West Hempstead's beloved civic leader Rosalie Norton moving on

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After nearly a quarter-century as head of the West Hempstead Community Support Association, Rosalie Norton is stepping down as the civc group’s president. A vocal advocate for the community that she has called home for five decades, Norton, 83, also served on the West Hempstead Board of Education for 13 years, from 1977 to 1990, and was at one time the board president.

“This has been a big part of my life,” Norton, 83, said of her civic work. “I just wish that somehow, somewhere deep inside each one of you, you realize that when you’re doing something where you don’t get paid, you do get a reward. That reward is feeling a sense of friendship, and the satisfaction that you’ve done something that makes somebody else’s life better.”

Norton, the Herald’s 2007 Person of the Year, announced her retirement at the WHSCA’s June 13 meeting. The question of the night was whether residents wanted the group to continue to exist. Fifty hands quickly shot up with an affirmative yes.

WHCSA member Aisha Crumpton said that the group does not yet have a replacement for Norton, but she hoped that a community member would step up. “It’s not that we’re going to get another Rosalie . . . but she deserves her retirement,” Crumpton said.

The WHCSA coordinates several events throughout the year: the annual Memorial Day parade, a 9/11 memorial ceremony and various community cleanups. Association members also help beautify the town through gardening and decorating street signs for the holidays.

Norton told residents that although she was retiring, she would still be a resource for the community. “I just don’t want to have the responsibility of making sure that everything gets done,” she said. Norton proposed the idea of the WHCSA having co-presidents to share the duties of coordinating events and initiatives throughout the community.

County Legislator Vincent Muscarella, of West Hempstead, said the community needs a point person. He added that while he and Norton did not always agree, her persistence helped keep him aware of issues and concerns in the community, and she made her points in a delicate way.

“As an elected official, we get different calls from different people for different reasons,” Muscarella said. “When there’s someone that has my cell phone number, my home number that can text or email me, or call me [at] night, that’s who represents an organization. That’s the person that all of our elected officials pay a little more attention to.”

Rabbi Art Vernon, spiritual leader of Congregation Shaaray Shalom — who has worked closely with Norton as a member of the Central Nassau Rotary Club — said that without the WHCSA, the community would not communicate as effectively with the Town of Hempstead or the county.

“The Community Support Association gives us a sense of identity,” Vernon said. “The bottom line is if we don’t have a strong, active community support association, we lose our identity as a community.”

He added that the WHCSA has brought together different community groups, the school district, the public library and the Chamber of Commerce.

Norton reminded residents of how the WHCSA helped obtain a steel beam from the wreckage of the World Trade Center as a monument in Hall’s Pond Park in 2012.

“It wasn’t me on my own. I did it as a member of the civic association,” Norton said. “It was an entire organization that was able to get that done.”

She also said that hundreds of community members came together in 2011 to help rid West Hempstead of the Courtesy Hotel, a crime-ridden building that brought in prostitution and drugs, diminishing home values. “I think that was the highest membership we ever had that year,” Norton recalled.

As for the future of the WHCSA, she said that it comes down to each community member putting a little effort into it. “It can’t just run on hope and a wish,” she said. “It needs people to get involved and people to help.”

“I’m hoping that everybody in here has a particular thing that they feel very strongly about,” she continued. “When people bring up a goal that they feel very strongly about, then I think it’s easy for them to energize others.”

The association’s next meeting will be on July 12, at 7 p.m., at the West Hempstead Public Library, in Community Room 3. To become a member of the WHCSA, download an application form at www.westhempsteadcivic.org/membership. Mail the form, along with the $20 membership fee, to the West Hempstead Community Support Association, P.O. Box 425, West Hempstead, N.Y. 11552.