Category Archives: Staples HS

Roundup: Smart Switch; Water Tanks; Panera Bread; More


Chris Scherban is quite bright. He was Staples High School’s 2017 salutatorian; he’s now at Georgia Tech. He’s a veteran of many Westport Maker Faires.

He and 2 friends have just launched a smart home startup, called Theory. With it, anyone — including numbskulls — can make any light switch (indoors or out) smart. Chris’ switch goes on top of existing one — no tools needed. It works via an app, and an adhesive strip.

Theory can be controlled through iOS, Android, Alexa, Google Assistant, even his new website. 

Now they just have to bring it to market.

A few minutes ago, they launched a Kickstarter campaign. The goal is $45,000. To help, click here.

Chris Scherban


Site work has begun on the North Avenue water tanks. A row of old trees has been taken down, offering a few of the decades-old tank that few have ever seen.

As part of the agreement with neighbors, Aquarion will eventually provide extensive landscape restoration.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


When the Westport Panera location looked closed — and any mention of it vanished from their website — Bitsy Higgins reached out to their “customer care” team.

This morning, they emailed her:

Thanks for your patience the West port location will reopen on 7/7/2020. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Have a great day!”

That’s tomorrow. And the news will ensure that many Westporters (or “West porters”) have a great day.

The Panera Bread near the Southport line.


Westport was awash in red, white and blue this holiday weekend.

There was this too, at a home near downtown: a reminder of another color that is an important part of the fabric of America. (Hat tip: Hannah Spencer)


And finally … 22 years ago today — July 6, 1998 — Roy Rogers died of heart failure. He was 86 years old.

 

Roundup: Kids’ Parade; Signs Of Happiness; More


Sherwood Farms Lane is a small street, off Greens Farms Road. But it’s got true international flavor, with families from Ireland, Russia, Norway, India, China, Japan, Dominica and Australia.

Every year, they celebrate America with a July 4 “kid parade.”

Despite COVID, yesterday was no different. The youngsters had their usual fun.

And, Mark Rubino says, “the adults commented how comforting this tradition felt, given how unsettled the world is right now.”

Sherwood Farms Lane bike parade. (Photo/Mark Rubino)


Surrounded by COVID, Westporter Kimberly Paris wanted to do something to make people smile.

She launched a new yard sign company: “Signs of Happiness.” She personally designs and hand cuts each one.

Her first was for Father’s Day. She added 2 more for this weekend.

People love them. And, Kimberly says, they actually slow down to look, instead of rolling through stop signs.

Her website just launched. She’ll update it to offer a variety of special occasion signs, all available for 24-hour rental. For more information, email signsofhappiness@yahoo.com.


Last night’s 40th “Capitol 4th” concert on PBS was taped — not live — due to COVID-19. The lack of a huge audience West Lawn audience took away some oomph from the annual show.

Still, it was great seeing our friend and neighbor, Kelli O’Hara, singing the beautiful “If I Loved You” from “Carousel.”


And finally … in honor of this weekend:

Pegeen Gaherin: “Getting Past Madness”

After all these years, my long-ago High Point Road neighbor Pegeen Gaherin remembers many details about our youth.

The gang of kids riding bikes everywhere. Pool-hopping at night. She even recalls my dog’s name: Taffy.

After graduating from Staples High School in 1972, Pegeen remembers fun times waitressing at Viva Zapata, and partying to great music at Players’ Tavern.

But there were darker moments too. Suddenly in 1977, her world crashed down. Manic depression struck. Pegeen’s life has never been the same.

“One day the sun was out. The next day I felt as if the shades were drawn shut, without a glimmer of light peeking through,” she says.

Pegeen Gaherin today.

Her first onset of depression lasted 4 months, followed by a long manic episode laced with heavy drug use.

After a major psychotic break in Hawaii, she worked hard to regain her life. She moved in with her parents on Cape Cod.

“I couldn’t even tie my shoes,” Pegeen says. “My mother nursed me back to health.”

(Her father, John Gaherin, was a well-known negotiator. He represented New York newspaper publishers and Major League Baseball owners in the 1960’s and 70’s, and helped write baseball’s first labor contracts and pension plan.)

A year later, Pegeen felt better. As is sometimes the case with mental illness, she stopped taking medication. She began drinking a bit, and smoking some weed.

Another psychotic break in Miami followed. She pulled herself together again. She took classes at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, but another major dissociative episode followed, in Cambridge.

After trying to work in New York, and living again with her parents on the Cape, Pegeen moved back to Westport. Once again, she drank.

Alcohol and manic depression form a lethal combination. “I knew they’d be fatal,” she says. “I’d end up as a Jane Doe.”

In 1987 she found AA. She’s been sober — “one day at a time” — ever since.

“Medication clears up my mental illness,” Pegeen notes. “But I had to learn to live again. AA gave me that.”

