Tag Archives: Sally Silverstein

Roundup: WTC, RTM, Y …

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A crowd of 100 people gathered in the cold yesterday evening at Town Hall, for a candlelight vigil to support Ukraine. Mark Yurkiw reports:

“I was surprised to learn how many Ukrainians and non- Ukrainians showed up. and how concerned so many were for their friends and family in Ukraine.

“They told stories of intermittent conversations between scrambles to bomb shelters, and children sleeping on thin mats on concrete. An invisible yet potent bond wove through the crowd.

“It took me by surprise, and made me realize how cathartic it is for a crowd of strangers to feel almost instantly connected.”

A rally in Westport is set for this Saturday (March 5), at 11 a.m. on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown.

Ukraine rally at Weston Town Hall (Photo/Mark Yurkiw)

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February 26 marked the 29th anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing — the one in 1993.

There’s a new memorial on the site, built after the 2001 terrorist attack. For almost a decade, RTM member Andrew Colabella has gone there on that date, to pay respects and join the survivors who gather there.

His cousin was one of 6 people killed in the 1993 attack.

This year, Andrew met Daniel Geraghty there. In November, the former Staples High School English teacher published Cast Away Stones: An Eyewitness Account of 9/11 and Memoir of a Survivor, Soldier Citizen, a gripping account of his 20-year battle to overcome PTSD.

Andrew Colabella (left) and Daniel Geraghty, at the 9/11 Memorial.

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Speaking of the RTM: Sure, you hear about it all the time. (Like in the item just above this one.)

But admit it: Do your know what it does? Or even what the acronym stands for?

On March 23 (7 p.m., Westport Library in-person and Zoom), Westport’s League of Women Voters presents “Know Your Town: The RTM.”

Former moderator (what’s that?!) Velma Heller will discuss its history. Current member Matthew Mandell will explain what it can do — and what it can’t. Current moderator Jeff Wieser will offer his insights too.

Click here for more information, and registration.

Okay, okay: RTM stands for “Representative Town Meeting.” Impress your friends!

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The other day, “06880” published Carl Addison Swanson’s “Kvetch of the Week.” He noted that an 80+ North Avenue neighbor was afraid to get her mail, for fear of being hit by a speeding car.

Carl noted his frustration at trying to get blinking lights or other traffic control devices on the heavily traveled road, home to 4 of Westport’s 8 schools.

Fast (ho ho) forward a few days. There’s now a sign showing “Your Speed” at the base of the hill, near the Bedford Middle School entrance.

Congrats, Carl — and everyone else who lived in the area. And let’s hope there are more such solutions to come.

“Your Speed” sign on North Avenue. (Photo/Carl Addison Swanson)

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The new manager and vice president of People’s United Bank’s Westport office is … Matthew Cummings.

It’s a homecoming of sorts. He’s a 1986 graduate of Staples High School, where he captained the ski team and played football and baseball. He lifeguarded in the summers, then graduated from the University of Colorado.

Matt’s (very proud) mother is Betty Lou Cummings, former 2nd selectwoman, Apple Festival co-founder, and volunteer with countless other organizations and projects.

She’s also a former Michigan State University cheerleader. And Betty Lou never stops cheering for her son.

Matthew Cummings

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After 34 years leading the Westport Weston Family Y’s gymnastics program, Sally Silverstein has retired.

But she won’t be forgotten.

This Friday (6:30 p.m.), the Y, hosts a naming ceremony for the Gymnastics Center’s new Sally Silverstein Viewing Area. Many of the program’s 500 gymnasts will be there. Of course, Sally’s many friends — and all her former athletes, and their families — are invited.

Sally Silverstein

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Speaking of plants: Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows some nice basil, flowering in Molly Alger’s windowsill:

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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And finally …  it’s March 1. It’s the month that comes in like a — well, you know:

Unsung Hero #228

Sally Silverstein was raised in Norwalk. But she grew up — literally and figuratively — at the Westport YMCA.

