By Sue Botos
Not many people get the opportunity to try on a space suit. But at the October Associates of New Westsiders luncheon, program director Judy Robertson got that chance, during a presentation by former NASA computer specialist Bill Crell.
“I’m going to send these pictures to my grandchildren,” said Robertson, smiling from inside the heavy white garment.
Crell also gave the group a brief history of NASA highlighted by some experiments, including the launch of a film canister “rocket” fueled by Alka-Seltzer. He told his audience that he began at NASA after graduating from John Marshall High School in 1958. “They told me they had an opening for the midnight shift on this new thing called a computer,” he said, adding that the Univac, as it was called, took up an entire room. “It was exciting to be on the leading edge of computers and watch (them) progress,” said Crell, who retired in 1995 but is still a part of the NASA speakers bureau.
These monthly lunches, this one held at the Clifton Club in Lakewood, are just one of the varied fun and informative activities offered by the Associates of New Westsiders, or ANS, a social organization celebrating its 45th year.
According to information provided ANS, the group traces its roots back to 1949 and the formation of “New Neighbors,” a Welcome Wagon-type organization for newcomers to the area. Members could only stay in the group for two years, so those desiring to keep up friendships and activities started in New Neighbors formed “Associates of New Neighbors,” which held its first organizational meeting in August 1967. The group changed its name to Associates of New Westsiders in 1972, and had 161 members from communities including Westlake, Bay Village, North Olmsted, Rocky River, Fairview Park, North Ridgeville, Lakewood, Strongsville, Cleveland, Parma and Avon Lake.
“This group has been a life-saver to so many of us,” commented Judy Wozniak, a resident of the Westside for 28 years. She added that some of the women in the group joined when
their husbands’ jobs transferred their families to the area. For others, moving to the area to care for elderly parents, divorce or other life-changing situations brought them to ANS.
Group President Jennie Kirk, a native of England, said she joined in 1975, but had to drop out in 1981 when she went to work. She came back five years ago. “Many members leave and then rejoin,” said Kirk, adding that the group has about 110 members. At this lunch, a past president was welcomed back after a stay in Tennessee.
Aside from the monthly luncheons, the organization has various interest groups open to members, ranging from card playing, to a book club, “gourmet gals” and a Kids’ Corner and playgroup.
But not all of the activities are for ladies only. Evening events for couples include a gourmet group, euchre and pinochle.
“I’ve made so many friends in the group and learned to play pinochle, euchre and other card games,” said Realtor Barb Erickson, a member since 1984. Kathy Woolner, a resident of the area for over five years, said she started out in the New Westsiders group on the recommendation of her Realtor. She said she enjoys the “Girls Night Out” group, which meets the third Thursday of the month.
Although ANS was founded for those not born and raised in the area, Kirk announced at the luncheon that membership is being opened to anyone native to the Westside. “Speak to everyone you meet. We’re not just for newcomers,” she said.
Anyone interested in joining ANS can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.