Tag Archives: Leonard Everett Fisher

Leonard Everett Fisher’s “GI Jews” Film Airs Nationally

Leonard Everett Fisher is a Westport icon.

One of our our town’s most cherished artist/illustrators, he’s designed 10 US postage stamps. His works hang in the collections of the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, New York Public Library, Yale Art Gallery and New Britain Museum of Art.

At 93 — and a member of the Westport Arts Center’s board of directors — he’s working hard to create a Westport Artists Museum at Baron’s South.

But just as important to Fisher was his service in World War II. Between 1942 and ’46 he was a topographical mapmaker. He planned, edited and produced ground maps for invasions and campaigns in Italy, France, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the aborted invasion and occupation of Japan.

Leonard Everett Fisher at Westport’s Memorial Day last year.

More than 70 years after the war, his contributions are finally drawing national attention.

This Wednesday (April 11, 10 p.m.), PBS airs “GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II.” Fisher is one of the interviews in the film.

He’s in good company. Henry Kissinger, Mel Brooks and other Jewish Americans — some famous, others unknown — share their experience as part of the 550,000 men and women who fought for their nation, struggled with anti-Semitism in their ranks, and emerged transformed, to fight for equality and justice at home.

The film has already been shown at the Westchester Jewish Film Festival, and the Center for Jewish History. It will be screened this Tuesday (April 10), at the JCC Manhattan.

Fisher is one of the oldest living World War II veterans in Westport. Every one has an intriguing story.

But only Fisher’s will be told on national television this week.

(For more information on “GI Jews,” click here.)

Jarret Liotta’s Movies Hit Home

Jarret Liotta has a love-hate relationship with Westport.

After college, the Staples High School graduate spent years in Los Angeles. The journalist was a regular New York Times correspondent, and contributed to 100 publications.

But in 2008, he returned to give his kids some suburban experience.

Now — with nearly a decade back home, as a freelance writer and photographer — he’s gained a new appreciation for Westport’s uniqueness. He’s deepened old relationships, and made new acquaintances.

Jarret Liotta

“Sad to say, many of us are so paralyzed by the fear-based myths of being ‘practical’ that we shun the directions our hearts want to lead us,” he says.

“Instead we waste time talking ourselves into believing we’re happily situated in our work life.”

Two years ago, he decided to go all-in pursuing film and video — interests he’d had since dabbling in them decades ago at Coleytown Junior High.

He wrote “Home Movie,” a feature-length dark comedy. Filmed entirely in Westport, it’s the story of a young woman’s trip back to her hometown after her father dies.

But the title also refers to the help Liotta got from many local people and groups, including the Westport Woman’s Club, Senior Center, Police Department, Kaia Yoga, 323 restaurant, Gold’s Deli, even the Harding Funeral Home.

A Kickstarter campaign — running through Thanksgiving — will help him place “Home Movie” in film festivals.

A scene from “Home Movie” …

While working on that project, Liotta talked with Bill Harmer. The Westport Library director mentioned that his previous library in Michigan was involved with films on local subjects.

Bob Mitchell of the Westport Historical Society heard that Liotta was interested in a Westport-based documentary. He suggested veterans.

“I’ve always been a dove,” Liotta says. “I’ve had relatively set ideas about the military, and what I imagined was a typical veteran.”

But he liked the idea. After each interview, his impressions evolved.

“On a personal level, it was very enlightening,” he explains. “I found myself understanding many positive aspects about the involvement I wouldn’t otherwise have considered.”

… and one from his veterans’ documentary.

Liotta started with World War II veterans, including well-known Westporters Leonard Everett Fisher, Ted Diamond and Bob Satter. Some he knew personally. Others, he says, “I had the good fortune to meet.”

While he still considers any kind of military machine “repugnant” — though “perhaps necessary” — he now has a different perspective on those who choose to serve.

“The people I interviewed seem to recognize the tremendous value in living a service attitude — giving back or taking responsibility to help their larger community,” Liotta says.

