Tag Archives: Willowbrook Cemetery

Roundup: GFA’s DMC, Cavalry Bridge, Beach Jetty …

Greens Farms Academy’s commencement ceremony yesterday had many traditional elements.

The 90 members of the Class of 2022 marched in, to “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Valedictorian Shealeigh Crombie and salutatorian Alicja Farber addressed the crowd. Head of school Bob Whelan spoke movingly of the class as a whole, and described each individual graduate with personal adjectives.

But the commencement speaker was not your usual honoree. Darryl McDaniels — co-founder of Run-DMC (the first rap group on the cover of Rolling Stone, and first inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame); an author, philanthropist and mental health advocate — took the mic, and owned the crowd.

Parents, grandparents — and of course the graduates — sat rapt, as “DMC” spoke (and rapped) about the soon-to-be-alums’ possibilities, potential and purpose.

He talked about the importance of imagination, and assured them they were well prepared for whatever lies ahead.

The recessional was as traditional as ever. But this was a GFA graduation for the record.

Darryl McDaniels delivers the commencement address.

Proud graduates’ processional.

Head of school Bob Whelan. (Photos/Dan Woog)

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Peggy Lehn had quite a day yesterday.

Doing just one errand, she saw:

  • 3 stop sign runners without a tap on the brakes
  • 2 separate cars pulling out dangerously in front of her
  • 1 U-turn on the blind corner at Greens Farms Road and Center Street.

But this one — at Maple Avenue North, near the Post Road — took the cake. (And almost the donuts and falafels.)

(Photo/Peggy Lehn)

Neither Peggy nor I know what happened. But heed her words: “Be careful out there!”

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Once again it’s graduation season. For the third year in a row, Le Rouge is distributing “Give a Little Love” chocolate hearts. The goal is to give one to every graduating student in Bridgeport, when they get their diplomas.

It’s a community-wide effort, for our neighbors a few miles away. Each heart is $8. To buy one (or more!), click here.

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“Double Indemnity” — an exhibit of work by artists Miggs Burroughs and Ann Chernow, based on the film noir classic — is on display at the Westport Library through September 6. An opening reception is set for June 23 (6:30 p.m.).

The show also includes 3 special movie nights, all on the 19-foot screen in the Trefz Forum.

“Double Indemnity” will be shown on June 23, immediately following the reception.

“Detour” will be screened on July 7 (7 p.m.); Susan Granger hosts.

On July 14 (7 p.m.), it’s the original “Nightmare Alley.” Miggs and Ann will host.

Click here for more information.

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The long Cavalry Road reconstruction project — and its long delays — are finally over.

The bridge in Westport’s northwest corner opened yesterday, to the surprise (and delight) of the neighborhood.

It’s been closed since April 2021. If you live nearby, tell us: Was it worth the wait?

Cavalry Road bridge (Photo/Screenshot from Kristy Theisinger video)

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Speaking of reconstruction: Chris Swan has been watching the Burying Hill jetty replacement project with great interest.

He reports that all but about 12 of the second row of pilings has been set, and cut down to finished height at the top of jetty. The end is in sight!

Progress! (Photo/Chris Swan)

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Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup noted that dog licenses must be renewed by July 1. I included several links, from a Town Hall press release.

Town clerk Jeffrey Dunkerton sends along this all-in-one link (click here). It should cover every question — and every dog. Arf!

Cute! But register him (or her).

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Ever since COVID, Westporters have enjoyed outdoor dining — and music — on Church Lane. It’s a great experience — but the musicians don’t play for free.

The Westport Downtown Association has started a GoFundMe campaign to help. The goal is $4,000, to offset the cost of 30 evenings of music by local performers. Click here for more information, and to help.

Music on Church Lane.

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Around the corner from Church Lane, one of Westport’s most iconic buildings has been sold.

177 Main Street — the restored house at the entrance to Parker Harding Plaza, most recently home to Local to Market, and before that Talbots and (of course) the Remarkable Book Shop — was purchased by Eleish Van Breems Home Westport.

Headquartered on Franklin Street, and with stores on Railroad Place  and Nantucket, Eleish Van Breems offers “a clean, elegant and fresh approach to interiors, all with a Scandinavian essence.”

The new home of Eleish Van Breems Home.

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A small local book has just won a big book award.

“In Death, the Gift of Life” earned top honors in the “Death & Dying” category, for the 16th annual National Indie Excellence Awards.

The anthology — inspired by Dan Levinson’s experience with his father’s end-of-life passage — includes 10 Westport stories about those choices, and the challenges faced by people with terminal illnesses.

