Tag Archives: Julie Belaga

Roundup: Dodge-a-Cop, Tree Lighting, Uber Discount …

=======================================================

Police officers and Staples High School students battled last night. For 2 hours in the fieldhouse, they hurled objects at each other.

It’s all good.

The event was Dodge-a-Cop. The annual dodgeball tournament is a fundraiser for Toys for Tots — and a great way to get police and teenagers working together. Each student team included at least one officer.

Dodge-a-Cop was organized by the Westport Youth Commission and Staples’ Teen Awareness Group.

There were no arrests.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (2nd from right) and RTM member Andrew Colabella (far right) joined in the fun. (Photo courtesy of Westport Police Department)

=======================================================

Dueling tree lighting ceremonies!

Both the town of Westport, and Wakeman Town Farm, will do the honors on Friday, December 3.

The Town Hall event begins at 5 p.m. The Staples High School Orphenians will sing.

The WTF lighting starts at 4:30, and features music, cocoa, cookies and a bonfire.

If there are any other tree lightings that day, please let us know.

The Town Hall tree, in 2018. (Photo/Dan Woog)

======================================================

Speaking of the holiday season: What a time for parties, celebrations and fun!

Not time for drinking and driving afterward, though.

Smart imbibers know that one way to avoid arrest — or worse — is to call Uber. Now — thanks to the Connecticut Department of Transportation Office of Highway Safety — you can get a $10 discount off that potentially life-saving ride.

And it’s available every day from now through January 14, between 5 p.m. and 4 a.m. The discount code is: SaveTheNightCT.

Put that code in your phone now. It may be harder to find when you need it the most.

This program comes thanks to a grant from the Governors Highway Safety Association, in partnership with Uber. Connecticut is one of only 5 states to receive the funds.

For more information, click here.

=======================================================

Anaiza Morales moved to Westport only 2 months ago, from New Jersey. But it didn’t take her long to get involved in her Westfair neighborhood.

Impressed by how much fun everyone had on Halloween, last Sunday she organized a chili crawl/cook-off.

Anaiza met new neighbors, and their college-age kids and mothers in for the holiday weekend. They shared food and stories, while walking around the neighborhood (in perfect weather).

It was a blast. And people who did not have a chili recipe brought dessert.

The competition was close. Only .6 of a point separated the top cooks (as calculated by a young engineer). The winner: Wendy, with Brazilian feijoada.

Enjoying the chili (and warm weather) in the Westfair neighborhood.

======================================================

MoCA Westport’s current exhibition – “When Caged Birds Sing” — features 8 life-size sculptures by the late Westport artist Ann Weiner. They represent women’s rights activists who survived abuse because of their gender, yet still advocate for the rights of others at risk.

In conjunction with this important exhibit, MoCA hosts 3 human rights experts for a panel discussion at 6 p.m. on December 2:

  • Claudia King, from Connecticut’s Human Anti-trafficking Response Team
  • Cadence Pentheny, coordinator, community and corporate learning, LGBTQ+ Training Institute, Triangle Community Center
  • Jamie Rubin, Southwest regional manager, Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities.

The event is free, but pre-registration is required (click here). Attendees who arrive early can grab a beverage at Bar MoCA. Guests can stay after the event to watch a documentary associated with the exhibition.

Part of MoCA’s “Caged Bird” exhibition.

======================================================

A memorial service for Julie Belaga — the former state representative, regional EPA administrator and Export-Import Bank director who died Friday — is set for December 19 (10 a.m., Westport Library). All of Julie’s friends and admirers are welcome.

Julie Belaga

==================================================

Two days ago, our Roundup featured 2 intriguing photos. Both showed a fancy women’s shoe, abandoned at Compo Beach. In one shot, it lay on the ground; in the other, it was perched on a railing.

That shoe sure gets around. Here’s a third image:

(Photo/Indrani Basu)

It sure gets around. If you see it on the cannons — or anywhere else — let us know.

