Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Rosalie Harris, Who Live Life Well and With Commitment

 [Originally published in The Caledonian-Record.]


Rosalie Harris, a pillar of the St. Johnsbury community and a personal mentor to many individuals, died peacefully at her family home on July 17, 2021. Rosalie was 102.

Some reading this obituary may remember Rosalie fondly from her more active years, while others will never have heard of her, or of the impact that she and her husband Ben (1913-2014) had in the Northeast Kingdom for more than half a century. This is what happens when one reaches the age of 102.

Born and raised in Montreal, Rosalie learned early to establish strong interpersonal relationships of support and mentorship, becoming an anchor within her large extended family of cousins which, even today, gathers monthly for global video calls, reflecting the spirit of family and community that Rosalie spread. She studied, practiced and graduated as a Registered Nurse in 1940 from the Women’s General Hospital School of Nursing in Montreal, and received a certificate in First Aid to the Injured from the St. John Ambulance Association in 1941. Her nursing credentials were recognized by Vermont in 1962.

In October 1941 Rosalie met Ben Harris of St. Albans on a blind date and they were married three months later on their fifth “date,” in Montreal, beginning a 72-year marriage. After Ben’s military service, during which Rosalie worked for the Red Cross in Boston, Mass., the couple settled initially in Montpelier and then moved to St. Johnsbury in 1949 when Ben opened the local branch of his statewide business Nate’s, then Vermont’s Largest Men’s Clothier. From that time on, Rosalie committed herself fully to advancing the civic, religious, and cultural life of the NEK. Her public service record includes:

- Caledonia Home Health Care, President and founding member

- Northeast Kingdom Mental Health Services, Inc., member

- Congregation Beth El, Sisterhood President, Secretary and Teacher

- Community Concert Series, Secretary, Publicity Chair

- Northeastern Vermont Kingdom Concert Series, Board

- Methodist Church Fashion Show, narrator and fundraiser for the St. Johnsbury Community School

- Vermont Assembly of Home Health Agencies, Board of Directors

- American Red Cross Blood Bank, Technician

- Fairbanks Museum, Board member, Fellow, Director and Clerk of the Board

- Girl Scouts, Board of Directors

- St. Johnsbury Junior Woman’s Club, President and advocate for the pre-school polio vaccination clinics

- St. Johnsbury Woman’s Club, Member

- Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, Corporator, Trustee, Member of the Executive Board, Chair of the Policy and Procedures Committee, Library Staff Volunteer, Central Services Volunteer

- American Cancer Society, Vermont Division Secretary and Publicity Chair

- St. Johnsbury Youth Recreation Council, Member of the Board, Secretary

- Arlington School PTA, Secretary and representative to the public school Social Studies Curriculum Committee

- Kiwanis Club of St. Johnsbury, volunteer

- Northern Vermont University, Lyndon Campus, Foundation founding member, Visitors Board member

- Gilman Housing Trust, now RuralEdge, Board Member

- St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, Board Member

- Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce, Trustee Emerita

- Profiled in the book “To Life! A Celebration of Vermont Jewish History”

Familiar to many through all of these activities and through her boundless optimism and positivity, Rosalie is perhaps best known to a generation in St. Johnsbury as the person who explained Jewish beliefs and traditions through her annual talks in the Sunday Schools of almost every church in town. Rosalie had a way of making Jewish traditions and beliefs accessible and understandable to non-Jews within the context of their own religions, breaking down the barriers which too often divide our communities. Rosalie continued her representation of the Jewish community as a guest at St. Johnsbury Academy graduation ceremonies where, for several years, she delivered the invocation and benediction.

In response to Rosalie and Ben’s commitment to building bridges between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities, their children endowed a Fund which sponsors annual programming in the NEK to share culture, arts and ideas across religions. Rosalie and Ben themselves endowed the Harris Prize at St. Johnsbury Academy and a Nursing Scholarship at Northern Vermont University, Lyndon Campus.

