Tag Archives: Bob Knoebel

Roundup: Green Acre Teardown, Tax Help, Ukraine Aid …

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Westport teardowns happen so often, they’re not news.

This one might be.

A 5,400-square foot, 5-bedroom, 4 1/2-bathroom 1930 Tudor at 36 Green Acre Lane — well known by visitors to nearby Haskins Preserve — will be demolished soon. A 180-day waiting period set by the Historic District Commission has expired.

Westport Journal reports that property was sold in 2020 for $2,570,000. 

36 Green Acre Lane will be demolished soon.

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Who you gonna believe?

The sign on Jersey Mike’s says “Permanently Closed.” A couple of screen shots on social media show the Westport location as “Temporarily Closed for Renovation.” The app and website list it along with all the others as open.

Meanwhile, the phone rings there, but no one answers.

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It’s late March. April 15 — Tax Day — is closer than you think.

Help is closer than you think too — at least, for preparing your forms.

No-cost, full-service tax preparation assistance is available, with special attention to seniors and low- to moderate-income households.

The program — offered by Westport’s Department of Human Services, through VITA/IRS volunteers — includes both personal counseling by appointment at Town Hall and the Senior Center, and virtually through a secure website.

Counseling at Town Hall is available Mondays (1 to 6 p.m.) and the Senior Center (Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.). Appointments are required; call 860-590-8910.

Click here for the virtual option.

The free Tax Assistance Program is available to all individual filers regardless of income or age. Last year, more than 5,000 returns were prepared and filed – almost all electronically – by the counselor group that services Westport. Federal refunds totaling $4,500,000 were received by clients..

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Staples High School Class of 1972 graduates Tom McCann and his wife Mary-Jo Birtwell McCann live on Nantucket now.

But they’re helping Ukraine relief efforts. And they invite Westporters to participate.

For the past 10 days, Mary-Jo shopped and shipped for items to send to 2 refugee centers in Poland. Next week, Tom and 4 others from the island will head to those centers, to assist personally.

Financial support is needed for the mission. Venmo this link, or send a check to: Tom McCann, 35 Hummock Pond Road, Nantucket, MA 02554.

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Speaking of Ukraine: Steve Taranko reports that a recent shipment of tourniquets — donated by generous Westporters and others — has arrived overseas.

Unfortunately, they’re desperately needed.

Tourniquets in Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Steve Taranko)

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Bob Knoebel — longtime Westport YMCA aquatics director and Water Rats coach — now lives in Idaho. The other day, he traveled east and visited with his own Staples High School swim coach from 51 years ago, Bruce Gardiner.

Bruce is retired, after a long career as director of admissions at Lehigh University. Bob posted a photo on Facebook, adding: “Thanking you properly for being a fantastic coach, and apologizing for the awkward, tongue-tied thank you I delivered at the banquet as team captain in 1971.”

Bob Knoebel (left) and Bruce Gardiner, at Lehigh University.

Bob also sends along an update on his godson Enrique, profiled 4 years ago on “06880”:

He’s graduating from Bates College in May with a double major in economics and Latin American studies, and landed a job at First Republic Bank in San Francisco.

In the Small World Department: He worked remotely from campus this year for native Westporters and Water Rats David and Danny Platow who are at a New York branch of First Republic.

Bob had nothing to do with it, though. Enrique was linked to them by his boss, after interning for her last summer in San Francisco.

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Staples just wrapped up a very successful World Language Week.

Each day began with music related to the Language of the Day — Spanish, French, German, Italian, Latin and Mandarin. Morning announcements (including the Pledge of Allegiance) were made by students, in the language of the day.

Language clubs raised awareness — and funds for less fortunate youngsters in other countries.

The Italian Club, for example, collected $400 for at-risk youths in Napoli. The club  also offered Italian pins, bracelets, lanyards and Italian goodie bags. Grazie! (Hat tip: Bruno Guiduli)

Italian Club members outside the Staples cafeteria, with goodies (from left): Luca Caniato, Bruno Guiduli, David Sedrak, Amanda Rowan, Maisy Weber, Caroline Motyl.

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In September, the Westport Unitarian Church high school youth group embarked on an intensive environmental initiative. The goal was to become more mindful of how everyday decisions profoundly affect the Earth.

That effort culminates next month in a trip to Alaska, to see the effects of climate change close up. Members hope to return both nourished by nature, and awakened to the realization that we live on an amazing planet that we often take for granted.

To help fund their trip, the youth group presents an “Afternoon of Music and Laughter.” It’s this Sunday (March 27, 2 p.m., both in-person at the Unitarian Church and via Zoom). The program includes vocal music, classical piano and guitar, comedy routines and more.

Tickets are $25 each. They’re available at the door, and online (click here).

Unitarian Church high school youth group.

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Thomas Howard, a well-respected economist, lifelong adventurer and Westport resident, died last week while mountaineering in the Adirondacks.  He was 63.

His family says, “Many will remember him for his deep morality, thoughtfulness, loving nature, intellectual capacity, generosity, and playful sense of humor.”

He was born in 1958 in Richmond, Virginia. At both the Highgate School in London and Hopkins School in New Haven he was an avid track and cross country runner, at one point setting the 10K record in Britain for his age group.

