The longtime (since 1958!) Westporter had kept a low profile. Hardly anyone here knew that he was a World War II paratrooper — let alone that he earned a Purple Heart at the Battle of the Bulge.
He’d never even participated in a Memorial Day parade.
This year, he will.
And he’ll have a special seat of honor. “Private Benjamin” is Westport’s 2023 Memorial Day parade grand marshal.
Ben Pepper: in the Army.
Pepper was born in the Bronx in 1923. He was drafted into the Army on New Year’s Day 1943, and trained as a paratrooper. He would have participated in D-Day, but a broken back suffered in an earlier jump put him in a near-full body cast.
He participated in the Battle of the Bulge though, in that frigid winter of 1945.
Ben Pepper’s Purple Heart, dog tag and other mementoes. (Photo/Dan Woog)
After discharge, he answered an ad to be a photographer. In 1953 he opened his own studio in Stamford. In 1958 he bought property in Westport. Nearly 70 years later, he lives in the same house off Cross Highway.
In 1960 Pepper and his wife Frances helped build Temple Israel on Coleytown Road. They spent the rest of their married life raising David (a Staples Class of 1966 graduate), traveling (including China before it opened to the West, the USSR, Africa and Asia), and working.
He still has his medals, his dog tag, his photos — and his Army jacket — but he has always been low-key about them.
Ben Pepper (Photo/Dan Woog)
This Memorial Day, Westport honors one of our last living World War II heroes.
The parade — with Ben Pepper as special honoree — begins at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 29. A special ceremony follows immediately, at Veterans Green across from Town Hall.
Ted Diamond — proud World War II veteran, longtime local volunteer, former 2nd selectman, Memorial Day parade grand marshal, and beloved Westporter – died Tuesday night, of complications from COVID. He was 105 years old.
Ted died less than 5 months after his wife Carol. She was 100. They were married for 75 years.
An Army Air Corps combat navigator with the 15th Air Force, Ted flew 50 World War II missions over highly secured military installations across Europe. He often led groups of 28 B-17s.
Seven years ago — on his 98th birthday — Ted received France’s highest medal: the insignia of Chevalier (knight) of the Legion of Honor.
The award — established by Napoleon in 1802 — acknowledged his enduring contribution to the success of Operation Dragoon, a military campaign to free the nation from Nazi domination.
Ted Diamond, at this year’s Memorial Day ceremony.
He spent more than two-third of his life — 67 years — in Westport. In addition to 3 terms as 2nd selectman, he was an RTM member, and volunteered on numerous town committees, commissions and boards.
In 2007, Ted served as grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade. He attended nearly every one since moving here — including this past May. Surrounded by admirers, he always made sure to acknowledge the sacrifices of others.
Ted Diamond in May, at this year’s Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)
In 2019, 102-year-old Ted was honored at a Bedford Middle School Veterans Day ceremony. He met with 8th graders, and — in firm, clear tones — described his wartime experiences, and the lessons learned from them.
A memorial service will be held at a later date. A full obituary will be posted when it is available.
Ted Diamond and his wife Carol, at a 2018 “town hall” meeting with Congressman Jim Himes.
Everyone knows — or should know — that the William F. Cribari Bridge honors the long-time traffic officer who, with flair, dramatic moves and plenty of smarts directed traffic from and over the Saugatuck River span that now bears his name.
But only folks with long memories remember that Bill Cribari was also a high-strutting major with Nash Engineering’s crack drum and bugle corps.
He was at his finest every Memorial Day.
Here — decades later, thanks to his daughter, Sharon Saccary — is a wonderful shot of Bill Cribari: man, major, myth.
NOTE: I’m not sure what year this was from. I never recall the Memorial Day parade route going this direction past what is now Patagonia.
Dick Lowenstein was intrigued by yesterday’s lead story. Tom Feeley honored a Westport VFW friend, whose life was saved in World War II by a guard in a German prisoner of war camp. The man — an American, who had been conscripted by the Nazis — altered Tom’s friend’s dog tags, erasing a reference to the soldier’s Jewish faith. That saved him from execution the following day.
My uncle Donahl Breitman (born Heschel, later known as Harry) was a Brooklyn Jew who served in the 743rd Tank Battalion. They landed in Europe during the D-Day invasion.
His dog tag lacked the “H” for Hebrew. (The religion indicator was apparently optional. “C” for Catholic and “P” for Protestant were the other choices.)
