A musical retirement
Ernst Monse, who retired as a chemistry professor at Rutgers–Newark in 2001, is spending his days enjoying one of the loves of his life — music.
He is making the most of it, playing viola in a string quartet, which has been together for about eight years, viola in another quartet that's just starting out and piano in a trio that includes his wife.
The first group performed on the Newark campus this past spring in the Chemistry as a Life Science symposium and also at a fund-raiser for a Sussex County young women's support group. The newer group has played at a gathering at Mount Tabor Methodist Community Church.
"But mostly we play for fun and for our own enjoyment," says Monse, who came to this country from Germany and began working for Rutgers in 1959 as an associate research specialist. He then joined the chemistry faculty, which he served for 42 years.
Over the years, in addition to his professional career, he has had a special relationship with music, having played the viola for more than 30 years and piano and harpsichord for even longer.
He started playing the viola in Germany when a musical group needed a violist and after about a month he was ready to play.
"I was not very good at first," he admits, but modestly says he has improved over the years through practice, taking lessons with a member of the New Jersey Symphony and attending the symphony's seasonal workshops in Maplewood.
And, of course, playing with one group weekly, another every two weeks and the trio as often as possible keeps his skills sharp. The quartets play the works of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, while the trio, consisting of flute, violin and piano or harpsichord, plays those of Bach, Handel and Telemann.
Monse, at the keyboard, is joined in the trio by his wife, Claudia, on flute, and a friend, Janet Neidhardt, on violin.
Besides the music, Monse is spending his retirement keeping fit by walking every day for three miles. "It helps keep me in shape for playing music, which sometimes can be tiring," he acknowledges. He and Claudia also hope to travel sometime soon — to Germany, where Monse has a brother in Mainz and a brother and sister in Munich.
Morris Moskowitz retired in 2001 after serving as a professor of Hebraic studies at Rutgers since 1973, but he hasn't missed a beat in continuing his lifelong quest to spread his love of the Hebrew and Yiddish languages.
Since he retired, he has engaged in several continuing and new projects designed to introduce Yiddish, in particular, to young Jews and rekindle the interest of their parents and grandparents in the language.
He has reviewed several books, including "Yiddish: A Nation of Words" by Miriam Weinstein, for Hadassah Magazine, and is translating the Hebrew poetry of Yehuda Amichai into Yiddish. Some of his endeavors have taken decidedly different twists in promoting the language.
For one thing, he has been working on a "good-natured spoof" of biblical themes. This, he says, is a comedy in Yiddish, based on biblical motifs, that combines elements of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "The Ten Commandments" and "David and Bathsheba" all rolled into one.
He has also written a transliteration of "Winnie the Pooh," not only to attract younger audiences to Yiddish, but also to entertain older people who "remember some Yiddish from way back."
Moskowitz is also working with noted Yiddish scholar Mordecai Schecter on a new lexicon for Yiddish to describe the tragic events of Sept. 11. "How do we say ‘ground zero' in Yiddish, for instance, or other terms relating to that tragedy?"
Recently, Moskowitz began taking piano lessons and is "working very hard on playing simplified versions of Bach's works. I'm doing it for my own enjoyment," he says. "It's something I always wanted to do."
He says there is life after Rutgers. "But sometimes I feel like I need a retirement from my retirement."
Art never ends
Artists never seem to stop being artists, and John Giannotti is no exception. Retired last year as chair of the fine arts department in Camden, he continues to be involved with many projects through his own company, Giannotti Studios in Haddonfield.
After several months of negotiation and model building, the sculptor/painter formalized a commission from the Camden County Board of Freeholders to produce a "Memorial of the Innocents" that stands on an outcropping of county park land along the Cooper River in Pennsauken.
Originally designed to be a memorial to the Camden-area residents who lost their lives in the crash of Pan Am flight 103, the intent of the structure was widened to include the Sept. 11 tragedy and others in recent years.
In the sculpture, which was dedicated on the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, five columns surround a circular bench around a Japanese Yoshino cherry tree. Visitors can sit within and view plaques commemorating the disaster victims.
