Category Archives: Staples HS

Staples Forensics Teacher Earns FBI Certificate

Like many people, Heather Wirkus loves crime shows. And, like many, she dreamed of being an FBI agent.

For a while, she thought she was doing the next best thing: teaching Forensics at Staples High School. She helps students learn criminal investigative procedures and lab techniques. They work on case studies, discuss ethical issues, and listen to guest speakers.

One of those speakers inspired Wirkus to take another step. Now she’s really done the next best thing: She took the intense FBI Citizens Academy course.

She’s eager to spread the word about what’s she learned. And to inspire students to consider some of the many FBI career opportunities.

Heather Wirkus, with her FBI Citizens Academy certificate.

The Citizens Academy course meets every Thursday for 3 hours, at the field office in New Haven. It normally takes 6 weeks.

But after Wirkus’ first class in February 2020, COVID struck. The program was shut down for 18 months. It resumed in September.

Entering the Citizens Academy entailed more background checks and clearances than she needed to get her teaching job, Wirkus says. Because she was entering a secure facility, she could not bring any technology. Her car was checked for bombs — just like in crime shows.

Once inside, Wirkus and her fellow students had many eye-opening experiences.

They learned about human intelligence gathering, domestic terrorism, violent gangs, cybersecurity, crisis negotiations, SWAT teams, public corruption, civil rights, human trafficking and victim assistance programs.

Heather Wirkus and her FBI Citizens Academy classmates.

Wirkus was the only teacher in the group. Her classmates came from all walks of life, and all over Connecticut.

All were there for the same reason: to learn more about the FBI, then build relationships in their communities and workplaces in ways that special agents can’t.

So what did she learn?

“Everything!” Wirkus says.

Her main takeaway, though, is that the general public sees only “the outer shell” of the FBI. “We don’t realize how many layers there are to protecting our nation.”

The FBI offers a high school version of its Citizens Academy: the Future Law Enforcement Youth Academy, for 20 teenagers around the state each year. Wirkus is encouraging her students to apply.

She’ll never be an FBI special agent. For one thing, the maximum age to apply is 36. For another, she loves her job as a Staples Forensics teacher.

But now, as she does it, an FBI Citizens Academy certificate hangs on the wall.

Roundup: COVID Vaccine, Cribari Lights, Staples Soccer …

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900 kids showed up yesterday at the Staples High School fieldhouse.

Most came willingly, even eagerly. A few had to be dragged in.

All were 5 to 11 years old — and now all are vaccinated against COVID. They enjoyed (appreciated? tolerated?) a clinic sponsored by Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

Westport’s Emergency Medical Services personnel, and Community Emergency Response Team, were on hand to help. So were Westport Public School nurses, assistant superintendent of schools John Bayers, and State Senator Will Haskell.

The youngsters were given balloons. Most smiled. Their parents smiled too — with relief.

State Senator Will Haskell and Long Lots Elementary School nurse Max Zimmer, at yesterday’s clinic. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Colorful lights on the Cribari Bridge are as much a part of Westport life as — well, traffic on the Cribari Bridge.

The annual lighting ceremony is set for Friday, November 26 — the day after Thanksgiving — at the Saugatuck Rowing Club (click here for details).

But before that happens, each of the thousands of lights must be individually checked, and repaired.

Volunteers from Al’s Angels and AJ Penna Construction performed that task in the cold pre-dawn yesterday. It took several painstaking hours.

But their great work will provide many days of joy, for very thankful Westporters.

Testing the lights this weekend. The next time the lights will be on is November 26. (Photo/Magnus Larsson)

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What an exciting time to be a Staples High School soccer fan! The boys and girls teams won 3 state tournament games each last week. Both have roared into the semifinals.

Yesterday, the 6th-seeded Wrecker boys team knocked off #3 Fairfield Prep, 1-0.  Reese Watkins power-headed Matthew Jordan’s corner kick in the second half. Outstanding defense by Bruno Guiduli, Jackson Hochhauser, Caleb Tobias, Hunter Smith, Jack Foster and keeper Jacob Greenberger secured the win. The boys face Farmington in the semis,

The girls also won off a corner kick, against Farmington on Thursday. Neva Mermagen nailed Maddie Sansone’s cross for the dramatic overtime game winner. The Wreckers meet Fairfield Warde in their semifinal match.

Both games will be played at neutral sites, later this week. Days, times and sites have not yet been announced.

Reese Watkins (left) celebrates his goal against Fairfield Prep with (from left) Dylan Hoke, Murilo Moreno, Tim Liakh and Hunter Smith. (Photo/Mark Sikorski)

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Hungry for another Westport Library’s Trefz Newsmakers Series conversation?

