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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Greenwich Group Discusses AffluenzaӔ

The discussion was in Greenwich Monday but very well could have been Westport and the subject was “affluenza,” the urge to spend excessive amounts of money on things you and your children don’t really need.

Greenwich Time reported about 60 parents gathered at Greenwich Town Hall to learn about “affluenza” and its potential cures at a lecture sponsored by Parents Together, an independent, non-profit organization offering programs for parents to help them enrich family life.

Workshop leader Kaye Moore, a clinical psychologist who raised her children in an affluent West Coast town, discussed what she referred to as the “sickening epidemic of overconsumption.”

The newspaper said two men, the rest women spoke about the pressures they feel living in and raising children in Greenwich.

Excerpt: ֓One woman said she spent money to fill an emotional void. Another said she considered shopping a sport. Still one more said she continually bought things for her children because that was easier than taking a stand about values.

And yet another said she couldn’t think of a good reason to say no to her children since she clearly had the money to spoil them.Ӕ

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Paving Work in North Avenue Area Snarls School Traffic

Paving Work in North Avenue Area Snarls School Traffic
With four schools within a short distance, the intersection of North Avenue and Cross Highway is normally busy in the mornings as school traffic mixes with commuter traffic. Add a paving operation such as today and it was chaos.

A traffic agent at the intersection radioed for help today as traffic backed up in four directions—school buses being especially hard hit. Extra police units quickly arrived and helped clear up the problem.

Town highway crews have been repaving streets in the area for several days.

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Firefighters Quickly Extinquish House Fire

Firefighters Quickly Extinquish House Fire
Westport firefighters today quickly extinguished a small attic fire in a house in the Compo Beach area.

A homeowner on Apple Tree Trail reported smoke coming from an attic crawl space at about 7:30 a.m.

Responding units reported moments after arrival that the fire was out.

Fire officials said the blaze apparently was related to a malfunctioning furnace.

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Monday, September 29, 2003

Tax Collector Seeks New Law to Add Surcharge to Delinquent Car Taxes

Tax Collector Seeks New Law to Add Surcharge to Delinquent Car Taxes Westport Tax Collector George Underhill doesnt particularly want to do it, but he says the state has left him little choice Җ so he is asking for a new town ordinance allowing him to levy a $5 surcharge on delinquent car taxes. It amounts to another state unfunded mandate,Ӕ he said. Underhills request will be heard by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) at its Oct. 7 meeting. It will automatically be held over one meeting before the RTM can act on the measure.
Westport Tax Collector George Underhill says the state has left him little choice in seeking a new ordinance regarding deliquent car taxes. WestportNow.com photo
The request for the new law stems from a new state law that imposes a 50-cent charge on municipalities for every name entered into the Department of Motor VehiclesҒ (DMV) database of delinquent tax accounts. Owners of such cars are unable to register them until local taxes are paid. Over the years, Westport and other municipalities have collected substantial amounts of delinquent taxes because of the system. To offset the 50-cent fee, the state law enables municipalities to pass a local ordinance imposing the $5 surcharge. It may sound like a good deal for the town, but Underhill said because of the complexities of the system and the requirement for towns to pay the DMV up front before it will add the names to its database, it really isnt. ғIts more work for us and thereҒs no guarantee we will collect enough money to pay the states fee,Ҕ he said. People move, names change, cars are sold, etc.,Ӕ he said. The governors budget originally had called for elimination of the DMV matching registration system, thereby saving the state $225,000. When municipalities protested, the new law was passed, Underhill said. Westport has about 18,000 motor vehicles that are delinquent on taxes, according to Underhill, representing more than $4 million in uncollected revenue, including interest. This means a $9,000 cost to upload the data and, if the ordinance is passed, allow the town to collect as much as $90,000 to cover its costs—but with no certainty it actually will. The Westport official said local taxes on motor vehicles bring in about $7 million per year, or about 5 to 7 percent of total tax revenue collected. Anticipating arguments that the $5 fee may be too steep, Underhill said the state legislation does not permit him to charge a lower fee. ғBesides, he said, ԓthis is a penalty for late payment. If we didnt have a penalty, everyone would pay late, if at all.Ҕ
09/29/03 08:01 PM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Truck Strikes Saugatuck Avenue Overpass

Truck Strikes Saugatuck Avenue Overpass
A truck struck the Saugatuck Avenue railroad overpass this afternoon, causing only slight damage but tying up traffic in the area.

