Sophia Grace was loving, sweet, courageous and radiant.
She was born with Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare and debilitating genetic disorder. She died just after her 1st birthday.
In her memory, Sophia’s Hope raises awareness of the disease, as well as funds to cure it. As part of its education campaign, people paint a fun, cheery design on a rock; they print a message on it, then place it somewhere people will see it. They also spread the message (with the tag @sophias.eb.hope) on social media.
Sophia was the daughter of Westport Public Schools employee Tricia Lash’s friend and coworker. Tricia has painted this rock, and “hidden” it downtown.
If you see it, you’ll know the story.
But whether you find the rock or not, you can click here to help Sophia’s Hope.
As the weather cools, most Westporters crank the heat. But what if you can’t?
The town’s Department of Human Services’ “Warm-Up Fund” helps needy residents heat their homes.
It’s an ongoing problem. Last year, donations helped over 250 residents warm their homes during a relatively mild winter.
This year — who knows?
“The winter will be particularly challenging for households facing unstable employment, food insecurity, and financial vulnerability,” says DHS finance manager Susan Stefenson.
“Unfortunately, the number of households in need is growing due to the pandemic.”
The Westport Warm-Up program is funded entirely by donations. Recipients must be Westport residents, and demonstrate financial need.
Tax-deductible gifts are accepted online (click here) or by mail: Westport Warm-Up Fund, Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport CT 06880.
For more information or to request assistance, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-341-1050.
Today’s Wall Street Journal features 4 kids, describing their “darnedest masks.”
One is Westport’s own Charlie Diamond.
Charlie describes a Star Wars mask, with comfortable ears and ships. Much better than those basic blue ones we adults wear! (Hat tip: John Karrel)
We see these little guys all over town — in parking lotscul-de-sacs and driveways.
“Slow down!” they warn. “Kids at play!”
This one at Staples High School met an untimely end.
Hey — at least it’s plastic. Not flesh and bones.
And finally … Sam Cooke was murdered 56 years ago yesterday. The gospel-turned-soul singer with the other-worldly voice — an important influence on the likes of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Billy Preston — was just 32 years old.
After starring on the Wrecker gridiron in the early 1980s, he went to Penn State — and won a national championship under coach Joe Paterno.
Lonergan stayed at Happy Valley, earned an MBA, then leveraged both his brains and his football background into a career on Wall Street. After 15 years with Citigroup, he’s now CEO of Weeden & Company.
After all, everyone knows that former college athletes make great hires. They’re experienced risk takers, work well in teams, are flexible, adeptly handle ups and downs, and have the physical stamina for the rough-and-tumble world of finance.
At least, that’s what Wall Street used to think.
The other day, the Wall Street Journal ran a story headlined “Wall Street’s Endangered Species: The College Jock.” The paper said that the hot hires now are quants — recent grads with math or computer programming skills.
And one of the examples cited was Lance Lonergan.
Yet the former athlete tells college athletes there’s still a spot on Wall Street for them.
“The core attributes of athletes are well-suited for the trading floor,” he tells the paper.
Lonergan — who married former Staples and college athlete Anne LoCurto — moved back to Westport soon after college. They’ve raised 4 children here.
All are excellent athletes.
A few years from now, they’ll be looking for jobs.
No word yet on where.
(To read the full Wall Street Journal story, click here. Hat tip: Chris Pardon)
After 7 years in a Kenyan refugee camp, the refugee from Congo arrived in New York moments before President Trump’s suspension of America’s resettlement program.
Despite years of vetting, Josh endured many more hours of questioning before he could travel to his new apartment — and life — in Bridgeport.
The Wall Street Journal reported his story. Immediately, Jennifer Balin — the Westporter who owns Sugar & Olives — offered him a cleaning and dishwashing job at her restaurant/bar/cooking school/event space, just over the Norwalk line.
Josh — who in his native country worked as a hospital nurse, documenting rape cases for criminal prosecution — quickly said yes.
Josh Kangere, at work.
Now the WSJ has followed up. A video posted yesterday shows Josh working — with a smile — at his job. It also shows him taking the hour-long bus trip between work and home; eating simple foods at the restaurant, and talking about his new life here.
Jennifer is interviewed too. Describing her job offer as “a way to do something for someone that’s meaningful,” she notes the uncertainty of Josh’s future.
He might be at the restaurant “forever,” she says. “Or maybe he’ll open a clinic, with his medical training, and be a great asset to our country.”
