In a first for Staples High School sports — and perhaps for any team anywhere in the country — the boys soccer team broadcast last night’s match at Norwalk on a drive-in movie screen.
With a limited number of spectators allowed due to COVID at most schools — and Norwalk banning even parents — the Wreckers have livestreamed all their games this year.
GKess Films of Cheshire provide high-def quality video. WWPT-FM students provide play-by-play; alumni athletes, former coaches and other soccer aficionados add color commentary.
Cars filled with parents, siblings, younger players and random soccer fans headed to the Remarkable Theater Imperial Avenue parking lot for tailgating, and the game. They honked their horns and flashed their lights when Haydn Siroka and Alan Fiore scored early goals, and when Sebi Montoulieu saved a penalty kick.
Staples won 2-1 — their 3rd consecutive victory — and perhaps a new tradition was born.
A scene from the big screen at the Remarkable Theater. (Photo/Neil Brickley)
Good news from the Westport Library!
Starting Monday, November 9, they’ll expand hours, institute cart-side pick-up, and will offer access to the media studios, Maker Space and Children’s Department (by appointment).
New hours are Monday through Friday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The Library will remain closed on Sunday.
Patrons can browse for materials in the Library, place them on hold remotely, or do so by calling 203-291-4807. Items placed on hold can be picked up in the tent outside the building at any time during operating hours. This replaces the current curbside pick-up arrangement.
Delivery services will continue for residents who are homebound or in a high-risk category that prevents them from visiting the Library.
The Library is also adding printing services to its 3 Express computers. and will reintroduce loans from in-state Libraries.
Shopping in the Library store will continue in person or virtually by appointment. Click here to schedule.
The Library will continue to limit the number of people in the building to 100 at any time.
Tony Award-winning actor and noted director James Naughton is also a noted animal advocate. He writes:
Having lived in Weston for 43 years, and been raised in Connecticut, I count myself very lucky to have shared this wonderful, woodsy environment with nature’s creatures.
Just in the last 6 months while sequestered, we were entertained daily by a couple of foxes raising their 5 little kits in our yard, then a family of groundhogs and a raccoon family. Owls hoot in the woods , hawks circle overhead, and we watch out for fawns crossing the roads.
When some of these animals aren’t so lucky — hey are orphaned or encounter an automobile they (and we) are lucky to have a place to take them right here.
Dara and Peter Reid created Wildlife in Crisis, and have been its stewards for over 30 years.
Normally, they take in 5,000 animals a year. This year they’ve taken in an unusually large number of creatures–and they need our help.
They’re a 501C3, and depend on charitable contributions. Click here, and watch a 10-minute video of them releasing back into the wild some of the animals they’ve raised or rehabilitated.
It’s inspiring, and a delight to show to your children and grandchildren. Then please: Make a donation.
Jim Naughton with a baby possum.
Speaking of famous Weston residents: This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. The other day, singer-songwriter Jose Feliciano popped into a Norwalk TV studio to talk with Telemundo about the jazzy, jangly classic.
Click here to see. The interview is in Spanish. But if you don’t speak it: no hay problema.
The song — and Jose’s exubertant personality — are universal.
Saturday (October 31) is the deadline to apply for a Westport Young Woman’s League Super Grant.
They’re awarded to local organizations working in areas like food insecurity, education, and health and wellness.
Despite the impact of COVID on fundraising, the WYWL continues to support our community. For a grant application, click here. To learn more, click here.
Halloween is not yet here.
But Christmas is, at Anthropologie downtown.
Can spring be far behind?
And finally … thanks to Jose Feliciano and Anthropologie, “06880” officially kicks off the holiday season:
As former president of Staples High School’s Gridiron Club and current treasurer of the Staples Boys Basketball Association, Amanda Thaw knows that whenever a Wrecker team needs help for a fundraiser, it turns to local restaurants and businesses.
They always come through.
Now, she thought, there must be a way to help support those owners in their time of need. And at the same time, to help front line personnel when they’re working so hard.
She made a few calls. Quickly, nearly a dozen Staples sports teams said “sign us up!”
#FeedItForward works this way: Teams pair up with a restaurant they choose. They provide a meal for a front line group of their choice. The restaurant delivers. The hungry personnel eat well. Everyone wins!
So far the girls soccer team fed Norwalk Hospital staffers, from Sherwood Diner. Boys soccer provided Tutti’s dinner to the Westport Police Department. The football team took care of the Westport Police Department, thanks to Viva Zapata. And boys lacrosse donated dinner to Westport EMS, through Colony Grill.
