Katie Spector has just published her first picture book: “Katie Spector the Art Collector.” It’s about a creative little girl who can’t part with her art. Katie’s story celebrates community, art, and staying true to yourself.
She’s celebrating too, with an outdoor event at Wakeman Town Farm on September 25 (1 to 3 p.m). There will be book readings, art projects and live music. RSVPs required; click here.
Speaking of education: Sure, the Westport Public Schools select a Teacher of the Year. But there’s something special about earning that honor from a different source: the Staples High School football team.
This spring, the Wreckers — used to be cheered for — turned the tables. They gave shout-outs to their favorite educators in a homemade video. At the end, they announced the winner.
Who is this year’s football team Staples Teacher of the Year? Click below to see:
Two more sings that Westport is getting “back to business.”
The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce held its first in-person gathering in 20 months yesterday, at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center. Over 60 people gathered in the garden, in beautiful weather. They shook hands, ate food catered by Calise’s Deli, and — as they did for years before the pandemic — exchanged business cards.
Sal Gilbertie spoke about the 100 years since his grandfather began as a flower grower, then turned to herbs. Today Gilbertie’s is a major micro green seller, in addition to their nursery’s plants and trees.
Sal Gilbertie addresses the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.
But the Chamber wasn’t the only major Westport organization holding its first live-and-in-person meeting yesterday.
Sunrise Rotary also gathered together, for the first time in over a year. Attendance was solid. Handshakes and hugs were heartfelt.
And for those unable or not yet ready to attend, the event was livestreamed.
Westport Country Playhouse has 4 new trustees. Three are from Westport: Jessica Caldwell, Will Haskell and Margie Jacobson.
Haskell — a state senator whose district includes Westport — has a long theatrical history. As a member of Staples High School’s Class of 2014, he was elected of Players, the drama troupe. One of his first memories of live theater was seeing “Curious George” as a child, at the Playhouse’s old barn.
Caldwell graduated from Columbia University’s MFA film program. She produced independent feature films, while her feature film productions have premiered at Berlinale, SXSW and Tribeca. Her short film work has premiered at Sundance, Telluride, and Tribeca. Caldwell was also the writers’ room assistant and showrunners’ assistant on “Billions.” She is also a Moth storytelling contest GrandSlampion.
Jacobson is a nonprofit leader and attorney with legal experience spanning a variety of diverse settings. She is currently of counsel to a boutique law firm advocating for students’ rights from birth through post-secondary education, and co-founder of Woman’s Compass Forum. Jacobson previously served on the Playhouse board, from 2010 to 2016. She also serves on the boards of the ADL and the Remarkable Theater.
The WCP board of trustees is chaired by Westporter Ania Czekaj-Farber.
The Westport Library has 2 new trustees too.
Anna Alemani is CFO of Pierrepont School. Previously she had a 15-year career in finance. She holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA in Business Administration from Bocconi University in Milan, where she focused her studies on management of museums and cultural institutions.
Dave Briggs spent his career in television, as a sports and news reporter/anchor. He has moved from South Dakota and Oklahoma to Boston, where he covered Red Sox World Series championships, Patriots Super Bowl titles and a Celtics NBA crown. He also hosted “Fox & Friends Weekend,” and (for NBC) NHL, NASCAR, NFL and Olympic tennis, before anchoring “Early Start” on CNN. He currently interviews important Connecticut residents for Moffly Media content.
To honor Autism Awareness Month, Westport Police officers bought special commemorative badges. They’ll wear them on their uniforms throughout April.
The blue badge prominently features the puzzle piece logo — the symbol of autism awareness. A portion of the badge’s purchase price will be donated to Autism Speaks.
Westport Police officers show off their autism badges.
In addition, Fleet Auto Supply donated autism logos for the doors of all police cars.
During Autism Awareness Month, the Police Department reminds Westporters about the town’s Disability Registry. A combined effort of the Westport Disability Commission, Human Services and the Police, the confidential registry provides essential information to assist police and other emergency workers to address the needs of residents of all abilities. Click here for signup information.
Concerned how much longer the bull market will run? Worried what’s next?
