Between the 1970s and 2000s, thousands of kids grew up in Westport.
Barbara Rose knew most of them.
As the owner of the Sea Squirts summer camp at Compo Beach, and the Shore Squirts daycare/nursery school she operated in her Greens Farms home, Barbara was a calming presence for generations of local children.
And their parents.
The camp and childcare are gone. But Barbara is still going strong. Next month, she turns 90 years old.
A New York City native, Barbara moved with her family to Hutchinson, Kansas during World War II. Her mother was Bolivian, part of a diplomatic family involved later with the United Nations. Her father helped train pilots for the war.
After the war, the family moved back east. They spent summers in Westport, eventually settling here permanently. Their first house was on Easton Road.
Barbara graduated from the Bolton School, a small private institution on the corner of Wilton Road and Kings Highway North — currently the site of medical offices — that was a predecessor of Greens Farms Academy.
Always an active athlete, in her 30s Barbara discovered skiing. She soon became an instructor, in Vermont.
That’s where she met her longtime best friend, Adrienne Shields — and future husband, fellow instructor Robert Rose.
They and the O’Donnell family of Westport bought a restaurant/bar nearby: The Sticky Wicket. Bob and Barbara had 3 children: Peter, Deering and Scott.
The couple divorced after 12 years. Barbara raised her children in Westport in the 1960s and ’70s. In the summer she took them to Compo Beach. That’s where she got the idea for a beach-themed camp for young kids.
Soon, she had a fleet of counselors, and a bursting roster of infants to 12-year-olds. When the weather was bad, campers headed to Barbara’s church, Trinity Episcopal in Southport.
Sea Squirts’ morning sessions grew into a full-day Lazy Days camp for 8-12-year-olds. The preschool followed soon thereafter.
Barbara played in the town softball league, and adult soccer, well into her 50s. She was also a founder of the Westport Soccer Association, in 1976. She is still an avid Aquafit member, at the Westport Weston Family Y.
As her children grew up, playing a variety of sports, she never missed a game. She often brought a preschooler or two along, in a VW bus or woodie wagon.
In her spare time, she and her family — which included 4 others through marriage, and now 8 grandchildren — headed to Watch Hill, Rhode Island. She was never far from the water.
Barbara’s children have planned a 90th birthday celebration for June 4 (4 to 7 p.m.) — appropriately, near the brick pavilion at Compo. Peter, Deering and Scott say: “Whether you were a camper, student, counselor or parent, we and she would love to see you!”
A beach sticker is not required. After all those years, the town has graciously allowed time-limited free parking for the party. Just tell the gate attendant you’re one of Barbara’s Sea Squirts!