Tag Archives: Veterans Green

[OPINION] Time To Rethink Architecture, Design Choices

Longtime Westporter and alert “06880” reader Elisabeth Keane keeps a sharp eye on this town. She’s not pleased.

Elisabeth writes:

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at Bridge Square. The formerly charming historic waterfront has turned into absurd “farm-style” buildings. Yellow and green paint, and tin roofs and windows befit the “style du jour” architecture. (Most builders and architects are on the same design page, in the same design book.*) It is ugly and inappropriate.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

How did this type of  renovation (certainly not an improvement) get past avoid the town’s guidelines?  Yikes.

Are there any architectural guidelines for Westport?  The architectural charm of Westport is being devastated.

They ruined Sconset Square too, which used to be charming and New England-y. Now it resembles just another somewhat upscale strip mall, with tin roofs and black-appearing windows. I know it is still under construction but…

Sconset Square (Photo/Dan Woog)

Not to mention the sketch I saw of the the former Westport Inn (aka Delamar Westport).

At this rate, I don’t have high hopes for rejuvenating Main Street either. I think those uninspired strings of lights along both sides of Main Street more closely resemble the rows of lights strung up for a week above street fairs in the city. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for me those undistinguished strings of lights do not convey any artistic, unusual or thoughtful way to light our Main Street, in this still artistic and talented town. Did anybody consult a resident or local lighting professional (perhaps theatre or movie lighting) for advice?

Then there’s the chain link fence at Veterans Green. Seriously? One  might want to have that special place accessible.

Speaking of Myrtle Avenue: Whoever will be doing it better be very careful restoring Town Hall, and not messing up the exterior or interior.

And speaking of interiors: I hope the current interior decorating fad in public buildings will fade soon. Restaurants for some perverse reason seem to follow along lamely, with hard surfaces everywhere. The noise level is through the roof. Sound reverb requires everyone to speak LOUDLY. Seating is hard, not comfortable. The high bar stools are not for everybody — maybe in a corner of a bar, but not in a restaurant.

Restaurant ambiance is more than the food; it involves comfortable seating, and conversing in a normal tone, not yelling as at a sporting event.

*Design book: Look at all the houses built c. 2003-2005-ish, with faux Palladian windows. Is there really only one architectural design book? It’s cheaper that way, and it shows. I can only imagine what our most skilled and creative architects must think as they see these things…

Memorial Day: We Remember

The photo below shows the World War II memorial on Veterans Green, across from Westport Town Hall, where a ceremony takes place after today’s parade (approximately 10:30 a.m.). Other monuments there honor veterans of other wars.

If you’ve been to a Memorial Day ceremony on Veterans Green, you know how meaningful and powerful it is. If you’ve never been: make this the year.

Pic Of The Day #1784

Veterans Green tableau (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Photo Challenge #336

You’d think a plaque honoring all of Westport’s veterans — “living or dead” — would be located in a prominent spot. Veterans Green, probably. The VFW, perhaps.

You’d also think that because it was dedicated in 1975, plenty of people would remember where it was.

You’d be wrong.

Wendy Crowther, Joyce Barnhart and Michael Calise were the only “06880” readers who knew where last week’s photo challenge can be found. (Click here to see.)

It’s not what our veterans deserve. The plaque is where Long Lots Road feeds into Post Road East, just west of Shearwater Coffee and One River Art (before that, Bertucci’s/Tanglewoods/Clam Box). A memorial flagpole once stood nearby. I can’t imagine many people ever see the plaque now.

Yet there’s a reason it’s there. For several decades, a Doughboy statue graced the median, between the restaurant and the hardware store across the way.

It was relocated 25 or 30 years ago to Veterans Green (though it was not called that then). It’s certainly a more appropriate — and accessible — spot.

Last week’s challenge was fitting: It was the day before Memorial Day. (And today is D-Day.)

This week’s photo has no tie-in to anything — except it’s somewhere in Westport. If you think you know where it is, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

Memorial Day: We Remember

The photo below shows the World War II memorial on Veterans Green, across from Westport Town Hall, where a ceremony takes place after today’s parade (approximately 10:30 a.m.). Other monuments there honor veterans of other wars.

If you’ve been to a Memorial Day ceremony on Veterans Green, you know how meaningful and powerful it is. If you’ve never been: make this the year.

Our Doughboy

Today is Veterans Day.

We celebrate November 11 because — 102 years ago today — World War I ended. The armistice took effect at 11 a.m., on 11/11.

Twelve years later — on November 11, 1930 — we dedicated our doughboy statue.

That was 5 years after the town voted to erect a monument to soldiers in “The Great War.” According to Woody Klein’s history of Westport, the commission was offered to Laura Gardin Fraser.

Yet her design — showing a bronze relief figure of Victory — did not meet the committee’s approval.

Three years later the Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion raised $10,000. They commissioned J. Clinton Shepherd, an illustrator, sculptor — and pilot — to memorialize a soldier from “the war to end all wars.”

The doughboy statue. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Six months after Westport’s first-ever Memorial Day parade, the Doughboy was dedicated. But it was not at Veterans Green, across from what is now Town Hall (and was then Bedford Elementary School).

The original site was the grassy median on on the Post Road 2 miles east — across from what is now Shearwater Coffee, near the foot of Long Lots Road.

A crowd of 3,000 turned out for the dedication of the 20-ton statue. Governor John H. Trumbull was there, along with hundreds of veterans, and 7 bands. Children pulled ropes to unveil the statue.

The doughboy was moved to its present location in 1986. A formal re-dedication ceremony was held on Memorial Day 1988.

