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Emma Clark Library

Emma Clark Library, 120 Main St., Setauket will host a lecture titled “The Genealogy of Historical Architectural Styles in the Three Villages: Rationalism, Romanticism and the Vernacular” on Monday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m.

Joseph Betz

Guest speaker will be Joseph Betz, an architect, professor and former chairman of the Department of Architecture & Construction Management at Farmingdale State College. Betz has served the public as a member of the Town of Brookhaven Planning Board and is currently a member of the Historic District Advisory Committee.

The question of, “What style do we build in?” first began in the 18th century as part of a transformation of consciousness that occurred in the Enlightenment. These styles can be grouped into two main categories: rationalism and romanticism. The first reflects a new rational philosophy of science and democracy, with its origins in Greek thought, while the other reflects a romantic escape into the past and has an emotional attachment with the good old days, religion and a fear of change. Both categories are influenced by local building traditions and forms.

The evening will examine the many historical architectural styles in the Three Villages and place them into these two main conceptual categories, giving the participant an easy way to identify and understand the meaning of these buildings.

Co-sponsored by Three Village Historical Society and Three Village Civic Association, the presentation will give an appreciation for the historic districts in the Town of Brookhaven and why these districts should be preserved as a learning environment for future generations.

Free and open to all. No registration necessary. For more information, call 631-941-4080.

Contest, in its third year, part of endowment by children in memory of their mother

Ed Taylor, Sherry Cleary and Karen Reid review entries for the contest honoring their mother Helen Stein Shack at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. Photo by Donna Newman

By Donna Newman

When Helen Stein Shack passed away three years ago, her children wanted to celebrate their mother’s life with a legacy she’d have loved. Where to do it was an easy decision because Shack was both a bibliophile and a big fan of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket.

Library Director Ted Gutmann recalled how Shack’s children approached him to establish an endowment that would support an annual event in her memory each April. They only needed to decide what the event would be.

“They wanted to do something at the library specifically dealing with children and literature created expressly for young readers,” Gutmann said.  “Librarian Nanette Feder had a group of teenagers working with younger children. We asked the teens if they’d like to try writing picture books. We created a contest, established rules, and offered a cash prize. The first year we promoted the contest through social media, the library website, department chairs and school librarians. Now it’s taken on a life of its own.”

Contest winners with the Shack family and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. Ed Taylor, Karen Shack Reid, Cartright, Michelle Pacala, Samantha White, Katie Zhao, Sherry Cleary and Nicole Freeley. Photo from the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

In an interview with three of Shack’s four children, as they gathered at the library Feb. 4 to review the entries, daughter Sherry Cleary explained their thinking.

“The inspiration for this library thing was that she really loved the process of children learning to read — and she loved this library,” she said. “It was our first choice to memorialize and honor her because when people would visit her, she would say, ‘Want to see my library? Let’s go see my library.’ She would bring people here, which is a little weird. It would make me laugh.”

All four children agreed that the library was the appropriate spot for Shack’s lasting legacy.

And now, the library is pleased to announce this year’s prize winners in the 3rd Annual Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Awards — a contest showcasing writing and illustration talent in Three Village secondary schools.

Each year students in grades 7 through 12 are invited to submit an original children’s picture book created by a single person or an author/illustrator team. There are two judging categories: Grades 7 to 9 and Grades 10 to 12. There is a first and second place winner in each category.

First Prize (Grades 7 to 9) goes to Eliana Sasson, an eighth-grader, for “We Can Still Be Friends,” which teaches children to embrace and celebrate differences. Second Prize is awarded to Nicole Freeley, a ninth-grader for “Sammy the Sock Monkey.” They are both students at P. J. Gelinas junior high.

First Prize (Grades 10 to 12) goes to Ward Melville high school sophomore Katie Zhao for “Claire and Her Bear,” about a young girl whose beloved teddy bear goes missing and the emotions she experiences when this happens. Second Prize is awarded to Cassidy Oliver, also a Ward Melville sophomore, for “Color Your World.”

“I think she  had this drive to do things differently. The way she grandparented — and her roots in education — inspired us to [create] these awards.”

—Sherry Cleary

Shack was an intelligent and courageous woman. After graduating from Brooklyn College in the early 1950s, she obtained an elementary school teaching job in California, and boarded a train heading west, alone.

“At that time, it was an extraordinarily brave thing to do,” said Cleary. “People got married and stayed in Brooklyn. I think she  had this drive to do things differently. The way she grandparented — and her roots in education — inspired us to [create] these awards.”

Cleary went on to describe the connection Shack made with her son, the first grandchild.

“I had the first grandchild,” she said, “but we were very far away. She didn’t see him often. She would tape her voice reading a children’s book and then send the tape and the book to him. So, he would sit in a big blue chair in our living room and listen intently to the tape and turn the pages when she made the noise [that signaled to do that]. He had connection to her in that way — and later, he became a librarian.”