=======================================================

“Westport … Naturally” celebrates Turkey Day with, of course …

Dogwood Lane buck. (Photo/Eric Roth)

=======================================================

And finally … 5o years ago today, hijacker DB Cooper parachuted from a Northwest Orient Airlines plane over the Pacific Northwest, with $200,000 in ransom money. He has never been found.

Click here for full details. Click below for DB Cooper’s song.

Remembering Julie Belaga

Julie Belaga — whose career took her from the Westport P&Z and RTM to the Connecticut House of Representatives, then a run for governor, teaching at Harvard, regional director of the EPA and a director of the Export-Import Bank —  died peacefully on Friday, at her Westport home. She was 91, and lived here since 1965.

Julie grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, where her father was a fish wholesaler on the Boston docks. After graduating from Syracuse University, she worked for several years as a 2nd-grade school teacher.

Then she found her true calling: politics. After a term as president of the Westport League of Women Voters, Julie served on the Planning and Zoning Commission (including a stint from 1972 to ’76 as chair), and on the Representative Town Meeting.

She was next elected as Westport’s representative to the Connecticut House . She served for 10 years, including positions of deputy majority leader and assistant minority leader. Julie achieved legislative success on a number of environmental issues. She took the lead in drafting and implementing Connecticut’s coastal management laws.

Julie Belaga

She was active in developing the state’s hazardous waste management service, and instrumental in reforming the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (now the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority), which provides recycling and waste disposal services for cities and towns. In 1985, the Hartford Courant named Julie one of the “Top 10 Legislators of the Year.”

After deciding not to seek reelection, Julie was chosen by the Republican Party as its 1986 candidate for governor. She lost to incumbent William O’Neill in the general election.

Out of politics for the first time in more than a decade, Julie served briefly as a television political commentator. She was also a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University and taught grassroots politics at the Kennedy School.

In 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed Julie as administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency for New England. As regional administrator she oversaw a budget of over $5 million, and more than 14,000 employees.

After she left the EPA, Governor Lowell Weicker appointed her to the Connecticut Development Authority. She left that position in 1994, when she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as one of 5 directors of the US Export-Import Bank. Clinton cited Julie’s “impressive range of public and private sector experience, particularly in the area of the environment.” She was easily confirmed by the Senate, and she served on the Ex-Im Bank board through 1999.

Julie retired from government in 1999 but continued her active community engagement, serving on the boards of several environmental organizations, including the Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and the Audubon Society, as well as the Westport Library and the CT Mirror.

Julie was predeceased by her husband of more than 65 years, Mike. She is survived by her children Debra Belaga (Steve Stublarec) of Tiburon, California; David (Alison) Belaga of East Northport, New York, and Heather (Rob) McLean of Owings Mill, Maryland, and granddaughters Kristen Stublarec, Tracy Spencer and Lindsey Belaga.

Arrangements for a memorial service are pending. Donations in lieu of flowers may be sent to the Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound.

Julie and Mike Belaga

 

Patty Gabal’s Moving Senior Moments

In your 20s, it’s easy to move. You call a friend, toss your few belongings in his truck, throw them on your new floor, and hand him a beer.

In your 30s and 40s it’s tougher — but manageable. Odds are you’re moving to a same size or bigger house. Your company may even foot the bill. You know the drill.

But when you’re older, making what may be your last move can be daunting. Your spouse may have died. You’re leaving a home you love for a smaller place. Most difficult: Look at all that stuff you’ve got! 

Figuring out what to keep and what goes can be paralyzing. Add in other hard questions — who gets what I’m giving away, and how does it get there? — and it’s no wonder some people simply give up and stay put.

They should call Patty Gabal.

Patty Gabal

She and her husband Jim have lived in the same Westport home for 23 years. They raised 3 kids there. But this is not a cobbler’s-children-have-no-shoes tale.

In 2005 Patty — who had been a registered nurse and an executive recruiter — heard about an emerging industry. “Senior move managers” were helping older folks downsize, and move into a new type of community: independent and assisted living.

A few dozen companies had formed the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers. They were helpful and kind — just the sort of people she’d have wanted to move her own parents.

