Joseph Oyebog Junior — “Junior,” as he’s called — is a rising tennis star.
Just 15 years old, he won the BNP Paris Bas junior tournament in Indian Wells, California this weekend, with doubles partner Jagger Leach (son of former tennis champion Lindsay Davenport). They took the championship match in straight sets.
Junior Oyebog (right) and Jagger Leach, at Indian Wells.
Junior’s name is familiar to Westporters. His father, Joseph Oyebog, is a former Davis Cup player for Cameroon who has coached young tennis players in Westport for years. Junior is one of his many success stories.
When he’s not traveling to tournaments, Junior is often on the Staples High School courts.
With the help of local families, and a Westport-based board of directors, the non-profit Oyebog Tennis Academy bought land and built a school in the middle of a jungle.
For the past 24 years OTA has provided free tennis instruction, education and food to thousands of underprivileged children. The academy is famous in Africa, and the skills of the children who attend have improved dramatically.
This year, 2 OTA students received full scholarships to play tennis at American colleges.
The ties between Westport and OTA are growing even stronger. This spring, the academy launches a “Serving for Love” fundraising and leadership campaign, with local high schoolers and other supporters from across Fairfield County.
All proceeds will support children in need, and the OTA program in Cameroon.
Junior and his family are proud of their ties to both Westport and Cameroon, and are committed to making a difference in the lives of underprivileged children through tennis.
Junior’s goal is to play professional tennis. He’s already attracting attention from scouts and coaches.
With his talent — and the guidance of his father — Junior will ace this.
To learn more about Oyebog Tennis Academy — including how high school students can help — email Jnova76@gmail.com.
(Hat tip: Stefanie Lemcke)
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The Staples High School boys basketball team reached the end of the line yesterday.
#1 ranked St. Bernard-Uncasville topped the #7 Wreckers, 63-50 in the state Division II finals, at Mohegan Sun.
But Staples’ heads are high. First-year coach Dave Goldshore’s squad enjoyed a storybook season. They reached the FCIAC championship game, then electrified everyone with a stunning 4th-quarter comeback from 18 points down in the state semifinal to advance to the title game for the first time in 86 years.
And they did it all with talent, teamwork, tenacity, passion, poise — and plenty of class.
Thanks, Wreckers, for entertaining and inspiring an entire town, all season long!
The 2023 Staples High School boys basketball team.
High on a Bayberry Ridge hill, the mid-century home (designed by noted Broadway set designer Ralph Alswang) and bountiful gardens (inspired by the Villa Ephrussi de Rotshchild) were developed over more than half a century by advertising entrepreneur Barry Blau.
Blau House & Gardens.
It’s a special property. A recent visitor called it “spectacular! Soothing, cool and wonderful to experience the calm and peacefulness of this environment.” Another described it as “nirvana in Westport.”
BHG is a public charity. Its mission is to acquire and transform the intimate, beautiful midcentury building and space into a public asset for arts, horticulture and garden enjoyment.
Blau house, designed by Ralph Alswang.
Pilot programming has included a book reading by a New York Times best- selling author, a college horticulture field trip, a garden lecture for the Garden Conservancy, and several garden tours.
But Blau’s widow Eileen died last week. The future of the property is uncertain. The estate will have to sell the property to meet mortgage and property expenses.
BHG has the opportunity to acquire it — essential to supporting their mission. They need to raise funds now.
$3 million would include:
$1.5 million for the house and gardens
$1 million for adjacent property on Fairview Drive, for parking and support facilities
$500,000 to start an endowment for operations and maintenance, for 5 years.
The minimum needed is $1.5 million, for the Bayberry Ridge property and gardens.
To help, or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-952-3335. For a PowerPoint presentation on the project, click here. For the Blau House & Gardens website, click here.
And finally … Bobby Caldwell died last week, of long-term complications of a toxic reaction to antibiotics. He was 71.
The New York Times called him “a singer-songwriter whose sultry R&B hit “What You Won’t Do for Love” propelled his debut album to double-platinum status in 1978 and was later covered by chart-toppers like Boyz II Men and Michael Bolton….
