Tag Archives: Staples Tuition Grants

Roundup: Post-Election, Police Reports, NY Post …

The League of Women Voters welcomed Westport’s registrars of voters — Democrat Deb Greenberg and Republican Marie Signore — for post-election coffee yesterday, at VFW Post 399.

The registrars said that nearly 65% of eligible Westporters voted in last week’s election The statewide average was 57%.

They noted an increase in young voters, and hailed the efforts of Staples High School students — many of them not yet eligible to cast ballots — for their work at the polls.

“We have amazing poll workers,” Greenberg said. “The first things we do after an election are thank them, and pay them.”

Connecticut LWV president Laura Smith said that for registrars everywhere, Election Day is long, but satisfying and worthwhile.

Smith also hailed the voting process in Connecticut. “It’s safe and secure,” she said. “There are so many checks and balances.”

Though it may mean more work for registrars, there was praise that a ballot measure to allow the General Assembly to provide for early voting passed, by about a 60-40 margin.

If legislators approve, details like where exactly to vote, and for how long, would be ironed on. Connecticut is one of only 4 states — with Alabama, Mississippi and New Hampshire — to not provide early voting.

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The Westport Police have released arrest reports for November 9-16.

Six people were detained in custody.

One had many counts: larceny, 1st degree; conspiracy to commit larceny; forgery; conspiracy to commit forgery; telephone fraud; conspiracy to commit telephone fraud; criminal impersonation; conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation; illegal use of credit card; conspiracy to commit illegal use of credit card; fraudulent use of automated teller machine; conspiracy to commit fraudulent use of automated teller machine; identity theft; conspiracy to commit identity theft. and failure to appear.

An accomplice was charged with larceny 4th degree; forgery; telephone fraud; illegal use of credit card; criminal impersonation; fraudulent use of automated teller machine; identity theft — and conspiracy to commit all those acts.

There was one arrest for identity theft; receipt of money, goods, services by illegal credit card use; larceny, 2nd degree; forgery, and criminal impersonation.

One person was arrested for possession of controlled substance (narcotics); drug paraphernalia; tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, and interfering with an officer/simple assault.

One person was charged with 2 counts of both larceny, 6th degree, and conspiracy to commit a crime.

One person was charged with violation of a restraining order (threatening).

The following citations were issued:

  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 9 citations
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 4
  • Stop signal violation: 2
  • Insurance fails to meet minimum requirements: 2
  • Failure to grant right of way; 1
  • Stop sign violation: 1
  • Failure to obey control signal: 1
  • Failure to keep plates readable: 1
  • Improper passing: 1
  • Simple trespass: 1
  • Public disturbance: 1
  • Breach of peace: 1.

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Arline Gertzoff was a proud 1964 Staples High School graduate. After her death this fall, Staples Tuition Grants has created an award in her honor.

STG encourages Arline’s many friends — from her work with the jUNe Day United Nations hospitality committee, to the Representative Town Meeting and local politics — to donate in Arline’s honor. Click here for that link; click here to learn more about Arline.

Staples Tuition Grants provides over $400,000 a year, to over 100 graduating seniors and alumni already in college. Click here to learn more about STG.

Arline Gertzoff

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The long Thanksgiving weekend will be filled with activities at Earthplace. They’re perfect for visiting relatives and friends (and everyone else).

Two miles of trails are open from dawn to dusk. Walk off your Thanksgiving turkey — or see one in the wild. The 62-acre wildlife sanctuary includes fields, forests, ponds and a stream. Some trails are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. Click here for a trail map.

“Saturdays at Earthplace”: Explore the sanctuary, create art, climb trees, identify flora and fauna, get dirty, catch bugs and enjoy the great outdoors. All ages. Click here for details.

Family campfire (Saturday, November 26, 1:30 to 3 p.m.). A guided activity with s’mores and animals. Click here for details.

“Story and Animal Program” runs Mondays through Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. For children 5 and under. Click here for details.

Birds of prey feeding takes place daily at 11 a.m. Learn about diets, behavior and care.  Click here for details.

Earthplace also offers holiday shopping (reusable water bottles and travel straws, t-shirts, hoodies, hats, stuffed animals, books, honey and more), and science box kits with themes like acids and bases, birds, ecosystems, plants, pollution and polymer ($35 per box; call 203-557-4400 or email info@earthplace.org).

One of Earthplace’s many trails. (Photo/Rowene Weems)

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The New York Post does not often cover high culture.

But the tabloid takes note of Beechwood’s Arts & Innovation Series — as well as Beechwood itself.

The Weston Road home of internationally renowned pianist Frederic Chiu and his wife, artist Jeanine Esposito, is on the market for $2.59 million. Built in 1806, the magnificent 7-bedroom home on 2.63 acres has been the site of a decades-long series of events, bringing together creative people from the worlds of music, art, dance, design, food and more.

The Post recounts some of Beechwood’s history too, from visits by Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Frederick Law Olmsted (and possibly Buffalo Bill and Rock Hudson).

Click here for the full New York Post story. Click here for the real estate listing.

Beechwood

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The Staples High School girls soccer team is getting ready to defend their state championship.

The Wreckers got 3 goals from the Chudowsky sisters — 2 by Natalie, 1 from Evelyn — to shut out Glastonbury 3-0 last night, at Naugatuck High. Staples was ranked 3rd in the state “LL” (extra large school) tournament. The Titans were 2nd.

This Saturday or Sunday (day and time TBD) at Trinity Health (formerly Dillon) Stadium in Hartford, coach Barry Beattie’s squad will face top-rated Cheshire. They edged Ridgefield 2-1 in the other semifinal.

Last year the Wreckers and Ridgefield shared the title, after tying 0-0 through 80 minutes of regulation play, and 30 minutes of overtime.

This year, one team will definitely win. State tourney rules have been changed, adding penalty kicks to decide a winner instead of co-champions.

The Staples girls soccer team. (Photo/JC Martin courtesy of Westport Local Press)

In other Staples sports news, sophomore Annam Olasewere broke 2 state records in the girls swimming state meet.

