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Meet ‘the Oscarettes,’ the Family Y’s Golden Girls of Group Fitness

Theirs is a bond formed of equal parts barbells and bagels, tested by life’s shared traumas and made enduringly strong by the joys of friendship and fitness.

Every week for the past 16 years, a close-knit group of ladies have gathered at Oscar’s Delicatessen on Main Street following their exercise class at the Westport Weston Family Y.

They call themselves “The Oscarettes,” and together are enjoying a run that would make Dame Maggie Smith proud.

“We met at the Y and have shared joys and sorrows with each other for 16 years at Oscar’s,” says Jean McGurk. “We go to the theater, have vacationed together, celebrated birthdays, family losses and new grandchildren.”

“They’re a very tight group and are such active people,” says Shelley Moll, the Family Y’s Health & Wellness Director and instructor of the Oscarettes’ favorite group-fitness class, called Stretch and Strength. “They have a great life — I aspire to be them when I’m their age.”

Like most seasoned ensembles, the makeup of the Oscarettes has shifted over the years, with a core of Ms. McGurk, Greta Ackerman, Harriet Heineman, Emily Gibbons and Alice Crowther. Pearl Marcus describes herself as an honorary Oscarette, though Shelley Moll would count her as a bit of a ringer: “Pearl was a phys ed teacher in the Westport school system – she was my daughter’s gym teacher.”

Alice Crowther has similar credentials: She taught Fun Fitness classes at the Y, before the Y’s current group-fitness program was established.

Greta Ackerman has been a Y member since 1979, and when the 42-year Westport resident moved with her husband to Trumbull several years ago, she planned to start attending fitness classes closer to her new home.

“I tried lots of different places, but the teachers are so wonderful at the Y, I had to come back,” Greta says. “They spoiled me, actually – the classes are fun and they’re creative. You don’t even know you’re exercising.”

The Stretch and Strength class involves light weights and movement, and on a recent day included, as Shelley described the class, “three or four au pairs in their 20s, a handful of women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, and our Oscarettes, some of whom are close to 90. That’s the nice thing about it – this class, and its participants, is welcoming and inviting.”

The Y’s Oscarettes have no plans to stop their après-exercise bagels at Oscar’s, even after the new Y at Mahackeno is up and running.

“Oh, we’ll still go to Oscar’s after class,” Jean McGurk promises. “We drive over here anyway, so it won’t change a thing.”

In fact, the Oscarettes have already ensured a lasting presence in the Y’s new home being built at Mahackeno – by uploading a group photo with a donation to the Y’s “Picture Yourself at the New Family Y” fundraising effort.

Their photo, along with those of hundreds of other Y members and supporters, will be a part of our interactive picture mosaic of “The Westport-Weston YMCA,” a watercolor by local artist Kassie Foss of the Y’s historic Bedford Building. When complete, this picture mosaic will be permanently displayed in our new Y as a 6 ft. x 4 ft. mural.

“We support each other, and it’s our way to support the Y,” says Greta Ackerman.

To picture yourself at the new Family Y, visit

For the current schedule of our group-fitness classes, click here, or contact Shelley Moll at 203-226-8981, ext. 198, to discuss what class might be right for you. The Y’s Spring Session of classes and programs begins the week of Feb. 25 and continues to mid-June.