Thursday, May 7, 2015

Case Study No. 1944: Staff of Freeport Memorial Library

Freeport librarian Belle Sylvester celebrates 100th birthday at work
FREEPORT, Long Island (PIX11) - Colleagues and friends came together Monday to celebrate the 100th birthday of Freeport Memorial librarian Belle Sylvester.

Born ten years before the state's first war memorial library was even created in 1924, Sylvester has been hard at work for the past 23 years. In fact she took the job at the young age of 77 — when most people are already well into retirement.

"I'll still can't believe I'm 100," Sylvester told PIX11. "I feel the same as when I was younger."

She says she was thrilled to be surrounded by so much love to celebrate the special day.

"I feel I'm just doing what I love, so if it's an inspiration for other people I'm very happy."
Tags: Freeport (City/Town/Village) Librarian (Profession) belle sylvester celebrates 100th birthday at work
Added: 7 months ago
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[scene opens with the male library director embracing an elderly female librarian]
KEN BELLAFIORE: Good morning, Belle!
[he kisses her]
[he turns and addresses the assembled library staff]
KEN BELLAFIORE: So we're all here today ... to help Belle celebrate her one hundredth year of life!
[everyone applauds]
KEN BELLAFIORE: Twenty three of those years, she's graced her presence right here at the Freeport Memorial Library.
[cut to an exterior shot of the library, then to a still photograph of the librarian from when she started her job (and her hair was still red)]
KEN BELLAFIORE: [in voice over] She started here twenty three years ago. She was seventy seven years old.
[cut to the library directore speaking directly to the camera]
KEN BELLAFIORE: Most people, when they're seventy seven, are long retired or maybe working a part time job.
[cut to the librarian speaking directly to the camera]
BELLE SYLVESTER: I still can't ...
[she laughs]
BELLE SYLVESTER: Can't believe I'm a hundred!
[cut back to shots of her birthday celebration, as another woman gives her a kiss]
STAFF MEMBER 1: I wouldn't miss this for the world! Okay? You're such a wonderful woman!
[cut back to the librarian speaking directly to the camera]
BELLE SYLVESTER: I feel the ...
[she laughs]
BELLE SYLVESTER: The same as when I was younger!
[cut to another female staff member speaking directly to the camera]
STAFF MEMBER 2: She loves what she does, and uh ...
[cut to the librarian walking through the stacks area]
STAFF MEMBER 2: [in voice over] She really is an inspiration.
[cut to the librarian and the library director speaking to each other]
KEN BELLAFIORE: The library was established in Nineteen Twenty Four, the first war memorial library in New York State ... and Belle was born ten years before that!
BELLE SYLVESTER: And that's my claim to fame!
[they laugh]
KEN BELLAFIORE: Older than the library!
[cut back to the librarian speaking directly to the camera]
BELLE SYLVESTER: I feel I'm just doing what I love ... so, if it's an inspiration for other people, I'm very happy.
[cut to various shots of the librarian speaking to other members of the staff]
BELLE SYLVESTER: [in voice over] All the people here are wonderful. I feel it's a family for me. I have so many friends here.
[cut to the library staff singing "Happy Birthday"]
BELLE SYLVESTER: [in voice over] What a feeling! It was a wonderful feeling to have all my friends here come and celebrate with me.
[cut to a shot of the librarian blowing out the candles on her cake, as everyone applauds]



Belle Sylvester, Freeport library's oldest staffer, to celebrate 100th birthday

Updated October 4, 2014 7:41 PM

Belle Sylvester plans to celebrate 23 years at her job tomorrow as coordinator of cultural programming at the Freeport Memorial Library.

The library's oldest staffer will also celebrate her 100th birthday.

"It's no big deal that I'll be 100. A lot of people are doing that," she said during a recent interview at her desk in the library basement. "But that I'm still working, well, that might be unusual."

A violinist who had to quit the instrument when she got a prosthesis in her shoulder 10 years ago, she is still a classical music enthusiast.

"She is a vibrant and elegant person," said Michael D'Innocenzo, a longtime history professor at Hofstra University with a monthly program - Current Events in Perspective - at the library.

"She is involved, caring about society and the importance of being informed. She and her good friend Mildred Joseph, with whom she went to Adelphi [University] and who died last year at age 99, were a dynamic duo."

Sylvester received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Adelphi University and a master's in it from Columbia University two years later.

She noted that she studied under and was friendly with Franz Boas, the famous cultural anthropologist and anti-Nazi.

She never used her degrees professionally, marrying her husband, Arnold, in 1934 and raising two children in Freeport, where she has lived since 1950. Her husband, a public relations specialist, died 14 years ago. Her son Robert is in Seattle and daughter Vicki is in Palm Beach, Florida, she said.

Besides her shoulder, Sylvester has overcome numerous illnesses and hospitalizations, D'Innocenzo said. "That's another thing that makes her impressive," he said. "She remains so upbeat, she uplifts people just knowing her."

The classical music component of programming at the library is approved by its community Music Advisory Committee, which Sylvester began.

About a year before she began work at the library, the committee helped bring a program or two to the library, she said. "Now, it helps the library produce two such programs a month on Sundays, except in July and August."

"The director back then [David Opatow] asked me if I'd like to try a job with the library, and, at first, I was a bit reluctant, but the library grew on me. I've come to enjoy it a lot."

Sylvester, who is active in the Democratic Party, has worked with many community organizations, including the Boy Scouts, and she has supported the local school district's Select Choral.

In 2011, she received the Patron of the Arts Award from the Long Island Arts Council.

Sylvester, who in public records is listed at age 94 through 97, said she doesn't know how that happened. "I was born Oct. 6, 1914."

"I don't like to celebrate my birthday anymore," she said. "I try to forget about it."

She said she stopped driving two years ago - "it got to be too much" - and now a friend brings her to work in the morning and picks her up at 1 p.m., except for her Sunday events from 1 to 4 p.m.

On her desk was the latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. "Like everybody else, once I start reading him, I find it hard to stop," she said.

D'Innocenzo said he mentioned at one of his library events that he had donated his body to the new Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.

"Belle [later] phoned me and urgently asked [for] the anatomical gift forms ... saying she did not want to delay."

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