Tag Archives: Y’s Men

[UPDATE] Remembering Joe Hawley

The coronavirus has claimed the life of a well-known local volunteer.

Joe Hawley lived in Norwalk. But he was very active in both Sunrise Rotary and the Y’s Men. He died on Wednesday, at 67.

An entrepreneur and sales and marketing executive, he worked with global beauty and fashion accessories firms like Healthtex, Liz Claiborne and Avon. He served as a mentor and coach to many in the industry.

Joe Hawley

In retirement, Joe devoted himself to serving his community, as a volunteer with Westport Sunrise Rotary and Y’s Men.

Roy Fuchs — who know Joe through both organizations — says, “Joe’s abilities, judgment and willingness to get involved, to help wherever he could, were respected.

“In Sunrise Rotary he held no office, but was a leader. He took over our already successful annual wine tasting fundraiser. He led, he organized, he managed — he joked, he cajoled. He made it successful beyond our wildest imagination.

“At our meetings Joe was quick to speak, but always with a purpose. Always with a message. He got most of us to think just a bit harder about what’s important, in our lives and in the spirit of Rotary, as we follow the motto of ‘Service Above Self.'”

“We will miss his joy, his laughter and his willingness to help others.”

Joe was an avid kayaker and bike rider, and a wonderful neighbor. In fact, he said being president of his Norwalk neighborhood association was his “best job ever.”

Joe loved to travel, and loved his family. He was happiest when they intersected. His 2 grandchildren were the lights of his life.

He is also survived by his wife Susan; daughters Ashley and Signe; son Trevor; 2 brothers, a sister and 21 nieces and nephews.

A celebration of his life will be organized by his family at a later time. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Westport Sunrise Rotary or Norwalk Hospital Community Care Team.

COVID-19 Roundup: Small Businesses And Loans; Face Masks; Realtors; $1200 Checks; Good Deeds; Podcasts; More

The Staples High School Gridiron Club has a great idea.

They emailed all members, reminding them of the many local businesses that supported them over the years with donations to fundraisers, ads in program books and (much) more.

Now is the time to pay it back. “Please take every opportunity to support our sponsors by purchasing their goods and services whenever and wherever possible,” they say. They included a list of dozens of sponsors, just as a reminder.

Think how many Westport organizations have been helped by local merchants. If you know of someone who donated to your cause in the past — well, what are you waiting for?

ASF often contributes to local fundraisers. You can shop online to help them — and many other merchants — now.


Jennifer Hrbek reports that Yale New Haven Health desperately needs hand sewn masks.

Click here for a pocket pattern. Donations can be mailed to Yale New Haven Health (Attn.: PPE Donations), 600 Derby Ave., West Haven, CT 06516. They can also be dropped off there Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

You can donate sewn masks that do not follow the pocket pattern too. YNHHS will pass them on to homeless shelters.

Jennifer and her friend, Bedford Middle School teacher Caroline Davis, have been making masks regularly. “They’re desperately needed. And working on them with kids is a great way to teach life skills,” Jennifer says.

Jennifer Hrbek, with sewing machine and mask.


Connecticut’s 0% interest loan program for small businesses and non-profits with fewer than 100 employees is great.

Unless you’re on the list of prohibited applicants.

You’re ineligible if you are “involved in real estate, multi-level marketing, adult entertainment, cannabis or firearms.” You also cannot be a state elected public official or state employee.

I understand the possible conflicts of interest around state officials and employees. But it seems to me the other groups listed have just as many small business worries as any restaurant, market, gift shop or toy store.

And realtors? I can’t imagine there were any open houses last weekend — or will be, over the next few weeks.


Amy Messing writes: “My husband and I plan to donate whatever we get from the government to help during the crisis. Other people may be moved to do the same.

“Do any local fundraising efforts distribute money to restaurant workers, small businesses and others in need? Also, are there any needs for volunteer help that you can identify?”

There are many. This morning, Westporter Stephanie Webster’s great CTBites.com featured a list of many restaurant funds. Click here to see (and note that locally it includes both Match Burger Lobster and Artisan).

I told Amy that I’d crowd-source others. Please click “Comments” below, and let us all know your favorite fundraisers and volunteer opportunities.


