Tag Archives: Jerri Graham

Roundup: Car Crashes, Cannabis, Cuseos …

Just before 1 a.m. today, a car went off the road, into the Saugatuck River.

The Westport Fire Department responded with 3 engines and a rescue truck. Firefighters wearing cold water rescue suits removed the lone occupant, who was trapped in the vehicle.

Westport EMS transported the patient to the hospital, with unknown injuries.

Westport firefighters in action early this morning. (Photo courtesy of Westport Fire Department)

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Speaking of accidents: Another of those baffling midday, clear weather crashes  took place yesterday, at the Hillandale Road/Morningside Drive South intersection.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

With the way people drive these days, though — and the so-much-to-do pressure of the holidays — perhaps it’s not that surprising.

Just keep this image in mind the next time you want to gain 2 seconds at a stop sign.

Or think that your errand is more important than everyone else’s.

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A recent “06880” story on what’s for sale — illegally — in Westport smoke shops and convenience stores noted that recreational marijuana sales have not yet begun in Connecticut.

Yesterday, state officials announced that adult-use marijuana sales will begin January 10.

Nine existing medical marijuana dispensaries have received approval for sales. The closest stores are Stamford and New Haven.

More sites will be approved in coming months. None are in Westport. The Planning & Zoning Commission has — at least for now — banned non-medical marijuana sales here.

Click here for a full report on recreational cannabis stores statewide.

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A Teen Business Holiday Shop fills the Westport Library’s Trefz Forum today (Saturday, December 10, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

An array of creative, high-quality products — jewelry, services and more — are on sale. All were created by local teenage entrepreneurs.

The event is sponsored by Up | Next Teens. The student-founded and run organization teaches teens the principles of entrepreneurism, with a commitment to social activism.

A portion of the proceeds will help fun the group’s efforts to help alleviate food insecurity.

PS: There’s live music, baked goods — and gift wrapping too!

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Registration is open for several Earthplace kids’ programs. They include:

  • Junior Naturalists (Grades 6-12)
  • Teen Volunteer Club (Grades 6-12)
  • Vacation Day Camp (Ages 3-12, January 16)
  • Holiday Break Camp (Ages 3-12. February 20-24, 27; April 7, 10-14)
  • Summer Camp.

Click here for details — and other programs too.

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Staples High School Class of 2010 graduate Luke Hammerman is the digital audience manager for the National Military Family Organization. The non-profit supports and enhances military families through advocacy and programming.

Luke wants Westporters to know about the group’s holiday drive — and remind them that Tuesday is the anniversary of the National Guard’s founding (in 1636!).

He also found this link to an inspirational “06880” story about some Westport military families in years past.

During World War II, 8 of the 12 Cuseo brothers enlisted in the military. Bottom row (from left): Charles, Robert, James, George. Middle: Angelo, father James, mother Lucia, Albert. Top : Nicholas, Frank, Anthony, William, Joseph, Michael. Not pictured: Mildred.

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Westport will be well represented at “Layers Revealed” — the new exhibit at Norwalk Art Space.

Photographer Jerri Graham and artist Melissa Newman are in the show, which explores “all of life’s intricacies and complexities.”

“Slowly, the layers of our lives are revealed and once they are, we fully come through,” Graham says. Through “each frame of the camera,” she aims to highlight “a fraction of a second of a life that will be lived for a time unknown. Within these fractionated layers, we find our lives and ourselves.”

“Layers Revealed” encourages viewers to explore the many cycles and layers of humanity, nature, beauty, creation and decay.

At the opening reception Thursday (December 15,, 6 to 8 p.m., 455 West Avenue, Norwalk), Graham will take portrait photos at a pop-up space.

She’ll also host 3 portrait photo sessions (December 18, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m.; January 8 (10 a.m. to noon) and January 15 (noon to 2:30 p.m.). Book sessions at 203-252-2840; donations are accepted. Students ages 13 to 18 who are interested in helping Graham (and learning about lighting, composition and more) can apply here.

On January 15 (3 p.m.), Graham will give a talk. On January 28 (11 a.m.), Newman — who is also a vocalist — will join guitarist Tony
Lombardozzi for a jazz brunch performance at The Norwalk Art Space.

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In With the Old” — a Discovery+ series — features old-home enthusiasts transforming abandoned structures.

In the current season 3, Staples graduates Brian and Megan Austin Philpott work their magic on a “little Weston cabin.”

Also shown: former Westport Planning & Zoning Commission member Al Gratrix. Spoiler alert: It’s his grandchildren’s log cabin. (Hat tip: Chip Stephens)

Brian and Megan Austin Philpott, at work.

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The Dartmouth College Brovertones serenaded Staples High’s  Choralaires yesterday, with tunes ranging from Hozier to The Beach Boys.

