Tag Archives: Ed Vebell

Memorial Set For Ed Vebell

Friends and fans are invited to pay tribute to Ed Vebell — noted military veteran, illustrator and raconteur — this Saturday (February 17, 2 to 5 p.m., Westport Historical Society). The Vebell family will be there.

It’s a fitting venue. The WHS is currently showing “The Curious Case of Ed Vebell,” a retrospective of the longtime Westporter’s life and times. He died on Friday, at 96.

The family also announces that in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the American Red Cross. Click here for details.

On January 28, Ed Vebell attended the opening of a Westport Historical Society exhibit honoring his life and career. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

 

Remembering Ed Vebell

Andra Vebell writes:

My father, Ed Vebell, passed away peacefully at home last night. He was 96.

He had had congestive heart failure for some time now, but was bound and determined to make it to the opening of his show at the Westport Historical Society less than 2 weeks ago.

It was uncanny how he made it to that and then allowed himself to go. The show was the perfect sendoff for him, being surrounded by family and friends who were there to honor his lifetime of work.

In addition to Andra, Ed is survived by his daughters Renee Vebell and Victoria Vebell, and 3 grandsons: Jason Cohen, Dylan Hoy and Colin Hoy. 

In June of 2016, I posted this story on Ed. It too serves as a fitting reminder of his life:


At 95 years old, Ed Vebell could be ready to slow down.

The Westport artist has had quite a life. Here’s a quick summary:

During World War II he was an illustrator/reporter for Stars and Stripes newspaper. He’d be dropped off at a battle scene, told to find a story, then picked up 3 days later.

Ed Vebell, in Norman Rockwell-esque style, illustrates his own illustration.

Ed Vebell, in Norman Rockwell-esque style, illustrates his own illustration. The print sits atop many others in Ed’s studio.

After the war, he worked for French magazines (and covered the Nuremberg war trials). When she was 18, Grace Kelly posed for Ed. His first girlfriend was a star of the the Folies Bergère.

Two of Ed's sketches from the Nuremberg trials.

Two of Ed’s sketches from the Nuremberg trials.

Back in the States, he contributed to Time, Reader’s Digest and other publications. Specializing in military art, he drew uniforms from around the world for encyclopedias and paperback publishers. He worked for MBI too, illustrating the history of America from Leif Erikson through the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, and every war up to Vietnam.

Ed designed US stamps — some with military themes, some not.

One of Ed's US postage stamps.

One of Ed’s US postage stamps.

Oh yeah: He reached the semifinals of the 1952 Olympics, representing our country in fencing.

As I said, 95-year-old Ed Vebell could be slowing down.

He’s not. His latest project is selling his vast collection of uniforms.

They sprawl throughout the wonderful studio in his Compo Beach home, and in several other rooms. There are Revolutionary and Civil War uniforms, German helmets and Franco-Prussian gear. Buffalo Bill Cody’s hat is there too, in a bathtub surrounded by tons of other stuff.

He would have even more. But Hurricane Sandy wiped out his basement.

Two of Ed's many uniforms hang on a file cabinet.

Two of Ed’s many uniforms hang on a file cabinet.

Ed’s collection began years ago. He could rent a uniform for $15. But for just $10 more, he could buy it. That made sense; he had so much work, he needed plenty of uniforms.

So why is he selling?

“I’m 95,” he says simply. “I can’t keep them forever.”

Two auctions have already been held. He’s talking to more auction houses, and individual buyers too.

He knows each item. He points with pride to his Native American collection of bonnets, saddles and war shirts. He knows the differences between every tribe.

For years, he was hired for illustrations by editors out West. Why not use an artist closer by? he asked.

“We trust you,” they said.

Ed Vebell, in his Compo Beach studio.

Ed Vebell, in his Compo Beach studio.

The Civil War holds a special place in Ed’s heart. Years ago, he staged entire battle scenes in a Weston field. Models wore Yankee and rebel uniforms. Ed took photos, and worked from them.

He did the same with cowboys and Indians. “Those were great shows,” he recalls. “We had horses, riders, muskets and tomahawks. We entertained the whole neighborhood.”

