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Women of Westport

  • Photo: Mindy Briar, Location Courtesy of Office Evolution.
  • Photo: Mindy Briar, Location Courtesy of Office Evolution.
  • Photo: Gary Lewis
  • Photo: Gary Lewis

Rosie Jon
Artist

Of her dad:

“My dad would say, ‘Look at the Venus de Milo. Do you think she would be as beautiful if she had arms?’”

About her three kids:

“None of them see me as having a disability. Sometimes when they want me to do something I have to remind them, 'I don’t have hands, you have to do it yourself!’”

Her first job:

“My first job was at Pinewood studios in London - where they filmed some Harry Potter scenes and all of the James Bond movies - in computer animation. I worked 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. for the first six months.

“While I worked nights I became interested in 3D character animation. So I self-taught myself by watching the 3D character team, copying their files and re-creating what they were doing. After a few months I went to the head producer and said, ‘I really want to move into the 3D characters team.’ He said I need more experience and I didn’t even have an art portfolio. He was also very busy at the time. So I’d linger outside of his office when I knew he was about to leave for the day and try to get his attention. One day I did! I ran to him and said, ‘I know you’re busy but just give me one week!’ He told me to start in the morning. So I worked my night shift and kept working through the next day with the 3D team. I stayed there for an entire year.”

When she draws for kids in Westport elementary schools:

“I had kids draw a star with their toes. I asked, ‘Do any of these stars look alike? We may have differences and uniqueness, but it’s all about how our stars shine.”

About differences:

“We all have differences. Some of them we can see, some of them we can’t.”

Helen Klisser During
Art Advisor/ Curator /Award Winning Photojournalist/Former Artistic Director of WAC

On her father:

“My father, Johan, was a Dutch holocaust survivor. As a teenager he was separated from his parents and younger brother Leo(7) and hid with neighbors in Amsterdam. His was hiding hiding in a different spot. The Dutch underground had arranged for his parents and brother to be hidden in a town Amsterdam, however they were discovered, arrested and transported… to Auschwitz where they were exterminated.”

On her parents:

“They created Klisser’s Farmhouse Bakeries and were 'put on the map' for introducing Vogel’s Bread - a New Zealand icon.”

While she was at WAC:

“One of the highlights during my time at WAC was founding the Artist Collective, organizing exhibitions, monthly Artist Collective meetings, and creating a home base for artists. The Pop Up exhibitions’ attendance would soar to 300 plus people: artists, art lovers, family. Those were happy times.”

How she became an Art Advisor:

“I asked if I could broker limited edition prints from Tyler Graphics. I placed a small ad in Westport News of Roy Lichenstein’s screaming baby - I figured people are moving to Westport because they were having kids. Then I added my name. I got a few clients from it and that’s how I started my art advisory business.”

About her photo of the Taksim Protest/Riots in Istanbul

“We were stopped in a traffic for a very long time and it looked to be a parade. I got out of the car to take photos. Next thing I know people are running toward me and there’s tear gas, cobblestones being pulled out of the pavement and being hurled - the parade became a protester riot. I continued taking video and shooting stills and sent them immediately to Gordon Joseloff at WestportNow. One of my images - a protestor, a woman - reminds me things can change at the drop of a hat.”

Helen McAlinde
President & CEO, Homes with Hope

On her upbringing in Ireland:

“I went with my father, a coal-miner, to bring food to elderly villagers who couldn’t get out. We were often the only people they’d see because they were in remote areas of the village. They relied on the groceries and the chat until the next week.”

About her Uncle Patrick:

“He came to the Bronx from Ireland, like myself, at 17. He was killed in action in the Korean war when he was 21. I spent years wrangling and lobbying to get a law passed that allowed 28 Irish immigrants who died fighting in the U.S. armed forces to be awarded citizenship posthumously. He was eventually awarded US citizenship, a Purple Heart, and Bronze Star.”

After moving to America:

“I came to America after high school and eventually joined the Irish Volunteers for the Homeless in New York. I  began feeding the homeless in Manhattan. Initially I thought it might be scary but I just loved it. I learned, very fast, that people aren’t different just because they can’t afford a house or food. We are all the same but facing different circumstances.”  

