Category Archives: Staples HS

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.

Remembering Greg Katz

Gregory Katz — a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, noted raconteur, lover of music and baseball and cigars, and longtime (though sometimes part-time) Westporter — died yesterday in London.

He was 67 years old. He had been ill with cancer for several months, and contracted COVID-19.

Greg Katz, in the Staples High School 1971 yearbook.

He made his first headlines not as a writer, but as an athlete. In 1970 Katz — a Staples High School junior, an excellent catcher and the proud possessor of a head of shoulder length, curly hair — petitioned the Staples Governing Board to remove dress code restrictions on athletes. He called them “arbitrary standards of appearance,” which exacerbated social divisions at the school.

After an intense debate, the measure passed 11-6. Katz was free to try out for the team coached by  Brian Kelley, an ex-Marine who still looked the part.

After the University of Vermont, traveling throughout Latin America and writing for the Provincetown Advocate, Katz was in New York City in December 1980.

John Lennon was shot inside the Dakota. Katz’s parents — who owned a home across from what is now Joey’s By the Shore (Elvira’s), where Katz grew up — also had an apartment there.

Katz was the only journalist who could enter the building. He interviewed, among others, the doorman who was witnessed the murder. His story ran in Rolling Stone magazine — the famous edition with Annie Liebovitz’s photo of a naked Lennon and Yoko Ono on the cover.

After writing for USA Today and serving as Latin America bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News (and earning a share of the 1994 Pulitzer for international reporting, with a 14-part series on violence against women around the world) as well as Europe and Middle East bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle, he joined the Associated Press in London. In 2013 he was named acting bureau chief. He also appeared frequently on the BBC’s “Dateline London.”

He wrote about popes, politics, refugees and Queen Elizabeth. But he returned to Westport every summer, spending many weeks in a house he and his wife Bea Sennewald owned on Saugatuck Shores, with their daughter Sophia.

Katz loved those summers. He learned to sail at Longshore, and owned a kayak that he often paddled to Cockenoe.

Greg Katz (Photo/Bill Armstrong)

He went to as many baseball games as he could, too. (Of course, he loved covering the Yankees-Red Sox game in London last year.)

He and Bea hosted friends from everywhere, including some of the most noted journalists on the planet. He spent many happy hours on his deck, watching the water and nature.

Neighbor Bill Armstrong said, “His one great fear was that he’d be enjoying his Westport summer — but would get the dreaded call that Her Majesty The Queen had passed away. Greg would then have to rush back to London and spend weeks covering the state funeral and the coronation of Charles.”

Several times a summer, I joined him for breakfast at the Sherwood Diner. He asked about Westport; in turn, he’d chat about his work, covering the latest crisis in the Mideast or Parliament. He was not dropping names; he was describing his life, and what he loved (and hated) about it.

Greg Katz (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The AP’s story on his death quotes Anne-Marie O’Connor, a London-based journalist and author, who covered Haiti and Cuba with Katz in the 1990s. She said, “in addition to being a wonderfully curious reporter, Greg could be riotously funny, and his sense of humor elevated the esprit de corps of his colleagues on the road.”

Ian Phillips, AP’s international news director, described him as a “suave, waistcoat-wearing, straw boater-wearing, gravelly-voice gent … an American abroad but my God how he assimilated! … He managed to capture so much about British society in his writing — the nuance, the singularity, the humor, the tradition.”

He was “a bon vivant” with an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and baseball, added Richard Boudreaux, of the Wall Street Journal. “He could recite the starting lineup of just about any Yankees team going back to the late 1950s, when he was only a kid.”

Greg never lost that “kid” spirit. He had it on the Staples baseball team, and at Woodstock. He had it wherever he wrote, around the globe.

And of course right here by the water, in his home town of Westport.

(For the AP obituary of Greg Katz, click here. For an “06880” story on Greg Katz’s coverage of Brexit, click here.)

Greg Katz

Mia Gentile Asks: “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”

Take Creedence Clearwater Revival’s haunting “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” Add a ’60’s girl group vibe, with Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. Mix in Mia Gentile, the multi-talented 2007 Staples High School graduate.

