Glenn Hightower — the educator, coach, church and civic volunteer, and avid athlete — died on January 1, 2017.
Today — nearly a year later — friends and family members remembered him at one of his favorite spots. “06880” reader Tom Kretsch reports:
Despite frigid temperatures, a warm group gathered at the former Bedford Middle School on Riverside Avenue (now Saugatuck Elementary School).
They unveiled a plaque mounted on a bench along the track where Glenn spent many hours coaching, running and leading his school community.
His daughters Heather, Holly and Julie were there with their families. After brief remarks by fellow runner Pat Kennedy, Holly read a poem — “Success,” often attributed to Emerson — that was always on Glenn’s desk.
Then — spontaneously — others spoke about personal experiences with Glenn as a runner, parent, colleague or friend. Heather led the group in singing “Amazing Grace,” followed by a prayer from United Methodist Church minister Ed Horne.
Now, as people visit PJ Romano Field to exercise or watch their children play, they will pass this simple bench with a wonderful tribute to a true community leader.
Heather, Julie and Holly Hightower, on their father’s bench.
He was a Westport school system administrator, softball coach, United Methodist Church parishioner, Rotarian, Westport Weston Family YMCA volunteer, and competitive handball and basketball player.
He was also the longtime principal of Bedford Junior High and Middle Schools (when they were on Riverside Avenue), and an avid runner.
Those last 2 accomplishments converge this Wednesday (December 27, 12 noon). A bench and plaque will be dedicated in his name — at the school he served for so many years. Hightower’s many friends and fans are invited to the ceremony, at the side parking lot closest to the track entrance.
The project was financed by private donations, and Westport Athletic Club members. Hightower completed 16 New York City marathons, and 10 ultra-marathons.
He often ran to raise money for charity. Now, funds have been donated to remember this very giving man.
Glenn Hightower (front row, 2nd from right, yellow cap) joined Westport Athletic Club members for a Saturday morning run in the late1980s — at the home of a sleeping-fellow member (in pajamas at left). Longtime Westporter Patrick Kennedy says the tradition was to run to radio station WMMM, on Main Street over Oscar’s. Runners then sang carols on the air.
The life of Glenn Hightower — educator, civic volunteer and coach — will be celebrated this Saturday (January 21, 2 p.m.) at the United Methodist Church on Weston Road.
The longtime Westport resident died New Year’s Day, age 76. Throughout his life he was devoted to his wife Beverly, and his daughters Holly, Julie and Heather.
Born and raised in Oklahoma, Glenn graduated from Mangum High School as valedictorian and class president. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University, his master’s degree at Kansas State University and his Ph.D from the University of Iowa.
Glenn Hightower at the former Bedford Middle School (now Saugatuck Elementary).
Glenn and Beverly moved to Westport in 1969. He spent over 30 years as principal of Bedford Middle and Junior Schools, serving briefly as interim assistant superintendent.
He led through times of both consolidation and expansion, including working on the design of the new Bedford school on North Avenue.
During 8 years as principal of Westport Continuing Education, he expanded programming and grew enrollment. Glenn was committed to music, the arts and technology. He created compassionate learning environments that valued students and enabled them to excel.
Glenn was an avid sportsman. In junior high and high school he captained varsity football, basketball and baseball teams. He played handball competitively, served on the Bridgeport YMCA Board of Directors, and enjoyed playing in recreational basketball leagues around Fairfield County.
Glenn Hightower, during a Westport Road Runners race.
Glenn was often seen running throughout town. He competed in Westport Road Races, and completed 16 New York City marathons and 10 ultra marathons. Glenn was a competitor, but most of all he cherished lifelong friendships created along the way.
Actively involved in the Westport YMCA board of directors and Water Rats swim team, as well as the Staples High swim team, Glenn and Bev spent many days by the pool.
When his daughters played team sports, Glenn coached rec basketball. He helped grow Westport Little League softball, coaching for over 10 years. He later returned to a sport he loved, football, to coach middle school PAL football players.
Glenn served in the Rotary Club, and over many years dedicated himself to the United Methodist Church as a Sunday School teacher, lay leader and chair of the Administrative Council, among other activities.
Glenn was known for his warmth, kindness, generous spirit and devotion to his family. He held an unwavering belief in the power of public education and the importance of helping others. Glenn encouraged people to do their best, whether with their family, school, work, faith or on the ball field.
Glenn was predeceased by his wife Beverly. In addition to his daughters he is survived by 4 grandsons, and brothers Richard and Phillip and their families.
