Tag Archives: Westport Sunrise Rotary Club

Roundup: Rob Simmelkjaer, Paul Newman, President Kennedy …

On the even of today’s New York City Marathon — and a couple of weeks before Roh Simmelkjaer takes over as CEO of its organizer, New York Road Runners — the New York Times sat down for a chat with the Westport resident.

Simmelkjaer is familiar to local residents. He’s a former member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Democratic Town Committee.

Persona — the interview and conversation-focused social media startup he founded — had a heavy local presence.

Simmelkjaer has also been a top manager at ESPN, an on-air Olympics personality for NBC, and — most recently — director of the Connecticut State Lottery.

He calls the Road Runners gig his “dream job.” (He comes prepared: He’s finished the New York Marathon twice.)

Click here to learn about Simmelkjaer’s plans — including a greater focus on the mental health aspect of running, and expanding the organization’s reach — in the Times’ Q-and-A. (Hat tip: John Suggs)

Rob Simmelkjaer

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Also in today’s New York Times: a review of Paul Newman’s new posthumous memoir, “The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man.”

It’s by Richard Russo, who has some skin in the Westport actor’s game. Newman’s portrayal of Sully in the film adaptation of Russo’s novel changed the author’s life, opening doors to a screenwriting career.

Click here for the full Times piece.

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CraftWestport — the Young Woman’s League’s mega-pre-holiday fair — returns to the Staples High School fieldhouse today, after 2 COVID years off.

Among the 175-plus exhibitors: Aiden Schachter.

The Staples High School student is selling his LED lightclouds. That may be a first for the event — and he may be the youngest vendor ever.

The show runs until 6 p.m. today. Click here for tickets, and more information.

Aiden Schachter, and his lightcloud booth.

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As the political season heats up, so does the work of Marc Selverstone.

The 1980 Staples High School graduate — An associate professor in presidential studies at the University of Virginia, and chair of the Presidential Recordings Program at the Miller Center of Public Affairs there — is about to publish “The Kennedy Withdrawal: Camelot and the American Commitment in Vietnam.”

It’s called “a major revision of our understanding of JFK’s commitment to Vietnam, revealing that his administration’s plan to withdraw was a political device, the effect of which was to manage public opinion while preserving United States military assistance.”

Selverstone is an expert on the subject. At the Miller Center he edits the secret tapes of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.

Click here for more information, and to purchase.

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How do stress levels affect children’s brain development?

That’s the topic of the next Positive Directions “Lunch and Learn” series.

Frank Castorina, PD clinical supervisor, provides insights on November 16 (noon to 1:30 p.m., Westport Weston Family YMCA0.

It’s an important and timely topic. And lunch is provided! Click here to RSVP.

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Speaking of stress: Relax with some wine! (Adults, not kids …)

Westport Sunrise Rotary has just the ticket. Their “Westport Uncorked” wine tasting fundraiser is set for The Inn at Longshore (Friday, November 18. 6:30 p.m.).

Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served, along with dozens of fine wines provided by The Fine Wine Company of Westport. (All wines are available for purchase).

Every dollar raised goes directly to charities supported by Westport Sunrise Rotary. Click here for tickets, and more information.

Good times at the 2019 Uncorked wine tasting, at the Inn at Longshore.

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In advance of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ November 25 release of “Live at the Fillmore 1997” — their first live record in over a decade — Emmy-winning Westport animator Jeff Scher has created a great video.

Viewers will recognize plenty of local scenes, including Compo Beach, North Avenue and Cross Highway. There’s also the “Heroes Tunnel” through West Rock Ridge near Wilbur Cross Parkway Exit 59 in New Haven.

Click below to see:

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Westporters turned out in force yesterday, to help the Westport police force — and folks in need.

The Police Department and Stop & Shop sponsored their annual Thanksgiving Food Drive. All donations — 436 bags, filled to the brim — support Homes with Hope’s Food Pantry at the Gillespie Center. and Westport Human Services’ Food Pantry.

