Tag Archives: Horace Lewis

Roundup: Real Estate, Food, Trees …

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The 1st quarter of 2022 is in the books. That means it’s time for some real estate stats.

Westport had 86 house closings, a 25% decrease from a year ago but
still the 2nd-most number of closings for this period since 2006.

The average house closing price of $2.2 million was the highest for the quarter in the past 2 decades. The average closed price per square foot rose to $509, up 23% from a year ago.

Reflecting high demand and low inventory, houses in the quarter sold on average for 102% of the list price — the 4th  straight quarter that average has been over 100%

Eight-five Westport houses were pending (properties with signed contracts) on March 31. That’s down slightly from the end of March 2021, but still high by historical measure.  (Hat tip: Rose Marie Colletti, Brown Harris Stevens)

This Bluewater Hill home is on the market for $12 million.

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Two years ago, Westport Farmers’ Market started its #Who Grows Your Food” campaign. The goal was to expand people’s knowledge of what farmers look like, to gain more support foro local agriculture.

Anne Burmeister and Ashley Skatoff offered to help. They lent their photographer lenses and creativity, capturing the essence of the farmers while creating an intimate story that eaters could follow along with.

Last fall, the Farmers’ Market partnered with MoCA Westport. Dozens of Burmeister and Skatoff’s stunning photographs became part of an art exhibit called “Between the Ground and the Sky.”

Now, those 52 photos from over 15 farms are available for purchase.

Each 18″ x 27″ original print (23″ x 32″ with border) is $500. All are signed and dated by the artist. The print includes information about the farm and photo, plus text created by the artist for the display at MoCA. The certificate is signed by the farmer.

All proceeds support WFM programming. Purchased photos may be picked up at the first 3 markets of the season: May 12, 19 and May 26.

For more information and to purchase, click here.

“Chicken Tractors” by Anne Burmeister is one of 52 Farmers’ Market photos available for sale.

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Arbor Day is near — and the Westport Tree Board is ready. Among the events throughout the month:

Saturday, April 23 (10:30 a.m. to noon, Jesup Green, free): The Tree Board and Westport Book Shop celebrate Earth Day with a fun event to promote reading for all ages, with attention also on the value of trees. Interactive family-friendly activities involving reading and early learning; educational materials and a native tree sapling giveaway, courtesy of Bartlett Tree Company.

Friday April 29 (Arbor Day, 3 to 4 p.m., Town Hall, free):  The Tree Board hosts their annual native sapling giveaway, plus brochures and advice from professional associations on tree-related topics, from site selection to proper maintenance.  Native saplings for giveaway are donated by Bartlett Tree.

Saturday, April 30 (3 to 4 p.m., Earthplace): The Tree Board hosts a live discussion and free information session with a tree professional on the basics of tree planting and maintenance, including selection, mulching, pruning, pest management and more. Native tree saplings, courtesy of Bartlett, will be available while they last.

As part of Arbor Day, Earthplace also hosts a “Toast To The Trees” family event 4 to 6 p.m.), with kids’ activities and s’mores, handmade pizza, beverages for adults and kids, plus a “tree walk” tour.  Click here to purchase tickets.

Beginning mid-April, the Tree Board and Westport Library will create a “StoryWalk” at the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum (2 Woodside Lane).  The featured book is “Be a Tree!” For more information, click here.

A Norway maple at the Wadsworth Arboretum.

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Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice offered a video update yesterday. He covered 4 areas:

The 5-year capital forecast to bring all schools — especially Long Lots and Coleytown Elementary — up to the district’s standards.

The uptick in the COVID Omicron sub-variant.

The Westport Public Schools’ ongoing equity study.

Ukrainian refugees. Scarice notes that Westport has already welcomed some to town, and any student settling here will be accommodated — as will all refugees from anywhere who come to Westport. He asks anyone with any information on refugees in Westport to call his office: 203-341-1025.

Click here to view the video update.

A screenshot of Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice, giving a video update from his office.

