Tag Archives: John Karrel

Unsung Hero #258

Nearly 10 years ago — back in the pre-Unsung Hero days — I posted a story about Colonial Druggist and its wonderful owner, Russ Levine.

At that point, he and his ever-alert, always-helpful, constantly-go-the-extra-mile staff had been serving grateful customers for decades. They started in Colonial Green, then moved to the plaza near Fresh Market (and kept the name).

They’re still doing it. And Russ is still at the helm.

Alert “06880” reader John Karrel thinks it’s time to revisit Colonial Druggist — this time for an Unsung Hero award.

I couldn’t agree more.

Russ Levine, at his familiar spot. (Photo/John Karrel)

John writes:

“With the world ever more complex in 2022, there’s no let-up in Russell’s patience, the depth of his knowledge, his ceaseless good cheer and humor (not to mention his natty suspenders).

“Recently, I went in and asked if he could point me toward ear drops. ‘That depends,’ he said. After a dramatic pause: ‘Left ear or right ear?’”

“He and his superb staff seem to handle any kind of inquiry, whether face to face at the counter, or by phone (based on some conversations of which I hear one end).

“When I asked a long-time Westport friend her opinion of Colonial, she said, “‘The best pharmacy in the world.’”

No one who has walked in Colonial’s front door would disagree. So thank you, Russ and all your staff. You are true Unsung Heroes.

Here’s to many more years of helping whatever ails all of us. You never turn a deaf ear.

Left or right.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email 06880blog@gmail.com.)

(“06880” is proud to honor Unsung Heroes — and tell many other tales of town too. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)


COVID-19 Roundup: Center Street Concert; Free Face Masks; Meal Train; More

Last weekend, residents of Center Street enjoyed an amazing performance.

Their neighbor John Karrel, and fellow Westporter and friend Jeff Chasnow played beautiful selections from Bach and Vivaldi.

The musicians were socially distanced, on John’s porch. But they — and all who heard — were drawn emotionally together.

“It was so lovely sitting in the garden surrounded by spring blossoms, with the best weather of the year so far,” says Heidi Curran. “I hope they will treat us to more!”

John Karrel (left) and Jeff Chasnow)

Every Christmas, the tree next to Assumption Church is hung with lights.

This spring there’s something new on Riverside Avenue: face masks.

They’re hand-sewn, washable — and free for anyone to take. Be sure to pick up sanitizing prep pads too (donated by Knights of Columbus) — and a prayer card.

Everyone needs positivity. Savvy + Grace has it, for sure. In fact, it’s called a Positiv-A-Tea Basket.

That’s just one of the many fun, fine products the Main Street gifts-and-more store has for Mother’s Day (and the rest of the pandemic too).

Owner Annette Norton — downtown’s biggest booster — offers both shipping and no-contact curbside pickup (weekdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Her Easter baskets were a huge success, so Mother’s Day is a natural follow-up.

For gift baskets — or options to built your own gift box from their great selection of clothing, lounge wear, cashmere, fine jewelry, food items, bath and body products, and gorgeous home items — click here, or call 203-221-0077.

Positiv-A-Tea gift basket.

Tomorrow is National Nurses Day. As they and their colleagues bear the brunt of the pandemic, we can show support by signing up to feed a team (about 20 people) at Norwalk Hospital.

Ordering online through for this meal train helps them — and your favorite restaurant. Click here; it’s easy, quick and important.

Volunteer Lisa Power says, “If you’ve already signed up, and/or already donated to one of the many other places or people in need, please pass the link along to others. Spread the word!”

Speaking of Meal Trains: Garelick & Herbs participates. And they donate 20% of the price of any order to Jewish Family Services.

The popular market offers “Do Good, Feel Good” meal trains for Norwalk Hospital (20 staff members), Greenwich Hospital (50), Carrollton Nursing Home (35), and 5 options for police and fire department shifts.

They’re all on Garelick & Herbs’ website (scroll way down to the bottom). While you’re there, check out the huge variety of options for yourself, either curbside or delivery: breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, noodle bar, dinners, quiches, breads, pastas, desserts and more.

Plus Mother’s Day brunch, dinner, gift baskets, cakes — and a special “You Cook for Mom” feature.

In 6th grade, Emma Borys was diagnosed with epilepsy. The teenager is now an outspoken advocate for research and education.

The Walk to End Epilepsy — which she has raised plenty of funds for — has been canceled by the coronavirus. She also will not be able to take part in her long-awaited graduation walk at Weston High School.

But Emma is not deterred. She organized a virtual Walk to End Epilepsy — and promises to walk 2,020 steps (get it?) every day, from now until graduation, in return for pledges to the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut. Click here to help.

Emma Borys

The Avery Center for Obstetrics & Gynecology now offers COVID-19 antibody testing to determine whether you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus, even if you have no symptoms. It’s by appointment, at 12 Avery Place. Call or text 203- 227-5125.

And finally … a couple of years ago I saw “Bruce Springsteen on Broadway.” (Remember Broadway?!)

It was an evening of poetry, passion and power. Among the most powerful moments: a stripped-down version of this song. As always, The Boss says it best:

Ned Lamont Has To Go

Alert “06880” reader/Donut Crazy fan John Karrel was minding his own business, drinking an iced coffee and sitting on a sofa in the sugar-laden shop on the eastbound side of the train station around 3 this afternoon.

All of a sudden, in walked Governor Lamont, with 2 of his security detail.

