Elise Maclay — a poet, writer, foodie, elegant dresser and accomplished traveler — died peacefully January 5, in her Westport home by Long Island Sound. She was 95.
She spent her final days looking over the water, surrounded by family and with a photo of her beloved husband David at her side.
Elise attended the College of William & Mary on a full scholarship. She majored in English, graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and served as class poet until her death.
Elise had a successful early career in the heady Mad men days of advertising. She commuted to New York from Connecticut with 2 small children at home, gracefully navigating the mandatory 3-martini lunches in an otherwise male world.
She wrote copy for the prestigious BMW account — and once posed as the model for an ad she created, when the talent did not show up.
Elise’s poetry appeared in publications like Nature magazine. Her “Walk Softly” is often quoted by nature lovers.
She wrote 2 books of prose poems, and collaborated on 5 other books with artist Bev Doolittle.
Elise’s poetry, and interest in Native American, wildlife and nature themes, complements Doolittle’s “camouflage” art.
Elise sourced fine food locally, long before chefs used cilantro and kale. A carnivore, she enjoyed great food robustly. Her culinary taste and writing gifts led to another career. For over 25 years she was Connecticut Magazine’s food critic. She captured tastes, ambiance and the personalities and dreams of chefs.
The number of exquisite meals delivered to her home in recent months is a testament to the loyalty and gratitude of many chefs, young and old, whom she discovered and celebrated.
But her true passion was travel — preferably adventures to far and exotic locales — with her husband. She hiked Machu Picchu, explored the Himalayas and climbed Mt. Kenya in a blizzard.
She, her niece LeeLee and dear friend Fi explored the Caribbean islands, Italy and Portugal as recently as last February.
Closer to home, she was a beloved presence at her family’s summer home on Cape Cod. She walked the beaches, swam, read by the fire, and regaled generations of family and friends with adventures and cherished memories.
Her spirit is carried on by her son Gary Gibbs, his wife Kaija and their 4 children; stepson Bill Maclay, his wife Alex, and their 2 sons; stepson David Maclay Jr., his wife Juliet and their 2 sons; cousn Joyce Haun, and an extended network of neighbors, chefs and friends from all walks of life.
She was predeceased by her husband David, son Brian Gibbs and stepdaughter Sherry Maclay.
Elise would want all to know David’s final words, quoting Tennessee Williams: “Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”
Memorials will be held post-COVID in Westport and Chatham, Massachusetts.
Westporters love Tom Kretsch’s photos. They love Saugatuck Sweets. And they love Al’s Angels.
So plan to stop by the ice cream shop patio on the river tomorrow (Saturday, October 10, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.). Kretsch will display his evocative images — many of his home town.
A percentage of all sales benefits Al’s Angels, the nonprofit started by Saugatuck Sweets owner Al DiGuido to help families with children battling cancer, and families with food needs.
Last weekend, 35 mothers and daughters from Westport’s National Charity League spent a cleaning Compo Beach. The effort supported NCL’s philanthropy partner, Save the Sound.
Volunteers removed over 45 pounds of garbage from the beach. They found PPE, plastic bags, straws and food wrappers, along with 235 cigarette butts, 160 bottle caps and 33 balloons. Data collected will help Save the Sound stop debris at its source.
A small bit of all the trash.
What’s new at the Senior Center?
Its first-ever pumpkin decorating contest. It’s October 30 (11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.).
Submissions will be judged on originality and scariness. Members can vote for their favorite pumpkins while picking up a drive-through lunch (chicken pot pie, salad, roll, cookie and Halloween treats) from staff members (in costumes).
Seniors can enjoy their meal while socially distancing in the parking lot. Prizes include a Halloween goodie bucket, and a gift card for a Senior Center luncheon.
Lunch is $8. The cost to enter the contest: free (and priceless).
ADL Connecticut’s 10th annual Walk Against Hate will look from the first 9. Though participants can’t join together physically, they’ll still send a powerful message.
Individuals, families, friends, colleagues and teammates are invited to get creative. They can walk wherever they want, from October 12-18. Registration is free, though fundraising is encouraged to help ADL fight anti-Semitism, racism and all forms of hate.
Fundraisers who give or get more than $50 get an ADL bandanna. The first 1,000 people to raise over $150 receive t-shirts.
ADL Connecticut has a strong Westport presence. Director Steve Ginsburg lives here; so does Walk Against Hate chair Claudia Cohen.
Jill Nadel chairs the outreach committee). Terry Bernard, Shelly Herst, Margie Jacobson, Ken Backman, Sara Weiner (co-chair of the education committee), Bret Weiner, Chuck Harris, Liz Kaner, Lynne Goldstein and John Kaufman are all on ADL’s state board. Many other Westporters serve in other capacities.
To register for or donate to the Walk Against Hate, click here.
