Remembering Barbara Hillier

Barbara Hillier’s memorial service was yesterday at the Princeton University Chapel. She died at age 71 on November 21, 2022. How she combined motherhood and an atypical but impressive career was explained in detail – perhaps for the first time, for most of us — in her obituary.

One of her stellar projects was the convention center in Irving, Texas. As described, “She created a vertical convention center that soared 170 feet into the Texas sky with convention rooms at different levels, all connected by amazing escalators and with expansive terraces protected from the hot Texas sun. The design minimized its land consumption, and the center had a huge visual presence from the highways to the Dallas airport. The building has won every imaginable award…”

Bob and Barbara Hillier at the opening of the Copperwood Apartments

As explained by Pam Hersh in this Tap Into Princeton column. Barbara earned her master’s degree in architecture from Princeton University without taking a required course — because it was taught by her husband.

Bob Hillier’s presence as a community activist and founder of Studio Hillier looms large in a good way, but perhaps the most visible image of his influence is the Princeton Public Library, led by an architect in his previous firm, the Hillier Group. Less obvious is the library constructed at NJIT by the Hillier Group and the Hillier family’s notable gift in 2019 to NJIT. The current firm, Studio Hillier, is embedded in the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood and recognized for its commitment to his home town.

The snapshot of Bob and Barbara Hillier was taken at the opening of the Copperwood apartments in 2014. Barbara Hillier received the first Woman of Achievement award, given in 2013 by the Women in Business Alliance at what is now the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber.

Contributions in Barbara Weinstein Hillier’s honor may be made to Alzheimer’s Association, Delaware Valley Chapter.

Ebenezer on the Couch

At McCarter, Lauren Keating’s rewrite of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” relates Scrooge’s obsession with money to Dickens’ life story.  Of the two children in the play who have symbolic names, “Want” and “Ignorance,” Dickens was a child of want.

While previous productions delighted audiences with spectacle and magic deployed by the spirits who scare Ebenezer Scrooge into generosity, Keating’s version is much more generous with psychological insights. For instance, it opens with a peddler who introduces all the characters, including Ebenezer’s obnoxious father. Ebenezer, played by Dee Pellettier, skillfully reveals his gradual change. 

As a collector of antique buttons, and a member of the New Jersey State Button Society, I have been doing research on the history of button making and ran across what I believe to be a significant insight into Dickens’ childhood. In 1852, in his ”Household Words,” he described the Birmingham button factories: ‘range beyond range of machines—the punching, drilling, stamping machines, the polishing wheels, and all the bright and compact, and never-tiring apparatus which is so familiar a spectacle in Birmingham work-rooms. We see hundreds of women, scores of children, and a few men… Very young children gather up the cut circles. Little boys, ‘just out of the cradle,’ range the pasteboard circles, and pack them close, on edge, in boxes or trays; and girls, as young, arrange on a table the linen circles…”

Far from being outraged at this child labor, Dickens wholeheartedly approved. Compared to his own experience, the button making tots had it easy. After all, they were with their parents and worked only 10-12 hours a day.

In contrast, when Dickens was 12, his job (pictured above) was to paste labels on bootblack jars in vermin-infested smelly factory with long hours. Meanwhile his father was in debtors’ prison, accompanied by his mother, along with the younger children.

If naysayers object to Ebenezer being played by a woman, oh well. As Keating points out, gender differences were more accepted in Dickens time than in Victorian times. Dickens refers to “the cook and the cook’s special friend.”

If this version more openly preaches the moral of the story, so be it. That’s in the true spirit of Charles Dickens.

The ghost of Christmas Past begins to change Ebenezer in Lauren Keating’s version of “A Christmas Carol” at McCarter Theatre. Photo by Matt Pilsner.

Correction: earlier I listed the Dickens publication as “Household Matters.” Apparently it was “Household Words.”

A Palmer Square Saint

On All Saints Day I was remembering Mary Hultse, who left this earth in 2018 and left Princeton before that. In preparation for the All Saints Day service on November 6 at Princeton United Methodist Church, we were asked to think about who were the saints in our lives

The name “saint” implies perfect, but according to Derek Weber, who quotes Psalm 149 in his All Saint’s Day meditation for the Upper Room Disciplines book, “saints of God are those who accept the invitation to dance. A saint is someone who knows something of the joy of living, even in the hardest moments of life. A saint is someone who knows something of the exuberance of praise, even when tears fall like rain and sweat falls like great drops of blood.”

