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Bernard Kleinman
Bernard Kleinman

Bernard Kleinman

Walk, run, exercise your brain. Bernie Kleinman was doing all the right things to live a healthy life decades before the experts began telling us what to do. 

“I skied in Vermont and Aspen and I played tennis well into my 70s,” he says. “And I still play bridge with friends every Friday, but it’s now on Zoom.  I love classical music and reading literature, although because of limited eyesight now I have to listen to audio books.”

Who else do you know that’s read Marcel Proust’s masterpiece, ‘Remembrances of Things Past,’ three times and listens to Beethoven at bedtime? The reward? Bernie will celebrate his 100th birthday in June.

Bernie started life in Flushing, Queens but when he was seven his father was killed in a car accident and the family moved to Manhattan. Little did he know that his later life would be spent in Brooklyn. “If you lived in Manhattan in the 1960s,” he said, “you didn’t think much of Brooklyn. Real human beings didn’t live there. Brooklyn was just a place that hung onto the Brooklyn Bridge.” But he got to know Brooklyn when his mother enrolled him in Brooklyn Technical High School!

“Pearl Harbor was attacked during my senior year, but I wasn’t drafted because of my eyesight. Then, after working as a junior draftsman, I decided to go to City College to get a degree in engineering. Later in the war, when the shooting was over, I was drafted into the Air Force. There, in Florida, I taught a course in radar fundamentals.”

After he was discharged from the Air Force, he went back to college and to graduate school. Following graduation, he held a couple of jobs working on the design of military equipment. Then he began working for New York Telephone, now Verizon. He said he was glad to help people talk instead of killing one another. He stayed there until he retired at age 66.

At New York Telephone, it was Bernie’s job was to keep the phones working. When the central office switch broke down, he was called on to get it fixed. “There was a lot of pressure. Imagine 10,000 customers losing dial tone. I was not one of the guys climbing up poles, you know. I came out with my jacket and tie, and with some knowledge of how things worked.“

“I remember one time I was sent to the Bronx because staff there couldn’t fix a problem.  It took me hours to find what was wrong. One little contact in one little relay was dirty. I kept notes on all the problems I worked on. Months later I was called to another location with the same complaint. Their system had been out of service for many hours. I quietly listened, I climbed a ladder, poked around for a few seconds and said, ‘Try it now.’ The switch worked. Jaws dropped. Everyone looked at me as though I was God.” 

Bernie didn’t get married until he was in his early 40s, late for that era. “I lived in a little apartment in Greenwich Village. One day I came home from work and there was a young woman relaxing on a bench, waiting for her brother who lived in the same building. I invited her to wait in my apartment ….and that was the beginning of my romance with Sondra.” 

“After many months, I happened to mention to Sondra that I had taken a female friend to a movie. She immediately broke off the relationship, saying she was not planning to become one of my ‘girlfriends’. Five months later, I received a call from her: ‘How are you?’ I was overjoyed and we restarted our lives together.” Bernie and Sondra have two daughters and one grandson. Both daughters live nearby in Brooklyn.

Bernie loves playing bridge and at one point he decided to offer beginner lessons to members of Good Neighbors. He told new players, “You have to remember many small things, a lot of technical points, to become good. But once you’ve learned this, you’ll have years of pleasure from it.” People who have taken lessons with Bernie are among his most ardent admirers.

We all wish him a very happy birthday and look forward to his 101st. 

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Phyllis A. Sears
Phyllis A. Sears

Phyllis A. Sears

Sometimes you meet people who are really good at something and earn a living doing it, but that’s not what makes them tick. Their true passion lies elsewhere. One such person is Phyllis Sears.

Most of us associate Phyllis with organizing things: arranging outings to the theater and the opera, leading walking tours and, most recently, creating a Good Neighbors program called “Let’s Do This Together."

“It’s for members who would like to visit, let’s say, the Quaker Cemetery or go somewhere to watch the Solar Eclipse but don’t want to do it alone,” Phyllis explains.

It’s often things that she would like to do herself. “So now I can go with other people, and make an outing of it.”    

“I know I’m good at organizing. I spent my entire career as an event planner and a corporate travel agent in the New York metropolitan area, ending up at Goldman Sachs,” Phyllis said. “You might say that traveling is in my blood. As a kid, I traveled somewhere every summer with my parents. We had an RV and we went all over the U.S. and Western Europe,” she noted.

When her daughter was in school, Phyllis did her share of volunteering, including fundraising, and then translated that experience into working for pay, for a while, at the Prospect Park Alliance. 

But when she discovered Twitter, now X, she knew she had met her great and probably enduring love. “Social media put me in touch with a whole lot of different worlds. And one was New York Metropolitan Museum’s Media Lab.“ (At college, Phyllis majored in art history so she was in her element working in an art museum.)

“For a year, as a volunteer, I ran a social media account, along with some 25 other volunteers, mostly young people. We also did 3D printing and created video games in the museum space. The director was very shorthanded at the time so all our assignments were designed to help him.”

“The main social media account was run by professionals. The Met Media Lab, our responsibility, was much smaller and had a smaller audience. It was where the museum and hi-tech met,“ she said. “It produced blogs and articles for teachers, showing them how to use the Met to create content they could use for classes. We were a tight-knit group. When the lab was shut down, we were all very upset.”

Working in the Met Lab cemented Phyllis’s love affair with social media. “I realized what a powerful tool it was,“ she said, ”and how I could use it to share information about things I was passionately interested in,” she explained, “in particular, the stories of outstanding, and often brave, women across the world whom we never learned about in school. Through social media, I find out when plaques and statues are erected to them and then I tell their stories.” 

For instance, in 2018, a statue commemorating the British suffragette, Milicent Fawcett, was unveiled in Parliament Square, London, now the lone statue of a female among 11 men.

When she hears of a new statue, Phyllis says, she not only talks about it on her social media accounts but she marks the statues on Google Maps.

“It has been a wonderful hobby. I have met such interesting people through it and have traveled across the world to see the memorials.” 

So, if you see someone scudding across Internet, it may be Good Neighbors’ Phyllis, rushing to post the name of some new statue in a far- off land on a Google map. (Members can follow Phyllis on Facebook/Instagram/X formerly Twitter@HerstoricalMonuments.)

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Susan Louer
Susan Louer

Susan Louer

Susan Louer is interested in brain health. “We run, we take exercise classes, we count the steps we take each day: we know how to keep our bodies well-oiled to help prevent physical decline,” she says. “But what are we doing about brain health? In particular, how can we slow the loss of short-term memory?

Susan has been following research into brain health for many years. “Now, interest in this field is growing by leaps and bounds, in part because of the huge medical and social cost of dementia,” Susan says. “We all worry that this is going to affect us personally in some way.”


Susan’s career has been spent mostly teaching the deaf . “Unfortunately, there were many deaf education job openings at schools in the 1970s. A significant number of babies born to immigrant women back then had hearing problems,” she said. (Most people in the U.S. and western countries are vaccinated at an early age against mumps, whooping cough and rubella, also known as German measles. If a woman has not been vaccinated and is exposed to rubella for the first time early in her pregnancy, her baby may be born with significant defects, including deafness.) Nowadays, the deaf are somewhat less dependent on sign language because they can use computers and cell phones to communicate, Susan explained.


