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'Living Memories Project' lifts local author's spirits

"The Living Memories Project" was written by Stewart

"The Living Memories Project" was written by Stewart Ain, Meryl Ain and Arthur M. Fischman.

Meryl Ain’s mom seemed to be in perfectly good health when an aggressive form of cancer took hold.

Within months, on Nov. 3, 2006, Ain’s mother was gone, stunning the author and educator who had lost her father only a year earlier.

“I had a very difficult time, and people kept telling me I needed closure,” said Ain, of Commack. “I came to the conclusion that there is no closure.”

But there is acceptance, and remembrance, which led Ain to join her husband, Stewart Ain, and brother, Arthur M. Fischman, in writing “The Living Memories Project,” a new book that collects stories from the famous -- and not so famous -- about how they keep loved ones’ memories alive.

The book’s participants include Jen Chapin, Harry Chapin’s daughter, and Linda Ruth Tosetti, granddaughter of Yankees legend Babe Ruth.

Boris Chartan, founder and chairman emeritus of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, also tells his story of surviving the Nazi invasion of eastern Poland.

Other locals, such as elementary school principal Janine Lavery of Islip and Leslie Rizzo of Centereach, also weigh in. A memory book keeps Lavery’s father close even after death, and Rizzo has soldiered on after her son died of complications from pneumonia by creating a memorial scholarship.

Packaging those stories into a book helped Ain cope with her loss.

“My mother was a cheerful, optimistic person and when I’d tell her I felt down about something, she would always tell me to get to work on a project,” Ain said.

Thus, “The Living Memories Project.”

Ain, whose career included an 11-year stint as an assistant superintendent for the Smithtown school district, said a second volume is possible.

“It’s been incredibly healing,” she said. “I’m living a much happier life now.”

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