Tag Archives: Westport Sunrise Rotary

Well, It Sure Didn’t Take Long For The Duck To Face Plant Itself This Year

“Sunny” — the enormous yellow duck that serves as great PR for the Sunrise Rotary Club’s annual Great Duck Race — was inflated yesterday on Jesup Green.

Usually it takes a few days — after it’s been moved to the Saugatuck River — for it to topple over.

This year: less than 24 hours.

(Photo/Richard Hyman)

(Photo/Aya Camp)

If you’re wondering: This year’s race is Saturday, June 1 (11 a.m., Parker Harding Plaza). Click here for tickets, and more information.

Sunrise Rotary Member Spurs International Peace Effort

Dennis Wong is a longtime Westport Sunrise Rotary Club member.

From the Great Duck Race to the Uncorked Wine Tasting, he’s there — with 2 helping hands, and a broad smile.

But Dennis’ real passion is peace. Six years ago he co-founded the Rotarian Action Group for Peace. The network empowers and supports Rotary clubs and individuals, offering structure, guidance and resource to further peace efforts around the globe.

He’s not in it for glory — just harmony. Yet this month The Rotarian — the organization’s official magazine, with a circulation of over 500,000 — profiled Dennis and co-founder Al Jubitz.

The Rotarian magazine’s photo of Dennis Wong was taken at the UN. (Photo courtesy of The Rotarian)

In the story, Dennis describes his vision of “conflict transformation.” It focuses on “understanding and ameliorating the underlying causes that spark conflict.” That’ s different than the traditional “conflict resolution,” which simply aims to end disputes.

It’s also something that aligns well with Rotary’s principles, Dennis says. He believes that his group has made Rotarians around the world more aware of — and ready to work for — peace, as a definable goal.

The group’s board members come from the Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan, the US and Wales.

They work on issues ranging from gender equality and human trafficking to the Middle East and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Unsung Heroes #66

Hundreds of Westporters enjoyed lobsters (and more) at last weekend’s annual Lobsterfest.

Hundreds more pack downtown every June for the Great Duck Race.

A few take advantage of a specialized wheelchair, to enjoy the sand and shore at Compo Beach.

All are events sponsored — and projects supported — by Westport’s 2 Rotary clubs.

One meets Tuesdays at noon, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall.

The Sunrise Rotary meets Fridays at 7:30 a.m., at the Westport Inn.

Both clubs are filled with busy Westporters, who nonetheless give astonishing amounts of time and energy to raise tons of money. Then they give it all away, to help people in town, across Connecticut, elsewhere in the US and around the world.

I am a huge fan of both the Sunrise and noontime Rotary Clubs. But I admit: I have a hard time keeping them apart.

No matter. Rotarians in both groups put aside their friendly (I think) rivalry, to support each other’s good works — and Rotary International in general.

You may have no idea that so much good comes out of so much hard work, by so many neighbors.

That’s why Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Pic Of The Day #418

Crowds line Parker Harding Plaza for the start of today’s Great Duck Race. Nearly 3,000 plastic yellow ducks are corraled at the north end of the Saugatuck River. The event is a major fundraiser for Westport’s Sunrise Rotary Club. (Drone photo/Ryan Felner)

Pics Of The Day #409

A bird’s-eye view of the Great Duck Race duck …

… and a wider-angle duck (Drone photos/Ben Berkley)

State Of The Town

Presidents make State of the Union speeches. Governors have their own (weirdly named) State of the States.

Now Westport introduces the State of the Town.

Unlike the other events, this one is a public forum. Questions are welcome from normal (as in, you and I) citizens.

It’s set for Sunday, January 28 (4 p.m., Town Hall). First Selectman Jim Marpe and Board of Education chair Michael Gordon will discuss town and school issues. Both are in charge of big budgets — and both wield important influence on what this town is, and where it’s going.

The State of the Town is a joint project of Westport Sunrise Rotary and the Westport Rotary Club. Incoming presidents Eileen Flug and Jeff Wieser joined current presidents Ron Holtz and Susie Basler to make the event a reality.

