Category Archives: Staples HS

Remembering Gus Cardello

Augustus “Gus” Cardello — a 2017 Staples High School graduate == died suddenly on October 12 at Providence College, where he was a sophomore. 

Gus moved to Westport when he was 6. He was involved with Staples’ Service League of Boys, was a camp counselor at RECing Crew and Camp Compo, had a radio show on WWPT-FM Staples radio, and this past summer started a window washing business with several friends.

Gus’ funeral services this past Saturday at Assumption Church were attended by hundreds of family members, friends and others from the many communities he touched – including Westport, Providence College, England (where he was born) and beyond.

The best way to describe Gus is through the words his mother used to eulogize him. She said, in part:

How do I put into words all of those qualities that made Augustus so amazing? What made him so special cannot be measured by awards, trophies, or even popularity. To know Augustus was to know goodness. I was his mother, but he was my teacher, my guide, my light, my heart and my best friend.

Augustus “Gus” Cardello

Since his passing, Joe, Isabella, Christopher and I have been overwhelmed with messages from friends, family, acquaintances, even strangers. Our home has been inundated with people, all of whom felt compelled to express a heartfelt sense of loss and a need to share their personal stories of the ways in which he had positively impacted their lives. Each story was unique in the little details. But each was also incredibly similar in the way he made people feel.

Above all else, Augustus had humility. He would hate all of this attention. More importantly, he would hate to think that his death was causing so much pain and suffering in the people he loved most. You see, the only thing Augustus ever really cared about was making people happy. I believe that was his calling in this life.

Everyone was special as far as he was concerned, and he found good in everyone. I’ve heard from so many of his peers these past few days, many of whom were either going through a difficult time in their life, maybe felt that they just didn’t fit in for one reason or another, or were maybe just shy. They said it was Augustus who reached out to them first, and made them feel comfortable immediately.

He was humble. He never boasted about any of his accomplishments, and if he ever allowed himself to feel the slightest bit of pride, it was only to tell me about some new friend he had made. Not because he needed to be liked, accepted, or even popular, but because deep connections with people — genuine, personal connections — were the things that brought him the most joy.

Gus Cardello (back row, 3rd from left) and some of his many friends, before their senior prom.

He was grateful. Augustus never needed much of anything, but he was so appreciative of everything. The smallest gestures from people made him feel so special. He felt flattered when his friend Jesse wanted to have dinner with only him, or that Kenny had invited him to go kayaking, or Shelby’s mom made him the meatballs he loved so much, or that his grandfather Bob was willing to just sit with him and watch him play his video games.

He was the funniest person in the room. His humor was sarcastic, unique, silly, immature, witty and absurdly funny. Augustus was ridiculous and goofy and spontaneous, but he was always himself.

He was truly the heart and soul of our family. He was the one we could always count on to make our days brighter, and his absence will be immeasurable. He enjoyed aggravating his siblings constantly. It was his way of connecting with them.

Gus Cardello with his siblings, Isabella and Chris.

Chris, I know he was so impressed by how smart, talented and disciplined you are. He admired your uniqueness, and how you have always lived your life being your own person. He loved wondering what the future held for you, as he knew you would be do amazing things.

Isabella, he was impressed with the way you give so much of yourself to the people around, the people who are hurting and those less fortunate. You are strong, you are a fighter, you are the most compassionate person, and I know he admired those qualities in you even if you couldn’t always see that. And above all else he knew how much you cared for him. He just never wanted you to know.

The world was an infinitely better place with Augustus in it — for this I am sure.  But his passing has already brought about the most amazing acts of generosity, kindness and love. Open your hearts, and you will experience them too.

I always felt honored that God chose me to be his mother, and I could never understand what I had done to deserve such a gift. I could not be more proud to have had such an amazing son, and I am forever grateful to have had 19 beautiful years with him.

To honor Gus’ memory, promote the values he lived his life by, and support attending Providence College for those in need, the family has established the Augustus G. Cardello Memorial Scholarship Fund. Contributions can be made through Gofundme (click here), or by check (made payable to “Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund” (put “Augustus G. Cardello” on the memo line), and mailed to Clapboard Hill Private Wealth, 1265 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880.

Gus Cardello (center) and his Providence College roommates. Matty Fair (right) was a fellow Staples High School grad, and close friend.

