Tag Archives: Westport Rotary Club

Roundup: Barista’s Baby, Election Questions, Afghan Refugees …

=======================================================

In June, “06880” posted a plea from Amanda DeRosa. The Westport mom sought help for her favorite Starbucks worker, a woman in dire straits due to deliver a baby 3 months later.

Readers responded quickly, and generously. Amanda soon gave the woman $4,550 in gift cards, for stores like Buy Buy Baby, Target and Stop & Shop.

On Wednesday — after 3 days in labor — the barista delivered a healthy, 8-pound baby boy. Both are doing well. Amanda, the new mom (and her infant) thank the Westport community for helping start him on a new life!

A new life!

======================================================

What would you like to ask candidates in the upcoming local election?

The League of Women Voters Westport is sponsoring 2 debates — and they invite questions from the public.

Sessions are set for the Boards of Selectmen, Finance and Assessment Appeals on October 25, and the Planning & Zoning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Education on October 26. Both begin at 7 p.m.

Questions can be emailed to speechbyrachel@gmail.com.

=======================================================

This week’s “06880” story on Westport’s efforts to help resettle Afghan refugees in this area contained an error in dates, and an outdated reference.

On Tuesday (September 21, 12 p.m., Christ & Holy Trinity Church), there’s a free, open-to-the-public lecture about the Afghan crisi by Ann O’Brien, director of community engagement for Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.

On the weekends of September 25-26, October 2-3, 9-10 and 15-16, Greens Farms Congregational Church will accept drop-offs of winter coats, raincoats, and boots for adults, teenagers and children; school supplies and backpacks; new toiletries; cleaning and household supplies, and small appliances. “Boxed and labeled” is appreciated. Furniture and other clothing is not needed.

The IRIS/Westport Rotary Club effort to house and assist a family in East Norwalk includes the United Methodist Church, Temple Israel, Greens Farms Congregational Church, the Religious Society of friends, Saugatuck Congregational Church, and 15 Westport families identifying as a Muslim community.

=======================================================

Peter Cuseo — part of a noted Westport family — died at home Tuesday morning. He was 74.

Son of the late Albert R. Cuseo Sr. and Yvonne Cuseo, he was an Army veteran, having served in Vietnam. He worked alongside his family at Albert R. Cuseo Refuse Service and Cuseo Exxon Service Station. He then worked at Masiello Bus Service and the Connecticut Department of Transportation in New Canaan.

Survivors include his wife Teresa; son James Cuseo (Laura), daughter Christina Gudzik (John) and grandchildren Arlo and Riley.

Friends are invited to attend the funeral ceremony and internment Saturday (September 18,  at Willowbrook Cemetery395 Main Street Westport, CT. Click here to leave online condolences. Contributions in Peter Cuseo’s memory may be made to the American Cancer Society.

=======================================================

Dennis Gibson died peacefully on Tuesday, surrounded by his family. He was 77.

His family says: “Denny loved people. He was a friendly man who always made time to connect with others, whether at a dinner party, a Staples football game, or on the sidewalk downtown. He was a proud Westporter and loved the friends he made in the town he called home since 1999.”

The Michigan native spent the first years of his life in a house with no toilet — only an outhouse. At 21 years old, in a Grand Rapids home with plumbing, Denny had his first son, David. His son Kevin and daughter Leigh Ann followed shortly after. He committed himself to fatherhood as he moved with his family from Indianapolis to Jacksonville, Bethel, Syracuse, Youngstown and Manhattan.

Denny met the love of his life, Patty Burke, when they were working at General Foods. They married in 1982.

After 23 years at General Foods, the natural salesman struck off on his own, as a successful entrepreneur. He built a business from the ground up alongside his son David.

Nearly 30 years after his first child, Denny had triplets: Jack, Max, and Bo. They will cherish his whippy one-liners and memories of stretching him before his weekly tennis games.

He became Grandpa Denny to Bill, Jenna, Dan, Grace, Ellen, Claire, Daniel, and Delaney, who he loved dearly.

He is survived by his wife Patty; brother Lynn of Grand Rapids; sister Nancy Roberto of Cincinnati; sons David (Sheri) of Coronado California, Kevin (Kris) of Canfield Ohio; daughter Leigh Ann Dwyer (Bob) of Fairfield; sons Jack of Westport, Bo of Brooklyn and Max of New Yor.

Calling hours are today (Friday, September 17, 4 to 8 p.m., Lesko & Polke Funeral Home 1209 Post Road, Fairfield). A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated tomorrow (Saturday, 10 a.m., Church of the Assumption). Interment will be private. Contributions in his name may be made to Tunnel to Towers.
To sign his online guest register, click here.

Denny Gibson

================================================

Elena Nasereddin writes: “The recent heavy rains have helped produce both familiar, fairy-tale mushrooms and large, white skull-shaped forms with Halloween creepiness.” She sent several photos of the ‘shrooms growing on Iris Lane. This one is today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature:

(Photo/Elena Nasereddin)

=======================================================

And finally … in 1916, World War I German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen (aka “The Red Baron”) won his first aerial combat near Cambrai, France.

Westport Steps Up For Afghan Refugees

Six years ago the Syrian crisis moved longtime Westporter John McGeehan to help lead a coalition of churches, synagogues and mosques to help resettle a family in Norwalk.

They pioneered, with Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, a model for community co-sponsorship. Local residents provide broad shoulders and deep pockets. The model has been replicated in more than 50 Connecticut towns and cities.

The swift Taliban conquest of Afghanistan sparked a national conversation about American efforts to resettle Afghan citizens who aided American forces, during our 20-year conflict.

An Afghan father and daughter, resettled in Connecticut.

Once again, as Connecticut prepares to welcome up to 700 refugees, McGeehan is hard at work. So is the Westport Rotary Club, and individuals like Robin Tauck.