Luke Rosenberg’s singers were especially excited to hear SHS 2020 graduate Sam Laskin. They asked plenty of questions too, about college and a cappella life.

Sam Laskin (front row, 3rd from left), the Brovertones, and the Staples Choralaires.

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There’s a new event on the Westport benefit calendar.

On March 19, Sunset Wine Party hosts a wine tasting at the Inn at Longshore. All net proceeds go to Berni & Murcer, a non-profit supporting area children with cancer.

The event includes grazing tables, music, and private VIP rooms

Discount tickets are available December 15 through January 1. Click here for more information.

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Last night’s full moon was spectacular. Thanks to all who sent photos.

Two of the best were these:

Moon over Compo Beach … (Photo/Jim Hood)

… and Sherwood Island State Park. (Photo/Matt Murray)

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Just before the moon rose, Tessie and Stinky Pete posed for this “Westport … Naturally” photo at Compo:

(Photo/Richard Abramowitz)

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And finally … another little known — but hugely important — music pioneer has died.

Jim Stewart, a white man who who with his sister founded Stax Records — the hugely successful R&B/soul label — died Monday in Memphis. He was 92.

A country and rockabilly fan who “had scarcely seen a Black person till I was grown,” his work with artists like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett and Carla Thomas helped create the soundtrack of the ’60s and early ’70s.

His house band — Booker T. & the M.G.s — included Black and white musicians, an enormous step for the very segregated city of Memphis.

Click here for a full obituary.

(Cars in the river, marijuana sales, military families … “06880” covers it all. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

 

 

Roundup: Power Lines, Steve Lillywhite, OMG …

Yesterday’s rains gave way to last night’s winds.

Several trees came down, all over town. Jo Shields reports says that one, on North Avenue south of Charcoal Hill, took down power lines.

A Fire Department truck waited an hour and a half for Eversource crews to arrive. (She was told they were working on Newtown Turnpike lines.)

Power lines down on North Avenue. (Photo/Jo Shields)

Traffic was diverted, but turning around was not easy on the northern curve. It was especially tough for an 18-wheeler hauling vintage cars. It had to back down North Avenue for a third of a mile. Meanwhile, cars tried to get around it — despite the closed road ahead.

Jo directed traffic by Coleytown Elementary School, helping the truck make it down the road.

An 18-wheeler backed carefully down North Avenue, until it reached Easton Road (shown here). (Photo/Jo Shields)

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Keith Richards may not wander over from Weston.

But the Westport Library’s 2023 VersoFest will have a strong Rolling Stones presence. Record producer Steve Lillywhite — whose credits include not only “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band ever,” but also U2, the Dave Matthew Band, Phish, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, the Psychedelic Furs, XTC, Morrissey, the Pogues, Guster, the Killers and more — has just been signed as a headliner.

Last spring’s inaugural VersoFest was a smash. The 2nd annual music and media conference and festival will draw even more media creators, artists and fans to the Trefz Forum, and meeting rooms throughout the Library.

Lillywhite’s April 1 appearance will include a conversation with Chris Frantz, the Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club drummer, and a Sturges Highway resident.

Lillywhite began as a staff producer with Island Records. With great success in pioneering recording ethos and technique (and popular sales), Lillywhite was made a Commander of the Order of The British Empire for his contributions to music in 2012.

VersoFest is set for March 30-April 2. Many more artists and contributors will be announced soon.

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The Westport Police have released arrest reports for the November 24-30 period.

Four people were detained in custody. One was charged with possession of child pornography; one with failure to appear; one with both operating a motor vehicle under suspension and failure to keep plates readable, and a fourth with operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, operating a motor vehicle under suspension, operating an unregistered vehicle, and improper stopping or turning.

The following citations were issued:

  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 8
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 6
  • Misuse of plates: 4
  • Operating a motor vehicle without a license: 3
  • Stop sign violation: 3
  • Insurance fails to meet minimum requirements: 2
  • Speeding: 1
  • Following too closely: 1
  • Failure to obey traffic control signal: 1
  • Violation of any traffic commission regulation 1
  • Driving with an out-of-state license after 30 days: 1.

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Historical plaques from the Westport Museum for History & Culture honor the heritage of over 470 local  homes.

The latest is for the longest known continuously operating store.

Old Mill Grocery & Deli has served the neighborhood (and beyond) since 1919, when it was built by Harry F. Sherwood. He hired Sylvester and Florence Young to operate it; in 1927, they bought from him.

In 1929, the Youngs sold ½ interest in the store to Kenneth Montgomery. Both families operated the market until 1937, when the Youngs sold their half interest to Mabel Montgomery.

She died in 1960; he son Kenneth ran the store until his death in 1985. The next year, it was transferred to Old Mill Associates. Several owners followed, and the name changed to Elvira’s and then Joey’s by the Shore. The current owner — as of last year — is Soundview Empowerment Alliance (SEA) Inc.

