A capital campaign for a new Westport Weston YMCA fell short of its goal earlier this decade. So the Mahackeno facility — called the Bedford Family Center — was broken into 2 phases.
Phase I opened last fall, with an airy fitness center, gleaming new pool, well-lit exercise rooms, nice new gym and a much-needed child’s play space. The site was purchased decades ago — with the generous help of Frederick T. Bedford, Ruth’s father.
But the new Y lacks other amenities, like childcare, gymnastics and racquetball. And the locker rooms are badly cramped. Y officials promised they’d be added some vague time later, during Phase II.
Phase II suddenly seems a lot closer to reality.
The Y announced today that it has received $40 million from the estate of Ruth Bedford. The last surviving granddaughter of Edward T. Bedford — a director of Standard Oil and founder of the Westport Y, among many other philanthropic projects — died last June, at 99.
Yet this is not Ruth Bedford’s only astonishing gift. She also left $40 million to Norwalk Hospital. She loved that institution too — and volunteered there, logging almost 17,000 hours in the gift shop, over 5 decades. (A previous gift from E.T. Bedford, decades ago, enabled the hospital to double its patient capacity.)
But wait! There’s more! Another $40 million bequest — believed to be the largest ever to an all-girls’ school — went to Foxcroft, a tiny private girls school in Virginia that was Bedford’s alma mater.
The Y’s plans for the fallen-from-the-sky money are not yet set.
Officials say they will use it for “current and future capital development needs” — perhaps including new locker rooms? — and “to endow programs for wellness and youth in a way that honors the tradition of the Bedford family legacy.”
For nearly a century, that legacy has enriched Westport. It continues to do so, even after death.