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Speaking of Westport Public Schools: Horace Lewis was the beloved head custodian at Staples High School, and served the district for 3 decades. He suffered a stroke shortly after retiring last summer, and died in December.

Classrooms, hallways, teaching kitchens, storage areas, auditorium, gym, fieldhouse, cafeteria, library, TV studio, boilers and HVAC systems — Horace kept them all sparkling and working. Despite a stressful job, staff and students knew Horace as the walkie-talkie carrying, most cheerful custodian.

Over the years, countless students (and parents) enlisted Horace’s help after leaving coats, backpacks, sporting equipment and phones at school. Even after his official retirement, Horace stayed on to help the schools cope with COVID cleaning requirements.

To honor Horace’s legacy of hard work, service to others and positive outlook, Staples Tuition Grants has created a scholarship in his name. The first need-based award will be offered this year. Click here to donate to this special fund.

Horace Lewis

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Among the most impressive parts of Westport Country Playhouse’s production of “Next to Normal”: the set.

Like everything that appears on the Playhouse stage, it was constructed by the in-house production staff — with help from  Jake Krasniewicz, assistant box office manager.

But that’s not his only side gig.

The Stratford native plays bass, ukulele, guitar, banjo and synthesizer. At Berklee College of Music he studied film scoring.

After graduating, Jake spent time in Boston’s music scene. When he returned to Connecticut, he formed Drop Party. The band plays an amalgam of genres, and call their style “a way to access emotions without sounding like radio music.”

Drop Party is part of this weekend’s Westport Library VersoFest. On Sunday (April 10, 7 p.m.), they open for Selwyn Birchwood.

What does all this have to do with building the set?  After college, Jake helped out at his father’s welding shop. The Playhouse technical director recruited the assistant box office manager to help with the extensive welding needed for the “Next to Normal” set.

He particularly enjoys funk. But it seems “heavy metal” is also one of Jake’s outlets. (Hat Tip: Bruce Miller)

Jake Krasniewicz takes a break from ticket sales and music,, to help create the “Next to Normal” set.

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There’s always something going on Westport — and much of it flies under the radar. And I do mean “radar.”

Last Saturday, over 100 automotive enthusiasts and industry leaders filled
the Autostrada facility — formerly the Steinway piano showroom — to kick off the Piston Foundation’s 2022 season.

Attendees came from across the US and Europe. They heard the non-profit
foundation lay out its mission to “bring more young people into the collector car industry so the craftspeople who built this American touchstone can transfer their skills to a new generation.”

The site included a “collection of exotic automobiles.” A silent auction raised funds for students and apprentices to pursue careers in automotive craft, restoration specialties and service.

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Staples High School seniors Sophie Alcyone and Alexandra Maskoff were honored this week, at the 27th annual High School Arts Awards ceremony.

Selected by the Staples staff, Sophie was recognized for visual art, Maskoff for music. The event was sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Schools.

From left: Sophie Alcyone and Alexandra Maskoff.

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With spring arriving fitfully, Jonathan Alloy offers 2 “Westport … Naturally” photo.

He writes: “My wife Sarah hung a pretty seasonal wreath on our front door, which real birds used to build a real nest — now complete with real eggs! Robins perhaps?”

Here’s the wreath:

And the eggs:

(Photos/Jonathan Alloy)

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And finally … the Westport Library’s VersoFest (see story above) and Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz present an intriguing concert tonight (7 p.m.). Headliners are Enid Ze and Daniprobably. Click below for a sneak listen; click here for ticket information, and more.

 

 

Roundup: Horace Lewis Funeral, Skating, Trash …

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Services will be held this Saturday (January 8) for Horace Lewis. The beloved head custodian at Staples High School — and before that at Coleytown Middle School — died last month of complications from COVID, following a stroke. He was 62 years old.

The family will receive visitors from 10 to 11 a.m. at Kingdom Life Christian Church, 597 Naugatuck Avenue in Milford. The funeral service follows, at 11 a.m. Interment will be at Union Cemetery in Stratford.