Cori’s Handbags

I know a little about a lot of things.

I know nothing about luxury handbags. But, I’m told, Welden Bags are big.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what their promotional video says:

The unique hand-weaving techniques developed by Welden artisans have been honed for decades and passed down from generation to generation. In an industry dominated by machines, the team at Welden was inspired to protect the legacy of this time-honored craft and the exceptional care and dedication of its artisans.

However, this isn’t a story about handbags. It’s about one of the women behind the handbag company.

Of course, she’s a Westporter.

Cori Caputo is a product of Kings Highway Elementary, Bedford Middle and Staples High Schools (Class of 1994), she headed to Fashion Institute of Technology for a short stint, while still living at home.

In her early 20s she moved to New York. She worked her way up from sales to buyer at Intermix, then ran Mulberry’s wholesale North America division.

She got married in 2010, had a baby and — now known as Cori Caputo Adams — moved back to Westport in 2013.

She worked from home, running a small California handbag brand. She met Sandy Friesen in 2016, while chatting with a fellow mom in her daughter’s ballet class.

Sandy was looking to expand the business she’d founded: Welden Bags. Cori soon partnered with her.

Cori Caputo Adams

Her 2nd baby arrived the next year. But — still working from  home — Cori helped launch Welden’s China market, with retail giant Alibaba.

As I said, I’m not a handbag type of guy. But I’ve been told Cori is “an exceptional Westporter, mom at home raising 2 kids, wife, business lady, all around person, and a total kick-butt product of our ‘system.'”

Gotta hand it to her!

(Hat tip: Lindsay Shurman)

Horace Staples’ Fantasy

Forget CTE, millionaire athletes behaving badly, and debates about kneeling during the national anthem.

The NFL is alive and well. Just ask anyone who plays fantasy football.

The pretend game draws fanatical players (mostly male). It’s as popular as Fortnite among teenage boys. But plenty of adults draft, follow and obsess over their fantasy teams too.

Maxx Reiner

Maxx Reiner’s league has been together for a decade. It began at Staples High School, with members of the classes of 2009 and ’10. They’ve kept playing — and kept it alumni-only.

Despite being all over the country — for example, Maxx lives in San Francisco, works at a software startup and sells vintage watches on the sides; Alec Abed works in sales n New York and moonlights as a New York Yankees promoter — they’ve forged bonds that may last a lifetime.

Their fantasy football league lacked only one thing: a trophy.

Jason Shapiro — who lives in California, works in marketing and is an Instagram influencer — stepped up to help. But he did not want a generic, old-school stiff-armed running back atop the award.

Jason wanted to commemorate the man who brought the league together.

We’re talking Horace Staples.

The high school founder died in 1897 — 8 years before Teddy Roosevelt proposed a ban on football (too many players were dying).

Jason found a photo online (probably from “06880”). Fantasy football participant Alec contacted a vendor. But the Staples alums were appalled at the Pez dispenser-like version of the trophy that the company proposed.

So Jason spent even more time researching manufacturers than he did moving players around. He found a firm in California. They took months to get it right.

Now, finally, Horace Staples’ fantasy football league has a trophy worthy of its namesake.

The Horace trophy. A portrait of the Staples High School founder hangs on the wall.

The trophy —  called “The Horace” — will be inscribed with the name of each year’s winner.

It will be shipped every year to the champ. There is just 1 league rule: It must be the first item a visitor sees when they enter that home or apartment.

“We consider Horace Staples an icon,” Maxx says. “We wanted to honor a man of such character and integrity. And we wanted to rep Staples: the greatest high school in the USA.”

The Life And Loves of Horace Staples

Jeanne Stevens is an amateur genealogist. Before retiring this year, she was also an AP US History teacher at Staples High School.

So it was natural that when she learned about the condition of school founder Horace Staples’ grave — it, and those of his wife Charrey Crouch, son Capt. William Cowper Staples and daughter Mary were cracked, broken, knocked over, and overgrown with weeds and brush in Greens Farms Congregational Church’s cemetery — she vowed to help.

The grave of the founder of Staples High School, before restoration.

The cost for restoration was $10,000. (By comparison, Wilbur Cross — Horace Staples’ 2nd principal — was paid $700 for the year. Of course, that year was 1885.)