She and a childhood friend, Paula Meighan of Larchmont, researched the field. They formed a company: Stardust Move Managers.

It was a natural “move” for Patty.

“I’m very organized,” she explains. “When I was a nurse, I learned to do things in order. Whenever I moved, I kept a notebook of things that needed to be done.”

To prepare for her new role she took classes, went to conventions, learned the industry’s code of ethics, and paid for insurance and workmen’s compensation.

Aargh! Look at this basement! Where to begin?! No problem. Patty was on it!

She and Paula filled a huge need few folks even knew existed. They’re full-service. too. Stardust — which employs 7 people, including Westporters Diane McCoy, Judy Raines and Lillian Krause (Paula now has her own business, in Westchester) — hires movers, supervises packing and unpacking, ships items that are given to children and others, and works with other managers if someone moves outside this area.

For items that don’t make the bring-or-give-to-kids’ list, Patty arranges donations to organizations like Homes with Hope, Neighbor to Neighbor and Goodwill.

Of course, not every senior wants to move. For those who stay in place, Patty can de-clutter to make a home more livable.

But a recent moving client is typical, Patty says. Julie Belaga was downsizing, from her Westport home to The Residence, our town’s new independent living facility.

The Residence at Westport is beautiful. But apartments are smaller than the average Westport home.

She felt overwhelmed by the task. Like many in her situation, she had no idea where to begin.

Patty helped her choose which furniture she wanted to keep. Patty got a Residence floor plan, measured each item, and figured out what could go where.

Julie’s children came from their homes across the country. They decided what they wanted. Those items stayed, and helped Julie’s realtor stage the home for showing.

Patty stickered every item: go, give to (child’s name); give away. She has strong relationships with moving companies; the packing process is quick and efficient.

Patty was at Julie’s new home for unloading. Her staff unpacked everything, hung all the clothes in the closet, made the bed, then got rid of the boxes.

When Julie walked in with her daughter, her eyes lit up. “It’s beautiful!” she said — like a recreation of her home.

Unpacking in a new kitchen.

In her 15 years as a senior move manager, Patty has realized “how much things mean to people.”

She appreciates the delicacy and impact of what she does. “People share their most intimate things with us. They do it because we’ve built trust.

“There’s no judgment. If someone is really attached to something — anything — we try to make it work.”

She also sees family dynamics at work. “You’d be surprised at how much goes into breaking up a home.” (There’s a book about this: Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?)

“But we’re a neutral party. We help them negotiate it. Children of adults love us. We help guide them all.”

Patty pauses. “And when we’re there, people act better.”

A new bedroom, ready to move into.

It is rewarding, she says. “to see seniors transition without all the physical work and decision-making. And to see them in one piece, not exhausted, able to start right out enjoying their new community.”

Another reward: listening.

“Seniors have been through a lot. They tell amazing stories,” says Patty.

“When I was starting out, I moved a lot of World War II veterans. They had some amazing collections, including art. Some of them were like museums.”

Of course, even museums deaccession their collections. If they’re smart, they’ll call Patty Gabal for help.

The Stardust Move Managers. Front row (from left): Sue Lapsien, Lillian Krause, Judy Raines, Liz Donovan. Back: Diane McCoy, Patty Gabal. Maura Connolly, Kelly Chase.

(Click here to contact Stardust Move Managers.)

The Residence: Westport’s Newest “Oldest” Gem

In 1973, the Planning & Zoning Commission offered a regulation to allow a senior living facility in town. It would have enabled older Westporters to stay close to friends, in the community they loved, after their children grew up and they wanted to downsize.

The RTM turned it down.

“We don’t need those old folks,” one member said. Nearly half a century, Julie Belaga — who chaired the P&Z back then — has not forgotten those words.

Julie Belaga

Belaga went on to serve in the Connecticut Legislature, run for governor, become New England director of the EPA, and earn an appointment by President Clinton to the Export-Import Bank.

She’s now 90 years old. A few months ago, she sold her Westport home. Her new residence is The Residence at Westport.