“Over his 4-decade career Mr. Caldwell swerved freely among genres, exploring R&B, reggae, soft rock and smooth jazz, as well as standards from the Great American Songbook.” Click here for a full obituary.
(From basketball to beauty, “06880” covers Westport. As a non-profit, we rely on readers’ contributions. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)
“I brought this topic a year and a half ago. I was told it would be an easy repair — and it had already been approved in the town budget.
“It never happened. So I’m asking again:
“Please repair PJ Romano Field.”
She sent along this message, from “a group of concerned moms”:
“The field — managed by Parks & Rec — should be a safe place for children. But it’s not. There are at least 19 cracks they can trip over.
One of the many large cracks at PJ Romano Field.
“Located between Kings Highway and Saugatuck Elementary Schools, it’s a great place for sports.
“Elementary school children love to ride scooters and bicycles. But they end up with scraped and bloody knees, hands and elbows, because of deep, big cracks. There’s a bigger accident waiting to happen.
“Spring is arriving. Kids will be coming out again. Please make it safe.”
Turnout was great at last night’s MoCA Westport opening reception. The new “Rainbow in the Dark” exhibition features 20 works of German contemporary artist Anselm Reyle, including a neon exhibition.
His works also include foil and strip paintings, and sculptures. Remnants of consumer society, discarded materials, symbols of urbanity, and industrial change are key.
“Rainbow in the Dark” is on view through May 28. Docent-led tours are held Thursdays at 1 p.m. Drop-in docent-led tours are available every Saturday and Sunday, including a Sunday drop-in interactive tour for families.
And finally … I never heard of Jim Gordon. But his New York Times obituary is fascinating. It says:
Jim Gordon, a talented but troubled drummer who was ubiquitous in the recording studios of the 1960s and ’70s and who, as a member of Eric Clapton’s band Derek and the Dominos, helped write the romantic ballad “Layla” — but who suffered from schizophrenia and spent nearly 40 years in prison, convicted of murdering his mother — died on Monday in a prison medical facility in Vacaville, Calif. He was 77….
When people say that Jim Gordon is the greatest rock ’n’ roll drummer who ever lived,” Mr. Clapton wrote in “Clapton: The Autobiography” (2007), “I think it’s true, beyond anybody.
As a member of the talented “Wrecking Crew” group of Los Angeles studio musicians, he worked on recordings like John Lennon’s “Imagine,” George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass,” and the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds.” Click here for his full obituary.
(Good luck to the Staples boys basketball team. They’ve already proven themselves champions. You can be a champ too — just click here to contribute to “06880.” Thank you! PS: Go Wreckers!
The first 100 submissions will be featured in and around the Y.
Not an artist? There are many other ways to get involved:
Share Your Stories: Members and the community can submit Y stories, memories and photos, to be featured on the anniversary webpage.
Help Make an Impact: Become a corporate sponsor. Donate items, experiences or gift certificates for the live-and silent auctions at the October 6 Anniversary Gala.
Healthy Kids Day (April 29): A national initiative to help inspire healthy habits in kids and families. The free event includes fun activities, healthy snack demos, food trucks, sports lessons, games, art, and free t-shirts for the first 200 children.
100 for 100 Yoga Event May 11): Instructor Greg Barringer leads a high-quality yoga experience at the Mahackeno Outdoor Center. Proceeds support the Y’s Financial Assistance Program.
7th Annual Golf Tournament (May 22, Aspetuck Valley Country Club): Another fundraiser for the Financial Assistance
100-Year Anniversary Gala (October 6, Mahackeno Outdoor Center): Donations, contributions and sponsorships fund financial assistance to under-resourced families, and those in need. Last year the Y awarded $746,000 to over 400 families in need: $446,000 in financial assistance, and $300,000 in education- related grants.
It was a big week for the Staples High School Counseling Department.