Rosalie’s tireless civic commitment was recognized with many honors including:

- David G. Rahr Community Service Award, with Ben, from the Vermont Community Foundation, 2009

- Community National Bank Community Service Award, with Ben, 2005

- Recognized by the Governor’s Commission on Volunteers, 1994

- St. Johnsbury Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award, 1978

When not busy serving the community, Rosalie devoted her time to her immediate and extended family and to many hobbies and interests, including piano, embroidery, crocheting, knitting, calligraphy, and painting. She also sought and enjoyed conversations in Yiddish and French.

Rosalie is survived by her children Gertrude (Chips) Naparstek and her husband David of Boxboro, Mass.; Andrea Harris of Brighton, Mass.; and Bill Harris and his wife Marcia of Cambridge, Mass.; by grandchildren Mark Naparstek and his wife Ember of Las Vegas, Nev.; Sam Harris and his wife Miriam of Dedham, Mass.; and Jake Harris and his partner Rachel Slusky of Delray Beach, Fla. Rosalie’s beloved granddaughter Amy Sara Naparstek pre-deceased her in 1995. Great-grandchildren, Emerson and Zander Naparstek, live in Las Vegas, Nev.; and great-granddaughter Nora Harris lives in Dedham, Mass.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Amy Sara Naparstek Fund at Congregation Beth Elohim, 133 Prospect St., Acton, MA 01720; the Ben and Rosalie Harris Fund of Beth El Synagogue, PO Box 568, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819; or the Ben and Rosalie Harris Scholarship in Nursing, Northern Vermont University Lyndon Campus, 1001 College Rd., PO Box 919, Lyndonville, VT 05851.

Funeral services and interment were held at a private family ceremony at the Hebrew Holy Society Cemetery in South Burlington, Vt.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

First Flight of Sam Senturia, an Airplane Mechanic During World War I

Sam Senturia, World War I

Jerome "Jerry" Senturia of Peacham shared a photo of the hand-typed description his father Sam (1896-1947) wrote about his first flight, circa 1914. Jerry wrote, "My father was an airplane mechanic in World War I. He wanted to be a pilot but his mother would not give her permission."

At the left is a photo of Sam in uniform, provided by Jerry's niece. And here is Sam's great story!

FROM DIZZY HEIGHTS: My Initial Ride in an Aeroplane

 

by Sam Senturia

 

            I shall endeavor to tell you of the sensations that I experienced on my first voyage among the clouds. This description is prompted by a request from Meyer Schickman who is helping to make my stay in Kelly Field less irksome.

            I had set my heart on getting a ride in an aeroplane, so I inquired how to get one, and was told to obtain a “form Z” and fill it out. I mustered up enough courage to go into the Office of the Office in Charge of flying and there asked the information clerk for a “Form Z.” I was greatly pleased to hear this clerk ask another, if he had any “Undertaker Blanks.” This is what the “Form Z” is commonly called because it has everything that an undertaker would want to know and then some. I took this to a quiet place and there filled it out. Here are some of the questions asked on this form: where do you want your remains sent? What religious services do you prefer? How much money have you and where is it? Have you a will and where is it? What insurance do you carry and where are the policies? This of course, put more courage into me and I filled it out bravely. I thought sure that if I went up, this information would be quite valuable to them. Now to get a pilot to take me up. When I found the pilot that I wanted he was busy talking to a friend of mine. After I had made my wishes known to the pilot, this friend of mine who happened to be the timekeeper on that stage, took the trouble to ask the pilot to be sure and give me a “good” ride. I did not grasp the full meaning of this until I had finished the ride. I borrowed a helmet and a pair of goggles from a cadet and was instructed to get in. I did this and the crew chief took the time to see that I had my safety belt hooked, this being my initial ride, and being greatly excited there was a possibility of my forgetting to take this precaution.

