Candidates for State Senate and House seats squared off yesterday, at the Westport Library. The debate was sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. Chamber director Matthew Mandell moderated.
Among the main topics: reproductive rights and affordable housing.
Candidates at yesterday’s Westport Library event. (Photo/Dave Matlow)
Fall is in full force. But the Westport Farmers’ Market plows on in its summer location — the Imperial Avenue parking lot — every Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
They’ll be there another month, through November 10.
In addition to vendors with seasonal vegetables and fruits, meat, milk, cheese, seafood, baked goods, prepared foods (plus knife, scissors and tool sharpening), the Farmers’ Market hosts different musicians each week.
Tomorrow (October 20), hear Picnic on the 4th of July. Guitars, banjo, harmonica, washboard and vocals offer “new grass” music – songs with a bluegrass twist. The band includes Westporters Louis Fuertes and Pat Blaufuss.
Picnic on the 4th of July band members (from left): Martin Daniels, Jeff Carroll, Pat Blaufuss, Louis Fuertes. (Photo /Lynda Carroll)
And finally … Peter Tosh was born today in 1944. From 1963 to 1976 he, Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer were the heart of the reggae band the Wailers. He then became a successful solo artist. He was killed in 1987 during a home invasion, at age 42.
Last week’s Photo Challenge drew the fewest number of guesses ever.
That’s right — just one reader offered a stab at where the etching of a tree, with clasped hands underneath, hung. (Click here to see.)
Susan Iseman was the lone one. Fortunately, she was right. It’s at the Senior Center, on Imperial Avenue.
I know that many Senior Center-goers read “06880.” All I can guess is that in last Sunday’s beautiful weather, they were all out playing pickleball, taking walks, going to Mark Naftalin’s blues concert at the Library, or doing a zillion other things besides sitting around trying to figure out the Photo Challenge.
Perhaps this week’s will engage more readers. So if you know where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.
(Here’s another challenge: Please support “06880.” Click here to help.)
Then his son donated a flagpole in his memory to the Senior Center.
A plaque at the base describes the longtime member as a “boatsman, machinist, story teller and Gentleman with a never-ending smile.”
It’s a wonderful plaque. However, no one ever sees it.
The only “06880” reader to correctly identify last week’s Photo Challenge was Susan Pfister. And she should know: She’s the director of the Senior Center. (Click here for the image; scroll down for the several wrong guesses.)
For this week’s challenge, you have to look up — not down. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.
NOTE: It’s not obscure. You just have to know where to look.
(“06880” relies entirely on reader donations. Please click here to help.)
Westport teardowns happen so often, they’re not news.
This one might be.
A 5,400-square foot, 5-bedroom, 4 1/2-bathroom 1930 Tudor at 36 Green Acre Lane — well known by visitors to nearby Haskins Preserve — will be demolished soon. A 180-day waiting period set by the Historic District Commission has expired.
The sign on Jersey Mike’s says “Permanently Closed.” A couple of screen shots on social media show the Westport location as “Temporarily Closed for Renovation.” The app and website list it along with all the others as open.
Meanwhile, the phone rings there, but no one answers.
It’s late March. April 15 — Tax Day — is closer than you think.
Help is closer than you think too — at least, for preparing your forms.
No-cost, full-service tax preparation assistance is available, with special attention to seniors and low- to moderate-income households.
The program — offered by Westport’s Department of Human Services, through VITA/IRS volunteers — includes both personal counseling by appointment at Town Hall and the Senior Center, and virtually through a secure website.
Counseling at Town Hall is available Mondays (1 to 6 p.m.) and the Senior Center (Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.). Appointments are required; call 860-590-8910.
The free Tax Assistance Program is available to all individual filers regardless of income or age. Last year, more than 5,000 returns were prepared and filed – almost all electronically – by the counselor group that services Westport. Federal refunds totaling $4,500,000 were received by clients..
Bob Knoebel — longtime Westport YMCA aquatics director and Water Rats coach — now lives in Idaho. The other day, he traveled east and visited with his own Staples High School swim coach from 51 years ago, Bruce Gardiner.
Bruce is retired, after a long career as director of admissions at Lehigh University. Bob posted a photo on Facebook, adding: “Thanking you properly for being a fantastic coach, and apologizing for the awkward, tongue-tied thank you I delivered at the banquet as team captain in 1971.”
Bob Knoebel (left) and Bruce Gardiner, at Lehigh University.
Staples just wrapped up a very successful World Language Week.
Each day began with music related to the Language of the Day — Spanish, French, German, Italian, Latin and Mandarin. Morning announcements (including the Pledge of Allegiance) were made by students, in the language of the day.