The series — featuring Emmy-winning CBS News justice and security correspondent (and 1988 Staples High School graduate) Jeff Pegues — continues next month, with acclaimed chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson. It’s set for the Trefz Forum on December 2 (7 p.m.).

Samuelsson is the chef behind restaurants worldwide, including Red Rooster Harlem, Red Rooster Shoreditch and Marcus B&P. He was the youngest person to ever receive a 3-star review from The New York Times, and has won multiple James Beard Foundation Awards.

A noted philanthropist, Samuelsson co-produces the annual week-long festival Harlem EatUp!. He also co-chairs the Careers through Culinary Arts program.

The Trefz Newsmakers Series is free. To register for a seat, click here.

Marcus Samuelsson

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“The Band’s Visit” continues its national tour at the Bushnell in Hartford this week.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Staples High School 2013 graduate Clay Singer. The former Players star plays Itzik — unemployed, raising an infant with a frustrated wife — with “aching honesty.”

The Tony Award-winning show runs November 16-21. Click here for more information, and tickets.

Clay Singer in “The Band’s Visit.”

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Westporter Jacquelin Mullin died peacefully after a brief illness last week, with her sons at her side.

She spent her childhood in Bronxville, New York. After graduating from Pace Business School Jacquie married her high school beau, Gerard Mullin, in 1946, They lived in Florida and Illinois and New Canaan. Their growing family moved to Westport in 1954.

Jacquie raised their 3 sons while Gerry worked in NYC.  She volunteered in Westport schools. Her active boys kept her busy transporting them to sports events, dealing with a menagerie of wild “pets,” and worrying about motorcycle mishaps.

Divorced in 1973, Jacquie remained in her Westport home and entered the workplace as an administrative assistant, working her way through a number of marketing positions until she retired from GTE.

She also volunteered with the Westport Historical Society, Westport Woman’s Club and Nature Center (now Earthplace), among others.

She was a devoted gardener. In later years she surrounded herself with flowering plants on her deck, where she spent many hours.

She traveled extensively with friends and family members. Proud of her Irish heritage, visiting “the auld sod” was an important journey. She was inseparable from her beloved cars, driving solo south each winter to visit friends and family.

She also enjoyed Compo Beach, watching the ever-changing seasons of children, dogs and beach walkers.

With her sons grown, her best times centered on sharing a meal or driving adventures with old friends from work, and new friends from all walks of life. Her family thanks everyone who enriched her life with their companionship and wit, and to the aides that made her later-life lunches possible.

Family was the center of Jacquie’s existence. She hosted holiday dinners until the younger generation took over, and kept track of everyone’s birthdays.  She was pre-deceased by her former husband (1997), her middle son Randall James Mullin (2017), and daughter-in-law Audrey (Albright) Mullin (2005).

She is survived by her brother, John Sheedy Jr. of New York City and Red Rock, New York; sisters Marie Ponce of Charlotte and Marguerite Adams of  Garrison, New York; sons Jeffrey (Joan Hall) of Bourne, Massachusetts and Scott of Ridgefield; daughter-in-law Jackie Mullin of Neptune Beach, Florida; grandchildren Amy and Brian Mullin; great-grandchild Ethan Mullin, plus nieces, nephews, and their children:

A private graveside service will be held at Assumption Cemetery. A celebration of life will be held in the spring.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society; Wakeman Town Farm, or Earthplace. Her family adds: “Plant perennial flowers in your garden in her memory!”

Jacqui Mullin

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Deer are a popular “Westport … Naturally” subject.

But we haven’t seen too many bucks. Here’s a great shot, from Baron’s South:

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

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And finally … happy 121st birthday to America’s great composer/conductor, Aaron Copland!

Roundup: Fleet Feet Food Drive, Paul Lane Field, Nail Cutting …

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Today’s the day for Fleet Feet’s food drive.

Now through 6 p.m., the Sconset Square store is collecting non-perishable food items for Connecticut Foodshare.

You can give cash or online too (click here). There’s a free gift from Brooks for donations over $100 — and you’re entered into a raffle to win a Brooks running shoe.

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There was a lot of action at the Staples stadium last night.

The football team honored its seniors. Then the Wreckers beat Ridgefield 26-10, keeping their postseason tournament hopes alive.

They also dedicated “Paul Lane Field.” The legendary coach died in June, at 93.

On hand were many former players, and family members. Among them: Skip Lane. The star — who was coached by his father — sported his Super Bowl ring, earned as a member of what was then called the Washington Redskins.

Skip Lane, with his Super Bowl ring. (Photo/Baxter Urist)

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IHOP closed in 2011. Three years later, it reopened — as a nail salon.

Now it too is gone.