Horace Lewis

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Larry Aasen’s family has sent along his official obituary. Here are more details, on one of Westport’s most remarkable residents:

Larry Aasen died on Sunday, January 2, at Norwalk Hospital. He was 99 years old. The cause of death was complications of COVID-19.

Larry and his wife Martha married in 1954. They moved to Westport in 1963. Martha died in October 2020, at 90.

Larry was born in a log house on a farm near Gardner, ND, on December 5, 1922, during a heavy snowstorm. There was no electricity, running water or central heating. His grandparents were immigrants from Norway.

He attended North Dakota State University from 1941 to 1943, then entered the U.S. Army. Larry rose to sergeant in the 13th Airborne Division. After training in North Carolina, he was sent to France during World War II. His job was cryptographer, encoding and decoding secret messages. His division had 20-person gliders. Their mission was to drop behind enemy lines and destroy anything of value.

One year after his 1946 discharge, Larry received a journalism degree from the University of North Dakota. He added a master’s degree in public relations from Boston University in 1949.

Larry moved to New York, where he began his career as a journalist for McGraw-Hill trade publications. He spent 14 years with New York Life Insurance, rising to vice president of public relations, then 20 years with the Better Vision Institute on campaigns urging Americans to get their eyes checked.

He was active in Westport’s civic life. He served 17 years on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). Other volunteer activities include the Democratic Town Committee, Y’s Men and Rotary Club. He was an active member of the Saugatuck Congregational Church. In 2018, he served as grand marshal of the town’s Memorial Day parade

He wrote 4 books about his beloved North Dakota, including “North Dakota 100 Years Ago,” “Images of North Dakota” and “North Dakota Postcards 1900-1930.” “North Dakotans Never Give Up” was written when he was 97 years old.

Larry is survived by his children, David and Susan; son-in-law David Rutkin, and extended family members in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Because of the pandemic, there will be no funeral at this time. A memorial service will be held in the spring. His family requests that no flowers or gifts be sent to the Aasen residence. Instead, memorial gifts may be sent to Saugatuck Congregational Church (click here, or send to 245 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880).

Memorial Day 2018 grand marshal Larry Aasen and his wife Martha. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

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This week’s weather is great for skating, at one of  Westport’s 2 rinks.

That’s right. In addition to the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore, there’s another not far from downtown.

However, this one is private.

Josh Fass passed his love of hockey to his kids. Carter — a junior at Staples High School — plays on the boys varsity team. Lexie is a freshman; she skates for the Staples/Stamford co-op girls team. (The oldest is studying molecular and cellular biology in California.)

Creating a rink on their front lawn was a passion project last year, and a saving grace during the long COVID winter. The virus is still here — but thankfully, the rink is back.

The Fass family rink. (Photo/Mark Mathias)

A Westporter writes:

My husband and I have been doing a daily walk around our neighborhood. We see things that — well, shouldn’t be there.

So the other day we took a couple of bags with us. In just 20 minutes around the corner and back, we filled them (see photo below). We picked up something almost every 10 yards.

So here’s my “food (garbage) for thought”: Why does this happen in one of the wealthiest and most highly educated places in the country — in front of million dollar homes? I’m sure we wouldn’t see this on their living room floors.

In days to come, we’ll bring bigger bags. And maybe a truck, for the barbecue grill someone threw away.

A small portion of all the garbage collected.

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On Monday, “06880” reported on the cache of unopened tin cans Wendy Crowther found in a decaying Baron’s South tree.

Several readers speculated they might have been left there by a homeless person.

Wendy returned, and examined the labels. The oldest “Best By” date was February 28, 2017. Others were dated as late as 2022. A plastic jar of unopened peanut butter that rolled downhill from the rest had a “Best By” date of 2023.

Such dates dates typically range from 1 to 3 years, Wendy says. It’s hard to know who stashed the cans, and when. But, she adds, “No matter who, it’s a reminder that someone’s next meal may depend on the secrecy and integrity of a tree cavity, even here in Westport.”

