Daffodils for Mollie: Blossoming tributes for longtime volunteer
As they dug shallow trenches along fences, troughs around tree trunks and pits along pathways, and gently placed daffodil bulbs into them, they fondly recalled their dear departed friend.
In early May, 86-year-old Mollie Donovan -- a long-time volunteer at Westport Historical Society who developed, mounted, documented and promoted more than 50 exhibits over several decades -- lost her battle with spinal cancer.
As a lasting remembrance, Joni Andrews, a past president of the historical society and leader of its Hidden Garden Tour, ordered 1,000 Narcissus Long Trumpet daffodil bulbs and organized a team of Donovan's friends and family to plant them around the historical society's 25 Avery Place property on Nov. 18.
"Mollie lived on Daybreak Lane here in Westport for 35 years," Potts said. "She was probably the most dedicated volunteer WHS has ever had. She knew all the artists and writers, and was a happy, funny lady. She could always find something to laugh about."
And her battle with cancer did not keep Donovan away from the historical society.
"Even when she was ill, she still managed to come down here," Potts said. "Her memorial service was held on these grounds, with her 12 grandchildren, four children, all her nieces and nephews and hundreds of area residents in attendance."
Potts said her late sister loved spring -- and daffodils.
"We thought planting bulbs this fall for the spring would be a fitting memorial," Potts said. "She was a big gardener. This is really a living memorial -- we'll remember her for years to come as the flowers bloom every spring."
Westporter David Rubinstein echoed Potts' sentiments.
"I worked for years with Molly on the Westport Arts Advisory Committee," he said. "We were co-chairs together for 10 years. This is a perfect tribute to a remarkable person. She was absolutely dedicated to the cultural heritage of Westport and had the most amazing nature -- always cheerful, and got things done, never complained."
The historical society's executive director, Sue Gold, spoke of Donovan's persistence.
"We always described her as `unsinkable,' " Gold said. "She accomplished her goals and motivated and inspired all of us that worked with her. One of her many traits was an attention to detail, and keeping organized with schedules and timetables. She was a writer, too, so handled the [public relations], working closely with graphic artists and professionals."
"She volunteered for everything," Naftalin said.
Naftalin noted that the arts advisory panel gives out an award called "The Mollie," which recognizes the greatest volunteers. Naftalin said Donovan also started the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection and was responsible for the placement of art collections throughout the community.
"There was nothing she couldn't do -- or wouldn't do," Naftalin said.