Tag Archives: Roe Halper

Roundup: George And Pat Jensen, Kids’ Yoga, Cumby’s …

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Due to today’s snow, the Westport Library will open at 1 p.m. today.

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It’s 10 a.m. Are your kids bored with their snow day yet?

Here’s something they might enjoy: Carly Walker’s first yoga video aimed at youngsters. It comes from Child’s Pose Yoga, the Church Street South studio.

Namaste.

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Longtime Westporters Jørgen and Pat Jensen died peacefully, together, at their home on December 22. He was 92; she was 88.

Jorgen — known as “George” — served 9 terms on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), and was a prominent member of the Y’s Men and their Hoot Owls singing group. He was also an avid bridge player.

Pat worked for many years for the Westport Public Schools. She also served  with the Westport Woman’s Club.

Both were active in retirement at the Senior Center, and were lifelong boaters. At the Senior Center George was in charge of the Garden Club. He grew tomatoes, and distributed them widely.

George was born in Copenhagen, and graduated from the university there with an MS in mechanical engineering.

Pat — a native of Bridgeport — graduated from Sacred Heart University.

Both were world travelers. They met while working at General Electric in Bridgeport. He worked there until retirement, in 1985.

Pat retired in 2000, after serving as director of purchasing at Staples High School. She was a master knitter and crocheter.

While on the RTM, George worked to purchase the Baron’s property, and on construction of the Senior Center and Saugatuck senior housing. Both he and Pat were active in the movement to save Cockenoe Island from becoming a nuclear power plant, in the 1960s.

George and Pat are survived by their children Elisa (John McKay), Eric (Michele Ryan) and Aline Maynard (Garth); 7 grandchildren and George’s brother Steen Folmer.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Westport Center for Senior Activities, 21 Imperial Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

Pat and George Jensen (Photos courtesy of Westport Journal)

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Three of Westport’s most important institutions — The Library, Wakeman Town Farm and Westport Farmers Market — are partnering for a delicious presentation.

“Dinner Disrupted: How We Eat” (Tuesday, January 11, 7 pm., in-person at the Library and via Zoom) features a conversation with market researcher and author of How We Eat: The Brave New World of Food and Drink, Paco Underhill.

The book describes how cities are getting countrified with the rise of farmer’s markets and rooftop farms; how supermarkets use their parking lots to grow food and host community events, and how marijuana farmers have developed a playbook so mainstream merchants and farmers across the world can grow food in an uncertain future. Click here to register.

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Among other effects, COVID’s Omicron variant has created staffing shortages at businesses around town.

Among them: Cumberland Farms.

The always-reliable convenience store has posted this brief — but telling — notice on its door:

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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Every Martin Luther King Day, I run a story on the civil rights leader’s visit to Westport — and the wood carvings that local artist Roe Halper presented to him. They hung for years in his Atlanta home.

Halper is still a working artist. Her works are now colorful and abstract.

They are so colorful, in fact, that her current exhibit — at the Westport Library — is called simply “Orange.”

It is “a warm, radiant color with positive energy,” Halper says — “exactly the message I wanted to portray as I pushed bold strokes of power on the canvases  with my Chinese brushes. A person must have a positive attitude to survive in life, and be able to be productive.”

Check out “Orange” — and many other colors — at the Westport Library Gallery.

Roe Halper, at her exhibit.

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It’s school course selection time. What to take? When? Why?

College admissions counselor Amy Chatterjee offers a free webinar on Tuesday (7 p.m.): “Why Course Selection is Important to the College Application Process.” Click here to register.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” creature is perfect. A “snowshoe Siamese” cat is quite happy to stay indoors!

(Photo/Jo Shields Sherman)

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And finally … on this day in 1904, the distress signal “CQD” was established internationally. Two years later, it was replaced by a different one: “SOS.”

