Roundup: Chief Foti, Mark Blake, Food Inequality …

The other day, Police Chief Foti Koskinas took CNN’s Alisyn Camerota for a spin.

The footage wound up yesterday on the network’s “Champions for Change” segment.

Foti was cited for his innovative community involvement, including helping the department handle demonstrations calmly and respectfully. He spoke candidly about the state of American policing, noting that he would take a knee with George Floyd protesters in solidarity, prayer and against police brutality — but not against police or the flag.

TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey praised Foti’s ability to listen. “There was some change in his position” during discussions after the Michael Brown incident, Bailey said — “and change in ours as well.”

The piece will be rebroadcast this Sunday (September 25, 8 p.m.), as part of a CNN special hour-long “Champions of Change.”

Click here to see the segment. Spoiler alert: I’m on camera for a few quick seconds. And I provide the voice-over intro, conclusion and other thoughts.

It was an honor to be included.

Screenshot from CNN: Alisyn Camerota and Chief Foti Koskinas.

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Autumn arrives tonight at 9:04.

This morning, Westport said goodbye to summer with a quick thunderstorm. Andrew Colabella captured this dramatic lightning strike over Cockenoe Island:

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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The Westport Police Department and Emergency Medical Services mourn the death of Mark Blake. The popular and generous EMS crew chief died Tuesday.

He was hired in May of 1990, and had a long, rewarding career serving Westport. He was a representative for the Southwest EMS Council for over 10 years, and was most recently its president.

Blake was a certified child safety seat instructor, and organized many car safety seat clinics throughout Fairfield County.

Blake also volunteered with Weston’s fire department and emergency medical services, for over 39 years. He was the department’s vice president, and earned the rank of lieutenant.

Westport Police and EMS say: “Those who knew Crew Chief Blake quickly realized that his passion was to help any way he could. Whether organizing a safety clinic, treating a sick patient or helping at the scene of a fire in Weston, he  was there.  His dedication and passion will most certainly be missed.

Deputy Chief Sam Arciola oversees Westport EMS. He says: “Mark was an incredibly dedicated public servant as well as a widely respected EMT. He never hesitated to put the needs of others above his own.”

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker adds, “I was saddened to hear of the passing of Crew Chief Blake. On behalf of the town, I want to extend my condolences to his friends and family as well as express how appreciative the town is for all his years helping our community.”

Mark Blake

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One more police item: Local departments were recognized recently, in a ceremony at Beth Israel Chabad in Norwalk.

Westport was represented by Police Chief Foti Koskinas, Weston by Police Chief Ed Henion. The event included plaques of appreciation, music and brunch.

Among the officials at the Beth Israel Chabad ceremony: Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht (far left), Weston Police Chief Ed Henion (4th from left), Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (5th from left) and Westport 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker (6th from left).

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The state of Connecticut will help fund replacement sidewalks near Greens Farms Elementary School, and renovations at the Weston Police Department.

The sidewalk project includes $250,000 from the state, and $100,000 in town funds. The police building includes $500,000 in state funds, and $264,926 from Weston.

State grants come from the Small Town Economic Assistance Program.

A sidewalk replacement project is coming soon to Greens Farms Elementary School.

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Up Next Teens is a Staples High School student-founded and run organization. They’ve just launched a new project: #FeedFairfield County.

The goal is to raise $25,000. That would supply meals for nearly 10,000 hungry residents.

They asked Wakeman Town Farm for help. The result is a great partnership.

On October 6 (6 p.m.), WTF hosts an intimate chef’s dinner. Marcia Selden caters; Greens Farms Spirits supplies the wine and bubbly — and UpNext Teens will serve.

They’ll also speak to guests about their goals and projects. Click here for tickets, and more information.

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Massimo Tabacco — the former owner of Bar Lupa, and other restaurants — has a new venture.

He’s partnered with lifelong Westporter Matthew Balk to open Il Pellicano, at 1460 Post Road in Fairfield.

