Tag Archives: Westport Woman’s Club

How Old Is Old? Free Appraisal Day Can Tell

Westporters are great at getting rid of things.

We tear down old houses. We run tag sales. We bring books to the library, clothes to Goodwill, and everything else to the transfer station.

Does anyone here keep anything old? And if so, how old?

The Westport Woman’s Club believes many owners of private treasures may be surprised to learn their origin, purpose, age and current value.

So this Saturday (June 9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 44 Imperial Avenue), they invite the public to bring objects — or good photos and measurements of pieces too heavy to carry) — to Appraisal Day.

Do you know how much this is worth?

Nine professional appraisers — whose specialties include antiques, paintings, jewelry, clocks, books, and Asian and mid-century modern collectibles — will be on hand. All donate their time.

The cost is just $25 for 3 items, $10 for each additional piece. The fundraiser helps the Woman’s Club provide community grants and scholarships.

Organizer Deb Fratino offers $100 to whoever brings the oldest collectible item. There’s also a random drawing for a restaurant gift certificate.

PS: If you’re disappointed with an appraisal, you don’t have to haul your item back home. Just donate it to the Curio Cottage next door. They’ll be happy to have it!

(Click here for more information on the Westport Woman’s Club Appraisal Day.)

Or this?

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)

Fun At The Fair

Westport’s annual rite of almost-summer — the Yankee Doodle Fair — kicked off last night at the Westport Woman’s Club.

The first night always attracts a horde of tweens and young teens. Alert “06880” reader Andrea Pouliot was there, with kids and a camera.

Sean Collins, in a timeless scene.

Eliot Klein enjoys the ride.

Aiden Rourke is a rising 7th grader at Fairfield Country Day School. He looks forward to playing football at Staples one day.

Andrea Pouliot and her daughter Callie.

110 Years Of Yankee Doodle Women

For 110 years, the Westport Woman’s Club has sponsored the Yankee Doodle Fair.

Attractions and entertainment have changed. But for 100 years, fair-goers have wondered “Who puts this on?”

When someone tells them, their next question is, “What’s the Westport Woman’s Club?”

To answer a century-plus of inquiring minds — and to honor their 110-year history — the WWC has hung a pop-up exhibit inside Bedford Hall. (That’s the wonderfully refurbished auditorium in their Imperial Avenue clubhouse, on the hill overlooking the Yankee Doodle Fair.)

Nearly 120 placards recount all those years of Westport Woman’s Club fundraising, and service to the town.

A placard honoring the organization that became the Westport Woman’s Club …

The story begins long before women could vote, and provides a fascinating window on women’s history, locally and nationally.

It also provides insight into public health and social services delivery here, before and after town government got involved.

… and one tying together 1920 and 1958…

It’s all for a great cause. Funds raised at the Fair go right back into the community, as grants and scholarships.

Just as they have for the past 110 years.

… and a very intriguing third.

(The Yankee Doodle Fair — and accompanying exhibit — are open tonight and tomorrow [Thursday and Friday, June 15-16], 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday hours are 1 to 10 p.m.; Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.)

A classic merry-go-round, at the Yankee Doodle Fair. (Photo courtesy Pam Barkentin)

A Fair Look Backward

This weekend — as it has since 1907 — the Yankee Doodle Fair entertains thousands of kids of all ages. (Mostly kids.) (And their parents.)

Pam Ehrenburg — Pam Blackburn, as she was known in her Yankee Doodle-going days — has unearthed some fascinating old photos. All were taken by her father, famed magazine photographer George Barkentin.

They show the fair on what appears to be Jesup Green — or perhaps the topography of the sponsoring Westport Woman’s Club was different 60-plus yeas ago. (Pam believes the images were taken in 1952.)

Some of the fashions are different. But in many ways, the Yankee Doodle Fair is timeless too.

This looks like Jesup Green -- with National Hall (then Fairfield Furniture) in the background, across the river.

This looks like Jesup Green — with National Hall (then Fairfield Furniture) in the background, across the river.

A classic Ferris wheel.

A classic merry-go-round.

This is noted writer Parke Cummings. He may have walked over from his home on the corner of South Compo and Bridge Street. He owned a tennis court -- still there -- that was open to anyone who wanted to play or learn.

This is noted writer Parke Cummings. He may have walked over from his home on the corner of South Compo and Bridge Street. He owned a tennis court — still there — that was open to anyone who wanted to play or learn.

Marjorie Teuscher and her son Phil. Her husband -- a doctor -- owned real estate downtown, including the building that is now Tavern on Main. Phil -- now all grown up -- still lives in Westport.

Marjorie Teuscher and her son Phil. Her husband — a doctor — owned real estate downtown, including the building that is now Tavern on Main. Phil — all grown up — still lives in Westport.

