Record Attendance For Luncheon

March 17, 2015 at 4:17 PM


From left:  Ashley Simpson-Neiger as Ann McCrea, Nikki Cherry as Selma Bojalad-Ajami, guest speaker Kristine Gasbarre, and Sharon Folmar as Esther Hawkins. 

kristine_gasbarre.jpg   An emotional message of civic pride and the need to encourage young women was presented by Kristie Gasbarre (left) as part of the program for the DuBois Area Historical Society’s 9th Annual Spring Luncheon. The luncheon focused on “Women in the Arts” in recognition of Women’s History Month.

     Returning to her hometown, Gasbarre a nationally known author, who currently resides in Brooklyn, N. Y., spoke about her passion for DuBois, her struggles to succeed and implored her audience to encourage young women in their aspirations. Noting that several faculty members from her time at DuBois Catholic High School were in attendance, Gasbarre said, “I am part of this community. I want to be a force for young women in this community.”

      Gasbarre earned a B.S. in psychology from John Carroll University in Cleveland, and a M.A. in public communication and media studies from Fordham University in New York City. Discovering she liked writing, Gasbarre pursued work in the competitive publishing industry. She is now is a freelance culture, lifestyle and relationship writer for national consumer magazines and popular websites and authored a memoir “How to Love an American Man:  A True Story,” published in 2011. The book traces the year Gasbarre spent receiving love advice from her grandma, Gloria, in a way that's transforming the way women of all ages and relationship statuses are thinking about men . . . and womanhood.

       She is also the co-author, along with Regina Calcateera, of the memoir “Etched in Sand:  A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island.” The book spent 16 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.

       Recalling her struggles to succeed Gasbarre asked her audience to pass along advice to other young women. “I want them to know I got through it and know what I have accomplished in my career,” she said. “When you leave here and encounter a young woman look at her to see the intensity and power within her.”










       An additional part of the program focused on three DuBois natives who found success in the arts – Selma (Bojalad) Ajami performed by Nikki Cherry (above left); Ann McCrea performed by Ashley Simpson-Neiger (top above); and Esther Hawkins performed by Sharon Folmar (above right).

       Ajami (1909-90) was an opera singer of international fame. She graduated from DuBois High School in 1926 and studied composition and voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. During the 1920 and 1930s she was coached in New York by Paul Althaus. She had a contract with Columbia Records and traveled throughout the country on many concert tours. She sang “Hansel and Gretel” at the White House at the invitation of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1948, she moved to Caracas, Venezuela, where she halted her career to raise her family. At the request of many friends and fans, she resumed her musical study in Caracas and continued her opera and concert career. She moved back to the United States in 1961.

       McCrea was born Ann McCreight in DuBois in 1931. She graduated from DuBois High School in 1948 and began her career as a New York City Powers Model. She pursued acting. Her first appearance was in an uncredited role as a corpse in “Deadline – U. S. A.” in 1952 and appeared  in movies and television series through 1971. Best known as Donna Reed’s off-beat neighbor Midge Kelsey on 60 episodes of The Donna Reed Show from 1963-66, she also appeared, non-credited, in the Elvis Presley movie “Girls, Girls, Girls,” and as Felicia in the John Wayne/Kirk Douglas 1967 western, “The War Wagon.” She served on the Board of Directors of the Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts and currently lives in California.

        Hawkins (1928-2011) graduated from Altoona High School. She received her bachelor of music from Grove City College. She went on to do graduate work at Penn State and Ohio State Universities. She began her teaching career at Juniata Valley, then came to DuBois in 1952 where she taught music in the junior and senior high schools for 37 years. For 11 years she acted as chairperson of the music department. She inaugurated the high school show choir, "The Dynamics," and established the custom of presenting Broadway musicals in the school system beginning with "Annie Get Your Gun." A festival for five area show choirs saw fulfillment under her sponsorship.

        In 1968, she was cited as DuBois' Teacher of The Year by the DuBois Area Education Association; was named an outstanding music educator in America in 1974; and was awarded the Citation of Excellence by the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association in 1987. For 13 years she directed music for, or starred in, United Way musical productions.

       The scripts for the performers were researched and written by Gene Aravich and Beecher Klingensmith. Dave Clark recruited the actors and directed their performance.

       The luncheon held at Christ Lutheran Church, DuBois, attracted a record setting crowd of 92. It was the third consecutive year the luncheon has topped 85 in attendance.

       Sandwiches were from Subway, Brady St., DuBois; the tomato bisque soup was provided by Bill DeBoer of Brown Dog ruth_gregori.jpgCatering; macaroni salad was provided by Don Thomas; and cupcakes were made by Larry Galluzzi’s culinary class at Jeff Tech, Reynoldsville. DuBois Restaurant Supply donated the paper products. Door prizes were provided by Primitivily Fun!, Hockman’s Candy, and Wapiti Ridge Wine Cellar.

        DuBois Area Historical Society President Ruth Gregori (right) provided the welcome and closing remarks. Todd Thompson, Society historian, gave the blessing.





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