The Italian restaurant features classic and contemporary dishes, including small plates, steaks, fish and piadina (an unleavened thin bread with delicious fillings).

There’s an extensive cocktail menu too, with experienced mixologists.

Il Pellicano opens tomorrow (Friday, September 23). A roof patio has just been approved, and will be ready soon. Click here for more information.

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The Westport Library’s Verso Studios are leading-edge.

So they’re a perfect spot for a new education initiative. The Fairfield County-based LiveGirl non-profit will co-host a 9-week Leadership Lab for high school girls there. Sessions start October 3, and run each Monday through December 14.

Founded in 2014, LiveGirl’s mission is to “prepare the next generation of diverse, brave female leaders with the skills, community, and connections so that all girls may thrive and make a positive impact on the world. LiveGirl’s vision is to contribute to a world free from both gender and racial inequality.”

Utilizing state-of-the-art Verso Studios media facilities, the LiveGirl Leadership Lab will focus on creative arts empowerment, multimedia expression and training. Participants will develop storytelling skills through creative channels like video, music and podcast production.

The program is free. Spots are limited, and pre-registration is required.

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The next Amy Simon Fine Art show is “Slow Motions,” with Liz Barber, Christopher Jeffries, Carolanna Parlato and Paul Shakespear.

It runs September 24 through November 5, at 123 Post Road East.

“Summer Fold 2” — mixed media on canvas (Liz Barber)

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Longtime Westporter and former Planning & Zoning Commission member Michael Stashower died yesterday. He was 96 years old.

The Cleveland native attended Hobart College as part of the US Navy’s V-12 Officer Training program, then received BA degree and MBA degrees from Cornell University.

After retiring from a long and successful career in corporate finance, Michael continued used his expertise as an overseas volunteer with the International Executive Service Corps, and to help with New York City’s 2012 Olympic bid.

In more than 50 years in Westport, he was actively involved in the community. He was elected twice to the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission. He was a past president of the UJA/Federation of Westport-Wilton-Norwalk, treasurer of Temple Israel, and served on the board of directors of the Council of Jewish Federations and the Jewish Home for the Elderly.

He loved sailing, tennis, and playing clarinet with the Westport Community Band.

Michael is survived by Gloria, his wife of nearly 72 years; their Susan (Paul Milbauer), Debby Missal (Michael) and Jon (Allison), and grandsons Jordan, Scott and Matthew.

A service is set for tomorrow (Friday, September 23, 10 a.m., Temple Israel). Shiva will be observed tomorrow from 1 to 5 p.m. at 321 Lansdowne.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests consideration of a donation to Temple Israel of Westport.

Michael Stashower

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Staples High School Class of 2010 graduate Keith Gelman moved back to Westport with his wife, in June.

The other evening he saw this barred owl, in his front yard. Classmate Stuart Schmerzler snapped this stunning “Westport … Naturally” photo. Follow @schmerzlertakesphotos on Instagram, for more great shots.

(Photo/Stuart Schmerzler)

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And finally … in honor of the great “Westport … Naturally” photo above, I had to include this song, by this band.

Get it?

(“Who” is going to support “06880”? Please click here to help!)

Flora Levin’s Eye On Guatemala

Flora Levin is a Westport plastic surgeon. She just returned from Guatemala, where she volunteered with the International Esperanza Project, a medical aid organization. Her  9th-grade daughter went too, working alongside surgeons and nurses, in the hospital. 

“It was an incredible experience,” Flora says. She writes:

I got involved with this medical/surgical mission through the wife of a friend/ and colleague.

I wanted to go for years, but COVID happened. This was the first opportunity to go since 2019.

I worked at a hospital run by nuns in Patzun, about 2 hours outside Guatemala City. It is truly a 3rd world place, where you feel that you are going back 2 centuries.

Dr. Flora Levin’s daughter, with a young Guatemalan patient.

