Tag Archives: Allen Raymond

Y Announces $5 Million Social Responsibility Fund

Pat Riemersma has been CEO of the Westport Weston Family YMCA for only a week. But her 1st announcement was a big one.

The Y’s 91st annual meeting yesterday was highlighted by the formation of a new Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund.

With $5 million from the estate of Ruth Bedford — out of $40 million in total she bequeathed to the Y that her grandfather, Edward T. Bedford, founded — as well as from past president and longtime trustee Allen Raymond, the fund will provide grants in areas like child welfare, substance abuse, community service and military outreach. It will also work with faith-based organizations, and serve residents of Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport, in cooperation with neighboring Ys.

The first funds will be distributed in June 2016.

Riemersma’s announcement was made at a fitting site: the Y’s Bedford Family Center is on Allen Raymond Lane.

The Westport Weston Family Y hosted its 1st annual meeting at its new home yesterday.

The Westport Weston Family Y hosted its 1st annual meeting at its new home yesterday.

Allen Raymond Helps Dedicate New Y

Allen Raymond did many remarkable things in his 91 years of life on earth. The lifelong Westporter was a philanthropist, tireless volunteer, devoted church member, political leader, and adviser to selectmen. He was also one of the Westport Family Y‘s longest-serving, proudest board members, and a major contributor to the new Mahackeno facility.

He died on May 1 — less than 4 months before tonight’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. But Allen was not only at Mahackeno in spirit — he was really, truly there.

Y officials showed a video of their beloved benefactor. Filmed at Allen’s home in February — when he knew his life was ebbing away — it shows him at his best. He’s smiling warmly, joking gently, speaking lovingly and gracefully.

The new Mahackeno Y will hopefully thrive as long as its downtown predecessor did: 90 years. Yet in the next 9 decades, it’s hard to imagine any moment that can top tonight’s amazing appearance — one last time — by Allen Raymond.

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube. Filmed, edited and produced by Brian Russell of Red Shoe Film. Aerial footage by Rick Eason.)

Westport’s RTM: 65 Years Young!

65 years ago, Westport replaced its “town meeting” form of government with a “Representative Town Meeting” (RTM). 

Ann Sheffer used that anniversary as the theme of her invocation at last night’s session. As Westport prepares to celebrate Independence Day — and America’s special democracy — Ann’s remarks are very instructive.

When Velma Heller asked if I would give the invocation tonight, she suggested I talk a bit about the history of the RTM and its relevance today… because the 500 or so people who have served over the years embody the traditions and values of our town.

Ann Sheffer, at last night's RTM meeting. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

Ann Sheffer, at last night’s RTM meeting. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

I am one of a number of Westport families with multiple family members who served on the RTM. My father was on the RTM from 1953 until 1969, and served as moderator from 1959 to 1969. I was on the RTM from 1993 to 2005, as was my husband Bill Scheffler. That makes us one of 11 sets of married couples who have served on the RTM (though not necessarily at the same time).

But more importantly, I realized that July 16 marks the 65th anniversary of the date in 1949 when the citizens of Westport approved the change from a town meeting to a Representative Town Meeting – which made us one of only 7 towns in Connecticut to have this form of government. We are the only fully non-partisan one.

In 1999, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the RTM, we published a history of this body (it’s available here). Here are a few details that show how the RTM has evolved.

In 1949, there were 124 candidates for 26 seats. But only 4 women were elected that first year. Today, both the moderator and deputy moderator are women, a first for the RTM.

Each member was to represent 250 citizens (today it’s about 700). One commentator observed that it was “as democratic as Congress and twice as personal.”

There were notable votes over the years. My favorite, with my father presiding, was the 1972 resolution asking President Nixon to withdraw from Vietnam. It passed, 17-15. There were also many, many evenings, often until 3 am, spent debating the education budget, sewers, and, of course, dog leash laws.

RTMIn essence, the history of the RTM is the history of the Town. We were reminded of that in recent months, when we lost 2 of the most notable members: Allen Raymond (the 4th Moderator) and Bill Meyer, who gave many an impassioned speech from this lectern.

