A community-based committee in Farmingdale has been raising funds during the past few months to erect two stained glass windows in memory of the late Dr. Gary E. Karp, the former Farmingdale Board of Education president who died suddenly at the age of 42 in October, 1996.
Gary E. Karp, 1954-1996
The windows will be placed in the lobby of East Memorial Elementary School, which Dr. Karp's son Adam attends, and which his daughter Lauren had attended before moving on to her current school, Howitt Middle School, according to Jeanne Pleickhardt, who is on the committee.
Pleickhardt, who is heading the effort with another community member, Connie Sheehan, noted that the committee is trying to raise $5,000 for the project, which they hope to have completed by the spring. "We're getting very close to our goal," she said. "We will be collecting funds until Jan. 31."
To date, the committee has received over 100 donations, Pleickhardt said, noting, "We're really very pleased with the outpouring from the community."
In addition to his service as school board president for five years, Dr. Karp's many community-related activities included a total of 10 years as a school board member, leading the Farmingdale Youth Board, and serving as charter member and past president of COPE (the community council for substance abuse). He was involved in various other groups connected with education and young people, including Big Brothers, and he gave free blood pressure screenings several times a month to the members of the various senior citizen groups in Farmingdale. He was also a charter member of the Farmingdale Breakfast Rotary Club.
Dr. Karp was also organizer of the Farmingdale Fair Funding for Education Forum, dedicated to securing a fair share of state funds for education, in the face of aid cuts. He helped form a consortium of other communities facing cuts and a successful lobbying effort in Albany. He was recognized for his tireless community efforts in 1992 when he was named "Citizen of the Year" by the Interservice Club of Farmingdale, which represents the Farmingdale Kiwanis Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Rotary Club, and the Breakfast Rotary Club.
The father of two children, Dr. Karp had started a chiropractic practice in Farmingdale shortly after moving into the community with his wife, Ilene, in the early 1980s, and maintained the practice until his death.
"It's nice to see that the community appreciated all the hard work that he did. We can see by the response that we're getting," Pleickhardt said. "We really want to thank everybody who has already contributed."
The committee for the memorial was formed at the suggestion of Dr. Stanley D. Saltzman, East Memorial School's principal, Pleickhardt said. She added that the committee plans to try to coordinate the dedication of the window with a ceremony the board of education plans to hold for Karp in the spring, when they will dedicate East Memorial's auditorium to him.
Gerard W. Dempsey, Jr., superintendent of Farmingdale Public Schools, who worked for several years with Dr. Karp while he served on the school board, noted that the theme of the stained glass window - Children First - represents the philosophy that Dr. Karp maintained throughout his service on the board. "We're delighted with that way to honor Dr. Karp," he said.
Pleickhardt noted she and the others who are working toward the creation of the memorial became involved because they wanted to recognize Dr. Karp's efforts. "He did so much for the community. We felt that he deserved to have something there in memory of him," she said.
Many people who sent contributions to the committee attached letters praising Dr. Karp and the idea for the memorial. For example, one of the letters stated, "We are so happy to hear of the money being raised for stained glass in the memory of Gary Karp. He was a wonderful man, and did so much for children and the community."
Another read, "It is with such a sense of loss and permeating sorrow that I make this small contribution. I met Gary the second week he opened his office, and just that quickly he was my friend and helper...I truly believe that Gary's memory will stay with us forever."
Dr. Karp's wife Ilene expressed gratitude for the committee's efforts for the stained glass windows. "They really have gone out of their way to make this a reality, and I am so indebted to them," she said. She noted that the memorial will help her children remember their father's place in the community of Farmingdale. "Everyone has their own legacy, but Gary's is so public," she said, adding, "It will serve as a beautiful reminder, every time they look at it, of him, and what he stood for."
A sketch of a stained glass memorial that will be erected for the late Gary Karp.