Barbara Pearson-Rac Says Goodbye

After nearly 30 years in Westport, Barbara Pearson-Rac is leaving.

She has made a difference here in so many ways. That’s literal: Make a Difference Day was one of her wonderful projects.

So was First Night. For 2 decades, our town rang in New Year’s with a host of fun activities. Hundreds of volunteers made it work. But none of it would have been possible without Barbara’s prodigious passion, energy and talent.

Soon, Barbara will leave this town she has done so much for. She’s been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. As she explains below, she’ll spend precious time with her daughter and family.

Westport owes an enormous debt to Barbara Pearson-Rac. She’s done so much for us, for so long. Godspeed, Barbara, from the town that loves you just as much as you’ve loved us.

Dear Westporters,

In the early 1990s, my family moved to Westport. We visited many towns in Fairfield County, but were always drawn back here. We sensed this welcoming and inclusive town would be ideal to raise our elementary school age daughter.

Barbara Pearson-Rac

As a product of the ’60s, I experienced the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. These tragedies led to a conscious decision to devote myself to community service. I realized I couldn’t move mountains but any impact, no matter how small, was my goal.

Shortly after we settled in Westport, I participated in the ADL World of Difference program. The outgrowth of my experience became Westport’s Make a Difference Day.

We mobilized adults and children to work on projects for non-for-profit organizations. We went beyond our town borders to help people in need across Fairfield County. This day of volunteering in October grew every year. It was so successful that in our 10th year we received national recognition for our work.

During 2020, due to COVID we had to scale back dramatically, but we were able to help where we could. I am so proud of our many Westporters who have made this event an integral part of our town culture.

First Night, our town New Year’s Eve party, was designed to bring our community together to share in a joyous entertainment event and strengthen ties. I ran the event for many years with a dedicated board and many community volunteers. Together we enjoyed music, fun for all ages, and the beginning of a new year.

The evening always ended at Jesup Green. Everyone gathered around a bonfire watching the fireworks. The happiness in everyone’s faces kept me and the board active in this endeavor for over 20 years, until it was no longer financially feasible. But it was our gift to the town.

John Videler’s drone captured 2016’s First Night fireworks over Westport.

Now I am on a new journey. I have to say goodbye to my beloved Westport and all the wonderful friends I’ve made over the years.

I have been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Soon my husband and I will move to Pennsylvania to be close to my daughter, son-in-law and 2 small grandsons. I want to spend as much time with them as I have left.

Do not feel sorry for me, though. Diagnosed in August, I have responded to chemotherapy better than the doctors ever expected. I remain active, with 3 yoga classes a week, working on my 5th novel (it’s almost completed), participating in virtual author talks, serving on the Senior Center board, and in Zoom with my friends.

I may have cancer, but my life goes on. I hope I’ve been a role model for my daughter on how best to cope when life throws you a curveball.

So with sadness I say goodbye to Westport, all my friends and colleagues, and the opportunities it has given me.

12 responses to “Barbara Pearson-Rac Says Goodbye

  1. Janette Kinnally

    Thank you so much for all you did for Westport. We really enjoyed participating in First night with our two boys. And although you may leave, your legacy goes on. No question, you were a role model to your daughter and to so many others in the community! God Bless and God Speed! Much Love to you and your family!!! ❤️

  2. charles taylor

    Bon Chance! Though I don’t know you I know your spirit and heart! I love Westport having grown up there during my Staples years 1958-61.
    God Bless you!
    Charlie Taylor

  3. Barbara truly “made a difference” in Westport. The dedication and energy she brought to First Night and Make a Difference Day and all her other pursuits on behalf of our community will be irreplaceable. Personally and on behalf of the Town, I say “Thank You” to Barbara for all that you have done to make Westport a better place.

  4. What a truly beautiful letter from a very special person. Although I have never met you, I know your strength and dedication has made a difference in our community. Thank you for all you’ve done! God Bless you and keep you strong.

  5. Annette Norton

    Wow! What a touching letter, I am sorry I never got to meet you. However, after this story, I will never forget you. Thank you for all you have done and all the hearts you have touched.

  6. Joyce Bottone

    Beautifully written. Thank you Barbara for helping us all find ways of giving back to our communities. It’s with the help of you and countless others that I continue to love calling Westport, home (since 1965). Take wonderful care of yourself and your family.

  7. Many thanks and best wishes to Barbara — we attended the very first First Night with our children — what a special event it was! Your dedication is so appreciated.

  8. Barbara, I am so glad that our paths crossed when we worked on the First Night Board together. Your creative high energy is contagious. I will keep you in my prayers and hope for many more years of you responding beautifully to your treatment and wish you wonderful times ahead with your daughter and family!!!!!!! Westport will miss you. Much love. Fran Southworth

  9. Beautiful Barbara. I will miss you and Frank very much you have been a terrific, caring neighbor, always available if needed. Thank you again for your patience in trying to help me write my memoirs If I complete the task it will be because of you. Enjoy your life with your family and without question the new friendships you will make. Love you both.

  10. Betty Lou Cummings

    Dearest Barbara you have been so special to so many…especially me and all of Westport….I will be thinking of you and all you done to make so many HAPPY AND GRATFUL.FOR YOUR PRESENCE…MANY HUGS & MUCH LOVE….Betty zlou Cummings

  11. barbara, so sorry to hear your news.
    i loved seeing you all the time at zumba.
    i read three of your wonderful books… fun.
    My prayers are with you in this new phase. please enjoy
    your beautiful family. thank you for all you have done
    for us.

  12. Mary Anne Liesner

    Barbara. We have taken yoga together for several years. You know me by sight. I will miss you as will everyone that knows you. Your energy and spirt
    always uplifting and fun. The very best to you and your family.
    Mary Anne Liesner