Tag Archives: Ruth Steinkraus Cohen

Roundup: Salad Winners, Staples Fencers, SpongeBob …


Over 1,000 salad-eaters cast votes in the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s month-long Great Westport Salad Contest.

And the winners are …

  • Best Caesar Salad: Romanacci
  • Best Chef Salad: Joe’s Pizza
  • Best Cobb Salad: La Plage
  • Best Deli Salad: A&S Fine Foods
  • Best Greens Salad: The Porch
  • Best Make Your Own Salad: Parker Mansion
  • Best Mediterranean Salad: Manna Toast  
  • Best Unique Salad: Capuli.
  •  Honorable Mention (coming within 5 votes of the winner): Calise’s

Winners received plaques to hang. Each winner will also offer a free  salad to eight lucky voters who won the lottery in the category they voted for.


Ruth Steinkraus Cohen was a remarkable woman.

A Juilliard-trained pianist and teacher; a singer, editor, radio host and activist; secretary to Eleanor Roosevelt at the World Federation of the United Nations Association; founder of the International Hospitality Committee of Fairfield County, and Westport’s jUNe Day celebration; publisher of the worldwide “United Nations Calendar for Peace”; music chair of the Friends of Music for almost 40 years; co-founder and/or noard member of the New York Chamber Soloists, Performers of Connecticut, the Opera Company of Boston, Opera New England, Young Audiences of Connecticut, and Westport’s Art Advisory Committee — it’s no wonder our town’s downtown bridge is named for her.

The Steinkraus name is in the news again — at least, the real estate news.

A trust owned by the Steinkraus family (including Ruth’s late brother Bill, a 1968 Olympic equestrian gold medalist) has listed their amazing “Grand Great Island” property — off the Darien coast — for sale.

Located on a 60-acre island, it includes a stable, riding rings and grand house (called a “villa”), plus a whiskey and wine cellar with contents dating back to Prohibition.

Called “the largest private island ever to be offered for sale on the East Coast,” it can be yours for just $100 million. Click here for details. (Hat tip: Wendy Crowther)

Great Island, now up for sale by the Steinkraus estate.


Congratulations to the Staples High School fencing team — the state champion fencing team, that is.

What? You didn’t know Staples had a fencing team?!

That’s okay. This is their first year. Eight fencers, coached by Jim Roberts, competed against 9 schools in the state tournament last month, at North Haven High. The Wreckers edged Fairfield 5-4 for the title.

Congratulations to junior Gleb Syomichev, sophomores Max Piterbarg and PJ Loranger. Fencing club co-founder Anna Pan, a senior, helped out.

(From left): Gleb Syomichev, PJ Loranger, Anna Pan and Max Piterbarg,


There’s lots of recycling in “The SpongeBob Musical.” When the curtain rises this weekend on Coleytown Company’s spring show, the middle schoolers will have incorporated it into their sets.

Working with art teacher Linda Kangro, students took Jordan Janota’s designs and built them all out of garbage and recycling donated by the community.

Kangro let the youngsters into the recycling and trash, and told them to use their imaginations. The result will be something to see. No word, though, on whether they’ll recycle the set to use in the next show.

(“The SpongeBob Musical” will be produced Friday, April 8 (7 p.m.); Saturday, April 9 (7 p.m.) and Sunday, April 10 (1 p.m.). Click here for tickets.

Eli Abrams (as Perch Perkins) with recycled “coral” on the proscenium.


Play ball!

This year marks the 40th season for the Boss Boys’ Sunday morning softball game. They play at the field behind Town Hall, with stretching and batting practice from 9 to 9:30, and a game afterward.

They’re looking for new players. The cost is $30 for the season; it covers bats, balls, scoring books and “maybe a holiday barbecue.”

Interested? Email bryan.alix@gmail for details.

When this photo was taken in 1992, the Boss Boys’ softball game had already been going for 10 years. It’s lasted 30 more since.


Former Westporter Jack Grogins — known for his quick wit and passion for tennis, jazz music and rare books — died last week. He was 91.

The Norwalk native and University of Connecticut graduate (undergraduate and law school) enlisted in the Navy in 1956. He went on to practice in the field of insurance defense at the Hartford Insurance Company in 1958.

Jack started his own law practice in 1961. He also served for many years as a part-time prosecutor for the Bridgeport Circuit Court.

As a young man, Jack taught tennis and competed in tournaments around Connecticut. He continued into his 60s, ranking among the top tennis players in the Connecticut Senior Olympics.