Her 1:47.86 finish at 200 meters smashed a 17-year-old mark. Annam then busted her own record by .26 seconds in the 100 freestyle with a 49.88 time.

Overall, the Wreckers finished 5th, with 431 points. Ridgefield won the team title, with 761.

Annam Olasawere

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Greens Farms Academy’s new theater director Kellie Comer is getting ready for her first musical there.

The Upper School’s “The Lightning Thief” opens tonight (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.). Shows continue tomorrow and Sunday at 7:30, with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $5 at the door. Click here to read more about the show, and its director.

Kellie Comer (Photo courtesy of GFA Dragon Digest)

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Fitness studios are not often known for the art on their walls. But TAP Strength is not your average health-and-wellness spot.

The downtown space was filled last night for an art show. Miggs Burroughs, Bonnie Edelman and Alex Silver displayed their work.

Today at TAP, it’s back to working out.

Ola Bassio (left) ws the model for artist Miggs’ Burroughs sign-language work. (Photo/dan Woog)

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Also last night: The Conservative Synagogue‘s Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn and his wife Riki were feted by the New York Board of Rabbis. The couple received a 2022 Humanitarian of the Year Award, at the Pierre Hotel.

A former president of the board, Rabbi Wiederhorn’s most recent humanitarian effort was delivering clothing, food and other aid to Ukrainian refugees in Poland, in the early days of Ukraine’s war with Russia.

The rabbi and his wife were in good company last night. Former US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer received the same Humanitarian of the Year honor.

Rabbi Jeremy and Riki Wiederhorn, at last night’s awards ceremony. (Photo/Avi Kaner)

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Neither Matt Murray nor I know what kind of bird this is.

But we’re sure “06880” readers can identify today’s “Westport … Naturally” image, taken on Hillspoint Road.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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And finally … in honor of today’s Great American Smokeout:

(If you enjoy our daily Roundup, please consider contributing to “06880.” Click here to help.)

 

 

Grayer’s Gift Spurs Staples Reunion Grant

Jonathan Grayer has spent his career in education.

As CEO of Kaplan, the 1982 Staples High School and ’86 Harvard University graduate turned the test prep company into the 2nd largest online education provider in the world.

He retired in 2008, then started Imagine Learning. He now serves as chair and CEO. Its digital curriculums make enormous differences in some of the largest and neediest public school districts in America.

Jonathan Grayer

Grayer is a philanthropist too. His main passions are cancer research and post-secondary schooling. His Kaplan Educational Foundation — “Rhodes Scholars for Community Colleges” — sends students from 2-year schools to Ivy League and other top universities.

But Grayer has not forgotten his Westport roots. And he knows that in this affluent community, plenty of families cannot afford the enormous (and skyrocketing) cost of college.

“It can be a lonely journey — especially with all the pressures already on kids,” he says.

So when he heard (via “06880”) that in conjunction with their 40th reunion, his Staples class was raising funds for Staples Tuition Grants, something clicked.

He sent a personal $25,000 check. Together with more than $5,000 in donations from reunion-goers, the result is an endowed fund, named for The Staples Class of 1982.

It’s believed to be the biggest class gift in STG’s 79-year history.

Staples Class of 1982 reunion organizers (from left) Dixie Webb O’Brien, Kim Hamer and Jeff Ruden enjoy the festivities.

Grayer did not make it back to Westport for the reunion. He was hosting a large family gathering at his Sagaponack home.

But his gift was noted often.

And it will be remembered for many years to come by Staples graduates who will benefit from a college education, thanks to the care and generosity of alumni who preceded them more than 40 years earlier.

(To learn more about Staples Tuition Grants — including how to donate — click here.)

(Like Staples Tuition Grants, “06880” is a non-profit. Please click here to support this blog.) 

Roundup: Bad Bad Drivers, Burgers, Mandarin School …

Most of the day, I slide my bad/entitled parking photos near the end of “06880.”

More important info comes at the top. By the time you get to a photo of some self-centered numbskull taking up 3 spaces, hogging half a sidewalk or whatever, you’re ready for a diversion. Sure, they’re selfish, self-satisfied SOBs, but they’re not really hurting anyone.

Well, this cretin could have:

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Think about it.

This “person” — who somehow is licensed to drive a motor vehicle — ignored a very large “Do Not Enter” sign 100 yards or so back.

Then he (it was a young guy) drove past vehicles facing the other direction on both sides, plus at least one very large arrow. also pointing the other direction.

And then he walked away.

Words fail, at a time like this.

Except for one final thought: It’s a pretty shitty parallel parking job, too.

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The Westport Library’s soaring, flexible and well-used indoor space is called the Trefz Forum.

Most people who enjoy the pyramid seating, giant screen and state-of-the-art sound system have no idea who Christian J. Trefz — the man for whom it’s named — is.

That will change on Saturday, July 9. His new memoir — “The Right Side of the Hamburger” — will be celebrated with a book launch at a private party. It’s available for sale at the Library the next day, and on Amazon.

In association with The Legacy Project USA — a Westport company specializing in documenting and writing life stories for people who want to preserve and tell their history — Trefz spent over a year working on his book.

It tells the tale of how he and his brother became successful. The son of German immigrants, Chris and Ernie grew up in New Haven. They learned important lessons about family closeness, hard work, and determination.

The brothers purchased their first McDonald’s franchise in 1964. Their empire now encompasses over 50 McDonald’s restaurants throughout Connecticut and New York.

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In each issue, the bi-monthly print/digital Civilian Magazine profiles 10 or so influencers, in areas like sports, business, politics, fashion and pop culture.

Last year, local photographer Jenae Weinbrenner was assigned to a shoot at  Nile Rodgers’ Westport home.

With COVID raging, there were no agents, assistants or creative directors around. For an hour, Nile and Jenae talked about life, music, and their love for this town.

“As a photographer, you never get that kind of one-on-one time with a celebrity,” Jenae says. “This was special. I’m so grateful I got to experience it. He was the kindest person — and generous too.”

The other day, the publication retweeted the story. Jenae realized she had never shared it with her “06880” friends and neighbors.

