Glenn Hightower Memorial Set For Saturday

The life of Glenn Hightower — educator, civic volunteer and coach — will be celebrated this Saturday (January 21, 2 p.m.) at the United Methodist Church on Weston Road.

The longtime Westport resident died New Year’s Day, age 76. Throughout his life he was devoted to his wife Beverly, and his daughters Holly, Julie and Heather.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Glenn graduated from Mangum High School as valedictorian and class president. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University, his master’s degree at Kansas State University and his Ph.D from the University of Iowa.

Glenn Hightower at the former Bedford Middle School (now Saugatuck Elementary).

Glenn Hightower at the former Bedford Middle School (now Saugatuck Elementary).

Glenn and Beverly moved to Westport in 1969. He spent over 30 years as principal of Bedford Middle and Junior Schools, serving briefly as interim assistant superintendent.

He led through times of both consolidation and expansion, including working on the design of the new Bedford school on North Avenue.

During 8 years as principal of Westport Continuing Education, he expanded programming and grew enrollment. Glenn was committed to music, the arts and technology. He created compassionate learning environments that valued students and enabled them to excel.

Glenn was an avid sportsman. In junior high and high school he captained varsity football, basketball and baseball teams. He played handball competitively, served on the Bridgeport YMCA Board of Directors, and enjoyed playing in recreational basketball leagues around Fairfield County.

Glenn Hightower, during a Westport Road Runners race.

Glenn Hightower, during a Westport Road Runners race.

Glenn was often seen running throughout town. He competed in Westport Road Races, and completed 16 New York City marathons and 10 ultra marathons. Glenn was a competitor, but most of all he cherished lifelong friendships created along the way.

Actively involved in the Westport YMCA board of directors and Water Rats swim team, as well as the Staples High swim team, Glenn and Bev spent many days by the pool.

When his daughters played team sports, Glenn coached rec basketball. He helped grow Westport Little League softball, coaching for over 10 years. He later returned to a sport he loved, football, to coach middle school PAL football players.

Glenn served in the Rotary Club, and over many years dedicated himself to the United Methodist Church as a Sunday School teacher, lay leader and chair of the Administrative Council, among other activities.

Glenn was known for his warmth, kindness, generous spirit and devotion to his family. He held an unwavering belief in the power of public education and the importance of helping others. Glenn encouraged people to do their best, whether with their family, school, work, faith or on the ball field.

Glenn was predeceased by his wife Beverly. In addition to his daughters he is survived by 4 grandsons, and brothers Richard and Phillip and their families.

In honor of Glenn, the Hightower family encourages everyone to take time to talk with and truly listen to their children, look for the good in those around us, and strive to make a positive impact on our communities.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the United Methodist Church of Westport/Weston, 49 Weston Road, Westport, CT 06880; Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881, or Magnum High School Alumni Association (c/o Mary Jane Scott, 414 South Robinson Avenue, Mangum OK 73554).

Ghost Light

For as long as anyone can remember, “ghost lights” have lit otherwise darkened theaters. Some say the lamps or bulbs are there to ward off ghosts. Others think the tradition began as a way to prevent accidents.

Whatever the reason, the “ghost light” tradition has inspired a new action. This Thursday (January 19, 5:30 p.m.), at over 300 theaters nationwide, actors and arts groups join in a collective, simultaneous action to create light.

That light is a way to make or renew a pledge to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation and compassion for all — regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, gender identity or sexual orientation.

ghost-lightSome of those theaters are on Broadway. Others are regional houses or high school auditoriums.

Here, the Ghost Light Project is planned for the Westport Country Playhouse.

The public is invited to attend. Attendees should bring a clear white electric light source of any kind. Flashlights, cell phone lights, flameless candles and lanterns are ideal.

Meanwhile, Staples Players is hosting their own, private event.

“Players has always strived to be an inclusive and supportive community,” says co-president and current senior Brooke Wrubel.

“Our participation in the Ghost Light Project reaffirms these long-held values.”

On Thursday evening, Staples students will be in the midst of exams.

