The sun is going to come out. Don’t let the stray thunderstorm this morning dampen your festivities.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day. Don’t eat too much (OK, never mind, go ahead), don’t drink too much (be careful and be safe) and remember to think (even silently) about what this day is all about.
It is a day to be with our family and friends and share some laughter and good summertime food, but it is also the day we remember the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform who have fought on battlefields throughout the world to ensure you can freely have that family barbecue today. More than 1.3 million men and women have died while serving their country since 1775, the year the Revolutionary War began. And others came home injured or maimed for life.
I will be thinking of my own father, who proudly served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was involved in missions throughout Europe with an anti-aircraft artillery battalion, including the invasion of Normandy on D-Day.
This is not a perfect country, but it is a great country to live in. Let’s not ever forget that.
Archive for May, 2011
The sun is going to come out. Don’t let the stray thunderstorm this morning dampen your festivities.
By now, people know that Operation Hope is my favorite charity. I volunteer for the organization and help stock the shelves of the food pantry.
It’s the little endeavors that go a long way in helping someone else. Two cases in point recently in the news support that belief.
A group of Fairfield Ludlowe High School students will raise supplies and money as well as awareness for Operation Hope, which runs homeless shelters and associated services, through their event, “Under the Box.” The students will sleep on the pavement under cardboard boxes in a school parking lot Friday night to replicate conditions experienced by many urban poor.
Between 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday, they will be accepting donations of nonperishable food, toiletries and cash for Operation Hope. A drop-off point will be set up at the school driveway’s large intersection to accept donations.
On the other side of town, a group of small-business owners in Stratfield will celebrate the opening of a food pantry collection site from noon to 4 p.m. May 28 at Jo Jo’s News Stop. Residents can bring items for Operation Hope’s food pantry to the convenience store.
The man who came up with this idea is Joe D’Costa, the owner of Jo Jo’s. I know Joe. I regularly stop into his store and we shoot the breeze on just about everything. He is a caring man who wants to make a difference. He has enlisted the cooperation of his fellow retail owners in the strip mall at the intersection of Stratfield Road and Fairfield Woods Road. Also involved are The Creative Arts Studio, Dragon 168, Salon Sazardon and the Bagel Stop.
D’Costa said on the Operation Hope blog, “The Stratfield community is very supportive of Jo Jo’s. The community has made me and my store feel like an important member. I want to give back and help support a cause that is near and dear to all of Fairfield’s residents.”
Fairfield residents already do a lot to help Operation Hope, but more is also welcomed. And it would be nice to support these two efforts to make a difference.
I have spent a lot of time lately at the Fairfield Museum and History Center, a gem of a place in town, doing research on the Civil War. One day while I waited for assistant librarian and geneaologist Rod MacKenzie to retrieve something for me from the archives, I decided to take a walk around the museum’s latest exhibit.
Called IMAGES 2011: Bill Eppridge Retrospective, the exhibit shows off the photographer’s work over 50 years. Eppridge worked for Life magazine in the 1960s and his work chronicles numerous important events or people. The sheer array of images on the walls of the museum is astounding. There are photos of the Beatles arriving in the United States, the civil rights movement and the presidential campaign and assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1968, among other images that captured historical events. He also worked for National Geographic and Sports Illustrated.
His work is easily recognizable – you will remember seeing these images before. But I suspect that you, like me, will not know the name of the photojournalist. I do now.
In addition to his exhibit, the museum hosted a juried photography exhibition that includes the work of area photographers.
If you haven’t seen the Eppridge exhibit, you have plenty of time. The images will be on display through Aug. 28. The museum is located at 370 Beach Road. For information, call 203-259-1598 or visit www.fairfieldhs.org.
Ellen Redgate, the Operation Hope Food Pantry coordinator, stood by nervously Saturday afternoon in a warehouse on lower Black Rock Turnpike as she watched volunteers sort through a handful of donated bags of food. She was concerned because the volume she expects in the National Association of Letters Carriers food drive was slow coming in.
But as 4 p.m. approached and the mail carriers’ shifts were coming to an end, the stream of donated food was incredible. After the mail trucks pulled up to the warehouse and were unloaded, the volunteers, who seemed primarily to be teenagers, never stopped their sorting task. When one box full of bagged food was sorted, there were dozens more still to go. Fairfielders are a generous bunch of people.
This is the second year I have volunteered at the food drive. It is not difficult work. But knowing that what we were doing helps someone else have food on the table is a rewarding. I am returning on Tuesday to help finish the job.
The mail carriers’ food drive helps to keep the shelves of the Food Pantry stocked through the summer and into the fall. Each year, the drive brings in an average of 45,000 pounds of food. The pantry, located in the lower level of 636 Old Post Road, provides more than 80,000 meals a year and each month it helps more than 200 families. The pantry is run by volunteers and the majority of the food is donated by members of the community. In addition to food, the pantry always is in need of health and beauty aids, including toilet paper.
The need for food donations is year-round. The pantry is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. Donations may be left at the pantry. And if closed, donations can be left at the main entrance to the Operation Hope offices or at 50 Nichols St., the site of the homeless shelters. For a list of needed items, visit www.operationhopect.org.
I learned my interest in old cemeteries from my father, who fancied himself a bit of a history buff. We occasionally would stop at area cemeteries as we were doing errands around town, walk through reading the gravestones. The inscriptions on some of the older ones are faded and worn, but you can still make out the letters and the names of the dead. We even did this on vacation.