He realized his life-long dream with his appointment as a Superior Court judge in 1994. He remained in that position until 2001, when he became a judge trial Referee. Jack remained a highly respected jurist until his retirement in 2018.

Jack was predeceased by his wife Marilyn. He is survived by his daughter, Judge Auden Grogins (Ian), sister-in-law Arlene Glotzer, niece Helen Glotzer, and cousin Molly Passero and her 4 children.

Funeral services will be held tomorrow (Tuesday, April 5, 10 a.m., Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home, Fairfield). The family will receive visitors prior to the service, at 9 a.m. Shiva will be observed tomorrow from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the family residence.

Jack Grogins


We can never get enough osprey photos. Today’s “Westport … Naturally” image was taken yesterday. Carolyn Doan writes: “The Fresh Market osprey is bringing nesting material, while she sits in the sun. It’s all part of the mating phase.”

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)


And finally … on this date in 1964, the Beatles occupied the first 5 — five! — spots on Billboard’s Hot 100. They’re below, from #1 to #5.

But that’s not all. They Fab 4 had another 7 songs on the charts that week: “I Saw Her Standing There” (#31), “From Me to You” (#41), “Do You Want to Know a Secret” (#46), “All My Loving” (#58), “You Can’t Do That” (#65), “Roll Over Beethoven” #(68) and “Thank You Girl” (#79).

Yeah, Beatlemania was a thing.

PS: I don’t care how old — or young — you are. These songs put a smile on everyone’s face.

50 Years Of Ruth Steinkraus Cohen

The Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown honors a woman whose life was filled with music and service. She was dedicated to hospitality and the United Nations. Through jUNe Day and other events, she brought tens of thousands of international visitors to Westport.

Every jUNe Day, flags of many United Nations members fly on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Post Road bridge. Cohen established the annual event in 1965.

The basement of Steinkraus Cohen’s Darbrook Road home was filled with paperwork. She never discarded a program, agenda, or the minutes of one of her Wednesday meetings.

Over 60 boxes of Steinkraus Cohen’s papers have been stored at Adams Academy on Morningside Drive North. This month, the United Nations Association of Southwestern Connecticut is tackling them — helped by 4 talented and hard-working Staples High School interns.

Kylie Race, Claire Redmer, Savannah Schaefer and Samuel Zuckerman started the cleanout last week. They wanted this internship to learn about international relations. Now they’re getting a crash course in how Steinkraus Cohen thought globally — and acted locally — for 50 years.

Claire Redmer, Kylie Race and Savannah Schaefer encounter an actual film reel.

The interns sorted through box after box. They found press clippings of Steinkraus Cohen with Eleanor Roosevelt, and letters from George Bush, Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan.

Savannah Schaefer with 50 years of correspondence.

There were hundreds of photographs of 50 years’ worth of jUNe Days, with international visitors enjoying Westport.

With the interns’ help, the UNA SW CT hopes to create a Ruth Steinkraus Collection of papers.

Sam and Savannah are learning about archiving, and will lead the process with Joan Hass. Kylie and Claire are designing and building a new website, with Michaela MacColl. All the interns are creating original content, reflecting their own interests under Marge Neuiwenhuis’ educator’s eye.

The tagline for “06880” is “Where Westport meets the world.” Sounds like a good one for Staples’ internship program too.

Sam Zuckerman knew this was the national flag of Comoros.

Friday Flashback #198

Had it not been for COVID-19, tomorrow would have been jUNe Day here. Dozens of United Nations guests would have enjoyed a day in Westport — including an impressive display of flags from their native countries on the Post Road bridge.

jUNe Day 2015, on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

That’s the same bridge where, earlier this month, hundreds of people massed in support of Black Lives Matter, and to protest the death of George Floyd. 

The 2 events are related. The Post Road bridge — with both its flags, and its role as the cherished spot for political demonstrations — is named in honor of Ruth Steinkraus Cohen. A remarkable Westporter (and former secretary to Eleanor Roosevelt), she dedicated her life to social justice, world peace — and music. 

The scene on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, several years ago.

With jUNe Day canceled, and political protests fresh in our minds, it’s time to learn a bit more about Ruth Steinkraus Cohen. Staples High School Class of 1981 graduate Laurie Cameron writes:

Back in the day I met a true Westport treasure: my piano teacher, Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen. She would have been 100 on June 8. She was also the grandmother of my friend and classmate Adam Weisman.

Ruth was a generous, warm person who made music and kindness. Learning piano from her was a great education; she made sure I knew Hadyn, Chopin, Brahms and Vivaldi in addition to Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. I learned about Vienna and the Music festival from her.

