Tag Archives: Marigny

Roundup: Community Gardens, Jeff Clachko, Cote Manche …

It was a groundbreaking weekend at Westport Community Gardens.

Literally.

Work began on the Long Lots Preserve — the area surrounding the 100 plots lovingly tended to on Hyde Lane, where a true “community” of gardeners has grown.

However, the property is overrun with invasive plants. They’re being removed now. Soon, the area will be densely planted with native, pollinator-friendly trees, shrubs, wildflowers and wild grass, making it more ecologically sound.

Stakeholders include the Audubon Society, Aspetuck Land Trust, Earthplace and Westport Community Gardens.

Robbie Guimond and Bartlett Tree Service provided in-kind donation, to get the project off the ground.

Taking a break from working at the Westport Community Gardens (from left): Jeff Wieser, Daryl Kowalsky, Louis Weinberg, Joe Wiles..

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Many Westporters know Jeff Clachko. He’s very involved in many local activities. And he has a great sense of humor.

So when he had a close encounter of a deer kind — and realized it was captured by his Ring video — he quickly put it online.

Just as quickly, it went viral. As of last night, it had 8 million views.

And when “06880” readers click this TMZ link, there will be many more. Be sure the audio is cranked up high! (Hat tip: Amy Hochhauser)

Closeup of a screenshot: deer (left) and Jeff Clachko (right).

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Saturday’s Roundup item on the 2022 Westport PAL scholarship recipients was noticeable for 2 things: They’re a great group of Staples High School students.

And they’re all male.

Several readers wondered about that in the Comments section. I did too.

I asked PAL president Craig Bergamo. He quickly replied: “No girls applied this year. If they had, they would have gotten scholarships too.”

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Earlier this month, a ceremony in France honored a long-forgotten (at least here) Westport woman. Charlotte MacLear — a driving force behind our town’s friendship with Marigny, in the 20 years following World War II — were commemorated by officials in the Normandy village. They named a room in their Town Hall in her honor.

Now the event has been noted in a local website, Coté Manche. Click here for the site; then use Google Translate to read.

The new Charlotte MacLear room at Marigny Town Hall.

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The Staples rugby team battled the top teams in the nation — along with injuries and the flu — at this weekend’s national tournament in Elkhart, Indiana.

But they finished 7th in the country. And when their bus pulled off I-95 at Exit 18 yesterday afternoon, they enjoyed a police escort back to the high school.

Congratulations, Wreckers. You’ve done us proud!

On the Sherwood Island Connector. (Photo/Doug Tirola)

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It was a beautiful weekend for walking. On Beachside Avenue, Barbara Phillips spotted this gorgeous bird. It’s a handsome start to our “Westport … Naturally” week.

(Photo/Barbara Phillips)

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And finally …  today is the birthday of Robert Moog. The inventor of the famed synthesizer was born in 1934. He died in 2005. But his impact will last for a long, long time.

Merci, Marigny!

Here in the US, it’s Mothers Day. Across the country, families gather to celebrate Mom.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker got up early this morning, and headed to her Town Hall office. She was there to honor a sibling — well, Westport’s sibling.

Very few residents here know, but we have a sister town in France: Marigny.

Right after D-Day in 1944, Westporter Bob Loomis — a gun sergeant — was there. It’s just 25 miles from Utah Beach.

A couple of weeks later another Westporter — heavy machine gunner Clay Chalfant — moved through Marigny with his company on their way to Belgium.

When the war ended, Charlotte MacLear — head of the French department at Staples High School, and a graduate of prestigious Sorbonne Université — sparked a campaign to “officially adopt Marigny” and help its recovery.

Our town sent clothes, money and Christmas gifts, thanks to fundraising that included selling toys and buckets with designs painted by Westport artists.

In return, Marigny created the “Westport School Canteen,” and named the town’s largest square “Place Westport.” Charlotte MacLear visited our sister town 3 times. Each time, she was honored and adored.

“Pharmacie Westport,” in Marigny.

We forgot the relationship. Marigny never did.

In June 1994 — as part of the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy — town officials invited 3 Westport middle school students and 2 Westport veterans to stay in the homes of residents. They visited “Westport Gift Shop” and “Pharmacie Westport.”

The 2 veterans were, of course,  Loomis and Chalfant.

Marigny – c’est magnifique!

That was nearly 30 years ago. Once again, Westport has lost its connection with our sister town.

But still, Marigny remembers.

This morning — early afternoon in France — they dedicated a room in their Town Hall in Charlotte MacLear’s memory. It is now, and forever, “Salle Charlotte MacLear.”

For today’s event, Marigny officials put 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker front and center. The other photos show members of the Marigny town government, and a photo from the 1940s.

Tooker participated via Zoom.

Mayor Fabrice Lemazurier explained that the room is where the Town council meets, making “all the important decisions concerning Marigny-Le-Luzon’s future.” It is a town “proud of its history, ready to face its future.”

He noted that “Mrs. MacLear and her fellow Americans gave our territory a helping hand and restored smiles, particularly to our younger citizens.”

He added:

War once again on European soil certainly reminds us of the darkest hours of our history. It is our duty today to do everything to restore and preserve peace. I believe that in a certain way this is what we are doing today – to remember and never forget.

Marigny Mayor Fabrice Lemazurier, via Zoom.

After “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played on trumpet, 1st Selectwoman Tooker spoke. Beginning and ending in flawless French, she described Westport’s location near the United Nations, and noted how many residents have lived and worked abroad.

She said that we understand our connection to the world, and are proud to participate as global citizens. She called this a “remarkable and heartwarming honor,” and said that we share “brotherhood and neighborliness in this volatile world.”