Pam Blackburn -- who sent these photos from her father, George -- is shown here with her sister Perii and their mom, Jessica Patton Barkentin.

Pam Blackburn — who sent these photos from her father, George — is shown here with her sister Perii and their mom, Jessica Patton Barkentin.

Yankee Doodle Comes To Town

There are many reasons — probably more than 109 — to come to the 109th annual Yankee Doodle Fair.

But among the many — free admission! unlimited-ride wristbands! a bake sale with macaroons from 90-year-old Bev McArthur! — my favorite may be this:

Yankee Doodle himself is going.

The fictional colonial simpleton — who bears a striking resemblance to Westport artist Miggs Burroughs (designer of our town’s Minute Man flag) — will be there this week. In full costume.

With — of course — a feather in his cap.

Yankee Doodle, aka Miggs Burroughs.

Yankee Doodle, aka Miggs Burroughs.

For a $3 donation, you can take a selfie at the Yankee Doodle Fair (Westport Woman’s Club, 44 Imperial Avenue). With Yankee Doodle.

You gotta hand it to Miggs. When he borrowed his costume from fellow illustrator Ed Vebell, he realized it was a better fit for a 1776-size guy.

So Miggs found a tailoring kit, and fixed it himself.

Betsy Ross would be proud.

Which is not just a clever line. Fun fact: Miggs actually dated Betsy Ross.

No, not that one. He isn’t that old.

Miggs met this Betsy Ross in 1998, at a New Year’s party at Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler’s house. She grew up in Westport — as Betsy Peterken– and left Staples after 10th grade.

This is not the Betsy Ross whom Miggs Burroughs dated.

This is not the Betsy Ross whom Miggs Burroughs dated.

By the time she returned for that party she’d married and divorced Thomas McCaughey, married (and was in the process of separating from) wealthy investment banker Wilbur Ross — and was, in her own right (using the name Betsy McCaughey Ross) lieutenant governor of New York, under George Pataki.

A staunch conservative, she was also in the process of defecting to the Democratic Party — so she could run against Pataki. (She lost in the primary.)

Which brings us — in a roundabout way — back to Yankee Doodle.

The costume is hot. So Miggs will be in air-conditioned Bedford Hall — part of the Yankee Doodle Fair grounds — for limited hours: 6-8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, June 16-17; 4-7 p.m. Saturday, June 18, and 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.

After 109 years, this Yankee Doodle Fair promises to be a historic occasion.

(Full hours for the Yankee Doodle Fair: 6-10 p.m. June 16-17,  1-10 p.m. June 18; 1-5 p.m. June 19. All proceeds help fund Westport Woman’s Club grants and scholarships. For more details, click here.)

 

Remembering Elliott Netherton

Elliott Netherton was a tireless Westport Historical Society volunteer.

But the Connecticut plates on his sleek, dark green classic Jaguar always read “KY COL.”

The University of Kentucky graduate and former Kentucky National Guard officer spent 34 years with GE as a financial management executive.

Yet it was his life after retirement that made his death last Thursday at 83 so impactful on Westport.

Elliott Netherton

Elliott Netherton

As CFO of the Historical Society — during the Great Recession — Elliott moved assets into no-load index funds.

Other non-profits staggered, as sponsorships and donations plummeted. But the WHS — which was still paying off a mortgage — thrived.

“Elliott was dealing with very serious heart issues at the time,” then-president Dorothy Curran recalls. “He put his health — perhaps even his life — on the line for us.

“He was not always easy to work with. He knew his parliamentary procedure cold, had no use for wandering conversation, and insisted that board meetings end promptly at 5:30 p.m.”

His chair says it all.

His chair says it all.

But, Curran says, “he was a quiet, principled, tireless force of nature. There never was any question that his moral compass, financial integrity and heart for service, above and beyond, were in the right place.”

The WHS was hardly Elliott’s only volunteer activity.

He was a longtime Boy Scout leader (during and after GE, at the local, district and national levels). He was an avid Y’s Men participant (recruiting excellent retired executives from that group for the WHS financial advisory committee).

He served Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church with his financial acumen. He also was an officer of Westport’s Republican  Town Committee (and spent many Election Days as a poll monitor).

Elliott and Joyce Netherton.

Elliott and Joyce Netherton.

In support of his wife Joyce — a distinguished executive and volunteer in her own right — he worked the “boiler room” of the Westport Woman’s Club during Yankee Doodle Fair crunch time, counting cash late into the night.

Longtime friend and fellow volunteer Pete Wolgast also salutes Elliott’s integrity.

“He could always be counted on to do the right thing,” the fellow church finance committee member says.