Click here for the magazine (it’s behind a paywall).

Nile Rodgers (Photo/Jenae Weinbrenner for Civilian Magazine)

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Happy Panda Mandarin School opened 12 years ago, in the basement of a Weston home.

It grew quickly, and relocated to Wilton.

Now it’s moved again: to 2nd floor space in Westport’s Nash’s Plaza (179 Post Road West).

Classes resume September 1: Chinese HSK (1-6 levels), Chinese Made Easy (1-4 levels), Writing and Homework Help.

For more information click here, email info@hpmandarinschool.org, or call 203-291-9228. (Hat tip: Felicia Catale)

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One Chinese door opens, another closes:

Open Rice — the Post Road takeout place between the Sherwood Diner and Earth Animal — is shuttered.

Loyal customers are disappointed. Unfortunately, there must not have been enough of them.

Open Rice is closed.

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Wheels2U Westport is expanding.

As of July 5, the Westport Transit District’s on-demand, group ride, door-to-train shuttle service will soon include from Hiawatha Lane to Saugatuck Shores in the westernmost area of Westport, and Westway Road and Parsell Lane in the east.

Now, virtually all of the town is covered.

Reverse commuters can also use the service to travel between the trains and their place of employment in Westport. 

Wheels2U can also be used to enjoy dinner at Saugatuck restaurants.

Riders using the Wheels2U Westport app request a pickup  between 5:45 and 10 a.m., and 4 and 9:30 p.m., for rides between the Westport or Greens Farms train platform and their front door. Pickups for trips to the stations should be requested 20 minutes before you would leave to drive there. The $2 fare is paid via the Wheels2U app.

For more information about Wheels2U, click here. To learn about the Westport Transit District’s services for the elderly and people with disabilities, click here.

Wheels2U’s Saugatuck Shores expansion. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

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Friends since middle school, Dixie Webb O’Brien, Jeff Ruden, Kim Hamer and John McCarthy are planning their Staples High School Class of 1982 reunion — with a twist.

In addition to getting together after 40 years (!), they wanted to give back to the town they still live in, and love.

Classmates are encouraged to donate to Staples Tuition Grants. Already, they’ve raised $2,000.

‘82 grads can reserve a spot for the August 6 event at Saugatuck Rowing Club, plus Friday and Sunday gatherings —  and/or make a donation to the class tuition grant — via email :dixiewebbobrien@gmail.com

Staples Class of ’82 co-chairs (clockwise from upper left): Jeff Ruden, Dixie Webb O’Brien, Kim Hamer, John McCarthy.

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Longtime Westport resident Janet Bangser died earlier this month, at the age of (her family says) “don’t even.”

An only child born in 1928 in New York City to Jules Rutstein, a dentist, and Esther Klar Rutstein, assistant to the producer at Radio City Music Hall, she attended Horace Mann School for Girls, then earned a BA in English and American literature from Brown University in 1949.

A voracious reader, one of her first jobs was to write script synopses for MGM.

International travel was a dominant theme throughout Janet’s life; she made overseas trips from an early age. She and her husband Bill Bangser visited many countries on 6 continents, including several extended stays in Europe with their 4 children. Janet and Bill made lifelong friends around the world.

The family moved to Westport in 1961. When her children were grown Janet entered the travel industry, as an agent for Minute Man Travel. In 1978 she formed Pathfinder’s Travel, a full-service agency in Westport. For the next 40 years, Janet and her staff used first-hand knowledge of travel destinations to serve corporate and vacation travelers. Janet remained active in the business well into her ninth decade. She and Bill continued their frequent travels, often with Westport friends.

In addition to her business and motherhood, Janet served as president of the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Janet was predeceased by Bill, her husband of 67 years. She is survived by her children: Andrew (Barbara) of Westport; Paul (Liz) of Bethesda, Maryland.; Jill (Jeff) Boynton of Newington, New Hampshire. and Dan (Jennifer) Bangser of Norwalk; 8 grandchildren; 3 great-grandchildren, and her sister-in-law Rita Bangser of Somers, New York.

Janet’s family says, “we will forever miss the devoted matriarch of our family, her intellect, her love of travel (and good wine!), her cooking, her eternally positive outlook, and her entrepreneurial spirit.”

Burial was private. All are welcome at a memorial service on July 23 (10 a.m., Westport Library). In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Westport Library.

Janet Bangser

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Most “Westport … Naturally” photos are striking — but straightforward.

This one asks a question: Can you spot the bee?

Thanks for this great submission go to 15-year-old Benji Porosoff!

(Photo/Benji Porosoff)

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And finally … in honor of the top story above:

 

 

 

 

 

Roundup: Mariangela Lisanti, Maserati, Staples Class of ’52 …

In 2001, Mariangela was a Staples High School rock star.

The senior won the national Siemens Westinghouse Science & Technology Competition. And the Intel Science Talent Search (where she met President Bush). Each came with a $100,000 scholarship (!).

But she did not stop there. Mariangela was captain of the Staples math team, founder and captain of the engineering team, concertmaster of the Chamber and Symphonic Orchestras, and the recipient of honors in Italian and Spanish (both of which she is fluent in.) Of course, she was valedictorian.

Then, at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in San Jose, California, the Harvard-bound graduate was awarded the Glenn Seaborg Nobel Prize Visit Award — earning a trip to the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm.

So what is Mariangela up to these days?

She earned a Ph.D. from Stanford in 2010, then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science. She’s been on the physics faculty at Princeton University since then.

A theoretical particle physicist by training, her research focuses on the nature of dark matter. Mariangela’s interdisciplinary work incorporates ideas from astrophysics and data science. Currently, she’s focusing on how variations of the Cold Dark Matter paradigm affect galactic and sub-galactic scale observables.

So why today’s “06880” shout-out?

She’s just been named a Simons Foundation Investigator. This too is a very big deal.

The Simons Investigators program supports outstanding theoretical scientists in their most productive years, when they are establishing creative new research directions, providing leadership and mentoring junior scientists.

