The Sea Cliff Village Museum has received a $10,000 donation from a trust set up by Dick Manuel, a former resident who died in 2010, and his wife, Marjorie. Courtney Chambers, the museum director, said that Manuel’s donation is the largest in the museum’s 40-year history.
Since the museum does not have a 501(c)(3) classification, it is not an official nonprofit organization. So the money will go to the village, and the museum will be able to withdraw funding whenever it is needed.
“To be honest, it sort of came out of the blue,” Chambers said. “It wasn’t money we were soliciting, but we’re very grateful to have.”
Since the funding was so unexpected, there is not yet any specific plan for how it will be used, Chambers explained. She added, however, that she would prefer that it go toward new programming or special exhibits once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.
Village Trustee Nick Pinto said he would serve as the intermediary between the museum and the village, working alongside Chambers to provide the museum with everything it needs. Sea Cliff has a wonderful history, Pinto said, and it means a lot for the museum to have such strong financial backing, especially considering the impact the pandemic has had on the facility.
“Hopefully, when we come out of this and we can get back to some sort of normalcy, the museum can be a more attractive place for people to visit and learn from,” he said. “There’s a lot of great things in the museum.”
According to Manuel’s younger brother, Tom, and son, Bill, Sea Cliff was very important to him. He was born on Sept. 15, 1927, the first baby born in a new wing of Glen Cove Hospital. He grew up in Sea Cliff, and he, Tom and their sister, Kathryn, were the third generation of Manuels to live in the village.
Tom, who lives near Philadelphia, said that he and his brother grew up on the water of Hempstead Harbor, both developing a keen interest in sailing from a young age thanks to the Sea Cliff Yacht Club. Dick started crewing in boat races in his early teens, Tom said, before buying his first boat. He even raced sailboats at the collegiate level at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., which, his brother said, showed that his heart was never far from Sea Cliff.
“[If] you live in Sea Cliff, you love Sea Cliff,” Tom said. “We grew up, and Sea Cliff was all we knew.”
After graduating from Sea Cliff High School in 1945, Dick joined the Merchant Marine, spending the next two years on freighters anywhere from New York to the western coast of South America. After his service ended, he studied chemical engineering at Lafayette, where he met Marjorie Simpson, whom he married after the two graduated in 1951.
Dick was hired by Colgate Palmolive’s international division, and worked all over the world, from Lima, Peru, to Yokohama and West Tokyo, Japan, as well as the U.S. While his surroundings were constantly changing, his love of sailing did not, and he joined yacht clubs everywhere he lived.
Dick returned to Sea Cliff roughly every other year, Bill said, to spend time with his parents.
He and his family settled in Ridgewood, N.J., in 1974, but he returned to Long Island full-time after his retirement in 1985, having purchased land and built a house on Shelter Island in the 1970s. By that time, his children, Bill, John and Pat, had all moved to the West Coast. Dick and Marjorie ultimately followed suit, moving to Bainbridge Island, Wash., in 2005 to be closer to Pat and her children, Matt and Kyle.
Before he died on Feb. 1, 2010, Dick detailed the donation to the Sea Cliff museum. Since his family had been in the village for several generations, Bill said, preserving Sea Cliff’s history was very important to his father. Every era of that history contributes to its present and future, he said, which is vital in helping younger generations understand how they came to be where they are.
“I think that it’s important to have some sort of a way of preserving this [history],” Bill said, “and if that means it has to be a physical location, that needs to be supported.”
Additionally, Tom said Dick was friends with the museum’s founders, Charles Ransom and Charles and Prudence Hurley. This, Tom said, gave his brother a personal connection to the museum.
“Besides loving the town, besides loving historical things, he was part of that age of people who started it,” Tom said.
Chambers said that such a generous donation is proof that Sea Cliff is a place that sticks with people throughout their lives, whether they stay for life or go on to live in other places. “It’s really special,” she said. “It really shows you how residents feel about this village even when they’re no longer living here.”