Category Archives: Westport life

New Addition To “Historic Homes Of 06880” Tour

There’s new news about next month’s tour of some of Westport’s oldest homes.

The Nathaniel Fitch house has just been added to “Historic Homes of 06880.” The first-ever “06880”-sponsored event is Sunday, November 5 (2 to 5 p.m.).

The 1707 Finch house at 6 Old Hill Road replaces the the 1683 house on Long Lots Road, now unavailable. When the Angotti family bought it in 1996 — nearly 300 years later — it was sagging and dilapidated.

Rather than tearing it down, they embarked on a 2-year restoration project using authentic building material methods, without a single nail or screw.

6 Old Hill Road

The other 3 properties on the tour are equally interesting, each in a different, special way.

There’s 29 North Avenue — the tiny house on the left heading north toward Staples High School, now lovingly renovated by Annette Norton, drawing appreciative looks from all who pass by (and chronicled last spring on “06880”).

29 North Avenue

Two other homes are close by, on Cross Highway. #39 is the much admired, very visible and extensively remodeled home near the corner of Weston Road that recently won a Historic District Commission Preservation Award.

39 Cross Highway

Further up Cross Highway is a barn that stood when the British marched by on their way to Danbury, and is now a handsome/funky/very cool artists’ studio.

Cross Highway barn

“06880” often celebrates Westport’s rich history. We honor homeowners who preserve the past, while enhancing their neighborhoods by giving new life to old properties.

“06880” tells stories. As you explore all 4 houses, you’ll learn the stories behind each one.

Homeowners, and members of “06880”‘s board of directors, will point out cool aspects of each home. We’ll answer questions. You’ll get a brochure explaining the 4 houses too.

Our friends at KMS Team at Compass are sponsoring the “Historic Homes of ‘06880’ tour.”

Tickets are $60 each, $100 for 2. Proceeds help fund “06880”‘s work — which, as always, chronicles Westport’s past, present and future.

Click here for tickets. It’s our “Donate” page. Please note “Historic Homes of ‘06880’” with your order.

Tooker: Civil Discourse Is In Jeopardy

At this morning’s TEAM Westport meeting, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker addressed the recent rise in tensions over town affairs. She said:

When this community elected me as your first selectwoman, I made a promise to all of you that I would take action on a number of priorities.

I pride myself in being a leader that gets things done. Many of these decisions will affect the future of Westport. We are fortunate to have such an engaged community, and when this many people share their different opinions, emotions can run high.

I also pride myself on being a leader that listens to everyone. I feel strongly that people need — and deserve — to be heard.

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker

Please know that I read each and every correspondence that is received. We won’t always agree, but we should all have the best interest of our town at heart. It’s critical that our decision-making process remains transparent and, importantly, civil.

A recent report indicates civil discourse is in jeopardy even at a local level. It is entitled “Threats and Harassment: The Cost of Local Government Leadership.” It is a sobering article featuring data about communities just like ours. Westport is not exempt, and must do better.

I will continue to lead by listening to all viewpoints. I will not be afraid to take action that I believe is in the best interest of Westport – that is what this community elected me to do.

I am committed to ensuring everyone feels like they belong here, not only our residents and business owners, but our elected and appointed officials as well.

This has been a core tenet of my administration from the beginning – and it remains a top priority.

I’m asking each of you to join me in keeping our discourse civil and productive. Please encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. It’s incumbent on all of us to take an active role in this. That is the only way we will be able to collectively make good decisions on behalf of Westport.

Volunteers Vital To Keeping Town Vibrant

In the 1950s, a surge of new families changed Westport forever.

They built new homes. They needed new schools. They got involved in town affairs.

Those post-war parents picked up the volunteer reins from the men and women who had made Westport what it was in previous decades. They joined well-established local organizations, and started others. They ran for political office. They asked how this beautiful, resource-rich town could be even better; then they made it happen.

Their baby boomer children continued that tradition. Some were their literal descendants, who stayed in Westport or moved back later. Others were baby boomers who grew up elsewhere, then somehow found their way here and understood that for a community to thrive, every member who can, must contribute to it in some way.

Coleytown Capers was a 1950s fundraiser for the elementary school. It was directed, produced and acted in by dozens of parents. Many worked fulltime in entertainment and the arts. PTAs today find it difficult to recruit volunteers.