It may be time to sell all those uniforms. But that’s not Ed’s only project.

At 95, he’s just finished two more picture books.

So now he’s looking around for his next one.

Ed drew this in 1944.

Ed Vebell drew this in 1944, in Italy.

 

Opening The Door To History

The front door of Wheeler House — the Westport Historical Society’s downtown home — has not been used for 20 years.

Now the Avery Place door is open. Visitors stroll through the parlor of the 1795 home, en route to the exhibits in the back.

The “new” entrance debuted today. A large crowd enjoyed the opening of “The Curious Case of Ed Vebell.” The must-see show chronicles the incredible life of Westport’s beloved 96-year-old illustrator.

He sketched World War II, including the Nuremberg Trials. He drew Wheaties box covers, Muhammad Ali and Grace Kelly. He fenced in the Olympics.

Ed’s done much more too. See it all.

And when you’re there, check out the welcoming — and wide open — front door.

Veterans Reflect On War — And Peace

Westport is awash in war stories.

This year’s WestportREADS library book — “Regeneration” — shines a light on a British officer’s refusal to continue serving during the “senseless slaughter” of World War I.

On January 28, the Westport Historical Society opens an exhibit honoring Ed Vebell. Now 96, the longtime resident was a noted illustrator during World War II. He’s drawn and written about the military ever since.

World Wars I and II — and Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan — come together at the WHS on Sunday, February 4 (3 p.m.). “On the Front: Veterans Reflections” offers insights into how war affects people, communities — and the peacetime that follows.

A panel of veterans — from World War II on — will provide their thoughts. But, says WHS education and programs director Nicole Carpenter — the hope is for plenty of questions and interactivity.

Ed Vebell is one of Westport’s honored — and few remaining — World War II veterans. Last May, he was grand marshal of the Memorial Day ceremonies.

“Obviously, the Historical Society’s mission is to remember where we’ve been,” she says. “But veterans are an important part of America today. Every discussion we have — whether it’s about foreign policy, healthcare, whatever — involves veterans.”

This is a poignant time in history, she notes. “We’re losing World War II veterans every day. We need to hear their voices before they’re gone.”

She hopes people will ask provocative questions — leading to an “open, progressive discussion.”

That’s important. After all, it’s what every veteran in history fought to protect.

Despite Rain, Westport Honors Its Heroes

For the 2nd year in a row, Westport canceled its Memorial Day parade.

But the men and women who gave their lives for our country — and all who served it — were memorialized in a moving ceremony at Town Hall.

2nd selectman Avi Kaner live-streamed it on Facebook. If you missed it, you can watch the impassioned speeches — and hear the stirring music — by clicking here. (The ceremony starts at the 10:30 mark.)

Among the speakers was 1st selectman Jim Marpe. He wove together the past and present, linking yesterday’s heroes with today’s “turbulent and unprecedented” times.

And — continuing a wonderful Westport tradition — he gave a sad roll call of the veterans we’ve lost within the past year. Here is his speech:

Good morning. It is an honor and privilege to be here today. First, I must salute the great gentleman we all love to call Mr. Parade, Bill Vornkahl, president of the Westport Veterans Council. Bill has orchestrated this special event for the last 47 years, in a true demonstration of love and commitment to his town and country. And thank you to everyone who has a role in making this great parade and these ceremonies happen.

Grand marshal Ed Vebell.

In just a few moments, we will hear from this year’s grand marshal, Edward Vebell. Ed is a World War II veteran who joined the Air Force in 1942. He was a member of the 904thCamouflage Unit, dropped behind enemy lines to sketch enemy equipment and positions.

He was also with Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper. We honor and recognize you, Ed, for your bravery under fire and distinguished service to our country.

We gather here today in our cherished annual tradition, to recognize those who sacrificed their lives for our great nation. We also honor the men and women right here among us who have served our country, whether in battle or in support of those who chose to put their country before themselves.

The contrast between our beautiful and peaceful town and the battlegrounds our soldiers experienced seems unimaginable right now. Technological advances and our societal demand for instantaneous news has shaped our experience of war, world conflict and political upheaval through high definition televisions, computer screens, and abrupt notifications on cell phones. We look at world politics, radical terrorism, chemical warfare, revolution and military oppression through a vastly different lens than we did a generation ago.

