Tag Archives: Rev. John Betit

Roundup: SHS Girls, GFA Boys Soccer Champs; 3 Pastors, Arline Gertzoff …

A year ago, the Staples girls soccer team won the state championship — and were disappointed.

It was actually a shared title, after a 0-0 draw with Wilton.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) changed the rule this year, adding penalty kicks if the final was tied after regulation.

The Wreckers had no need for that. Annabel Edwards’ true hat trick — 3 straight goals — in just 6:36 at the start of the 2nd half broke open a 1-0 game yesterday. The blue-and-whites cruised to their 2nd consecutive state “LL” (extra large schools) title, and 3rd in their history, yesterday at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford. The #3-seeded Westporters slammed #1-ranked Cheshire, 4-1.

Staples finishes the season 12-6-4. The loss was the first for the Rams (21-1-1), who got their lone goal with 9 minutes remaining.

Edwards’ selection as Most Valuable Player of the Match was a no-brainer.

She had plenty of help though. Natalie Chudowsky — who missed part of the season with US national U-15 team duty — scored the first goal. Her sister Evelyn assisted on 2 of Edwards’ strikes

Coach Barry Beattie has built a dynasty. And it looks like it will continue: Edwards is just a sophomore. Evelyn Chudowsky is a junior. And Natalie Chudowsky is only a freshman.

Congratulations to all of Staples’ newest state champs!

2022 state champion Staples High School girls soccer team. (Photo/David G. Whitham, courtesy of The Ruden Report)


The Staples girls were not the only soccer champions crowned yesterday.

Greens Farms Academy captured the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council New championship yesterday in their division. The #7 Dragons handed #1-ranked Vermont Academy only their second loss of the season, in Lancaster, Massachusetts.

The match was tied 1-1 after overtime, and went to penalty kicks. Keeper Matt Maged saved 2 shots, clinching the win.

It was an equally dramatic season for coach Chris Mira’s GFA side. Ten games in, they were 4-6. They turned it around, finishing 11-7-2.

Maged is one of 6 Westport players on the championship squad. Others are Jared Buckman, Aidan Spellacy, Aneesh Roy and Oscar Nelson. Andrew Salem is from Weston.

Congratulations to all the Dragons!

Greens Farms Academy, NESPAC champs. (Photo/Amy Buckman)


Three ministers — an Episcopalian, a Methodist and a Congregationalist — walk into a high school auditorium to see a play about saving gamblers’ souls …

No, it’s not a joke. It happened Saturday night.

John Betit (Christ & Holy Trinity), Heather Sinclair (United Methodist) and Alison Patton (Saugatuck Church) were all at the final performance of Staples Players’ (fantastic) production of “Guys & Dolls.”

They were not there to see whether the sisters at the Save a Soul Mission succeed. (Spoiler alert: They do.)

The pastors were there for personal — not professional — reasons. All 3 have at least 1 son or daughter in the show.

After final bows, the clergy trio went on stage. They memorialized the show, their kids — and their work — with a classic photo:

From left: Rev. John Betit, Rev. Heather Sinclair, Rev. Alison Patton. (Photo/Kerry Long)


The very moving and very personal memorial service for Arline Gertzoff — the United Nations and Democratic Party activist, Representative Town Meeting member and proud Staples High School graduate who died in September — is now online.

The event was held earlier this month, at Town Hall. Click below to honor Arline. (Hat tip: Sal Liccione)


Noelle Anastasia of Fairfield, formerly of Westport, died unexpectedly last week. She was 32 years old.

Born on on Christmas Day in 1989, she grew up in Westport.

She sang in the Bedford Middle School choir, and was an altar server at Assumption Church. Throughout her life, Noelle kept her faith close to her heart. She also loved to cook.

She studied at Norwalk Community College, and planned to return to school.