Judging from Matt Murray’s photo, it needs a trim.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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One more “Oaktober” event (slightly delayed from November).

On Thursday, the Westport Garden Club planted a swamp white oak at Grace Salmon Park. Club members will mulch and water it for the first 2 important years after transplant.

It’s a fitting spot. Grace Salmon was an early member of the club.

A hat tip to Frank Geiger of Greenscape Design in Fairfield. He provided the tree at a reasonable price. His staff then carefully planted it close to the water.

Planting the tree, at Grace Salmon Park

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The Westport Astronomical Society’s 2022 calendar is available now.

Amateur astro-photographers — led by president Shannon Calvert — took the photos. There’s daily astronomical data too, courtesy of Phil Harrington.

The cost is $15 for members, $20 for non-members. Shipping is $5 for 1 or 2 calendars, $10 for 3 to 5. It can also be picked up at WAS events, To order, email alex@was-ct.org,

Westport Astronomical Society calendar

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Longtime Westporter and noted hair stylist Frank Migliarese died unexpectedly last week. He was 88 years old.

Following graduation from Staples High School, Frank served his nation in the Army.

Returning to his beloved Westport, he enrolled in the Sassoon Academy and began a career in cosmetology. With his haircutting skills and charming personality, he won the hearts of many.

He owned Salon Coiffeur in down Westport, where he made his mark in the world of beauty. He loved his customers, and worked well into his 80s.

When he was not at his salon, Frank enjoyed Compo Beach, a special place all his life.

Frank’s obituary calls him “family-oriented, warm, personable, well-dressed, understanding, with a great sense of humor.”

A funeral is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, November 17 at Assumption Church. Interment will be private. The family will receive friends in the Harding Funeral Home on Tuesday, November 16, from 4 to 8 p.m. Click here to leave online condolences.

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Many Westporters support Adam J. Lewis Academy, the innovative Bridgeport elementary school that for nearly a decade has changed many lives.

On November 18, they’ll unveil a “Hope Quilt.” Artist Lizzy Rockwell led a community production with over 200 volunteers. The quilt will hang proudly in the school.

For more information on Adam J. Lewis Academy, click here.

The Adam J. Lewis Academy quilt.

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Congratulations to Staples’ November Students of the Month!

Alonzo Darby, Nina Driscoll, Max Levy, Christina Meehan, Maria-Despina Mutescu, Michael Porzio, Tyler Rockwell  and Chanel Wash “help make Staples a welcoming place for peers and teachers alike. They are the ‘glue’ of the Staples community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students that keep the high school together, making it the special place that it is.”

Teachers nominate students who are friendly to staff and fellow students, and make positive contributions in class as well as the Staples community.

From left: Max Levy, Alonzo Darby, Nina Driscoll, Tyler Rockwell, Maria-Despina, Mutescu, Christina Meehan, Michael Porzio. Missing: Chanel Wash. 

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Town Hall attracts all kinds of visitors.

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows one recent arrival. My guess for the destination? The Conservation Department.

(Photo/Danielle Dobin)

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How do you know that Thanksgiving is near?

Here are some turkey orders, at Stiles Market:

(Photo/Richard Jaffe)

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And finally ,,, today is World Kindness Day.

Who gives a f—?

 

Roundup: Paddy Donovan, Staples Players, Y’s Men …

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Paddy Donovan is one of the best young goalkeepers in the country.

He’s earned national renown for his play with the Beachside Soccer Club MLS Next academy program. Yesterday, he became Clemson University’s first recruit of the season to sign a letter of intent.

Under Coach Mike Noonan, the Tigers are one of the top teams in the US. That makes Donovan’s signing especially sweet: Noonan won a state championship at Staples High School in 1978, where he played soccer with Donovan’s late uncle Doug.

Donovan’s father Dan was a state champ himself, captaining the Wreckers in 1981.

Signing any blue-chip recruit is a major coup. But Noonan put a personal spin on the announcement, posting on Instagram:

“Patrick is an outstanding prospect who has a very high soccer IQ. He has been developed in one of the best youth clubs in the country, and attended the best high school in the country.”

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This week, “06880” has reported 2 ways to support Staples Players. You can buy tickets to “Grease,” the fall musical. You can also purchase 3 special flavors of gelato, at Cold Fusion.

Now there’s a third way to support the nationally renowned theatrical troupe: a silent auction.

It’s online before the show, and in person during the show’s opening weekend (tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday).

Auction items include theater tickets; gift cards and baskets from local restaurants, specialty food stores and other local retailers; sports swag, artwork and more. Click here to see them all. 

Bidding is open now. It closes Wednesday, November 17.

