Tag Archives: Garry Meyers

Remembering Garry Meyers

Longtime Westport educator Garry Meyers died peacefully at his Stratford home on June 11, surrounded by family. He was 89 years old.

The Bridgeport native was a teacher, a storyteller, and a marriage and family therapist. After graduating from Warren Harding High School in 1948, Garry headed to Dartmouth College. He earned a Phi Beta Kappa key, and graduated magna cum laude in 1952.

After serving in the Korean War, Garry earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Bridgeport on the GI Bill. He taught English at Staples High School for many years, and was a principal of the firm Tape Book, before creating the first public high school special education program for emotionally disturbed adolescents in the state of Connecticut.

Garry Meyers

The gratification Garry experienced as he developed this safe place for “the kids” spurred him to devote his professional life to helping more children and families. He pursued a master’s in marriage and family therapy from Southern Connecticut State University, becoming a licensed MFT in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Whether in line at the hardware store or traveling to Russia, Garry often made new friends. He had an agile, insatiable mind; an irreverent, irresistible sense of humor, and a genuine interest in everyone he met. His life was a celebration of the people he loved, the places he and Donna visited, and the stories that grew from these experiences.

During their years together, Garry and Donna called many places home, including Westport, Redding Sandy Hook and Stratford; Astoria, New York, and Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts.

In their home on Martha’s Vineyard, Garry and Donna created a haven for family and friends. It was especially cherished by Garry’s 17 grandchildren.

Garry is survived by his wife of 51 years, Donna Rae Hitt Meyers for 51 years; his children Liese Meyers Niedermayer, Jennifer Meyers (Mark), Adam Meyers (Ingrid), Melissa Fable Dempsey, Kimberly Fable, and Chaz Fable (Valeria). Garry was predeceased by his youngest daughter, Rebekah Meyers Aronson. He is also survived by his grandchildren Bryan, Erich, Stephanie, Randi, Jessica, Daniel, Jacqueline, Kristen, Alexandra, Matthew, Teddy, Olivia, David, Kiona, Julie Rae, Julian, and Julia.

A celebration of Garry’s life will be held later.

Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to The Trevor Project or the Center for Spectrum Services. 

Remembering Cliff Barton

Cliff Barton — a longtime Westport educator — died last week.  He was 90, and had recently suffered a stroke.

An outstanding student who attended Florida A&M University on an athletic scholarship, he was a skilled practitioner of jewelry casting before earning a masters degree in education and organizational theory from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

He joined the Westport school system in 1958, and over the next 29 years served as a teacher, speech pathologist and assistant superintendent.  Throughout his career he maintained a private practice as a speech pathologist and educational consultant.

In 1958 Cliff and his wife Sylvia purchased a home on Stonecrop Road in Norwalk, integrating the neighborhood.  Cliff involved himself in a wide range of civic affairs — including the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Race Relations, the Carver Foundation, the Mid-Fairfield Child Guidance Center, Norwalk Hospital, and the Norwalk Power Squadron — that continued until his death.  He was a founding  member of the boards of the Norwalk Arts Council and Norwalk Maritime Center.

Veteran Westport educator Garry Meyers remembers Cliff Barton:

In my third of a century of Westport teaching experience, Cliff is one of the last of the greats.  He’s right up there with Gladys Mansir, Wyatt Teubert, Charlie Burke, Tony Arciola, Harold Allen, Nick Georgis and Gerry Rast, among others.

All these professionals, with diversified personalities and academic perspectives — committed to the quality education of every kid — put Westport on the Gold Coast map.

The local community of Gray Flannel suits in the time of the Famous Artists Schools wanted the best.  Then, with the Soviet challenge of Sputnik, the national government wanted the best in education as well.

The dialogue about various teaching approaches in the new Staples High School faculty room — for the first time mixed with males and females — was constant and intense, loud, humorous, sometimes angry, always provocative.

Cliff Barton, then a speech teacher who traveled among the different Westport schools and administrative offices, often punctuated the emotional dialogue with a non-controversial observation that was sane, possible and always respected.

Cliff put his words into practice as an administrator.  As the head of special education and a former teacher, he recognized the complexity of kids with physical, emotional and academic needs.  Cliff understood the political task of integrating them and their parents into the regular school community.

Adams Academy, where Cliff Barton worked his magic.

And he recognized the importance of his staff in getting the job done.  In characteristic gentlemanly style, Cliff insisted that all teachers tar themselves away from their demanding, often isolated involvement to meet every Wednesday in the supportive, informal Adams Academy — the 1-room schoolhouse away from typical, overly administrative property — where Miracle Workers could see each other as normal people.

Cliff exuded trust in us whenever we might lose trust in ourselves.  This respect and confidence ultimately extended beyond the meetings and beyond the school, into our private lives.

When I visited my former partner, former boss and old friend for the last time, I held his hand.  He clasped mine in return and whispered reassurance:  “Our paths will cross again.”

(Donations in Cliff Barton’s memory can be made to the Carver Foundation [www.carvercenterct.org] or the Norwalk Maritime Center Children’s Opportunity Fund, 10 N. Water St., Norwalk, CT 06854.)

JD Salinger and Westport — The Sequel

“06880”‘s recent notice of J.D. Salinger’s long-ago past in Westport brought this recollection from long-time instructor Garry Meyers:

When Gladys Mansir was head of the English department, I as a 2nd-year teacher — without tenure — attempted to introduce Catcher in the Rye into the curriculum.

I was chastised by principal Stan Lorenzen, and ordered to stop.  He said, “It’s not as if the book is literature.”

My colleague and good friend Wyatt Teubert Jr. — at the time of favorite of Stan’s (and Stan’s son, then a senior) — interceded and saved my job.

Although I immediately stopped teaching the book, Stan’s daughter — in my class — defiantly and bravely gave the then-required monthly oral book report on Catcher.

One more related story from Garry Meyers:

Salinger was once a guest of author Peter De Vries, who lived in Westport.  Jan, Peter’s daughter, offered to write an account of the visit for the class.  Feeling that was an invasion of privacy, I discouraged her.

This was before Salinger was noted for his reclusiveness.  I must admit, I sometimes review that decision.

(Got a J.D. Salinger-in-Westport story?  Send it along to “06880.”  Now it can be told.)