The State of the Town is a great way to learn what’s going on — and give feedback.

And enjoy fine refreshments, courtesy of Panera Bread.

Unsung Hero #17

If you’ve been in Westport for any length of time, you’ve probably heard — and met — Jo Fuchs Luscombe.

She’s been involved in every aspect of life here — politics, education, community service. If it needs doing, Jo has done it.

But how many people know her back story?

A Dallas native, she was just a year old when her father — an oilman — moved the family to Venezuela. Jo grew up speaking Spanish — and gaining an important, real-world view of life.

She went to boarding school and college in Texas, headed to Katherine Gibbs secretarial school, got married at 19 and had a child at 20.

Jo Fuchs Luscombe

Her husband was in oil too, so they headed to Libya. Jo learned Italian there, and was once more immersed in a very different culture.

In 1969, the family moved back to the US. Her boys were 13 and 10.

In her mid-30s, Jo and her husband divorced. Encouraged by Rev. Dana Forrest Kennedy, she threw herself into every aspect Christ & Holy Trinity Church. She became president of the Women’s Guild, served on the vestry, and ran fundraisers.

She got interested too in the Westport Historical Society. Jo was a driving force behind the acquisition and restoration of Wheeler House — owned at the time by her church — as the organization’s headquarters.

In 1980, Jo was asked to fill out an unexpired term on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Public speaking did not come easily. But — as with everything else in her life — she worked to master it.

She won a full term on her own, then was appointed to the vacant post of 3rd selectman.

In 1986, Jo headed up her friend and fellow Westporter Julie Belaga’s campaign for governor.

Jo’s next step was the state House of Representatives. She served 5 terms — from 1987 to ’97 — and rose to Republican minority whip.

Retirement from state politics did not slow her down. As a member of Westport’s School Building Committee, she helped oversee 5 major construction and renovation projects (including the new Staples High School).

Jo Fuchs Luscombe (Photo courtesy of Westport Woman’s Club)

Remarriage did not slow her down either. Jo has been president of the Westport Woman’s Club (where she helped run major events like the art show), and is active in Westport Rotary, Greens Farms Garden club, and countless others.

As a longtime Westport Family YMCA board member, she helped shepherd the new building on its long, torturous journey from downtown to Mahackeno.

Her husband John says there is one reason she accomplishes so much: “She doesn’t sleep.”

There’s one more thing: Jo Fuchs Luscombe is one of the nicest, most always-smiling people you’ll ever meet.

Congratulations, Jo. And thanks from all of us, for all you’ve done in so many ways.

(Hat tip: Bobbie Herman)

Unsung Hero #7

Tom Lowrie is Westport’s Mr. Pickleball.

The 89-year-old retired architect is the man who pushed the Parks and Recreation Department to create a court for the quickly growing sport at Compo Beach in 2015.

A member of the Parks & Rec Racquets Advisory Committee, he’s now advocating for courts at the Doubleday complex behind Saugatuck Elementary School too. He is proud to be Westport’s ambassador to the USA Pickleball Association.

Tom Lowrie posed for the Westport Library’s “I geek…” campaign with — of course — pickleball gear. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

But pickleball is not Lowrie’s only passion.

A longtime volunteer since moving to Westport in 1966, he was a charter member of the Sunrise Rotary Club. He received Rotary’s Service Award, and serves as the group’s unofficial historian. Though nearly a nonagenarian, he can be seen at every Sunrise Rotary event, doing the thankless work that helps them raise and distribute tens of thousands of dollars for good causes.

Tom Lowrie and a duck — a promotion for the Westport Sunrise Rotary’s Great Duck Race.

Lowrie’s contributions to Westport buildings include converting the downtown firehouse to the former Westport YMCA fitness center, and modifications to the Masonic Temple at the corner of the Post Road and Imperial Avenue.

Lowrie is also a longtime Westport Weston Family YMCA member. He’s also active with the Y’s Men. His pickleball and other activities — like golf at Longshore — help him say in great shape.

