For 32 years, Horace Lewis did everything for everyone in Westport.
Now it’s time for Westport to do something for him.
When he retired in July of 2020, he was honored as “06880’s” Unsung Hero of the Week. I wrote about his devotion to Staples High School. Horace was head custodian there — following the same role at Coleytown Middle School — and though he was a stay-out-of-the-limelight guy, I wanted to shine a light on the care and love he lavished on the building.
Classrooms, hallways, auditorium, a gym and fieldhouse and athletic fields, a cafeteria and 2 teaching kitchens, a library, TV studio, storage areas, boilers and HVAC systems — Horace knew them all. He made them sparkle, shine and work.
Horace Lewis, in a typical pose.
He hired and supervised a superb staff. He held them to high standards. But whenever something went wrong, he was the one who got the call. Broken pipes, a bad odor, a security alarm: Horace was there.
His was a stressful job. But never stopped smiling, working, or serving the building and everyone in it.
Horace Lewis (right) and shift supervisor Tom Cataudo greet the staff and students during the 2015 graduation processional.
Even after his official retirement, stayed on. Staples was coping with COVID. Every hand was needed, so Horace lent his.
Five months ago, he got the chance to retire fully. He helped his daughter with her business. He enjoyed his kids and grandchildren. It was what retirement should be.
But on the day of his 35th anniversary a major stroke derailed his plans, and his life with his wife Bonnie.
Horace went into cardiac arrest twice. He is now in recovery, working to regain his motor skills, speech, and walking capabilities.
When Horace returns home, he will need a wheelchair ramp and other necessities. Meanwhile, bills not covered by insurance pile up. It’s a very tough situation for the entire family.
Horace faced many tough situations, at Staples and Coleytown. With intelligence, creativity, patience — and always a smile — he solved them all.
Family and friends have set up a GoFundMe page. Click here, to pay forward a little bit of the large debt we all owe Horace Lewis.
A year and a half later — shortly after completing his 3rd triathlon — we reported on him again. He’d been diagnosed with cancer — and ALS.
With his trademark optimism, good humor and vigor, he took a leadership role in a crusade to help others with ALS. He organized fundraisers, and as a proponent of the Wim Hof breathing technique, he spread the word about innovative treatments.
Here’s our latest update. It comes courtesy of WestportMoms, the multi-media platform. “06880” is honored to repost this. We hope you’ll share it too, with all your networks.
Iris and Jonathan Greenfield are going through an unimaginable situation.
In 2018 Jonathan was diagnosed with ALS. Over the past year his diagnosis took a turn for the worse. He is now confined to a wheelchair, without the ability to speak, write or perform basic motor functions.
Iris works her day job as an acupuncturist (a field significantly impacted by COVID), and spends her nights waking regularly to care for Jonathan. That’s in addition to raising their 3 amazing children: Zach (12), Skye (10) and Josie (8).
Jonathan and Iris Greenfield.
The Greenfields’ health insurance does not pay for the constant home care that Jonathan requires. That has created an incredible financial strain on the family.
As a community, we are defined by how we come together to help our neighbors in the greatest hour of need. Jonathan and his family desperately need our help, so they can pay for their basic living expenses.
Please click here to contribute to their GoFundMe page. The page contains more information about Jonathan’s life, as well as links to his Breathe4ALS organization, and a book of his photojournalism compiled by friends.
Last Sunday, a crew from Norwalk’s JS Landscaping removed a very large and quite dead tree near Maple Avenue South.
Allison Wiedman, her husband and 3 kids — summer renters — watched the action. The trunk snapped. They heard an enormous bang.
The tree had fallen onto the JS truck. Ronny Salazar — owner Jose’s brother — tried to get away. But he was pinned underneath.
His 3 brothers and Allison’s husband Bill managed to push the enormous trunk off Ronny’s leg.
Allison — a physical therapist — saw that Ronny had a massive wound to his right elbow: a severed brachial artery, multiple compound fractures, missing tissue, and massive bleeding.
After calling 911 she told the men to compress near Ronny’s underarm, then ran into the house to find something to use as a tourniquet. She remembered seeing thick exercise band in the guest room.
When she got back, a police officer was on the scene and applying a tourniquet. EMS arrived quickly, and took him to Yale New Haven Hospital.
Over the next few days he underwent multiple surgeries. Doctors made the difficult decision to amputate his leg below the knee.
