Category Archives: Staples HS

Teen Survey: Drugs Of Choice, Coping With Stress, And More

About 60% of Staples High School seniors drink regularly. A quarter use marijuana. The same number vape — mostly THC.

Those are some of the headline-grabbing statistics announced this week by the Westport Prevention Coalition. Working with the Search Institute, Westport Department of Human Services and Positive Directions, they conducted an anonymous survey of 800 7th through 12 graders in April.

In addition to substance use, questions covered developmental relationships, COVID stress and racial justice.

Results were presented at Monday’s Board of Education meeting. Yesterday afternoon, Westport public schools coordinator of psychological services Dr. Valerie Babich and Positive Directions prevention director Margaret Watt did a deeper dive into the statistics, on a Zoom call with Westport educators, youth workers, social service providers and students.

The bulk of the discussion involved the substance use findings. The survey asked about behaviors in the preceding 30 days. Teenagers were still wearing masks and supposed to be socially distanced; COVID continued to limit some of their interactions.

Key substance findings from the Westport Prevention Coalition survey.

Nonetheless, 60% of Staples seniors had had “more than a few sips” of beer in the previous month. For 7th graders, the number was 9%. It rose steadily, most noticeably starting in sophomore year.

Taken together, the 33% total of high school students who drank in the previous 30 days — during COVID — was higher than the Connecticut average in a survey conducted in 2019, before the pandemic.

Marijuana use and vaping begins around 9th grade. It rises in tandem over the years, peaking at 24% (marijuana) and 25% (vaping) by senior year.

Of the students who knew what they were vaping, 2/3 used THC; 1/3 used nicotine. In addition, 28% used multiple substances. But 13% did not know what they were inhaling.

Interestingly, tobacco and prescription drug misuse was virtually non-existent: 0 to 2% in all grades.

The Westport Prevention Coalition has undertaken an educational campaign. This is the front of a postcard. The other side helps parents talk about substance use with their youngsters.

As students get older, they reported, their parents’ disapproval of certain substances goes down. By senior year, only 63% of students said that their parents disapprove of marijuana.

In terms of perceived harm, 78% of high school students think that 5 or more drinks at a time, once or twice a week, is harmful. That means 22% do not believe it is bad.

81% of high school students think vaping is harmful.

In 7th grade, 74% of students surveyed thought that marijuana is harmful. By 12th grade, the number dropped to 34%.

COVID had a strong impact on Westport youth. More than half of students surveyed took steps to resolve pandemic-related problems. The majority said they accepted the reality of the new situation. However, only 34% reached out to others to talk about how they were feeling.

58% of the students felt connected to school staff. A whopping 94% said they felt connected to friends.

In tough COVID times, friends can be lifesavers.

Questions about developmental relationships with teachers revealed “moderate to high” responses. Students felt that they were challenged to grow, provided support, and expanded their possibilities.

Areas for improvement included inspiring possibilities for the future, exposure to new ideas, and introduction to people who could help them grow.

The final section revealed that 3/4 believe they have a role to play in ending racial injustice. A clear majority are aware of the impact of their own words and actions, in the social justice arena.

Data will be reviewed with school administrators, staff, mental health professionals and students. The Westport Prevention Coalition will then determine how best to turn the findings into solutions.

Remembering Paul Lane

Last month, Paul Lane had a seat of honor at the dedication of Staples High School’s Laddie Lawrence Track.

Lane spent nearly 30 years as a Staples coach and physical education instructor. Though best known for his football teams — including a powerhouse 1967 FCIAC champion squad, and 1975 state champs — he was also a noted track coach.

In fact, he coached a young Laddie Lawrence. The dedication last month spurred a drive to name Staples’ football stadium for Paul Lane.

Town boards will make the decision soon. But now the honor is posthumous. Lane died this afternoon. He had been in good health, until a recent fall. He was 93 years old.

Paul Lane, by the Staples High School football trophy case.

Naming the field should be a slam dunk.

Between 1962 and 1987 Lane led the Wreckers to 4 FCIAC Eastern Division championships, 2 FCIAC crowns, and 122 victories. His 11-0 1975 squad was the last single state champion — determined by sportswriters — before the current playoff system began.

In the 1967 FCIAC title game, Staples snapped Stamford Catholic’s 30-game win streak, 8-0. The Crusaders — ranked #1 in Connecticut – had outscored their opponents 333-66. The Wreckers stopped them twice on the goal line, in the last quarter.