Before the pandemic, Susan was teaching memory-related classes to retired members of the United Federation of Teachers, using a lot of hand-out materials. “But the classes were difficult to adapt to Zoom,” she said.

Then, through the Village-to-Village Network, the parent organization of Good Neighbors which sponsors an annual conference, she heard about a new program, Stronger Memory, designed to help keep people’s minds sharp as they age. It was developed by Goodwin Living, a continuing care community in the Washington, D.C. and Maryland areas. Through reading aloud, writing from prompts by hand in cursive and doing some simple math problems, the program stimulates the part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, that helps retrieve short term memories. Susan volunteered to train as a facilitator for the program. 


“I’m both a coach and a cheerleader,” she says. “I meet with the people who sign up, listen to their problems and encourage them to continue. As with any exercise program, no matter how simple, people drop out, have problems fitting it into their weekly routines, wonder whether they’re making progress or when they’ll see results.” It’s a lifetime commitment, but you don’t have to work on it every day, or devote endless time to it, Susan notes. “After people become comfortable with it, they begin to notice some improvement in their memory and their focus.”

And, like a physical exercise regimen, when they get to the end of the math, they simply start the exercises all over again. The next 12-week program starts in March.

One of Susan’s many other interests is genealogy. Through intensive research, she has discovered that her ancestors on her father’s side came to this country in the 1600s, that one member in Connecticut was accused of being a witch but was finally acquitted, and that she is distantly related to Oliver Cromwell, the English politician who spearheaded the drive to execute King Charles l in 1649. She’s also a fan of British and international mystery shows.


Susan is married to Jules Trachten, also a Good Neighbor, who leads the Shakespeare study group. They have 5 children and 12 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild, enough to keep anyone’s short term memory stimulated. 

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Ann Marie Kamuf
Ann Marie Kamuf

Ann Marie Kamuf

We have a new President: Ann Marie Kamuf. Ann Marie will be the organization’s second president. She replaces Joyce Jed, the first president of Good Neighbors of Park Slope, which was founded in 2015.

Joyce stepped down a year before the end of her third term.  She is continuing as a Board member and will be especially helpful as the person that has the most complete institutional memory. “Joyce is a hard act to follow,” Ann Marie said, “but each new president brings to the job her or his own experiences, interests and set of skills.”

As you get to know Ann Marie, you quickly realize that Good Neighbors was made for a woman like her, and that she was made for it. 

First, she has many years of experience as a health care worker. “I received my working papers at the age of 14, which allowed me to work in a hospital, taking meals from the kitchen to the wards, and getting to know both the staff and the patients,” she explained.

She also loves being with people. “I have many friends, some dating back to primary school. I still meet up with people I have known since college.”  

Like many other GNPS members, Ann Marie’s career centered on helping people.  As a nurse, initially, she was interested in pediatrics but soon moved to working with home care agencies that serviced older populations.  

“I have been watching people age and manage the aging process for a long time. I worked in the public health care system, first as a visiting nurse, and then after I went back to college to get my master’s degree in nursing administration.  I was Director/Administrator for several home care agencies.  

“I arranged and coordinated the services of a variety of health care professionals including nurses, social workers, physical therapists and home health aides. And I also had to deal with the intricacies of Medicaid,” Ann Marie explained. Working at the Isabella Geriatric Center in Washington Heights, she set up a Long-Term Home Health Care program, also known as a Nursing Home Without Walls, geared to the needs of the aging who needed help but did not want to enter a nursing home. The program serviced more than 150 individual patients.

“I think we all realize that there is a tremendous difference between being cared for at a hospital and at home. It’s two very different worlds, even if you have help at home. So, before patients leave the hospital, you try to make sure that they know what to do when they get home and how to do it. This is not always easy when you are dealing with an older population. As a nurse, you learn to become a good listener. “

Despite working with older people or because of her work experience, when she thought about retirement, she wondered how she would manage. “Then I heard about Good Neighbors and the concept of aging-in-place. That was the answer.”

Ann Marie grew up in Inwood, a northern section of Manhattan. “I love the urban environment,” she says. Her husband, Rudy, also grew up in New York City. They moved to Brooklyn soon after they were married, and their two children live nearby. They have five grandchildren.

Ann Marie says she joined Good Neighbors to meet new friends and learn new skills.  “I took bridge lessons and now play twice a week. I am a ping pong player so I thought I would be able to play pickle ball. So I took pickle ball lessons and love it but I need more practice. I am now also a member of the GNPS Classic Book Club. And I have been part of a decluttering group. And after I attended a Village- to- Village conference where I heard about programs to improve brain health in older people, I helped set up the Good Neighbors Stronger Memory group. I participated in the first session and found it helpful.”

“As President, I want to continue to promote the organization’s mission, and extend its success. I want to be innovative and involve members even more, “Ann Marie says. She herself is an example of a super-involved member.

 We wish her a very successful New Year. 

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Alyce Kaufman
Alyce Kaufman

Alyce Kaufman

Alyce Kaufman 2

Alyce Kaufman has always been good at connecting with children, first as an entertainer at kids’ parties and then as a social worker and yoga instructor.  

“It all started when I was taking guitar lessons and volunteered to play for the kids at my sons’ school. That went so well that I decided to start a birthday party entertainment business! I was Clownella. I did music, magic, puppets and balloons. I was fairly well paid. My “office” was a 10-word ad in New York magazine. I closed up shop in June so I could spend the summer in Vermont with my family,” Alyce explained. 

Bookings were mostly on weekends and Alyce wanted a more normal family life and a steadier source of income. So she became a case worker at Protective Services for Adults and while she was working there she was awarded a scholarship to Columbia University School of Social Work. 

A few years after graduation, she joined the Administration for Childrens’ Services (ACS), working with parents and children in the foster care system. Along the way she became interested in yoga.

“I took a month off work to learn more about it and became a certified yoga teacher in 1997,” she said. “At first, I offered yoga classes to colleagues twice a week during our lunch hour. The emphasis was on stretching and deep breathing for relaxation and better balance. They loved it.” 

“Then a colleague and I developed a therapeutic program for kids who were waiting for placement in foster care homes,” she said. 

They went weekly to the ACS Children’s Center to give classes to teens and younger children. Over 90% of the children reported they felt better able to cope with their family situation after taking her class. “That was very gratifying,” Alyce noted.

Alyce was born on Coney Island, Brooklyn and has lived with her guidance counsellor husband, Irwin, in Brooklyn Beach for more than 50 years. They have two sons, one of whom now lives in Japan and the other in Westchester County.

Alyce retired from her social work job in 2008 but, as a volunteer, she has continued to teach the gentle yoga class at Sivananda Yoga Center. She also volunteered at the Payne Whitney Clinic, teaching yoga to psychiatric patients on Tuesdays and leading a prayer and meditation group for inpatients on Thursdays.

How did she come to join Good Neighbors? “I had heard great things about Good Neighbors from a friend. But it wasn’t practical to join the organization because Brighton Beach was too far away from Park Slope to participate in activities which were all ‘in person’ at that time.” Then the Covid pandemic introduced us all to Zoom.    

For Alyce, it has been a godsend. “I joined immediately and was totally in awe of what had been accomplished,” she said. She participated in many groups, including the Art Museum Lovers group. When Irene Porges, who was leading the group, resigned because it was too much of a strain on her voice, Alyce agreed to take over because she didn’t want it to disband. 