The truck, described as a one used to transport carnival games, lost its trailer on impact, reports from the scene said.

There were no injuries in the accident, which occurred about 4:15 p.m.

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Westport to Nutley: A Journey from One Hometown to Another

Westport to Nutley: A Journey from One Hometown to Another
Its only a little more than 50 miles or so from Westport to Nutley, N.J., but Martha StewartҒs journey from one hometown to another was one better measured in years than miles.

Stewart traveled to Nutley, 10 miles west Manhattan, Sunday to be inducted in to her former hometowns hall of fame.
But before attending the ceremony in the town of 27,362 Җ slightly larger than Westports almost 26,000 Җ she took a drive down memory lane, according to Newarks The Star-Ledger.

She passed her childhood home where her parents, Martha and Edward Kostyra, raised her and five siblings and nurtured her interest in home decor and gardening.

She also passed her former schools and rode along Franklin Avenue, Nutley’s main business street, the newspaper said.

The journey ended at the township library where Stewart and eight other Nutley natives were honored as the first class of the Nutley Hall of Fame.

“I took a ride down memory lane and found that Nutley has changed so little and so much,” Stewart told the audience of more than 300 people that included her mother.

She talked about her Nutley education and read off a list of teachers that influenced her before graduating from high school in the late 1950s.

Then, citing an axiom familiar to Stew Leonard visitors, she shared her mother’s rule for dealing with teachers at the Nutley schools, according to the newspaper.

“Rule number one was ‘the teacher is always right,’” Stewart said. “Rule number two was if ‘the teacher is always wrong, refer to rule number one.’”

Stewart remarked how her childhood home and schools looked the same, but many of the businesses she remembered being in town are now gone.

09/29/03 07:29 AM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Voices from A Gathering of Glory!Ӕ

Dozens of residents of Westport and Weston past and present are featured in Martin Wests film ғA Gathering of Glory! presented by the Westport Historical Society. Here are the few of them and their words from the film.

Howard Munce, artist and illustrator: ԓOf all the many forms that have taken place in art in Westport, illustration is what brought the big names.

Of all the artists IӒve known in Westport, there were two who were celebrity artists beyond anybody I knew and those two were John Held, Jr.—his work was everywhere, and, of course, hes in American history, in a small way, in the invention of the flapper.

ғAnd Stevan Dohanos. Steve had a theatrical side and when he was interviewed, he was good at it, and he cared, and in Westport, he was the name for as long as he lived, right from the beginning.

Actor James Naughton: ԓSome people see the glass half full and some people see the glass half empty about everything. Im sure thatҒs true about you know where the arts stand in this community.

I mean, I canӒt speak for all the arts, and particularly not for the visual arts, but for the performing arts, we got people all over the place. We got performers coming out of the woodwork.

Actor Keir Dullea: ԓWhen we contemplated starting a workshop here, and I had certain doubts about that when we announced it, it was like a tinder box just waiting for someone to light the match.

It was like, in a sense, a gymnasium for professional playwrights, actors and directors to work out, somewhat similar to the well known ActorsӒ Studio. Now we find ourselves with a burgeoning organization that continues to provide a safe place.

When I say safe place, I mean a place out of the spotlight where people can afford to take risks, which is what the workshop is all about.

ӓAnd, again, it goes back to talking about what it is about Westport that makes Westport so special in the fact that its so accepting and that is has this kind of texture to it that people can take artistic risks and thatҒs certainly true about our organization.