Canned goods, in and near a Baron’s South tree. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

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The Westport Book Shop starts the new year off with a different kind of Artist of the Month. Literary and visual artist Diane Meyer Lowman — our town’s poet laureate — offers 9 original haiku. Superimposed on a photo taken by Diane in Westport or close by, they’ll be exhibited in the store through January 31.

Lowman is a poet, author and essayist (click here to read). Her memoir Nothing But Blue was published in 2018. Shortly thereafter, she received her M.A. in Shakespeare Studies from the University of Birmingham.

Diane Meyer Lowman with her haiku, at the Westport Book Shop.

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Sarah Bloom Raskin is the leading candidate for vice chair of supervision at the Federal Reserve.

According to Axios, “By settling on Raskin, a former deputy Treasury secretary, for the powerful bank regulator position, [President] Biden is giving progressive senators like Elizabeth Warren a policy and personnel win on a position about which they care deeply.”

Raskin — a law professor at Duke University — served as a Federal Reserve governor before joining the Treasury Department under President Obama. She is married to Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

Why is this “06880”-worthy? She is the daughter of longtime Westporter Arlene Bloom and her late husband, Herb. (Hat tips: Mary Condon and Sheila Weiss)

Sarah Bloom Raskin

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Gulls are a constant summer presence at Compo Beach.

Unlike other birds, they don’t fly south for the winter. They’re still here, enjoying — like human non-snowbirds — the solitude of the shore.

Amy Schneider snapped this “Westprot … Naturally” photo yesterday:

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … in honor of Amy Schneider’s photo (above), we present below:

 

Remembering Horace Lewis

Horace Lewis — Staples High School’s hugely respected, always helpful, ever-smiling head custodian for many years — died last night.

Horace Lewis

He suffered a major stroke this summer, just a few months after retiring from the Westport Public Schools. For 32 years, he gave his heart and soul to our district

After fighting to recover, he suffered a setback earlier this month when he was diagnosed with COVID. His wife Bonnie said:

Horace went quietly and comfortably. He was just too tired too fight. The love, concern,. and support from all is amazing. He would be humbled, and so grateful for everything. All the thoughtful, kind, encouraging words have lifted his spirits.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

In September, “06880” honored Horace Lewis. Here is that post:

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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.

Roundup: Compo Cleanup, Weston Fest, Horace Lewis …

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It was a sparkling day at Compo Beach yesterday. We’re hanging on to great weather as long as we can!

(Photo/Maggie Rahe)

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Meanwhile, elsewhere by the water, a Coastal Cleanup crew from Staples High School was hard at work.

(Photo/Karen Como)

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Saturday’s International Market and Festival at Lachat Town Farm yesterday was a huge success.

Global cultures was celebrated through food trucks, world music, dance troupes, artisanal vendors, kids’ activities, and (of course) a German beer garden.

If you weren’t there, this photo will have to suffice.

(Photo courtesy of Dick Wingate)

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Westporters continue to help Horace Lewis, Staples High School’s head custodian who suffered a major stroke just 5 months after retiring last summer.

The latest update from his family:

“He is making small gains with his therapies. He can hear us, and makes sounds verbally in response. It takes a lot of energy for him to do. We continue to pray for God’s will to be done for Horace’s healing.

“We ask for your support to help with his long-term rehabilitation journey. To find a safe place of comprehensive rehabilitation for brain injury as close to home would be what he would have liked. His family, friends and all involved are so thankful for your help.”

Click here for Horace’s GoFundMe page.

Horace Lewis

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Two requests, from an organizer of a December holiday event: “Do you know someone who could be a Santa Claus? And anyone with a boat still in the water who could decorate it with holiday lights, to be admired by the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge?”

If you can help, email dwoog@optonline.net. Thanks!

Looking for a Santa — and a boat. Two separate items, despite this photo.