One positive side effect of the coronavirus: crime is way down.

I’m on the email list for regular updates from the Westport Police. Usually, the list of arrests for things like distracted driving and speeding is 6 or 8 pages long.

This morning there was just 1  (for “failure to obey control signal.”)

Often too there are 4 to 6 “custodial arrests” (aka lockups), for crimes like domestic violence, larceny and sexual assault.

For the last week, there have been none.

Nice to know that even criminals are self-isolating.


This weekend Elise, Penelope and Daphne Eisenberger painted hearts and positive messages on rocks they, their dad Nico and mother Robin Bates collected at Burying Hill Beach. 

Yesterday they put them (in places no one would need to touch) by the entrances to Westport EMS, the police station, Greens Farms fire station and post office, their pediatrician’s office and a few other spots. They saw similar signs around town.

“It won’t stop anyone from getting sick, or make anyone better who is,” Nico says. “But we hope it’s helpful in some small way to those who work hard to keep us all safe.”

Coincidentally, just a few minutes before I published this piece, I got an email from EMS deputy director Marc Hartog. He writes about those stones:

“We don’t know who placed them there or when, but everyone here is incredibly moved that someone, or some group, thought about us and wanted to show their support.

“This is another example of everyday people doing whatever they can during this crisis, even just to boost the morale of our personnel on the front lines. We wish we could thank them, let them know that this gesture is so appreciated. Maybe if you post this, even though we can’t do it in person, they will know.”

Done. And PS: Now you know!

Elise, Penelopoe and Daphne Eisenberger.


Lauren Braun Costello is making lemonade — more accurately perhaps, lemon tarts or meringue pie — during this time of lemons.

Every day during the pandemic, she’s on Instagram Live with tips and tricks to stretch pantries, and help us feed our families.

Lauren is a classically trained chef, with an impressive CV. Check out itslaurenofcourse.com on Instagram.


Yesterday’s rain did not stop Doris Ghitelman.

The Westporter had to go shopping. So she called 4 high-risk neighbors and friends, and asked what they needed.

“It makes me happy to the core to help,” she says. “There’s always a silver lining 😊🧡”

PS: Nice gloves!


Across the world, John Karrel reports, people are putting teddy bears in all kinds of places: windows. Front porches. Roofs.

The idea is for parents to walk around with their kids, counting as many as they find. It’s a scavenger hunt anyone can help with.

John’s already spotted a couple of teddy bears in Greens Farms. Time to add yours! (And if you don’t have one, plenty of toy stores in Westport can help.)


Every week for decades, the Y’s Men meet to hear intriguing speakers.

COVID-19 has halted that tradition. But the Y’s Men are resourceful and resilient.

They’ve developed a podcast series — and they’re sharing them with the world.

Recent guests included internist Dr. Robert Altbaum and epidemiologist Dr. Pietro Marghello, plus that guy who writes the “06880” blog.

Today John Brandt interviews the CEO of a major wholesale distributor to national supermarkets. He’ll talk about the supply chain.

Click here for all the Y’s Men podcasts.


A former Westporter — now a college professor — is asking her students to interview (by phone or video) someone over the age of 70, with pre-selected questions.

Westporters and non-Westporters who are chatty and game should send names, brief bios and contact info to kochel491@gmail.com by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“At a time when people are lonely and the lessons I’d originally planned seem increasingly irrelevant, I hope this project will be meaningful to both interviewers and interviewees,” she says.


And finally, here’s a gift from Berklee College of Music. It’s been home to a number of Westporters. They’ve chosen well.

Y’s Men: Memorial Day Floats Their Boat

No, the fix is not in.

The Y’s Men are just that good.

Every year since Edward T. Bedford built the Westport YMCA*, the gung-ho group of nearly 400 retired and semi-retired men has won the Memorial Day Best Float competition.

The tradition continued this year.

The 2019 parade theme was “Thank a Veteran.” The Y’s Men took it one step further, thanking Merchant Marines — the “unsung heroes” of World War II — for their service.

If you were at the parade, you know how great the float was.

If you weren’t, you missed another great tribute, from men who are members of — or close to — the Greatest Generation.