“I wasn’t trained in art as Irene was, but I love doing the research, finding the best videos and paintings of the artist we have agreed to study. Somehow, something deep within me responds to the images and color I see as I put together the presentations. There is so much good material on the Internet that it sometimes feels as though we’ve been to an artist’s retrospective.”

“From a Good Neighbors standpoint,” she says, “it’s the next best thing to visiting an exhibit and, in some respects, even better because we can choose which artist we want to see and also enjoy the art without leaving the comfort of our homes.”   

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Ellen Heaphy
Ellen Heaphy

Ellen Heaphy

Like many GNPS members, Ellen Heaphy’s adult life has been focused on helping others. 

“I trained to be a nurse in the late 1960s and in 1969 I volunteered to work in the mountains in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico as a nurse. That is where I met my husband who was Mexican. We didn’t stay in Mexico. First, we lived in Ottawa, Canada and after a year we moved to Brooklyn where I have lived ever since.”

Ellen grew up in Syracuse, New York. “I still have family and friends there.  I visit them least once a year.  I come from a large family of seven, five boys and two girls, and I am the sixth.  Some now live on the West Coast and some on the East Coast.”  

“My father had a business that catered to the construction industry. We all worked there at some point in our lives, my siblings and my parents’ older grandchildren,” she said.  My mother was an elementary school art teacher.”

As a nurse, Ellen worked in hospital emergency rooms in both Syracuse and Brooklyn. Then she became interested in long-term care and rehabilitation and received certification in both rehabilitation nursing and case management.   She worked at Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Roosevelt Island and at Mount Sinai.  She retired from Mount Sinai in 2009.

In the 2000s, she volunteered at a medical mission in Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico for one or two weeks a year for some 15 years. Although she no longer travels to the mission, she is still active in social justice programs through her church.

Ellen has followed in her mother’s footsteps.  Her mother always had ideas and art supplies on hand for us to work with, she says. And many of her grandchildren have fond memories of working with her in the basement of her house.

“Although I earned a living as a  nurse, art is my passion,” she explained. “It’s something that runs in the family. One of my two sons went to an art high school and studied art in college as did their two children.” Ellen was fascinated with  ceramics. “I took ceramics classes for 30 years at Long Island University’s Continuing Education program in downtown Brooklyn. Unfortunately, they don’t have a ceramics department there anymore,” she says.

“Now I take classes at the Brooklyn Museum for older adults.”

She joined Good Neighbors early on, she says, along with other Cobble Hill members, several of whom are former nurses like herself.   

“Good Neighbors is a terrific organization,” she says. “One of my main concerns about retirement was how would I fill my days once my career in nursing was over.  Good Neighbors has filled that gap.“  

Ellen coordinates the Spanish conversation group which meets now in person at the Park Slope public library on 9th street and 7th avenue.  “I’m a lifelong learner so I’m always trying to improve my Spanish,” she says.

“My mother was a good example for all of us. I can still hear her saying ‘you learn something new every day.’ She would have been a member of Good Neighbors for sure.”  


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Robin Ketchum
Robin Ketchum

Robin Ketchum

Do you remember going to your public library when you were a kid? Robin Ketchum does. She grew up in Rye, New York and she credits the library there with setting her on her career path.  


“ From an early age,” Robin remembers, “I wanted to be a librarian. Librarians at my library were people who made you happy. They helped you chose the right book. I think I liked the idea of giving people pleasure.“


After receiving her undergraduate degree, she enrolled in the Pratt School of Library Science. She was especially interested in special libraries, libraries created to serve a particular group of users, such as researchers at museums, law firms, and medical facilities.


“I had always loved museums, especially art museums. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to spend two months abroad with my high school art teacher and three other girls from school.  So, not surprisingly, I thought it would be fun to work in a museum.”


“After graduating from Pratt, for a while I volunteered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art , helping to take care of their extensive slide collection.“  


“In the 1980s and 90s, I did freelance work, setting up a picture and photo collection for a well-known educational publishing company. I worked with photo agencies and was very active in Special Libraries, a trade group.”


Later, the Ketchums split time between Brooklyn and Norfolk, Connecticut where they bought an old farmhouse. In Norfolk, Robin worked as a traditional school librarian at a middle school. “I really enjoyed my time there, being in a more academic setting,“ she said.  She was instrumental in designing and building a new library at Indian Mountain School.


The Ketchums have two sons, one of whom lives in Pennsylvania and the other in Washington State.


Robin has always been active in community affairs. In Prospect Heights, where the Ketchums had bought a house in 1968, she spearheaded the renovation of a playground in conjunction with Pratt architectural students, worked with the merchants on Vanderbilt  Avenue to help them form a merchants’ association and was (and still is) active in the Park Place/ Underhill Avenue Block Association.  


In Norfolk, she was a member of the Board of the Norfolk Library and headed the Community Beautification Committee. 


In 2012, Robin and her husband Peter, who is an artist and former editor, returned to live full time in their Prospect Heights home. “When I heard about Good Neighbors, I knew it was an organization I wanted to be a part of,” Robin said. Since joining, she has been involved in various activities, including the walking tours, and now organizes one of the two French conversation groups.  Members of this group are reasonably fluent in the language, enough to be able to participate in a discussion.


Over the years, Robin met many French families through the Home Exchange program. This organization started in the 1950s and was primarily used by teachers and academics to avoid the high cost of hotels. (She still keeps in touch with some families and visits them in France.) For her 65th birthday, she enrolled for a month at the Institut de Francais, a school located along the French Riviera where students are immersed in the language.  


The Ketchums have a beautiful back garden which they have lovingly cultivated over the years.  The reward? Robin can now read in the shade of an enormous horse chestnut tree the Ketchums planted just a year after they moved to the Prospect Heights house.   

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Carol Milano
Carol Milano

Carol Milano

Carol Milano

Carol Milano’s adult life has been one of trying to balance two demanding and sometimes conflicting needs. One is her life-long desire to write and the other

her need to help other people. Carol also has many interests, among them a love of the outdoors. She and her husband, Len, bought a cabin in the woods in Bucks

County, Pennsylvania where they bike and hike.

Writing can be a solitary activity, requiring the writer lo be away from people whose presence might distract from the creative process.

Carol has always loved writing. “I remember as a little kid, when I was maybe just five years old, wanting to be a writer”, she says. “ I think it probably began with

the stories my mother read to me.” (However, she has never written fiction or poetry.)

She started writing articles in elementary school. Her first published work was in fifth grade. And later she became editor of her high school newspaper. She was pleased to find that to find that people really liked what she wrote.

But despite her successes as a writer, helping other people ultimately proved to be a stronger draw and she became a career counsellor. For a decade.

Since then, she has tried very hard to integrate those two primary needs. “Sometimes I get lucky and can respond to both at the same time: I’ve written

books on career topics, organized workshops on professional issues for journalists, arranged field trips for reporters, and started local writers groups.”

Now, semi -retired, she freelances for the National Association of Funeral Directors, writing articles for their monthly magazine on a range of topics, from

grave robbing to funeral foods around the world. And she has written about cemeteries all over the country, including the Quaker cemetery in Prospect Park

that was established in 1846, before the park was created. Montgomery Clift, the heart throb of movie goers in the 1950s and 60s, is buried there.