Her family says, “Noelle had a kind soul and a deeply loving heart. More than anything, she loved her daughters Isabella, 5, and Ella, 3. They were the lights and loves of her life. She loved her stepson, Jesus, and was proud of all he accomplished. Her family was the cornerstone of her life, but Noelle also cared for those who needed it. She gave freely of herself, of her time and energy, to help when help was needed. This generosity of spirit extend to animals. Noelle took in kittens that needed a home.”

In addition to her children Noelle is survived by her parents, David and Michellel her husband Jesus; sisters Denise and Nicole; brother Steven; nieces Michayla, Dianna, Marissa, Danniella and Briannal nephews Matthew, Tyler and Jace, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

A Mass of Christian burial is set for tomorrow (Tuesday November 22, 11 a.m., Assumption Church).

Noelle Anastasia


Mud is as much a part of “Westport … Naturally” as anything else.

Jonathan Prager captured a lot of it, in this photo with an autumn sun.

(Photo/Jonathan Prager)


And finally … Danny Kalb, a guitarist with the under-appreciated Blues Project band — died Saturday in Brooklyn. He was 80, and had battled cancer for 3 years.

As Mark Smollin notes in his book “The Real Rock & Roll High School,” the Blues Project first played in Westport in 1966. The setting was the Staples High School cafeteria — for the junior prom.

A year later, they were booked for two 50-minute sets in the Staples auditorium. with an intermission. But when they were detained in New York — finishing up a recording session — promoter (and Staples student) Dick Sandhaus talked theier manager, Sid Bernstein (of early Beatles fame) into sending Richie Havens to open the show.

After an hour, Havens was running out of material. So Bernstein had Jeremy Steig & the Satyrs drive up — at his own expense — to do a very long set until the Blues Project arrived.

At 11:30 the Blues Project finally took the stage. Half an hour later they were shut down, by a midnight curfew. Click here for a full obituary.

A Proud Day For Westport

The rain that chased Westport’s 2nd annual Pride festival from Jesup Green to Staples High School never materialized. So there were no rainbows in the sky above the courtyard.

But nearby, in the auditorium foyer, hundreds of rainbows were on display. Buttons, artwork, t-shirts, bagels  — rainbows were everywhere.

The rainbow arch was a popular spot for photos.

And a rainbow constellation of Westporters — parents, grandparents, couples without children, 20somethings, clergy members, musicians, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, and scores of kids of all ages — smiled, applauded and hugged all afternoon long.

A small part of the large Pride crowd. (Photo/Dan Woog)

From the opening remarks by 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker — who said that the sponsors, Westport Pride, have made Westport “a better community” — to heartfelt stories from people like former Staples principal John Dodig, former tennis captain Luke Foreman, current students and Amis/Terrain executive chef Jes Bengtson, to entertainment by very talented teens,  and on through closing blessings by Temple Israel cantor Julia Cadrain, it was a day to celebrate inclusivity in our schools and community.

Luke Foreman describes his journey. (Photo/Marjorie Almansi)

The event drew nearly 1,000 members of the LGBTQ+ community, and many allies. They had — in both senses of the word — a very gay time.

Who doesn’t like rainbow bagels? (Photo/Dan Woog)

Staples Class of 2021 graduate Benny Zack returned for the event. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Former Bedford Middle School teacher Kerstin Rao, and Dr. Nikki Gorman. The pediatrician, and owner of Westport Medical & Wellness Center, was a featured speaker. (Photo/Bethany Eppner)

Rainbows were everywhere at Westport Pride. Kids’ activities included arts and crafts and face painting. (Photo/Bethany Eppner)

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, with an official town proclamation. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Former Staples High principal John Dodig inspired listeners with his story. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport RTM member Harris Falk dressed for the occasion … (Photo/Dan Woog)

… as did Rev. John Betit of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church … (Photo/Dan Woog)

… while former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe sported an appropriate tie. (Photo/Dan Woog)

State Representative Stephanie Thomas lent her support. She’s running for Secretary of the State. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport Pride founder and festival co-organizer Brian McGunagle introduced his 3-year-old son Henry to the crowd. They loved him.  (Photo/Dan Woog)

Love is love. (Photo/Marjorie Almansi)

“The Number On Great-Grandpa’s Arm” Comes To Westport

A pair of bomb threats to a Bridgeport temple — just 2 days before the first anniversary of the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue — reminds us all that anti-Semitism is still very real.