Simons Investigators are appointed for 5 years, renewable for another 5. Each Investigator receives research support of $100,000 per year. An additional $10,000 per year is provided to the Investigator’s department

Congratulations, Mariangela. You continue to make Staples, and Westport, proud.

Keep rockin’ the world! (Hat tip: Steve Stein)

Mariangela Lisanti

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Speaking of Staples: Sunday’s “06880” Roundup gave a shout-out to the Class of 1962. They celebrated their 60th year reunion at the Ned Dimes Marina.

But they’re mere children, compared to the Class of ’52. Let’s hear it for them!

Nine alums just enjoyed their 70th (!) reunion at Rive Bistro — not far from their old high school, on Riverside Avenue. (Today it’s Saugatuck Elementary).

Ed Backus — a 1948 graduate — joined them, making them feel very young.

The class has met every 5 years since graduation day: Friday the 13th, 1952. “Our Staples ties are strong!” says Jess Thompson Huberty.

They are indeed. Hail, Staples! Hail, Class of ’52!

Staples High School Class of 1952 at Rive Bistro: Seated (from left):Lu List Morris, Susan Stokes. Middle row: Roxanne Gette Martin, Barbara Hendricks Chamberlain, Jess Thompson Huberty, Sonja Messelt Ziluca, Don Switter, Ed Backus. Rear: Bill Gault. Sending regrets: Bev Breault, Lynn Lucke Lutkin, Steven Miller, Concetta Palazzo Fedak, Mary Ellen Kottgen McKenna.

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The Maserati owner figured he’d be okay on Sunday. His car stuck just a yard or two past the “No Parking” sign on Hillspoint Road, coming from Compo Beach toward Old Mill.

The sign is there for a reason. It’s a dangerous spot. This happened next:

(Photos/Jerry Kuyper)

But that’s not the end of the story.

As of yesterday afternoon — 72 hours later — the very expensive convertible was still there.

(Photo/John Richers)

And debris from its body still littered the road.

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Speaking of parking, how about this trifecta near Gaetano’s?

The driver is:

  1. Facing the wrong way
  2. Next to a “No Parking” sign, which is right by a …
  3. Fire hydrant.

Must have been a deli emergency!

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The Westport Journal has a new executive editor. Thane Grauel succeeds Jarret Liotta in the top post at the year-old online news site July 1. Liotta will focus on photography and video projects.

Grauel has been a reporter at the Westport News, managing editor at the Westport Minuteman and editor of The Hour, among other publications.

“The news business is so different now,” he told “06880.” “At the Westport News we had 5 guys covering Town Hall, plus sports, business, entertainment and real estate. The chains have gobbled everything up. People are not being served like before.”

However, Grauel says, “Westport is one of the best-covered towns in Connecticut, online. People here are really engaged. They want to know what’s going on.”

Grauel is a 4th-generation Westporter, though after Kings Highway Elementary School his family moved to Milford. He graduated from the University of Connecticut, and is a Navy veteran.

Thane Grauel (Photo courtesy of Westport Journal)

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Speaking of writing:

Bilingual journalist and writer Camila Vallejo earns the first-ever Writer-in-Residence prize from Fairfield County Story Lab, the shared workspace in Saugatuck for creative types.

Vallejo covers housing and social justice issues for Connecticut Public Radio and WNPR, and is a member of Report for America. She has been a part-time producer for All Things Considered (read and hear some of her stories here).

The FC Story Lab’s Writer-in-Residence prize is for early-career writers. Vallejo’s residency will enable her to work for free at the Story Lab in Saugatuck. The Lab will install a new media suite, so she can record radio pieces there. While she reports statewide — including pieces on housing disparities in Fairfield County — she often files stories from a closet at home.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual today,” says FC Story Lab co-founder Carol Dannhauser.

“Many media companies have trimmed their newsrooms and all but eliminated their bureaus. This means that young reporters, especially, can’t experience the alchemy that happens in a newsroom, where people bounce ideas off of each other and offer suggestions when stories hit a dead-end.”

During her 6-month residency, Vallejo will host 2 events for students and recent graduates interested in a career in journalism or media.

Camila Vallejo

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So how many jellybeans were in the Staples Tuition Grants contest?

41,330. The winning guess of 41,472 — off by just 142 — was by Emerson Watkins. In second place (41,501) was Sean Wagner. Both will receive gift certificates to their favorite Westport restaurant.

Hundreds of people entered the contest. Guesses ranged from 540 to 751,000.

STG plans to continue the contest next year. It’s another great (and fun) way to help raise some of the $400,000 that was given in scholarships to Staples seniors and alumni this year.

As you can see, there were 41,472 jellybeans here.

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Last summer, dozens of Fleishers Craft Butchery employees at 4 locations walked off the job after CEO John Adams removed Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride signs that workers had put in windows at the Westport store.

Though they had been there for months, a customer had only recently complained.

After the walkout, most employees quit. The shops remained closed until March, when one in Brooklyn reopened. Now it — the final store in what was once hailed as “the mecca of the good-meat movement,” with “rock star butchers” — has closed too.

New York magazine says that after the Westport incident — and the effects of COVID on, particularly, the Upper East Side location — “Fleishers never again found its footing.” Though owner Rob Rosania apologized and offered employees raises to return, the company was cooked.

With the final closing, you can put a fork in Fleishers. (Click here for the full New York magazine story. Hat tip: Tom Prince)

The Fleishers signs. (Photo courtesy of Chloe Sorvino, for Forbes)

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One store closes, another opens: Westport’s newest business is Wash The Dog. Angela Koza’s “self-service dog wash” just opened at 375 Post Road West.

There are 6 stainless steel tubs, so people can wash — and blow dry — their dogs. Full service grooming also available.

The grand opening is this Saturday (June 25). Arf!

Wash the Dog!

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Speaking of creatures, Dave Lowrie writes:

“I’ve been waiting to capture the right ‘Westport … Naturally’ photo. I think I have it: an early visitor to my compost pile.”

Bingo!

(Photo/Dave Lowrie)

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And finally … in honor of Mariangela’s galactic work (story above):

(Across the universe — well, across “06880” — readers contribute to keep us going. Please click here to help.)