For the past 3 years Robin — a Westporter, member of the worldwide tour company family, and sponsor of Greens Farms Academy’s World Perspectives program — and her daughter Colleen Leth have, through their non-profit foundation, worked with IRIS to sponsor refugees.

As the Afghan crisis unfolded, she thought of the Rotary Club. They’re busy with Saturday’s Lobsterfest fundraiser. But — true to their mission of worldwide service — they’ve taken on the added task of co-sponsoring a donation drive.

Next Tuesday (September 21) and from 12 to 3 p.m. on the weekends of September 25-26, October 2-3, 9-10 and 15-16, Greens Farms Congregational Church will accept drop-offs of winter coats, raincoats, and boots for adults, teenagers and children; school supplies and backpacks; new toiletries; cleaning and household supplies, and small appliances. “Boxed and labeled” is appreciated. Furniture and other clothing is not needed.

The donation drive is important. But it’s just the start.

Resettling refugees comes at a time when non-profits have been hit hard by the pandemic. Meanwhile, affordable rental stock is hard to find.

Each family of 2 to 4 needs an apartment near public transportation, language training, cultural assistance, women’s help, school assimilation, and $20,000 for the first year. Click here to donate.

Westport-Weston Interfaith Refugee Settlement is doing its part. The coalition — the United Methodist Church, Temple Israel, Greens Farms Congregational church, the Religious Society of friends, Saugatuck Congregational Church, and 15 Westport families identifying as a Muslim community — are working with IRIS to house and assist a family in East Norwalk.

Email jmcgeehan1956@gmail.com for more inforrmation.

Roundup: Robbery, High Tide, Triathlon …

=======================================================

A rash of car break-ins and thefts is bad enough. Yesterday, a different crime was committed: an alleged robbery, just before noon on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

A man approached a couple quickly from behind, Westport Police say. The suspect walked in step with the male victim, allegedly brandishing a knife, threatening the female and demanding to be brought to the couple’s car.

The woman darted across the Post Road to escape. Her husband followed, and flagged down a patrol officer driving by. The suspect fled toward Jesup Green

A detailed description of the suspect was relayed to all officers. Patrol units flooded the area. During a search of the area, a member of the Westport Fire Department said he had seen a suspect fitting the description across from Playhouse Square.

Officers quickly James S. Cummings, 41, of Bridgeport. He was identified by the victims as the man who accosted them on the bridge. A knife was found in his possession.

Cummings was charged with attempt to commit robbery in the 1st degree, attempt at larceny in the 3rd degree, carrying a dangerous weapon, and threatening in the 2nd degree. He is being held on a $250,000 bond.

==================================================

Here’s the latest on one of Westport’s greatest, and so-glad-it’s-back-after-COVID, traditions: the Rotary Club’s Lobsterfest.

A crowd of 1,500 is expected this Saturday (September 18, 3 to 7 p.m.), for a townwide party.

Fewer than 80 tickets remain. You can get them at Hook’d by the Sound (Compo Beach concession stand), or by emailing leslie2of8@gmail.com. They’re $70 each, for either 2 lobsters or a 14-ounce steak.

Plus lots more, of course. Volunteers and Rotarians will cook and serve 2,500 lobsters, great steaks and a raw bar. They’ll serve beer and win (with a Tito’s scotch tasting). Plus there’s a great band, and plenty of kids’ activities (including magic shows, and an antique fire engine to climb on).

COVID protocols include 30% more tables, further apart, and fewer seats per tables. Masks are optional, but recommended when spacing is not possible.

There’s also a drive-through option, for guests who choose to party elsewhere.

As well as an exhibition tent, and a kickoff for Rotary’s Afghan relief resettlement project.

Volunteers are still needed! To help, click here or email lobsterfestvolunteers@gmail.com

As the sun set on Lobster Fest in 2016, no one wanted to leave.

======================================================

Burying Hill’s High Tide Club has been around a long time.

Not as long as the venerable beach perhaps. But its members have seen — and swum in — more than their share of incoming and outgoing tides.

Membership skews older. But recently an influx of younger swimmers has waded into the water. They’ve enjoyed the social gatherings too, while forming one of Westport’s most fun, under-the-radar groups.

Nico Eisenberger reports that at high tide yesterday — just after 4 p.m. — members brought food and drinks to celebrate another great season.

High Tide Club: It’s not just about swimming. (Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

The late summer weather was perfect. The camaraderie was strong. Nico says he and his wife “feel blessed to have this place, and these fun and funky folks, as part of our daily lives here.”

=======================================================

Yesterday’s Westport Kiwanis Club Minuteman Triathlon was another success.

The family-friendly event at Compo Beach included a jetty-to-jetty swim, and short bike and running courses throughout the flat neighborhood streets. It was perfect for first-timers, and families that race together.

It was advertised as open to all abilities, and that was true.

MyTeamTriumph was out in force. The organization helps children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who otherwise could not participate in endurance events like triathlons and road races.

Volunteer “angels” take “captains” out on the water in special inflatables. They assist with wheelchairs for the biking and running parts too.

There were plenty of smiles yesterday at the Minuteman Triathlon. And regardless of times, everyone was a winner.

MyTeamTriumph captains and angels. (Photo/Peter Swift)

=====================================================

Munich has Oktoberfest. Westport has Westoberfest.

Now we’ve also got Oaktoberfest.

Okay, there’s no drinking, drinking games or lederhosen. But the October 4 event (7 p.m., Wakeman Town Farm) is still worth checking out.

Sponsored by Westport’s Tree Board, it’s a chance to learn about all the good things trees do in our yards — and how to return the favor, by caring for them.

Attendees receive free samplings, too.

Panelists include Mary Ellen Lemay (Aspetuck Land Trust), Danica Doroski (Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection), Doug Williams (Bartlett Tree Experts), and Tree Board members.