Giannotti, who taught at Rutgers for 31 years, also had a solo show of paintings of Maine's Lake Onawa in that state this past summer "to keep my hand in painting." He's designed a 500-square- foot mural that will be painted on the side of the Walt Whitman House in Camden and was selected to create a one-ton bronze statue of Hadrosaurus folkii, a dinosaur whose remains were discovered in Haddonfield in 1858.
"I'm acting as a consultant and evaluator for several area colleges, and I am giving a series of lectures about the life of Auguste Rodin in Philadelphia at the Landmark Elderhostel," Giannotti reports. And he's kept in touch with Rutgers by delivering a lecture on "Starting Your Own Art Business" to a senior art seminar last winter.
"There is indeed life after Rutgers," he says, "but I miss the students terribly."
Genealogy can be habit-forming
Be careful! That box of old photos in the attic could lead to a serious addiction, warns George Muha, who retired from Rutgers as a chemistry professor in 1995. In his case, it resulted in an ancestral detective story that reached as far back as the 1670s.
Muha found a box of photos his father, a professional photographer, had stored away many years ago. They were family snapshots dating to the 1920s that were taken at family gatherings over the years.
After painstakingly restoring them on his computer, Muha sent them around to the relatives for identification and got so many stories about the family that, a couple of years ago, he decided to put the pictures together with a family history.
As he delved further (again with the computer's help), he started searching the Ellis Island online archives, poring through passenger manifests, recording early addresses that relatives stayed at after arriving in the country and discovering ancestors that he didn't know he had.
He frequented Alexander Library to read microfilm in the New Jersey Archives and consulted the Mormon Church's family archive center in East Brunswick. He has driven to Pennsylvania to visit the town where his mother was born and to photograph the church she was baptized in, and he has written to governments here and abroad asking for a variety of documents.
It has been an all-consuming passion, he says, combing through federal records, talking with priests in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and having long conversations with his mother.
"I sort of backed into it and really didn't have any intention of getting involved in genealogy," he says. "But you get addicted. You really do."
With the help of cousins in Colorado, he accessed church records in Slovakia, and traced his mother's Byzantine Orthodox family back some six generations to four brothers whose descendants eventually came to this country.
"I sent a draft out to the family for corrections," he said. "The relatives came back with a ton of pictures and still more information." He finished the job this past summer, sending about 25 copies out to family members. Now he's starting on his father's Hungarian Roman Catholic side.
Now THIS is retirement
Morning walks on the beach, mountain vistas, a cool breeze and comfortable temperatures all year round, lots of restaurants to eat out at often, "oodles of concerts," including a major Bach festival.
Yes, there is a sweet new life out there on the West Coast near Carmel, Calif., and Elsa Vineberg and Roberta Parkinson are enjoying it to the utmost. And they recommend retirement to all their friends at Rutgers.
In case they get bored with their leisure time, Vineberg and Parkinson also serve as guides at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, known for the animals and plants found in the Monterrey Bay area, including its famous sea otters and kelp forests with algae that can grow to 100 feet.
Parkinson, as associate director of university relations for editorial and print production, and Vineberg, as associate dean in the office of academic services at Rutgers College, retired from those posts in June 2001 after serving Rutgers for some three decades.
Vineberg, a native of California, longed to return, specifically to serve as a tour guide at the aquarium, and Parkinson, a Midwesterner, felt it was time to see what the West Coast was like after spending so much time in the East.
"Every place you look here, it's just beautiful. The mountains, the ocean, the trees. We just enjoy being among those things and seeing them," exults Vineberg.
And last spring, they became official aquarium guides after having completed a class in marine biology at a nearby community college that trained them to interpret the animals and habitats in the aquarium.
They join some 500 volunteer guides, ranging in
age from 14 to the 80s, working for several hours
one day a week. Both also have chosen to be involved
in other ways at the aquarium: Vineberg working
with interpretive programs and volunteer resources,
and Parkinson doing some publications work.
The museum is very popular, they say, attracting some 2 million visitors a year.
"The really neat thing about being a guide is that you meet people from all over the world," says Parkinson.