Whether you were there or not, enjoy this video, created by Y’s Man Sal Mollica. It’s a quick look at the float’s creators, its construction, and the proud part it played in Westport’s Memorial Day parade.

*Or maybe it just seems that way.

Y’s Men Wisely Saved Last Year’s Float

It’s a Westport tradition: Every year, the Y’s Men win Westport’s Memorial Day “Best Float” prize.

They didn’t last year — but there was a good reason.

The parade was canceled, due to rain.

Yesterday and today — despite predictions of more bad weather — they headed to Vince Penna’s garage, and took last year’s float out of mothballs.

Here’s a sneak preview.

Y’s Men president Jay Dirnberger puts the finishing touches on the float. (Photos/Mike Guthman)

To see the real thing, head to the parade on Monday.

Or — if it comes to that — the one in 2018.

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)

Memorial Day Parade Decision To Be Made By 7 A.M. Monday

Westport’s public safety and Parks & Rec personnel are following the weather patterns closely. A final decision on whether or not to hold the Memorial Day parade will be announced by 7 a.m. tomorrow (Monday) morning.

If the parade is cancelled, the public is encouraged to attend the Memorial Day ceremony at Town Hall at 10 a.m. Monday.

It's a yearly tradition: The Y's Men win the "Best Float" competition. They did it again last year, for their depiction of the Japanese surrender to Gen. MacArthur. They've worked long and hard on this year's float -- but the weather report may wash out all their hard work.

It’s a yearly tradition: The Y’s Men win the “Best Float” competition. They did it again last year, for their depiction of the Japanese surrender to Gen. MacArthur. They’ve worked long and hard on this year’s float — but bad weather may wash out all their hard work.

Steve And Toni Rubin Say Goodbye (Y’All)

35 years ago, Steve Rubin’s medical and surgical supply company was considering a move from Long Island to Norwalk.

Steve and his wife Toni lived in Douglaston, Queens. They began talking about moving to “the country.” Their friends thought they were crazy. They sort of did, too.

“We both grew up in New York City,” Steve says. “For us, Westport was the edge of the earth, before it cracks off.”

But fresh air, and a produce stand on North Avenue, lured them in. The Rubins rented the big white Rippe house, next to 7 acres of corn farmed by a guy named Buster.

“We truly felt like we lived on a farm,” Steve recalls. “We fell in love with this place.”

Toni and Steve Rubin.

Toni and Steve Rubin.

The 1st folks they met were Betsy Wacker — from Welcome Wagon — and her husband Watts. George Underhill, from the town tax office, soon became a good friend too. All 3 introduced the Rubins to many aspects of their new home town.

Steve’s company never moved to Norwalk. He spent 5 years commuting to New York.

Then, 23 years ago — at age 47 — he suffered a heart attack.

The Rubins’ Westport friends responded immediately. Meals poured in. People drove him to the doctor. They did whatever they could for the couple.

Steve Rubin

Steve Rubin

The heart attack led Steve to retire from his stressful work. He got a job with Westport’s Parks & Rec Department, manning the Compo gate.

He organized workers for the Compo Beach playground construction project. He joined the Y’s Men. Toni created the Respect program, for children with special needs.

“It snowballed,” Steve says. “It was like we’d lived here 100 years. This town has a magic effect. It makes people feel like natives.”

The Rubins’ activities grew. Steve spent many years as the voice of Festival Italiano. He did not stop until the last raffle ticket was sold. “I made a whole bunch of new friends there too,” he says.

Perhaps his most important contribution began the day he complained to Gordon Joseloff about “some safety issue.” Joseloff — at the time the moderator of the Representative Town Meeting — urged him to run for the legislative body.

Earlier this month — almost 20 years later — Rubin resigned from the RTM. In an emotional farewell, he announced that he and Toni are moving to Charleston, South Carolina.

Steve and Toni Rubin's t-shirts say it all. He adds, "I could not have done any of this without my wife and best friend."

Steve and Toni Rubin’s t-shirts say it all. He adds, “I could not have done any of this without my wife and best friend.”

The impending move is “bittersweet,” Steve admits. After a couple of years of consideration, the lure of warmer winters and a lower cost of living was too good to pass up.