In honor of Glenn, the Hightower family encourages everyone to take time to talk with and truly listen to their children, look for the good in those around us, and strive to make a positive impact on our communities.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the United Methodist Church of Westport/Weston, 49 Weston Road, Westport, CT 06880; Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881, or Magnum High School Alumni Association (c/o Mary Jane Scott, 414 South Robinson Avenue, Mangum OK 73554).
When word spread that the Boston Marathon bombers were Muslim brothers, Americans tried to understand why.
We still don’t have answers. But one man who is particularly perplexed also provides special insight.
Kenan Trebincevic today.
Kenan Trebincevic’s life is similar in some ways to Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s. He and his brother were born 6 years apart. They’re “foreign-born-and-named, athletic, Islamic brothers from difficult backgrounds in Eastern Europe,” where they were persecuted before finding refuge in the United States.
Yet while the Tsarnaevs ended up in the Boston area — a true melting pot — Kenan’s family spent many years in Westport. Our town has very few Muslims — from any part of the world — but it offered a safe haven for the Trebincevics.
Kenan — now a physical therapist in Queens, and the co-author of a book, The Bosnia List, to be published next year — described his growing-up experiences here in a fascinating op-ed piece published in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal.
In “Two Muslim Brothers Who Took the Assimilation Path,” Kenan said his family — “caught in the bloody war between Bosnia and Serbia” — moved to Westport in 1993.
His father, Senahid, “slung poultry at a fast-food chicken place and took other low-paying jobs.” His mother, Adisa, babysat and did data processing. There was little money, “and it was hard to get jobs without connections or language skills.”
Yet unlike the Tsarnaev boys, Kenan said “my brother and I made many friends in the U.S. and wound up on the more successful side of the American dream.” Although he felt “lost, estranged and resentful” as a 13-year-old newcomer to America, his life took a different path.
One reason was that — while he and his family remained proud of their heritage — they had an anchor here. They were sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut, which he called “a group of liberal churches and synagogues.”
When we arrived in 1993 at JFK airport, we were met by the Rev. Don Hodges, a Methodist minister. He drove us to his Westport home, where we stayed for 4 months. It’s not surprising or wrong for immigrants to deepen their focus on religion in a strange land. But I would speculate that in our case we felt such gratitude to the people of differing faiths who helped us that our chances of assimilating, and succeeding, in America were enhanced.
Westport taught an important lesson in multi-cultural living.
When my mother found a lump in her breast, the late surgeon Dr. Malcolm Beinfeld at Norwalk Hospital operated on her. Dr. Beinfeld, who was Jewish, told us that the Bosnian genocide against Muslims reminded him of the Holocaust. We never received a bill for the surgery or for my mother’s subsequent radiation and chemotherapy.
Dr. Malcolm Beinfield
A Protestant [sic — he was Jewish] dentist, Richard Sands, asked my mother: “What does your son need?” At 13, I was taken to an orthodontist who gave me braces and took care of me for two years. I was embarrassed but deeply grateful that he never asked for a dime.
On my first day of school in Westport, Dr. Glenn Hightower, the principal, and a member of Mr. Hodges’s church, introduced me to the 7th-grade English class with his arm draped around my shoulders. He explained that my family had been exiled in the Bosnian war, and he asked the other students to help me out.
I had a foreign name, strange accent and could barely speak the language. I felt scared and pathetic, like a mutt waiting to be adopted. I was immediately befriended by Miguel Peman, a Catholic Spanish-American student, who offered me a seat.
In the middle 1990s, Bedford Middle School (now the site of Saugatuck Elementary) was a warm, welcoming place for Kenan Trebincevic.
When the school-bus driver who drove me home noticed that I had a long walk to Mr. Hodges’s house, he introduced himself as Offir, from Israel, and dropped me off right at the driveway, making me promise not to tell anyone. Later, my Greek Orthodox soccer coach, Ted Popadoupolis, gave me rides to practices and games when my parents couldn’t.
Kenan and his brother did not try to become Olympic stars, like Tamerlan wanted. But, Kenan said, “a series of teachers and mentors helped us formulate a realistic career plan. They geared us toward a more feasible field than sports stardom: physical therapy.”
Kenan’s piece in the Wall Street Journal concluded:
It is impossible to know what went on in someone else’s childhood or what is happening in another’s mind or heart. The Tsarnaevs took one path. My brother and I, despite our family’s war displacement, persecution and years of poverty, thrived — but only with stable parents by our side, good jobs and help from many and diverse guardian angels. During a dark week, it was easy to forget that countless immigrants to America have similar stories to tell.
And it’s easy, too, to forget — if we ever knew — that some of those stories take root right here in Westport. We’re thousands of miles from places like Serbia, but to boys like Kenan Trebincevic, we can become home.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to “06880” c/o Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Or Zelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)