With the help of graduating classes and fellow teachers, she raised some of the funds. In August, Horace and Charrey’s stones were reinstalled.

Horace and Charrey Staples’ graves today. (Photo/Jeanne Stevens)

Meanwhile, in retirement, Stevens headed to the Connecticut State Library in Hartford. She had found a reference to the diary of Eliza Ann Hull Staples — Horace’s first wife — and wanted to see it.

Eliza began writing when she was 14. The last entry was on May 5, 1832, 2 days before William was born and a few weeks before her own death.

Horace Staples’ entry in his wife Eliza’s diary, after she died.

Stevens calls Horace’s entry underneath Eliza’s final one “heartbreaking.” He wrote: “Thus ends the diary of her whose worth was counted more than all this world by her unworthy partner. [She lived] 28 years, 3 months & 3 days.”

On the next page he added:

3 ½ OClock [sic] A.M. 10 June 1832 an hour never to be forgotten by me being an hour which brought upon me an irretrievable loss in the death of my beloved and affectionate wife. Although she was resigned to her fate & felt sure of entering the gates of Heaven until her last breath yet it seems more than I can bear to say Oh, Father thy will be done. Her disease was of that nature that brot [sic] death gradually upon her in the space of 5 weeks – she has left me 2 small children the eldest 3 years & 7 days old youngest 5 weeks whom I consider as dear pledges of pure and life lasting affection and may God bless them.

A few years later, Horace Staples married Charrey. They enjoyed another half century together.

Horace Staples

He became Westport’s wealthiest citizen, running a lumber and hardware business, and general store. He bought sailing vessels, a silk factory, and part of an axe factory. He owned a farm, a thriving pier on the Saugatuck River and helped found a bank.

In 1884 — well into his 80s — he established Staples High School. He lived another 13 years. He died in 1897 in his Riverside Avenue home — age 96 — of pneumonia.

His house still stands. Now — restored once again — so does his grave.

Distracted Driving Event Set For Saturday

It’s a recent, and potentially fatal, phenomenon: a car crashes into a tree or telephone pole. It’s the middle of the day — often in fine weather — and there are no other vehicles around.

The cause is almost always distracted driving. And the driver can just as easily be an adult as a teenager.

Meanwhile, for decades, many other accidents — at all times of day — have been caused by impaired drivers. Those under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be any age too.

Staples High School’s Teen Awareness Group wants to do something about it.

This Saturday (October 13, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Staples football field), the club hosts a Distracted Driving event. It’s free, and open to all high school students.

Plus their parents, and any other interested people.

Drivers can be distracted by texting, as well as by alcohol or drugs.

The State Police will be on hand with a simulator. Attendees can experience first-hand the power of an impact by a moving vehicle — this time, fortunately, in a safe, controlled environment.

Westport police officers will create an obstacle course and other simulations. Using special goggles, participants can experience the effects of substances on depth perception, coordination, decreased reaction time and impaired decision-making.

You can also take a field sobriety test.

TAG has organized this Distracted Driving Day with support from the Westport Youth Commission and Westport Police-Youth Club.

It’s an important event. Drive safely — there, back and always.

(NOTE: Attendees should park by the Staples fieldhouse and pool. Staples boys soccer’s 60th anniversary celebration will fill the parking lot by the soccer field and baseball diamond.)

Ultimately, 50 Years

2018 marks the 60th anniversary of some legendary Westport institutions:

Mitchells. Earthplace. Staples Orphenians. And the Staples High School boys soccer program (click here for details on this Saturday’s Wreckers event!).

Checking in at a mere 50 years old is Ultimate Frisbee. But — like those other local icons — it too has a special Westport connection.

Ultimate began in 1968 at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. A 1960 alum was teaching math at Staples. When Al Jolley heard of the game — non-contact, free-flowing, like a traditional “goal” sport but with a unique culture — he vowed to bring it to Westport.

The group played on an unkempt field behind the old 9 Building, at the east end of Staples. (Field hockey players chased them away, with sticks.) With no other teams in the area, they scrimmaged themselves.

An early Ultimate team. Alan Jolley is at far left.

They encouraged Weston High to form a team, and played them on April 5, 1973. Staples won 24-9, in the 1st interscholastic Frisbee game in Connecticut. It was also the 1st known coed interscholastic sports event. 