There are no modern amenities. People cook on open fires, sleep 5 in one bed, and work in the fields after completing primary education. There is no preventative medicine, or what we consider routine care. Most families have 7-10 children.

When we first arrived, the most incredible sight was children and adults waiting in long lines outside the hospital, from 6 in the morning, to be seen. They waited patiently for hours, appreciative when their turn came, even if it was 8 hours later.

I was there with 3 other oculoplastic surgeons, one from Dallas and one from Paraguay. There were also 2 fellows (in training to be oculoplastic surgeons). There were 2 general surgeons, 1 pediatric surgeon and 1 pediatric ophthalmologist, in addition to an anesthesiologist, nurses and volunteers. My 14-year-old daughter Miri came as a volunteer.

Dr. Flora Levin (4th from left), and her team.

We worked for 5 days. On the first day we evaluated patients and scheduled them for surgery. The rest of the days we operated.

The conditions were not optimal: fewer operating rooms than surgeons, leaving procedures that did not require general anesthesia to be done in a regular room without ideal surgical lighting or air conditioning, limited supplies, and old equipment. Despite those challenges we did 55 oculoplastic procedures in both kids and adults and, with other specialties, operated on 123 patients.

Most people who came on this mission had never met before. It was incredible to see how everyone came together, putting personal needs (and egos) aside for a common goal. We shared all meals, late hours at the hospital, and left Guatemala as close friends. Without that camaraderie, kindness and humor, the challenging situation would have been impossible.

My daughter Miri worked tirelessly alongside the adults. She helped in the pre-operative area, playing with the kids waiting for surgery. She helped the nurses, got to watch hernia and gallbladder surgeries, and got to scrub in with me on a case and watch me operate. That was incredibly special.

Dr. Flora Levin and her daughter, at work.

It was an incredible week, Being able to help so many people and touch so many lives is a feeling that cannot be put into words. I plan to return next year, hopefully with supplies that I know will be valuable to provide even better care to those that need it.

I also have a new appreciation for all the modern-day amenities we take for granted!

(For more information on The International Esperanza Project, click here.)

(“06880” is “Where Westport meets the world.” To support stories like this, please click here.)

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Pic Of The Day #1983

Colorful Compo kayaks (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

Unsung Hero #255

Alert — and grateful — “06880” reader Randi Nazem writes:

At a time of so many late school bus pick-ups and drop-offs, and shortages and rotations of bus drivers (every day a different one on some buses), I want to shine a light on the driver of bus #39 at Coleytown Elementary School.

Mohammad is the most amazing driver we have had in the 5 years I’ve lived here. He was our driver last year and we thought he was stellar then. But this year, in just 3 short weeks, he has blown us all away with his timeliness, his compassion for the children and their safety, and the smile he brings to the bus stop every morning and afternoon.

Mohammad waves goodbye …

Bus 39 hit the driver jackpot, and we couldn’t be happier! He never leaves the stop without checking if all the regulars are on the bus. He drops off and won’t leave the youngest children alone if there is not a parent waiting.

He waits for us if we are running late, and most of all he has full control of a packed bus of children who are always seated and well behaved.

… and poses with some of his bus 39 children. 

Let’s give a shout out to the driver of Bus #39: a hard worker who comes who shows up every day for our children!

Your Blue Ribbon Drive/Bayberry Lane/Cross Highway crew recognizes you, and all the great things you have done to get our children to CES on time and safely.

You can’t put a price on that!

Congratulations and thank you, Mohammad. You are our Unsung Hero of the week. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com.

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

More smiling faces. (All photos/Randi Nazem)

 

Roundup: Father Chip, Mark Blake, Downtown …

The recent news that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard had a Westport connection — and not just because Westporters know the island well.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown helped lead the Vineyard response. The church provided shelter for 2 nights, and many meals.

That’s not unusual. St. Andrew’s already runs a winter shelter at the parish house, with cots, a large kitchen, showers and laundry.

