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A Groundbreaking Woman: Sewell Park Dedication Held in Washingtonville

By Eugenia Moskowitz

The dedication ceremony for the Naomi Sewell Richardson Memorial Park, located across the street from Washingtonville Middle School, was held on May 11 at the park site. Present were members of Sewell’s large extended family, elected officials, and many sorors of Delta Sigma Theta, the African-American sorority that Sewell founded at Howard University in the early 1900s.

Annette Brooks, president of the mid-Hudson DST sorority chapter, said, “We are here for a groundbreaking, which is appropriate since Naomi Sewell Richardson lived a groundbreaking life.” Born in 1892, she was the first African-American to graduate from Washingtonville High School, in 1910, and her family members were some of the original founders of the Bethany Presbyterian Church, where her father was pastor. “She went to Howard University to study education,” Brooks said, “and lived to be 101 years old. The sorority she established now numbers 200,000 members.”

Dressed all in red, the sorors, as well as members of Sewell’s family both young and old, came out to dedicate the ground and to remember her. Pointing to children playing on the site, Senator James Skoufis said, “And you already have kids playing at the park!” To laughter, he continued, “Thanks to Mayor Joe Bucco and this village board for seeing this park grow out of a flood zone after so many years of sitting vacant, and for the overall rejuvenation of Washingtonville.”Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, who is setting up his office in the village, said, “I am very happy to see this happening right in the middle of Washingtonville.” Village historian Linda Standish — herself named a “Woman of Distinction” by Assemblyman Colin Schmitt in Goshen last week — described more of Sewell’s life and path of achievement.

After dirt was ceremoniously tossed with golden shovels, family members shared stories of growing up on the property: ice-skating in winter, building igloos, and playing in the summer along the Moodna Creek. Because the area is now officially a flood zone, the park cannot have any structures that can catch debris and create hazards during a flooding event. But as a so-called “passive park,” it can have paver paths, benches, lampposts, a gazebo, and trees. Ideas have been floated for a canoe launch. The plans for the park are available at village hall, where all can view them. Those who would like to volunteer to help build the park can contact Mayor Joe Bucco at Village Hall.

Sewell shovels

 

Sewell kids

CAPTION 1: Naomi Sewell Richardson’s extended family, and Delta Sigma Theta sorors (dressed in red), came out on May 11 to dedicate the park site across from Washingtonville Middle School in her name. (Photos by Eugenia Moskowitz)

CAPTION 2: Ceremonial dirt flew at the Naomi Sewell Richardson Memorial Park at Washingtonville Greens by Sewell family members and village, county, and state elected officials.

CAPTION 3: Sewell family members and other children played King of the Hill at the park site. Those who would like to volunteer to help build the park can contact Mayor Joe Bucco at Village Hall.

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