Heroes live quietly among us in Westport; here are some

I met Ben Pepper the other day. He has lived in Westport since 1958. I moved here with my parents two years before that. But in nearly 70 years, I have never heard his name.

It’s a shame. He was an extraordinary man. Five months shy of his 100th birthday, he still lives – alone – in the house off Northern Avenue that he and his wife Frances built when Eisenhower was president.

Pepper spent his professional career as a photographer. He also owned two liquor stores; her husband managed the children’s clothing store Kiddy Closet in Norwalk. The couple helped build Temple Israel on Coleytown Road.

In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve remembered nothing more than Ben Pepper’s name. I missed his story too.

A paratrooper in World War II, he earned a Purple Heart in the Battle of the Bulge. A soldier who shared his fox died next to him.

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

I could be forgiven for not knowing Pepper’s story, as until now she has not shared it publicly. Although Westport’s Memorial Day parade honors World War II veterans – and, as their numbers dwindle, the annual ceremony becomes more poignant – opting to he will not participate. He never marched, or rode in a convertible. It’s just not Pepper’s style.

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Sitting at the home of his son and daughter-in-law, he finally heard the stories – and found his Purple Heart and dog tags, both of which he proudly kept, along with other war memorabilia. – I feel it’s important for Westport to recognize its heroes. Even if they avoid recognition.
We do this every year on Memorial Day. Now that Korean War veterans have reached a certain age – even those who served in Vietnam – it’s more important than ever to see them. I remember my father telling me about the impact of watching our pets in a Memorial Day parade. This shows that we are a very young country. But it also confirms that we should not forget the past.

Today’s youth must see and honor various heroes. Around the hero. However, we do not always refer them to the youth, who should inspire and uplift them.

Another Westporter name I didn’t know caught my eye recently as well. 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, gave more than 16,000 volunteer hours to Norwalk Hospital. She helped patients, visitors and staff in the ambulatory surgery waiting room – a stressful place for everyone, but one that worries her less every day and year.

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Martin and Martha found a home in the Conservative Synagogue. Surrounded by a community of young people with young children, they jumped right in.
The couple helped in the office. They shined silver on Torah scrolls, and gave Passover to local childless people.

At the age of 70, Martin learned to read the Torah for the first time. Until the pandemic moved synagogue services to Zoom, he was the synagogue’s most popular reader. She and her husband also actively participated in adult education programs, inspiring other attendees.

These are the Westport facts about the life of Martin Rosenfeld. His back story is also fascinating. Like Ben Pepper, a native of the Bronx (and DeWitt Clinton High School), he served in World War II. He then attended Yale University, where he majored in Japanese.

How many other interesting people live and walk among us, whose stories we do not hear until it is too late – or finally – too late? What about the great men and women during the Depression, who fought for their country (and saved the world), then went on to quiet country lives, finding time to raise families, build communities , and will never seek praise. or even a back stick?

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My generation – Baby Boomers – followed theirs. We talked 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 doubt it either.

Later generations were even more distinguished by themselves. Young adults – even teenagers – today are burning their own brands. They live their lives in public, on many social media platforms. Cell phone and television cameras are almost extensions of their bodies.

In TV and movies, on Facebook and Instagram and now TikTok, everyone can look like a hero. As Ben Pepper and Martin Rosenfeld attest, however, heroes live quietly among us.

Although we do not know his name.

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


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