            After the usual Contact and Off the motor was started and we started on my first ride. On leaving the ground the feeling is that the ground is sinking under you and you are gradually rising away from it. The noise of the motor takes away most of the sensation until you get used to it. As the passenger usually rides in the front seat, I was practically on top of the motor. It took a few minutes for me to get accustomed to the noise of the motor, and then I took a look over the side. It sure is grand to be up in the air and look down on the earth, you can see for miles, and at the height we were (which I later found was 2000 feet) things are plain and easily discernable. I mentally pointed out my barracks, the place where I work, and the different places that I only [saw] from the ground before . The riding is fine, if the pilot does not feel happy and does not make the ship stand on its nose. We rode along this way and I was feeling great but Oh! what’s this, the ship is up on one wing and swinging around in a circle using the lowest wing as a pivot (I later found out that this was a spiral), when the pilot had straightened the ship out I looked back at him and smiled; this and the fact that the timekeeper had asked him to give me a “good” ride must have acted as an incentive and the first thing I knew the motor was sputtering and we were headed for the earth in the queerest manner, twisting this [way] then that (I later found that this was a tail spin) this is when a fellow gets that queer sensation that “it is all over with now,” but oh what a sigh of relief when I saw that we were again riding level. I looked back again, this time with not so much of a smile. The fact that I was still able to look back at him spurred him on and this time we nosed down and I felt the safety belt loosen so I looked UP and behold I saw the earth, this dear readers you know was a loop. As before I looked back but with no grin at all for I was having an inward battle trying to persuade what remained of my dinner to stay where it belonged, I would have won this battle by Oh! the ship tilted again and this was too much for poor little me, my hand shot up in the air as a signal that I had had enough and he must have seen that I was inspecting the inside of the ship, so he started down; at this my stomach won and out came what remained of my breakfast (the crew chief and I ought to be thankful that I did not eat any dinner that day, for if I had I would have made a little work for him and myself). We landed in a small field and the pilot told me to get out and walk around and that I would feel better. I did this and it felt good to again have my feet on Mother Earth. After about two minutes walk I told him I was ready to go back. On the return trip I rode in the rear seat and the pilot in the front seat. The pilot must have had pity on me for we rode level all the way and he even tried to cheer me by showing me some cows that had started to run when they heard the noise from our motor. I soon began to see familiar places and I knew that we would soon be back on the field. I experienced little or no sensation on landing this time for I was feeling sort of dizzy. When I got out I said to myself “Gee but it’s good to be back on the earth again.”

            I missed a dinner and part of a supper on account of this ride but I think it was worth it and a few more besides. When you consider the fact that it costs the government about two dollars a minute to fly a ship and that I had about 35 minutes of flying time I think that I could miss a couple of more rations and still be ahead.

            I hope that among you readers there may be some who have or will experience similar sensations.

            On my next trip I shall endeavor to be more entertaining and send you a regard from St. Peter himself.





Thursday, April 15, 2021

Farewell to Steve Crevoshay, April 7, 2021

 [From the Caledonian-Record obituary, April 12, 2021. See note at end.]

Steve Crevoshay died on April 7, 2021, surrounded by family. He had lived with cancer for several years but continued to enjoy life, particularly time with family, tending his prolific and beautiful garden (including the most beautiful marijuana), playing piano and recorder, singing, cooking, voluminous reading, and classic films.

Steve was born on October 12, 1944, in Boston, Mass., and grew up in a large, three-story house at 41 Hamlin Road in Newton with his parents, siblings, and maternal grandparents. The house was the site of many shenanigans, including simultaneous trumpet playing on all three floors by all three children and teenage parties that resulted in broken furniture.

Steve is best captured in his own words, through recollections and commentary written over the past year:

“With the certainty of limited time here, I enjoy not only old age, but also the pleasures, simple ones mostly, that abound, especially here in bucolic completeness. Colored as my mental wanderings are by all the new ageness absorbed over the years, and reinforced by Alan Watts’ lectures, I gladly drink in nature, clouds, sky, grass, trees, bees, flowers, birds, deer, gardens, sun & moon, all in their very own preciousness. The greatest sustenance is people. Family is my guiding star. When all is well, with everyone, as it is at the moment, I can be a satisfied lump in the easy chair, just breathing & images gliding by in my own private cinema.”

