Greetings dear friends and kind readers, and welcome back for a cozy visit on the Front Porch in this last week of January 2019. Amazing, right?

February arrives on Friday, which means Groundhog Day is Saturday. We are just about half way between December's winter solstice and March's spring equinox, which is pretty exciting no matter what Punxsutawney Phil has to say.  

Let's begin the week with a big shout out to Westerly native and former Westerly police officer Bruce Celico, who has been applauded and lauded, both in person and over social media, for his commendable act of heroism. Earlier this month, Celico and fellow Portsmouth Police Department officers Jean Marie Stewart and Matthew Wilson, responded to a report of a young person perched on the Mount Hope Bridge ready to jump. Bruce, the first to arrive on the scene, was able to subdue the young man and diffuse the situation until an ambulance arrived. A Westerly High School grad and the son of Bruce Celico and Nancy Fox, Bruce and his fellow officers were recognized at the Rhode Island State House last week by state representatives Sam Azzinaro and Brian Patrick Kennedy. When I congratulated Bruce and asked if there was anything he'd like to say, he responded, "Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling. And thank you." Congratulations Bruce.

And a big bravo to Fr. Ray Suriani, the much-loved pastor emeritus of St. Pius X Catholic Church on Elm Street who received the "Defender of Life Award" Saturday. 

What a wonderful time I had with my friends Rita Piliero and Fran Roby last Sunday at the lovely reception for the extraordinarily talented Jillian Barber, who gave a fascinating talk at the end of her stay as Artisan in Residence at Ocean House. So terrific to see hostesses Laurie Hobbs and Lisa SzaroDavid Pritchard, Karen Baker and sisters Meredyth Klotz and Hilary Klotz Steinman (Hilary, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, is the producer of "Children of the Inquisition"). Jillian's talk, about her experiences growing up in Westerly and her many influences, was enchanting. She talked about everything from the Troll Bridge and the Lady in the Fountain statue in Wilcox Park, to Alleyoop the alligator who lived at Monroe's florist where her father, Horace Greenman Barber, was the longtime florist to the sand mermaids she'd create on East Beach. She also paid tribute to two legendary Westerly women: her dear friend, the late Nancy Klotz of Sun Up Gallery fame, and the late Anne Utter (the driving force behind "A Celebration of Twelfth Night") whose "vision was brilliant." Based on the success of the inaugural Artisan in Residence series, Ocean House is issuing a "call for entries" for next season. Speaking of the Ocean House, the new Fondue Express is getting quite a bit of attention from local and national media! 

I'd like to close this week with a fare thee well to one of my heroes, Russell Baker, the longtime New York Times columnist who died last week at 93. Clyde Haberman wrote about his friend, the "deadline artist." "He punctured those who were pretentious, satirized that which was foolish, lamented what was distressing and pondered the endless inanities of daily life. He did it three times a week for much of his career, in 750-word offerings graced with the effortlessness of a Ted Williams swing," Clyde said.

Ciao bella.

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