There’s a cemetery on Weston Road on the way to where my parents lived for more than 30 years that always fascinated us and we promised ourselves we would stop one day. A few years before my father died, we did just that. My mother was with us but she didn’t really the see the same fascination as we did, but she tagged along being a good sport. Dad and I were enthralled.
On Saturday, May 14, from 2 to 4 p.m., the Fairfield Museum and History Center is hosting an interactive graveyard tour at the East Cemetery on Old Post Road. The private cemetery, tucked in between two houses, contains the remains of 14 Civil War soldiers; a Revolutionary War soldier; Amelia Sturges, who was married to J. Pierpont Morgan, the American financier; and John Bunker, who lived in the Sun Tavern in the mid-1800s and served in the War of 1812.
The tour is part of the museum’s commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial. I am particularly interested in this walk-through of the cemetery because I have been delving into the history of Fairfield’s and Westport’s roles during the Civil War for a series of articles in the Fairfield Citizen and Westport News. Two of the soldiers I have been researching lately are Maj. John Morehouse and Christopher Columbus Wells, whose histories during the war and after are incredibly interesting. Both of them are buried at East Cemetery. I think looking at their headstones will give me chills.
The cost for the tour for members of the FMHC is $5 and for non-members, $7. For directions and to register, call 203-259-1598. The rain date is May 21.
Some people might contend that Mother’s Day is a made-up holiday to fill the coffers of greeting-card makers. But its roots actually go deep – in fact, as far back as ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian times. Motherhood was to be celebrated and feted.
My family is gathering today to show Mom (who also is Grandma and Great-Grandma) just how much we love her and appreciate her. The celebration is nothing big, just an impromptu pizza party (her all-time favorite food) at her assisted living apartment. We will no doubt take advantage of this beautiful spring day and sit on the veranda, trade stories of earlier days and laugh – a lot. Laughter is big in my family.
Mom will be 85 years old in August, but you wouldn’t know it. Granted, the last few years – since my father’s death in 2007 – have not been easy for her. She misses her best friend and always will. She and my father were married for 60 years and were together for nearly 62 years. After he passed, she had to adjust to a new life. She moved out of the huge house in Weston that he loved, leaving behind lots of good memories but also taking them with her. But she persevered. Health problems in the last year have curtailed her activities some but she has adjusted to that too. Even though she has diminished eyesight and mobility issues, she continues to push herself. She exercises nearly every day (and puts me to shame doing so), whether it is at the wellness center available at her assisted living place or just walking the halls. “Sitting is no good,” she proclaims regularly.
And her mind is as sharp as ever, as is her innate talent to entertain. On one recent evening at a Happiness Club meeting in the lobby, the speaker was losing the interest of his audience. So my mother, ever the one to be in the spotlight, got up to tell a few jokes. The audience – her peers and others — roared with laughter. She loved it.
I did a little research on the origins of Mother’s Day. Julia Ward Howe, a pioneer in women’s suffrage and an activist, is credited with establishing the official holiday to celebrate mothers, according to www.juliawardhowe.org. She was a preacher, reformer, writer and poet (my mom is a published poet too). Howe penned “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and was the co-editor and writer of The Women’s Journal, which was instrumental in lobbying for suffrage and human rights. According to the website, when her husband died in 1876, she wrote in her diary, “Start a new life today.” (Sound familiar?) She created Mother’s Day as a means for women all over the world to discuss how to achieve world peace and to protect children. She was a force to be reckoned with because of her strong views – apparently on just about everything.
I can’t help but make the comparison to my mother. The gift my mother has given us – her children, grandchildren and, to some extent, her great-grandchildren – is her resolve. She has taught us that no matter what obstacle life throws at us, forge ahead. We, like Mom, wallow a bit when adversity strikes, but in short order, we, like Mom, regroup, set a plan of action and fight. She also has taught us to care about others, help people where we can and don’t ask for anything in return.
Thanks, Mom, for teaching us how to be strong and caring people. You are a wonderful role model.
The long budget-setting process is almost over. Tonight, the Board of Finance will set the mill rate for the 2011-12 fiscal year at 7:30 p.m. at the Education Center on Kings Highway East. The new fiscal year begins on July 1.
The Representative Town Meeting adopted the new budget around midnight on Tuesday after two days of deliberations over potential cuts. At the end of the evening, the municipal budget was adopted at $263,073,180 after $960,180 was trimmed from the Board of Finance-recommended package. $800,000 of that reduction came from the Board of Education budget.
The boards of Selectmen and Finance and the RTM are congratulated on doing a thorough job of scrutinizing the budget. While the Board of Education, Fairfield Public Schools staff and parents are unhappy about the overall $2.8 million cut to the requested school budget, the final $960,180 reduction by the RTM is a good-faith effort to keep costs down for every taxpayer.
Chief Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller told an online media outlet that between 22.45 mills and 22.50 mills would be needed to finance the new budget, although he couldn’t be certain until the Board of Assessment Appeals finished its work. As an example of what the potential mill rate means, if 22.45 mills is used, taxpayers would pay $22.45 for every $1,000 of their assessed property value. Now, First Selectman Ken Flatto, who left office at midnight Tuesday, has said some taxpayers will see a reduction in their tax bills because of the recently completed revaluation. We’ll see about that.
What’s the next big issue that will capture residents’ attention? That will be the question of who will be the interim first selectman. Democratic Selectman Sherri Steeneck has taken over until she and Republican Selectman Jim Walsh decide on the interim. The Democrats have recommended Board of Finance member and realtor Mike Tetreau, who also wants to run for the job in November. That debate also takes place today at 4:30 p.m. at Independence Hall.
It’s a big day in Fairfield.