Need help with taxes? (Besides having more money, that is.)
Westport’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program — free state and federal preparation — runs from now through April 15. IRS-certified preparers assist seniors and low- to moderate-income households, virtually or through a limited in-person scanning option.
The national program is run locally by the Department of Human Services.
The virtual option provides uploading of information via a secure encrypted site A specialist reviews and follows up for additional information as needed. Click here to participate.
The limited, on-site scanning capabilities at the Senior Center is offered Tuesdays (1 to 4 p.m.) and Thursdays (9 a.m. to noon). Participants complete a phone call to confirm what documentation is required to participate. Call 203-341-1071 for an appointment.
More than 700 returns were prepared and filed last year in Westport, with total refunds exceeding $350,000.
Westport lost one of its most beloved residents yesterday. Martha Aasen — who with her husband Larry was a force in local and state Democratic politics for decades, but who also worked tirelessly for a variety of bipartisan civic causes — died yesterday in Norwalk Hospital of complications from a fall last weekend. She was 90 years old.
The Mississippi native and her North Dakota-born husband were a powerful pair. His politics came from the populism of the prairie; hers were sparked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the injustices she saw growing up in the segregated South.
After graduating from the University of Mississippi, she worked for McGraw Hill. Her editor, Larry Aasen, became her husband. They married in 1953, and moved to Westport a decade later. They raised their children David and Susan on Ellery Lane.
Memorial Day 2018 grand marshal Larry Aasen and his wife Martha. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)
Martha Aasen later worked in public relations for the United Nations, and for International Executive Service Corps in Stamford.
Her long service to the Westport Democratic Women earned her its coveted Silver Donkey Award. The Yellow Dog Democrat Award is named in her honor.She was proud of meeting a host of politicians, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, when they came to town.
The Westport Democratic Town Committee says:
Martha was ever-present, inspirational, and loved by all who had the honor to serve alongside her. She rarely missed an event, and always volunteered to help our candidates in any way she could.
We all learned so much from her sharing her experiences. She was a pleasure to talk to – always smiling, full of interesting stories, and offering words of wisdom and encouragement. She will be sorely missed by so many in Westport, but none more than those of us who had the opportunity to spend time with her on the DTC.
But politics was not all Martha did. She founded the Y’s Women in 1990. She held numerous positions various town boards, including president of the Westport Library Board of Trustees.
She was an active member of the Senior Center, and served on the board that was responsible its recent expansion.
The Sunrise Rotary Club presented Martha with its Paul Harris Award. for “service above self.”
Information on services has not yet been released.
In August 2012 — right before the Democratic National Convention — I posted this story about Martha and Larry Aasen.
In 1960, Martha Aasen was living in California. The Democratic National Convention was held in Los Angeles.
Martha came from a family of avid Democrats. Her father was a convention delegate from their native Mississippi. Her brother wangled a job as a driver for Stuart Symington, one of several men still jostling for the nomination.
Martha and her husband Larry got a room with the Mississippi delegation, in a rundown Spanish-style hotel on the outskirts of L.A. They had just checked in when another candidate appeared. It was John F. Kennedy, on his way to meet the Wyoming delegation at the same “crummy hotel.”
Martha walked up to the Massachusetts senator. He took her hand, and looked straight at her. Half a century later, she remembers his “unbelievable charisma.”
Kennedy’s visit paid off. On the night of the roll call, Wyoming’s 15 votes gave him the nomination over his closest rival, Texas senator Lyndon B. Johnson.
Though longtime Westporters Martha and Larry Aasen have been active in Democratic politics — and attending conventions — ever since, 1960 was not their first. Four years earlier, one of Larry’s North Dakota Republican friends got them into the Republican convention at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. They watched as President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon were renominated.
Fannie Lou Hamer faces the Democratic credentials committee.
In 1964 the Aasens were in Atlantic City. Martha’s mother was a Mississippi delegate. That year, the biracial Freedom Democratic Party challenged the seating of the state’s all-white delegation. Fannie Lou Hamer gave a rousing speech. The governor urged his white delegation to walk out. Most did. Martha’s mother was one of the 3 or 4 who did not.
Forty years later, in 2004, Martha was a delegate at the Boston convention. Connecticut was seated next to Mississippi. Thousands of delegates — of all races — paid tribute to the work of Fannie Lou Hamer, and other brave people who fought for civil rights.
The Boston convention also featured an electrifying keynote speech by Illinois legislator Barack Obama. “Everyone there knew we were hearing someone special,” Martha recalls.
When they posed for this photo in 2016, President Obama said to Larry Aasen, “let’s put the rose (Martha Aasen) between 2 thorns.”
Martha was in Denver 4 years ago, when Obama was nominated for president.
She’d been back in Los Angeles in 2000, too. That was one of the few times Connecticut had good seats. They were seated right in front, next to Tennessee. The reason, of course: Al Gore’s running made was Joe Lieberman.
Martha missed the 1968 Chicago convention — perhaps the most famous of all — as well as the others before 2000. She was working for the United Nations, and could not be actively involved in domestic politics.