He held a number of jobs over his life. These included camp counselor, librarian of the Botany Department of the Chicago Public Library, film lackey, shoe salesman, delivery driver, picture framer, harpsichord builder, tax assessor, co-op manager, substitute teacher, and natural products salesman. The job that he used to help weave an incredible community across the Northeast Kingdom was that of owner of Newport Natural Foods in Newport, VT. He ran the store with his wife Madeleine for 28 years. He knew nearly every customer by name, and regularly provided those in need with purchases on credit. He was a mentor to many employees and fostered a community of artisans and healers through the store.

Steve also volunteered as a Little League coach and Hebrew school teacher, helped local migrant farmworkers through the Vermont Migrant Justice program, and was involved in a number of food justice efforts in the Northeast Kingdom.

Music was his great joy, beginning with piano and trumpet lessons as a child. For over 30 years, he was a tenor in the Northsong Chorus. Prior to that he was a singer with a group called the Doo Wops, performing all over the Northeast Kingdom. A particular delight was shape-note singing. He also participated in Bread and Puppet performances as a singer and Garbage Man (and, memorably, once as Bernie Sanders). Over the last 20 years he developed his skill on the recorder, and enjoyed playing Baroque music with a number of friends and family. In his last year, he began to provide video piano lessons to his granddaughter in Seattle. He was especially proud of the musical career and accomplishments of his son, Gideon, which began with the two of them singing together in the car on the way to Little League practices.

He is survived by his sister, Amrita Crevoshay, his children, Eve Crevoshay, Gideon Crevoshay, and Laila Copperansky, his partner Mariel Hess, his granddaughter Aria Edery, his son-in-law David Edery, his ex-wife Madeleine Winfield, the parents of Laila, Ruth Coppersmith and Sara Lisniansky, Mariel’s daughters Kit and Reeve and their partners, his niece Shulamit Crevoshay and nephews Avi Crevoshay and Sholem Futran, and numerous dear cousins and friends. He is predeceased by his parents, Maurice “Maish” Crevoshay and Selma Leah (Levine) Crevoshay, and by his older brother, George Crevoshay.

Steve chose to have a private green burial at his home, in keeping with his deep connection with the earth and attunement to the cycles of nature. A beloved beech tree will be planted above his gravesite at the first anniversary of his death. In keeping with Jewish tradition, the family requests that no flowers be sent. Those who wish to honor his memory may do so by planting a tree or by making a donation in Steve’s honor to reforestation or tree planting efforts locally or worldwide.

 ***

Note from the blogger, Beth Kanell: When I arrived in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont in 1978, Steve and Maddy were members of the food coop in Newport, and I met them when I joined. I recall learning from them to wear gloves when cutting cheese (because otherwise it molded quickly), sorting out coop members' orders in heaps of small bags of nuts, beans, flour, and seeing my son Kiril learn to crawl and walk on the floor of the coop, which was then below sidewalk level, on the south side of Newport's Main Street. Soon Eve was riding in a carrier on Maddy's shoulders.

 I recall the happiness when Steve and Maddy decided to become "owners" and add store functions to the coop. I also remember taking part in a gathering to finish the fiberglass insulation for their owner-built home. It's a long time ago now. It amazes me that the counterculture habit of smoking marijuana, which was part of such gatherings "back then," has now morphed to Steve's own gardened marijuana, mentioned above.

When I met and married Dave Kanell (we met in 2001, became a couple in 2002, married in 2003), we marveled at the fact that we had not crossed paths with each other sooner, since Dave actually had spent far more time with Steve than I had -- although in an entirely different context. Dave was a long-time leader of Congregation Beth El in St. Johnsbury, appreciated Steve's teaching of Hebrew to the kids there, and had memories of Eve and Gideon growing up. Steve wasn't active in the congregation by the time I was, but I think he was still coming south once a year to the High Holiday services, perhaps with Maddy. Ozzie Henschel, whom I also met in the coop (he called my baby's feet "foozles" and snuggled him), definitely came a few more times in the early 2000s. 

