Hilda Sprung, Manhasset's legendary associate in charge of the Curriculum Service Center, passed away at 1 p.m. on February 12, 2006, in Danville, California, of natural causes. Hired by the Manhasset Public Schools in 1953, she remained there until her retirement in December 1985 after 32 years of brilliant and dedicated service. She was 90 years of age when she died. Her devoted husband, Bill, born in New York City on Jan. 30, 1912, also died, by some mysterious quirk of the zodiacal or biological calendar, at 1 p.m. on July 12, 2006, of natural causes. He was 94.
Born in Washington, DC, on Dec. 14, 1915, Hilda later moved to New York City in her early 20's where she met Bill at a music class. She married him on Sept. 15, 1940.
In 1997 in order to be near their only child, Vicki Aagesen, they moved to California from East Norwich, Long Island, where they had lived for many years. Vicki, who survives them, attended Manhasset High School during the many years that Hilda worked in the Curriculum Service Center.
The Curriculum Service Center was a rare entity on the Island (outside of a few BOCES centers) in that it provided both printed and audiovisual materials, as well as a resource person who found the materials needed when staff members were pressed, as they almost always were, to find the time for such careful, demanding and time-consuming preparation. And Hilda was that person. She managed to oversee a library of over 10,000 books without ever having had the formal training to do so.
She loved to eat, sing, play the piano, and dance. An excellent pianist, she was invariably dismissive of her talents.
Hilda was an absolute treasure for the Manhasset Schools and a delight for the people there and elsewhere who knew her. She was such a vital part of the Manhasset educational and social landscape that, upon her retirement, a plaque honoring her "brilliant, dedicated and caring service" was affixed to the wall of the Secondary School Library - the site of the original Teacher Resource Center - for, in a very real sense, Hilda was the soul -and arm - of the center.
- Donald E. Harkness
Virginia Hirst Lesser, an elementary art and grade school teacher in the Manhasset and Scarsdale public schools, died in her sleep on Nov. 18 of natural causes at the Westhampton Care Center in Westhampton. She was 94.
Born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on March 8, 1912 to George and Emma Skatvold Hirst, she was raised in Lewistown, Montana, where her father was clergyman of St. James' Church. As a young woman, she often assisted her father with church occasions and learned to play the Church organ, an accomplishment that sustained her throughout her life as a largely self-taught Classical pianist.
She attended St. Mary's Hall in Faribault, Minnesota, receiving her diploma in June 1928, followed by a period of study in art education from 1929-32 at The Art Institute of Chicago where she earned her bachelor of fine arts certificate.
Deciding to further her career in education, Mrs. Lesser then studied over the next seven years at the Graduate Teachers College of Winnetka, the Winnetka Summer School and the Northwestern University School of Education where she met her former husband, Dr. Alexander Lesser, the noted cultural anthropologist and Professor Emeritus of Hofstra University.
Married in 1940 and a resident in New York City while her husband taught at Brooklyn College, she began teaching art in the Manhasset Public Schools, and, with additional studies at the New School and Teachers College of Columbia University, earned her Bachelor of Art Education in 1941 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her master of education degree from the Graduate Teachers College of Winnetka in 1942.
Her teaching career was interrupted by the second World War during which time both she and her husband worked for the federal government in Washington, DC, she as a 'Terrain Specialist' in the Office of Strategic Services, where she participated in the construction of three-dimensional maps for the War Department in a workshop above Ford's Theatre.
After the war when her husband was director of the Association of American Indian Affairs, and the couple moved first to New York City and then to Eastchester, NY, to raise their two young children, Mrs. Lesser renewed her teaching career in the fall of 1958 as a grade school teacher in the Scarsdale Public Schools, while she continued with a second period of teaching in the Manhasset Public Schools upon the family's move there in 1958. She became an active member of the Manhasset Art Association and remained so for many years after the couple relocated to Levittown in 1972 to be closer to Hofstra University.
Although she was known to her friends as a painter, Mrs. Lesser was gifted in drawing, illustration, weaving, ceramics and many of the other arts she had studied, and was proud of her associations with The Art Institute, but she valued most her commitment to elementary education, the Progressive Education philosophy she had garnered from her training at the Graduate Teachers College in Winnetka with the educator, Carleton Washburne and the opportunities she had to apply that philosophy on behalf of young minds and spirits in the Manhasset and Scarsdale Public School Districts.
After more than two decades in Levittown, she became a resident of East Hampton for several years prior to her move to the Care Center. She is survived by her children, Katherine of Portland, Maine, and Stephen of East Hampton, three grandchildren, seven nieces and nephews and the many children of her nieces and nephews. Of her three siblings, her sister, Elizabeth Hostetter of Tucson, also survives.
Mrs. Lesser chose to be cremated. No service is planned at this time but her family plans to memorialize her life and her work at a future time.