Because he spoke Yiddish and understood German, he was tasked with interrogating German prisoners. With the war near an end, my uncle was asked to accompany his commanding officer to meet a Russian unit approaching from the east. My uncle and the Russian noncom communicated in Yiddish.
His older Russian-born cousin, Marine Capt. David Kipness, fought in World War I, and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in the Battle of Belleau Wood.
Dick Lowenstein’s uncle’s dog tag — without the religious indicator.
Mark LeMoult, was killed last week, in an automobile accident on Saugatuck Avenue, while driving his cherished 1968 Pontiac Catalina He was 58, and lived in Norwalk.
Born in Bronxville, New York, he was raised here and was a lifelong area resident. He attended Staples High School and graduated from The Culinary Institute of America.
Mark was a highly esteemed chef. His culinary career began at age 13, squeezing limes at Viva Zapata. Mark worked at Café Christina in Westport, the Hudson River Club and Rainbow Room in New York, and Tamarack Country Club in Greenwich. He had been the executive chef at the Field Club of Greenwich for the past 14 years. He met his fiancée Elizabeth 21 years ago, while working at Stamford’s Beacon Restaurant.
One of the highlights of Mark’s career was serving as the president of the Club Chefs of Connecticut from 2006-2010.
Mark enjoyed camping, river rafting and spending as much quality time with his sons as possible. Many “Tuesday Dad Days” were spent barbecuing and cheering on the New York Yankees.
His favorite places to visit were Lake George and Cape Cod with family. He loved to get his hands dirty planting in his garden. He cherished his dogs Leo and Teddy, and loved mornings at the dog park and walks through the neighborhood.
He was a cigar aficionado, and relished his relaxing evening. Mark and Elizabeth enjoyed entertaining in the backyard with friends and family around the firepit, concerts at the Levitt Pavilion, and experiencing wonderful meals at local restaurants.
His family says, “All those who knew him will always remember his roaring laugh, unyielding hugs, and his gentle heart and soul.”
Mark is survived by his sons Scott of Stamford and Eric of Fairfield; fiancée Elizabeth Kenny of Norwalk; brothers, Michael (Mary) LeMoult of Trumbull, Chris (Carole) of Trumbull, and Kevin of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina; the mother of his children, Ellen LeMoult of Fairfield; stepfather, Bert Furgess of Murrells Inlet, SC, and several nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his sister Kelly.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated June 1 (10 a.m., Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Fairfield). Interment will follow in Oak Lawn Cemetery.
Friends may greet the family Tuesday, May 31 (4 to 8 p.m., Spear-Miller Funeral Home, Fairfield). Cheerful attire is encouraged to honor the vivacious life that Mark lived.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Mark’s memory to the Culinary Institute of America’s scholarship fund: www.ciachef.edu/give. For information or to offer an online condolence, click here.
Posted onMay 29, 2022|Comments Off on We Want Your Parade Photos!
The Memorial Day parade is one of Westport’s greatest community events.
Everyone has a special spot to watch from. Everyone has a favorite band, float or marcher to photograph. The ceremony immediately afterward on Veterans’ Green is well worth photographing too.
But why share them only with a few hundred dear pals, casual acquaintances and random how’d-they-get-on-my-list Facebook “friends”?
Tomorrow, let all of Westport see “your” Memorial Day parade. Send a few (not all!) of your photos to “06880” (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Deadline: 2 p.m.. Please include brief identification, if needed, and of course your own name.
I’ll post some (not all!) by the end of the day.
And be creative! We want special photos, for our special parade.
Boy Scouts honor the flag. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)
In 2019, Staples High School senior Nick Rossi sang “America the Beautiful.” At the end of the ceremony, he played a mournful “Taps” on his trumpet. (Photo/Dan Woog)
On Monday, Westport celebrates Memorial Day with a parade.
It’s a decades-long town tradition — one of those events that makes this a true community. Veterans, first responders, school bands, civic organizations — they’re all there, marching proudly in honor of the men and women who gave their lives so that we could, well, have a parade.
I don’t know who Robert Mull is. But a couple of years ago, he uploaded a video of Westport’s 1961 Memorial Day parade to YouTube.
I also don’t know how Fred Cantor found it. But the loyal “06880” reader did, and forwarded it along.
It’s a great way to kick off this holiday weekend. The video reminds us of the importance of this timeless tradition. Much remains as it is today — though there is also a float commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. A similar float today would remember the recent end of World War I.
One thing has definitely changed. Westport is bigger than it was 61 years ago — but crowds at our parade are smaller.
