Tag Archives: Lee Greenberg

Remembering Lee Greenberg

Lee Greenberg — longtime resident, active volunteer, salon host, talented sculptor, noted tennis player and skier, yoga teacher (long before most people knew what that was), and friend to countless Westporters of all ages — died Friday at her beloved home of 43 years, on Duck Pond Road.

Born Lee Snell during the Spanish flu influenza on January 22, 1918 in Hell’s Kitchen, New York to parents from Belarus Russia, she came to Westport in 1941 after marrying Nat Greenberg. He operated the Westport Hardware Store for more than 55 years, and became a noted real estate developer.

Lee and Nat were among the earlier Jewish residents of Westport. Nat helped establish Temple Israel, and later enabled the development of Birchwood Country Club.

Lee Greenberg

Lee was intellectually curious, bold and worldly, and dedicated to a healthy lifestyle including exercise and mobility long before it became popular. She played tennis, did yoga, and did splits into her 90s.

A perennial beach and sun worshiper, she held court year-round with friends and family while playing backgammon and Scrabble on her cherished beaches (from Block Island in summer to St. thomas in winter). Young at heart, she kept her mind active with games and news to the end of her life. 

She was aided by the irreplaceable love, endless dedication and careful driving of her 18-year caregiver, Gina Prempeh from Ghana. Through this winter she could be found at Compo Beach, listening to her favorite operas and watching the sun set next to her “bouquet of trees.”

Lee was married to Nat Greenberg for 43 years, and to the late Jacques Sternberg for 10 years. She is survived by her children, Linda Libow of New York, Gail Greenberg of California, Michael Greenberg of Westport and Debbie Filkins of Block Island, Rhode Island, and their spouses; step-children Edward Sternberg, Cathy O’Gara and spouses; 8 grandchildren, 3 step-grandchildren; 4 great-grandchildren; 6 step-great-grandchildren; the Snell nephews and their children, and her beloved caretaker Gina Prempeh.

In the spirit of Lee’s love of and support for the environment, music, history and equality, the family welcomes donations in her memory to the Westport Rotary Club, Temple Israel Community Tzedakah Fund (Social Action), Norwalk Symphony, Block Island Historical Society, or Salmon River Restoration Council

A week ago, “06880” and the entire town honored her on her 103rd birthday

Fellow Rotarian Gillian Anderson writes:

I was fortunate to see her recently. On January 19 a half dozen friends from the Westport Rotary Club gave her an ice cream cake (chocolate, her favorite), a bouquet of roses, some fabulous balloons and a card made by Dave Matlow of his photographs of Lee with family and friends.

We saw her in her heated garage with her loyal companion and aide Gina, her son Michael and one of her granddaughters. We enjoyed a short, socially distanced visit and sang “Happy Birthday.”

She was happy to see us. She spoke about her husband Nat and her long life in Westport. She celebrated her 103rd birthday with her family 2 days later.

We are so pleased to have seen her and to greet her so happily in this special way. She was a remarkable, unique character. We shall miss her very much.

Gillian prepared these remarks for the Rotary’s celebration of her 103rd birthday:

The former Leah Snell moved to Westport from New York in 1941, when she married Nathan Greenberg. He was a native of the town, and an early member of Westport Rotary. As fellow Rotarian Ann Sheffer said, “The Greenbergs were committed to the evolving community of Westport, and the world in general. They brought the world into their Westport home.”

Lee continues to be an inspiration, an example to us all of a life well lived, a truly abundant life.

Lee has continued to represent an outward looking, worldly curiosity and contributes so much to the local community. Until COVID hit, she was not only a regular attendee at Rotary but also active over many years in the Westport Historical Society, a board member of Norwalk Symphony, the Westport Arts Center, and her Carriage Barn sculpture group at the New Canaan Society for the Arts

Horse sculpture, by Lee Greenberg.

I first got to know Lee 10 years ago at Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler’s house. Political candidates were making rousing “get out the vote” speeches. I sat down next to her and introduced myself. I had no idea I was sitting with the Grand Dame of Westport, the person who knew everyone in the room and just about everyone in the entire town.

She showed me her sculpture (“When Pigs Can Fly”), which she was donating to raise funds for the DNC silent auction that night, then gave me thumbnail bios of all the important folks in the room. Quite an education! Gradually we became friends, particularly when she invited me to attend her renowned cultural salon.

