What is your age and where were you born?  87.  I was born near Detroit, Michigan in the 1930's and graduated from Michigan State College in 1953 with a degree in speech therapy.  

When did you move to Montclair and why?  My husband, Murray, and our young family left Michigan in 1960 when his company transferred him to NYC.  We moved to Montclair on the recommendation of a friend and have loved it here from the very beginning.

Are you currently employed?  If so, doing what?  If you had a career, what was it?  I was fortunate to work as a speech therapist in the Michigan and Montclair public school systems.  As a mother of 5 children, my career was always balanced against the needs of my family.

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Have you done any volunteer work?  If so, what type and with what organization?  Over the years, I worked part time at The Book Corner in Upper Montclair and I volunteered with the Junior League of Montclair/Newark.  However, I developed my greatest interest and passion while volunteering for the Montclair PTA during the 60's.

This was a very volatile time in Montclair's history.  The Montclair Public Schools was found to be in noncompliance of the federal law (Brown vs Board of Education, 1954) which made equal opportunity the law of the land. I joined a group of about 8 PTA moms who went to Trenton and interviewed the Commissioner of Education who substantiated this violation. We returned and delivered the message loudly and clearly to the Montclair community. This started the process that eventually led to the integration of Montclair Public Schools. A collaborative effort from our community resulted in the Montclair Magnet Schools which became a role model for the nation.

 

How are you currently engaged in the community?  Little did I know that the birth of our 5th child in 1976, a beautiful little girl diagnosed with Down syndrome, would give my family a deeper understanding and chance to work for equal opportunity in our community and school system. We were shocked to learn that at this time in history children born with a disability were still being institutionalized. Never a consideration for us, we brought her home from the hospital where she joined in the activities of our busy family life and was proudly and lovingly welcomed by her sister and three older brothers. Today, she is one of the most inspiring persons in my life.

Over the next years I concentrated on learning about Down syndrome and what was considered best practice in our country and abroad.  This led to co-founding, with my dearest friend Cheryl Pinderhughes, Down Syndrome Congress of Northern New Jersey.  This organization supported families as they researched information and became strong advocates for inclusive education (Public Law 94-142).

 

My hobbies are spending time with family and friends, playing "Words With Friends", gardening, good food, and reading, especially when the books lead to thoughtful discussion with my wonderful book club friends.

What are some of the most important lessons you feel you have learned throughout your life?  The most important lesson that I have learned in life in this: What happens to you is not as important as how you handle what happens. Life's greatest gift is my wonderful family and loyal friends and I must say, great grandchildren are the frosting on the cake.

What is your mantra or words you live by?  My Mantra has become “separate is not equal”.

What are your plans for future? How does Montclair fit into these plans?  I am proud to say that all 5 of our children and all 9 of our grandchildren were and are currently being educated in Montclair Public Schools. And I plan to live out my years in this great community.

If you know of a Montclair senior who should be featured, please call Katie York,
Director of Senior Services/Lifelong Montclair, at 973-509-4967.