Valiant fighter, dedicated educator, visionary, activist for the disabled, concerned and community-minded citizen: Those are only some of the praiseworthy words that come to mind, when remembering former Great Neck Parks Commissioner Ruth Tamarin, who died on Thursday, May 24, after a long illness. She was 83.
The fight for what was right and the courage and strength to bring her beliefs to fruition were the cornerstones of her life. As a friend recalled, in frustration over a long-unresolved problem while she was commissioner, Tamarin had stated, “Once in a while to get things done, I need to dig my heels into the ground.” That simple declaration reflected that Tamarin could not and would not rest until her goals for the community were reached.
Tamarin was appointed to the Great Neck Park District Board in February 1998, elected in December and served as commissioner until 2014, when illness forced her retirement. During her time as commissioner, her leadership was a driving force behind many of the qualities of life that residents now enjoy.
Tamarin’s legacy can be found all over the community. As part of Parkwood pool’s renovations, a lazy river was built for exercise and fun, along with a water slide that always results in smiles on kids’ faces. When residents visit Steppingstone Park, they are presented with beautiful landscaping in the spring and summer, and can enjoy the park’s waterfront property expansion that was acquired after a hard-fought acquisition of part of the George M. Cohan estate. In the Village Green, visitors can savor the rose garden and marvel at the innovative accessible playground built for children of all abilities. All of those features were part of Tamarin’s achievements.
Outside of her professional life, other examples represent her dedication to fighting for what she believed would help others. An advocate for special-needs children, she cofounded and was a past president and board member of FOCUS (Foundation of Community Unified Services) with Sheila Penn; was a member of Long Island ACLD (Community Childcare Partnership); and helped gain a hard-won approval to purchase a residence for disabled adults. She enjoyed traveling, playing bridge and tennis, going to the theater, attending music and dance performances and meeting with her book club.
Tamarin was born in July 1934 in Laurelton, Queens, and grew up in Rockville Centre. She earned an English degree from Hofstra University, a Master’s degree in Education from Long Island University (C.W. Post) and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Education Administration from Hofstra University.
She began her professional life as a teacher in the Oceanside public school system and then became a writer and editor for Grolier’s Book of Knowledge. After moving to Great Neck, she joined the school system here as an elementary school and TESOL teacher and worked at Kensington-Johnson, Saddle Rock and Lakeville. She was active in the PTA as both a teacher and parent, and as educator served on numerous task forces, contract-improvement committees and outdoor-education projects for the teacher’s union.
After her retirement from the Great Neck Public Schools in 1994, Tamarin was a part-time adjunct professor at C.W. Post and a supervisor of student teachers before starting her third career in the Great Neck Park District, all the while caring for her husband, Mickey, who died in April 2017.
Memorial services were held at Temple Beth-El on Sunday, May 27. Tamarin is survived by two sons, Michael and David, her sister, Lila, and two nieces.