Actor Christopher Plummer: ԓI wish I had started living in the country long before I did. I think as far as life and real life is concerned, it gives you an extra 10 years to live in the country.

Living here has actually given me 10 or 12 years more of life than any city would. I see all my friends in New York. TheyӒre still green. They all look green to me.

I consider Weston my home. It has been for the last 22 years. You know, you have to pick a place where you would like to die in, and IӒve often thought of various countries that Ive fallen in love with all over the world.

ғI thought Greece would be an ideal place to die in because death and life are so close. Italy would be a lovely place to die in because the food is so divine. An English country lane would be rather sentimental, in ones old age.

ғIm hoping to be able to, because of the country, to actually do live for another 20 years, and Weston, I think, I would happily die where we are right now.Ҕ

Writer Evan Hunter: I never think truly about my place in where I fall in the tradition of writers who have been here. I hope that after IӒm gone, theyll say, ґOh, gee, Evan Hunter is part of the long line of these writers and artists who have lived in this community.

ғWhen I was in college, the best thing that any professor or teacher could teach me was to leave me alone, and I get that sense in this community that people leave you alone to do your work, and that֒s nice.

Composer John Corigliano:  ԓI really dont know why Westport and Weston have that kind of intensity of artists and number of artists. It could be that it had started so much earlier, that certain important artists came to Westport a long time ago. ItҒs a reclusion. Its a place to go.Ҕ

Composer and conductor Alex Platt (talking about Staples High School): I had just come from across the hall playing the Dvorak ӑNew World Symphony, and my brother just came from a rehearsal of ґUncle Vanya’ under Al Pia, and here we ware singing this Mozart or Bach or something with George Wiegle in the choir room.

It suddenly hit me. I think it was near the end of my senior year when you begin to sum up how things have gone and it hit me Ӗ this is amazing, this is world class.

09/28/03 07:08 PM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Westport Historical Society’s “A Gathering of Glory!” Film Debuts Today

If you think you know Westport history very well, be prepared to be knocked down a notch or two.

The Westport Historical Society’s “A Gathering of Glory! ,“a Martin West film with music by Paul Alan Levi premiering today at the Westport Public Library, will surprise even the most knowledgeable about their town and neighboring Weston.

Two years in the making, the 58-minute film is a tour de force of the world of art and artists in the community. It was funded by the society as well as private donors.

West, an award-winning film maker who used to act in films and soap operas, neatly avoids a chronological history of the towns by dividing his work into four separate segments.

More "Westport Historical Society’s “A Gathering of Glory!” Film Debuts Today"

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Westport Publisher Found Dead at Norwalk Marina

A Westport publisher died early today after apparently falling at Norwalk Cove Marina, police said.

William Schnirring, 65, was chairman and CEO of New York-based Associated Business Publications International, which publishes trade magazines for the aeronautics and exporting industries.

Police found Schnirring floating face down near his boat, Glad Spirit, at about 2:30 a.m., police reports said.

Paramedics spent at least a half hour trying to revive him before he was taken to Norwalk Hospital and declared dead.

Schnirring’s wife, Melissa, told The Hour newspaper that she does not know why her husband went to the marina so early in the morning. She said a friend had dropped him off at a Norwalk restaurant earlier in the evening.

Marina workers said they heard he may have been on the dock, fell and hit his head, and ended up in the water.

The Schnirrings live in the Saugatuck Shores area. They have been Westport residents 11 years after having spent 20 years in Weston.

Police said the cause of Schnirring’s death remains under investigation. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

In addition to his business ventures, Schnirring, who preferred to be called Bill, was passionate about railroad commuter issues affecting him and other riders of Metro-North.

In the early 1980s, he led a petition drive to preserve the bar cars on Metro-North.

Schnirrings outspokenness was clear in a posting in April on the popular Bar Car Web site dealing with bar car and commuter issues.