Bob Weingarten (far right), house historian and plaque coordinator at the Westport Museum for History & Culture, presents the sign to founding members of the non-profit that rescued and preserved the community market. From left: Chris Tait, Tom Febbraio, Jim Hood, Emil Zobl, Ian Warburg. In front: Koda.

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One spot opens; another closes.

Word on the (Post Road) street is that the last day for Panera is December 6.

The sandwich/soup/salad space near Southport has been rumored to be closed permanently before — during the pandemic. But it recently was remodeled.

The Panera at the other end of town — by the Norwalk line — closed in December 2016.

The Panera Bread near the Southport line.

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Sure, it’s just the first day of December. But we’ll be hard pressed to find decorations any day the rest of this month that top these, at 134 Birch Hill Road in Weston:

(Photo/Richard Ellis)

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Westport will be well represented at “Layers Revealed” — the new exhibit at Norwalk Art Space.

Photographer Jerri Graham and artist Melissa Newman are in the show, which explores “all of life’s intricacies and complexities.”

“Slowly, the layers of our lives are revealed and once they are, we fully come through,” Graham says. Through “each frame of the camera,” she aims to highlight “a fraction of a second of a life that will be lived for a time unknown. Within these fractionated layers, we find our lives and ourselves.”

“Layers Revealed” encourages viewers to explore the many cycles and layers of humanity, nature, beauty, creation and decay.

At the opening reception December 15 (6 to 8 p.m, 455 West Avenue, Norwalk), Graham will take portrait photos at a pop-up space.

She’ll also host 3 portrait photo sessions (December 18, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m.; January 8 (10 a.m. to noon) and January 15 (noon to 2:30 p.m.). Book sessions at 203-252-2840; donations are accepted. Students ages 13 to 18 who are interested in helping Graham (and learning about lighting, composition and more) can apply here.

On January 15 (3 p.m.), Graham will give a talk. On January 28 (11 a.m.), Newman — who is also a vocalist — will join guitarist Tony
Lombardozzi for a jazz brunch performance at The Norwalk Art Space.

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Also nearby: The Mark Twain Library Art Show celebrates its 50th — that is, golden — anniversary with an event about gold.

“Gleam, Gossip & Gold: Love and Loss in American Art” is the title of the December 8 (7:30 p.m., in-person and Zoom) presentation. Westport art Dr. Robin Jaffee Frank will discuss the “untold dramas behind American art objects that were crafted in the precious metal.”

Frank is the former chief curator at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, and senior associate curator of American paintings and sculpture at the Yale University Art Gallery. Her Ph.D. in the history of art is from Yale.

Click here to register, and for more information.

Dr. Robin Jaffee Frank

Another Westport connection with the Mark Twain Art Show (December 3-11): Artist (and former teacher) Werner Liepolt has had a piece (“Dune Restoration #4) juried in.

It was originally shown in the “06880” online art gallery.

Untitled (Werner Liepolt)

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Meanwhile, seen last night on Main Street:

It’s unclear if the driver 1) never knew what he (or she) had done, and/or 2) didn’t care.

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Yesterday’s storm has moved on. Sunrises like the one Chuck Davis saw last week — today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo — are back.

(Photo/Chuck Davis)

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And finally … Christine McVie — Fleeetwood Mac’s noted singer/songwriter/  keyboardist — died yesterday. She was 79, and had been in ill health. Click here for a full obituary.

(Say you love “06880” with a donation! Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

Roundup: Shred Day, Playhouse Benefit, Post Road West …

Shred it!

Westport’s 13th annual annual Shred Day is Saturday, September 24 (9 a.m. to noon, Greens Farms train station).

Residents may shred up to 8 paper bags (bags recycle too) or 3 boxes (12 inches by 18 inches) per household.  Each car will be charged $10. Proof of Westport residency is required.

Among the items often shredded: personal, confidential and sensitive papers, bank statements, cancelled checks, credit card statements, tax records and medical records.

For more information, contact Town Clerk Jeffrey Dunkerton by phone (203- 341-1110) e-mail (JDunkerton@westportct.gov).

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Everything is set for Saturday’s (September 17, 5:30 p.m.) Westport Country Playhouse benefit.

Broadway star Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler in “Hamilton”) headlines a high-energy concert of Broadway, pop and soul, backed by a 7-piece band.