Also committed: boys basketball, rugby, wrestling, boys track, boys volleyball, baseball and boys tennis.
Future food providers include Calise’s Market, Jr’s Deli & Grille, and Four Brothers Pizza. All are grateful for the business, and eager to help.
Boys soccer co-captain Jack Douglas, flanked by Tutti’s owner Maria Funicello and Officer Jimmy Sullivan.
ASF — the always-helpful sports store — is involved too. Norwalk Hospital staffers are on their feet all day. So they’ve been provided new socks — and chewing gum. (Their mouths get stale wearing masks).
Hot meals for the Fire Department, courtesy of Staples football and Viva Zapata.
There are plenty of other groups to feed too, like supermarket and pharmacy personnel, utility workers and others.
More teams can get involved — not just Staples, but throughout town. Other organizations can help as well.
Alert “06880” reader — and longtime Westporter — Fred Cantor hears frequent laments about the changes in town since “whatever decade people grew up here in.” Of course, he admits, thingsare different.
But, Fred notes, the small-town feel that existed when his family moved here in 1963 is still alive and well. As proof, he offers a series of events that occurred recently, in just one 24-hour period.
Bruce Davidson, from his Staples High School yearbook.
It started with a visit to a local periodontist which, believe it or not, proved enjoyable overall. That’s because he’s Dr. Bruce Davidson, Staples High School Class of 1965, a family friend from back in the day and a former soccer teammate of my brother Marc. Bruce has practiced for decades at the same location on the Post Road, near Sylvan Avenue.
After a thorough exam and patient clarification of potential issues raised by X-rays taken in California, there was time to catch up and hear, among other things, about the status of a documentary film by Bruce’s brother, Doc (Staples ‘70).
After my appointment I drove to Cohen’s Fashion Opticals to pick up new glasses, which were almost ready. No problem: It was close to lunchtime, so I headed a few doors down to Gold’s. Owner Jim greeted me warmly.
I had a delicious turkey salad sandwich. The food at Gold’s is every bit as good today as when my parents first took me there in the 1960s — and the setting seems exactly as it did back then.
Jim Eckl and his wife Nancy have owned Gold’s since 2003.
Later in the day, I enjoyed a timeless outdoor Westport scene: a large crowd gathered on the hill to watch a Staples soccer game, on a beautiful Friday afternoon.
I had not arranged to meet anyone there. That didn’t matter. I sat with Bill Mitchell (Staples ’61) and former soccer coach Jeff Lea. We shared a few laughs and some entertaining stories. Dave Wilson (a Staples captain in 1974) was there too.
The ageless Laddie Lawrence (Staples ’64) also joined us for a while; so did former Westport Late Knights soccer teammate, Alex Anvari. Somehow Alex’s little boy Emerson has grown up — he’s 6-1 now!—to be a Staples senior who, to my delight, is on the varsity team.
Enjoying Staples soccer on the Loeffler Field hill (from left):L Fred Cantor, Jeff Lea, Bill Mitchell, Laddie Lawrence.
It was the last weekend of summer, with near-perfect temperatures, so after the game my wife Debbie and I headed to Compo to enjoy the sunset. As often happens, we ran into a couple of longtime Westporters.
I also had a nice chat with Joey Romeo, the owner of Joey’s By the Shore. He is every bit as friendly as any Main Street storeowner was in the 1960s.
Compo Beach sunset. (Photo/Fred Cantor)
The next morning I was walking on Bridge Street toward the train station. A car pulled over. The driver was Staples alum Mike Elliot; he offered me a ride. I explained that walking is my regular exercise these days.
As I neared the station, another car stopped. Staples classmate Bob Uly wanted to know how I was doing health-wise.
It was just 24 hours. Nothing truly out of the ordinary happened.
But those little slice-of-life occurrences demonstrate, at least for me, that certain “Our Town”-like qualities still very much exist here.
Posted onApril 3, 2019|Comments Off on Soccer Players Give Bridgeport The Boot
Some Westport teenagers do community service far from home. They build toilets in Honduras, or schools in Africa.
Some do what they can much closer to home.
Thanks to Staples High School boys soccer reserve (junior varsity) coaches Russell Oost-Lievense and Reilly Lynch, 10 varsity and reserve Wreckers are spending the spring working with younger boys and girls just a few miles away in Bridgeport.
This is the 3rd year that Russell — himself a former Staples captain, now a special education teacher — has worked with Brighter Lives for Kids. The non-profit runs in-school and after-school programs for underserved youngsters.
