Alice Kasten was first drawn to the latest incarnation of the Great Neck Historical Society because of a collection of collectible cards and a suggestion from former park commissioner Evar Segalowitz.
“[He said] ‘You know more about Great Neck from your postcards than they do,’” Kasten recalled. “So I went to the second meeting of the new Great Neck Historical Society and stayed.”
Now, after almost a decade as the group’s president and years of service before that, Kasten will be retiring from her post. Kasten said she and her husband Larry, after 40 years of living in Great Neck, are moving to Orange, Conn., to be closer to their daughter.
“That’s why we’re moving,” Kasten said.
Since Kasten was first appointed president in June 2009, the historical society has embarked on forging closer connections with local schools, educational programs and a campaign to preserve the Stepping Stones Lighthouse and Saddle Rock Grist Mill.
The Saddle Rock Grist Mill, whose history can be traced by to the 18th century, and the Stepping Stones Lighthouse built in the 1870s, both played pivotal roles in Long Island’s development.
“My personal favorite thing has been to speak to school groups,” Kasten said. “I love talking to kids about the history of Great Neck.”
“I really enjoy getting them excited about this community’s past,” she added.
Kasten said she was a regent science teacher for 36 years in Middle School 67 in Little Neck before her retirement in 2001. She had since been mentoring science teachers, departments, creating lesson plans and speaking to boards of education.
And in a way, her frequent trips the Saddle Rock and John F. Kennedy elementary schools had been an extension of that, she said.
“That’s the kind of thing I do in my normal work, which is coming to a halt,” Kasten noted. “My husband and I periodically talk about what we’re going to do in our location.”
In January, Kasten will be making at least one last trip to Saddle Rock Elementary School. She said she plans to meet with school administrators about trying to get their students involved with the Grist Mill in the same way the Kennedy students have with the lighthouse.
“I will be around until April, whether we’ve sold the house or not,” Kasten said.
While she said that “it’s time” for her to leave, she will miss Great Neck and hopes the community will embrace the area’s history.
“My wish – if you want a wish – is that the Great Neck community would care about its past,” Kasten said. “Great Neck has such a rich past and many people don’t seem to know.”
And of course, she added, the historical society always welcomes new members.