Eventually, Shack had seven grandchildren.

Knowing how important children’s literature was to their mother, the family wanted their event to incorporate it in some way. Although Shack did not return to classroom teaching after remarrying and having two more daughters, when the girls were grown Shack tutored kids in the public schools. Her focus was on giving them access to literature. More than just teaching reading, she gave them access to books.

“And what you can get from books,” added daughter Karen Reid, “all the information. All questions get answered in books. And if you don’t have questions — read a book — because then you’ll have questions. [Our mother] was a big questioner and always wanted us to seek information in books. She thought it was wonderful that authors could write information in a way that kids would want to read it.” That impressed her.

Shack’s only son, Ed Taylor, said he didn’t think there was anything spectacular about his mother.

Helen Shack, second from left, with her children at Karen Reid’s 2011 wedding. Photo from Shack family

“She was just a loving person,” he said, “loved her family, her kids and her grandchildren, nephews and nieces. She always stressed education, always stressed reading. I don’t know if she was much different from other moms, but she was ours. She was special to us; but I think everyone’s mother is special to them. The best compliment I could give her:  she was a good mother.”

Cleary talked about a third daughter, Barbara Kelly, who has three children. The kids would come for two weeks in the summer to visit their ‘savta’ (Hebrew for grandmother).

“They’d come in the house and unload all their stuff and she’d say, ‘Did you bring books?’ and they’d look at her and say, ‘No, we didn’t bring books all the way from California,’” Cleary said. “And she’d say, ‘Let’s go to the library.’ She’d bring them to the library to get books. As the children got older, on their way to visit they’d ask each other, ‘How long do you think it’ll be till we go to the library?’”

Shack fostered the notion that you should never be without a book. Unsurprisingly, her progeny are all readers. “The irony is, because she was so connected to the library, she did not have a lot of books in the house,” said Cleary, “which used to drive me crazy. She’d say, ‘I don’t buy books. I go to the library.’”

Winning authors will be recognized at a private awards ceremony at the library, Thursday, April 27 at 7 p.m. Each First Prize winner receives a $400 scholarship; each Second Prize winner receives a $100 scholarship. Bound copies of all the winning entries will be presented and added to the library’s Local Focus collection. All contest entrants receive certificates of participation. Light refreshments will be served, donated by The Bite Size Bake Shop, a local Three Village business.

The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, is located at 120 Main Street in Setauket and provides public library service to all residents of the Three Village Central School District.

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Princess Ronkonkoma Productions, a local not-for-profit organization, is currently accepting entries for its 11th annual Children’s Poetry Contest open to all students in grades K through 12. Prizes will be awarded in three categories: K to 5th grade, 6th to 8th grade and 9th to 12th grade and based on four themes: What would you say to a Martian?, My Secret Wish, Magic Dragon and A Box of Treasures.

Poems should not exceed 25 lines and there is no fee for each poem submitted. Send two copies of each poem, one with your name, address and phone number on it and one without to Princess Ronkonkoma Productions, P.O. Box 2508, Lake Ronkonkoma, NY 11779-2508. Postmark deadline for all entries is March 25.

An award ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 6 at Emma S. Clark Library, 120 Main St., Setauket from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Winners, or a representative designated by the winners, must be present to accept their certificate and prize. For more information, please call Hedi at 631-331-2438 or email Judy at msjevus@optonline.net.

The Philip Groia Memorial Global Studies Collection on display at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. Photo from Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

By Susan Risoli

A teacher can change lives. With a $50,000 bequest to Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, former teacher Philip Groia funded a permanent global studies collection. Those who remember Groia, who died in 2014 at age 73, will appreciate the fact that his gift will enrich lives for years to come.

Groia taught social studies and global studies to ninth-graders at Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School and was advisor to the student government. He was “an internationalist,” agreed retired fellow teachers and friends John Deus and Judy Albano in a recent interview. He had an abiding curiosity about people and their lives, they said.

Groia never married and had no children, but he thought of his students as his kids and “they adored him,” said Deus. “He was a ‘kids first’ kind of teacher.”

Albano said relating with his students was one of Groia’s strengths, “[He was] ‘Mr. Cool.’ He was very relaxed with the kids, very easy with them.”

Former student Amy Cohas remembered being taken aback on the first day of social studies class, when she found her teacher sitting in the back of the classroom instead of in the customary spot up front. For Groia, it was just another way to connect with kids.

“He was really unusual,” Cohas said in a phone interview. “He had a lot of authority, but he was low-key and funny and affectionate.”