“This is a traditionally stressful week,” co-president and senior Remy Laifer notes. “But the Ghost Light Project is a timely reminder that we’re here for each other, and never alone.”

(For a full list of participating theaters nationwide, click here.)

 

MLK

This story has become a Martin Luther King Day tradition on “06880.”

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Westporters will celebrate with a day off from school or work.  Some will sleep in; others will ski, or take part in a Staples basketball clinic for younger players. Few will give any thought to Martin Luther King.

Twice, though, his life intersected this town in important ways.

Martin Luther KingThe first was Friday night, May 22, 1964. According to Woody Klein’s book Westport, Connecticut, King had been invited to speak at Temple Israel by synagogue member Jerry Kaiser.

King arrived in the afternoon. Kaiser and his wife Roslyn sat on their porch that afternoon, and talked with King and 2 of his aides. She was impressed with his “sincerity, warmth, intelligence and genuine concern for those about him — our children, for instance. He seemed very young to bear such a burden of leadership.”

King’s sermon — to a packed audience — was titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” He analogized his America to the time of Rip Van Winkle — who also “slept through a revolution. The greatest liability of history is that people fail to see a revolution taking place in our world today.  We must support the social movement of the Negro.”

Westport artist Roe Halper presented King with 3 woodcarvings, representing the civil rights struggle. He hung them proudly in the front hallway of his Atlanta home.

Artist Roe Harper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Within a month Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron Rubenstein, traveled south to take place in a nonviolent march. He was arrested — along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

In jail, the rabbi said, “I came to know the greatness of Dr. King. I never heard a word of hate or bitterness from that man, only worship of faith, joy and determination.”

King touched Westport again less than 4 years later. On April 5, 1968 — the day after the civil rights leader’s assassination in Memphis — 600 Staples students gathered for a lunchtime vigil in the courtyard. Nearby, the flag flew at half-staff.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

Vice principal Fermino Spencer addressed the crowd. Movingly, he spoke about  his own experience as an African American. Hearing the words “my people” made a deep impression on the almost all-white audience. For many, it was the 1st time they had heard a black perspective on white America.

No one knew what lay ahead for their country. But student Jim Sadler spoke for many when he said: “I’m really frightened. Something is going to happen.”

Something did — and it was good. A few hundred students soon met in the cafeteria. Urged by a minister and several anti-poverty workers to help bridge the chasm between Westport and nearby cities, Staples teachers and students vowed to create a camp.

Within 2 months, it was a reality. That summer 120 elementary and junior high youngsters from Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport participated in the Intercommunity Camp. Led by over 100 Staples students and many teachers, they enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, dance, sports, field trips, overnight camping, creative writing, filmmaking, photography, art and reading.

It wasn’t easy — some in Westport opposed bringing underprivileged children to their town — but for over a decade the Intercommunity Camp flourished.

Eventually, enthusiasm for and interest in the camp waned. Fewer Staples students and staff members wanted to devote their summer to such a project.  The number of Westporters willing to donate their pools dwindled. Today the Intercommunity Camp is a long-forgotten memory.

Sort of like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Even on his birthday.

MLK speech

Photo Challenge #107

Last week’s photo challenge was like Goldilocks.

It was not too easy. Not too hard. It was just right.

There was a great balance between right answers, and wrong.

The wrong guesses went in every direction. Seth Schachter’s waterfall photo showed not Lees Pond. Not Nash’s Pond. Not Devil’s Den.

It was Bulkley Pond. That’s by Sasco Mill, on the Westport/Southport border. It’s right behind Shake Shack. And — sssshhh!  — there’s a cute little parking area, for your enjoyment.

Andrew Colabella, Billy Scalzi, Joyce Losen and Katie Augustyn knew exactly where that hidden-in-plain-sight site was. Click here for the photo, and all the comments.

This week’s photo challenge is a lot uglier. But — like the 3 Bears — it takes all kinds to make up Westport.

If you know where in Westport to find this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

 

Ring In The Year Of The Rooster — Right Here

Westport’s Chinese population is small.

But it’s diverse. There are doctors, financiers and restaurant owners.