Addressed to the siteҒs editor, Westporter Tom Skinner, Schnirring wrote: As you well know, the bar cars are not just a more efficient use of space than normal cars, they actually contribute extra revenue to Metro-North.

ӓYou and I have tried to explain that to the twits who have done their best to ruin an institution that not only gives pleasure to many, but also contributes revenue and jobs.

Schnirring is also survived by his son, Luke, also of Westport, who worked with his father at the publishing company.

Update (9/29/03): The state medical examiner ruled Monday that Schnirring’s death by drowning was accidental.

09/28/03 01:19 AM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Construction Crew Hits Water Line at Staples

Construction Crew Hits Water Line at Staples For the third time since construction began on the Staples High School renovation and expansion project, workers hit an undocumented utility line today this one a water line that forced the cut off of water to the school at mid-day.
Workers uncover a severed six-inch water line today at Staples. The line was not on construction drawings of the site and water to the school had to be shut down while it was repaired. WestportNow.com photo
School officials rolled in portable toilets from elsewhere on the construction site and told students to, in effect, make do with no water to the restrooms for the rest of the day. The six-inch water line was severed shortly after 11 a.m. Principal John Brady conferred with construction officials and discussed the possibility of summoning school buses to take the students home. But some of the school buses were already tied up doing a kindergarten run and, after further discussion, it was decided to keep the school in session. ֓It basically was not a health issue, but one of inconvenience for the afternoon, said one school official. Representatives from the Westport-Weston Health District and the Westport Fire Department were on the scene closely monitoring the situation. The school did cancel after school activities as construction workers labored to repair the water line. Noting that this is the third undocumented utility line to be struck during the $74 million renovation and expansion project, Susan Chipouras, project manager, told WestportNow that from now on, crews will use underground sensing equipment before digging. ԓIt wont pick up everything,Ҕ she said, but it might help us avoid hitting these lines in the future.Ӕ
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Friday, September 26, 2003

Oops, We Did it Again

Oops, We Did it Again
Construction workers struck an undocumented water line at Staples High School today, forcing a shut off of water to the facility just before noon. School officials brought in portable toilets and made emergency arrangements for the rest of the school day. Workers previously severed another water line and a gas line during the renovation and expansion project.  WestportNow.com photo
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Learning About the Dirty Stuff

Learning About the Dirty Stuff
Westport Fire Department Asst. Chief John Gottfried (left) explains a biohazard protective suit to members of the Westport Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy tonight. Firefighter and hazmat technician Bruce Kelly (2nd l.) looks on. Thirty Westporters are enrolled in the 10-week course. WestportNow.com photo
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Thursday, September 25, 2003

Something to Call My Own

Something to Call My Own
Dominic Luciano, 18, is all smiles as he poses today with his new fire engine. The June Staples grad, who volunteers as an apprentice mechanic with the fire department, bought the 1977 American LaFrance pumper Wednesday for $1. WestportNow.com photo
09/25/03 06:31 PM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Westport Phone Service Restored

Westport Phone Service Restored
Crews working through the night restored telephone service to Westport homes affected by Wednesdays outage, an SBC spokesman said today.

An electrical fire on a pole on Hillspoint Road, just south of Post Road East, at about 8:30 a.m. cut electrical, telephone and cable TV service to as many as 1,200 homes.

The electric and cable TV lines were repaired within a short time, but the individual telephone circuits had to be painstakingly replaced in a job that took almost 24 hours.

ғAs of 6 a.m., all telephone service was restored, Seth Bloom, the SBC spokesman, told WestportNow.