There’s a pre-show cocktail party and after-party with a DJ and dancing — plus an auction. Among the items:

  • A week’s stay for 8 at a Malibu beachfront home, and dinner at Pier Café.
  • 3 -hour sail on the 72-foot yacht Ticonderoga, from Riverside Yacht Club.  Choose a dinner sail for 12, or a cocktail cruise with appetizers for 20.
  • Metropolitan Opera premium box seats for 8 at the world premiere of “The Hours,” starring Renée Fleming and Westport’s own Kelli O’Hara. Post-performance champagne with Kelli in her dressing room.
  • 2 house seats for 5 must-see Broadway shows, curated by Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director. Dinner prior to one evening’s performance, plus round-trip car service.
  • A round of golf at Shorehaven Golf Club with Stephanie Szostak (avid golfer, film and TV actress), plus a lesson with a Shorehaven golf pro, gift certificate at the pro shop, and drinks at the club.
  • Coffee and conversation with Tony and Olivier Award winner Gavin Creel.
  • Catered dinner for 10 on the Playhouse stage with Playhouse actors and Mark Lamos.
  • Drinks or coffee in New York with film, television and stage actor Michael Urie.

Raffle prizes include a $15,000 Shopping Spree at Lux Bond & Green, and mezcal and taco tasting for 10 at Don Memo.

For more gala details, including tickets, click here.

Renee Elise Goldsberry

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50 Post Road West — the once-handsome, now decaying building on the left, heading into town — will not be redeveloped.

At least, not now.

50 Post Road West (Photo/Frank Rosen)

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Land use expert and engineer Rick Redniss reports: “After careful evaluation of the challenges in achieving a redevelopment that enhances the historic building and navigates the complex lengthy local and state approval process, the contract purchaser has elected to withdraw the pending text application (before the Planning & Zoning Commission).

“While trying to achieve a successful balance of costs and benefits it has become clear that taken as a whole, the effort does not ‘pencil out’ at this time.

“We thank everyone for their participation and hope that a future effort will help protect this historic building, so it can once again be an asset to Westport.”

There’s another Bridgewater in town.

Besides the world’s largest hedge fund, Westport is now home to Bridgewater Chocolate. The two have nothing to do with each other, besides our Zip Code.

The chocolatier — located in Parker Harding Plaza, near GG & Joe’s — was founded in the upstate town of Bridgewater (hence the name). This is their 4th store. Other locations are Brookfield and West Hartford.

Bridgewater Chocolatier’s grand opening is 4:30 p.m. today.

Bridgewater Chocolate (Photo and hat tip/Ifeseyi Gayle)

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Much-loved photographer Jerri Graham is September’s guest art exhibitor at Westport Book Shop.

It’s a true local show. Her images highlight the beauty and bounty of Wakeman Town Farm.

As a young girl, Graham learned darkroom techniques with her father. Together they experimented with negatives and light.

The exhibit is open during regular business hours at the used book store on Jesup Green. All artwork is available for purchase — and Graham will donate a portion of the proceeds back to the Town Farm.

To see more of Graham’s WTF photos, click here.

Jerri Graham’s photos, at the Westport Book Shop.

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Interested District 2 voters are invited to apply for a Representative Town Meetng vacancy. It was created by the resignation of Christine Meiers Schatz.

No party affiliation is required, as the RTM is non-partisan. The term runs through November 2023.

To apply, send a resume by September 23 to Town Clerk Jeffrey Dunkerton: JDunkerton@westportct.gov.

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Piano master Brian Marsella returns to the VFW this Thursday. He headlines Jazz at the Post, the weekly series that’s drawing rave reviews and large crowds.

He’s joined by Reid Taylor, Brian Floody and of course Westport’s own “jazz rabbi,” Greg Wall.

There are 2 sets on Thursday, September 15: 7 andn 8:30 p.m. (VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399, 465 Riverside Avenue). There’s a $10 cover, and dinner beginning at 6:30 p.m. Reservations are suggested: JazzAtThePost@gmail.com

Brian Marsella

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Aspetuck Land Trust’s next “Lunch & Learn” webinar features writer, author and wild bird rehabilitator Suzie Gilbert.

The author of the memoir “Flyaway: How a Wild Bird Rehabber Sought Adventure and Found Her Wings” and the novel “Unflappable” shares her love of the natural world and passion for wild birds, and her journey from raptor center volunteer to founder of a bird rehab center and author.

Click here to register.

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Kids love nature. They also love Victoria Kann.

On October 9 (11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), they can combine both. The author will read from her popular “Pinkalicious: Treasuretastic” book, and sign copies. There’s also a scavenger hunt for natural treasures through the remarkable Blau House gardens, and a chance for children to take a bean home and watch it grow.

The gardens are at 9 Bayberry Ridge Road. Registration and payment ($10 per child, which includes a copy of the book) must be done by October 7. Click here for details.

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Sure, this entitled parking photo is from a few feet over the Westport line — it’s at Equinox, in Southport.

But the driver is a few feet over several lines — handicapped lines.

Allison Ziering Walmark, who saw this spectacularly selfish act, took note of the flag on the back. She writes: “Whoever parked this way must be so traumatized by the Queen’s demise, that he or she can’t think straight. Not one, but two handicapped spots!”

