Category Archives: Staples HS

Staples Wrestlers Tackle Tough Jobs

High school winter sports are on hold until January 19. Basketball courts, hockey rinks, swimming pools — all are quiet.

The Staples High School wrestling team can’t practice or compete either. But they’re not taking the layoff lying down.

The Wreckers keep in shape by lifting. Not in the weight room, of course — that’s closed too.

Instead, the grapplers lift treadmills. Sofas. Pianos. You name it — if you’ve got a moving job (or any other work), they’ll do it.

And the service is free. (Donations to the wrestling program are gratefully accepted, for sure.)

Need a stone wall dismantled and moved? Call the Staples wrestling team!

The wrestlers form one of the tightest, most cohesive teams at Staples. (Their sport is one of the toughest, too.) Much of that is built on the foundation laid by Terry Brannigan. The former Staples wrestler’s son TJ graduated last spring after a stellar career. His second son Eamon is a junior on the squad.

As part of Brannigan’s effort 3 years ago to boost the morale of what was then a flagging program — and introduce the community to the team and sport — he realized that strong, enthusiastic teenagers could fill a need.

Facebook’s Westport Front Porch page often featured requests for help with jobs no one seemed to want to do. They were heavy, messy, small or required a truck.

One day Brannigan responded: “I know 30 fit, polite and responsible young men who are happy to do it: the Staples wrestling team!”

Quickly, someone asked how much they’d charge. He replied, “Nothing. If you’re happy, just say something nice about the team. If you feel like making a tip, it will go to the team.”

That was 100 jobs ago.

Among the wrestlers’ jobs: moving a chicken coop. This was before the pandemic, which is why they’re not wearing masks.)

The first request was to clear wood and brush from a yard, left there by an unscrupulous contractor. The homeowner could not pay what Brannigan calls “extortion prices” of area companies. After the wrestlers’ final trip to the dump, she tearfully said, “you’ve restored my faith in this town.”

Word spread. Soon they were working nearly every weekend. Along the way, they met “the nicest people,” Brannigan says. “And we’ve had a great time.”

They have moved, cleaned and transported everything imaginable. The heavyweights do the heavy lifting; the light guys maneuver in tight spaces.

Since the pandemic struck, they’ve done a booming business moving treadmills. Some are ordered online, delivered to the garage, and need to be brought downstairs. Others are bought from someone in town, and must be transported.

“We’ve gone up and down and around obstacles no one else would touch,” Brannigan says.

The wrestlers put the treadmills together too, if needed. One of their favorite jobs was for a 103-year-old military veteran, who was excited to get back to exercising.

The wrestling team specializes in bringing big items down small spaces.

The list of jobs is long. The teenagers have moved hot tubs, patio furniture and a chicken coop. They maneuvered a piano down stairs that a professional mover would not touch (“without even touching a wall,” Brannigan says proudly).

They’ve planted 900 tulip bulbs, fixed awnings, removed snow too, took apart a stone wall, and broke down the Remarkable Theater after a concert.

Each time, Brannigan says, “we make a friend. We receive a donation. Most importantly, they meet our athletes.”

It’s a fun event for the boys. They meet at Brannigan’s house or the diner for breakfast before work, or have a donut afterward. (Hey — the season has not yet begun!)

Most weekends, 2 crews work. Sal Augeri helps Brannigan supervise, but the bulk of the work is done by the teenagers. Five have pickup trucks; one has a trailer.

It takes money to run a sports program, beyond what the athletic budget provides. The wrestlers are earning funds to pay for extra coaches, equipment, and some of the extras that make their program one of the best in the state.

Now all they need is a season. They certainly earned it.

(Need some help? Email terrybrannigan5@gmail.com or call 203-644-8403.)

Candlelight Vigil For Timari Rivera

Relatives, teammates, classmates and friends from Westport and Bridgeport mourned Timari Rivera last night.

A candlelight vigil at Longshore paid tribute to the Staples High School senior. He died Sunday at home, from a recurrence of a medical condition.

He was best known at Staples for his basketball talents. After being sidelined as a sophomore with a health issue, Rivera captained last year’s junior varsity, and also saw varsity time.

An ankle injury cut that season short too. Head coach Colin Devine had big plans for the 6-7 senior this year. The season has not yet started, due to COVD-19.

Dave Ruden, whose Ruden Report covers FCIAC sports, lauded Rivera’s “lovable disposition and tireless work ethic.”

