If each of us cared as much about Manhattan — or even about one or two elements in our city that need attention — as Jeune Kirmser and Doris Grosh did, our already fine city would be that much closer to ideal.
We lost those two women last week, Mrs. Kirmser at 91 and Mrs. Grosh at 87. And we are the poorer for it.
They defy stereotyping. Mrs. Grosh, for instance, was also Professor Grosh. In fact she was the first female faculty member in the KSU College of Engineering. She was an immensely popular teacher and found time to write books on industrial engineering topics such as “reliability theory” and linear programming. She was, in short, an eminent scholar and educator.
But she is more fondly remembered for her love and support of the arts in this community and as an active member of the League of Women Voters. She and her husband, Gene, were ardent advocates of the arts, especially the Arts Council, Manhattan Civic Theatre and the Manhattan Arts Center. Their involvement included service as volunteers, as board members and, no less important for community arts endeavors, financial contributors. It is fitting that when the Manhattan Arts Center’s performance hall was completed, it was named for the Groshes.
Mrs. Kirmser, also a League of Women Voters member, was perhaps best known for her presence for decades at Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education meetings. She was the League’s representative at those meetings, but she was considerably more. She was the personification of citizenship and a constant reminder that public boards exist to serve the public. The school board’s chambers bear her name. She also helped ensure that Manhattan students would have access to school social workers.
As her obituary pointed out, she was a prolific writer. She also had strong opinions, some of which she expressed in letters to the editor. She could be both effusive in praise and fearless in her criticism.
Her dedication to improving life and lives ran the gamut from hosting international students to visiting nursing homes and serving as a Freedom Writer for Amnesty International.
Neither Mrs. Kirmser nor Mrs. Grosh was a Manhattan native. Rather, they moved here in the prime of their lives and shared their considerable gifts with fellow residents, in the process making our community more livable, more equitable and more civilized. Their lives remind us how much difference a private citizen — woman or man — can make. Our community is truly blessed that these women made Manhattan their home.