Barbara Rose’s Sea Squirts Celebration

Between the 1970s and 2000s, thousands of kids grew up in Westport.

Barbara Rose knew most of them.

As the owner of the Sea Squirts summer camp at Compo Beach, and the Shore Squirts daycare/nursery school she operated in her Greens Farms home, Barbara was a calming presence for generations of local children.

And their parents.

The camp and childcare are gone. But Barbara is still going strong. Next month, she turns 90 years old.

Young Barbara Rose

A New York City native, Barbara moved with her family to Hutchinson, Kansas during World War II. Her mother was Bolivian, part of a diplomatic family involved later with the United Nations. Her father helped train pilots for the war.

After the war, the family moved back east. They spent summers in Westport, eventually settling here permanently. Their first house was on Easton Road.

Barbara graduated from the Bolton School, a small private institution on the corner of Wilton Road and Kings Highway North — currently the site of medical offices — that was a predecessor of Greens Farms Academy.

Always an active athlete, in her 30s Barbara discovered skiing. She soon became an instructor, in Vermont.

That’s where she met her longtime best friend, Adrienne Shields — and future husband, fellow instructor Robert Rose.

They and the O’Donnell family of Westport bought a restaurant/bar nearby: The Sticky Wicket. Bob and Barbara had 3 children: Peter, Deering and Scott.

The couple divorced after 12 years. Barbara raised her children in Westport in the 1960s and ’70s. In the summer she took them to Compo Beach. That’s where she got the idea for a beach-themed camp for young kids.

Soon, she had a fleet of counselors, and a bursting roster of infants to 12-year-olds. When the weather was bad, campers headed to Barbara’s church, Trinity Episcopal in Southport.

Sea Squirts’ morning sessions grew into a full-day Lazy Days camp for 8-12-year-olds. The preschool followed soon thereafter.

Barbara played in the town softball league, and adult soccer, well into her 50s. She was also a founder of the Westport Soccer Association, in 1976. She is still an avid Aquafit member, at the Westport Weston Family Y.

As her children grew up, playing a variety of sports, she never missed a game. She often brought a preschooler or two along, in a VW bus or woodie wagon.

Barbara and her children, in her VW bus.

In her spare time, she and her family — which included 4 others through marriage, and now 8 grandchildren — headed to Watch Hill, Rhode Island. She was never far from the water.

Barbara’s children have planned a 90th birthday celebration for June 4 (4 to 7 p.m.) — appropriately, near the brick pavilion at Compo. Peter, Deering and Scott say: “Whether you were a camper, student, counselor or parent, we and she would love to see you!”

A beach sticker is not required. After all those years, the town has graciously allowed time-limited free parking for the party. Just tell the gate attendant you’re one of Barbara’s Sea Squirts!

Happy 90th birthday, Barbara Rose!

10 responses to “Barbara Rose’s Sea Squirts Celebration

  1. Sea Squirts ran well before the 70’s. Barbara taught me and many others how to be safe in the water in the 50’s. Great woman. I wish I could be there to celebrate with her.

  2. My son went to Sea Squirts for years. Loved it. Barbara would even pick him up in the morning at our home. We will be there to celebrate wonderful Mrs. Rose.

  3. Joyce Barnhart

    Happy birthday, Barbara! I remember seeing you and your adorable Sea Squirts piling out of your station wagon at Compo, ready to start a happy summer day. It’s a nice memory of a simpler time. Just imagine transporting all those kid now in car seats. You’d need a caravan of cars! Have a wonderful celebration.

  4. Melinda Hemson

    You didn’t mention what part of Vermont Barbara was living in but I knew as soon as you mentioned The Sticky Wicket. I don’t know if she and her family stilled owned it in the early 80’s but my aunt Mary Jane (Quigley) Finnigan, bought the Sticky Wicket then and renamed it The Wilmington Village Pub. 10 years ago, she sold it to my other aunt Ginny (Quigley) Blake who still owns it. Both my aunts were born and raised in Westport. Their father, my grandfather, owned Quigley Electric until his passing when my dad, Bill took it over.

    Happy Birthday Barbara! I was never in Sea Squirts but I did go to Beach School and saw you and your groups all the time!!

  5. Shannon Nordlinger

    My brother was a Sea Squirt years ago! He’s in CA now- is there an email he could send a birthday message?

  6. Barbara was a good golfer and was a part of LWGA for many years. She had many friends on and off the golf course and her cart cushions are famous.

  7. Audrey Doniger

    Happy Birthday Barbara…the Doniger kids were all Sea Squirts and my grandson was a helper..We love Sea Squirts!

  8. Susan Gold Falkenstein

    Bravo to you Barbara for making Westport’s summers so special with your kindness and passion for children- I remember how your smile would light up anyone’s day- especially our childrens! Congratulations on your milestone birthday!

  9. Kathleen Brannigan Fazio

    Fantastic! I was a Sea Squirt and my big sister was a counselor!

  10. Laurie Hughes

    Happy Birthday Barbara! My father, Tom Hughes of 1 Beachside Ave enjoyed your periodic drive-by visits with or without kids. I know he’d be at your party with bells on, but he was 12 years older than you and has flown the earthly coop – or he’d be 102 years old. Much love, Laurie Hughes

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