Whatever happens, Jennifer has already been a great asset to Josh.
In the 1980s, life was good for Maggie Kneip. Her handsome husband was a rising star at the Wall Street Journal. They were raising a 3-year-old daughter and newborn son in hip Hoboken. She had great friends, and a loving family.
Suddenly, within 9 months, her husband was dead of AIDS.
Then her real ordeal began.
Over the next 3 decades Maggie’s story became a symbol of perseverance, growth and triumph. It’s also a story with plenty of Westport connections.
Last month, she shared it with the world.
Now Everyone Will Know: The Perfect Husband, His Shattering Secret, My Rediscovered Life was published on December 1 — World AIDS Day. Exploring themes of sexuality, love, humanity, the damaging nature of family secrets and the power of truth, it’s an important book for all Westporters — even without the local ties.
Maggie Kneip and John Andrew.
Maggie writes with unflinching honesty and great grace about her life before and after her husband, John Andrew — Brown University graduate, dynamic personality, great lover — was diagnosed with what in those days was a devastating, stigmatizing death sentence.
She describes her growing realization of the hidden life he led as a closeted gay man, and her reaction when she learns of his diagnosis — just weeks after the birth of their 2nd child: “I had to see him. I had to kill him.”
But Maggie set aside her anger, and tried passionately to keep her husband alive. Caring for 2 youngsters and a husband dying a gruesome death seems a herculean task. It was made even harder by her fears that she and her children were also infected — and the revulsive reactions of a few “friends.”
John died in March of 1991, age 36. Maggie felt angry, betrayed, traumatized, heartbroken and desolate.
Maggie Kneip and her children, in June 1991. Her husband had died 3 months earlier.
John’s brother Robert — who lived in Westport — mourned him one way. Maggie was different. She needed to protect her children. They learned never to tell anyone how their father died.
Hoping for a new start, Maggie got a job in publishing. She moved to the Upper East Side. A few years later at work she met a great woman, who lived in Westport.
She decided to leave her small New York apartment for a “perfect turn-of-the-century, walk-to-town, fixer-upper, below-budget saltbox” in Westport.
Her friend introduced her to a circle of “unfettered, insouciant and creative women.” Maggie helped form a book club, with women she grew close to.
Maggie Kneip (Photo/David Dreyfuss)
But she avoided all mention of John. She walled herself off from her kids’ friends’ parents, avoiding conversations and even friendships.
Her husband still haunted her dreams. As her son got older, he looked more and more like his father. But as Maggie’s children went through Staples — successful and active — they did not want to talk about him.
Maggie lost her publishing job. She became an empty nester. It was not until her kids — separately, at their college graduations — surprised her by saying they’d been thinking about their dad, that she decided it was time to tell her story.
So she wrote. And set herself free.
In a writing class at the 92nd Street Y, Maggie met a published author who’d grown up in Westport. Melissa Kirsch was moved by Maggie, and encouraged her to turn her short pieces into a memoir.
Maggie was also inspired by Sarah Herz. The former Westport teacher — a national expert in children’s literature, who died last year — became one of her mentors.
Sarah Herz and Maggie Kneip at Westport’s Blue Lemon restaurant.
Finding a publisher was not easy. “AIDS is over,” she heard. And, “We don’t know how to market this.” As well as: “This woman is angry.”
She’s not. Her writing is insightful, honest and strong. But with no publisher willing to take a chance, Maggie self-published.
The result is a remarkable book. Yet as powerful as it is for readers, Maggie’s memoir has also meant a great deal to her.
Today, Maggie senses a subtle shift in her approach to people. “I’m engaging more. And I’m less judgmental of others,” she says.
She’s become more involved at Temple Israel. She joined a women’s group, something inconceivable a few years ago.
“I think I’m more easy to talk to now,” Maggie says. “I’m happier.”
Maggie praises her beloved book group for being part of the Westport that helped her grow. As members talked about their lives — including the ups and downs in their own marriages — she realized that keeping a secret kept her from connecting with others.
Her book — with an afterword from former Westporter and noted psychologist Dale Atkins — has been well received. “People appreciate my honesty,” Maggie says. “They say it reminds them of that AIDS era, and the people they’ve lost.” She’s been surprised by how many readers are spouses in mixed-orientation marriages.
Now Everyone Will Know acknowledges the power of secrets, and provides a portrait in courage for moving beyond fear and shame.
Maggie’s husband John lived a hidden life. Now she’s come out of her own closet — as the wife of a gay spouse, and the widow of an AIDS victim.