Y’s Women’s Investment Group has a few slots for new members. The club has analyzed the market for more than 20 years — and achieved better results than some famous prognosticators. For more information, email email@example.com.
Y’s Women membership is $45 a year. To learn more, click here. For the latest newsletter, click here.
Betty Stolpen Weiner writes: “I recently moved back to the area (Weston), and wanted to share a nice Westport experience.
“I needed a large and very heavy table moved to my basement. I saw on Facebook that the Staples High School wrestling team moves furniture in exchange for a donation for the team.
“Sal Augeri sent his son Nick over with some friends to help. I was so impressed with how polite, responsible and helpful the boys were! It was a nice reminder of why I chose to move back to the area.”
If you’ve got moving (or other physical labor) needs, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Among the wrestlers’ jobs: moving a chicken coop. (This was before the pandemic, which is why they’re not wearing masks.)
Samantha Lavy and Jennifer Strom — aka the JSRC Group of therapists — has opened a Westport office, at 26 Imperial Avenue. They’ll continue their Stamford practice too.
“We support couples, families, teens, and individuals as we all move through these challenging times and beyond,” they say. “We also continue our work advising families navigating the particular complexities and family dynamics which often occur in the context of family business and wealth.”
For more information call 203-212-8383, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
“I was on my way to the transfer station, when a lady behind me took a picture of my minivan. I thought, oh boy, I bet with the wind, a trash bag fell out of the can on my cargo hitch.
“I got the station. Sure enough, one bag was missing.
“I drove the same route back, and found it. I picked it up and drove home.
“I am writing just in case a picture of my super-cool white minivan with an awesome cargo hitch gets carrying a couple of trash cans gets to you.
“I thought the lady who took a picture of my minivan would post it on social media and send it to you. I thought I would have to sell the super-cool minivan to avoid being identified and embarrass my children forever.
“I swear I pick up after my dog and park my car using one spot. Nevertheless, the fact that someone had a picture of my car was a very strong incentive to trace down the fly-away-trash bag.”
The healthcare open enrollment period has been extended through March 15. If you do not have an employer-sponsored health insurance plan, you can get coverage through Access Health CT for you and your family.
Connecticut residents can click on AccessHealthCT.com or call 855-805-4235 to review their coverage options and sign up for a plan.
Click here to learn about enrollment assistance. Make sure you have the information you’ll need for yourself and anyone in your household if you’re ready to enroll in a plan.
Hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents have lost employer-sponsored health insurance during the pandemic. Access Health CT provides a safety net for displaced workers and their families. Click here for more information if you lost your health insurance because you or a family member lost their job. (Hat tip: Congressman Jim Himes)
The Westport Library’s Lockdown Music Festival will be a low-key, fun and funky fundraiser for Neighborhood Studios of Bridgeport.
But the stakes just got higher. Longtime Westporter — and devoted Library patron — Dan Levinson will match all contributions up to $10,000.
The March 13 (7 p.m.). event is a virtual concert. Curated by Fairfield resident Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, it celebrates optimism, resilience and the power of music.
The Library’s concert partners are the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and WPKN-FM. Neighborhood Studios — the recipient of funds — provides arts, music, theater and dance education and opportunities for underserved Bridgeport students. It will be livestreamed form the Library’s state-of-the-art Verso Studios.
Click here to register for the concert (and purchase a special concert poster).
Chris Frantz and his wife, Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth
The Y’s Women are not just for women!
The great community group makes their virtual speaker series available to everyone. The most recent: Bill Harris, of the “new and oh so improved” Sacred Heart University Community Theater. Click here to view them all.
And (women only): Click here to learn about satellite groups (book and movie clubs), and how to join Y’s Women (for just $45 a year).
American Farmland Trust has recognized WFM as #1 in Connecticut. It’s also #10 in the Northeast — and #26 in the nation.
It’s been a tough year for an organization that prides itself of close interactions between farmers and shoppers. But, notes executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall, “For the first time in our history, we operated 12 months in a row to tackle to challenges presented by the pandemic. We set up a strict, COVID-safe, pre-ordering system that served as a model for others.
