Tag Archives: New Jersey Hall of Fame

Peace Pilgrim – Another Chapter

See my previous post about Peace Pilgrim, dated April 21, 2014. Peace Pilgrim’s life (1908 – 1981) is documented in several books and a decent Wikipedia entry.

Two or three years ago, a group of peace activists got involved in an effort to put Peace Pilgrim into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, posthumously.

Why not? It’s a platform, and a way to promote interest in Peace Pilgrim’s life and (much more importantly) her message of peace and personal responsibility. The first time Peace Pilgrim was nominated, she didn’t get enough votes. But in 2016, she was selected! (I think I voted both times.)

To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of Peace Pilgrim’s life was that she maintained two identities, and kept them separated for about thirty years. On the road, she was Peace Pilgrim, and refused to offer any other name or personal history. She wanted the emphasis to be on her message, not her “self”. Over time, Peace Pilgrim developed a mystique and unarguable dignity. How many people could keep this up for decades?

Those who, after her death, undertook to preserve her memory respected her wishes, and the dual structure created during her life was preserved after her death. Nothing linked Peace Pilgrim to Mildred Lisette Norman of Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, until a local movement emerged in the 1990’s opened the door. IMHO, the time was right.

It wouldn’t work in the year 2017, in the age of instantaneous communication via social media. America’s only “wandering holy woman” would have been picked apart by gossip and criticism. I’m glad this didn’t happen.

For the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Peace Pilgrim was represented by her sister, Helene Young, now age 102. Helene is my neighbor. At age 100, she was still out on the road bicycling almost daily, despite being legally blind. The years have now caught up with her, physically. Her mobility is limited. Mentally, she seems little changed, and is very good company.

I worried about the rigors of the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, but Helene’s family and friends smoothed the way. She had to arrive in Asbury Park hours before the event, submit not just to getting dressed up but to wearing MAKE UP, and be available to the press. She wisely agreed to use a wheelchair, but walked across the stage to the podium with a little help. Seeing her at a distance, under harsh stage lighting, I was shocked by her aged appearance, but when she spoke, her voice was clear, strong and distinctive. What fortitude! I was delighted to be present as her friend and supporter. Yes, she went home tired. But I visited a few days later and found her largely recovered, and happy to chat.

What on earth would Peace Pilgrim think of the New Jersey Hall of Fame?! In many ways, it seems so totally contrary to the peace and simplicity she advocated. But life is complicated…so I am willing to accept the argument that she would have utilized almost any forum where she could deliver her urgent message:

“Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”

Each of us can find a different path towards this goal. We can all appreciate and celebrate the beauty of Peace Pilgrim’s life.

Advertisements

New Jersey Hall of Fame Red Carpet Induction Ceremony – May 7, 2017

New Jersey has a Hall of Fame!

The New Jersey Hall of Fame?! Some of us are ambivalent about New Jersey, to put it mildly. I’ve lived here 42 years. Time to admit that if it really bothered me, I would have managed to move. But I’m not doing that. Retirement is upon me, and I plan to spend it here.

So I can’t argue with the Hall of Fame as a way to celebrate people who, in various ways, contribute to the quality of life in our state. How are Hall of Fame honorees chosen? As I understand it, they are put forward by high school students, selected by a nominating committee, and voted on by the public during a period of several months. In other words, a “popularity contest”. Supporters of a particular candidate drum up votes. I’ve never like being on the receiving end of that type of request. Not sure I could come up with a better system…

What was the induction ceremony like? Glitzy. Sentimental. Upbeat. Each honoree was presented (introduced) by a close associate. Connie Chung was introduced by her husband. Author Carol Higgens Clark by her mother. (I’m looking forward to sampling her mysteries.) Three awards were posthumous, including one to a man who, sadly, died between the time he was selected and the Induction Ceremony.

The Hall of Fame categories are as follows:

  • Arts and Letters
  • Enterprise
  • Performing Arts – four honorees this year!
  • Public Service
  • Sports
  • Unsung Heros

You don’t have to be born in New Jersey.

The induction ceremony (I think I would call it a gala) was held at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, at the shore. If there’s a NJ list of “top ten building preservation projects”, the Paramount should be on it. It’s a big, old concert hall with good acoustics for rock and roll. What more could you ask for in the state that gave you Bruce Springsteen?