Lee’s cultural salon was an extraordinary gathering at her home each week. She and her friend Herb Podell invited a small group of friends and acquaintances to hear a speaker or performer of note. The cosmopolitan range of her interests and connections was breath taking: opera singers, musicians, journalists, political columnists, photographers, artists, human rights activists, politicians, economists and authors. For many years, each shared their ideas and talents in Lee’s living room to an appreciative audience, who were thrilled to attend and join in the lively discussion that followed.

One of the striking aspects to me of Lee’s persona is her intellect and curiosity. Her conversation is peppered with questions and references to current events, to making connections and with people in the news, many of whom she knows personally. Until quite recently, here at Rotary lunches when the speaker would ask for questions from the floor, Lee often nailed it with a reference to a relevant  New York Times article she just read and quiz the speaker on his opinion!!

In her second century, Lee Greenberg was as sharp as ever.

Of course, we must mention Lee’s life-long athleticism. Local tennis champion – often playing on her back yard tennis court, skiing every winter, and yoga and daily exercise routines. For many years she taught yoga on the beach at her place in St Thomas, and on Block Island.

This perhaps is one of her secrets to long life and mobility. I had been unaware of all this until one evening about 8 years ago (when she was a mere 95). I was working out at the NY Sports Club. There was Lee doing a circuit of the machines – legs and abs, all manner of major stretches. My trainer said, “Oh yes, Lee’s one of my best clients. She’s often here 5 days a week!”

Mobility is still important to Lee – she loves to be out and about in her beloved Westport. Thanks to the TLC and careful driving of her loyal helper Gina, you’ll easily find Lee most afternoons at Compo Beach. Her white SUV is parked overlooking the water. She often holds court with many friends who love to be in her company.

When we celebrated Lee’s 100th, several members spoke.

Martha Aasen talked of Lee’s outstanding generosity and energy as a fund raiser for countless political candidates over many decades. She said, “It’s a privilege to call her a friend.” Martha told this story:

In the late 1950’s, Lee, Nat and their 4 children were living in a then-huge house on Long Lots Road, enjoying a very comfortable life Liz Taylor and then-husband Mike Todd were house hunting. She was pregnant. Her mother lived in Ridgefield, and Liz wanted to be near her mom.

Their realtor called Nat Greenberg — a long-time Westport real estate developer — in a panic. The realtor had nothing to show them, so he asked Nat if he could them his house.

In walked Liz Taylor and Mike Todd. They loved the house — one of the few in those days with a swimming pool and tennis court — and asked if the Greenbergs would  consider renting it for a year.

Their first reaction was “of course not!” But Nat and Lee talked. They came up with an idea: They could live in Switzerland for a year. Mike offered to pay not only the year’s rental, but for the family of 6 to travel to Europe in style, by ocean liner — and for their chalet.

Unfortunately, during that year Mike Todd was killed in a plane crash. Lee learned the news at a ski mountain. It was a tragic ending to Liz Taylor’s Westport adventure.

A post-script on the 175 Long Lots Road house: Liz Taylor and Mike Todd were not the only famous residents. Lee and Nat eventually sold their home to Harry Reasoner in 1968 — the same year the TV newscaster teamed up with Don Hewitt and Mike Wallace to begin CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”

Ann Sheffer also spoke. She talked about the strong family ties between generations of Greenbergs and Sheffers. Her grandparents were close friends of Lee and Nat — all wicked tennis players, and all involved in local real estate development.

Ann also talked about Lee’s talent as an artist, and how nearly every Democratic candidates for state and local elections — and many national ones — from the 1950s through the ’80s were hosted by their two families, for fundraising and support.

Longtime Democratic activists Lee Greenberg (center) and Martha Aasen, with President Bill Clinton.

After the speeches. cake and singing of “Happy Birthday,” Lee stood up. She expressed great joy for all the wonderful words spoken about her. She thanked the Rotary Club and guests for a great celebration, and said she had so much fun she’d like to do it all over again.

However, she concluded, she’d settle for seeing her friends again next Tuesday at the Rotary Club.

Roundup: 103rd Birthday, COVID Vaccine, Insurrection Arrest, More

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Happy 103rd birthday today to the incomparable Lee Greenberg.

The long-time — very long-time — Westporter (and Rotary Club member) — is as active as ever.