Then deputy mayor Adèle Hommet said that her town wants to ensure that the room “lives up to the spirit of Charlotte MacLear who, as a schoolteacher with a determination to promote international relations, as well as her receptiveness toward all of our citizens whom she met, marked her as an exceptional person.”

She added that she hopes Westport and Marigny students can meet and learn from each other.

… and 1st Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker.

Remarks came too from René Gautier, who as a child benefited from Westporters’ kindness; Gilles Quinquenel, who recalled the dark days of World War II, and Philippe Gosselin, who recounted Franco-American relations going back to 1776.

He included Charlotte MacLear’s name on his roster of great Americans, right there with President Roosevelt, and Generals Eisenhower and Patton.

“Long live La Manche! Long live Normandy! Long live France, and long live the United States!” he said.

The ceremony concluded with Mayor Lemazurier wishing that Americans and French, on both sides of the Atlantic, can “come to the aid of the Ukrainian people in their moment of need, as we were over 75 years ago,” and Marigny’s representative in Parliament expressing the hope of meeting Tooker in France.

Then, saying “It’s not really goodbye; we’ll meet again,” the mayor introduced the final piece of music: “Auld Lang Syne.”

I was involved in some of the emails and phone calls between Marigny officials, and the 1st Selectwomen’s office. French officials asked me if Charlotte MacLear is still remembered fondly in Westport.

Perhaps a few people here still recall her name. In our sister town, our French friends will never forget her.

Marigny and Westport were united today, in red, white and blue.

FUN FACT: Westport has 2 other sister cities, according to Wikipedia: St. Petersburg, Russia and Yangzhou, China. Read the back stories here.

3 Lost Sisters

Having lived in Westport my whole life, I thought I knew everything about this town.

From the Bankside Farmers to the banks no one ever goes to; from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Marilyn Chambers, I’ve heard all the stories.

Except the fact that Westport has 3 sister cities.

It’s right there in Wikipedia, which never seldom lies: “Westport currently has three sister cities: Marigny, France; St. Petersburg, Russia; Yangzhou, China.”

If that’s true, we must be part of a very dysfunctional family. You know, the kind that never gets together– even for holidays, weddings and funerals.

Well, it is true. I typed “sister cities” into the town website. There it is again, under “Appointed Boards”:

The Westport Sister Cities Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving human ties and understanding through cultural, trade, and educational exchange with other communities throughout the world. The Association strives to enrich the lives of Westport and Fairfield County residents through participation in such exchanges.

Westport currently has three sister cities: Marigny, France; St. Petersburg, Russia; Yangzhou, People’s Republic of China.

So we not only have 3 sisters — we’ve got an entire Association dedicated to them.

Marigny - magnifique!

The Marigny connection makes sense. Right after D-Day Westporter Bob Loomis — a gun sergeant — ended up there, 25 miles from Utah Beach. A couple of weeks later another Westporter, heavy machine gunner Clay Chalfant, moved through Marigny with his company on their way to Belgium.

Woody Klein’s history of Westport notes that after the war Charlotte MacLear, head of the French department at Staples, sparked an campaign to “officially adopt Marigny” and help its recovery. Our town sent clothes, money and Christmas gifts, thanks to fundraising that included selling toys and buckets with designs painted by Westport artists.

In return, Marigny created the “Westport School Canteen,” and named the town’s largest square “Place Westport.”

In June 1994 — as part of the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy — Marigny invited 3 Westport middle school students and 2 Westport veterans to stay in the homes of residents. They visited shops named “Westport Pharmacy” and “Westport Gift Shop.” The 2 veterans were, of course,  Loomis and Chalfant

Zut alors!

St. Petersburg seems to have no connection to Westport. It is, however, the only one of our 3 sisters I’ve actually visited. I don’t recall any signs hanging near the Hermitage or Neva River saying “Здравствуйте, Westport” (thanks, Google Translate!).

Of course, I might have missed them. There was a lot of vodka involved.

St. Petersburg -- not too shabby.

Finally, Yangzhou. Of our 3 lost sisters, this was the one with the most potential. After all, the US is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of China, so we ought to embrace our relative with all the money.

Bingo! (Or, as we say via Google Translate, 宾果!)

Google offered several links. The 1st was a long-ago sister-city site on a Staples server. It hasn’t been updated since 2002, but it included information about exchange programs with students, and a trip to Yangzhou by long-ago social studies teacher Todd Parker. Though the messageboard, chatroom and guestbook were all defunct, clearly some sort of arrangement once existed.

Clicking the link to Yangzhou’s official site delivered this error message: “The URL. http://www.china-yz.com is categorized as ‘pornography.'”

Now we’re talking!

Yangzhou in the spring.

Another link brought up a long-ago journal entry from Chris Fray, the Staples Mandarin teacher. Traveling in China, he wrote:

I meet Joel and Arline Epstein, two Westporters who have recently moved from Long Island. They are on a four day visit to Yangzhou and want to meet me. Joel and Arline are active in the Westport Sister City Committee and have come to Yangzhou to scout out some potential activities for the Committee as part of a larger-scale visit to China….We spend most of the dinner discussing China and the potential of future exchanges between Westport and Yangzhou.

And in June 2005, WestportNow reported, then-First Selectwoman Diane G. Farrell visited Yangzhou to “commemorate” the 10th anniversary of the sister city relationship, and then renew it.

Since then, 这是她写道 (“that’s all she wrote”).

Chris Fray confirms that — after 9 years or so of teacher exchanges, and a few other connections involving photographers and businesspersons — our Yangzhou connection has petered out.

There’s no more information online about our sister-city relationship with Yangzhou — or St. Petersburg, or Marigny. And, Chris thinks, the sister city committee hasn’t met in several years.

Do you think it was something we said?