Senior center benefits from woman's generosity

Aaron Krause • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:03 PM

Arlene Eckstein was a quiet woman who never married and didn't live extravagantly.

She didn't drive a new car. She lived in a nice, but older home in Willard. Her furniture wasn't fancy and neither were her clothes.

She was a petite woman with a huge heart.

That became obvious recently. The Willard senior center recently received more than $52,000, which Eckstein set aside in her will.

Lucinda Smith, Senior Enrichment Services executive director, said Eckstein's was one of the largest donations the center has received.

We're really pleased," Smith said. "I think it speaks volumes about what the center can offer people."

Smith said state and federal funding continues to dry up and donations represent about 30 percent of Senior Enrichment Services' income. A levy funds the majority of the income.

With baby boomers turning 60, the center's services will be more in demand, Smith said.

"Obviously she cared about people," Smith said of Eckstein, who died Jan. 20, 2006 at age 77. "She enjoyed using the center. It helped her stay active and she wanted to make sure other people in the community had the same opportunity."

Eckstein, a lifelong Willard resident who worked at GE in Norwalk, attended the center twice a week for several years. There, she formed a dartball league, participated in exercise classes and other programs. She only stopped going when the cancer she fought made her too weak.

And when she could not longer go, she asked about those she met at the center. And when they weren't there, she wanted to know when they'd come back.

Longtime friend and caregiver Joyce Barnett said you could always tell Eckstein was excited to go to the center.

"She'd just like come alive," Barnett said, adding she can't help but smile while thinking of her late friend.

One day, the two were leaving the center and Eckstein pointed out the board outside, where a wooden "giving tree" stood.

Eckstein said her name would one day be included on the tree, which contains the names of benefactors.

That day has come.

Eckstein's engraved name, however, will not be the only reminder of her.

Barnett and others continue to play with the dartboard Eckstein had bought to form the team.

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