(Photo/Allison Ziering Walmark)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is both wondrous and scary: a ginormous wasp (or hornet?) nest, hanging heavily on a branch at the entrance to Grace Salmon Park:

(Photo/Marc Frankel)

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And finally … today’s song is a collaboration of 3 generations.

Longtime Westporter Barbara Reis has spent over 50 years writing musicals. They’ve been produced at the White Barn Theater, Fairfield Playhouse, Orpheum in New York and others.

She wrote the music in the video below. The lyrics are by her daughter, Rosalind Mae Reis. And the photos were taken by Barbara’s grandson, Eli Melet, at various national parks.

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(That’s it — another great grab bag o’ stories. To help keep them coming, please click here to donate to “06880.” Thank you!)

Noya’s Windows Offer Joy And Hope

Jerri Graham is a noted Westport photographer. She hasn’t felt the holiday spirit for a while. Recently, she was especially Grinchy. But, she writes …:

While around us the world spins, there are those going the extra mile to make the holidays a bit more magical. They decorate with a level of flair that should be appreciated.

Noya Jewelry Design (18 Riverside Avenue) has upped their game this year with a “Nutcracker”-inspired window display that spills over into the interior decor.

Owner Natalie Tortay started talking about decorating for Christmas back in September. I never suspected my Israeli Jewish landlord and mentor would be a Mrs. Claus in disguise. 

But, she says, “I lived in Europe for many years. Christmas decorating is taken seriously. You don’t just string lights.”

I thought she was kidding about “doing it up” for Christmas, until she asked for the name of a set designer. I knew Alicia D’Anna builds exhibits for the Westport Museum for History & Culture, and has bad-ass ways with a table saw. She’s also worked for years on sets for Staples Players.

The women met, along with Alicia’s partner in design, Broadway’s Jordan Janota. Together hey flushed out Natalie’s vision.

From left: Jordan Janota, Natalie Tortay, Alicia D’Anna. (Photo/Jerri Graham)

I asked Natalie why she went through the expense of decorating her windows and store for the holidays, while we’re all experiencing trying times.

“It’s because we are in these times that I have to do it,” she said. “It makes me happy, it looks beautiful for people passing by, and it gives artists work. I’m happy.”

Alicia worked in her converted Westport workshop with Jordan. They brought to life the storyboard they’d presented just a week before. With techniques they’d used on the stage here and in New York, they carved out a bit of theatrics.

Jordan Janota, at work in Noya.(Photo/Jerri Graham)

“Natalie is giving the town joy! She isn’t just decorating her store for the holidays; she’s giving our community an experience,” Alicia said as she painted a foam scoop of ice cream bright pink.

The designers created quite a scene in 2 windows. Ballet slippers suggest an invisible foot dance beneath a tutu, surrounded by snow-covered trees and glittery packages.

One of Noya’s windows, with ballet shoes and a tutu. (Photo/Jerri Graham)

At night I’ve smiled as I see little girls with their faces pressed to the window. A jewelry designer turned her store into a studio, where artists created a set for minds to dance.

Though we live in dark times with the shine of the season dimmed, the windows of Noya offers a little glimmer of hope we can all use.

(Noya Jewelry Design is on the west bank of the Saugatuck River, just over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.)

A little girl looks in Noya’s window. (Photo/Kami Evans)

Jerri Graham: What Westporters Can Do, Once The Marches End

Jerri Graham is a 13-year resident of Westport. A talented photographer, she is currently working on a portrait series capturing the stories and lives of Westporters.

Today she reflects on the past week in Westport — and the world.

Last Sunday I attended a demonstration on Jesup Green to protest the horrific murder of George Floyd. A bipartisan effort by 2 local activists that was put together within 48 hours as the country watched in anger, the gathering was a way to say” enough is enough,” and that Westport stood in solidarity with the rest of the country against police brutality.

Jerri Graham, with her daughter.

I attended as a sad and frustrated black woman, mother, photographer, and a Westporter. Walking around with my camera I saw friends I’ve known for over a decade, out for the first time in months standing in heartfelt angst with neighbors of every age, race and religion.

Over 400 locals listened to the calm, sincere and honest voices of town leaders, including the chief of police standing with us in our tears over the death of a man none of us ever knew.

As we stood together as a town, I had an overwhelming sense of pride in my community I’ve rarely experienced in my life. I felt, through the bodies — though only a fraction of our population — an immense wave of understanding.

When we stood in silence for the half the amount of time George Floyd was pinned down, we all felt the horror. We all felt the shame. We all felt the anger.

Tears came between me and my camera as I took photos. After the silence ended, I walked around the green with my daughter seeing the eyes over masks we’d known since she was in kindergarten. We even had a chance to meet up with the other black families who also live in Westport who attended the demonstration. It was also a bittersweet meeting of some of Westports finest melanin, though I wish we’d met under different circumstances.

