As a Staples High School junior, Dylan Mace went the extra mile. Or three.
Appalled that Westport’s VFW Post 399 lacked a handicap-accesssible bathroom, he singlehandedly raised almost $8,000. An architect, electrician, contractor and tile guy jumped in. Businesses offered discounts on supplies.
They were joined by Scott Rochlin, who set up a foundation to help veterans and their families after his son Charley — a decorated Marine — died in an automobile accident.
But Dylan wanted his project to be extra-special for veterans. He created special tiles, with the emblems of the 5 US military branches.
Dylan loved working — and hanging — with the VFW crew so much, that he vowed to do even more. The new bathroom looked great, he thought — so why not spruce up the rest of the building too?
He enlisted 12 fellow National Honor Society members to help paint. They other day they grabbed brushes and rollers, and got to work.
Staples High School National Honor Society members (from left) Sophie McCabe, Molly Fording, Kate Miller and Dylan Mace paint the VFW interior.
The Riverside Avenue building now looks great. Dylan wants to get the word out, to make sure everyone in Westport knows about it. You don’t have to be a veteran to go!
Community service is not all that Dylan does. He made 2nd team All-State and All-FCIAC for the Staples ice hockey team — and was the Wreckers’ MVP.
“06880” — and the VFW, and the rest of Westport — salute Dylan, and Staples’ National Honor Society.
A year ago, “06880”‘s Veterans Day story highlighted Dylan Mace.
The Staples High School junior was raising funds for Westport’s VFW Post 399. The Riverside Avenue building lacked a handicap-accessible bathroom. Dylan was appalled — “brave men and women who serve could lose limbs!” he said — and vowed to help.
Dylan — whose grandfather was a Korean War vet — went to work. Singlehandedly, he raised almost $8,000.
And then he got more help from the community.
Early in his fundraising, architect Lou Lefort and electrician Barry O’Reilly offered their services.
General contractor Scott Rochlin contacted Dylan too. Scott’s son Charley was a decorated Marine.
After Charley died in an automobile accident, Scott’s family set up a foundation to help veterans and their families. Scott volunteered to oversee the project — and said his organization would cover any extra costs.
Scott also brought in Dino Meloni, from Nicolia Marble and Tile. He installed the bathroom tile, gratis.
Bender donated a handicap sink and toilet. Lowe’s and The Tile Shop in Norwalk gave Dylan contractor discounts on supplies. Westport Glass chipped in too.
One of the specially created VFW tiles.
But Dylan wanted this to be extra-special for veterans. He found Custom-Tiles.com online, and asked if they could make special tiles with the emblems of the 5 US military branches. The owner worked with Dylan, creating amazing ones for the walls.
Dylan was so moved by the project, and the people he met through it, that when it came time to plan his service project for the National Honor Society, he asked to paint the inside of the VFW — and spruce up the outside.
Congratulations, Dylan, for all you do.
I’m sorry I couldn’t post this a few days ago, on Veterans Day.
But thanks to you — and all who helped — every great day at the VFW will now be even better.
Terry Brannigan is a native Westporter. He still lives here — and, with his wife, is raising a young family. Last week he went to the library to see “The End of an Era” — Chuck Tannen’s film about our town in the before-Terry-was-born 1950s.Here’s his report:
When I got to the library I should have known I’d be in trouble. Drivers circling the lot for parking spaces were as aggressive as the shoppers at Wal-Mart on Black Friday.
When I got inside, the place was packed. The movie was already under way, and a semi-angry mob waited in the lobby for a 2nd showing. I distracted the bouncer at the door long enough to peer inside.
Since I already had a “hall pass” from my wife, I debated staying for the next show, going home or finding a Bloody Mary somewhere. I settled on #3.
I pulled into the parking lot of the River House Tavern and met the same aggressive drivers looking for parking spaces, only this time we all shared the conviction of someone looking for Bloody Marys. I found a spot and headed inside alone (a therapist would call this a cry for help).
As I approached the door I was flooded with my own Westport memories. Owner Scott Rochlin and I went to Staples together, and I count him as a friend.
This is all that remains of Allen's Clam House. (Photo courtesy of Westportct.gov)
We both did our internships at Allen’s Clam House behind the broiler working for Wayne Uccellini, and now Scott owns his own place. Back then I worked as hard as I ever have in my life, and I can’t tell you how proud I was to sport a chef’s jacket next to Wayne.
Back then everyone seemed to work. Allen’s was as good a place to be on a Friday night as anywhere else, because Wayne employed half the football and soccer teams. Being on the broiler (as opposed to the dish washing line) did more for my social status than being elected Homecoming King would have.
Walking up to Scott’s restaurant on a night when I had planned to revisit Westport memories at the library triggered all kinds of my own memories — 99% of them great. My folks’ 1st house in Westport 50-plus years ago was on Old Mill Beach. I take my 3 boys to the bridges at Old Mill all the time. It is as familiar to me as it when I was 10. However, now as a parent I cringe at the thought of them jumping off the bridge into the current and being swept under the “gates,” only to pop out the other side — as we did for fun and honor back then.
Generations of Westporters have jumped off the Sherwood Mill Pond bridge.
If I squint, the beautiful Newport shingle cottages behind the “No Trespassing” sign on the island look like the bungalows of my youth. I wonder if I would be grandfathered visitation rights along the sidewalk if I told them my father donated to the state the spit of land out there he was willed by “Loretta” of Loretta Court fame, or if I would be turned away as a trespasser?
Just as importantly, Steve Gargiulo caught a bluefish with his bare hands in the shallows of Old Mill. I was there to witness it.
I walked up to the River House feeling a bit weird because at 49, I’d never gone into a bar by myself. But I recognized someone standing outside, and got a big smile. Stepping inside, I felt a bit like Norm walking into Cheers. Sometimes I lament that I’m so provincial and live in the same town I grew up in, but guess what? That town is Westport, and there really is something to be said about growing old(er) in your own home. I live 2 1/2 miles away from my parents, and my boys see them every week.
At the River House we covered all the topics Wednesday night: friendships, funny stories, institutions (Allen’s, the Playhouse, my favorite — The Penguin — and more). We talked about all the famous and infamous local characters and personalities.
In the end, even though I did not see the documentary — it did what it intended. It made me think about growing up here.
I’m sure similar reminiscences took place all over town. No matter how old we were — or are now — Westport has that effect.
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