About eight years ago, Carol says, she started taking drawing classes. “Then, during the pandemic, I joined a hike and sketch group that met in the park. It was a very rewarding, creative experience.”. Participating in such a group, she said, she learned a lot and after it ended, she felt she was ready to organize an outdoor sketching group for Good Neighbors members.

(Also, she was able to use her experience as a career counselor in a workshop to help GNPS members find ways to look for the right kind of volunteer job.)

“The outdoor sketching group has been very successful,” Carol says. “Artists, like writers, often spend their creative time alone. We keep the group small so we’re

able to talk to one another while we’re sketching and some of us have even become friends,” Carol notes.

Not surprisingly, there is a waiting list. Outdoor sketching seems to appeal to a lot of members. Carol hopes that someone will organize a second group that can meet on a different day or in a different location.

The group meets once a week in good weather, mostly in the area around 9th street where the majority of sketchers live. That minimizes the need to carry art equipment too far. Most members are experienced artists of some kind. Some even exhibit. “Most of us try to come each week because we really like one

another’s company while we’re working. ”

Carol also organizes a GNPS weekly walking group in Prospect Park. Everyone enjoys the exercise but, again, it’s the company that’s a major motivator.

Carol and Good Neighbors are a good fit. She has many interests and talents that she is happy to share and GNPS members are the lucky beneficiaries.

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Sandra Haber
Sandra Haber

Sandra Haber

Sandy with dog

We know dogs are intelligent and some are very intelligent, but in Sandra Haber’s story about Baxter, her family’s dog, they can even speak!

Baxter is on a mission to foster world peace through Esperanto, a language invented toward the end of the 1800s by Dr. Ludwik Zamenhof, an ophthalmologist living in what was then Poland. Zamenhof believed that if everyone could speak the same second language, people in different parts of the world would be able to understand one another and that would lead to better relationships and ultimately to international peace.

Sandy is now taking classes in Esperanto. She wrote her story to make people more aware of the continuing existence of the language and its goal.

Sandy was born and educated in Brooklyn. “As an undergraduate, I chose psychology,” Sandy says, “because it seemed to be a broad field and at that time,I wasn’t ready to make a commitment.” Later, once she became a psychologist and following the untimely death of a friend who died of cancer, she realized how much psychologists could contribute to helping cancer patients, their partners and children manage this illness. “I have had and continue to have a very rewarding career as a clinical psychologist of which this is just one significant part,” Sandy says.

“I see my career as being in two parts,” Sandy continued. “Early on, I was a striver. I wanted my professional life to be the best, the very best it could be.”

“Now, I see my life as being on a different track. I volunteered to help after 9/11 and I was stationed at Ground Zero, helping people deal with the horror of the event. Afterwards, like many other volunteers, I became very ill. As I was recovering, I decided to make some of my personal interests, in addition to my family, the center of my life.” (With husband Steve, Sandy has a blended family of five children and 11 grandchildren).” I didn’t want to give up my professional practice but was comfortable just doing things that I know I’ll never excel in but could give me pleasure.”

At the time, the 92 nd Street Y was offering singing classes. “The publicity about the class said everyone can sing if they really want to. I wasn’t so sure so I took the class three times! After that, I signed up to be part of Pete Seeger’s Walk-about Clearwater Chorus. He believed everyone could sing too. So, when Good Neighbors asked for suggestions about new groups, I wrote down ‘folk singing', and, of course, I was then asked to lead the group. We have two kinds of singers: those who are enthusiastic but don’t have the greatest voices and those who are enthusiastic and do have good voices. As I’m in the former group. I think my limitation relaxes us all and we have a very good time.”

“At the same time, I began to learn the guitar and have hosted a once-a-week guitar group for several years. Like the folk singing group, we’re supportive of one another and enjoy playing together.”

“But my greatest interest right now is Esperanto. Hence the book, ‘Baxter Speaks.’ I decided to take lessons on Zoom at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Students come from all over the world. I’m not a great linguist, so it isn’t easy. But I enjoy being part of a movement supported by people from many different countries who share Zamenhof’s dream. About two million people worldwide speak Esperanto and I’m hoping that someday I’ll be one of them.“

Sandy may not call herself a striver anymore but most people would say she savors life to the full. And in working to spread the adoption of Esperanto, she has put her amazing energy into a goal for humanity rather than herself.

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Linda Brown
Linda Brown

Linda Brown

linda for meet our member

Think what it would be like if you couldn’t read or couldn’t read above fourth grade level. So much of what you take for granted would be closed to you. “For me,” Linda says, “reading has always been so important that I think the worst deprivation I can imagine would be not being able to read.”

Linda Brown grew up in Levittown, Long Island and Cape Vincent, a small New York State community near the Canadian border.

Immediately after college, she volunteered for the Peace Corps and was sent to Uganda for two years to teach English. Peace Corp volunteers at that time were mostly inexperienced idealists. “Teachers were lucky. They were often more successful than community workers because they could work within the existing structure. It was hard to be effective as a community worker because you had to build everything from scratch.”

“I think I got more out of it than the students. In fact, after that, I decided that if you want to change the world, you should stay in the United States. It’s a harder job than you think.”

Her first inkling of what would later motivate her, she says, came when she was watching a documentary, narrated by Edward R. Murrow, on farm workers and being struck by the poverty and terrible working conditions.

Linda has spent most of her adult life as a literacy instructor. One of her earliest jobs, after the two years she spent in Uganda, was teaching reading to people at the Bronx House of Detention Center, a place where people are sent before they go to trial.

“A large percentage of people who end up in the criminal justice system can’t read above fourth grade level,” Linda noted. “I knew that being able to read was important so I went to the Department of Corrections and explained what I wanted to do. I was sent to the recreation director who agreed to allow me to create literacy and GED (general educational development) classes. I had to develop the curriculum and pay for supplies out of my own salary.”

“The biggest problem in teaching teenagers and adults to read is getting them to form new habits. Once you get past that, which can take a great deal of time and patience, you can make a difference,” Linda explained.

Linda worked for many different literacy programs, from those run by the United Farm Workers Union and the New York City Technical College in Brooklyn to classes organized by CUNY all over the city. Some of her students, often from Caribbean countries, were studying to get their High School Equivalency Certificate so they could move from up from a menial job to one with better pay and status. They were very highly motivated and gave her an appreciation of the immigrant struggle and also their contribution to the city.

Now that she’s retired, what does a person like her, living in Park Slope, do? Luckily for her, and for the rest of us, she lived opposite Joyce Jed, president of Good Neighbors, who in 2014 recruited her (and many others) to work on the creation of what is now Good Neighbors of Park Slope.

“I was lucky to be in on the beginning of this marvelous organization,” she says, “and I never stop being surprised at how involved I still am. Of course, the people who live in Park Slope live in a kind of wonderful bubble. Long may it stay inflated.”

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Arlynn Brody
Arlynn Brody

Arlynn Brody

Ollie Bio

As a teacher and then a principal, Arlynn Brody was devoted to the kids in her school. They faced all sorts of obstacles to learning which she helped them overcome. She had such a positive effect on their lives that some of them still keep in touch with her. “They still write to me. They even celebrate my birthday,” she says, laughing with a note of pride.