In more “Grease” news, due to booming ticket sales, Staples Players is adding another performance. The additional date is Thursday, November 18 (7 p.m.). Click here to purchase, and for more information.

Among the items in Staples Players’ silent auction: 2 tickets to next September’s Tony Awards.

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Yesterday’s Roundup story about this Saturday’s Police Department food drive neglected to mention an important detail: It takes place at Stop & Shop. Here’s the story again — with apologies:

The Westport Police Department and TEAM Westport are sponsoring a Thanksgiving food drive this Saturday (November 13, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Stop & Shop). All donations support Homes with Hope’s Gillespie Center and food pantry, and Westports Human Services Department.

Westport Police officers and volunteers will collect non-perishable food items and cash. Suggested items include canned meats, tuna, salmon, Spam, canned cranberries, boxed stuffing, canned yams, canned corn, canned gravy, pasta, and sauces, chili, hot and cold cereal, canned fruit, canned and dry soups, peanut butter, jelly, mac and cheese, rice, granola bars, pancake mix, syrup and mayonnaise.

Earlier this year, after another drive, Westport Police and Homes with Hope volunteers delivered food to the Gillespie Center, across from police headquarters.

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This morning’s feature story on new 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker notes that she’ll be sworn in this coming Monday — along with other town boards and commissions — and that the Representative Town Meeting swearing-in would be the following day.

Late last night, it was decided that the entire swearing-in ceremony — including RTM — will take place on Monday. Mark your calendar: November 15, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium). The public is invited.

(For officials who cannot make the Monday evening event, there will be brief swearing-in ceremonies on Monday and Tuesday, both at 4:30 p.m. on the Town Hall steps.)

Jen Tooker (left) and Andrea Moore, Westport’s new selectwomen, will be sworn in — along with all town boards, commissions and RTM members — on Monday night.

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June Rose Whittaker and Karen Weingarten are frequent contributors to “06880”‘s Saturday morning online art gallery. Readers love their photography.

So do the Y’s Men. They recently awarded prizes to the duo, in the annual Y’s Men’s Camera Club hoto Contest.

Weingarten earned 1st and 2nd place honors. Whittaker snagged a second.

All photos are on display at the Senior Center. Congratulations to all!

June Rose Whittaker’s photo.

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Westporter Janet LaReau died suddenly on Tuesday at Yale New Haven Hospital. She was 58 years old.

The Bridgeport native enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren, walks on the beach with her husband Edward Luciano, and Sunday dinners with her family. They describe her as selfless, loving, and someone who always went out of her way to help others.

In addition to her husband, survivors include her mother, Antoinette LaReau of Stratford; son Robert Battey of Phoenix; daughters Janet Dziekonski (Thomas) of Westport, Rebecca Sampieri (Kenneth) of Shelton, LeAnn Battey of Westport, Michele Caggiano (Amanda) of Stamford, Rita Luettger (Cody) of Arlington, Virginia, and Laura Battey of Stratford; brothers David LaReau and Jeffrey LaReau, both of Stratford; sister Nancy Tomasco of Stratford, CT and grandchildren Santino, Jayen, Daniel and Abigail.

A funeral is set for Saturday (November 13, 11 a.m., Assumption Church) for a Mass of Christian Burial. Interment will follow in Willowbrook Cemetery. The family will receive friends in the Harding Funeral Home on Friday from 4 to 8 p.m.

Click here to leave online condolences. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (501 St. Jude Place Memphis, TN 38105).

Janet LaReau

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows our town at its absolute best.

If anyone ever asks why we live here, just show Wendy Crowther’s image — shot yesterday — of Winslow Park.

(Photo/Wendy Crowther)

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And finally … today is Veterans Day. Please take time to think of every man and woman who has ever served this country. We would not be the nation we are, without them!

Roundup: Christmas Music, Veterans Day, Pints For Players …

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Yesterday was November 9. Christmas is December 25. That’s 45 days away.

Which means 45 days of Christmas carols. Because I heard my first one of the season yesterday, at Fresh Market.

Guys … it’s not even Veterans Day yet!

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Speaking of Veterans Day: It’s tomorrow.

Joseph J. Clinton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 399 hosts Westport’s Veterans ceremony in their Riverside Avenue parking lot.

The Westport Community Band plays patriotic music at 10:30 a.m., honoring all those who have served in the US military.

The 11 a.m. program includes posting the colors, remarks from State Senator Tony Hwang and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, an address by Staples High School senior Pierre Briand, and a firing salute by the Westport Police Department.

A special tribute honors World War II and Korean War veterans for their service. The public is invited to the outdoor event.

VFW on Riverside Avenue: site of tomorrow’s Veterans Day ceremony.