Now 82, she looks forward to the upcoming Charlotte convention. The event has changed since the JFK days — more security, less spontaneity, and the nominee is known in advance — but they’re still exciting.
“It’s more of a pep rally,” Martha says. “You hear speeches, and realize why you believe so strongly in what you do. You go home energized, eager to support your candidate.”
And who knows? Some day, once again, a candidate may come calling on Connecticut. Just as John F. Kennedy did with Wyoming back when he needed a few more votes, wherever they were.
Larry and Martha Aasen, and then-1st Selectwoman Diane Farrell Goss greeted then- President Clinton. His helicopter landed at Sherwood Island State Park.
If you thought Saugatuck “kneads” something to replace Garelick & Herbs: You’re in luck.
“Kneads” — a bakery, cafe and mill — opened Saturday, across from Saugatuck Sweets. Chef Daniel Moreno offers breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries, coffee, tea — and of course breads (sourdough, baguette, fig cranberry walnut, brioche …).
He focuses on local products. There’s bacon and ham from Fleischer’s next door. Moreno has partnered too with chef Bill Taibe of The Whelk across the street, as well as the Westport Farmer’ market and Wakeman Town Farm.
If your mouth is watering though, you’ll have to wait. Kneads is closed Monday and Tuesday. It’s open Wednesday through Friday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Click here for more info, from Stephanie Webster’s great CTbites.
Here’s something you haven’t seen in nearly 6 months.
But tomorrow — for the first time since mid-March — school buses will prowl the streets of Westport. It will almost feel good to get stuck behind one again.
The other day, this driver practiced turning from Thomas Road onto Imperial Avenue.
Trevor Freeland was a member of the first all-Black team to reach the top ranks of American youth swimming (chronicled in the 2007 movie “Pride”). As the first Black swimmer to compete in the ACC, he helped the University of Virginia win the 1st of 16 league titles.
One of the few Black executives to run a major Wall Street trading desk, he has committed his life to challenging and breaking down barriers. He attributes his success to the work ethic and life skills he learned in the pool.
This Saturday (September 12, 9:30 a.m., Camp Mahackeno outdoor amphitheater), he’ll talk about “Excellence is a Habit: How Do You Shatter Racial Barriers, Win Championships, and Build a Life of Success?”
A limited number of spots are open to Y members who are not non-Water Rat swimmers, and their families. To register, or for questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org,
Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 8, 7:30 p.m.), the Democratic Women of Westport are sponsoring a virtual discussion with Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. He’ll discuss immigration issues.
To register and receive a link, email email@example.com
State Attorney General William Tong.
Dick Festa — longtime owner of the Party Barn store, first on Main Street and then in Playhouse Square — died last week in Florida. He was 87.
Dick spent many years on the Westport YMCA’s board of directors. He was also an avid squash and badminton player there.
He is survived by 4 children, 4 grandchildren, a great-granddaughter and his sister.
There will be no calling hours, due to COVID-19. A memorial service will take place at a future date. For Dick’s full obituary, click here.
Alert “06880” reader Tommy Magro tells us that this year, Good Humor celebrates its 100th anniversary.
He spotted this classic scene yesterday, on Soundview Drive. He’s to 100 more years of Toasted Almonds (or whatever your favorite happens to be).
And finally … “06880,” Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie wish you a Happy Labor Day!
Molly Jong-Fast knows she doesn’t know everything.
So she sticks to writing about what she knows.
Like women’s issues. The absurdity of the Trump administration. The fact that Republicans can’t quite figure out when life begins (conception? Or after children are ripped from their families at ICE detention facilities?).
“I come from a famous family,” she says. “I know it well.”
Jonathan Fast, Erica Jong and Molly Jong-Fast.
Her mother and father were novelists. (You may have heard of them: Erica Jong and Jonathan Fast.)
Her paternal grandfather — Howard Fast — was a noted writer too. He became a political figure when he was jailed for refusing to name names in the McCarthy Era.
Jong-Fast’s in-laws are politically active too. Stewart and Connie Greenfield have spent decades working for — and running for office as — Democrats in Westport.
Erica Jong and Jonathan Fast lived in Manhattan and Weston. Molly went to pre-school and kindergarten here. She attended Singing Oaks Day Camp, and rode horses there. Her roots in this area are deep.
Which is why her appearance this Sunday (October 20, 2:30 p.m., Westport Library) is a bit of a homecoming.
The event is the Democratic Women of Westport’s Fall Forum. The title: “How We Can Use Social Media to Beat Trump.”
Jong-Fast is no newcomer to the topic. She is a social media veteran. She has over 300,000 Twitter followers (and has tweeted 169,000 times). She’s active on Instagram and other sites, and is a regular contributor to the Daily Beast, Playboy and The Bulwark.
Her bona fides include Tucker Carlson calling her “not super smart.” But she has been skewered by Democrats too: Marianne Williamson once called Molly’s mother to complain.
Jong-Fast began her writing career as a novelist. Her satirical bent found an outlet after the 2016 election.
“Because I’m dyslexic, my brain has always been a bit off,” she says. “In English class, I’d always give the wrong answer to what a book was about.”
