Tag Archives: Westport Beautification Committee

Remembering Claire Ford

Claire Moran Ford — a longtime Westporter and civic volunteer, whose beautification efforts enhance our town decades later — died July 28, at 89. She was surrounded by her loving family and parish priest.

The Long Island native thoroughly enjoyed Cornell University, where she received a BS in home economics and met Clark George Ford. They wed in 1954 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and lived in New York City and Germany, while Clark served in the U.S. Army. The couple settled in Westport in 1959, where they raised 3 children. Claire lived in their home on Timber Lane until 2015, and sold their home earlier this year.

She lived a full life enriched by family, social, professional, educational, religious, and volunteer experiences. She was an avid reader and gardener, and enjoyed cooking meals and hosting parties for family and friends. Claire was also an exceptional listener, problem solver and friend.

Claire’s early career was in marketing, starting with Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, then with Young & Rubicam in Manhattan. She later worked for the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, after which she was a realtor in Westport with William Raveis and Coldwell Banker.

Claire Ford

Claire’s numerous volunteer activities included first chair of the Westport Beautification Committee. Established by First Selectman John Kemish in 1968, in partnership with the Planning & Zoning Commission, under Claire’s leadership the committee purchased small parcels of land, transforming them (and existing town land) into beautiful parks.

Working with the town and Westport Woman’s Club, the Beautification Committee contributed to the success of the Greening of the Post Road initiative, responsible for the thoughtful planting and care of trees and shrubs along the heavily traveled route.

Nearly 50 years later, some of the first trees planted still add to the beauty of Claire’s favorite town. After stepping down as chair, Claire continued serving on the Beautification Committee for decades.

She also chaired the flower committee, taught religious education and managed audio/visual equipment usage at St. Luke Parish, where she was a parishioner from 1959 until her death.

Claire served on the Westport Republican Town Committee and was a member of the Westport Woman’s Club, Westport Young Woman’s League, League of Women Voters of Westport and Republican Women of Westport. She volunteered at STAR, supporting individuals with special needs. She also volunteered at the Connecticut Unemployment Office, bringing both assistance and compassion to those going through a hard time.

Claire served as a justice of the peace, and enjoyed providing joy by performing weddings. She was an active supporter of her children’s interest in scouting, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, serving as a Cub Scout den mother and a Girl Scout troop leader, while also serving on the Board of the Southwestern Connecticut Girl Scouts Council.

Claire’s social activities included the “Beach Bunch” (friends who celebrated and thoroughly enjoyed Compo Beach together for nearly 60 years); Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Community Theater, Westport Community Gardens (founding member), the Gourmet Club, Food & Friends, County Capers and Cotillion dance clubs, multiple book groups, Cornell Club of Fairfield County (president for 10 years), Cornell Class of ‘53 (reunion chair for many reunions, and Columbine Investment Club.

Claire was always curious and adventuresome. She said she lived vicariously through her children, encouraging and supporting them in pursuing their interests. However, generations of family and friends continue to be inspired by her involvement in the world around her.

Claire’s most recent return to the classroom was at Norwalk Community College where in her mid-80’s she took several courses, fueling her passion for learning about history and the ever-changing world.

In her teens during the 1940’s she loved to pilot airplanes. In her 20s she took racing lessons using her beloved 1953 Jaguar XK-120. Claire and Clark had a lifelong love of travel, and took their family on trips within the US, and across Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.

During her nearly 53 years of marriage to Clark, Claire exemplified the perfect partner. She was loving, collaborative, supportive, insightful, objective and independent, inspiring her children and grandchildren (among others) to live happy, healthy and balanced lives.

In recent years Claire lived at Maplewood at Strawberry Hill and, when it opened, Maplewood at Southport, where she socialized with her many new friends. She served on the Residents Committee, participated in the book club, attended movie screenings and outings with family and residents, and hosted numerous family gatherings, much as she had done throughout her life.

Claire is survived by her children, Jeff, Suzie and Chris; grandchildren Blair, Jaime, Max and Chloe, along with nieces and cousins. Her brother, Lawrence Joseph Moran, passed away 22 days after she did. Her husband Clark died in 2007.