So: If you’re not marching on Monday, head to Riverside Avenue, the Post Road or Myrtle Avenue. Then stay for the short but moving ceremony on Veterans Green, across from Town Hall.
Let’s show those 1961 folks what we’ve got!
Meanwhile, Susan Eastman — widow of 1960 Staples High School graduate, and daughter-in-law of noted children’s book author/illustrator P D Eastman — sent these photos from the 1958 Memorial Day parade.
The 2 shots below show the Bedford Junior High School marching band and a group of Brownies, rounding the still-familiar Post Road corner from Riverside Avenue:
And here is the famed E.O. Nigel Cholmeley-Jones. For years, he was a fixture in our Memorial Day parade. A lieutenant in World War I, as a child he had been photographed with Walt Whitman.
“The scene in Buffalo this past weekend was horrifying, and I send my deepest condolences to all those affected.
“Along with help from TEAM Westport, our law enforcement colleagues, our houses of worship and our extensive non-profit organizations, we continue to strive to ensure that this community is a place where residents, business owners and visitors feel safe, supported, and have a sense of belonging.
“This important work is ongoing, and there is still progress to be made. As first selectwoman, I want to personally re-state my commitment to these efforts in Westport. Thank you for your support on this journey.”
Nine of the 10 victims of the mass execution in Buffalo.
Westport EMS deputy director Marc Hartog knows this has been an exceptionally tough couple of years.
“The EMTs and paramedics of Westport EMS continue to rise to the challenge every day, and play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our community.” he says.
“Relieving pain and suffering, caring for sick and injured patients, saving lives is just part of the experience of responding to the public’s calls for help. EMS providers, whether paid or volunteer, take on many crucial roles every day: healthcare professional; emergency manager; social worker; crisis counselor; consoler; caregiver.”.
1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker adds “EMS Week is a chance for our town to recognize the service and sacrifice exhibited by our EMS personnel over the past year, and to express our gratitude for all they continue to do, day in and day out, for our community.”
1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker with an EMS Week proclamation. (From left): Police Chief Foti Koskinas, EMS crew chiefs Larry Kleinman and Rick Baumblatt, EMS deputy director Marc Hartog, EMS crew chief Eric Hebert, Deputy Police Chief/EMS director Sam Arciola.
After 2 online-only years, 2022’s “Booked for the Evening” with TV producer/ screenwriter/ author/CEO Shona Rhimes will be the most financially successful in the event’s 20 year history.
And anyone, anywhere can add to the fundraising.
Tickets for the virtual livestream (June 1, 8 p.m.). are still available. Click here to purchase, and for more information.
By day, it’s the Farmers’ Market. At night, it’s the Remarkable Theater.
On May 27, the Imperial Avenue parking lot — home to both — hosts a special film showing.
“Biggest Little Farm” — the award-winning 2018 documentary about the 8-year quest of a couple to trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland (and a dream) — is set for May 27. Sustainable Westport co-sponsors the event.
Tickets to this family-friendly event are $25 per vehicle. Tailgating (with food from the Market the day before?) starts at 6 p.m. The screening is at 8. Bees Knees — a popular WFM vendor — will selling their signature frozen pops.
The next Artists Collective of Westport pop-up show is May 26-29 (2 to 6 p.m. each day; the Westport Country Playhouse barn). There’s an opening reception May 25 (6 to 8 p.m.), and artists’ talks on Sunday, May 29 (4 p.m.).
Participating artists include some very familiar names: Peg Benison, Louise Cadoux, Jeanine Esposito, Jane Fleischner, Rebecca Fuchs, Holly Hawthorne, Katya Lebrija, Lynn Untermeyer Miller, Steve Parton, Nancy Reinker, Debbie Smith, Cindy Wagner and Lee Walther.
To learn more about this great Collective, click below.
Westport’s State Senator Will Haskell and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg were very public supporters of a recent bill attempting — for the 16th time — to get Connecticut legislation passed. Once again, the bill did not make it out of the Judiciary Committee.
Andy Gundell has been nominated for a regional Emmy Award, in Original Composition and Arrangement. It is for music from a Black Lives Matter program that streamed online in February 2021 from the Unitarian Church in Westport. Gundell is a 13-time Emmy winner already.