He organizes the soccer component. Last year, 8 Staples players volunteered at the Cesar Batalla School. Twice a week for 8 weeks, they helped 60 boys and girls learn to play and love soccer. They also mentor the kids.
From left: Ana Simunovic, Sam Liles, Vig Kareddy, Callum Wisher, Russell Oost-Lievense and Brendan Lynch, with their eager young players in Bridgeport.
This spring, Russell has expanded the program. It’s now twice a week for 10 weeks, and involves 80 children.
One of the driving forces — last year and this — is current junior Carter Bassler.
He enlisted teammates Emerson Anvari, Surya Balaji, Colin Corneck, Josh DeDomenico, Sam Liles, Brendan Lynch, Patricio Perez Elorza, Enzo Valadares and Callum Wisher. Former player Vignesh Kareddy also participates.
It’s a fantastic, important program. 100% of Cesar Batalla students qualify for state-provided breakfast and lunch by the school, because they fall into the highest bracket of poverty. They have little access to sports, beyond this program.
Of course, it takes money — for equipment, transportation and more. Click here for a GoFundMe page.
In addition, soccer shoes and shin guards can be donated in Westport. A box is set up at the front door of 40 Sturges Commons (with security camera), between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Westport teenagers do plenty of good things, when no one is watching. Whether it’s halfway around the globe, or just up the road.
Comments Off on Soccer Players Give Bridgeport The Boot
But both men — longtime Staples High School coaches, physical education instructors and friends — are back in the news again.
Lane — one of Staples’ legendary football coaches — was honored at last week’s game against Norwalk.
Between 1962 and 1987, Lane led the Wreckers to 4 FCIAC Eastern Division championships, 2 FCIAC crowns, and 122 victories. His 11-0 1975 squad was the last single state champion — determined by sportswriters — before the current playoff system began.
In the 1967 FCIAC title game, Staples snapped Stamford Catholic’s 30-game win streak, 8-0. The Crusaders — ranked #1 in Connecticut – had outscored their opponents 333-66. The Wreckers stopped them twice on the goal line, in the last quarter.
Paul Lane (center) at last week’s Staples High School football game. He’s flanked by his sons Peter (left) and Skip. Both played for him.
Lane started coaching football in the Army in 1950. He then served as an assistant to Frank Dornfeld for 8 years, before taking over the top job.
At Staples, Lane also won state championships coaching indoor and outdoor track — and girls golf.
He grew up in Bethel, but his family has long ties to Westport. He’s been a Compo Beach resident nearly all his adult life. Former players — and of course his sons Skip and Peter, both of whom played for him — often drop by to chat with their former coach.
Last week on the football field, Lane was introduced with a video produced by Justin Nadal and Staples’ media lab. Then he shook hands with coaches and players, stood beside the team for the national anthem, and headed to the 50-yard line for the coin toss.
This week also saw the announcement that Loeffler — who, with Lane, co-owned a summer sports camp for Westport youngsters in the 1950s and ’60s — has been selected for the United Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame. He’ll be inducted at the organization’s annual convention in Chicago this January.
Loeffler joins 62 other major contributors to the game. The Hall of Fame already includes legends like former men’s national team and University of Virginia coach Bruce Arena, women’s national team and University of North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance, and University of Connecticut coach Joe Morrone (with whom Loeffler co-founded the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association).
Loeffler — who died the day before his 94th birthday in 2009 — was a goalkeeper at the University of Connecticut. He began his coaching career in South Windsor (1942-52), where he won 2 state championships.
He came to Staples in 1952, teaching phys. ed. and coaching basketball, baseball and track. In 1957 he formed a club soccer team. The next year it earned varsity status.
His Staples record includes 12 FCIAC titles and 7 state championships — 5 of them in a row. His teams recorded 25 consecutive shutouts (including post-season tournament games), won or tied 43 straight matches, and lost just 2 home games between 1966 and 1974. When he retired in 1978, his 314 career wins was a national record.
Loeffler was a 2-time National Coach of the Year. More than 175 athletes went on to play college soccer; 11 became All-Americans.
Albie Loeffler (left), coaching a Staples High School soccer team in the early 1960s.
In 1998, the soccer field at Staples was named in his honor. Earlier this month, it was the site of the program’s 60th anniversary celebration.
Loeffler’s daughter and grandson will accept his posthumous award in Chicago.
I’ll be there too. Albie Loeffler was my mentor. I played for him. He got me involved in coaching — and in the United Soccer Coaches organization. He was an original member when it was formed (as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America) in 1941.