What do you get?

A song that — in the days following the killing of George Floyd — manages to be both poignant and uplifting.

Mia Gentile, pitching Stanley Steemer.

That’s the genius of Mia — a former Staples Players superstar who went on to Broadway in “Kinky Boots” — and musician/video producer Roger Klug.

In 2012 they collaborated on a “Stanley Steemer” mashup video, with Mia performing that ubiquitous jingle in every genre from jazz, opera, country and Latin to torch song, punk rock, gospel and Lady Gaga. It wracked up 2 million views, and landed Mia an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Mia and Roger are back together, this time in a project called MISSYFIT.

After their first single, they recorded a few covers. One was CCR’s tune, which they decuded to take back in time.

Mia and Roger worked long distance, via FaceTime. She was on the computer in her Manhattan bedroom, listening on headphone to the backing track he’d created. He was in his Cincinnati studio, hearing Mia’s a cappella voice. During post-production he cut out the sounds of sirens (and an ice cream truck) that leaked through her window.

For reasons he can’t explain, Roger felt the need to work on “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” before other projects that were further along.

Mia Gentile, today.

Then the unarmed Black man was killed in Minneapolis. News of protests and an explosion of awareness of systemic racism in America felt like an echo of the past.

Roger and his family joined demonstrations in Cincinnati. As he described those events to Mia, they realized they had to release the song. They started to envision how a video could underline the lyrics, speaking to the civil rights movement of the 1960s as well as the resurgent demand for racial equality today.

The 2nd recording session — which included a toy xylophone — took place a few days later. Then Roger went to work mixing the vocals and producing the video. Its images of protests from the ’60s — and now the ’20 — are raw, and thought-provoking.

In retrospect, MISSYFIT’s decision to use a girl group/Phil Spector sound seems compelling. There’s a poignant juxtaposition of a bright, peppy, more innocent time, and the dark lyrics.

“Hearing about war, violence and systemic racism from the mouth of babes (so to speak) is powerful,” Mia says. “Youth continue to be at the forefront of progressive American culture.” (Click the link below to listen.)

The single has been released on MISSYFIT’s YouTube page. Reaction has been very positive.

“This song that came to us on a whim now shines a light on how music and art can hold a mirror up to society,” Mia notes.

“People have had enough. It’s time for action.”

Zoe Brown: An Eloquent 20s Voice, For 2020

At Staples Zoe Brown served as editor-in-chief of the school paper Inklings and co-president of the Teen Awareness Group, and played field hockey.

She graduated last month from the University of Southern California where she studied communication and cinematic arts, founded the Girls Who Read book club, and was a Hillel leader.

Zoe started her blog, Coast Confused, in 2015 just before graduating from Staples and switching coasts. 

She is moving back to Los Angeles this week, to search for a job in entertainment. Her goal is to become a literary manager and producer, or a showrunner and creator like Dan Fogelman.

Zoe Brown: proud graduate, in her home town.

The other day Zoe woke up with many confused feelings. She watched videos of her favorite writer, Marina Keegan, doing spoken word poetry, then put down her own thoughts. The resulting blog story is a wonderful piece of writing: powerful, insightful, honest, raw, personal yet universal. I’m honored to re-post it here. 

Lately, I’ve been driving with my windows down, blasting music, mostly songs about feeling lonely, sad or about wishing for love. You know, “Modern Loneliness” or “Sad Forever” by Lauv or “Dive” by Ed Sheeran. I secretly hope that someone will shout out to me, saying they like my music and that we should hang out. I do have friends, but I miss meeting new people and getting to know them, while getting to know myself more at the same time. I miss that moment when handshakes turns into hugs, and names turn into nicknames. I always remember the first time someone calls me “Zo.” Mostly, though, I miss touch and attention.

It’s hard right now, for so many reasons. It’s hard to grieve people killed for reasons that make less than no sense, to grieve normalcy and touch and the job I would have been starting soon, had things gone as planned (they rarely do). It’s hard to grieve in general but even harder without a warm hug or a supportive pat on the back from friends or family.