Their “Spark Your Future” program — highlighting the cool, creative work done by graduates, including the ups, downs and detours their career paths took — was named the Connecticut School Counselor Association’s Outstanding Student/Family Program of the Year. It was masterminded by Sandra Zeigler, the department’s College and Career Center coordinator
In addition, the organization chose Fran Geraci as Administrative Assistant of the Year. Anyone who deals with Staples’ counseling department knows how much she does every day, for every staff member and student.
The department will be honored April 26, at the University of Hartford.
The original goal was to bring education (and a loving community) to orphans in Tanzania. It branched out to tackle women’s health issues, provide scholarships for higher education, create jobs for tribal women and artisans, offer micro-finance loans, and run a host of other initiatives for marginalized women and youth. (Click here for that 2018 story.)
In 2021 she started a food program. They offer fair market prices for crops, and hermetically sealed bags so farmers do not have use chemicals or fumigants to preserve what they grow.
They’re transporting maize, rice and beans all the way across the country, working with women at a food processing plant, and helping 77 students learn about sales, marketing and finance.
Now — in Unite’s first big event since COVID — Anne will talk about all that she’s done, and wants to do, at a “Cocktails & Conversation” fundraiser. It’s set (appropriately) at Wakeman Town Farm (March 31, 6 to 8 p.m.).
An African drummer will perform, and Tanzanian partners will give updates.
Tickets must be purchased in advance; click here. For further information on Unite the World with Africa Foundation, click here. For Anne’s blog post about her most recent trip to Tanzania, click here.
Anne’s foundation has many Westport connections. Among them: board members Nicole Gerber, Dr. Nikki Gorman and Tanya Murphy.
Anne Wells in Tanzania, at the graduation of several scholars supported by the Unite foundation.
Today’s rant comes from a woman who asks for anonymity. She growls:
I’m a dogless, taxpaying Westporter who enjoys the beauty of our shoreline. I go to the beach year-round, including the winter to take peace in the soft gray tones of the horizon.
One of my favorite things about Compo Beach in winter is parking my car next to the cannons, facing the water, and watching dogs — unbound by seasonal restrictions — play and pounce to their hearts’ unleashed content.
I appreciate how it becomes an unofficial dog park. Owners stand around cross making awkward, forced conversation while watching their dogs sniff each others’ butts. I love how doggies dive fearlessly into the icy waters in pursuit of a tennis ball.
Alas, for all its wintertime canine fun, Compo Beach is not a dog park.
It is a public beach.
I heard two guys yelling at each other, over dog poop. One of them yelled “It’s a dog park!” — seeming to validate his inability or indifference to pick up his dog’s droppings.
Of course, that’s not the way a dog park operates.
When Jim Nantz signs off after the NCAA men’s basketball championship on April 3, he will have called 354 tournament games — including 64 semifinals and 32 championships.
This will be the final Final 4 for the longtime (though now former) Westport resident.
He’ll still do the NFL, at least through 2033 — the final year of CBS’ contract with the league — and the Masters. Nantz hopes his final assignment will be that golf tournament’s 100th anniversary: April 13, 2036.
For a full Greenwich Time story on Nantz, click here. (Hat tip: Bill Mitchell)
In 2015, Jim Nantz helped aspiring Staples High School broadcaster Eric Gallanty.
Representative Town Meeting member Harris Falk was at Sakura yesterday, hoping to save the 2 weeping cherry trees which may be cut down as part of the state Department of Transportation Post Road improvement project.
His hopeful shot of a crocus epitomizes “Westport … Naturally.”
Lynda Bluestein is a longtime and very active member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport.
She has terminal fallopian tube cancer. At 75 years old, time is short. But on Tuesday she received peace-of-mind news.
She reached a settlement with the state of Vermont. She will be the first non-resident to take advantage of a law that allows people with terminal illnesses to end their own lives.
Ten states allow medically assisted suicide. Until now though, only Oregon permitted non-residents to do it. Click here to read about Lynda’s successful legal battle, and what it means for her and others.
Lynda Bluestein and her husband Paul. (Photo courtesy of NBC Connecticut)
The Westport Country Playhouse Script in Hand series of play readings is enormously popular.
A new spinoff — the “Mic in Hand” music series — should be too.