Devine told the Ruden Report: “He was a very, very good basketball player, a great teammate, a beloved member of our basketball family and the entire Staples High School community.

“He was a gentle giant with a great heart and loved his teammates, loved the game of basketball and was a true student of the game.”

Timari Rivera wore #44. His Staples basketball teammates hold up 4 fingers on each hand.

Staples senior Dylan Goodman took these photos of the vigil for her classmate. Click here for more images; click here for the full Ruden Report story.

Making the “L” hand sign, for “love.”

(Photos/Dylan Goodman)

Staples Mourns Death Of Timari Rivera

Timari Rivera, a senior at Staples High School, died suddenly from a previously existing medical condition.

A 6-7 native of Bridgeport, he was a member of the Wreckers’ basketball program. Tryouts for this year’s team have been postponed by COVID, to January 19.

A scouting report on social media said he had “the unteachables in D1 size and strength and a soft touch….an excellent target and a scoring threat.”

School officials are providing support to Timari’s friends and classmates, and to the Rivera family.

No further information is available at this time.

Timari Rivera, on the sideline …

… and the court.

 

 

Sam Zuckerman: Staples High Senior, International President

In the spring of 2017, Bedford Middle School 8th grader Sam Zuckerman got an email from Annie Glasser. The Conservative Synagogue youth group director said there was an opening for a 9th grade representative on the local United Synagogue Youth board.

Sam was not the only one Annie contacted. But he was the only one to respond. He got the job.

Sam spent his Staples High School freshman year watching older members lead. In 10th grade he was named to a religion and education position on the board. It was out of his comfort zone, but he learned a lot more about leadership.

Sam Zuckerman

Last year, as a junior, he became chapter president. Despite challenges like staff turnover and the pandemic, he grew the group.

Last January, Sam broadened his involvement beyond Westport — way beyond.

He applied for a spot on USY’s international general board. He’s not the first Westporter on it — senior Even Siegel served too — but it was “eye-opening” to have an influence far beyond his home town.

In May Sam added another post: president of the New England USY region. He helped organize a convention with upstate New York and eastern Canada chapters, and worked on outreach.

All of that work prepared him to run for the top USY job: international president.

Sam got signatures. He videotaped a speech. He developed a platform, stressing inclusion of smaller regions, addressing mental health issues of members, and opening communication with other Jewish youth groups.

And he won.

He’s now in charge of 15 regions, with over 350 local chapters. There are 20,000 members in USY.

“A year ago, I was only a Westport chapter president,” Sam says. “I didn’t see myself being where I am. But I’m looking forward to leading an organization I love.”

United Synagogue Youth logo

Remembering Marty Mellin

Longtime Westport resident Martin Mellin died on December 22, 9 days before his 68th birthday. He contracted COVID-19 while recovering from knee surgery in the hospital.

His son Ethan wrote this tribute:

Dad, I love you so much. Whether it was school, sports, music — anything — you were my #1 fan. You gave me everything I could ever need in life and more, just because you cared and to show me you loved me.

Marty Mellin and his young son Ethan.

By high school, when my friends thought of you the first image that came to mind was your lawn chair on the sideline of one of my sports games. It was a running joke, but I see now that you took pride in your reputation, because it signified how present you were for every moment in my life.

Marty Mellin and Ethan, at Staples High School baseball team’s Senior Day in 2014.

As a kid, you were in that lawn chair for every baseball, football and basketball game since I could walk. You would beg to read my school essays — no matter how boring — just because you were proud.

As an adult, you always called me just to ask about my day, work, the stock market, Yankees, Giants, Kelsi, Lyla — it didn’t matter what we talked about.

“Just tell me what’s going on,” you would say. All you wanted in life was to see Jedd, Julia, and me be happy and be loved, because at the end of the day our family brought you more joy than anything else in the world.

I think that is the hardest part about losing you. There are so many beautiful things in our lives left to look forward to that I know would have made you so freaking happy. Julia’s high school graduation; the start of Jedd’s law career; retiring and growing old with Mom now that us kids are all grown up, Kelsi’s and my wedding. becoming a grandfather…

Marty Mellin with his family.

It’s hard to imagine a life where you aren’t around for these things, and it’s going to feel pretty empty for a while. But I know that we will all carry you deep in our hearts for the rest of our lives. So while it crushes my soul that we won’t have any more moments together in person, I have to remember that you will still be watching and loving on us every single day. I love you, Dad.

========================================

To “06880” readers:

Just as we thought he was better and days from coming home after knee surgery, things rapidly took a turn for the worse.

