In Memoriam

Questions from Suzie R

Suzie asks if these buttons, above and below, are shell and how can she tell?

Can you tell from a picture if a button is shell?
In Memoriam

Remembering Carol Meszaros

Carol Stout Meszaros, June 1, 1934 – December 13, 2020

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

Carol Meszaros, volunteering at a library program, helps a new button collector sort her buttons. Photo by Yanis Carreto


In Memoriam

Remembering Elizabeth Hughes

Though few of us knew Elizabeth Hughes, all of us deeply respected the lead author of “The Big Book of Buttons.” Born in London in 1935, her collecting began when her father, a Royal Navy officer, brought, to his only child, gifts of buttons, buckles, and clasps from all over the world. In England, she earned a PhD in biology and married an organic chemist who pioneered in the field of synthetic steroids. Moving to the United States, they lived in Haverford, PA, where – in addition to authoring the Big Book with Marion Lester and writing many columns for NBS, she enjoyed gardening and sewing her own clothes and decorative items.

Her publishers were Diane and David Biesel of St. Johann’s Press, a small independent press that specializes in niche publishing of non-fiction titles. They are members of the NJSBS and of Bergen Button Club.

Elizabeth Hughes’ illness came on suddenly. The week before she passed away (June 7, 2020), she had signed off on the final proofs for Buckles and Clasps: Their history, use and design, now in print. Thanks to David Biesel for these memories of Elizabeth Hughes:

A very special lady graced our lives.
“Our problem is that you speak British English and I speak American English.” I said it with a smile, and Elizabeth laughed and said “Yes, you’re right.” We were working on the second edition of the Big Book of Buttons but it was to be a major part of our working together on that book and on the Buckles and Clasps book. Some of our differences were very minor: Do you put the comma and period inside the quotes or outside. Do you use A, B, and C or A, B and C. Do you use the American “AP downstyle” or the more Continental system of capitalization (Manager, President, etc.)?

But there were others. How do you spell Tutankhamun (Tutankhamen)? Do you follow the quote or use a standard of your choice. Over time words change both in meaning and in spelling. (Do you remember spelling to-day in the 1950s?) But her scholarship was superb. Many times she made me go to Webster’s and 99% of the time she was right. (Except for items like Newton, CT which should be Newtown, CT and is the location of Button Street.)

One of my favorite memories of her was when we first met at her house. She made lunch and said would you like coffee or tea. I said coffee, Diane said tea, and I said oh I’ll take tea then. Elizabeth raised her eyes slightly and said “David, I can make both coffee and tea at the same time.”
Perhaps my greatest problem was getting Elizabeth to realize what facing pages are. Page 233 does not face 234, it faces 232. I know that Marion Lester did the layout of the first edition and she was the one who kept “order in the house.”

When I remember Elizabeth, it is of a gifted artist who could paint a wonderful picture in words.

In Memoriam

Remembering Anita O’Hara

Anita O’Hara – helping at an NJSBS show

Anita Beth O’Brien (nee Royal), age 83, died on July 23, 2020 from Covid-19. A self-employed antique dealer, she was a loyal member of the South Jersey Charm Strings and the New Jersey State Button Society. She had an engaging smile and was always ready to volunteer her help at the show’s welcome desk.
Anita was a beloved member of the Pitman Road Church of Christ. Her memorial service has been postponed to Saturday, May 8, 2021, at 3 p.m. at the church, located at 500 Pitman Rd, Sewell, NJ 08080.

