The pandemic has not been good to the Westport Library. Just a few months after its grand transformation, it’s had to curtail hours, programs and services.
But there’s an upside. With virtual programs, it can offer access to speakers who otherwise could never travel for a live appearance. (And whose honorariums are far beyond the library’s budget too.)
One of the biggest names of all “comes to Westport” on Thursday, October 1 (6;30 p.m.). General Wesley Clark — the 4-star general. former NATO Supreme Allied commander and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree who since retiring from the military in 2000 has become a businessman, commentator, author, teacher and presidential candidate — will discuss the need for American leadership, civility and unity during these polarized times.
Last year, Clark created a nonprofit aimed at reducing partisan division and gridlock.
The email heading yesterday was “Look what you started.”
Uh oh. I’ve tried to do my best in this crazy post-Isaias world. What had I done now?
Instead, alert “06880” reader Ken Kantor’s message made my day. If not my week, month and year. Sure, the bar is low in 2020. But read on:
Dan, I want to share a special moment from today that was partially your doing.
I am a Staples High School grad (Class of 1986). I moved back to Westport 10 years ago with my wife and 2 daughters.
I read your “06880” post this morning about charging stations and WiFi at The Conservative Synagogue. My family went over to charge all our devices and let our girls update their Tik Toks. The building was closed due to COVID-19, but they had charging stations setup under a tent outside.
I soon realized that we were at temple on our 16th wedding anniversary, standing under a tent (which can double as a “chuppah” — a Jewish ceremonial canopy under which a Jewish couple stands during their wedding ceremony). So, I thought: What a perfect moment to renew my wedding vows with my beautiful wife Rachel!
I knocked on the door to see if Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn would be willing to perform an impromptu ceremony. The staff said the rabbi had left, but they would call him.
He very graciously came back to the temple. During the mini-ceremony, Rabbi Wiederhorn noted that this is also the week of a small Jewish holiday, Tu B’Av. In modern Israel it is celebrated as a holiday of love, similar to Valentine’s Day. So, another good sign!
From right: Rachel and Ken Kantor, with Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn.
Thank you to Rabbi Wiederhorn for the wedding ceremony and the WiFi! Thank you Dan for unknowingly setting this up! And thank you to my wife for marrying me again — in a parking lot, while charging our devices, while social distancing, and while completely embarrassing our 2 teenage daughters, Ruby Kantor (grade 9) and Emma Kantor (grade 8)!
This story, Diane Silfen says, is like one of those amazing things that always happen to random strangers.
But — thanks to a random stranger — it happened to her.
Diane’s Westport roots are long and deep. Her mother, Elise Barnes, graduated from Staples High School in 1936. As Diane Haehl, she followed in 1965. So did her 2 siblings: David in 1969, and Janet 3 years after that.
Diane runs the Haehl Insurance Agency — the longtime family business — here. But she’s riding out the COVID-19 crisis at her Key West condo.
(It’s tough even there. With the beaches closed and the tourists gone, it’s like a ghost town.)
On Wednesday morning, Diane’s phone rang. The call was from Illinois. Suspecting a telemarketer, she almost did not answer.
For some reason though, she did.
The caller said, “I’m looking for Diane Silfen.”
“I’m Diane,” she replied.
He asked if Illinois or Colorado meant anything to her. No, she said.
The man said he and his wife once lived in Illinois; then they moved west. With time on their hands while self-isolating, they’d been going through storage boxes.
At the bottom of one was a Staples class ring, from 1969. It bore the initials “DWH.”
David Haehl, in the 1969 Staples High School yearbook.
“That’s my brother!” Diane said.
“I know,” the man replied.
“We know he’s deceased. We want you to have it.”
As Diane listened in astonishment, the man — she was too stunned to ask his name – described what happened after finding the ring.
He and his wife went online. They found Staples High School in Westport; tracked down the list of ’69 grads, and saw the name David William Haehl.
Researching further, they learned that he died 12 years ago. The obituary included his sister’s name. The couple plowed ahead, and found Janet.
How the ring ended up in the bottom of their box is a mystery. They asked Janet if David traveled a lot.
“He went everywhere — but only for scuba diving,” she said. That ruled out Illinois and Colorado.
The man said he’d sanitize the ring, put it in a box, and send it to Florida. Diane will give it — proudly, lovingly, amazingly — to her son Seth.
Seth Van Beever (right), his brother Baird, and their uncle David Haehl.
That is indeed the kind of story that usually happens to other people. But David seems to have led that kind of happy-coincidence life.
Diane noted that when he was in Westport, David never missed a Staples football game.
When he died, the family held a memorial service at Compo Beach. The high school band was there, practicing loudly.
Someone suggested asking them to stop for a while.
“Of course not!” Diane replied. “It’s like they were playing there for him.”
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