09/25/03 12:27 PM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

“Stepford” Casting Call Even Draws NY Times Coverage

Even The New York Times today took note of Wednesday’s Norwalk casting call for the remake of “The Stepford Wives.” It quoted one hopeful as saying: “Women are somewhat robotic in suburban Connecticut, with all the trophy wives.” Greenburbs.com photo
09/25/03 07:54 AM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

More than 1,200 Turn Out for “Stepford” Casting Call

More than 1,200 aspiring actors and actresses, including some from Westport, turned out in Norwalk today hoping for a part in the remake of “The Stepford Wives,” starring Nicole Kidman. Some scenes from the original movie were filmed in Westport. Tuffy Questell of TEC Casting told WestportNow:“We met a little over 1,200 people, 925 filled out applications, and we took over 400 pictures of possibles for the particular scene of interest.” Greenburbs.com photo
09/25/03 02:17 AM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Electrical Fire Causes Major Phone

Electrical Fire Causes Major Phone Outage
An electrical fire on a pole on Hillspoint Road at Chestnut Lane, just south of Post Road East, today knocked out power, phone and cable TV service to a wide area of Westport. The electrical and cable service was restored within hours, according to a SBC supervisor on the scene, but telephone service remained out to more than 1,200 customers by late today. Seth Bloom, an SBC spokesman, told WestportNow tonight all service should be restored by noon Thursday. WestportNow.com photo
09/25/03 12:28 AM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Westport Teen Buys Fire Engine for $1

Westport Teen Buys Fire Engine for $1 For most kids who like playing with toy fire engines, the notion of having a real one some day is just a dream. But not for Dominic Luciano. Today the 18-year-old Westporters dream became a reality. ғI still cant believe it,Ҕ Luciano told WestportNow after the Board of Selectmen approved the sale of the departments 1977 American LaFrance pumper to him for the nominal sum of $1. ғEveryone said it would never happen. I am very grateful.” On the recommendation of Fire Chief Denis McCarthy, the board agreed to sell the engine to Luciano instead of to the only other bidder who had offered $1,253.
The Westport Fire Department’s 1977 American LaFrance pumper sits outside the department today awaiting its new teenage owner. WestportNow.com photo
A 2003 Staples grad, Luciano has volunteered 3,500 hours to the department as an apprentice mechanic. McCarthy estimated the value of his work at about $28,000, calculated at a conservative $8 an hour. He had offered $100 for the engine, but John Izzo, third selectman, suggested the town merely give it to him in recognition of his service to the community. Told that was not possible, the board decided to sell it to him for $1. After the meeting, I went to (purchasing director) Dick Kilbride, did all the paperwork and gave him the dollar,Ӕ Luciano said. And now itӒs mine. Luciano, who took many of his high school courses at a Trumbull vocational school under arrangement with Staples, said he has worked on the pumper for more than a year since it was taken out of service. ԓI plan to restore it to use in parades and stuff, he said. ԓIt will help preserve department history. Luciano said the pumper was especially significant because it is one of the last ones to look like a fire engine. ԓIts got ladders and suction hoses on the side and an open cab,Ҕ he said. The ones today look more like utility trucks.Ӕ Luciano said he plans to keep the engine in the maintenance yard of his fathers refuse collection business in Westport.
09/24/03 11:55 PM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Board of Selectmen Approves Town Common Name Change to Veterans Green

Board of Selectmen Approves Town Common Name Change to Veterans Green

The Board of Selectmen today approved changing the name of the property across from Town Hall from Town Common to VeteransҒ Green. The vote was unanimous.

First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell originally had suggested it be called Veterans Park. (See WestportNow Sept. 15, 2003).

But she said several residents later suggested calling it VeteransҒ Green because it sounded more New England. The property is the site of two war memorials.

She told WestportNow she readily endorsed the suggestion, noting that many communities had a Veterans’ Park but probably not many had a Veterans’ Green.

Under the towns naming policy, the matter was forwarded to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) which will consider it at its Oct. 7 meeting.

09/24/03 08:05 PM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Betty Buckley Live at LongshoreӔ Event Scheduled Oct. 12

Tony Award winner Betty Buckley will perform in concert in Westport Oct. 12 to benefit the Peter Pan Children’s Fund.