I was going to add David Royce, but I remembered he was never a member of the RTM — just a wonderful gadfly who was actually arrested during one of his protests.

There are traditions that I hope you will learn about and continue. For example, RTM Rules of Procedure call for the “first right-hand seat of the left-hand section as you face the Moderator” to be left empty as a memorial to Maclear Jacoby, one of the original members, and to all deceased RTM members.

I want to leave you with the words that Gordon Joseloff wrote when he was elected moderator of the RTM in 1995:

“May those who serve in this body, and hold the responsibility for our Town, be

  •  Respectful of our past
  • Confident of our present
  • Bold about our future.”

Ann nailed it. Happy anniversary, RTM — and happy Independence Day, Westport!

 

Remembering Allen Raymond

Allen Raymond — lifelong Westporter, philanthropist, tireless volunteer, devoted church member, political leader, adviser to selectmen, driving force behind the town’s 1960 purchase of Longshore, and an ever-smiling, always gracious, genuinely good guy — died this morning at home. He was 91 years old.

Specifically — among his really-too-numerous-to-mention activities — Allen served as moderator of the RTM; chairman of the Board of Education, Republican Town Committee, Earthplace and Norwalk Symphony; president of the Westport Historical Society, Westport Library and Westport/Weston Family Y — and, for over 50 years, he led the Compo Cove Park Association.

For the past decade, he’s been Westport’s official town historian. In addition to knowing our town’s history, Allen Raymond made it.

Professionally, Allen was president and publisher of Educational Publishing Company, a subsidiary of Macmillan. In 1970 he co-founded, with Patricia Broderick, Teaching K-8 Magazine. He later sold it to Highlights for Children.

A funeral service is set for Saturday, May 17, at Green’s Farms Congregational Church.

Exactly one month ago Allen — who also owned a home on Kings Highway North — visited his longtime home on Compo Cove. Click here for the story of that remarkable day.

Westport is a far richer town for Allen’s 9 decades of life here. We will be far poorer without his wisdom, grace, and generosity of money, time, energy, spirit and love.

Allen Raymond, March 2014. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen Raymond, March 2014. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Two years ago he Westport Y named the entrance road to their new facility at Camp Mahackeno after their longtime friend.

Two years ago the Westport Y named the entrance road to their new facility at Camp Mahackeno after their longtime friend.

Allen Raymond, circa 1963.

Allen Raymond, circa 1963.

Allen Raymond on April 1, in the Compo Cove home he loved for 91 years. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen Raymond on April 1, in the Compo Cove home he loved for 91 years. (Photo/Scott Smith)

 

 

Thank You, Allen Raymond

Allen Raymond has lived on Compo Cove since 1922.

The unique, beautiful spit of land drew his parents to Westport nearly a century ago, and kept Allen here ever since. (He added a house on King’s Highway, which is perfectly fitting. It’s the most historic part of town, and no one knows Westport’s history better than Allen Raymond.)

Allen is 91 years old now, and his heart is failing. This afternoon — the 1st sparkling day of spring — he visited his beloved Old Mill home. It’s rented out, but he sat on the porch, gazed at the rippling high tide and spectacular views of Compo Hill, and reminisced.

Allen Raymond this afternoon, in the Compo Cove home he has loved for 91 years. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen Raymond this afternoon, in the Compo Cove home he has loved for 91 years. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen spoke about his childhood days on the water, his summers growing up, and the life he’s lived here — and loved — ever since.

What a remarkable 9 decades Allen has spent in town.

He’s served on more boards, brokered more good and smart deals, and contributed more to every facet of life — educational, recreational, spiritual — than anyone since the Bedfords. (And there were a lot more of them than him.)

The Westport Y has named the entrance road to their new facility at Camp Mahackeno after their longtime friend.

The Westport Y has named the entrance road to their new facility at Camp Mahackeno after their longtime friend.

Allen has contributed unfathomable amounts of time, energy (and money) to the Green’s Farms Congregational Church, and the Y. He led the Westport Historical Society into (paradoxically) the modern era, and Earthplace to sustainability.