The church’s minister is Rev. Vincent Seadale — though everyone on Martha’s Vineyard calls him Father Chip.

He was Chip at Staples High School too, where he was part of the Class of 1978. He was called to St. Andrew’s in 2009, after serving at the Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville, Florida.

After Staples, Father Chip graduated from Colgate University and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He spent 16 years as an attorney, before graduating from Yale University Divinity  School in 2004.

Father Chip Seadale

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Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services says:

“We, and every person who Crew Chief Mark Blake inspired, are heartbroken.

“After 61 years blessing our earth with his kindness, and over 30 years of compassionate, dedicate, and excellent service to our community, Mark passed away yesterday morning.

“An incredibly dedicated public servant and a widely respected EMT who always put the needs of others above his own, Mark leaves behind a legacy of not only thousands of lives saved on the ambulance, but countless more (for decades to come) as he educated and helped raise the future generations of EMS personnel through educational classes, state and regional programs, and as a mentor to many of our community’s emergency medical technicians.

“Always looking for a bright spot in the day, the background of this photo — a brilliant Compo Beach sunrise — was taken by Mark during one of the many sunrises he witnessed while serving the community on duty.”

Visitation is set for Monday (September 26, 4 to 8 p.m., Harding Funeral Home). A funeral Mass will be held Tuesday (September 27, 2 p.m., St. Matthew Church, Norwalk, followed by a graveside service at 3:30 p.m. at Willowbrook Cemetery.

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As plans for “Reconnecting the Riverfront” — the project to redesign parking and pedestrian areas downtown — move forward (a bit more quickly than Parker Harding traffic), the public is invited to participate.

A public survey is now open, Click here to begin.

A “visioning charrette and open house” is set for September 29 (7 to 9 p.m., Westport Library). Residents and stakeholders are encouraged to attend.

The Downtown Plan Implementation Committee is coordinating the project. with Langan Engineering and Environmental Services. The DPIC includes town department heads and residents. They hold public meetings on the 2nd Thursday of each month, at 8:30 a.m. Click here for details.

Screenshot from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

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Compo’s South Beach at sunset was the setting yesterday evening, for a renewal of vows.

After 25 years of marriage, Dr. Lynn Wilson held his bride Nancy’s bouquet, as she read their words to each other. Justice of the Peace Rhona Lieberson was the officiant.

(Photo/Stacie Curran)

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Staples High Class of 2015 graduate Rachel Treisman has covered human interest stories around the royal funeral for NPR. She gained journalism experience while working for Inklings, the school newspaper — and then served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.

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Registration for Westport Parks & Recreation Department winter programs begins online at 9 a.m. on October 3.

Click here to view the offerings. Click here to begin registration.

If you are unable to log into your online account, email recreation@westportct.gov or call 203-341-5152.

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On February 29, 2020, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library sponsored another successful Supper & Soul dinner/concert.

A few days later, COVID clobbered the town.

The event was set to resume this past May. But the band got the virus, and had to cancel. The Chamber refunded all tickets.

Now, it’s full speed ahead.

The next Supper & Soul — the first in over 2 1/2 years — is set for Saturday, October 22. Cris Jacobs — who rocked the 2018 Blues Views & BBQ — brings his high energy to the Library Forum, following dinner at a variety of downtown restaurants.

One ticket entitles attendees to a 3-course meal at any of 11 eateries, plus the show, then a stop at any of the restaurants for happy hour-priced post-concert drinks.

Participating restaurants are 190 Main, Amis, Arezzo, Basso, Capuli, Da Tapas, Don Memo, Manna Toast, Spotted Horse, Goji (Wafu) and Walrus Alley. Dinner is 6 p.m.; the concert is at 8.

Tickets are $90 each for the dinner and concert. Concert-only tickets are $40. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Cris Jacobs and his band.

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Westport Country Playhouse is launching a new mobile unit. It will travel to audiences, grades 6 to 10, for live theatrical performances.

