Tag Archives: William Adler

Half A Century Young: Stew Leonard’s, And The Miracle Mets

Alert “06880” reader/Terex director of internal communications/ 1970 Staples graduate/longtime New York Mets fan William Adler writes:

1969 was a magic time: Woodstock, and a man on the moon. It was also the summer of the Miracle Mets. New York’s lovable losers went from last to first in a historic season — capped by a seemingly impossible victory over the mighty Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

Fifty years ago too, Stew Leonard’s store was opening.

At Staples High School, students like my classmate Phil Gambaccini raced home from school to catch portions of the fall classic (World Series games were played during the day back then).

Yesterday, 6 members of that 1969 Mets team signed autographs at Stew Leonard’s. They were celebrating both the 50th anniversary of their world championship, and the store’s 50th.

Phil Gambaccini recently moved back to Westport, after many years abroad. He was at Stew’s yesterday, of course. In the photo below, Ed Kranepool (center) and Art Shamsky autograph a ball for him.

Other Met legends in Norwalk were Ron Swoboda, Cleon Jones, Jim McAndrew and Duffy Dyer.

The line for autographs snaked through the store and into the parking lot, for several hours. Near the end players moved through the line, shaking hands with fans (many as gray as the Mets), and handing out pre-autographed sheets of paper.

Most of the Mets — notably Shamsky, 77 — looked close to playing form, or at least fitter than many fans.

Kranepool has suffered with diabetes for many years, and is searching publicly for a transplant match. When fans asked about his health he quietly said, “Thank you. I just hope I get my kidney.”

To honor the 50th anniversary of the Mets’ championship season, Stew Leonard’s announced that its Wishing Well charity will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. That’s a tribute to Mets Hall of Famer and ’69 World Series ace Tom Seaver, recently diagnosed with Lyme-related dementia.

Saugatuck Island: A Bridge To Somewhere

Alert “06880” reader, native Westporter — and active Saugatuck Island resident — William Adler writes:

In recent days, the Saugatuck Island bridge project has been given the final touches. Traffic is once again busy to and from this neighborhood on Westport’s westerly shores.

The Saugatuck Island Special Taxing District arranged for whitewashing of the bridge railings, and has restored landscaping that had been disrupted by heavy construction equipment.

The new bridge replaces a quaint timber structure of wooden pilings and rustic railings originally built in the 1920s.

The old bridge …

The old bridge was well past its intended lifespan in 2012, when it suffered structural damage in Superstorm Sandy.

The total cost of $2.1 million includes a $1.3 million FEMA grant. The town and SISTD split the remainder 50-50. Construction began last year.

The new bridge retains the feel of its predecessor, while providing greater safety, practicality and rock-solid durability. The single span of concrete deck sits on steel girders, with an asphalt surface. It is secured on 50-foot deep sheet pile abutments clad in concrete.

96 feet long and 20 feet wide, the bridge can hold 20 tons – more than sufficient to accommodate heavy emergency equipment, unlike its wooden predecessor. The bridge’s anticipated life span is 75 years.

… and the new.

The bridge completion comes as Saugatuck Island has been experiencing a housing boom. During the past 5 years, about 1/3 of the approximately 100 properties on the island have changed hands. Prices range from $700,000 to $9.8 million.

Others have been expanded, elevated or otherwise enhanced. New construction has increased the number of larger, higher-end luxury residences.

In addition to 400 Westport residents, the island is home to Cedar Point Yacht Club, established in 1887, and the Saugatuck Shores Club (1946).

SISTD was established in 1984 to tax island property owners for local community costs — mainly road maintenance.

The Saugatuck Island bridge, as seen from Canal Road.

As for Saugatuck Island itself: Near the end of the 19th century, the Army Corps of Engineers cut a canal between what is now Canal Road and Spriteview Avenue, to provide a faster, safer route for onion farmers to transport their goods to Norwalk.

The newly formed island was called “Greater Marsh Shores at Saugatuck.”