He has advised nearly every elected official in town, at one time or other. He’s saved many of them from political disasters, and us from the financial fallout.

It is safe to say Westport would not be the town it is — nor would we be the people we are — without the love (sometimes gentle, sometimes tough) that Allen Raymond has lavished on us for longer than nearly any of us have been alive.

Perhaps his greatest gift to the town, though, is the 169 acres on South Compo Road known as Longshore.

Allen Raymond, circa 1963.

Allen Raymond, circa 1963.

Few Westporters realize that our town jewel camethisclose to being something else entirely. In early 1960, the privately owned Longshore Beach and Country Club — with a golf course, tennis courts, pools, marina, inn/restaurant and play areas — came up for sale.

The typical Westport response — build houses! — was strongly considered.  But First Selectman Herb  Baldwin and his kitchen cabinet decided to make a bid, on behalf of the town. Baldwin put his best adviser in charge of the project: Allen Raymond.

The group had to act quickly. In just 18 days they put together a $1.9 million package — then earned approval from the Board of Finance and RTM.  The latter vote was 38-0. (The RTM doesn’t even name bridges or approve jUNe Day unanimously.)

A month and a half later — on May 28, 1960 — Longshore Club Park opened to the public. It’s been one of the town jewels ever since.

As has Allen Raymond.

He is a remarkable, inspiring, truly wonderful man.

Allen Raymond, last month. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen Raymond, this winter. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen Raymond: He Gets Things Done

For Monday’s “06880” post, I asked the 4 candidates currently running for 1st selectman to name 5 Westporters they admire.

Three included Allen Raymond.

Allen Raymond, circa 1963.

Allen Raymond, circa 1963.

That’s a no-brainer. The 90-year-old former publisher (and town historian) has not just lived on Compo Cove since 1922. He’s served on more boards, advised more town leaders, brokered more good and smart deals, and contributed more to every facet of life — educational, recreational, spiritual — than anyone since the Bedfords.

And they were an entire family.

But it’s not just the 1st selectman candidates and me who revere Allen Raymond. Here’s an email I got from another admirer:

“I noted the frequent mention of Allen Raymond as a person the selectman candidates would ask for guidance.

“Why?

“Certainly, Allen has been a successful figure in town for many years. He is generous with both his time and his money. He has sat on almost every guiding committee we have, from church to Y to kitchen cabinet.

“He has already been honored by many organizations – including the Y’s renaming of Sunny Lane to Allen Raymond Lane.

Allen Raymond: The man, and his sign.

Allen Raymond: The man, and his sign.

“One more honor is coming up. On Wednesday, June 5 the Westport Rotary honors him at their annual Golf and Tennis Fundraiser at Longshore.

“But I think the real reason that people want to speak to him is because they want to know how he and others managed to get things done. How to get the purchase of Longshore done – without lawsuits and squabbling.

“How to get organizations like the Westport Historical Society and Earthplace to be sustainable, contributing, active town resources.  How to draw people into a church to celebrate its history, as well as its present contributions and mission.

“I think the Rotary honor is a good reason for potential politicians, as well as friends and neighbors, to come together one more time to ask for Allen’s advice, and celebrate his ability to get things done.

Positano’s Patio

As someone’s Italian/Scottish grandmother might say, Positano’s is in a bit of a kerfuffle.

On Thursday the restaurant asked the Planning and Zoning Commission for permission to put tables on its outdoor patio.

The terrace — sitting serenely on the Sound — has been there since 2000. The restaurant — catty-corner from Elvira’s, in the Old Mill section of town — has been there far longer.  Old-timers remember it as Cafe de la Plage.

A no-brainer, right?

Wrong.

The patio is illegal. The owners never sought town approval. Outdoor dining is prohibited in residential areas.

And, oh yeah: Part of it was built on town land. Well, sand. Anyway: We own the beach.

The terrace at Positano’s juts into town-owned land.