Paul Lane at a 2016 Staples High School football game. He is flanked by his sons Peter and Skip. Both played for him as Wreckers.

Lane started coaching football in the Army in 1950. He then served as an assistant to Frank Dornfeld for 8 years, before taking over the top job.

At Staples, Lane also won state championships coaching indoor and outdoor track — and girls golf.

He grew up in Bethel, but his family has long ties to Westport. He was a Compo Beach resident nearly all his adult life. Former players — and of course his sons Skip and Peter, both of whom played for him — often dropped by to chat with their former coach.

He entertained them — and anyone else who passed by — with a constant stream of stories. Lane remembered every game, every athlete, and every bit of Westport history.

Service arrangements are incomplete. Arrangements for the naming of “Paul Lane Field” will begin soon.

The Staples High School football field may soon be named for Paul Lane.

Roundup: Remarkable Films, Stop The Bleed, Marine Police …

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Doug Tirola — one of the founders of the Remarkable Theater — is a native Westporter, and father of a Staples High School student. He know we’ve got some remarkable members of the senior class — and that they had a remarkable year.

Tomorrow Doug — whose day job is filmmaking — wants to hear about their experiences. He’s making a short feature starring Staples seniors. It will play before (naturally) the drive-in screening of “The Breakfast Club” later this month.

High school seniors are invited to a quick interview tomorrow (Wednesday, June 16, 3 p.m.) at Staples’ front entrance.

NOTE: Seniors who are not yet 18 should email kate@4throwfilms.com for a release form, to be signed by a parent prior to film.

“The Breakfast Club”: Quite possibly the best high school movie ever made.

 

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The vibe at Westport Paddle Club is chill.

But the young staff — overseeing kayaks, paddleboards and the increasingly crowded Saugatuck River — has major responsibilities.

Yesterday, owners Taryn and Robbie Guimond brought Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services staff onto the Riverside Avenue site. EMTs ran everyone through every imaginable safety scenario and protocol.

The entire Westport Paddle Club staff is now certified in CPR, first aid and “stop the blood.” They’re ready for anything — and for you.

Safety first at Westport Paddle Club.

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Speaking of safety … Sandra Lefkowitz writes:

“With so much negativity about police in our country, we feel lucky we have a Police Department that responds quickly and professionally  to our needs, on many levels.

“On Sunday around 2:30 p.m., my husband Larry and I, 2 Westport friends and our puppy were stranded on our small boat in the Sound. It just stopped, and refused to start again no matter what we were tried.

“To our much appreciated rescue came 2 police officers: a man and a woman. With efficiency, respect and utmost professionalism, we were towed to our marina on Saugatuck shores.

“We are privileged to live in a town with such an incredible Police Department. Thank you!”

The Lefkowitzes’ boat, after being towed to safety.

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For weeks, Pequot Trail neighbors have been upset about the clear-cutting done in preparation for a teardown and new home.

Yesterday, News12 reported on the issue.

As noted in the report, owners can do whatever they want with their property. But, Tree Board chair Monica Buesser notes, trees play many roles beyond beauty — including noise abatement and reduced flood risk.

Click here for the News12 story.

Aerial view of clear cutting on Pequot Trail. (Screenshot courtesy of News 12

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Marketplace at Franny’s of Westport celebrates its first year as a local pop-up partner this Saturday (June 19, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.).

The Bedford Square shop will be filled with live music, free samples and giveaways. Tracey Medeiros will sign copies of “The Art of Cooking with Cannabis,” and Franny Tacy — founder of Franny’s Farmacy — will be on hand too, to say, um, “hi.”

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The world is opening up. But plenty of neighbors are still in dire straits.

To help fill Person 2 Person’s Norwalk food pantry, Westport Sunrise Rotary members will collect food donations in the rear of Saugatuck Congregational Church (Saturday, June 26, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

They urge folks to include these items on upcoming shopping trips: hearty soups, snack and granola bars, pasta and sauce, 1-pound rice boxes, peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, canned tuna and chicken, canned fruits and vegetables, dried and canned beans, pancake mix, cold cereal, oatmeal and shelf-stable milk.

Among the most needed household and personal items: laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner, dryer sheets, toothbrushes and toothpaste, disinfectant wipes, hand and body soap, kitchen sponges, deodorant, liquid dish detergent, diapers and wipes (especially sizes 5 and 6), tissues and Kleenex.