The first event is Ari Axelrod’s “A Place for Us: A Celebration of Jewish Broadway.”
The award-winning show honors the songs and stories of Jewish composers, and their contributions to the American musical.
The Playhouse says: “Beloved melodies and lyrics by the likes of Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Schwartz and Carole King will transport you to the streets of the theater district, your bubbie’s Shabbos table, or your corner of the sky.”
The kickoff is May 15 (7 p.m.). All tickets are $25. Click here to purchase, and for more information.
Irving Berlin: One of Broadway’s greatest Jewish composer.
Rick Tripodi was the beloved music director and organist at Green’s Farms Congregational Church.
That organ was close to Rick’s heart. As a teenager in 1965, he attended its dedication.
Classically trained, with a master’s degree in organ performance from Juilliard, Rick designed the refurbishment of the Peragallo/Walker organ during the church’s recent renovation project.
Sadly, he died just 2 days before the instrument was reinstalled.
A memorial concert on Sunday, March 26 (4 p.m.) features David Enlow on the organ, and a 16-voice professional choir. They’ll perform Duruflé’s Requiem — a piece Rick requested a few days before he died.
The concert will be livestreamed, then uploaded to the church’s YouTube channel.
Click below to see the organ’s dedication. The video begins at the 9:00 mark.
Leave the car at home
Leave the driving all to us
Door to door service
How’s that for a haiku? (It’s by Diane Lowman, Westport’s first poet laureate.)
Wheels2U Westport — the Westport Transit District’s on-demand, group ride, door to train platform shuttle service — is launching its 2nd annual poetry contest. The goal is to promote its Wheels2U commuter shuttle.
This year’s contest features haiku (last year’s was limericks).
The form originated in Japan. They’re unrhymed poems consisting of 17 syllables, in 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively.
Gift certificates to Westport restaurants of their choice will be given to the top 7 entries. First prize is $100 gift certificate; 2 second prizes winners are $50 each; 4 third prize winners receive $25 gift certificates.
Wheels2U for you
We ferry you to the train
Worries left behind (Diane Lowman)
Westport residents and commuters to here can use the Wheels2U Westport app to request a pickup between 5:45 and 10 a.m., and 4 and 9:30 p.m. They’ll be taken to or from the Saugatuck or Greens Farms train platform and their front door, anywhere in Westport.
Pickups should be requested 20 minutes before you would normally leave to drive to the station. The fare is $2 when paid with the Wheels2U app.
The bus to the train
Take Wheels2U for the ride
Easy, no hassle.
For more information about Wheels2U, click here. For more information about the Westport Transit District’s services for the elderly and people with disabilities, click here.
The haiku contest deadline is March 27. Entries (as many as you like) should be sent to email@example.com, and must include your name and address. Click here for the official rules.
Staples High School’s March Students of the Month are seniors Matthew Saw and Shanti Wimmer, juniors Juan Nieves and Isabella Rivel, sophomores Lily Hultgren and Aidan Zer, and freshmen Peter Cordts and Charlie Curran.
The program recognizes “students who help make Staples a welcoming place for peers and teachers alike. They are the ‘glue’ of the community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students who keep the high school together.” Nominations come from teachers.
March Students of the Month (from left): Lily Hultgren, Isabella Rivel, Matthew Saw, Charlie Curran, Peter Cordts. Missing: Shanti Wimmer and Aiden Zer
VersoFest 2023 is a music festival — and much more.
All day long on the weekend of April 1-2, experts and educators will offer 1-hour-workshops for creative and curious attendees.
TeachRock, Wall of Sound class(April 1, 11 a.m.): The Grateful Dead’s Wall of Sound was the first large-scale line array used in modern sound reinforcement systems. TeachRock’s Bill Carbone and Gina Machado explore: What is a PA system? How does it work? And why should we thank the tinkering scientists of the Dead entourage for much of how we experience live music today?
The workshop will use Anthony Coscia’s scale model replica of the “Wall of Sound” that will be on display (and cranking tunes) throughout VersoFest.
