Maple Leaf Awards Recognize Linda & Gordon Barnes, Joanne Beckerich, Virginia Kurshan

by The Village Green
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From the Maple Leaf Awards:

On Sunday, May 15, 2016, Joanne Beckerich, Linda and Gordon Barnes, and Virginia Kurshan were honored as recipients of the Maple Leaf Award for their extraordinary volunteer and community service to the town of Maplewood, NJ.

“Whether the volunteer work of this year’s recipients has been given for service to maintain and preserve the character of Maplewood, contribute to the care and well-being of Maplewood’s children and adults, facilitate the gardening enhancement of Maplewood, or contribute to Maplewood’s Holiday celebrations, these volunteers are exceptional individuals whose dedication and service have made Maplewood a better place to live,” said Mary Devon O’Brien, Chairman of the Maple Leaf Awards. “This year’s Maple Leaf Award recipients includes both relatively long time and newer residents of Maplewood.”

The ceremony and brunch was held at Pantagis Renaissance on Route 22 in Scotch Plains.

Read more about the honorees here:


Carol Buchanan presents to Joanne Beckerich

Carol Buchanan presents to Joanne Beckerich

Joanne grew up in Williamstown, in southern NJ. She moved to New York City in 1979 to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, and subsequently worked in the display and exhibit design field. In 1984 she married her husband Eric, and they lived in Hoboken for 13 years.

While in Hoboken, Joanne managed a health food store, then attended Cook College, where she majored in Horticulture and Landscape Design. She volunteered at a number of New York City community gardens and at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and worked for the NY State Parks Dept. before having her son, Eric, in 1994.

She started a Hoboken chapter of what is now Mothers and More, and she became active in the Maplewood chapter after moving here in 1997. This involvement helped her meet many new people and quickly feel comfortable here.

When she moved to Maplewood, she was immediately drawn to the Hilton Neighborhood Association (HNA), wanting a chance to get to know people in the community and to help keep the neighborhood nice. She was active on the HNA board from 1998 to 2008, served as HNA Treasurer for 3 years, helped to plan meetings and activities, and moderated Township Candidate debates.

Joanne became involved in the Maplewood Garden Club (also in 1998), and was soon recruited for several committees, including Community Projects, Dickens Village Conservatory, Plant Sale, Newsletter, and Garden Walk. She designed the Hilton Rain Garden and contributed her design expertise to many other projects around town. She served as President of the Club from 2008 to 2010, and has served as Chair of the Plant Sale Committee since 2011. Each year, nearly $20,000. In proceeds from this fundraiser go to benefit Maplewood Township.

Joanne began volunteering at the Tuscan School library when her son entered Kindergarten, and went on to the Maplewood Middle and Columbia High Schools libraries. Her involvement with the schools led her to become certified as a substitute teacher. She subbed in the classrooms and library at Tuscan School and filled in for an extended period when one of the Tuscan librarians was recovering from surgery.

Meanwhile, she worked as a freelance landscape designer, creating new gardens and outdoor spaces for customers throughout the area. In 2005, she was hired by the Maplewood Library, where she still works. She is the coordinator of programming for adults, oversees the library’s art exhibits and periodicals department, generates all library publicity, including flyers, print, online and social media, and works at the Information Desk. She serves on the Strategic Plan and Ideas Festival committees, and creates the Library’s Annual Reports.

In recent years Joanne has started becoming involved in the local Arts community through her husband Eric, who is an active sculptor. (One of his pieces is on permanent exhibit in the Wildflower Sculpture Park in South Mountain Reservation.) She has helped install B. John Kaufman’s 4th of July projects and joined the board of Gallery 1978 in 2014, where she helps publicize Gallery exhibits and events.

Joanne always seeks to try new things and broaden her world, and Maplewood offers no end of opportunities to do just that! Maplewood is grateful for the dedicated service that Joanne has devoted to our community. Hers commitment has made Maplewood a better place to live.


