Bob Custer has done just about everything at Green’s Farms Congregational Church. He’s helped out at weddings and funerals. He oversees renovations and repairs. He gives tours for elementary students (in colonial costume), and keeps the nursery school going. Every Sunday, he rings the bell.
In fact, the only thing Custer has not done is preach a sermon. If he did, he’d deliver a wonderful one.
Custer’s official title is sexton. He’s been at the historic church on Hillandale Road since 1991. He’s “semi-retiring” on July 1. Even so, he’ll probably do more in one day than all “06880” readers do together in a year.
Here’s a brief glimpse into the rest of Custer’s life. A Norwalk native and graduate of Wright Tech (as a draftsman), he was part of the 1968 Vietnam Tet offensive as a squad leader with the 1st Infantry Division (“The Big Red One”).
Ever since, he’s been active in veterans affairs. Custer is now an officer with Westport’s VFW.
He’s an avid fisherman, and a former Little League and Pop Warner coach. “If I see someone doing something, I try it,” he says. “I love a challenge. I want to learn something new every day.”
Custer was working construction when he heard that Green’s Farms Church needed a sexton. He started in 1991, and has been there ever since. Kids he once saw being baptized are now returning, to baptize their own children.
In his quarter century at the church, Custer has made many friends. Everyone loves him — but especially the children. They call him “Mr. Bob.”
“They think I live here,” Custer says.
Actually, he might as well. “This is my second home,” he notes.
History is another of Custer’s passions. “People travel thousands of miles to see historical sites,” he says. “But they almost never look in their own back yard.”
Custer does. An avid reader of history books and church archives — and a garrulous man who strikes up conversations with people looking for ancestors in the church cemetery — he is a wealth of information. He loved dressing up and describing early Westport history to 3rd graders when they stopped in during the Jennings Trail tours.
Children were enthralled as he described the importance of the “meetinghouse” to the life of the town, and amazed to learn folks sat in church for hours on end — without heat or electricity.
Today of course, Green’s Farms Congregational Church has heat and electricity. Overseeing both is just part of Bob Custer’s job — one he does every day with respect, joy and pride.