Some are immigrants from mainland China. Others are transplants from New York. Some have lived here for over 30 years. Others moved in the other day.

Some came here for work opportunities. Many chose Westport for its excellent public schools, safe reputation and/or affordability (compared to towns closer to the city).

Some of Westport’s Chinese residents are involved in community affairs. Others are not. In that way, they mimic the rest of the town.

But all know that their new year begins this Saturday (January 21). Many — and many other Chinese, from throughout the area — will celebrate the Year of the Rooster right here in Westport.

happy-chinese-new-year

They won’t be at Shanghai Gourmet, Little Kitchen or Tengda though. Instead, they’ll head to … the Westport Woman’s Club.

That’s where the Organization of Chinese Americans of Fairfield County is holding their annual New Year’s bash. There’s food, entertainment, raffles, an art show, book signing — in fact, there’s so much to do, there are 2 different sessions (12-3 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.).

The OCA is a social, political and economic group, promoting Chinese heritage, ethnicity and culture. The local group also operates a Mandarin language school in Stamford.

Steven Chin is the new president of the Fairfield County chapter. An “ABC” — American-born Chinese — he’s a 6-year Westport resident eager to bring the New Year’s celebration to his town.

“As our children grow older, we want them to recognize their parents’ struggles to attain the American Dream,'” Chin says. “But we want to them to be good citizens of their communities too. OCA members of all ages perform a variety of charitable services.”

Organization of Chinese Americans working at a food drive last spring.

Organization of Chinese Americans working at a food drive last spring.

OCA has held events in Stamford, Darien and Norwalk. Last May, they sponsored a beach party at Burying Hill.

Chin’s wife Lina is a member of the Westport Woman’s Club. So the venerable building on Imperial Avenue seems a perfect place to celebrate a much, much older holiday.

新年快乐

(For more information about the Chinese New Year celebration on Saturday, January 21 —  and to make reservations — click here. Non-members are welcome!)

 

Westport’s Oldest Bank?

The other day, alert “06880” reader Peter Tulupman noticed something strange on the side of the Bank of America building downtown.

bank-of-america-1

High up on the side was the numeral “1806.”

That’s not the street number — it’s 126 Post Road East.

And it’s certainly not the year it was built. Despite circling through a number of names (Fleet, anyone?) since its days as Connecticut Bank & Trust — the original tenant, I believe — this is not a 211-year-old property.

If anyone has any idea why this bank bears that number, click “Comments” below.

The first person with the right answer gets a toaster.

What Would Martin Do?

Looking for a way to honor Martin Luther King?

Excited — or frightened — about the presidential inauguration?

Westport’s 11th annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration fills both bills.

This Sunday (January 15, 3 p.m., Westport Country Playhouse), check out an intriguing talk. It’s called “WWMD: What Would Martin Do in the Era of Post-Race Racism?”

Professor Tricia Rose

Professor Tricia Rose

The keynote speaker is Dr. Tricia Rose. She’s a Brown University professor of Africana studies, director of its Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, and a well-respected scholar of post-civil rights and black US culture.

Rose — who has been featured on PBS, CNN, NPR and many other media outlets — will talk about race in the current political environment, from the perspective of King’s philosophy. A Q-and-A session follows.

There’s also music from the Men’s Community Gospel Chorus of Norwalk; a spoken word piece based on King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” presented by students from Trumbull’s Regional Center for the Arts, and refreshments.

The event — co-sponsored by the Playhouse, Westport/Weston Interfaith Council and TEAM Westport — is free. The Westport Weston Family YMCA will provide childcare and activities.

For more information on “WWMD: What Would Martin Do?” click here. For highlights of last year’s Martin Luther King Day celebration, click the video below.

 

Friday Flashback #23

Alert “06880” reader Dana Pronti emailed this photo. It’s a 1930s view — looking east on Newtown Turnpike — at what is now the Country Store on Wilton Road. The photo was taken from where the Three Bears restaurant once stood.

wilton-road-lookingi-from-3-bears

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

That’s now the site of Chabad Lubavitch.

Here’s today’s view, from the same spot:

(Photo courtesy of Google Earth)

Has it changed much? You be the judge.