That’s our town’s only assisted living community. Located on the Post Road, opposite Greens Farms Elementary School and behind a new apartment building, it offers independent living, assisted living and memory care options.

It’s spacious, bright, warm and welcoming. Residents enjoy anytime dining (including a bistro and pub), salon, entertainment spaces, a fitness center, concierge service, even parking for electric vehicles.

It’s exactly what Belaga envisioned, as a 43-year-old in 1973. It only took 47 years to build.

Much has changed since the Nixon administration. Most “06880” readers have never heard of The Residence at Westport. It was presented, passed and built without a peep from anyone.

And when people learn about it — no matter how old or young — they love it.

Belaga — who is up on all the national and local news — nonetheless was one of many Westporters who did not know an assisted living community had come to her home town. After her husband Mike died, a realtor suggested she look at The Residence.

“My god!” Belaga thought when she walked in. “This is exactly what Westport needs.”

The Residence at Westport.

She and Mike moved from England to Berndale Road in 1965. They loved their house and neighborhood, but as they aged they needed a 1-level home. They found one on Newtown Turnpike. It had a waterfall and beautiful garden; they loved it too.

Yet as a widow, Belaga thought she would have to move to “someplace like Ridgefield.” Then she discovered The Residence.

She moved in 4 months ago, just after it opened. She’s been thrilled by the amenities, the great chefs, the “very accessible and kind staff” (they even hung all her pictures for her) — and unexpected delights, like being “where all the action is,” on the Post Road.

Friends live in nearby condo complexes. She still drives (“locally and not at night!” she says), and visits them easily.

Dining at The Residence.

Another joy: One of her neighbors is Ellie Dinitz. Her late husband Arthur served on the P&Z with Belaga.

One more surprise: “How did this happen without me knowing about it?” she asks.

“I was going to call (First Selectman) Jim Marpe and ask. That’s the last thing he needs. But I’m fascinated: How could this have been built without a brouhaha like in the ’70s?

“I love Westport, with all its quirks,” Belaga says. Speaking of both her town and her new home, she adds, “It is so satisfying to be part of a community that cares.”

Westport, she notes, is “enriched that people can make choices based on their needs, not on what others in town think they need.”

Meanwhile, Belaga continues to enrich all of us. The other day, she was asked to help on a project for the League of Conservation Voters. That’s fitting: Years ago, she helped start the organization.

“I live in a town I love. I have a great apartment. And my kids are grateful, because they don’t have to worry about me morning, noon and night,” Belaga says.

“How lucky can I be?”

(The Residence at Westport is at 1140 Post Road East. Click here for more details.)

 

A League Of Its Own

In 1949, Westport stood on the brink of change.

No one knew what the 2nd half of the 20th century would bring — but the town had already begun moving toward something different, modern and new.

A group of women wanted to influence the future.  They were smart and energetic — and, despite their many responsibilities as housewives and mothers, they found time to work for Westport.

That year — sitting around a tea set in Mrs. Wolcott Street’s Myrtle Avenue home — they formed a chapter of the League of Women Voters.

Over the next 6 decades, the organization grew — in numbers and influence.  The LWV helped determine the structure of the nascent Representative Town Meeting (RTM); later, the League made sure there was open space on the Post Road, and led the crusade to “green” it.  Look at the Post Road today in Westport — compared to neighboring Norwalk — and you’ll see the lasting effect the LWV has had on our town.

League of Women Voters members, 1966.

Two years ago John Hartwell — an LWV member (it’s not just for men anymore!), who was taking video production classes at Norwalk Community College — was asked to tape a coffee celebrating the Westport chapter’s 60th anniversary.  Four former LWV presidents were scheduled to speak.

A detached retina forced John to cancel.  To make amends, he promised to interview the 4 ex-presidents in their homes.

The stories he heard — and the careers the LWV launched — amazed and inspired him.

Julie Belaga

For example, after her League presidency, Julie Belaga served in the Connecticut Legislature, ran for governor, served as New England director of the EPA, and was appointed by President Clinton to the Export-Import Bank.

Jackie Heneage went on to serve 2 terms as first selectman — the 1st woman ever elected to the post.