“We don’t want to wait until, god forbid, we’re too old to do it,” Steve says.

The Rubins don’t know a soul in Charleston. But, he notes, “We didn’t know anyone when we moved here. We did it before, and we’ll do it again.”

Steve adds, “we’ll love this town forever. There are so many great people here. It seems like Westport is filled with mensches.”

Steve Rubin in the Memorial Day parade.

Steve Rubin in the Memorial Day parade.

The Rubins leave knowing they’ve made a major mark on their adopted home town. Their name appears on the quilt at Town Hall, the library River of Names and brickwalk, the Wall of Honor at the Staples football field and the Longshore pool wall mosaic.

They’ll miss the many activities they’ve participated in, and enriched: the Memorial Day parade. First Night. PAL fireworks. Downtown trick-or-treating.

They’ll miss Compo, Longshore and Saugatuck. “We’ll even miss the Post Road and Main Street,” Steve laughs.

They’ll miss Westport a lot. But not as much as we will miss Steve and Toni Rubin.

Wise Words, From Bob And Judy Rosenkranz

Just over 3 years ago, Bob Rosenkranz retired after a long career as an endodontist on Boston’s North Shore. Married half a century, he and his wife Judy — a former phys ed. teacher — had to decide, “What do we do after we grow up?”

They figured they’d split time between their 2nd house in Vermont, and a gated community in Florida.

Their daughter Robin, son-in-law Matt Leon and 3 grandchildren — Jake, Josh and Jessica — had lived in Westport for nearly a decade. Whenever Bob and Judy visited, they stayed in Norwalk hotels. They’d take the grandkids to the usual dining spots — McDonald’s, Swanky Frank’s — and the tried-and-true recreational areas, like the beach.

Bob and Judy didn’t know much about Westport. But one day, they had dinner — by themselves — at Positano’s. They saw a Richard Dreyfuss performance at the Westport Country Playhouse. The next day, they took the train to New York, and stayed overnight. Both had grown up in Brooklyn. They remembered the city from the 1960s. It had changed dramatically, for the better.

Not the "wise men" Judy and Bob met. These guys don't play tennis.

Not the “wise men” Judy and Bob met. These guys don’t play tennis.

Judy — who played tennis with women 20 years younger at home — and Bob visited the Westport Tennis Club. They saw a bunch of older guys playing — quite well — and heard talk about the “Wise Men.” A man named Otis spent an hour chatting with them. “In Massachusetts, no men play tennis in the morning,” Bob says.

Judy broached the subject with Robin and Matt: How would they feel if she and Bob moved to Westport? The “kids” were all for it.

Judy and Bob talked to a realtor, but weren’t sure what they wanted. A rental? Condo? Nothing felt right.

Through a series of coincidences — including friend-of-a-friend stories — they bought the perfect house, off Partrick Road.

Then things really started to happen.

Bob and Judy found great new friends with older couples. They joined 2 film groups. The Fairfield University extended education program. A book club. A bridge group.

Bob joined the Y’s Men (he now knew how it was spelled). He joined 2 regular tennis games, plus 1 of platform tennis. He plays bocce. He hikes.

These are the "Y's Men." They are a very active group. The only thing they don't do is ride camels.

These are the real “Y’s Men.” They are a very active group. The only thing they don’t do is ride camels.

“I don’t know if these guys are former Fortune 500 CEOs or cobblers,” he says. “It doesn’t matter. They’re great!”

He is inspired by Y’s Men like Kurt Rosenfeld and Gun Moen, who is 87 and still skis, plays bridge and poker, and hits the speed bag.

Judy hooked up with a Manhattan art tour group, led by Westporter Joyce Zimmerman. She got involved with the Y’s Women.

She too plays platform tennis — outdoors, in January. She’s also in 4 other tennis games.

Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.

Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.

The couple dines out often. They love Westport’s restaurants, including Jewish-style delis Gold’s and Oscar’s. (In their previous life, the nearest deli was 35 miles away, in Newton.) They call the choices in supermarkets “phenomenal.”

As for shopping, it’s “fantastic — accessible and easy.”