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A few spots remain for this Saturday’s free mattress and box spring recycling program (November 13 at Earthplace, 10 Woodside Lane, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.). The project is sponsored by Sustainable Westport.

The project is run through the Mattress Recycling Council’s Connecticut Bye Bye Mattress program.

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Staples Players’ “Grease” is a hot ticket. And Cold Fusion is adding to the heat.

Owners (and Players superfans) Kelly and Eric Emmert have created a special “Pints for Players” promotion.

They renamed 3 flavors, to honor the show. Through closing night (November 20), customers can purchase pints of Pink Lady (strawberry stracciatella), Burger Boys (blood orange sorbet) and Ode to Olivia Newton-John (peanut butter Xanadu).

For more information on “Grease,” click here.

Rydell High cheerleaders enjoy some Cold Fusion gelato.

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Speaking of high school: MoCA Westport has put out a call for submissions from artists in grades 9-12. They’ll be part of an exhibition focusing on the theme of identity, to run concurrently with a show featuring works from the Westport Permanent Art Collections in January.

MoCA officials were impressed with the diversity and talent of last year’s submissions. This year, they hope to surpass those nearly 200 entries. Teachers from across Connecticut and New York played a huge role in bringing that exhibition to fruition. They’re engaged again this year.

The submission deadline is December 19. For details, click here.

A student work from last year’s “Hindsight is 2020” show.

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Jillian Elder — the creative force behind the “Finding Westport” information and merchandise site — checks in with more swag.

Her “Westport Love & Life” collection of t-shirts, mugs, blankets, tote bags and more includes our beloved Minute Man, in various forms of the words “Love” and “Life.” Click here to see the wide variety of products.

And Jillian hopes to post a list of Etsy shops based in Westport, for holiday readers. If you’ve got — or know of — one, email jillian@findingfairfieldcounty.com.

The Minute Man on a “Love & Life” hoodie.

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Time to network!

Local business professionals are invited to a “Virtual Visitors Day” on Thursday, November 18 (7:30 to 9 a.m. Zoom). The event is sponsored by Westport’s Business Networking International chapter.

BNI meetings are open to only one business per category.

They’re on the lookout for new members. People working in hospitality — event planners, florists, caterers, bakers, DJs and bands, liquor stores, limousine services and gift novelty shop owners — are particularly welcome

Other open categories include home inspectors, veterinary services, dentists, dermatologists, commercial sign companies, martial artists, trade schools, physical therapists, orthopedists, delicatessen owners and tutors.

Email curtis@health-directions.com or billhall747@gmail.com to sign up for the Virtual Vistors Day.

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The Westport Police Department and TEAM Westport are sponsoring a Thanksgiving food drive this Saturday (November 13, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). All donations support Homes with Hope’s Gillespie Center and food pantry, and Westports Human Services Department.

Westport Police officers and volunteers will collect non-perishable food items and cash. Suggested items include canned meats, tuna, salmon, Spam, canned cranberries, boxed stuffing, canned yams, canned corn, canned gravy, pasta, and sauces, chili, hot and cold cereal, canned fruit, canned and dry soups, peanut butter, jelly, mac and cheese, rice, granola bars, pancake mix, syrup and mayonnaise.

Earlier this year, after another drive, Westport Police and Homes with Hope volunteers delivered food to the Gillespie Center, across from police headquarters.

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Lauri Weiser calls today’s “Westport … Naturally” image “The Last Rose of Summer.”

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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And finally … as noted above, yesterday was waaaaaay too early for Christmas music.

Two can plan that game. Take this, Fresh Market!

 

 

 

“Grease” Is The (Staples Players’) Word

David Roth and Kerry Long love “Grease.”

The Staples Players directors watch the movie often. Their high school students do too.

It evokes not just nostalgia for the 1950s — its setting — but for the 1970s too, when the classic movie was made.

The music, theme and ensemble casting make it the perfect vehicle for Players’ return to the stage. “Grease” marks the troupe’s first major mainstage show since COVID struck, just hours before the opening night of “Seussical” in March 2020.

The curtain rises this week. Roth says his actors are excited for the show — and so is the town.

“Everyone knows ‘Grease,'” Roth says. Some remember the original Broadway production; many more know the movie that followed.

“Greased Lightning” (senior Ryan Porio, center). (Photo/Kerry Long)

But — as always — Players puts their own spin on it.

“A lot of people think it’s about a girl who has to make herself look sexy, to be attractive to a boy,” Roth says. “But we delved into the history. Who were the greasers and the Pink Ladies in the ’50s? They were the forerunners of people who fought for women’s rights.”