The program —“Revealing History–How We Got Here, Why It Matters” — was produced by the church’s Women’s Group. It is a powerful multi-media tribute to the BLM movement, and the history of racial injustice in America. Click here for a link.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe made it official, with a proclamation. Without all the “whereas”es, here’s the gist:
The pandemic has tested emergency medical professionals like never before. Westport’s EMTs and paramedics rose to the challenge, and played a crucial role. EMS personnel have been on the frontlines, caring for the sickest patients and staffing testing and vaccine clinics, despite risks to themselves and their families.
Over the last year, COVID has given people a glimpse into the vital role of EMS professionals. The sacrifice and dedication of Westport’s EMTs and paramedics earned them the gratitude of our community. Behind those face masks are people who — whether paid or volunteer — take on many crucial roles every day: healthcare professional, emergency manager, social worker, crisis counselor, consoler and caregiver.
EMS Week recognizes the service and sacrifice exhibited by EMS personnel over the past year. We give our thanks for all theyy continue to do every day, for our community.
First Selectman Jim Marpe and his EMS proclamation with (from left) Elyssa Grogan, Eric Hebert, EMS deputy director Marc Hartog, Larry Kleinman, Police Chief Foti Koskinas (hidden), Dan Guetta and David Corro.
Open-top vehicles are needed to transport World War II veterans during the Memorial Day parade. If you can lend one, contact Deborah Detmer at Westport Parks & Rec: email@example.com; 203-341-5091.
Grand marshal and World War II vet Bruce Allen rode in the 2015 Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Jillian Elder created Finding Westport — a great site for business owners, customers, job-seekers and realtors to connect online.
Then she expanded, to Finding Fairfield County and Finding Connecticut.
Jillian has branched out again. She sells Westport-themed merchandise — and has just added t-shirts. She’s got some interesting items posted, with patriotic and other town-inspired designs coming soon. Click here to browse.
Speaking of Staples: Congratulations to the high school’s May Students of the Month: Yersultan Zhakupov, Jasper Cahn, Wyatt Resnick, Amelia Galin, Spencer Yim and William Fitch.
Nominated by their teachers, and recognized as “students who help make their school a welcoming place for their peers and teachers,” principal Stafford Thomas calls them “the glue of the Staples community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students who keep the high school together.”
In addition, juniors Natalie Bandura, Erin Durkin and Allison Schwartz will represent Staples at this year’s Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit in July. Eighty students are chosen from around the globe. The only other US high schools participating this year are Scarsdale (New York) and Dominion (Virginia).
For the past 8 years, Westport has been invited to send 3 juniors who are interested in world affairs, especially Asia. Usually, a trip to Singapore is included. Unfortunately for Natalie, Erin and Allison, this year’s event is virtual.
From left: Natalie Bandura, Erin Durkin, Allison Schwartz.
The skies over Compo Beach will be dark this Independence Day holiday.
For the second straight year, the annual fireworks display has fallen victim to COVID. The decision was made by town officials, in collaboration with the sponsoring Westport Police Athletic League board.
First Selectman Jim Marpe made the announcement moments ago. The press release says:
Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, current and expected guidance from the State’s Department of Health regarding large-scale events, and the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and its variants have been considered. Based on this information, it is in the best interest of residents, visitors, employees and the organizers to forego this highly attended event this year.
Although mask wearing rules are being relaxed and we are headed toward widespread vaccination, the CDC and other health and government officials continue to recommend social distancing in large gatherings of any kind for the foreseeable future.
Scenes like this at typical July 4th fireworks went into the decision to cancel this year’s event.(Photo/Rick Benson)
Westport Weston Health District Director Mark Cooper said, “The CDC recommends that everyone, fully vaccinated or not, should social distance and continue wearing masks in crowded settings and outdoor venues like concerts and sporting events where you will be around large groups of strangers. In most outdoor scenarios, the transmission risk is low. However, when outside in places where you are likely to be with many people from outside your household, people must maintain social distancing and should still wear face coverings.”
As a practical matter, there is no way to enforce social distancing and mask wearing in the crowded environment of the Compo Beach fireworks event. It is inadvisable to plan for an event like the annual fireworks display where thousands of people congregate in close proximity and cannot socially distance. The possibility of alternative sites was considered, but all of them created even greater concerns regarding accessibility, safety and logistics.
Unfortunately, there is no luxury of taking a “wait and see” approach to determine where the community is in its COVID recovery efforts come July. The logistics and the need for early planning, permitting, and funding, as well as arranging for the display itself, requires significant lead time.
PAL is the longtime sponsor of this annual event, and, although the Town is very much involved in planning and conducting, it is not town funded. The decision as to whether to hold this major, large-scale event needed to be made now, based on the information available at this time, and in coordination with all the organizers.