The Betty Buckley Live at LongshoreӔ event at The Inn at Longshore begins at 5 p.m. with dinner followed by the 8 p.m. concert.

Not only a benefit for the charitable organization, the one-night-only event will also kick off the 100th anniversary celebration of Peter Pan.

A national organization based in Westchester, The Peter Pan Children’s Fund “encourages and acknowledges young philanthropists to support childrens hospitals through programs like the Peter Pan Birthday Club and Peter Pan Giving Day.”

Buckley won acclaim for her performances in ғSunset Boulevard, ԓ Carrie, ԓ Song & Dance, ԓ The Mystery of Edwin Drood, ԓ 1776 and ԓPromises, Promises.

She won a Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella in the Broadway production of ԓCats, and she starred on the London stage in ԓPromises, Promises and ԓSunset Boulevard.

Buckley was also recently seen on the final season of the HBO series “Oz,” the detective drama “Monk” as well as the Lincoln Center revue, ԓElegies: A Song Cycle.

Tickets for the Oct. 12 evening are priced at $175 and $250 and may be purchased by calling (888) 601-7800.

09/24/03 04:22 PM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

First the Talk, Then the Signing

Author and journalist Pete Hamill chats with Westporters during book signing tonight at Bedford Middle School. His novel “Snows in August”  was featured in this year’s Friends of the Westport Library’s “Westport Reads” program. WestportNow.com photo
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Author Pete Hamill Addresses “Westport Reads” Event


Author and journalist Pete Hamill addresses the audience tonight at Bedford Middle School as part of the Friends of the Westport Library’s “Westport Reads” program. WestportNow.com photo

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Heavy Rains and Winds Whip

Heavy Rains and Winds Whip Area as Summer Gives Way to Autumn
Heavy rains and winds gusting up to 38 miles per hour about the same as last week֒s storm triggered by the dissipating Hurricane Isabel whipped the Westport area today as summer turned into autumn.

There were scattered reports of trees and power lines down as well as minor flooding in the usual spots that quickly accumulate water in heavy rains.

Connecticut Light and Power said no Westport customers were without power as of 2 p.m. Two hours earlier it had listed 24 outages.

The weather station at the Longshore Sailing School recorded gusts up to 38 mph with average winds at 8 mph as of 2 p.m.

At 2 p.m., Longshore reported just under an inch of rain had fallen there today while the weather station at Bedford Middle School on North Avenue reported 1.25 inches.

A mid-morning special weather statement had warned of an area of showers and thunderstorms moving into the area that could could produce wind gusts up to 50 mph.

By 3 p.m., the bad weather was well to the east and the sun broke out periodically through the clouds.

Summer officially turned to autumn at 6:46 a.m.

09/23/03 06:00 PM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Monday, September 22, 2003

Shocked Friends at Westport Funeral for Slaying Victim

Shocked Friends at Westport Funeral for Slaying Victim
Waterburys Republican-American reports on SaturdayҒs funeral at Westports Assumption Church for Lynn Marie Bossert, 41, strangled 10 days ago in Southbury.

The graduate of NorwalkҒs Central Catholic High, who loved horses and her German shepherd, worked as an administrative assistant at a Fairfield financial firm. Her father, Henry, is confined to a Westport convalescent home.

He attended the service lying in a hospital bed a few feet from the casket flanked by medical attendants. Bossert’s mother, Marie, died earlier this year.

Excerpt: The tragic circumstances of Bossert’s demise have weighed heavily on her colleagues and riding friends, who say they can’t help but wonder if they could have prevented it.

ӓBossert was killed when her fianc, Gregg Madigosky, allegedly strangled her in their Southbury home, which they had shared since 1998. Madigosky, 37, has been charged with her murder and is being held at New Haven Correctional Center until his probable cause hearing on Oct. 20.

Both Madigosky’s parents, Stephen and Joan, attended the funeral, quietly leaving after the service.