In the 2020s, Westport is changing again.

The pandemic brought a new surge of new families. They moved here for all the right reasons: the schools. The amenities. The space. The community vibe.

They are young and energetic. They are smart and creative. They are our future, and that future is very bright indeed.

But as baby boomers age, there is a concern that the civic value of volunteerism is fading.

Certainly, plenty of newcomers have picked up the mantle. They join organizations, run for office, coach teams.

But there are not enough of them.

Katie Augustyn and Haley Schulman volunteer with Food Rescue US. They deliver excess food from stores and restaurants to pantries and shelters in the area. Volunteers are always needed.

Nearly every group in town — PTAs, non-profits, town commissions — wonders: How can we get the next generation more involved?

“They do everything they can for their kids,” one current leader said. “But they don’t always do everything they can for their town.”

Last Saturday, the Town of Westport and League of Women Voters sponsored a volunteer fair at the Westport Library. (Right there, those are 3 organizations that rely often on volunteers.)

Over 2 dozen community groups had tables. Turnout was good (bad weather may have helped or hurt). Representatives offered information, answered questions and encouraged participation.

Saturday’s Volunteer Fair, at the Westport Library. (Photo courtesy of Town of Westport)

If you missed it, here they were:

  • A Better Chance of Westport
  • Center for Senior Activities
  • Club 203
  • Earthplace
  • FCJazz
  • Food Rescue
  • Friends of Sherwood Island
  • Guiding Eyes for the Blind
  • Homes with Hope
  • Levitt Pavilion
  • Staples Tuition Grants
  • Sunrise Rotary Club
  • TEAM Westport
  • Town of Westport
  • Verso Studios
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • Wakeman Town Farm
  • Westport Book Shop
  • Westport Community Theatre
  • Westport Country Playhouse
  • Westport Emergency Medical Services
  • Westport League of Women Voters
  • Westport Library
  • Westport Permanent Art Collections
  • Westport Rotary Club
  • Westport Woman’s Club
  • Westport Young Woman’s League
  • Westport-Weston CERT
  • Westport Weston Family YMCA.

What a list!

Education, community service, seniors, people in need, people with disabilities, the environment, the arts, politics, entertainment, veterans, health, youth — no matter what your interest, there was something for everyone.

That’s not counting the groups that were not there: PTAs. Sports. And one that I profiled earlier this month (started — yes — by new arrivals): Bike Westport.

Imke Lohs, Adam Ganser and Markus Marty are young Westporters who started Bike Westport. The non-profit is addressing our town’s transportation crisis.

I am often asked what I think about “changing Westport.” I respond that I am excited and invigorated by all the new people. Some are families; some are young singles moving into apartments.

They’re excited to be here. They quickly learn to love this town.

Now it’s up to them — not just some, but all of them — to make their mark on Westport.

And set the standard for future surges of newcomers, in the 2090s and beyond.

PS: Adults are not the only volunteers who make this town go.

The Library will host a volunteer expo for teens on Wednesday, October 4 (4:30 to 6 p.m.), featuring local youth organizations with volunteer opportunities.

(“06880” covers all of Westport: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Please click here to support our local journalism. Thank you!)

Townwide Forum On Wednesday Will Address Auto Thefts, Carjacking

Yesterday’s carjacking — and the recent spike in car thefts — has rattled many Westporters.

This Wednesday (September 20, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) Westport Police Department and 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker will host a town forum on public safety. It will focus on car thefts, vehicle break-ins, and Sunday’s carjacking.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas will lead a discussion on safety concerns voiced by residents. He and members of his command staff will describe the work of the Regional Auto Theft Task Force, formed in response to increased car thefts and vehicle break-ins in the area.

The discussion will also include police practices utilized to combat vehicle thefts.

All Westporters are invited to Wednesday’s event.

Meanwhile, Westport Police have released Ring videos of the carjacking. Portions of the video have been redacted, to protect the victim’s identity.


[OPINION] Seeking Westport’s Vision

Clarence Hayes has lived in Westport for 6 years. A senior vice president in global technology at Bank of America, he manages its user-facing data networks, and associated $225 million budget.

He has been married for 39 years, and has 2 daughters and 5 grandchildren. Two attend Kings Highway Elementary School. He helps with after-school tutoring and swim team practice.