“It wasn’t easy, but we felt a duty to our farmers, knew that farmers’ markets would be more critical than ever, and we met the challenge.”
The other day, Westport comic/Star 99.9 host Courtney Davis joined 4 top New York City comedians, in a virtual fundraiser. The group raised nearly $2,500 for empowerHER, the non-profit that supports and connects girls and young women who have lost their mothers.
The Westport Country Playhouse is still closed. Until it reopens, all we’ve had are memories of our favorite shows.
Starting tomorrow though, there’s more.
The theater launches “From Concept to Curtain,” a virtual documentary series of 30-minute films. They offer free, behind-the-scenes looks at the creative process of putting together a Playhouse production.
The first episode is “In the Heights: Beyond el Barrio” (Thursday, February 4, 12 noon, at the Playhouse’s website and YouTube channel.
Host Marcos Santana — director and choreographer of the Playhouse’s 2019 production of “In the Heights” — performed on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning show.
The set, costume and lighting designers, and the music director, discuss their inspirations, challenges, what they would have done differently, and favorite moments from the show.
More videos will be announced soon.
“In the Heights,” at the Westport Country Playhouse.
High school students interested in learning more about the art portfolio submission process for college are invited to a workshop this Sunday (February 7, 12 to 3 p.m.) at MoCA Westport.
The session includes lectures, slide presentations, Q-and-A and individual portfolio reviews (up to 5 samples). The cost is $75. Click here to register. For more information, email email@example.com.
The Y’s Women and 597 Westport Avenue Apartments (just over the Norwalk line) have teamed up to contribute food to Mercy Learning Center.
Jane Ferreira — president and CEO of the Center, the wonderful literacy and life skills training center for women in Bridgeport — returns the favor, as Y’s Women’s virtual guest speaker this Monday (February 8, 11:30 a.m.). She’ll talk about MLC’s educational and support services — and how they change the lives of not only their clients and families, but also volunteers and supporters.
Anyone can log on to www.YsWomen.org to view past speakers. And any woman in Fairfield County can join for just $45 a year. Email president Barb Stephen (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more.
The Unitarian Church has 2 important — and timely — programs this weekend.
On Saturday (February 6, 10 a.m.), they’re sponsoring a virtual program on how to recognize domestic violence in today’s pandemic world, and what to do about it. The program is open to the public, via Zoom meeting ID 875 7140 7113 (passcode 739121). Questions? Contact email@example.com or click here.
Meanwhile, the women of the church are launching a series of programs about the history of Black lives in America, and its effects on our country today. “Revealing History: How We Got Here, Why It Matters” begins Sunday (February 7, 10:40 a.m.) with a multi-media event called “Racial Injustice: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration.”
The program includes a speaker from the Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson; a musical work with voiceover from Desmond Tutu, and other notable artists and artwork. Click here for the Zoom link (the program begins after the regular Sunday service).
And finally … today in 1959, “the music died.” That’s Don McLean’s “American Pie” reference to the Iowa plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
For those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine — and are frustrated with the complicated sign-up procedures of the CDC or state Department of Health — Yale New Haven Health is a great option.
They offer several locations throughout Connecticut, including Fairfield (near the traffic circle), Trumbull and Greenwich.
Click here to schedule an appointment. Click here for more information on who is available to receive the vaccine.
How are the Y’s Women doing during the pandemic?
President Barb Stephen reports that meetings for the group of retired and working women are going well. And the virtual meetings are available for viewing long after they’re live (the 2nd and 4th Mondays of every month).
You don’t have to be a member, either
Recent guests have included actor James Naughton, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey, musician Chris Coogan and tech guru David Pogue. To view any of the chats, click here.
Up next: Dr. Richard Prum discusses the evolution of beauty (January 25); Jane Ferreira describes the work of Mercy Learning Center (February 8), and Bill Harris previews the opening of Sacred Heart University Community Theatre (February 22).
But that’s not all. This Thursday (January 21), Tours of Distinction president Tyler Zajacz will lead “Travel Trivia.” Participants can win a free day trip (once the Y’s Women resume traveling together). Sorry — members only! But for more information on the Y’s Women — including how to join — click here.