She loved her Westport AA group. Yet when she moved back to Cape Cod in 2003, her experience was different.

They said, “you’re not sober if you’re taking meds. They shunned me.” She is grateful these days for Westport’s AA meetings, which she attends via Zoom. She is grateful too for lithium, which she calls “a miracle drug.”

While still living here in 1998, she took a writing class with David Wiltse. She hung out with a group of writers, who encouraged her to tell her story.

It was not easy. The stigma of mental illness is strong. “Coming out against AA is countercultural” too, she notes.

She finished her book in 2010. But she held on to it for a decade. Over the past few months, she felt compelled to publish.

The other day, “Getting Past Madness: A Young Woman’s Journey from Mental Illness to Mental Health” was published. (Her author’s nom de plume, Pegeen Keenan-O’Brien, is a combination of her 2 grandmothers’ names.)

Pegeen says, “I wanted to stop the judgment that often comes with mental illness. Even in the most healing of environments, there is far less understanding than I would like to see.

“I told my story the best way I could. I’m so glad I started it so long ago. If I can help just one person, that would be great.”

(To order “Getting Past Madness,” and for more information, click here. Hat tip: Kathleen Kiley)

Staples Baseball Ends “Season” In Style

The 2020 Staples High School baseball team could not defend its ’19 state and FCIAC championships — because there was no ’20 season. COVID-19 knocked out all spring sports in the state.

But the Wrecker coaches and Diamond Club boosters found a way to honor the athletes who would have played.

Yesterday, they held a traditional “Senior Day” in a very non-traditional way.

Family members lined the field — masked and socially distanced, of course.

A guest speaker — Staples alum Dave Ruden, publisher of the all-FCIAC, all-the-time sports site The Ruden Report — praised the players and the program.

Dave Ruden addresses the crowd.

Coach Jack McFarland presented the school’s 2 highest awards — Block “S” trophies — to well-deserving recipients.

Most Valuable Player honors went to all the seniors.

And the Coaches’ Award was presented to longtime manager/superfan/ inspiration Dylan Curran. He gave a gracious speech, thanking each coach and every player for always including him and making him feel a part of the team.

He promised he would always come back to cheer Staples on, from his next destination: Sacred Heart University.

Dylan Curran (Photos/Chris Greer)

The day ended with the unveiling of a plaque. It noted that the Wreckers were ranked #31 in a national pre-season poll. We’ll never know where they would have ended up, if they had actually played games.

It wasn’t the Senior Day any of the Wreckers — or their friends and families — dreamed of.

But considering the coronavirus circumstances, it was a grand slam.

“Golden State Killer” Pleads Guilty; 1 Victim Was Westporter

Yesterday in Sacramento, Joseph James DeAngelo admitted he was the “Golden State Killer.”

The former police officer pleaded guilty to 4 murders and 2 rapes. They’re the first of an expected confessions of 13 murders and nearly 50 rapes, committed across California between 1975 and ’88.

Among the victims he confessed to yesterday: 1962 Staples High School graduate Debra Manning.

Debra Manning

At the hearing, a Santa Barbara County deputy district attorney described how in 1979 DeAngelo broke into a Goleta home shared by Manning and her boyfriend, osteopathic surgeon Dr. Robert Offerman. She recounted in grim detail the crimes that ensued.

Manning’s murder was included in Michelle McNamara’s 2018 best-seller “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer.” A 6-part HBO series based on the book premiered on Sunday.

DeAngelo faces 11 consecutive life sentences for the killings, and 15 concurrent ones for kidnapping.

Obi Ndefo And Jamie Mann’s Joyful Virtual Cabaret

Obi Ndefo is an actor and screenwriter. He’s been in “Dawson’s Creek,” “Star Trek” and “The West Wing.” A Nigerian-American Jew, he founded Arts Alliance for Humanity, bringing artists together from around the world to unite and uplift the planet.

Last summer, while loading groceries into his trunk in Los Angeles, he was hit by a drunk driver. He lost both legs, but remained tremendously positive and determined. Nine weeks later he was back teaching yoga to special needs youngsters, and taking on new acting, writing and directing roles.

Obi believes things happen “for him,” not “to him.”

Jamie Mann is a rising senior at Staples High School. A very talented dancer, actor and singer, his credits include “Billy Elliot” (national tour), “Nutcracker” and “Swan Lake” with New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey at the Apollo Theater, “Because of Winn Dixie” (Goodspeed Opera House), and numerous Staples Players shows.

A few months ago, Jamie was in Hollywood filming Netflix’s new musical show “Country Comfort.” Suddenly COVID-19 struck, and production stopped.

Obi Ndefo

Obi and Jamie’s dad were friends from their Yale University days. Jamie had heard stories about what a great actor and singer he was.

