By Michelle Xiarhos Curran
Isabella “Bella” Marino would have turned 20 years old in June of 2017. But in 2001, at the age of 4, the little girl with a big heart from Beverly passed away from a rare blood disorder.
“Everything she did, she did with such love,” recalls her mother, Josie Marino.
Josie and I are sitting in Bill Hanney’s office at the North Shore Music Theater. We are meeting with Karen Nascembeni, Josie’s close friend and general manager of NSMT, to talk about Bella and the ways in which her family and friends have kept her memory alive all these years.
Bill and Mary Wasserman feel passionately that strong arts and culture are critical to enhancing and sustaining a vibrant lifestyle and economic opportunity in Essex County, today and for the future. To underscore that, they believe in and support the mission of Montserrat College of Art.
Building on this region’s incredible arts backbone and history, for nearly 50 years, Montserrat, located in downtown Beverly, has offered an exceptional arts education.
“It is wonderful to see the transformation, the graceful maturing that takes place as these kids travel their four years of college,” said Bill, now a devoted trustee of the College.
It takes a village, people say, to raise a child. This year, a new ECCF fund is proving the village can also save lives.
The Pelican Intervention Fund, founded in 2015 by Newburyport residents Kim and Steven Keene and Elizabeth McCarthy, is a grassroots organization created to help men and women struggling with addiction – most notably heroin addiction. An epidemic nearly everywhere, Essex County has been particularly hard hit by the opioid crisis. According to ECCF’s Impact Essex County data, admissions to drug treatment programs for heroin addiction in Essex County have surged 60 percent since 2005.
“Every community is struggling with this,” said Kim Keene. “The funding for the critical programs needed to create a lasting solution to this epidemic is just not there.”
Linda and Jurg Siegenthaler have had a longtime passion for the city of Lawrence.
“When I left the city, it was struggling,” said Linda, who grew up in the Tower Hill neighborhood. “Now there’s a lot of effort to bring it back and I want to be a part of that.”
Through their ECCF Donor Advised Fund, the Siegenthalers have played a significant role in the efforts to focus attention on the arts, history and culture in Lawrence.
“We chose arts and humanities because they are not that largely supported in the area,” said Linda, whose parents were very active in Lawrence. The Siegenthalers give not only financial support to the causes they care about, but they donate their time as well. “We are very hands on,” said Linda.
When she was a girl, Elizabeth Shorts Harrigan would visit her father’s childhood home and property in Bellevue, WA, a lush seven acres filled with the rhododendrons her grandfather planted and tended for years.
“We would go out there and visit the property and my dad would tell me about where his bedroom used to be, where their animals used to be and it was so tangible, to see and understand at such an early age,” said Harrigan.
In 1984, her father’s family donated the house and property to the City of Bellevue to become part of a 53-acre botanical garden, open free for the public to enjoy.
“I always thought that my dad and his family gave away everything they ever had and that stuck with me,” Harrigan said.
Nicole Lemieux Knight was a remarkable person. President of the 1986 senior class at Newburyport High School and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Nicole enjoyed successful careers in both New York and Paris and was a friend to many on both continents.
Judi Lyons brought back more than a suntan from her 2009 trip to the Virgin Islands. She had an idea for a fun way to support nonprofit organizations in her community. Started by a friend living on St. Thomas, the Charity Girls of the Virgin Islands is a group of 24 women who meet monthly for dinner and discussion about the needs of their community. Monthly, they each pay $50 to dine at a member’s home. The dinners are donated by the hostess and the money is pooled for grantmaking. At the end of each year, the Charity Girls grant $14,000 to causes of their choice in the Virgin Islands.
On September 18, 2009, Mayor Michael Sullivan partnered with the Charles C. Pringle Foundation to establish a fund at ECCF to provide a mechanism that could respond rapidly to urgent needs during times of emergency.
The Reid Sacco Memorial Cancer Research Fund was established in honor of Reid Sacco, a courageous young man who was diagnosed with Sarcoma just weeks before his high school graduation in 2003. Driven by his dreams for his future and despite eventually losing a lung, a kidney and his right leg to the cancer, Reid fought bravely against the disease that eventually claimed his life in April of 2005. During those two years, Reid and his family learned the tragic reality facing adolescent and young adult cancer patients: there are very few treatment options for them, and there had been no improvement in survival in this age group in more than 25 years.
In 1868, Civil War veteran H.K. Webster founded a small feed grain operation in Lawrence. In the 1980s, under the leadership of H.K.’s great-grandsons Dean and King Webster, the company reached its zenith as a manufacturer and distributor of Blue Seal Feeds in the Northeast.
Nurturing a family company is an especially absorbing occupation. When the cousins decided to sell the business built by generations of ancestors, they gained prosperity and freedom but lost a large part of their identity. As he walked out of the office on that last day, King realized he would have to find a new focus for his productive life.
What does it mean when a doctor suggests you get your affairs in order? For my late wife, my children and me it meant trying to find a positive amid the horror of losing a wife and mother— some small way to hold on to her.
Michael Latta loved being an EMT. After graduating from North Andover High School in 2004, he found his passion when he enrolled at Northern Essex Community College and completed his EMT certificate. “Michael would sign up for 24 hour shifts on Saturday nights because there were more emergency calls” recalls his sister Nikki. “We all need people like Michael in our communities.”