“He was highly intelligent. And he used native ability, along with his experience from many years as an internal auditor at GE, to be an extremely valuable member of many non-profits.”

Elliott Netherton, in his military days.

Elliott Netherton, in his military days.

Pete says Elliott “straightened out the church’s accounting and finances, and brought them up to general accounting standards.” When Pete became WHS president in 1995, he did the same for that organization.

Then he did it all over again, for the Y’s Men.

On Sunday, Pete stopped by Elliott’s house.

Seeing Elliott’s Jag with the “KY COL” plates in the driveway, Pete says, “I realized our community had lost an outstanding citizen.”

(A memorial service for Elliott Netherton is set for Tuesday, June 7, 1 p.m. at Christ & Holy Trinity Church. Hat tip: Rick Towers and Bob Mitchell)

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #70

There are plenty of staircases in Westport.

The ones in last Sunday’s photo challenge could have been the ones leading to the train station from Luciano Park. They weren’t.

They could have been the ones from the Imperial Avenue parking lot to the library and Levitt Pavilion. They weren’t those either — though that’s closer.

The steps shown (click here) can indeed be found at the Imperial lot — but they lead up to the Westport Woman’s Club. Congratulations to Patricia Blaufuss, Julia Whamond, Elaine Marino, Michelle Saunders and Shirlee Gordon — 5 women who know their town well.

How well do you know Westport? If you think you’ve seen the sight below, click “Comments” below.

Oh My 06880 - May 1, 2016

2016 Art Show Roots Reach Waaaaay Back

As signs go, the ones advertising this weekend’s art show may not be the most artistic:

Art show sign

So Westporters may be forgiven for not realizing that for several reasons, this year’s event is special.

For one, it’s dedicated to Howard Munce and his wife Gerry, a longtime WWC member and community volunteer.

When Howard died recently at 100, his place as one of Westport’s foremost artists was secure.

Howard’s roots here date back to the Great Depression. At that time, Westport supposedly had the largest per capita population of unemployed professional artists in the country.

Many were married to Woman’s Club members. To help, the WWC held art shows in Bedford House, the 2nd floor of the downtown YMCA.

Howard was no starving artist. He went on to great fame. But he showed his appreciation for the Woman’s Club by participating in art shows through the 1980s, long after the organization moved to its 44 Imperial Avenue home.

In 2007 — when the WWC celebrated its centennial — Howard designed the logo.

Gerry and Howard Munce. This weekend's Westport Woman's Club art show is dedicated to them.

Gerry and Howard Munce. This weekend’s Westport Woman’s Club art show is dedicated to them.

Howard and Gerry were friends with another civic-minded local family, the Burroughses. Bernie (an artist) and his wife Esta (of Remarkable Book Shop fame) raised 2 artist sons, Miggs and Trace.

This weekend’s art show — curated by Miggs — will be held in the Woman’s Club’s new Bedford Hall. It’s a few steps — and many years — away from the Y’s old “Bedford House.”

The Westport Woman’s Club art show venue has changed, since the Depression.

Howard Munce — for the first time since then — won’t be there this year.

But the show itself hasn’t changed much. It’s still fun, and still an important fundraiser.

And Howard and Gerry will be there for sure, in Westport arts colony spirit.

Bedford Hall Plans Big 150th Birthday Bash

Last year, “06880” honored the renovation of Bedford Hall. The Westport Woman’s Club had just spent $120,000 creating a bright new space for anyone in town to use for weddings, bar mitzvahs, art shows, memorial services and more.

I told the back story: how in 1945 Frederick Bedford bought an Imperial Avenue house for the civic improvement organization to use. Five years later, he put up half the money to add meeting space. It came from an unusual source: Part of Saugatuck Congregational Church was moved from its original site, several hundred feet up the Post Road.

When the building was reassembled and joined to the Imperial Avenue house, the clapboard matched perfectly.

Bedford Hall

Now — a year later after Bedford Hall opened – the Westport Woman’s Club is ready to celebrate.

A birthday party — celebrating 150 years since the original meetinghouse was built — is set for Saturday, April 16 (6-9 p.m.).

There’s comedy (with Jane Condon as emcee), live and silent auctions, wine, food and birthday cake. Bedford family members have been invited.

As is true with Bedford Hall itself: The entire town is invited.

See you there. Hey — you only turn 150 once!

(Tickets to Bedford Hall’s birthday bash are $75 each. Reservations are due by April 8. Checks made out to Westport Woman’s Club should be sent to 44 Imperial Avenue, Westport, CT 06880. Include “Birthday Bash Reservations” in the memo line, and include names of attendees. Tickets will be held at the door.)

 

Bedford Hall sign