Arlene Yolles writes: “I first met her at Compo, where we played backgammon (she’s pretty good) with a set with 2 checkers missing. In their place, she used stones from the beach.

“You can find her there, with her lady Gina, around 3 p.m. almost any day of the year, by the one tree on South Beach. Her car tag says ‘Lee Gee.’

“I’ve attended several of her Cultural Salons (think Gertrude Stein in Paris) in her lovely home. She has a grand piano, and invited accomplished, talented musicians to perform.”

Lee Greenberg is a Westport treasure. The entire town honors her today!

PS: Just how “long-time” a Westporter is Lee? She’d already been here for years when, in 1957, she and her husband Nat rented their Long Lots Road home to Liz Taylor and her husband, Mike Todd.

Lee Greenberg celebrated her 100th birthday with Zefera, one of 4 great-grandchildren.

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All around town, Westporters are asking friends and neighbors about the COVID vaccine.

On Thursday, February 11 (7 p.m.), you can hear all about Pfizer’s creation and rollout of it, from 4 of the company’s top executives. They’re familiar to us, too — they’re our friends and neighbors.

The Westport Library virtual event features Jeremy Price, director of clinical innovation and strategic partnerships (and a Library trustee); Westport resident Rady Johnson, executive vice president and Pfizer’s chief compliance, quality and risk officer; Southporter John Kelly, vice president, quality operations and environment, health and safety, and Rob Goodwin, vice president and head of global product development operations’ Center of Excellence.

They’ll provide an in-depth look at the Pfizer vaccine, from the first days of research to manufacturing and distribution.

Click here to register for the free online event. Unfortunately, samples are not available.

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Speaking of vaccines: The Senior Center was a site yesterday. This was the scene.

If you are a glass-half-empty person, you’d see a long line.

If you’re glass-half-full, you’d think about all the folks who already got inside, and received shots.

(Photo/Ted Horowitz)

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And speaking still of vaccines:

According to State Senator Will Haskell, Connecticut has released more information the vaccination rollout, although all dates are tentative and largely dictated by federal supply chains. Individuals over the age of 75, health care workers, and seniors who reside in long term care facilities are currently eligible to receive the vaccine.

Individuals over the age of 65 will likely be able to sign up for their shots in early February. Frontline essential workers and adults with health conditions that put them at higher risk will be able to sign up in late February or early March. Future phases, which will include residents under the age of 65 who are not frontline workers and do not have high-risk conditions, are likely to go into effect in May and June.

According to state statistics, people over 75 make up just 8 percent of Connecticut’s population, yet represent just over 71 percent of all COVID deaths in the state. Those over the age of 70 also make up half of all COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state.

Meanwhile, individuals over 65, who represent 18 percent of the population, make up 88 percent of all deaths in the state. By focusing high-efficacy vaccine doses on this vulnerable population, Connecticut aims to save lives and reduce hospitalizations.

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The FBI has arrested another man accused of carrying several guns to Washington, for the insurrection at the Capitol.

Samuel Fisher lives on the Upper East Side. But he’s a 2007 graduate of Weston High School.

Using the name Brad Holiday, he’s got a series of YouTube videos and a website dedicated to sales and business.

But he also wrote provocative posts — like this one in which he predicted that on January 6 Ted Cruz and others would betray “Trump and We The People”; that “they will allow Antifa and BLM to run roughshot [sic] in the streets of D.C. and bear spray, search and arrest patriots,” or that perhaps if “1 million Patriots”  showed up for Donald Trump’s speech, he “just needs to fire the bat signal… deputize patriots… and then the pain comes.”

Fisher/Holiday had a handgun, rifle, shotgun, 1000 rounds of ammunition and 2 bulletproof vests when the FBI took him into custody.

He was not hard to find. He posted photos of himself inside the Capitol on social media, and was quoted in the Daily Beast: “It was awesome. It was dangerous and violent. People died … but it was fucking great if you ask me …. i got tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed.”

And now, arrested.

Click here for the full New York Post story.

Samuel Fisher in Washington on January 6.

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And finally …  The Apple Macintosh 128 — the first consumer computer to popularize a mouse, built-in screen and graphical user interface, bundled with the brand-new MacWrite and MacPaint — was introduced through a now-historic “1984” Ridley Scott Super Bowl XVIII ad.

