Tag Archives: Memorial Day parade

Fireworks Off; Memorial Day Parade Still On

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)


Meet Nicholas Rossi: Memorial Day Grand Marshal

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.

Roundup: Memorial Day Grand Marshal, Beach Stickers, Church Lane …


Plans are underway for a traditional Memorial Day parade. And there’s no better tradition than the grand marshal.

This year’s honor goes to Nicholas Rossi. The 98-year-old World War II veteran has captured the hearts of Westporters since moving here several years ago, to live with his son, daughter-in-law and 3 grandchildren.

The Oyster Bay, Long Island native was a 4-sport (football, basketball, baseball, track) high school athlete.

After graduation in 1940, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. His flight crew was part of the 305th Bombardment Group of the 364th Squadron, assigned to the 8th Air Force Bomber Command in England. A technical sergeant, Rossi flew multiple bombing missions as a B-17 gunner over occupied central Europe.

He was discharged in March 1945, but remained in Liege, Belgium after the war. As a civilian, he was employed by the government to work with the American Graves Registration Command, locating and identifying unrecovered dead military personnel.

Rossi married in 1956 and raised 5 children (Paul, Christine, Caren, Carla and Peter) in the house he built in Mill Neck, New York. Since moving to Westport, he has gotten involved in the town. When his grandchildren were at Staples High School, he attended their many plays, concerts and athletic events.

Congratulations, Mr. Rossi, on this great honor. See you at the parade!

Nicholas Rossi


This is the week for everyone to enjoy Compo and Old Mill Beaches.

Next Saturday (May 1), parking stickers (“emblems”) are required to enter. For Burying Hill Beach, the date is May 29.

Click here to log in; choose “Memberships,” then type “Vehicle” in the search box. Parking emblems may take a week to 10 days to arrive by mail.

Forgot your login and/or password? Email recreation@westportct.gov or call 203-341-5152.

This driver has plenty of beach stickers.


Church Lane is once again closed for outdoor dining. And the Westport Downtown Association is doing its part to make the area even more alluring.

They’re producing 40 nights of dinner music, starting April 30. Every Friday and Saturday, from 6 to 9 p.m., area musicians will play. They’re paying gigs. Funds come from sponsorships, and a GoFundMe page.

The WDA will also add lights, outlining details on the Patagonia building and beyond.


Jeff Seaver waited in line this morning, for the hazardous waste drop-off at the Greens Farms railroad station.

He was not alone. There were 70 cars in line.

But the line moved quickly, Jeff says. “Volunteers worked their tails off. Westport at its best.”

They collected a lot of waste. Which means there’s a lot that is no longer hazardous, at home.

(Photo/Jeff Seaver)


Folks are buzzing about Wakeman Town Farm’s next event (May 8, 12 noon, Zoom). It’s “The Wonderful World of Honeybees” — a look at why they’re essential, and the microcosm that is the hive.

Shelby Schulman studied environmental science and anthropology at the University of North Carolina. Her introduction to bees came as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea.

As WTF notes, “bees are behind a third of all the food we eat, including fruits, vegetables, chocolate, nuts and coffee.” Click here for tickets ($10).


Westporter Ken Goldberg owns AFC Urgent Care, a walk-in medical center near the Department of Motor Vehicles in Norwalk.

They do COVID testing (PCR and rapid); they take most all insurances, and they have a doctor who does a brief telemed screening beforehand. Patients then come to be swabbed in their car.

AFC Urgent Care also provides Moderna vaccines. Appointments can be made easily and directly, by phone (203-845-9100). Click here for more information.


“06880” has followed the saga of 19 Soundview Drive — the century-old home that evaded the wrecking ball this spring (though there are rumors it may still be demolished in the fall).

Yesterday, Patricia McMahon spotted this sign on the house. Whatever happens to the property, someone has a great sense of humor.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)


There’s always something to smile about at Compo Beach. Here’s Erica Davis’ message for the day:

(Photo/Amy Saperstein)


And finally … Les McKeown, lead singer for the Bay City Rollers, died on Tuesday. He was 65. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)


COVID Cancels Memorial Day Parade — And Fireworks

If you didn’t think the coronavirus crisis was real, today’s announcement from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe brings it home. He says:

It is with great regret that we must announce that due to the COVID-19 crisis, the town of Westport’s annual Memorial Day parade and July 4 fireworks have been canceled. Unfortunately, many nearby communities have made similar decisions to cancel their summer events.