Master class workshop & Rock Photography panel (April 1, 11:30 a.m.): Katie Settel is known for her evocative performance images as the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater’s photographer. Settel takes workshop participants through her journey, influences, and techniques.
Screenwriting master class (April 1, 2 p.m.): An overview of screenplay structure, focusing on the 90-page feature film script.
Songwriting Master Class
Songwriting master class (April 1, 3 p.m.): Whether you are a performing songwriter or just want to learn how to start a song, you can find your voice and turn your story into a musical moment. TV/Media Production Master Class
TV/Media Production master class (April 2, 11 a.m.): Producer/director Annette Jolles teach this master class, with Verso Studios crew call members. She has earned 17 Emmy Awards, and was the first female director for “Live from Lincoln Center.”
Click here, then scroll down for full details, including more events and registration information.
“A Toast to the Trees” (Arbor Day weekend: April 29). Both beer tasting and kids’ activities! “Tasting on the Trails” offers staggered entry (no snarky joke, sorry) between 4 and 5:30 p.m; the beer garden and food trucks are available from 4 to 7 p.m. Also included: lawn games, a campfire and s’mores. Tickets are $35 for adults, $15 for those under 21. Click here to purchase.
A “Cocktails & Clams” sunset evening on the Sound fundraiser for Harbor Watch — an Earthplace program — is set for Saturday, June 10 (5 to 7 p.m.). It’s dockside at Copps Island Oyster on Norwalk Harbor, with an unlimited raw bar, hors d’oeuvres, open bar, live band and silent auction. Tickets will be available next month.
And finally … as noted in the story above, Irving Berlin is one of America’s most famous Jewish composers. He’s known and loved for songs like this:
(From the serious to the sublime to the silly, “06880”‘s daily Roundup brings you news and information you can use. Or skip over. But hey, we’re always available. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)
If you’ve been to a Staples High School sports event in the past dozen or so years, you’ve seen Mikey Bregman.
Or a Staples play. Or concert. Or just about anything else involving the school he graduated from 14 years ago.
He’s “Mr. Staples.” No one comes close.
Alert “06880” reader Lauren Barnett wants to give Mikey a shoutout. What a great idea!
Mikey Bregman, from the 2009 Staples High School yearbook.
She writes: “Whether you are a parent, a student, a participant or a Staples graduate, Michael is always there to say hello, and greet you genuinely and kindly.
“You can find him at every game cheering on every athlete of every sport, at every concert supporting all musicians, and at every performance sitting proudly in the Players audience and congratulating performers before and after every production.
“There is no detail he doesn’t remember, and no loved one he forgets to ask about. Thanks, Michael, for being everybody’s number one fan and for reminding us what being a part of a community is all about.”
Congratulations, Mikey. You are our Unsung Hero this week!
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
(If you enjoy our Unsung Hero feature — or anything else — please consider contributing to “06880.” Just click here — and thank you!)
The media celebrity (Fox News, NBC Sports, CNN) is hosting “March Madness Fast Break” for Turner Sports. It’s noon to midnight, Thursday through Sunday on MarchMadness.com and the March Madness Live app.
Dave calls it “Red Zone for college basketball with the best live action, analysis and social media reaction.” He partners with a pair of legends: Kentucky’s Tony Delk and Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress.
The Levitt Pavilion season is still 3 months away. But — to help raise funds for over 50 nights of free entertainment — the riverside outdoor venue has just announced 2 special ticketed events.
Samara Joy — 2023 Grammy Award winner for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album — takes the stage June 3. Triple Grammy winner Bruce Hornsby follows with the Noisemakers on July 1. Both Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m.
Member pre-sales start today (Wednesday, March 15) at 10 a.m. Public sales start Friday (March 17, 10 a.m.).
Tickets are already on sale for the June 24 show: Michael Franti & Spearhead Big Big Love Tour, with Phillip Phillips.
Representative Town Meeting member Matthew Mandell joins other elected officials this morning (Wednesday, March 15, 10 a.m.; Zoom).
