Tag Archives: Rich Franzis

Look Who’s Taking The Haberstrohs’ Hot Pepper Challenge!

When word got out that Patty Haberstroh’s family was promoting a hot pepper challenge to raise funds for ALS research, some big names responded:

Shaquille O’Neal. Charles Barkley. Domonique Foxworth. Dan Le Batard. The Miami Heat.

Now the popular Department of Human Services’ program specialist’s fellow town employees have done the same.

Yesterday 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Staples principal James D’Amico, assistant principals Jim Farnen and Rich Franzis, and former principal John Dodig gathered at Town Hall.  After a bit of banter, they all ate eye-tearing, sinus-clearing, unfathomably hot habaneros.

It was not easy. But they did it for Patty.

And when they were done, they challenged others to do the same.

D’Amico dared the Staples science department (whose chair grows his own peppers). Farnen challenged the Staples athletic department (which includes me, as Staples boys soccer coach — yikes!). Dodig named the guidance department.

Marpe topped them all. He dared the entire Board of Education — and superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer — to eat a habanero or jalapeño.

Videos will be posted soon.

But don’t laugh too hard. We may challenge you next.

(Click here for the Haberstrohs’ hot pepper challenge donation page. Video by Justin Nadal, Staples High School media lab instructor.)

BONUS VIDEO: Check out this new video. It features plenty of celebrities — and tons of Westporters too. And after you click on — please keep the ALS Pepper Challenge going!

Sportsmen (And Women) Of Westport

The Sportsmen of Westport annual dinner is always an interesting affair.

The event — now in its 51st year — honors an eclectic group of former athletes. Many competed as youngsters in Westport; some arrived here after their playing days were over, but got involved in town sports.

All have intriguing stories to tell.

Three wrestlers will be honored at this year’s dinner (Tuesday, May 22, 6 p.m., Continental Manor in Norwalk). Nick Garoffolo, Mike Breen and Andy Lobsenz were all stars during Staples’ grappling heyday; all continue to give back to their sport, long after their days on the mat are over.

Ex-Staples baseball and football standout Jeb Backus — later a softball star, now a youth coach — will be feted. So will Danbury High basketball, field hockey and track ace Janet Zamary, who went on to become Staples’ first athletic trainer, and now as a phys. ed. teacher heads up the school’s highly regarded Unified Sports program for students with disabilities. And longtime Little League volunteer Joe Nixon too.

Three other honorees have gone on to non-athletic careers.  But they may not be where they are today without the lessons they learned as kids, on the fields.

George Barrett

George Barrett was a superb soccer, basketball and baseball player at Staples. A back injury ended his soccer career at Brown University. He coached and taught at the Horace Mann School in New York, and got an MBA at NYU. Today he’s chairman and CEO of Cardinal Health, ranked #19 on the Fortune 500, and a major healthcare company. He serves on numerous civic and charitable boards, and has an honorary doctorate from LIU.

Suzanne Allen Redpath

Suzy Allen played field hockey and ran track for legendary Staples coach Jinny Parker. After Hollins College she joined CBS News, where she’s had an astonishing 40-year career. She was Walter Cronkite’s researcher during Watergate; covered earth-shaking events like the rise of Solidarity in Poland and the Falklands War, and then — as CBS Evening News senior producer for foreign coverage — directed and oversaw stories like the fall of communism, the emergence of democracy in China, and 9/11. Suzy — now Suzanne Allen Redpath — has won Emmy and DuPont Awards, and received an honorary doctorate from Hollins.

Rich Franzis

Rich Franzis is known to many Westporters as an assistant principal at Staples. Many do not know that he played football at Shelton High. A longtime U.S. Army reservist with the rank of colonel, he was deployed to Iraq where he oversaw the intelligence operations of 5 brigades. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service.

George, Suzy, Rich and the other very worthy honorees may or may not discuss the role athletics has played in their lives, when they make their speeches May 22.

But — if they’re anything like the five decades of Sportsmen honorees before them — they’ll definitely tell tales of games, coaches, teammates and opponents in the social hour before the dinner, all during the meal, and long into the night.

They’ve accomplished plenty professionally, in the years since the last whistles blew.

But at this month’s banquet — and, really, their entire lives — they’re sportsmen. The capital letter — Sportsmen — is just one more feather in their caps.

(Tickets, at $50 each, are available at Settlers & Traders Real Estate, 215 Post Road West; Junior’s Hot Dog Stand, 265 Riverside Avenue, or by emailing karen_defelice@westport.k12.ct.us. For more information call 203-341-1365, or click here. )

A Different Memorial Day Message

As Westport prepares to honor its war heroes, the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce has something else on its mind:

Don’t drink and drive.

But if you do — and you get caught — here’s a number to call.

The Chamber sends out more emails than Nigerian oil ministers’ widows.  Most hype upcoming events.   Some spotlight members — the restaurants, small businesses and solo practitioners that make up Chambers of Commerce like ours.

This afternoon’s message was blunter.  Something about it — okay, almost everything — rubbed me the wrong way.

The big, bold headline read:

Please be smart and safe this holiday weekend while celebrating the unofficial start of summer.

Then it cut to the chase:

Should you find yourself in trouble, whether it be for suspicion of driving while under the influence, underage drinking parties, drug charges or any other offense, you have the absolute right to contact an attorney.  DO NOT waive this right!

Next came advice:

If you have been arrested for DWI and are asked to submit to a breath test, you should always take the tests, unless you have been in an accident or unless you have any previous DWI convictions.

That was followed by info about Attorney John P. Thygerson:  his phone number.  The helpful reminder “24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

And this seal-the-deal sweetener:

A courtesy discount will be given to Chamber members and their families.


Attorney Thygerson has spent the last fifteen years representing thousands of juveniles and adults charged with the commission of criminal offenses.  You pay an attorney not only for what they know, but also for who they know, such as the judges and the prosecutors, and to navigate through the criminal justice system towards a successful resolution.

Maybe I’m in a contemplative mood because, this morning, every Staples student and staff member viewed an insightful, thought-provoking video about the wartime experiences of assistant principal Rich Franzis (Iraq) and long-time Westport Bruce Allen (World War II).

An hour later, “06880” reader Tom Allen emailed me his own Memorial Day reflections.  He mentioned Staples ’66 classmate Tim Barmer (killed in action at Khe Sanh), and his friend’s father, George Hopkins (a World War II POW).

Tom also included the 1990 obituary of Sigfried Schreiner, who survived the Battle of Bataan and the infamous Bataan Death March to become chairman of the industrial arts department at Staples (and later owned a group travel business for educators and students).

Thinking of all those men, then reading that crass Chamber email, I couldn’t help wonder why it couldn’t have said:

Attorney John P. Thygerson joins the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce in wishing everyone a safe Memorial Day weekend, as we honor the memories of the many Westporters and Westonites who for generations have so honorably served their country, and us.