Dozens of nearby residents oppose the request to place 4 tables on the patio, adding 10 seats to the restaurant for a total of 62. They cite “noise, commotion and congestion,” according to the Westport News, along with inadequate and illegal parking.

Yet at least one resident — 89-year-old Allen Raymond — thinks the proposal is fine.

A view of Positano’s from Hillspoint Road.

Positano’s land-use consultant, Mel Barr, claims that because the economy has driven business down 30 percent from a few years ago, the move to outdoor dining is a necessary “shot in the arm.”

Neighbors might respond it’s a kick in the teeth.

The P&Z did not vote on the application — officially, a lease of town property to the restaurant to allow use of the patio — and public comments are officially closed.

But that doesn’t mean “06880” readers can’t weigh in. Click on your preference in the poll below.  Mangia — or not?

It’s Now Allen Raymond Lane

It’s not easy telling an 89-year-old something he doesn’t already know.

But Allen Raymond was genuinely surprised yesterday afternoon. The Westport Y told the former board president it’s renaming the entry road to Mahackeno — the future site of the Y itself — “Allen Raymond Lane.”

The announcement — and presentation of an actual road sign — came at a party celebrating the trustee emeritus’ 89th birthday.

Allen Raymond: The man, and his sign. (Photo by Scott Smith)

Celebrants noted that the year 1923 marked 2 very special events: the opening of the Y in downtown Westport, and the birth of Allen Raymond.

“For the past 88 years, these 2 ‘local institutions’ have remained steadfast in their commitment and dedication to our community and its residents,” Y officials said. “Allen truly embodies the heart and soul of Westport and the Family Y.”

The Y is only one of Raymond’s many civic commitments. In the 1950s he was instrumental in the town’s purchase of Longshore, and development as a town park. He’s devoted countless hours months years serving the Library, Westport Historical Society and Earthplace, among many other organizations.

But it was the Y that honored him yesterday.

Allen Raymond

Rob Reeves — who also knows Raymond through the Green’s Farms Congregational Church and Rotary — credits him with “getting me up to speed quickly” when Reeves took over as the Y’s CEO.

“Allen told me a lot about the history of Westport, and the Y,” Reeves says. “He brought me around, and introduced me to people the Y has been important to. He was such an important connection.”

But despite Raymond’s fondness for (and many links) to history, he is hardly stuck in the past. “He speaks often about how change is good,” Reeves notes. “He’s not afraid of moving forward.”

Renaming Sunny Lane “Allen Raymond Lane” is perfectly good change, Reeves adds.

“Allen has said that when he was a kid, his goal was to live in Westport.

“He not only did that — he also made Westport better in so many ways.

“We’re honored to be able to give something back to him, in some small way, for all he’s done for the Y, and for Westport.”

Click below for a YouTube video: Y chairman Jim Marpe surprising Allen Raymond with the news of his new lane.

Three Y’s Men

Normally, the announcement of the Westport Y’s annual meeting wouldn’t rate a mention in “06880” — or anywhere else, outside the Y’s own bulletin board.

But tomorrow’s 87th annual meeting (Monday, June 20, 5:30 p.m., the Edward T. Bedford Room) rises above the level of ho-hummery.

In addition to the usual stuff — recognizing annual award recipients, voting on a new slate, saluting the 2-term accomplishments of Iain Bruce (president, board of directors) and Pete Wolgast (chairman, board of trustees) — the Y will recognize 3 longtime volunteers as trustee emeriti.

Bill Gault

Their names are Bill Gault, Bill Mitchell and Allen Raymond.

Their faces and accomplishments are known to all.

The Gaults have been in town since the mid-18th century.

The Raymonds first summered here in the early 1900s.

The Mitchells are mere newcomers.  Their store opened “only” in 1958.

Allen Raymond

All 3 — and their families — have been involved with the Westport Y ever since they themselves were members.

And all 3 give generously of their time, talent (and money) to countless causes besides the Y.

Tomorrow’s honor is richly deserved.

Knowing all 3 men, I can predict what will happen tomorrow:  They’ll deflect any praise.  They’ll thank instead the organization that is honoring them.

And they’ll say they only wish they could do more.