A funeral mass will be celebrated at St. Luke Church on Saturday, November 6 (10:30 a.m.). It will be live streamed at https://www.saintlukewestport.org. A celebration of life luncheon will follow immediately.

Letters of condolence can be sent to Claire Ford Family, 606 Post Road East, Suite 3, #507, Westport, CT 06880 or clairefordfamily@gmail.com.

In lieu of flowers, donations “in memory of Claire Moran Ford” can be made to the Cornell Annual Fund online at www.giving.cornell.edu. There is a section online to specify “Cornell Fund” and another to specify “in memory of” information. Checks can be mailed to: Cornell University, Box 37334, Boone, IA 50037-0334.

Remembering Angela Trucks

Longtime resident Angela Trucks died last weekend. She was 69.

Her mark on Westport through beautification efforts is visible — literally — everywhere we look.

The Long Island native was a teacher, restaurant owner, and a village trustee. She was also one of the first female regional sales managers for Del Monte Foods. 

Angela is survived by her husband William; her daughters Leigh Lutenski and Emma Trucks; their spouses Mark Lutenski and Jordan Padnuk, and her grandchildren Leonardo and Benjamin Lutenski, and Josephine Padnuk. Linda Adelman offers this tribute:

Angela Trucks was a force of energy to be reckoned with. She was artistic, curious, passionate and tenacious in her efforts to promote beauty. She loved Westport, and Westport benefited from her perseverance.

Angela Trucks

For well over a decade, as co-chair with Nancy Carr of the Westport Beautification Committee, Angela — a master gardener — conceived of and completed projects that improved the appearance of public spaces and promoted pride in our community. She maneuvered through bureaucracy, sought funding and donations, fostered consensus, and tackled physical work if needed.

The Re-Greening of the Post Road was a major 3-year project to improve the visual appeal of the Post Road between the Fairfield and Norwalk borders, and the median between Roseville Road and the Sherwood Island Connector.

Undaunted by state Department of Transportation red tape, town bureaucracy, business owners’ concerns, a shortage of funding or anything else, Angela resourcefully found ways to ensure that 90 trees were planted and cared for.

Angela encouraged business owners to take pride in their property, publicly recognizing the most outstanding “streetscapes” at an annual awards ceremony in Town Hall.

She envisioned gardens of perennials on the corners of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, and made them happen.

Every spring, she guided the committee as they organized and oversaw the participation of local businesses in the planting of flowers and shrubs on traffic rotaries. They were called “Adopt-A-Spots,” and Angela was relentless in her effort to reduce the number of illegal signs littering those islands.

In the early years of her tenure, Angela delegated committee members to cut evergreens wherever they could find them to use as holiday decorations in baskets on light poles along Main Street. She never hesitated to climb a ladder to “plant” those baskets.

Angela Trucks, hanging a basket on Main Street.

Angela Trucks was warm, generous of spirit and full of life. She was an inspiration, a beloved leader and friend. She worked without fanfare, but had a lasting impact on Westport’s public landscape.

Angela’s death has left a hole in our hearts. She is a hero who will be greatly missed by many.

(In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Norwalk Hospital, in recognition of the caring and dedicated nursing staff.)

How Green Was My Post Road

Spring is here (in fits and starts). Lawns turn green. Flowers bloom. Trees come alive again, turning Westport into a lush, lovely town at every turn.

Trees define this place. They give permanence to our property. They link us to our past. And they line our roadsides.


From 1972-76, a major program remade the look of Westport. Thanks to the Westport Woman’s Club — with direction from Eloise Ray and Elaine Rusk — over 300 trees were planted on the Post Road. From the Southport line to Norwalk, those new trees turned our main artery — lined with gas stations, stores, office buildings and parking lots — into something special.