As a successful advertising executive at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Mary Hultse commuted to Princeton from an apartment on the Upper West Side, where she was a regular at Riverside Church. Then she bought a second apartment, a fourth-floor corner walkup on Palmer Square, so that she could look out over Princeton University and enjoy walking around town. She retired in 1990.

Mary had such joie de vivre – going dancing, loving beautiful art, anything Hungarian, and clothes. She told stories of escaping Hungary with gold coins sewn into the hem of her dress. With a passion for the arts – she loved to sing, act, and dance – she joined local theater groups and played Aunt Eller in “Oklahoma” at Washington Crossing. She was beloved by the staff at Richardson Auditorium, where she volunteered as an usher. Devoutly faithful, she enthusiastically participated in the life of Princeton United Methodist Church (PrincetonUMC) and was in charge of the Altar Guild. She reveled in her Hungarian heritage and loved the daughters of a Hungarian family as if they were her grandchildren.  

She was a trooper – not just in drama, but in stamina – even with arthritis and knee surgery, she trudged up four flights, 67 steps, to keep her view. She had Moxie, like the name of her former German shepherd.  She had faith and extreme hospitality.  But what we loved about Mary is that she helped us to be our Best Selves.

Everyone she met was perfect – beautiful, wonderful, perfect. When you think about Mary glowing with compliments — that’s the kind of love that Jesus offers. Unconditional love. Like at PrincetonUMC, when we say “You are enough because God is enough.”

The same qualities that made her a good executive – persistence, insistence – eventually evolved into just plain obstinance, masking depression and the beginning of dementia. When she began to fail, she refused to move away from her apartment. It was so hard to help her, because she would agree to something one day and refuse the next day. 

An ad-hoc care team of a dozen PrincetonUMC people did help her stay in that apartment. We alternated taking her places. One woman did her wash. Others brought her home for meals and took her shopping. Walking behind her, we pushed her up those stairs and fetched cappuccinos from the Palmer Square kiosk. We worked with Princeton Senior Resource Center. We worked with Palmer Square management and (surreptitiously) with her doctors. We worked with McCaffrey’s. (Wanting to be independent, she would go to McCaffrey’s on the bus but not be able to get home. They would call us to come pick her up and we would dispatch someone on the Mary Team.) A couple from the church put in endless hours to organize her finances and pay her taxes. Along with her Hungarian friends, we were her family.

In the end, we were the benefactors, because in helping Mary, we got to be the best we could be. We surprised ourselves. We found out how good it felt to act out our faith.

In his meditation Weber refers to the English carol Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day. “In his own voice and with his life, Jesus calls all to dance with joy for this gift of life eternal. . . On All Saints’ Day, we remember those whose dancing with their Lord has given us all hope. And we aspire to follow them in the music and dance Jesus is leading.”

Mary Hultse embodied the spirit of the eternal dance.

Embodied Faith: experience spirituality in a new way

I’m excited about this. You knew I would be. Annalise Hume begins a four-session “Embodied Faith” workshop on Monday, September 26 at 7:30 p.m. I’m inviting all my friends and movement buddies to attend — by zoom or in person. Here’s how Annalise describes what we’ll do.

Our bodies hold memories and store our stories. By paying attention to how we feel or want to move, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and God. Each week we will experience a passage of scripture or theological theme through a combination of prayer, movement, play, and journaling. If you yearn for a fresh way to experience God this year, come and play. No previous dance, yoga, or movement experience necessary.

ANYBODY can do this. “While the sessions are movement based, our brain-body connection is so strong that you are welcome to do the entire class in your imagination without moving at all. All abilities and disabilities are welcome.”
These four sessions are sponsored by Princeton United Methodist Church and any reader of Princeton Comment will be my guest. The sessions are every other Monday from 7:30-8:45pm by ZOOM or in person in the church’s Fellowship Hall at 7 Vandeventer in Princeton. Register here:

https://princetonumc.breezechms.com/form/1353a5

Buttons, buttons- did you ever see such buttons as these?

When a friend finds out I collect buttons, it’s hard for them to imagine what KINDS of buttons I collect. Here are two ways to be beDAZzled by buttons.

One. Page through the offerings of a button auction to benefit a nonprofit button group here . These enamel buttons and the glass buttons above (courtesy of Armchair Auctions) will give you a taste of the gorgeous buttons available.