“That’s a brilliant and honorable concept. To me, that’s really the core reason to honor veterans.”

Right now, Liotta is editing the film. It’s called “Community & Country: A Spirit of Service.” It will be shown at Town Hall on Monday, November 13 (7 p.m.)

He hopes the library and Historical Society will make copies available after it’s screened.

That will be their — and his — way of giving back, just as our veterans have done.

Leonard Everett Fisher: Back In Charge, Backing The Arts

In 1965, Ruth Steinkraus Cohen began organizing a community-wide arts council.

But the Westport philanthropist/activist focused primarily on music. Noted illustrator Leonard Everett Fisher urged her to include the visual arts.

Cohen had been invited to testify in Hartford, on hearings about establishing a statewide arts commission. She invited him to come along.

Those discussions led to the formation of the Westport Arts Council — one of the first in any town, anywhere. Cohen served as chair. Fisher was an original board member, and its 2nd president.

But the executive director was “a total failure,” Fisher recalls. “We never got much traction.”

He turned his energy to the Westport Library. He served 3 terms as president, and helped plan the “new” building, on the landfill site near the Levitt Pavilion.

Leonard Everett Fisher

The Westport Arts Center, meanwhile, developed and grew on its own. Fisher — busy with his professional and personal life — had little to do with it. He showed his works occasionally. But, as he admits, “I was not a great contributor.”

A while back, then-director Helen Klisser During offered Fisher a one-man retrospective. It was well deserved. In his 70+ year career, Fisher illustrated 250 books for young readers; designed 10 US postage stamps, and had his works shown in the Smithsonian, the New York Public Library, Yale, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and in museums around the world. He’s listed as one of the 2000 Outstanding Artists and Designers of the 20th Century.

The show brought him closer to the WAC. But he still had no time for the board.

A year ago, artist Ann Chernow called. She said that 1st Selectman Jim Marpe had a plan for Golden Shadows — the main house on the town-owned Baron’s South property.

Marpe asked 3rd Selectman Helen Garten to head up a committee to explore restoring the decrepit house as a Westport Artists Museum. Other groups had their eyes on the property too.

The Planning & Zoning Commission eventually gave tacit approval to an arts campus on Baron’s South. But commissioners did not want to deal with multiple entities.

Golden Shadows: the centerpiece of the Westport Arts Center Baron’s South plan.
(Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The Westport Arts Center agreed to take over the museum plan. Who better to help than Fisher?

So — at 93 years young — Fisher has joined the Westport Arts Center board.

If all goes well, he says, the WAC/Baron’s South project can be completed a year from now.

Fisher is in excellent physical shape. His mind is clear and sharp.

“So long as I put one foot in front of the other, this gives me energy and excitement,” he says.

“What we’re doing is wonderful for the town. I think people will be very surprised at what they see.”

At which point Leonard Everett Fisher will do what he’s done ever since moving here, more than half a century ago. He’ll turn his attention to a new project, benefiting the arts and all the citizens of Westport.

Arts Campus On Baron’s South? P&Z Draws The Line.

The Westport Arts Center is a wonderful, vibrant place.

It’s also wholly inadequate.

Essentially one long room on Riverside Avenue — with a spectacular view of the Saugatuck River — it functions as a small studio and gallery. But it can host only one meeting, lecture, concert, class or exhibit at a time.

Given Westport’s long arts heritage — and the interest of so many Westporters, from senior citizens to kids, in art in all its forms — it’s no wonder the WAC has sought more suitable digs.

Last fall, town representatives approached the organization. Would the WAC be interested in preserving and using Golden Shadows — the main building on the southeast corner of 23-acre Baron’s South (named for the perfume developed by its previous owner, Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff) — for exhibits and performances?

Golden Shadows. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The town soon came back with a new question: Would the WAC like to take over the other 3 long-neglected buildings there too?