Designed to be adaptable for any kind of space, including cafeterias, libraries and classrooms, the Playhouse Mobile Unit brings to schools a 45-minute, fully staged production with professional actors, sets, costumes and special effects.

The performance is followed by a Q&A with the actors. A study guide and curriculum are provided, with classroom activities and games.

Funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Town of Westport’s American Rescue Plan Act funding for the arts.

 The inaugural play — “Scaredy Kat Presents” — captures the joys and struggles of adolescence, while attempting to destigmatize anxiety and panic disorder. Bookings are underway, for performances beginning in January.

The Playhouse offers financial aid and payment plans, along with group sales and discounts for multiple performances in one day.

For more information, email education@westportplayhouse.org or call Kendall Driffin, education and community engagement associate: 203-571-1133.

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Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church is gearing up for a full season of musical events.

On Sunday October 9 (5 p.m.), noted English vocal ensemble VOCES8 stops by on their international tour. The program includes Renaissance, jazz and the American song book.

Tickets include a post-performance reception. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

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An opening reception for the new show at the George Billis Gallery is set for tomorrow (Thursday, September 22, 4 to 6:30 p.m., 180 Post Road East).

Featured artists include Glen Hacker, Chad Holliday, Karen O’Neil and Stephanie Reiter.

“Fervent Zeal” (Chad Holliday)

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Today’s interesting “Westport … Naturally” photo — of a woodpecker, at the Westport Community Gardens — comes courtesy of Peter Swift:

(Photo/Peter Swift)

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And finally … if you haven’t heard of Cris Jacobs — the star of next month’s Supper & Soul dinner/concert — click below.

Actually, click on if you have heard of Cris Jacobs, too!

(There is a lot going on in Westport — and “06880” covers it all. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)

Mark Perlman: “Le Soldat Involontaire”

Mark Perlman spent his career in financial services. In Westport, he served on the Conservation Commission.

But his passion is World War I.

“It was the most cataclysmic event of the 20th century,” the Western Front, World War I Historical Association and Westport Weston Y’s Men member explains.

“Four of the 5 world empires dissolved at the end. There would be no World War II without World War I. And the treaties signed then, with all their man-made geography, have led to so much political dysfunction today.”

Mark Perlman

About 15 years ago, he began research for a historically based novel. He traveled to French museums and libraries, and Virginia Military Institute. He also researched the Harlem Hellfighters, the famous all-black unit.

His plot: A man expatriates himself to Jazz Age Paris. Moving from the late 19th century through the 1970s, Perlman wove together romance, murder, and of course World Wars I, II and the rise of fascism. Wanting to focus on someone who faced plenty of adversity, the author made his protagonist African American.

Working with an editor he found online, he finished the novel and sent it to literary agents and publishers.

One was interested. He asked Perlman: Are you Black?

Why does it matter? the author responded.

There was no answer — but it did. “I was dropped like a hot potato,” he says.

One publisher sent a contract. To prevent any misunderstanding, Perlman told her he is white.

She said, “I can’t publish this.”

“Current cancel culture has something to do with cultural appropriation,” Perlman says.

That’s not a issue in France. A publisher there bought the rights, translated it, and just published “Le Soldat Involontaire” (“The Reluctant Soldier”) in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada.

In French, of course.

“I’m one of the few authors who can’t read his own book,” Perlman notes. “I haven’t even gotten author copies.”

He’s not angry or upset that he has yet to find an American publisher. But, he says, “If it’s a good story, why does it matter who wrote what? If you enjoy a book, and don’t know the author’s background, who cares?”

Perlman points to another author who met resistance at the beginning.

“Sixty years ago, Barbara Tuchman wrote ”The Guns of August,'” Perlman says of the spell-binding World War I history.

“She had no military experience. There was a bit of acrimony. But it was a great book, and it won a Pulitzer Prize. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK had his commanders read it, to prevent lighting a spark like with World War I.”