She — along with her children, John’s friends from Brown, and Wall Street Journal colleagues — participate each year in the New York AIDS Walk. They raise funds for this still-awful disease.
And, finally, they talk about John.
(For more information, or to buy Now Everyone Will Know, click on www.maggiekneip.com. Hat tip: Lori Andrews)
Now the Wall Street Journal has turned its lens on the talented photographer’s home.
Stacy and Howard Bass’ home. (Photo/Stacy Bass for Wall Street Journal)
A real estate section “Inside Story” describes the waterside home’s initial attractions to Stacy and her husband Howard in 1996: the constantly changing landscape, and the fact that from the property they could see the home where her parents lived when her father died a year earlier.
It was a “nondescript,” 4,500-square-foot, 5-bedroom spec home. They offered $925,000, just below the asking price.
Since then they’ve done 4 renovations — including a gut one with Peter Cadoux Architects.
A 3rd-floor office is light, airy, and offers wonderful water views. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)
The WSJ piece offers details about every aspect — including, of course, Stacy’s 3 pocket gardens. Each features a unique sculpture, framed by boxwood hedges.
(To read the full story, click here. Hat tip: Jane Sherman)
Stacy Bass, in one of 3 pocket gardens. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)
When word spread that the Boston Marathon bombers were Muslim brothers, Americans tried to understand why.
We still don’t have answers. But one man who is particularly perplexed also provides special insight.
Kenan Trebincevic today.
Kenan Trebincevic’s life is similar in some ways to Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s. He and his brother were born 6 years apart. They’re “foreign-born-and-named, athletic, Islamic brothers from difficult backgrounds in Eastern Europe,” where they were persecuted before finding refuge in the United States.
Yet while the Tsarnaevs ended up in the Boston area — a true melting pot — Kenan’s family spent many years in Westport. Our town has very few Muslims — from any part of the world — but it offered a safe haven for the Trebincevics.
Kenan — now a physical therapist in Queens, and the co-author of a book, The Bosnia List, to be published next year — described his growing-up experiences here in a fascinating op-ed piece published in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal.
In “Two Muslim Brothers Who Took the Assimilation Path,” Kenan said his family — “caught in the bloody war between Bosnia and Serbia” — moved to Westport in 1993.
His father, Senahid, “slung poultry at a fast-food chicken place and took other low-paying jobs.” His mother, Adisa, babysat and did data processing. There was little money, “and it was hard to get jobs without connections or language skills.”
Yet unlike the Tsarnaev boys, Kenan said “my brother and I made many friends in the U.S. and wound up on the more successful side of the American dream.” Although he felt “lost, estranged and resentful” as a 13-year-old newcomer to America, his life took a different path.
One reason was that — while he and his family remained proud of their heritage — they had an anchor here. They were sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut, which he called “a group of liberal churches and synagogues.”
When we arrived in 1993 at JFK airport, we were met by the Rev. Don Hodges, a Methodist minister. He drove us to his Westport home, where we stayed for 4 months. It’s not surprising or wrong for immigrants to deepen their focus on religion in a strange land. But I would speculate that in our case we felt such gratitude to the people of differing faiths who helped us that our chances of assimilating, and succeeding, in America were enhanced.
Westport taught an important lesson in multi-cultural living.
When my mother found a lump in her breast, the late surgeon Dr. Malcolm Beinfeld at Norwalk Hospital operated on her. Dr. Beinfeld, who was Jewish, told us that the Bosnian genocide against Muslims reminded him of the Holocaust. We never received a bill for the surgery or for my mother’s subsequent radiation and chemotherapy.
Dr. Malcolm Beinfield
A Protestant [sic — he was Jewish] dentist, Richard Sands, asked my mother: “What does your son need?” At 13, I was taken to an orthodontist who gave me braces and took care of me for two years. I was embarrassed but deeply grateful that he never asked for a dime.
On my first day of school in Westport, Dr. Glenn Hightower, the principal, and a member of Mr. Hodges’s church, introduced me to the 7th-grade English class with his arm draped around my shoulders. He explained that my family had been exiled in the Bosnian war, and he asked the other students to help me out.
I had a foreign name, strange accent and could barely speak the language. I felt scared and pathetic, like a mutt waiting to be adopted. I was immediately befriended by Miguel Peman, a Catholic Spanish-American student, who offered me a seat.