Some residents went out of their way to bring food. Others spotted the food drive, and added non-perishable items to their shopping lists.

At the end of the day, an entire (and enormous) truck was filled with much-needed goods. Thanks to all who contributed — and of course to the WPD, and Stop & Shop.

RTM member Jimmy Izzo, former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (with his wife Mary Ellen and grandson Charlie), and Police Chief Foti Koskinas (center), with volunteers and Westport Police Department officers at the Thanksgiving food drive by Stop & Shop.

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“Script in Hand” — the Westport Country Playhouse’s very popular series of staged readings — returns November 14 (7 p.m.). The show is “Ripcord.”

Click here for details (including a plot summary) and tickets.

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If you’ve eaten at La Plage, you know there’s fine dining by the water.

If you’re a bald eagle, you agree. Seth Goltzer spotted this bird enjoying a tasty meal of squirrel at Longshore.

It’s the real world. And it fits perfectly with our “Westport … Naturally” concept.

(Photo/Seth Goltzer)

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And finally … Aaron Carter, the singer and actor (and brother of Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter) was found dead yesterday at his California home. He was 34.

(Your clock should have been set back an hour last night. And don’t forget to support “06880” either! Please click here to contribute.)

Duck!

A large crowd gathered at Jesup Green today, for the annual running of the ducks.

(Photo/Matthew Mandell)

The Sunrise Rotary Club fundraiser returned live, after 2 COVID years. Proceeds go toward the organization’s many service projects, in Fairfield County and around the globe.

Warm-up activities included older kids …

Rebecca Yormark (shown with her mother Diane) built and raced her own “duck car.”

… and younger ones.

Grace Waldman is all in. (Photo/Mark Mathias)

Then Sunrise Rotary volunteers got to work …

(Photo/Matthew Mandell)

… and the race was on!

(Photo/Matthew Mandell)

Janet Mittleman won the $5,000 grand prize.

Runners-up — also winning substantial cash awards — were Nick Battaglino, Anna Brady, Rob Graham, Alexander Strompen, Tracey Cauley, Wen Hsu, Rady Johnson, Jason Wolgast and Silvia Durno.

They’re probably all out celebrating now.

At the Duck?

Roundup: VersoFest, Tax Holiday, Downshifters …

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Yesterday — the middle of the Westport Library’s 3-day VersoFest — included a keynote speech by Michael Jai White.

The actor/writer/producer/martial artist/former Westport personal trainer described his upbringing in Bridgeport, his career in the movie industry, and his quest to bring a full-scale, state-of-the-art, employing-hundreds studio and production facility to Connecticut.

“I was not put on this earth to make a billion dollars,” he told the crowd. “I’m here to share a billion dollars.”

Michael Jai White (Photo/Dan Woog)

Another highlight from yesterday: the announcement that Tammy Winser is the winner of the contest to design a cover for Verso Studios’ new record label

It’s the first label for any library, anywhere in the country. Music will be produced at the Westport Library’s high-tech studio.

Tammy’s work was chosen from dozens of entries. Here it is:

Meanwhile, all the album covers entered in the contest were shown on the Library’s big screen, prior to the big reveal:

(Photo/Dan Woog)

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Yesterday was also the Rotary Day of Service.

Westport’s Sunrise Club gathered (in early morning hail) at grungy I-95 Exit 17.

Sixteen members (and 3 spouses) collected 17 large bags of trash, along the roadside and ramps. Their haul included liquor bottles, masks, bumpers — and a passport. Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department hauled it away.

Numerous passing drivers honked, and gave thumb’s-up. Now all they have to do is stop tossing liquor bottles, masks and passports out their windows.

Sunrise Rotary members Bruce Fritz and Paul Keblish clean up Charles Street …

… while Maria Fraioli snags a stray bumper.

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Last month, the state General Assembly suspended Connecticut’s 25-cent gas tax. They also added a second “Sales Tax-Free Week” to the annual summer holiday.

The spring “Sales Tax-Free Week” begins today (Sunday, April 10). It runs through Saturday (April 16).