In 1959, he says, America was “the era of ‘Father Knows Best’ and ‘Leave it to Beaver.’ The traditional American home was expected to have the wife stay home looking pretty, wearing an apron while preparing a meal for her husband and children.”

However, he adds, “We feel that the greasers and, more importantly, the Pink Ladies are rebelling against this traditional mold of femininity.

“Our actors understand: Sandy doesn’t randomly end up with these people. She chooses Danny and the Pink Ladies. Somehow she finds her people, and becomes true to herself.”

The production is “really fun. It’s got all the singing and dancing everyone loves. It’s definitely PG,”: although it is not “squeaky clean.” With a large ensemble cast, many actors get a chance to shine.

“Summer Loving” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Despite the allure of “Grease,” Roth and Long were not sure if audiences would embrace a return to indoor theater.

They have. Ticket sales are brisk. The shared experience of sitting in the theater, knowing the words to every song, is alluring.

“People are anxious to get back to the real world,” Roth says.

Whether that’s the world of 2021, or the 1950s.

(“Grease” will be performed on Friday and Saturday, November 12, 13, 19 and 20, at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are set for Sunday, November 14 and Saturday, November 20 at 3 p.m.. Tickets may be purchased online here, or in the lobby 30 minutes prior to the show, if available. All audiences must provide proof of vaccine [a photo is fine] or proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours prior to the show. Arrive at least 30 minutes before showtime. Masks must be worn at all times.)

“Magic Changes” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Roundup: Rev. Patton, AAPI Westport, Staples Sports …

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Saugatuck Congregational Church has been awarded a $50,000 Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program grant. Funds allow congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.

Rev. Alison Patton will begin her 3-month sabbatical in June. She will volunteer with a marine conservation program in the Maldives, and spend time with her family on a regenerative farm in Costa Rica.

Patton says, “I used to think I wanted to be a marine biologist. I now know I’m not a scientist; I am an admirer of the natural world in all its rich biodiversity. In the face of a worsening climate crisis and multiplying threats to biodiversity, I believe we are called to help craft a sustainable future for our planet. I am excited to use this time to take a deep dive into 2 biodiverse environments, to witness the impact of climate change, explore what’s being done to combat it and share some of that adventure with my family.”

Kim Mathias — moderator of Saugatuck’s Church Council — says the congregation will also benefit from this time of rest and renewal.

“Spending time outdoors during the pandemic and working on this grant application have fueled SCC’s interest in environmental issues,” she notes. “While Patton is away, the congregation will deepen its connection with our local ecosystem, exploring the beautiful coastal community of Westport and surrounding towns and digging deeper into the issues surrounding climate change. They look forward to renewing relationships with one another while learning how to better protect our coastal environment.”

Rev. Alison Patton

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AAPI Westport was created in March 2021, following a rise in violence and racism against the Asian community. The mission of the group — which stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — is to foster a sense of belonging within the community, while increasing AAPI visibility and awareness throughout Westport and beyond.

The organizers — all mothers — hope to create an environment where their children feel proud of their heritage.

Today they launched a website. Their Instagram is @aapiwestport.

Anyone interested in helping further their mission, through financial support or volunteering time, should email aapiwestport@gmail.com.

At an AAPI rally on Jesup Green last March, a flag flew at half staff in memory of Asian-Americans killed last week in Atlanta.

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It seems like every week, the Staples High School girls swim and dive team sets new records.

The latest came at the FCIAC championships last week. And not 1, but 3 records fell.

In a big way.

Freshman Annam Olasewere set a state and FCIAC record in the 50 yard free, with a time of 22.77. Her 50.18 in the 100 yard free also set a new FCIAC record.

Senior Jessica Qi finished second in that event, with a season best 52.21. Qi also took second in the 200 free with a time of 1:56.05

The relay team of freshman Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere and seniors Ella Alpert and Jessica Qi set a new FCIAC record in the 200 free relay (1:36.27) and also won the 400 free relay (3:31.87)

Staples moves on to compete in the Class LL and state open championships. More record-setting performances may be in the works.

Winning 400 meter free relay: From left to right Ella Alpert, Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere and Jessica Qi

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Speaking of sports: The Staples High School boys soccer team raised thousands of dollars for their program — and several thousand more for Bridgeport Central High School’s soccer team — at last night’s annual Quiz Night.

The winning trivia team — Jacob Greenberger, Jackson Hochhauser Spencer Levine, Murilo Moreno, Jaden Mueller and Caleb Tobias. plus Oliver Clachko, wrestler/lacrosse player Nick Augeri and lacrosse player/WWPT-FM sports director Max Udell — answered questions like “What was the first word spoken on the moon?” (“Houston”), what is the only mammal that can fly (bats), and what is the first game played in “Squid Game” (Red Light Green Light).