On April 14, Staples hosted Columbia High, in the 1st known interstate coed match. Staples beat the sport’s inventors, 18-8. (To be fair, the guests were missing several players.)

But Staples — in fun — declared themselves “National Champions.” The  National Observer sent a reporter from Washington to write about the team.

The Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame has honored 29″Johnny Appleseeds” of the sport. Four — Jolley and 1974 graduates Ed Davis, Ron Kaufman and Dan Buckley — are among them.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion several years ago.

From October 18-21, a grand celebration of Ultimate will be held in San Diego. Kaufman will fly in from Singapore.

The following month, Columbia High honors Jolley as a “Hometown Ultimate Hero.” For the 49th year in a row, the school will play a Thanksgiving reunion game, at the site of that very first one.

Unfortunately, they can’t get revenge for that loss to Staples, all those years ago. Jolley disbanded his team in the late 1970s, after issues with school administrators over things like insurance.

What an untimely, Ultimate end.

Saugatuck StoryFest: The “Write” Way To Celebrate

From F. Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger to John Hersey and Peter De Vries, then on to current residents A.E. Hotchner and Jane Green, Westport has long been a writer’s town.

Back in the day, a special Rabbit Hill festival celebrated the works of local children’s author Robert Lawson.

But there’s never been a community-wide event, for all ages, dedicated to every genre imaginable: young adult, sci-fi, novels, romance, horror, even graphic novels.

Until now.

October 12-14 marks the first-ever Saugatuck StoryFest. A collaboration between the Westport Library and Westport Public Schools — held at the library, in downtown restaurants, the Senior Center and Westport Woman’s Club and Staples High School — it is wide-ranging. Interactive. And very, very cool.

Saugatuck StoryFest has been in the works for a year. Staples English teacher Kim Herzog and literacy coach Rebecca Marsick had the idea. Library executive director Bill Harmer had been thinking of the same thing. He offered the help of library manager of experiential learning Alex Giannini and program/events specialist Cody Daigle-Orlans.

A $25,000 grant from the Board of Education Innovation Fund helped secure authors like Newbery Honor recipient Jason Reynolds (a keynote speaker) and National Book Award nominee Nic Stone.

Those writers drew in others. National and local authors quickly jumped on board. Over 100 authors will participate, in a variety of ways.

The planning committee included a dozen students from Staples and Bridgeport, a Bridgeport teacher, and Fairfield University’s Connecticut Writing Project director Bryan Ripley Crandall.

Jason Reynolds

They’ve created a remarkable lineup. The 3-day celebration of reading, writing and ideas kicks off Friday, October 12 with a keynote by Emmy-winning documentarian Sheila Nevins, and a concert/storytelling session with Drama Desk-nominated composer/lyricist Joe Iconis.

Saturday, October 13 includes Reynolds, Stone, best-selling children’s author Chris Grabenstein and National Book Award winner Robin Benway, plus “Game of Foams” performances on Jesup Green recreating epic battles in the “Game of Thrones” books, and hands-on activities with comic creators.

Meanwhile, the Senior Center hosts “Writing Your Next Chapter: Inspiration and Support for Those Who Have Lived Many Stories.”

Saturday night features a lit crawl and pub trivia in downtown restaurants and bars. The evening ends at the Woman’s Club with a celebration of the legacy of Ray Bradbury, courtesy of author Sam Weller and Westport’s Play With Your Food.

On Sunday, October 14 StoryFest moves to Staples. A full day of workshops, panels and a mini-BookCon kicks off with a local authors’ breakfast, and conversations between our own noted writers like Charlotte Rogan and Nina Sankovitch.

Sunday’s keynote is delivered by National Book Award nominee Ibi Zoboi. Other headliners that day include Peter Blauner, Andrew Gross and Riley Sager.

There’s much more — too much in fact for even this local writer to cram in to this story. For full details, click here.

All kinds of books are featured at Saugatuck StoryFest — including “Yes: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania.”

Tommy Greenwald: Football’s “Game Changer”

Like many Americans, Tommy Greenwald has a complicated relationship with football.

He was thrilled when his son Jack played.

“If I saw him limping or shaking his head, I’d say ‘Get back out there!'” Tommy says. “I was as happy to see my kid hitting and getting hit as anyone else.”