Each narrative explores men and women who faced the medical establishment head-on, then deliberately embraced grace and courage in the aftermath.

Click here to order the book. All proceeds benefit the Westport Library, Senior Center and Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County.

Mark your calendar for October 13 (7 p.m.), too. That’s the date of the official, twice-COVID-delayed launch party for the book, at the Westport Library. Click here for details.

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There’s a new resident at Willowbrook Cemetery.

This one is very much alive.

Danny Amoruccio, manager/sexton of Willowbrook Cemetery Association, says:  “This little one is hanging around Section 11. We remind everyone not to approach or bother the new fawn. We seeing so many people pestering this little guy.”

New life at Willowbrook Cemetery.

So  be a dear — leave it alone!

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They’re not around for long. But while they’re here, these Saugatuck Shores flowers make for a gorgeous “Westport … Naturally” scene.

(Photo/Diane Yormark)

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And finally … Greens Farms Academy’s choice of Darryl McDaniels as commencement speaker was inspired.

Not tricky at all.

(“06880” relies entirely on contributions. Please click here to support this blog.)

Pic Of The Day #1821

A different view of Willowbrook Cemetery (Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

Pics Of The Day #1819

Daffodil Mile, at Willowbrook Cemetery … (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

… and a closeup. (Photo/Charlie Scott)

Photo Challenge #341

Sure, it’s a cemetery. But Willowbrook has long been an enticing place to walk, jog, bike, even play.

The expansive property on Main Street, just past Coffee An’ heading north, is beautiful. There are plenty of paths, and lots of greenery.

Plus a large mausoleum, which many “0688o” have noticed over the years.

Mark Jacobs’ image was last week’s Photo Challenge. (Click here to see.)

Emily Mikesell, Seth Schachter, Andrew Colabella, Susan Feliciano, E.M. Auber, Michelle S. Saunders, Tom Wall, Peter Swift, Jeff Mitchell and Carissa Simon Baker all recognized it from their jaunts through Willowbrook.

It’s a great spot to rest. Momentarily, or permanently.

This week’s Photo Challenge shows another soothing spot. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

 

Roundup: Dogs, Deer, Teenagers …

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Yesterday’s rally against antisemitism drew Westporters of all faiths and ages.

Bedford Middle School 8th grader was there too. He took this compelling photo, capturing some of the sentiment at the scene.

(Photo/Preston Siroka)

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Staples Tuition Grants’ annual awards ceremony is one of the high school’s premier events.

Last year’s was particularly impressive. The organization — founded in 1943, with a $100 grant from the PTA — awarded $350,000 in need-based scholarships, to 129 students. Nearly half are seniors who graduate this month; the rest are Staples grads, currently in college.

The grants — ranging from $500 to $5,000 — will help them attend a total of 77 institutions, in 24 states.

Guest speakers included longtime STG donor Dick Fincher, and past recipient/current educator, EMT and Westport Local Press publisher Jaime Bairaktaris.

But — as always — the “stars” were the students. To learn more about Staples Tuition Grants, and donate, click here.

Staples Tuition Grants honorees. (Photo/Pamela Einarsen)

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As your dog enjoys the great outdoors, remember: June is dog license renewal month.

All dogs over 6 months old must be licensed. Fees are $8 for neutered male or spayed female, $19 for others. Additional fees apply for online applications.

A $75 infraction will be issued for any non-licensed dog, and any dog not wearing a current dog tag.

Click here for everything you need to know about dog licenses.

Can I see your dog’s license?

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Kami Evans is all about connections.

Usually she connects Westport shoppers and merchants, and businesses with businesses. Now she’s working with teenagers, through a Teen Job Fair.

ConneCTalent owners Jasmine Silver and Runa Knapp will talk about interviewing and follow-up skills, and conduct mock interviews.

It’s set for June 13 (10 to 11:30 a.m., MoCA Westport, 19 Newtown Turnpike).  Click here to register. The Teacher Marketplace is sponsoring the event.

How can teenagers get jobs? The Teen Job Fair can help.

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Speaking of teenagers: Westport Farmers’ Market‘s 5th annual Young Shoots Photography Contest opens soon. And you can be even younger than 13 to enter.

There are 3 age categories: 8-10 years old, 11-14 and 15-18. Any photo taken at one of the Thursday Farmers’ Markets is eligible. Judging is by a panel of local artists, and the public.

The contest runs from a week from today (June 10) through July 18. Winners — who earn cash prizes, special swag and membership to local art organizations — will be celebrated at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, with catering by Sugar & Olives. Click here to submit photos.

