Friends and family of former Great Neck Park District Commissioner Ruth Tamarin gathered at Steppingstone Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon to pay tribute to her life and legacy, unveiling a permanent memorial.
Michael and David Tamarin, Ruth’s two sons, unveiled the fixtures of two bronze children on a bench reading together underneath a magnolia tree and abutted by a bed of flowers.
Perched nearby was a tribute plaque paying tribute to Ruth Tamarin “for her vision, dedication and leadership to beautify and enhance our parks for people of all ages and abilities.”
“She took the passion that she had for her other jobs and expanded it to the parks, to enhance and beautify our Great Neck parks,” Ronnie Beecher, a co-chair of the Ruth Tamarin Memorial Committee, said. “She used her enormous energy and enormous drive to get things done.”
Dozens of people attended the event, such as memorial committee co-chairs Beecher and Shelly Sobel and their respective husbands, Vic and Bob, cousin Stephen Schensul, who had first suggested erecting a memorial for Tamarin at a vigil after her death in May, family friend Michael Flamhaft, and old colleagues like Commissioner Robert Lincoln.
Beecher said that when she and Sobel were walking together through Steppingstone Park, they saw statues of children. Given that Tamarin had been a teacher, she said they felt it would be appropriate.
After that they worked with others to find an ideal spot. Beecher said they considered one near the George M. Cohan property, which Tamarin helped acquire to expand Steppingstone Park, but found it too far back.
They also considered putting it by the entrance or somewhere more quiet where a child might retreat to read, she said, before ultimately settling on the current spot: shielded from the sun under a magnolia tree, with a view of the waterfront.
After that, Beecher said, it didn’t take long for friends, family and others to raise money to buy the dedication.
“We were totally amazed and overwhelmed that, from start to finish, it took less than three months to get all of this going,” Beecher said. “So now, when you guys walk through the park, and you see the statue, you will know part of that statue is you. You’re part of that statue now.”
While serving as commissioner, Tamarin helped spearhead many initiatives. Among them were the expansion of the Parkwood pool with the lazy river, growing the waterfront of Steppingstone Park through acquiring a parcel of the George M. Cohan estate, and establishing a special playground in the Village Green that could be used by everyone.
Before serving with the Great Neck Park District, Tamarin was a teacher – first in Oceanside and then in Great Neck, after she and her husband Milton, or “Mickey,” moved in the 1960s.
In addition to teaching English as a Second Language, Tamarin worked in various elementary schools, served on task forces and outdoor education projects and was active in PTAs and the United Parent-Teacher Council.
Prior to teaching, she was a writer and editor for Grolier’s Book of Knowledge.
Tamarin also co-founded FOCUS, a Great Neck-based nonprofit that helps people with disabilities in the late 1980s, and helped forge a movement of parents and advocates to push for more public resources on Long Island.