Category Archives: Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes #250

It’s a little thing.

But little things mean a lot. Especially when you’re hungry.

Taj Indian Cuisine is in the strip mall opposite Stop & Shop. It’s easy to overlook. But they’ve earned a great reputation, and a solid base of loyal customers.

Piera Panozzo is one. The other day, she stopped by to pick up a dinner order she’d phoned in. She went to pay — but had forgotten her wallet.

No problem!

The Taj folks said, “Just call later with your credit card.”

That’s impressive for a restaurant of any size. It’s especially great service for a small place, which needs every order to survive.

Thanks, Taj, for believing in your customers. “06880” believes in you!

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email 06880blog@gmail.com. Hat tip: Mary Condon)

(“06880” gives a shout-out too to all the readers who help support our blog with contributions. Please click here to help.) 

Unsung Hero #249

Alert “06880” reader Ed Simek writes:

I just returned from the transfer station, where I had an experience I must share.

Like many people we, take our trash to the transfer station for disposal. Occasionally we procrastinate, and it starts to consume the garage.

Today was one of those days. My wife was kind enough to pile the recyclables and other trash at the front of the garage. I loaded it onto my small pickup and drove to the transfer station.

Magic happens here.

As a result of spinal stenosis I now require a cane to get around. When I got there, I parked and hobbled off to get a shopping cart.

By the time I returned to the truck, 3 people were waiting to ask if I needed any help. They started unloading. In what seemed like a nanosecond, my trash was gone.

I’d like to once again thank them for their help. You know who you are.

Yet another reason to be very grateful to live in Westport.

(Thanks from “06880,” too. If you know an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com)

(“06880” relies on reader contributions. Be a hero; click here to help.)

Unsung Hero #248

The O’Briens and Greenlees were enjoying their usual Friday night at Compo Beach last week.

Nearby, a couple struggled to put up an umbrella.

The O’Briens and Greenlees did not notice.

But Midge Deverin — sitting at a different table — did.

She told her husband Bernie.  He walked over, dug a hole and secured the post with sand and rocks.”

Bernie Deverin to the rescue!Sure, it’s a small gesture. But Bernieand Midge  could have ignored the strangers. Their struggle with the umbrella was not his.

Instead, he took a few minutes to help. It’s little things like this that make all the difference — and that make Westport a community.

(If you know an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com)

(“06880” is fully reader-supporter. If you’d like to contribute, please click here.)

Unsung Hero #247

Last week at Longshore, Chris Davies — a 9-year veteran professional golf pro and instructor — took a short detour off the course. He helped not a golfer, but a raptor.

There are 3 osprey nest on the Longshore course: one by the 1st and 2nd hole; another near the ER Strait Marina; a third on the exit road, by the 12th green.

Chris — an avid fisherman — was asked to help save a young osprey. A fishing line was wrapped around its wings. It could not fly, or barely move.

With the help of Dave Boviei — longtime golf course starter — Chris used fishing line cutters to rescue the beautiful bird.

The rescued osprey

Then he returned to the junior camp, where head pro Jon Janik and PGA pro Mark Farrell were helping 18 young golfers learn the game.

Hopefully, the osprey Chris saved will return next spring. It will spend the winter down south.

Unlike Chris. In addition to golf, he’s a gifted hockey instructor at the Longshore rink.

Westporters — and ospreys — are lucky to have him here.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com. Hat tip: Mark Farrell)

(“06880” relies on reader support. Be a hero; please click here to help.)

Chris Davies

 

Unsung Hero #246

Mary Ellen Adipietro writes:

My family avoided an awful tragedy this past weekend.

My husband Joe and I are so grateful for the heroic efforts of Tucker Peters. He’s a rising Staples High School junior, and he saved my son Mark’s life.

Both of them are on the Staples sailing team (Mark is a rising sophomore). They were at a sailing camp on Long Island.

Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, their boat flipped over. My son was trapped in his harness underwater. Unable to unhook himself and get to the surface, he passed out.

Tucker freed himself, and called for help. He was instrumental in getting Mark on the coach boat, and was the first to start performing CPR. I have since learned that our kids all learn CPR in middle school health class.

Tucker Peters (left) and Mark Adipietro. Both are junior flag officers at Pequot Yacht Club.