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With all eyes on the Staples High School boys soccer team, as it roars into the post-season with a 9-1-4 record, here’s a reminder of some players who grew up here before taking their talents elsewhere.

The Hopkins private school varsity team is captained by Max Gordon. They’re having a great season, having beaten longtime powerhouses Avon Old Farms and Kent.

Max is joined by fellow Westport Soccer Association graduates Liam Spellacy and Albert Yang. Good luck as they begin the Fairchester league playoffs next month — seeded first.

Max Gordon

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Rowene Weems describes the back story to today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo, taken on the boardwalk by Bartaco:

“I did not use a zoom. The gull waited patiently while I got closer and closer, seemingly expecting a treat. He bolted, when he realized all I had was a camera.”

(Photo/Rowene Weems)

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And finally … happy 296th birthday to composer Johann Strauss!

 

 

Take care, Rowene

Roundup: Dog Festival, Banned Books, Social Anxiety,

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Anne Lutz Fernandez is a former English teacher at Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools.

She’s also an author, and a contributing writer for NBC News’ “Think” website.

The other day, she started a “Think” essay this way:

“A few years ago, I was asked to phone a parent who wanted her high school senior to switch English classes. Her daughter had selected the class ‘Women in Fiction,’ but the mother wanted her to take my class instead to avoid books that would go against the family’s Christian beliefs.

“Her daughter would be welcome, I said, but warned that my course, ‘Literature of Suspense,’ might also prove problematic. The books include a lot of crime, some violent, I explained. That’s okay, she replied. Supernatural evil? Not a problem. Substance abuse? Fine. Death, demons, and drugs: all were judged inoffensive. This parent just didn’t want her daughter reading books in which characters have sex.

“Death, demons, and drugs: all were judged inoffensive. This parent just didn’t want her daughter reading books in which characters have sex.

“I’ve been pondering this exchange during Banned Books Week and as numerous states have passed legislation purportedly meant to protect America’s K-12 students from ‘discomfort’ when learning about history or contemporary issues.”

It’s a provocative, insightful essay. To read the rest, click here.

Anne Lutz Fernandez

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Forget the dog days of autumn. This Sunday (October 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,  Winslow Park) marks the return of the Westport Dog Festival.

The popular event was knocked out 2 springs in a row by COVID. But you can’t keep a good dog down.

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and TAILS bring attendees — human and canine — a day filled with fun competitions, kids’ activities, demonstrations, police K9 presentations, giveaways, vendors, food trucks and more.

Piglet — the blind and deaf chihuahua — will be there. So will Earth Animal, presenting prizes for best tail wagger, best dressed, best kisser, best trick, best lap dog over 50 pounds, and the dog that most looks like its owner.

Parking is available at the Westport Country Playhouse, and lots along Post Road East. Tickets are $10 per person; $25 for a family of 4. Proceeds benefit non-profit organizations.

To register for competitions, and more information, click here.

This guy loved the 2017 Dog Festival. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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With little fanfare, the Kings Highway North bridge by Canal Street has reopened to traffic.

In only slightly less time than it took to build the pyramids or create the NASA program that put a man on the moon, crews have completed work on a project that most Westporters never even realized was a bridge.

The new route to Wilton Road from Main Street should ease downtown traffic a bit. Fingers crossed …

A welcome sight, once again. (Photo courtesy of Google Street View)

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Eighteen months into the pandemic, Westport moms want to know as much about COVID as possible.

So tonight (Tuesday, October 5 (8 p.m.), Westport Moms is hosting an Instagram Live session with Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

The former FDA commissioner — and current local resident — will talk about vaccines, kids, and where we go from here.

Westport Moms is a multi-platform resource. Look for @WestportMoms for tonight’s IG Live event.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb

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Kids are talking about popularity and social anxiety.

And this week’s “Kids Are Talking” — the online, Westport-based, multi-platform show — tackles that fraught topic. 
This week’s show will be talking about popularity and Social Anxiety.

