In spring 2018, Newark Public Library (NY) served as a pilot partner for the National Home Front Project. The Library’s mission is to provide equal access to information and knowledge so that people of all ages may seek education, social and cultural growth. The Newark Public Library encourages the free flow of ideas so that citizens may make informed choices about their personal lives, activities, and government. By means of collection and organization of materials, and programs of interest, the Newark Public Library seeks to educate, inform, enrich and entertain the citizens of the Newark Community. The Library serves all people without regard for age, sex, religious or ethnic background, political affiliation, educational ability or economic status.
For this community partnership, librarian Celeste Schantz Kovachi conducted home front oral histories with residents of Western New York State in Newark and Rochester. This collection includes interviews with:
- Reverend William “Father Bill” Amann, who met a German Prisoner of War near a POW camp in Rochester, New York.
- Virginia “Ginny” Reidman-Dangler, who shares the story of how her mother, Mary Kay Klee, attended Nazareth College (NY) and whose dream was to become a journalist for the local paper.
- Owen Hughes, who was a bomber nose artist and shares many adventures from his time living in the United States and later, in England and Paris, France.
- Joan Kovachi, who spoke of her father’s life in the Great Lakes Merchant Marines and of the year he came home on her birthday, Christmas day. She also explored the aftermath of soldiers in the war and what psychiatric services were available for PTSD at that time.
- Rafe Martin, whose father was a member of Blackie’s Gang in the China-India-Burma Theater during WWII and one of only two survivors of an airplane crew flying over the Himalayas.
- Rose Martin, who was born in a refugee camp in Italy to parents who were parents were both Holocaust survivors (her father from Poland and her mother from Serbia).
- Nancy Pelletier, who spoke of growing up on the home front during World War II, including her memories of war bonds, victory gardens, food rationing, blackouts, and rationing pantyhose. She also spoke about learning how to drive, which was rare for girls at that time.
- Mona Rynearson, who has memories of working in an ice cream factory with her mother during the war.
- Robert Schinsing, who was a student on the home front during World War II, and would later become an air pilot in Korea and Vietnam.
- Jane Wiedrick, who has memories of being a student and whose father was a police chief in Canandaigua, New York. Jane became a draftsperson and helped design calibration tools for airplanes. Some of her designs are still in use today.
Celeste Schantz holds a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Rochester. An avid history buff and former teacher, Schantz now works for Newark Public Library in New York State, where she facilitates adult reading and discussion groups on subjects such as The Literature of World War One. She also conducts creative outreach programs such as facilitating an erasure poetry workshop at an area correctional facility. Schantz lives with her teenaged son outside of Rochester, where she supports his differently-abled schooling and inclusion programs and champions autism rights. A writer, Schantz’s poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in Solstice, Fugue Literary Journal, Stone Canoe, Writers Resist, Mud Season Review, One Throne Magazine, and other journals. She was the runner-up for the Stephen Dunn Poetry Prize, judged by Terrance Hayes. Schantz has studied with the poet Marge Piercy and is currently completing her first book.