And no Rotarian was more active or outgoing than John Hendrickson.
The longtime Westport Sunrise Rotary Club member — and former president == died last month, after a struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 81.
For many years, John chaired the Sunrise Rotary’s annual wine tasting fundraiser. When he asked you to help — or buy a ticket — it was impossible to resist.
He served as treasurer of the club’s 21st Century Foundation. He was also Area 2 assistant governor and district governor coordinator.
John was a Paul Harris Society Member and Fellow, among the highest Rotary International honors.
John was also involved in Westport soccer. He was particularly proud of his sons Jon and Matthew’s Staples High School careers.
John — a Brooklyn native who moved to Norwalk, after many years in Westport — is survived by Carole, his wife of 44 years; his sons; his daughter-in-law Dagmara, and his grandchild Maisie. He was predeceased by his brother Bryan Matthew Hendrickson.
A celebration of John’s life will take place at a later date.
Every year, Westport’s Sunrise Rotary raises nearly $100,000 from 2 events: The Duck Race, and a wine tasting gala.
Eighty percent of the proceeds are donated to organizations that serve the health, hunger, safety and education needs of adults and children from Stamford to New Haven. The other 20% funds disease prevention, health, peace promotion, education and economic development across the globe.
COVID -19 forced the cancellation of both fundraisers.
To partially fill the gap — and provide safe, fun activities that may also attract new members — Sunrise members collaborated with the Remarkable Theater. They showed “School of Rock” on the Imperial Avenue parking lot screen. The famous yellow duck — and a duckling — were there, welcoming movie-goers.
More events are planned. To learn more about membership, email
email@example.com. To support charitable giving, send a check to
Westport Sunrise Rotary, PO Box 43, Westport, CT 06881-0043.
Nothing is wrong. The convertible’s driver adjusted its hydraulics, for a comfortable viewing spot at the Remarkable Drive-In.
As a Staples High School student, Dylan Diamond made frequent appearances on “06880.”
At 15, he built an app that allowed classmates to view their schedules and grades — then rolled it out nationally, with hundreds of thousands of downloads.
He followed up with apps that helped skiers find buddies on the slope, and let users book everything from babysitters and yardwork to concert tickets.
Now Inc. has taken notice. He and Wharton School classmate Max Baron have gone all-in on Saturn, a calendar app.
Inc. says “they are working to build community around the calendar in high schools, with a big vision fueling them: to own the time layer of the internet.”
To hear Inc.’s podcast — in which the two discuss “why retention is social, how living together has given the co-founders an ‘always on’ mindset, and what they learned from their early work experience at Tesla and Havas” — click here. (Hat tip: John Dodig)
Dylan Diamond, in San Francisco. While still a Staples High School student, he scored a coveted invitation to Facebook’s F8 conference.
How bad are the wildfires out west?
Peter Gold notes that Connecticut has 3.548 million acres. As of Saturday, over 3.2 million acres have burned in California this fire season alone. In addition, 900,000 acres burned in Oregon, and over 600,000 more in Washington.
“It’s hard to imagine an area almost one-and-a-half times the size of Connecticut burned in just 3 states,” he says.
Battling a blaze in California.
Jane Mansbridge is a professor of political leadership and values at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
A recent Harvard Gazette story traces her “jagged trajectory” from her youth in Weston, and years at Staples High School (Class of 1957) to her current role as one of the world’s leading scholars of democratic theory.
She loved growing up in a small town. But, she says, she was bullied in Weston and at Staples for being “bookish and a smart girl.”
Realizing that not everyone liked the kind of person she was, or the values she held may have contributed to her later drive to find out more about people who were not like her, she says.
Click here for the full story. (Hat tip: A. David Wunsch)
Jane Mansbridge (Photo/Stephanie Mitchell for Harvard staff)
The porgies are in! This was the scene yesterday, at Sherwood Island State Park. Of course, fishermen always observe social distance.
