Last week — just 4 days before her death — the Westport Historical Society honored longtime and tireless volunteer Katie Chase. Jeff Craig wrote this tribute for the organization’s newsletter:
As she looks back on her many years of service to the Westport Historical Society, Katie Chase is grateful to have had the opportunity to help further an understanding and appreciation of the town’s past.
“It’s been a real privilege,” Katie says. “I find that everyone is helpful and interested in what we’re doing. We wouldn’t get the beautiful exhibits we’ve had if we didn’t have people working diligently for them. We have a great team.”
Katie has been an important member of that team. WHS president Ed Gerber recalls that his first introduction to the Society was trying to convince then-president Chase to sell his book about Westport artist George Wright in the gift shop. “She examined the copies I showed her with such thoroughness,” he remembers. “She said, ‘This one has a crease – we wouldn’t sell it if it wasn’t perfect.”
Gerber says this “dedication and thoroughness” carried over into everything she did for the Society. She knows how everything was done in the past, Ed says, and has done the things other people have not wanted to do, like preserving and explaining the bylaws. She’s been at every event, making sure people sign the guest register. “Her volunteer scope has been so great,” he says.
Katie has given her time to the Society since 2000, when she started working in the archives department with the late Barbara Raymond, whom she described as “a wonderful guide.” In the years since, Katie has edited all of the brochures for the Society’s exhibits. From 2007 to 2010 she headed up the Society as president, and only recently stepped down as vice president archives.
Behind the scenes Katie has been “a wonderful guide” herself, a kind and intelligent voice in the many deliberations that are part of our work. If the players on the “great team” of which she speaks wore uniforms, we retire her number and hang it on the wall of the Sheffer Gallery.
Katie came to Westport by way of Terre Haute, Indiana, where she grew up; Mills College in California where she received a degree in American studies, and Stamford. She and husband Bill moved here in 1974 because they “liked the look and the flavor of the town, the beach and the fact that it was still somewhat an artists community.” The couple has a son, who grew up here and attended Westport schools, and 2 grandchildren.
In her professional life, Katie worked for Greenwood Publishing in Westport, editing books on history and social studies. She later had her own business, Katie Chase Editorial Services, which she operated out of her home on Sue Terrace.
If you were to Google Katie’s name you would find that she has also been very active in the community, having served as president of the Y’s Women and the Westport Young Woman’s League.
Some of Katie’s most enjoyable and interesting moments at the Society have been in the archives, fielding requests from the public for information about the town’s history. “When we could find what they wanted, it was always gratifying,” she says.