In Memoriam

Remembering John Force

An avid member of the Central Jersey Buttoniers, New Jersey State Button Society, and the National Button Society, John Force, passed away in May 2020.
An enthusiastic collector of many things old and antique, his first love was collecting milk bottles and dairy-related items. Button collecting was an exciting endeavor, and along with Sonia, his wife of 69 years, they traveled many miles, in a lot of years, meeting knowledgeable folks, and always looking to find an unexpected button treasure for their collections.
John’s particular interests in button collecting were American Indians and animals, farm related. He will be remembered for his engaging smile and his gift of gab.

by Sonia Force

In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Marilyn Jost


Marilyn Jost

Marilyn was responsible for myself and many others in joining the Jersey Shore Button Club. As a result we are able to participate in this wonderful hobby. She was always generous with her time, information, and racious hospitality. As president for 26 years, she was a friend and mentor to all of us. She will be greatly missed by all of us.

Jackie Moreno and the Jersey Shore Button Club.


Marilyn Jo Jost, 79, passed away on April 18, 2018 due to complications of Parkinson’s disease.. She and Howard, her husband of 51 years, raised their two sons in Manasquan.

Marilyn was born in Odon, Indiana and was a graduate of Union Hospital of Nursing in Terre Haute, IN and the University of Evansville in Evansville, IN. She began her career as a nurse and later worked for many years as an antiques dealer at the Point Pleasant Emporium.

She and Howard, her husband of 51 years, raised their two sons in Manasquan. She was a devoted & loving wife, mother, friend, gardener and volunteer. Marilyn was a faithful member of Manasquan United Methodist Church and also volunteered many years at the VNA Thrift Shop in Manasquan. She loved gardening and belonged to the Sea Lavender Garden Club. She also enjoyed collecting antiques, vintage jewelry & buttons and was a member of the Jersey Shore Button Club. She will be dearly missed

Marilyn was predeceased by her sister, Joyce. She is survived by her loving husband of 51 years, Howard Jost; and her two sons, Daniel Jost and his wife Shannon of Seattle, WA and David Jost of Wall Twp. . For more information or to post a tribute, please visit

In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Lillian J. Buirkle

15 buirkle obit photoLillian J. Buirkle, 82, passed away on December 29, 2018, at her home in Lavallette, New Jersey. She was the daughter of Gus and Ann Buirkle. As owner of one of the first auto dealerships Park Ridge, NJ, Gus helped found, and assisted, the first ambulance squad in her home town, with generations going back from Jersey City to the Virginia colony of 1610. Lillian continued her father’s civic responsibility by volunteering as an EMT at Lavallette Volunteer First Aid Squad. During her decade plus time of service, she became a life member in the community that she and generations of family members have spent in this small community on the bay.

After Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA., Lillian became a scientific pioneer as a senior scientist who helped develop major breakthroughs for a large pharmaceutical corporation over a career begun in the ‘60s.While having a large family and successful career that spanned decades, she also found time to be editor of the Michigan State Button Society bulletin from 1997 to 2002. She competed in local, state and national button societies covering much of the eastern U.S. “Every button that is new to me is exciting,” she said. “My favorite buttons are those from the 18th-century and earlier, especially those made of fabric, since they are so fragile.”

She wrote about fabric buttons and presented a program on them for NJSBS. Among her other publications are, with Marjorie Fraser, a booklet on the Marie Snouffer China buttons, now in its second edition. For the National Button Society bulletin, she authored several articles on political buttons, including those on Presidents William Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt.

In New Jersey, we remember that – with dignity, helpfulness, and efficiency, she was past president of the New Jersey State Button Society, and she was also editor of the NJSBS bulletin and webmaster. As president she recruited NJSBS members to help the Cranbury Historical and Preservation Society evaluate its button collection. In 2017, even when she was very ill, she pitched in to help produce and edit the fall NJSBS bulletin. She was a loyal member of Jersey Shore and Central Jersey Buttoniers.

She is survived by her husband and lifelong partner of over 37 years, Joseph Palinsky; her three children; Erik K. Dhuy, Christine A. Greenough and Ronald J. Dhuy Jr., she also leaves 8 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren with two more on the way. The family requested donations in her name to the Lavallette Volunteer First Aid Squad. Several button competitions are name in her honor.