So how do we manage to uphold traditions and honor our past, but keep up with the technology and fascination with newer and faster means to gather information? What is our responsibility as Westporters in this fast-paced, ever changing world in which we live?

My answer is simple.  Like we have done for decades, we take a breath on the last Monday in May, reflect on our country’s history of great sacrifice and we honor those who have served and continue to serve. We recognize the tradition of Memorial Day. We value the sacrifices made by others to preserve our history and our tradition of civil discourse, where we constantly witness democracy in action despite strong and sometimes opposing views.

This sign on the 2014 parade route said it all.

The issues of the day make it appear as if the divide grows ever greater. But if we look back on our history, and recognize just a few of the lessons of the past, we can see that our democracy has withstood the test of time, despite tremendous cost.

It is almost a cliché to say that the Civil War pitted North against South, brother against brother; that the country could never unite again. Before World War II,the US was stubbornly isolationist. Today, many believe the decision to fight was an easy one, but it was not…it took the attack on Pearl Harbor to hurtle the US into war.

The Vietnam War tore our nation apart, pitting a younger generation against an older one, liberals against conservatives, and those who served against those who objected. Our political climate today, which for many feels turbulent and unprecedented, has in fact mobilized many who are trying to effect change peacefully, through demonstrations and lawful means, which is the bedrock of our country.

As Westporters, we celebrate the ability to disagree in a civil manner, but when the time comes to defend our great nation and the liberties we cherish, our men and women continue to place service to our country above themselves. We honor and thank them all today.

And now, as we have done in years past, I will make special mention of those war veterans who lived in Westport who have passed away this past year, with apologies in advance for any we may have inadvertently omitted.

Bertram Aber
Bruno Arcudi
Ernest (Ernie) Arnow
George F. Avery, Jr.
Alexander (Al) Balas
Robert Brannigan
Russell Brenneman
Erwine T. Buckenmaier, Jr.
Donald Evans Casciato
Frank Clark
C. Steven Crosby
Daniel B. Driscoll
Mary T. Ferruccio
Edward B. Gill
Thelma Gordon
Brett Matthew Hauslaib
James R. Hurley
Robert Kochiss
Kenneth H. Lanouette, Jr.
John Lomartire
Henry R. Loomis
Delmor B. Markoff
George H. Marks, Sr.
James P. McCabe
Frederick Meier, Sr.
Durwood (Woody) C. Milone
Jonathan B. Morris
John Nazzaro, Sr.
H. Elliott Netherton, Jr.
John G. Petti, Jr.
Alan Phelan
Charles T. Raymond
Philip W. Reeves
Estelle Reitano
Warren Rossell
Jack Rotman
Harold Scher
Frank Scotti
John C. Skinner
Jerome T. Spinola
David S. Stein
George L. Sterling
William E. Surrette
Walter (Wally) J. Sutherland
Ronald J. Swenn
Hugh B. Sweeney, Jr.
Albert R. Tremonte
William G. Turner, Jr.
George W. Underhill
Lawrence N. Waterbury

Let us always remember the service that these veterans gave to our country.

When you return to your homes today, enjoy your holiday, and take the time to reflect onwhat the flags, the music, the traditions and the speeches mean, and what you want your children and grandchildren to remember about Westport’s Memorial Day. That it means placing service to your country above yourself, and that the price of democracy, of the ability to debate and disagree in a civil and respectful manner, may mean making the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation. Today, we honor those who made that sacrifice for us all.

Thank you, and best wishes for a wonderful Memorial Day.

On Myrtle Avenue the quintessential Memorial Day view.

Memorial Day Parade Canceled; Ceremony Set For Town Hall, 10 am

For the 2nd year in a row, bad weather has forced the cancellation of Westport’s Memorial Day parade.

A ceremony — including a speech by grand marshal and World War II veteran Ed Vebell — is set for 10 a.m., in the Town Hall auditorium.

See you there!