Staples High School Class of 1969 graduate Scott Karsten died earlier this month of a heart attack. He was 69 years old, and lived in Glastonbury.
A state heavyweight wrestling champion at Staples, (and organist in a band), he graduated from Wesleyan University, and was 3rd in his class at the University of Connecticut School of Law.
To deepen his understanding of his profession, Karsten served as a police officer and president of the police union in West Hartford. He founded his own law firm, focusing on complex civil actions at the state and federal levels.
After his wife Beth died of cancer at 41, Karsten was a devoted single parent.
He was an avid fisherman and hunter; a skillful cook, wicked card player, smooth dancer and “surprisingly effective karaoke singer.”
Karsten is survived by his partner Gail Petersen; daughter Jules; mother Jayne; sisters Tracey Karsten Farrell and Jill Karsten; brother Kurt, and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
His service will be livestreamed on Monday (January 18, 11 a.m.); click here to see.
And finally … Sylvain Sylvain died Wednesday, at 69, after a 2-year battle with cancer.
Rolling Stone called him a “punk icon and guitarist for New York Dolls whose riffs bridged the gap between punk and glam.” His wife, O’Kelley Mizrahi, said, “Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let’s send this beautiful doll on his way.”
Anne Salmond — a longtime Westporter — died Sunday in hospice care, in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Anne and her husband Willie spent over 30 years in Africa, from Ghana to Zimbabwe to Uganda, working in international development. But since 1981, Westport was always their base camp.
A psychiatric social worker, Anne had a special place in her heart for orphaned children. After graduating from Queen’s University in Northern Ireland, her home country, she worked in London and then Uganda at the height of the AIDS pandemic. A million Ugandan children were orphaned.
Anne was appointed orphans’ coordinator with World Learning. She organized Africa’s first Orphans Conference, bringing together experts from government and international NGOs.
In Uganda, Anne rehabilitated a school for the blind. She requested donations of braille story books. Quickly, huge boxes arrived by air.
In retirement Anne continued to support children’s education, with help from her daughter Heather and others.
Locally, Anne was an active member of Y’s Women, and a longtime member of Saugatuck Congregational Church. She volunteered with its missions board, and helped Pivot Ministries and Homes With Hope. She also served many meals at the Gillespie Center.
Anne supported Amnesty International, was an associate member of the Iona Community, and a member of the Daughters of the British Empire. She made many good friends through those groups.
She loved Compo Beach in all seasons.
A service for Anne will be held Saturday, November 9 (11 a.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church).
I’ve honored plenty of Westporters since “06880” began in 2009. I have an especially soft spot in my heart for those who — in their own unique way — made Westport what it was, and is.
My mother was one of those.
Jo Woog (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)
Jo Woog — who died yesterday, at 89 — was a Westporter for 60 years. In those 6 decades, she did so much. She was a PTA mom, a volunteer for countless causes, and a strong supporter of arts programs — particularly music. She played piano whenever she could, and taught it for a decade. She also played a mean game of tennis — and stopped only a few years ago.
She was a member of the Y (aerobics!), Y’s Women, the Democratic Women of Westport, and several book clubs. She went to Long Wharf, the Quick Center and Westport Country Playhouse — and kept going, until a month or two ago.
In her later years, she enjoyed the Senior Center. She took Zumba classes, played ping pong, saw movies, attended lectures and more.
There are many women like her in Westport. During the baby boom, they supported their babies. As we grew up, so did they. As empty nesters, they supported their town. As widows, they formed their own, tight-knit community.
My mother grew up in New Rochelle, and loved it. (She attended her last high school reunion 2 years ago.) But Westport was her town.
And of all the lively, fun and important things she did, I’m eternally grateful that she made it mine too.
(A service is set for Thursday, April 21, 11 a.m. at Abraham L. Green Funeral Home in Fairfield. Contributions in Jo Woog’s memory can be made to the Westport Center for Senior Activities, 21 Imperial Ave., Westport, CT 06880, or an organization of one’s choice.)