“Up until 9/11 I worked at 7 World Trade Center. After that day I decided I wanted to work in social services. I was fortunate to be led to this field and have never looked back since I began working in the nonprofit housing sector almost two decades ago.

Regarding her clients:

“Our residents never ask for a penny from anyone, they live quietly in our community, and are so thankful to their new neighbors for the heartfelt welcome.”

Drs. Masha Kogan and Virginia Romano
The Dental Center of Westport

About their new office at 175 Post Road West

“We created a go-to practice where our patients can feel at home, relaxed and catered to. We added colorful and creative design to make the space welcoming, with the latest technology, newest equipment, and state-of-the-art sterilization. To elevate the patient experience we’re targeting all senses to put people at ease: art, curated music, plants, scent of a perfect candle and much more. We want our patients to be excited to see Masha and Gina, so we’re trying to make it a personal experience.”

Their favorite part of being a dentist:

“We’re humanizing the dental experience and getting to know our patients on a deeper level. We enjoy combining our creative sides with our cosmetic cases, connecting dentistry to whole body/nutrition and  getting to know our patients on a more personal level by knowing their families and being part of the community.”

The inspiration for their innovative advertisements:

“We love dentistry, but we also love fashion. By expressing our personalities though our ads, we’re showing the community our fun, creative and light-hearted side. Our lives aren’t just about periodontal disease.”

Regarding their cool kicks:

“We put a lot of emphasis on our shoes; it’s an icebreaker for a lot of people who are apprehensive about dentist visits. For people who like fashion, we have something in common right away. It’s a conservation opener and breaks down the barrier of doctor versus patient. It’s also a fun hobby because we are always covered with our coats, gloves, glasses and masks."

Angela Benzan
Realtor, Higgins Group Private Brokerage

On her inspiration for selling real estate;

“I have always had a passion for interior design and architecture. My family invested in real estate so I grew up surrounded by it. I’d spend weekends looking at houses with my mom. So when I moved to Westport with two young kids from NYC and was looking for a career change that would keep me closer to home I knew right away that it would be selling real estate. There was no hesitation.”

About today’s real estate market:

“Our real estate market certainly has its challenges right now and has since 2008. I have to constantly be open to change and make adjustments. I constantly strive to be better at what I do, marketing at a higher level with more creativity and customization and then, of course, setting realistic expectations. We are lucky to be in a highly desirable town like Westport with so much to offer as it sets us apart from other towns and keeps our values strong.

About her own home:

“I live in the same house that I bought when I first moved to Westport 14 years ago. Back then people still wanted houses that were a project and I was really excited to find a house that had a great floor plan and good proportions that I could totally renovate. I bought a quintessential CT colonial, painted it white (my favorite house color!) and modernized the interior. We’ve had many great years here but I think it's time for a change. I think I will do something completely different this time and go for more of a west coast contemporary style home.”Anne C. Dranginis, Retired Judge

Jill D. Bicks and Kelly A. Scott
Family Law Attorneys, Pullman & Comley

Jill D. Bicks - Why she became a lawyer:

“I was terrible at math, but loved to read, play games and solve puzzles.  Plus, I wanted to save the world.  Law seemed liked the only option.”

Jill D. Bicks - What makes her successful:

“I bring empathy, problem-solving, creativity and nuance to my work. I see myself as a counselor/advocate, rather than a warrior, who partners with clients to help them achieve the best outcome possible for themselves and their children."

Kelly A. Scott - What makes her good at what she does:

“I am good at what I do because I am authentic in my practice. That authenticity resonates with fellow attorneys, clients, judges and other professionals with whom I interact on my cases. The family law bar is a small one, statewide, so you will have multiple cases with the same attorneys – your reputation matters. I am always transparent and treat each client as my partner in the resolution of his or her matter. It helps establish a rapport of trust between us and assures them that I will always keep their best interests at the forefront. That does not mean I will think they are always right, or reasonable, but the ability to have a candid discussion in those instances is crucial.”

Anne C. Dranginis

On her legacy:

“I am not sure that I am any better than most at insight into my own behavior so as to declare a legacy, but I hope I have helped a few people survive an experience they dreaded, that I moved the needle ever so slightly in the arc of justice, and that my existence was a positive for my larger community.”