.

Dan couldn’t afford a 4-year university, so after graduation in 1966 he went to the local junior college. He transferred to the University of Michigan for the remainder of his college career, and graduated with a BS in design in 1972.

A few days after graduation, Dan packed up his 1965 Fiat and drove east to New Haven. An ad firm there had offered him a job, based on a class project Dan had completed for Olin Skis. So began his 30-year career as adman (creative director).

Dan Long (Photo/Kerry Long)

Dan’s work spanned many agencies including NW Ayer, BBDO, Backer and Spielvogel, Lintas and Grey. He traveled the world creating award-winning TV commercials for the US Army, Lowenbrau, Miller Beer, Dodge, GE, Diet Coke, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Campbell Soup, Starburst candy, Hasbro Toys and many others.

Although Dan was working and traveling during all those years, he still found time to draw and paint – often winning awards at the shows he entered.

This all ended abruptly in 2001 – and that is when Dan ‘s life really began.

He managed to create his own business and secure a lucrative account so that the bills could get paid and food was on the table. But he also took a giant leap of faith in 2003, when someone he met at a party in Fairfield learned he had been a diver, and said that Fairfield Ludlowe and Warde High Schools needed a coach.

Remembering how much he loved Coach Collins, as well as how much he loved flying through the air diving, he jumped in. He started coaching for Fairfield immediately, both girls and boys.

The following year he added the University of Bridgeport, plus a summer club or two. He was hooked. And what a coach he was!

A couple of years later, he added Staples High School to his plate. For many years he coached all 3 boys and girls  high school teams – even though they were competitors.

Dan Long, with 3 Staples High School divers.

It was his glory. He thrived, and the kids did as well. There is no question that coaching was what Dan was born to do. He cared about the whole kid: Not just their dives, but what was going on in their lives – their families, their hopes and dreams. He connected with kids on so many levels. It was wonderful to watch.

Aside from coaching and advertising, Dan dove headfirst into his art. He joined Rowayton Art Center, the Carriage Barn in New Canaan, and most recently the Artists’ Collective of Westport. He often won awards for his intricate drawings of old, gnarly trees (which he drew to come to terms with his own aging).

“Strangled Web,” by Dan Long

Dan also was an active member of Saugatuck Congregational Church. He served as a deacon for nearly 8 years. Most recently, he was vice moderator.

Dan was a good, kind Midwestern guy, with a great twinkle in his blue eyes. He loved beauty, nature, and most of all his family. His granddaughter Lucy was his heart.

(A memorial service for Dan Long is set for Saturday, June 15, 11 a.m. at Greens Farms Congregational Church. A reception will follow directly afterward, at Saugatuck Congregational Church. His art will be on display there.

(In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Saugatuck Congregational Church for Missions Work, 245 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880, or Staples Tuition Grants in memory of Dan Long, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.)


Fellow Arts Collective member Miggs Burroughs adds:

I am proud to call myself one of Dan Long’s newest best friends. I met him only 7 or 8 years ago, but he had a great knack for making everyone he liked feel like family.

He created amazing pen and ink drawings of trees in crazy minute detail,  perhaps because he himself was a mighty oak of a man. Not necessarily a “towering” oak, (forgive me Dan), but a mighty one to be sure.

Sturdy and robust, he stood tall against so many of life’s challenges. Oak trees are not meant to disappear overnight. It is still so hard to believe that this man of such considerable talent, loyalty and kindness has left us.

His roots ran deep in the community, through his family, his church, the diving  team, and the Artists Collective of Westport, which cherished his dedication to the group (and his devilish sense of humor). We are all heartbroken.

Temple Israel Celebrates 70 Years

Before World War II, most American Jews lived in cities.

Other places did not always feel comfortable. So in Fairfield County, Judaism was centered in Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport.

After the war, suburbs boomed. By 1948, enough Jewish families lived here that leaders like Leo Nevas formed one of the first Reform congregations in the area: Temple Israel.

Members came from Westport, and newly suburban areas of Norwalk. They sought fellowship, community, and the chance to educate their children in the Jewish tradition.

For years they had no permanent synagogue. They purchased land near the current Whole Foods, but it proved not a good place to build.

Coleytown Road was much better. The cornerstone was laid in 1959. Just 5 years later, Martin Luther King preached on the bimah.