On December 16 my dad was placed on a ventilator. That night was the last time I got to hear his voice.

Six days later he passed, suffering no physical pain.

In the US, 3,238 other lives were cut short by this pandemic the same day as my dad. Like him, each of those numbers is a person — someone with a story, a family, friends, a future they will no longer see.

Marty Mellin with Jedd and Ethan.

It breaks my heart. We are so close to the end of this awful year, but we can’t become complacent and give up on the things that we know will save lives — that will prevent even just one more story like this one.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Be with family if you can do so safely, but don’t let the pain of missing your loved ones today potentially lead to a lifetime without them.

I would sacrifice anything in the world to have one more day with my dad.

What would you sacrifice to be with yours?

Marty Mellin is survived by his wife Nisa, sons Jedd (Staples High School Class of 2012) and Ethan (Staples ’14), and daughter Julia (Staples ’21).

(Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

Marty Mellin and friend.

 

Missyfit’s 2020 Hissy Fit

The last time “06880” caught up with Mia Gentile, the former Staples Players and “Kinky Boots” Broadway star had just released a stunning, Black Lives Matter-inspired version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

She and collaborator musician/video producer Roger Klug called themselves MISSYFIT.

“06880” loves Mia. Previous stories covered the 2007 Staples/2011 Cincinnati Conservatory of Music grad’s clever, multi-genre interpretations of the Stanley Steemer jingle, and her many stage roles back in the days when live theater was a thing.

Which brings us to her latest project.

Once again, Mia and Roger have worked together — though hundreds of miles apart — on a new take of an old classic.

Or in this case, 2 classics.

“It was cathartic for us to ring out 2020 with some punk rock angst,” she says.

They mashed up the Ramones’ “Glad to See You Go” and “I Wanna Be Sedated.” The latter song is particularly apt — you know, “20, 20, 20, 4 hours to go…”

It’s a quick leap to 2020 — the year we can’t wait to bid adieu.

So, with just about 9 hours to go … take it away, Mia and Roger!

Roundup: Garage Renovation, Mike Krysiuk, Larry Aasen, More


Want to celebrate New Year’s at home, but worried about asking guests inside? And no fire pit or hot tub outside to gather round?

Take a page from Claudine Rossman’s book. She and her family converted their Saugatuck Shores garage into a “lodge.” On Christmas Eve a small family group gathered — tested, masked, socially distant, and with the door opened as much as it needed to be.

It’s a great idea. But if you want to do the same for tonight, get busy. This project looks like it took a while.

Claudine Rossman’s garage before …

… and after.


In 1974, Mike Krysiuk was having a great senior year at Staples High School. He played baseball, and worked at Mario’s. But a devastating automobile accident left him with a traumatic brain injury and many broken bones.

He’s well known in his home town, for the motivational talks he gives and the 25 years he’s spent working in Town Hall.

Now Mike has written The Big One: Miracles Happen when You Shoot for the Sun, about his youth in Westport.

He shares insight about his astonishing comeback from the unimaginable, fueled by dogged determination and a dream.

His co-author — award-winning writer Julia Bobkoff — is the co-founder of Westport’s Christmas Lake Creative writing workshop.

The Fairfield University Bookstore host Mike’s virtual book launch on January 14 (7 p.m.); click here for the link. To purchase The Big One, click here.

Mike Krysiuk


Meanwhile, Larry Aasen has just compiled his 9th book — at 98 years old.

The latest effort from the indefatigable, longtime Westporter — who has also authored a possible world record 4 books about his native North Dakota — is Stolen Jokes and Swiped Cartoons.

With illustrations by the late, beloved Westport illustrator Howard Munce, the booklet has gags like this: “A 90-year-old man was complaining. He said, ‘My eyesight is not very good, and I can’t hear too much. Thank God I can still drive a car.'”

To order, email aasenm@aol.com, or call 203-227-6126.


Westporters can’t get enough of this end-of-the-year Full Cold Moon. Jeanine Esposito shares these great shots:

Over the Cribari Bridge …

… and the Saugatuck River (Photos/Jeanine Esposito)


Marcelle Smart — one of a corps of young teachers at Staples High School in the mid- and late-1960s — died recently December 21, from vascular dementia. She was 77 years old.

The French instructor then moved to New Hampshire with her husband, Staples graduate “Doc” Hagen, and raised 2 children. 

Former colleague Jeff Lea remembered her as “very bright, and student-centered.” She graduated from the University of Michigan, and earned a master’s in teaching at Johns Hopkins.