A gardener and amateur naturalist, he is very familiar with Westport’s natural habitat. He takes advantage of, and values, the town’s many amenities, including the beaches and parks, Longshore golf, pool and skating rink, Levitt Pavilion, Library and Earthplace. 

But, Clarence wonders: 

What is the Westport vision?

As a relative newcomer to town and recent follower of town events on this blog, I’d like to offer a general challenge to my new hometown: Set a long term plan, and be more ambitious.

What could Westport be like, not only for me in a few years’ time, but for my grandkids, and beyond that for my grandkids’ grandkids? We should have a 50- year plan. It should be visionary. The town can have something to measure its progress against every year.

I followed one of my daughters – with a couple of my grandkids in tow — when they moved to Westport 6 years ago. They show no intention of ever moving again, nor will I. This town has amazing assets. With continued improvement, I can imagine Westport as #1 on a “Best Places to Live in the USA” list.

What I observe in the debates over the Parker Harding Plaza evolution, and the Long Lots School direction, and numerous one-off Planning & Zoning Commission decisions, are piecemeal challenges confronting what appear to be irreconcilable differences of opinion. Parking vs. green space; a convenient sport facility vs. a community garden; new development vs. river views; pro-car vs. anti-car; etc.

Parking? Green space? What’s our vision — for downtown, and our entire town? (Photo/Susan Leone)

Of course, not all differences can be reconciled. Choices are required. But I think more of those differences could be reconciled, and a higher quality overall result achieved, if we were more ambitious, and made bigger decisions based on a long- term vision.

Bigger decisions could mean, for instance, instead of minor tweaking of access and marginal rearrangements of which piece of existing Westport property is paved or green, we could look at working with developers to exchange town property for jointly developed major changes.

For example: multi-story/underground parking; taking control of becoming compliant with state affordable housing mandates by the town co-investing and controlling those housing units to achieve some bigger contribution to Westport quality of life; complete conversion of downtown to pedestrian only (basically an outdoor mall more attractive than SoNo or Trumbull); reclaiming all of the waterside for public benefit with walking paths and green space designed across all of downtown which will be used more widely, as opposed to patchworks that sit idle due to lack of connection.

I could go on.

I’d love to see what my fellow citizens imagine as a visionary future; compare it to mine – and debate how to merge these futuristic visions into something that could unite a broad majority of voters around a feasible plan.

A few years ago, architects were asked to imagine the Westport of 2050. Mike Greenberg thought about a way the town could become more neighborhood-oriented. This is a detailed view of the Roseville/ Long Lots/North Avenue/Cross Highway quadrant.

Without such a comprehensive long-term plan, I think the town risks frittering away its comparative advantage, foreclosing opportunities with short-term decisions, and not getting maximum bang for the buck with town tax revenue.

I think it better to consciously define our “brand” and decide what we want the town to be — with ambitious goals — than to leave it to the ongoing happenstance of decisions constrained by short-term implications, and the sense that there isn’t money or a way to achieve something better.

Call to action: The selectwomen’s office, together with the Representative Town Meeting, formally institute a “Westport Vision”  process that engages the public and is primarily driven by public input, and has the objective to:

  • Document guiding principles for future development of the whole range of town assets – the “who we are” statement;
  • Lay out a range of futuristic visions to challenge our ambitions – something to get excited about, and stimulate debate;
  • Then, based on that vision, work backward to define and then prioritize ambitious steps that can be taken by relevant town boards and committees for action, to start that long-term journey.

Let’s make Westport the best place to live in the country, for us and our descendants.

[OPINION] Westport Drivers: “Hare” Today, Gone Tomorrow

Dr. Jay Walshon is a 38-year resident of Westport. Like many, he is concerned about the twin terrors of local driving: recklessness and incivility. He writes:

For the last 2 years we have been fortunate to have a beautiful large hare living in our neighborhood.

Multiple times a week he frequented our front yard, munching his dinner of lawn provided salads. He survived 2 Westport winters without any sign of wear, and greeted us so commonly in our driveway that my wife named him AJ, and periodically provided him with leftover organics from our dinner table.

Not AJ. But close.

It was amusing to watch AJ scamper about … his speed and agility likely a major contributor to his survival against the hungry red fox that nightly prowled our yard all winter long.

