Category Archives: Unsung Heroes

Unsung Hero #114

Plenty of youth coaches deserve shout-outs. They work tirelessly on behalf of their sport. They pass on their knowledge and passion to young athletes.

Many times those youngsters include their own children. When their kids grow up — or stop playing — the coaches move on.

Jeb Backus was coaching long before his own children, Tripp and Jillian, played. He’ll coach long after too.

Jeb Backus

Jeb is a head coach for Westport travel baseball and softball. He’s also the head junior varsity softball coach at Staples High School, and serves Westport Little League as director of field operations.

He was a longtime player too. And a very good one.

Now Jeb is getting some long-overdue recognition. He’s been named to the Connecticut ASA Softball Hall of Fame.

Jeb started playing softball for the legendary Sonny’s team at 16. He was already a star baseball and football player at Staples High School. He continued with Sonny’s while at Flagler College, on a baseball scholarship. In 1987, he earned college All-America honors. In 2004, Jeb was named to Flager’s new Athletic Hall of Fame.

Jeb helped Sonny’s win 5 state championships. He pitched in 4 title games, and went 13-for-14 while driving in 17 runs.

Jeb then starred for other teams, at the national level. He added 5 more state championships at the Over-35 level.

Jeb Backus in action.

Jeb finished his 25-year softball career with a .625-plus batting average, and over 900 pitching wins. His teams earned more than 40 local crowns, and qualified for 19 national tournaments.

As a coach, his work with young players is legendary. Many former players, parents and friends look forward to honoring Jeb at the dinner (Sunday, October 13, Costa Azzurra restaurant, Milford, 4 p.m.). For ticket information, call 203-876-0078 or email lisa.dilullo@aol.com.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Unsung Heroes #113

Another day, another lineup of cars at Westport Wash & Wax.

And for the popular Post Road East business, that means another day of helping the community.

Every organization in town, it seems, benefits from owners Scott and Laila Tiefenthaler’s generosity. Need proof? While waiting for your vehicle, read the letters of thanks that fill the bulletin board. (You won’t have time for all of them. But you’ll get the idea.)

One of the most grateful recipients is Homes With Hope. Over the past 18 years, the local housing service has received nearly $100,000 from the car wash.

Homes With Hope CEO and president Jeff Wieser (in jacket) with (front, from left) Laila, Scottt and Craig Tiefenthaler, plus dedicated employees, at one of the many “Good Neighbor” ceremonies.

This Friday (August 30) is Westport Wash & Wax’s 19th annual Good Neighbor Day. Once again, the Tiefenthalers will donate  100% — you read that right — of the day’s car wash proceeds to Homes with Hope.

Many businesses generously donate a percentage of sales, to plenty of organizations. But it’s extraordinary for one company to so consistently donate all proceeds from a full day’s sales.

And to help nearly every other cause that asks, in some way, shape or form.

Scott and Laila Tiefenthaler — and their entire hard-working, friendly and efficient crew — are the sparkling recipients of this week’s Unsung Heroes award.

Unsung Heroes #112

As summer winds down, this week’s Unsung Heroes is a no-brainer.

Everyone — and there’s a ton — who made this year’s Compo, Burying Hill and Old Mill Beach and Longshore experiences so wonderful: Take a bow!

If you are a:

  • Parks & Recreation maintenance worker, who cleans up our messes so conscientiously and professionally
  • Parks & Rec gate attendant, who waves us in, collects our fees and deals so smilingly with a not-always-smiling public
  • Parks & Rec Department staffer or Commission member, who helped shepherd the new improvements (South Beach sidewalk and bathroom, new tables and grills) through from conception to completion
  • Lifeguard, who keeps us safe, provides first aid, reunites lost kids with panicked parents, and endured a few very boring days in the chair watching the water when the beaches were closed (special shout-out to directors Heidi List Murphy and Danilo Sierra)

  • Marina worker (and of course Westport Police marine unit member), who do so much good stuff the public seldom sees
  • Joey Romeo or part of his youthful “By the Shore” staff at Compo and Longshore, who serve great food and never get mad even when we have no idea what to order despite standing in line for 10 minutes thinking about it

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

  • Longshore golf course, tennis court or pool attendant, who we see every day, in all kinds of weather and seldom even nod to
  • Early-morning employee like Drew Grega, who grooms the beach so well and unobtrusively we never even know you’re there …

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

It would not have been a wonderful Westport summer without you.