Cedar Point: Come On In, The Water’s Fine!

It’s called the Cedar Point Yacht Club. But don’t let the name fool you.

For 128 years, Cedar Point has had a low-key presence in Westport. More sailboat racing than “yacht,” with a clubhouse that’s more “house” than “club,” it exists in happy anonymity on Saugatuck Island, at the western edge of town.

There are no amenities. No fancy lounge or restaurant. No pool or sauna. No tennis courts. Cedar Point is simply a place where serious sailors of all ages, backgrounds and types gather to sail.

Cedar Point Yacht Club, from the air.

Cedar Point Yacht Club, from the air.

It’s one of Westport’s best-kept secrets. And if you’d like to see what this non-yacht-club yacht club is all about, here’s your chance.

This Saturday (July 18, 12-5 p.m.), Cedar Point will treat anyone who shows up as if they’re a member.

Watch the fleets go out to race. Enjoy hot dogs and a bouncy house for the kids. Walk the docks. Tour members’ yachts boats. Relax at the private beach.

There are also free classroom sailing lessons, and a free on-water sailing lesson (weather permitting).

And — keep this quiet — if you mention you’re an “06880” reader, William Adler will arrange for you to go out on a sailboat with a Cedar Point governor.

The club is on Saugatuck Island’s Bluff Point Road. Getting there is half the fun — by car or boat.

(For more information, email BobKarpel.CPYC@gmail.com)

Cedar Point Yacht Club logo

One Year After Sandy, A Community Recovers

A year ago tomorrow, Sandy tore through Westport with raging winds and historic seawater surges. William Adler, a Staples grad and longtime communications professional (UPI, The New York Times, Reader’s Digest), and his wife Olga had moved to Saugatuck Island 3 months earlier. Like many neighbors — and those on Compo Beach and Old Mill — their house was devastated.  William wrote this piece, exclusively for “06880.”

On Monday, October 29, 2012 Storm Sandy tore through town, bringing raging winds and historic seawater surges. Across Westport, 243 homes were substantially damaged. Many were rendered uninhabitable, pending repairs.

Saugatuck Island sits at the mouth of the Saugatuck River. Its 100 or so houses range from 1950s ranches to oceanfront mansions.  A giant wall of water gushed down the narrow streets, smashing through ground-floor windows and doors, depositing as much as 6 feet of water inside.

A small part of the great damage on Saugatuck Shores. (Photos/Inklings staff)

A small part of the great damage on Saugatuck Shores. (Photos/Inklings staff)

Two days later, many residents gingerly returned along Harbor Road on foot. The roadway had buckled as if in an earthquake. The only approach to the island was by cutting through yards.

Some houses were smashed or knocked off their foundations. Seawalls were toppled, their giant boulders tossed about like pebbles. The bridge onto the island was knocked off its moorings. Near the bridge, a sailboat had crashed through a living room window. Drowned rabbits were in driveways, and a dead shark sat on someone’s front stoop.

Damage inside William and Olga Adler's house was typical across Saugatuck Island. (Photo/William Adler)

Damage inside William and Olga Adler’s house was typical across Saugatuck Island. (Photo/William Adler)

Once residents made it home, the sight was just as heartbreaking. Most houses that had not been built or converted to FEMA flood elevation standards sustained water damage. Sea water destroys just about anything it touches: kitchen cabinets and appliances, furniture, floor surfaces – you name it.

Seawater had mixed with septic systems and other toxic sources. And because water surged from all sides it swirled inside houses, causing a tornado-like effect that amplified damage. Many families turned around and headed back to hotels to regroup.

In the weeks that followed, residents took stock. They were thankful to be safe. Help arrived from the Red Cross, FEMA, the Small Business Administration and, especially, the Town of Westport, which counseled victims on the daunting task of filing claims and helped streamline the process of variances for repairs.