Thankfully, he will still have use of his right arm and hand, though after reconstruction it will never be the same.
Allison has helped Juan try to navigate the healthcare system. A neighbor, Rachel Gordon, set up a GoFundMe account to help with medical bills, lost wages, the expense of a prostheses and more.
Juan and Ronny came from Costa Rica. Juan moved here when he was 18 years old, nearly 20 years ago.
He worked as a busboy, line cook and in a nursery until about 10 years ago, when he earned enough money to start a landscaping company.
They started with 16 clients and now have 130. Juan has seen the United States be a land of opportunity for those willing to work for it.
From the hospital, Ronny is hoping he will recover enough to follow in his brother’s footsteps, and play with his nieces.
We know times are difficult for everyone right now, but we hope you will consider donating to the Salazar Family Accident Fund. Juan and Ronny are some of the kindest, hardest-working people you will ever meet. They have successfully pursued the American dream until this point/ We don’t want to let a random accident beyond their control derail them, but the unfortunate reality is that our system is set up in a way that it can.
All money raised will be given directly to Juan and Ronny. Every little bit will help as they begin their journey forward from this terrible accident.
(Click here for the GoFundMe page for Juan and Ronny Salazar.)
The coronavirus put an abrupt end to countless events. Many were months in the making.
But few came to a more crushing close than “Seussical: The Musical.”
Over 100 Staples Players cast and crew members prepared for the spring production since December. Just 2 days before opening night, Westport schools closed.
Sets, choreography, lighting, music — poof! It all vanished, into the infectious air.
Seussical” is fun …
Fortunately, Players videotaped the Tuesday night rehearsal show, performed before an audience of 100 parents.
Tomorrow (Saturday, April 4, 7 p.m.) and Sunday (April 5, 2 p.m.), Players will broadcast that now-historic recording.
Anyone who bought tickets to any of the scheduled performances will receive an email link on Saturday to the livestreams. Intermission features special video appearances by former Players, all now involved in the arts.
But — in typically creative Players fashion — you don’t have to have had a ticket to see this “Seussical.”
The organization set up a GoFundMe page. Though a few staff stipends are paid by the town, the rest of the award-winning program is funded almost entirely by ticket sales.
… for all ages. (Photos/Kerry Long)
They pay for lumber, paint, lighting equipment purchase and rental, costume construction and rental, props, set designers, sound equipment and microphone rental, pit musicians’ salaries, makeup, wigs — and much, much more.
An average show — though Players are far from “average” — costs well over $50,000 to produce.
That’s a lot of money. But it’s also an amazing educational experience for hundreds of Staples students. Plus of course, a wonderful treat for the community.
Players has been on solid financial ground for over 15 years. Because of sellout audiences and great support from Westporters, they consistently recouped the money they spent. They seldom ask much financially from the community.
Now — having lost the opportunity both to produce “Seussical,” and benefit financially from it — they’re asking for help.
The Players know: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
This weekend, we can smile along with them. How lucky we all are that the one performance happened.
This is an astonishing story about a local man who needs help. And the many Westporters who have already rallied to his aid.
David Hidalgo is a 31-year-old Costa Rican man. He came to the US in search of the American dream.
He works for himself. He’s a carpenter, handyman, home improvement guy extraordinaire. Most of his clients live in Westport. They adore his workmanship, care, willingness to tackle any project; his problem-solving, humility, politeness, and his ear-to-ear smile.
David met his wife Haiying shortly after he arrived. They have 2 beautiful children: Santiago (age 11) and Dannika (3). He’s involved in his son’s Boy Scouts and basketball team, and the Bridgeport community where they live.
David and Haiying Hidalgo, with their children at home….
Last month, David was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Though devastated, he and Haiying thanked God: If they had waited even a few days longer, doctors said, he’d be dead in 3 months.
David is being treated at Yale’s Smilow Cancer Hospital. He faces at least 8 months of difficult, painful treatment — with no idea when he can return to work.
David was young and strong. He has no short- or long-term disability insurance. There is no “office pool” to collect money. He and Haiying were hesitant to ask for help. But they have no choice.
Of all times for this to happen, the holidays are the toughest. Santiago says he wants nothing for Christmas, except for his father to recover.
With no income — and staggering bills ahead — the situation is dire. Sally Wanamaker — one of David’s many fans — has created a GoFundMe page. Click here for the link.
… and in the hospital.