Mid-afternoon the other day, I headed out of my Roseville Road driveway on my scooter to run errands on the Post Road. From the right, it was totally clear. On my left, only a single vehicle approached from at least 50 yards away.

There was plenty of distance for me to enter the road, especially given the 25 mph speed limit.

However, perhaps 10 seconds later in my side mirror I saw the vehicle behind fast approaching. It then tailgated me dangerously closely as I approached the Post Road red light to turn left.

Although I moved to the right, this driver refused to pass — instead choosing to remain dangerously close behind me.

When I stopped at the light, the driver pulled next to me, and lowered the window.

An older woman with a silver ponytail berated me for “daring to pull out in front” of her.

Although her behavior was shocking, an elderly woman yelling this way was also somewhat comical.

Not the Roseville Road driver. It’s the Little Old Lady From Pasadena…

I calmly informed her that at the time she was quite distant, adding that for her to catch up to me as she did, she had to have been driving extremely fast — perhaps even 50 on a 25mph road.

She loudly and emphatically exclaimed: “I don’t give a shit how fast I was going.”


Who this woman is is not important. But her words and attitude are critical.

Later that same afternoon, while leaving the Westport Library I was at the Imperial Avenue stop sign waiting to turn left. As I was about to go, the vehicle approaching from my left blew through this stop sign — slamming the brakes in the intersection only when the driver saw me entering my turn.

Not the car that almost blew past Dr. Walshon. But the same spot. (Photo/Susan Teicher)

As I passed by her window — a stone’s throw from the police station — the young girl driving stiffly stared straight ahead, intentionally refusing to look at me.

A couple of mornings later I discovered AJ lying on Roseville Road, flattened by a tire.

Despite his quickness, agility and survival skills against natural predators, AJ was no match for that encounter.

I’m not suggesting that the woman driver on Roseville was to blame. But very likely, her attitude  was.

Please: “Give a shit.”

(“06880” covers all of Westport — the good, the bad, and the ugly drivers. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

AJ the hare.

Down To The Wires

Westporters worry about trees that topple in high winds, bringing down utility lines and disrupting electrical, phone and cable service for many.

But those power lines themselves are dangerous.

Marion Pietrowski writes of a concern that plenty of residents share, but that seems impossible to address.

No authority wants to — or can — claim oversight over the rat’s nest of wires, cables and poles that grow increasingly heavy and more burdened.

She says: “I constantly hear growing concern about the cable companies adding new live wires and wrapping them to the old ones, as well as leaving huge excess lines rolled up for future use, weighing down the poles, as it is apparently cheaper to do that than remove the old ones.”

She sent a few photos to illustrate her point.

But, she adds, “they’re everywhere.”

Post Road West, near Norwalk line.

Compo Road South, at Bridge Street and Greens Farms Road.

Near Luciano Park.

Saugatuck Avenue.

Sherwood Island Connector, at Greens Farms Road.

And, Marion notes, there’s another issue.

It’s easier for utility companies to place a new pole next to a damaged, rotten or otherwise unusable pole, than to remove the old one.

That too seems to be accidents waiting to happen.

One view of Saugatuck Avenue …

… and another. (Photos/Marion Pietrowski)

We just passed the 3-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Isaias.

Hurricane season is underway.

Fingers crossed …

[OPINION] Traffic Troubles? Look In The Rear-View Mirror!

Long-time Westporter Scott Smith is a keen observer of Westport’s beauty.

And its issues.

Today he takes issue with common complaints about traffic. Scott writes:

I read the frequent gripes on “06880” about local traffic congestion.

Yes, it is often a nightmare.

One thing I never hear mentioned: personal responsibility.

Traffic is always someone else’s fault. You’re the one being inconvenienced by all these other cars on the road, right?

But let’s ask ourselves: How many of the car rides we take each day are truly essential? How many trips are to get a latte at Starbucks, or to pick up that one thing at CVS or the cleaners? How many trips are made simply because “I just needed to get out of the house”?

“Saving time” at the Starbucks drive-thru. (Photo/John McKinney)

I’m willing to bet that fully half of our daily car trips are in no way “necessary.” Leaving aside the occasional Waze-induced traffic jam, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was 50 percent less traffic on our local roads?