PS: I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone. If I have — aaargh! Just add those Unsung Heroes in the “Comments” section.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Unsung Hero #111

Ruth Sherman walks the walk.

Literally.

Every day for 50 years — in all kinds of weather* — Ruth has walked from Hillspoint Road to the top of Compo Hill.

She recently returned from Spain, where she completed the 100-mile El Camino spiritual trek.

For the 79-year-old longtime Westporter, it was no big deal.

Ruth Sherman

Yet Ruth’s walks are only part of her daily routine. Since the 1960s, she’s taught exercise and fitness at the Westport Weston Family Y. Right now she’s with the Arthritis Foundation Family aquatic program.

When the Senior Center opened, she began teaching there too.

Many class members are younger — often much younger — than Ruth. But they struggle to keep pace.

When she’s not walking or leading classes, Ruth bikes. Of course, her rides are for good causes.

Since last century, she’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, in the Pan-Mass Challenge. She was not always alone: Sometimes she was joined by her husband Larry, 4 children, in-laws and friends. Her group was called Ruthie’s Riding Rascals.

You’ve probably seen Ruth Sherman around town. The next time you see her, say hello — and congratulate her for being this week’s Unsung Hero.

But you’ll have to be in pretty good shape to catch up.

*And in Westport, you know what that means.

(Hat tip: Richard Fogel)

Unsung Heroes #110

A couple of weeks ago, “06880” put out a call. Earthplace had lost its longtime supplier of food. They needed $14,000 to feed their raptors.

Readers responded immediately. But 2 young people went waaaaay beyond the call of duty.

Sienna DeSantis organized a lemonade stand on the hottest Sunday of the year. She raised $250.

Sienna DeSantis, and her lemonade stand.

Rising Staples High School senior Emma Borys works in the Earthplace Animal Hall. She donated her salary from 2 holidays — July 4th, and this coming Labor Day — to the campaign.

Emma Borys at work.

The ravens, owls, hawks and eagles thank you!

(Hat tip: Sophie Pollmann. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Unsung Heroes #109

Alert — and grateful — “06880” reader Peter Boyd loves the Longshore pool.

“It’s an incredible town resource,” he says. “For just the price of a handpass, you can swim in a well-kept pool surrounded by the Long Island Sound. It’s great.”

Last week — following an energy-sapping heat wave — the temperature dropped substantially. Then it rained.

But Peter is intrepid. At 5 p.m., he headed to Longshore to swim.

No one was there — no one, that is, except a man named Jay. He’d covered his computer — used to check those handpasses — with a trash bag.

Jay welcomes swimmers to the Longshore pool.

He cheerfully told Peter that the pool was open according to the published schedule — rain or shine. It’s closed only during thunderstorms, and for 30 minutes afterward.

“He was happy to let me in,” Peter says. “And the lifeguards were happy to come out to ensure I was safe.

“They’re a great team. Service was cheerful and professional, as always. Whether it’s a crowded weekend in the sun or a deserted weekday in the rain, we are very lucky to have them.”

Thank you, Jay and everyone else at the Longshore pool. You are our Unsung Heroes of the Week!

Rain or shine, the Longshore pool is a town gem. (Photos/Peter Boyd)

Unsung Heroes #108

For more than 40 years, Baker Graphics has served Westporters with grace, smiles and skill.

What they do has changed — back in the day, copying was a chore best left to professionals, and business cards are going the way of the mimeograph machine — but they always adapt.

Catalogs, brochures, folders, flyers, forms, inserts, posters, signs — if it involves printing, graphic design or packing, they’re your go-to guys and gals.

Alert “06880” reader — and longtime satisfied customer — Ann Chernow thinks they deserve a special, Unsung Heroes shoutout.

“They help in every way possible,” she says. “They go out of their way to find just the right kind of paper or materials, with consistent good humor, knowledge of their craft, patience and assistance in many unusual ways.”

