The Life of Gloria Donen Sosin: Recognizing a Local Writer, Veteran and Mother for Women’s History Month

A few weeks ago, I led a group of fifteen elementary and middle school boys across Rye’s village green to look at the war memorial outside City Hall. We were hosting a War History camp at the Rye Historical Society, and we gave the boys five names to find on the World War II plaque. Four were names of veterans who were interviewed as part of a local documentary. The other was the name Gloria Donen. Her name, no bigger or brighter than any of the others, stands out to me as a story untold, a life that unfolded here in Rye and overseas over decades and generations. It is a story of many stories, of family, of literature, of military service, of immigration, of Jewish history, and of Rye. Hers is a name that, had I not happened upon one piece of paper piled in with old issues of the Synagogue’s Community News in our archives, I might never have known and had a chance to share.

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Peter Sterling Reflects on the 1960s and Rye

We are bringing this story to you in two parts. Lili Waters is an eighth grader in Francesca Miller’s social studies class at Rye Middle School. Peter Sterling visited her classroom, and she wrote the first article for Rye Historical Society to share this experience with our larger community. Alison Cupp Relyea develops programming for Rye Historical Society and had a chance to interview Peter as well. Lili and Alison’s writing begins our attempt to capture Peter Sterling’s story. Peter’s is one example of the importance of capturing living history. We hope you learn something about Rye’s past and our nation’s past through the lens of Peter Sterling.

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 70 Years Later

Monday, December 10, 2018 is the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. This is a day that often goes overlooked in our calendars, but one that is significant not only in what it tells us about the state of the world at that time but in how it continues to shape and inform our world today.

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Ogden Nash Brings Us Home to Rye

No matter how far away I travel, I often encounter surprising reminders of my hometown, Rye, New York. The first time this happened, I was on a plane flying home from overseas, a rare flight without my children, and I was binge-watching movie after movie on the in-flight entertainment system. My third movie choice was the heartfelt and thought-provoking This Is Where I Leave You. Near the end of the movie, one of the characters drives into a picturesque town and parks outside of a pizza place – Sunrise Pizza. A new transplant to Rye, I pushed rewind on the screen a couple times, delighted to see the familiar street scene and more eager than before to reunite with my children. Last summer at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, the mother in the booth next to us was wearing a Milton School baseball cap, and against my better judgement given my children’s inability to remain in their seats with limbs in appropriate places and voices at an “indoor” level, I said hello and introduced myself, quickly discovering mutual Rye friends.

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William H. Balls and the Founding of the Rye Police Department

In the history of law enforcement in Rye, William H. Balls stands out as having played a central role in the police department from the very beginning. When Rye joined other communities in establishing its own incorporated police department at the turn of the century, the Balls family, a growing Irish family who settled in Rye in the mid-1800s, had put down roots and had many family members engaged in civic roles. Balls was working as a blacksmith’s apprentice at the time. He was a young married man with a growing family when he made the defining decision to join Rye’s police department, a career he continued for over 30 years. The lifelong commitment of William H. Balls shaped law enforcement here in Rye and left a legacy that went beyond the police department to enrich the larger community.

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Caroline O’Day: A Life of Service and Purpose

For this year’s Women’s History Month, we are honoring Caroline O’Day, US Representative from 1935-1943, for her many contributions and their relevance today. Our country is currently experiencing shifts that are unfamiliar for many of us, and politics have risen to the forefront of our daily discussions. Within the layers of media, we see messages about women’s rights, immigration, and the rights of disabled people, among many other concerns. We consider what it means to be a community, what issues are most central for us, and how we can work together to support one another in building a promising future. For an example of leadership in driving change, we can take a closer look at Caroline O’Day, a woman who helped shaped Rye and our nation during a critical time. O’Day changed the way women are viewed in politics and brought human rights to the forefront of discussions, using her strong ideals as guidance to implement practical changes.

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Rye: A Community Built on Connection and Collaboration

One of the first things visitors notice when they come to Rye’s town center is how the character of the community is reflected in the shops, schools, municipal buildings and places of worship that are densely packed into a few blocks along the Boston Post Road. From its earliest days, Rye was a town that placed an emphasis on education and spirituality, setting aside space in the center of town for these purposes. In studying the history of Rye’s many places of worship, a story of good will and support emerges, with interfaith relationships serving as a model for tolerance as we grow and move forward.

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The House that Knapp Built

Historic homes and buildings are a key to our past. Walking through the streets of an old town and passing building facades that have stood the test of time can feel almost like traveling back in history. Sadly, over the years many significant buildings have been destroyed in the name of progress. Often the new structure is decorated with a plaque to explain what came before but bears no historical significance itself. Here in Rye, this struggle between preserving the past and building for the future is central to our everyday life. As I look to uncover the stories of Rye, I see many examples of treasures we have lost, but along with that are examples of a rich history preserved. This is how I found the Knapp House.

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John Huyler: Rye’s Candy King and Philanthropist

In the early 1900s, Huyler’s Candy was a household name and John Huyler’s story was an American tale of resourcefulness, dedication and achievement. John Huyler, a New York City native and who later settled in Rye, was born in the West Village in 1846. His father, David Huyler, was a baker and John grew up over the family bakeshop. John started working in the bakeshop in 1863 and worked there for years before starting his own company.

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Wonder Woman: Our Hometown Superhero

When I was a young girl in the 1980s, Wonder Woman and Lynda Carter were somewhat interchangeable in my mind. It is only now as I settle into my new home in Rye, decades after retiring my Wonder Woman Underoos, that I have the chance to discover the original Wonder Woman and her creator, William Moulton Marston. Marston, a longtime Rye resident, was a fascinating man who, through a combination of creativity, insight, passion and good timing, brought us a female superhero who could thrive in a male-dominated fictional world.

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Ruth Nichols: Rye’s Aviatrix Flies High

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we bring you the story of Ruth Nichols, a young woman from Rye who followed her passion for flying to become one of the leading aviators in the early twentieth century. Nichols set an example in her personal ambition to achieve new heights as an aviator and also in her commitment to public service, shaping the way that the field of aviation could improve the lives of others.

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Black History Month: The Story of Peter John Lee

History books can sometimes paint the pre-Civil War era to be rather cut and dried, with Abolitionists in the North promoting freedom and the South continuing the tradition of slavery, but it is far more complex than it seems. A quick glance at the history of slavery here in Rye highlights the nuances of this period, with no case more documented and contested than the kidnapping of Peter John Lee, a free man living and working in Rye and Greenwich in the 1830s.

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Shubael Merritt: The Legend of an Outlaw

“There’s one in every family.” We have all heard that saying before, and can think of a relative, distant or close, who brings some element of character to our lineage. Within the family tree of a prominent colonial Westchester family, the Merritts, originally from England, there is this one family member who stands out from the rest. At the time of the Revolutionary War, the Merritt name was known in Rye, White Plains and parts of Connecticut. They were property owners and community members, some were Loyalists and some were fighting for American freedom, and one was an outlaw: the legendary Shubael Merritt.

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