She swam with the Water Rats, competed on the gymnastics team, and worked as a counselor and swim instructor at Camp Mahackeno.

Sally knew legendary director Matt Johnson well. A few years after college — when she’d taught phys. ed. at Norwalk High for a couple of years, and started raising her own children — he called.

Sally Silverstein’s last photo with Matt Johnson, at the downtown YMCA.

He wanted to grow the Y’s small gymnastics program. He invited her to see.

Class was held in the upper gymnasium of the then-downtown building. There was no equipment. She figured, why not?

Staples High School was getting rid of its gymnastics apparatus. She took a van, and picked up vaults, beams and bars.

The equipment had to be set up each day, then broken down after each session. But Sally was all in. Quickly, the program grew.

Sally Silverstein

After Johnson retired, new CEO Dotty Kyle offered Sally a full-time job as sports and recreation director. Soon, she took over the dance department too.

The gymnastics program moved to the 3rd floor of the old Y. The ceiling was 12 feet high. Sally’s gymnasts were good. She worried they’d leap off the high bar and hit it. The Y built skylights there, for extra room.

The long path to a new YMCA at the Mahackeno campus was controversial for many reasons — including elimination of the gymnastics center, for budget reasons.

Y officials wanted to end the program altogether. But parents and staff fought to keep it. Space was found in Norwalk. The program thrived.

Finally, a sparlking gymnastics center was built during Phase 2 at the “new” Y. At 11,000 square feet, it’s nearly double the Norwalk space — and triple the downtown YMCA.

The Westport Weston Family YMCA Phase 2 project added a gymnastics center (right).

Sally is a firm believer in the importance of the gymnastics program. Beyond coordination, it teaches importance lessons like discipline, organization and accountability. And, she says, those all carry over into enhanced academic performance.

She’s proud too of the family environment she’s created. Parents are eager to help, and children know that they have a warm, embracing home at the Westport Y Gymnastics Center.

More than 3 decades later, members of Sally Silverstein’s first YMCA gymnastics team still keep in touch. The other day, they met for lunch.

COVID has taken a toll on the program. Some youngsters have been in gymnastics for 2 years, yet only now compete against other teams. When parents came — finally — to the holiday exhibition, it was the first time for many they’d even seen the new Y facility.

Earlier this month — after 34 years directing the gymnastics program — Sally retired. On her last day, she sat everyone in a circle and asked them to share their favorite experience.

Because of the pandemic,  younger gymnasts had never traveled on Sally’s trips across the country, and to Europe. They had never marched in a Washington parade, or gone to Olympic trials. They listened in awe to the stories of her older gymnasts.

Sally Silverstein’s showtime exhibition team win gold at USA Group Gymnastics Nationals.

As she retires, Sally holds those memories close. She also thinks of her staff — another family she created over the years. Like Sally, many grew up in the Y program. “They made everything we did possible, she says gratefully.

“I wouldn’t have stayed if the community hadn’t been so wonderful,” she says. “Parents — and others — always wanted to help.”

Among those others: Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. They always covered expenses for youngsters who could not afford a trip, or new gymnastics outfits.

(Newman knew Sally well. When she took down equipment at the old Y, it was so the actor could play badminton. If there was a fundraising bake sale in the building, he always bought a brownie.)

For 34 years, Sally has directed, coached and taught 7 days a week. She’s too young and energetic not to keep working at something. She will take a bit of time off though, before figuring out what’s next. She may give back to a hospital, which has helped care for a sick family member for many years.

She looks forward to taking her grandchildren to Disney World, spending time with her 99-year-old mother, and her husband of 41 years, Tim — “my best friend.”

Sally and Tim Silverstein with their grandchildren Jonathan and Nicole.

“I still love the Y,” Sally says.

After 34 years of service — and many more, as a growing-up kid — Sally Silverstein deserves the thanks of a grateful Westport Weston Family YMCA.

And of the greater community too. Which is why she is this week’s “06880” Unsung Hero of the Week. Congratulations, Sally!

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com)

Sally and Tim Silverstein with their son Michael and daughter Lindsay.