If you happen to look into the Jewish Community Center’s Senior Adult Lounge or any other place where the members of the Adult Social Club are engaged in an activity, it is likely that you will see Margaret Mazanec there with her camera.
In fact, she takes so many photos documenting the group’s activities that the Senior Adult Committee has given her the title, “Paparazzi.” Not only does she take the photos, she organizes them in albums and labels each one to preserve the Senior Adult Department’s history.
In recognition of all of her photographic efforts and regular participation in Senior Adult Department events, the committee has named Mazanec the recipient of the 2014 Elsie P. Judah Award.
“I was very surprised” to receive the award, she said. “I don’t do anything outstanding. I’m just following in the footsteps of those who went before me.”
Born and raised in the small town of Colby, KS, she attended Pittsburg (KS) State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in science and technology.
“After college,” she said, “I needed a job and knew only one person in one city – my brother living in Cincinnati – so I came there” and went to work for U.S. Playing Card, the first of several jobs she held in that area.
She found a home in northern Kentucky. “I love Kentucky,” she said, adding, “Kansas has so few trees.”
Ten years ago, she was laid off from her job, “and I got offered a job in Sellersburg, IN,” she stated, “which is how I got to Louisville. … I didn’t know a soul here, but I managed to meet some wonderful people and have been here ever since.”
Five years ago, Mazanec left the workforce on disability, and about two and a half years ago, she said, “I discovered the Senior Club at the Jewish Community Center. Marcy Beyer left a bunch of fliers about the JCC on a table at the apartment building where I was living. I called and came and I haven’t left.”
What keeps her coming back? “I like the people,” she said, “the really wonderful people, from Diane [Sadle] and Slava [Nelson] to the volunteers and all the people who come for the lunches. They keep me young, and I love the food.”
Mazanec explained that she got into photography by accident. “Back in Kansas, I had friends who worked for a newspaper,” she recalled. “They were into photography and talked about it all the time, so I took a photography class. In those days, everything was in black and white.
“Everything the instructor told me not to do, I did,” she remembered, “so I screwed up a lot of film.”
Halfway through the course, something clicked, and it began to make sense. “That was 31 years ago,” Mazanec said, “and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s my second passion – my first is reading.”
Thanks to her efforts, the Senior Adult Club now has three photo albums, each containing 300 photos, documenting their activities, and Mazanec has begun a fourth. She’s careful to label each photo with the identities of the people, the occasion and the date, because she is committed to creating a pictorial history of the club and knows from experience how frustrating it can be to have a box of old photo with nothing to identify them.
In this issue of Community, Mazanec has branched out into writing, too. She documented the recent Senior Adult trip to Atlanta and Nashville in both photos and prose.
Mazanec also described herself as “a wannabe avid gardener, like Mag Davis, which is why I volunteered to get the garden out back [at the JCC] started. We are trying to get people from Shalom Tower interested in the garden and in growing ethnic food. The more the merrier.”
“Karen Abrams has been instrumental in giving this project a push,” Mazanec added. “Karen had her landscaper come in and make raised beds – one for the kids and the rest for seniors.” The food grown there will be donated to the Jewish Family & Career Services Food Bank or will be used in the kitchen at the JCC.
“There’s lots of room for more gardeners,” she noted.
The Elsie P. Judah Award will be presented to Mazanec at the Jewish Community of Louisville Annual Meeting, Sunday, June 1, at 10 a.m. at the JCC.