Along the way, something wonderful happened. Island residents returned to rebuild. They created informal networks to share information and moral support.  A “stronger than the storm” determination spread widely.  It appears not a single Saugatuck Island family has left specifically because of the storm ordeal.

“The support on the island has been overwhelming,” said Larysa Chernik, who with husband Ihor had just moved from Wilton when Sandy struck. “We are lucky to have our own network of insiders on the island who provide ideas on colors, designs, vendors and anything else. We are sharing and learning from one another. For weeks we commiserated together, shared helpers and names of service providers, not to mention the coffee and donuts. We all lost so very much.”

The cost of staying is steep. Damage to homes on the island is estimated at $2-4 million. At minimum, flooded households had to hire expensive industrial-strength cleaning. Many needed  sheetrock removed, floors torn up.

An Island Way home in mid-elevation. The 1st floor was stripped back to studs, before being placed on a new, higher foundation. (Photo/William Adler)

An Island Way home in mid-elevation. The 1st floor was stripped back to studs, before being placed on a new, higher foundation. (Photo/William Adler)

Some residents elected to elevate – raising the foundation to meet FEMA storm requirements. As the house is lifted by jacks and gently placed on new, higher, moorings, substantial work must be done on every system in the house.  The State of Connecticut estimates that such projects cost $10,000 per linear foot. That works out to $150,000 to $300,000 — or much higher.

Most of the cost is not reimbursed by flood insurance, which mainly covers damage to the original structure. The process can take up to a year.

“We are trying to build smart and safe, so we went high,” Larysa said.“When we are done, we will exceed current base flood elevation by 3 feet. We hope to be more energy efficient. We found an architect who shared our vision and helped us figure out how to put back together our simple home. Neighbors stood with us and cheered as the house went up, and later as it came back down on its new foundation.”

The town has been enormously supportive of flood victims, holding seminars on FEMA and elevation procedures and providing an information phone line staffed by Michele Onofrio at the Westport Fire Department.  

The reconstructed seawall on Saugatuck Shores. (Photo/William Adler)

The reconstructed — and bigger and stronger — seawall on Saugatuck Shores. (Photo/William Adler)

By summer, things were looking up. The island’s association had completed repairs to the bridge, seawalls and roads. Amazingly, the main beach actually looked nicer, thanks to thousands of pounds of powdery sand deposited by the storm. Seawalls were bulldozed back into place, bigger and stronger.

Tony and Penny Sousa, longtime residents, organized a sprawling summer beach party for their neighbors that galvanized everyone’s determination to recover. Among those celebrating was Lisa Hartmann, another longtime resident, who said it is part of the character of people who live by the ocean to hang in through adversity.

Tony and Penny Sousa, celebration organizers. (Photo/William Adler)

Tony and Penny Sousa, celebration organizers. (Photo/William Adler)

“Most people who come to Saugatuck Island – either to live, vacation, join friends for a celebration or pass time — love it,” she said. “Many have been here a long time. They will say that living by the water is a kind of therapy.  Life is a state of mind.  Where else would they go?”

Lisa — a realtor — reports that in addition to all the houses that have been repaired, 7 new constructions are under way. Another is due to start shortly.

“It has been difficult for many people, but knowing that they have made it through is an accomplishment in itself,” Lisa said. “I believe every home was impacted financially in some way or another. You can replace things, but you cannot replace relationships that have been made because of Sandy. Our family is very happy in Saugatuck, and I just say be patient – all this will be a distant memory.  The island is just getting better.”

The island association oversaw the cleanup and repair of the bridge and other infrastructure, which cost residents about $100,000. Carole Reichhelm, the association president and a resident for nearly 40 years, said the island is now better prepared to handle future storm emergencies.

“Our board came on strong and worked together quickly to get our cleanup under way. Although our bridge floated off its foundation we had it back in place in less than 2 weeks. We learned vital information about its structure and how we can protect ourselves better. Our experience with FEMA was very positive.”

