Remembering Phyllis McGovern

Longtime Westporter and noted realtor Phyllis McGovern died last week. She was 92.

A New York University graduate, she worked at an ad agency where she met her husband of 56 years, Pete McGovern. He died in 2005.

Phyllis McGovern

The McGoverns moved to Westport in 1952. She started her real estate career in the 1970s, and was a director of the Westport/Weston Board of Realtors.

Phyllis loved books, art, architecture, New York City and Westport culture. She volunteered on the town’s Bicentennial Celebration Committee.

Phyllis is survived by her sons Scott and Michael, their wives, and 3 grandchildren. Contributions in her name may be made to the Westport Library, which she and Pete considered their second home. To leave an online condolence, click here.

Her son Michael writes:

For many years Phyllis and Pete McGovern hosted legendary 4th of July parties at their Bluewater Hill home for all their neighbors, Westport and New York City friends and colleagues. There was plenty of drinking, fun games like Charades, and improvisational skits with costumes spontaneously appearing from their closet.

As part of the Bluewater Hill Association for many years, they co-hosted annual tennis parties and clambakes at the small, private beach house on the point.

The house at Schlaet’s Point — by the private Bluewater Hill beach — where the McGoverns hosted many parties.

One of Phyllis’ prized possessions was an original color poster of a garden dance concert hosted on the Schlaet grounds at Bluewater Hill. It still hangs on her wall.

My mom told a story that when she was 22 or so, and had first married Pete, they would meet at Toots Shor’s. One day she arrived early. She sat at the large round bar – which few women were allowed to do.

Jackie Gleason sat nearby. He began flirting with her. When a friend said “that’s Pete McGovern’s wife,” he was quite embarrassed. He apologized profusely — for his behavior, and for not knowing she was the bride of his own publicist, Pete McGovern.

From that point on she and Gleason hit it off well. They talked often about books, Shakespeare, Hemingway and of course my mother’s favorite author, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

My parents often went to Gleason’s house in Peekskill for brunch, listening to records and cocktails. They also went to Miami Beach in the 1970s, for “Jackie Gleason Show” broadcasts.

Over the years Phyllis had many real estate clients. She became friendly with Clifford Irving, who had written a bogus autobiography of Howard Hughes.  One summer, waiting to go to jail, he rented a house near the Minuteman. (I was a teenager, and cut his grass.)

My mom and dad had many dinners and walks with him during those troubling times. She felt sorry for him, and respected him as a writer — but not as a person, because of his unethical “fakery.”

My dad and I cleaned out the messy house after he moved out. Among the items he left behind were scores of books. I took some of them home, and realized a few were about Howard Hughes. They were the ones he had plagiarized.  I still have them.

Phyllis and Pete were loved and admired by many people in Westport. They were friendly with everyone, and a very fun-loving couple.

Both knew pretty much everyone in town. I was always amazed when we were at restaurants, the beach or downtown, how everyone said hello to both of them.

They felt special for all of the attention and friendships they established during those many years in Westport. Phyllis will be missed, just as Pete is.

6 responses to “Remembering Phyllis McGovern

  1. Phyllis and Pete were two of my favorite people. Always supported my business, Crossroads Hardware. I called her “Mrs. Pete” she loved it! We talked about everything from Jackie Gleason to Westport and it’s ever changing landscape.
    Great Post Dan!

  2. Mike. Excellent post! Of course I remember your Mom & Dad and your brother Scott. You may remember that my family lived in the house that was the first one built on the Black’s property, directly across Hillspoint Road from the private beach and tucked between the Black’s house and the Hoffman’s. That house was torn down long ago and replaced with a McMansion. Do you remember Alan Dietrich, the Johnson girls and the Kintner boys? It was a great neighborhood to grow up in. Say hi to Scott for me. Bill Staby

  3. Bill Boyd SHS '66

    I always wondered about the beach house on schlaets point where we hung iut as teenagers in the 1960s. It seemed abandoned at the time.

  4. God bless your Mom and Dad. What a beautiful tribute to them Mike. I remember your dad told me that he wrote many love letters to your mom. I was very happy to meet your parents in the 80’s and your dad would tell me so many stories of his time as publicist for Jackie Gleason. One Christmas after a show, one of you boys told Jackie that he wanted to travel around the world for a Christmas present. That evening, during a major blizzard , your parents were sound asleep and Jackie’s limousine slowly pulled up with a globe that would light up . Your dad helped me get into the Algonquin by writing to his friend Cindy Adams. I will never forget how kind your parents were.

  5. Arline Gertzoff

    My Dad owned Comet Cleaners and Pete and my Dad had their cocktail hour in the office usually 5-6 before closing and Phyllis would say at least she knew where Pete was. Phyllis volunteered at the hospital ICUand would let me in when I told her the patient had no family.Fond memories and rest in peace

  6. Kathleen Dehler

    I loved Phyllis, and I am so sad to hear of her passing. I worked in a real estate office with her and we always would discuss the books we have read.
    One year we anxiously awaited the announcement of the National Book Award winner for fiction. Everyone assumed it would be for “A Man in Full” by Tom Wolf, but we were rooting for a little, sweet and touching book called “Charming Billy” by Alice Mc Dermott. When “Charming Billy” won we were so thrilled we were jumping up and down as if the two of us had won the Pulitzer! I miss my conversations with her. Rest in Peace dear friend.