Roundup: Beach Ratings, STG Jellybeans, Downtown Art …

Save the Sound has just released grades for more than 200 Connecticut, Long Island and New York state beaches.

Local and regional health departments collect fecal indicator bacteria samples during the swimming months. High counts of fecal indicator bacteria and related pathogens can make people sick, and can be associated with untreated sewage or polluted storm water entering the waters at or near a beach.

Rain often brings polluted storm water to Long Island Sound beaches. Precipitation in the area from May to August 2021 — the period covered by the ratings — were the highest recorded since 2003, when the project began.

And the results:

  • Burying Hill Beach: A+
  • Sherwood Island State Park: A
  • Compo Beach: B+
  • Old Mill: “Not found.”

Click here for the full report.

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Next week, Staples Tuition Grants will hand out $400,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors and current college students.

That’s a lot of money. It’s the result of a lot of donations and fundraising.

One of those efforts is this weekend, during the Westport Fine Arts Festival. STG has a booth on Main Street, by J. Crew. For $10, you can guess the number of blue and white (naturally) jellybeans in the jar.

The jar will then appear at the Memorial Day parade, and will be at Summer Shopping Day in front of Manna Toast on June 18.

Winners get part of the prize, and gift certificates to local restaurants. The bulk of the money helps fund STG grants. The contest ends June 22.

How many jellybeans? Start counting!

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As noted above, this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), downtown will hum with the 49th annual Westport Fine Arts Festival.

The weekend after that (Saturday, June 4, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.), the Sorelle Gallery on Church Lane hosts artists Julia Contacessi and Michele Poirier-Mozzone for their new “Light Affects” show, with an opening reception.

Click here to learn more.

Julia Contacessi and Michele Poirier-Mozzone. 

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Irises are in season. And this beauty in a roadside Owenoke garden is perfect for a “Westport … Naturally” close-up.

(Photo/Jonathan Prager)

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Despite the heaviest summer rain since Save the Sound started its beach rating system, Westport’s waters got pretty good grades (see story above).

Whew!

Roundup: Pete Wolgast, Scholarships, Kowalsky Property …

Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs honored Pete Wolgast yesterday morning. with a prestigious District Governor’s Citation. The ceremony was held at the Sunrise Rotary meeting at Greens Farms Church. In addition to top Rotary officials, attendees included 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, her predecessor Jim Marpe, RTM moderator Jeff Wieser and Westport Weston Family YMCA CEO Anjali McCormick.

Wolgast’s service to Sunrise Rotary (he’s a former president) — and the entire town — is legendary. The University of Michigan and Harvard MBA graduate:

  • Was elected to the Representative Town Meeting, and chaired its Finance and Parks & Recreation Committees
  • Was executive assistant to 1st selectman Doug Wood; been a member of the Westport Republican Town Committee (2 terms as chair)
  • Twice chaired the Y’s board of trustees (2007-11 and 2013-20); chaired its Endowment Committee (2000-06); Volunteer of the Year honoree 2020
  • As president of the Westport Historical Society, chaired the committee that supervised the writing of the town’s definitive history
  • Been part of Westport’s Charter Revision Committee
  • Chaired Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s board, and volunteered on its Finance Committee
  • Joined the Y’s Men of Westport/Weston in 1987, and been its president
  • Served as a Boy Scout troop leader and board chair
  • Coached youth baseball and basketball for nearly 20 years, in Westport and London.

Wolgast and his wife Janet have been married for over 65 years. They have 4 children, 7 grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Congratulations, Pete, for this well-deserved honor. And thank you for all you have done, for all of us.

Pete Wolgast, at yesterday’s ceremony. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

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Staples Tuition Grants’ annual awards evening is one of the feel-good highlights of the year.

The 2022 event — set for Tuesday, May 31 (6 p.m., Staples auditorium) — will be particularly special. The $400,000 in scholarships will be the most ever — a whopping 14% higher than last year.

The average award will be $3,700. That too is a record — about $1,000 more than STG’s 10-year average.

The average help is 19% of net need. They can’t fill the aggregate net need of $2.4 million, but STG provides more assistance the even the federal government ($370,000 in Pell grants).

Help is provided to 8.4% of the graduating class of 2022. About 10% of the class needs help paying for college. The cost of tuition, room and board has reached $85,000 at some schools. Meanwhile, the funding gap widens — up 50% from 2 years ago.

Grants will help 108 students attend 76 colleges.

Nearly 700 Westporters and friends donated to STG’s general fund, named or endowed awards. Click here for more information, and to help Staples Tuition Grants.

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Speaking of scholarships: Westport PAL awarded its scholarships on Monday night.

Awardees included Charlie Howard, Jaden Mueller (Chief Luciano Athletic); Alex Harrington, Kyle Harrington (Chief Luciano Good Citizenship); Brian Fullenbaum (PJ Romano Scholarship); Colin Konstanty (Greg LaValla Scholarship); Nick Augeri (Buck Iannacone Scholarship); Jack Oakley (Bernstein Family); Matthew Spada (Deputy Chief John Anastasia Scholarship).

Westport PAL scholarship awardees and officials.

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If you missed the Staples Spring Choral Concert earlier this month — what a shame. It was a wonderful show. All the music was selected by students. They performed difficult pieces, in a wide range of genres and styles, at their usual spectacularly high level.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology (and of videographer Jim Honeycutt), you can watch the whole concert now. Just click here — and enjoy.

Screenshot from the Staples High School Spring Choral Concert.

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An application to subdivide the 12-acre Kowalsky property on Morningside Drive South, bordered by Clapboard Hill Road and Turkey Hill Road South, has been withdrawn. It will be resubmitted at a future date.

The Planning & Zoning Commission meeting scheduled for Monday to discuss it — and the Westport PAL clubhouse at PJ Romano Field — has been canceled. (Hat tips; Dick Lowenstein, Art Schoeller)

109 Morningside Drive South

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When Suzanne Tanner lived in Los Angeles, she met a Holocaust survivor named Rachel Goldman Miller.