Roundup: Kentucky Aid, Urgent Care, Arnie’s Place …

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On the last Sunday before Christmas, Main Street is packed today with almost-last-minute shoppers.

While buying gifts for friends and loved ones, Steve Crowley hopes we’ll think about everyone in Kentucky whose holidays — and lives — were upended by last week’s tornadoes.

Steve — the owner of SCA Crowley Real Estate Services — has swung into action. He got a logo (courtesy of Miggs Burroughs) with the words “America Lends a Hand.” He ordered dozens of t-shirts, with the design.

Marty Rogers produced a sign. It’s in front of Vineyard Vines all day today, where Steve and his sons are selling the shirts, in return for donations to the Western Kentucky Relief Fund. 100% of all contributions go directly there.

In the midst of everything, stop in front of Vineyard Vines to help out. And, Steve says, if you can’t be there, send a tax-deductible check made out to “Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund,” c/o Public Protection Cabinet, 500 Metro Streeet, 218 NC, Frankfort, KY 40601.

Steve Crowley (right) and sons, selling t-shirts outside Vineyard Vines today.

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As the Omicron variant surges, and COVID cases soar, the Urgent Care center on Post Road East — which offers rapid testing i– has been swamped with patients.

As Bob Weingarten notes,  the line of cars there “has replaced the normal line at Starbucks” across the street.  .

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Hey: If there’s an accident at Urgent Care, at least you won’t go far for treatment.

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Marty Greenberg lives on the Saugatuck River, across from the Rowing club. Last night around 8:30, the “floating Christmas team” passed by, for the second time.

“What a sight! What a treat!” Marty says. “it’s a unique Westport thrill.”

Floating Christmas tree, across from the Saugatuck Rowing Club. (Photo/Marty Greenberg)

Readers: If you’ve got photos — or any other info on the floating Christmas tree, like when it will next ride the river — click “Comments” below.

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Sure, this is one of the busiest weeks of the year. But if you get a chance, stop in to the Westport Library’s Verso Studios holiday open house tomorrow (Monday, December 20, 7 p.m.).

The creative staff will show off their podcast, mixing and mastering equipment.  They’ll answer questions about audio and video creation, editing and post-production, including training courses.

Registration is requested, for planning purposes. Click here to RSVP, and learn more.

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Speaking of the library: Longtime and beloved Westport artist Roe Halper’s acrylic paintings will be on display there from January 5 to March 7.

There’s a reception January 13, and an artist’s talk February 10. Both begin at 7 p.m..

COVID got you worried? Contact Roe for a private viewing: http://www.roehalperart.com.

“Orange” (Roe Halper)

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Speaking of the Library: It can’t run without volunteers. Betty Lou Cummings was one of its staunchest.

She served many other organizations, including her fall festival baby, the Applel Festival. She was a Representative Town Meeting member, as well as a 2nd selectwoman.

Yesterday, Betty Lou and her husband Tom celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary. It was the same day I — and so many other Westporters — got their classic Christmas card, filled with photos of children, grandchildren, and random others.

Happy anniversary — and Merry Christmas — to one of our town’s favorite couples!

Betty Lou and Tom Cummings.

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Meanwhile, across Jesup Green from the Library, the Westport Book Shop continues to fill an important niche.

And the used book store does it with panache. Here’s their current sign:

(Photo/David Meth)

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Here’s a last-minute gift idea for anyone who remembers hours spent at Arnie’s Place arcade (or dreams about paying their taxes in pennies, as Arnie did).

Virginia Wong — the Westport native and entrepreneur who spent many happy hours at the controversial (to parents and town officials) and joyful (to kids) Post Road video arcade (now Ulta) — has reanimated the iconic graphic from Arnie Kaye’s long-running campaign to open, and stay open.

“I Support Arntie’s” t-shirts come in 4 colors. They’re perfect for any ’80s Westport kid.

Click here to order. But hurry! Tomorrow (Monday, December 20) is the cutoff for Christmas delivery.

