Greenwich Gossip

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prescott S. Bush, Jr. (1922-2010)

Greenwich said goodbye today to Prescott S. Bush, Jr., the last of a long family line to live most if not all of his life here in Town. "Pres", as he was universally known, died a week ago on June 23, and the fact that it took seven days to gather the Bush clan shows just how far-flung they have become over the last several decades. But come they did, from Texas and C0lorado and Massachusetts and just about every point in between.

His brother George, our 41st President, was the cause of all the police and Secret Service protection, and was accompanied by his wife, Barbara. His sister, Nan, whom your scribe had last seen as a neighbor in Concord, MA over half a century ago, came down from Boston. The front five rows of the church pews had to be reserved for the large number of children and grandchildren and cousins and uncles and aunts. Very few of them still live in the Greenwich area, Diddle McAllister being one of the few exceptions.

The service was lovely, with a full choir performing beautifully. Jamie Bush, Pres's son, allowed as how former organist Claude Means would have fainted dead away at the thought of him speaking in church, and took time to praise the singing of the John Goss descant that "takes us halfway to heaven." His sister Kelsey told us that "Pres's vocation was loving people," and of his love of Gilbert & Sullivan and of golf. And, of course, of his wife, Beth, whom he always described as the best thing that ever happened to him. He dropped out of Yale to follow her to South America, and undoubtedly felt that he got much the better of the bargain.

The reception afterwards was at the Round Hill Club, and your wily scribe, putting to good use his knowledge of the highways and byways of Greenwich, made a graceful arabesque which put him right behind the police convoy at the corner of North Maple and Lake. Thus he had his own little escort all the way up Round Hill to the club. This gave him a few minutes to chat with President Bush before the rest of the crowd arrived, reminiscing about the days when he was Bush's finance co-chairman for the State of Connecticut - along with Walt Rafferty, Bush's brother-in-law - which got Barbara reminiscing about her sister Martha.

And what was that in your scribe's hand? Why, a pair of Inauguration covers from 1980 and 1988, each with a portrait of George Bush as Vice President and then as President. They were hand-cancelled on Inauguration Day right here in Greenwich, CT, back in the days when we still had a post office worthy of the name. (These days the post office building is up for sale, and the skeleton staff still on duty may - or more likely, may not - get around to giving you your mail during the course of the week in which it comes in.)

Bush immediately reached for a pen, and in seconds the two covers bore Presidential autographs. From his surprise and delight at seeing them, it seemed evident that he had not come across any like them before. So now there are two nice pieces of local history memorabilia where earlier there had been none.

Beth Bush held court on the terrace overlooking the golf course that Pres loved so much, and everyone had a story to tell about something he had done to help them or a family member, e.g., getting a son into the Naval Academy or a daughter into West Point. Sadly, his passing brings to an end the Bush family era here in Greenwich, and the hedgies that have inundated the Town in recent years don't even come up to his knees in stature, however many millions or billions they may have.

The Christ Church choir - which Pres loved - said it all with their lovely rendition of John Rutter's version of the Aaronic bessing:

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you, and give you peace."

RIP, Prescott Sheldon Bush, Jr.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dirty Work at the Senior Center, Part 3

The following letter was sent to the Chairman of the Commission on Aging on June 18, with cc's to the other Commission members:

Dear Lori,

I was shocked to hear that Marva Savariau was let go as the chef at the Senior Center. Especially when the article in the Greenwich Times [sic] dated May 18, 2010 quoted Laurette Helmrich saying "that the new plan was always to keep Savariau on".

Since Laurette Helmrich became the Director, there have been 5 employees who were either let go or walked out because they were unhappy with the atmosphere working under Laurette. Don't you find this unusual? There are also several individuals who volunteered their time and talent to provide the seniors wonderful programs for years, and they too were insulted and not welcomed back.

Maybe the Commission Members need to take a good look at the atmosphere the director has created while running the Senior Center and the manner is which she treated her past employees. It seems a tragedy to have what was once a warm and caring place turn into what it is today. I've seen it, I've heard it from members and I myself feel uncomfortable in Laurette's presence knowing what she has done in the years she has had the director's position. Is the Commission unaware of this sad situation?

/s/Nancy Gillon

Since this letter has been sent to a Town board regarding problems under their direct purview, it is now a public document. Your scribe therefore hastens to publicize it, and only wishes he had had the eloquence to write it himself.