Arlynn (Ollie to her husband, Van, friends and neighbors and Brody to her colleagues) was born in Brooklyn but raised in Florida. She graduated from the University of Florida. “As a college student, I had worked for Eastern Airlines and I expected to continue working there as a manager after I graduated but, at that time, they weren’t hiring women as managers,” Arlynn explained,” so I decided to try my hand at teaching. My first job was as a classroom teacher at a school near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The success of my students prompted the then Chancellor to ask me to begin the first Title I Math Lab in the city. Afterwards I was a Professional Development staffer, traveling throughout the city. I received a degree in Administration and then worked in the Bedford Stuyvesant community for 25 years as an Assistant Principal until 1996 when I became the principal of PS 87 in Queens.”

“At that time, the school was one of a group of failing schools that was going to be taken over by the state. Less than 20 percent of the students read above grade level. But seven years later, PS 87 was one of the top 10 schools in the city,” she said.

How did she turn school around?

“When I joined the school, 40 percent of the students were considered to be learning disabled. Some 20 percent were in Special Education programs. But it turned out that kids were often misdiagnosed. Many needed reading glasses. Some hadn’t been able to see the chalkboard since they started school. Some had hearing disorders. Some lacked the proper language and communication skills, which is not surprising when you realize that they often didn’t have anyone to talk to at home about what they were doing in school,” Arlynn explained.

This was a time when computers were beginning to be used in the classroom to help kids like this learn. “There were many different programs and levels, each designed to diagnose and remedy specific deficiencies,” Arlynn continued. “The results were amazing. A computer can work with each kid individually and make them repeat things over and over again until they get it right but a teacher has a limited time to help each one. And as the kids began to overcome their problems

and see progress, they were excited. They wanted to learn.”

”For me these were seven years of magical living... learning how the brain works, and how easily some of the problems could be corrected with the right tools. It became an all-encompassing passion.”

Arlynn successes didn’t go unnoticed. In 2003, when she was about to retire, the Queens Chronicle published an article which said that the Mayor of New York City liked to have his photo taken with her because the changes she had introduced as principal of PS 87 had made the school a model for the rest of the city.

Arlynn says she misses the involvement, the problem solving and the sense of being needed that she experienced being the principal of PS 87. But she’s lucky, she says, to have opportunities that compensate. She has led some very memorable GNPS groups. In one book group, members read “The Giver”, a story about a dystopian society where each person is assigned a set function in life. “It’s a book that leads to so many different kinds of discussions, a book that you’ll come back to at different periods of your life and see things differently,” she said. And now she uses her experience as an educator to participate in peer learning with retired professionals through a CUNY program known as LP2 (Learning Program squared).....another way of passing on the skills and using the intellectual energy that has inspired her adult life.

Arlynn has been a Park Sloper since 1973. She is married to a retired Architect, Van and has two grown children: Shawn Brody-Katsanos (living in Windsor Terrace), and Eric Brody (living in Greenpoint), and four grandchildren.

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Jerry Krase
Jerry Krase

Jerry Krase

Jerry Krase for bio

How many amateur photographers get a chance to exchange ideas with somebody whose pictures have been published in dozens of books and periodicals and who has shown and discussed his work at conferences and exhibitions worldwide and on line?

Jerry Krase leads Good Neighbors’ Old Fotogs group whose members include a number of other, more accomplished, photographers. He is a Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn College where his specialty was visual sociology. Visual sociology focuses on learning about different cultures throughout the world through visual media and data collection.

“I have been using photography and drawings to capture life in urban spaces since I was a teenager,“ Jerry says. “I have a good eye for composition and I’m interested in the aesthetics of a picture. But I’m more concerned about what it shows and what it means to viewers than its technical excellence, although that’s important.“

“At first, I was taking photos in Brooklyn, and then in the other boroughs of New York City and then abroad. I have always been interested in taking pictures of marginalized groups, showing how they are, in effect, excluded from certain neighborhoods and how these change over time.“  

Over the years, Jerry’s work has taken him to Australia, China, South Africa and many other countries. “In each country, I have documented the everyday things that people do, alone or with family members, and also the festivals and religious practices that bring people together. When I was in South Africa, I tried to capture ordinary life on the street and the dignity of the people there, despite their poverty. In my pictures, whatever the scene, I’m not looking to make people look bad.” 

He sometimes uses photographs to provoke a discussion. After 9/11, Muslim Americans were shown in a negative light in the media, Jerry noted. “The visual depiction of Muslims was pretty nasty. I tried to talk about Islamophobia by showing photos of Muslims performing the same ordinary activities of daily living as the rest of us.”   

“One question that social science photographers always have to ask themselves,” he says,” is how much text do you need to accompany the photo.“ There are no hard and fast rules,“ he says. “It depends on the subject and the audience and the photographer’s purpose in taking the photo.  I like using the photos I’ve taken over the years to show how urban neighborhoods, such as the City’s financial district, change over time. Very often, little or no text is needed.”

Jerry and his wife, Suzanne Nicoletti, a GNPS Board member, were both born and raised in Brooklyn as were their three daughters and their grandchildren. 

Jerry took over the Good Neighbors’ photography group in 2022. Now called The Old Fotogs, it currently meets over Zoom. In the near future, Jerry hopes the group can attend photography exhibitions and meet outside to take photos in different parts of the City.  

“I want us to exchange ideas and comment on each other’s work: on techniques and how they can be improved, and on what the photographer was trying to achieve. I’m honored by the fact that there are some very good photographers among us and I can learn from them.”

Jerry 1

Jerry 2a

Jerry 3a

Jerry 4a

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Sharon Montoya
Sharon Montoya

Sharon Montoya

sharon montoya

The story of Sharon Montoya’s early adult life reads like a traditional” boy-meets-girl” movie script.


Born in Brooklyn, Sharon received her B.A. from Brooklyn College and her English as a Second Language (ESL) from Columbia’s Teachers College. She was unhappy working in New York City public schools because many of her students spoke Spanish and almost no English. She felt a little lost not knowing any Spanish and so decided to go to Madrid, Spain to learn the language. To earn a living, she taught English in a private language school.


“One young man, an artist, began writing me notes on his homework papers, asking whether he could take me to see the Prada Museum,” she recalled.“Thinking his advances were inappropriate, I asked to have him removed from my

class,” she said. 


But he was persistent. Weeks later, while she was going down some steps to leave the school and he was going up, he stopped to talk to her, wanting to know why she had refused to have him in her class. “I was totally embarrassed,” she said. “I had to explain and justify what I had done." And then he asked whether he could walk her to the bus stop. ”And, that’s how it all began,” she said laughing.


True to the movie script, Manuel and Sharon were married two years later: not in Spain but in Gibraltar. “To get married in Franco’s Spain both parties had to be Roman Catholics, Sharon explained. . Gibraltar, which is British, had no such requirement so that’s where they decided to go.


But there’s more to getting married than making the decision. There are legal documents to be signed so they needed witnesses. ”We didn’t know anyone in Gibraltar so we had to ask people passing by whether they would come to the Registry Office to witness the signing of the marriage contract.”


At first, they lived in a small farming community of some 500 people where many of the old farmers spoke in aphorisms so she improved her Spanish. “We lived in an old granary, using a hot plate to cook on.” Sharon related. After almost a year of being a “Hippy,” Sharon said she missed the more traditional comforts of life so they moved to Segovia, a picturesque, historic city northwest of Madrid with a 2,000-year old Roman aqueduct and an old castle that Walt Disney used as a model for the film “Cinderella”. By then they had two sons. Sharon taught English in a girls’ high school, run by nuns, and also had a group of private students, doctors who were studying to pass U.S. Medical Board exams.