Tom Pascuite presents to Linda & Gordon Barnes

Tom Pascuite presents to Linda & Gordon Barnes

Gordon and Linda Barnes are lifelong residents of Maplewood with family histories going back to the early 1940s.

Growing up in Maplewood on Tuscan Road, Linda attended Tuscan School, Maplewood Junior High and Columbia High School. As early as at age 16, Linda started working part-time after school at Slapin-Lieb Insurance in Maplewood. After her graduation from Columbia High School, she attended Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, and she graduated from there with a degree in Marketing.

After college until 1979, she continued working at Slapin-Lieb full-time as an underwriter, receiving her Solicitor’s License while she was there.

During that time period, Linda and Gordon married in 1975 having attended the same church since childhood. Thereafter, they had two children, Christopher and Jennifer. In the mid-1980s, Linda began working part-time for Personal Asset Management Corp., and continues to work there 30 years later as a Trust Administrator.

When daughter Jennifer was a Girl Scout, Linda was the “Cookie Chairman” for one year, and then supervised Girl Scout trips, including camping out trips at the Girl Scout Oval. From 1995-1999 Linda Co-chaired Gymnastics Parents Association CHS Gymnastics, and she was an avid supporter of CHS gymnastics when the program was under threat of cancellation by the Athletics Department. Linda also chaired the annual car wash fundraiser as well as various fundraising activities to raise money for uniforms and equipment. She also Co-chaired the Senior Dinner.

Linda’s support of gymnastics continued from 1992 to 1999 with the YMCA Gymnastics programs. She supported all functions of the YMCA Gymnastics programs, especially the Aces Gymnastics Team, and served as President of the Gymnastics Parents Association He volunteer support included coordinating all travel and hotel accommodations for multiple out-of-state National Competitions and supervising all fundraising functions which raised funds for meet YMCA Gymnastics programs fees and expenses.

In appreciation, in 1997 Linda received the Judge Harry W. Lindeman Award for Outstanding Adult Member from the YMCA. Linda joined the South Mountain YMCA Board of Managers and has served as a volunteer there for over seventeen years, continuing her support too this day. While on the Board, Linda served as Chair of the Program Committee, as a member of the Executive Committee, and as a member of the Associate Program Committee for multiple years. For two years, Linda Co-chaired the “Friend Raiser” Spring Fling to raise awareness of the YMCA and its programs throughout the community.

During this time she also actively participated in The Monster Bash, Healthy Kids Day, and Storyteller for Annual Campaign. Both Linda and Gordon have volunteered many hours for the YMCA Haunted Mansion, selling tickets, setting up and tearing down props as well as monitoring the event over several years.

Gordon was raised on Lancaster Avenue, and attended Clinton School, South Orange Junior High and Columbia High School. While a Senior at Columbia High School, Gordon began a career with AT&T through an apprentice program with New Jersey Bell Telephone Company. Next month Gordon will celebrate his forty-fifth service anniversary with AT&T. Over the years, Gordon has held a number of positions including National Service Manager, responsible for service level performance for several fortune 500 Companies; Project Manager; Corporate Security Manager assigned to Executive Security for the Office of the Chairman, and Senior Investigator.

From 1990 to1997, Gordon volunteered with Boy Scout Troop 2 quickly becoming an Assistant Scoutmaster and in the fall of 1995 became Scoutmaster. In those volunteer positions, Gordon oversaw weekly Troop Meeting, organized, supervised and participated in numerous overnight packing trips, Klondike Derbies as well as annual 50 mile bike hikes and whitewater rafting trips.

For five years Gordon served as Adult Summer Camp Leader at the T L Storer Scout Reservation in New Hampshire. In 1995, he led a group of scouts on strenuous ten day trek at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. Gordon’s proudest accomplishment while at Troop 2 was participating in and hosting the awarding numerous Eagle Awards.