Fireworks will return in 2022. (Photo/David Squires)
Marpe said, “I am disappointed that this year Westport could not hold the large celebration we had hoped for. But our town has come too far in our successful battle to overcome COVID to risk a possible setback by conducting a major gathering prematurely. I am happy that this year’s July 4th holiday still offers an opportunity to celebrate safely with smaller groups of families, friends, and neighbors.
“We have had tremendous support from so many individuals and town organizations throughout this past year. It took a community-wide effort to manage this devastating health crisis. We have not yet completed the race, but we are closer to the finish line, and nearing a return to normalcy. I am confident that next year’s celebration at Compo Beach will be the most memorable one in many years.”
Marpe noted that the annual Memorial Day parade will be held as scheduled on Monday, May 31. Crowds along the parade route are less dense, and the event is of shorter duration.
The Memorial Day parade will be held as scheduled this year. (Photo/Fred Cantor)
Nicholas Rossi’s mother did not want him to join the military.
Her first-born son, with 3 brothers and 1 sister, had just graduated from Long Island’s Oyster Bay High School. But World War II was raging. Her father had fought in World War I. Nicholas ended up in the infantry.
If he was going to be in the service, his mother thought, at least get a different assignment. Thanks to someone his father knew — he worked as a caretaker on an estate — Rossi ended up in the Army Air Corps.
After training in Texas, his 305th Bombardment Group of the 364th Squadron was assigned to the 8th Air Force Bomber Command in England.
They flew B-17 “Flying Fortress” bombers in the European Theater. Rossi was a technical sergeant.
Technical sergeant Nicholas Rossi.
“I was not a professional engineer,” he recalls from his home in Westport, where — age 98 — he lives with his son Paul and daughter-in-law Marguerite. “But that aircraft was like a baby to me.”
Besides taking care of the planes on the ground, Rossi flew multiple missions. Seated behind the pilot and co-pilot, he handled fuel and any mechanical problems.
The Germans “shot the hell out of us,” Rossi says. But he was never shot down.
He survived the war. Now — over 75 years later — Nicholas Rossi is the grand marshal of Westport’s Memorial Day parade, on May 31.
When the war ended, Rossi’s mother hoped he’d come home. But superiors suggested he stay after his discharge, and help locate and identify the remains of military personnel.
He spent the next 4 years in Liege, Belgium as a civilian, employed by the government with the American Graves Registration Command.
Nick Rossi, during wintertime service.
“It was not a nice job,” he says simply. But it provided closure for families, particularly those that traveled to Europe to reclaim their sons and husbands.
After returning to Long Island in 1949, he entered Hofstra University on the GI Bill. “They treated soldiers well,” Rossi says. After graduation he earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering.
A successful career in the furniture industry followed, with Kroehler, Thomasville and Lexington. As a manufacturer’s representative and regional sales manager — and with an intuitive sense for sales and business — he earned accolades and awards.
After more than 40 years — by then in his 70s — Rossi retired. He had more time for hobbies like golf (he’d won the Brookville Country Club championship, and played into his 90s), gardening, Knights of Columbus, Oyster Bay Italian-American Citizens Club, and the country club board.
He especially enjoyed his many grandchildren.
Rossi first met Betty Braun on the Long Island Rail Road, heading home from work. Married for 60 years, they raised 5 children — Paul, Christine, Caren, Carla and Peter — in the house he built in Mill Neck.
When Betty died 3 years ago, Rossi moved to Paul’s house in Greens Farms. Almost instantly, he became a Senior Center regular. He had a regular lunch table group (ladies flocked to him), and enjoyed chair aerobics, bingo, conversation groups and Dr. Paul Epstein’s mind/body sessions. All that is now on hold, due to COVID.
“He’s taken full advantage of Westport,” his daughter-in-law — and ardent companion — says.
“The war made him resilient. He just picked up, came here and rolled with it.”
Nicholas Rossi in Westport. He and his grandson Nick built this model of the B-17 bomber Rossi serviced and flew in during World War II. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Rossi also got involved with St. Luke’s Church. He met fellow veterans at the VFW. He especially loved watching his grandchildren Caroline, Charlotte and Nick perform as actors, musicians and athletes at Staples High School.
Even before he moved here, Rossi attended the Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Green, where his grandchildren performed.
Later this month, he’ll be back for another parade, wreath-laying and “Taps.”
This time, it will be in a well-deserved seat of honor.
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