However, she wanted their children to have a better future, so they moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn where Sharon taught Spanish at Middle School 51. Her husband then returned to Spain for his art career, while Sharon stayed in New York with the children.


Once the kids were out of the house, Sharon decided to fulfill her dream of joining the Peace Corp. At age 59, she was accepted and assigned to the Philippines where she became an itinerant reading specialist, serving 12 schools in the province of Cavite.


“It was a demanding job because their only books were written on newsprint with line drawings and no color. When I had to stay overnight in a school far away, I slept with the lights on to keep the mosquitoes at bay. I developed a reading curriculum and, with the aid of a teacher/friend on Long Island, wrote to U.S. book publishers asking for donations for the province’s 200,000 school children. And I also spearheaded the creation of a mobile library system to circulate the books and worked with the teachers to label them according to grade level.”


When she returned from the Peace Corps, in 2002, Sharon taught ESL classes and Accent Correction at Long Island University, until she retired.


In 2020, GNPS recruited her to teach beginner Spanish classes. “Good Neighbors gave me a chance to meet new people, to be active and to be productive again.” And her students love her.

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Karen Peterlin
Karen Peterlin

Karen Peterlin

Karen for Bio

Hoarders are great subjects for cartoons. “We laugh because we have some of those tendencies ourselves. It’s hard getting rid of all the ‘stuff’ we have accumulated,” says Karen Peterlin who together with Joyce Jed set up the first Good Neighbors Clutter Group about three years ago and now co-leads the group with her.  

Everyone has different priorities about what to keep and what to throw out, Karen notes. “Some people want to save their wedding dress even though their daughter has said she wants to choose her own. But they’re willing to part with grandma’s china tea set which, like thousands of others, has gold paint on the rims so can’t be put in the dishwasher nor into the microwave, and therefore isn’t used. Some will sort through the piles of photographs that they’ve kept for years and throw out the ones in which they no longer recognize the people or where the photographs were taken.”

 “The things that are hardest to say goodbye to are those we’re personally attached to, those that bring back memories of what we’ve accomplished in our lives and the people we have met,” Karen says. 

You can find professionals who will take items of value and sell them for you but what we need at this stage in our lives, Karen says, is help making decisions about all those things we’ve collected over time that have little or no market value. 

“Most of us know what we have to do and there are lots of tips online,” Karen says, “but doing it on your own is much harder than doing it with the help of a group.  

Karen started the Clutter Group, she says, because she heard a lot of people who were moving say how difficult it was to decide what to take with them when the place they were moving to was so much smaller. And she knew she had some of the same problems, wanting to keep everything that reminded her of the people she had worked with as a social worker all over the world, from Kenya and Tanzania to Cambodia.

“One of the most important aspects of belonging to the group is that you commit to accomplishing something. Then at the next meeting you’ll report on your progress. Members will give you tips such as ‘don’t try to clear up more than you can handle’ so you don’t become discouraged. You also get a sense of accomplishment and avoid the embarrassment of admitting how much you fell short.  

“You can’t get rid of everything all at once,” Karen says. “You should tackle only what you know you can do in the time between meetings. A good tip is to give yourself a time frame: set a timer and give yourself an hour. Leave the rest for the next time. The group will help you be honest with yourself. Do you need all those table settings and dressy outfits now that we mostly don’t give big parties and everything is casual. They’ll help you assess what you need to keep, and suggest strategies for getting rid of other things you no longer need such as old documents, books and kids’ report cards.” 

There are many ways of running a clutter group but they work best when membership is limited to 10 members. If the group is too large, some people won’t get a chance to report on what they’ve accomplished since the last meeting and so one of the key elements --reporting progress --is lost. 

“I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing other people’s success,” Karen says, smiling. “Most people enjoy some sense of order and I like to share their journey to get to that point.”  

Do you want to be part of a Clutter Group? Karen’s group is full. Why not solve your clutter problem by organizing a new group? 

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Deborah Maltby
Deborah Maltby

Deborah Maltby

Deborah Maltby

When GNPS President Joyce Jed asked members, in the middle of the worst part of the pandemic, whether anyone would like to lead a new interest group on Zoom, Deborah Maltby immediately responded. Her great love, she said, was 19th century British (and American) literature, and she would like to start a 19th century literature discussion group. 

Deborah started her career in journalism and public relations. She returned to academia in her 40s to take an M.A. in English and then a Ph.D, and later joined the faculty of the University of Missouri, St Louis where she still teaches part-time.


“I don’t mind not being physically on campus,” she says. “Working keeps me in touch with what’s going on and teaching remotely is something I was doing even before the pandemic,” she explained. “I took a course offered by the university to faculty who wanted to learn online teaching. And now I’m teaching an advanced writing course.”   

Deborah’s Good Neighbors group is as fascinated by 19th century literature and the social history of the time as she is. 

It’s not hard to see how 19th century writers would appeal to mature students. The subjects they deal with are still current and their works have stood the test of time –only the best survive. Older students are more likely to see life’s experiences in a different way from when they were young. Now stories about love, marriage, family intrigue and clashes between the social classes have a deeper meaning for them and the frustrations and struggles of women in a male dominated society to achieve a measure of self-fulfillment still resonate with women.   

“With my Good Neighbors group, I try to think of myself as a facilitator, not a teacher, and to be ready for where the conversation might go. These are really smart people talking about what they’re interested in – what women’s lives were like two hundred years ago, for example. And I like to come up with resources for them to explore.” 

As to what drew her to 19th century British literature, she explained that she was interested in the culture of the time, the history, particularly the social history. And now, with the Good Neighbors group, she says, she’s reading some books that she has never read before and rereading others she has read many times but now with new insights. 

Some of the novels the group reads are quite long. “I try to be sensitive to what’s doable,“ she says. “People in the Good Neighbors group have demands on their time that limit what they can read in a month. So sometimes we need to divide the book up into sections. For the next two months, for example, we will be reading the Bostonians by Henry James in two sections.“  

“Some of my favorite writers from the 19th century include Thomas Hardy and Wilkie Collins,” Deborah says. “I have read most of their works but when I open one of their novels again, and see how they set up the characters and the plot and how they write, I am smitten all over again.” 

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Ellen Raider and Dana Simon
Ellen Raider and Dana Simon

Ellen Raider and Dana Simon

Ellen and Dana

As we age, we’re more susceptible to vision disorders, especially if we’re short-sighted. Members of Good Neighbors who become visually impaired are extraordinarily lucky. They can join the Vision Support Group run by two exceptional women: Ellen Raider and Dana Simon, both of whom are legally blind which means they have severe vision loss in at least one eye. Dana is deaf too, but has had a Cochlear implant which improved her hearing. 

Ellen Raider had her own consulting company which offered expertise in conflict resolution and international negotiations to such organizations as the United Nations and to large multi-national corporations. “Through this work I began to understand that our global economic system puts profits before people. I wanted to be part of growing movements for social change. So, I decided to devote my energies to helping parents, teachers, students and social justice advocates learn the important life skills of collaborative negotiation and mediation.” She joined the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teachers College, Columbia University.” Ellen is still active in the educational community.  