Ms. Gillon makes a number of good points, including the fact that Laurette's reign of terror is not a new phenomenon, but goes back several years. Laurette, or as she is better known among the insiders at the Senior Center, "Miss Piggy", has indeed truncated many programs on art, language, literature, and history that were once provided by both the paid staff and the volunteers mentioned by Ms. Gillon. Did Miss Piggy find these people and programs somehow threatening to her overlordship? Who knows? But the fact remains that they are all now part of the Senior Center's past, not its present.

Meanwhile, poor Marva continues to be persecuted by Sam Deibler (popularly known around the Senior Center as "Doofus"), being told she has no right to be in a public building (where she happens to hold a second part-time job). When Doofus loudly tries to tell Marva that she is still a Town employee subject to his supervision, she wisely ignores him, knowing that he and Miss Piggy summarily fired her and took away her keys back on June 11. Even a garden-variety doofus would know that Marva is no longer his employee, but this particular world-class Doofus seems to have well more than the usual quota of rocks between his ears.

And so, dear reader, matters at the Senior Center lurch ever lower and lower, while Doofus strolls self-importantly up and down Greenwich Avenue and Miss Piggy hides timorously in her office. (She is so traumatized by the pressures of her job that she used to ask Marva to pray for her. Presumably that's not happening these days.) In a time of budget austerity, one wonders why these two highly-paid but hardly working employees should remain on the Town payroll while much more productive people like Marva are terminated. And what of the Commission on Aging that ostensibly oversees this mess? Have they even bothered to respond to Ms. Gillon's thoughtful letter?

Probably not. The Greenwich tradition is to circle the wagons around the wrong-doers, and publicly flagellate the truth-sayers. Doofus and Miss Piggy will no doubt be given some kind of civic award for their "brilliant leadership", and St. Marva will be dragged through the mud based on the trumped-up charges the two of them have brought against her. It was ever thus in the Town of Greenwich, and things are unlikely to change for the better anytime soon.

Meanwhile, of course, the biggest losers of all are the seniors themselves. To quote Ms. Gillon, it is tragic to have "what was once a warm and caring place" being trashed by two venal administrators and an outside for-profit food service. The price of the food will rise 33% next week, the quality has already plummeted, and of course we as taxpayers are footing the $77,000 budget appropriation for the wonderful new system given to us by Doofus and Miss Piggy. My, wonders if the Town of Greenwich itself isn't the real doofus in all of this.

We should all follow Ms. Gillon's good example and send letters to the Commission on Aging (names and addresses below in the post for June 11). If that doesn't work, maybe we should organize picket lines at the Senior Center and at Town Hall. Once the national media start to catch a whiff of the scandal, maybe we'll be treated to the likes of the Rev. Al Sharpton coming to Town to help us clean up our act. Just what we need--not! So let's hope the Commission members and the Board of Selectmen go into a huddle, give Miss Piggy and Doofus their unmerited awards for "meritorious" service, and then show them the door. And hope that Marva may be willing to come back and put things to rights again.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dirty Work at the Senior Center, Continued

One of the best meals long-time chef Marva Savariau used to make at the Senior Center was her roast turkey luncheon. She was scheduled to serve it again this past Monday, but, as we all now know, she was rudely and summarily fired the Friday before. What actually happened at Monday lunch is an interesting object lesson in how quickly and how far things have suddenly spiraled downhill at the Senior Center.

Instead of the real bird fresh out of the oven, fit for a Thanksgiving table and carved in front of your eyes—"Would you like a drumstick? White meat? Dark meat? Some of each?"—it was a tasteless commercial deli loaf fed into a slicer. A few thin slices, topped with smarmy white gravy out of a can instead of the rich brown giblet gravy Marva used to prepare—that was what you got. And the desserts, instead of being the usual homemade pies and cakes and bread puddings, were either a tiny serving of jello with a little Redi-Whip on top, or six pieces of uninspired canned fruit. It was a mockery of what Marva had planned for Monday’s lunch, and she would have died of shame before she would ever have served such unspeakable slop to her beloved seniors.