Perlman is not comparing “Le Soldat Involontaire” to “The Guns of August.”

Still, he says: “I found a way to get it published. And that’s what counts.”

(To order the book in French, click here. For more information, or to order a signed copy, email firstdiv@optonline.net)

(“06880” is your English-language source for all things Westport-related. Please click here to support this blog.)

Pic Of the Day #1982

Sunday night: last picnic at Compo? (Photo/Judith Katz)

Roundup: Ned Lamont, Emergency Prep, Queen Elizabeth …

Last week, the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston hosted gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski at the Westport Library.

Yesterday, it was Ned Lamont’s turn.

Former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe moderated the discussion. Asked about affordable housing, the Democratic incumbent said that local communities need to take the lead.

Traffic is a problem in the state, Lamont said — and entrance/exit ramps on highways are the source of the greatest congestion. He also noted that train bridges were not build for high-speed rail traffic, and cause slowdowns.

With unemployment very low in Connecticut, Lamont said there is a job for everyone who wants one. Though recession headwinds are ahead, he said, the state is in good shape.

The governor also noted that Connecticut has the largest unfunded pension debt in the country. However, he said, his administration has reduced interest debt, saving $400 million in interest payments.

Lamont also recalled that he met his wife Annie in Westport. (Reporting by Dave Matlow)

Governor Ned Lamont and former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, at yesterday’s Y’s Men event at the Westport Library. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

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Last night’s storm knocked out power to 239 customers in the Old Mill Beach area. This morning, Eversource’s map showed no outages remaining.

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Dozens of rescue vehicles — helicopters, tanks, ambulances, you name it — converged on Sherwood Island State Park yesterday.

Fortunately, it was just a drill.

Local and regional authorities and incident management teams shared knowledge, and demonstrated technology for Connecticut politicians and other services. The event was organized by the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, for the 14-town area.

!st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Deputy Fire Chief Nick Marsan represented Westport.

Among the activities:

This bomb squad robot has X-ray vision, and can shoot projectiles.

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There was plenty of pomp yesterday, when Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest.

There was also plenty of music.

Staples High School Class of 1966 graduate Paul Gambaccini is a longtime music journalist. Based in London, he also hosts of “Her Majesty’s Music” on the BBC.

Gambaccini was interviewed by NPR, about the songs that “inspired and defined” the late queen. Click here to listen. (Hat tip: Mary Ann Meyer)

Paul Gambaccini

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Pumpkin spice lattes and muffins have been here since around Independence Day.

Now it’s time for “Fall Pumpkin Centerpieces.”

That’s the title of a session at Wakeman Town Farm (October 4, 6:30 p.m.). Chryse Terrill will instruct attendees on how to create a fall harvest centerpiece inside a pumpkin. Some materials will be harvested from WTF’s gardens.

Of course, everyone can take home their work of art. Click here to register.

A pumpkin centerpiece.

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This Thursday’s Jazz at the Post (September 22, 7 and 8:30 p.m. shows, 6:30 p.m. dinner, 465 Riverside Avenue, $10 cover) is a feast for local music lovers.

“Jazz Rabbi” Greg Wall brings world-class Gospel pianist, choir director, bandleader — and local legend — Chris Coogan to VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399.

The musicians met almost 10 years ago. They share a deep spiritual attachment to American music that digs deep into its roots, and extends up from there.

Joining in are John Mobilio and Jim Royle, both longtime rhythm-mates of Coogans.

Reservations are strongly suggested: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Greg Wall and Chris Coogan

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Saturday’s Westport Country Playhouse gala — the first in-person benefit in 3 years — lived up to its hype.

Broadway star Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler in “Hamilton”) headlined the event, with a high-energy concert of Broadway pop and soul music, backed by a 7-piece band.

Attendees also enjoyed a pre-show cocktail party, live auction and after-party with a DJ and dancing.

Renee Elise Goldsberry and her band, at the Playhouse. (Photo/Coppola Photography)

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The other day, Peter Marks complained about “visual pollution” in Westport.