Language clubs raised awareness — and funds for less fortunate youngsters in other countries.
The Italian Club, for example, collected $400 for at-risk youths in Napoli. The club also offered Italian pins, bracelets, lanyards and Italian goodie bags. Grazie! (Hat tip: Bruno Guiduli)
Italian Club members outside the Staples cafeteria, with goodies (from left): Luca Caniato, Bruno Guiduli, David Sedrak, Amanda Rowan, Maisy Weber, Caroline Motyl.
In September, the Westport Unitarian Church high school youth group embarked on an intensive environmental initiative. The goal was to become more mindful of how everyday decisions profoundly affect the Earth.
That effort culminates next month in a trip to Alaska, to see the effects of climate change close up. Members hope to return both nourished by nature, and awakened to the realization that we live on an amazing planet that we often take for granted.
To help fund their trip, the youth group presents an “Afternoon of Music and Laughter.” It’s this Sunday (March 27, 2 p.m., both in-person at the Unitarian Church and via Zoom). The program includes vocal music, classical piano and guitar, comedy routines and more.
Tickets are $25 each. They’re available at the door, and online (click here).
Thomas Howard, a well-respected economist, lifelong adventurer and Westport resident, died last week while mountaineering in the Adirondacks. He was 63.
His family says, “Many will remember him for his deep morality, thoughtfulness, loving nature, intellectual capacity, generosity, and playful sense of humor.”
He was born in 1958 in Richmond, Virginia. At both the Highgate School in London and Hopkins School in New Haven he was an avid track and cross country runner, at one point setting the 10K record in Britain for his age group.
At Dartmouth College he studied math under John Kemeny. and became his teaching assistant. He completed an honors thesis exploring the equations and logic required to teach computers to talk. He earned a doctorate in economics from Yale University, where he expanded on an interest in econometrics and completed a dissertation on employment uncertainty under advisor Robert Shiller.
During his 40-plus year career Tom worked as a computer programmer for the Pentagon, a macroeconomist for Fuji Bank, and a consultant for Arthur D. Little and PIRA Energy. He was skilled in forecasting, econometrics, data analysis, and formulating options trading strategies. Other employers included Louis Dreyfus, Statoil and, most recently, the Department of Defense.
Tom was an accomplished mountaineer and hiker. He spent over 40 years climbing some of the most challenging mountains on the globe: ascending Mt. McKinley, Mt. Huascaran in Peru and Xixabangma Peak in the Himalayas, to name a few. He hiked the 273-mile Long Trail in Vermont and the entirety of the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia. In October 2021 he crossed the entire White Mountain Presidential Range in one day. Tom aspired to climb the second-highest mountain on all 7 continents. Hw finished the first part of this journey when he scaled Mt. Kenya in the fall of 2021.
Tom is survived by his wife, Zhu Zhang Howard (Julie), and daughters Gwendolyn and Madison Howard. He met Julie while working in New York; they married in 1993, and moved to Westport in 1997. He is also survived by his siblings Margaret Paar of Niantic; James Elbert of Wallingford; Amy Howard Chase of New Rochelle, New York; Mary Howard of Branford; Martha Howard of Guilford, and Emily Howard of Washington, DC, plus many nieces and nephews.
Visitation hours at the Courtyard Marriott, 474 Main Street, Norwalk will be tomorrow (Friday, March 25, 5-8 p.m.). A Funeral Mass will be held Saturday, (March 26, 11 a.m., St. Luke Church), and can be viewed via livestream. A reception will follow to celebrate his life. Masks are recommended.
From the time she visited her grandmother in a nursing home, Sue Pfister felt drawn to older people. She earned a social work degree, and in 1986 interned at Westport’s Senior Center.
She’s been there ever since.
The other day, Sue — now its beloved director — traveled the short distance from the Senior Center to the Westport Library’s Verso Studios. We chatted about her career path, the Center’s journey through many stops to its current beautiful home, the Center today and tomorrow, demographic trends in town, and much more.
As always, I learned a lot from Sue. You will too. Just click here and scroll down, for the latest “06880” podcast.
A record-tying 13 Staples High School student-athletes signed letters of intent yesterday, to play sports at NCAA Division I schools.
Principal Stafford Thomas, athletic director Marty Lisevick praised the 12th graders. Each was introduced by his or her coach; each also thanked the many people who helped them on their journeys.
Congratulations to soccer player Gaby Gonzalez (Cornell University); field hockey player Jess Leon (Bucknell University); baseball player JW Fitzgerald (Sacred Heart University); lacrosse players Aiden Best (Lafayette College), Gabe Chinitz (Bryant University), McKenzie Didio and Mia Didio (both University of Delaware), Henry Dodge (University of Vermont), Charlie Howard (Boston Univesity); softball player Gabby Lantier (University of Rhode Island), tennis players Tighe Brunetti (Villanova University) and Amelia Galin (Colgate University), and track athlete Tatum Havemann (Elon University).