Both events draw hundreds of participants and thousands of onlookers each year. In an abundance of caution, and with the health and safety of our community at the forefront of our perspective, it is only appropriate that we notify the public well in advance that these scheduled events have been canceled.

The decision to cancel does not come without reservation or sadness from all our public officials. However, the current environment dictates that we determine the best way to manage these types of events in the future. We cannot make assumptions at this time on whether or not it will be safe to congregate in any size crowd, much less ones of this magnitude, by the end of May or the beginning of July.

Westport’s Memorial Day parade doesn’t get more classic than this. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

The Memorial Day Parade and the following ceremony at Veterans Green, organized by the Westport Veterans Council and Westport Parks and Recreation Department, was to be held on Monday, May 25.

The town of Westport will always remember the ultimate sacrifices made by so many service men and women in defense of our freedoms. We plan for an alternate virtual event for Memorial Day to honor our veterans, and commemorate those selfless soldiers who gave their lives for their country. Details will be forthcoming.

Speeches on Veterans Green by grand marshals — like Larry Aasen, above — are among the most meaningful parts of Westport’s Memorial Day celebration. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

The Westport Police Athletic League-sponsored Independence Day fireworks was scheduled for July 2, 2020. This family outing annually draws thousands of attendees to Compo Beach and the nearby neighborhoods for an evening of fun and fireworks.

“The PAL had to make a difficult decision regarding the Independence Day fireworks. Please understand that organizing an event of this magnitude requires not only a significant amount of pre-planning, but also a financial commitment that must be made several months in advance. With the uncertainty surrounding current restrictions on large gatherings and when these might be lifted, it would be ill-advised to plan an event which may ultimately not be possible and safe to execute,” said PAL president Ned Batlin.

Although the fireworks celebration will not be held this year, the community will be encouraged to remember and celebrate the spirit of the Independence Day holiday in their own private way.  We are confident that soon, the crisis will be lessened and we will once again be able to hold these longstanding community events.

Please be assured that when that time comes, they will be organized with effective pre-planning, precision and with abundant public safety considerations. Thank you for your continued understanding and commitment to maintaining the health, well-being and safety of our entire community.

A timeless scene — and one we won’t see this year.

Calling All Veterans!

Like a true veteran, Ted Diamond keeps serving.

He’s 100 years old. He’s a former Memorial Day parade grand marshal.

And he wants to make sure that every vet — particularly those who, like he, served in World War II — get a chance to participate in the event.

For the past 10 years, he has arranged transportation in the parade. Once again, he’s made sure there are a few cars available, for vets to ride in.

Any veterans wishing to participate next Monday should call Ted (203-227-7680), or e-mail him: tdiamon2@optonline.net.

As for the rest of us: We’ll line the route, waving and giving our thanks.

Ted Diamond, at last year’s Memorial Day ceremony.


Memorial Day Parade Canceled :(

The threat of heavy rain has canceled today’s Memorial Day parade. It’s the 1st such cancellation since 2011.

However, a ceremony — including the keynote speech by grand marshal Joe Schachter — will take place at 10 a.m. in the Town Hall auditorium. The public is encouraged to attend.

The weather this weekend was a lot nicer than today's. (Photo/Pam Romano-Gorman)

The weather this weekend was a lot nicer than today’s.


Hey! That’s Me!

I thought I was done posting photos of past Memorial Day parades. Yesterday’s images (click here and here) covered 50 years, and provided tons of memories.

But this one — particularly the back story — is too good to pass up.

Three years ago Gordon Joseloff saw a box of 35mm slides for sale on eBay. They were labeled “1962 parade in Westport.”

The WestportNow founder — and former 1st selectman — calls himself “a sucker for Westport nostalgia.” He bid $9.99, and won. The prize: Nice shots of the Memorial Day parade.

Imagine his amazement when one of the slides was of Joseloff himself. There he was — 17 years old, smack in the center of the frame.

My beautiful picture

Still in high school, Joseloff was taking pictures for the Westport Town Crier. He worked that summer — and the next — as a reporter/photographer. (And went on to a storied 2-decade career as a journalist in London, Moscow, Tokyo and other world capitals for UPI and CBS News.)

Perhaps the only thing more remarkable than that story of discovering himself in a photo, is the line of veterans (or perhaps active duty National Guardsmen) behind Joseloff. In 1962, they seemed to go on forever.