Click here for tickets, and more information.

White oak tree at Kings Highway Elementary School.

======================================================

Jesup Green is the site of this Saturday’s free, outdoor Japanese Fall Festival (September 18, 2-4 p.m.). The event — sponsored by the Japan Society of Fairfield County — features taiko drummers, an Okinawan dance performance, a live play of the Japanese folktale “Tanabata” (“Star-crossed Lovers”), traditional Bon dancing, Japanese calligraphy and a craft activity to make dance hats.

Click here for details.

A scene from the 2019 Japan Fall Festival.

=======================================================

“06880” has posted many stories and photos of “Gloria,” the oyster boat owned for years by the late Alan Sterling.

It was beached this summer in Gray’s Creek, between Compo Beach and Longshore.

Bruce McFadden has watched and — photographed — the craft for years. He wonders if this is its final resting place.

“Gloria” (Photo/Bruce McFadden)

=======================================================

Linda Doyle was harvesting rhubarb for jam, when she spotted this guy in her garden. What a great way to start off the “Westport … Naturally” week!

(Photo/Linda Doyle)

=======================================================

And finally … in honor of yesterday’s gathering at Burying Hill Beach (see story above):

Roundup: Bill Clinton, LobsterFest, Rugby …

======================================================

Last month, the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship.

This weekend, the trophy came to Westport.

Billionaire owner Marc Lasry — he also dabbles in hedge funds — hosted a party at his Greens Farms home.

Former Fox News, NBC Sports and CNN TV personality — a fellow Westporter — was there.

From right: Dave Briggs, Marc Lasry and Briggs’ son Will pose with the NBA trophy.

So was a non-Westporter, from just over the New York border in Chappaqua.

Former President Bill Clinton is a longtime friend of Lasry’s. And — presumably — the Milwaukee Bucks.

Former President Bill Clinton and Dave Briggs, at Marc Lasry’s Westport home.

PS: Other big names in attendance: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, players Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton, head coach Mike Budenholzer, and CNBC’s Scott Wapner.

======================================================

Westport civic organizations sponsor many good fundraisers. A lot of them are fun.

But for money raised and good times, it’s hard to beat Westport Rotary‘s LobsterFest.

The early fall feast-and-more returns to Compo Beach for its 10th year on Saturday, September 18 (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.), following last year’s COVID cancellation.

LobsterFest is a townwide event. Food and entertainment from the Hot Rubber Monkey Band bring old friends together. It’s a great chance to meet (and welcome) newcomers too.

Children’s activities include a magician, glitter tattoos and face painting.

In past years, LobsterFest volunteers served 2,400 lobsters, 300 steaks and 1,600 ears of corn, and countless raw oysters.

In addition to the usual waterside dining option, there’s a new drive-through option for anyone wishing to eat their delicious Maine lobsters (and/or large steaks) at home, or at a less crowded part of the beach.

Funds support dozens of Rotary grants to local non-profits like Mercy Learning and Child Guidance of Mid-Fairfield County, plus humanitarian projects worldwide.

It’s a great value: $70 per person for 2 large lobsters or a 14-ounce New York strip steak — and corn, cole slaw, bread and butter, potato salad, Peppermint Patties, and all the beer or wine you can drink.

Tickets are available only in advance, online at www.westportrotary.org and directly from Westport Rotary Club members.

In 2016, not much remained of the 3,000 lobsters.

======================================================

For one day yesterday, Westport was the center of the rugby universe.

A special pre-draft event drew Major League Rugby scouts, coaches and star players, including Ben Foden to Staples High School’s Paul Lane Field. 

There was physical testing, professional coaching, laser timing and live scrimmaging. It was just like the NFL Combine, without the NFL Network cameras.

It was broadcast on the Rugby Network, however. And TV personality/ Westporter Dave Briggs was there. (It was not the biggest event of his weekend, though. See story above.)

He reports: “I was blown away by the strength (29 reps x 225 pounds), speed and toughness of these dudes. If I wasn’t so damn old and broken, I’d love to try.”

Click below for his interview with international star Ben Foden, and more.

=======================================================

Everyone loves the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Here’s your chance to put your (well, someone else’s) money where your (well-satisfied) mouth is.

The WFM has made it to the final round of the American Farmland Trust’s 13th annual contest, ranking the best farmers’ markets in the country. The winner gets $2,500; 2nd and 3rd prizes are $1,500 and $1,000.

Click here to vote. The deadline is September 19.

And don’t forget to visit the Westport Farmers’ Market, every Thursday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Imperial Avenue parking lot) through November.

The Westport Farmers’ Market appeals to all ages. Let’s make it #1 in the country! (Photo/Margaret Kraus)

======================================================

From rugby to rockin’ the Levitt. Chicago native Isaiah Sharkey brought his gospel, jazz, R&B, blues, rock and funk music to the riverside pavilion last night.

A Grammy winner, he’s recorded and toured with John Mayer, Patti LaBelle, Paul Simon, Keith Urban, Boyz II Men, the Winans and many others.

Isaiah Sharkey

It did not take long for the crowd to dance.

(Photos/JC Martin)

This week’s Levitt lineup:

  • Tonight (Sunday, August 8): Mimi & the Podd Brothers
  • Tuesday, August 10: Tony Trischka, Banjo Master
  • Wednesday, August 11: Elena Moon Park & Friends
  • Thursday, August 12: The Sweet Remains
  • Friday, August 13: Baskin & Batteau, and Jesse Terry
  • Saturday, August 14: The Simple Radicals
  • Sunday, August 15: Dan Levinson’s Palomar Jazz Band

Click here for times and (free) tickets.

======================================================

From tomorrow (Monday, August 9) through Sunday, August 15, the Westport Domestic Violence Task Force is collecting back-to-school supplies. They’ll go to residents of the 2 Domestic Violence Crisis Center safe houses in the area.

