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Molly Sheren: from the city to the mountains

January 14, 2009
By YVONA FAST, Special to the Enterprise

Molly Sheren, of Upper Saranac Lake, originally hails from Montreal, where she lived until she married her husband Alan.

"We met at the top of a mountain in the middle of winter at night," Molly said.

This was at the ski resort of St. Marguerite in Quebec's Laurentian Mountains. Molly was there with friends from Montreal and Alan with a group of guys from New York.

Article Photos

Molly Sheren
(Photo — Yvona Fast)

Her father was involved in the Jewish community in Montreal, building a synagogue and later serving as its president.

Molly loves theater, was active in the Montreal Repertory and worked for the Trans Canada Network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Film Board of Canada. However, she pursued a more practical science major and received her bachelor's degree in science from McGill University in 1950.

Alan and Molly lived on Staten Island, where Molly taught physical education. She retired as acting assistant principal and chairman of the Health and Physical Education Department of a roughly 5,000-student New York City high school, supervising 20 teachers.

During the start of Title IX, the 1972 education law that provided women equality in athletics, she became the high school's treasurer. "I wanted to make sure the girls got their fair share," she said.

She formed the first ice hockey league on Staten Island by bringing together the municipal and parochial schools, even though the kids had to commute to Brooklyn for ice time. Molly obtained a grant allowing students to participate in physical activities beyond team sports.

"Not everyone is cut out for team sports," Molly said. "I wanted students to have a choice, to be able to take a boating course and things like that," she said.

She also served as the director of the high school's Adult Evening Community Center, supervising 40 teachers.

"I took that job to help with my son's medical school tuition," she said. "I applied and was told, 'give me a resume.' I replied, 'I will not. You don't ask the men for a resume. Ask people you know who know me whether I can do the job.'"

This is how Molly became the first woman director of an adult community center.

"I made sure everyone knew I was the wife of a local police officer," she said. "They were there with police cars when we closed. This is how I made sure everyone was comfortable and safe. It was fun to be in charge of this educational institution.

"Because Alan worked on the police force (he retired as acting fiscal officer of the Organized Crime Control Bureau in police headquarters in Manhattan) he often couldn't be home when our boy came home from school. That's why I took the teaching job," she continued. "Our son was well taken care of, and today he is a good man."

Indeed. A graduate of New York City's renowned Stuyvesant High School, Lorne won a full four-year scholarship to the Webb Institute and became a naval architect and marine engineer. Later, he went to medical school and became triple board certified in internal medicine, anesthesiology and quality assurance and utilization. Later still, he became a lawyer because he felt doctors were not being properly represented. Today, he practices both medicine and law.

The Sherens came to our area 32 years ago, when they were 48 years old. Alan had been in the service with a bunch of guys from Tupper Lake.

"We always liked to get into the woods," Molly said. "We camped on Rollins Pond each year for a week or two. So when it came time to retire, we decided to settle here. We found the property advertised on an index card at the Trading Post, and noticed the waterfront had a nice, shallow, sandy bottom that would be good for our grandchildren."

Molly always thought and planned ahead to the future.

"I preferred theater to teaching," she said, "but the New York City school system gave me a better salary, benefits and pension than I could have had working in theater. They were just starting public television when I moved to New York, but I would have had to leave for work just when my son came home from school. That was unacceptable."

They retired to the Adirondacks on two New York City pensions. They have traveled extensively from here, visiting national parks and museums. Alan has served as Santa Clara town justice for the last 25 years, a position he still holds.

Molly's retirement from teaching allowed her to be involved in the arts that she loved. She worked at the Lake Placid Center of Music Drama and Art as a performer and a costumer. She also served on the first state Council of the Arts Re-Granting Committee for Franklin County (a pilot project). With Mary Mercurio and Muriel Ginsberg, she founded Tupper Lake Presents, serving on the board of this multipurpose arts organization.

Molly is a weaver who works on a Dobby loom, which interfaces with her computer. She taught weaving and embroidery for several years in a Saranac Lake children's summer program run by Sister Caroline Madden. She also worked for six years as a textile conservator on contract for the Adirondack Museum.

Molly's work on the restoration of Historic Beth Joseph Synagogue in Tupper Lake contributed to the winning of awards through the state Historic Preservation, Adirondack Architectural Heritage and Traditional Arts in Upstate New York.

Molly also helped organized the successful effort to bring a local dial-up for the Internet to the Tri-Lakes area. She served on the planning board and later the variance board of the town of Santa Clara.

Because of her science background, Molly is involved in several area science projects. She served on the Board of the Health System Agency of Northeastern NY, representing the Adirondack Medical Center. She has been involved with the Upper Saranac Lake Association, where she served for a quarter century on the environment committee and six years as treasurer on the executive committee.

Molly enjoys yachting. She used to own a 35-foot trunk cabin cruiser when she lived on Staten Island. She earned a full ticket with the U.S. Power Squadron, taught advanced piloting at Sailor's Snug Harbor, became one of the first New York state Young Boatman's Safety Course instructors (No. A21); and was a Title III Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) federal grant recipient.

Molly loves nature and the Adirondacks. Recently, she designed their new boathouse and worked with the builder to produce it. Both she and Alan are 46ers and enjoy walking, boating snowshoeing and skiing in the woods. The couple even had a "pet" ruffed grouse. Molly said she suspects a fox killed the grouse's mother and siblings, and he was left alone, so he imprinted on Alan and Molly.

"We had him as a friend for over five years," she recollects. "He would walk us to the mailbox on the highway. If I sat down to rest on a log, he would hop onto my lap. If I sang to him, he would fan his tail, his ruff would spread out, and he would strut."

This motto, which guides their lives, hangs in Molly's studio:

"He worked 30 years.

She worked 30 years.

And all that time they went on walks together instead of cruises,

Shared secrets instead of champagne,

So that some day they could be together

All the time."

This story was based on an interview with Molly Sheren. Yvona Fast can be reached at



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