Unsung Heroes #172

RTM member Lauren Karpf writes:

Over 55 years ago, Velma and Garson Heller moved with their children to Westport. They have been giving back to the town ever since.

Velma was elected to the Representative Town Meeting 20 years ago — as a write-in candidate. She has been an RTM member ever since. Her committee work included Education, Public Protection, Long Range Planning, Ordinance and Employee Compensation. 

Velma Heller

She chaired the Education Committee for 9 years, served as deputy moderator for 4 years, and been RTM moderator since 2017. Wrangling 36 members — and working with nearly ever other town board and official — is as difficult as it is thankless. Velma has done it with grace, tact and intelligence.

A gifted educator, Velma spent over 30 years in the Westport school system as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, vice principal, principal, irector of curriculum and staff development, and director of supervision and evaluation.

She then joined Sacred Heart University as a student teacher supervisor and adjunct professor. She worked for 15 years as a full-time faculty member in the Graduate Education Program, where she ran the program leading student teachers.

Velma has dedicated her career to teaching, advising, and helping others better themselves. She continues to do so. She has a natural gift for guiding new and longstanding members alike through their journey on the RTM. She is a sounding board to discuss difficult matters, and truly helps us achieve success. Velma has impacted so many of our youth, but also so many of us.

Garson Heller

Garson graduated from Yale with a degree in chemical engineering. After graduation, joined Mobil as a chemical engineer. He moved to Data Dimensions, where he helped implement a computer system for United Press International.  He moved to Securities Industry Automation Corporation for the rest of his engineering and computing career, before retiring in 2002 as the senior director of computer acquisitions.

Garson has an inspiring record of service to our town too. He served on the RTM for 14 years. He has been a member of the Board of Assessment Appeals since 1983 — 37 years! He is also involved in numerous organizations, including Y’s Men.

The Hellers passed their love of public service on to their children. Their son Grant spent 4 years on the RTM.

And the family is committed to public education. All 3 children went through the public schools. Three of their Velma and Garson’s grandchildren are in the Westport system right now.

Quietly, efficiently and lovingly, Velma and Garson Heller have helped  Westport grow and thrive. They are true Unsung Heroes — and have been, for over half a century.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

22 responses to “Unsung Heroes #172

  1. Sandy Lefkowitz

    I couldn’t agree more and so glad that Dan printed this.

  2. Two of the best! Thank you Dan for acknowledging their important roles in our community and for sharing what lovely people both of them are. Ken Bernhard

  3. Kristin Schneeman

    Hear, hear! Westport is so fortunate to have the Hellers! And thank you, Lauren, for nominating them here.

  4. Arline Gertzoff

    I could not agree more

    • As fellow district 9 member she is very good to talk to since being elected last year she rely gave me good advice thanks Velma for your great service to Westport from sal liccione

  5. Richard Corbin

    They are great. I totally agree with your assessment of them
    Dick Corbin

  6. Eileen Lavigne Flug

    Perfect choices for Unsung Heroes! With over 70 combined years of public service, Velma and Garson are the gold standard and amazing role models for all. Thank you, Velma and Garson, for your service to our town.

  7. Andrea Lawrence Moore

    I smiled ear to ear when I saw this Unsung. Westport is so fortunate to have the Hellers. Thank you Lauren for nominating them. They are true gems.

  8. I can’t think of any two people more deserving. Not only have they both contributed so much to Westport, they are the most charming and likeable people you could meet.

  9. I am a very lucky daughter-in-law to have these two for my in-laws. It has been such a gift to live in the same town as them. Our three children all are out of the school system at this point. I believe all of them had at least one teacher that their father had back in the day! Thanks for nominating them Lauren. It’s astonishing how many years of service to this town that they have given.

  10. Laurie Goldberg

    Delighted to see this! Thank you Garson & Velma!

  11. I worked with Velma many years in Westport Public Schools. She is a wonderful lady and an excellent educational professional. I have wonderful memories of my years working with her. Cheers to she and her husband!

  12. Such great people! Glad to have known them while I was in Westport.

  13. Steven Halstead

    Velma & Carson, congratulations! You have earned this honor and Westport is a better place because of you.

  14. Dick Berkowitz

    There was a guy with the same name who I remember roaming the outfield at Compo beach about 55 years ago. He wasn’t a bad fielder, for a Yalie, but couldn’t hit a lick. Also had a bit of a temper, but alas we were so young! Always had these two little boys tagging along after him with their bats and gloves. Who knew then that he was destined for such notoriety, indeed, immortality. Yes, it is always the extraordinary wife! Two icons!
    Congratulations to you both for such extraordinary service. Dick Berkowitz, third base, 1966 Compo Beach all stars.

  15. I have known Velma since her days in the school system—a person of great judgment and perspective. Garson knows more about tax appeals than anyone in Connecticut! It is an honor to know them.

  16. The perfect nomination of unsung heroes! Our community is better because of you! Thank you for your dedication and leadership but most of all for your kindness! With gratitude and hugs!

  17. Terry brannigan

    Could not be nicer!

  18. Donald Bergmann

    All who have come to know Velma and Garson have only the warmest appreciation of their humanity, judgment and commitment to Westport and the values that make ours a wonderful Town.
    Don Bergmann

  19. Jeffrey Wieser

    A holiday-belated comment to applaud this wonderful post for this wonderful Power Couple! It is an education watching Velma maneuver the sometimes choppy waters of our RTM, and she does it with gentle power, powerful ethics and ethical style! Hats off to Lauren and the Hellers!

  20. What a nice tribute. One of the most rewarding benefits of serving on the RTM has been working with Velma. Thanks to Lauren Karpf, two of Westport’s finest Unsung Heroes have been recognized.

  21. Nancy McKeever

    Yes, an unsung hero. I worked with Velma when she chaired the Westport School Curriculum and Staff Development Committee and I was Chair of the Curriculum Committee for the PTA Council of Westport. I was still living in Westport when she ran for RTM. Thanks Dan for posting all that she has done for education and Westport, some of the things I did not know–Adjunct faculty member at Sacred Heart University and Moderator of the RTM. Congratulations Velma, Well deserved.