When did she start to lose her eyesight? “It started to change when I was in my 30s and I could no longer pass the vision part of the driving test,” she recalls. “My sight continued to deteriorate, but during the last few years I’ve had severe vision problems.”

Dana is a librarian, now retired. “My eyesight began to change when I was thirteen,” she says, “when I discovered at a camp-out I couldn’t see at night.” Nevertheless, she still planned to be an artist.

“I attended the NYU Studio Arts program but then realized I needed to have a more secure income than most artists do. I took a graduate degree in Library and Information Science at Pratt Library School, and then worked at various public libraries in Manhattan before moving to the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library on 20th Street.”  

Dana is a “can-do” person with many skills and interests. She’s been computer savvy since the 1980s, has organized fairs to showcase assistive devices for the visually impaired and, like many librarians, she can’t rest until she’s found what she’s looking for to help her clients. And she still continues with her art, mainly mixed media. 

When did the support group start? About two years before the pandemic, Ellen approached Andi Peretz, the Good Neighbors Activity Coordinator, about forming a group to help the visually impaired. Andi arranged for members to meet in a room at Methodist Hospital on Saturday mornings and found various speakers, such as social workers and representatives from equipment suppliers. “Meetings were not just a means of becoming better informed but also an opportunity to socialize, to meet others with similar problems and enjoy a pot-luck lunch,” Ellen said. Now meetings are held virtually, on Zoom, and they are run by Dana.

Members who attend the meetings often have different conditions that affect their vision in different ways. As with people who have any problem in common, they like to share what they have found out that may be helpful to others, in particular their experiences with various doctors and treatments. “This is a new age for eye treatments,” Dana says. Clinical trials and interest in alternative strategies are just beginning so it’s not surprising to hear some members say they feel as though they’re being treated like guinea pigs. Sometimes the best thing to do is wait and monitor the condition,” says Dana, “and that can be difficult to accept.”

Good Neighbor members with some vision loss might like to attend the Vision Support Group. They would be inspired by Ellen and Dana, both of whom refuse to let their vision loss prevent them from leading purposeful lives.

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Mel and Louise Spain
Mel and Louise Spain

Mel and Louise Spain 

Mel and Louise Spain

Sometimes you meet a couple that seems totally in sync. If they were both musicians, you might say they worked from the same score but played different instruments. They’re not musicians but share a love for classical music. In high school Louise played the cello in a teen-age amateur string quartet and was a pianist, and has been a lifelong choral singer. Mel has always been an avid listener. And it was not only their mutual love of music that brought them together, they say, but happenstance that they met while Mel was working on a political campaign and canvassing for voters like Louise who lived in his district in Greenwich Village.  

The Spains joined Good Neighbors early, after Louise attended the Ethical Culture Society open meeting in October 2015 when the organization had already incorporated and was ready for business. “Good Neighbors was successful in bringing the older Park Slope community together,” Louise says. She herself was looking for more local activity and a broader social life so she joined several groups and “met some terrific women.”  

Before the pandemic, the Spains joined Jim Marshall, a friend and GNPS member, in creating a program called Old Folks Telling Jokes, doing just what that title described. “At first, we met in people’s homes and then in the party room at Dizzy’s Restaurant which has since closed. But after a while the group ran out of new material,” Louise said. 

When the pandemic started Jules Trachten began teaching Shakespeare over Zoom. Both Mel and Louise attended and greatly enjoyed his classes. Mel says those classes inspired him to form the Gilbert and Sullivan discussion group that has been meeting since the latter part of 2021.  

Mel is a long-time admirer of Gilbert, the lyricist, who was also a poet, journalist, soldier, playwright, illustrator and lawyer. He thinks of Gilbert as England’s 19th century Shakespeare and gives context to the discussions with details of the writer’s life and work.


Each participant receives the text of the libretto and reads one of the characters’ parts aloud. “Once we’re familiar with the text, we all watch a video of an actual performance on Zoom. We’ve done four Gilbert and Sullivan operettas so far.”

Both Louise and Mel grew up and worked in the city and have lived in their Park Slope brownstone for over 55 years. Before they retired Louise was a public and academic librarian (New York Public Library and CUNY) and Mel was an attorney in Manhattan. Mel says he liked the sense of order in law and the excitement of trial work. The Spains have two children, a daughter who lives in Miami and a son who has just moved from Los Angeles to Armonk, New York (Westchester County) with his wife and three children. Because of the pandemic, they bought their new house virtually, seeing it only after they moved in several months later.

What makes this partnership work? Mel says it takes patience, perseverance and an acceptance of what life metes out. Louise credits their close, longstanding family ties. May it continue! 

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Irene Porges
Irene Porges

Irene Porges

Irene porges for bio

Irene Porges enjoys a challenge. Not just an everyday challenge but a challenge she can put her whole being into, body and soul. And she’s not happy unless she’s fully engaged. 

People who know Irene from Good Neighbors might think her background is solely in art. She created the GNPS Art Museum and Gallery Lovers group, which started out just before the Covid 19 pandemic as a program in which members would visit specific exhibits, on their own or with friends, and then gather in someone’s home to talk about what they liked and disliked. “I wanted people to share their reactions to the art and the artist,” Irene explained. “Now thanks to Zoom and the proliferation of videos on YouTube” she said, “we can learn far more about an artist’s work than we were able to at a single exhibition.”  

Irene was encouraged to attend the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn by a high school teacher who saw one of her sculptures. She wanted to major in industrial design but was told that was a job for men so she graduated with a degree in Art Education and Fine Arts. She didn’t want to teach so she switched to NYU where she got a master’s degree in Health Administration. But she credits Pratt with setting her on the right path. “Pratt gave me the best education I could have gotten anywhere,” she says, “because it taught me to think outside the box.” 

For a while, Irene worked in the field of medical communications. After helping her father deal with massive medical bills, she went back to school at age 51 to get an associate degree in Health Information Management. She realized what was needed to be successful in dealing with medical claims was persistence and the ability to navigate the medical and insurance industries’ maze of information. So she founded her own company, Claims Made Easy. In an article by the New York Times about her new business, Irene is quoted as saying, “I’m the person that gets on the backs of these people…And I won’t give up until there’s a satisfactory outcome.”  

In 2002, at a time in life when most people are thinking about how they’ll manage their retirement, Irene decided to join the Peace Corps. When the Peace Corps was first created in 1961, it was designed to attract recent college graduates who were interested in working in developing countries. By the time Irene applied, applicants had to have specific skills. In her application, Irene cited her work in the business arena. She was accepted and sent to a small, picturesque, mountainous community in Bulgaria which, post Communism, was struggling with a 39 percent unemployment rate. 

Under a program sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme, Irene and her community partners won a regional competition to spur new economic activity. They created a plan that would support new local businesses, particularly those related to tourism, with loans, offices rent free for 10 years, and a business center equipped with computers. Irene stayed on to witness and oversee the success of the project. 

More recently, Irene signed up for in a multi-generational program at MoMA. Applicants had to pretend they were a teenager for a day and describe what that day would look like,” she said. Given Irene’s mental energy and ability to “think outside the box,” no one would be surprised that Irene won a place in the group.  