Bill Mitchell

Honoring Herb Baldwin

Westport Rotary‘s annual golf and tennis outing is always a nice affair.  Folks play, socialize, eat, drink, and raise funds for over 30 local charities.

Nice — but hardly blog-worthy.

Herb Baldwin

This year’s event (Wednesday, June 9) is different.  To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the town’s purchase of Longshore, then-1st selectman Herb Baldwin will be feted.

But this is no hollow let’s-thank-a-dead-guy thought.  Several relatives — including Baldwin’s daughter Phyllis, and 3 grandchildren — are coming from as far away as Indianapolis and Menlo Park, California.

Some will play in the golf tournament.  All will join in the 4 p.m. ceremony that will look back on Baldwin’s role in those lightning-quick 18 days, when Westport raced from “wow, Longshore Country Club is on the market” to a signed, $1.9 million contract to buy all 169 acres.

Allen Raymond — current town historian, and past member of Baldwin’s kitchen cabinet that helped seal the deal — will be there too.

So who was Herb Baldwin?

He arrived in Westport soon after serving in World War I.  In the same year he got married — seems like he always moved quickly — he bought 20 acres of Bayberry Lane land.

With no experience — and no capital behind him — he planted a thousand apple trees, and hundreds of rows of vegetables.

Four years later, he cleared $123.

He soon became a successful apple grower.  But he found time for plenty of volunteer work too.

He chaired both the Westport and state YMCAs, and served on the national Y council.

He taught Sunday school at Saugatuck Congregational Church, then became deacon emeritus, chairman of the state Congregational organization and a national commiteeman.  When the church moved — on logs — across the Post Road to its present location, Baldwin was on the engineering committee.

He entered politics in 1919, as a member of the Board of Tax Review.  He remained on it for 17 years, and was elected chairman.  He was a deputy judge of the Town Court, until laymen were barred from serving.

He spent 18 years in Hartford as a state assemblyman and senator, eventually chairing the Appropriations Committee.  Back in Westport, he was selected as the 2nd moderator ever of the RTM.

Herb Baldwin (far right) during a Memorial Day parade, in the late 1960s or early '70s. Also in the front row, from left: John Davis Lodge, a Westporter, former governor of Connecticut and ambassador to Spain, Argentina and Switzerland; U.S. Congressman Stewart McKinney. Rear (from left): Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Brummel; unidentified; Board of Education member Merald Lue.

When 1st selectman became a full-time position in 1957, Baldwin was elected.  Early in his tenure he eliminated 28 sources of raw drainage from the Saugatuck River; soon, fish returned.  Roads in Saugatuck Shores were raised, preventing flooding.  Two new schools were built.

When Longshore was put on the market — in an area zoned for 1-acre housing — Baldwin shepherded the town’s purchase plan through both the RTM and Board of Finance.  Instantly, Westport was the 1st town in the country to own a country club.

Later in his 5 terms as 1st selectman he championed DDD zoning, allowing businesses like Glendinning (off Weston Road) and Stauffer (Nyala Farms) to build in residentially zoned areas.  Some Westporters opposed the moves — though the buildings were as discreet as offices could be, and the tax rolls benefited handsomely.

Baldwin Parking Lot — named for him — off Elm Street alleviated downtown parking problems (though several old homes were demolished in the process).

Baldwin retired in 1967, age 73.  In retirement he played bridge, backgammon, chess — and golf.  (He stopped in his early 90s — because his clubs were stolen out of his car trunk.)

In 1986 — for one of my 1st “Woog’s World” columns — I interviewed the-92-year-old Baldwin.  I asked him to sum up his life.

“May and I are as lucky as the devil,” he said, referring to his wife of (then) 67 years.

“We’ve got our health, our family, and we’ve been able to serve our community for 67 years.  What else could anybody want?”

Well, how about being remembered a quarter-century later for your role in preserving a property that has since become the most beloved purchase in our 175 year history?

(Wednesday’s golf tournament begins at 8:30 a.m.; tennis follows at 9 a.m.  Both events are at Longshore.)