Joe Schachter: Memorial Day Grand Marshal

America’s living link to World War II veterans is rapidly diminishing. Nearly 500 servicemen and women from that conflict die every day.

Yet when Joe Schachter rises Monday to deliver Westport’s Memorial Day address, he will stand steady. The 90-year-old’s voice will be strong.

Schachter — the grand marshal of this year’s parade — is living proof of the power of an active, full life.

The South Norwalk native graduated from Norwalk High in 1943. There were plenty of empty seats at the ceremony; many classmates had gone off to war.

Joe Schachter

Joe Schachter

Schachter — who loved the water since childhood, when he fished in a rowboat with his dad and was a Sea Scout — had already enlisted in the Navy. He trained at Trinity College in Hartford (which had been turned into a naval installation), then finished midshipman school at Cornell.

He served — and took enemy fire — on the Wilkes Barre cruiser in Tokyo Bay, and along the Manchurian border.

After the war Schachter returned to Trinity, graduating in December 1947. He spent 30 years in advertising, in Hartford and New York, on accounts like Ford and Eastman Kodak, and moved to Westport to raise a family.

Long Island Sound was always an important part of his life. In the late 1960s Longshore’s E.R. Strait Marina was silted so badly, he and other boaters could get in and out only at mid or high tide.

Schachter helped form the Minuteman Yacht Club. As “the voice of boaters,” they pushed the town to improve the Longshore and Compo marinas. First Selectman John Kemish appointed him to the town’s 1st Boating Advisory Committee too.

The Compo marina — now named for former Board of Finance chair Ned Dimes — includes some of Schachter’s own docks. In the mid-1970s he learned of a new type of construction — using floating concrete, instead of rickety wood — and embarked on a 2nd career.

The Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach now includes Joe Schachter's concrete docks.

The Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach utilizes Joe Schachter’s concrete docks.

His Norwalk-based Concrete Flotation Systems company introduced floating concrete docks to the Northeast — and as far as Greenland and Bermuda. For 20 years he worked on projects for the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers. He’s most proud of his 400th installation: the one at Compo.

The grand marshal — who has lived in the same house for 50 years, not far from Compo Beach — is well known too for his volunteer efforts with the Saugatuck River Power Squadron. “Safety on the water is important,” he says. “You can’t just buy a boat and go out on the Sound.”

Schachter was also an active member of the Norwalk Seaport Association. He helped start the Oyster Festival, and served as chair of the Maritime  Center’s marketing committee.

Off the water, Schachter spent several decades advocating for rail passengers. He helped found the Commuter Action Committee. As a member of the statewide Rail Advisory Task Force, he served 3 governors.

Schachter is honored to be named grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade. He follows in the footsteps of good friends like fellow WWII vets Barry McCabe, Leonard Everett Fisher and Neil Croarkin.

The World War II memorial on Veteran's Green, across from Westport Town Hall, includes Liberty J. Tremonte's name.

The World War II memorial on Veteran’s Green, across from Westport Town Hall.

A few days ago, he was still writing his speech. “It’s easy to stand up and say a few platitudes,” he noted. “I want to do more than that.”

After Monday’s ceremony, he may join many other Westporters in a Memorial Day tradition: a trip to Compo Beach.

“I’m so pleased to drive by, and see how it serves people,” he says.

Just as Joe Schachter has served his town — and his country — for so many years, in so many ways.

(The Memorial Day parade steps off on Monday [May 30], 9 a.m. at Saugatuck Elementary School. The Veteran’s Green ceremony at which Joe Schachter will speak begins immediately after the parade, approximately 10:30 a.m.)

UPDATED – New Photos! — Memorial Day: Back In The Day — The Sequel

This morning’s post — with photos from Westport Memorial Day parades past — inspired 2 alert and historically minded “06880” readers to send in their own.

Jack Whittle found this shot on the Gault 150th anniverary website. It shows a 1920s-era parade — minimalist though it was — passing Willowbrook cemetery on North Main Street. Leonard H. Gault drove the fire truck.

Leonard H. Gault driving fire truck in parade by Wilow Brook Cemetery

Ann Sheffer sent along 2 photos. Here are some Girl Scouts circa 1955 (with her mother, Betty Sheffer, as a troop leader):

Memorial Day parade 1955 - Girl Scouts - Ann Sheffer

This one from 1961 shows the parade on the Post Road (the Mobil gas station is now where Finalmente is, across from the old post office):
Memorial Day parade 1961 - Ann Sheffer

Here was the scene in 1966. Fairfield Furniture stores has of course been converted back into its original “National Hall” form.

