On Monday night, members of the Old Greenwich Association packed the meeting room of the Sound Beach Volunteer Fire House for their annual meeting, featuring several speakers from local non-profits and town hall. Some of the speakers were Jane Brash from Quiet Yards Greenwich, James Waters who is chair of the Old Greenwich School building committee and Daren Schneider from Stop I-95 Noise.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Old Greenwich Award to longtime volunteer Peter Uhry who has lived in town for 50 years.
First Selectman Fred Camillo proclaimed Feb 1, 2023, “Peter L. Uhry Day.”
“There’s so many things to love about our town, but my favorite is the civic participation,” Camillo said, adding that Uhry had set an example for what volunteering and community commitment can accomplish.
In the past, Mr. Uhry served both as an OGA board member and its president three times. In fact, during his 25+ years of being in the OGA, he helped establish the annual award he received Monday night.
“Your interest in it is reflected by being here tonight,” Uhry said, noting the standing room only crowd. “After three years of being in the shadows, the Old Greenwich Association has emerged in a robust way.”
He said his love of Old Greenwich was put into perspective when he caught up with a former Old Greenwich neighbor who moved to Reston, VA.
He recalled his friend describing daily life in Reston and driving several miles to the shopping center, miles to the gas station, to the nursery and to his children’s school.
“What’s special about Old Greenwich is if you put a fence around it and sealed everybody in, you could be perfectly content and have virtually everything you wanted,” Uhry said. “There’s no other part of town that’s called a village. It’s right here, and it’s important that you keep it up, that all of us keep it up.”
The Uhrys lived in Old Greenwich for 42 years, raising two daughters in the Edgewater area, and would likely still be there were it not for Super Storm Sandy in 2012 flooding their home with three feet of water. Today, Uhry and his wife Sydney now live nearby in Riverside.
Over the years, Uhry engaged in the Old Greenwich community in numerous ways, but has had a particular interest in beautification projects and protection of natural resources in Binney Park.
In 2006, with funding from the OGA, he initiated a study of what people thought to be important about Binney Park. The research collected opinions from both OG and Riverside and was presented to the Board of Parks & Recreation. Geese were the big issue, with pond dredging close behind.
Uhry was a member of the committee that helped create The Master Plan for Binney Park in 2015.
Then, in 2020, he co-chaired the Binney Park Advisory Committee with Nancy Chapin to implement the 2015 Master Plan. Uhry also helped reestablish the Friends of Binney Park, with a goal of supporting the maintenance and future improvements of this valuable town asset.
Uhry’s efforts spanned decades and he has accomplished a great deal.
In the early 1970s Uhry became active in Greenwich Audubon and soon served as the Chapter President. He represented Audubon in producing the Federal Environmental Impact Report focused on the unique bog in the north end of the Eastern Civic Center. The report provided some constraints on the development of land in Stamford that rises above the Civic Center’s north end.
In 2009, Uhry proposed to then Superintendent of Parks & Trees, Bruce Spaman, that daffodils be planted on the Hillside Annex facing Sound Beach Ave. Today, over 10,000 bulbs have been planted with annual help from volunteers and groups like Greenwich Green & Clean, the OGA, Riverside Association and the garden clubs of Old Greenwich and Riverside.
With Mr. Spaman’s support, Uhry persuaded the OGA to fund and install holiday lights on the new light poles in Binney Park.
During Monday’s award ceremony, OGA vice president Daren Schneider recalled the cold morning four years earlier that OGA volunteers installed the holiday lights on the park poles.
“Mark (Ducret) was smart enough to bring a 10 ft ladder because my 8 ft ladder didn’t work. Dave Johnson was smart enough to bring a pair of gloves. And Peter Uhry, who I love dearly, for his measuring stick to make sure every piece was six inches perfectly down the pole,” he joked to a round of laughs and applause. “Now, I love Pete’s attention to detail, but at 28° on Nov 30, at 8:00am and with four kids at home I was in a little bit of a rush. But it did get done and the park always looks beautiful with those lights.”
There were other accomplishments.
As a member of the Village Improvement Committee, Uhry worked with other volunteers – most notably Old Greenwich Garden Club members and individuals like Lile Gibbons – to improve the Sound Beach Avenue sidewalk planters. In fact, the Garden Club of Old Greenwich honored him one year for his contributions to the community.
During his involvement with the OGA, he and local merchants including Marcos Torno from Images, and John Martello from Sam’s Wine & Liquors, spearheaded the purchase of the old fashioned clock on Sound Beach Avenue.
He also was an instigator of the first and only Old Greenwich Bed Race. It was not repeated because of the potential danger to participants and onlookers on a public street, which is a pity as it was an outrageous and wonderfully fun event on Arcadia Rd.
Last but not least, the committee who selected Uhry for the award, noted he was one of the organizers of the concept for First Light, which occurs each December in the Village, as a way for local merchants to say thank you to their customers.