What does popularity mean to teenagers today? How does pressure to fit in affect self-esteem and confidence? Do the stresses of being popular come at a price, and how important is it?

Click here for the link.

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An update on the GoFundMe drive for Horace Lewis, the beloved Staples High and Coleytown Middle School custodian who suffered a devastating stroke on his anniversary in July.

The goal of $50,000 has been surpassed. Grateful Westporters have donated $54,990 so far. But more is needed, for costs not covered by insurance. He receives physical and occupational therapy, and has still not returned home. Substantial renovations will be needed to make the house accessible for him.

Click here to help Horace. (Hat tip: Andrea Cross)

Horace Lewis

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Three bits of art news:

The George Billis Gallery on Main Street hosts an opening reception this Friday (October 8, 4 to 7 p.m.) for its next exhibition. Artists include Nancy Bass, Paige Bradley, Steve Cosentino and Denise Petit.

On Saturday (October 9, 1 to 3:30 p.m.), One River School of Art + Design presents a solo exhibition of work by Chuck Webster. His mediums include painting, drawing, collage and printmaking. His works are on display through December 19.

And Westporter Steven Parton has been named a Signature Member by the  American Artists Professional League. That brings him one step closer to being recognized as a Living Master by the organization.

Steven Parton, with one of his works.

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Builders Beyond Borders — the international service organization for teenagers — hosts an open house tomorrow (Wednesday, October 6, 66 Fort Point Street, Norwalk, 5:30 to 7 p.m.). Students and their parents are invited to learn more about programs and possibilities.

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As of last Friday, dogs are allowed back at Compo Beach.

Yesterday — right on cue — these pooches enjoyed their freedom. Tracy Porosoff was there to capture this iconic “Westport … Naturally” scene.

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

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And finally … Bob Moore, who played upright bass on hundreds of country music’s biggest hits, died last month in Nashville. He was 88.

The New York Times said: “Over 40 years Mr. Moore elevated the bass in country music from a subordinate timekeeper to an instrument capable of considerable tonal and emotional reach. By turns restrained and robust, his imaginative phrasing revealed a gift for seizing the dramatic moment within a recording or arrangement.” Click here for the full obituary.

Among his most noteworthy recordings:

Roundup: ArtSmart, Smart Students, Horace Lewis …

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ArtSmart — a great community program — is back after COVID. It’s “reimagined,” and better than ever.

A joint program between the Westport PTA Council and Westport Library, the project bring arts education and creative arts programming in elementary schools.

The Library provides excellent resources to parents volunteers, to research a variety of artists and styles of expression. Parent volunteers go into classrooms to introduce works of individual artists or styles (street art, murals, cartooning, sculpture, etc.). Students then create their own art.

In the spring, each class exhibits their work. Every elementary school is transformed into an art museum for the night.

This year, 2 vaccinated parent volunteers will be in a class. Outdoor projects are strongly encouraged. Museum Night may have timed admission slots, or be virtual.

Interested elementary school parents can attend a kickoff event on the Library’s river steps this Tuesday (September 28, 10 a.m.). No experience as an artist or teacher is necessary.

A workshop for new volunteers will follow on October 13 (10 a.m.). For more information, email co-chair Danielle Dobin: danielle@apifeni.com.

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Help for Horace Lewis — the popular Staples and Coleytown Middle School head custodian who suffered a devastating stroke this summer — continues to pour in.

Tomorrow afternoon (Sunday, September 26, noon to 4 p.m.),OneWestport will hold a bake sale in front of Savvy + Grace on Main Street.

All contributions are welcome. To help without buying delicious baked goods, click here.

Horace Lewis, in a typical pose.

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Speaking of Staples: Congratulations to our high school’s 7 National Merit Semifinalists.

Emma Alcyone, Natalie Bandura, Zachary Bishop, Michael Brody, Chloe Nevas, Maxwell Tanksley and Julian Weng are part of the fewer than 1 percent of more than 1.5 million students who took the 2020 PSAT/NMSQT qualifying exam. They’re competing for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $30 million.