From left: Greg Dobbs (Person2Person food pantry site manger) with Westport Sunrise Rotarians Rob Hauck and president George Masumian.

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What would “Westport … Naturally” be without a very cool deer photo?

Well, a lot leafier, for one thing …

(Photo/Katherine Bruan)

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And finally … today is the birthday of Waylon Jennings. Born in 1937, he died in 2002. Along the way, he gave us classics like:

Roundup: Flowers, Hiawatha, Yarn …

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Sure, the Town Hall steps and columns could use some refurbishing.

But they look better today, thanks to yesterday’s Westport Garden Club #FridayFlowers decorations. It doesn’t take much to help, that’s for sure.

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Speaking of politics: On Tuesday night, the Representative Town Meeting affirmed the Planning & Zoning Commission’s decision to allow 157 units of housing to be built on Hiawatha Lane.

The decision to settle with the developer — Summit Saugatuck — and put an end to 3 lawsuits seems to be final.

However, Carolanne Curry — a resident of the area, and founder of Save Old Saugatuck — vows to keep fighting.

“SOS will continue  efforts,” she says. “Neighbors will continue to meet and share ideas and concerns. We will continue to do our collective research and telephoning. Motivated more than ever to save this community and keep our homes, we will find other paths to victory.”

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Westport Yarns has plenty of colorful stock. In honor of rainbow month, they host their first Craft with Pride Day next Saturday (June 19).

The shop opposite Fresh Market will have kits for a Pride neckerchief, and a silent auction for a ceramic piece by Jon Puzzuoli.

Auction proceeds — and 10% of the day’s sales — will go to Westport Pride, the town’s LGBTQ organization.

 

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SoulCycle has reopened its indoor Westport studio, at 50% capacity. They’ve redesigned their space, emphasizing safety, comfort — and of course, the importance of cycling for physical and mental health.

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Congratulations to Luke Brodsky and Bradley Sheppard. The Staples High School tennis players completed an undefeated season by winning the state invitational doubles tournament yesterday.

Luke Brodsky and Bradley Sheppard. (Photo courtesy of The Ruden Report)

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The other day, “Westport … Naturally” — well, okay, I — misidentified a Canada goose as a mallard. Hey, it was a long day.

Here is an actual mallard. It’s everything it’s quacked up to be.

(Photo/JC Martin)

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And finally … in honor of the “Westport … Naturally” photo above, here’s proof that as bad a shape America may be in today, we’ve seen far worse before:

 

Coming Soon: Paul Lane Field?

The Staples High School soccer field honors Albie Loeffler. The field hockey turf next to it is named for Jinny Parker. Last month, the track was dedicated to Laddie Lawrence.

What’s missing?

Paul Lane.

If a group of former athletes and fans have their way, the football field will soon bear a new name.

That would be fitting. Lane — now 93 — was not only the Wreckers’ longtime football coach. He also headed the track program. In the 1960s, one of his runners was a young Laddie Lawrence.

Paul Lane, by the Staples High School football trophy case.

A petition circulating throughout town says:

Paul Lane has served his community for as long as he has been alive.

His leadership, skills and determination has demonstrated that the dreams and abilities he has instilled on others, ripple through the world.

We have many coaches in our town, but no one other then Paul Lane is called, “Coach.” Paul Lane is a patriarch of coaches, the father of Staples High School sports, who laid the rails for Wreckers football and it’s legacy of success known throughout the Northeast.

The Staples High School football field may soon be named for Paul Lane.

Paul Lane’s biggest win was against Stamford Catholic High School in 1967, beating them 8-0 and crushing their 30 game winning streak.

Paul Lane not only served this community by being a coach and second father to many of his athletes, but also served his country in the Korean War, stationed in Germany.

Football wasn’t the only sport he coached and won state championships in, Paul Lane also coached Staples Boys Track and Staples Girl’s Golf teams.

30 years of coaching, Paul Lane would later on coach American Football in England and Italy.

Coach Paul Lane can be found everyday at his home on Soundview where he has been for decades, surrounded by his four children, ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Paul Lane is staple to Staples and this community and should be honored with his name, added to the Fifth Lane of the track as proposed by Laddie Lawrence who was coached by Paul Lane too.

The petition can be signed here. It will be presented to the Board of Education at this Monday’s meeting. It would go next to the Representative Town Meeting.