And let’s not just beat up on parents for their part in creating twice-daily, self-inflicted jams driving their kids to and from school. According to this federal survey, 1 in every 3 discretionary car trips is for shopping, with seniors accounting for the highest proportion of such travel.

The proportion of trips for social/recreational purposes has grown steadily in recent years as well, with — you guessed it — us baby boomers reporting the highest level of that discretionary travel.

Clearly, for the generation that has always equated cars with freedom and the mythical open road, they are going to have to pry the steering wheel out of our cold, dead hands.

Some mornings I ride my bike to the train station to go to work, especially on gridlock Wednesdays. There are rarely as many as 10 bikes in the racks.

Plenty of room at the Saugatuck station bike rack.

Why is that the case in such a health-conscious, affluent community where on weekends the roads are filled with cyclists riding for exercise? How many of us get in our cars to go someplace to take a walk?

How many of my fellow commuters have ever used the Westport Wheels2U van, much less stepped foot on a Norwalk Transit bus?

And who the heck carpools? Nine out of 10 cars I pass on my way to the train station are single drivers.

Speaking of those vehicles, how much of any local traffic backup is due to the simple fact that practically every other car in Westport is a 20-foot-long, 6,000-pound, 9-passenger Suburban?

Tax vehicles by size and weight and mileage. Use that revenue to help make our roadways safer for cyclists and walkers, especially around schools.

Alarmed by congestion, pollution and spiking rates of child deaths on the roads, a generation ago the Netherlands invested in cycling infrastructure. Today, 36% of Dutch people list the bicycle as their most frequent way of getting around on a typical day. Two-thirds of all Dutch children walk or bike to school, with 75% of secondary school kids cycling to school, preventing an estimated 1 million car journeys each day.

Imagine the benefits of adding a bike trail along the Merritt Parkway’s 300-foot-wide right-of-way. (When I worked in Westport, a colleague who lived in Trumbull would ride his bike to the office, using surface streets, faster than it took him to crawl along the Merritt at rush hour in his car.)

Could the next construction project include a trailway?

With the rise of e-bikes, investing in a multi-use trailway makes increasing sense, rather than encouraging yet more sprawl in outer suburbs. Not only would a bike path cut into the 70,000 cars crowding the parkway each workday, but it would also be a safe and healthy haven for weekend cyclists and charity riders alike.

And before you go all NIMBY in opposing sensible new development around train stations, or if you think our built environment is too complex to upgrade or the Merritt too historic to be enhanced with an adjacent pathway, consider this: Paris is working to become a “15-minute city” where everything you need is located within 15 minutes. Every street will have a bike lane, and 60,000 parking spots are being removed and replaced with parks.

A 2020 report on traffic congestion finds “if development is clustered closer together, people can take shorter trips between home, groceries, entertainment, and other destinations—sometimes even short enough that they can take those trips by walking or biking. But if that development is dispersed along a corridor instead, it leads to longer trips and more vehicles turning on and off the corridor to reach destinations spread along it, creating more traffic on those local roads as well as freeways that serve the area.”

Does that sound like Fairfield County? “If we were going to design a system to generate the maximum amount of congestion each day, this is exactly how it would be done,” the authors conclude.

So my fellow Westporters: Next time you’re stuck in traffic, take a look in the rear-view mirror. We all share responsibility for why our local roads are a mess, and we all can be part of the solution.

That includes driving less and driving smarter and supporting public and private initiatives aimed at moving away from the car-centric culture that is ruining our lives and our planet.

(Do you agree or disagree with Scott’s thoughts? Click “Comments” below. And while you’re at it, please consider a donation to help “06880” continue to open a wide range of topics tor discussion. Please click here. Thank you!)  

Want a solution to traffic? Look in the rear-view mirror! (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Flying High, With Aiden Schachter

My job as the founder/editor/publisher of “06880” has opened many doors.

Including the one on a Piper Cherokee 3-seater prop plane.

Last Saturday marked one of my most memorable mornings ever. I flew over Westport just after sunrise, enjoying a view of the beach, downtown and my home that is usually reserved for birds.

My pilot was Aiden Schachter — a rising senior at Staples High School.

He’s 17 years old. But Aiden is no ordinary kid.

After starting on a flight simulator in 7th grade,  he advanced to lessons. On his 16th birthday in March 2022, he soloed.