This Island Way home was in mid-elevation, with the 1st floor stripped back to studs, before being placed on a new, higher foundation.  (Photo/William Adler)

This house, on the beach at Saugatuck Island, is being elevated above FEMA requirements. (Photo/William Adler)

Carole added that she can’t remember a time when community spirit was stronger.  “In many ways, the storm brought our neighbors closer together – personally, I know more people on the island than I ever have before. We are a strong, vibrant, pretty old-fashioned neighborhood with kids on bikes, lemonade stands in summer, July 4th barbecues, paddle boarders, kayakers, sailors and a lot of people enjoying the spectacular views. If Sandy was our sacrifice for choosing to live in this place, I’d do it all over again without a second thought.”

Still, as Layrsa and Ihor prepare to finally move home, she said, “Living as a displaced person for a year is a humbling experience. You appreciate every act kindness, no matter how small. We are privileged to live in a unique community.

“The holiday caroling party has been organized, and discussions are under way for starting a movie club. The walks with our dogs continue. Everything has changed this year, except for the people we call friends and neighbors. We hope for many more safe and happy years.”

In the past year, the Adlers have elevated their home. Olga — an interior decorator — is in the process of creating “the ultimate beach house,” with energy-efficient features, solar power, a home automation system and car elevator.

Sandy deposited tons of shells along Saugatuck Island beaches, but somehow this brave little sunflower took root in the sand last summer.  (Photo/William Adler)

Sandy deposited tons of shells along Saugatuck Island beaches, but somehow this brave little sunflower took root in the sand last summer. (Photo/William Adler)

Helen Thomas’ Westport Connections

The death this weekend of Helen Thomas — legendary dean of the White House press corps — has a Westport angle.

Longtime Westport obstetrician/gynecologist Danny Adler met her at a press function in the early 1980s. Despite vastly different occupations, they struck up a unique, distant friendship that lasted through their lifetimes.

Danny was introduced to Helen by his son, William Adler, a UPI correspondent in Washington, D.C.  Danny wanted to meet her because he sensed they were kindred spirits: progressive, outspoken, feisty and unafraid of making people mad.

Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas

William cautioned his father not to get his hopes up about connecting with Helen — after all, she was the busiest, hardest-working journalist in Washington, arriving at work before her much-younger colleagues, and staying in the office until the wee hours.

But Danny and Helen hit it off immediately.  They exchanged phone numbers. And when Danny was home in Connecticut they had occasional  long chats about politics. He encouraged her to “give ’em hell” — and she always did.

Helen was impressed by Danny’s knowledge of history and international politics. (A voracious reader, he harbored a secret wish to be a political correspondent, not a doctor).

Dr. Danny Adler

Dr. Danny Adler

Their friendship continued for decades — eventually moving to email. It was easy for Danny to remember their birthdays. He was born on August 3, 1920. She was born a day later, that same year. Danny died 7 months ago.

The fact that Helen Thomas made time for someone she met incidentally — and established such a strong connection — adds private testimony to her public greatness.


William Adler — who grew up in Westport, and has returned here to live — has his own Helen Thomas story. In 1983, as UPI spokesman, he asked her to help him get a group of Latin American editors into the White House for a private reception with President Reagan.

The date was set. But right before the visit the U.S. invaded the small island of Grenada.  Press secretary Larry Speakes wanted to cancel the editors’ visit, but relented on the grounds that Helen Thomas could not ask the President about the invasion.  William passed Speakes’ condition on to Helen, who tacitly agreed.

The editors were ushered into a reception room. Helen immediately scooted to the front, charged up to Reagan and shouted, “Mr. President, what’s the latest from Grenada?”

(One more Helen Thomas-Westport connection: Current resident Allan Siegert worked with her in Washington in the 1980s.)

Remembering Danny Adler

Dr. Daniel Adler — a beloved local physician who delivered of thousands of babies during 4 decades of service to Westport and Weston — died of natural causes on Sunday at his Weston home. He was 92.

