Roosevelt loses its historian

The late Art Shapiro’s book on borough to be finished by wife and children


Longtime Roosevelt resident and historianA rt Shapiro died suddenly Dec. 7, 2009, in Tucson, Ariz., where he and his wife relocated two years ago.

Shapiro died two weeks short of his 71st birthday. Born in Brooklyn, Shapiro moved to Roosevelt at the age of 2.

Shapiro’s wife Elly said that her husband loved Roosevelt as it was when he was growing up and attending the public school.

“His fondest memories and his longest friendships are with people that he grew up with,” she said. “There was a sense of caring and camaraderie among the town kids, all of whom later were bused to Hightstown High School.”

In those days, parents sent their children out to play in the morning and they would come back later in the day, not only safe, but fed, she said.

Her husband made more friends in high school and each friend added a unique experience to his life. Even after moving to Arizona, he kept in touch with friends from the Roosevelt area through Facebook, she said.

She met her future husband at a Young Men’s Hebrew Association dance in Newark, and they married in 1964. They lived in Roosevelt until 2008.

“When we arrived in Tucson, it was as different from Roosevelt as could be,” she said. “Yet Art loved it here, and we have established our own community of friends, albeit in the desert.”

A year ago, he participated in the Story Telling Festival at the Jewish History Museum in Tucson, where gave a PowerPoint presentation about Roosevelt.

“Who would figure that in the audience of over 120 people, there were three other families with former ties to this small Monmouth County community?” Elly said. “This year the festival will be dedicated to his memory.”

Art started to write a book about Roosevelt. As the town historian for many years, he had done research on the borough’s history and back stories, according to Elly.

Although currently unfinished, the book contains enough material for a nostalgic, humorous look at growing up in “The ’Velt,” Elly said. The couple’s children, Mindy and Erik, will help her complete the book for publication, she said.

Art spent a majority of his life advocating for people with disabilities and making certain that no child or adult with a disability was treated poorly, according to Elly. His second text titled “Disability Studies and the Inclusive Classroom: Critical Practices for Creating Least Restrictive Attitudes” will be released in March.

Shapiro earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rider University in Lawrence, a master’s degree from The College of New Jersey in Trenton, and a doctorate from Rutgers University in New Brunswick. He was a special educator for more than 40 years, a full professor emeritus at Kean University in Union and an adjunct faculty member at Rutgers University.

He held many positions within the New Jersey Department of Education, including supervisor of child study in Burlington County, regional coordinator of special education and pupil/personnel services for the southern half of New Jersey, state coordinator of intermediate units and private schools for the handicapped/sheltered workshops, and coordinator of professional training and development in special education.

In addition, he was a full-time faculty member at William Paterson University in Wayne and an adjunct faculty member of Monmouth University in West Long Branch, The College of New Jersey, Rowan University in Camden, Georgian Court University in Lakewood, Rider University, the New Jersey State Prison at Trenton, and the Youth Reception and Correction Center at Yardville. He also served as consultant to agencies such as the New York Board of Regents, the National Organization on Disability and the National Easter Seals Society. Shapiro also served as expert witness for the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate’s Division on Developmental Disabilities and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

His book “Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes Toward Classmates With Disabilities,” published by England’s Routledge Falmer in 1999, received the “Choice’s Outstanding Academic Title Award” from the Association of College and Research Librarians, and was selected for inclusion in the Exceptional Parent Magazine library as well as the Network of Educators in the Teaching for Change catalog.

In Roosevelt, he served on the Borough Council and the volunteer fire department.

Besides his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Mindy Shapiro; son-in-law Matthew Ashby; and grandchildren Nathan and Evan Ashby, all of Acton, Mass.; and his son, Erik Shapiro; daughter-in-law Rochelle Shapiro; and grandchildren Yitzchak, Shoshana, Danny and Meira Shapiro, all of New Hempstead, N.Y. He was predeceased by his parents, Harry Shapiro and Eva Cole Shapiro; a sister, Marilyn Weener Schetina; and a brother, Sumner Weener.