I thrive off of touch, off the electricity I feel when my hand grasps the hand of the cute boy from school on our first date at the movies, or when I cuddle with my best friend on her couch and she falls asleep so I have to sneak out so she doesn’t wake up. I’m going to see my Grandmom in Philly soon, and I can’t even hug her. I can’t hug my favorite lovely lady on Earth, who lost her husband, my Grandpop, not even a year ago. She probably hasn’t hugged anyone in 4 months. Then again, neither have I, besides when I “hug” my sister and she doesn’t hug me back (she doesn’t always like to be touched) or when I remind my dad “I am moving to LA for good” so he agrees to wrap his arms around his little girl quickly, one more time for now.

Zoe Brown

I started watching “When Harry Met Sally” the other day and in the very start, there’s a make out scene. It’s a closeup of two people making out in a park and it looked so gross to me that I didn’t keep watching the movie that night. Kissing seems gross to me. I have probably kissed a hundred boys at this point, and I don’t think I ever want to kiss one again. Maybe that’s dramatic, but I guess it’s just so clear to me right now, because I’ve had to be so careful about germs, that it is GROSS. Swiveling your tongue around in the inside of a random person’s dirty mouth, ew!

But at the same time, I can’t wait to kiss again. I can’t wait to see that look in his eyes and know that he’s about to place his soft lips on mine, or on my cheek and the creases of my neck. And it doesn’t seem so gross after all.

I don’t even know when that will happen, or with who. I know who I want it to happen with. I want to kiss Him again. I capitalized the H in Him when I wrote this without even thinking about it, as if he is God or something. He is most definitely not God, so maybe I should demote him to the lowercase “him,” to just an Angel instead, or maybe a demi-God, in my mind at least.

I imagine him next to me sometimes, like when I’m alone reading on a chair at the beach or driving to pick up food. I hope that doesn’t sound too sad or weird and I especially hope it doesn’t sound creepy. I just miss him, and I feel like I don’t even deserve to miss him. I don’t know him that well after all and I’m sure he doesn’t miss me. Why do I get to miss him? But then again, I also miss the smell of my best friend’s hair, the taste of buttery movie theater popcorn, and the sound of pen on paper and professors lecturing about whatever it is I used to learn in school.

So why can’t I miss him? Who am I to tell myself who I can and cannot miss? I mean, at least I’m not missing that other him (definitely lowercase), the one who stomped on my heart like he was killing a spider in the shower, with intention and no regrets.

I miss my favorite writer, Marina Keegan. I never even knew her, besides through her writing. She was 22 when she died, right after she graduated from Yale. In one of her spoken word poetry sets, she said “I want to have time to be in love with everything.” I do, too. I want to hug my best friend when I go to her house to congratulate her on getting her first job. I want to high-five my friend’s mom after we run a solid two miles together in the New England heat. I want to look next to me and actually see him, and give his hand a quick squeeze to let him know I’m glad that I’m not only imaging him next to me anymore.

Zoe Brown, browsing at The Last Bookstore iin Santa Monica.

I want to be in love with my country, my home, this beautiful Earth. I definitely am not right now. I am proud of so much of the effort from everyone, to better themselves and fight for justice with racism, police brutality, and everything else that’s so fucked up in America. I am not proud of my President. I am proud of the Supreme Court, for its ruling to protect LGBTQ+ people in the workplace. I am not proud of the police. I am proud of myself, for selling postcards to raise money to support black emotional and mental health. I am not proud of my friends who are not taking this pandemic seriously. I am proud of my friends and those who are taking it seriously and the doctors who are fighting to save people and create a vaccine. I am proud of the people who stand back up over and over again after being shoved down repeatedly, because as long as they keep standing, they keep winning.

I am glad to be alive, but I am also sad and uncomfortable. It feels like I was living on a rug on top of a bunch of spikes and someone ripped the rug right out from beneath me. Now I live standing on the spikes, so I have to be careful of my every step but no matter how I stand, it always kind of hurts.

I know that the rug will be replaced one day, and I am hopeful that it will be a better rug, too, one made with more care, respect and understanding than the last.