They also took first place last year during COVID, when Quiz Night was virtual. This year’s event — which drew about 150 participants — returned again to the Staples cafeteria.

Quiz Night winners!

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As the weather turns cool, some equally cool classic cars turn up at Compo Beach.

Andrew Colabella spotted several — including this one, with a classic pose — over the weekend.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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“Westport … Naturally” never gets tired of autumn leaf pictures.

Of course, before we know it they’ll be done. And we’ll move on to snowscapes.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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And finally … on this day in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt was elected 32nd president of the United States.

Matt Yemma Moves Into Crypto PR

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian and Tod Kalif taught Matt Yemma to write.

Nearly 2 decades after his 2002 graduation from Staples High School, he remembers the educators’ criticisms, encouragement and impact.

A few years after Yemma graduated from the University of Redlands — where he majored in English — Kuroghlian reached out on Facebook, with more words of support. Once a teacher, always a teacher.

Yemma had planned to go into public relations. His parents worked in PR and journalism, and — as a news junkie — he cherished the media’s role in society.

But before graduation, the 2006 midterm elections loomed. “I thought the world was like the TV show ‘West Wing,'” he recalls. “So before I jumped into the corporate world, I wanted to try politics.”

As an intern for the Nevada Democratic National Committee, he worked on campaigns from city council to Harry Reid’s re-election bid. Then came stints as press assistant for the Nevada State Assembly speaker and, 2 years later, Nevada deputy press secretary for Obama for America.

But corporate America called. Yemma headed to New York, where he worked in financial services PR just as the financial crisis deepened. It was trial by fire.

Matt Yemma

After a few years — including stints when Detroit went into bankruptcy, and lobbying on behalf of Obamacare —  Yemma headed back to school. While earning a master’s in public affairs, he freelanced.

He started his own business, and in 2017 merged with another. Yemma has built up that business — Peaks Strategies —  ever since. It’s a successful boutique firm, with many clients. They include asset managers, private equity firms, technology, ESG and impact investing, biotech and healthcare, and a company advocating for carbon capture and a common sense approach to the NetZero challenge.

And, now, cryptocurrency and blockchain companies too. Yemma works with major players in the NFt, digital security and crypto spaces.

“A lot of PR is being on the forefront of frontier markets,” Yemma says. Though crypto and blockchain have been around for a while, suddenly the public is paying attention.

“Some countries don’t have real banking systems,” Yemma explains. “Digital is the way to go, everywhere in the world.”

His PR work extends from mainstream publications like the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, to trade publications. In his work, he meets many Westporters also involved in these “frontier markets.”

Working with a client who is big into SPACs.

But as exciting as all that is, Yemma may not always work in the fintech field. Next month, he and Weston High School graduate Elodie Kremer will marry. She’s an equestrian; he loves dog training.

Some day, they hope to buy a farm.

Perhaps with cryptocurrency. As he and his clients often say: It’s the next frontier.

Hallelujah! Candlelight Concert Returns!

Some things old. Some things new.
Nothing borrowed. But very (Staples) blue.

That’s the formula for next month’s 81st annual Candlelight Concert.

The beloved event returns with its traditional 3 in-person performances, after last year’s successful-but-still-not-the-same online documentary video.

To celebrate, the Staples High School music staff plans something special.

They’re a collegial, collaborative bunch. So that’s the theme of this year’s concert.

The familiar elements are all there: the “Sing We Noel” processional, “Hallelujah Chorus” finale, and production number in between.

Santa, elves, the choir, chorus, chorale and orchestra join in the “Hallelujah Chorus” finale. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

But — to share the “community” feeling that the music department enjoys — they’ll offer 4 big combined pieces. The band and orchestra will share the stage with choral singers throughout the performance.

Each conductor — Luke Rosenberg (choral), Carrie Mascaro and Jeri Hockensmith (orchestra) and Phil Giampietro (band) — leads one number.

The stage has been extended, to fit all performers.

Pieces include Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival” and Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy.” The latter — a large-scale piano concerto with chorus —  features senior pianist Sasha Maskoff.

Don Rickenback returns as writer and director of the production number.

Students are as excited as their teachers for the collaboration. They enjoy rehearsing together, and the exposure to other conductors. They’re proud too to be part of a very large effort.

The Candlelight Concert is set for Friday, December 17 (8 p.m.) and Saturday, December 18 (3 and 8 p.m.). Tickets will be available to the public at 9 a.m. on December 1. COVID safety protocols in effect at the time will be followed.

It will also be livestreamed one time only (due to video rights), on December 23.

Now let hosannas ring …

The Candlelight Concert returns for its 81st year next month.