I am honored to have known Albie Loeffler. I’m glad I’ve continued my long friendship with Paul Lane.
And I’m proud that both men are back in the headlines, in the town where they influenced countless lives.
In the nearly 60 years since Staples High School fielded its first boys soccer team, some legendary athletes have laced up their boots.
Plenty more played without achieving fame. But they loved the program, made great friendships and created lifelong memories.
Inevitably, a few of those players died young.
Staples soccer embraces its past. One of the program’s goals is to make sure current players feel a link to those who came before, and become in turn great role models for those who follow. (Full disclosure: I am the head coach — and a former Staples soccer player.)
Yesterday, alumni came from as far as California. They gathered together to see a game between 2 top teams — and to help dedicate Staples soccer’s “Etched in Stone” project.
It’s a permanent memorial to members of the program who died before their time. Their names are now inscribed in the terrace, at the top of The Hill.
Kyle Martino — a 1999 graduate who played on the US men’s national team, and is now a noted NBC Sports Premier League analyst — helped organize the project. His speech yesterday emphasized the importance of the Staples soccer community; the “family” bonds that have been formed across generations, and the feeling of legacy that joins current players with past (and future) Wreckers.
US soccer star and NBC Sports analyst Kyle Martino (with ball) addresses the crowd. At far left is Brad Tursi. His brother Drew’s death last winter sparked Martino and his teammates to create the “Etched in Stone” project. Drew spent many hours on The Hill, watching Brad and his friends play for Staples.
After the brief ceremony, the large crowd enjoyed a crackling match. Stamford eked out a 1-0 win, in a nail-biting finish.
Then the alums took to Loeffler Field, for a classic pick-up match.
Some things never change.
Former players from the 1980s who returned include (from left) Andy Udell, Todd Zucker, Dan Donovan, Mark Noonan, Guy Claveloux, Todd Coleman, Nathan Bird, Rob Sweetnam and Doug Fincher. Fincher’s son Ryan helps anchor the current Staples defense. Donovan and Coleman have brothers whose names are now etched in stone. (Photo/Yvonne Claveloux)
Fred Cantor, Steve McCoy and Neil Brickley — who helped win state and FCIAC championships in 1969 and ’70 — returned to Loeffler Field for the “Etched in Stone” ceremony. (Photo/Robert Brickley)
After the Staples-Stamford match, alumni, fans, family and friends lingered on the terrace at the top of The Hill. (Photo/Sam New)
Jon Walker died last week, of complications from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and frontotemporal degeneration, a rare brain disease. He was 46 years old.
Jon was part of the very tight-knit Staples High School Class of 1988 — a group that’s remained loyal and true ever since graduation.
Jon was a 3-sport athlete, with a sly wit and tremendous “people skills.” I was fortunate to coach him in youth soccer, and was overwhelmed to see how many friends, teammates and admirers attended his memorial service on Sunday.
Jem Sollinger was among those who delivered warm, eloquent eulogies. He said:
Westport in the 1970s was classic suburbia. On any given weekend the fields and courts at Coleytown, Long Lots, Rogers, Kowalsky, Gault and Bedford buzzed with activity. We competed in Little League baseball, rec and travel soccer, and YMCA basketball.
In a town filled with many outstanding adolescent athletes, it was Jonathan Walker who truly stood out.
His uncanny athleticism bordered on artistry. To watch Jon swing a baseball bat was an experience. It was effortless, and so smooth. He had unrivaled hand-eye coordination.
Jon was also a master strategist. He understood and executed gamesmanship before it was even part of athletic nomenclature. If his brother Sam was (and still is) the Luke Skywalker of “gamesmanship,” Jon was Obi Wan. He knew how to exploit others’ weaknesses, and maximize his strengths.
Jon was as clutch as they came. His heroics under pressure cooker atmospheres are still talked about with great admiration and awe.
Slotting the deciding penalty kick side panel in the U-16 state cup soccer quarterfinal against Wallingford; draining a fadeaway buzzer-beater for Staples basketball his senior year, or scoring the winning goal in sudden death overtime in the 1987 FCIAC soccer championship before 2,000 fans under the lights at Wilton High School — Jon was clutch. With the game on the line, he was your man.
Jon Walker (raised hand) celebrates with Staples High School teammates, after scoring an overtime goal to win the 1987 FCIAC championship.
He played 3 years of varsity basketball and 2 years of varsity soccer at Staples. Late winter of his senior year, sitting at lunch, Jon and Rob Capria got into heated banter about baseball. Rob was adamant that Jon did not have the ability to make the team — especially after 4 years away from the sport.