In the middle 1990s, Bedford Middle School (now the site of Saugatuck Elementary) was a warm, welcoming place for Kenan Trebincevic.
When the school-bus driver who drove me home noticed that I had a long walk to Mr. Hodges’s house, he introduced himself as Offir, from Israel, and dropped me off right at the driveway, making me promise not to tell anyone. Later, my Greek Orthodox soccer coach, Ted Popadoupolis, gave me rides to practices and games when my parents couldn’t.
Kenan and his brother did not try to become Olympic stars, like Tamerlan wanted. But, Kenan said, “a series of teachers and mentors helped us formulate a realistic career plan. They geared us toward a more feasible field than sports stardom: physical therapy.”
Kenan’s piece in the Wall Street Journal concluded:
It is impossible to know what went on in someone else’s childhood or what is happening in another’s mind or heart. The Tsarnaevs took one path. My brother and I, despite our family’s war displacement, persecution and years of poverty, thrived — but only with stable parents by our side, good jobs and help from many and diverse guardian angels. During a dark week, it was easy to forget that countless immigrants to America have similar stories to tell.
And it’s easy, too, to forget — if we ever knew — that some of those stories take root right here in Westport. We’re thousands of miles from places like Serbia, but to boys like Kenan Trebincevic, we can become home.
Because “06880” readers include a healthy proportion of the 1 percent, I will refrain from making any snarky comments on this weekend’s Wall Street Journal Investor story.
The loooong piece — titled “Honey, They Shrunk My Bonus” — describes in excruciating detail how “even the highest earners” on Wall Street are “increasingly vulnerable to cash squeezes — caught between bonuses that increasingly are paid in stock and luxury expenses that continue to soar even in a down economy.”
For example, the Journal says:
The lifestyle costs, or what bankers call their “burn rates,” can be substantial. For a typical top Wall Street executive with a family of four, the cost of a Manhattan apartment, household staff and private school can easily top $500,000 a year, consultants and bankers say. That doesn’t include the restaurants, clothing, second- or third-home upkeep and charity dinners that also are fixtures in finance.
So — in deference to my readers — I will refrain from commenting on quotes like this from Natasha Pearl, founder of Aston Pearl, which “often advises wealthy families on paring their budgets”:
Until you really analyze your budget, you don’t realize that the bill for your arborist has gone up 20% over the past five years, and it’s not because you have more trees.
Some Westporters are letting Mother Nature remove trees, in order to reduce arborist costs.
Instead — because “06880” is, as the tagline says, “Where Westport meets the world” — I’ll simply offer up these nuggets from Steven Laitmon, “co-founder of the Calendar Group, a Westport, Conn.-based staffing firm”:
Many bankers have consolidated their staffs. A family that might have had a butler, private chef, laundress, nanny and cleaning person might now have only a cleaning person “who also does some cooking and is child-friendly.”
Rather than employing personal assistants at home, some bankers are using the executive assistants at their offices to handle some of their personal logistics. To fill those duties, many Wall Street banks are looking for secretaries with personal-assistant experience, Mr. Laitmon says.
“I think some bankers realized they were over-staffed at home and now they’re trimming,” he says.
Westporters involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement were unavailable for comment.
Some Westporters may have to trim their household staffs.
Staples graduate Sean Mulcahy is looking for Wall Street work.
Normally, that’s not worthy of an “06880” post.
And certainly not a long story — plus photo — in The Wall Street Journal.
Sean Mulcahy in his football -- not Wall Street -- days. (Photo courtesy of the Carolina Panthers/Wall Street Journal)
But Mulcahy is also a former pro football player — he spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers. The football/finance/Fairfield County combination must have intrigued the Journal enough that today they sicced 3 experts on him.
The trio — executive search/career services folks — critiqued his resume for the paper’s “Careers” feature.
They were tougher than Vince Lombardi, that’s for sure.
Mulcahy’s resume was not visually appealing or easy to read, they said.
There’s no summary statement. But there are grammatical errors and “style inconsistencies.”
And — are you sitting down? — he’s got diamond bullets ◊ instead of round ones •
No wonder he’s sent out 150 resumes since getting laid off from Merrill Lynch in December, and is still looking.
On the upside, his wealth management experience and NFL career are pluses.
One expert says Mulcahy should “go into more detail and really highlight excellence, stamina, perseverance as well as communication skills, leadership and adaptability. He needs to make the bridge for the reader on how his very able sports skills have well prepared him.”
And lose those diamond bullet points, son. Drop and give me 50!
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