“I Support Arnie’s” t-shirt, in pink.

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If you haven’t been to Compo Beach lately, you’ve missed serene winter “Westport … Naturally” scenes like this:

(Photo/Jonathan Prager)

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And finally … Edith Piaf was born on this day, in 1915. The French singer-songwriter. She died in 1963, just 47 years old. But she left quite a legacy behind.

Roundup: Roe Halper, Southport Diner, Elusive Objects …

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After Roe Halper’s husband Chuck died in 2017, the noted artist wanted to make a tribute incorporating emotion, interpretation and design. She used lndia ink with Chinese brushes to create a book called Passage, about Chuck’s passage through life.

“Although I was thinking of him when I created it, it has a universal theme,” Roe says.

Passage is available at the Westport Library Store, Westport Museum of History & Culture (formerly the Westport Historical Society) and Barrett Book Store in Darien, and directly from Roe (203-226-5187; chalper@optonline.net).

A page from “Passage,” by Roe Halper.

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Once upon a time, it was the Athena Diner.

It had a grand reopening yesterday with a new name: The Southport Diner.

The website says: “Chef John and his brother Chef Adonis, aka Tony the Greek, grew up running Andros Diner in Fairfield, working with their father Leo Pertesis.”

So though the name has changed, it’s still one of those Northeast favorites: a Greek diner. (Hat tip: Isabelle Breen)

Southport Diner

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How do you capture the most elusive objects in the solar system?

I’m not sure. But Thierry Legault may.

The world renowned astrophotographer joins the Westport Astronomical Society on May 18 (8 p.m.) for a virtual talk on the topic of elusive objects.

From his home “in the light-polluted suburbs of Paris,” he’ll show some of those elusive objects he’s captured — like images of the International Space Station, eclipses and transits.

The event will be presented both as a Zoom webinar (click here to register), and a YouTube livestream (click here for the page).

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Dr. Suniya Luthar is familiar to many Westporters.

The emerita professor of psychology at Columbia’s Teachers College led a longitudinal study on youth and resilience here. She chose Westport because of its high number of high-achieving professionals, and the emphasis on status and achievement. 

That study was referenced in a guest essay in today’s New York Times. The piece looks at the mental health of young people today. Click here to read. But beware: The news is not good.

Psressures — academic, social and other — are high on teenagers today. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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“Goodbye Honey.”

That’s the name of the new movie from Todd Rawiszer. The 2007 Staples High School graduate produced and co-wrote the film.

Shot in Westport and Pennsylvania, it follows 2 women who must trust each other to survive the longest night of their lives. They are “badass, strong women,” as well as good Samaritans.

“Goodbye Honey” was screen at festivals across the country, winning Best Thriller Feature, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor at the Garden State Film Festival, Best Lead Performance at the Nightmares Film Festival, and Best Actress at NOLA Horror Film Festival.

It will be released May 11 on cable, satellite and digital HD>

Click below for the trailer:

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Nature continues to elate and inspire us. Lavinia Lawson spotted this handsome sight at Grace Salmon Park …

(Photo/Lavinia Lawson)

… while Lauri Weiser snapped this shot at the Lansdowne condominiums.

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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Former Westporter Alex Lasry is running for the United States Senate.

In Wisconsin.

The 33-year-old Democrat hopes to unseat Republican Ron Johnson. Lasry has taken a leave from his position as Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president. His father — a billionaire businessman and hedge fund executive — co-owns the NBA team. The Lasry family first lived on Sylvan Road North. Marc Lasry now lives on Beachside Avenue.