Meanwhile, a group of veteran, well-respected local artists and photographers — including Leonard Everett Fisher, Ann Chernow, Miggs Burroughs, Niki Ketchman and Larry Silver — had been meeting regularly to discuss their own idea.

These “deans” of the Westport arts scene wanted a dedicated museum-type space to preserve the town’s artistic legacy.

And at the same time, folks like Burroughs, Westport arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz, RTM moderator Eileen Lavigne Flug and the Westport Historical  Society’s Bob Mitchell were seeking ways to involve the WAC more fully with other arts organizations in town.

The result was a public/private partnership to create a “community arts campus” at Baron’s South.

As presented last night by 3rd Selectman Helen Garten, at a Planning & Zoning Commission pre-application meeting, there would be 3 phases:

  1. The Westport Arts Center would lease and restore Golden Shadows, retaining most of its decorative interior, for use as offices, classrooms and gallery space.
  2. The WAC would lease and restore the  Tudor revival guest house at 70 Compo Road South as additional gallery space.
  3. They would lease the 2 units at 52 and 52B Compo Road South, for use as artists’ residences.

The house next door to Golden Shadows. The plan would have leased it to artists.

“Leasing all 4 buildings to a single user is the best way to ensure minimal impact on the public open space and surrounding neighborhood,” Garten said.

“Instead of 4 separate buildings, each accessed by its own roadway and each with its own use, there will be a single integrated property.” It would function much as the baron’s estate did, decades ago.

However, P&Z members gave the arts campus plan a frosty reception last night. A pre-app meeting is intended to give applicants a sense of what the zoning board feels about a plan. Commissioners insisted that the concept is too intense for the “light use” zoning of Baron’s South. It’s zoned as “passive recreational open space.”

Arts advocates were unsure last night what their next step will be.

Back to the drawing board they go.

A view into Golden Shadows’ central parlor shows a chandelier and handsome circular staircase. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The town currently owns 72 Compo Road South, on the eastern edge of Baron’s South. This was planned to be gallery space.

Weather Or Not: Memorial Day 2016

The threatened heavy rain never materialized. But the forecast moved today’s Memorial Day ceremony into Town Hall.

An overflow crowd jammed Town Hall, for the Memorial Day celebration. It was powerful, impactful — and for everyone there, from World War II veterans to youngsters born in the 21st century — very, very important.

(All photos by Dan Woog unless otherwise noted.)

Memorial Day - Town Hall flag - 2016

92-year-old Leonard Everett Fisher -- a former grand marshal -- wears his World War Ii uniform proudly.

92-year-old Leonard Everett Fisher — a former grand marshal — wears his World War Ii uniform proudly.

Troop 39 Boy Scouts lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Troop 39 Boy Scouts lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Grand marshal Joe Schachter -- a 90-year-old World War II vet -- poses with a patriotic fan. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

Grand marshal Joe Schachter — a 90-year-old World War II vet — poses with a patriotic fan. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

Grand marshal Joe Schachter asked all the veterans in the auditorium to stand. Two former comrades shook hands.

Grand marshal Joe Schachter asked all the veterans in the auditorium to stand. Bob Satter and Sam Brody delightedly shook hands.

The color guard stands stock still, at attention.

The color guard stands at attention.

A Vietnam veteran takes in the ceremony.

An Army veteran takes in the ceremony.

Bill Vornkahl has been organizing Westport's Memorial Day parade for 46 years. That's about 40 years longer than these fife and drum corps members have been alive.

Bill Vornkahl has organized Westport’s Memorial Day parade for 46 years. That’s several decades longer than these fife and drum corps members have been alive.

Navy veteran John Brandt stands as the Staples High School band plays "Anchors Aweigh"...

Navy veteran John Brandt stands as the Staples High School band plays “Anchors Aweigh”…

...and an Army veteran does the same for "The Caisson Song."

…and Army veteran Sam Brody does the same for “The Caisson Song.”