After writing a multimedia musical documenting Miller’s life, Tanner is dedicating this Memorial Day weekend to her.

“Resonant music, lyrics and modern art can help us understand that history is only as strong as memory, a poignant reminder for today’s mounting war atrocities,” Tanner says.

Miller narrates her life story from a background movie that peppers the show with impactful visuals and testimony, while Tanner plays her role live — from her childhood in pre-war Paris to her elder years as a valuable Shoah participant and loving mother of a son who died of AIDS.

“Beyond Me: A Song Cycle in the Key of Survival” will be performed next  Saturday (May 28, JCC, Sherman, CT). Tickets are $25 and $20, available at the door, but reservations recommended. Click here for details.

Suzanne Tanner

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The Westport Weston Family YMCA Livestrong program –a  free, 12-week program of physical, educational and social activities for adults living with, through and beyond cancer — filled up fast. There were 25 applications, for 8 spots.

The good news: The Wilton Y is starting the same program the first week in June. Five spots are open; Wilton residency is not required. Email magenuario@riverbrookymca.org for more information. (Hat tip: Amy Weiss)

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The Westport Book Shop‘s almost-summer celebration is set for Saturday, June 4 (11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jesup Green). There’s a DJ, safety tips from Stewie the Duck, crafts and snacks.

The almost-summer celebration takes place across from the Westport Book Shop.

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No one is a fan of Canada geese — especially at Compo Beach.

But you gotta admit, these goslings in today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo look kinda cute.

(Photo/Pam Washburn)

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And finally … this weekend’s Westport Woman’s Club art show includes a treat not often associated with art shows or woman’s clubs: live music by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Mark Naftalin.

He’s best known as a Paul Butterfield Blues Band keyboardist. But the Westport resident played on many other famous recordings — including this one, sent to “06880” by Dave Lowrie.

Roundup: Real Estate, Food, Trees …

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The 1st quarter of 2022 is in the books. That means it’s time for some real estate stats.

Westport had 86 house closings, a 25% decrease from a year ago but
still the 2nd-most number of closings for this period since 2006.

The average house closing price of $2.2 million was the highest for the quarter in the past 2 decades. The average closed price per square foot rose to $509, up 23% from a year ago.

Reflecting high demand and low inventory, houses in the quarter sold on average for 102% of the list price — the 4th  straight quarter that average has been over 100%

Eight-five Westport houses were pending (properties with signed contracts) on March 31. That’s down slightly from the end of March 2021, but still high by historical measure.  (Hat tip: Rose Marie Colletti, Brown Harris Stevens)

This Bluewater Hill home is on the market for $12 million.

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Two years ago, Westport Farmers’ Market started its #Who Grows Your Food” campaign. The goal was to expand people’s knowledge of what farmers look like, to gain more support foro local agriculture.

Anne Burmeister and Ashley Skatoff offered to help. They lent their photographer lenses and creativity, capturing the essence of the farmers while creating an intimate story that eaters could follow along with.

Last fall, the Farmers’ Market partnered with MoCA Westport. Dozens of Burmeister and Skatoff’s stunning photographs became part of an art exhibit called “Between the Ground and the Sky.”

Now, those 52 photos from over 15 farms are available for purchase.

Each 18″ x 27″ original print (23″ x 32″ with border) is $500. All are signed and dated by the artist. The print includes information about the farm and photo, plus text created by the artist for the display at MoCA. The certificate is signed by the farmer.

All proceeds support WFM programming. Purchased photos may be picked up at the first 3 markets of the season: May 12, 19 and May 26.

For more information and to purchase, click here.

“Chicken Tractors” by Anne Burmeister is one of 52 Farmers’ Market photos available for sale.

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Arbor Day is near — and the Westport Tree Board is ready. Among the events throughout the month:

Saturday, April 23 (10:30 a.m. to noon, Jesup Green, free): The Tree Board and Westport Book Shop celebrate Earth Day with a fun event to promote reading for all ages, with attention also on the value of trees. Interactive family-friendly activities involving reading and early learning; educational materials and a native tree sapling giveaway, courtesy of Bartlett Tree Company.

Friday April 29 (Arbor Day, 3 to 4 p.m., Town Hall, free):  The Tree Board hosts their annual native sapling giveaway, plus brochures and advice from professional associations on tree-related topics, from site selection to proper maintenance.  Native saplings for giveaway are donated by Bartlett Tree.

Saturday, April 30 (3 to 4 p.m., Earthplace): The Tree Board hosts a live discussion and free information session with a tree professional on the basics of tree planting and maintenance, including selection, mulching, pruning, pest management and more. Native tree saplings, courtesy of Bartlett, will be available while they last.

As part of Arbor Day, Earthplace also hosts a “Toast To The Trees” family event 4 to 6 p.m.), with kids’ activities and s’mores, handmade pizza, beverages for adults and kids, plus a “tree walk” tour.  Click here to purchase tickets.

Beginning mid-April, the Tree Board and Westport Library will create a “StoryWalk” at the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum (2 Woodside Lane).  The featured book is “Be a Tree!” For more information, click here.

A Norway maple at the Wadsworth Arboretum.

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Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice offered a video update yesterday. He covered 4 areas:

The 5-year capital forecast to bring all schools — especially Long Lots and Coleytown Elementary — up to the district’s standards.

The uptick in the COVID Omicron sub-variant.

The Westport Public Schools’ ongoing equity study.

Ukrainian refugees. Scarice notes that Westport has already welcomed some to town, and any student settling here will be accommodated — as will all refugees from anywhere who come to Westport. He asks anyone with any information on refugees in Westport to call his office: 203-341-1025.

Click here to view the video update.

A screenshot of Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice, giving a video update from his office.

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Speaking of Westport Public Schools: Horace Lewis was the beloved head custodian at Staples High School, and served the district for 3 decades. He suffered a stroke shortly after retiring last summer, and died in December.

Classrooms, hallways, teaching kitchens, storage areas, auditorium, gym, fieldhouse, cafeteria, library, TV studio, boilers and HVAC systems — Horace kept them all sparkling and working. Despite a stressful job, staff and students knew Horace as the walkie-talkie carrying, most cheerful custodian.