Which makes an upcoming townwide, interfaith event particularly important.

This Sunday, November 10 (1:30 p.m.), the Westport Library will screen HBO’s Emmy Award-winning short documentary, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm.”

The film — which features an intimate conversation between a young boy and hi beloved great-grandfather, an Auschwitz survivor — includes hundreds of animated drawings by Westport filmmaker/painter Jeff Scher.

The screening will be followed by an audience Q-and-A with Elliott Saiontz, the film’s young narrator; his mother, and Scher. The discussion will be moderated by Rev. John D. Betit, of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

One of Jeff Scher’s drawings in the film.

Monique Lions Greenspan has helped organize the event.

Her mother survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. “I know firsthand the incredible strength, optimism and gratefulness that survivors possess,” Monique says.

“Their stories provide invaluable lessons for both adults and children. I feel a deep sense of obligation to make our community aware of this opportunity for our children — and adults too — to bear witness to and learn from survivors’ experiences.”

Unfortunately, she says, in the aftermath of the Tree of Life Synagogue attacks — and others, in places as varied as Christchurch, Poway, El Paso and Halle — “it is more important than ever to commit to programs and discussions that clearly define expectations for, and the responsibilities of, all members of the community. Hate cannot be normalized.”

(The November 10 film is sponsored by the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, PJ Our Way and the Westport Library. After the screening and discussion, the Nu Haven Kapelye offers “a musical journey from sorrow to joy, through the Klezmer tradition.” Both events are free. Click here for more information.) 

Pic Of The Day #342

It was an interesting Palm Sunday at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

After the procession — 3/4 of the way through this morning’s family service — the fire alarm went off.

Everyone quickly filed out of the church, while the great Westport Fire Department raced over to check things out.

Rev. John Betit improvised, and held communion outside!

The culprit was the incense used in the procession. Thankfully, today was not one of our many nor’easters.

Easter — a harbinger of spring — is only a week away.

(Photos/Amy Chatterjee)

Episcopal Church Tackles Legacy Of New England Slave Trade

Nationally, the Episcopal Church has spent years working on racial justice issues.

Locally, Christ and Holy Trinity Church is doing the same.

Recently, parishioners read — and discussed — Debby Irving’s thought-provoking Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race.

“It was a soulful venture,” says Rev. John Betit. “People talked openly and  honestly about their own ignorance and stuggle.”

But, he adds, some congregants felt dissatisfied. They were unsure how to move forward on thorny issues of race.

They — and anyone else in Westport who wants to come — will take a step in that direction this Sunday (March 18, 11 a.m.). CHT will show “Traces of the Trade,” a true story of producer/director Katrina Browne’s ancestors — the largest slave-trading family in American history.

They were Northerners.

The documentary traces Browne and 9 cousins, as they work to understand the legacy of New England’s “hidden enterprise.” Family members are shaken by visits to Ghanaian slave forts and dungeons, and conversations with African Americans.

After the film, Dain Perry — one of Browne’s cousins — will facilitate a conversation about race, reconciliation and healing.

Perry — whose family are longtime Episcopalians — says the church shares responsibility for the slave trade. It condoned slavery, while the leading denomination in early America.

“Systemic racism is so big and hard-wired,” Betit notes. He hopes for a “softening of the ground,” as people “take a deeper look, and broaden their circle of awareness” about issues like slavery.

(The discussion also includes lunch. For more information call 203-227-0827. Click here for the film’s website.)