Items needed include new and unused backpacks and lunch boxes, notebooks, pens, pencils, highlighters, crayons, graphing calculators, and diapers.

Donations can be left in the collection bin in the lobby of the Westport Police station, 50 Jesup Road.

For information on Westport Domestic Violence Task Force initiatives, click here.

=======================================================

Work continues on what is rumored to be an Amazon Go store. That’s the new grab-and-go technology. There are no checkout lines; you pay via an app.

The old Barnes & Noble — and Marshalls shoe store next door — has been gutted.

Meanwhile, the adjacent former Mobil Self-Serve has finally been leveled.

(Photos/Dan Woog)

On Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen were slated to vote on a temporary exit from the construction site, onto Morningside Drive South. Neighbors objected, citing safety issues with nearby Greens Farms Elementary School. The item has been withdrawn from the agenda.

=======================================================

Local to Market continues to offer fresh, locally grown produce on Saturdays, on its patio at the former Talbots by the Main Street entrance to Parker Harding Plaza.

Shoppers enjoyed these selections yesterday:

=======================================================

Time again for “Westport … Naturally” to feature a deer.

Hey — we’ve got plenty of deer. Not to mention, deer photos.

(Photo/Karen Weingarten)

======================================================

And finally … today is August 8. You know: 8/8. So of course this is our song of the day.

PS: It’s one of many that have been called “the first rock ‘n’ roll record ever.” I’m not going to wade into that swamp.

Roundup: Bike Lights, Jim Himes, Beechwood Arts …

=====================================================

“06880” gave the wrong date yesterday for the 42nd annual Compo Beach Point to Point Swim. The correct date is Sunday, July 18.

The rest of the story was correct. Its a ton of fun — and a key fundraiser for the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s aquatics program.

There are awards for the top 3 male and female finishers, and t-shirts for all. To register, click here. For more information email jrojas@wesetporty.org, or call 203-226-8981, ext. 139.

=======================================================

John Richers writes:

On Monday night I drove on Hillspoint Road, from the Post Road to the Mill Pond. Just before 10 p.m., I saw 3 separate groups of 2 or 3 teens (or “tweens”) on bikes with no lights heading north, probably from the beach.

It was scary! I want parents to know: Please set your kids’ bikes up with lights. A set of rechargeable white front headlight and red taillight can be ordered through Amazon for under $20. A priceless investment! (Most safety-conscious bicyclists use strobing lights in broad daylight to increase visibility and safety.)

Just a moment of driver inattention or distraction could have tragic consequences. Parents need to know the dangers their kids are facing!

=====================================================

Got a question, complaint or (even) praise for Jim Himes? Tell him in person.

Our congressman holds a “town hall”-style meeting at the Westport Library on Saturday, July 17 (11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.). Seating is limited; click here to register.

Congressman Jim Himes, at a previous “town hall” meeting at Bedford Middle School. (Photo/Dan Woog)

=======================================================

Speaking of politics: As one of the youngest state politicians in the country, 2014 Staples High School graduate (and state senator) Will Haskell often gets calls from students and recent graduates. They ask how to run for office.

He doesn’t have all the answers. But he’s put his thoughts together in a new Simon & Schuster book. “100,000 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path as a 22-Year-Old Lawmaker” describes his 2018 campaign, and first year in the Connecticut Senate.

Haskell’s book goes on sale in January. It’s available for pre-sale now. Click here to order, and for more information.


=======================================================

Beechwood Arts’ most popular annual event returns August 1 (2 to 6 p.m.).

The grounds at 52 Weston Road will be open. That’s fitting. This year’s theme is “Opening Up.” It’s Beechwood’s first full, in-person arts immersion experience since fall of 2019.

The event marks Beechwood’s 10th year. Favorite musical artists from the past will be on hand; there are special arts installations too, along with spontaneous community performances, an outdoor artist market and sculptures, all on Beechwood’s beautiful property.

Artists and performers are welcome to share their talents. Click here for tickets, and more information on how to take part.

=======================================================

When the Westport Rotary Club and Westport Soccer Association partnered on a gently used uniform and equipment drive, they expected a few donations.

What they got was astonishing: over 200 pairs of cleats, 150 soccer balls, dozens of jerseys, backpacks, shin guards, cones, even referee equipment.

It will all be shipped to a club in Nicaragua, which will use all of it. Score a big win for Westport!

Leslie Roberts, former Westport Rotary Club president, with a small portion of the donated soccer gear.

======================================================

The Westport Police has joined the Gillespie Center food pantry drive.

Now through August, residents can drop items off at the Gillespie Center courtyard (behind Don Memo restaurant, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays), or the Westport Police Department lobby, across from the Gillespie Center men’s shelter on Jesup Road (any time, 24/7).

Non-perishable items needed include canned meats, tuna, salmon, Spam, pasta sauces, hot and cold cereals, canned fruits and soups, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, mac and cheese, paper goods and reusable bags.

Questions? Call 203-226-3426, or email info@hwhct.org.

===============================================

Maya Konig and Kathy Belzer met when their children were in Westport preschool. During the pandemic, they tried to think positively. Their combined love for exploring, experiencing and finding beauty in simple things led them to create Local Luxe Co.

It’s a “gift-giving company.” They source local products from artisans and “emerging makers” throughout the Northeast, and offer them online in seasonal collections. Options include real estate broker closing gifts, and corporate and special events.  

Products include environmentally friendly beach bags made from oyster traps, home accessories, eco-friendly wellness and beauty products for adults and tweens, and snacks and drinks.

Among their local partners: The Two-Oh-Three, Allison Daniels Designs, Laurel & Vine and Rustic Ridge.

A portion of proceeds will be given to Breathe4ALS, the foundation started by Westporters Jonathan and Iris Greenfield. (Click here for the Local Luxe Co. website.)