 I can't close this without also saying how much of a marvel and blessing it was when Steve connected at last with Mariel, whom I knew from two other parts of my life -- working on GreenUp Day in Glover, and maintaining good health in Danville. It's very heart-affirming to see such good people find each other and savor life together. Let the circle be unbroken, by and by.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

"The Lost Mural": Videos of the Jewish Murals in Burlington, Vermont



 The Vermont Historical Society recently made these videos available. "Originally in Chai Adam Synagogue on Hyde Street in Burlington, the mural was intentionally hidden behind a false wall in 1986 when the synagogue was converted into an apartment building. It was successfully moved to Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in 2015.  The Lost Mural represents a lost genre of wooden painted synagogues that was prevalent in eastern Europe."

Video 1 is here.

Video 2 is here.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

"Nate's": Christopher Ryan Describes the Opening of This Jewish-Owned Business in 1949

[The following letter was presented by the Caledonian-Record of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, on  January 9, 2021.]

May 1949 – Nate’s Opens

To the Editor:

On Thursday night May 5, 1949, the venerable and long-missed St. Johnsbury haberdashery and shoe store, Nate’s Inc., opened for business in the Randall Block of Railroad Street in Scale City. The article in the paper of record of that afternoon noted that the third and newest Nate’s store in Vermont “will be under the management of Ben Harris, who together with his [brother] Nathan Harris of Montpelier and [his father] Hyman Harris of St. Albans, operate the group of stores. [Ben Harris] is a native of St. Albans, where he learned the clothing business in a store owned by his father. A veteran of foreign service in World War II, Mr. Harris is a member of the Montpelier Elks and Kiwanis Clubs and for the past two years has served as treasurer of Vermont Jewish Council. He is a member of St. Johnsbury Chamber of Commerce.” (“New Nate’s Inc. Opens Tonight Men’s Clothing Store Will Hold Open House – Is Third In Nate’s Vermont Chain,” The Caledonian-Record, Thur. May 5, 1949, at pp. 1-2). On Fri. Apr. 6, 1951, Nate’s relocated to 77 Railroad Street.

Over the next approximately thirty-four years, Nate’s was a popular men’s clothing destination offering, in particular, a superb, high-quality line of suits and shirts. Around town, Nate’s proprietor Ben Harris (1913-2014), his wife Rosalie, and their children Gertrude, Andrea, and Bill are/were remarkable in their deep and steadfast involvement in St. Johnsbury civic service, school activities, and in their philanthropical efforts. Among the too many to mention of these associations were The Kiwanis Club (of which Ben was a member for decades both in Montpelier and in St. Johnsbury including service as president of the St. J. chapter); the St. Johnsbury Chamber of Commerce; the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce; serving as corporators of Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital; support of St. Johnsbury Academy and the St. Johnsbury public school initiatives/Parent Teacher Association; and in the family activity in the religious life of Temple Beth-El/Congregation Beth-El.

St. Johnsbury is a praiseworthy hometown because of the resolute support of certain individuals to the continuous betterment of town civic, commercial, educational, and philanthropic endeavors and organizations. Count the Harris family members as very prominent in that group of St. J. residents sharing that high-minded ethos of public service to others that has always been an endearing attribute of Scale City.

Christopher E. Ryan

Simi Valley, Calif.

 * *

This blog presented other material on Nate's and Ben Harris in 2014: https://jewsinvermont.blogspot.com/2014/12/nates-mens-clothiers-st-albans.html

Here's Charlie Dolgin, who grew up nearby, showing his elegant Nate's-labeled hat.


* *

I note for the sake of completeness that my late husband Dave Kanell used to talk about the founding of the Nate's clothing store in St. Johnsbury. His version involved Ben Harris being sent to the "hinterlands" of St. Johnsbury because the family felt he couldn't handle the established larger stores -- and then, of course, Ben proved his value to the community by getting to know everyone, and making Nate's in this small town a thriving concern. 

Ben and his wife Rosalie presented the face of Jewish community for decades, and their presence at community events is sorely missed.