Temple Israel under construction, 1959.

This year, as Temple Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary, congregants look both back and forward.

Dorothy “Dood” Freedman remembers much of that 7-decade history. The niece of Leo Nevas, she joined Temple Israel in 1962. There were only a couple of hundred members. Both the sanctuary and religious school were small.

Temple Israel grew gradually but steadily through the early 1980s. The congregation included Conservative as well as Orthodox Jews. It was the only synagogue in Westport.

“But it was quite Reform,” Freedman recalls. “I loved it.”

Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein was a longtime activist in the cause. In June of 1964 — a month after Martin Luther King preached at the temple — the rabbi joined him at a protest in St. Augustine, Florida. Both were arrested.

Rev. Martin Luther King, before speaking at Temple Israel. He’s flanked by Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein (left) and congregation president Dan Rodgers.

The Vietnam era was a testy — and testing — time. The congregation was divided politically. But — led by Rubenstein — they were united in their support for civil rights.

In the ’80s, ’90s and early ’00s, Westport’s Jewish population grew rapidly. Temple Israel did too. At one point, there were 900 family units (single individuals, and families of any size).

Today, there are about 750. Members still represent a variety of leanings. But there are now 3 other Jewish congregations in Westport too: the Conservative Synagogue, Beit Chaverim (modern Orthodox) and Chabad Lubavitch.

Freedman served as Temple Israel’s first female president, from 1980 to ’82. A lot was going on. The congregation was building a major addition to the sanctuary, and searching for a replacement for the legendary and long-serving Rabbi Rubenstein.

“The building campaign was a literal — and actual — symbol of the growth of the congregation,” Freedman says. So was a subsequent building project: expandiing the school wing in 2003.

Rubenstein’s legacy was “kindness, teaching and civil rights justice,” Freedman notes. His successor — Rabbi Robert Orkand — presided over great growth in numbers. The education and nursery school programs expanded greatly too.

Rabbi Robert Orkand, surrounded by young congregants.

Orkand was also one of 3 founders of the Westport-Weston Interfaith Clergy group.

He was very active on a national level too, Freedman says.

Orkand retired in 2014. He was succeeded by Rabbi Michael Friedman. It was a time of transition for the temple, as the longtime cantor and senior staff members also left.

The new chapter is “an opportunity to redefine the temple,” Friedman — only the 3rd permanent rabbi in the congregation’s history — says.

“It’s a period of creativity, growth and renewal,” Dood Freedman adds. “There’s a great feeling of the congregation being a family, working and worshiping together. There are lots of people in the pews on Friday nights.”

Temple Israel’s current clergy (from left): Rabbi Cantor Dan Sklar, Senior Rabbi Michael Friedman, Assistant Rabbi Danny Moss.

The 70th anniversary is marked by several events. Orkand came back to Westport for a scholar-in-residence weekend. He, Freedman and others shared stories, and re-examined the history of the congregation.

Volunteers are conducting video interviews with some long-time congregants — including Freda Easton, the longest-tenured member.

“We have not always done a good job of memorializing our past,” Freedman admits. “Now we’re creating a documentary and digital archive.”

Hebrew school students are involved too. They’re studying Jewish life through the years — including the fight for Soviet Jewry and the integration of women into worship — including a focus on Westport.

Of course, there’s a party. It’s this Saturday (May 18, 7 p.m.), and includes honors for all 12 living presidents.

Dood Freedman looks back with satisfaction on 7 decades of Jewish life here.

“I think we’ve got quite a presence in Westport,” she says. “When I joined, it was something just to have a temple here.”

Mazel tov! L’chaim!

Temple Israel today.

Pic Of The Day #748

Despite the recent national Methodist Church vote against ordaining LGBT clergy and performing same-sex weddings, Westport’s United Methodist Church proudly — and colorfully — welcomes all. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Have Faith: Church And Temple Teens In B-Ball Battle

Last week, Easter and Passover coincided. Across the globe, Christians and Jews celebrated important holidays at the same time.

Tomorrow (Sunday, April 28), 2 religions converge again. This time the setting is local. At 6:30 p.m., teenagers from Assumption Church, St. Luke, Temple Israel and the Conservative Synagogue meet on the Westport YMCA basketball court.