“Starstem” by Calista Finkelstein placed 1st in the 2016 contest, in the 8-10 category.

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What does it mean to be Asian American? That’s the title of a conversation next Thursday (June 10, 7 p.m.) Presented by the Westport Library, TEAM Westport and AAPI Westport, there’s limited seating at the library. But everyone around the world can tune in virtually.

Professors Erika Lee and Jason Chang are the guests. The discussion will be moderated by Westporter Heather Lee. They’ll explore Asian American life through a wide historic lens, as well as the current wave of anti-Asian discrimination and physical attacks, and AAPI communities uniting with others to create an inclusive and equitable society.

To register for in-person seating at the Westport Library, click here. To register for the Zoom link, click here.

A scene from Westport’s Asian-American rally, outside the Library.

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An event last night at Mancini Salon honored owner Carla Morales. The staff surprised her with a party, thanking her for all she did to get them through the pandemic year. She kept all her employees on, under difficult circumstances — and kept them and their patrons safe. The salon reopened exactly a year ago.

Congratulations, Carla. Here’s wishing you and Mancini a great summer! (Hat tip: Patti Brill)

Cheers at Mancini Salon.

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Sustainable Westport’s Zero Food Waste Challenge matching grant has a month left to meet its $7,500 goal. The deadline is July 2.

The aim is to double our town’s food scrap recycling participation in the next 6 months. Funds raised will educate and inspire residents about the project. Click here to donate.

Food scrap recycling – it’s easy!

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Tired of bears? For today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo, let’s go back to our old favorites: deer. Lauri Weiser spotted this cute one (in between nibbles) at her Lansdowne condo complex.

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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Speaking of deer: At least one baby was born yesterday, at Willowbrook Cemetery. May it rest — and romp — in peace.

(Photo/Danny Amoruccio)

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Westport Country Playhouse’s popular Script in Hand play reading series continues with “The Savannah Disputation.” The comedy — filmed on the Playhouse stage — will be broadcast virtually. It premieres June 14 at 7 p.m., and streams on demand from June 15 through 20.

In “Savannah Disputation,” Mary and Margaret are feisty Catholic sisters living in Georgia, who forget about Southern hospitality when a young Pentecostal missionary knocks at their front door to shake up their beliefs. The women call in their local priest for backup, in this entertaining examination of what it means to truly believe.

Click here for tickets and more information.

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And finally … in honor of Kami Evans’ initiative to prepare teenagers for the job market:

Photo Challenge #335

Who knew there were so many culverts in Westport?

A couple of weeks ago, John Kantor took “06880” readers on a tour of the secret — well, well-hidden — passages that allow kayakers and canoeists to travel from Sherwood Mill Pond to beyond Burying Hill Beach without even a portage.

Susan Iseman’s Photo Challenge last Sunday showed 2 more culverts. (Which raises the question: Why are they always side by side?)

Wrong guesses included Nash’s Pond, Sasco Creek, Deadman Brook and Otter Trail.

The correct answer: Willowbrook Cemetery. The culverts are on the south end of the graveyard, at Carriage Lane. You can see them from Main Street, (You can also see them by clicking here.)

Andrew Colabella and Alfred Herman correctly identified the site of the culverts. They’re one more reason — beside the beautiful Daffodil Mile every spring — to slow down as you pass by this beautiful, and historic, cemetery.

This week’s Photo Challenge also brings to mind Westporters who have passed — those who gave their lives for our country.

They’ll be honored tomorrow, after the Memorial Day parade, at Veterans Green. It’s well worth watching.

Meanwhile, where in Westport would you find this memorial?

NOTE: It is not at Veterans Green.

(Photo/Scott Bennewitz)

 

Pic Of The Day #1453

Willowbrook Cemetery daffodils (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Pics Of The Day #1100

This afternoon’s weather was crazy: thunder, lightning, heavy rain and hail. David Squires lives in Greens Farms. He calls these photos “Spring Meets Winter on Summer Hill.”

(Photos/David Squires)

Meanwhile, this was the scene at Nathalie Jacobs’ home:

(Photo/Nathalie Jacobs)

And at Willowbrook Cemetery:

(Photo/Danny Amoruccio)

Pic Of The Day #1083

Spring is here! Daffodil Mile at Willowbrook Cemetery (Photo/Arlene Yolles)

Unable To Mourn: A Cemetery Confronts The Coronavirus

Joseph Ariale led quite a life.