Friday Flashback #248

Staples High School’s graduation next Thursday returns to the football stadium — a nod to the lingering effects of COVID. The potential for bad weather, construction of the fieldhouse and an ability to better control crowds (and teenagers) drove graduation indoors decades ago.

As the Class of 2021 receives their diplomas, the remaining members of Staples’ Class of 1956 may remember their own graduation, 65 years ago.

To help them recall their high school years — and to show how much things have changed in 2/3 of a century — here’s a look back, through the pages of the 1956 Stapleite yearbook.

Four of the nearly-200 member graduating class are shown below. David Wunsch is now a frequent commenter on “06880.”

The “Senior Preferences” list contained several (presumably) inside jokes. Favorite soap?!

Student organizations included the SSO, Senate (“which made “good progress on the parking problem and tried to curb the smoking”), and a Student Court.

Two popular — but now long-defunct — clubs include the Projectionists (to show movies in classes) and Rifle (which competed in NRA matches).

Finally, a look back at the junior prom of 1955. It featured a live band.

Roundup: Leonard Bernstein, Yappy Hour, Kids Talking …

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The TriBeca Film Festival is back. This year, it’s very New York-centric.

Among the films: “Bernstein’s Wall.”

The Tribeca website describes the world premiere of the film directed by Westporter Douglas Tirola (4thRow Films; co-founder, Westport’s Remarkable Theater):

In this enlightening look at one of the greatest classical music figures of the 20th century, director Douglas Tirola mines a rich trove of interviews, television appearances, home movie footage, photos, letters to craft a comprehensive look at Leonard Bernstein, whose passion and drive took him well beyond the marvelous music he wrote and conducted.

Spanning the breadth of a life interwoven with key historic moments outside the concert hall, Bernstein’s Wall follows the son of a Russian Jewish immigrant who arrives in New York from his Boston hometown to eventually become conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and becomes a household name thanks to his numerous TV appearances, educating the public on all things symphonic, West Side Story, being seen with celebrities and politicians, and his crossing-the-line activism, from protesting the Vietnam War to (controversially) supporting the Black Panthers.

Tirola incorporates Bernstein’s personal life — his fraught relationship with his father, his marriage, his family life, his struggles to be at peace with his sexuality — to paint a complex portrait of a complex, driven individual who produced some of the most memorable music of his time as a product of those times.

(“Bernstein’s Wall” is available for streaming from June 15-23. Click here for details. Hat tip: Kerry Long)

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Yesterday’s Yappy Hour at MoCA Westport was paws-itively cool.

The arts center hosted plenty of dogs (and their owners) on its expansive Newtown Turnpike lawn. Food was collected for PAWS and Westport Animal Shelter Advocates.

Missed yesterday? Doggone it! The next one is July 1.

Yappy Hour at MoCA Westport! The next one will be held on Thursday, July 1.

Yappy hour, yesterday at MoCA Westport.

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Just in time for the end of the spring sports season: Westport Rotary Club and the Westport Soccer Association are collecting used soccer uniforms, clothing, shoes, shin guards, balls and other equipment.

They’ll ship it all to Nicaragua. Rotary already works there with NicaPhoteo, a non-profit that helps communities.

The soccer equipment is much needed. Soft backpack bags, old balls, socks, jerseys and shirts — it will all go to good use.

The drop-off location is 5 Sugar Maple Lane, Westport (off Whitney Street). There’s a box on the front porch. Please wash clothing items first!

Questions? Email registrar@westportsoccer.org.

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More than 30 years ago, kids were talking.

Dr. Donald Cohen’s nationally televised show — in which, well, kids talked (about everything in their lives) is being relaunched. Fittingly for a new century, it’s a livestream, on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch.

The first episode of the relaunch is tonight (Thursday, June 10), at 7 p.m. The topic is body image and eating disorders. Teenage guests come from Westport — and around the country.

“Kids Are Talking” started in 1990 at Fairfield University. It became a national radio call-in show on WICC, simulcast on Cablevision. In the late ’90s it found a home on WWPT-FM, broadcast from Toquet Hall.

“Kids Are Talking” and its host, Cohen, have been featured on “The CBS Morning Show”  and ABC-TV, as well as in the New York Times.

For more information, click here.

A retro poster.

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Traffic is up. Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, the Westport Police Department was on the lookout for people not wearing seatbelts.

The campaign — part of the state Department of Transportation’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign — yielded only 6 tickets.

