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Obituary - Beatrice Nasaw

Memorial Service This Saturday at Bryant Library

Beatrice Nasaw, a longtime Roslyn resident, died on January 17 in Glen Cove Hospital at the age of 92.  “Bea,” as she was called, was known to generations of school children in Roslyn where she taught fifth and sixth grades for over a quarter of a century.

Long after she retired in 1982, Bea’s students came to visit her. One was Nancy Friedman, who was in her fifth grade glass in the 1960s and became owner of her own public relations firm. Nancy met her future husband, Maurice Margolin, a lawyer and special agent for the FBI, in Bea’s class.  “She was so smart, funny, engaging, magical, empathetic, musical, strict and loving,” Ms. Friedman wrote recently.  

Born Beatrice Kaplan in Cortland, NY, Bea graduated from Normal School there. In 1944, she married Joshua Nasaw, a lawyer.  They lived in New York City, Glen Cove, and finally in Roslyn.

Bea was passionate about teaching, knitting and politics.  At 90, she worked for the campaign of presidential candidate Barack Obama.  But her main passion was literature.  When Bea discovered a new author she liked, she became a missionary for the person — most recently, William Trevor and Sebastian Barry.   She was also an avid poetry reader, especially of W.H. Auden, Philip Larkin,  and Emily Dickinson.

Not surprisingly, all of Bea’s children eventually became successful writers—-Jonathan, an author of thrillers; David, a biographer and historian; her late daughter, Elizabeth, a poet and publisher of avant-garde magazines. Dinitia Smith, David’s wife, is also a novelist. Jonathan, for instance, is the author of the acclaimed novels, Fear Itself and The Girl He Adored. David, a professor of American History at the City University of New York, has published biographies of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst. In addition to such novels as The Illusionist, Dinitia Smith was, for many years, a cultural correspondent for The New York Times, writing up to 500 articles, mostly on literary subjects.

At age 80, Bea herself became a poet. Her work was privately printed in Bea, Volumes I and II.  One of her poems follows:

ladies and gentlemen

step right up

come one come all

the play is about to begin

the theater is dark

no patrons in the seats

the pit an empty trench

no players on the stage

some songs end too soon

There will be a memorial service for Bea at the Bryant Library on Saturday, March 27, 2 p.m.