Longtime Park Commissioner Remembered

Friends and family watch as the statue is unveiled by Ruth’s sons, Michael and David. (Photos by Michele Siegel)

A memorial is dedicated to Ruth Tamarin in Steppingstone Park

A dedication ceremony to unveil a statue and plaque in honor of the late Great Neck Park District Commissioner Ruth Joan Tamarin, who passed away on May 24 after a long battle with cancer, was held at Steppingstone Park on Sunday, Sept. 16.


From left: Vic and Ronnie Beecher and Shelly and Bob Sobel, coordinators of the Ruth Tamarin Memorial Committee, stand behind the sculpture and plaque.

Although she was probably best known for her work in the park district, having served as commissioner from 1998 to 2014, Tamarin had quite an impressive résumé. The longtime Great Neck resident was a retired teacher of the Great Neck Public Schools and an adjunct professor at C.W. Post College. She was a founder, president and board member of Foundation of Community Unified Services (FOCUS), a corporation dedicated to supporting the developmentally disabled. She was also a board member of the Great Neck Historical Society, a member of Long Island Association of Special Districts, an advisor to the Friends of the Parks Foundation (which she helped form in 2003), a board member of Club Chai of Temple Beth-El and a member of ACLD, a nonprofit that serves individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

Brothers Michael and David Tamarin unveil the statue for their mother, Ruth.

As park commissioner, she oversaw capital improvements in the parks, including the restoration of Great Neck House, the revitalization of the Village Green, the renovation of the baseball fields at Allenwood Park, the expansion of the Steppingstone Park gardens and the acquisition of the Cohan property which brought the district new waterfront parkland, the development of the park district’s first-ever dog park, the replacement of every playground in every park throughout the district, the improvement of the Parkwood Family Aquatic Center, improvements to the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink and most importantly to Tamarin, the All-Abilities PlayGarden.

Bob Sobel reads the words appearing on the plaque to the crowd.

The PlayGarden in the Village Green was a unique concept for a special play area that Tamarin initiated in 2004. First, she formed an advisory board of community members and those who served on the Great Neck Friends of the Parks Foundation. The focus was on an “inclusion approach,” offering a sense of belonging for all children with and without disabilities.

When the project launched, Tamarin said, “This project has become near and dear to my heart. This innovative addition to the Village Green will be the first all-abilities playground set within a garden on Long Island. It will encourage children of all developmental levels to play and learn together.”

David Tamarin is comforted as he listens at the ceremony.

Tamarin always had her family in mind, as David, one of her two sons, is developmentally disabled and has held a job at the park district for nearly 40 years.

At her funeral in May, Tamarin’s cousin Stephen Schensul said in his eulogy, “We hope to recognize Ruth Joan’s contribution with a permanent memorial established in one of the parks.” It was then that a Friends of Ruth Tamarin Memorial Committee was formed. The group surpassed its fundraising goal for that permanent memorial.

Michael Flamhaft, conductor/director of the Band of Long Island and a close friend of Ruth Tamarin, makes a toast.

Those involved gathered in Steppingstone Park on Sunday for a heartfelt dedication ceremony to unveil the bronze garden statue of a boy and girl sitting on a bench reading a book, which sits next to a bronze memorial plaque.

The day began with speeches from Tamarin’s dear friends, Ronnie and Vic Beecher and Shelly and Bob Sobel, who spearheaded the committee and raised enough money in three short months to create this memorial. Members of Tamarin’s family also spoke, including sons Michael and David Tamarin and cousin Stephen Schensul. Close friend Michael Flamhaft, conductor of the Band of Long Island, made a beautiful toast. All spoke eloquently of the love for their dear Ruth and her deep determination to achieve whatever she set her mind to, including her profound devotion to advocate for the cognitively disabled.

Ruth Tamarin’s cousin, Stephen Schensul, suggested the idea of a memorial at her funeral service.

This memorial will remind visitors of the vision and commitment that drove Ruth J. Tamarin and keep the memory of her dedication and hard work alive forever.

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