OHA researcher hangs up her gloves
A piece of downtown Syracuse is back in the suburbs.
Dick Case, Herald American Columnist , Sunday, June 18, 2000
A piece of downtown Syracuse is back in the suburbs.
"The lady with the white gloves" has retired.
Judy Haven looked after the research center of the
Onondaga Historical Association on Montgomery Street 13
She looked after our family trees, our student research
projects, our advertising campaigns, our books, our
The official title was "research associate," but Judy gave the
job a lot more. She was our patient, courteous guide into
that dark tunnel we call history. More often than not, she
turned on the lights.
We'll miss her.
I've been hanging out in that big front room of the old
telephone building down the street from Columbus Circle
for years. The memory's vivid of one of Judy's predecessors,
the late Caroline Wright, who'd sit almost where Judy sat,
at one side of a long table that had been engraved with the
smoldering cigarettes Caroline and her husband, Dick,
smoked, as they watched over our community attic.
The Wrights actually lived in that venerable landmark. It
only seemed that Judy did. Home for the Havens, then and
now, is a cozy house in Camillus.
Kind as the Wrights were to me, the place had the feel of a
private club. Truth is, the historical association is a private
entity; recent history's much more cordial, thanks in part
to Judy Haven.
Judy remembers those old, cold days. When we talked the
other day, she recalled "running out of the place" and
vowing never to come back after an intimidating visit years
That didn't keep her from volunteering at the center when
she learned a new director, Tony King, was on the scene.
After a while, Tony wisely offered her a full-time job.
"I had to really learn fast," Judy says now.
I'm guessing she's a quick study.
Historical research is a marvelous, frustrating game. It's a
little like an Uncle Wiggley board: dead ends, dark corners,
paths that circle around themselves; pitfalls and thickets.
Plenty of thickets.
Judy grew up in Liverpool and came to the job with "some
sense of local history" but with a need to unlock the secrets
of the massive association archive so she could meet the
challenge of "being helpful to people."
It wasn't easy, she said.
One helper was French's 1860 state gazetteer, an old book
that's basic to the understanding of how the pieces fit
together in New York. "One of the first things I did was buy
a copy (reprint) and I pored over it," Judy said. "It was an
eye-opener for me."
Research clients range in interests, although the majority,
for any historical society, are folks building family trees. For
Syracuse, they may walk in the door, call on the phone or
write letters. OHA is set up to serve them all, usually for a
Visitors need to be prepared to pay for help if they aren't
members: Show some ID; use pencils, not pens, for notes;
and put on gloves to handle precious one-of-a-kinds. (Thus,
Judy got to be "the lady in the white gloves.")
Staff delivers the materials; there's no rooting allowed
here or at most other research centers. We pay for copies of
documents and pictures.
Judy found most visitors accepted the rules, maybe with a
grumble or two, and were rewarded by being surprised at
the rich Syracuse collection. Although this may be a first
stop for researchers, Judy directed them "down the street"
to the Central Library Local History Department, which
has a world-class collection of family histories and other
"We're not the only place in town," she explained, "and
people should also realize every community is a little
different," in terms of what's available and how it's
"We have A to Z, but the zoo's filed under parks," Judy said
with an informed giggle.
On her watch, she noticed more and more students,
authors and thesis and dissertation writers joining
genealogists at the OHA tables. She admitted to favoring
the serious researcher, adding, "I just hope people found a
place where they could have a little fun.
"I certainly enjoyed meeting all those people. There's so
many interesting people out there and they all have stories
Judy's search engine is legendary among local historians,
and more distant questers. Check out the notes of
appreciation in a shelf of books from authors she helped.
At her retirement party, fan after fan stood up to share
stories about how she lighted up a dark corner for them
with a bit of wondrous discovery.
Thank-you notes abound. One client in California sent
Judy a box of chocolates in appreciation for her help in
fixing on a lost kinsman. Judy closed that file her last day
Judy's successor at the archive is Rebekah Ambrose.
I ask what this history detective plans to do in retirement.
She joins her husband, Ed, who's just finished a long career
teaching industrial arts in the Liverpool school district.
Day trips for one thing, Judy replies. To?
"Libraries, historical societies and cemeteries in St.
Lawrence County," she continues. "I'm doing research on
my father's family, the Murrays. I want to get the stories."
She will, trust me.
Dick Case writes Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Reach him at 470-2254, or by e-mail,
ANNUAL SLOVAK BALL
sponsored by the
SLOVAK-AMERICAN CULTURAL CENTER
Saturday, February 12, 2000
New York Athletic Club
Honorees: Six young adults, including our own Lindsay Hanson,
honored as "Symbols of the New Millenium" and
Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), who was honored and awarded the Slovak White Cross.
Private reception before the Ball.
Front row, left to right:
1-Lindsay Hanson, 2-Dr. Zora Butora (wife of the Ambassador), 3-Mrs. Gilman, 4-Suzanna Tomka (wife of U.N. Delegate).
Standing, left to right:
1-Laura Spisek, 2-Milan Spisak, 3-Mrs. Culen?, 4-Rep. Benjamin Gilman,
5-Jan Holy (publisher of "Slovak in America", the longest-runningg Slovak periodical in the U.S.), 6-Matthew Cullen (President of S-ACC),
7-His Excellency Martin Butora (Slovak Ambassador to the U.S.), 8-Pavel Kopecny, 9-Robert Mesko, 10-Ingrid Brockova,
11-His Excellency Peter Tomka (Slovak delegate to the U.N.).
Family at the Ball.
Back row: Lance Kovac, Adelaide Darula (Kathy's Godmother and family friend), Milan Kovac.
Front row: Brandi Kovac, Lindsay Hanson, Linda Hanson.
Milan Kovac and Linda Hanson dancing the polka at the Ball.
Lindsay with U.S. Representative Benjamin Gilman and Mrs. Georgia Gilman.
He is Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, and has been
instrumental in helping the Slovak Republic step into the international scene
after the breakup of Czechoslovakia. Rep. Gilman (R-N.Y.) was also honored
at the Ball and awarded the Slovak White Cross. His district, 20th-N.Y.,
includes the portion of New York State where SOKOL Woodlands camp is located.
Honorees at the Ball. Lindsay is 5th from the left.
A family toast to the occasion!
Left to right: Lance, Brandi, and Lindsay.