The EMTs and police said that things could have ended quite differently if not for Tucker’s quick thinking and actions. A first responder said, “That kid is a true hero. Things don’t usually go that well in these situations.”

I would like to give my undying gratitude to Tucker Peters and his family, as well as the staff at Bedford Middle School who teach that class. It worked! It literally saved a life.

And as soon as Tucker is cleared, they’ll both be back together, on the water.

Congratulations, Tucker! He (and his teachers) are truly Unsung Heroes.

(“06880” relies on reader support. Please click here to contribute.)

Unsung Hero #245

The woman and her 11-year-old twin daughters walked into the Westport Book Shop.

They’d just moved to town. The girls are avid readers. They especially love history.

One of them spotted the first 5 books of a rare 7-volume biography of George Washington.

Unfortunately, the price — $195 — was too high. Disappointed, they looked for less expensive options.

The George Washington biography. Author Douglas Southall Freeman won a Pulitzer Prize for his work.

Soon after arriving back home, a Book Shop employee called. The books had already been bought, she said …

… “for your daughters.”

There was only one other shopper in the store. One of the girls had explained to her why the biography was so interesting.

After they left, the woman purchased the set for the girls.

And asked to remain anonymous.

Karma is definitely at work here. “We’ve always donated books ourselves,” the mother says. “They need to have a life beyond just one owner.”

The George Washington biography is not easy reading. Each volume is over 500 pages. But the girls have already dived in. When they’re done, they’ll look for the final 2 books in the set.

But that’s not all they’re doing this summer. They wrote a long thank-you note, and asked the Westport Book Shop to send it to their anonymous benefactor.

(Hat tip: Dianne Wildman. If you know a worthy Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com)

(Like the Westport Book Shop, “06880” relies on donations. Please click here to help.)

The Westport Book Shop.

Unsung Hero #244

“06880” reader and grateful mom Alia Afshar writes:

I would like to nominate Saugatuck Elementary School 5h grade teacher Valentina Tran for the Unsung Hero award.

Though she is relatively new to teaching, Ms. Tran is extraordinary. She has gone above and beyond for my daughter, and I am sure many other SES students too.

Like many COVID refugees, my daughters and I landed in Westport a year ago. It’s hard being the new kid, especially a girl in 5th grade. Everything was different from her school in Brooklyn.

From Day 1, Ms. Tran took my daughter under her wing. She made sure she always had someone to sit with, eat lunch with, and even ride the bus with on field trips.

During the early spring, Ms. Tran organized a playdate after school for my daughter and a former student (now in 6th grade) who she thought my daughter would click with. This was her first school playdate, so you can imagine what that meant.

Toward the end of this school year, we realized my daughter would miss her moving up ceremony due to a planned trip. She was disappointed, but once again Ms. Tran went the extra mile for her.

She organized a surprise graduation last week with her entire class. She had her own graduation program printed. Classmates sang to her, gave speeches, gave her an award and flowers, even a homemade bracelet.

Valentina Tran, at the special moving up ceremony.

Needless to say, I was in tears. It meant the world to my daughter to feel accepted, part of her 5th grade community, and frankly, special.

Ms. Tran orchestrated all of this brilliantly, on top of all of her end of school year duties and taking great care of 20+ children. I am in awe of her dedication, kindness, thoughtfulness, and willingness to go the extra mile for her students.

We are so lucky to have Ms. Tran in the Westport school system. She is a true hero to my family and I’m sure many others too.

So many Westport educators go the extra mile for their students. Ms. Tran is one of many. But we’re honored to honor her today, as “06880”‘s Unsung Hero.

If you know an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com.

(“06880”  relies on support from readers, to keep our blog — and features like this — going. Please click here to help.)

Unsung Hero #243

“06880” reader and RTM member Lisa Newman writes:

The other evening, the mother of a friend had a serious fall at home while caring for her grandchildren, ages 6 and 9.

My friend rushed home to find her mother sitting on the floor with multiple injuries, and the children shaken and teary.

She called 911 for an ambulance. I arrived shortly after to stay with the children, so my friend could accompany her mother to the hospital.

The ambulance was coming from Fairfield, so it took 30+ minutes to arrive. While we waited, Westport Police officer Shawn Booth responded to the call.

