Generosity can be defined in many ways. Development professionals speak of gifts of “time, treasure, and talent.” To some, it’s about writing a check or dropping a twenty into the collection basket at Mass or sticking a buck into the coffee cup of the guy on the corner of Exeter and Boylston when he says, “Hey, nice suit.” (I appreciate a solid marketing strategy, so it works every time on me.)
It seems like Sonja Grondstra was destined to be connected to the sea. The Swampscott jewelry designer collects pieces of sea glass from the nearby shores to create stunning handcrafted necklaces, bracelets, rings, pendants, earrings and pins that are featured in more than 60 boutiques throughout the country. Locally, you can find her work at Kats Boutique on Humphrey Street—just a few steps from where she finds her treasures, before transforming them in her Ingalls Terrace studio.
Carl Kester, a 1969 graduate of Swampscott High, is pictured (top left) with his Big Blue teammates; in his senior portrait; and on the football field (front row, far left).
By STEVE KRAUSE
The first thing you need to know about W. Carl Kester, George Fisher Baker Jr. professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, is that he is proof that lessons learned young stay with you forever.
Now, as a professor of corporate finance for both the Harvard MBA and the Executive Education programs, he takes those lessons and applies them to 21st century business practices.
Marill and Tom Demakes (far left); (top row) Jo Ann Simons; Mary and Joel Abramson; (bottom row) Jonathan, Olivia, Sandra, Zoe, Susan and Jeffrey Brudnick; and Jessica Black, James Odorczuk and Emy Black.
How many times have we heard it’s better to give than to receive? For a number of Swampscott residents, it’s not just a saying, but a way of life. These individuals have given generously of their time, money and even professional lives for the betterment of the North Shore community. We celebrate their contributions in the stories that follow.
Mary and Joel Abramson in the living room of their Swampscott home.
By STACEY MARCUS
While most people were in the supermarket shopping for delicacies for Thanksgiving in the middle of November, Mary and Joel Abramson were gearing up to spend more than 100 hours transforming their beautiful home into a twinkling winter wonderland. The Jewish couple has spent the last 30 years lavishly decorating for the holidays with thousands of collectibles and relics they’ve stockpiled over the last three decades. The annual ritual is not religious in nature, more of a spirited tribute to Mary’s merchandising magic from her days in retail, her affinity for collectibles and the couple’s desire to share merriment and mementos from their world travels with family and friends.
Jessica Black, second from left, with daughter Jorja, husband James Odorczuk, daughter Jayla, mother Emy Black and son Jaden were honored by Cohen Hillel Academy at its annual gala.
By LEAH DEARBORN
When Jessica Black asked her mother about what first inspired her father, Stan Black, to become involved in philanthropy, she got a response that’s unlikely to surprise anyone familiar with the family’s legacy.
“She believed it started with his dad, who passed away when he was only 15. I think that’s how he became interested in giving,” said Jessica.
Jeffrey and Susan Brudnick, pictured with their son Jonathan and his wife, Sandra, and daughters Olivia and Zie, gather at the Aviv long-term care and rehab center in Peabody, which is named in their honor.
By LEAH DEABORN
Swampscott’s Jeffrey Brudnick doesn’t like to take much credit for the donations he’s made to the North Shore community.
“I’m not interested in promoting myself,” said Brudnick, who along with his wife, Susan, made a $1 million gift to the Chelsea Jewish Foundation (CJF) to benefit the Aviv long-term care and rehab center in Peabody. The couple also made a $500,000 gift to North Shore Medical Center’s (NSMC) Best Care, Right Place campaign.
Jo Ann Simons pictured outside of Northeast Arc. She has served as the nonprofit organization’s CEO since January 2016.
By BILL BROTHERTON
When Jo Ann Simons graduated from Wheaton College with a bachelor’s in urban studies in the mid-’70s, she was unsure of her career path. “You had two choices: make money or make a difference,” said Simons, a Swampscott High grad and longtime resident of the town.
When she graduated from the University of Connecticut with a masters in social work, with a focus on women’s issues and health issues, she was still undecided about her future.
“And then my career chose me. My son, Jonathan, was born with Down syndrome,” said Simons, sitting in her office at Northeast Arc, where she has been CEO since January 2016.