Was he there for a strawberry frosted sprinkle donut? A cinnamon sugar cake? Perhaps one with shamrocks (special for St. Patrick’s Day week)?

Maybe the state’s chief executive was checking on the progress of our Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Committee?


The governor had to use the restroom.

As he was leaving — without ordering — John chatted him up. They exchanged pleasantries.

No one else recognized him.

Par for the course, when it comes to Fairfield County and Hartford politicians?

Or crazy?

Have you seen this man? John Karrel did.

Remembering Ernie Gazdik

Alert “06880” reader John Karrel writes:

“Ernie G”‘s eldest daughter, Michele Convertito, says, “He could always make you laugh.”

Until October 3, when he died at age 65. The Fairfield native was a truck driver for over 30 years.

I serve a monthly lunch at the Gillespie Center. No person there could brighten my day like Ernie G. After his family — notably his daughters Michele, Melissa and Maria — no passion was more important for him than his Yankees.

Ernest Gazdik

Ernest Gazdik

For years, he and I traded barbs about his Yanks and my Red Sox. Neither of us would win. There was always a twinkle in his eye.

Last time I saw him, some weeks ago, we had both mellowed. We complimented each other on our teams: my Sox headed for the post-seasons, his Yankees seeing a bright future with a host of young players.

Some day, when the 2 teams meet in the playoffs and Gary Sanchez’s walk-off home run propels the Yanks into the World Series, I will be sad. Then I’ll think of Ernie G’s beaming face, and I’ll smile.

And if his beloved Yanks do lose, Ernie G will still have been “one of the greatest men I have ever known,” in daughter Michele’s words.

That’s not bad.

(For Ernie Gazdik’s full obituary, click here. Donations in his name may be made to the Gillespie Center, 45 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.)

Rock On, Burying Hill!

For years, Westporters have marveled at the pop-up rock sculptures that appear randomly on the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t marshland between Schlaet’s Point (the north end of Compo Beach) and the Hillspoint Road curve toward Elvira’s.

Eventually they collapse, from the effects of wind and tides. Nice while they last, they’re mostly the work of Jerry Kuyper.

The other day, alert “06880” reader John Karrel noticed a different type of stone structure at Burying Hill Beach. It’s sturdier — more wall-like — but equally mysterious.

Rock sculpture at Burying Hill Beach

Preparations for a winter solstice festival? An homage to the original Bankside Farmers? Nature working in wondrous ways?

If you have any ideas — or know the back story — click “Comments” below.

It’s A Dog Life: The Sequel

Coincidentally, around the same time I was writing this morning’s post — celebrating the man-and-dog Friday get-togethers at Winslow Park — alert “06880” reader John Karrel sent this photo. It shows the other side of (hopefully a very few) dog owners at Westport’s favorite gathering spot:

Winslow Park poop

John notes that the plastic poop was plopped just a few steps away from 2 garbage bins, near the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot.

He saw many more blue bags in the wooded areas nearby.

John promises to head over today, with gloves and a big bag.

Which he will most certainly not leave lying lazily, grossly — and entitledly — on the ground.

Congratulations, Graduates!

As Staples’ Class of 2013 graduates this afternoon, it’s a good time to celebrate past classes.

Like the school’s Class of 1933.

At Staples 80 years ago they witnessed the 1st issue of Inklings, the school newspaper; the formation of a student council, and — big news! — the purchase of a mimeograph machine. In a student straw poll before the fall election, President Hoover outpolled Governor Franklin Roosevelt, 111-83.

Alert “06880” reader John Karrel passed along Jimmy Restaino’s late Aunt Sadie’s graduation photo.

SHS Class of 33

Like students today, Staples seniors showed a variety of emotions. Some looked happy and confident; others were a bit anxious. (Hey, it was the depths of the Depression.)

There are differences, of course. In 1933, 45 seniors graduated. Today, Staples hands diplomas to 463.

And check out those jackets, ties and dresses. It’s been a long time since Staples students dressed like that for their class photo.

The Jeff Shoup Walk: The Sequel

Last week, an alert reader emailed me about the Jeff Shoup Nature Path.

Two days ago “06880” ran a short story about the disrepair of the path near the Riverwalk and Levitt Pavilion, by the Saugatuck River.

Within minutes, John Karrel volunteered to organize a clean-up. Prill Boyle and Clark Ruff soon signed up to help.

Prill Boyle and Clark Ruff, at the Jeff Shoup Nature Path. (Photo by John Karrel)

Prill Boyle and Clark Ruff, at the Jeff Shoup Nature Path. (Photo by John Karrel)

This afternoon they brought shovels, rakes and themselves. Within an hour and a half, they’d worked magic — not only on the path, but nearby surroundings too.

“It’s not ready for a House & Garden shoot,” John says. “But it’ll do, at least until the Levitt rebuilding efforts begin in a few weeks.”

He’s way too modest. He, Prill and Clark — none of whom knew each other before today — worked fast.

They worked hard and well.

Most importantly, they worked for Jeff Shoup — and for Westport.

Terrain’s Quick Sale

Alert “06880” reader John Karrel spotted this sign outside Terrain:

He writes:

“I wonder if the ballyhooed new addition to Westport over-ordered for its gala, pre-Mother’s Day opening a month and a half ago.”

And, John asks:

“Does this sale bring some prices more in line with Anthony’s, Daybreak, Geiger’s & Izzo’s?”