铓Standing beside the floral arrangements including one shaped as a horseshoe representing Bossert’s passion for riding ח the Rev. Thomas Thorne acknowledged the palpable anger and frustration shared by the stony-faced mourners.

“‘We must give ourselves permission to go with the flow of human emotions,’ he said.”

09/22/03 06:24 PM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon

Notes from the Westport Arts Awards: Imogene Coca Wowed Them at Open Houses

Sundays Town Hall ceremony for the 10th annual Westport Arts Awards produced some interesting tidbits from speakers about those honored and their lives in Westport and Weston.

Imogene Coca
, whose show business career spanned 80 years before her death at the age of 92 in 2001 in Westport, often would accompany real estate agent and longtime friend Mark Basile as he went to open houses around Westport.

Basile told the awards audience Coca most times would sit outside while he inspected homes. But sometimes she went inside and he always knew it because a crowd would quickly gather around the comedienne. ғThey were thrilled by her stories, he said.

Evan Hunter, the prolific writer who writes under his own name as well as Ed McBain and several others, startled the audience with his gravely voice and finger constantly held to a white button on his throat. He explained he lost his vocal chords to cancer and was speaking with a synthetic voice.

The 76-year-old Weston resident ended his brief talk with thanks to Westport and the Arts Advisory Committee for selecting him as an honoree. ԓArt is all about voices, he said. ԓAnd Westport is all about art.

John Ohanian came to Westport in 1940 as the only music teacher in the Westport public schools. He retired in 1972 as director of music, leaving a legacy of one of the finest music education programs in the country. Ohanian, who died last year, founded the annual Staples Candlelight Concerts.

But his son, David, said times in Westport were not always easy for him.

His father tried to ingratiate himself with students so they would be interested in music. He recalled one time his father sat down in a school cafeteria and shared a squirrel sandwich with a student, the animal having been shot the day before in Weston.

He would ride the school bus with the football players to learn their songs. He taught them to sing in rounds, the younger Ohanian said. He convinced them that taking chorus was an okay thing to do.

One high school production called for a scene with motorcycles. Ohanian reached out to students with more interest in motorcycles than music, allowing them to polish up their cycles and be included in the scene.

John Held, Jr., is best known for his illustrations of flappers in the 1920s. He moved to Westport in 1919 to the Compo Road South home later occupied by the F. Scott Fitzgeralds. He later moved to Weston where he bought Grindstone Hill Farm and could keep the many animals he loved.

Judy Held, his daughter, told the audience that her father always had a special affection for the Westport-Weston area and especially loved his farm. ԓHe became a Weston gentleman farmer, she said.

She recalled that he suffered a serious facial injury when he was kicked in the head by one of his horses. She said her father later said that the animal had ԓknocked some sense into him because he became so famous. 

Held never lost his love of the flapper era, his daughter said, and continued to wear a raccoon coat until 1958 Ԗ the year he died.

She talked about what makes an artist and ended her remarks by saying:  A person who uses his hand, his head, and his heart is an artist. ThatӒs my father.

Leonard Everett Fisher, a longtime Westport resident who continues to be a versatile and prolific painter, illustrator, and author, drew a chuckle from the crowd when he said he looked forward to being part of the celebration of the nationԒs tercentennial in 2076.

Everett, who is 79, said some of his works were included in a time capsule buried in Westport in 1976. It is to be opened 73 years from now.

Actor Christopher Plummer said he moved to Weston in 1981, taking the first house that he was shown. He said he had a funny feeling that the house in fact had once belonged to his friend and fellow Canadian-born actor Raymond Massey. He said he called Massey and described the house to him.

Massey said that was not his house, Plummer recounted, adding, with a grin, but it was the house next door.Ӕ

Plummer, 73, thanked the Arts Advisory Committee and said he has enjoyed being a resident of the Westport-Weston area. This is just like getting a medal for already living in paradise,Ӕ he said.

09/22/03 03:55 PM Comments (0) • Permalink Digg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon TwitThis Favicon
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