That evening, my daughter and I recapped through tears the last few days. We, like most Americans had grown accustomed to reports of black children, women, and men murdered for existing by law enforcement. However, this time we both felt it was different. For the first time, our community was also disgusted and outraged. Over the years we had wept alone over Tamir, Trayvon, Michael, Eric, and Breonna. But this time, our grief was shared.

One scene from last Sunday’s protest …

During this period of time, the need to be vocal and loud against the injustices we see is important. We want to fix things that are broken. The racism that results in murder isn’t a hat someone pops on their heads, but are a result of generations never viewing blacks as equal. While I don’t have the answer to the ills of racism that has engulfed our country from its formation, I do know that once the marches have ended, the work for equality isn’t over and starts at home.

First, take a look at your own life and the relationships in it. Do you have black friends? It doesn’t have to be a bestie or someone you hang out with every week, but it is 2020. Broaden your horizons and circle by stepping outside of your comfort zone of who you know.

We are here in Westport. We don’t just work at the stores, and for you. Parents are currently scrambling for books on how to teach their children about racism, yet often they don’t have a diverse social circle themselves. When parents don’t, oftentimes their children won’t.

Now, don’t run out and try to befriend the first black person you see (I’m in hiding and there’s a service fee). It doesn’t work that way. But at least make an effort to establish real relationships with people who don’t look like you. It starts with a cup of coffee, a conversation, and connection. Understanding comes when we know one another as humans, not just sound bites on the evening news.

… and another. (Photos/Jerri Graham)

Second, put your money where your mouth is. No, I’m not talking about donations or setting up a fund for disadvantaged students. While I admire this level of helping others, what I want to see once the homemade signs have been recycled is monetary activism.

Vow to spend a portion of your income with black enterprises and black brands. While marching alongside us and for us can break the barriers, economic opportunity is the only way for us to be fully equal. Be an economic investor by looking at holiday and birthday gifts you plan to buy this year, and vowing that 20% or more will be from black-owned companies. It won’t be easy because they won’t always be the ones readily available, but it is a choice to spread the wealth around. Contributing to the building of a brand or business owned by a black person by consciously using your purchasing power is trickle around form of activism that kicks ass!

Do not let the fight against police brutality be where your activism to support black lives ends. Vow to carry a placard not just for a march, but one you hold within yourself through daily relationships, dollars, and choices.

Powerful Photos Raise Breast Cancer AWAREness

Through the efforts of many people and organizations, breast cancer awareness is high. It affects 1 in 8 women, and kills more than 40,000 Americans each year.

But there’s less awareness that less than 10% of all money raised for breast cancer goes to research. And just pennies of that goes to Stage IV.

AWARE is raising awareness of the lack of funding allocated to metastatic breast cancer research. There is no better local organization to take on the task.

The acronym stands for Assisting Women with Actions, Resources and Education. Each year, members partner with a local non-profit. They volunteer with that group, organize an educational event and host a fundraiser.

In past years, AWARE CT has aided the International Institute of Connecticut (human trafficking), Mercy Learning Center (education), Female Soldiers: Forgotten Heroes (veterans) and Malta House (pregnant and new mothers).

Their current partner is the Cancer Couch Foundation. Since 2016, the group has raised over $3 million for Stage 4 breast cancer research.

AWARE’s commitment is total, and strong. The centerpiece is a series of portraits of Westporters, by talented photographer Jerri Graham. Each image includes text, with the subject describing how she or he has been affected by the disease.

The original idea was for each subject to also make a donation to the Cancer Couch, through AWARE. The portraits would be posted on social media, then shown at a fundraiser; afterward, each subject could take her or his photo home.

But AWARE did not stop there. For greater visibility — and awareness — they’ve gone door to door. Over 80 stores, restaurants, salons and medical offices agreed, quickly and enthusiastically, to show one or two portraits inside, or in their windows.

AWARE co-directors Amy Saperstein and Nicole Gerber, with a photo at Aux Delices’ Post Road East location.

AWARE then took photos of the merchants, chefs and doctors, and posted those online. It’s one more special way to raise awareness, of both Cancer Couch and the lack of metastatic breast cancer funding.

Winged Monkey — the first store to join the project, even before there was an image to display — offered to host a fundraiser there.

Joyride joined quickly too. Owners Amy Hochhauser and Rhodie Lorenz are all in. Instructor Mackenzie Pretty led a “Spinraiser” at the studio. She wove breast cancer statistics and information about Cancer Couch between songs — and gave shout-outs to AWARE members who were in the room, on bikes.

All 4 women posed for photos. Pretty’s mother — herself a breast cancer survivor — had her portrait taken too.

Mackenzie Pretty

Other avid supporters: 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker, and Westport Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran-Dougall.

2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker

When they began, AWARE co-directors Amy Saperstein and Nicole Gerber hoped 25 people would want their portraits taken. Well over 80 responded.

