Tag Archives: Jim Wheeler

Roundup: Leaf Blowers, Jim Wheeler, Trick Or Treat! …

Leaf blower legislation alert!

Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 1, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall), the Representative Town Meeting holds a first reading. of the newly revised leaf blower regulation.

Click here to read the full proposal. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)

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Jim Kemish — son of former 1st Selectman John Kemish — now lives in Boca Raton, Florida.

The other day his neighbor Adam, and Adam’s daughter, knocked on Jim’s door. She was selling coupon books to fund her class trip to Washington.

Jim asked them in, and Adam admired the art on the walls.

Jim pointed to his favorite print and said proudly, “That was done by one of my high school art teachers.”

He was stunned when Adam replied, “That’s a Jim Wheeler!”

Jim Kemish and Adam Goby had been dog-walking buddies for a couple of years. But they never knew they both went to Staples — in fact, Adam’s father Dave was a highly respected biology teacher there — and that, to top it off, both were Jim Wheeler fans.

Jim and Adam both wondered if Jim is still alive.

I told them: Not only alive, but healthy, active — and still drawing!

Jim Kemish’s Jim Wheeler print.

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Tonight, the streets around Compo Beach will be flooded (with trick-or-treaters).

There’s safety in numbers. So hopefully, not even the littlest one will be scared off by this guy on Soundview Drive.

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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Also tonight: kids begging for candy on Lone Pine Lane will have to navigate past these eerie inflatable eyeballs.

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

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Meanwhile, as Halloween fades into the rear view mirror — except, of course, for your kids’ 3 tons of candy — it’s time to think about our 2nd “06880” Holiday Stroll.

Mark your calendar for Friday, December 2 (5:30 to 7:30 p.m.). It’s right after the tree lighting — just walk down the Town Hall hill to Main Street.

This year, we’re partnering with the Westport Downtown Association. Details will be announced soon — but right now we’re looking for a Santa Claus and a face painter.

If you can help in either role, please email 06880blog@gmail.com. Thanks in advance!

Staples Orphenians’ will once again sing at the Holiday Stroll.

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The weather is turning colder. But last week was delightful — perfect beach weather. And there’s no better place to catch some rays — and catch up on reading than Compo.

(Photo/Howard Silver)

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Claudia Sherwood Servidio took her first hike yesterday at Haskins Preserve. Like everyone who discovers the hidden gem on Green Acre Lane, off Compo Road South, she was awed.

For a bit of what you’ll see, at this Aspetuck Land Trust property, check out this “Westport … Naturally” image:

(Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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And finally … ain’t no haint gonna run me off!

(Want to treat “06880” to a contribution? Just click here! And thank you, of course.)

William Fellah’s Dog And Pony Show

Jim Wheeler did not teach his Staples High School art students how or what to draw. He taught them why.

Those concepts have stayed with 2002 graduate William Fellah for 2 decades. They inspired him to major in illustration at the University of Connecticut. They served him well at his first job: staff artist at Norwalk-based Danbury Mint.

When the economy collapsed and he was laid off 2 years later, Fellah turned to custom portraiture. To his surprise, he found that people preferred drawings of their animals more than themselves. Fellah eagerly filled that niche.

But, he says, “I was too young to stay with it.”

William Fellah, at Stand Vegan Cafe in Fairfield. Two of his works hang on the wall.

He pivoted to another passion — personal training — and flourished. Art faded into the background.

A decade later, COVID struck. Gyms closed. With time on his hands, Fellah returned to drawing. He posted his works on social media. People bought them. They requested more — at prices enabling him to make a living. He created Fellah Fine Art LLC.

Once again, he’s specializing in animals. Dogs and horses are the most requested. (Fellah thinks they have more personalities than cats.)

One of William Fellah’s dog portraits …

He works from photos sent by owners. Though Fido or Secretariat do not sit and pose, the process is still long and arduous. Fellah takes up to 80 or 90 hours for some portraits. A particularly complex one might involve a dog with plenty of curls, or layered fur.

While people who commission portraits of humans (themselves or others) may ask for an idealized version (better skin or a smaller nose, perhaps), pet owners don’t. They just want to see their animals, in all their penciled, acrylic glory.

… and a horse.

The work is detailed and tight. Fellah stays fresh by sketching looser, freer subjects, like landscapes. He goes to galleries, for inspiration.

His canine subjects are often at two ends of the age spectrum. People want portraits of new puppies, Fellah says — and of pets near the ends of their lives.

