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Ducks for all interests: Ahead of the Saturday, May 4 Duck Race to benefit Chester Rotary and Homeward Bound CT, Lynette Bester is Rotary’s current champion rubber duck salesperson. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Is a little rubber duck floating in the bathtub a treasured childhood memory? There is an opportunity to recreate that memory with a special twist, a rubber duck race, at the upcoming Chester Spring Weekend on Saturday, May 4 at 4 p.m. What’s more, the tiny ducks will be floating for a good cause.
The race is a fundraiser to benefit both Chester Rotary and Homeward Bound CT, a nonprofit that helps find homes for rescue and shelter dogs. The Spring Weekend itself has events spread over three days, from Friday to Sunday, May 3 to 5.
Among Rotary club members, Lynette Bester is this year’s champion rubber duck salesperson, though ducks can also be bought at locations in Chester. The proceeds from ducks bought at Lark and the Pattaconk 1850 Bar & Grille go to Rotary; those bought at Strut Your Mutt and the Little House Brewing Company support Homeward Bound.
All Rotarians were expected to sell 15 ducks on their own, but Lynette has already sold 77 of them. Purchasers can take their choice from a variety of fowl favorites, among them ducks garbed like policeman, construction workers, and musicians. Lynette reports that she has already sold all of her ducks in princess regalia.
Just before the race, the ducks are scooped up by a front-end loader and deposited in the Pattaconk Brook just over the Main Street bridge. They will float down a racecourse of about one block. At the finish, pool noodles form a funnel, to narrow the floating field down to the winning duck. There is a prize for victory, but just what that prize is depends on who the winner is: For adults, there is a beverage collection from the Pattaconk; for a child, a collection of backyard toys; and if the winner bought a Homeward Bound Duck, the prize will be dog-related.
Though Lynette is champion salesperson, she will not be at the race itself. She is leaving for a two-week vacation in her native South Africa. She and her late husband came to this country in l997 and two years later moved to Chester. She was looking for a particular kind of home, an old house, and when she saw her present residence, she knew it was perfect.
“I began to cry,” she says.
In 2004, Lynette’s husband Jacobus, better known as Koos, was killed when a vehicle struck him while he was cycling.
Lynette grew up speaking mainly Afrikaans, the Dutch-derived language of the settlers who came to South Africa from the Netherlands. Her own background, nonetheless, included both English and Afrikaans speakers so, by her early teens she was fluent in both languages. After graduation from secondary school, Lynette had planned to continue her education, but with the family car all packed up to take her to university, she had a confession for her father.
“I told him I was just going to party; studying was not for me,” she recalls.
They unpacked the car.
Nonetheless, Lynette was to continue her education after all. Her mother confided to a friend how worried she was about her daughter’s future. The friend knew of a job possibility in the field of computers. Lynette signed up to take a test as a computer programmer and out of more than 1,000 applicants, she was one of the 20 selected to learn Cobol programming. That’s how her computer career started. Lynette has since earned a business degree.
It was when she was at computer programming school that Lynette met Koos, then an engineering student. At their first meeting, where they hardly spoke, Lynette had two contradictory reactions. On one hand, she thought him rude, but on the other, she thought she would marry him.
After the two had married and had two daughters, they decided to move to the United States. Lynette was unhappy in her job and worried about traveling to work through a particularly dangerous section of Johannesburg. The family settled first in Chicago, but, after two years, moved to Connecticut. Now Lynette works at Otis Elevator in Farmington as associate director of global program management.
In Chester, Lynette has been active in the United Church as well as in Rotary. She credits the church with getting her through the difficult period after her husband was killed.
“They were the most supportive, most caring people. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what I would have done,” she says.
She has gone on church mission trips, among them to help rebuild tornado-destroyed homes in Kansas and plans to go on a trip to a tornado-devastated area of Florida this July.
Lynette does not have problems when she goes around to different businesses to sell rubber ducks.
“I ask them what they are interested in—education, children, nature—and then I tell them about Rotary programs,” she says.
If she is emphasizing education, Lynette tells potential buyers about the good citizenship awards, which include a scholarship, for high school seniors, or providing dictionaries to each 3rd grader in Chester Elementary school. If she feels the interest is in young people’s well-being, Lynette tells people about the renovations Rotary did to Tri-Town Youth Services building or the backpack program Chester Rotary supports. The latter provides backpacks stuffed with food to children who are identified as needing nutrition assistance over the weekend.
If people are interested in nature, Lynette has a new Rotary project to discuss: the idea to build an observation deck as a place to enjoy Chester Creek. The observation deck project is still only in the exploratory stages and depends on various approvals and cost estimates.
“Everybody is interested in one of those areas and I have no trouble,” Lynette says. “I have always been a good salesman.”
Just to prove the point, she turned to a visitor with a pertinent question.
“How many are you going to buy?” she asked.
Indeed, the visitor bit, or rather bought, a rubber duck, perfectly outfitted for the bathtub with scuba goggles.
Chester Spring Weekend, Friday, May 3 to Sunday, May 5
Rubber Duck Race, Saturday, May 4 at 4 p.m. in Chester on the Pattaconk Brook, just over the Main Street Bridge.
Rubber ducks ($5) to benefit Chester Rotary are on sale at Lark and the Pattaconk, and to benefit Homeward Bound at Strut Your Mutt and the Little House Brewing Company and from Chester Rotary members.
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