A Vietnam veteran stands silently in the Town Hall lobby. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

A Vietnam veteran stands silently. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

Many organizations worked for days on their floats. The parade cancellation was disappointing — but here’s a chance for “06880” readers to see what they missed:

The Westport Woman's Club float included Miggs Burroughs as George Washington (or is it Yankee Doodle?). (Photo/courtesy of Dorothy Curran)

The Westport Woman’s Club float included Miggs Burroughs as George Washington (or is it Yankee Doodle?). (Photo/courtesy of Dorothy Curran)

Westport's state champion 10-and-under softball team, and the 12-and-under runnersup, were all set to march (well, ride).

Westport’s state champion 10-and-under softball team, and the 12-and-under runnersup, were all set to march (well, ride). (Photo/courtesy of Steve Axthelm)

The Y's Men usually win the float competition. This year's theme was "Tomb of the Unknowns." (Photo/courtesy of John Brandt)

The Y’s Men usually win the float competition. This year’s theme was “Tomb of the Unknowns.” (Photo/courtesy of John Brandt)

Finally, if you really missed this year’s parade — take a look at this one video. It’s from 2005, courtesy of Doug Harrison.

Howard Munce Turns 100!

Westport’s famous artists — and Famous Artists School — have come and gone.

The “Mad Men” era — the real 1950s and ’60s ad agency scene, and the TV show celebrating it — are both just memories.

But Howard Munce endures.

Howard Munce, in his 90s. (Photo/Kristen Rasich Fox)

Howard Munce, in his 90s. (Photo/Kristen Rasich Fox)

In a town long known for its great artists, illustrators and painters, he’s a towering figure. Advertising director, graphic designer, sculptor, cartoonist, book author, teacher — and, above all, longtime and beloved civic volunteer — Munce turns 100 on November 27.

The Westport Historical Society — one of the many organizations he’s served so well for so long — has the perfect gift: his own show.

“Howard Munce at 100: A Centennial Celebration” opened June 29. A gala reception is set for this Sunday (July 12, 4-6 p.m.).

Howard Munce at work.

Howard Munce at work.

It’s hard to capture a century of life — and 8 decades of professional work and life in Westport — in the walls of one building. But the WHS tries.

The exhibit is curated by Leonard Everett Fisher, Munce’s longtime friend. In his 90s himself, he’s the perfect choice to organize the show.

There are 2 parts. The Sheffer Gallery showcases Munce’s paintings, drawings, illustrations and sculptures.

The Mollie Donovan Gallery chronicles his Westport connections as a young artist (he first came here in 1935); his military service, when he sent illustrated letters to his Westport artist friend Stevan Dohanos; Munce’s Pulitzer Prize nomination for his essay on the folly of war; his role in a legendary ad campaign for Rheingold beer, and his community involvement.

The exhibit includes documentary films, interviews, photographs by Laurence Untermeyer, and a lenticular photo of Munce by Miggs Burroughs.

It’s dedicated to Munce’s wife Gerry. She died in November, but her memory is vivid to all who knew and loved her.

Howard Munce has worn many hats. (Photo by Brian Ferry for Harry's)

Howard Munce has worn many hats. (Photo by Brian Ferry for Harry’s)

Munce’s resume is beyond impressive. Trained at Pratt Institute, he was a Young & Rubicam art director beginning in the late 1940s — after World War II, when he saw action as a Marine platoon sergeant at Guadalcanal.

Munce is professor emeritus at Paier College of Art; honorary president of the Society of Illustrators in New York City, and an honorary board member of the Westport Arts Center. For over 25 years, he volunteered as graphics director for the Westport Library, and — with Fisher — co-curated the black-and-white drawings by Westport artists in its McManus Room.

But those are facts. Far more important is Munce’s humanity.

Whenever he is asked to help — donating dozens of paintings and illustrations to the Permanent Art Collection; curating exhibits for the WHS; mentoring young artists — he always says “of course.” With a sparkle in his eye, a smile on his face, and a handshake as firm as a 20-year-old’s.