Police call Westport compliance rate “remarkably high.” But until it’s 100%, they’ll stick be looking for infractions.

And don’t forget: After clicking your seatbelt, don’t look at your phone!

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TAP Strength Lab is the latest business to join the “Summer of Pride” promotion.

The downtown personalized fitness coaching, therapy, nutrition and preventative health center will donate 10% of the first month of membership (for new members who sign up now through August) to Westport Pride. Mention the code “Summer of Love.”

Oh, yeah: They’ve got a special Pride logo for this month too.

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Questions, concerns or just thoughts about Norwalk Hospital?

The local institution hosts an online “Community Update” (June 29, 5:30 to 7 p.m.).

President Peter Cordeau will discuss the latest hospital developments. an independent monitor will report on its review of compliance.

A Q-and-A session follows the presentation. Submit questions in advance by emailing (norwalkhospital.communityrelations@nuvancehealth.org), or call 203-852-2250. Click here for instructions on joining the virtual meeting.

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An osprey and a chick are today’s gorgeous “Westport … Naturally” subjects.

(Photo/Franco Fellah)

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Patricia Rogers Suda, died peacefully at home on May 24, surrounded by her loving family after a courageous fight against cancer. She was 69.

Born in New Haven, her family moved to Westport in 1959. She graduated in 1970 from Staples High, where she met and married the love of her life, Mark R. Suda.

Patti and Mark moved to Norwalk. They were married for nearly 50 years, before he passed in 2020.

Survivors include sons, Mark Suda Jr. (Michelle) and Joseph Suda (Amy); grandchildren Skyler, Madyson, Samantha and Joseph Jr.; brothers Bill, Paul and John Rogers; sister Janet Aitoro, and many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

Patti loved watching her sons in their sports. From Cranbury League baseball and Pop Warner football, to high school baseball and football, she was there. She also enjoyed watching her grandkids in softball, baseball, gymnastics, soccer and hockey.

Patti retired in December 2017 as a bookkeeper after 32 years, to spend time with her family.

Her words to all family and friends are, “Live life to the fullest, with love and respect to others, because you never know what tomorrow brings.”

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Whittingham Cancer Center,  in memory of Patti.

Patti Suda

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And finally … Happy Kamehameha Day! The state holiday (one state only!) honors the monarch who first established the unified Kingdom of Hawai’i.

 

Meghan Ward’s Mural

It’s tough to keep a secret from a school administrator. They’re supposed to know everything.

But a conspiracy of silence — involving colleagues, students and friends — worked this week. When Meghan Ward walked into the Pathways suite at Staples High School yesterday, she had no idea a mural would be unveiled in her honor.

Ward — an assistant principal — heads to a new job soon: principal of John Read Middle School in Redding. In her 5 years at Staples, she’s earned respect and admiration — and changed countless lives — as, among other things, Pathways supervisor.

That’s the “school within a school” offering alternative educational opportunities for students experiencing academic, behavioral and/or life challenges in the traditional setting.

The 4 Pathways teachers work closely with small groups of students. They wanted to honor the woman who helped create the program, then championed it in every setting.

They asked students what would be meaningful to them. Their idea: a bright, evocative mural.

Meghan Ward, in her Staples office. (Photo/Dan Woog)

“Meghan had a vision for how Pathways could run,” says English instructor Ann Neary.

“She imagined how students could engage in school, and what their possibilities could be. She supported teachers’ ideas, met with us weekly, sent us for trainings, and advocated for what we need to make this program work.”

Student Charlotte D’Anna sketched the design. Students voted for the concept. Principal Stafford Thomas okayed painting a classroom wall. Art instructor Tracy Wright helped Neary understand all about mural paints and brushes.

Then the students went to work. They loved what they were doing — and it showed.

Hard at work! Science teacher Tony Coccoli is at far left; English instructor Ann Neary is in the middle. Other teachers (not pictured) are Mike Forgette (math) and Dan Heaphy (social studies).

Alicia D’Anna — a Staples Players parent and professional set designer — organized and managed the process. Her eldest child Sami graduated from Pathways last year.

That alumni connection was evident yesterday when Ward walked in, was moved to tears by the mural — and saw nearly a dozen Pathways alum on hand too.

Meghan Ward, with her mural. (Photo/Maryann Garcia)

Meghan Ward created a pathway to success for a number of Staples students. Her work will be remembered for years — thanks to a mural that now graces a Pathways wall.