Ed Vebell: Monday’s Grand Marshal Has Stories To Tell

Everyone loves Westport’s Memorial Day parade.

It’s the one day each year that our sophisticated, hedge fund-filled suburb turns into an All-American village. The parade is filled with countless cops, youth soccer players, Y’s Men, Suzuki violinists, firefighters, library and Westport Country Playhouse representatives, and (of course) military vets and school band glockenspielers.

Everyone else who is not marching is on the sidewalk, enjoying the show.

But when the parade ends, not everyone makes it over to Veterans Green across from Town Hall.

That’s a shame. That’s where the real meaning of Memorial Day takes place. It’s a quick half hour of patriotic music, a few greetings from dignitaries.

And a speech from the grand marshal.

Ed Vebell, in his Compo Beach studio.

This year’s marshal is Ed Vebell. He’s that increasingly rare — but particularly important — American: a World War II veteran.

Ed turned 96 yesterday. He still lives alone, a few steps from the beach.

It takes him a while to get ready in the morning. He’ll get up extra early on Monday. He won’t speak long — his eyesight is going, and he can’t read speeches that well — but, he says, “I’ve got some war stories to tell.”

Does he ever.

Ed joined the Army Air Force in 1942. A talented artist-reporter, he was dropped behind enemy lines in Algiers, Italy and France. He’d sketch enemy equipment and positions, then be picked up 3 days later.

“I was a good target for snipers,” Ed says. “The photographers just took their pictures and ducked down. I had to stand up and draw.”

Of course, he adds, “when you’re 20 you think you’re invincible.”

He had good reason to think that. He tumbled from the Swiss Alps in a Jeep (he landed in snow-covered trees). He was lost at sea for 11 days. A sword pierced his chest. He was hit by a locomotive.

But he survived. And, Ed says, “it was all really something. I was a young kid from Chicago who had never even seen the ocean.”

An Ed Vebell illustration made in Italy, in 1944.

When the war ended, Ed stayed in France for nearly 3 years. He worked for a French newspaper, enjoyed the Folies Bergère, met Charles de Gaulle and Edith Piaf — and covered the Nuremberg trials.

Returning to America, he worked for Readers Digest, Time and Life. He illustrated books and advertisements.

He also represented the US as a fencer, at Helskinki in 1952. (He made the semifinals.)

Oh yeah: A book he wrote about his experiences — “An Artist at War” — comes out soon.

Ed Vebell definitely has stories to tell.

No one should miss them on Monday.

Ed Vebell’s book will be published next month.

 

 

Ed Vebell Tells War Stories, Sells Uniforms

At 95 years old, Ed Vebell could be ready to slow down.

The Westport artist has had quite a life. Here’s a quick summary:

During World War II he was an illustrator/reporter for Stars and Stripes newspaper. He’d be dropped off at a battle scene, told to find a story, then picked up 3 days later.

Ed Vebell, in Norman Rockwell-esque style, illustrates his own illustration.

Ed Vebell, in Norman Rockwell-esque style, illustrates his own illustration. The print sits atop many others in Ed’s studio.

After the war, he worked for French magazines (and covered the Nuremberg war trials). When she was 18, Grace Kelly posed for Ed. His first girlfriend was a star of the the Folies Bergère.

Two of Ed's sketches from the Nuremberg trials.

Two of Ed’s sketches from the Nuremberg trials.

Back in the States, he contributed to Time, Reader’s Digest and other publications. Specializing in military art, he drew uniforms from around the world for encyclopedias and paperback publishers. He worked for MBI too, illustrating the history of America from Leif Erikson through the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, and every war up to Vietnam.

Ed designed US stamps — some with military themes, some not.

One of Ed's US postage stamps.

One of Ed’s US postage stamps.

Oh yeah: He reached the semifinals of the 1952 Olympics, representing our country in fencing.

As I said, 95-year-old Ed Vebell could be slowing down.

He’s not. His latest project is selling his vast collection of uniforms.

They sprawl throughout the wonderful studio in his Compo Beach home, and in several other rooms. There are Revolutionary and Civil War uniforms, German helmets and Franco-Prussian gear. Buffalo Bill Cody’s hat is there too, in a bathtub surrounded by tons of other stuff.