My brother Byl was the musician in our family. I had no gift for music, but I returned each week for almost 9 years. I was so fascinated by her travels, her art, her bookcase, her antique harpsichord, and hearing about the many jobs she had when she was not being a piano teacher.

My favorite time of the week was the hour that I waited for my brother Andy to finish his piano lesson, when I could stare at the paintings, books and sculptures in Mrs. Cohen’s living room.

Her colorful holiday parties were also our piano recitals. After each student performed, Ruth and her husband Herbert played a duet: she on the piano, he on violin. Their music was rich and melodious, but the joy on their faces was the true lesson for us.

Sometimes when Ruth could see me growing restless at the piano, she took me for a walk in her garden. It had a brick path that looked like the yellow brick road through the woods behind her house. It was so thrilling to me that I sometimes snuck out while waiting for Andy’s lesson to end, and ran down its wooden steps.

Ruth Steinkraus Cohen (center) joins famed singer Marian Anderson (2nd from left) at a concert by young Suzanne Sherman, at Bedford Elementary School.

During her time running the UN Hospitality Committee, Ruth placed over 50,000 people into American homes for cultural exchanges. My family learned about habits and traditions of people from other cultures from those we hosted, thanks to Ruth. She was a great humanitarian with a desire to bring the world together, and bridge gaps between cultures.

When I came back to Westport after being away for over 15 years, visiting Ruth was an important stop for me. Even in her late 70s she was warm, joyful and busy making the world better for those who needed it.

I feel privileged to have known Ruth and to have learned so much from her. Her knowledge, openness, love of music, energy and patience were great sources of inspiration to me. She would be so proud to know that a bridge bearing her name is used to support people fighting for peace, civil rights and equal justice.

(To learn more about Ruth Steinkraus Cohen, click here for her New York Times obituary.)

“Honk Against Hate” Fills Downtown Bridge

For decades, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge — the Post Road span named for Westport’s tireless UN and peace advocate — has been the site of social justice protests.

This afternoon, several dozen folks of all ages thronged the bridge. In the aftermath of yesterday’s horrific anti-black, anti-Semitic, Nazi-infused demonstration and murder in Charlottesville, the group had a united message: Hate has no place here.

“Honk against hate!” they chanted.

Many drivers obliged.

As they did, the protesters cheered and smiled.

Then they chanted even louder.

jUNe Day: When Westport Welcomes The World

It’s one of the longest-running, most enjoyable, most visible — and yet least remarked upon and little noticed — events in Westport.

For more than half a century in early summer, our town has welcomed guests from the United Nations. It’s called jUNe Day — clever, no? — and the 2017 version takes place this coming Saturday (June 24).

Over 300 folks — ambassador types, embassy and headquarters workers, and their families — arrive at the train station. (Whether they come from a 1st or 3rd world nation, they’ve probably never seen anything quite like Metro-North.)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. Cohen originated jUNe Day in 1965. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

Having overcome that initial hurdle, they’re shuttled to Saugatuck Elementary School for a 10:30 a.m. welcome.

The UN is known for speechifying, but these are short. Then comes the real fun: a tennis tournament and golf at Longshore, tours of Earthplace, a visit to Wakeman Town Farm — you get the idea.

There’s a soccer match between a UN team and the Westport Knights men’s side. It’s not the World Cup, but some years tensions are nearly as high.

Many guests head straight to Compo, or the Longshore pool. They shop. They enjoy Westport.

Sometimes we forget what a day in “the country” can do. Many UN folks and their families don’t get many chances to leave New York.  jUNe Day is an opportunity for them to do just that — and for us to show off our town.

We may not be a “typical” American town. But this is our chance to offer typical American hospitality.

Volunteers are needed to serve breakfast and lunch, help out at Longshore, and clean up. “Tour guides” on buses are also needed. If interested, call 203-526-3275, or email andreasusa@yahoo.com.

Or just give a big hello on Saturday to anyone wearing jUNe Day hats, and an orange bracelet.

jUNe Day Busts Out

For the 51st summer, Westport welcomed United Nations diplomats, staff members and their families. Our jUNe Day guests enjoyed soccer, swimming, tennis, and visits to spots like Earthplace and downtown.

Every year on jUNe Day, flags of visitors’ nations replace the American flags on the Post Road’s Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

So who was Ruth Steinkraus Cohen?

The founder and — for many years — guiding spirit behind the annual event.

There could be no better tribute — and no finer day for our guests.

(PhotoCharlie Colasurdo)

(PhotoCharlie Colasurdo)

jUNe Day Busted Out All Over

The weather was cloudy and chilly. A number of potential guests were home celebrating Ramadan.