Gift options from Local Luxe Co.

======================================================

Noted artist Barbara Bernstein died last month, from chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. She was 86.

A colorist whose work evokes the legacy of the French Impressionists, she produced landscapes and interiors in both oils and watercolors. She was a founding member of Art/Place Gallery.

Barbara participated in more than 200 group and national juried shows, and won more than 40 awards. She was a juried artists member of the Connecticut Watercolor Society, Connecticut Women Artists and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. Her works are in the collections of General Electric Corp. the town of Westport and many others.

Passionate about art and education, she received two graduate degrees, in teaching and education. She taught art in the Westport school system for many years.

Barbara was also known for her commitment to social justice. She participated in the 1963 March on Washington, and protested the wars in Vietnam and Iraq in weekly vigils. She was arrested for civil disobedience while protesting the mining of Haiphong Harbor and escalation of the war in Vietnam.

Barbara was also passionate about travel, often bringing her sketchbooks and watercolors on diverse treks. She traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America and New Zealand.

Barbara was preceded in death by her brother Albert and sister Alice. She is survived by her husband Joseph; children Eric, Sara and David; 2 nephews and many cousins.

Services are private. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Planned Parenthood or the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. For information or to sign an online register, click here.

Barbara Bernstein

======================================================

“Naturally … Westport” offers up today’s beautiful image:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

=======================================================

And finally … on this day in 1889, the Wall Street Journal published its first issue.

Also today in 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest level of the Great Depression. It closed at 41.22.

Roundup: Backpacks, Wings, Rotary …

====================================================

Many religious organizations take deserved summer breaks.

The Conservative Synagogue is launching a big Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) project. Their goal is to supply over 100 backpacks, fully stocked with school supplies, to local children in for the start of the school year this coming fall.

The first phase — during July — involves fundraising. Then come packing the backpacks, and delivering. For more information, click here.

=======================================================

Westporters of a certain age remember fondly their introduction to the Westport Country Playhouse.

Now young Westporters of a certain age — grades kindergarten through 3 — return to the storied theater. “Story Hour with Jenny” — a live, in-person series — presents an interactive reading of the picture book “Wings” on Sunday, July 11 (11 a.m.). It’s about a boy whose appearance makes him the target of bullies.

“Story Hour with Jenny” is a series of readings of social justice picture books written and illustrated by BIPOC artists. Themes center on the 4 pillars of the Playhouse’s education department: empathy, collaboration, activism and literacy.

To register, click here, call 203-227-4177, or email boxoffice@westportplayhouse.org.

Jenny Nelson, Westport Country Playhouse director of education and community engagement.

=======================================================

Westport Rotary Club has a new president.

Lyla Steenburgen took over from Leslie Roberts at the annual Pass-the-Gavel Lobster Bake, at the Ned Dimes Marina.

“During the pandemic, a lot has been written about happiness and how to find fulfilment in life,” said Lyla, gift advancement officer at Bridgeport Hospital Foundation/Yale New Haven Health.

“Experts all say that it comes from connecting, belonging, being a part of something bigger than yourself, and engaging with and helping others – that’s Rotary. Rotary gives us the opportunity to render some service to the world in return for living in it. We are healthier and better citizens because of it.”

Leslie Roberts (left) hands the gavel to new Rotary Club president Lyla Steenbergen.

The Sunrise Rotary also changed presidents, at the same site. George Masumian will be replaced by Rick Jaffe. Mark Mathias sent along this drone video of the event:

================================================

“06880” has posted plenty of “entitled parking” photos — many of them at Fresh Market.

This driver took up 6 spots (!) yesterday. But big props. If you’re going to park a vehicle that size, this is the way to do it.

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

=======================================================

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows droppings collected by Jay Dirnberger. They’re from a kousa dogwood tree.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

======================================================

And finally … today in 1846, Adolphe Sax patented the saxophone.

(Two questions on the Doors’ song: Why did Robbie Kreiger have an amazing black eye? And did Jim Morrison actually forget his cue, midway through?)

Roundup: Leonard Bernstein, Yappy Hour, Kids Talking …

=======================================================

The TriBeca Film Festival is back. This year, it’s very New York-centric.

Among the films: “Bernstein’s Wall.”

The Tribeca website describes the world premiere of the film directed by Westporter Douglas Tirola (4thRow Films; co-founder, Westport’s Remarkable Theater):

In this enlightening look at one of the greatest classical music figures of the 20th century, director Douglas Tirola mines a rich trove of interviews, television appearances, home movie footage, photos, letters to craft a comprehensive look at Leonard Bernstein, whose passion and drive took him well beyond the marvelous music he wrote and conducted.

Spanning the breadth of a life interwoven with key historic moments outside the concert hall, Bernstein’s Wall follows the son of a Russian Jewish immigrant who arrives in New York from his Boston hometown to eventually become conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and becomes a household name thanks to his numerous TV appearances, educating the public on all things symphonic, West Side Story, being seen with celebrities and politicians, and his crossing-the-line activism, from protesting the Vietnam War to (controversially) supporting the Black Panthers.

Tirola incorporates Bernstein’s personal life — his fraught relationship with his father, his marriage, his family life, his struggles to be at peace with his sexuality — to paint a complex portrait of a complex, driven individual who produced some of the most memorable music of his time as a product of those times.

(“Bernstein’s Wall” is available for streaming from June 15-23. Click here for details. Hat tip: Kerry Long)

=======================================================

Yesterday’s Yappy Hour at MoCA Westport was paws-itively cool.

The arts center hosted plenty of dogs (and their owners) on its expansive Newtown Turnpike lawn. Food was collected for PAWS and Westport Animal Shelter Advocates.

Missed yesterday? Doggone it! The next one is July 1.

Yappy Hour at MoCA Westport! The next one will be held on Thursday, July 1.