Meanwhile, do I know what the #1 song was on January 22, 1984? Yes …

 

 

 

 

 

Tennis Grand Slam Comes To Westport

Tennis fans know that the Grand Slam of Tennis —  the Australian, French and US Opens, plus Wimbledon — are played on 4 different types of courts.

But you don’t have to fly to 3 continents to see them.

In fact, you don’t even have to leave Westport to play on 4 surfaces.

The town’s first Grand Slam Open is near. Singles, doubles and mixed doubles competition on private red clay, grass, hard and soft courts is set for August 16 to 18.

One court that will be used for Westport’s Grand Slam …

Each stop has a different theme, with Australian, French, English and American food and drinks. There are trophies and t-shirts at each court too.

The event also includes a ping pong tournament and pool party. Music is provided by the Dave Kardas Band — whose leader heads up the Longshore tennis program.

… a second …

The Grand Slam Open is a fundraiser for Joseph Oyebog’s tennis academy in Cameroon.

The former Davis Cup tennis player/Cameroon national champion/beloved local tennis coach has impacted thousands of youngsters in his home country. Twenty players have earned college scholarships, or obtained coaching positions in the US and Europe. Many more have gained confidence, hope and opportunity.

… a third …

Ben Sturner — who played tennis at Boston University, and runs the Leverage Agency sports marketing firm — met Joseph when he taught Ben’s children.

When Ben learned how far a little money can go in Africa, he created the Grand Slam concept. Also helping: Clair Mason (Intensity owner and Oyebog Tennis Academy board member), longtime player June Eichbaum, and Ben Stein and Evan Felcher, members of Staples High School’s state champion 2018 tennis team.

… and a fourth.

Ben and Evan are still teenagers. But Westport’s Grand Slam Open involves a centenarian too.

Lee Greenberg is 101 years old. A sign on her Saugatuck Shores home says, “Tennis bum lives here.” Sure enough, she has a grass turf court.

Ben Sturner and Joseph knocked on her door, to ask if they could use it. She invited them in. For an hour, Lee told stories about her life in tennis, and her passion for it. She’s been playing since she was 10 years old — more than 9 decades ago.

Lee was born in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, and moved to Westport 75 years ago. Each of her 4 homes here had a tennis court. She organized many games, with a variety of people.

Lee is also an avid sculptor. She organized the tennis art show at the opening of the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island — in 1954.

And, Lee said, years ago, Joseph taught Lee’s son Michael.

Lee Greenberg at her 100th birthday celebration with her children: Mike, Debbie and Gail.

Lee was happy to offer her court. The other 3 are in the Compo Beach neighborhood.

Players of all ages and abilities are eligible to sign up. If you prefer not to enter, no problem. Joseph will hold a clinic for non-competitors.

When it comes to helping kids, I can’t think of a better service than this.

(The suggested donation is $150 per entry. For more information, call 475-999-1335, or email BenjaminStein2000@gmail.com or carolinem@leverageagency.com.)

Joseph Oyebog

Unsung Heroes #107

A couple of weeks ago, Brooke Davies posted this note on Facebook’s Westport Front Porch page:

Does anybody know Lee Greenberg? I have a postcard for her from the Galápagos Islands that’s supposed to be hand delivered. (People write postcards and leave them there. If you see one for someone who lives near you, you’re supposed to take it and hand deliver it.)

Brooke’s brother had found the postcard, written in 2018. He was excited that — thanks to his sister — he knew someone who could actually connect the letter to its recipient.

But, Brooke added, “Based on my Google search, she’s 101. I don’t want to show up at her house unexpected! Thanks!”

Lee Greenberg at her 100th birthday celebration with children Mike, Debbie and Gail.

Front Porchers responded quickly.

One said that local builder Mike Greenberg is Lee’s son. Another added that Mike’s wife Amy is also on Front Porch. Someone else said that Lee is a longtime Rotary Club member, and would probably be at that Tuesday’s meeting in Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall.

Negin Janati chimed in: “Lee is my husband’s grandmother! I’m sure she would be very happy to have you stop by to visit. Otherwise, we’d be happy to give it to her. What a wonderful concept!”

Soon, Toni Simonetti announced: “Just saw Lee at the beach. She has heard about the postcard and is awaiting its arrival!”

The letter.

Barbara — and the others who helped lead her to Lee — are not amazing heroes. They did not cure AIDS, or save people from a burning building.

But heroes come in many shapes and sizes. Through their small acts of kindness, they brought joy to a neighbor.