Over the years, countless students (and parents) enlisted Horace’s help after leaving coats, backpacks, sporting equipment and phones at school. Even after his official retirement, Horace stayed on to help the schools cope with COVID cleaning requirements.

To honor Horace’s legacy of hard work, service to others and positive outlook, Staples Tuition Grants has created a scholarship in his name. The first need-based award will be offered this year. Click here to donate to this special fund.

Horace Lewis

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Among the most impressive parts of Westport Country Playhouse’s production of “Next to Normal”: the set.

Like everything that appears on the Playhouse stage, it was constructed by the in-house production staff — with help from  Jake Krasniewicz, assistant box office manager.

But that’s not his only side gig.

The Stratford native plays bass, ukulele, guitar, banjo and synthesizer. At Berklee College of Music he studied film scoring.

After graduating, Jake spent time in Boston’s music scene. When he returned to Connecticut, he formed Drop Party. The band plays an amalgam of genres, and call their style “a way to access emotions without sounding like radio music.”

Drop Party is part of this weekend’s Westport Library VersoFest. On Sunday (April 10, 7 p.m.), they open for Selwyn Birchwood.

What does all this have to do with building the set?  After college, Jake helped out at his father’s welding shop. The Playhouse technical director recruited the assistant box office manager to help with the extensive welding needed for the “Next to Normal” set.

He particularly enjoys funk. But it seems “heavy metal” is also one of Jake’s outlets. (Hat Tip: Bruce Miller)

Jake Krasniewicz takes a break from ticket sales and music,, to help create the “Next to Normal” set.

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There’s always something going on Westport — and much of it flies under the radar. And I do mean “radar.”

Last Saturday, over 100 automotive enthusiasts and industry leaders filled
the Autostrada facility — formerly the Steinway piano showroom — to kick off the Piston Foundation’s 2022 season.

Attendees came from across the US and Europe. They heard the non-profit
foundation lay out its mission to “bring more young people into the collector car industry so the craftspeople who built this American touchstone can transfer their skills to a new generation.”

The site included a “collection of exotic automobiles.” A silent auction raised funds for students and apprentices to pursue careers in automotive craft, restoration specialties and service.

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Staples High School seniors Sophie Alcyone and Alexandra Maskoff were honored this week, at the 27th annual High School Arts Awards ceremony.

Selected by the Staples staff, Sophie was recognized for visual art, Maskoff for music. The event was sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Schools.

From left: Sophie Alcyone and Alexandra Maskoff.

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With spring arriving fitfully, Jonathan Alloy offers 2 “Westport … Naturally” photo.

He writes: “My wife Sarah hung a pretty seasonal wreath on our front door, which real birds used to build a real nest — now complete with real eggs! Robins perhaps?”

Here’s the wreath:

And the eggs:

(Photos/Jonathan Alloy)

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And finally … the Westport Library’s VersoFest (see story above) and Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz present an intriguing concert tonight (7 p.m.). Headliners are Enid Ze and Daniprobably. Click below for a sneak listen; click here for ticket information, and more.

 

 

Full Obituary: Dick Berkowitz

Earlier today, “06880” reported the death of longtime Westporter and wide-ranging volunteer Dick Berkowitz. His family has provided this obituary, honoring his full life.

Attorney, philanthropist, coach and mentor Richard (Dick) Berkowitz died on New Year’s Eve, after a hard-fought battle against a rare blood disease. He was 80 years old.

He was born on June 28, 1941, to humble beginnings in New Haven Dick’s parents, Elihu and Ruth Berkowitz, were hard working members of the community. He spent his days playing football and basketball, working as a short-order cook at Chuck’s Luncheonette on Whalley Avenue, and selling pennants and banners outside Yale Bowl.

Dick attended Hillhouse High School before heading off to his dream school, Dartmouth College After becoming the first in his family to graduate from college in 1963, he continued his education and graduated from the University of Connecticut Law School 4 years later.

Dick and Carole Chasnoff met as sophomores in high school. Two years later he mustered up the courage to ask her out. After graduating from college, Carole worked as a public health nurse to help pay for his law school.

Dick and Carole Berkowitz

Dick opened his own firm in Westport, where he practiced for 55 years. He represented high profile individuals, leading executives, and members of the media. Dick spent many years as managing partner of Berkowitz, Trager & Trager.

Over the years he was involved in many philanthropic endeavors, including: president of the Kiwanis Club of Westport, and member of the Representative Town Meeting and Planning & Zoning Commission.

He was also president of the Westport Bar Association and board member of the Westport National Bank.

Dick Berkowitz

In 1970 Dick was appointed by First Selectman John Kemish to chair a new commission on youth activities. It is still in existence as the Westport Youth Commission. He also served on the board of Staples Tuition Grants.

In addition, Dick was a mentor at Champions for Learning in Naples, Florida, and a founding and passionate supporter of New Heights Youth, a New York-based non-profit.

Dick was honored as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” for over 25 years. He was a past president of Birchwood Country Club in Westport, and a class president and alumni council representative for Dartmouth College. Classrooms are named in his honor at the Roth Center for Jewish Life at Dartmouth, and Westport’s Temple Israel.

Dick was a longtime assistant basketball coach at Staples High School, and a regular at football, basketball, tennis, field hockey and softball games. He spent long hours instructing various game officials on the fine points of their respective sport. For many years he coached Pop Warner football, Little League baseball and softball, and recreational basketball in Westport.

Coach Berkowitz

While he was incredibly accomplished, his ultimate legacy is that he was an amazing husband, father, grandfather, brother, confidante, and friend to many. He had a light that shined bright, and touched so many throughout his life. He was a mentor to young people. Many clients also became his closest friends. But family was the most important thing in his life, and it is his family who will miss him most of all.