The photos are stunning. Jerri Graham — a very talented Westport portrait artist — captures subjects’ faces and feelings beautifully.

Coupled with each person’s words — about breast cancer’s impact on themselves, loved ones and/or friends — the effect is powerful and immediate.

It’s also, Gerber says, “a call to action.”

Just before Christmas, AWARE’s project took on a life — and death — of its own.

Four years ago, Rebecca Timlin-Scalera of Fairfield was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. It was re-diagnosed later to Stage IIIc, but she did not want to leave Stage IV women behind.

Timlin-Scalera started Cancer Couch, dedicated to Stage IV research. She was looking forward to having her photo taken, for AWARE.

It never happened. Just before Christmas, she died.

The Cancer Couch founder’s death stunned AWARE. In her honor, they’ve set a fundraising goal of $50,000. An anonymous donor pledged to match it.

Timlin-Scalera was not the only person unable to be photographed. A woman planned to pose with her husband. Cancer treatment interfered. Her 8- and 6-year-old daughters will take her place.

That’s one of many inspiring stories. Wilson Herrera — the Staples High School custodian/ college student who was profiled on “06880” last fall — and his brother William, a Bedford Middle School custodian — wanted to be photographed. Their mother battled breast cancer twice (and now has ovarian cancer).

Wilson and William Herrera

The sons gave her their photo in December, as a Christmas gift.

But the photo displays in stores, restaurants and medical offices are not the end of AWARE’s involvement with Cancer Couch. They’ll be displayed in another important venue: a fundraiser on Saturday, March 7 (6 to 8 p.m., POPT’ART Gallery, 1 Main Street).

As with everything AWARE does, this is a team effort. Lori Winthrop Dockser — who lost her mother to breast cancer at a young age, and has also been diagnosed with the disease — is donating all the catering staff.

Jesup Hall owner Bill Taibe — another portrait subject — offers free cocktails on the day of the fundraiser, at his restaurant.

Bill Taibe

The fundraiser will include light bites and wine.

And — most importantly — an AWAREness that the fight against Stage IV breast cancer needs all of us.

(For tickets and more information, click here.)  

I am proud to help support this cause.

As Graduation Nears, A Mother Reflects

The other day, Jerri Graham posted a heartfelt message on Facebook’s “Westport Front Porch” page.

“WFP” is a popular online community. But Jerri’s words deserve to reach far more people than those who are members of that group. I asked if I could repost her comments. Jerri graciously said yes.

She wrote:

This just came in the mail:

When I opened the envelope, tears flowed. My daughter will graduate from high school!

While it’s not a big deal for some, it means so much more to me.

We live in a town where we aren’t the norm. We are a minority on top of a minority on top of a minority. I’m a black woman raising a biracial daughter on an at-times stretched income of one.

I haven’t any family in sight. It has been just Cat and me for over a decade.

She’s been this solid child with a heart that is loving and giving. She’s never once complained when she’s had to go without.

Each week since she’s started working — whether at Sugar & Olives, the Y, babysitting or now at Westport Pizzeria — she gives me her pay. She knows that each dollar she gives makes up where her other parent failed her.

She’s been a great passenger in my sidecar during our life here in Westport.

Cat Graham

I came to this town to one day have this invitation in my hand. To raise a child in a clean environment, and where education matters.

I saw it in the faces of the kids around her who gobbled up chapter books, and inspired her to do the same.

I felt it in the parents who sat next to me year after year at school events when we didn’t always want to be there, but always were.

While I was forced to do it on my own, I do know that raising and educating my daughter here — where at least she had a good education, and friends — made it a lot easier.

I’m so proud of who she is, and who she will become. I’m thrilled that she knows herself well enough to forge her own path, regardless of what everyone else around her does.

Oh, the simple power of a card in the mail.

Congratulations, Staples High School Class of 2019!

And congratulations to two wonderful women: Jerri and Cat Graham!

Unsung Hero #71

Last Saturday was a big day for Erica Titlebaum — though she did not know it.

Jacob Elson was going to ask her to marry him.

He’d worked hard to create a special setting, at Sherwood Island State Park. The weather was glorious.

Jacob had planned everything out — including the photographer. He asked his father to hide nearby. But it was tough to coordinate that part.

At 5 p.m. — half an hour before Erica’s mom Michelle was going to show up — she had a flash of inspiration: Call Jerri Graham.

Michelle had met the talented photographer — just once. She knew her mostly through Facebook. But she called, and asked if Jerri could run over to Sherwood Island and get some photos of her daughter being proposed to.

By 5:20 Jerri was hiding in the bushes — and taking amazing shots.

Jacob Elson and Erica Titlebaum, moments after their engagement. (Photo/Jerri Graham Photography)

“What a community!” Michelle says. “I had no relationship with Jerri. I just knew she takes great pictures. But she ran out of her house to help me, at the very last minute.”

