July 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Who Remembers Mae Schnoll Federbusch?

My memory of a family friend, Mae Federbusch, goes back generations to a foreign land, many years ago. Yet, my thoughts of Mae seem current and remain as a fixture in my mind.

Mae (Mamie) Federbusch (née Schnoll) was born in the 19th century. She lived to be 96, passing in 1994. When I walk past a house where she once lived in the neighborhood adjoining my own, it’s uncanny how I visualize her enthusiastically venturing off to her volunteer service shift. That was at the East Orange Veterans Administration Medical Center (EOVA), conveniently located only blocks past my house, in the opposite direction.

My aunt Fannie Mark, born in 1918, worked at the EOVA for 35 years and often spoke of her friend Mae, who ultimately outlived her by one year. While Aunt Fannie and Mae were 20 years apart in age, they were as close as family—the word mishpacha comes to mind.

The COVID-19 lockdown finally permitted me to research the family name Federbusch and Mae’s maiden name, Schnoll. Crawling through the records allowed me to uncover their minutest details while revealing the names of family members. My hope is to share stories and memorabilia with them.

Stored in my collection is a videotaped interview from the 1990s. In it, my aunt revealed the importance of Mae’s family to us. She emphasized that Max Schnoll, Mae’s father, had given my paternal grandfather work in his chicken business when my grandfather emigrated from his native Chudnov, Ukraine, in 1911.

My grandfather came to America from the old country, leaving my grandmother pregnant with my father while working to save money for his wife and children to join him in the land of opportunity. In 1912, my grandmother bravely took the two-week voyage, in steerage, aboard the Potsdam. Heroically, she traveled with both their firstborn son who was only a toddler and my infant father.

One of the first records I came upon in a revealing internet search was Max Schnoll’s obituary. That short piece revealed so much. The well-informed entry confirms that Max was “a retired poultry dealer.” I felt like replying out loud, “I could have told you that.”

His obituary also gave me more names to explore, with the acknowledgment of his children and grandchildren, and satisfyingly, the exact street address he lived at in South Orange. Plus, I learned from the June 7, 1957, Jewish News entry that Mae’s father came to America the year before she was born.

Other records show that Mae was born in New York, and in 1957 she was living at the Varsity Road address. I was familiar with that street name from my aunt’s “kitchen talk.” Aunt Fannie would visit my family home weekly. As she sat at our kitchen table while my mother prepared the meals, she routinely told my mother all kinds of news about family members and friends.

My maiden aunt would insist that “children should be seen and not heard.” Often in earshot, that was how I stored so much information in my memory bank about the family and family friends.

Possibly Mae’s family has copies of the memorabilia that my aunt left, but maybe not. The papers include a headshot taken about 1990 when Mae received recognition in the Irvington Herald for her volunteer service hours. Lauded at the time for having “contributed more hours and years of service than any other volunteer in the medical center’s history,” Mae secured her legacy.

The article notes a total of 28,980 hours and 37 years contributed by Federbusch. By chance, back in 1978-80, I was in graduate school at NYU with Connie, a woman who became my good friend. At the time, she oversaw the volunteer staff at the EOVA.

When asked about Mae, Connie responded, “Thanks for jogging my memory on Mae. I do remember her with a big smile and always ready to help wherever needed. Most of the time she and the others were asked to visit with the patients and deliver any cards or packages to the veterans, which she graciously did. She would readily comply and ask if there was anything additional for her to do. That entire generation had sacrificed an enormous amount on many levels…”

Undoubtedly, Mae’s family knew about her work ethic, and maybe her descendants know some of the family history. It could be they will learn something new from me. It is a wonder if anyone in their family ever passes by the old homestead with their descendants. Do they recall stories about Mae?

Every time I walk by the house at 573 Varsity Road in the gentrified Tuxedo Park Section of South Orange with my husband and visiting children, I smile. The tree-lined area of town, bordering Seton Hall University, was established, as the sign says, in 1913. Those were the days my grandfather worked with Max Schnoll.

A respectable person such as Mae Schnoll Federbusch, z” l, especially deserves to be thought about and remembered. It warms my heart to have the information to go back another generation to show appreciation for her father, who helped my grandfather get his start in America. Possibly someone reading this story in The Jewish Link will introduce the descendants of our two immigrant families.

By Sharon Mark Cohen

 

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