School Daze

It’s midterm time at Staples High School — so how about a pop quiz for everyone?

The subject is “Westport schools.” The answers are below. No cheating though — and no Googling!

  1. How many students were in Staples’ first graduating class? And what was special about them?
  2. Edward T. Bedford provided the funds for Bedford Elementary School and Bedford Junior High. But he also helped build another Westport school. Which was it?
  3. If you went looking for the old Burr Farms Elementary School, what would you find there today?
  4. True or false: The Doors, Eric  Clapton, Rascals and Rolling Stones all performed at Staples.
  5. Name 2 predecessors of Greens Farms Academy.
  6. If a sneaker brand was associated with Bedford Middle School, what would it be?
  7. A longtime principal of the original Saugatuck Elementary School on Bridge Street shares the same last name as the founder of one of Westport’s first private academies. What is that name?
  8. The 2nd principal of Staples High School has a parkway in Connecticut named for him. Who was he?
  9. Two  Staples High School athletic teams practiced in the basement of the old school, on Riverside Avenue. Which teams were they?
  10. Many decades ago, the Westport Board of Education rejected a proposal to add Spanish to the foreign language curriculum. Why?
Edward T. Bedford is the benefactor of not 1, not 2, but 3 Westport schools.

Edward T. Bedford is the benefactor of not 1, not 2, but 3 Westport schools.

Before I give the answers, here’s the reason for today’s quiz:

On Sunday, January 29 (3 p.m.), the Westport Historical Society hosts a reception for its new exhibit.

“Westport School Days: 1703-Present” offers a wide and fascinating look at the evolution of education here in town. From the first formal class (on “Green’s Farms Common”), through the growth of private academies and public schools, to today’s nationally renowned system, there’s a lot to learn.

Maps, photos and memorabilia — report cards! a bench from the original Adams Academy! — make for intriguing viewing.

Whether you went to school here or not — and whether you were an A student or spent all your time in the principal’s office — this is one exhibit not to be absent for.

And now, your test results:

  1. There were 6 students in Staples’ first graduating class. All were girls.
  2. Edward T. Bedford helped build both Bedford Elementary School and Bedford Junior High — and also Greens Farms El.
  3. Burr Farms Elementary School is now the site of large homes, on Burr School Road. The athletic fields are still there, however.
  4. False. All of those acts actually did appear at Staples — except the Stones.
  5. Greens Farms Academy’s predecessors include Mrs. Bolton’s School and the Kathleen Laycock Country Day School.
  6. A sneaker brand associated with Bedford Middle School would be Nike. The school is built on the former site of Nike missile silos.
  7. Both the boys and girls rifle teams practiced in the basement of Staples High School, when it was on Riverside Avenue. There was a shooting range down there.
  8. Dorothy Adams was the longtime principal of Saugatuck Elementary School. Ebenezer Adams founded Adams Academy. Both buildings remain. Saugatuck is now elderly housing on Bridge Street; Adams Academy is a historic site on North Morningside Drive.
  9. The Wilbur Cross Parkway is named for Staples High’s 2nd principal. He went on to become a distinguished professor at Yale University — and the governor of Connecticut.
  10. The Board of Education rejected a proposal to add Spanish to the foreign language curriculum because they believed it would have little value for Westport students.

(For more information on the Westport Historical Society exhibit, click here.)

The original Staples High School on Riverside Avenue ...

The original Staples High School on Riverside Avenue …

... and the school today.(Photo/Julie Mombello)

… and the school today. (Photo/Julie Mombello)

Tavern On Main: Yesterday On “Today”

If you watch the “Today” show, you may know that Craig Melvin has made a commitment to a vegetarian, alcohol-free diet this year.

You may also have seen yesterday’s segment on his “healthy reboot.” Filmed at Tavern on Main, it showcased the restaurant’s emphasis on incorporating healthy, seasonal produce in its menu. The Westport Farmers’ Market, for example, is a frequent source of food.

Tavern on Main

Melvin and his wife, ESPN’s Lindsay Czarnink, are frequent Tavern guests. Click here to see the segment.