I hope that this world becomes better because of everything it’s going through. I know I’ve become better because of my struggles. Even though I am hurting now, I am hopeful that the world we live in will come out of this a stronger, brighter, and better one.

(To read more of Zoe Brown’s blog, click here.)

Zoe Brown, hiking in the Los Angeles hills.

 

Roundup: Y Reopens; SportsPal; More


The Westport Weston Family YMCA reopened today, more than 3 months after it closed.

Members were thrilled to return. And staff — including popular Aquafit instructor Patty Kondub (below) — were thrilled to see them.


When the coronavirus struck, 2018 Staples graduate Zach Feinstein helped create Urlist: a home delivery shopping service.

Over 200 orders later, there’s a new concern beyond groceries. With camps closed and other activities curtailed, Zach — a former Staples High basketball and lacrosse player, now majoring in communications at the University of Maryland — has developed a new app: SportsPal.

it connects college and high school athletes throughout the tri-state region with younger athletes, for personal sports training or helping achieve an active lifestyle. Zach makes sure to select athletes who can not only teach, but also mentor and support youngsters.

For more information, click here or check out @sportspaltraining on Instagram.

Zach Feinstein


And finally … Teenear refuses to live her life in fear. Hear, hear!

Personal Zoom Concerts: A Classic COVID Response

One of the great, unexpected consequences of the coronavirus is that musicians around the world are performing — live, for free — on very accessible media platforms. You can’t attend a concert, but concerts can sure come to you.

One of the downsides of this great, unexpected consequence is that it’s not exactly a real concert. Musicians get none of the usual feedback from audiences, who feel equally disconnected from performers.

The Hidden Fabric Music Project plays a different tune.

The premise is simple. A website connects young, classically trained musicians — graduates of Juilliard, New England Conservatory, Yale and other top schools — with anyone, anyone who wants to hear beautiful music. In a personal, one-on-one concert.

After filling out a brief form — answering preferred time and “strings,” “piano,” “wind/brass” or “surprise me!” — users are paired with an artist. The musician performs for 15 minutes via Zoom; the audience of one watches. There’s eye contact, energy — and the option, on signing up, for conversation too.

Hidden Fabric (the name comes from a Virgina Wolff quote) is the brainchild of Sam Weiser. At Staples High School he played violin — superbly — in every group, and every chance he got. He earned a dual degree from the New England Conservatory of Music and Tufts University. (The latter is in computer science. “I might use it one day,” Sam says.)

After grad school at the San Francisco Conservatory, he joined the Del Sol String Quartet. He has lived in the Bay Area ever since. (They performed in Westport last October.)

When the pandemic hit, Sam — and musicians around the world — suddenly lost all their gigs. Many pivoted quickly to livestreaming.

Sam Weiser

“There was an outpouring of creativity, even in the classical music world,” he says. “But as good a replacement as that is, the symbiotic relationship between the performer and listener gets lost. You’re playing to a camera. You don’t know who is on the other end, or how many people are there.

“For the audience, it feels sort of real. But there’s no sense that you’re sharing the music with the performer.”

He and his friends had an idea: short personal performances and conversations.. They recruited musicians from across North America. Their ability to connect personally was as important as their musical expression.

“The pandemic highlighted needs in our community — the need to create, but even more than that, the need to be heard,” the website says.

“HFMP is our way to engage with audiences, old and new, and to reaffirm our belief that to be human is to be connected.”

The idea has taken off. But even Sam was surprised by its power.

“It’s incredible how much doing 1-on-1 concerts changes my day,” he says.

“I’ve never been an extrovert. But it’s so touching to meet someone, and share something so personal. It’s just 15 minutes, but it feels really special.”

Listeners agree: Hidden Fabric brightens their day.

Enjoying a 1-on-1 concert, via Zoom.

There is no charge, though the website encourages tips. Sam says a set fee would “undermine the idea of giving our time to people who are struggling far more than we are.”

Across the country, restrictions are being lifted. Americans are going back to work and play. Concerts — with shared spaces, and musicians blowing into instruments — will be one of the last forms of entertainment to come back.

Until then, the Hidden Fabric Music Project plays on.