Westport Police Officer Shawn Booth

Officer Booth calmly and efficiently assessed the situation. He also provided interim first aid to my friend’s mother, sat with her for nearly the entire time we waited for EMS, engaged us all in light conversation (no easy feat – we were all upset), and managed to delight 2 very frightened, teary eyed children by bringing them badge stickers and showing photos of his (adorable) dog on his phone.

To top it all off, as he was leaving Officer Booth told the children he’d return the next day with plastic badges for them.

I assumed there was little chance he’d recall saying this; the evening was chaotic, and surely he’d have another busy day serving our community.

However, a few moments ago my friend texted that Officer Booth showed up at her house as promised, with plastic badges for the kids. She said that he was “amazing,” and she was “blown away by his kindness.”

I am too. We are lucky to have someone like Officer Booth in our police department.

(This is not Officer Booth’s first nomination as Unsung Hero. He was also cited in 2020. Click here to read. If you know an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com)

(“06880” is entirely reader-funded. To contribute, click here.)

Unsung Hero #242

Today marks double honors for Judy Frey.

Girl Scouts of Connecticut honor her at Woodway Country Club in Darien, for over 30 years as a volunteer. She’s served in many capacities, including chair of their Southwestern Council.

She’s also “06880”‘s Unsung Hero of the Week, for all her work locally.

It’s hard to imagine any Westporter more associated with Girl Scouts than Judy Frey.

A Scout herself as a child in the 1950s — in many troops, because her father was in the military and moved often — “girls didn’t get to do a lot of things,” she says. That’s why the Scouts’ outdoor activities were so welcome.

Judy Frey

When she moved to Westport from Minnesota in 1978, she’d already had experience leading her daughter’s troop. She called Scout leaders, met “wonderful” people (including another famed leader, Betty Roberts), and began her long involvement here.

When her daughter was in 7th grade, Judy met Nancy Peach. They began bringing troops to Camp Aspetuck, in Weston. “Some of the girls were scared to go out at night,” Judy recalls. “It was great to take them out of their comfort zone. Making girls stretch is so important.”

Then it was on to the Appalachian Trail. “Nancy taught me so much about the outdoors,” she marvels. Judy also took adults on outdoor adventures, from the White Mountains to Corsica.

But she continued working with Girl Scouts, long after her daughter’s graduation from Staples in 1987. Judy was involved with the high school troop, 8 or 10 girls a year who enjoyed learning skills, camaraderie, and taking trips to places like London. The typical Girl Scout, she says, is “driven to achieve things.”

Judy also volunteered with the district office. A building at Camp Aspetuck now bears her name.

Thanks, Judy, for all you’ve done, for so many. Enjoy both honors today!

(Hat tip: Lynn Goldberg. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com. A reminder: “06880” relies entirely on reader donations. To contribute, click here.) 

Judy Frey in 2012, with the plaque in her honor at Camp Aspetuck.

 

Unsung Hero #241

Thomas Scarice has been superintendent of schools for less than 2 years. He took the job in the early days of COVID. He knew he’d deal with an unprecedented educational crisis — and would have to learn his new school district in unprecedented ways.

He’s done that, and much more. Today, grateful Westporter Rachel Markus explains why she nominated him  for this week’s Unsung Hero honors:

Thomas Scarice has been a fantastic leader for educators, students and parents since taking the helm during such challenging times.

His compassion for all parties and open, honest, informative communications have endeared him to many. His ability to help us navigate through tragedies — from one in the community at the end of the 2021 school year, to the unspeakable event in Texas — with such compassion and empathy, while marshalling resources — is a wonderful reminder that our children are in wonderful and capable hands in the Westport school system.

Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice doing what he loves most: Sitting with students. This photo is from Long Lots Elementary School.

Tom Scarice has proven time and again his ability to listen and encourage patience and dialogue; to wait for information and truth before rushing to make decisions or hasty conclusions.

His tireless dedication to the community is evident in the little things too, such as his 4 a.m. calls with meteorologists in the unenviable task of predicting when to call a snow day.

Many other Westporters — including those without children in the school system — echo Rachel’s words. As the school year ends: Thanks, Superintendent of Schools Scarice, for guiding us so well through it.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email 06880blog@gmail.com)