 

Roundup: FCIACs, Doubt, Land …

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Yesterday’s Roundup gave an incorrect date for the Staples High School girls soccer team’s FCIAC championship match.

The correct date is tomorrow — Thursday, November 4 (7 p.m., Fairfield Warde High School). The #4 Wreckers face #6 Wilton. Both teams advanced on Monday, via penalty kick semifinal wins.

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“Doubt: A Parable” is a compelling, though-provoking play. (I saw it on Broadway, and was mesmerized.) It opened at the Westport Country Playhouse  last night, marking a return to in-person performances at the historic theater.

The Playhouse has planned 4 post-show discussions. They’ll feature community guests who deal closely with issues addressed in the play: a drama about a nun’s’ suspicion of a priest’s behavior.

They’ll include Beth McCabe, co-leader for Connecticut chapter of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), on Thursday, November 11; SNAP member Mark Fuller on Friday, November 12; Lucy Gellman, editor of The Arts Paper on Tuesday, November 16, and Thomas Burke, associate minister of children, youth and families at Norfield Congregational Church, on Friday, November 19.

The discussions are free, and open to the public; tickets to “Doubt” are not required.

For more information on the discussions, click here. For tickets, click here.

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Leonor Dao Turut takes center stage as guest art exhibitor for November, at the Westport Book Shop.

The Westporter shows 6 works, all started in the early days of the pandemic when she wanted to capture her emotions and moods.

A painter, sculptor and illustrator, Turut draws inspiration from her native Venezuela. Her pieces are filled with strong colors, imaginative motifs, symbolism and deep details.

The exhibit is on view during business hours at the used book shop on Jesup Green.

Leonor Turut with her work, at the Westport Book Shop.

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Aspetuck Land Trust just got bigger.

On Monday, the open space conservation non-profit closed on Weston’s 85-acre Fromson Strassler property. The deal took 5 years to complete.

It helps ALT assemble and protect a large forest block on the Weston/Wilton border. The property will be open to the public, for passive recreation.

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The November/December issue of Westport Magazine is out now.

The holidays take center stage. Mar Jennings’ front door — always well decorated — is on the cover. Inside, he shares home décor tips.

The issue also includes decorating ideas from Sam Allen, a gift guide and the Light a Fire feature celebrating local volunteers and philanthropists.

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Lifelong Westporter Thomas Hindle died peacefully on Sunday, with his family at his side. He was 77 years old, and had battled Parkinson’s for several years.

Tom and his younger sister Barbara enjoyed a gentle, magical time growing up here. Summers were spent at Compo Beach, swimming and exploring for starfish. Winters meant swimming at the YMCA, and skating and hot cocoa parties at the Patterson Club.

At Staples High School Tom was a charter member and president of the Orphenians, the select choral group.

He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a business degree. His work at the college radio station fed his passion for music, editing and broadcasting.

Tom’s long, successful career in video broadcasting technology began at CBS Labs, where the process of overlaying text in broadcasting, Vidifont, was being developed. As a product manager he contributed to evolving technologies; one led to the recognition of a Technical Emmy Award.

Later, as a senior account manager, Tom owned large accounts such as NBC. They used his company’s equipment to bring the Olympics around the world.

Water, boating and swimming were Tom’s passions. A longtime member of the Westport Y masters’ swim team, he swam regularly and made many friends with whom he traveled the country to compete.

Tom’s passion for music never waned. He appreciated live performances including the Handel and Haydn Society. He also enjoyed home improvement projects, and transformed his house over the years.

He shared his home with friends, especially entertaining for the Super Bowl. Tom’s travels took him around the world, visiting family, sightseeing, and for business.

Survivors include his sister Barbara; nephews Matthew Cohen and Darrel Kolb, and niece Star Kolb.

A funeral service will be held tomorrow (Thursday, November 4, 10 a.m., followed by a reception at Christ & Holy Trinity Church. Interment will be in Nichols Farm Burial Ground in Trumbull.

Condolences may be left online here. Contributions in his memory may be made to The Handel and Haydn Society or the Westport Weston Family YMCA.

Tom Hindle

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With leaves falling all around us, it’s hard to pick a special one out.

But Scott Smith found a few walnut leaves, like this one. He calls them “rare and striking.” We call it today’s “Westport … Naturally” image.

(Photo/Scott Smith)

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And finally … congratulations to our new 1st selectwoman, Jennifer Tooker.

I went searching for a song with Jennifer in the title. “Jennifer Juniper,” “Jennifer Ever,” Jenny/867-5309,” … nothing seemed to fit.

On a whim, I typed “Tooker” into YouTube.

This video came up. It has nothing remotely to do with Westport, or our new chief executive.

But it sure is stunning, both musically and visually.