Word of mouth is the best advertising. Social media is important too. Fellah also leaves postcards and flyers at Earth Animal and grooming salons.

Owners are thrilled to see the finished product. They often send Fellah photos of their framed portrait — with their dog or horse next to it.

Obviously, their pets approve too.

One more of William Fellah’s dogs.

Retired Staples Teachers Chart A New Course

There is life after high school.

The annual Retired Staples Golf Tournament was held recently at Newtown Country Club. For decades, they could not dream of getting on the course on a lovely September afternoon. Now it’s no problem.

This year’s champion is Gerry Kuroghlian. However, his scorecard is still being examined by the rules committee.

Can you identify all these legendary educators? Answers below.

(Left to right: Pete Van Hagen, Bill Walsh, Gerry Kuroghlian, Jim Wheeler, Ed Bludnicki, Tom Owen, Bruce McFadden, Bill Brookes)

Jenny Hampe’s Journey

At Staples, Jenny Hampe was a disciple of Jim Wheeler. The popular art teacher advised her against art school though, warning, “It will ruin you.”

So after graduating in 1983, Jenny headed to New York University — for film.

Young Jenny Hampe.

In her senior year she moved to Kentucky, to study with Mike Skop — Wheeler’s own mentor.

“That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” Jenny says. She dropped out of NYU, and — she thought — left Westport and the East Coast behind.

She was drawn to “very remote, windswept, lonely, cold, isolated northern places, for philosophical retreats.” Jenny says.

She lived on the northwest coast of Scotland, and an island off Maine. Every once in a while though, she returned home. When she did, Soup’s On — the friendly, funky Main Street restaurant — always welcomed her back with work.

During one of those interludes, she met a customer wearing a Norwegian sweater. He lived in Weston, but was a legit Scandinavian. They fell in love, went to Norway, got married at Norfield Church, and moved back to his home country.

He went to organic farming school. They found a farm on a fjord. Accessible only by boat, there was sun less than 6 months a year. The nearest village was over 5 miles away.

The fjord farm.

It was quite a place. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site. National Geographic called it one of the most beautiful spots on earth. “We were there in the wilderness,” Jenny says.

The 2 suburbanites with a small flock of sheep, some wild boars and chickens learned as they lived. Soon, Jenny had a child.

Their 2 1/2 years on the fjord farm ended when her husband got in a fistfight with their 75-year-old neighbor.

Jenny found an island for sale, elsewhere in Norway. With a loan from Westport Bank & Trust, they bought it. They lived there for 7 1/2 more years. She had 2 more babies.

There were Jersey cows, 75 sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens and rabbits. Like the other farm, this one had minimal electricity and plumbing.

“It was another amazing chapter,” Jenny recalls.

Jenny Hampe loved her farm life.

She got divorced, and married another Norwegian. Soon, Jenny was living on her 3rd farm. It lacked road access, electricity and running water.

She was there for another 10 years. She had her 4th child there too.

Jenny Hampe with her “kids” — human and animal.

Then she had a midlife crisis. “It’s a complex story,” she says. “I was homesick for my homeland.”

Which is why Jenny now lives in … Brooklyn.

She’s an artist there, working in collage and textiles. (She learned that craft while sewing her own and her family’s clothes in Norway). She also makes memory jugs.

Jenny Hampe today.

And 4 days a week, she commutes to Westport. She’s got “an amazing job” here, as an estate gardener.

“It’s confusing to some people,” she admits. “I dress in wooden shoes and aprons, with dresses down to my ankles. But I’m a New Yorker.”

She looks back with gratitude on her life tending goats and making cheese. But, she realizes, “New York was always in my blood. And Westport is my home.”

Her 4 children — now in their teens and 20s — spent last summer with her. They all shared a 1-bedroom Brooklyn apartment.

“They love New York too,” she says.

So what does she make of all this?

“My life is exciting,” she concludes. “I’m a Jenny of all trades.”

Former Staples Teachers Are Definitely Not The Retiring Types

Over 200 years of teaching experience was on display the other day, at the Newtown Country Club.

A group of educators gathered for the 1st annual Staples Retired Teachers Golf Classic — and what a classic it was.

Retired Staples teachers

In the photo above are, from left: Bruce McFadden (science), Ed Bludnicki (science, administration, adult education), Pete Van Hagen (science), Tommy Owen (special education), Jim Wheeler (art), Jeff Lea (world language), Bill Walsh (math — and not retired), Bill Brookes (science).

No word on who won. But Wheeler proudly displays his award, for “most uncooperative balls.”

See what happens when these guys leave the classroom?