And finally … On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key watched a British bombardment of Maryland during the War of 1812. Inspired by the sight of an American flag still flying at daybreak, he wrote a poem. “The Defence of Fort M’Henry” was later set to music. In 1931 “The Star-Spangled Banner” became our national anthem. One of the most famous versions was sung by our wonderful neighbor, Weston’s Jose Feliciano, before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series in Detroit. It was controversial at the time; no one had ever delivered such a non-traditional rendition.
His performance nearly ended his career. But 42 years later — in 2010 — he was invited back to Detroit, to perform it again. This time, the crowd roared.
A little pandemic can’t keep Westport’s Sunrise Rotary club down.
Every April, they do a volunteer clean-up in town. The lockdown postponed this year’s event. But yesterday the members were out in force, ridding the I-95 Exit 17 parking lot of trash.
It was just like old times. Except for the masks.
Westporters have been intrigued by a Ford Escort at the train station.
During the pandemic it sat for weeks in the same spot. Last week it finally vanished. Some folks were pleased because it seemed the driver was okay; others wondered if the car had been towed, because the driver was not okay.
Well, the Ford is back. But now I’ve got another question:
There are hundreds of empty spots in the lot. Why does he (or she) choose such a random place to park?
Bridgewater got Paul Podolsky to Westport. The 1991 Brown University grad liked the town so much, he moved here.
Five weeks ago — after more than 20 years with the firm — he retired. His goal is to write full time. Judging by his memoir — released today — he’s got another great career.
Raising a Thief is the powerful, insightful and searingly truthful story of the orphan girl Podolsky and his wife adopted from Russia. They imagined she’d blend in well with their son, and enjoy all the wonders of Westport.
But she suffered from Reactive Attachment Disorder — a condition in which a child who has suffered physical or emotional neglect or abuse cannot form a healthy emotional bond with new parents.
Sonya lies and steals. She has an eating disorder, and tries to jump out of a window.
It’s a difficult story to read. It must have been even harder to live through — and then write.
Yet, Podolsky notes, Bridgewater helped. “The culture is all about radical honesty. I was accustomed to that.”
Founder Ray Dallio says of the book: “I am passionage about understanding how people think, and why … This book offers an invaluable picture about how the earliest childhood experiences shape thinking. I recommend it for all parents.”
Podolsky’s wife became a therapist, and now treats struggling families. They — and anyone with an interest in the human condition — will appreciated Raising a Thief.
As for Podolsky, his next book is fiction. It’s based on his work in international finance, specifically China and Russia.
For more information and to buy Raising a Thief, click here.
They’re the gifts that keep on giving.
From the earliest days of the coronavirus, stones bearing uplifting messages have been spotted around town.
They’re at Grace Salmon Park. Outisde the police station. On Burying Hill Beach.
Yesterday, Lauri Weiser spotted this particularly pretty one. Rock on, Westport!
And finally … summer arrived yesterday. Of the squintillion summer songs, this Gershwin tune — and this Billy Stewart version — stands at the top.
For the 2nd year in a row, the 23-foot high, 15-foot wide, 15-foot long, 260-pound “Sunny” is floating in the Saugatuck River. It’s a very visible (and quite yellow) reminder of the Sunrise Rotary Club’s upcoming Great Duck Race (this Saturday, June 3 — click here for details).
Things are less ducky north of the border.
The BBC reports that another version of the duck — twice as tall as Westport’s will float in Toronto’s waterfront, for a festival celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. It then travels across the province, for an “Ontario 150” tour.
The duck in Toronto.
The provincial government is picking up some of the tab. But Progressive Conservative officials have called it “an absolute cluster duck” and “quack economics.”
Bill Meyer — the consummate Westport volunteer, a man who knew everyone in town, and one of the most genuinely friendly human beings on the planet — died today. He battled multiple myeloma for over a year.
In his 85 years, Bill did more than 85 normal people could in 85 lifetimes.