And they proved once again how connected Westport is to the world.

Including the remote islands of the Galápagos.

Happy 100th, Lee Greenberg!

Lee Greenberg — a longtime and iconic Westporter — celebrated her 100th birthday this week.

Lee Greenberg, 100 years young,

She entertained a crowd of 50 — mostly relatives, and a few of her fellow Rotary Club members — at Maplewood at Strawberry Hill. Lee broke her hip a few weeks ago, but is recovering well there.

Lee Greenberg has 4 great-grandchildren. Zefera — shown here — will be 100 in 2115.

Family members came from as far as California for the celebration.

Lee Greenberg with her children: Mike, Debbie and Gail.

Lee asked that in lieu of gifts, donations be made to Westport Rotary. Guests happily obliged.

Michael — married to Lee’s granddaughter Allegra — entertained the crowd (and his grandmother-in-law).

Happy birthday, Lee! Thank you for all you’ve given the town. Here’s to many more candles, and a lot more cake!

Bill Clinton Comes To Town

As president, Bill Clinton visited Westport 3 times — all for fundraisers.

He was back again last night. This time he raised cash on behalf of someone he hopes will be another President Clinton: his wife Hillary.

Attendees paid up to $2,700 for the event, at the Beachside Avenue home of hedge fund manager/Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry.

Press coverage was not allowed. Attendees said Clinton spent half an hour making a spirited case for his wife’s election, then chatted with guests for another half hour.

President Clinton with longtime Democratic activists Lee Greenberg and Martha Aasen.

President Clinton with longtime Democratic activists Lee Greenberg and Martha Aasen.

President Clinton and Senator Richard Blumenthal have been friends for many years.

President Clinton and Senator Richard Blumenthal have been friends for many years.

President Clinton with RTM member Kristan Peters-Hamlin. She is a descendant of Abraham Lincoln's first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin.

President Clinton with RTM member Kristan Peters-Hamlin. Her husband is related to Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin.

 

Lee Greenberg: “Liz Taylor Lived In My House”

It was once one of the largest and grandest homes in Westport.  Today — in a town of McMansions — 175 Long Lots Road merits barely a second glance.

But what history lies within its walls!

In 1957 Liz Taylor — married to film and theater producer Mike Todd, the 3rd of her 7 husbands — was pregnant.  Her mother lived in Ridgefield, and Liz wanted to be near her.  Westport was filled with actors and movie producers, so Liz and Mike came here to house-hunt.

Their realtor called Nat Greenberg — a long-time Westport real estate developer — in a panic.  He had no houses to show Liz Taylor, he said.  They’ve driven all the way up here in a Rolls-Royce — can I show them yours?!

“So in walked Liz Taylor and Mike Todd,” Nat’s widow Lee Greenberg recalled this afternoon.  “They loved the house” — it included a swimming pool and tennis court — “and asked if we’d consider renting it for a year.  My first reaction was, ‘Of course not!'”

But Nat told Liz and Mike he’d be in touch.  The Greenbergs talked, and Lee said, “If we can do something unusual as a family for a year, let’s do it.”

She quickly came up with that “unusual” idea:  Switzerland.  The Greenbergs were skiers, and their 4 young children could have an intriguing year in a Swiss school.

Nat called Mike.  “He was deliriously happy,” Lee said.  “In fact, he offered to pay — besides the year rental — for all 6 of us to go to Switzerland.  And for our chalet.”

Did the Greenbergs accept the offer?

“Of course!” she said.  “Wouldn’t you?”

The last photo taken of Liz Taylor and Mike Todd. (Photo courtesy of IMDB)

Several months later Lee was on a tram, going up a Swiss mountain.  She was just learning French, but she knew enough to translate the huge newspaper headline:  “Mike Todd est mort.”

The producer and 3 other men had been killed in the crash of an overloaded private plane, in an ice storm, near Grants, New Mexico.

The date was March 22, 1958.

Fifty-three years — and 1 day — later, Liz Taylor too is dead.

Post-script:  Liz Taylor and Mike Todd were not the only famous residents of 175 Long Lots Road.  Lee and Nat Greenberg sold their home to Harry Reasoner in 1968 — the same year the TV newscaster teamed up with Mike Wallace to begin CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”

Harry Reasoner retired in 1991.  Three months later he died — from complications of a fall at his Westport home.