Dick is survived by his wife of 58 years Carole; sister Jane (Eddie Brandwein) of Chicago; children Jody (Joel) Beck of Westport, Emily (Ken) Sandberg of Woodbridge; Suzy (Michael Weksel) of Edgemont, New York and Adam Berkowitz of New York City; grandchildren Sam, Zack, Rachel, John, Jack, Mia, Henry, Carina and Ben; granddogs Buddy, Bella and Eric, and great-granddog Beau. He also leaves cousin/brother Judge Stanley Novack of Stamford, and countless family and friends.

Contributions can be made to 2 charities that were dear to him: New Heights Youth and the newly established Richard Berkowitz Student-Athlete Award through Staples Tuition Grants.

Remembering Dick Berkowitz

Richard Berkowitz — an attorney whose involvement for more than 50 years in politics, sports, civic organizations, and much more helped shape Westport into what it is today — died peacefully on New Year’s Eve. He was 80 years old.

He practiced law here until his death, most recently “of counsel” at Berkowitz, Trager & Trager. He represented high-profile individuals, leading executives and members of the media. He was a president of the Connecticut Bar Association.

But his impact spread far beyond his profession.

Dick Berkowitz

In his 55 years in Westport, Dick was elected to the Planning & Zoning Commission and Representative Town Meeting (RTM).

He served as president of the Westport Kiwanis Club, Westport Bar Association and Birchwood Country Club, and was a board member of Staples Tuition Grants and the Westport National Bank.

He was a director of Project Renaissance, a drug treatment project; the Dartmouth Clubs of Westport-Weston and Fairfield County, and the Temple Israel Brotherhood.

In 1970 — 3 years after Berkowitz (then 29 years old), his wife Carole and children moved to Westport — 1st Selectman John Kemish appointed Dick to be chair of a new commission on youth and human relations activities. It was the forerunner of today’s Youth Commission.

He was a longtime assistant basketball coach at Staples High School, working with head coach Brian Kelley. For many years he coached Pop Warner football, Little League baseball and youth recreational basketball. He was also an avid member of the Compo Beach Irregulars, an “informal group of enthusiastic athletes.”

Rooms have been named in Dick Berkowitz’s honor at Temple Israel, and the Roth Center for Jewish Life at Dartmouth College.

He graduated from Dartmouth, and earned his law degree at the University of Connecticut.

He is survived by his wife Carole; children Jody, Emily, Suzy and Adam, and several grandchildren.

Information on services on memorial contributions will be announced soon.

Roundup: Tacombi, Tennis, Tuition Grants …

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According to its website, Tacombi is “a Mexican company founded on the soft sands of the Yucatan … focused on sharing authentic taco culture. Our taqueros proudly work every day to preserve and share Mexico’s culinary traditions — and we do it sustainably with wholesome, simple ingredients free of antibiotics, hormones, genetic modification or artificial additives & preservatives.”

Danny Meyer just led a $27.5 million round of investments. That will allow Tacombi to expand beyond its 11 locations in the trendiest neighborhoods of Manhattan and Brooklyn, plus new locations soon in Miami and Bethesda.

And — in December 2022 — Westport.

The website gives no information, other than “Old Post Road.”

Muy interesante! There is an Old Post Road in Fairfield — but here in Westport, it’s “Post Road East” and “Post Road West.”

Of course, Fairfield is just a few yards away from a restaurant Danny Meyer already owns: Shake Shack.

Readers: If you know anything more about Tacombi coming to Westport, click “Comments” below.

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Westporters are avid supporters of the Oyebog Tennis Academy. The brainchild of Intensity pro Joseph Oyebog, it sends gently used equipment and clothing to his native Cameroon.

A container is almost ready to ship — and a very generous donor is covering its cost. There’s a final push now to make sure every inch is filled.

Among the requests: used tennis balls, racquets, bags, sneakers and clothes; new poly strings and new heavy-duty balls (US Open, Slazenger, Technifibre).

Items can be dropped off now through December 26, at 104 Long Lots Road. There are OTA bins by the garage.

Want to donate cash? Click here!

Joseph Oyebog (center) and friends, with the 2018 shipment.

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Applications are open for Staples Tuition Grants’ awards for the 2022-23 school year.

Since its start in 1943 with one $100 scholarship, STG has helped students with financial need attend college. Last year, the organization provided $350,000 in grants to 129 graduating seniors, and students already in college.

Click here to apply for a grant — or donate. The application deadline is April 10.

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Speaking of Staples: Congratulations to the high school’s Students of the Month!

Seniors Molly Liles and Jack Kuster, juniors Franca Strandell and John Whittle, sophomore Samantha Sheldon and freshmen Isabel Brookbanks and Westley Dick awere nominated by their teachers.

Principal Stafford Thomas calls them ” the ‘glue’ of the Staples community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students who keep the high school together, making it the special place that it is. The award recognizes the positive attitude they bring to school every day.”

From left: Jack Kuster, Westley Dick, Isabel Brookbanks, Franca Strandell, Molly Liles, Samatha Sheldon. Missing: John Whittle.

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There are just 2 Thursdays remaining — December 16 and 23, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — to stock up on local food and gifts from local farmers, prepared food vendors and artisans with unique crafts at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

WFM takes place at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center (7 Sylvan Lane) — itself an area icon for Christmas trees, holiday plants, ornaments, and more,

In addition to the Farmers’ Market familiar list of vendors, the upcoming markets feature surprise guest artisans, music, caroling, food and beverages (with tables set up for lunch).

Children of all ages will enjoy Get Growing, a popular kids’ craft event.

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One of the highlights of Saturday’s “06880” Holiday Stroll was an Ugly Sweater Contest.

These women did not win. But they took their show on the road. Yesterday, they proudly showed off their ugliest sweaters, on their own stroll.

Wait till next year …

From left: Jen Seideman, Patti Brill, Tammy Barry.

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Marleen Salko calls this “Westport … Naturally” photo “Morning.” It’s from her Greens Farms yard.

(Photo/Marleen Salko)

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And finally … Stonewall Jackson — the country music artist, not the general — died earlier this month in Nashville, from vascular dementia. He was 89.

Stonewall was his real name. He earned his greatest fame in the late 1950s and early ’60s. He had 35 Top 40 country hits, and performed at the Grand Ole Opry for decades. Click here for a full obituary. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)