They show off the library, beach — and many other parts of Westport — to out-of-town friends. They are awed by Staples Players performances, and love the Playhouse (especially the recent Harlem Dancers show).

I should note here that Judy and Bob are 2 of the warmest, most outgoing and funniest people that I have ever met. They also seem to have found a fantastic balance between doing things as a couple, and on their own. Still, their excitement about their new home town is astonishing.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Judy says.

“I don’t have enough hours in the day,” Bob adds. And then he starts describing all the great hiking spots he’s found, like Sherwood Island in the off-season.

Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.

Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.

What’s nice to hear — beyond so many great words about Westport – is that, as Judy says, “people who have been here 30 or 40 years are opening up their lives to new people like us.”

But don’t think the Rosenkranzes spend all their time playing tennis, dining out and going to shows. They’ve cooked dinners for the Gillespie Center, done other volunteer work, and are always on the lookout for ways to give back.

Plus, of course, there are the grandkids. Judy and Bob were “mesmerized” by a recent Long Lots music concert (“there was no dissonance at all — and they had a whole ensemble with steel drums!”), and they are faithful attendees at endless soccer, baseball and lacrosse games.

Nor do they just travel between Westport and New York. They recently returned from a trip to Patagonia. (The region, not the store.)

But Bob and Judy always come back — physically, and during our conversation — to the wonders of their new home town.

“We love it here,” they keep saying.

Almost as much as we love having them here.

 

Y’s Men Serve, Learn, Celebrate

By the time they reach retirement age, many Westport men hold positions of power and prestige. CEOs, CFOs, masters of the universe — they are enormously experienced, and wise beyond their years.

But those years tick by. The day they retire, these men have time on their hands, in a suburban town they may not know well, and where every other adult seems to be working or caring for kids.

If they’re really wise, these guys join the Y’s Men.

On Tuesday, the Y’s Men celebrated their 35th birthday. Many of their 460 members — and wives, significant others and friends — jammed the Unitarian Church to eat, be entertained, and do what they do best: listen, talk and learn.

From its formation in 1977 — and its 1st meeting in January 1978, with 9 men — the Y’s Men has grown into one of Westport’s premier social and service organizations.

Every  Thursday morning, guest speakers enlighten members on an enormous range of subjects, stimulating great discussions. In just the past year the group has heard from Connecticut’s governor, attorney general and chief justice, and a Federal Reserve Board governor.

Last month Sarah Bloom Raskin -- a Federal Reserve Board governor -- addressed the Y's Men. The list of speakers is varied, and fascinating.

The Y’s Men sponsor activities like hiking, skiing and bridge. There are clubs for international politics, investments, Apple technology, books, collecting, cameras and memoir writing. Y’s Men travel — locally, throughout the US, and abroad — on trips that combine education and sightseeing.

There are monthly dinners, summer evening picnics at Compo, singing with the Hoot Owls, listening to jazz, gardening, boating, golfing, tennis and ping pong.

And members throw themselves into a variety of service activities, from delivering food to the needy and transporting patients, to cleaning up public spaces.

What was most impressive on Tuesday, though, was the camaraderie and enjoyment the Y’s Men drew from the club, and each other.

“I had a great group of professional friends,” president Jeff Hare said. “Now I’ve got another great group. I feel as engaged with things today as I ever have.”

Every year, the Y's Men sponsor a Memorial Day float. This one honored member (and Navy veteran) Barry McCabe.

Another member — chowing down on a buffet line that stretched nearly the entire length of the meeting hall — said that although he lived in Westport his entire working life, he’d never really known the town. Now, he said, he knows its history, its people, its organizations, its rhythms, its beauty — and he is proud to help it, however he can.

Every member has a talent to share. MBAs help with finances; designers run the website; engineers offer insights during a discussion on oil drilling.

The Y’s Men are proud to be one of the largest and most successful retired and semi-retired men’s groups in the state.

They’re proud too that members span a broad political spectrum. Debates can be challenging. But, one member said, “If I’ve learned one thing in this group, it’s that you’re never too old to learn.”

(For more information on the Y’s Men click here, or contact Roy Fuchs by email at royfuchs@snet.net, or phone at 203-856-4321.)

Last year, the Y's Men sponsored a ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah.