For many years, he was an international banker. Then came his non-profit work, as CEO of Homes with Hopes and Goodwill of Western and Northern Connecticut.
Now he’s moderator of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) — our non-partisan legislative body he has served on since 2007. That’s in addition to all his other volunteer efforts (Positive Directions, Christ & Holy Trinity Church, and much more).
It’s hard to condense that all into half an hour, but Jeff and I had an informative, intriguing conversation the other day at the Westport Library. Why does he do it? How does he do it? What’s it all mean for our town, today and tomorrow?
Click below for some fascinating insights on the RTM, and all of us who live here.
(Podcasts are just a part of “06880.” Please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)
Last week’s Presidents Day Photo Challenge fooled some of our most historic-minded Westporters.
Sure, in 1775 George Washington stopped (and slept) at the Disbrow Tavern, the site of the present-day Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. He returned 5 years later.
A plaque marks the spot, by the elm tree where Church Lane meets Myrtle Avenue. But that’s not the marker that Kathie Motes Bennewitz’s image showed. (Click here to see.)
A similar plaque is partially hidden near the Christ & Holy Trinity (and Assumption Church) cemetery, on Kings Highway North. It’s across from the grassy area by Old Hill Road that, in Revolutionary times, served as a militia training and parade ground.
Elaine Marino, Bob Grant, Michael Calise and Morley Boyd all knew the correct location of this plaque.
Elaine also pointed out — to my great embarrassment — this was a previous Photo Challenge, in July 2018. (I really should read “06880,” right?)
During the Washington Bi-Centennial Celebration in 1932, the Compo Hill Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a bronze plaque at the base of the tree.
The plaque on Kings Highway does not indicate who placed it there.
The downtown plaque is more weather-beaten than its cemetery counterpart. It says: “George Washington stopped for refreshments at this tavern, June 28, 1775.” It also has the bicentennial dates: “1732-1932.”
That Disbrow Tavern visit — and the next — were not the only 2 times Washington stopped (and slept) here. As president, he spent the night of November 11, 1789 at Captain Ozias Marvin’s tavern, at what is now the north side of Post Road West, opposite Kings Highway South.
Sarah Marvin and her daughters cooked up a presidential feast: loaves of brown bread and pies, vegetables from their farm, huge roasts.
Yet Washington asked for only a bowl of bread and milk. To add insult to injury, he wrote in his diary: It was “not a good house, though the people of it were disposed to do all they could to accommodate me.”
No matter. For years thereafter, Marvin Tavern was known as the Washington Inn.
But enough about yesterday. Here is today’s Photo Challenge. if you know where in Westport you would see it, click “Comments” below.
Happy Easter! And what a way to celebrate, with this inspiring story.
Stephen Wall played in the legendary Staples High School band Smoke. After graduating in 1970, then earning a degree from the Hartt School of Music, he’s spent the past 40 years as a professional opera singer, primarily with the Seattle Opera. “La Bohème” would have been his 100th production, but the coronavirus put an end to that.
Stephen — whose wife Ginna is on the front lines, working at the University of Washington hospital — has been teaching Zoom lessons to private voice students during the crisis.
To get out of his basement studio, he took his string bass and a small speaker outside. To his surprise, neighbors out for a walk in his Ballard neighborhood stopped, smiled and chatted (from a distance). “They longed for a connection to the world they knew before,” Stephen says.
Last week, he brought a guitar amplifier outside. He hooked it up to some opera karaoke tracks, and began singing “popular Italian stuff.”
All week long, he sang outside. Friday’s performance of “Nessun Dorma,” from Puccini’s “Turandot,” was particularly memorable.
Now it’s been captured for eternity by Ginna, on YouTube. Listen to Stephen’s resonant voice. Check out the rapt attention of everyone, of all ages. Enjoy the applause at the end. Bellissimo! (Hat tip: Patty Graves and Mary Gai)
Jeremy Sherman graduated from Staples High School in 2013. He’s now in the MD/Ph.D. program at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, and volunteers at their free East Harlem clinic, serving people without health insurance.
More than 10% of their population have tested positive for COVID-19. Most have lost jobs; with little savings, they face food and housing insecurity.
Jeremy’s aunt, Suzanne Sherman Propp, asks “06880” readers to consider helping. Click here for details.
During the COVID-19 lockdown in China, Gao Ping composed “Bitter Cold Night” for violin and piano. The touching piece honored Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old doctor whose early warning about the virus was denounced by Chinese authorities. Dr. Li soon became one of the first fatalities of the disease.
