The other day, the New York Times reported on Winnie Balboni’s efforts to clean up Parker Harding Plaza, Grace Salmon Park — and all the rest of Westport.
It noted her work as director of volunteers for the Recreation Department and with the town’s Beautification Committee, adding that she hauled “50-gallon, biodegradeable paper garbage bags … scouring hedges and sidewalks, parking lots and the edge of the Saugatuck River, for litter.”
Okay, it wasn’t a recent story. It’s from 1988.
At that point Balboni was in her mid-60s, and had lived in Westport for 32 years. Now she’s been here for 65.
On Sunday, Winnie Balboni turns 100 years old.
In addition to her yeowoman’s work cleaning up our trash, Winnie was a longtime, very active and quite proud member of the Westport Garden Club. She edited its newsletter for many years, and served as president in 1974.
Winnie also helped found Friends of Sherwood Island State Park.
And in 2008, before Westport’s Representative Town Meeting voted to ban the use of plastic bags — the first municipality east of the Mississippi River to do so — 85-year-old Winnie made a ringing speech urging it to do so.
In 2009, the Connecticut Fund for the Environment honored Winnie, at Yale University.
The next year, 1st Selectman Gordon Joseloff presented her with a “WeGreen Westport” award. It celebrated her decades of work — including helping turn an Imperial Avenue landfill into Grace Salmon Park.
She spent many years too as a volunteer with the League of Women Voters.
Oh, yeah: Winnie was an avid hiker, an Appalachian Mountain Club member for many years, and a very accomplished quilter and knitter, who taught many young women important sewing skills. sewing.
How can we celebrate Winnie’s century of life?
Let’s flood her with cards. Whether you know Winnie through her decades in town, or just moved here yesterday — let her know you appreciate her.
Her address is 62 Cross Highway, Westport, CT 06880.
Do it today — Sunday is the big day!
PS: The Times story quoted Winnie: “I think my days of bending over and picking up someone else’s trash are over.”
But, it added, “in the next breath, she pointed to pockets of litter along the road that most people ignore, but that she just cannot dismiss.”
She kept her crusade going for many more years.
Now it’s our turn to continue cleaning up our town.
Just as soon as we send that birthday card to Winnie Balboni.
(Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)
(Every day, “06880” covers Westport — from its oldest residents, to the youngest. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)
Happy birthday, Winnie! Love, Hank Drought (& and all the Droughts!)
Winnie…you have been amazing since you let The Shadows (Jason Williams, your son and our drmmer ; Kim Halliday; Tim DeHuff and me) attempt to create rock and roll at age 12 (10 for Tim) in your rec room in 1964. And here you are now, about to turn 100 years young. You have always been and continue to be a marvel. Stopping by your place for visits with you continues to be a highlight of my time in Westport.
Much love and see you soon!- Marc
Hi Dan. It’s Jason Williams. Perhaps you could add that mom was an avid hiker and Appalachian Mountain club member for many years. Also she was very accomplished at quilting, knitting, sewing and taught many young women these skills.
The Friends of Sherwood Island was created when the state of CT was failing to support the parks. So the friends would raise money through plant sales and other means to help the Sherwood Island manager buy materials or equipment. Mom said, “actually we were a money laundering operation. “But don’t quote me on that.
At age 60 she bought a pick up truck and started a business. She got some high school kids together and did weeding jobs. She called her crew “ The jolly gardeners. “ They could do just about anything. 40 years later we still have and use a lot of jolly gardener tools.
Once I went over to a neighbor to get a rake they had borrowed. I introduced myself. They seemed puzzled. I said “I am Winifred Balboni‘s son. She lives around the corner. “The neighbor said,
“Oh, you mean Winnie! EVERYBODY knows Winnie! “
Mom has also made it through some tremendous difficulties and heart breaks. No need to go into that here, just to say that it hasn’t always been a bed of roses. But much of the time, yes.
Just to clarify, Winnie was the actual singlehanded founder of the Friends of Sherwood Island. It was she who pulled together its first Board of Directors and worked with the Friends of Connecticut State Parks to develop the Friends’ Mission Statement and bylaws. That the group has grown and been able to contribute so much to the park is a testament to her vision.
Winnie was also instrumental in starting Westport’s first Tree Board. She not only served on the board of the Westport League of Women Voters, but organized the League’s first contingent of marchers in the Memorial Day Parade. And for many years after, she would phone every League member to drum up participation. Winnie has been active in so many state and local causes that I shy away from attempting to list them all because I would certainly leave something out.
Among Winnie’s outstanding qualities – boundless energy and curiosity and willingness to act – perhaps the most marvelous is her enduring and expanding capacity for friendship. As she’s said many times: “I never drop anyone.” Winnie, I’m so happy to remain I dropped. There are so many reasons to love you !
In my comment, “I dropped” should be “undropped” .😬 Another case of the iPhone trying to outsmart me….
Amazing to live to be 100 and more with no significant ailments aside from an aging body and mind still snarky and a bright light – Kudos to her boys Jason and John for their devoted and diligent care taking – along with a wonderful crew – allowing Winnie to age in place honorably. May we all be so loved and blessed!
Great idea and done
I learned the secret of long life from Winnie. Since I met her a few years ago, through her multi-talented son, Jason, there has never been a time when I’ve seen her and she didn’t greet me with a sunny and friendly smile. Whatever the indignities of age, she manages to treat people with grace and warmth. Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday, Winnie! Congratulations on continuing your long resume of stunning accomplishments!
Thank you, Dan for acknowledging”A History of the Westport Garden Club 1924-2014,” by Louise Demakis. I came across this comprehensive and lovingly penned narrative recently when I was researching the life of longtime club member Helen Muller.
For anyone who might mistake the Westport Garden Club for a group of highbrow ladies in white garden gloves and pretty straw hats chatting about formal gardens over tea, it’s an essential read.
The early requirements for membership alone are an homage to the indomitable strength and commitment of the many women who have added so much to the fabric of Westport for the past 110 years.
Happy Birthday Mrs. Balboni. I believe you live/lived just down Cross Highway from us and my father, Rudy Swanson, was your walking buddy for a while. We got Annie Glenn to age 100, now it is your turn. Enjoy. Ain’t life great!
What a lovely idea. I just sent her a photo of my mom and folks at Compo in the 30s. I had fun composing a message. Thanks to you and Dick Lowenstein.
About 15 Years ago Winnie invited the Westport League of Women Voters to use her yard for a huge tag sale. Dick Lowenstein had gathered huge amounts of “treasures” to sell, along with donations from League members. It rained. A mess was made of her yard. But once the rain stopped, the sale was an enormous success, we fixed her yard, and she smiled and enjoyed the entire time. Thank you, Winnie, once again for supporting a Westport organization!