Before the Bucks, Alex Lasry worked in the Obama White House for senior advisor Valerie Jarrett. He was host committee chair for the 2020 Democratic Convention, which was planned for Milwaukee but held virtually due to COVID. (Hat tip: Gloria Gouveia)

Alex Lasry

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And finally … in honor of the Westport Astronomical Society’s lecture capturing the most elusive objects in the solar system:

Roe Halper Lands In The Principal’s Office

Every year on Martin Luther King Day, I tell the story of the civil rights icon’s 1964 visit to Westport. I note that local artist Roe Halper presented King with 3 woodcarvings, representing the civil rights struggle. He hung them proudly in the front hallway of his Atlanta home.

The artwork — once believed lost — has been preserved. When King’s house opens as a National Park Service site, Halper’s carvings will be back in their prominent spot.

Roe Halper, with her “Birmingham Series.”

Another civil rights-era work by Halper already hangs in Westport. All you need to see it is to be sent to the principal’s office.

Shortly after being named Staples High School principal last year, Stafford Thomas learned that the piece was part of the Westport Public Art Collections.

The 5-foot tall wood carving was another work in Harper’s 1963 “Birmingham Series.”

Burt Chernow had selected it for the collection, when he began it decades ago. For many years it was displayed at Coleytown Middle School (Halper’s 2 children went there, when it was a junior high).

When CMS was closed due to mold, the carving was removed and refurbished. Thomas heard about it, and asked town arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz for more information.

She asked if he wanted it, to display in his office.

He calls it his favorite piece.

Stafford Thomas and Roe Halper, with the artist’s wood carving in his office.

The other day, Halper visited Thomas. She described the background of her work, and elaborated on the other carvings in the series.

When King visited Westport in 1964, Halper said, she was invited to Shabbat dinner with him at the home of Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein. She brought some of her work, inspired by the March on Washington several months earlier. She told King to choose whatever he wanted.

After the artist sent him the 3 wood carvings, Halper and her husband Chuck visited King and his wife Coretta at their Atlanta home. Coretta explained that the works could not hang separately, as was planned, in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference offices of King, Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young. She brought them together again, in her house.

Roe Halper presents woodcuts to Coretta Scott King. The civil rights leader’s wife autographed this photo “To the Halpers, with deep appreciation and warm personal regards.” The artwork was displayed in the Kings’ Atlanta home for many years.

Art has been Halper’s life work. She majored in art education at Skidmore College, and after moving to Westport in 1960 began drawing and working with wood. She worked in her basement studio while raising children, and was heavily influenced by events like the civil rights movement.

Halper did wood carvings until 1990, when the physical toll on her back became too great. Now 83, she teaches gifted high school students 3 hours a day, twice a week.

Chances are they won’t get sent to the principal. But if they’re in his office for a meeting — or any other reason — they’ll see their teacher’s work on his wall. Like all good art, it impresses and inspires him every day.

MLK

This story has become a Martin Luther King Day tradition on “06880.”

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Westporters will celebrate with a day off from school or work.  Some will sleep in; others will ski, or take part in a Staples basketball clinic for younger players. Few will give any thought to Martin Luther King.

Twice, though, his life intersected this town in important ways.

Martin Luther KingThe first was Friday night, May 22, 1964. According to Woody Klein’s book Westport, Connecticut, King had been invited to speak at Temple Israel by synagogue member Jerry Kaiser.

King arrived in the afternoon. Kaiser and his wife Roslyn sat on their porch that afternoon, and talked with King and 2 of his aides. She was impressed with his “sincerity, warmth, intelligence and genuine concern for those about him — our children, for instance. He seemed very young to bear such a burden of leadership.”

King’s sermon — to a packed audience — was titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” He analogized his America to the time of Rip Van Winkle — who also “slept through a revolution. The greatest liability of history is that people fail to see a revolution taking place in our world today.  We must support the social movement of the Negro.”

Westport artist Roe Halper presented King with 3 woodcarvings, representing the civil rights struggle. He hung them proudly in the front hallway of his Atlanta home.

Artist Roe Harper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Within a month Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron Rubenstein, traveled south to take place in a nonviolent march. He was arrested — along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

In jail, the rabbi said, “I came to know the greatness of Dr. King. I never heard a word of hate or bitterness from that man, only worship of faith, joy and determination.”