Instead of a traditional luncheon, the American Cancer Society’s annual “Women Leading the Way to Wellness” event (Wednesday, November 18), is on Facebook Live.
There’s an option to buy a $125 “Wellness Box” to enhance the viewing experience. The boxes are valued at over $175, and include products from The Granola Bar, Performance Physical Therapy and West.
Staples High School is open today (Monday, August 10) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for Westport residents to use hot showers. Everyone must bring their own towels and toiletries. The Community Emergency Response Team will assist with scheduling and social distancing.
Yesterday, CERT volunteers delivered food to seniors in need.
The Westport Library is open from noon to 6 p.m. today too, so residents can charge their devices. Everyone must wear a mask, maintain social distance, and limit their stay to an hour.
Need a place to work?
Office Evolution — the work space in the office building opposite fire headquarters — offers a low rate for this week: a $50 day pass for a private office; $25 for socially distanced co-working, with no additional or hidden fees, and free Starbucks coffee! (Strict safety protocols are of course in place.)
“Hocon is a big problem. This is the second storm where they let us run out of propane when we have a partial generator. My husband started calling them Thursday to say that we had 55% in the tank and would run out by Sunday. He called Sunday 5 times explaining that we’re not getting power till Tuesday midnight or Wednesday. They promised to come today, without an estimated time, but never came.
“I have a heart condition, atrial fibrillation that gets very exasperated by heat. We have a couple of fans going. When the generator dies, which will happen within the hour, we will have nothing to deal with this heat, and tomorrow’s heat.
“It’s so frustrating to have invested in a generator and not be able to get propane when we need it. This is so upsetting.”
Like many Westporters, John Karrel has been struck by the sudden necessity for actual dollars, quarters and dimes. He writes:
“A week ago, all bets were that cash was on its way out in our world. Yesterday I picked up dinner at March Burger Lobster. I’m now sitting outside Donut Crazy with my iced coffee. Both establishments: cash only!
“The volatility of a pandemic. The shorter-term volatility of a severe power outage. For sure, not our last power outage. Maybe cash does remain a viable Plan B.”
It sure does. Provided your ATM has power.
A reader writes: “Could you provide an update on Optimum, the local cable/internet monopoly? How widespread is their outage? When will they get back online? They are not answering calls or calling back.
“By the way, when I called to cancel part of my service due to an exorbitant monthly fee (before the storm hit), they told me they closed their cancellation department.”
I don’t have any info from Optimum (or Altice, the parent company). I don’t have any sources there either. If any readers knows the answers — or has a special number to call — please click “Comments” below.
You may not have had power. But Mystic Bowie and Talking Dreads had plenty of it yesterday.
The popular band rocked Westport, in the 2nd of back-to-back sold-out “Supper & Soul” shows at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.
Everyone — the powered-up and the power-less — had a fantastic time. Kudos to Mystic and the Dreads. And of course to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. Which should probably change its name to “Chamber of Concerts.”
A small part of the large crowd last night.
For the past few days, Westport was up the proverbial creek, without the proverbial paddle.
But grab those paddles. August 14-31 are the dates for the 5th annual Paddle for the Sound. This year it’s virtual, so even the most land-locked lubbers can join.
For 17 days, Save the Sound will help participants raise awareness and funds to find and fix pollution sources, while leading habitat restoration projects throughout the Long Island Sound region.
Prizes will be awarded to 1st place finishers in the Paddle/Kayak, Sail, and Run/Walk divisions for total distance traveled or time spent doing their sport over the span of the event. Prizes also go to the top fundraisers.
Participants will start their virtual races from self-selected launch points, tracking their miles and time with each excursion. Those interested in supporting without racing can “raise their paddle” in an online virtual auction featuring private boat excursions, local artisan products, and a signed New York Giants jersey. For more information and to register, click here.
Local photographer Michael Chait, whose photographs are part of the permanent collection in the Brooklyn Museum, has an outdoor photo show and sale closer to home.
It’s next Sunday (August 9, 12 to 5 p.m., in the outdoor courtyard at 11 Riverside Avenue). It’s an eclectic, “kooky” exhibit of photos through several decade, including classic cars and cityscapes. All are framed and ready to hang.
A classic car photo, by Michael Chait
Back in action, and with power: (among many other businesses): Granola Bar, Ignazio’s, and Joey’s by the Shore Featuring Elvira Mae’s Coffee Bar. We are getting back to normal!
PS: For the past few days, Kawa Ni has operated a food truck.
And finally … utility crews have arrived in Westport from all over. I haven’t seen a Wichita lineman — but I had a great chat Saturday with 2 from Neosho, Missouri, just a few miles from the Kansas border. They drove non-stop to get here, and are driving back and forth from their hotel — which is in Chicopee, Massachusetts (north of Springfield). Westport owes a huge thanks to all the linemen (and linewomen), working hard for us from all around North America.
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