Meanwhile — despite compelling letters from an oncologist and social worker — David’s mother was denied a humanitarian visa by the US Embassy in Costa Rica. Although he may receive a bone marrow transplant as early as February or March — assuming a match is found — without his mother to help, his children will be shuttled to neighbors and classmates’ homes, while Haiying cares for him in the hospital.
Four of David’s siblings in Costa Rica will be tested, to see if they are a transplant match. The odds are good at least one will be. However, after the denial of David’s mother’s humanitarian visa, the family worries that the siblings might be denied a similar visa.
Incredibly, there is more to this story. Haiying is a naturalized US citizen. Santiago and Danika are citizens from birth.
Before his diagnosis, David was in the process of getting his green card. According to a law that went into effect in October, if he applies for any form of state or federal financial aid, his green card will be denied.
He will lose his dream of living, and raising his family, in a country he loves (and pays taxes in) — a country his family considers their home.
Despite difficult, painful treaments, David Hidalgo keeps smiling.
Westporters have stepped up quickly. A client of David’s donated plane tickets for his mother and a potential bone marrow donor. Hopefully, they can be used.
Another Westport client wrote a check to David’s son’s school, to pay the remaining tuition for the year.
Every little bit helps. The other night, Sally Wanamaker dropped a few items off at David’s house, near the Beardsley Zoo. Every home on the street was decorated for Christmas — except his.
She passed the word. A Westport client — who considers David a member of the family — donated lights, and an inflatable Santa. A landscaping company put everything up. Despite the tough times, Santiago and Dannika’s house now glows too.
This is the holiday season. We’re all going a million miles an hour — and we’re asked often to help out, for very good causes.
I can’t think of a better one than this. Click here for the GoFundMe page.
And then share either this post or the GoFundMe link — or both — as far and wide on social media as you can.
Turk Aksoy has been a Westport firefighter since 2006, when he was the top-ranked candidate for appointment. Before fulfilling his long-time dream job, Turk had been a paramedic.
He raises funds for veterans’ organizations by racing in triathlons, and competing in Tough Mudder events.
In 2014 — just 41 years old — Turk was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer. Doctors told him there is a 5-year survival rate of 14%. He was given 3 years to live.
Five years later, Turk is still fighting. He continued to work — scheduling treatment around his department shifts. His fellow firefighters were awed by his strong, resilient and brave attitude.
In December — when the cancer spread to his liver and lungs — Turk’s condition and his aggressive medical treatments made it impossible to continue to work.
But that’s not all he’s facing.On January 30 — his 46th birthday — Turk’s beautiful wife and source of constant support, Denise, died unexpectedly.
The emotional toll on Turk and his children, Tess and Tyson, has been devastating.
Turk Aksoy and his family.
The kids are as remarkable as their parents. Tess, 14, just finished her freshman year at Nonnewaug High School. She is president of Pony Pals 4H Club, and a member of Future Farmers of America. She hopes for a career in equine science.
Tyson, 12, is energetic and athletic. He loves lacrosse, outdoor exploration and photography.
His brothers and sisters in the Westport Fire Department are rallying around Turk, Tess and Tyson.
But they can’t do it alone. They’ve set up a GoFundMe page, to help Turk “as he fights his illness with dignity and confidence.”
Donations will help Tess and Tyson achieve their educational goals and dreams.
Click here — and give as generously as Turk, and his colleagues, have always given to us.
NOTE:The GoFundMe page referenced below has been shut down. A note says “No longer accepting donations.”
Yesterday’s announcement was stunning: The Black Duck will close on Sunday.
No reason was given. Just like that — poof! — Westport’s iconic burger-and-bar joint will be gone.
Earlier today though, a GoFundMe page appeared.
Posted by “The Black Duck team” — described as “the remaining few long-time employees” — it offers a glimmer of hope. The goal is to raise $100,000, to keep the beloved barge restaurant open.
The crowdfunding plea reads:
The Black Duck Cafe, the last of “Old Westport,” the place of many first dates and first beers, home of famous burgers, wings and strong drinks, the place to “ruin your liver down by the river”…is drowning. We have been so fortunate to have served so many wonderful customers and friends for 40 years with the Saugatuck River as our backdrop, and are hoping to continue being able to serve you.
Our beloved old barge withstood Hurricane Sandy, the departure of near-celebrity status bartenders, rising food, liquor and utilities costs, and the takeover of Westport by brand name chains. Despite these changes, it is our long-time customers, camaraderie and meeting new customers that have kept us, the remaining few long-time employees, going.
