What’s in a name?
Tradition. Respect. Gratitude.
The Westport Weston Family Y has recognized many notable benefactors, volunteer leaders and staff members over the course of its 90-year history. It’s a legacy preserved by plaques, paintings and photographs on our walls; a tribute paid by bestowing a special name on a special place within those walls.
The Family Y’s tradition of “giving credit where credit is due” will continue with our new Y facility now under construction at our 32-acre Mahackeno campus and scheduled to open in less than a year.
In honor of the continuing support of our charitable nonprofit organization by the descendants of Y founder Edward T. Bedford, our new building will be forever known as the “Bedford Family Center.”
The Bedford family name is in good company, for their vision and generosity has been shared by other families, individuals and companies throughout our 90-year history. Their legacies are honored not just in memory or old newspaper clippings but in daily use and benefit.
“Our Y couldn’t have accomplished so much without the support not only of the entire community we serve but also the enduring contributions of the families that make our towns such wonderful places to live,” said Family Y CEO Rob Reeves at the Sept. 18 celebration announcing the Y building’s new name. “It started with the founding gift of Edward T. Bedford and the continuing support to this day of his descendants – five generations and counting.
“More recently, a number of families have stepped forward to lead our Family Y into the next generation and its future at Mahackeno,” Reeves said to the gathering of hundreds of Y members and supporters.
“Among them is Bonnie Strittmatter, who has provided steadfast leadership as President of our Board of Directors. She and her husband Bill, and their family, have been wonderfully generous with their financial support as well, and we are honored to be able to name our new pool complex the Strittmatter Family Aquatic Center.”
Taking her place at the podium at our 90th Anniversary block party on Church Lane, Bonnie humbly deflected the spotlight cast her way by pointing to a bronze plaque on the brick wall behind her.
“I stand here in front of the Weeks Pavilion, named for a family that, nearly 40 years ago, helped make our current pool a reality. It has provided generations of Water Rats – including my own children – home waters, and has made it possible for thousands of children and adults to learn how to swim and be safe and have fun in the water.
“So many other families have also made a difference, and inside these walls we’ve honored them: The Stauffer pool, the Brophy pool, the Ken Montgomery Fitness Center, the Bresslin Room… Our lasting gratitude to them all.”
These are contributions that change lives. Tributes that are remembered, in practice and in kind.
“My brothers and I grew up in the Westport Y; it’s been a big part of my life,” says Joseph Brophy. A competitive swimmer as a youngster and Y swim coach for much of his adult life, Joe served on the Y board some 35 years ago during its most significant expansion drive prior to the current campaign to build a new home for the Y.
The effort in the late 1970s was generously supported by Stauffer Chemical Co., Reader’s Digest, and Westport Bank and Trust, among other businesses. Dr. Lewis G. Weeks, a petroleum geologist who made Westport his home in retirement, was an important contributor, as were a number of local families, including the Bedfords and the Brophys. “It’s paying back the Y for what it gave us growing up,” says Joseph of the family gift that has since benefited thousands of other Y families.
Ken Montgomery had no family other than the generations of youngsters he befriended as the proprietor of the Old Mill Store and Compo Grocery. He had no direct connection to the Family Y. Yet upon his death in 1985, Montgomery (pictured at right) bequeathed $465,000 to the Westport Weston Family Y, a gift that led to the establishment of the Kenneth S. Montgomery Fitness Center in 1997.
“Ken Montgomery’s generous bequest was one of the largest in the history of the Y in Westport,” says Allen Raymond, past president of the Y (1962-’64), Y Trustee Emeritus and a lifelong friend. “We all chuckle a bit when we realize that the Y’s Fitness Center is named in honor of Ken – fitness was not his bag. Nonetheless, we were overwhelmed that he would leave the bulk of his estate to the Y. Ken had the good sense to put his money where it would do so much good!”
(The Family Y plans to preserve many of the plaques and other tributes that grace the walls of our downtown facility; Miggs Burroughs, a lifelong Y Member, former Mahackeno camper and past Y Trustee, has generously offered to serve as curator for our new Y. A nationally-known designer and artist, Miggs will help decide how these Y memories and mementos will be displayed in our new Y.)
The Family Y’s decade long quest to “build what matters” – a modern new home at its 32-acre campus at Mahackeno – continues on schedule and on budget. It’s expected that the Bedford Family Center – the full-service, family-oriented 54,000 sq. ft. building that will be the first stage of the Family Y’s 102,000 sq. ft. facility, will open in less than a year.
Its new address? 14 Allen Raymond Lane, named in honor of the civic leader who shares a birthdate with our Y – 1923 – and who has dedicated not only countless volunteer hours to our Y but also a significant part of his estate to the Y’s Endowment Fund.
As the Y has strived to Build What Matters for the next 90 years – our modern and accessible new home on Allen Raymond Lane – we are similarly indebted to a new generation of Y families and benefactors:
• Robin Tauck, whose generosity has made possible our beautiful new Wellness Center;
• Ann Reuther Onton, whose contributions helped ensure that our 10-lane lap pool will be state of the art in every way.
• Iain and Linda Bruce, for the Observation Deck to be named in honor of their son, Cameron — stands from which to cheer on our young swimmers;
• Rosemary and Steve Halstead, for Rosemary’s Rain Garden, a fragrant patch of color just outside our new front doors. Steve’s guidance of our building project has been essential in every way, and our capital campaign to build our new Y wouldn’t have happened without the commitment and resolve of Rosemary, who served as President of the Y’s volunteer Board of Directors from 2004-2007 and who chairs the Building What Matters campaign to this day.
Our thanks as well to the many other prominent local families for their crucial support: The Gaults, the McMahons, the Mitchells, the Schines, the Taucks and so many more.
The fabric of our community is strengthened by such men and women of great character. By their gifts, Ken Montgomery, George Weeks and other community leaders have expressed their faith in the mission of our Family Y, set forth by Mr. and Mrs. Edward T. Bedford on that day in 1923. It’s a mission of community service that has been nurtured ever since then by their family and others within our community with a shared vision and foresight.
It’s a legacy that benefits today’s and future generations, a legacy for which our entire community can be proud, and thankful.
To join the Bedfords and other Y families in helping fund our new home, please contact Paul Bernetsky, Chief Development Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-226-8981, ext. 115, to discuss your gift or multi-year pledge to the Y’s “Building What Matters” capital campaign.