Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Last Remaining Link to Hofstra Family Passes Away

Hofstra Hall at night over the holidays.  Irene spent
many hours playing in Hofstra hall as a child with
Mrs. Hofstra enjoying her company.
One of the last remaining links to the Hofstra family, Irene Theresa (Szczepkowki) Czarnecki,  passed away over the weekend.

She was born on the Hofstra campus before there was a campus.  Many of my readers will know that the south side of the Hofstra campus was once the Hofstra Estate.  The original home of the Hostra's, now Hofstra Hall, still stands.  The property was one of those roaring 20's kinds of estates that were common on Long Island at the time.  When the Hofstra's died childless, the estate went to a trust which turned it into what became Hofstra University.

Irene's father was Mr. Hofstra's chauffeur and the family lived in an apartment above Mr. Hofstra's garage.  Irene was born there.  Irene's other sisters, Frances and Helen (both since deceased) also lived on the property.

I met Irene through one of the more unusual coincidences in my life.

A few years ago when I was a professor at the University of South Florida, I decided to go on the job market.  Some great opportunities arose, but I decided to take the position I now hold at Hofstra University.  When I accepted, I started to tell a few friends in Tampa.  One of them was Mary Beth Erskine.

As it turns out, unbeknownst to me, Mary Beth is Irene's daughter and she grew up in a home adjacent to the Hofstra campus and spent a considerable amount of her young life playing on our campus.  Through Mary Beth I met Irene and heard many stories from her about her childhood on the estate and the Hofstra's.  She visited my home here on Long Island and it was a real honor to meet her.

More information about Irene and her funeral arrangements can be found here.  You can also see some images of Irene's father in Hofstra's online special collections photos here.

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