Saturday, March 25, 2023


Special Reports

At 95, Ed Vebell Still Drawing on History

By James Lomuscio

The setting seemed cinematic, fictitious even—a worldly, wizened 95-year-old keeping two 18-year olds rapt and continually amazed, so much so that they would keep coming back to hear more. Image
Ed Vebell: at 24, he drew Nazis at Nuremberg while thinking of his Paris girlfriend. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for

But that was the scene last week at the Compo Beach area home of legendary illustrator-photographer Ed Vebell as he hosted the teens—Wellington Baumann, a 2016 Staples High School graduate, and Aren Heitmann, a recent Fairfield Ludlowe High School graduate.

Baumann and Heitmann, history buffs who will attend Gettysburg College in the fall, are interning with Vebell for the summer in his loft studio. They seemed a good fit.

After all, Vebell, a World War II Army sergeant, was the key artist in Europe and North Africa for Stars & Stripes, the American newspaper reporting on matters affecting the U.S. Armed Forces. He was also the only artist allowed to cover the 1945, post-war Nuremberg, Germany war trials, which prosecuted members of the Nazi leadership.

WN Wins 17 Citations in State Competition

WestportNow won 17 citations, including six first place prizes, in the 2015 Society of Professional Journalists Connecticut Chapter Excellence in Journalism competition. The awards were announced tonight at the group’s annual banquet in Wallingford. Image
WestportNow’s five-part series last August on seniors and housing won a first place prize. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

It was the most awards won by WestportNow since the competition was opened to online journalism in 2007. This year, in a reshuffling of categories and competitors, WestportNow for the first time competed against not only other small news websites but also small circulation newspapers.

James Lomuscio won five of the first place prizes for: (shared with photographer Dave Matlow) a five-part “Seniors and Housing” series; for his “Westport Key to ‘Great Gatsby?’” story about a documentary exploring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time in Westport, his coverage of a memorial service for slain Jeannette and Jeffrey Navin; for his continuing coverage of their murders, and for his profile of interim Staples principal Mark W. Karagus.

Matlow won a first prize for his photo of passersby aiding a bicyclist accident victim.

An Officer and a Gentleman, Grand Marshal Joe Schachter

By James Lomuscio

Longtime Westporter Joe Schachter, 90, is a sailor through and through, a World War II Navy ensign who served in the Pacific only to return to Westport to do battle years later to save Cockenoe Island from a seven-story high nuclear power plant. Image
Joe Schachter: self-proclaimed water rat. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for

A self-proclaimed water rat, Schachter is the quintessential old salt, though the term old doesn’t seem to fit so much. He becomes animated, youthful almost, talking about his buddies at the Y’s Men, their weekly luncheons at the VFW, his wife Irma of 50 years whom he married after his first wife Carol died in 1964 leaving him with three little boys.

He’s also big, barrel-chested, a presence that belies inner sensitivity.

“I was overwhelmed; tears came to my eyes,” he says about the phone call from William Vornkahl, president of the Westport Veterans Council, asking him to be this year’s grand marshal in the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.

Arthur Levitt: How to Best Value Creative Art? Image
Arthur Levitt:  “Most wealth created by art is never touched by artists.” Helen Klisser During for

Editor’s note: Westporter Arthur Levitt, best known for his work in finance and markets, today told a gathering of Fairfield County artists that the arts economy faces a problem of “socialized gain and privatized pain,” which he called a “market failure.” Here are edited excerpts from his keynote remarks to the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County (CAFC) breakfast at the Shore and Country Club in Norwalk at which it presented its inaugural 2016 ACE (Arts & Culture Empowerment) awards.

I was so honored to be asked to join you, and to help honor the award winners. Each of you is being recognized for outstanding creative work, and for talents that we all envy.  I wish I could express myself creatively as well as you can.

That’s how some people are drawn to the arts. They can see or hear or sense that there are some people in our society who are gifted in a way that they can scarcely imagine.

It’s no different than watching Steph Curry hit a 40-foot jump shot. Athletes have the same capacity to marvel us.

But while we admire athletes for their gifts – both in fame and in fortune—artists enjoy appreciation in every way but in fame or fortune.