Yappy hour, yesterday at MoCA Westport.

=====================================================

Just in time for the end of the spring sports season: Westport Rotary Club and the Westport Soccer Association are collecting used soccer uniforms, clothing, shoes, shin guards, balls and other equipment.

They’ll ship it all to Nicaragua. Rotary already works there with NicaPhoteo, a non-profit that helps communities.

The soccer equipment is much needed. Soft backpack bags, old balls, socks, jerseys and shirts — it will all go to good use.

The drop-off location is 5 Sugar Maple Lane, Westport (off Whitney Street). There’s a box on the front porch. Please wash clothing items first!

Questions? Email registrar@westportsoccer.org.

=======================================================

More than 30 years ago, kids were talking.

Dr. Donald Cohen’s nationally televised show — in which, well, kids talked (about everything in their lives) is being relaunched. Fittingly for a new century, it’s a livestream, on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch.

The first episode of the relaunch is tonight (Thursday, June 10), at 7 p.m. The topic is body image and eating disorders. Teenage guests come from Westport — and around the country.

“Kids Are Talking” started in 1990 at Fairfield University. It became a national radio call-in show on WICC, simulcast on Cablevision. In the late ’90s it found a home on WWPT-FM, broadcast from Toquet Hall.

“Kids Are Talking” and its host, Cohen, have been featured on “The CBS Morning Show”  and ABC-TV, as well as in the New York Times.

For more information, click here.

A retro poster.

=======================================================

Traffic is up. Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, the Westport Police Department was on the lookout for people not wearing seatbelts.

The campaign — part of the state Department of Transportation’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign — yielded only 6 tickets.

Police call Westport compliance rate “remarkably high.” But until it’s 100%, they’ll stick be looking for infractions.

And don’t forget: After clicking your seatbelt, don’t look at your phone!

=======================================================

TAP Strength Lab is the latest business to join the “Summer of Pride” promotion.

The downtown personalized fitness coaching, therapy, nutrition and preventative health center will donate 10% of the first month of membership (for new members who sign up now through August) to Westport Pride. Mention the code “Summer of Love.”

Oh, yeah: They’ve got a special Pride logo for this month too.

=======================================================

Questions, concerns or just thoughts about Norwalk Hospital?

The local institution hosts an online “Community Update” (June 29, 5:30 to 7 p.m.).

President Peter Cordeau will discuss the latest hospital developments. an independent monitor will report on its review of compliance.

A Q-and-A session follows the presentation. Submit questions in advance by emailing (norwalkhospital.communityrelations@nuvancehealth.org), or call 203-852-2250. Click here for instructions on joining the virtual meeting.

=======================================================

An osprey and a chick are today’s gorgeous “Westport … Naturally” subjects.

(Photo/Franco Fellah)

=======================================================

Patricia Rogers Suda, died peacefully at home on May 24, surrounded by her loving family after a courageous fight against cancer. She was 69.

Born in New Haven, her family moved to Westport in 1959. She graduated in 1970 from Staples High, where she met and married the love of her life, Mark R. Suda.

Patti and Mark moved to Norwalk. They were married for nearly 50 years, before he passed in 2020.

Survivors include sons, Mark Suda Jr. (Michelle) and Joseph Suda (Amy); grandchildren Skyler, Madyson, Samantha and Joseph Jr.; brothers Bill, Paul and John Rogers; sister Janet Aitoro, and many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

Patti loved watching her sons in their sports. From Cranbury League baseball and Pop Warner football, to high school baseball and football, she was there. She also enjoyed watching her grandkids in softball, baseball, gymnastics, soccer and hockey.

Patti retired in December 2017 as a bookkeeper after 32 years, to spend time with her family.

Her words to all family and friends are, “Live life to the fullest, with love and respect to others, because you never know what tomorrow brings.”

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Whittingham Cancer Center,  in memory of Patti.

Patti Suda

=======================================================

And finally … Happy Kamehameha Day! The state holiday (one state only!) honors the monarch who first established the unified Kingdom of Hawai’i.

 

Roundup: Vaccine, Leah Rondon, Rotary $$ …

===============================================

The latest COVID news, via Kerry Foley and Facebook’s “Westport Coronavirus Info” page:

  • “Tens of thousands” of additional doses should be added to the system this week. That means appointment slots will open up soon.
  • If you have a vaccine appointment in  April May or June, you should be able to get an earlier date in the next 3 weeks. If you do get an earlier date, cancel your later appointment.
  • The state is on target to open appointments to the 45 to 54 age group on March 22.

======================================================

For several years, a Birthday Bash in honor of Leah Rondon raised money for several scholarships. It honored the 6-year-old daughter of Bedford Middle School teacher Colleen Rondon, who was killed when struck by a car while playing at a friend’s house.

COVID canceled the most recent event. But the show goes on — literally.

This Saturday (March 6, 6 p.m.), a cabaret with young performers from around the globe will be livestreamed on Triple Threat Academy‘s Facebook and YouTube pages. Triple Threat founder/noted “Fame” actress/Staples High School grad Cynthia Gibb co-hosts, with Leah’s mom Colleen.

Performers – most of whom train with Triple Threat in Westport and Hollywood — include Makayla Joy Connolly of Broadway’s “Harry Potter,” and Westport’s own Jamie Mann, of Netflix’s new show “Country  Comfort.”

Leah’s brother Sam joins on sax, Cooper Sadler tears it up at the Levitt Pavilion, and Sophie Walther sings her heart out from the UK.

The family-friendly benefit relies on donations from viewers and supporters. Click here for the link; click for the livestream via Triple Threat’s Facebook Live and YouTube pages.

=======================================================

It’s been a tough year for non-profits. In-person fundraising has suffered, while demands for their services has spiked.

But thanks to one organization, another can continue its work.