In 8th grade, Jack hurt his ankle. “My first concern was not going to the doctor,” Greenwald admits. “It was, could he finish the game?”

Jack had a great football career, with Westport PAL and Staples High School. His father appreciates what he learned from intense practices, tough games and his relationship with his coaches.

But, Greenwald says, “the football culture — with its pressure to be tough and strong, to play hurt, to not be perceived as soft” — has its downsides.

That’s the heart of “Game Changer.” Published this month, it’s the local author’s 10th book — and a departure from his previous “Charlie Joe Jackson” (named for his 3 sons) and “Crimebiters” young readers’ series.

Jack Greenwald (center), with his brothers Charlie and Joe.

There’s not a laugh to be had in this one. There are no wise guys, no dog with special powers.

“Game Changer” is deadly serious — almost literally.

13-year-old Teddy lies in a coma after a football injury during preseason camp. His family and teammates flock to his bedside to support his recovery — and at the same time trade rumors and theories on social media.

Was this a tragic but fairly common result of a violent sport? Or did something more sinister — bullying and hazing perhaps — happen on the field that day?

“Game Changer” is different type of book. It mixes together dialogue, text messages, newspaper stories — and Teddy’s own inner thoughts.

It’s different too in that it’s a no-holds-barred look at the terrifying risks of a major American sport — and the entire culture supporting it.

Greenwald is emphatic that this is a work of fiction. He added an author’s note to that effect at the end. He says he never saw or heard anything like what happened in “Game Changer” during Jack’s Westport career.

But, Greenwald says, it is “based on a culture I saw through Jack. It’s not far-fetched that this could happen. We’ve all heard about terrible cases in college, high school, even middle school.”

“Game Changer” is not, he insists, a condemnation of football. “My respect for coaches, the life lessons they taught, the lifelong friendships Jack made, is amazing,” Greenwald says.

He calls Westport PAL and Staples “great programs.” And Greenwald has done enough research to know that football in Fairfield County — while intense — is “a dust speck compared to programs around the country. When football is the dominant event in a community, the pressure ratchets up unbelievably. Westport seems to have a good balance. We don’t pin our hopes and dreams on young kids.”

But his book is “a wake-up call for everyone — including me,” he adds. “People — including me — have to pay more attention to the culture and the injuries” of football.

Tommy Greenwald

Greenwald never had to confront the even more dangerous effects of football at the higher level. Though Jack was “semi-recruited” for college, he ended up at Elon and did not play. He graduated from there last June, and now works at a Boston cyber-security firm.

“Jack’s era was a tipping point,” Greenwald says. “The media started focusing on concussions, and parents started looking at football differently. If Jack wanted to play in college, that would have been a much larger discussion.”

Greenwald — who won a state championship as a Staples High School soccer captain in 1978, and whose son Joe was a Wrecker soccer captain in 2012 — remains a “huge” NFL fan.

“I read, like everyone else, about the dangers,” he says. “And like everyone else I camp out every Sunday looking for the best games.

“It’s a weird feeling to like a game you probably shouldn’t.”

(Tommy Greenwald will host a discussion on the pros and cons of youth sports at Barnes & Noble this Sunday [October 7, 12 p.m.] Panelists include his own son Jack; former Staples High School, Temple University football captain and Staples assistant coach Mac DeVito, and Dan Woog — in my role as Staples boys soccer head coach.)

Pic Of The Day #525

Today could have been tough. With their building closed due to possible mold issues, Coleytown Middle School 6th and 7th graders moved to Bedford Middle School. Eighth graders headed to Staples High. No one knew what to expect.

The day went great. Staff adapted. Students smiled. There were warm welcomes all around.

And it started even before the Coleytown youngsters entered their new schools. This sign outside Bedford said it all.

(Photo/Michelle Howard)

Retired Staples Teachers Chart A New Course

There is life after high school.

The annual Retired Staples Golf Tournament was held recently at Newtown Country Club. For decades, they could not dream of getting on the course on a lovely September afternoon. Now it’s no problem.

This year’s champion is Gerry Kuroghlian. However, his scorecard is still being examined by the rules committee.

Can you identify all these legendary educators? Answers below.

(Left to right: Pete Van Hagen, Bill Walsh, Gerry Kuroghlian, Jim Wheeler, Ed Bludnicki, Tom Owen, Bruce McFadden, Bill Brookes)