King touched Westport again less than 4 years later. On April 5, 1968 — the day after the civil rights leader’s assassination in Memphis — 600 Staples students gathered for a lunchtime vigil in the courtyard. Nearby, the flag flew at half-staff.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

Vice principal Fermino Spencer addressed the crowd. Movingly, he spoke about  his own experience as an African American. Hearing the words “my people” made a deep impression on the almost all-white audience. For many, it was the 1st time they had heard a black perspective on white America.

No one knew what lay ahead for their country. But student Jim Sadler spoke for many when he said: “I’m really frightened. Something is going to happen.”

Something did — and it was good. A few hundred students soon met in the cafeteria. Urged by a minister and several anti-poverty workers to help bridge the chasm between Westport and nearby cities, Staples teachers and students vowed to create a camp.

Within 2 months, it was a reality. That summer 120 elementary and junior high youngsters from Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport participated in the Intercommunity Camp. Led by over 100 Staples students and many teachers, they enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, dance, sports, field trips, overnight camping, creative writing, filmmaking, photography, art and reading.

It wasn’t easy — some in Westport opposed bringing underprivileged children to their town — but for over a decade the Intercommunity Camp flourished.

Eventually, enthusiasm for and interest in the camp waned. Fewer Staples students and staff members wanted to devote their summer to such a project.  The number of Westporters willing to donate their pools dwindled. Today the Intercommunity Camp is a long-forgotten memory.

Sort of like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Even on his birthday.

MLK speech

MLK

This story ran last year. Several readers asked me to republish it today. Here it is.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Westporters will celebrate with a day off from school or work.  Some will sleep in; others will ski, or take part in a Staples basketball clinic for younger players. Few will give any thought to Martin Luther King.

Twice, though, his life intersected this town in important ways.

Martin Luther KingThe first was Friday night, May 22, 1964. According to Woody Klein’s book Westport, Connecticut, King had been invited to speak at Temple Israel by synagogue member Jerry Kaiser.

King arrived in the afternoon. Kaiser and his wife Roslyn sat on their porch that afternoon, and talked with King and 2 of his aides. She was impressed with his “sincerity, warmth, intelligence and genuine concern for those about him — our children, for instance. He seemed very young to bear such a burden of leadership.”

King’s sermon — to a packed audience — was titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” He analogized his America to the time of Rip Van Winkle — who also “slept through a revolution. The greatest liability of history is that people fail to see a revolution taking place in our world today.  We must support the social movement of the Negro.”

Westport artist Roe Halper presented King with 3 woodcarvings, representing the civil rights struggle. He hung them proudly in the front hallway of his Atlanta home.

Artist Roe Harper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Within a month Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron Rubenstein, traveled south to take place in a nonviolent march. He was arrested — along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

In jail, the rabbi said, “I came to know the greatness of Dr. King. I never heard a word of hate or bitterness from that man, only worship of faith, joy and determination.”

King touched Westport again less than 4 years later. On April 5, 1968 — the day after the civil rights leader’s assassination in Memphis — 600 Staples students gathered for a lunchtime vigil in the courtyard. Nearby, the flag flew at half-staff.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

Vice principal Fermino Spencer addressed the crowd. Movingly, he spoke about  his own experience as an African American. Hearing the words “my people” made a deep impression on the almost all-white audience. For many, it was the 1st time they had heard a black perspective on white America.

No one knew what lay ahead for their country. But student Jim Sadler spoke for many when he said: “I’m really frightened. Something is going to happen.”

Something did — and it was good. A few hundred students soon met in the cafeteria. Urged by a minister and several anti-poverty workers to help bridge the chasm between Westport and nearby cities, Staples teachers and students vowed to create a camp.