The Post Road near Maple Avenue, in 1976. The KFC was located opposite the Shell gas station (still there) and what is now Athletic Shoe Factory. (Photo/Dan Cronin)

The Post Road near Maple Avenue, in 1976. The KFC was located opposite the Shell gas station (still there) and what is now Athletic Shoe Factory. (Photo/Dan Cronin)

For good reason, the project was called “The Greening of the Post Road.” The town’s Beautification Committee took over annual maintenance of the trees. That work “will probably continue in some form as long as there is a Westport,” a report proclaimed a few years later.

Of course, it’s tough to care for trees that don’t exist.

In the 4 decades since the Post Road was greened, more than 2/3 of those trees have disappeared.

Some died of disease or drought. Others fell to the effects of road salt or car accidents. Some were sacrificed to the needs of utility companies. Others were removed by property owners — during renovations, because they blocked views of stores, or hung over sidewalks, or were too hard to care for. Or for no real reason at all.

As this photo shows, most of the trees near the former Subway restaurant and Sherwood Diner are gone.

As this photo shows, most of the trees near the former Subway restaurant and Sherwood Diner are gone.

A “re-greening project” in 2008 added 100 new trees to the Post Road. Still, only 80 or so trees from both programs survive.

Silver maples have been removed from the Barnes & Noble plaza. A giant sycamore is gone from the old Cedar Brook Cafe. Construction at the new Maserati dealer and Subway are 2 more recent examples where trees no longer stand.

Now, a newly reconstituted Tree Board is ready to re-re-green the heart of Westport.

The 7-member committee — appointed by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, and chaired by Tricia Rubenstein — includes horticulturalists, a dendrologist and a landscape architect. Dick Stein also serves on the state Notable Trees Project. Al Gratrix is a Planning and Zoning Commission alternate.

Recently, the Tree Board met with Beautification Committee chair Kathy Davis-Groener. Together — and with the help of the P&Z Department — they will Make The Post Road Green Again.

In areas like this -- with Sasco Creek Village is on the right, and Lansdowne Condos (not shown) on the left, the Greening of the Post Road project still bears fruit. (Photo/Google Street View)

In areas like this — with Sasco Creek Village on the right, and Lansdowne Condos (not shown) on the left, the Greening of the Post Road project still bears fruit. (Photo/Google Street View)

Fortunately, the US 1 project is not starting from Square 1.

Voluminous files — and dozens of photographs — document the work of the many committed volunteers in the 1970s.

They’ve got the law on their side too. P&Z regulations set landscape standards. For example, they require shade trees every 50 feet in front of any commercial business. In addition, “all landscaping plans shall conform with the ‘Greening of the Post Road Tree Program,” among other requirements.

The  Tree Board will determine the right species, and the right places to plant them. Not every tree can survive near constant traffic.

Sycamores seem to be the hardiest — they’re thriving near Carvel and Stop & Shop. Norway maples appear to have the toughest time.

Most of the trees planted in the 1970s by 606 Post Road East have been removed. (Photo/Google Street View)

Most of the trees planted in the 1970s by 606 Post Road East have been removed. (Photo/Google Street View)

But that’s not the only challenge. Roadway shoulders are state right-of-way. But — even though P&Z regulations require trees — state authorities need permission from property owners to plant there. “It’s a gray area,” the tree board says.

The state Department of Transportation does not say so exactly, but the fewer trees they have to worry about, the happier they are. (US1 is a state road.)

The DOT employs an arborist. But his office is in New Haven; his territory runs from Greenwich to Guilford, and all the way north to Redding. That’s a lot of trees for one guy to cover.

Some trees remain near the Fresh Market shopping center. Others have been planted in the parking lot, as per town regulations. But many others are gone from the roadside.

Some trees remain near the Fresh Market shopping center. Others have been planted in the parking lot, as per town regulations. But many others are gone from the roadside. (Photo/Google Street View)

The new greening project will not involve fundraising. It’s the obligation of property owners — including those proposing new construction, or renovations — to replace the trees they remove.

And, the Tree Board notes, to replace those that a previous property owner might have cut down, too.

Back in the Ford administration, the Greening of the Post Road changed the look — and feel — of Westport’s Post Road. The moment anyone crossed the border into Norwalk, the difference was clear.

