You may not know the name Charlene Margot Girden.
But you probably knew her.
She befriended everyone she met: the hair salon staff and its patrons, restaurant owners, dry cleaners, merchants — you name it.
Charlene grew up in East Norwalk, but her roots in Westport were strong and deep.
Her grandmother lived on Compo Beach. Charlene spent her childhood there with families like the Lanes and Cunninghams.
Her father, Norman Tobin, founded Saugatuck Grain and Supply in 1911, and owned nearly the entire block of Railroad Place. She learned at a young age how to collect rents, talk to tenants and be a good landlord.
She also set up deliveries — and delivered oil — with and for her father.
Norman died in 1992. Sophie — his wife of 62 years — took over the reins. When she died 12 years later, Charlene became president and CEO of Saugatuck Grain, Hanes Realty and several other companies.
Some of her favorite spots were Vincent Palumbo Salon, Mitchell’s, Party Hardy, Westport Hardware, Stiles Market, Final Touch Cleaners, Posh, Tutti’s, Tarantino’s and Pane e Bene. Like “Cheers,” at all those places everyone knew her name.
She supported many charities, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, the Actors Fund and the Metropolitan Golf Association Caddy Scholarship. (She learned to play at Longshore in the late 1940s, and was an avid golfer for the rest of her life. She also loved tennis.)
Charlene died last week, at 83. As word spread, her children were flooded with phone calls, emails, texts and notes about her. Everyone, it seemed, had a story.
Charlene was predeceased by her husband of 53 years, Eugene Girden. She is survived by her daughter Lisa Girden-Barkan, her son Steve Girden, and her grandchildren Lindsay Girden, Alex Girden and Emelie Wittenberg.
Contributions in her name can be made to the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.