35 years ago, Steve Rubin’s medical and surgical supply company was considering a move from Long Island to Norwalk.
Steve and his wife Toni lived in Douglaston, Queens. They began talking about moving to “the country.” Their friends thought they were crazy. They sort of did, too.
“We both grew up in New York City,” Steve says. “For us, Westport was the edge of the earth, before it cracks off.”
But fresh air, and a produce stand on North Avenue, lured them in. The Rubins rented the big white Rippe house, next to 7 acres of corn farmed by a guy named Buster.
“We truly felt like we lived on a farm,” Steve recalls. “We fell in love with this place.”
The 1st folks they met were Betsy Wacker — from Welcome Wagon — and her husband Watts. George Underhill, from the town tax office, soon became a good friend too. All 3 introduced the Rubins to many aspects of their new home town.
Steve’s company never moved to Norwalk. He spent 5 years commuting to New York.
Then, 23 years ago — at age 47 — he suffered a heart attack.
The Rubins’ Westport friends responded immediately. Meals poured in. People drove him to the doctor. They did whatever they could for the couple.
The heart attack led Steve to retire from his stressful work. He got a job with Westport’s Parks & Rec Department, manning the Compo gate.
He organized workers for the Compo Beach playground construction project. He joined the Y’s Men. Toni created the Respect program, for children with special needs.
“It snowballed,” Steve says. “It was like we’d lived here 100 years. This town has a magic effect. It makes people feel like natives.”
The Rubins’ activities grew. Steve spent many years as the voice of Festival Italiano. He did not stop until the last raffle ticket was sold. “I made a whole bunch of new friends there too,” he says.
Perhaps his most important contribution began the day he complained to Gordon Joseloff about “some safety issue.” Joseloff — at the time the moderator of the Representative Town Meeting — urged him to run for the legislative body.
Earlier this month — almost 20 years later — Rubin resigned from the RTM. In an emotional farewell, he announced that he and Toni are moving to Charleston, South Carolina.
The impending move is “bittersweet,” Steve admits. After a couple of years of consideration, the lure of warmer winters and a lower cost of living was too good to pass up.
“We don’t want to wait until, god forbid, we’re too old to do it,” Steve says.
The Rubins don’t know a soul in Charleston. But, he notes, “We didn’t know anyone when we moved here. We did it before, and we’ll do it again.”
Steve adds, “we’ll love this town forever. There are so many great people here. It seems like Westport is filled with mensches.”
The Rubins leave knowing they’ve made a major mark on their adopted home town. Their name appears on the quilt at Town Hall, the library River of Names and brickwalk, the Wall of Honor at the Staples football field and the Longshore pool wall mosaic.
They’ll miss the many activities they’ve participated in, and enriched: the Memorial Day parade. First Night. PAL fireworks. Downtown trick-or-treating.
They’ll miss Compo, Longshore and Saugatuck. “We’ll even miss the Post Road and Main Street,” Steve laughs.
They’ll miss Westport a lot. But not as much as we will miss Steve and Toni Rubin.