In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Violet G. Osmun

Violet G. Osmun, 89, of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, passed on January 9, 2011 after a brief battle with cancer.

She was born on May 2, 1921 in Mechanicsburg, PA.  Vi was graduated from Mechanicsburg High School, and immediately joined the WAVEs, a World War II division of the U.S. Navy which consisted entirely of women.  She became an airplane mechanic, training in Jacksonville, Florida, and Norman, Oklahoma.

THE WAVES.  The name WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) was both an allusion to ocean waves, as well as an acronym containing the word “emergency,”  which implied the acceptance of women in the Navy was due to the unusual circumstances of World War II, and would probably end at the war’s conclusion, says Wikipedia, adding:

An important distinction between the WAVES and the WAACs (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps) was that the WAVES were an official part of the U.S. Navy, with its women members holding equal rank, pay and discipline to the men, while the WACCS were only an “auxiliary” organization to the U.S. Army, whose members didn’t hold equal rank to Army men.

WAVES did not serve aboard combat ships or aircraft and, initially, were restricted to duty in the continental United States.  Within the first years of the war, the WAVES–including Vi–were 27,000 strong.  A large number did clerical work, while others worked in naval aviation, medical and law divisions, communications, intelligence, storekeeping, science and technology.
While Vi was stationed in Jacksonville, she met and married her late husband, Lloyd Norman Osmun Sr., also an airplane mechanic, of Brainards, New Jersey.  After both were discharged from the Navy, they lived in Stewartsville, NJ, and later Annandale and Glen Gardner, NJ, before retiring in 1984 to Nazareth.

VARIED INTERESTS.  Upon returning home from the Navy, Vi was an active member of the Clinton Baptist Church where she helped with its nursery school. She later worked for Wm. Spann in Clinton as a real estate agent. After moving to Nazareth, she became active in the Grace Bible Fellowship Church, where she contributed to numerous church charities and its mission organizations.   A member of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), Vi also enjoyed crossword puzzles, baking, hosting friends and family, attending a variety of annual engine shows, and traveling with her husband to Canada and Zimbabwe.

BUTTONS.  Vi earned a nickname of the “Buttonlady” since she was an avid clothing button collector.  She was a long-time member of the New Jersey State Button Society, the Central Jersey Buttoniers and the Pennsylvania State Button Society.  Following visits with her daughter and son-in-law in Harare, Zimbabwe, she returned home with African horn buttons, many carved in animal shapes, as well as English-manufactured Bimini glass buttons, still available in this South African country which was the British Crown Colony of Southern Rhodesia prior to independence being declared in 1980 by Robert Mugabe,

Surviving are four children:  Lloyd N Osmun Jr. and his wife Beverly of Bushkill, PA; James Osmun and his wife Sally of Roseland, NJ; Nancy and her husband, the Rev. Douglas Everswick of Harare, Zimbabwe, and Karen Stefancin of Easton, PA.  Also 11 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

Vi was preceded in death by her husband Lloyd of 65 years, her stepbrother, Robert E. Peiffer, and stepsister, Dorothy May Peiffer.

A funeral service was held on January 17, 2011 at Grace Bible Fellowship Church in Nazareth, with interment at Lower Harmony Cemetery.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Grace Bible Fellowship Church, 100 E. Beil Avenue, Nazareth, PA 18064 or to TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission), PO Box 969, Wheaton, IL 60189.  TEAM supports the ministry of Nancy and Douglas Everswick in Zimbabwe.  (Reference: The Express Times, January 12, 2011)


In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Mary Olive Conlon

Mary Olive Conlon, 79, of Brielle passed at home on April 18, 2010.  A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Catharine Roman Catholic Church in Spring Lake.

Buttons:  She was treasurer of the New Jersey State Button Society (NJSBS) from 2004 – 2007, a member of the Jersey Shore Button Club, Central Jersey Buttoniers and National Button Society.