Yet Jerri is not our only Unsung Hero.

From Sherwood Island, Michelle headed to Layla’s Falafel. She’d ordered food for people coming back to her house to celebrate.

As she paid, she mentioned happily that her daughter had just gotten engaged.

The man behind the counter told her to wait. Despite a line of customers he turned around, filled many more containers with food, and sent Michelle on her way.

With a hug.

“Despite everything we hear, Westport still has a small-town feel,” Michelle says. “I love it here!”

And we love her story.

Thanks, Jerri Graham. Thanks, Layla’s.

And mazel tov to Erica and Jacob!

Little Cottage, Big Memories

Much as many of us mock Facebook — even as we check it many times a day — it’s a great place for interesting info. There’s a lot more there than cat photos, or rants and raves about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The other day, Jerri Graham posted these beautiful thoughts:

When we first moved to Westport from Taiwan, we lived in a little cottage on the corner of Main Street and Wild Rose. One bedroom separated by a curtain, a bathroom that had more mold than tiles, and a dusty loft that I fashioned into a bedroom for my then 6-year old. She was young and small enough that I could pass off living in a storage area as cool.

We lived there for almost 4 years. It wasn’t perfect, totally overpriced, and falling apart in so many places, but it was home and part of the tradeoff of living in a town like Westport.

I wonder who purchased the big house and the little cottage where we once lived. Bob, the aging ladies’ man of a hair stylist, occupied the main house on the property. With a silver ponytail that smelled of his scented oil, he always embraced me warmly.

He moved when they sold the house a year or so ago. I’ve seen him occasionally, and am so grateful for his time in my life.

Jerri Graham's cottage, on Main Street at Wild Rose Lane.

Jerri Graham’s cottage, on Main Street at Wild Rose Road.

In this cottage my world came together and fell apart a dozen or so times. In the little kitchen, I baked my first muffins after waking up at 3 a.m. with a desire to start a business.

I tested my first granola bar recipes here, figuring out ratios and baking until I went to my real job in the morning (kale granola is not a good idea, especially when it burns in the oven of a small kitchen).

I cried a lot in this cottage. For example, when I realized I hadn’t chosen the ideal spouse, feared being homeless, and longed to escape all of the pain in my life. In the driveway, I found out my childhood best friend had killed himself. I sat kicking gravel for an hour after trying to wrap my head around it all.

There were slumber parties where 7-year olds managed to laugh, play, and have fun. There was an annual ball drop from the loft/bedroom on New Year’s Eve. There were neighbors on this street I still know and speak with regularly who will always be a part of my life in Westport.

Every day I drive or walk by this little bit of my history. I’m excited and hopeful for whoever moves into this property that they’ll have nothing but happiness there.


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Nothin’ But…

In 2008, Jerri Graham was not happy with snack bars. The ones on the market lacked the taste, texture and ingredients she wanted to eat — or feed her family.

So the Westport woman created her own. Her “Nothin’ But” bars were a hit, at local cafes, farmers’ markets and gyms. Yet as a solo entrepreneur, she could not take advantage of their surging popularity.

Around that time, Steve Laitmon tried a bar at Doc’s — the old Saugatuck coffee shop. Impressed he stepped into the parking lot, found Graham’s number and called her.

An attorney who also owns the Calendar Group — a Westport-based staffing firm for high net worth individuals and families — Laitmon asked where Nothin’ But was sold besides Doc’s. She was in the farmers’ market, a couple of gyms and cafes, and Arogya.

Jerri Graham and Steve Laitmon.

Jerri Graham and Steve Laitmon.

Laitmon went door-to-door — literally — expanding the market. His 1st target: the Hamptons. He was successful — and so were Graham’s bars.

A few years later, Nothin’ But is now sold in a couple of thousand outlets. Costco and Whole Foods carry them, in 3 regions each. Hudson News sells them nationally. In March, they’ll be at 7/Eleven.

Last year, the company grew by 300%. Sales are in the low 7 figures.

Laitmon did it by old-fashioned pavement pounding. He also brought in a vice president of sales, a sales assistant and an operations guy. That’s it, though. Nothin’ But is nothin’ but them.

Success comes from the product itself, Laitmon says. “We’re taste-driven, with clean ingredients. Nothing artificial. No garbage.”

Right now there are 4 granola bar flavors, and 4 types of cookies. The Nothin’ But brand has plenty of potential, Laitmon notes. But they’re solidifying their current offerings, before expanding.

Nothin' But

Speaking of expansion: Nothin’ But’s offices just moved from Westport to Stratford. The company needed a loading dock — and that’s hard to find here.

Doc’s — where Laitmon made that 1st phone call to Graham — is no longer around. But Nothin’ But bars are.

Thanks to that Westport connection, they’re more popular than ever. And all over the country.