Heroes live quietly among us in Westport; here are some

The other day, I met Ben Pepper. He has lived in Westport since 1958. I moved here with my parents two years ago as a toddler. Yet in about 70 years, I had never heard of him.

what a shame He is a remarkable man. Five months short of turning 100, she still lives — alone — in the house on North Avenue that she and her husband, Frances, built during the Eisenhower presidency.

Pepper spent his career as a photographer. He also owned two liquor stores. His wife ran the Kiddy Closet children’s clothing store in Norwalk. The couple helped build Temple Israel on Cooleytown Road.

In all the years I’ve been here, I’ve missed more than Ben Pepper’s name. I missed his stories

He was a paratrooper in World War II and earned a Purple Heart in the Battle of the Bulge. The soldier who shared his fox was killed next to him.

Pepper could have been a part of D-Day – and maybe not survived – but he had broken his back on the previous jump. And on the way to Arden Forest, he survived a plane crash in England.

I could be forgiven for not knowing any of Pepper’s story, as until now he has not shared it publicly. Although Westport’s Memorial Day Parade has long honored World War II veterans — and the ceremony has grown steeper each year as their numbers dwindle — he has decided not to participate. He never marched or rode in a convertible. It’s not just pepper style.

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As I sat at his son and daughter-in-law’s house, hearing him finally tell those stories—and seeing his purple heart and dog tags, both of which he proudly holds, along with other war memorabilia—I realized how much It is important to him. Let Westport know its heroes. Even if they avoid recognition.
We do this every year on Memorial Day. Now that Korean War veterans — even those who served in Vietnam — are reaching a certain age, it’s more important than ever for younger generations to see them. I remember my father describing the impact of watching Civil War vets march in their Memorial Day parade. This shows how young a country we really are. However, it also reinforces the notion that we should never forget our past.

Today’s youth should see and respect any kind of heroism. Heroes are around. However, we don’t always show them to the young people who should be inspired and uplifted by them.

Another Westporter name I never knew caught my attention recently. Martin Rosenfeld has died at the age of 95. He lived in Westport from 1998 to 2021. During that time, he and his wife, Martha, donated more than 16,000 volunteer hours to Norwalk Hospital. She assisted patients, visitors and staff in the ambulatory surgery waiting room – a stressful spot for everyone, but less worrisome each day and year.

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Martin and Martha found a home in a conservative synagogue. Surrounded by a young community with small children, they jumped right in.
The couple helped in the office. They polished silver on Torah scrolls and provided Passover seders for those without local families.

At the age of 70, Martin learned to read the Torah for the first time. He was the synagogue’s most prolific singer until the pandemic moved synagogue services to Zoom. She and her husband also participated in adult education programs and inspired other participants.

These are Westport facts from the life of Martin Rosenfeld. The story behind him is also interesting. Like Ben Pepper, who hails from the Bronx (and also from DeWitt Clinton High School), he served in World War II. Then he went to Yale University where he mastered the Japanese language.

How many other interesting people live and walk among us whose stories we don’t hear until it’s almost — or finally — too late? Men and women who grew up in the Depression, who fought for their country (and saved the world), then went on to live quiet suburban lives, finding time to raise families, build community, and never once seek What is not praise? Or even a pat on the back?

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My generation—the Baby Boomers—followed theirs. We were all about ourselves. We had numbers and strength and we used both. We thought we were doing the right thing for the planet, but we didn’t shy away from the spotlight either.

Later generations have been even more about themselves. Young adults – even teenagers – today recognize their personal brands. They live their lives publicly on multiple social media platforms. Smartphone and TV cameras are almost appendages to their bodies.

Today, on TV and cinema, Facebook and Instagram and TikTok, everyone can look like a hero. As Ben Pepper and Martin Rosenfeld prove, quiet heroes live among us.

Even if we never know their names.

Dan Vogue is a Westport writer and his “Vogue World” appears every Friday. He can be reached at [email protected] His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.


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