He flew a plane before he drove a car.

Last month — after studying hard for the oral, written and check ride tests, and 5 hours in the air performing landings, takeoffs, maneuvers, emergency prep for landing at unplanned locations and more — he earned his pilot’s license.

Aiden Schachter, the day he got his pilot’s license.

That’s not Aiden’s only accomplishment. He’s built a thriving national business building and selling LED lightclouds. And he’s a varsity wrestler.

Keep your eye on Aiden. He’s going places.

One of those places was Sikorsky Airport. When I met him early Saturday morning, he was in his element. He bantered easily with men and women who have worked at the Bridgeport facility for decades, then went to work filling out paperwork for the flight.

He strode confidently to the small plane.

He performed his pre-flight checklist with utter seriousness. He explained everything about the plane to me in the manner of any experienced pilot (without the fake drawl).

He communicated with the air traffic controller. He revved the engine.

And off we flew!

We cruised at 3,500 feet, around 115 miles an hour.

The world looks different from that height.

Bridgeport’s Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater and Total Mortgage Arena are at the lower left.

Two things stand out: the amount of water. It’s everywhere: the Sound, rivers, tidal ponds, backyard pools.

Sherwood Mill Pond, with tiny Hummock Island (left center). At the bottom is Old Mill; the footbridge leads to Compo Cove (right). Above it: Sherwood Island State Park.

Compo Beach packs a lot into a (relatively) small space. Above it: Gray’s Creek, and the Longshore golf course.

Cockenoe Island. Saugatuck Shores is at left; Compo Beach is at the top, just below Owenoke and Gray’s Creek.

And the amount of greenery. It’s no wonder the power goes out so often. Trees are everywhere; at least a few of them are bound to fall.

The Longshore pools, marina and golf course are on the left; Gray’s Creek and Owenoke next to it, on the right.

It’s actually possible, from 3,500 feet, to see the border between Bridgeport and Fairfield, then Fairfield and Westport. The size of residential lots changes that dramatically.

Aiden gave me a full tour of our town.

There were fresh perspectives everywhere. One example: Downtown — which occupies such an outsized part of our mental picture of Westport, along with plenty of debate and economic power — takes up a tiny area of real estate.

The Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge leads to downtown. The Giegerich office on Riverside Avenue is the large white building; the Levitt Pavilion is across the Saugatuck River, to the right.

Parker Harding Plaza (bottom); above it, Main Street, Bedford Square and Church Lane. The Post Road is on the right. 

Winslow Park. That’s the Westport Country Playhouse and Playhouse Square (left); at the top left is the Gorham Island office building.

Saugatuck is another part of town that punches far above its weight, relative to its actual geographic size.

Saugatuck, looking west. The railroad station and I-95 are at left; the Cribari Bridge and then Saugatuck Rowing Club are to the right. In the distance are Norwalk’s Avalon apartments (formerly Norden). 

Aiden says that Staples High School is the biggest building in town.

Staples High School is bordered by Paul Lane Field, Loeffler Field, Jinny Parker Field — and plenty of trees. 

The Aquarion water tanks on North Avenue stand out in what seems from the air to be a forest. They’re a lot more conspicuous at ground level. (All photos/Dan Woog)

There are 17-year-old drivers I’d never get in a car with.

But flying with Aiden Schachter? My heart soars like an eagle.

Taking off …

… mid-flight …

… and landing. (In-flight photos/GoPro) 

(Every day with “06880” is a new adventure. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

Remembering Patty Haberstroh

Patty Haberstroh — a longtime beloved Westporter, who in decades of service touched the lives of countless residents, and whose courageous 6-year battle against ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) inspired many more — died peacefully on Monday, at Yale New Haven Hospital. She was 73.

Patricia Clark Haberstroh’s 20 years as a social worker in Westport’s Department of Human Services were dedicated to helping others in need.

Patty Haberstroh

As family program coordinator, Patty ran and supported countless important initiatives: the annual Back-To-School program that offers backpacks, school supplies and shoe store gift cards to hundreds of children from low-income families; the Family Holiday Giving program, which provides Westport children in need with holiday gifts; the Westport Mentor program; summer camperships; after-school scholarships; Thanksgiving dinner donations; MLK Day basketball clinics; Minds in Motion, and Prom and Graduation Gowns programs.