Memorial Day parade 1966

Mark Potts offers this scene from 1972. Staples band leader Bob Genualdi (tie and jacket) leads his musicians up the Post Road, in front of the bizarrely named S&M Pizza. (Note the group sitting — as kids did back in the day — on top of the adjacent store.)

Memorial Day parade - 1972 - Mark Potts

Remember: the 2016 version steps off at 9 a.m. Monday (May 30). Get your camera ready — don’t forget to charge that cell phone!

Memorial Day: Back In The Day

If you’ve ever been to a Memorial Day parade in Westport — and the ceremony that follows on Veterans Green, opposite Town Hall — you know it’s one of our most fun, diverse, community-minded (and small-town) events.

If you’re a newcomer — or an old-timer who always sleeps in — you really need to see it. Stand anywhere along the parade route (from Saugatuck Elementary School on Riverside Avenue, across the Post Road bridge, left on Myrtle), and enjoy the passing parade of cops, firefighters, EMTs, Y’s Men, young soccer and lacrosse and baseball and violin players, fifers and drummers, and random others having all kinds of retro fun.

It seems like it’s been this way forever (except for talking on cell phones while “marching,” and taking selfies). Now we’ve got proof.

Alert “06880” reader and indefatigable historic researcher Mary Gai unearthed a news story from 1921. It describes Westport’s plans for the upcoming Memorial Day parade. The details are a bit different — but any of us magically plopped down 95 years ago would recognize it instantly.

Participants included a color guard and bands; veterans (from the Civil and Spanish-American Wars, riding in cars); the Red Cross, American Legion, VFW, and Boy and Girl Scouts. “As usual,” the story said, “a number of autos and many marchers” were expected to follow behind.

Hotel Square -- the start of the 1921 Memorial Day parade -- was located downtown, where the YMCA later stood. Today, it's being renovated at Bedford Square.

Hotel Square — where the 1921 Memorial Day parade began — was located downtown, where the YMCA later stood. Today, it’s being renovated as Bedford Square.

The parade began at 9 a.m. sharp, at Hotel Square (near the soon-to-be-constructed YMCA, at the corner of Main Street and the Post Road — then called State Street).

The route took marchers over the bridge, then to King Street (Kings Highway North), with a halt by the Catholic cemetery. The parade then headed south to Canal Street and North Main, stopping at Willowbrook Cemetery before doubling back down Main Street to Myrtle Avenue. Everyone ended at Town Hall (now Rothbard Ale + Larder, next to Restoration Hardware), for services on the lawn. The ceremony ended with a gun salute.

Exactly 50 years later — in 1971 — Mark Groth took some Memorial Day photos. He stood on the 2nd floor of Main Street, in the Youth-Adult Council offices, as the parade passed by.

Now another 45 years have passed. How much has changed — and how much hasn’t?

Check out Mark’s shots below. You be the judge. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

For years, E.O. Nigel Cholmeley-Jones was a fixture in the Memorial Day parade. A lieutenant in World War I, as a child he had been photographed with Walt Whitman.

For years, E.O. Nigel Cholmeley-Jones was a fixture in the Memorial Day parade. A lieutenant in World War I, as a child he had been photographed with Walt Whitman.

Staples High School band. In 1971, Main Street was open to 2-way traffic.

Staples High School band. West Lake Restaurant was located at the foot of Main Street, by the Post Road. In 1971, Main Street was open to 2-way traffic.

The Y Indian Guides make their way down Main Street (in 1971, a two-way road). Note spectators watching from 2nd-floor windows along the route.

The Y Indian Guides make their way down Main Street. Note spectators watching from 2nd and 3rd-floor windows above the Westport Food Center grocery store.

Local clergymen, including Rev. Ted Hoskins (Saugatuck Congregational Church) and Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein (Temple Israel) march in front of a banner urging peace.

Local clergymen, including Rev. Ted Hoskins (Saugatuck Congregational Church, beard) and Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein (Temple Israel, hand on head) march in front of a banner urging peace.

First Selectman John Kemish (tie) is flanked by veterans.

First Selectman John Kemish (tie) is flanked by veterans. (All photos/Mark Groth)