Westport Rotary Club recently donated $1,075 to Homes with Hope. The funds will provide transportation for children living in supportive housing to HwH’s After School Academic Program, where they receive food, tutoring and mentoring. It’s especially important with the rise in online learning, and the widening academic gap for children without a parent to assist them.

Westport Rotary will distribute all of the funds donated by the community to its 2020 LobsterFest Charitable Giving fundraiser. More grant recipients will be announced soon.

Rotary meetings now held virtually 3 Tuesdays a month (12:30 to 1:30 p.m.). For more information, click here.

======================================================

March is Women’s History Month. For 25 years, Winged Monkey has been a woman-owned Westport business.

To celebrate both the month and their 25th anniversary, the popular Post Road East shop is offering — yes — 25% sales. There are other promotions all month long too.

=======================================================

And finally … 3 big birthdays today. They represent a wide range of genres.

Karen Carpenter was born March 2, 1950. She died in 1983.

Jon Bon Jovi was born today in 1962.

And happy 50th birthday to Method Man.

Remembering Lee Greenberg

Lee Greenberg — longtime resident, active volunteer, salon host, talented sculptor, noted tennis player and skier, yoga teacher (long before most people knew what that was), and friend to countless Westporters of all ages — died Friday at her beloved home of 43 years, on Duck Pond Road.

Born Lee Snell during the Spanish flu influenza on January 22, 1918 in Hell’s Kitchen, New York to parents from Belarus Russia, she came to Westport in 1941 after marrying Nat Greenberg. He operated the Westport Hardware Store for more than 55 years, and became a noted real estate developer.

Lee and Nat were among the earlier Jewish residents of Westport. Nat helped establish Temple Israel, and later enabled the development of Birchwood Country Club.

Lee Greenberg

Lee was intellectually curious, bold and worldly, and dedicated to a healthy lifestyle including exercise and mobility long before it became popular. She played tennis, did yoga, and did splits into her 90s.

A perennial beach and sun worshiper, she held court year-round with friends and family while playing backgammon and Scrabble on her cherished beaches (from Block Island in summer to St. thomas in winter). Young at heart, she kept her mind active with games and news to the end of her life. 

She was aided by the irreplaceable love, endless dedication and careful driving of her 18-year caregiver, Gina Prempeh from Ghana. Through this winter she could be found at Compo Beach, listening to her favorite operas and watching the sun set next to her “bouquet of trees.”

Lee was married to Nat Greenberg for 43 years, and to the late Jacques Sternberg for 10 years. She is survived by her children, Linda Libow of New York, Gail Greenberg of California, Michael Greenberg of Westport and Debbie Filkins of Block Island, Rhode Island, and their spouses; step-children Edward Sternberg, Cathy O’Gara and spouses; 8 grandchildren, 3 step-grandchildren; 4 great-grandchildren; 6 step-great-grandchildren; the Snell nephews and their children, and her beloved caretaker Gina Prempeh.

In the spirit of Lee’s love of and support for the environment, music, history and equality, the family welcomes donations in her memory to the Westport Rotary Club, Temple Israel Community Tzedakah Fund (Social Action), Norwalk Symphony, Block Island Historical Society, or Salmon River Restoration Council

A week ago, “06880” and the entire town honored her on her 103rd birthday

Fellow Rotarian Gillian Anderson writes:

I was fortunate to see her recently. On January 19 a half dozen friends from the Westport Rotary Club gave her an ice cream cake (chocolate, her favorite), a bouquet of roses, some fabulous balloons and a card made by Dave Matlow of his photographs of Lee with family and friends.

We saw her in her heated garage with her loyal companion and aide Gina, her son Michael and one of her granddaughters. We enjoyed a short, socially distanced visit and sang “Happy Birthday.”

She was happy to see us. She spoke about her husband Nat and her long life in Westport. She celebrated her 103rd birthday with her family 2 days later.

We are so pleased to have seen her and to greet her so happily in this special way. She was a remarkable, unique character. We shall miss her very much.

Gillian prepared these remarks for the Rotary’s celebration of her 103rd birthday:

The former Leah Snell moved to Westport from New York in 1941, when she married Nathan Greenberg. He was a native of the town, and an early member of Westport Rotary. As fellow Rotarian Ann Sheffer said, “The Greenbergs were committed to the evolving community of Westport, and the world in general. They brought the world into their Westport home.”

Lee continues to be an inspiration, an example to us all of a life well lived, a truly abundant life.

Lee has continued to represent an outward looking, worldly curiosity and contributes so much to the local community. Until COVID hit, she was not only a regular attendee at Rotary but also active over many years in the Westport Historical Society, a board member of Norwalk Symphony, the Westport Arts Center, and her Carriage Barn sculpture group at the New Canaan Society for the Arts

Horse sculpture, by Lee Greenberg.

I first got to know Lee 10 years ago at Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler’s house. Political candidates were making rousing “get out the vote” speeches. I sat down next to her and introduced myself. I had no idea I was sitting with the Grand Dame of Westport, the person who knew everyone in the room and just about everyone in the entire town.

She showed me her sculpture (“When Pigs Can Fly”), which she was donating to raise funds for the DNC silent auction that night, then gave me thumbnail bios of all the important folks in the room. Quite an education! Gradually we became friends, particularly when she invited me to attend her renowned cultural salon.

Lee’s cultural salon was an extraordinary gathering at her home each week. She and her friend Herb Podell invited a small group of friends and acquaintances to hear a speaker or performer of note. The cosmopolitan range of her interests and connections was breath taking: opera singers, musicians, journalists, political columnists, photographers, artists, human rights activists, politicians, economists and authors. For many years, each shared their ideas and talents in Lee’s living room to an appreciative audience, who were thrilled to attend and join in the lively discussion that followed.