Pat Porio had a long career after her service as president.

By the time John interviewed the 4th woman — 5-time LWV president Lisa Shufro — he realized there were many more voices to be heard.  He vowed to direct a video — and asked Lisa to produce it.

Sixteen more interviews followed.  There were visits to the house where the League was founded.  Hours and hours of footage — and hundreds and hundreds of stories — had to be edited down to the final 43-minute product.

Two themes emerge from “A League of Their Own.”  One is how the LWV empowered so many women.  For example, Martha Aasen went on to become the national organization’s official observer at the UN; she then worked full-time there.

Ann Gill was a major force on Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission for years.  The list goes on and on.

From left: Marty Hauhuth, Ann Gill, Barbara Butler, Mary Jenkins, Jacqueline Heneage -- LWV members, and accomplished women all.

The 2nd major theme is the impact the LWV had on Westport.

The video debuted at the League’s annual meeting in June.  It was shown at the Westport Library in September, and Senior Center earlier this month.

Always, the feedback was the same:  Wow!

Women interviewed for the film were impressed how well their stories were told.  Other viewers remarked how much they learned about the League — and Westport.

Seeing and hearing about women who have gained so much from the LWV — and in turn have given so much back, to their town and country — brought tears to the eyes of some.

You can watch the film now:  click here.

Or you can go to the Westport Historical Society this Sunday (October 30), for a showing.  Afterward, 2 of the League’s living legends — Jackie Heneage, and Selma Miriam (a leading proponent of Project Concern, and the founder and longtime owner of Bridgeport’s Bloodroot restaurant and bookstore) — will talk, and answer questions.

The video’s title is a pun on the League of Women’s Voters — and the 1992 film about women’s professional baseball — but it aptly describes the role of this organization in the life of our town.

For 6 decades, Westport’s LWV has been in a league of its own.

A screenshot from "A League of Its Own."


Speed Dating, Westport-Style

Speed dating is a big-city thing.  Singles (hopefully) spend a few minutes chatting with a random stranger.  A bell rings; then it’s off to the next table, and a few more after that.  If both parties like each other, organizers provide them with contact info.

But this is Westport.  Our “speed dating” event needs an intellectual — and environmental — bent.

Also, no hooking up allowed.

Expert Minds” is this Thursday’s (July 14, 7 p.m.) Westport Arts Center speed dating-inspired event.

Futurist Watts Wacker definitely looks like an expert.

Working with Green Village Initiative, the WAC has assembled 10, um, expert minds.  Each hosts a table with 4 seats.  For 15 minutes, everyone chats — presumably about the expert’s area of expertise.

Then it’s on to the next randomly selected table.

There’s a break after the 1st 2 sessions, for food and wine; then 2 more tables.

After the 4th table, everyone is invited to mingle (and, I guess, drink a bit more).

The experts include:

  • Michael Aitkenhead, Staples High School environmental teacher and Wakeman Town Farm steward
  • Julie Belaga, former state representative, gubernatorial candidate, and New England director of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Maxine Bleiweis, Westport Library director
  • David Brown, public health toxicologist
  • John Fifield, architect and innovator
  • Deepika Saksena, “zero waste manager” whose weekly household waste fills just one plastic newspaper sleeve
  • John Solder, member of the world champion Staples High School robotics team
  • Bill Taibe, chef/owner of Le Farm
  • Watts Wacker, futurist
  • Eden Werring, arts and education advocate

As the experts and their guests talk, they’ll be surrounded by Christo.  The environmental artist’s stunning works may inspire some of the discussions, says Deanne Foster, the WAC’s interim executive director.

“Art can take you to another place,” she says.  “There’s always lots of conversation here, as people look at the exhibitions on the walls.  This event is one more way to get people thinking, and engaged.”

“Expert Minds” — speed dating, arts-style — is something the 92nd Street Y might do, Foster says.

“But it’s here in Westport.  We’re lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing people.”

(Tickets for “Expert Minds” are $25.  They’re available by phone at 203-222-7070, and online by clicking here.)