WN on the Scene: Frieze NY 2016 Art Fair

The Frieze New York 2016 Art Fair opens today at New York’s Randall’s Island. The fifth edition of the fair brings together more than 200 of the world’s leading contemporary galleries to the island’s festive surroundings. Helen Klisser During, artistic director emeritus of the Westport Arts Center and WestportNow contributing photographer, was among VIP guests Wednesday getting a preview. The show runs through Sunday. For ticket information, click here. Helen Klisser During for

Remembering Cartoonist Dick Hodgins

By James Lomuscio

Henry, Hagar the Horrible and Half Hitch shed tears today when they learned their father, Richard Hodgins Jr., the man who brought them to life with pen and ink at his drawing board, died Sunday. He was 84, and he loved life. Image
Dick Hodgins Jr. used this image of himself on his Facebook page. Contributed photo

That’s how syndicated comic strip artist and editorial cartoonist Dick Hodgins Jr. said he wanted his obituary to begin when he called this writer in early March to say he had inoperable lung cancer.

Hodgins died at his Wilton home from complications caused by cancer treatments, according to his son Richard Hodgins III.

Dick, as he was known, was one of the last of a winnowing cadre of Fairfield County-based cartoonists who daily kept the funny papers filled with gags.

Dale Call: ‘Leaving the Department in Good Hands’

By James Lomuscio

Behind Police Chief Dale Call’s desk is a photo of his late father in uniform and smiling, almost as if he’s watching over his son, proud of him making it to the top. Image
Behind Chief Dale Call in his office is a picture of his late father, Inspector George Call. “He was the one I grew up watching,” said Call. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

The late George Call rose through the ranks to Inspector, an ascent the son has chronicled in a framed collection of his dad’s badges next to his photo.

“He was the one I grew up watching,” said Call, 53, who first joined the force as a special officer in 1981, just one year after graduating from Staples High School. “Actually, I grew up in this building.”

Today, after 35 years on the force, the last four as chief, Call heads into retirement, passing the baton, or badge, to Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas, who will be sworn into by First Selectman Jim Marpe. Capt. Samuel Arciola and Capt. Vincent Penna will each be sworn in as deputy chief.

WN on the Scene: NYC Easter Parade

New York City’s Easter parade really isn’t a parade, just a lot people walking up and down Fifth Avenue. But the long-running event is always fun to watch and WestportNow photographer Dave Matlow was there today to record the scene. Note the photographer in the first picture is famed New York Times society photographer Bill Cunningham. Dave Matlow for

Remembering Howard Munce, 100

By James Lomuscio

UPDATE (adds memorial service) Howard Munce, the Westport artist whose career as illustrator, art director, teacher, sculptor and author spanned generations earning him the sobriquet “dean of Westport artists,” died Saturday, March 5 at his Rockyfield Road home, his daughter, Mary Bewster said. He had turned 100 in November. Image
Howard Munce viewing his work “The Empty Stall” (acrylic on board) on display at the Westport Arts Center in 2011. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Helen Klisser During for

A Westport resident since 1935, Munce’s tall, thin, spry, and until recently energetic presence ubiquitous in town arts circles appeared ageless. More than an elder statesman, he seemed a living link to the community’s vibrant, creative identity in the latter part of the 20th century.

It was an era of illustrated magazine covers, billboards and Dashing Dans to Madison Avenue agencies where art directors held clout. Munce was one of them, rising to creative director at Young & Rubicam, where he met and soon married his wife Geraldine, in 1950.

“I don’t know of anybody else who’s alive today who could speak of the arts history of this town,” said filmmaker Martin West, whose 2009 town documentary “Years in the Making” showcased 50 town artists.

Heroin Scourge Affects Westport, Too

By James Lomuscio

Westport has not escaped the surge in heroin and other opiate overdoses in Connecticut. Image
Heroin overdose deaths have soared in Connecticut and nationally. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed graphic

While no deaths have been reported in Westport, the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said this week the number of people in Connecticut dying from drug overdoses continued to skyrocket in 2015.

More than 720 people overdosed, with heroin-related deaths climbing at alarming rates, the office said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, of the nationwide 47,055 drug-overdose deaths in 2014 — an all-time high, and more people than died of liver disease or renal failure, of suicide, or in car accidents — heroin was responsible for over one-fifth.