They’re particularly good, she says, with customers who have only a vague — or no — idea of what they want. Which, of course, is most of us.

The other day, Baker Graphics did something unheard of for a print and design company: They made a house call to Ann.

Special delivery, from Richard Baker.

Delivering pizza is one thing. Delivering a print job is on another plane entirely.

So to Marita and Richard Baker, and all their cast and crew, present and past — congratulations! You are our well-deserved Unsung Heroes of the week.

Unsung Heroes #107

A couple of weeks ago, Brooke Davies posted this note on Facebook’s Westport Front Porch page:

Does anybody know Lee Greenberg? I have a postcard for her from the Galápagos Islands that’s supposed to be hand delivered. (People write postcards and leave them there. If you see one for someone who lives near you, you’re supposed to take it and hand deliver it.)

Brooke’s brother had found the postcard, written in 2018. He was excited that — thanks to his sister — he knew someone who could actually connect the letter to its recipient.

But, Brooke added, “Based on my Google search, she’s 101. I don’t want to show up at her house unexpected! Thanks!”

Lee Greenberg at her 100th birthday celebration with children Mike, Debbie and Gail.

Front Porchers responded quickly.

One said that local builder Mike Greenberg is Lee’s son. Another added that Mike’s wife Amy is also on Front Porch. Someone else said that Lee is a longtime Rotary Club member, and would probably be at that Tuesday’s meeting in Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall.

Negin Janati chimed in: “Lee is my husband’s grandmother! I’m sure she would be very happy to have you stop by to visit. Otherwise, we’d be happy to give it to her. What a wonderful concept!”

Soon, Toni Simonetti announced: “Just saw Lee at the beach. She has heard about the postcard and is awaiting its arrival!”

The letter.

Barbara — and the others who helped lead her to Lee — are not amazing heroes. They did not cure AIDS, or save people from a burning building.

But heroes come in many shapes and sizes. Through their small acts of kindness, they brought joy to a neighbor.

And they proved once again how connected Westport is to the world.

Including the remote islands of the Galápagos.

Unsung Hero #106

When an “06880” reader — who asked for anonymity — decided to try the Westport Senior Center’s fitness program, she chose a small personal group training class facilitated by Ilene Boyer.

It was a great choice.

“This lovely, dedicated trainer takes everyone under her wing,” the woman says.

“She teaches proper form and use of equipment. She motivates everyone to work at their best ability, regardless of age or weaknesses. She never treats us like ‘older people.'”

Despite her own circumstances — Ilene uses a wheelchair, and works 2 jobs — she competes in races herself.

Ilene Boyer and Dawson.

She often brings her sweet rescue therapy dog Dawson to class. Members love him.

The “06880” reader has trained with Ilene for 2 years. She had suffered 2 heart attacks before joining the class, and says, “honestly, Ilene changed my life. She makes me so much stronger, healthier and more confident. My cardiologist agrees.”

But, she adds, “my experience is not unique. Everyone feels similarly. We are incredibly lucky to have her as a caring teacher. Her level of caring, expertise and fortitude is truly inspirational.”

(If you know of an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Unsung Hero #105

Last weekend’s double whammy — a wild, tree-limb-downing, power-outage- causing storm Saturday night; then an even more intense, violent and dangerous one just 18 hours later — stretched our resources to the limit.

On Sunday, the Fire Department responded to 80 calls in an hour. Police were everywhere. Emergency responders raced to deal with downed wires, trees on houses and in roads, even carbon monoxide issues.

For the rest of the day, and throughout Monday, the guys (and gals) whose business it is to handle emergencies like this did just that.

Quickly, efficiently — and often thanklessly — they restored electricity, cut trees, removed limbs, replaced wires, directed traffic, and got Westport back to normal.

A familiar scene. This is Greens Farms Road, at Rustic Lane. (Photo/Seth Schachter)

If you helped, you’re our Unsung Heroes of the Week. Without our firefighters, police, EMTs, traffic agents, Public Works crews, town engineers, utility workers. private contractors — and everyone who supports them — this town would be a mess.

You’re always there when we need you. Hopefully we won’t need you again for quite a while.

But somehow, I doubt it.