But that is the way of the future, dear reader. Pay more, get less, and shut up. The way things are going in this Town, the seniors are lucky to get anything at all. And next year…who knows? If the commercial food service isn’t making enough profit on their chintzy meals, they may just bail, and leave the seniors foodless. Why should Morrison Senior "Living" care? They will have milked their ill-gotten contract for all it was worth, and then moved on to do the same thing to some other unsuspecting town up the line. It’s the American way, after all. Get what you can before the truth catches up to you, and then set up shop somewhere else. It’s just like the Duke and the King in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. There’s always a bunch of greater fools two towns over.

Meanwhile, dear reader, we here in Greenwich are at present the greater fools. We took an operation that wasn’t broke, and was actually working very well, and we “fixed” it. Your tax dollars at work, dear citizen. We screwed ourselves, not to mention a faithful long-time Town employee, are enriching a greedy outside corporation, and will eventually be left holding the bag. Gee. We should be really proud of ourselves. Isn’t Greenwich great?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dirty Work at the Senior Center

There are days when your scribe is ashamed to be a citizen of the Town of Greenwich. Today is one of them.

For this morning Marva, one of the Town's most dedicated and hard-working employees, who for many years has prepared and served many tens of thousands of tasty home-cooked meals to the folks at the Senior Center, was summarily fired. Laurette Helmrich and Sam Deibler marched into the kitchen together and demanded her keys. She was told to put her personal effects into a cardboard box, and to leave the building and not come back.

As a Town building, the Senior/Arts Center is open to anyone and everyone during its regular hours. Marva, who also happens to hold a part-time job in the building with a private non-governmental agency, has as much right to be in the building as anyone else. Laurette and Sam's high-handed behavior is a textbook example of a lawsuit in the making.

As for Marva, she is in shock. She has worked for the Town for decades, and is only a year or so away from being eligible for her pension. Do you think something may be rotten in the Town of Greenwich, dear reader?

Marva is one of the most competent and dedicated workers this Town has ever seen. The seniors adore her. If the Senior Center were still under the purview of the Parks & Rec Department, this would never have happened.

But things changed. The Commission on Aging took it over. Laurette, who came to the Senior Center from Nathaniel Witherell, has been agitating for several years to bring in the same commercial for-profit food service company used by the nursing home, and to get rid of the independent Town of Greenwich employee Marva and her smoothly-running operation. Recently, food service executive types in fancy suits have been prowling around the Senior Center, sniffing out and scenting a new source of revenue in the offing. And sure enough: it was recently announced that they will be taking over Marva's operation on July 1.

The price of the new portion-controlled assembly-line meals will jump 33%. The quality will almost assuredly go down--how can you improve on Marva's home cooking? But Laurette and Sam will no doubt have earned the gratitude of the food service honchos for their help in landing this profitable new contract, and if the seniors get the short end of the stick, well, they're not exactly the most vocal or powerful constituency in Greenwich, are they?

It's too bad that Charles Dickens is no longer around to roast the Town of Greenwich for this despicable and rotten behavior towards Marva, not to mention the many people for whom her cooking has long been their main meal of the day. But he's not, and his type of righteous indignation is not considered fashionable in this Town these days. Probably most people in Greenwich will simply shrug their shoulders and say, so what?

But if there are any people out there who happen to believe that what happened to Marva this morning is shameful and wrong, here are the names of your neighbors who are in charge of this fiasco:


’11 Lori Jackson (Chairman) 2005 698-0158 (H)
46 Keofferam Rd.
Old Greenwich, CT 06870

’11 Catherine M. Brennan (Vice-Chairman) 2005 869-6222(H)
1 Meadow Drive 536-9576© Cos Cob, CT 06807 869-0080(O)

’10 Kristen N. Browne (Sec) 2007 203-661-0693 (H)
4 Grange St. 203-863-3206 (W)
Greenwich, CT 06830

’12 James B. Dougherty 2009 203-661-4865(H)
747 North Street 203-869-3085(W)
Greenwich, CT 06831

’10 Karen LaMonica 2004 661-0216 (H)
34 Benenson Drive 914-997-7912 ext. 750(W)
Cos Cob, CT 06807 203-536-7062 ©
914-997-0024 (F)

’12 John "Jack" Morris 2009 203-637-2143 (H)
49 Lockwood Ave. 203-253-0567 ©
Old Greenwich, CT 06870-1718

‘11 Howard "Chip" Serrell 2007 661-2498 (H)
12 River Lane 769-2542 (W)
Cos Cob, CT 06807

Staff: Samuel E. Deibler 862-6710 (O) 867-6711(Direct)
1 Mill Pond Court 862-6701 (Fax-office)
Cos Cob, CT 06807 661-9343 (H)

Chicky Krois 862-6710 (O)
862-6701 (Fax-office)

Oh, and you might consider calling or emailing the Board of Selectmen as well. Peter Tesei, Dave Theis, and Drew Marzullo can all be reached at --just click on "Board of Selectmen" at the right margin on the home page.