Pics Of The Day #770

A Memorial Day salute (Photo/Carminei Picarello)

Stars and Stripes forever, on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (Photo/David Squires)

Doughboy at Veterans Green (Photo/Dan Woog)

Meet Nick Zeoli: Memorial Day Parade Grand Marshal

The ranks of World War II veterans are rapidly thinning.

One of these years, no one will remain from that world-changing conflict to honor at Westport’s Memorial Day parade.

But it seems like Nick Zeoli has been — and will be — around forever.

The 2019 grand marshal is a proud Saugatuck native. He was born in 1923 to Dominick (a firefighter), and Olympia Zeoli. On July 1, he will be 96 years young.

Zeoli was a star football, basketball and baseball player at Staples High School, on Riverside Avenue just down the street from his home.

Young Nick Zeoli.

He was offered a football scholarship to Gettysburg College. But with war raging, he enlisted in the Navy.

He was assigned to the USS Boston, a heavy cruiser. Zeoli spent 3 years in the Pacific Theater. His ship engaged in 13 major battles, including Okinawa.

He was promoted to Radarman 3rd Class, and received a commendation from legendary Admiral William Halsey Jr.

After discharge in December 1945, Zeoli enrolled at Arnold College (later absorbed into the University of Bridgeport). He earned a BA in physical education, then went on to receive master’s degrees from both Bridgeport and Columbia.

Zeoli spent his summers during college as head lifeguard at Compo Beach. That’s where he met 1949 Staples grad Joanne Scott.

They married in 1952. On June 13, they’ll celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary. Their children Steve, Chris and Nikki are all Staples alumni.

Nick’s grandchildren — Jennifer, Charlotte and Nicholas — attend Westport schools. All are on track to be 3rd-generation Staples graduates.

Nick Zeoli, physical education teacher.

Zeoli began his career as a substitute teacher in Westport. But Wilton — newly opened as a high school — offered him a full-time job as phys. ed. teacher and head football coach.

He soon became Wilton’s first athletic director, and won national awards for his work.

He spearheaded the development of the high school field house — the first in New England. When he retired in 1994, it was named the Nicholas T. Zeoli Fieldhouse.

In Westport — where he always lived — Zeoli directed the Special Olympics program. He trained Special Olympics coaches in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Nick Zeoli, a few years ago.

For many years, Zeoli emceed the Sportsmen of Westport awards ceremony. In 1985, the organization presented him with its Sportsmen Award.

Last June, Zeoli was honored by the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference for his lifetime contribution.

There’s still plenty of life left in Nick Zeoli. He and his wife live now on a lake in Vermont.

He looks forward to making the trip south, and talking about nearly a century of life in Westport, and in war.

(This year’s Memorial Day parade kicks off on Monday at 9 a.m., at Saugatuck Elementary School. It heads down Riverside Avenue to the Post Road, goes over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge, and takes a left on Myrtle Avenue before ending up at Town Hall. A ceremony — including grand marshal Nick Zeoli’s address — follows immediately, approximately 10:30 at Veterans Green. The parade and ceremony are two wonderful Westport traditions. Don’t miss them!)

Pics Of The Day #406

Playing on Veterans Green, after today’s Memorial Day ceremony. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)


After joining the Parks & Recreation Department in 2008, Andrew Colabella maintained the Minute Man monument and 2 other nearby historical sites.

He left the department in 2014, but continues volunteering in free time. He throws down seed, prunes and waters plants, and replaces worn flags with new ones.

It’s his way of giving back to his hometown, and connecting with its long and important  history.

The Minute Man monument, with new flags …

… the cemetery on Gray’s Creek, off Compo Beach Road, where colonists killed in the 1777 battle against the British are buried …

… and the Longshore cemetery, across the creek. Some of these graves may hold the bodies of British soldiers, killed by colonists as they returned to their ship after burning the arsenal in Danbury.

Unsung Hero #49

On Monday, Westport celebrates Memorial Day.

We do it with one of the town’s most popular and beloved events of the year: a fun, wonderful and wide-ranging parade, followed by a solemn yet uplifting ceremony across from Town Hall.

It’s a huge undertaking. Hundreds of town employees and volunteers pitch in to make it all work. It seems effortless, but it’s anything but.

None of it would happen, though, without the leadership of Bill Vornkahl.

This will be the Westporter’s 49th year at the helm. When he started in 1970, the parade may have included Spanish-American War veterans. Today there are only a few who served in World War II.

Vornhkahl — now 88 years old — is a Korean War vet. He spent 14 months on the island of Hokkaido, Japan, working as a high-speed radio operator in the 1st Cavalry Division.

In 2013, he was inducted into the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame.

Bill Vornkahl

Vornkahl has been a member of the Westport Veterans Council even longer than he’s run the parade: 57 years.

From 1996 to ’99 he was treasurer of Westport’s War Monument Committee, helping place memorials to various wars on Veterans Green.

He joined the Greens Farms Volunteer Fire Company in 1950. He’s served as secretary/treasurer of both that company and Saugatuck Hose Company #4, and as president of the Westport Volunteer Fire Company from 1973 to ’93.

He coached Little League for more than 20 years, and for over a decade was part of the Staples High School football sideline crew.

Vornkahl has dedicated his life to Westport. Of all he’s done, the Memorial Day parade is his special passion. He makes sure it all happens flawlessly.

In 2015, Bill Vornkahl and 3 Girl Scout Daisies recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

Of course, the one thing he can’t control is the weather. The last 2 years, predictions of rain have canceled the parade, and moved the ceremonies indoors.

You may have seen him inside Town Hall, introducing the color guard, bands and speakers.

This Monday, we all hope he’ll be outdoors on Veterans Green, doing the same.

He’ll be busy — as he has been every Memorial Day since 1970. So now is the best time to thank him for all he does.

Veterans usually don’t like honors. But Bill Vornkahl is a true Unsung Hero.