Specializing in cats, owls and studio buttons, Mary presented the “History of New Jersey Studio-Button Makers” at the May 2007 NJSBS Spring Show.  Her PowerPoint talk illustrated the works of 23 New Jersey studio artists, from the 1940s through modern-day, and the wide variety of materials they used: carved pearl; wood Marquetry; glass lamp work, including paperweights; ceramic; leather; polyester and etched Pinna shells. The program was re-printed in the Fall 2007 edition of the NJSBS Bulletin (Vol. 66, No. 1).

Canadian Background:
  The first born in her family, Mary was given the first names of her grandmothers: “Mary,” for Mary Doran Conlon, and “Olive,” for Olive Gravell Bedard.

She was born in Port Lambton, which lies on the Canadian side of the St. Clair River in Ontario Province, opposite the State of Michigan in the USA, and was raised in nearby Sombra, which means “shade” in Spanish. A neighboring town, Corunna, honored the Battle of Corunna, fought in Spain in 1809, when the British defeated the French during the Napoleonic Wars.

The St. Clair River, itself, is part of the Great Lakes watershed: the 39-mile-long river drains from Lake Huron (second largest of the Great Lakes) into St. Clair Lake, which, in turn, empties into the 32-mile-long Detroit River, which flows into Lake Erie (fourth largest of the Great Lakes).

Education and Work Background:  Mary received her BA and Master’s degrees from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and upon graduation, received the Marty Memorial Scholarship from the Queen’s University Alumni Association. This scholarship enabled her to enroll at Columbia University in New York City, where over a period of years, she completed coursework in economics for a PhD, and taught undergraduate courses in economics.  Mary was hired by Mobil Oil Corporation, headquartered in New York City, as its first female economist.  She stayed in New York for 32 years, living in mid-town Manhattan.

Volunteer Work: While living in Manhattan, Mary was among the first lay delegates to the Diocesan Synod of the Archdiocese of New York.

Upon retirement, she moved to the Jersey Shore, and joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), an organization originally founded by President John F. Kennedy. VISA directed her to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, then located in an old ice warehouse in Spring Lake.

Mary volunteered 20 hours a week for over 20 years to the FoodBank.  Interestingly, the organization bore her own initials: the FoodBank of MOC.  “Mary took the FoodBank newsletter to a new level and thoroughly enjoyed taking photos at FoodBank events.  She became The FoodBank Webmaster and was always ready to take on new FoodBank assignments,” says Ellen F. Koment, media coordinator at the FoodBank, adding:

“When asked why she chose to give her many gifts in this way, Mary replied, ‘My ancestors suffered from the famine in Ireland and I want to do something to feed the hungry.’”

For her work and dedication to the FoodBank, she was presented the “Real Hero Award” in 2001 by Jon Bon Jovi. “Mary was not only a valued volunteer, but a loyal and amazing friend.  She will be missed tremendously and was a real hero to so many whose lives she touched,” says  Ms. Koment.

Mary was also a member of the Atlantic Club in Wall Township, a health club where she took swimming and fitness classes.

She is survived by two brothers: the Revered James Conlon, a priest in Oakland, California, and Robert, who with his wife Tate lives in Derry, New Hampshire; two nieces, two nephews and three great nieces.

Memorial contributions can be made in Mary’s name to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, 3300 Route 66, Neptune, NJ 07753. (Reference: Asbury Park Press, April 21, 2010),


In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Don Van Court

For button folks Don was three people, though many more in life. It’s always odd that on someone’s passing we finally encounter all the people, interests and events in a person’s life.

The first person was the author of three volumes of transportation uniform button information. These books are the bible for any collector in this specialized area. Not just buttons though, but carefully researched “micro” histories of the companies that the buttons were made for, so carefully researched  you can learn quite a bit of railroad history with a single button in mind.