Patty also took immense pride in volunteer work for Westport’s public schools, serving as PTA president of Coleytown Elementary and Staples High Schools, and on the PTA Council.

One of her proudest achievements was as a member of an ad hoc committee to reject a referendum attempt to cut town education expenses by $1 million in the mid-1990s.

Around that time, Patty also was a key member of the “new” Staples High School planning committee.

She was a masterful storyteller and, most importantly, a trusted colleague and friend. In Westport, she cultivated a vibrant community of true friendships built and tended to over a myriad of Friday Pizza Nights.

Her dogged commitment to helping others was only bolstered in October 2017, when she was diagnosed with her terminal illness.

Faced with a degenerative disease with no cures or effective treatments, Patty sought to reverse that fate for current and future generations of people living with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Shortly after her devastating diagnosis, Patty became an influential leader in the ALS community through her relentless advocacy and fundraising efforts. She and her family launched the viral #ALSPepperChallenge campaign on social media, raising over $1 million for ALS research, largely benefiting the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI).

Thousands of supporters from around the world posted videos of themselves eating hot peppers in honor of Patty, and to raise awareness for ALS. Celebrities like Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Kimmel, Andy Cohen, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley participated in the challenge, chomping on jalapeños and habaneros on national television.

Patty never liked spicy food, but happily devoured it for the cause.

Patty Haberstroh and others suffering from ALS were honored by NASDAQ in New York City, in 2018.

Patty was deeply honored to receive ALS TDI’s 2018 Stephen Milne Adventurous Spirit Award for her selfless advocacy, and MDA’s Wings Over Wall Street Spirit Award in 2020.

Her unwavering tenacity inspired her sons to help launch a grassroots Lou Gehrig Day committee. Beginning in 2021, they established an annual awareness day every June 2, in honor of Lou Gehrig and across all of Major and Minor League Baseball.

There are only 3 such days in MLB, where a league-wide athlete and associated cause is celebrated by all teams.

Born November 23, 1949 in New York City, Patty was the daughter of the late William Lee Clark and Patricia Braden Clark, who nicknamed young her “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Pollyanna.”

The oldest of 4 children, Patty attended Darien High School, then graduated from Smith College with a BA in government.

An avowed feminist, Patty started her career in finance at Bank of Boston. Upon hearing that her male trainee counterparts earned more than female trainees, she marched into Human Resources.

After hearing traditional arguments of why the pay imbalances were justified, Patty successfully secured equal pay for all.

In Boston she met her husband Charlie Wesley Kelakos Haberstroh, who was also a banker.

When Patty and Charlie married in September, 1974, she relocated to Chemical Bank in New York — appropriately enough in Human Resources, to manage the Performance Evaluation Function.

After the birth of her second child, she requested a part-time job.  When her employer asked her to reconsider, pointing out she would have to give up her management job, she said she would accept only a part-time job in order to tend to family. When informed there was no part-time job, Patty requested the bank to create one.

They did.

In 1986, with 4 children under the age of 6 in tow — including twin newborns — Patty and Charlie moved the family to São Paulo, Brazil, to support Charlie’s career.

After 4 1/2 years there, and becoming fluent in Portuguese, the Haberstrohs moved to Westport, where she committed her life to public service and education.

Patty is survived by Charlie, her husband of 49 years and caregiver for 6; her children Chuck (Jacqueline Horelik) of Westport; Steve (Erin Graves) of New Canaan; Kim O’Sullivan (Philip) of Norwalk; Tom (Allison Hall) of Charlotte, North Carolina; grandchildren Charlie, Lane, Eve and Grace of Westport; McIntyre (Mac) and Walker of New Canaan; Jonathan O’Sullivan of Norwalk; Madelyn and Molly of Charlotte, NC; her younger brothers William (Susan), Hayes (Clare) and Robert Clark; nieces Katie, Debbie and Joanie, and nephews Braden, Lee and Christopher.

A celebration of Patty’s life will be held in early Fall in Westport. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation toALS Therapy Development Institute, Compassionate Care ALS and Human Services of the Town of Westport.

(“06880” covered the explosive growth of the #ALSPepperChallenge, in Westport and around the world. Click here for some of the stories about the global event.)