But Westport’s 50th annual jUNe Day drew nearly 200 United Nations workers and their families to Westport today.

Assistant Secretary-General Carole Wainaina of Kenya and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe traded welcomes at Saugatuck Elementary School. But this was nothing like a General Assembly meeting.

A  little music and a few munchies later, everyone was off: to downtown, Longshore, Compo, Earthplace, Wakeman Town Farm and all points in between.

No translation was needed — beyond the word “fun.”

Flags from around the world replace the Stars and Stripes on jUNe Day. Too bad there was no breeze to flutter them. (Photo/Jim Chillington)

Flags from around the world replace the Stars and Stripes on jUNe Day. Too bad there was no breeze to flutter them. (Photo/Jim Chillington)

No matter where you're from, if you're a little kid it's all about the food. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

No matter where you’re from, if you’re a little kid it’s all about the food. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

Visitors from Peru, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines and enljoyed a tour of Wakeman Town Farm, including an expanded chicken coop, productive beehive, and edible marigolds that protect the borders of the gardens from insects.

Visitors from Peru, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines and more enjoyed a tour of Wakeman Town Farm — including an expanded chicken coop, productive beehive, and edible marigolds that protect the gardens from insects. (Photo/Elizabeth Beller)

A pair of Olympians got into the spirit. William Steinkraus Cohen -- brother of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen --

A pair of Olympians got into the spirit. Bill Steinkraus — brother of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen — was an equestrian in 6 Olympics. He won 1 individual gold medal, and 2 silvers and a bronze as a team member. Ann Marie Flynn of Westport was a high jumper in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.  (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

For 50 years, Westport soccer teams have taken on their UN counterparts. This trophy is a recent addition to the rivalry. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

For 50 years, Westport soccer teams have taken on their UN counterparts. This trophy is a recent addition to the rivalry. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

Having A Tea Party

I despise the Tea Party movement.  I think it is negative, simplistic, and dangerous for our country.

But this is an all-purpose blog.  So I’ll pass along this information, and let my “06880” readers decide if they want to go:

Westport Tea is sponsoring a “Rally for America” today (11 a.m.-noon) in downtown Westport.

It’s billed as a “pre-election day gathering for all citizen-voters who believe in responsible government and true representation and accountability by those elected.  The rally will bring attention to the importance of voting by citizens concerned with restoring fiscal and political balance to the U.S. Congress and the CT General Assembly.”

The site of the rally is the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge.  For nearly 50 years, Ruth Steinkraus Cohen was a tireless advocate for the United Nations, and a volunteer for world peace.

The Tea Party movement verges close to nativism.  The irony of rallying on a bridge named for a woman who believed in globalism is spectacular.

Is this a great country or what?

The Tea Party -- and all Westporters -- enjoy watching American flags fly on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge. (Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

jUNe Day Is Busting Out All Over

For a 45-year tradition, jUNe Day still manages to fly under the radar.

Each year on the last Saturday in jUNe June, up t0 350 United Nations people travel to Westport.  Officially, the event promotes “world peace and international understanding…reinforced through friendship, both for the visitors and their hosts.”

In reality it’s a chance for UN staffers, spouses and kids to escape New York City on a (usually sultry) Saturday, and enjoy a few hours of swimming, tennis, golf, soccer, shopping and whatnot.

This Saturday’s date has special significance — it’s the 60th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter — but that’s really immaterial.  jUNe Day is not about an institution; it’s about the people who work there, and a beachside town that happens to be on a train line an hour away.

For over 4 decades, a small cadre of volunteers has made jUNe Day an important date on the UN calendar.  They make sure flags fly proudly on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge (the name honors a woman who, for years, spearheaded jUNe Day).  They meet guests at the mercifully quick welcoming breakfast; provide hospitality at every venue, and do all the behind-the-scenes chores that make something like this run smoothly.

There are not a lot of them — most Westporters have as much connection with jUNe Day as they do with the UN generally, which is not much — but, quietly and effectively, they have cemented a tie between our town and the global organization that endures.

It’s an honor to welcome UN guests here.  Every Westporter should delight in the chance to show visitors from Mexico, Malta, Mali — and every other corner of earth — what life in a typical American small town is like.

What?  We’re not really typical?

Sssssshhhhh — they don’t need to know.

(To volunteer on jUNe Day, call Barbara Jay:  203-226-1710.  For more information, contact Michaela MacColl at 203-227-9461, or Bill Hass at 203-454-7685.)