Former Three Village teacher Philip Groia funded a Global Studies collection at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. Photo from Tony Calleja.
Former Three Village teacher Philip Groia funded a Global Studies collection at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. Photo from Tony Calleja

Groia called his tests “practical everyday applications,” Cohas recalled, and he delivered them verbally to encourage students to think about the material.

His own worldwide travels were often part of class discussions.

“He was trying to expose us to a wider world,” Cohas said. “It raised our expectations as to what teachers could be.”

The bond between students and their teacher was especially strong, Cohas said, the day some kids baked Groia a birthday cake and brought it to school.

“I remember he looked up as he was slicing the cake and said, ‘I don’t want this to go to your heads, but I really love you guys,’” she recalled.

Groia sent his students to Emma Clark to work on their school assignments, and did his own research there too. He had a special interest in early rhythm and blues music, especially the street corner groups that filled 1950s and ‘60s New York City with their vocal harmonies.

His book on the topic, “They All Sang on the Corner,” is part of the library’s holdings. Still, said library director Ted Gutmann, it came as a surprise that Groia’s will provided for Emma Clark.

“I think I did a little bit of a double take, when I saw the figure of $50,000,” Gutmann said. Though Groia’s gift is the first bequest to Emma Clark in Gutmann’s tenure as director, there have been other benefactors in the library’s 125-year history, he said.

The Philip Groia Memorial Global Studies Collection was started last year and includes 100 items on current events and cultures throughout the world.

“Right now it’s basically books,” Gutmann said. “But there are really no strings attached to the gift.” Eventually it may include DVDs or other media.

Gutmann said having a well-curated global studies collection available for all is important to keep people informed, “Especially because so much of what’s happening now is, people group together with their own political beliefs and they don’t listen to what the other side is saying,” he said.

Emma Clark is a natural home for learning about people, their cultures and their governments, Gutmann continued, because “a library is one of the few places these days, it seems, where you can still come and get information without a bias.”

Tony Calleja was a friend.

“He came from a strict household,” Calleja said of his friend. “They expected him to be something different than what he felt. But he was his own man and went through life his own way.”

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Sandy Pearlman lived in Setauket, graduated from Stony Brook University

Sandy Pearlman. Photo from Ronni Hoffman

By Susan Risoli

Who wouldn’t want more cowbell? Samuel “Sandy” Pearlman — who may or may not have inspired the classic “Saturday Night Live” skit about the song “Don’t Fear the Reaper” — had a fever for living the creative life. The former Setauket resident, Stony Brook University alumnus, and celebrated record producer-lyricist-executive, died last week in California at 72. His friends remember a man whose imagination raced ahead while urging everyone else to keep up.

“He was a philosopher-king,” said Norm Prusslin, an SBU professor who first met him on campus in 1969, when Pearlman was managing a local band he called Soft White Underbelly. In this bunch of guys he met at his father’s pharmacy in Smithtown, Pearlman found musicianship that could turn his stories and poems into records. He loved to write about astrology, architecture, mythical figures and all manner of futuristic things, Prusslin recalled.

Blue Öyster Cult recorded “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in 1976. The song, written not by Pearlman, but by the band’s lead guitarist Donald Roeser a.k.a. Buck Dharma, was a track on the “Agents of Fortune” album recorded at New York City’s Record Plant. Pearlman co-produced the album. So … was he in fact the record producer parodied by Christopher Walken in the SNL skit?

Bassist Joe Bouchard said it’s possible.

“Sandy had that look, yeah,” he said, with a chuckle, of the leather jacket and dark glasses worn indoors.

“He was always very happy in the studio — excited to get the band to do their best.”
— Joe Bouchard

More important was Pearlman’s success at pushing artists to go just a bit further.

“He usually said he wanted more energy during recording,” Bouchard said. “He was always very happy in the studio — excited to get the band to do their best.”

Pearlman worked with other artists, producing the Clash’s breakthrough 1978 release “Give ‘Em Enough Rope.” He also produced the Dictators — a punk band many consider to be a sonic link between the Stooges and the MC5, and bands like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols — and he managed Black Sabbath.

Pearlman lived on and off in a house on Main Street in Setauket, a few doors down from the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. Prusslin said he had been hired to teach philosophy at SBU, but plans were curtailed by the cerebral hemorrhage Pearlman suffered in December of last year.

Longtime friends Robert Duncan, and his wife Roni Hoffman, saw Pearlman often. Duncan said Pearlman was especially proud of “Imaginos,” a project started as a poem and turned into a song circle album.

Although Blue Öyster Cult played on it, “Sandy always referred to it as his ‘solo record,’” Duncan said. “I think he would say that was his crowning achievement, when that record came out.”

Pearlman was always “the smartest guy in the room,” Bouchard said. “He knew that if you just do a pop song, it’ll be gone in a year. If you do a song with a little more depth to it, it’ll have some staying power.”