From left: Chloe Nevas, Emma Alcyone, Natalie Bandura, Maxwell Tanksley,
Zachary Bishop, Michael Brody, Julian Weng.

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The Yankee Doodle Fair — in its new September slot — continues to draw big crowds.

It continues at the Westport Woman’s Club and adjacent parking lot on Imperial Avenue today (Saturday) from 1 to 10 p.m. The annual event ends tomorrow (Sunday), 1 to 5 p.m.

Action at last night’s fair. (Photo/Joel Treisman)

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Who wants to be a victim?

Weston and Easton EMS host an “Active Threat Class” October 16-17. Volunteers at least 18 years old are needed to play “victims,” helping police, fire and EMS members — including those from Westport — train. Click here for details.

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Richard LoCascio died on Tuesday. His wife, Cynthia Ann Lozyniak, LoCascio was by his side. He was 80 years old.

The Bronx native earned a master’s degree in History from Fordham University, and a master’s in special education from New Rochelle Teachers College. He taught for 35 years in the Bronx, and also served as a substitute teacher in Fairfield.

Richard loved to paint and draw, write poetry and play the saxophone, flute and keyboard. He was a 2nd degree black belt in judo. He also loved nature, and carefully tended to his garden. He and Cynthia traveled the world and had many adventures together, especially on their annual trip to the Maine coast.

In addition to Cynthia, Richard is survived by his daughters Michelle LoCascio of the Bronx and Andrea LoCascio of Greenwich; sister Helen LoCascio of Stuart, Florida; nieces Nicole and Laura Augenti; nephews Casey, Jack and Peter Lozyniak, and many cousins.

A service will be held Tuesday (September 28, 11 a.m.) at St. Luke Church, with a Mass of Christian burial. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to any cancer organization of your choice. Click here to leave online condolences.

Richard LoCascio

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An early fall day brought Matthew Slossberg to the water. He captured today’s serene “Westport … Naturally” scene:

(Matthew Slossberg)

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And finally … today is National One-Hit Wonder Day.

Where would the world be without groups and solo artists who roared onto the music scene with huge smashes, then faded just as quickly into obscurity?

Here are 3 of my “favorites” from the 1960s. All — improbably — reached #1. Click “Comments” below to nominate your own, from whatever years you choose.

 

Horace Lewis Needs Our Help

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.

Unsung Hero #154

One of the major consequences of COVID-19 is the enormous task of making our schools safe for reopening. For months the custodial and maintenance staffs at our 8 public schools have worked assiduously, doing just that.

One of the less noticed effects of the virus is that with schools closed, we don’t get a chance to see all the hard work that’s being done. Or to thank one of the key members of the staff when he leaves.

Next week, Staples High School’s head custodian Horace Lewis retires.

He would not want any fanfare. Horace is a stay-out-of-the-limelight guy. But he’s not getting away without a public acknowledgment of all he has done, and how much he has meant to the building he’s served (and loved) for so many years.

It’s a huge place. There are so many parts to it: 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, and who knows what else.

Well, Horace knows.

Horace Lewis, in a typical pose.

He’s spent well over a decade taking care of it all. He knows every inch of the school — probably better than anyone else, I’m sure.

He makes sure 3 shifts of staff keep all those many inches running (and gleaming). They work during the school day, during all those afternoon and evening events, and through the night when no one else is around.

When something goes wrong — and it always does — he’s the one who gets the call. Broken pipes, a bad odor, a security alarm: Horace is there.

He’s the public face of his department. If a favorite chair disappears from an office, a meeting suddenly needs a microphone, a bird flies through the hallway: Horace gets the call.

It’s a stressful job. A million things can happen in a school, and in his time as head of its staff, Horace has seen them all.

But he never stops smiling. He never stops working. He never stops serving his school, and everyone in it.

Horace Lewis (right) and shift supervisor Tom Cataudo greet the staff and students during the 2015 graduation processional.