Yesterday, he sent along this example, at the Compo Road South/Post Road traffic island:

(Photo/Peter Marks)

He’s particularly concerned about signs advertising upcoming events that stay up long after they’re over.

Of course, the political season has just begun. We’ll see more — not fewer — signs everywhere, in the weeks ahead.

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Former Westporter Ellen Wisser died Friday in Norwalk. She was 92.

The Brooklyn native attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with classmates and friends Grace Kelly and Vince Edwards. At Brooklyn College she met her future husband and lifetime love, Allen Wisser, who had already performed with the Broadway show “Showboat”‘s national tour.

After they married Ellen taught at James Madison High School in Brooklyn.

Ellen and Allen moved their young family to Westport in 1960. Ellen continued commuting to Brooklyn, then began teaching English, speech and drama at Harding High School in Bridgeport. She also produced and directed the annual school play, influencing the lives of many teachers and students, who continued to stay in touch for decades.

Ellen was active in the Bridgeport, Connecticut and National Educational Associations. She ran for the NEA presidency in 1976.  She was an advocate of the women’s liberation movement at the local and national levels.

Ellen changed careers in her 50’s, attending Bridgeport Law (now the Quinnipiac School of Law). She then practiced family and worker’s compensation law until age 88. Ellen recently survived 3 different types of cancer, forcing her retirement, and defeated unbeatable odds.

She was predeceased by her husband, grandson Tyler Wisser and brother Marvin Borenstein. She is survived by her children, Dr. Jamie R. Wisser (Natalie), Kerry M. Wisser (Debbie), R. Ilise Gold (Fritz Heilbron); grandchildren Davin Gold, Alanna Dayton, Evan Wisser, Caitlyn Wisser, Ryan Wisser; great grandchildren Jack, Sam and Beck Dayton, Claire and Penelope Wisser; sister-in-law Gladys Floch, many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral services will be held today (Tuesday, September 20, 1 p.m., Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home, Fairfield), with interment following at Temple Israel Cemetery in Norwalk.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Connecticut Education Foundation – Children’s Fund.

Ellen Wisser

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Roger Ratchford died earlier this month, at 88. He was a teacher, golf coach, and advocate for people with disabilities.

The Norwalk native was raised mostly by his mother, with the help of the large Hungarian side of his family. Though she died when he was 13, Roger went on to become valedictorian of his class at Fairfield Prep. To supplement a tuition scholarship to the College of the Holy Cross, he worked afternoon shifts at Worcester Quilting Company.

After graduating he returned to Prep to teach Latin, classical Greek, French and English, and coach the golf team for 40 years. He was inducted into the Prep Athletic Hall of Fame, was named National High School Golf Coach of the Year, and held a national record for wins.

Roger was also one of the first to bring American high school students to the French Alps for homestays with French families. He strongly felt that immersion was the best way to master a language.

Until the end of his life, heh could recite by memory passages from Homer’s “Odyssey” — in the original Greek. He was proud of his work helping the nuns at the Convent of St. Birgitta in the proper pronunciation of Latin chants.

But Roger felt his greatest legacy was improving opportunities for people with disabilities. Inspired by his son Mike, he and his wife Gail became actively involved in the growth of STAR, Inc.

He lobbied for the closure of Mansfield Training Center in 1993, and advocated for a shift to group homes and the full integration of people with disabilities into the community. Two-time president of STAR, he was named Volunteer of the Year by the ARC of CT in 1988.

He was a walking encyclopedia of Norwalk history, and was proud of the Ratchfords’ long legacy in this town, from the Ratchford Hotel & Saloon in the first part of the 20th century, to his Aunt Helen’s tenure as a teacher at Norwalk High.

Roger was predeceased by his wife. He is survived by 3 children and 1 grandchild. His family is indebted to Dorrean, Sharon Mack, and her staff for their loving care during hospice. 