The Post Road/Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road intersection is one of the worst in Fairfield County. But at least there's greenery on the way to Norwalk.

The Post Road/Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road intersection is one of the worst in Fairfield County. But at least there’s greenery on the way to Norwalk.

The effects of the project were expected to live for generations. Barely 4 decades later, a new program is sorely needed.

But this Tree Board is optimistic. They know their cause is a good one — environmentally as well as aesthetically — and the time is right.

They also know they can’t do it alone. If you’re interested in helping — or want more information — click here. Or email westporttreeboard@gmail.com, or treewarden@westportct.gov.


Turned On For The Holidays

New light posts went up downtown last week.

Last night, the Main Street holiday decorations — snowflakes, garlands, red and gold bows — were installed, and turned on.

Holiday lights - downtown

The result — a vast improvement over last year’s lame zip line — was a collaborative effort. The Downtown Merchants Association ponied up the funds, while the DMA, town officials and Beautification Committee helped it all come together.

The Beautification Committee plans to decorate the baskets on the old cobra-style lights too. Those poles will remain up until after New Year’s. Removing them now would disrupt holiday shopping — and leave gaping holes in the sidewalk, until they’re bricked over.

Downtown once again looks quite festive. Take that, Fairfield!

How Our Gardens Grow

The 2 gardens at the eastern (Klaff’s/Starbucks) end of the Post Road bridge have gotten a bit grotty.

As “gateways” to Westport — among the 1st things you see as you enter downtown from the Merritt, I-95 or Post Road — they provide a poor 1st impression.  Built 20 years ago, they’re now weed-infested, overgrown and neglected.

The only people who care about them, it seemed, were folks who trampled over them putting up illegal signs, which stayed long after the events they advertised were done.

The 2 gardens were designed to be mirror images of each other.  Now all they share is decrepitude.

But if you want to see for yourself, you better hurry.  All that is about to change.

The town Beautification Committee is giving the “Gateway Gardens” an extreme makeover.

It hasn’t been easy.

Four months ago, a generous company agreed to pay for renovations.  The committee solicited plans.  Five local firms complied. 3 were selected — Laurel Rock, Daybreak and Geiger’s — and their proposals were passed on to the benefactor.

But the company reneged on its offer.  The Beautification Committee apologized to the 3 garden design firms, and wondered what to do next.

Nancy Carr and Angela Trucks at work, weeding a Gateway Garden.

A week later, Burton DeMarche called.  35 years ago his father founded Dickson DeMarche Landscape Architects in Westport.  Now called LaurelRock, after Burt — a horticulturist — joined DDLA,  it’s expanded to become one of Fairfield County’s leading sustainable design/build firms.

Though its headquarters are in Wilton, DeMarche wanted to do something for his hometown.  He offered to donate LaurelRock’s services — from planning and plantings to hardscape materials and installation — to bring the gardens back to life.

And to do it in time for this year’s Fine Arts Festival — July 16 and 17.

It’s a donation valued at over $35,000.  Beautification co-chair Angela Trucks calls LaurelRock “our heroes.”

LaurelRock also agreed to maintain the gardens through the fall.  Then the Downtown Merchants Association will take over.  The Beautification Committee will pay for water.  (No easy task — it must be trucked in.)

DeMarche has assigned one of his top landscape designers — Brian Westermeyer — to the project.  “We drew our inspiration from the bridge’s shape and structure, as well as the river,” he says.

He’s creating a garden that will blend in with both.  Plantings — including evergreen ground cover and hedges, perennials and flowering shrubs — will provide “an ever-changing palette of color, texture and pattern year-round.”

Trucks is thrilled by the new Gateway Gardens.  “With stress levels so high here, it’s important to ride through town and see beauty,” she says.  “This is such a pivotal spot, and to make it beautiful says a lot about Westport.”

She applauds the partnership between her committee, the DMA and town officials — and is thrilled at the generosity of LaurelRock.

“There are still a lot of giving people around,” she says.

And they’re giving downtown the gift of beauty.

(The dedication ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, July 17 at 1 p.m.)

One last look at a grungy Gateway Garden.