The finished mural. (Photo/Ann Neary)

Remembering Mike Silverstein, Alan Chalk

Two veteran Westport educators died recently. Mike Silverstein and Alan Chalk worked at Staples High School during dynamic, fervid years. Their marks on their students — and the school — were strong.

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Melvin (Mike) Saul Silverstein of Worcester, Massachusetts, died on May 18. He was 95.

An award-winning educator, prized friend and co-worker, he took on diverse roles in education and his communities and was a longtime advocate for the less fortunate.

Silverstein grew up in Hartford, the youngest son of immigrant parents from eastern Europe. He attended Hartford public schools and worked with his siblings at the family-operated People’s Dairy, a milk processing and delivery company.

Only 17, he enlisted in the US Army Air Force in 1943, training to serve as a gunner on a B-24 Liberator just as World War II ended. He was awarded the WW II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal and Good Conduct Medal.

After his discharge in May 1946. Silverstein attended Hillyer College (now the University of Hartford), where he met his wife Florence. They married in 1948. He graduated in 1950, and obtained his Masters of Education in 1956.

He became a teacher and counselor for Glastonbury High School, then in 1960 moved from East Hartford to Norwalk, and joined the guidance staff of Darien High School.

During the summer of 1966 Silverstein led a group of 22 students to Israel on a service project under the auspices of the New York City-based 92nd Street Y.

In 1967 he took on a guidance role at Staples High, and dramatically expanded it. Over 2 decades he became a fixture in Westport education — active and pioneering in career counseling, adult education and work/study programs.

In 1978 he was named the outstanding counselor in the state of Connecticut by the Connecticut School Counselor Assn.

He also volunteered at the Hope Center in Bridgeport. Simultaneously he was an energetic member of Temple Shalom in Norwalk, becoming principal of the religious school.

Melvin (Mike) Silverstein

Silverstein was married to the late Florence Heath Silverstein for 68 years. He is survived by his children: Lucy Tannen of Framingham, Massachusetts; Jeffrey Silverstein of Blackstone, Massachusetts; Timothy Silverstein (Sally) of Norwalk, Melanie Rosenbaum (Bruce) of Thorndike, Massachusetts.

He also leaves grandchildren: Caroline Savitzky, Alex Savitzky, Kate Silverstein, Ben Silverstein, Lindsay Navarro, Michael Silverstein, Joseph Rosenbaum, and and, as well as great-grandchildren; Devin Smith; Paige, Jordan and Zoey Savitzky; Jonathan and Nicole Navarro, and Madilyn and Salma Delgado-Savitzky.

Silverstein is also survived by his brother Nathan Silverstein of Branford, Connecticut; cousin Marilyn Benson of Bloomfield, Connecticut, and many nieces and nephews.

He was predeceased by his brother Irving and his twin sister Evelyn Fain.

A memorial service will be held late in June in Hartford, followed by a social gathering to share memories and thoughts. Those wishing to attend should call Jeff Silverstein: 774-270-0769.

In lieu of flowers please consider donations to the Alzheimer’s Association, Diabetes Research Institute, University of Hartford, or the Jewish Healthcare Center in Worcester, MA. Click here to leave online condolences.

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Alan Chalk died at home, surrounded by love, on May 31. He was 89.

Chalk was born in 1931 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He and his beloved wife Norma LaFlamme married 70 years ago.

Chalk joined the Navy during the Korean War, and did 2 world tours. In 1952, his experiences traveling in Japan and meeting the people touched him deeply. A lifelong journey commenced.

He received his teaching degree at Wesleyan University, and attended the University of Iowa Ph.D. program. He moved to Fairfield in 1961, where he lived the rest of his life.

His first teaching position was at Staples High School, developing an innovative creative writing program. He became chairman of the English Department at Weston High School in 1972. He was voted Teacher of the Year in 1989. He retired from Weston High School in 1991.

Alan Chalk

Chalk began a new career as consultant, writer and teacher specializing in postwar and contemporary Japanese literature and film, and developed an extensive library. He created the curriculum for the first Center for Japanese Study Abroad magnet school in Norwalk.

He traveled extensively but Japan remained closest to his heart. He led tours for students, teachers and family, sharing his knowledge and love of Japan. He wrote novels, short stories and poetry, many inspired by his travels in Japan.