Jewish Arrivals in Vermont After the Civil War: Cemetery Restoration


There has been good documentation of the German Jews who began to arrive in Vermont's Slate Valley around 1868, establishing a Jewish community in today's Poultney. Middlebury Professor Robert S. Schine explored the pinkas of their congregation, introducing them to modern readers: http://americanjewisharchives.org/publications/journal/PDF/2008_60_01_02_doc_schine.pdf

Even so, members of the strong and growing Orthodox community in southern Vermont today aren't always aware of the remains of earlier Jewish residents in the region. In November 2020, a high school senior named Netanel Crispe began to raise attention to the early congregation's burial ground, seeking to repair and restore the stones and their surroundings:
https://forward.com/news/459640/vermont-jewish-cemetery

It is still possible to donate to the project, which has already exceeded its initial funding goal: https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-vermont-oldest-jewish-cemetery

Restoration work is anticipated to begin in spring of 2021.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

In the Jewish Section of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery: 5, Irene Silverman

Irene (Goldberg) Silverman, “Nanny,” Labor Day 1909–May 2002

 

Irene (Goldberg) Silverman

Irene Goldberg was born in Rochester, NY, on September 4, 1909. Her parents Morris and Leah Goldberg were immigrants to the US. Her son Sam Silverman recalls, “Mom grew up in the Bronx, with seven siblings, and they all worked, no college and not much money.” Irene dropped out of sixth grade and went right to work. Always comfortable in a group of people, she shared exuberance and love of a funny story. When Bob (born Reuven) Silverman noticed her, he actively pursued her. A carpenter and also the child of immigrant parents, he was considered a “good catch” and a “good provider,” essential in the harsh economic times of the cascading depressions. Although she claimed she married Bob for the security he’d provide, they clearly were deeply attached to each other. A person who “could never sit still,” Irene devoted herself to homemaking and her three children.
Sam and his mother Irene

 

When Irene’s son Sam was 12 years old, his mother began to work outside the home, at “The Sweater Joint.” Sam says, “She was profoundly popular.” His father drove Irene to work each day and collected her at the end of her work day, and then the two of them would cook dinner together. Sam enjoyed being his mother’s helper, and observing the contrast between his parents: His mother shone in family get-togethers, keeping the laughter and the conversation going, while his father was quiet and work-focused, as well as bright and self-taught. As a youth, Bob had been valedictorian of his high school and was offered a full scholarship to college, but opted instead to join his own father’s business, building skills and finally establishing his own carpentry business.

Irene loved gatherings ... (center, Alice with drum)

 

In the 1970s, Bob’s heart disease inspired the couple to move to Hallandale, Florida. Here too, Irene worked, all the way to age 88. Sadly, Bob died 23 years before Irene, so she spent her golden years without him. Sam and his wife Alice welcomed Irene’s visits to their home in Amherst, Massachusetts, then to their home in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. When visiting here, Irene took part with her usual enthusiasm in social events; Sam especially remembers when she took part in a 50th anniversary celebration for local synagogue leaders Rosalie and Ben Harris, held at Lyndon State College. “She joined right in, and danced with her walker!”

 

Sam went to Florida in 2001 when Irene had a mini stroke and seemed saddened and alone, and he brought her back to Vermont. When this visit turned out to be shorter than first envisioned, Sam took her to Florida again, where she almost immediately experienced a mini stroke. Concerned for his mother’s health, Sam arranged for the two of them to go right back to Vermont, where Irene spent the last nine months of her life.

 


Irene’s last big celebration was a bnei mitvah for one of Nancy Frank and Jay Abramson’s children, and Sam noticed that she seemed slow. The next morning he woke with a sense of something wrong, and found that his mother had collapsed. Emergency transport took them to the local hospital, where Sam held Irene’s hand for two hours until she passed.

 

“She was a favorite of my friends,” Sam recalls now. “She was very active her whole life, and she always fit right in.”

 

Her burial stone in the Jewish section of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery includes her grandmothering name of “Nanny,” a reminder of how much she enjoyed Sam and Alice’s sons. Sam was able to visit the site almost daily for ten years, before he and Alice moved to Montpelier, and he felt the connection to his mother continue through those years, along with reflections on what an active and joyful person she had been. “She survived on her winning personality,” Sam noted. Irene gave this joy of life as an enduring memory to her family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[To read more local Jewish personal stories and history, browse the whole blog: https://jewsinvermont.blogspot.com]