From 1993 to 2000 Gordon volunteered with the Columbia High School Marching Band. He joined the “Pit Crew” which then consisted of only two other dads, but by the time he left, the crew had grown to almost a dozen members. His volunteer work included serving as “chief mechanic” working a series of decommissioned school buses which were transformed into the band’s equipment transportation. In 1998, with no children of their own in the Marching Band, Gordon continued to volunteer with the group driving and moving equipment for performances and competitions.

Both Linda and Gordon volunteered for Cub Scouts –Pack 19 from 1987 through1990. They served as Den Parents, planning activities for weekly den meetings and encouraging the boys to earn advancement awards. Gordon attended monthly planning meetings for the pack and supervised camping trips, the summer camp, and they organized Pack 19’s first Soap Box Derby and first Pack Olympics.

From 1993 to 1997, Linda and Gordon served as volunteers for the Colombia High School Music Parents Association and supported all fund raising activities. For several years Gordon and Linda also organized a main fund raiser – a car wash held twice a year. They also chaperoned numerous events and competitions including the Toronto Band trip.

The Maplewood Civic Association was fortunate that Linda and Gordon have also volunteered their support of the MCA’s Maplewood Holiday Decoration Awards by photographing houses as well as photographing at awards ceremonies. Now a grateful community is thankful for the generosity of time and talent that Linda and Gordon Barnes have volunteered in Maplewood.


Tom Carlson pressents to Ginny Kurshan

Tom Carlson pressents to Ginny Kurshan

Born in Roanoke, Virginia Kurshan earned a MA in Art and Architectural History from Northwestern University in 1979, moved to New Yok City after college, and met husband, Richard Wener, on a blind date when he was visiting from Chicago. After several years of long distance romance, they married in 1975. They found Maplewood by accident but were attracted by its physical characteristics. In 1979, knowing that this was where they wanted to live, they bought the home where they still live. They raised three lovely, accomplished daughters who went through the South Orange-Maplewood public schools: Rachel Wener, a lawyer, works and lives with her wife, Sarah Heim, in Philadelphia; Leah Wener, a landscape architect, lives in Brooklyn; and Rebecca Wener, is finishing a, Masters of Public Health degree after several years working in the health care field.

Still working there 35 years later, Virginia started her career on the staff of New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1980. She researched buildings throughout the five boroughs and written hundreds of designation reports of their history and reasons for designation.

Virginia’s early volunteer activities related to her daughters’ lives: including volunteering at the day-care center and at PTA organizations: at Clinton, South Orange Middle and Columbia High Schools. She created an art calendar as a fund-raiser for Clinton School and taught crafts in the after-school program there. She also taught architecture at the Adult School summer kids program. Along with her husband, Virginia is also involved in Oheb Shalom Congregation. Serving on various committees and as Chairperson of Family Committee and the Academy for Jewish Studies, she also created costumes for the “Oheb Shalom Players.”

In the 1980s, Maplewood underwent a review of its Master Plan and Virginia suggested including historic preservation, as she knew what could be accomplished when she served for three years on West Orange Historic Preservation Commission. In 1998, when Pierson’s Mill was under threat of demolition, she helped organize interested citizens to find alternatives for the building and to work for Pierson’s Mill’s preservation.

After working to get the Township Committee on board, she was appointed to a citizen’s ad hoc committee to study a preservation commission for Maplewood. She helped research the ordinance that created the Historic Preservation Commission and has served as its Chair since its inception in 2002.

Under her leadership, the Commission has been classified as a Certified Local Government by the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, has conducted nine architectural surveys, designated numerous local landmarks, and has worked to educate the public about Maplewood’s wonderful historic architectural heritage. She has also worked with the Planning Board, the Maplewood Memorial Library, the Durand-Hedden House and the Township to promote and preserve the special physical quality and sense of place of Maplewood that its residents appreciate and enjoy. The community of Maplewood is very grateful to Virginia Kurshan for her visionary leadership in Maplewood’s Historic Preservation.

Click on photos to enlarge:

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