Two Friends and Two Legacies of Community Service
Editor's note: Nina Sydney Ladof recently passed away. Her friend, Nancy Bick Clark, submitted the following tribute.
Both Nina Sydney Ladof and Ann Linn Bick belonged to a special generation of Moorestonians. This is a story of their friendship spanning almost six decades, their parallel lives and their legacies to Moorestown.
Two women were sitting at the playground, watching their children playing in the sandbox. As they kept a watchful eye on the children, they found common threads that bonded them together. Ann and Nina were both born in Missouri within five years of each other. Nina was born in St. Louis, and Ann in Neosho on the edge of the Ozarks.
Both had also interrupted their college education because of the Great Depression and World War II, and found themselves raising families. They quickly became friends, and their children soon began attending each other's birthday parties. Nina and Ann shared similar interests in politics and community service. As their children got older, both Nina and Ann became involved with the League of Women Voters.
Nina graduated from Rutgers in 1957, and was the first woman to be accepted into Rutgers Law School, Camden. Ann stayed home, becoming active in the League of Women Voters. She published a study of the Moorestown school system called Know Your Schools. This book helped influence passage of a bond issue to build the present high school on Bridgeboro and Stanwick Roads. The premise of the book was that good schools in Moorestown would attract economic development. This has indeed come to pass. The Economic Plan Element of the Township of Moorestown in 2009 mentioned "The Moorestown Brand."
At the time, the Baby Boom was in full swing, and schools were overcrowded. The high school and the junior high school both occupied the school building at the former site of Moorestown Town Hall on Second and Church Streets. The schools worked in split session, with the high school in the morning and the junior high in the afternoon.
Ann went to town council meetings and worked on a bond issue to build the new high school. It did not pass the first time, but a more scaled-down model did pass a year later, and the new high school was completed at its present site on the corner of Bridgeboro and Stanwick Roads in 1962. Since then, many new additions have been added.
Meanwhile, Nina was working in library science. The Ladof family moved to St. Louis for a few years in the 1960s, but returned to Moorestown, where Nina resided the rest of her life. It was in 1968, while director of the St. Charles (MO) Library where Nina first encountered community pressure for censorship, which she describes in a paper "Freedom to Read: A Battlefield Report - The Censor Knocks," presented at the Intellectual Freedom Convention in Atlantic City. This was later published in the American Library Journal.
A member of the community objected to the library's subscription to Ramparts Magazine, a slick Catholic political and literary magazine associated with the New Left. Articles questioned the United States involvement in Vietnam and the use of napalm, among other things. This community member rallied clergy and other supporters over several months to remove the subscription, while Nina stood her ground for intellectual freedom. When Nina's family returned to South Jersey, she became director of the Camden County Library.
After an unsuccessful bid for the school board, Ann resumed her education at Hahnemann University, earning her Bachelor of Science in a new course of study called "mental health technology" in 1972. She then worked until her retirement in 1980 as a social worker at Family Counseling in Camden, helping young women to live within their means and also doing family therapy.
Ann was an expert at balancing her own budgets at home, and especially during the Great Depression, when she supported her widowed mother, sister and grandmother on $18 a week, working as a copywriter for Montgomery Ward in Chicago. When she was between jobs prior to that, the four of them survived the winter of 1934 on 10 pounds of navy beans, a gift from a farmer friend.
After World War II, when Ann and her husband John Bick moved to New Jersey, Ann did not want to work for the corporate world, but knew she would need a degree to work in non-profits. In her 1984 essay, "Me and the Depression," she wrote, "John and I agreed that at least we could raise a family which would add weight to the good guys side of the scale, and I think there we succeeded! I've never regretted that choice. When time and money became available for me to continue my education, I did."
Nina worked as Director of the Camden County Library until her retirement in 1990, when she started her own consulting business. She advised many cities and communities throughout New Jersey on their library building projects, and often drove long distances consulting well into her 80s.
After retirement, Ann took classes at Perkins Center for the Arts, often volunteering to sit shows or register entries for juried shows. Both Nina and Ann enjoyed going to chamber music concerts in Philadelphia or attending "art" films at the Ritz Theater. Both Nina and Ann continued their interest in current events, and were part of a "Linden Street" discussion group, where members made monthly presentations and led discussions.
Both Nina and Ann were resilient, and reached out to help others. Through the First Baptist Church, Nina became involved with MEND, described on its website as a "faith-based community housing organization that has worked tirelessly since 1969."
Matthew Reilly, of MEND, says, "Nina was an active and dedicated trustee of MEND for many years through the end of 2006, when her board term ended. She brought to the MEND Board a passion for our affordable housing mission, a business savvy for non-profit governance, and a keen knowledge of the local social and political landscape. She made an enormous contribution to sustaining MEND's now 43-year-old mission and helping the organization grow."
Ann did not hesitate to act in an emergency. During an open community swim, Ann jumped into the pool fully clothed in order to save a drowning child and giving the child mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Ann also saved a child who had been left in a car in a grocery store parking lot, calling for help as she held on to the car as it was rolling downhill in neutral. Ann's slight build added to the challenge.
In 2005, Ann and her husband John moved to greater Cincinnati, where Ann passed away in 2011 at the age of 95, survived by John and three additional generations. On June 18, 2011, Nina wrote in memory of her friend, "I will always remember how Ann fought the good fight for better schools in Moorestown, facing down formidable opponents with sweet reason and persistence."
These words aptly describe Nina's own fight for fair and affordable housing and for intellectual freedom. Now we mourn Nina's recent loss at age 92.
Both Nina and Ann, who were friends for six decades, were part of what is now called "The Greatest Generation." They set the bar very high, and did not hesitate to act and get involved. Both left legacies in Moorestown: the affordable housing units and the high school. They don't make 'em like that anymore.
I've known both of them almost that long. Ann is my mother, and Nina became my friend. I miss them both very much. As more and more members of this generation depart, it seems to signal the ending of an era. May others continue to be inspired by their history and carry on.
Courtesy of Nancy Bick Clark