Dr. Adler was a pioneer in his field. He was an outspoken practitioner in the use of midwives in deliveries, and in-office procedures like laparoscopy.

An outspoken advocate of women’s reproductive rights, he provided pro bono care to indigent patients in Norwalk, while operating a private ob-gyn practice in Westport from 1954 to 1985.

Dr. Adler was named the 1st chairman of Norwalk Hospital’s ob-gyn department in 1980. He also served as an assistant clinical professor at Yale. He retired from St. Vincent’s Hospital in 2000, age 80.

Dr. Daniel Adler

Dr. Daniel Adler

Dr. Adler’s deep interest in national and global affairs led to friendships with Westport journalists Harry Reasoner and Gordon Manning. A passionate Democrat, he hosted presidential candidate Gene McCarthy in his home, and met presidential hopefuls George McGovern and Sargent Shriver when they visited Westport. Last month, he reveled in the re-election of President Obama.

Dr. Adler’s son William honored his father — and his father’s generation — this way:

People around my parents’ ages were World War II era, and came home to build the suburbs and the life we love. They were not the Mad Men generation –they were a bit before. They were Rod Serling, or the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.  They were Cheever and Richard Yates.

They grew up on Bennie Goodman, not Elvis, and everything they stood for had to do with sacrificing so that the next generation — ours — could have it better.  Could have peace, prosperity, new opportunity. So they were mensches.

They worked and they gave and they gave. I heard my father turning over the engine on his car, middle of the night, night after night – babies were being born, and this was before doctors had teams of partners and backup for their backup.

They didn’t expect to get rich.  Danny charged $300 for a full 9-month course of care leading up to and including a delivery in the mid-1960s. One patient gave him a sculpture of a cat in lieu of payment.

This was the last generation of builders. They didn’t outsource; they built businesses, products, services. They didn’t run away to international havens; they did it here, in Westport.

Their names are on street signs and park names: Harding, Gault, Bisceglie. Most of them are gone, but to those of us who care none are forgotten. Such a name is Daniel H. Adler, MD.

PS: Among the thousands of babies Danny Adler delivered was my youngest sister, Laurie.

(Arrangements are private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Dr. Adler’s honor to Planned Parenthood or Weston Emergency Medical Services.)

Olga Adler Has Designs On Westport

Olga Adler is an award-winning interior designer. Born in Poland, raised in Europe and a traveler to more than 40 countries on 4 continents, she’s got an eclectic, global style of homes and offices that endears her to clients.

But even though Olga — who came to the US 9 years ago, at 28 — enjoyed living and working in Ridgefield, she felt “land-locked.” The lure of the shore was strong.

Olga Adler

So she and her husband, William, decided to move. The stars were aligned: Very quickly they met the right realtor, and the right house came on the market. In August they moved into a handsome house on Saugatuck Island.

Her new studio — at 179 Post Road West — is not far away.

For William — a 1970 Staples graduate, whose parents still live in Weston — it’s a homecoming of sorts.

For Olga, it’s a show of faith. It’s not easy moving onto your husband’s old stomping grounds. But she loves it.

“It’s really fun,” she says of her first weeks in town. “Wherever we go, William knows people. We have interesting conversations about Westport now and then. It’s very exciting.”

It’s exciting too to become part of the community. Olga is a longtime supporter of Project Return. She designed several birdhouses for their auctions, and is helping with next month’s Gather ‘Round the Table luncheon.

In Ridgefield Olga supported A Better Chance. She looks forward to working with Westport’s chapter soon.

An Olga Adler living room.

Olga has long admired Westport’s restaurants, and its coastal ambience. Now, she says, some of that shoreline influence is showing up in her work.

“Living on the water definitely affects my creative sensibilities,” she notes.
“I’m designing my own home as a beach house, with all that texture, color and light.”

It may take a while, though, to complete that particular project.

“My clients come first,” Olga says. “Eventually, I’ll get our house done.”

Spoken like a true Westporter.