Staples athletic director Marty Lisevick addresses one group of D-I signees ….
But the Westport Farmers’ Market‘s “Operation Warm Hug” helps vulnerable children and adults who need clothes to get through winter. This month, they hold a coat and accessories drive, to benefit Community Coat Corners of Bridgeport.
New and gently worn winter coats, scarves, hats, mittens and gloves will be accepted on Thursdays, February 10 and 17 (Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, 7 Sylvan Lane, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
As noted above: Yeah, it’s cold. But it’s not too early to begin thinking about summer.
Registration is already open for Camp MoCA. Weekly sessions run at the Museum of Contemporary Art Newtown Avenue campus from June 6 to August 22.
Each week includes art activities, hands-on agricultural and gardening lessons, outdoor fun and special events. Campers also engage with MoCA’s art exhibitions. The camp is led by certified art instructors.
The schedule includes a full day camp (ages 3 1/2 to 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.); half day camp (same ages, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), and an afternoon intensive art camp for ages 9 to 12 (1 to 3 p.m.). Click here for more information, or call 203-222-7070.
All month at the used book store on Jesup Road, she’s exhibiting pieces from her “Resination” series. That’s a play on words like “resonations,” “resolutions,” “renovations” and “realizations” In addition, each piece is created with resin.
Niki Ketchman and her work, at the Westport Book Shop.
The next Westport Country Playhouse Script in Hand play reading is the thriller “Murder by Misadventure,” by Edward Taylor. It’s set for a live audience on February 21 (7 p.m.) The performance will be available too for on-demand streaming at home, from February 24 to February 27.
Script in Hand play readings offer intimate storytelling, as professional actors bring the words to life without sets or costumes.
Tickets for the live event are $20. Patrons must be masked and show proof of vaccination. Tickets for on-demand streaming are $20 individual, $40 pair and $80 household. Each purchase entitles the buyer to an individual link. Click here for tickets, call(203-227-4177, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most Westport Astronomical Society events take place (duh) in the dark.
But this one starts when it’s light.
WAS’ “astrophotographers” host a gallery opening next Saturday (February 5, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.), at the GR Art Gallery (1086 Long Ridge Road, Stamford). It runs through March 26.
Prints are on sale. A portion of proceeds benefits the Astronomical Society.
Up next: “Dark Skies: The Silent Threat of Light Pollution.” The January 31 (7 p.m.) event, with presenters from Sustainable Fairfield Task Force, Connecticut Audubon and United Illuminating, is virtual. Click here for the link.
CT Humanities has awarded grants to non-profit museums, cultural organizations, humanities organizations and arts organizations. The funds will help them recover from the pandemic, connect K-12 teachers and students to strong humanities and arts content, and improve information technology and digital infrastructure.
CT Cultural Fund Operating Support Grants are part of $30 million allocated over the next 2 years by the state General Assembly.
Local recipients include:
Artists Collective of Westport – $5,600
Beechwood Arts & Innovation – $8,800
Earthplace – $168,700
Friends of Westport Public Art Collections – $5,900
Too many Americans today know Paul Newman only as the popcorn guy. And not enough know his wife, Joanne Woodward.
Yet, as Variety notes: “They were a Hollywood power couple who chose to live and raise their family in Connecticut, far removed from the center of moviemaking. They were box office draws who remained true to their art, using their celebrity to finance smaller dramas and passion projects. They epitomized glamour and romance for legions of fans, but remained more devoted to social justice and philanthropy than red carpet premieres.”
A new 6-part documentary will bring their lives and legacies to light.
“The Last Movie Stars” is directed by Ethan Hawke and executive produced by Martin Scorsese. The series debuts on CNN+ later this year, and will be available on HBO Max.
No word on its content, but there’s sure to be plenty about Westport — an integral part of their lives — in at least some of the 6 parts. (Hat tips: David Roth and Kerry Long)
Westporters — especially seniors and those with low to moderate incomes — can once again take advantage of the town’s no-cost full-service AARP/VITA/IRS Volunteer Tax Assistance Program.
On-site personal counseling is available by appointment at Town Hall (Mondays from 1 to 4 p.m.) and the Senior Center (Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursdays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.), starting January 24. Call 860-590-8910 for an appointment.
The service is also available through a secure internet site. Click here for an appointment.
The program is administered by Westport’s Department of Human Services.