Just over 3 years ago, Bob Rosenkranz retired after a long career as an endodontist on Boston’s North Shore. Married half a century, he and his wife Judy — a former phys ed. teacher — had to decide, “What do we do after we grow up?”
They figured they’d split time between their 2nd house in Vermont, and a gated community in Florida.
Their daughter Robin, son-in-law Matt Leon and 3 grandchildren — Jake, Josh and Jessica — had lived in Westport for nearly a decade. Whenever Bob and Judy visited, they stayed in Norwalk hotels. They’d take the grandkids to the usual dining spots — McDonald’s, Swanky Frank’s — and the tried-and-true recreational areas, like the beach.
Bob and Judy didn’t know much about Westport. But one day, they had dinner — by themselves — at Positano’s. They saw a Richard Dreyfuss performance at the Westport Country Playhouse. The next day, they took the train to New York, and stayed overnight. Both had grown up in Brooklyn. They remembered the city from the 1960s. It had changed dramatically, for the better.
Not the “wise men” Judy and Bob met. These guys don’t play tennis.
Judy — who played tennis with women 20 years younger at home — and Bob visited the Westport Tennis Club. They saw a bunch of older guys playing — quite well — and heard talk about the “Wise Men.” A man named Otis spent an hour chatting with them. “In Massachusetts, no men play tennis in the morning,” Bob says.
Judy broached the subject with Robin and Matt: How would they feel if she and Bob moved to Westport? The “kids” were all for it.
Judy and Bob talked to a realtor, but weren’t sure what they wanted. A rental? Condo? Nothing felt right.
Through a series of coincidences — including friend-of-a-friend stories — they bought the perfect house, off Partrick Road.
Then things really started to happen.
Bob and Judy found great new friends with older couples. They joined 2 film groups. The Fairfield University extended education program. A book club. A bridge group.
Bob joined the Y’s Men (he now knew how it was spelled). He joined 2 regular tennis games, plus 1 of platform tennis. He plays bocce. He hikes.
These are the real “Y’s Men.” They are a very active group. The only thing they don’t do is ride camels.
“I don’t know if these guys are former Fortune 500 CEOs or cobblers,” he says. “It doesn’t matter. They’re great!”
He is inspired by Y’s Men like Kurt Rosenfeld and Gun Moen, who is 87 and still skis, plays bridge and poker, and hits the speed bag.
Judy hooked up with a Manhattan art tour group, led by Westporter Joyce Zimmerman. She got involved with the Y’s Women.
She too plays platform tennis — outdoors, in January. She’s also in 4 other tennis games.
Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.
The couple dines out often. They love Westport’s restaurants, including Jewish-style delis Gold’s and Oscar’s. (In their previous life, the nearest deli was 35 miles away, in Newton.) They call the choices in supermarkets “phenomenal.”
As for shopping, it’s “fantastic — accessible and easy.”
They show off the library, beach — and many other parts of Westport — to out-of-town friends. They are awed by Staples Players performances, and love the Playhouse (especially the recent Harlem Dancers show).
I should note here that Judy and Bob are 2 of the warmest, most outgoing and funniest people that I have ever met. They also seem to have found a fantastic balance between doing things as a couple, and on their own. Still, their excitement about their new home town is astonishing.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Judy says.
“I don’t have enough hours in the day,” Bob adds. And then he starts describing all the great hiking spots he’s found, like Sherwood Island in the off-season.
Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.
What’s nice to hear — beyond so many great words about Westport – is that, as Judy says, “people who have been here 30 or 40 years are opening up their lives to new people like us.”
But don’t think the Rosenkranzes spend all their time playing tennis, dining out and going to shows. They’ve cooked dinners for the Gillespie Center, done other volunteer work, and are always on the lookout for ways to give back.
Plus, of course, there are the grandkids. Judy and Bob were “mesmerized” by a recent Long Lots music concert (“there was no dissonance at all — and they had a whole ensemble with steel drums!”), and they are faithful attendees at endless soccer, baseball and lacrosse games.
Nor do they just travel between Westport and New York. They recently returned from a trip to Patagonia. (The region, not the store.)
But Bob and Judy always come back — physically, and during our conversation — to the wonders of their new home town.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Or Zelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)