Professionally, he had a fulfilling career as national sales manager for several companies. “We manufactured and sold pens and pencils,” he said of one business.
That’s like saying Bruce Springsteen “plays music.” In fact, Bill managed 800 workers on a Blackfoot Indian reservation in Montana. He was so motivational and inspirational, the tribe adopted him — and gave him an honorary Indian name.
But as much as he traveled, Bill always found time for Westport.
Plenty of time.
Here is a teeny-tiny, way-too-partial list. Bill…
was elected 9 times to the RTM. He chaired the Parks and Recreation Committee, and served on its Education, and Health and Human Services Committees
founded the Westport Little League softball program; was a member of the Little League board of directors; umpired — and had a softball field named for him
served as Y’s Men president and membership chairman
was a director of Sunrise Rotary, Senior Center, First Night, Westport’s AARP chapter, Westport Community Theatre, and 2 intercity Bridgeport agencies
served on the Saugatuck Congregational Church council
mentored a boy from age 5 through adolescence
helped with Meals on Wheels
volunteered on many Republican campaigns
was a board member of Isaiah House in Bridgeport, which helps parolees transition from prison to life outside
won the 2004 Service to Older Adults award
earned a Westport First award
received the YMCA’s Faces of Achievement honor.
Bill loved Staples. He loved Westport, sports, the theater, church, the Republican party, volunteering, old people, young people, and his wife Carolyn.
Or — to put it another way: Bill loved life.
We owe Bill Meyer an enormous debt. He touched each of us, and all of us.
He made Westport a better place to live.
You can’t ask for a better life than that.
This photo epitomizes Bill Meyer. He was volunteering at the Great Duck Race, sponsored by Sunrise Rotary, while hugging Republican State Senator Toni Boucher.
It takes more than a heap o’ livin’ to make a house a home.
In the case of the Westport Rotary Centennial House — the supportive housing initiative in Saugatuck that welcomes its 1st tenants this weekend (4 single adults and 2 single parents, each with a child — all formerly homeless) — it takes dedicated, passionate and generous Westporters, working individually and in groups.
Westport's Rotary Centennial House
According to Peter Powell, president/CEO of the House’s sponsor, Homes With Hope (formerly the Interfaith Housing Association), the Centennial House became a home thanks to:
The late Bernice Corday, who in 2004 — heeding the IHA’s board of directors’ strategic plan — urged the Westport Rotary Clubs to adopt supportive housing as their centennial project. That plan was written by Rotarian and IHA director Jim Marpe.
The Rotary Clubs, who eagerly adopted the project. Each raised $25,000 long before there was a building to hang their name on. Fundraising efforts were led by Bill Scheffler (Westport Rotary Club) and John Franklin (Westport Sunrise Rotary Club).
Rotarian and real estate broker Bunny Mostad, who offered her services to find a suitable property — then donated her commission to the Centennial House.
Audrey Sparre and former IHA staffer Candace Buckley, whoapplied for and received a HUD grant of more than $300,000. That leveraged the Rotary support fivefold, enabling purchase of the property. Citibank, impressed, gave IHA a 3% loan to finance the rest of the purchase — then renewed the loan at the same rate many times.
The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority provided funding, and IHA sold tax credits to CL&P. The house is now owned by HWH/IHA free and clear.
HWH/IHA staff member Karen Mahar led construction efforts. She attended countless meetings, monitored all expenses, made many design choices, worked with an array of people and gained skills she never thought she’d need. “She brought the house in on budget, on time, and on her shoulders,” Powell says.
Up next: more affordable supportive housing. This fall Homes With Hope will open 10 apartments at a building owned by another non-profit. Next year, 9 apartments open at Hales Court. And HWH is seeking a lease on property to develop 12 more units.
Powell is adamant in his commitment to end homelessness, through permanent supportive housing. With the help of many others, more houses will truly become Westport homes.
Rotarians, builders, realtors, and town and Homes With Hope officials cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony. (Photo by Denise McLaughlin)
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