Gao Ping chose Frederic Chiu — the internationally known pianist, who recently recorded a CD of his music — to premiere the piece.
Chiu — co-founder with his wife Jeanine Esposito of the Beechwood Arts & Innovation series, at their Weston Road home — performs the work this Wednesday (April 15) with his brother Cornelius Chiu, a longtime violinist in the Chicago Symphony.
Wednesday’s performance (6 to 7 p.m. EDT) airs during Beechwood’s Facebook Live event (click here). The hour includes other music, art, special guests and more.
This morning, Senator Richard Blumenthal joined Food for the Front Lines, delivering several hundred Easter Sunday meals to healthcare workers at Stamford Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport.
Food for the Front Lines was started by Westporter Nicole Straight, as a way to support both the Connecticut restaurant industry and healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds raised go to purchase meals for first responders and medical personnel.
Last month, Food for the Front Lines delivered meals to Westport EMS.
Meanwhile, my daily bike ride around town brought me to Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s well-masked, properly distanced, drive-by Easter Bunny.
Aarti Khosla — the generous owner of Le Rouge Aartisan Chocolates — created 200 Easter baskets. Thanks to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, they were available to all (first come, first served). An Easter miracle!
“06880” blogger meets the Easter Bunny. Safely, of course. (Photo/Kevin Bidgood)
And finally: Whether you celebrate Easter or not, who can resist Judy Garland and Fred Astaire?
Last Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I. It was also Veterans Day.
In honor of all the Westport service members who gave their lives throughout American history, I posted a photo of a plaque. It lists the names of 14 Westporters who died in World War II.
It’s an important piece of who we are. But where is it?
Those names provided a clue. Many more than 14 from this town were killed in action, in Europe, North Africa and the Pacific.
Those 14 soldiers, sailors and airmen were members of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. The plaque hangs on the church’s back wall, just inside the rear entrance.
It must be unnoticed by many. Sadly, no one knew the correct answer. Linda Amos was thinking “a church,” but she did not know which one. She came closest, until hours later Mary Cookman Schmerker nailed it.
Hopefully though, the plaque won’t be overlooked much longer. Christ & Holy Trinity congregants should seek it out. And because the church is used by so many community groups, others should find it too. (Click here to view the plaque.)
This week’s photo challenge, by contrast, is passed by every day by many Westporters. Still, how many of us actually see it?
If you know where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.
For nearly 50 years, Saugatuck Congregational Church has hosted — and done all the work for — the Community Thanksgiving Day Feast.
But just as traditions change — someone new in the family takes over the meal, somebody brings a great new dish — the longstanding Westport event has a different look this year.
Saugatuck Church is passing its turkey baster to the Inn at Longshore’s OnTheMarc catering. They’ll do the cooking — and the meal will be served at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
Many hands help with the Community Thanksgiving Feast.
Dan Levinson and Monique Bosch have stepped up to coordinate the feast.
But many things have not changed.
For one, everyone is invited.
For another, it’s still free. Partners — including Main Street Resources, Saugatuck Congregational, Christ & Holy Trinity, the Unitarian Church in Westport and Temple Israel — are making the day possible.
And — perhaps most importantly — tons of volunteers are needed. All ages are welcome. To help in any way, click here.
Recently, parishioners read — and discussed — Debby Irving’s thought-provoking Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race.
“It was a soulful venture,” says Rev. John Betit. “People talked openly and honestly about their own ignorance and stuggle.”
But, he adds, some congregants felt dissatisfied. They were unsure how to move forward on thorny issues of race.
They — and anyone else in Westport who wants to come — will take a step in that direction this Sunday (March 18, 11 a.m.). CHT will show “Traces of the Trade,” a true story of producer/director Katrina Browne’s ancestors — the largest slave-trading family in American history.
They were Northerners.
The documentary traces Browne and 9 cousins, as they work to understand the legacy of New England’s “hidden enterprise.” Family members are shaken by visits to Ghanaian slave forts and dungeons, and conversations with African Americans.
After the film, Dain Perry — one of Browne’s cousins — will facilitate a conversation about race, reconciliation and healing.
Perry — whose family are longtime Episcopalians — says the church shares responsibility for the slave trade. It condoned slavery, while the leading denomination in early America.
“Systemic racism is so big and hard-wired,” Betit notes. He hopes for a “softening of the ground,” as people “take a deeper look, and broaden their circle of awareness” about issues like slavery.
(The discussion also includes lunch. For more information call 203-227-0827. Click here for the film’s website.)
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