(For more on the Hidden Fabric Music Project — including sign-up information — click here.) 

Class Of 2020 REALLY Graduates! Here’s Video Proof.

Last Friday’s drive-through graduation was a red-blue-letter day in Staples history.

The high school’s Class of 2020 was honored with decorated cars, signs, balloons, music, and an almost 1-on-1 ceremonial turning of the tassel. It was joyful, personal, meaningful and fun.

Of course, a few elements of a traditional graduation were missing: “Pomp and Circumstance,” speeches, and the chance for everyone to see all the graduates at once.

No problem!

Yesterday — the day of the originally scheduled commencement — a complete video was released. It’s as close to a familiar graduation — say, 2019 — as possible. And it will live forever.

Former media instructor Jim Honeycutt once again worked his magic. He took each element, reimagined it, taped it, and made it — just like the Class of 2020 — both timeless and timely.

John Videler’s drone video sets the scene.

Drone footage from John Videler sets the “Pomp and Circumstance” scene. Staples Players president Sam Laskin serves as emcee. Principal Stafford Thomas delivers a special welcome.

Luke Rosenberg proves he’s not only a masterful choral director, but also a technological wizard. He weaves together remote performances from 40 singers, into a stunningly beautiful “Star-Spangled Banner.”

You wouldn’t know these 40 voices were all recorded separately.

Valedictorian Ben Spector and salutatorian Benji Schussheim speak about their — and their class’s — journey.

Valedictorian Ben Spector and salutatorian Benji Schussheim.

Then comes a slide show. All 437 graduates get 10 seconds each — with congratulatory messages from their families. Orchestra and band musical highlights from throughout the year play in the background, underscoring the many talented students in the school.

No graduation is complete without official certification (from Board of Education chair and “proud parent of a graduating senior Candice Savin), and tassel-turning (by Carly Dwyer and Ben Howard).

After closing remarks from principal Thomas, the video ends with the recessional, over Ryan Felner’s drone footage from last Friday’s parade.

Principal Stafford Thomas.

A list of senior awards is shown. The final shot is 2020 class photo.

“Class” is right. This year’s seniors have shown uncommon maturity, grace and poise, in the face of unexpected adversity. The graduation video is a fitting reminder of a great group.

But don’t take my word for it. Click here, and see for yourself!

Emcee Sam Laskin.

Roundup: Staples Choral Concert; Da Pietro’s; BleachMaker; More


School’s out for summer. But you can listen today — and any (or every) day to Staples High’s Spring Virtual Choral Concert.

Masterminded by the great director Luke Rosenberg, with video work from student Tomaso Scotti, the wonderful event included solo performances, a choral work from each ensemble, and senior updates.

Click below for the full performance:

Click below for the choral performances only:


Among the restaurants that have recently reopened: Da Pietro’s.

The small spot on Riverside Avenue has a new “casual menu,” for takeout or delivery. Click here for details.

Owner/chef Pietro Scotti of DaPietro’s


Westporter Brandon Wilson was just a week into Peace Corps training in Costa Rica in March, when COVID-19 forced all volunteers to evacuate.

Back here and uncertain about next steps, he began working for a Louisville-based company. Waterstep was right up his alley: They empower citizens in developing nations to take care of their long-term water needs.

The key is a sanitizing BleachMaker. The portable device produces 1 gallon of powerful disinfectant in an hour using only water, salt and a 12V/DC power source for on-site.

During the pandemic it’s being used in the US too, in homeless shelters, food banks, prisons, jails, hair salons and other places that need bleach.

Money from domestic sales is used to donate BleachMakers in places like Kenya, where it’s disinfecting hospitals. It’s also a way for people to create microbusinesses.

“Instead of paying multinational corporations for bleach, money stays in local communities,” Brandon notes. He encourages “06880” readers to explore Waterstep further; just click here.


And finally … 50 years ago, the Temptations sang about a ball of confusion. Still, that’s what the world is today.

Remembering Dr. Al Beasley

Dr. Albert Beasley — a longtime and much-loved pediatrician, educator, civic volunteer, and pioneering black physician — died yesterday at Norwalk Hospital, 2 weeks after being admitted following a fall at home. He was 98 years old.