Within 2 months, it was a reality. That summer 120 elementary and junior high youngsters from Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport participated in the Intercommunity Camp. Led by over 100 Staples students and many teachers, they enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, dance, sports, field trips, overnight camping, creative writing, filmmaking, photography, art and reading.

It wasn’t easy — some in Westport opposed bringing underprivileged children to their town — but for over a decade the Intercommunity Camp flourished.

Eventually, enthusiasm for and interest in the camp waned. Fewer Staples students and staff members wanted to devote their summer to such a project.  The number of Westporters willing to donate their pools dwindled. Today the Intercommunity Camp is a long-forgotten memory.

Sort of like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Even on his birthday.

MLK speech

MLK

This story ran last year. Several readers asked me to republish it today. Here it is.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Westporters will celebrate with a day off from school or work.  Some will sleep in; others will ski, or take part in a Staples basketball clinic for younger players. Few will give any thought to Martin Luther King.

Twice, though, his life intersected this town in important ways.

Martin Luther KingThe first was Friday night, May 22, 1964. According to Woody Klein’s book Westport, Connecticut, King had been invited to speak at Temple Israel by synagogue member Jerry Kaiser.

King arrived in the afternoon. Kaiser and his wife Roslyn sat on their porch that afternoon, and talked with King and 2 of his aides. She was impressed with his “sincerity, warmth, intelligence and genuine concern for those about him — our children, for instance. He seemed very young to bear such a burden of leadership.”

King’s sermon — to a packed audience — was titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” He analogized his America to the time of Rip Van Winkle — who also “slept through a revolution. The greatest liability of history is that people fail to see a revolution taking place in our world today.  We must support the social movement of the Negro.”

Westport artist Roe Halper presented King with 3 woodcarvings, representing the civil rights struggle. He hung them proudly in the front hallway of his Atlanta home.

Artist Roe Harper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Artist Roe Harper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Within a month Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron Rubenstein, traveled south to take place in a nonviolent march. He was arrested — along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

In jail, the rabbi said, “I came to know the greatness of Dr. King. I never heard a word of hate or bitterness from that man, only worship of faith, joy and determination.”

King touched Westport again less than 4 years later. On April 5, 1968 — the day after the civil rights leader’s assassination in Memphis — 600 Staples students gathered for a lunchtime vigil in the courtyard. Nearby, the flag flew at half-staff.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

Vice principal Fermino Spencer addressed the crowd. Movingly, he spoke about  his own experience as an African American. Hearing the words “my people” made a deep impression on the almost all-white audience. For many, it was the 1st time they had heard a black perspective on white America.

No one knew what lay ahead for their country. But student Jim Sadler spoke for many when he said: “I’m really frightened. Something is going to happen.”

Something did — and it was good. A few hundred students soon met in the cafeteria. Urged by a minister and several anti-poverty workers to help bridge the chasm between Westport and nearby cities, Staples teachers and students vowed to create a camp.

Within 2 months, it was a reality. That summer 120 elementary and junior high youngsters from Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport participated in the Intercommunity Camp. Led by over 100 Staples students and many teachers, they enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, dance, sports, field trips, overnight camping, creative writing, filmmaking, photography, art and reading.

It wasn’t easy — some in Westport opposed bringing underprivileged children to their town — but for over a decade the Intercommunity Camp flourished.

Eventually, enthusiasm for and interest in the camp waned. Fewer Staples students and staff members wanted to devote their summer to such a project.  The number of Westporters willing to donate their pools dwindled. Today the Intercommunity Camp is a long-forgotten memory.

Sort of like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Even on his birthday.

MLK speech

MLK

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Westporters will celebrate with a day off from school or work.  Some will sleep in; others will ski, or take part in a Staples basketball clinic for younger players. Few will give any thought to Martin Luther King.

Twice, though, his life intersected this town in important ways.

Martin Luther KingThe first was Friday night, May 22, 1964. According to Woody Klein’s book Westport, Connecticut, King had been invited to speak at Temple Israel by synagogue member Jerry Kaiser.