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Jules Trachten
Jules Trachten

Jules Trachten

On most Monday mornings you’ll find twenty or so members of Good Neighbors, each with the text of the chosen Shakespeare play, listening intently to Jules Trachten as he reads and comments on the play’s language. Sometimes he explains the meaning of a word that’s no longer used or used in a different way, or draws attention to a particularly beautiful turn of phrase.  

Jules says he had only participated in Good Neighbors events occasionally but when the pandemic hit and we were all confined to our homes, he recognized that this would be a good time to start a virtual Good Neighbors Shakespeare study group on Zoom.  

Jules’ students are faithful followers, rarely missing a session. Looking at his class, you might see Jules as a modern- day alchemist, turning students with some knowledge of Shakespeare into rapt Shakespeare lovers and changing newcomers into ardent admirers. As Jules explains, “it takes a while to get know and love Shakespeare, but once you arrive at that point, your experience gets richer each time you read or reread a sonnet or a play.” 

Jules has been teaching Shakespeare for more than 30 years, first in public schools and now he’s retired, to adults. In addition to his Good Neighbors class, some 30 retired teachers sign up for a session through the United Federation of Teachers and other people meet him at libraries in Florida where he and his wife vacation. “I love to teach Shakespeare and I teach it wherever there’s a group that wants to listen to me.”

His special interest is in the language of Shakespeare, his sonnets and his plays. “You can always see new things in Shakespeare’s work. Sometimes things sparkle in different ways and you get different reactions from new participants. And sometimes it’s your own personal experience that makes what a character has to say especially meaningful. And again, because Shakespeare’s work reflects on humanity, you can sometimes see what’s happening around you today embodied in a character created more than four centuries ago. In Henry VI, for example, a play that’s rarely performed, the world is beset by vengeful people who are angry at the elite.” 

Since Jules has taught so much of Shakespeare’s work so many times, you might think that words and ideas would roll off his tongue without any preparation. “I always have to go back and take a look at my notes,” he says. “Each time, I notice different things. You can never be overprepared.”

Jules grew up in New Haven, Connecticut. “When you grow up in a university town, you have a different view of the university than a visitor or a student,” he says. “I much prefer a larger and more diverse population.” Did he ever consider a career other than teaching? He did apply to law school and for a while considered working on immigrant issues but ultimately decided against being a lawyer. 

When he’s not teaching, Jules likes to play tennis. In the winter, when he’s in Florida, he looks for a place where it’s easy to find people to play with. “And I like to go jogging periodically,” he says, but like the rest of us, he has had to cut back on that!  

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Joyce Jed
Joyce Jed

Joyce Jed

Joyce Jed, president of Good of Neighbors of Park Slope, is an extraordinarily caring human being. She even worries about how candidates for the Good Neighbors board will feel if they lose the election. 

Joyce has always liked running organizations, a talent that has greatly benefitted members of Good Neighbors. And as a professional in the field of mental health, she saw how a lack of social support could lead to serious mental illness. So, when she retired from her job as an administrator at the South Beach Psychiatric Center in 2000, it’s not surprising that, not long after, her thoughts turned to the needs of older adults.

“Suddenly we found ourselves in that category, older adults,” she said, laughing, referring to her friends and neighbors, most of whom, like her, had spent a good part of their adult lives in Park Slope and were now in their sixties and seventies. “What were we going to do,” she said. “As we got older, what kinds of services would we need?”

 As she talked with other people about this, she discovered that Bob Ohlerking, who lived in another part of Park Slope, was also concerned. They decided to invite the people they knew to a meeting in Joyce’s living room. One Sunday afternoon in 2014, more than 40 people showed up!  

Most had heard of the “Aging in Place” movement so they pooled their knowledge and, after the first big meeting, they broke up into committees, each with a mandate to decide what was needed to set up the kind of organization they envisaged.

“Because of my background, I was thinking that we would have to hire a part-time coordinator to organize services for people and so the annual membership fee would have to be around $1,000, more than most people want to pay.”

“I chaired some of the groups but the task became overwhelming. I had grandchildren who needed me and I was involved in other activities.” (Joyce has two sons, one who lives in California and has one child, and another son who lives in Rockland County, New York and has three.) “In the end we formed a steering committee of about 10 people who met every month to hash out what was required to become a non-profit.” 

Ultimately, they decided to open up in two phases, the first one being social activities run by volunteers and the second, social services, later dubbed Share and Support.

“When it came to organizing the Share and Support phase in 2020, we put a lot of effort into it but surprisingly we found nobody really wanted this kind of help. I’m still puzzled about that.”

“Of course, we had to have a web site. We considered paying $1,000 to someone to set it up but then Lynne Ornstein said she wanted to try. She said she’d been interested for years. And you know the result. We have this amazing website that’s probably the envy of much bigger organizations.” 

When she’s not working on behalf of Good Neighbors, Joyce and Arnie Wendroff, her husband, a serious outdoors man, are thinking about their next expedition. On their first vacation together, they went to Africa. Now they’re in love with France and are exploring the French countryside through a company that helps set up bike trips, mapping out routes and places to stay.  

Anyone who knows Joyce, knows that she brings the same spirit of adventure and planning to Good Neighbors as she does to her backpacking trips. 

Joyce and Arnie biking in France

Accordion Widget
Bob Levine
Bob Levine

Bob Levine

Bob Levine is a man of many loves. 

First and foremost, of course, is his love for his wife, Kathy Sonderman, who passed away in 2020. Kathy developed Parkinson’s Disease at a relatively young age and Bob supported her and later took care of her, in all for 36 years. 

bob and wife 2

Bob and his wife Kathy

“You ask what else is important to me,” Bob says. “What’s important is my house. We both loved our house, a four-story brownstone on Ninth Street. It was built in 1885 and still had many of the original features when we bought it in 1976, like the parquet floor under the linoleum. But it needed a total renovation.” They started working on it immediately and were married there a year later. “I had to cover a gaping hole in the living room floor with Masonite and place a table over it so people wouldn’t fall through into the basement,” he said. “Kathy made a chocolate cake for our 20 wedding guests.“  

Through the years, no love was spared on the house. They managed the renovation together and recently Bob began the process all over again. “I have become a self-taught woodworker, plumber and electrician, whatever was needed to get the job done. And the house will always remain in the family,” Bob said. It has all been arranged. One of their two children, both of whom live in Brooklyn, will inherit the first two floors and the other the upper two.

“Another love is Brooklyn,” he said. “I’m a second- generation Brooklynite and I’m fascinated by its history.” Bob has become well-known for his collection of old Brooklyn postcards, magazines, newspapers and other memorabilia. “I picked up a few postcards at a yard sale and I’ve been collecting them ever since.“ Many are of Prospect Park. The Prospect Park Alliance has scanned them into its archives. 

Not surprisingly, Bob is a long-time member of Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 and chaired its Landmarks Committee. He’s also a photographer—you may remember the photos Bob took of the Garden Club party. And he’s a potter. His wife’s ashes are in a pot he made. You can read about Kathy in the We Remember section on the Good Neighbors web site. Both Bob and his wife were Special Education teachers. Bob became a teacher trainer. 

Bob has been a member of Good Neighbors for about three years. He was drawn to the organization because it offered a chance to meet more neighbors. He’s a member of the new bird watching group which gives him the opportunity to take nature photographs and he hopes to be able to give illustrated talks on-- guess what -- his beloved Brooklyn.

Submitted by Ruth Gastel

One of Bob's many photographs of Prospect Park

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