Donations in her memory may be to the Special Friends program at The Worship Place, 811 Sun City Boulevard, Georgetown, TX 78633.

Marcelle Smart, in the Staples High School 1969 yearbook.

And finally … for generations of American’s, it’s not New Year’s without “Auld Lang Syne.”

And it’s not “Auld Lang Syne” without Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.

The orchestra played almost half a century of New Year’s Eves, first on radio — from the Roosevelt Grill in New York in 1928 — and beginning in 1956 on television, first from the Waldorf Astoria and then Times Square. Lombardo died in 1977, but his band continued playing on CBS for 2 more years.

“Auld Lang Syne” is a poem written by Robert Burns in 1788, and set to the tune of a traditional Scottish folk song.

 

Roundup: Colonial Green, Home Movie, Tutors, More


Unless you have business with one of the tenants at Colonial Green — an eclectic mix including attorneys, CPAs, and the offices of CLASP and Newman’s Own — there’s no reason most Westporters would ever see the lobby at 246 Post Road East.

What a shame. Its walls are lined with local history. There’s a great collection of large photos and old postcards, with intriguing text. They tell wonderful stories of Westport’s first library, National Hall, a spectacular hotel on Beachside Avenue, and more.

And who knew the Cribari Bridge was once painted red?

Thanks to Eve Potts, for this fascinating find!


Home Movie is a dark comedy about a wounded family’s struggles with death, deception and general mania.

Jarret Liotta — a longtime Westporter, and Staples High School graduate — filmed it entirely in Westport.

The title also refers to the help he got from many local people and groups, like the Westport Woman’s Club, Senior Center, Police Department, Kaia Yoga, Gold’s Deli, even Harding Funeral Home.

On January 7 (7 p.m.), Miggs Burroughs will host a live (virtual) Q-and-A with Liotta. Everyone registering for the event through the Westport Library (click here) will receive a link to view the film any time the week before the event.

Liotta — a noted writer, photographer and video producer — is also a filmmaker. He says his first film, How Clean is My Laundry, “received moderate acclaim but wasn’t very good.” His second, The Acting Bug, “was much better, but no one saw it.”

His current project is a comedy exploring racism and gun violence (!). It will filmed entirely in Westport.

Jarret Liotta


Top Hat Tutors — the Staples High School juniors and seniors who charge less than adult competitors, but deliver quality with a teenage vibe — is starting the new year right.

Now through March, they’re offering their services free, to low income families and students on tight budgets. The offer is available every other Friday and Saturday, between 2 nd 5 p.m. There is a limit of 5 students per time slot.

Top Hat tutors cover math, science, language arts, social studies and standardized testing prep, for all age students.

Click here for the special free tutoring service.  Click here for the Top Hat Tutors home page.


And finally … on this date in 1845, Texas became the 28th U.S. state. It had been an independent republic since 1836.

 

 

Sean Gallagher Supports Small Businesses — With A Marine Corps Twist

US Naval Academy and 2011 Staples High School grad Sean Gallagher transitioned out of the Marine Corps in May, after 5 years as an infantry officer.

The Marines taught him how to handle adversity — and the importance of leaning on teammates in tough times.

These are tough times for small businesses, he says. All across the country, COVID means they need help.

Gallagher and his wife Emma are helping. To draw attention — and raise funds — he’ll run a marathon. It’s set for February 6, around Central Park’s outer loop (4+ full laps).

But that’s too easy for the former Staples soccer and track star. So he’ll do it wearing a 35-pound Marine Corps “ruck” (backpack).

Sean Gallagher, leading his troops.

“Rucks teach Marines how to handle adversity with grit and determination — the same qualities necessary for small businesses to survive,” Gallagher says.

He’s set up a GoFundMe page. All funds will go to small businesses through the Barstool Sports Fund. Click here to donate.

Now fill a backpack with 35 pounds of rocks (or anything else). Then imagine running a marathon with it strapped to your back.

You’ll probably donate a lot more.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. We Shall Overcome!

1971 Staples High School graduate Brian Keane has composed the music for hundreds of films and television shows, produced over 100 albums, and earned Grammys, Emmys and Peabodys. He’s worked closely with Ric Burns on most of his groundbreaking documentaries.

Brian did not write the music for his holiday video this year. He just plays guitar on 2 familiar songs.

But this is one of his most powerful works ever. It reminds us how tragic 2020 was.

And how much hope we still have, as a new year beckons.

(Click below. But have your Kleenex handy.)