A project manager at GE Capital and longtime Norwalker, he did it all: handing out flags at the Memorial Day parade, volunteering at the Oyster Festival, supporting children’s organizations.

He was a golfer and tennis player; a kind, generous and spirited man; a devoted grandfather who never missed a dance recital, sports game or any other event.

Joseph died last week, after battling cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. As a Korean War veteran, he was entitled to a full military funeral. A bugler should have played “Taps,” and presented an American flag to his family.

But Joseph died in the middle of a pandemic. Instead of being mourned by hundreds of family members, friends and fans, there was no celebration of life.

Following CDC guidelines, his burial at Willowbrook Cemetery was limited to 8 people. Pallbearers wore N95 masks.

Mourners and cemetery officials at Joseph Ariale’s burial on Friday.

The coronavirus has changed the way everyone lives. Now it’s affecting what happens even after we die.

Joseph’s final goodbye on Friday was not the only one at the beautiful cemetery on North Main Street, opposite Cross Highway.

A few hours earlier, another tiny crowd said goodbye to Connie Wilds. She earned 2 master’s degrees. She served Western Connecticut State University for over 30 years, as a professor of black studies and dean of student affairs. She sang in her church choir, and was a founder of the Stamford Afro-Democratic Committee.

Her entombment was witnessed by only 5 people — including funeral staff. That left only her son William, and his wife Daisy, to bid their final farewell.

“This is surreal,” William said. “We can’t give my mother a proper sendoff.”

From left: William Wilds; Daisy Wilds and funeral director Karen Graves-Medley of Stamford, at Connie Wilds’ entombment.

Even more sorrowfully, the few mourners must stay 6 feet apart. They can’t hug, or offer a literal shoulder to cry on.

“This is so difficult,” says Danny Amoruccio, manager/sexton of Willowbrook Cemetery Association.  “They’re being stopped from doing what comes naturally to all of us: grieving together.”

Relatives and friends understand, he says. But at a time of intense pain, it’s one more burden to bear.

Daily operations at the cemetery have been whittled down to just sales of property, and scheduling of burials and entombments.

One section of the vast cemetery.

All communication is initiated by phone. There is minimal contact with the family.

The many other usual queries — where is someone buried? can I buy a monument? — are deferred to May, or done impersonally by phone or email.

Many families call just to verify their property. “They want the comfort of knowing that their deed and final plans are in place,” the manager says.

But Amoruccio still has work to do. In fact, recently — during what is normally a very quiet quarter — sales of graves spiked significantly, to 40 per month.

Families are securing property for their elderly parents — or themselves. They tell him directly: “With the coronavirus, we have to be prepared. We don’t want to run around at the last minute, taking care of final arrangements.”

When Amoruccio meets a family to sell property, he now speaks to them — no more than 2 people — outside their car. They follow him to view it, from the comfort of their vehicle.

If they see a property they’d like to purchase, he heads to his office to write up a contract. The family never goes inside. That once-comforting moment is gone too.

The newest section at Willowbrook Cemetery.

This month, Willowbrook completed an extension of its property. Earlier they bought a house on Richmondville Avenue, and razed it. They can now accommodate 500 additional burials, or 100 cremations.

So far, the cemetery has served one family whose loved one succumbed to COVID-19. They’ve received one additional call about a deceased person with the disease.

“We don’t treat them any differently,” Amoruccio notes.

He feels very badly for what mourners go through during this pandemic. “You see the frustration in their faces when it comes to the restriction of mourners” — once 10, now down to 5.

“But they seem to understand it’s for their own good. I hear in Italy, 2 family members are allowed at the burial. Or none — just the funeral director and cemetery staff.”

He is grateful that Willowbrook’s gates are open 24/7. Mourners can visit loved ones’ graves any time. Those who are barred from the burial have, at least, that chance to grieve.

And though dogs are not allowed on the property, Amoruccio sees a dramatic increase in walkers. “Visitors are always welcome to enjoy the peace and solitude here at Willowbrook,” he says.

The cemetery’s “daffodil mile” — the gorgeous rows of flowers fronting North Main Street — will bloom soon. The dozens of flowering trees — which always herald springtime in that part of town — will be even more beautiful and welcome this year.

Willowbrook Cemetery — established in 1847, and partly designed by Frederick Law Olmsted — is a non-profit community resource, Amoruccio notes.

“No one wants to think about an increase in deaths in our area,” he says. “But for me personally, I feel valuable right now. More than ever, we can be available for families at the worst of times.”

Even if death in the age of coronavirus robs those families of one of humanity’s most basic needs: saying a final goodbye.