He would have even more. But Hurricane Sandy wiped out his basement.

Two of Ed's many uniforms hang on a file cabinet.

Two of Ed’s many uniforms hang on a file cabinet.

Ed’s collection began years ago. He could rent a uniform for $15. But for just $10 more, he could buy it. That made sense; he had so much work, he needed plenty of uniforms.

So why is he selling?

“I’m 95,” he says simply. “I can’t keep them forever.”

Two auctions have already been held. He’s talking to more auction houses, and individual buyers too.

He knows each item. He points with pride to his Native American collection of bonnets, saddles and war shirts. He knows the differences between every tribe.

For years, he was hired for illustrations by editors out West. Why not use an artist closer by? he asked.

“We trust you,” they said.

Ed Vebell, in his Compo Beach studio.

Ed Vebell, in his Compo Beach studio.

The Civil War holds a special place in Ed’s heart. Years ago, he staged entire battle scenes in a Weston field. Models wore Yankee and rebel uniforms. Ed took photos, and worked from them.

He did the same with cowboys and Indians. “Those were great shows,” he recalls. “We had horses, riders, muskets and tomahawks. We entertained the whole neighborhood.”

It may be time to sell all those uniforms. But that’s not Ed’s only project.

At 95, he’s just finished two more picture books.

So now he’s looking around for his next one.

Ed drew this in 1944.

Ed Vebell drew this in 1944, in Italy.

17 Westport Artists Who Mailed It In

The US Postal Service, it seems, is going the way of the rotary phone, hi-fi and horse and buggy. Americans send less and less mail every year, and right here in Westport our post office has been downsized to a shopping center storefront.

And when was the last time you cared what a stamp looked like?

But before “snail mail” vanishes like 8-tracks, let’s look back at the heyday of postage stamps.

The Westport Historical Society is helping us do just that.

Its current exhibit — running through December 31 — is a thorough, and very visual, collection of the 17 Westport artists who designed over 164 U.S. stamps, between 1959 and 1998.

That’s right. For nearly 4 decades, Westport — our creative talents, and our hometown scenes (of schools, streets, even our post office) — were responsible for billions of stamps, licked and affixed to just as many pieces of mail and packages sent round the world.

Stevan Dohanos spent decades designing stamps, and painting murals for post offices. He often used Westport’s post office as a model.

Westport was already known as an artists’ colony in 1957, when Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield formed the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. According to the WHS, too many congressmen and senators had been pushing the Post Office to issue too many stamps, with “mundane” designs.

One of the 3 original members of the committee was Arnold Copeland, president of Westport Artists, Inc. He gave commissions to artists he knew — including Westport legends Harold von Schmidt and Stevan Dohanos.

Von Schmidt designed the famed 4-cent (!) stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of the Pony Express.

Dohanos — who had painted murals for post offices beginning in the Great Depression (and continuing through the 1960s) — had also depicted local post office scenes for his Saturday Evening Post covers. He used Westport — and Westporters — as models, and continued to do so on his stamps.

In 1974, Dohanos became chairman of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. He was responsible for over 300 stamp commissions — “shrewdly selecting artists, in Westport and beyond, by their particular styles and affinity for the subject matter at hand.”

The Historical Society exhibit is intriguing. All 17 Westport artists are represented. They include Miggs Burroughs — the youngest designer ever of a US stamp.

Miggs Burroughs’ display, at the Westport Historical Society.

That’s on display — as is a thank-you note from Rose Mary Woods, Richard Nixon’s secretary, after Miggs sent the president a 1st-day cover of his 8-cent “Prevent Drug Abuse” stamp.

In a wonderful twist of fate, Miggs later drew the “Nixon resigns” cover for Time magazine.

Also at the WHS exhibit: the 15 stamps designed by Ed Vebell. Still working in his Westport studio in his 90s, he depicted many local scenes in his works. Including a series set at the Westport Post Office.

It’s a fascinating exhibit, not to be missed.

Feel free to forward this “post” on to everyone who may be interested.

Or print it out, and mail it to them.

Nah.