Two. Drop by the New Jersey State Button Society‘s show on the Saturday after Labor Day, September 10, 10 to 3 p.m. If you get there a little before 1 p.m. you can hear the talk, “Buttons Go to Work” featuring uniform and work buttons, as below. The show is in Titusville, just south of Lambertville, so make a day of it!

Affordable Housing? Explained

Affordable housing is complicated in every municipality, especially Princeton, where there both a nonprofit agency and a government agency are trying to do the right thing.. Now there’s controversy swirling around two proposed apartment developments near Princeton Shopping Center. Richard K. Rein makes sense out of this in an article in TAP Into Princeton.

Quoting his lede,

“It was a tale of two PILOT ordinances at Princeton Council’s August 22 meeting. There was a “good” PILOT, a tax arrangement by which Princeton would end up with 65 new units of affordable housing, tucked in with and no different from market rate units in new developments loaded with amenities. And there was an “evil” PILOT, a program that, as one prominent critic argued at the meeting, gives away the store to the developers and also ends up costing municipal taxpayers more than they initially perceive.

The clash of good and evil has the happy consequence of forcing us to enter the weeds of this increasingly popular financing arrangement.”

How to decide? When i’m confused, I vote with Leighton Newlin. Pictured above. He’s been around a l o n g, long time. He knows what’s what.

Comebacks that Count

You heard about Bill Baroni going to prison. That was not very long after he spoke at the Princeton Mercer Chamber. Now he has been exonerated, has written his second book, and gets to retell his story to the chamber luncheon audience on Thursday, June 2. As explained by Richard K. Rein, who made his own kind of comeback, from retirement, with TAPinto Princeton.

Photo provided by Bill Baroni. At this moment he was immersed in the Bridgegate scandal.

In this photo, provided by Baroni, he is answering questions about the Bridgegate scandal.

His first book was about weight loss. His second, about prison.

Buttons About Horses!

Yes, vintage and antique buttons can have horse themes. On Saturday, before you pour those mint juleps, help me celebrate “Derby Day” at the New Jersey State Button Society show and competition. On May 7, from 9 to 3. door prizes and displays will have a horse-racing theme, and admission is free.

It’s at Union Fire Company, 3926 River Road (minutes south of Lambertville). More than a dozen dealers and artists will offer buttons made from enamel, china, metal, and ivory — plus modern and vintage buttons made from fruit pits, rubber, and glass. At 11 am we will distribute favor ornaments, made by button artist Nancy DuBois. Exhibits on how buttons can embellish quilts and how to use buttons with children will be presented by Mary Jane Pozarycki and Susan Infosino. Helene Plank’s display shows how buttons can paint pictures.

See you there!

TCF Goes Online — and Green — on March 19

Allen Katz

Forty six years later, Trenton Computer Festival (TCF) returns. It’s still free, and still welcomes all levels of expertise, and still run by Allen Katz. Yet again for another year, it is online.

New this year: an environmental theme, as arranged by Karen Johnson, co-program chair. Frank Niepold of NOAA speaks at 10:15 a.m and Bob Kopp, co-director of Rutgers Climate Impact Lab, speaks at 3:40, but as before – a dizzying array of workshops are available.

Go to the TCF website to choose from 50 workshops including “How Computing is Changing Photography” to “How to Communicate for Climate Change — Challenges.” One of the names I recognize is John LeMasney, who is known for explaining tough technical skills to novices like me. On March 19 he speaks at 12:25 on a topic that continues to plague many of us — how to recycle electronic waste.

f

Making sense out of crazy parking conflicts

Confused about Princeton’s parking madness? I’m smilling at Rich Rein’s analysis, always cogent and often, as in this column, entertaining. For this astute deep dive into the controversy he calls, as witnesses, “some of the most dedicated apponents of permit parking” naming homeowners on Hawthorne Avenue, Library Place, and Princeton Avenue.

Even if you don’t know – and don’t care – about this problem, it’s fun to follow how Rein makes his point. “People with parking often don’t want neighbors to get it,” he says. Rein founded U.S. 1 Newspaper and now publishes at TAP Into Princeton. The article: After a Deep Dive into Parking Madness, We Emerge — Not Recovered But At Least Recovering

Read it here and be persuaded. Or at least informed — about your supposedly liberal neighbors.