Elsie Maddaus always loved to stay in touch. She told me once that she not only sent out Christmas cards, but would also mail Thanksgiving greetings to her closest friends.
Her long and wonderful life came to an end last week. Elsie was just a few months shy of 101. Her friends at the Scotia United Methodist Church will hold a memorial service for Elsie Saturday at 2 p.m. A visiting hour for friends will begin at 1 p.m. at the church, located at 201 North Ten Broeck St. in Scotia.
Maddaus had been a member at SUMC since coming to the Capital Region just after World War II,. She had volunteered in a variety of ways at the church, most notably as the church librarian and historian. And while she loved the place - she even remained a SUMC member after her husband converted to Catholicism - there were other places in the area that were dear to her heart, and the feeling was mutual.
Foremost perhaps, at least in my mind because that's where I met her, was the Schenectady County Historical Society where she was the Grems-Doolittle librarian from for most of the 1990s, finally retiring in 1999. She continued to volunteer there after her retirement, and also was a regular volunteer at the Scotia-Glenville Senior Center and the Baptist Health Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Scotia. She was still volunteering into her 90s, and never tired of reading or learning. One of her favorite things to do was to visit Union College - where her husband Ingo had been a professor - and take a class at UCALL (Union College Academy for Lifelong Learning).
Elsie, who would have turned 101 in April, was born in Atco, New Jersey and moved to upstate New York when Ingo got a job at Union. She had four sons but found the time to finish her college education at Skidmore in Saratoga Springs, and then got her master's degree in library science at the University at Albany. She was director of the Ballston Spa Public Library for 20 years, and during much of that time was a stringer for the Schenectady Gazette and Ballston Journal, providing news and notes from the Galway and Charlton area.
I can't remember precisely when I first met her, but it had to be back in the 1990s, when I was putting together a college paper on the Schenectady Massacre. She helped me unravel the events of that dark night, Feb. 8, 1690, and she also let me take up library space by the picture window overlooking the Binnekill as I read "Drums Along the Mohawk" by Walter Edmonds. She was one of the reasons why I kept hanging around the place, and now my volunteer gig at the society has continued for nearly two decades.
She will be missed, but those who regularly visit the Grems-Doolittle Library at the historical society will often be reminded of her as they walk through the aisles looking for books. For me, I can't help but think of her whenever I see this large black binder filled with notes on Schenectady churches. It's a wealth of information, and so was Elsie.
Scherer, Sassi at SCHS
The Schenectady County Historical Society has a new exhibit opening this weekend called "Handcrafted: The Folk and Their Art." Susanna Fout, curator at the society has put together the exhibit using part of the society's collection as well as contributions from other museums and other historical societies around the area. Helping her organize the exhibit was Marilyn Sassi, and serving as speaker for the Saturday's opening reception will be town of Clifton Park historian John Scherer.
If you love the nexus of history and art - and who doesn't - then this is an exhibit you're going to want to see. And if you're fascinated by handcrafted items, pieces of stoneware and anything relating to folk art, you probably already know that Scherer and Sassi are two Capital Region rock stars in that department.
Along with being town of Clifton Park historian for more than three decades, Scherer was a long-time curator at the New York State Museum. Sassi, who lives in the Stockade, was a former curator at the historical society and at the Van Alstyne Homestead in Canajoharie, and has taught folk art at a number of area colleges. Both Scherer and Sassi have also been heavily involved in preserving the history of Proctors theater.
Admission is free for all SCHS members and $5 for non-members.