A funeral mass will be held on Thursday (September 22, 2 pm, St. Mary’s Church, Norwalk. A Celebration of Life will be held at Fairfield Prep some time in October. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to STAR Lighting the Way.

Gail and Roger Ratchford

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Michael Szeto describes today’s “Westport … Naturally”photo:

“We are infested with deer in Westport, since they lack natural predators and we are not allowed to hunt them. A herd of 5 or 6 deer constantly roams through my backyard.

“But yesterday was a first for me. I saw 2 bucks butting heads in my back yard, apparently fighting for territorial dominance. They don’t seem to realize that I own the land, not them.”

(Photo/Michael Szeto)

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And finally … to honor the Queen (and Paul Gambaccini — story above), here is the quintessential British song:

 

COVID And Divorce: Carole Orland Splits The Difference

The crucible of COVID drew many couples together.

Spending much more time than usual together, sharing parenting and household and professional duties like never before, they found strength and bonds that may have frayed over the years.

But the pandemic also caused many marriages to founder.

Stuck at home, without the usual distractions of offices and friends, some couples grew apart. Partners magnified their spouses’ flaws — real or imagined. Add in kid issues, mental health challenges and more, and the stresses mounted.

Maybe they had talked about divorce before the virus. Maybe not.

Either way, Carole Orland says, they’re talking about it now.

She should know. A partner at Westport-based Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie, she — and the firm — specialize in family law.

Which often means “divorce.”

Carole Orland

It sounds like a difficult specialty. But, the Worcester native and longtime Westport resident says, it is “an opportunity to help people who are in a bad way. It’s rewarding to see the process. By the end they feel better about themselves and their circumstances. They’re ready for their lives to really take off.”

Orland also likes the chance to be involved in other areas of law, like trusts and estates, and torts. She has a wide range of clients — in finance, business, sports, entertainment and blue-collar jobs — and learns something new in every case.

She learns about law. And she learns about human nature.

Is it depressing?

“That’s not the right word,” she counters. “It’s sad, sometimes. You see emotions, afflictions, addictions, abuse — bad stuff. My challenge is to get them to a better place. It’s not just about the divorce itself. We don’t just drop them off at the end.”

COVID shut down her office in March 2020, as it did many others. But they reopened in mid-May. Courts were closed; remote proceedings had not yet begun.

But the floodgates opened. And she has been busy ever since.

The pandemic changed how divorce looks, Orland says. As more fathers work and spend time at home, child custody arrangements evolve.

Employment is different too. COVID caused some people to reassess their work. “High flyers may not be in jobs that are as lucrative now,” Orland notes. “And other people lost their jobs.”

At the same time, people used the pandemic to move to higher-paying careers. Others found themselves in industries, like real estate, which boomed.

All of those situations force new looks at divorce settlements already in place. That’s even more work for Orland.

Not all of her job involves splits. She also arranges pre-nuptials. Marriages declined during the worst months of COVID. Now there’s a rush to the altar — and more clients.

“We were crazy busy before,” Orland says. “Now it’s really insane.”

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Pics Of The Day #1981

Tonight’s brief but intense storm produced these scenes:

Storm clouds move over Compo Beach … (Photo/Brian Sikorski)

… and Soundview Drive … (Photo/Maureen Aron)

… and rain falls outside the Gorham Island office building … (Photo/Jill McGroarty)

… and then a rainbow at Compo … (Photo/Maureen Aron)

… and over the cannons … (Photo/Lana Diggin)

… and Sherwood Mill Pond, where the power is out … (Photo/Matt Murray)

… and this double rainbow over Compo Cove … (Photo/Tammy Barry)

… and over Saugatuck Shores … (Photo/Rindy Higgins)

… and on Long Lots Road, near the Hunt Club … (Photo/Ellen Patafio)

… and downtown, over the Saugatuck River … (Photo/Danny White)

… while nearby, this tree is down on Thomas Road (Photo/Patricia McMahon)