However, she notes, “that helps me make connections that are not always the usual ones. They’re not necessarily right or better. But they’re different.”
Her talk on Sunday will build on a theme she’s tweeted and written about often: the need for ordinary citizens to be “the public editor,” calling out disinformation wherever it appears.
But isn’t social media just an echo chamber? Whether we’re Democrats or Republicans, don’t we all listen only to the people we agree with politically?
Not necessarily, Jong-Fast says. “Every Democrat has a cousin who watches Fox News. You have to find that person, and engage with them.”
She worries about the state of our nation. “How do you get the white nationalism genie back in the bottle?” she wonders. “And misogyny, discrimination, the judiciary — it’s a disaster.”
However, she says, “the Democrats won the House in the mid-terms. Polling shows more and more people interested in impeachment. And the younger generation is awesome.”
(Sunday’s event with Molly Jong-Fast is free, but space is limited. Click here to reserve a seat.)
President Trump’s crackdown on immigrants had an unexpected effect in Westport.
A few schoolchildren were worried. What, they asked their parents, would happen to their Spanish teachers? Would they be deported?
Other parents heard similar stories, about fears for foreign classmates.
Some parents had their own worries. How, they wondered, should they raise their kids in this “new” America?
They might get answers — or at least, meet similarly fretful folks — this Tuesday night (April 25, 7:30 p.m., Christ & Holy Trinity Church).
The Democratic Women of Westport are hosting a panel. The title — “Raising Children in Trump’s America” — is both timely and provocative.
President Trump, with some American kids.
The DWW says the discussion will “address the needs emerging in our community as a result of the new political landscape.” Panelists will discuss how to talk to children about the political climate in a way that is “authentic, and not fear-based.” The goal is to “use kindness as an act of resistance.”
The panel includes political activists, as well as Marji Lipshez-Shapiro (senior associate director of the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut) and Claire Dinshaw, editor-in-chief of Staples High School Inklings newspaper.
It will be moderated by Rob Simmelkjaer, a Westport Democratic Committee member and on-air contributor at NBC Sports.
Among the topics they’ll address:
How drastic policy shifts are being felt in Fairfield County
How immigrant and refugee families are faring locally
The social impact of Trump’s rhetoric on our schools and community.
There are sure to be questions from the audience — and comments here, from “06880” readers.
Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, you, me — and anyone else in the world who reads polls — all were surprised by last week’s election.
That includes James Delorey. The Westport resident is senior vice president of research at the Global Strategy Group. They use tons of sophisticated tools to advise Fortune 500 companies, non-profits — and political campaigns. In other words: He analyzes data and trends for a living.
Like everyone else in the business, he’s moved past shock. Now he’s trying to figure out how so much polling could have been so wrong for so long.
Tomorrow night (Thursday, November 17, 7:30 p.m., 323 Restaurant) he shares his insights in a local forum.
“Why Data Failed Us: A Closer Look at Polling” is sponsored by the Democratic Women of Westport. Clearly, that’s a group groping for answers.
Delorey will answer questions like:
Why did so much 2016 polling data miss the mark?
Is it possible to accurately poll the electorate in the current era?
Did media coverage of the polls impact the election outcome?
What was the impact of late-breaking news?
What issues drove the election outcome?
Could Clinton have done anything differently to ensure victory?
Delorey — who worked at the state level during this election cycle, and helped elect a Democratic governor in West Virginia, while the state went 69% for Trump — was not one of those presidential pollsters who so misread the presidential tea leaves.
But he knows he, his colleagues — and his industry — are in hot water right now.
I’ve honored plenty of Westporters since “06880” began in 2009. I have an especially soft spot in my heart for those who — in their own unique way — made Westport what it was, and is.
My mother was one of those.
Jo Woog (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)
Jo Woog — who died yesterday, at 89 — was a Westporter for 60 years. In those 6 decades, she did so much. She was a PTA mom, a volunteer for countless causes, and a strong supporter of arts programs — particularly music. She played piano whenever she could, and taught it for a decade. She also played a mean game of tennis — and stopped only a few years ago.
She was a member of the Y (aerobics!), Y’s Women, the Democratic Women of Westport, and several book clubs. She went to Long Wharf, the Quick Center and Westport Country Playhouse — and kept going, until a month or two ago.
In her later years, she enjoyed the Senior Center. She took Zumba classes, played ping pong, saw movies, attended lectures and more.
There are many women like her in Westport. During the baby boom, they supported their babies. As we grew up, so did they. As empty nesters, they supported their town. As widows, they formed their own, tight-knit community.
My mother grew up in New Rochelle, and loved it. (She attended her last high school reunion 2 years ago.) But Westport was her town.
And of all the lively, fun and important things she did, I’m eternally grateful that she made it mine too.
(A service is set for Thursday, April 21, 11 a.m. at Abraham L. Green Funeral Home in Fairfield. Contributions in Jo Woog’s memory can be made to the Westport Center for Senior Activities, 21 Imperial Ave., Westport, CT 06880, or an organization of one’s choice.)
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thanks!)