Almost exactly 2 years ago — on June 20, 2018 — “06880” honored Dr. Beasley as an Unsung Hero. I wrote:

Last week, Staples Tuition Grants handed out over $300,000 in scholarships to more than 100 graduating seniors, and high school alums already in college.

It was a warm, wonderful evening — a celebration of very hard work by the recipients, as well as all who make the grants possible.

But the highlight may have been the keynote speech, by Dr. Albert Beasley.

Speaking without notes — and without missing a beat — the 96-year-old retired pediatrician talked about the importance of STG, and what it means to him personally. One of the oldest named awards — initiated 45 years ago — honors his late wife and fellow pediatrician, Dr. Jean Beasley.

After the Staples Tuition Grants ceremony, pediatrician Dr. Albert Beasley and his wife Janet (3rd and 4th from left) posed with 4 former patients (from left): Nicole Greenberg Donovan, Dan Woog, Dan Donovan and Lynn Untermeyer Miller. (Photo/Paddy Donovan)

In his 65 years in Westport, Al Beasley has watched the town grow from a small artists’ colony, through the baby boom, into a suburb filled with businessmen and Wall Street executives.

But he has seen it all through a unique perspective, and with a background different from most people who live here. He shared some of that last week too, in his low-key but inspiring way.

Al’s grandfather, a Harvard-educated Boston attorney, helped found the NAACP.  Al’s father also went to Harvard – and became a doctor.  His mother graduated from Radcliffe. Those were proud accomplishments, in an era when educational opportunities for black men and women were limited.

Al’s parents wanted him to have a well-rounded education. He got one, at the Walden School and Columbia  College. He married a high school friend, Jean.  Both earned medical degrees – Al from New York University. Both became pediatricians.

As a captain in the Air Force during the Korean War – based in Houston — Al first experienced overt prejudice. But he persevered, and in 1953 the Beasleys moved to Westport. He wanted his children to experience the same freedom he’d found at the Walden School. The Beasleys rented a home on 11 acres, for $90 a month. They were one of only 5 or so black families in town.

They bought land from a fellow physician, Mal Beinfield. The Beasleys had trouble getting a mortgage – the banks’ excuse was “they did not like contemporary dwellings.” But Westport Bank & Trust Company president Einar Anderson said to the Beasleys’ request for $20,000: “There’s no problem.  Let us know when you want it.”

At the 2014 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony, Dr. Al Beasley posed with Megumi Asada, a graduating senior who received the Dr. Jean Beasley Memorial Award. Megumi was considering a career in medicine.

In addition to his professional accomplishments – private practice as a pediatrician; co-founder of Willows Pediatrics; associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, and an emeritus staff member at Norwalk Hospital – Al immersed himself in community work.

He was a pediatrician for the Intercommunity Camp; a member of the Selectman’s Committee for Youth and Human Services; a board of directors member for the United Way; member of the scholar selection committee of A Better Chance of Westport; trustee of Earthplace, where he organized the Green Earth series on  health and the environment.

Al’s wife Jean died in 1973.  Six years later he married Janet, a native of Berlin and a survivor of a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.

Al says:  “When Jean and I moved to Westport in 1953, it was a magical town. It opened its arms to us, welcomed us, and made us feel special.”

Al adds:  “My birth certificate said ‘colored.’  Then the preferred term changed to ‘Negro.’  Later it was ‘black,’ then ‘African American.’  I am a man of color, but I like to be accepted for what I have to offer.  The town has done exactly that.”

Looking back on his career, Al says,“I’m an activist.  I tried to give my utmost to the community, and I think the community appreciates that.  This is a wonderful town.  I thank everyone who entrusted their most precious commodities – their infants, their children and their young people – to me.”

And we thank Dr. Al Beasley, this week’s Unsung — but Very Deserving — Longtime Hero.

Dr. Beasley is survived by his son Scott, and daughter Jean. He was predeceased by his first wife, Dr. Jean Beasley, and his second wife, Janet Beasley.