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CELEBRATING THE NOTABLE PEOPLE OF MAPLEWOOD by Ellen Donker

Dan Kaslow writes a compendium.


Dan Kaslow loves research. Perhaps it comes from his many years as a consultant to midsize companies and nonprofits where he had to come up to speed quickly on an industry or business. He also loves Maplewood, where he has lived in the same house for 38 years. He says, “When I meet people, and I talk about Maplewood, I sort of have to halt mid-conversation, because I can wax eloquent on how many things that are distinctive about Maplewood.” He then proceeds to list what he loves about the town, from the school architecture to the park system to the fact that no county road runs through Maplewood Village, a rarity in New Jersey.


Combining his two passions, Kaslow wrote a book entitled Maplewood Compendium. A 127-page, 12-chapter book, it is a collection of short biographies of hundreds of Maplewood residents, past and present, whose outstanding life accomplishments he considered notable.


Estimating that he devoted 700 hours to the project, Kaslow got started with what he calls casual research: reading primary books on local history that added to the knowledge he had acquired in his years as a docent at Durand-Hedden House. (He taught the children’s school program that focused on how children lived during the colonial era.) He says, “I had no intention of a book at that point. It was going to be like a monograph that I’d give to the library. And then as it built, you know, one day (of research) would lead to three other names, which would lead to two businesses and four organizations.”


When the pandemic hit, Kaslow decided to devote his extra time to research his subjects more thoroughly. Most of it was done online since facilities such as the library and town hall were closed due to COVID restrictions. Eventually, his collection of information grew to 700 carefully researched entries and that’s when he knew he had a book on his hands.


Kaslow writes in the book’s introduction that he created “written snapshots” on many aspects of Maplewood, focusing on people and families with mini-biographies of the earliest settlers to many who currently live in town, collectively reflecting the town’s long heritage. The information is organized across an array of topics all associated with some aspect of Maplewood – the organizations, clubs and religious groups the residents formed; the businesses they created; the houses, community and educational facilities they built; the transportation modes they used; the roads and places they traveled; and the meaningful events they celebrated.


Readers will learn tidbits of Maplewood’s history in ways they might not have thought about. For instance, the Education section lists the education buildings in order of construction date starting with the Old School House and ending with Wyoming (South Mountain) Avenue School. The Roads section lists the local family-name streets such as Courter Avenue and Salter Place. And the town’s oldest existing business? Gefken’s Florist.


It is Kaslow’s hope that the book will encourage readers to interact with Maplewood’s history and be spurred on to do their own inquiry. He says “I have tried to create a book for Maplewood locals, former and current, that is fun and informative, to read and enjoy. But I also hope that I provided a useful service and valuable resource for the community.”


The Maplewood Compendium is available at Words bookstore for $15 and at the Maplewood Library.

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