In a perfect world, Marva would be re-hired, and Laurette and Sam would be the ones told to put their personal belongings into a box and get out. And the greedy for-profit food service people would be told to get out and stay out. But Greenwich, Connecticut is far from a perfect world, and today it has become markedly less so.

Shame on the Town of Greenwich!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Laetatus Sum... his quae dicta sunt mihi, "In domum Domini ibimus." These glorious opening words of Psalm 121 reverberated from the rafters in Christ Church on Friday night, as the massed choirs joined in a rousing rendition of Hubert Parry's splendiferous state anthem. Composed for the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, the anthem earned Parry a baronetcy, and has been sung at royal coronations and archiepiscopal enthronements and other festival occasions ever since.

One such festive occasion was the recent marriage of Geoffrey Silver and Elizabeth Robinson, which was in fact the last time your scribe heard this piece performed at Christ Church. Elizabeth used it as her processional, and it worked so well that your scribe has shamelessly borrowed the idea in one of his novels, putting the suggestion into the mouth of James Kennerley (who played Elizabeth down the aisle). The other brilliant Robinson-Silver idea was to have two weddings, one on each side of the Atlantic, so as to accomodate their respective sets of Anglo-American friends. This brainstorm, too, has been shamelessly copped by your scribe in the Clark-King Chronicles. Thanks, Geoffrey and Elizabeth!

Friday's festal occasion was the Installation of the Rev. Dr. James B. Lemler as the ninth Rector of Christ Church, which by not-very-much happenstance also marked the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the new church on June 4, 1910. Almost every seat in the church was filled, by reserved ticket, and the newly-installed air conditioning warded off the sticky summery heat as well as that generated by the packed conditions. The stained glass windows were ablaze with the evening sun, and the church, thanks to the recent renovation programs, has never looked better in its hundred-year life. Just to be alive and inside its four walls was a soul-enriching experience.

The service began with a mini-recital by Simon Thomas Jacobs, the talented Associate Director of Music, who graduated with honors from Clare College, Cambridge just under a year ago, and has quickly become a most welcome addition to the Christ Church staff. Bach's bouncy Prelude and Fugue in G Major was followed by the meditative chorale prelude, Schmuecke Dich. The virtuoso Piece d'Orgue, better known here as the Fantasia in G Major, ranges from brilliant arpeggios to dense five-part harmony and back again. Simon's performance of all these lovely works was impeccable. He finished up with Elgar's "Nimrod" from the Enigma Variations, thus setting the keynote (as it were) for the Edwardian feast to follow.

Sidney Nicholson's great hymn Crucifer ("Lift High the Cross") was the processional, an old Christ Church favorite, but rarely if ever has it been so splendidly sung and performed as on this night. The rafters rang as the assembled choirs and clergy made their way through the aisles of the church and up to the chancel. The procession included the guest of honor and preacher, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize; the Bishop of Connecticut, Ian Douglas; the Rector-elect, Jim Lemler; the clergy and choirs of Christ Church; and various other local clergy including Heather Parkinson-Wright, head of the Greenwich Chaplaincy Services; Rabbi Mitch Hurvitz of Temple Sholom; Bill Evertsberg of the First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich; Robert Alves of St. Barnabas; and so on and so forth. All in all, it was quite a sight.

Then came the Parry anthem. The trompette en chamade blazoned forth the opening notes from the rear of the church, answered by the full chancel organ in the front. From where your scribe was sitting in Row M, the result was perfect stereophonic sound. He used the old chorister's trick of cupping his hand to his ear, which not only magnifies the volume but brings out the overtones as well. What a treat!

