Saturday, June 27, 2015

In Memoriam: Mary Hallenbeck

The sad news was shared yesterday by one of her close friends that Mary Hallenbeck had died. She had been a nurse, training when there was still at nursing school at Columbia Memorial Hospital, and a teacher of nurses, but those careers were behind her when many of us made her acquaintance. For those who knew Mary in the past two decades, she was a tireless and uncompromising defender of Hudson's architectural heritage and an unabashed champion and acknowledged authority on the area's history and traditions.

Mary served on the Historic Preservation Commission at its beginning. With city historian Pat Fenoff, she took on the task of reviewing and updating the inventory of buildings for Hudson's largest locally designated historic district: the Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District, which encompasses most of the south side of the city. She made it her personal mission to get individual local designation for Cavell House, the grand mansion, now the location of New York Oncology and Hematology, which had for many years been the hospital's School of Nursing. When Mary and her husband Charles sold their house on Union Street and moved to Greenport, Mary was indignant that the preservation law's residency requirement forced her to resign from the Historic Preservation Commission. She and Charles would return to Hudson a few years later to be among the last residents of the Home for the Aged before the venerable institution closed early in 2014.

Mary was the historian of the Reformed Dutch Church in Claverack, and, at one time or another, served on the boards of Historic Hudson and the Friends of the First Presbyterian Church. She was also a member of the DAR and the Fortnightly Club.

Mary's devotion to Hudson was steadfast. During the years she lived in Greenport, she would come to Hudson often but religiously every Friday to have tea at Verdigris. One friend remembers that before Mary went back to Greenport, she would always drive the length of Warren Street down to the river, just to check things out and savor the city.

Mary esteemed Hudson's long history, remembered and valued its recent past, and embraced its present. We shall not look upon her like again.

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