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Saying Good Bye to Reverend Branson

Suzanne Tanner Meisel led Westport Sunrise Rotary through a confessional themed roast on April 27 – “I have sinned, I have known the Reverend Branson.”

After the 22nd year of a ten year assignment as Rector of Christ and Holy Trinity Church John Branson and wife Judyth are leaving Westport in mid-June to enjoy semi-retirement in Fearrington Village, NC.

Branson’s engagement in our community – the advisory committee of A Better Chance of Westport, the board of the United Way of Westport-Weston and with the Interfaith Housing Association, as well as having been a Sunrise Rotary member for 17 years, and its president in 2008-09 – will be sorely missed and hard to replace.

Ms. Meisel, our resident show woman – and show stopper – fashioned a deep crimson curtain into a portable confession booth and asked anyone who has committed the grievous sin to come forward and confess.

Pete Wolgast admitted “I am guilty, I have probably known the Good Reverend longest,” as he was a member of the church’s search committee. “I heard the Golden Voice at St. Paul’s Church on January 17, 1990… and was thoroughly impressed.”

“Janet (Pete’s wife) and I took John and Judyth around Westport – from Beachside Avenue to the trailer court – to show him all of the town.”

Bill Meyer, celebrating his 83rd birthday that day, confessed to knowing daughter Jessica as a young softball player (now there’s a surprise). “She was a great catcher as a youngster, she was the starter at Staples for two years, then she went on Colgate and continued her athletic career.”

Jessica now lives in Westport and is a marketing executive with a Wilton firm.

Tom Lowrie, a retired architect and member of Branson’s congregation, noted that the “new and beautiful addition to the church is just the size of a badminton court, and has a black line around the edge.” He told Branson “your mission, should you choose to accept, is to paint the lines for singles and doubles on the court.”

Lowrie then gave Branson several of his pictures of the church’s construction progress.

Eileen Flug talked about “church shopping” and thanked Reverend Branson for welcoming her. When club president Branson asked Eileen to do the accounting for Duck Race tickets, she felt she was in a confessional when she tried to talk her way out. To no avail.

Charlie Haberstroh offered a “sincere thank you,” as Branson was one of the first to visit Patti after her surgery – “one of the few times she has not been able to talk back.”

Haberstroh thanked Branson for “everything he did for Gavin Anderson and his family,” and for “giving help to those of us who are not of his flock.” He reminded the Bransons that he, too, has a home in North Carolina, so “we can still see them.”

Branson added his own confessional. “Jess still lives here, so we’ll be back.” He said he is “incredibly proud of who and what she is… I want to say publicly thanks be to God for Judyth and Jessica, who I love.”

Judyth said when Pete asked Reverend Branson to become Rector her reaction was “How’s that going to work?” Then, reflecting on their lives in Westport, she said “we’ll be a bit lost without you… we’re grateful for your love and support… we’re really grateful and thank you.”

The Bransons received a long warm round of applause before opening the clubs thank you gifts.

Roy Fuchs