They’ll compete in the 4th annual Full Court for Kindness tournament. The round robin event is for bragging rights in the Staples High School cafeteria and on social media, sure.

But it’s also a fundraiser. Proceeds from the player and spectator entry fee of $5 (or more!) go to the Make-a-Wish Foundation (in honor of Christopher Lanni, a St. Luke parishioner who died while at Staples) and the Catch a Lift Fund, which provides physical and mental recovery therapy to wounded veterans.

Captains of the 4 faith youth groups, and organizers,meet before last year’s tournament.

Last year’s event drew a packed house. Staples Orphenian Brody Braunstein sang the national anthem. A priest and rabbi delivered blessings. A moment of silence followed, in memory of Christopher.

Then the 4 teams took the court. They battled hard. This was not Sunday school.

Still, there were tons of smiles. Everyone understood the tournament values: friendship, kindness and tolerance.

Temple Israel won last year’s tournament. Another highlight was St. Luke’s come-from-behind victory over rival Assumption.

Who will win tomorrow?

God only knows.

Defending champs: Temple Israel.

(Hat tip: Michele Harding)

Blessing Of The Animals This Sunday At Saugatuck Church

Everyone is welcome inside Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Pets and other animals — not so much.

But this Sunday (April 28, noon to 2 p.m.), every living thing will be welcome at the sweeping front lawn, on the Post Road just a dogleg from Myrtle Avenue.

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates joins the church in co-hosting a Blessing of the Animals.

The Great Lawn of Saugatuck Congregational Church is well suited to a Blessing of the Animals.

All are welcome to bring a pet leashed, or safely contained (recommended for pythons). You can also bring a photo, for an individual prayer of blessing (probably even better for that python).

Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton will lead the service. She’ll include all wildlife in her prayers.

She’ll give special blessing to Westport’s ospreys, for their continued protection and a successful nesting season. A banner will feature photos of the raptors, all originally posted on “06880.”

Representatives from Wildlife in Crisis will be there too. They’ll answer questions about local wildlife, and discuss their rehabilitative and release efforts.

Also on site: Susie Collins of Sitting Pretty Dog Training.

Our pets and wildlife are true blessings.

On Sunday, Rev. Patton is honored to bless them.

(For more information, call 203-557-0361 or email wasa1@optonline.net. The rain date is Sunday, May 5.)

A dog waits to be blessed.

Beatles Came Out And Played With Young Westporter

The Beatles may or may not have visited famed disc jockey Murray the K at his Westport home in the 1960s. No evidence exists that they did, though several folks who grew up here then insist it’s true.

But — 50 years after the release of the ground-breaking “White Album” — one fact is not in dispute: One of the songs was written about a Westporter.

In 1963, 15-year-old Prudence Farrow was living in Los Angeles. Her father — director John Farrow — died suddenly.

So Prudence’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan — an actress, then starring in a Broadway show — brought Prudence, her older sister Mia and other siblings to New York.

Maureen O’Sullivan and John Farrow with their children in 1950. From left: Mia, Patrick, Maureen, John holding Stephanie, Prudence and Johnny. Michael is in front.

But Maureen thought it would be best for Prudence and the other kids to live outside the city. She rented a house in Westport, with a cook/caretaker.

The 157 Easton Road house was well known: It was owned by Leopold Godowsky Jr. — a concert violinist and photographer who helped develop Kodacolor and Ektachrome — and his wife Frankie Gershwin, George and Ira’s younger sister who was a noted painter and singer.

It was a beautiful house: 7 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms on 2.75 acres, with a boathouse, indoor pool, 2 bars, a wine-tasting room, guest quarters, tennis court, waterfalls, walking paths, and stone bridges. The Aspetuck River flows through the back yard.

There was a lot of room to play. In her memoir, Prudence describes hiking in the woods, canoeing and skating on the pond, and playing with neighborhood kids.

157 Easton Road

But apparently the caretaker did little taking care of her charges. “We briefly saw Sue for a few minutes daily” when she drove them to the bus stop, Prudence writes. But when her brother Johnny got his license — and a Porsche convertible — she rode with him the short distance up North Avenue to Staples.

Prudence calls the school “impersonal and empty.” She told a guidance counselor she was not interested in college, so he put her in classes like “typing, homemaking, art, sewing, home economics and general math.”

However, she adds, “School was irrelevant. I couldn’t figure out the purpose of going. I thought I knew everything.”

She quickly learned Staples’ social structure, which include “creeps” (now called nerds), “High Y’s” (today’s jocks) and “greasers.” She was a “beatnik.”

Prudence writes: “They seemed so much more interesting than the others. They loved good music, art and philosophy, and I learned a lot about these disciplines from them. But overall, they were self-destructive, spoiled, and using way too many drugs.”

Prudence’s house — with the caretaker not taking much care — became the hangout. It was the place to go, on weekends, evenings, even during school. People helped themselves to food and sofas. There was always plenty of alcohol and drugs.

It was in Westport that Prudence was first exposed to Eastern thought. Her friend Tom — “a quiet soul, very sensitive” — inspired her to read Siddhartha. She thought that Buddhist principles encompassed “the most beautiful, simple, universal and most profound philosophy of life.”

She no longer drank, but continued using drugs and taking pills. The parties continued. Finally, in late spring of 1964, the police told her mother that “we could no longer remain in Connecticut unattended.” Maureen took her brood back to New York.

But the actress soon departed on a national tour. Prudence and her siblings were once again left with a caretaker — this time in a Manhattan apartment. She dropped out of a private school, and got even more deeply into drugs.

Finally — after a bad experience with LSD — Prudence found Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and his Rishikesh ashram in the Himalayan foothills. She studied transcendental meditation.

In early 1968, the Beatles were there too. John Lennon and George Harrison were assigned to be her “team buddies.” They too had experimented with acid before learning about TM.

2 images of Prudence Farrow — including in India, with Ringo Starr.

Deep in meditation, Farrow refused to leave her bungalow. The 2 Beatles tried to coax her out.

And while they were at it, Lennon wrote a song. It began:

Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It’s beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?

Though Harrison told her about the song, she did not think much of it. And she did not hear it until the “White Album” came out.

When she did, she was “flattered.” She was also glad it was not a negative song about Rishikesh, like Lennon’s “Sexy Sadie” and “Bungalow Bill.”

Prudence had another brush with fame. In 1981 she was near the end of a 3-year affair with New York real estate heir Robert Durst, when suddenly his wife went missing.

Prudence taught TM for several decades. One of her pupils was comedian Andy Kaufman.

She went on to earn a BA, MA and Ph.D. from the University of California, majoring in Asian studies.

She worked in theater and film — including as a production assistant on The Muppets Take Manhattan. 

Using her married name — Prudence Bruns — she has written magazine stories on Asia, world religions and healthy living. She published her memoir (Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song) in 2015.

Prudence Bruns today.

And in 2012 she established the non-profit Dear Prudence Foundation. It raised funds for a documentary film about an Indian festival.

There is no record that the Beatles ever visited Westport. And there’s no reason to believe Prudence Farrow ever returned here, after moving in 1964.

But the song imploring her to open up her eyes and smile — well, that’s one more great example of where Westport meets the world.

FUN FACT: Mia Farrow has her own claim to fame: In 1966, when she was 21 and Frank Sinatra was 50, they spent time on his yacht, anchored off Compo Beach. Their marriage lasted 2 years.

(Click here for more information on Prudence Farrow’s memoir, Dear Prudence: The Story Behind The Song. Hat tip: Fred Cantor.)

Unsung Heroes #90

We take our firefighters for granted.

No matter what they do — first responders to medical calls, helping out in weather emergencies, or actually putting out fires — we are grateful.

But we also say, “that’s their job.”

The number of folks who take the time to thank the Westport Fire Department after an encounter is waaaay too small.

The other night though, Platoon 3 responded to a call at Christ & Holy Trinity Church. They contained what could have been a major blaze to just a small area near the altar.

Westport Fire Department Platoon 3.

After they left — cleaning up, as usual, in their very professional way — Annie Fasnella wrote the following poem. That’s why Platoon 3 — and the entire Westport Fire Department — are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

Earth angels came
in the middle of the night
Heroes without capes
Oh, what a sight.

The Assistant Chief, Shift Commander
and his team from the WFD
put out the fire
at Christ and Holy Trinity.

How amazing, all of you work
with such wisdom and skill
and below freezing Winter’s chill.

You’re simply the best
Kudos, three cheers and hooray
for containing the blaze so quickly
on Ash Wednesday.

With profound esteem
and your brilliant knowhow
Westport salutes you
The curtain is rising on a new morn
It’s your time to take a bow.

James Brown (And The Oxford University Choir) Come To Westport

The “06880” tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.”

We could add: “Where the world meets Westport.”

The other day, Debbie Hoult was rehearsing for a vocal concert. She’s a Westport native, but moved many years ago to England.

Her group — the Wooburn Singers — will perform there this weekend, with James Brown. (An organist from Oxford, not the Godfather of Soul.)

During tea break, he mentioned that he and the Choir of New College Oxford University will be off to Westport, Connecticut at the end of the month.

New College Choir of Oxford University

“That’s my home town!” Debbie said.

It’s quite a coincidence. But there’s more.

In Westport, the choir will sing — and James Brown will play the organ — at Christ & Holy Trinity Church.

Which is the church that Debbie attended, all those years ago.

It all made Debbie a little bit homesick.

She won’t be at her old church on March 30.* But you shouldn’t miss it.

The Oxford choir recently performed at the Sistine Chapel.

This being “06880,” I’m sure someone will quickly post in the comments section, “Hey! I was at that concert!”

And someone else will reply, “Wow! I was supposed to go. But my dinner with Pope Francis ran late.”

(For more information, and tickets to the March 30 concert at Christ & Holy Trinity Church, click here.)

*”Old” is a relative term. The New College Choir was founded in 1379.

Remembering Micky Golomb

Micky Golomb — a tenor saxophone player who for many years was a major face of Westport jazz — died lastweekend, peacefully at home. He was 88.

When Micky was a teenager in the late 1940s, his family moved from Brookline, Massachusetts to Brooklyn. In Manhattan he heard legendary musicians like Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Lester Young and Stan Getz. They influenced him profoundly.

He joined the military during the Korean War, hoping to fly. But when an officer found out he played sax, he was given a choice: KP duty or the band. He served the entire time as an Air Force musician — including a fondly remembered year in Iceland.

After he was discharged, Micky enjoyed a long career playing in jazz bands, ensembles, and the occasional big band (most notably Art Mooney and Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestras).

Micky Golomb

In 1987 he toured Italy with a sextet billed as “Veterans of Jazz.” The bulk of his career was spent playing in New York City, and Fairfield and Westchester Counties.

Micky’s long-term engagements included playing and singing at Dameon’s, and the Westport Inn. He also loved monthly jam sessions in Port Chester. Most recently, he sang with the Y’s Men’s Hoot Owls.

Micky ran Regency Music Studios in Rye for over 20 years. He then served as director of the Rye Arts Center’s music division.

He taught sax and clarinet to many local young musicians. Blessed with perfect pitch, Micky also tuned pianos for individuals and and businesses.

He met Katherine, a library administrator, in 1973, when a friend brought her to the club where Micky was playing. They married 5 years later, and lived on Nash’s Pond for many years. When they downsized, they moved to Harvest Commons.

Micky loved cruising and sailing on Long Island Sound. He owned a succession of boats, named Adagio, Sea Melody and Coda. His last vessel was Fine — the musical term marking the end of a composition or movement.

Micky had a song lyric for every occasion. He sang Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” just a few days before he died. He indeed lived a life that was full. He traveled each and every highway. And he did it his way.

Greg Wall — the Jazz Rabbi — lived not far from him. Micky enjoyed listening to Greg’s Thursday night jazz series. The last time was a few weeks ago, at Pearl at Longshore.

Greg saw Micky shortly before he died. “He was fully present, at peace, comfortable, and not at all hesitant about embarking on his ultimate gig,” the rabbi says.

Micky is survived by his wife Katherine, daughter Liorah, stepdaughters Diane, Rachel and Rebecca Paxton, and grandchildren Martha and Toby Stueward. he was predeceased by  his son Kenneth.

The Jazz Society of Fairfield County will present a memorial program on Thursday March 21 (6:30 p.m., Pearl at Longshore). Greg, and Chris Coogan and his trio, will play. They invite Micky’s fellow “senior statesman musicians and collaborators” to join them for the second set.

A scholarship fund has been created, to support a local student pursuing jazz at a college or conservatory. Click here to donate.

(Click here for Micky Golomb’s memorial page on the JazzFC site.)