On a dare — having not picked up a bat or glove for that long — Jon went out for the team. Five games into the season, he was the starting 3rd baseman. He was a natural.
After high school Jon ventured to George Washington University for a year, before transferring. At Skidmore he played varsity basketball for 1 year, and varsity soccer his junior and senior years.
Coupled with his athleticism was Jon’s love of competition. This past October, we played 9 holes of golf at Longshore. His ALS limited his mobility to the point where it took him 45 seconds to tee up the ball at each hole. He had no ability to speak.
His longtime friend Andrew Udell — whose support and commitment to Jon over the past year has known no bounds — shot a 46. I shot a 57.
Jon shot a 43.
Last fall, Jon Walker was a popular presence at Staples High School soccer games. He had lost the ability to speak, but he was embraced by the team, and responded with thumb’s-up signs of encouragement. Here he is flanked by captains Josh Berman, Spencer Daniels and Daniel Reid.
Jon held those closest to him to very high standards. The closer you were to him, the tougher he was on you. He loved his mother Sandra, his father Howard, and his brother Sam very much. But as the first-born he could push boundaries. He was tough on Sam and would sometimes lose his patience. It was Howard, who Jon resembled on so many levels, who often reeled him in. “Jonathan: You keep talking to Samuel that way, you won’t be sleeping under this roof tonight.”
Usually at this point Jon would say, “Lets go to your house and get a BSIT” — an acronym he made up for the “Best Sandwiches in Town.” Off we would go to 102 Bayberry, where we plowed through Gold’s cold cuts, and he would play with my parents’ dog Willy.
With a tight circle of friends — many of whom rarely shied away from the spotlight — Jon kept a lower profile. But he was always present. A quiet leader, he knew how to motivate and push buttons.
Jon was a dichotomy. In many ways he was very simple. He didn’t embrace the urban setting of DC his first year in college. But he flourished in the intimate community setting of Saratoga and Skidmore. He never had the desire to move to New York or any other city. He loved Fairfield County.
He didn’t like change. He worked for the same company for over 20 years. (He did leave for a brief stint as a trader. His New York commute lasted 3 weeks.) Jon could have thrived in that scene, but it wasn’t for him. He loved the simplicity of the suburbs, and playing basketball, soccer, and softball through his 40s.
As much of a “country boy” as he was, Jon’s street smarts were off the charts. When we were 16 Jon, George Llorens, Ryan Burke and I took a trip to New York to see a Knicks game.
As we exited the Garden, a hustler looking to capitalize on 4 sheltered suburbanites said, “I get you a cab.” Unbeknownst to us, this wasn’t a free service.
After hailing a taxi, the man looked at us and said “1 dollar each.” I handed him a dollar and got in the cab. George and Ryan did the same. Jon looked the guy in the eye, shook his hand and said, “Thank you very much.”
That was JW. He was street savvy, skeptical, and took great pride in not being manipulated or taken advantage of.
The 1986 Connecticut state soccer champion Westport Warriors team. Jon Walker is in the back row, 2nd from left.
Jon’s competitive drive and relentlessness served him well when he met Bridget. He pursued her with abandon, and knew he had found his soulmate. Wildly loyal to each other, they navigated the challenges that can come with marriage with sensitivity, fearlessness and passion. They were true college sweethearts.
Jon loved being a dad. If there was anyone he loved as much as Bridget, it was Ellery. She lit up his face. And his adoration for William knew no bounds. He loved sending video clips of William playing indoor soccer. He was a proud soccer dad.
Jon battled his ALS and FTP with courage and a smile. As his neurological diseases progressed, he became much simpler. He smiled more. He said “I love you” often. The grace he displayed as an athlete came to the forefront of his persona at the end.
How lucky we all were to have had him as a friend, and to have been on his “team.”
Staples High School athletic uniforms get plenty of use. Typically, a varsity team wears a set for 3 years. They’re handed down for 3 more to the junior varsity, then maybe the freshmen. Finally, they may be tossed out.
Sometimes, a coach or parent finds a good use for them.
Or else a Staples custodian does.
Elsie Calderon has worked at the high school for many years. A native of Costa Rica, she’s a big soccer fan. Her son Jose played the sport at Norwalk’s Brien McMahon High.
Every year, Elsie collects used sports equipment, from various sources. She cleans it, packs it up, and sends it to family and friends back home.
The Staples High School boys soccer team was happy to contribute old home and away jerseys. They’re now worn proudly by youth teams in Central America.
And — in a stroke of luck — the name of the town Elsie is from begins with “S.”
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