They’ll speak prior to the state General Assembly Planning & Development Committee’s public hearing on HB 6890, the “Live Work Ride” bill that proposes withholding, withdrawing and perhaps clawing back state infrastructure funding from communities that fail to adopt regulations permitting greater density, with limited parking and a prescribed affordability component, around transit areas.
Mandell and his colleagues are part of “CT169Strong.” It’s a statewide non-partisan group “dedicated to local control and oversight, and protecting the unique qualities of Connecticut’s 169 towns.
Click here for a link to Mandell’s meeting. The ID is 455 019 2513; the passcode is 6C436A.
Love the Westport Library? Want to help make it even better?
The Library and Representative Town Meeting are seeking candidates to fill vacancies on the Library board of trustees.
Trustees work closely with the executive director, in areas like funding, policies and planning. They develop long-range plans, monitor the budget and help oversee fundraising. The board meets monthly; there are also committee meetings.
Trustees must be Westport residents. There are 20 members. Half are appointed by the RTM, half by the Library board itself.
How can parents and caregivers support healthy identity development in young children?
Many ways. And you can learn about them at “Supporting Healthy Identity Development in Young Children: Race, Culture and Beyond.” The Westport Library keynote (April 4, 7 to 8:30 p.m.) is led by Takiema Bunche Smith, founder and CEO of Anahsa Consulting and a noted executive leader, advisor, coach and educator.
The session will explore “how adults socialize young children into racial, cultural and other social identities, and what that means in the context of an inequitable US society.”
Click here for more information. The event is sponsored by TEAM Westport.
Tonight’s kickoff of a 3-part Westport Library series on cardiac health has been postponed, due to anticipated bad weather.
The session on coronary artery diseases planned for this evening (March 14) has been pushed back to March 22. The discussion on valvular heart disease planned for that date will be rescheduled. The atrial fibrillation talk is still set for April 17.
The cardiac series is curated by Andrew Wilk, and led by Dr. Robert Altbaum.
Andrew Wilk’s first session on heart disease will now begin on March 22.
Staples’ boys basketball team has snagged all the headlines this winter.
But the school also fields a fencing team.
And not just any fencing team. A 2-time state champion one.
The Wreckers’ boys foil fencers defended their Connecticut crown last weekend.
And they’re only 2 years old.
In that time they’ve grown from 9 participants to over 20 male and female fencers. Beginners are welcome.
They practice 3 times a week, all year long. They’re coached by Westport resident Delphine DeVore, a world-ranked fencer. She’s a member of the Columbia University fencing team, and volunteers her time to work with Staples.
Club leaders, including founders and co-captains Max Peterbarg, PJ Loranger and Gleb Symonchoy are pursuing full recognition as a team sport. They hope to have enough fencers to field both boys and girls teams next year in foil, epee and saber — at both the varsity and junior varsity levesl.
For more information, check out the Instagram account: @staplesfencing.
From left: Coach Delphine DeVore, and team members Gleb Syomichev, PJ Loranger, Eric Wilson and Max Piterbarg
Refined Lash Studio on Post Road East — across from Design Within Reach — is closing.
A note to clients from “Miss Vic” says: “It is with great hesitation that this chapter of my life must come to a close. I have decided to move back to the West Coast.
“I want to thank every person who ever booked with me, shared personal stories with me, and those who’ve been with me since the beginning. I hope to remain a part of your life even without a professional relationship.
“I will do my best to accommodate all schedules and send updates of my departure. I don’t have a definitive end date, I just wanted to give as much notice in advance possible.”
Sounds like it’s your “lash chance.”
Today’s weather forecast forced the postponement of the Connecticut Appalachian Mountain Club’s presentation of “Exploring the Colombian Amazon” with Ida Lowe.
The new date is next Tuesday (March 21, 6:15 p.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church). Appetizers, pasta dinner, salads, drinks and desserts will be served. It’s $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For more information, email email@example.com.
This week’s “What’s Next in Weston” is part 1 of a 2-part program. 1st Selectwoman Sam Nestor discusses her town’s upcoming property revaluation , including how’s done, by whom, and how it leads to the mill rate used going forward.
The podcast (click below to listen) comes courtesy of the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston.
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