The second person was Don as National Button Society (NBS) President. Don needed to step in on the untimely death of Stefan Schiff and then fill his own term. Don brought his managerial and engineering experience to the office and I think some very well organized years for the NBS. I would not participate in the NBS at the level I do (media relations) if it weren’t for Don seeing a need to get the word out and have media folks who came to our shows have someone to explain and tour them around the show floor.

Don, not being a “general purpose” button collector who could spend all his time at a show or convention looking for buttons, would spend time with me talking about many things. I think his only “other button” was a lovely large Division I brass transportation button… a steam engine… presented to Don on his leaving the NBS presidency.

Conversations with Don would include the books and also how they came about and his adventures in collecting not only the buttons but the information needed to present them in the books. Don was able to visit and examine the records of Waterbury Button Company and talk to people from Scovill Button Company who had moved to Waterbury when Scovill was acquired by them. His research in Poor’s Manuals finding the parentage of the long succession of railroad companies resulted in the style of those “micro histories.” His training at the hands of the Alberts, particularly Lillian, honed writing skills for articles, his books and the report writing. That served him well in his career at AT&T and as an internationally known consultant in building management and maintenance.

The last area that we had in common was the love of railroading in general. Don was a frequent volunteer at a tourist railroad operation on theMorristownandErie. That was always good for a number of his stories. I recently learned that Don was a rail fan of an obscure railroad that  serviced the waterfront inHoboken. Googling “Hoboken Shore Railway” will take you to a web site replete with photos taken by Don when he attended Stevens Institute there inHoboken. There is also a set of rail fan oriented books called “The Next Station Will Be.” Don was instrumental in keeping this delightful series in print.

Together we always tried to submit awards to National that would let those few of us “play hard” with our collections. We frequently compared notes to maximize the fun, but not step on each other with our “clever” ideas.

Don gave many talks before the New Jersey State Button Society. I have a video recording that I made of Don discussing the process of writing a book at one of the NJSBS shows at the Union Fire Hall inTitusville. This was Don’s last contribution to our programs.

As I told Don’s sons, “I think I’m a better person for having known your father.”                                                                                                                 Jim Albanowski

When we lostDon Van Court, we lost one of the giants ofNew Jersey, as described in his program in 2001 at the 60th anniversary of NJSBS.  Joe Anderson and Dewy Albert were two others mentioned. Don was so modest; he didn’t even include himself on that list of giants. Well, we certainly knew differently. Not only was he our giant, he was a GIANT in the button collecting world, as well as the railroad community.

Not only did Don know buttons, he knew the history of the railroad companies and where their lines ran, having been a railroad fan most of his life, and a uniform button collector since the age of twelve.

As William J. Hentges wrote in his tribute to Don in the NBS February bulletin, “if they moved on wheels or rails, sailed the rivers, docked in our ocean port, flew over our country, and wore uniforms, Don knew them well.”

I first ran into Don at various button shows we did inNew Jersey and Pennsylvania. He was always on the prowl for transportation buttons.  When I became more involved in uniform buttons of all kinds, we started judging at Division II together at national conventions and state shows.

It was a pleasure to get to know him better, which is one of the benefits of judging with someone all day. He taught me to ‘covet’ buttons, not just judge them; and covet we did. When we judged railroad and transportation buttons in general, it would take some time just to do a few trays, because we would admire certain buttons, their rarity, and of course explain to the clerk why we liked them so much.

He was a wealth of information, and loved to share it verbally or through his three volumes of transportation uniform buttons…… a major, no, a” GIANT’ contribution to our hobby.                                                       Johnson  Frazier

Don Van Court was a very special warm and delightful man. Especially on our trips to NERBA driving together were so much fun. Don used to chuckle when we dressed in our costumes, especially when we escorted him into the room, one of us on each arm when he gave the talk on the Orient Express. We were like his second and third wives, making sure he took his vitamins and Gloria putting drops in his eye after his cataract operation. We will miss him and the twinkle in this eye. He was a friend indeed.                              Gloria Chazin and Anne Flood