The 2nd of PBS’s 3 special concerts — “Stars on Stage From Westport Country Playhouse” airs this Friday night (9 p.m. ET on Channel 13; check other local listings). The series is also available on PBS.org and the PBS Video app.
Shoshana Bean is this week’s guest. The Broadway (“Wicked,” “Waitress”) and recording star taped 2 shows at the Playhouse in September.
The series — spearheaded by executive producer Andrew Wilk of Westport — debuted last week with Gavin Creel. It concludes January 21, with Brandon Victor Dixon.
The Westport Library and WestportWRITES sponsors a pair of workshops, with best-selling author, personal essayist and memoir writer Mary-Lou Weisman. She’s taught her craft too, at The New School, New York University and Manhattanville College, and through Westport and Norwalk continuing education programs.
The Introductory Memoir Writing Workshop meets Tuesdays (12:30 to 2:30 p.m.) from February 15 through March 29. Click here for information.
The Advanced Memoir Writing Class meets Thursdays (12:30 to 2:30 p.m.) from February 17 through May 17. Click here for information.
As Westport begins a new year — battling a now-old pandemic — the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has a few strong thoughts.
In an email sent to “members and more,” they say:
“We are at a health and workforce crossroads.
“Westport reported 150 new cases since last weekend, and that does not account for all the at-home tests. The state is at 15% positivity. Businesses all across the area and country are closing. with employees falling ill.
“The First Selectwoman mandated that masks must be worn in all town-owned buildings. The business community must fill in the rest.
Meanwhile, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice sent this email yesterday to all Westport Public Schools families:
“As you are all aware, the recent surge of infections has gripped our region. We are experiencing infection rates unlike any time since the start of the pandemic. We do know that our students are best served being in school and, along with continuing to maintain the health and safety of our students and staff, keeping our students in school and engaged in all of their programs remains our priority.
“As the conditions rapidly unfold, guidance from our partners at the state Department of Education and Department of Public Health remains delayed. There are legitimate questions about our ability to staff our schools next week based on recent infection rates, travel cancellations for those out of state, among other complications. With limited guidance from the state level, we will work at our local level to develop approaches in the event conditions warrant further interventions and modifications.
“For this reason, a decision has been made to extend the winter break by one day for all students. Monday, January 3 will not be a school day for students.
“All faculty and staff will report on Monday. This will enable the district to work collaboratively to develop a range of responses to the changing conditions over the coming weeks. The fluid situation requires thoughtful consideration and this additional day on Monday provides a measure of time to continue planning and assessing actual staffing levels to ensure that we can provide a healthy and optimal educational experience for our students.
“Among the many considerations, the district team has been working this entire week to make provisions for:
a range of potential Executive Orders or state emergency declarations,
additional ways to support a significant increase in the number of students in isolation due to infection
optimizing mitigating measures in schools, such as lunch waves
State adoption of new CDC guidance which potentially shortens isolation and quarantine periods, and redefines “fully vaccinated” (all of which could impact staffing levels and student attendance)
the high school mid-term exams
“There are obviously other considerations beyond this list, however, this is illustrative of the many challenges we face in successfully returning our students and staff to school next week.
“You can expect further information over the weekend. In the meantime, stay healthy.”
Larry Silver — the Westport photographer whose work has been shown internationally — had special reason to remember the star. In the 1990s, he did a commercial shoot with her for Humana of California.
Larry recalls: “It was obvious Betty was paid quite well for this shoot. She arrived with her own hair and make-up person, an assistant to help the hair and makeup people, and her own wardrobe, which was perfect.
“She was adamant that I photograph her from what she said was her best side. She was very cooperative, but became a little agitated when a much younger photographer than me — the director — would tell her what to do.
“A lot of our conversation was about her pets, and her love for animals.”
Some of the images — including this one — have never been published before:
Rod Serling moved from Westport to California in the late 1950s. He died — at just 50 years old — in 1975.
But the screenwriter extraordinaire still lives. Continuing a long tradition, the SyFy network airs a “Twilight Zone” New Year’s marathon. It starts at 2 a.m. tomorrow (Friday, December 31) and runs through 5 a.m. Sunday, January 2.
There’s a new episode every half hour or so. Click here for the schedule.
Looking for “A Stop at Willoughby” — the famous show in which the conductor of a train calls out “Next stop: Westport Saugatuck!” (and which Serling called his favorite of the entire first year)?
And finally … today is the birthday of a ton of important musicians: Bo Diddley, Skeeter Davis, Del Shannon, John Hartford, Paul Stookey, Felix Pappalardi, two Monkees (Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones), Patti Smith and Jeff Lynne.
It’s hard to pick just one to showcase. But in the spirit of optimism — at the end of a tough year, and the dawn of a new one — I’ll go with this:
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