While running in his Silver Lake neighborhood, Jamie saw Obi doing 1-hand pushups in his driveway. Suddenly, his father’s stories about Obi and his inspiring personality came to life.

When he learned that Obi had a GoFundMe page for new prosthetic legs, and to cover medical costs, Jamie decided to help.

He contacted “Country Comfort” cast mates (and Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block, father of one of them). He asked for videos of their performances.

Then he reached out to other actors and performers across the country. Among the many who helped, Josie Todd submitted a touching song and message to Obi; her brother has special needs.

Analise Scarpaci — who Jamie idolized, and is in “Mrs. Doubtfire” on Broadway — sang a very moving “Somewhere.”

Obi’s friend Gina Belafonte — Harry’s daughter — provided a tremendous tune. Chazz Palminteri got involved too.

Jamie also got great content from Obi’s a cappella friends from Yale.

Jamie Mann (Photo/Tomira Wilcox)

Jamie’s mom, Jill Johnson Mann, began turning it all into a livestream. She asked a friend for help.

He’s a huge “Stargate” fan — Obi was a series regular — and when he heard about the accident, he was honored to lend a hand.

The result is a fantastic “virtual cabaret.” It airs tomorrow (Tuesday, June 30, 7:30 p.m.) on Jamie’s YouTube channel (click here) and Jill’s Facebook page (click here).

“This is about more than one man, known for his kindness, undying optimism and activism,” Jamie says.

“It’s about the positive attitude and resilience we all need to overcome the challenges of the uncertain era we’re in. From Obi’s wisdom and a peek into his new TV project, to songs from Broadway stars and exciting newcomers — my friends, cast mates, Obi’s friends and others — this will be a great cabaret.”

Viewers will be able to donate to Obi’s GoFundMe page (you can do so right now too; click here.)

“Let’s change his life, so he can keep inspiring all of us,” Jamie says.

Stormy Weather

It’s been a while since we saw the heavy rains and heard the thunder we got this weekend.

Late this afternoon, storm clouds rolled in …

(Photo/Sophie Pollmann)

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

… and after the much-needed downpour, the skies cleared. Then we saw this.

Schlaet’s Point (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Staples High School. (Photo/Jennifer Kobetitsch)

Remembering Garry Meyers

Longtime Westport educator Garry Meyers died peacefully at his Stratford home on June 11, surrounded by family. He was 89 years old.

The Bridgeport native was a teacher, a storyteller, and a marriage and family therapist. After graduating from Warren Harding High School in 1948, Garry headed to Dartmouth College. He earned a Phi Beta Kappa key, and graduated magna cum laude in 1952.

After serving in the Korean War, Garry earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Bridgeport on the GI Bill. He taught English at Staples High School for many years, and was a principal of the firm Tape Book, before creating the first public high school special education program for emotionally disturbed adolescents in the state of Connecticut.

Garry Meyers

The gratification Garry experienced as he developed this safe place for “the kids” spurred him to devote his professional life to helping more children and families. He pursued a master’s in marriage and family therapy from Southern Connecticut State University, becoming a licensed MFT in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Whether in line at the hardware store or traveling to Russia, Garry often made new friends. He had an agile, insatiable mind; an irreverent, irresistible sense of humor, and a genuine interest in everyone he met. His life was a celebration of the people he loved, the places he and Donna visited, and the stories that grew from these experiences.

During their years together, Garry and Donna called many places home, including Westport, Redding Sandy Hook and Stratford; Astoria, New York, and Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts.

In their home on Martha’s Vineyard, Garry and Donna created a haven for family and friends. It was especially cherished by Garry’s 17 grandchildren.

Garry is survived by his wife of 51 years, Donna Rae Hitt Meyers for 51 years; his children Liese Meyers Niedermayer, Jennifer Meyers (Mark), Adam Meyers (Ingrid), Melissa Fable Dempsey, Kimberly Fable, and Chaz Fable (Valeria). Garry was predeceased by his youngest daughter, Rebekah Meyers Aronson. He is also survived by his grandchildren Bryan, Erich, Stephanie, Randi, Jessica, Daniel, Jacqueline, Kristen, Alexandra, Matthew, Teddy, Olivia, David, Kiona, Julie Rae, Julian, and Julia.

A celebration of Garry’s life will be held later.

Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to The Trevor Project or the Center for Spectrum Services. 

When Lupus Strikes, Caregivers Wear Plaid

Sean Lowther and Patty White Dunn met in 4th grade at Coleytown Elementary School. They were “first loves” all through Miss Comer’s ballroom dance class.

Sean Lowther and Patty White Dunn, at Coleytown Elementary School in the 1950s.

Sean moved to Weston. But they fell back in love at Staples High School’s Class of 1962. They broke up for reasons neither remembers now, and did not see each other for 40 years.

After their respective divorces Patty contacted Sean through Classmates.com. She moved from Mobile to be with him in Charlotte. They’ve been married now for 18 years.

