Tag Archives: Westport Sunrise Rotary

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.

Sunny Breaks Through Clouds

Though dirty and bruised, Sunny the Duck is back bobbin’ along.

The very large and quite noticeable mascot for next Saturday’s Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race had a rough couple of days. High winds toppled the poor guy.

A lesser duck might have folded.

But Sunny is made of sterner stuff. Here he is, an hour or so ago:

(Photo/Wendy Cusick)

To honor Sunny at next Saturday’s race — or just participate and have fun — click here.

Pics Of The Day #39

A large duck promotes the Westport Sunrise Rotary’s Duck Race on Saturday, June 3. It looked like this earlier today … (Photo/Nancy Lewis)

… and this yesterday … (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

… and this this afternoon. (Photo/Audrey Sporre)

Lord Love A Duck

The tide was in their favor. The wind was not.

So this afternoon’s Great Duck Race  was contested at less than warp speed.

That hardly mattered. A large crowd gathered at Parker Harding Plaza. Kids enjoyed face painting, a bounce house and games.

Adults bought rubber “ducks” — over 2,000 of them. At 3 p.m. they were dumped in the river.

At 3:30 the race began. Slowly — very slowly — the ducks made their way downstream.

Finally, a winner emerged. That duck earned its owner a $5,000 Visa debit card.

Nine other winners shared other Visa prizes.

But the real winners are the recipients of more than $20,000 in grants and projects that Westport Sunrise Rotary can now fund.

A Sunrise Rotary member wrangles the ducks before the start of the race.

A Sunrise Rotary member wrangles over 2,000 ducks before the start of the race.

Crowds gathered at Parker Harding Plaza to enjoy plenty of duck-related activities.

Crowds gathered at Parker Harding Plaza to enjoy duck-related activities.

One of the main attractions was a vintage fire engine.

One of the main attractions was a vintage fire engine.

First Selectman Jim Marpe sported a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race hat.

First Selectman Jim Marpe sported a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race hat.

It was a slow, but photo, finish near the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge.

It was a slow, but photo, finish near the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge.

What’s Up, Duck?

In March, I described a duck that was coming to Westport.

A big duck.

The 23-foot high, 15-foot wide, 15-foot long, 260-pound bird was made in China, then shipped through the Panama Canal.

It’s finally here. And fully inflated.

(Photo/Marcy Sansolo)

(Photo/Marcy Sansolo)

The creature promotes Westport Sunrise Rotary‘s Great Duck Race. The 8th annual event — which funds dozens of charities, around the corner and around the world — takes place June 4, in the river next to the Westport Library.

First a crane. Now a duck.

What next will tower over Westport?



He’s in China now.

But soon, you’ll see this guy all around Westport:


The Big Duck is coming here to promote Westport Sunrise Rotary‘s  Great Duck Race. The 8th annual event — which funds dozens of charities, around the corner and around the world — is set for June 4.

He’s 23 feet high, 15 feet wide and 15 feet long. He takes 15-20 minutes to be inflated (with an electric pump). When he’s full of air, he weighs 260 pounds.

He’s being shipped from Guangzhou, through the Panama Canal. He should be here in late April.

He’ll be unveiled to club members tomorrow morning. Starting in late April, he’ll pop up all around town.

Maybe even the Duck.

(For more information on the Big Duck, Westport Sunrise Rotary or the Great Duck Race, call Steve Violette at 203-451-3339 or Dennis Wong at 203-858-5828.)

Bye, Bye Bertucci’s

For years, Westport Sunrise Rotary met at Bobby Q’s. When they needed bigger digs, they moved to Bertucci’s.

Earlier this month, Bobby Q’s announced it will close on March 31.

Once again, the Rotarians will need a new spot. At their meeting this morning, they learned the restaurant — a Westport fixture for about 20 years — will close on Wednesday.


An employee answering the phone this morning said the reason was a failure to come to an agreement with the landlord.

The Westport location is the only one in the chain that will close.

There is no word on what will replace the family-friendly Italian restaurant. Longtime Westporters remember the location as the site of the long-running, much-loved Clam Box — and after that, briefly, Tanglewoods.

Sorry - voting is limited to current restaurants only.



If you’ve never been to a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race, here’s the poop:

You pay $20 for a toy duck — one of these:

Duck - ducks

They’re dumped in the Saugatuck River. The one that races fastest downstream earns a $5,000 Visa gift card. Nine other prizes are worth $5,000 more.

This year’s winner was American Pharoah. (Just kidding.)

There was lots more going on at Jesup Green today too. Staples’ Interact Club — a community service organization that works with the Rotarys — sponsored a 5K race.

A dunk tank featured celebrities like Planning & Zoning Commission chair Chip Stephens:

Duck - Chip Stephens

Non-profits, local businesses, even the Fire Department staffed booths. Here’s Charlie Colasurdo, student liaison at Wakeman Town Farm, showing off (of course) ducks (lower right) and an egg:

Duck - Charlie Colasurdo

There was a climbing wall too:

Duck - climbing wall

It’s all for a good cause. Before the race, Sunrise Rotary handed out $34,500 in grants, to 26 area organizations and charities.

Duck - grants

Recipients include Andrew’s Army, CLASP Homes, Connecticut Challenge, Earthplace, Mercy Learning Center, Positive Directions, Project Return and the Susan Fund.

So even if your duck didn’t win, there was plenty to smile about downtown today.