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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Dead Come to Life in East Cemetery Tour

The Dead Come to Life in 
East Cemetery Tour:
Reenactors share bios 
on notable war veterans
(for Fairfield Citizen News)
By Mike Lauterborn

Fairfield, CT – It’s unsettling to see so much activity in a graveyard. But local residents were just dying to get in to hear the stories of some of the cemetery’s celebrated inhabitants.

On Saturday afternoon May 14, the Fairfield Museum and History Center hosted an interactive tour of the East Cemetery, at the end of Old Post Road. Interred veterans of the War of 1812, Revolutionary War and Civil War were all highlighted. The event was chiefly organized by the Museum’s Librarian Assistant and Genealogist Rod MacKenzie.

“I learned that people are very interested in visiting cemeteries,” said MacKenzie. “We did two similar events in Greenfield Cemetery in past years. I chose the East Cemetery this time given that this year is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and there are 18 Civil War veterans from the area buried here.”

One of the 18 is Christopher Columbus Wells, whose story was being told by docent Amanda Nadolny. “Wells was a private who served in the Connecticut Heavy Artillery Unit,” she said. “He fought in battles at Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg and Hatcher’s Run. Out of 700 in his unit, 427 men were killed. He was fortunate to survive and became Fairfield’s first mail carrier.”

With regard to the Revolutionary War, there are three veterans interred in the cemetery, including John Morehouse, Abel Turney and Aaron Turney. The Turney’s lived in the immediate area and, in fact, an ancestral cousin, Bill Stansfield, was on hand touring the cemetery.

“I’ve always been interested in my family’s roots,” said Stansfield. “It’s great to walk by their houses, around where they were and here where they are buried. I’m a research genealogist so have learned much about the family.”

Portraying Stansfield’s cousin Aaron, Michael Perazzini said, “Aaron started out as a private in the artillery in the Colonial Army and fought at the Siege of Boston. He was also at the Burning of Fairfield and rose to the rank of lieutenant. He was never wounded.”

Standing in as Abel Turney, 15-year-old Sean Larson said, “Abel was a sailor in the Revolutionary War, joining when he was about 15, in 1781. He served on the Alliance, a 32-gun frigate that fought in a major sea battle between the Atlanta and the Trepassey, two British ships. Turney was shot in the leg, rendered unconscious and was almost thrown overboard with the dead. At the last minute, he regained consciousness and was saved. Though he remained a cripple, he pursued the building trade, married twice and had nine children.”

Representing the veterans of the War of 1812, of which there are over 30 buried in the cemetery, was Betty Oderwald, president of the Daughters of the War of 1812. “The conflict, fought between Britain and the U.S., was known as the ‘end of the Revolution,’” she said. “Notable graves include Joseph Sturges, Samuel Nichols and William Turney. All of these vets were in the militia. There were 5,000 militiamen from Connecticut. As a tribute to them, we’re giving flags to visitors to place at their gravesides. Next year starts the bicentennial anniversary of the war.”

What would a history-oriented event be without honorary town historian Marcia Miner? She stood by at the grave of Capt. Abraham Benson, her ancestral relative. “Benson was recruited to fight in the War of 1812 but did not report for duty and was fined,” she said. “He was a captain of a steamboat shuttling up and down the Hudson River at that time.”

Westport Youth Film Fest Stars in Downtown Fairfield

Westport Youth Film Fest Stars 
in Downtown Fairfield:
Celebrates the work of 
more than 50 filmmakers
By Mike Lauterborn
(posted to
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – It was the local area’s answer to a Hollywood red carpet event, with filmmakers, musicians, event sponsors, organizers and an excited public all mingling in and about the historic theater.

For the better part of the day Saturday, the eighth annual Westport Youth Film Festival (WYFF), presented by the Westport Arts Center, was conducted at Fairfield’s downtown Community Theatre at the base of Unquowa Road. There, 50 local and international youth films selected from more than 200 entries were shown, while live music, panel discussions and workshops were conducted adjacent to the event site.

Roaming the site with a two-way radio, managing and overseeing activities, was Matt Kalmans, 17, a senior at Weston High School and the Festival’s director. “This is the culmination of nine months of work,” he said. “Twenty students from six different schools are involved as organizers, with support from an advisory board of industry professionals and community members. I’m thankful that the rain is holding off. We’re glad to be back here at the Community Theatre now that renovations have been completed.”

Standing nearby, Scott Fishoff of Graphis Studio, Stamford, said, “We helped design the Fest program and worked on the website. We couldn’t be prouder of the Fest. It’s amazing with all the balloons and bands, really terrific.”

Greeting supporters, Weston filmmaker Alex Fjellberg Swerdlowe noted that he had two films that made the Fest program, titled “Consequential Lies”, a drama, and “Friends Like These”, a horror film. “Typically, I do dramas,” he said. “The horror film was a departure. I always wanted to try it. Filmmaking is like painting – you want to try different mediums. ‘Consequential Lies’ premiered here three weeks ago to great response.”

Just wrapping up a music set, Cyrus Thomas-Walker, the bass guitarist of the Hartford-based band Move Out West, said, “We’re currently on tour. This is the other side of Connecticut for us. We’re glad to support the Fest. It’s a great crowd, good location and an excellent arts scene.”

Beside him, Brett Bassock, the 18-year-old director of the band’s music video “I’m All Smiles”, which was shown at the Fest, said, “I’ve been producing and directing films since fourth grade. I’ve known about the Fest for years and had been interested in being in it. I recognized they had a music video category and that it would be a good opportunity for exposure. The fact this is run by kids my age is really incredible.”

Another director, Joey DePasquale, 17, of Weston, was entertaining a few friends in front of Las Vetas Lounge. “I directed ‘Tilt’ and was involved behind the scenes on two other films,” he said. “This is my first time in this Fest… I’m really excited. ‘Tilt’ showed in the U.K. last year, but I wasn’t able to attend, so I’m anxious to see how a local crowd reacts.”

Set up at a table in front of Arts Place, Deanna Foster, Interim Executive Director of the Westport Arts Center, said, “We are thrilled to provide this unique venue for young filmmakers, to be recognized for their extraordinary work. The Center is a visual and performing arts organization. One of the founders of the Fest, Emma Weisman, is the daughter of Eileen Weisman, who was the Executive Director of the Center at the time. Emma brought the idea to her mom, which was the seed for the Fest. We’ve nurtured this over the past eight years. We believe in film as a visual art. And it’s the only youth-run film festival in the world.”