Carol Stout Meszaros was a staunch supporter of button collecting in general and NJSBS in particular. With her sister, Sonia Force, Carol cofounded Central Jersey Buttoniers in 1986. For the state society, she was an at-large board director. She appreciated the craftsmanship of the older buttons and admired their beauty. She particularly loved how hunt club buttons reveal that different countries hunt with different hounds – fox hounds, beagle hounds, mink and otter hounds, blood hounds, and harrier hounds,
Always eager to learn something new, she taught herself from books – and was thrilled to find a first edition of the Big Book of Buttons. “Time passes quickly when you are in your books,” she used to say.
Carol was a born teacher. She had an organized mind and an organized approach to helping me, a confused beginner who had inherited a collection. With her, I learned to identify materials. From an unsorted pile of vintage buttons, she would select one or two materials for me to study – and then test me on them the following week. She showed me how looking through books to identify a button can be an exciting adventure. Her mentoring cleared my path to being a serious collector and whetted my desire to help others love to collect as well.
Together we gave talks at libraries; I told the history and she gave detailed instructions on care and handling. She developed a technique guaranteed to get people excited about buttons. After the talks, we offered free poke buttons and showed how to mount them using paper plates, nails, and wires.
Like her sister, Sonia, Carol had a supportive husband for her collecting endeavors. Bob, retired from AT&T, supplied the coated wires, stripped from telephone cables, that we gave away. Bob and Carol visited antique shops together and were able to buy the stock of a retired dealer, Typically she spent seven to eight hours a week sorting and cleaning the buttons. Bob, Carol told me, “helped me immeasurably,” cleaning and re-carding.
Buttons are not the only hobby Carol and Bob enjoyed together. They belong to the Washington Crossing Card Collectors Club, which also meets at the firehouse.
For her career as a paralegal, Carol had taken classes at Rider University and earned an associate’s degree at Mercer County Community College. Carol contributed her organizational efficiency to other community projects. She collected stories for an oral history project about Hopewell, and through Pleasant Valley Stitchers, she was a loyal volunteer at Howell Farms.
Bob and Carol have lived just up the street from the Union Fire Company, where NJSBS holds its meetings, for more than 50 years. Their son Steven lives in Bucks County, PA, with his son Sonny. Her fafmily – and her button friends – will continue to be inspired by her life.
Barbara Figge Fox