King arrived in the afternoon. Kaiser and his wife Roslyn sat on their porch that afternoon, and talked with King and 2 of his aides. She was impressed with his “sincerity, warmth, intelligence and genuine concern for those about him — our children, for instance. He seemed very young to bear such a burden of leadership.”

King’s sermon — to a packed audience — was titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” He analogized his America to the time of Rip Van Winkle — who also “slept through a revolution. The greatest liability of history is that people fail to see a revolution taking place in our world today.  We must support the social movement of the Negro.”

Westport artist Roe Halper presented King with 3 woodcarvings, representing the civil rights struggle. He hung them proudly in the front hallway of his Atlanta home.

Artist Roe Harper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Artist Roe Halper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Within a month Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron Rubenstein, traveled south to take place in a nonviolent march. He was arrested — along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

In jail, the rabbi said, “I came to know the greatness of Dr. King. I never heard a word of hate or bitterness from that man, only worship of faith, joy and determination.”

King touched Westport again less than 4 years later. On April 5, 1968 — the day after the civil rights leader’s assassination in Memphis — 600 Staples students gathered for a lunchtime vigil in the courtyard. Nearby, the flag flew at half-staff.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

Vice principal Fermino Spencer addressed the crowd. Movingly, he spoke about  his own experience as an African American. Hearing the words “my people” made a deep impression on the almost all-white audience. For many, it was the 1st time they had heard a black perspective on white America.

No one knew what lay ahead for their country. But student Jim Sadler spoke for many when he said: “I’m really frightened. Something is going to happen.”

Something did — and it was good. A few hundred students soon met in the cafeteria. Urged by a minister and several anti-poverty workers to help bridge the chasm between Westport and nearby cities, Staples teachers and students vowed to create a camp.

Within 2 months, it was a reality. That summer 120 elementary and junior high youngsters from Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport participated in the Intercommunity Camp. Led by over 100 Staples students and many teachers, they enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, dance, sports, field trips, overnight camping, creative writing, filmmaking, photography, art and reading.

It wasn’t easy — some in Westport opposed bringing underprivileged children to their town — but for over a decade the Intercommunity Camp flourished.

Eventually, enthusiasm for and interest in the camp waned. Fewer Staples students and staff members wanted to devote their summer to such a project.  The number of Westporters willing to donate their pools dwindled. Today the Intercommunity Camp is a long-forgotten memory.

Sort of like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Even on his birthday.

MLK speech

Prodigal Sign Returns

Chuck and Roe Halper moved to Little Fox Lane in 1970. It’s a charming cul-de-sac off Redcoat Road, and as an accomplished artist Roe soon carved a sign.

It was cute:  the name of the lane in the center of a little fox.

The sign hung at the street entrance for maybe 3 months. Then it vanished.

One of the teenagers who snagged it hid it in his house — not on Little Fox — for many years.

Eventually the home was sold. Before they moved, the owners found it. Surprise!

Not knowing their kid had taken stolen it, they gave the sign to the only people they knew on Little Fox Lane. They were not the Halpers.

The sign sat in the basement for many more years. Eventually, cleaning out the cellar, adult siblings found it. They saw Roe’s name on it, and were embarrassed. They discussed giving it back. But, they reasoned, she would be upset after more than 40 years to hear the story.

A daughter-in-law said, whoa! Someone’s name is on it. Give it back!

So, last month — the day before Memorial Day — the Little Fox Lane sign was returned to Roe Halper.

Roe Halper in her studio, with her sign.

She went right back to work. She cleaned it, layered the background for contrast, and prepared 3 coats of marine varnish.

It looks great. (As it should — it hasn’t been outside since the Nixon administration.)

Little Fox Lane Association president Yves Cantin loves it. Plans are underway to mount it once again on the corner.

This time, very securely.