In Memoriam

In the past year the St. Mark's Historic Landmark Fund has lost two of its friends and founding Trustees. To honor their contributions, we share the addresses given by Stephen Facey, President of the Board, at each of their memorial celebrations.

AL SOCOLOV

St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery, November 2011

I am here to welcome you on behalf of the St. Mark’s Historic Landmark Fund, of which Al was a founder and a forever trustee. For all we know about Al and the culture of justice within which he lived his life, some may not know that Al spent nearly half that life associated with this place — given that he was ninety when he departed, that’s to say nearly a half century.

Al first came to St. Mark’s in the late 1960’s to assist with some real estate matters. He quickly found himself engaged in advising the church on the structuring of its renowned Arts Projects as well as the church’s participation in an array of neighborhood and community activities from services to the hippie population huddling (some would say occupying) at that time in the lower East side, to fair housing, community control of the Schools, the establishment of a free neighborhood health clinic, and, here at St. Mark’s, the organization of the Preservation Youth Project, a work and training program for young people drawn from the neighborhoods surrounding St. Mark’s, almost all of whom were School drop-outs.

After a major fire in 1978 destroyed this sanctuary, Al helped to organize the Citizen’s to Save St. Mark’s. A year later, he provided the legal services to establish the St. Mark’s Historic Landmark Fund, which spearheaded the fundraising for the rebuilding of St. Mark’s, all the day-to-day work of which was accomplished by the Preservation Youth Project under the guidance of a master carpenter and a master-mason. The Landmark Fund then took on the task to restore the historic Ernest Flagg rectory of St. Mark’s and to develop its mission component, the Neighborhood Preservation Center, a coalition of city-wide, community and site-specific preservation groups that today provides incubator office, meeting and networking space for diverse groups of grassroots activists determined to revitalize and sustain their communities.

Al’s role in this catalog of activities, though technical when needed, was primarily the sense of purpose, that culture of justice I noted. It inspired all of us working to imagine and realize these goals.

Al remained a loyal Trustee of the Landmark Fund throughout his life. Board meetings, almost all of which he attended until the last year or so, were frequently enlivened by his insight and wise counsel, and, always by his great good humor — And, for all who know Al, there was much wisdom in that as well.

 

GEORGIA DELANO

The Joyce Theatre, May 2012

Walking the Labyrinth with Georgia

Some years ago when Georgia moved to South Cove, she discovered a labyrinth in the adjacent park, which she was cleaning several times a week. She asked me how one distinguished it from a maze. A bit of research led to a distinction: a maze referring to a complex branched puzzle with choices of path and direction; a labyrinth having only a single, non--‐branching path, with an unambiguous route to its center and back.

As the labyrinth evolved through many cultures, I discovered that in Crete, there was a Lady or mistress who presided over the labyrinth. I assured Georgia that (no surprise) she had claimed an appropriate civic task for herself in her new neighborhood!

Many years earlier, when the Delanos moved from D.C. to 114 East Tenth Street, Georgia and her husband Bill, he in his Chinese people’s shirt and cap, cleaned the triangular City park that fronts St. Mark’s Church In‐the‐Bowery. At that time, the many denizens of the park: post-hippie, pre‐punk gatherers, many homeless and otherwise troubled souls, often found shelter from the weather on the portico of the Church where they interfaced with an array of St. Mark’s artists, community activists and congregants, — a place, it must have at first seemed to them, more akin to a maze than a labyrinth.

Georgia loved to tell the story, and often did, that when moving back to New York in the mid‐1970’s, scouting different neighborhoods, she came upon a band of some 20 young folks tediously rehabilitating the cast‐iron fence that surrounds the historic St. Mark’s site — all of them dressed in red and black choir robes. The first time I met her she asked me just what kind of a reform school the church was sponsoring?

In fact, this was a project of the Church, the Preservation Youth Project, a work and training initiative for young people of the lower East Side, who after seven summers of work reclaiming the ancient graveyards of the church for use as community park and garden space, was now focused on the rehabilitation of the Church itself. (By that time St. Mark’s had long ceased having a formal choir, hence the robes commandeered by these young folks and adopted as their outdoor uniforms)!

Georgia became their champion as she did also of the Arts Projects at St. Marks, which then included Theatre Genesis, The Poetry Project and the Danspace Project and later the Community Documentation Workshop and Richard Foreman’s Ontological‐Hysteric Theater.

Georgia’s first organizing effort was to convene an exhilarating group of artists, thinkers, civic leaders and philanthropists as a Friends group to support the work of the Preservation Youth Project. Three years later, a day after a devastating fire left only the 1799 stone walls of the church standing and the future of the congregation and the arts projects threatened, Georgia arrived at the gates of the church with a group of neighbors to tell me that the Friends Group would now become the Citizens To Save St. Mark’s.

A year later, Georgia presented a wonderfully generous contribution from Lu Esther Mertz. LuEsther’s daughter, Joyce (for whom this theatre is named) had, at one time lived, across the street from St. Mark’s, and had been both inspired and comforted by its presence. Georgia asked what we should do with this gift and we decided to incorporate the Citizen’s group as the St. Mark’s Historic Landmark Fund, an organization that spearheaded the fundraising to complete the nearly ten‐year, hands-on, restoration of the church by the Preservation Youth Project under the tutelage of a master mason and master carpenter.

Soon after another fire severely damaged the Ernest Flagg rectory of the Church. Ever un-discouraged, Georgia led the way to what has culminated in a wonderful restoration and the sponsorship by the Landmark Fund of a unique, adaptive re‐use of the building as the Neighborhood Preservation Center, the funding to support its ongoing programming largely underwritten, by Georgia and her children’s aptly named Sunrise Fund.

That first gathering of the St. Mark’s Friends, hosted by Georgia, was to begin a nearly forty‐year journey of work, friendship and love. It was to enter Georgia’s labyrinth, joining a motley group of fellow pilgrims. As many, if not all of us here today know, Georgia’s world was truly a multi‐verse. She drew universal meaning and knowledge from all of her activities, rooted as they were in the same passionate core. On this path, one was also privileged to share in the joys and struggles of her family and Georgia’s legion of accomplished, often astonishing, and ever‐devoted friends. Throughout this meander, Georgia led the way, radiating a grace and style to which we all aspire: the gift of mobilizing and inspiring others to do their best.

It is said today that the labyrinth retains its connection with death and triumphant return. Caring for the Battery Park labyrinth as well as the labyrinth of her multi-verse is a devotion that Georgia maintained until the very last days of her life when, finally, she remained at its center.

 
 
 
 

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