At Dartmouth College he studied math under John Kemeny. and became his teaching assistant. He completed an honors thesis exploring the equations and logic required to teach computers to talk. He earned a doctorate in economics from Yale University, where he expanded on an interest in econometrics and completed a dissertation on employment uncertainty under advisor Robert Shiller.

During his 40-plus year career Tom worked as a computer programmer for the Pentagon, a macroeconomist for Fuji Bank, and a consultant for Arthur D. Little and PIRA Energy. He was skilled in forecasting, econometrics, data analysis, and formulating options trading strategies. Other employers included Louis Dreyfus, Statoil and, most recently, the Department of Defense.

Tom was an accomplished mountaineer and hiker. He spent over 40 years climbing some of the most challenging mountains on the globe: ascending Mt. McKinley, Mt. Huascaran in Peru and Xixabangma Peak in the Himalayas, to name a few. He hiked the 273-mile Long Trail in Vermont and the entirety of the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia. In October 2021 he crossed the entire White Mountain Presidential Range in one day. Tom aspired to climb the second-highest mountain on all 7 continents. Hw finished the first part of this journey when he scaled Mt. Kenya in the fall of 2021.

Tom is survived by his wife, Zhu Zhang Howard (Julie), and daughters Gwendolyn and Madison Howard. He met Julie while working in New York; they married in 1993, and moved to Westport in 1997. He is also survived by his siblings Margaret Paar of Niantic; James Elbert of Wallingford; Amy Howard Chase of New Rochelle, New York; Mary Howard of Branford; Martha Howard of Guilford, and Emily Howard of Washington, DC, plus many nieces and nephews.

Visitation hours at the Courtyard Marriott, 474 Main Street, Norwalk will be tomorrow (Friday, March 25, 5-8 p.m.). A Funeral Mass will be held Saturday, (March 26, 11 a.m., St. Luke Church), and can be viewed via livestream. A reception will follow to celebrate his life. Masks are recommended.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in the name of Tom Howard to Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks, benefitting search and rescue efforts in the Northern Adirondacks, or St, Luke Church.

Thomas Howard

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Today is pretty gray. Two days ago, dogs romped on Compo — as our “Westport … Naturally” feature shows. Their time is limited though. On April 1, they’re banned from the beach for 6 months.

(Photo/Cathy Malkin)

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And finally … in honor of Staples High’s World Language Week (story above), and the fundraising work of the school’s Italian Club, here’s a song everyone loves:

Bob Knoebel’s Dreamer

For 29 years, Bob Knoebel was a revered Westport YMCA Water Rats swim coach and aquatics director. The 1971 Staples High School graduate now enjoys a 2nd career in Idaho, as an equally well-respected fishing guide.

Bob is also the godfather of a young man named Enrique. In the wake of President Trump’s decision to end DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for 800,000 people — he sent along these thoughts:

If you grew up in Westport, you were accustomed to your mom driving you to soccer or swimming practice, making sure you were at your games or meets on time.

Your parents were at every game. They cheered — or better yet, acted as volunteer coaches or officials.

Bob Knoebel

They also made sure you had everything you needed to succeed in school — the proper supplies, a dedicated place to study — and had regular contact with your teachers.

You took music lessons, dance lessons, swimming lessons or became an Eagle Scout. Your parents were probably college educated, and helped you navigate the college process.

Even if you didn’t realize it, they were looking over your shoulder — just to make sure. Lucky you, lucky me for being fortunate enough to grow up in Westport and graduate from Staples.

Imagine for a moment your parents don’t speak English. They have less than a high school education. You live in a trailer.

At 9 years old you missed a soccer game because you had to act as an interpreter/negotiator for your dad when he bought a goat from a local rancher, or needed you to go to the junkyard to do the same for parts for the family truck.

Your most important role in the family is what you can provide in terms of financial support.

To top it off, your mom doesn’t drive.

Imagine if you lived in fear that ICE might show up at your home to deport your mom or dad. Imagine the relief you would feel if you were offered a level of protection that the Obama-era program known as DACA provided you.

You could do the things your schoolmates take for granted, like get a driver’s license or summer job.

I am the “padrino” (godfather) for Enrique, a DACA-protected 17-year-old who is a high school senior here in Idaho.

He has more grit than you came imagine, because of challenges like these. He has completed 5 AP courses, and is taking 3 more this year. He started a tutoring program at the middle school to help other 1st-generation college  hopefuls, and recruited friends to help.

Enrique is a top student.

Enrique works after school, interning at an engineering firm. He plays saxophone in the band, and belongs to the National Honor Society and Key Club.

Trout Unlimited chose him last summer to attend a national leadership conference in Montana.

Bob Knoebel and Enrique.

He is the first Hispanic player on his high school lacrosse team, and was the top-scoring underclassman last year.

Enrique wants to go to college. Not because he hopes to change the world, but for a more humble reason: to help his family.

He’s counting on a scholarship to a private university, because he does not qualify for in-state tuition at Idaho schools.

He never complains, gets stressed or worries about his future, because he believes in the goodness of America and the promises it offers to those who work hard.

He’s not worried that the Trump administration has announced an end to DACA. He believes that Congress will act with compassion when deciding his fture, and that of 800,000 others.

In a senior class of just over 200, there are 14 other DACA-protected students alone.

It’s a world away from Staples.

But it’s Enrique’s reality. He is making the best of it.

Among many other things, Enrique is a star lacrosse player.