One of the striking aspects to me of Lee’s persona is her intellect and curiosity. Her conversation is peppered with questions and references to current events, to making connections and with people in the news, many of whom she knows personally. Until quite recently, here at Rotary lunches when the speaker would ask for questions from the floor, Lee often nailed it with a reference to a relevant  New York Times article she just read and quiz the speaker on his opinion!!

In her second century, Lee Greenberg was as sharp as ever.

Of course, we must mention Lee’s life-long athleticism. Local tennis champion – often playing on her back yard tennis court, skiing every winter, and yoga and daily exercise routines. For many years she taught yoga on the beach at her place in St Thomas, and on Block Island.

This perhaps is one of her secrets to long life and mobility. I had been unaware of all this until one evening about 8 years ago (when she was a mere 95). I was working out at the NY Sports Club. There was Lee doing a circuit of the machines – legs and abs, all manner of major stretches. My trainer said, “Oh yes, Lee’s one of my best clients. She’s often here 5 days a week!”

Mobility is still important to Lee – she loves to be out and about in her beloved Westport. Thanks to the TLC and careful driving of her loyal helper Gina, you’ll easily find Lee most afternoons at Compo Beach. Her white SUV is parked overlooking the water. She often holds court with many friends who love to be in her company.

When we celebrated Lee’s 100th, several members spoke.

Martha Aasen talked of Lee’s outstanding generosity and energy as a fund raiser for countless political candidates over many decades. She said, “It’s a privilege to call her a friend.” Martha told this story:

In the late 1950’s, Lee, Nat and their 4 children were living in a then-huge house on Long Lots Road, enjoying a very comfortable life Liz Taylor and then-husband Mike Todd were house hunting. She was pregnant. Her mother lived in Ridgefield, and Liz wanted to be near her mom.

Their realtor called Nat Greenberg — a long-time Westport real estate developer — in a panic. The realtor had nothing to show them, so he asked Nat if he could them his house.

In walked Liz Taylor and Mike Todd. They loved the house — one of the few in those days with a swimming pool and tennis court — and asked if the Greenbergs would  consider renting it for a year.

Their first reaction was “of course not!” But Nat and Lee talked. They came up with an idea: They could live in Switzerland for a year. Mike offered to pay not only the year’s rental, but for the family of 6 to travel to Europe in style, by ocean liner — and for their chalet.

Unfortunately, during that year Mike Todd was killed in a plane crash. Lee learned the news at a ski mountain. It was a tragic ending to Liz Taylor’s Westport adventure.

A post-script on the 175 Long Lots Road house: Liz Taylor and Mike Todd were not the only famous residents. Lee and Nat eventually sold their home to Harry Reasoner in 1968 — the same year the TV newscaster teamed up with Don Hewitt and Mike Wallace to begin CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”

Ann Sheffer also spoke. She talked about the strong family ties between generations of Greenbergs and Sheffers. Her grandparents were close friends of Lee and Nat — all wicked tennis players, and all involved in local real estate development.

Ann also talked about Lee’s talent as an artist, and how nearly every Democratic candidates for state and local elections — and many national ones — from the 1950s through the ’80s were hosted by their two families, for fundraising and support.

Longtime Democratic activists Lee Greenberg (center) and Martha Aasen, with President Bill Clinton.

After the speeches. cake and singing of “Happy Birthday,” Lee stood up. She expressed great joy for all the wonderful words spoken about her. She thanked the Rotary Club and guests for a great celebration, and said she had so much fun she’d like to do it all over again.

However, she concluded, she’d settle for seeing her friends again next Tuesday at the Rotary Club.

For Westport Rotary Clubs, Ukraine Is Moot

Whenever Ukraine is in the headlines, the news is bad. Border disputes, business shenanigans — even Chernobyl is there.

Rule of law has broken down in the Eastern European nation.

We’re going through a rough patch ourselves. But a few months ago, during the impeachment process, Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs decided to do something in support of our country’s faith in law. It’s something, they said, that’s fundamental to our democracy, and separates us from many other nations oppressed by tyranny.

Because Ukraine is desperately trying to expunge corruption from both its political and legal systems, the clubs — Sunrise Rotary, and the noontime Rotary Club — decided to focus their efforts there.

Ken Bernhard — an attorney, constitutional law professor and former state representative — had also taught in Ukraine. He contacted Professor Demitriy Kamensky of the Berdyansk State Pedagogical University.

Berdyansk State Pedagogical University

Kamensky — who has an LLM in taxation, a Ph.D. in criminal law, and taught at Florida State College of Law — said the clubs’ timing was perfect. Berdyansk State had hoped to construct a moot court setting, to resemble one in their country’s actual legal system. It would provide a training environment for aspiring litigators.

Westport’s 2 Rotaries contributed $2,500 each. The courtroom was opened last week.

Kamesky says:

Thanks to our friends at Westport Sunrise Rotary and the Westport Rotary Club for their support of the rule of law in Ukraine, which is no longer a distant, foreign principle. Indeed it affirms that reality for our law students, faculty and legal professionals.

The moot courtroom has become a place to learn how the judicial systems operates within a free, democratic society. This is where legal theory meets legal practice, where new skills are learned and progressive legal tools are examined. We are very grateful to the clubs for their confidence in our legal community.

The moot classroom.

It seems like a small gesture. The impact on Ukraine’s legal system will not be felt for a while — and it can never be measured.

Rotary clubs raise money so that they can give it away. (And they keep doing it, despite a steep drop in fundraising during COVID).

Combine that with the fact that “Supporting education” is one of Rotary’s six areas of focus.

Rotary International’s motto is “Service Above Self.” “Supporting education” is one of their 6 areas of focus.

From Westport to Ukraine, today there is living — and legal — proof that it matters.

(For information on the Westport Rotary Club, click here. For Westport Sunrise Rotary, click here.)

Ken Bernhard (left) and Professor Kamensky, with the Connecticut state flag, in 2018.