But that’s not what this story is about.

At 28, Patty was diagnosed with lupus. The autoimmune disease affects 1.5 million Americans — 90% of them women. With symptoms including fatigue, fever, joint pain, rashes, skin lesions, shortness of breath, chest pain, dry eyes, headaches, confusion and memory loss, it’s a chronic, debilitating — and life-altering — event.

In North Carolina, Patty — who had been a guardian ad litem, and worked with women whose husbands fought in Desert Storm — became board chair of the state Lupus Foundation of America chapter. Sean — who ran several businesses, and now owns a company that videotapes legal depositions — joined too. He also became chair.

Four years ago, he began writing a book about male caregivers.

It’s a role, he says, that most men are not trained to handle. But it’s crucial. Up to 75% of couples divorce after a lupus diagnosis — in part because men do not understand how to live with their spouse’s limitations.

More than 300 pages long, Caregivers Wear Plaid covers the long road to diagnosis (symptoms can mimic multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, and many doctors receive only cursory training about it, Sean says); medications; depression; sex and pregnancy; support groups, and more.

Sean and Patty today.

It’s wide-ranging, honest, and filled with information. For example, Sean writes about feeling guilty that he can play golf, and Patty can’t.

And though a woman is usually the one who suffers physically, lupus affects her husband too. Because of fatigue, their social life may become limited. When she does feel good and venture out, others may wonder what the big deal is. “You find out who your friends really are,” Sean says.

Caregivers Wear Plaid is available as an e-book — and it’s free. Sean and Patty want as many people to read it as possible.

So what’s next? For nearly 2 decades, Sean has produced videos about managing autoimmune diseases. It’s considered the largest video library in the world about lupus, but it’s “hidden” on the state foundation website. He’s in the process of remastering it, for distribution at the national level.

(To download Caregivers Wear Plaid, and for more information on Patty and Sean, click here.)

Roundup: Yarn Bomber; Rock Doc; Camper Fund; History; More


You can’t keep a good Yarn Bomber down.

In the latest installment of Westport’s ongoing, fun mystery, TV reporter Anne Craig reports on the unknown knitter’s latest creation.

But in addition to showcasing her work on Compo Beach Road — right by the marina — Anne also makes an offer.

The Yarn Bomber wants to help someone who needs a colorful, lively, humorous pick-me-up. That’s right: a “gift bomb.”

“It can be someone on the front lines, or someone who has suffered a loss,” Anne says. “Someone who has been through a lot, or has given a lot.

All that’s needed is a nomination. So watch Anne’s new video below — it’s another winner! — and if you know someone who could benefit from a yard bomb, put his or her name in the YouTube comments section.

Bombs away!


“The High School That Rocked!” — Fred Cantor’s documentary about the amazing bands that played in Westport back in the (glory) days — is going national.

From June 26-28, it’s part of the Albuquerque Film & Music Experience’s online “Best of the Fest” programming.

In 2017, the film was chosen as Best Short Documentary 1st runner-up at the event.

“THSTR” is part of 6 music documentary shorts and videos. The cost to watch all is just $1. Proceeds are split 50/50 between the festival and filmmakers — but Cantor is turning his share back to the organizers.

To see this intriguing film — and 5 others — click here.


One consequence of COVID-19: closures and reductions in summer programs has left working families without affordable childcare options.

Westport’s Department of Human Services can help. They’ve created a Campership Fund, to help cover the cost of programs.

The average weekly cost of a day camp is $300. Donations of any size can help a child attend for a day, week or the entire summer. Contributions can be made online (click here), or by check (payable to Westport Human Services “DHS Campership Fund,” 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

For more information, call Annette D’Augelli (203-341-1050) or email adaugelli@westportct.gov.

Summer camp is always fun. (Photos/Jaime Bairaktaris)


This year’s National History Day them was “Breaking Barriers.”

Long before the eyes of the nation focused on forgotten Black heroes, Staples High School sophomores Emma Nordberg and Lea Rivel chose Robert Smalls. A former enslaved man who stole a Confederate vessel and joined the Union, he convinced President Lincoln to allow African American men to join the army, was the first Black commander of an American warship, and became one of the first Black congressmen during Reconstruction.

The coronavirus forced this year’s History Day competition into cyberspace. But working together, Emma and Lea placed 4th nationally. It’s a great achievement for them, and their US History teacher Drew Coyne.

That’s not the first National History Day competition for Westport students — or even for a Nordberg. In 2016 Emma’s brother Konur and 4 Bedford Middle School classmates won 1st place at the state level, and went on to the national competition. They interviewed Claudette Colvin, the first Black woman who refused to give up her son, even before Rosa Parks’ famous act.

Congratulations, Emma and Lea!

Emma Nordberg


And finally … let’s all keep thinking about (and being aware of) stereotypes.