In 2011, Cleaning and Maintenance Management ran a story called “The Custodian’s Secret Life.” In it, they quoted Horace: “The best part about the job is taking care of students and the school, making sure you guys are safe during the day.”

You’ve done that and much more, Horace. Thank you for all of it. Enjoy retirement.

And even if you’re a bit embarrassed by this: You’re our Unsung Hero of the Week.

Unsung Hero #27

Every school in Westport is filled with Unsung Heroes: its custodians. Dozens of men and women work day and night. They clean floors, empty trash, move equipment and do countless other tasks so that our kids can learn — and our teachers can teach — in the cleanest, nicest and best environments possible.

I could single out many Westport custodians as this week’s Unsung Hero. I’m focusing on Jose Alvarez — but he stands for all of them.

Jose begins work at Staples High School at 5 p.m. His domain is the first floor — including the main office wing. It’s the most visible part of the school, and the pride he takes in making it shine is palpable.

He stayed late one night, because there were scuff marks he was still working to remove. That’s a regular occurrence: He won’t leave until his area is perfect.

He washes coffee mugs on administrators’ desks. They don’t want him to, but he insists.

Jose Alvarez

Jose is Colombian. He learned English by listening to lessons on headphones, as he worked.

One of his proudest moments was the day he became an American citizen. He’d studied hard for the test. Principal John Dodig arranged for a cake, and a small ceremony. Jose beamed with pride.

“He’s grateful for everything,” says current principal James D’Amico. “And we’re grateful for him. People come in, and can’t believe how clean and shiny the building looks.”

Staples head custodian Horace Lewis — an Unsung Hero himself — says Jose “never takes a day off. He’s always here, and always does his job so well.”

When he does have a vacation, Jose travels. He’s been to Israel and Italy. Of course, he returns to Colombia whenever he can.

But then it’s back to Westport. There is a school to take care of, and Jose is proud to do it.

(Hat tip: Karen Romano)

Custodians’ Kudos

Thousands of Westport students return to school this week. They’ll be greeted by hundreds of administrators, teachers and paraprofessionals who work hard to help our youngsters grow into wise, empathetic and confident adults.

Those students and staff work every day in buildings that are maintained with skill and care by men and women we always see, but seldom acknowledge. Often, we look right past — or through — our custodians.

David Johnson did not. A retired administrator from upstate Connecticut, he has spent the past 7 summers traveling to Westport to run a certification coach for area middle and high school coaches.

The other day, he wrote to Staples principal James D’Amico:

I have come to enjoy my journey to Westport. I am also enriched by being able to share important knowledge and information with those working with our student-athletes. What I have come to look forward to the most, however, is my interaction with your custodial staff directed by Horace Lewis.

Staples' popular head custodian Horace Lewis leads a great staff.

Staples’ popular head custodian Horace Lewis leads a great staff.

I travel to numerous high school facilities to teach these classes throughout the year. Nowhere is there a custodial staff as professional and welcoming as the one at Staples. I am always greeted with a smile, which makes me feel like I am visiting family.

Horace is there to meet my needs, making sure I have whatever is necessary. Then he asks what more he can do. He and/or one of his staff check and make sure we are ready to go. He checks with us during the class, and also at the end.

It is not easy to go into someone else’s facility and use unfamiliar equipment. But I never have a concern at Staples. I always know I have the support of Horace, Tom Cataudo and their staff.

Shift supervisor Tom Cataudo and maintenance head Horace Lewis greet the staff and students during the 2015 graduation processional.

Shift supervisor Tom Cataudo and maintenance head Horace Lewis greet staff and students during the 2015 graduation processional.

We have no problem complaining when something is not right or does not go well. Therefore I feel we have an obligation to recognize work that goes “above and beyond” the  call of duty. After 35 years in public education, I know that these individuals (especially a custodial staff like yours) are the lifeblood of the school community. You are most fortunate.

Thank you again for not only sharing your facility with us, but also for sharing such professional staff as well. Best wishes for a great school opening, and an even better school year.


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