Tag Archives: Pete Wolgast

Remembering Elliott Netherton

Elliott Netherton was a tireless Westport Historical Society volunteer.

But the Connecticut plates on his sleek, dark green classic Jaguar always read “KY COL.”

The University of Kentucky graduate and former Kentucky National Guard officer spent 34 years with GE as a financial management executive.

Yet it was his life after retirement that made his death last Thursday at 83 so impactful on Westport.

Elliott Netherton

Elliott Netherton

As CFO of the Historical Society — during the Great Recession — Elliott moved assets into no-load index funds.

Other non-profits staggered, as sponsorships and donations plummeted. But the WHS — which was still paying off a mortgage — thrived.

“Elliott was dealing with very serious heart issues at the time,” then-president Dorothy Curran recalls. “He put his health — perhaps even his life — on the line for us.

“He was not always easy to work with. He knew his parliamentary procedure cold, had no use for wandering conversation, and insisted that board meetings end promptly at 5:30 p.m.”

His chair says it all.

His chair says it all.

But, Curran says, “he was a quiet, principled, tireless force of nature. There never was any question that his moral compass, financial integrity and heart for service, above and beyond, were in the right place.”

The WHS was hardly Elliott’s only volunteer activity.

He was a longtime Boy Scout leader (during and after GE, at the local, district and national levels). He was an avid Y’s Men participant (recruiting excellent retired executives from that group for the WHS financial advisory committee).

He served Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church with his financial acumen. He also was an officer of Westport’s Republican  Town Committee (and spent many Election Days as a poll monitor).

Elliott and Joyce Netherton.

Elliott and Joyce Netherton.

In support of his wife Joyce — a distinguished executive and volunteer in her own right — he worked the “boiler room” of the Westport Woman’s Club during Yankee Doodle Fair crunch time, counting cash late into the night.

Longtime friend and fellow volunteer Pete Wolgast also salutes Elliott’s integrity.

“He could always be counted on to do the right thing,” the fellow church finance committee member says.

“He was highly intelligent. And he used native ability, along with his experience from many years as an internal auditor at GE, to be an extremely valuable member of many non-profits.”

Elliott Netherton, in his military days.

Elliott Netherton, in his military days.

Pete says Elliott “straightened out the church’s accounting and finances, and brought them up to general accounting standards.” When Pete became WHS president in 1995, he did the same for that organization.

Then he did it all over again, for the Y’s Men.

On Sunday, Pete stopped by Elliott’s house.

Seeing Elliott’s Jag with the “KY COL” plates in the driveway, Pete says, “I realized our community had lost an outstanding citizen.”

(A memorial service for Elliott Netherton is set for Tuesday, June 7, 1 p.m. at Christ & Holy Trinity Church. Hat tip: Rick Towers and Bob Mitchell)

Remembering Roy Dickinson

Longtime Westporter — and always-ready-to-work civic volunteer — Roy Dickinson died yesterday, from a heart condition.

Roy served as a Parks & Recreation commissioner, president of both the Westport Historical Society and the Y’s Men, and deputy moderator of the RTM.

Roy Dickinson

Roy Dickinson

He was also a director of the Aspetuck Land Trust, a member of the Republican Town Committee, and an active member of the Green’s Farms Congregational Church. He was deeply involved with the Westport Library too.

As Historical Society president, Roy was instrumental in developing Woody Klein’s book on the history of Westport. At the WHS, he was a major force behind the completion of the Octagonal Barn.

Roy had a long career with Pfizer. As an executive in their water purification area, he brought water to areas of the world with limited access to it.

A memorial service will be held at Green’s Farms Congregational Church, at a date to be announced.

(Thanks to Pete Wolgast for this background information. Roy Dickinson co-chaired Pete’s campaign for 1st selectman in 1993.)

The Great (Duck) Race

Tomorrow’s 4th annual Great Duck Race (Saturday, June 30) is a great excuse to go downtown.

Starting at 10 a.m., there’s here’s children’s arts and crafts, face painting, a bounce castle, “duck decorating,” music and food.

At 1 p.m. 3000 ducks — each with a number — will be dropped into the Saugatuck River near the Post Road Bridge. A boom will be pulled away; they’ll “race” 200 feet. (Fear not: The ducks are made of “an environmentally sensitive compound.”)

Dumping the ducks into the boom.

If a duck you bought ($20 each) with your number is one of the 1st 10, you’ll win a prize. First prize is a $5,000 Visa gift card; 2nd prize is a $1,000 card, and 3rd through 10th are $500 Visa cards. (You don’t have to be present to win.)

All well and good (and for a good cause: Westport Sunrise Rotary, and all their good works).

But Westporters with long memories remember a different “Great Race.” And the racers were humans, not ducks.

The 1st Great Race was held in 1976, as part of America’s bicentennial celebration. It lasted a few years.

In 1991, Sunrise Rotary resurrected it. It was an all-hands-0n deck competition. Kayaks, canoes, dinghies, windsurfers, catamarans — and everything else, from Tom Sawyer rafts, to boats in the shape of Smurfs and Elvis, to science experiment failures — were launched from the library park.

They made their way (hopefully) to Cockenoe Island. There, sailors dodged rats and gnats as they picked up a trash bag of garbage.

Every July from 1991 to 1999, Great Racers cleaned up garbage.

Then — powered only by their own muscle (and, sometimes, prodigious amounts of beer) — they returned to the Post Road bridge. Prizes were awarded for fastest time, most garbage and silliest boat.

The event required tons of work. Sunrise Rotary member Pete Wolgast quickly ascended the Great Race organizational ladder. One year after overseeing Port-o-Potties, he was general manager.

The job entailed everything from finding the right day (the tide had to be high around noon) to overseeing the Jesup Green fair. There were live bands, plus 15 to 20 booths featuring face painting, horse rides, slides, a dunk tank and food stands. (The Daughters of the British Empire sold strawberries and cream.)

The Great Race also included skydiver Howard Burling (the former Westport cop aimed for a spot between the green and the river), and post office booth to cancel special Great Race stamps designed by local artists. For a while, the race itself was even broadcast on WICC.

During its time the Great Race raised well over $100,000, which the Sunrise Rotary distributed to local and international charities.

In 1999 Pete became president of Sunrise Rotary. No one had all the time needed to organize the Great Race, so it was “suspended.” (The club turned to a more traditional fundraiser: a wine tasting.)

Four years ago, Sunrise Rotary resurrected the event — this time as a ducks-only affair.

But — whether you’re paddling your own boat, or hoping that duck in front has your lucky number — it’s still a great race.

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