Chalk was a master teacher, writer, wood sculptor and photographer. He also found time to raise 5 children with Norma, remodeling the house, and creating beautiful gardens.

Chalk said, “I exist in a style of anonymity and I ask a thousand questions. I find that I ask questions I don’t have the answer to and this may be the key to effective teaching. I am always learning. Every day.”

He loved teaching. His deep care for his students and staff is reflected in the letters from students and parents, thanking him for his inspiration and caring during pivotal times in their lives, as well as those from teachers whom he helped to become master teachers themselves. He impacted many lives.

A plaque on his wall — a gift — reads:”A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

Chalk is survived by daughters Lynn and Karen; sons Brian, Gary and David; son-in-law Scott, daughter-in-law Laura; grandchildren Jesse, Danielle, Gabrielle, Billy, Maya, Sammy, Nicole and her family Jeff, Tenley, Caiden Blaiotta, and great-grandchildren Lyla and Jude.

He was predeceased by his wife Norma, an integral part of his accomplishments and to whom he gives much of the credit.

Dan Magida, a former student at Staples over 50 years ago, was one of his best friends.

Contributions in his memory can be made to Habitat for Humanity of Coast Fairfield County, where his wife was a longtime volunteer.

Roundup: Eclipse, Chocolates, Groceries …

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Did you miss this morning’s partial eclipse of the sun?

Franco Fellah didn’t. Here’s what the amateur astronomer saw:

(Photo/Franco Fellah)

A wider view, courtesy of Jay Walshon:

(Photo/Jay Walshon)

Meanwhile, WCBS-TV’s lead weather anchor — and Westporter — Lonnie Quinn set up for his remote shot at Compo Beach. He had a short commute to work today.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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Last year — as students graduated, sad and largely uncelebrated during the pandemic — Aarti Khosla decided to help.

The owner of Le Rouge Handmade Chocolates decided to give a chocolate heart to every graduate in the Bridgeport school system.

Thanks to her customers, she did.

This year, graduations are a bit more normal. But — now a new “tradition” — the gifts continue.

There are 1,081 graduates in the Bridgeport district. So far, 275 have been “sponsored” by Le Rouge clients. Over 800 are still needed — by Tuesday.

It’s easy. For just $8 — “the cost of a coffee and croisssant,” Aarti says — anyone can sponsor a chocolate heart. Click here to help.

Speaking of $8 — last year, Aarti notes, “the smiles on graduates’ faces were priceless.”

“Give a Little Love” with chocolate hearts.

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Congratulations to Westport’s newest Emmy winner!

Michael Carey — part of NBC Sports’ Sunday Night Football team — was part of the crew awarded the prestigious prize for “Outstanding Live Sports Series.”

Carey — a segment producer — is a 2001 Staples High School graduate. He captained the ’00 boys soccer team.

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Amazon may or may not be taking over the world.

But the shopping behemoth is taking over Avi Kaner’s parking spots.

Every morning at 8:30, the former Westport 2nd selectman/Board of Finance chair — and, more importantly for this story, an owner of the 16-store Morton Williams grocery store chain in New York — sees trucks part in front of 2 of his Upper East Side markets.

Workers appear. For the next 5 hours, Crains’ New York Business reports, they use hand trucks to deliver groceries to residents who ordered from Amazon online.

“They use it like a warehouse,” Kaner says. “The city is allowing these places to block our business.”

An Amazon spokeswoman described the scene as an “exchange point.”

Kaner notes that Morton Williams’ sales in residential areas are down only 5-15% from pre-COVID levels, but that stores in business districts are still doing just half of their previous numbers. (Click here for the full Crains’ story.)

Avi Kaner in a Morton Williams store. (Photo/Danny Ghitis for the New York Times)

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Next up at the Remarkable Theater: “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

The superhero film shows tomorrow (Friday, June 11, 8:30 p.m.; gates open for tailgating at 7:30). Click here for tickets and more information.

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The Westport PAL car show set for June 20 has been postponed to July 17. It’s still 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; still at the railroad station parking lot near Railroad Place and Franklin Street); it still features cool cars, food and raffle prizes.

Tickets are still $15 each. But kids — that is, anyone under 12 — are still free.

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Naturally, “Westport … Naturally” shows a deer or two, every once a while. This pair was too cool for school.

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

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And finally … today, people across the Northern Hemisphere can watch an annular (partial eclipse) of the sun. Because no one has recorded a song by that name, this will have to do.