The sermon by Dr. Tutu was a mixture of humor and social ecumenism. He told us how one of his students had sent him a photo of a billboard outside a church which read, "Do you have trouble sleeping? Let the church help. We have sermons...." He likened God's love for each and every one of His creatures to that of a mother for a perhaps not-quite-totally-photogenic baby, who might say to her infant, "You're not the prettiest thing in the world, are you?" But let someone else come up and say, "That has got to be the ugliest baby I've ever seen," and that person will be lucky to escape her wrath with his life. In a voice that modulated from thunder to mezzo-forte to piano to a whisper to mouthed silence, Dr. Tutu repeated the word "All", over and over again, to drive home his point that God loves everyone. "Gay, lesbian, so-called straight..."--his sly humor and understatement had us laughing about topics that ordinarily might make us uncomfortable. For such a small physical being (to call him five feet tall might be generous), Dr. Tutu had an extraordinarily commanding presence.

The Induction followed, with Bishop Douglas presiding. He put on his mitre to read the Letter of Institution which formally confirmed the call of Jim Lemler as the new Rector of Christ Church. The Gregorian chant of the Litany for Mission gave way to the presentation of "symbols and instruments of ministry and leadership," which included a "vessel of water" from the Bishop and a stole and chasuble from Wardens Tim Carpenter and Nancy Maulsby. Other gifts included a Book of Common Prayer and a Hymnal (the latter being the full-fledged musical edition, your scribe was glad to see), and a plant from the "religious community" of the Town presented by Mitch and Heather. Wendy Claire Berrie, Director of Children's Ministry, presented him with a children's Bible to remind him of his ministry to parishioners of all ages at Christ Church. The church staff presented Jim with a church bell, which he promptly proceeded to ring exuberantly.

Jim then knelt to repeat the ancient "Non sum dignus": "I am not worthy to have You come under my roof; yet You have called Your servant to stand in Your house, and to serve at Your altar...." He rose, and the Bishop formally presented him to us by saying, "I present to you James, as servant and leader." The rubric mentioning that "applause is appropriate" was a mild understatement.

Continuing the Edwardian motif, the choir sang Elgar's "The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me," the text from Isaiah chosen by our Lord as the basis for His first sermon (which almost got Him killed). Afterwards, Dr. Tutu told your scribe that he was warmly appreciative of the subtle "soloing out" and judicious use of 8ve and Sub-8ve couplers he noticed during Elgar's anthem. "Young Simon is a genius," he was heard to say. "And Philip Moore's bongo drums--spot on!"

Well, having brought up Philip Moore, no need to wait further to praise his numerous brilliant contributions to this festival liturgy. Philip is organist emeritus at York Minster, and comes over to Christ Church several times a year as Artist in Residence. As the service of Holy Communion continued, the choir sang his gorgeous arrangements of "I want to walk as a child of the light" and "Hyfrydol". The final hymn was "Siyahamba", in an arrangement completed by Philip just three weeks ago. Between the bongo drums and the trompette en chamade, the very stones in the walls of the church were pulsating with joy. Dr. Tutu himself boogied his way down the aisle as the choir and clergy recessed.

And who, dear reader, was the person who made this joyful celebration into a reality? Well, many people worked long and hard on it, of course, but none worked longer or harder than Director of Music Jamie Hitel. His impeccable musicianship has infected every one of the young people who sing under him, and the choirs of Christ Church have never sounded better than they did on Friday night. He has strengthened the program enormously with his ties to the world of English church music, viz. Philip Moore and Simon Thomas Jacobs, among others. He has brought us the Sunday afternoon chamber music series, and in fact this same group, along with others, will perform a festival centennial concert this very Sunday. He has continued the Friday evening organ concerts begun by his predecessors, Geoffrey Silver and James Kennerley. But most of all, he gives of his best to ensure that each and every service at Christ Church is as close to perfection as it can be, and by his inspiring leadership he brings out the best in the young singers under his charge. Bravo, Jamie!

Then we retired to the Parish Hall, where we toasted Rector Jim with champagne provided by Bacardi USA and parishioner Michael Rieck. But your scribe didn't need any bubbly to get high; he was already high on the musical and spiritual beauty of the service just concluded. One wonders what the parishioners of 100 years ago would have thought of this service had they been able to be in attendance; no doubt they would have been very proud of their successors as stewards of Christ Church, and proud, too, of their own role in building this beautiful church for our use and enjoyment today. The ancient words still ring true: "Surely God is in this place...."