Part of the Black Duck’s peril: increasingly frequent floods.
Consistency and “turning back of time” has been the Duck’s long-time appeal. Indeed, best-selling novelist Jane Green stated in 2017 that the Black Duck is “one of the few places where old Westport and new Westport meet.”
Yet this turning back of time, has also led to the accrual of increasing debts. Though we have had to increase our prices over the years, these increases have been disproportionately lower than the increasing food costs. In other words, our commitment to being one of the last affordable, laid-back restaurants in lower Fairfield County has caught up to us. In the last 6 months, we’ve been experiencing slower business and now have fallen on significant financial hardship, and are facing the biggest challenge of the Black Duck’s 40 years of business.
It is devastating to think that we won’t be part of Westport and a part of your lives anymore. If our small barge on Riverside Ave becomes empty, so many of you, our guests, will no longer have your go-to place to go to, so we the employees, are doing everything we can to keep it going.
We need to raise cash immediately. Our hope is that with the money raised, that the Duck will be able to stay open for this month and next month. This money will get us through the slower time. We would love your help and we are so thankful for your business over the years and for taking a look at our campaign!
Love humbly from the entire Black Duck team.
So far, $300 has been raised.
Duck-lovers: Now’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is. (Right around those wings, steamers and onion rings.)
Early last month Will Hotch captained the Staples High School volleyball team to an undefeated season, and the state Class L championship.
A couple of weeks later, Will graduated from Staples. He headed off for a summer as a counselor at an overnight camp. He looked forward to college in the fall.
Will Hotch (left) in action for the Staples volleyball team. (Photo/Justin Weekes for Meriden Record-Journal)
Suddenly last week, he became gravely ill.
His body and immune system were adversely affected by Epstein-Barr virus. Antibodies attacked his immune system, leading to post-infectious myelitis.
Will’s spinal cord was damaged, causing severe numbness below his neck. He cannot feel or move his legs at all.
He will undergo a second procedure as soon as possible, to stabilize him and start him on his road to recovery.
Will hopes to attend college, and return to his active lifestyle.
He and his family have endured a lengthy ICU stay. It will continue for the foreseeable future, with several expensive procedures. When he starts to improve, he will require in-patient rehabilitation.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help defray those costs. It will also be used to help with missed wages for his parents as they support him during this difficult time. Many Westporters know Will’s mother Denise — she’s a group fitness instructor at the Westport Weston YMCA.
Seymon and Lynne Ostilly are longtime Westporters. Their 2 kids — now in their 20s — are Staples High School graduates.
And they’re dealing with quite a lot.
For the past 8 years, Lynn has been the primary caregiver as her husband struggled with dementia. Over the past 6 months, as his condition grew much worse, it became increasingly more difficult for her to help him.
In May, Lynne suffered a hemorrhage stroke. The brain bleed was so deep, it was too unsafe to operate. Emma flew home from California.
Lynne is fighting to recover. She must relearn how to walk, use her right arm, and remember words she once knew.
When she is finally discharged from rehab, she will need extensive physical and occupational therapy.
Emma Ostilly and her mother Lynne.
A month after Lynne’s stroke — when she was stable and on the path to recovery — Emma returned to California, and her work. (She’s also planning her wedding, for next year.)
On her way to the airport, she learned that her father had suffered multiple mini-strokes. Two days later, he had a very large and severe basal ganglia stroke.
Seymon has now joined Lynne at a rehab facility. Both are trying to recover. But his dementia has greatly slowed his progress. And his Medicare coverage is ending.
Meanwhile, Seymon’s strokes resulted in a series of blood clots, which have moved to his lungs. Some were dissolved with blood thinners, but he has deep vein thrombosis. His leg is extremely swollen, making it even more difficult to walk. Doctors say he will probably never live at home again.
Dane has put his career on hold to care for his parents.
Lynne and Seymon Ostilly.
Fortunately, the Ostillys have some long-term health care. However, their care is extremely expensive. Coverage will eventually run out.
More costs — a caregiver for Lynne, and a nursing home for Seymon — loom.
Emma and Dane have set up a GoFundMe page. It’s a chance for all of us to help our neighbors — whether we know them or not. Click here to contribute, or for more information.
“Anything you can give would be an absolute blessing,” Seymon and Lynne’s children say.
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