Until a couple of years ago, he clambered up ladders to make sure every exhibit he oversaw was properly hung.

At 99, Howard Munce no longer climbs ladders. Then again, he doesn’t have to.

He long ago reached the top.

BONUS FACT: In 2008, Howard Munce was grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade. Here’s his speech: 


Veterans Day: The Sequel

Veterans never tire of serving their country — or their community.

Each year, Bedford Middle School marks today by hosting veterans from the Y’s Men. They talk about what they did, why and how they did it, and provide an important link to yesterday for tomorrow’s leaders.

This morning’s event was lively. A number of veterans brought mementos of their service. Their stories were insightful, poignant — and often laced with a bit of humor.

Among the attendees were the 2 most recent grand marshals of Westport’s Memorial Day parade: Leonard Everett Fisher (left, below), and Bob Satter.

Leonard Everett Fisher and Bob Satter

(Photo/January Stewart)

Both are World War II veterans. Though — except for their uniforms — you wouldn’t know it by looking at them.

Memorable Memorial Day

The weekend clouds parted and the temperature rose, just in time for today’s Memorial Day parade.

From the Westport Y’s Men’s prize-winning Vietnam Wall float, to grand marshal Leonard Everett Fisher’s powerful speech — the 89-year-old recalled watching Civil War veterans marching in parades when he was young — it was a glorious, colorful (and sobering) tribute to our nation’s heritage.

And a much-needed reminder of the countless sacrifices that have been made so that we can enjoy a day — and a life — like this in Westport.

The Y's Men's float paid solemn tribute to Vietnam veterans.

The Y’s Men’s float paid solemn tribute to Vietnam veterans.

The Carpenters' house on Myrtle Avenue is a favorite spot for pancakes and parade-watching.

The Carpenters’ house on Myrtle Avenue is a favorite spot for pancakes and parade-watching.

What's a Westport Memorial Day parade without an imported fife- and-drum corps?

What’s a Westport Memorial Day parade without an imported fife-and-drum corps?

The parade is filled with kids, marching with every group: sports, Scouts, music and more.

Kids march with every kind of group: sports, Scouts, music and more.

A vintage car with vintage firearms carried veterans.

A vintage car with vintage firearms carried veterans.

A simple sign, along the parade route.

A simple sign, along the parade route.

Grand marshal Leonard Everett Fisher gave a strong speech, with a powerful message.

Grand marshal Leonard Everett Fisher gave a strong speech, with a powerful message. He also noted that he last wore his uniform officially 67 years ago — and it still fits.

Staples trumpeter Devon Lowman played "Taps." Adam Mirkine echoed the poignant notes.

Staples trumpeter Devon Lowman played “Taps.” Adam Mirkine echoed the poignant notes.

(Click below — or click here — for the Staples High School Band’s stirring “Armed Forces March.”)


The Art Of Longshore

Artists Neil Hardy (left) and Leonard Everett Fisher flank Helen Klisser, During, who curated the "Art of Longshore" exhibit. (Photo by John Hartwell)

The golf course.  Weddings.  Herb Baldwin.

It seems no aspect of Longshore is overlooked this year, as Westport celebrates the 50th anniversary of the town’s purchase of a failing country club — and subsequent redevelopment into a town jewel.

Now it’s art’s turn.

That’s art, as in oil paintings and photos.  Longshore offers almost unlimited opportunities — the tree-lined entrance, scenic marshes, handsome Inn — as well as historic subjects like the lighthouse and old apartment building that no longer exist.

Tomorrow (Friday, June 4, 6 p.m.), the Westport Public Library honors “The Art of Longshore” with an open-to-the-public reception.  Generations of artists’ works will remain on display through July 30.

Some of the prints, paintings and photos are old; some very recent.  Each presents a different facet of Longshore’s beauty.

None, thankfully, shows what might have been had Westport not acted so swiftly 50 years ago:  240 homes crammed together on what was  considered the most lucrative building site in town.