This week, sales of clothing and footwear costing less than $100 will not be subject to sales tax.

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Westporters were out in force yesterday, taking advantage of the nice weather to beautify their land.

Among them: a woman at the historic Jesup Road property just west of the police station.

(Photo/Robin Myers)

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In the 1950s and early ’60s, the Downshifters were Westport’s premier hot rod club.

The club is long gone. So are hot rods. And the members are getting up in age.

But the ones who are still around have a new project: varsity jackets.

They’re ordering those sharp-looking jackets, complete with logo. And you don’t have to be a former member to order one.

Contact Morgan Smith for details: aeronaca33@gmail.com. The deadline is April 15.

So you’ve got to hurry. But don’t speed.

Downshifters jacket.

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Staples High School Class of 1971 graduate Bonnie Erickson offers today’s “Westport … Naturally” treat.

She spotted this beauty in the Saugatuck River, near the Library Riverwalk:

(Photo/Bonnie Erickson)

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And finally … the Westport Library’s VersoFest ends tonight, with what is sure to be a kick-ass performance by Selwyn Birchwood. If you haven’t yet heard of the rising blues artist — you will. Click here for more information, and tickets.

Remembering John Hendrickson

Rotarians are active, outgoing people.

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.

John Hendrickson

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.

Roundup: Sunrise Rotary, Dylan Diamond, Wildfires, More


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
info@westportsunriserotary.org. 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.

(Photo/Roseann Spengler)


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.

Roundup: Rotary; Reactive Attachment Disorder; Rocks; More


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?

(Photo/Curtis Lueker)


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.

Paul Podolsky


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.

“State Of The Town” Meeting Set For Sunday

Presidents have their State of the Union addresses. Governors deliver (oddly named) “State of the State” talks.

This Sunday (January 26, 2 p.m., Westport Library), 1st Selectman Jim Marpe will discuss the “State of the Town.” He’ll be joined by Board of Education chair Candice Savin.

They’ll look back at town and school accomplishments over the past year, and preview upcoming initiatives.

There’s audience participation too. A question-and-answer session will be led by RTM deputy moderator Jeffrey Wieser.

The event is sponsored by Westport’s 2 Rotary clubs.

Pic Of The Day #775

A few of the many ducks preparing for today’s Sunrise Rotary Club Great Race. Did yours win? (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport’s Goal: A World Record Duck

Each spring, a giant inflatable duck floats in the Saugatuck River. It’s a fun, funny promotion for the Sunrise Rotary Club’s Great Duck Race.

This spring, he gets a companion.

On April 27, the 8th annual Maker Faire features a Great Duck Project. Attendees will try to set a world record for the largest 3D printed duck.

It’s “the first of its kind global crowd-sourcing science and art initiative,” says Mark Mathias. He’s the founder of the Westport’s Maker Faire, and a Sunrise Rotary member.

Artist’s rendering of the 6-foot 3D duck.

“Global” is no exaggeration. People from around the world are invited to 3D print and submit pieces. They’ll be combined into a 6-foot tall, 476-piece duck.

Mathias takes “around the world” literally. He reached out to the McMurdo station in Antarctica, to see if they’ll participate.

He even went galactic, asking if the International Space Station could print a part, then return it to earth on a supply mission. (Party-pooping NASA said no.)

But keeping the Great Duck Project terrestrial should be interesting enough.

Don’t have your own 3D printer? No sweat. There are plenty around, in libraries, schools and offices.

Once the world-record duck is printed, it won’t disappear. You can see it at the Memorial Day parade — and, of course, the Great Duck Race.

Quack!

(The Great Duck Project is a collaboration of the Westport Sunrise Rotary Club and Greens Farms Academy, which serves as the “technical lead.” For more information or to participate, click here. or contact Mark Mathias: mark@remarkablesteam.org; 203-226-1791.)

Pic Of The Day #403

Double duck on the Saugatuck (Photo/Patricia McMahon)