A Pittsburgh native, he graduated from Princeton University in 1950. He served in the Navy, earned his graduate degree from the Columbia University School of Architecture, and began working for Philip Johnson.

Lowrie married Jean Sammons. They raised 2 children here: Dave and Anne.

Most “06880” readers who know him will not believe Tom Lowrie is 89 years old. But all will agree he is a worthy honoree as this week’s “06880” Unsung Hero.

(Know of an unsung hero we should celebrate? Email details to dwoog@optonline.net)

In 2012, Tom Lowrie was runner-up in the Longshore Men’s Golf Association President’s Cup.

Staples, Farmers’ Market, Gillespie Center: Seed, Feed And Lead

The Westport Farmers’ Market opened for its 12th season last month.

As usual, plenty of vendors offered everything from locally grown and raised produce and meat, to honey and bread.

The crowd was large. The vibe (and weather) was warm. Another year was underway.

And — for the 9th year — the Market will partner with 2 other important town programs: the Gillespie Center, and Staples High School’s culinary classes.

It’s a win-win-win. In fact, it’s one of the most intriguing partnerships around.

Once a month — at the end of Thursdays, as vendors close up — the Farmers’ Market purchases unsold food. Volunteers transport it to Staples.

There, chef Cecily Gans’ students create unique menus, and prepare wholesome, nutritious meals. The Farmers’ Market picks those up and takes them to the Gillespie Center — Westport’s emergency shelter.

Gans’ students — with help from Rotary Club members and the Farmers’ Market — then serve the meals they’ve cooked.

“Seed, feed and educate” is the way WFM director Lori Cochran-Dougall describes the 3-prong partnership. They call it “Farms to School to Community.”

“We’re lucky to live in a privileged area,” she says. “This program allows kids to see neighbors who have fallen on hard times in a different light.”

Relationships bloom. Last year, an older man gruffly refused vegetables.

“My mom always says to eat all your vegetables,” a girl replied.

His face softened. He took some.

Fresh strawberries, tomatoes and other produce are used creatively — and deliciously by Staples’ culinary students.

Soon, he was back for more. He told the teenager he had not tasted tomatoes like that since his mother served them.

“People in Westport are very generous with their donations to the Gillespie Center,” Gans says. “But there’s not a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We bring in high, nutrient-dense foods. That makes a difference. Think about how you or I would function if we didn’t eat well.”

Gans’ students appreciate the opportunity to cook for the residents — and to make their menus count. Each month, the ingredients are different.

Among the recipes: Hungarian gulyas; butternut squash pasta; asparagus with miso lemon dressing; quinoa tabouleh with parsley and mint, and curried pumpkin with raisin.

“They think outside the box,” their instructor says. “They’re creative. They get the opportunity to serve, and see the needs of their community. Their level of responsibility really impresses me.”

Three graduating seniors — Christian Franceze, Alex Ialeggio and Ryan Liu — have been involved for all 4 years at Staples. Next year, Gans counts on juniors to fill their shoes.

Chef Cecily Gans’ students prepare food for the Gillespie Center.

The students build strong relationships with the WFM farmers and vendors. “We’re there at the beginning of the Farmers’ Market season, and the end,” Gans says. “We do whatever we can for them. They do the same for us.”

Cochran-Dougall echoes that sentiment. The director praises everyone in the community who participates — including the major funders, the Rotary and Sunrise Rotary Clubs.

In return, the Staples students print and share the menus they’ve created. It’s one more way to help nourish the town.

(Interested in donating to the Westport Farmers’ Market for this project? Click here — and earmark it for the Gillespie Center.)

Is That Your Duck?

This was the scene earlier this afternoon, as the first of over 2,000 plastic ducks entered the Great Duck Race chute.

The winning duck won a $5,000 gift card. Nine other winners split another $5,000.

The fun- and fundraising event — complete with face painting, a bouncy ride and more — helps Westport’s Sunrise Rotary Club distribute tens of thousands of dollars to good causes, here and around the world.

If you missed the action, click here for 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner’s livestream on Facebook. Be warned: There was a false start. The action starts at the 17:30 mark.