The beat of the upcoming holidays

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The 75th Annual Tree Lighting and Carol Sing outside Brick Presbyterian Church on Park Avenue. Sunday, 6:30 PM. Photo: Annie Watt.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019. Rain, rain, and more rain since yesterday early morning and on into today with the temps warming up to early Springtime levels.

Meanwhile the beat of the upcoming holidays begins to be heard. Last Sunday New Yorkers gathered in anticipation outside the Brick Presbyterian Church on Park Avenue and 92nd Street for the lighting of the Park Avenue Trees. There they held their annual Tree Lighting and Carol Sing.

The annual event always draws a big crowd of neighbors and friends. The blocks surrounding the church were closed to traffic by the NYPD to accommodate the crowd. The Christmas trees were first placed on Park Avenue in 1945 as a welcome to returning service men and women and a memorial to those who lost their lives in World War II.  Today the Park Avenue Tree Lighting ceremony is both a reminder of the original meaning of the lights and a celebration of the holiday season. 

Watching the ceremony from above Park Avenue.

In the early days, the children of the neighborhood turned on the lights, but now licensed electricians now move up and down the avenue lighting the trees one after the other following “Taps,” which was played on Sunday for the 26th year in a row by Brick Church trumpeter, Thomas Hoyt.  The trees will remain illuminated twenty-four hours a day through mid-January.    

Funding for this annual tradition comes exclusively from the community in the form of contributions to The Fund for Park Avenue, a non-profit organization that has been managing and fundraising for the Tree Lighting since 1980. If you’d like to make a tax-deductible contribution, visit

Thomas Hoyt and Knickerbocker Greys.
A rousing Carol Sing led by Brick Church’s Minister of Music, Keith S. Tóth.
Amanda Smith and the Children’s Choir.
The Carey Clan.
Hugo Rutherfurd, Mia Lynch, Sadie Lynch, Red Lynch, Beau Rutherfurd, Rebecca Rutherfurd, and Amanda Todd Lynch.
L. to r.: Dan Williams, Bruce Knecht, Harry Van Dyke, and children; Van and Francine Furniss.
Charlie Baer, Felicia Baer, and Tori Brown.
Beach Haven Gang.
Elizabeth Cahill, Isabel Ruksznis, and Julia Cahill.
Barbara McLaughlin with The Fund’s electricians Gene Hickey and Matt Sgroi.
NYPD officers there to preserve peace, protect the people, reduce fear, and maintain order.

Across the sea in Paris our friend Elizabeth Stribling recently received the Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, bestowed her well deserved medal. 

M. Le Drian spoke of Libba’s work as chairman of the French Heritage Society (FHS). Citing the efforts to restore Notre-Dame Cathedral after the fire he said: “You have started a fundraising campaign, and you have received nearly $2.5 million. Donors from around the world have turned to you.” Already a member of the Légion d’Honneur, the commandeur honor is rarely given to Americans.

Guests included Guy Robinson, Stribling’s husband and co-chairman of the New York Chapter, her daughter Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan and her wife Rebecca ClearyJennifer Herlein (executive director of FHS) and her husband Scott Oltrogge, as well as FHS Board Members Dena Kaye and Juan Pablo Molyneux. 

Jean-Yves Le Drian and Elizabeth Stribling.

Also in attendance were Philippe Bélaval, Carole BrookinsGaëtan Bruel (Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the U.S.), Caroline and Chris CardonCount and Countess Jan de Marchant et d’AnsembourgFrançois Delattre (former French Ambassador to the U.S.), Guillaume GallienneJean-David Levitte (former French Ambassadors to the U.S.), Monique Raimond, and Marianne Wyman.

Elizabeth Stribling has served as Chairman of the Board of French Heritage Society since 2007, and has served on the Board of Directors since 2002. In 1980, she founded the real estate brokerage company of Stribling & Associates. In April of this year she sold the firm to Compass, a national brokerage, where she holds the office of Vice Chairman, New York Development. A native of the state of Georgia, Libba — as she is known her friends and family — is now a resident of Brooklyn (with her husband Guy) with two much beloved residences in France.

The reception at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs honoring Elizabeth Stribling with the Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur.

The French Heritage Society is an American non-profit organization dedicated to fostering Franco-American friendship and cross-cultural exchange. Created in 1982, it now includes 10 chapters in the US and one in France. 

Through various activities and educational programs, FHS is dedicated to preserving the rich French architectural and cultural heritage throughout France and in the US by raising funds for restoration, preservation and cultural grants. FHS also awards scholarships for transatlantic educational programs to students, architects, artisans, art connoisseurs and collectors. FHS also plans tours in France and the US, aswell  as lectures, conferences, galas and other events on both sides of the Atlantic.

Recently the French Heritage Society’s Paris Chapter held a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner at Hôtel Le Bristol in Paris. In New York at their November Black & White Ball they honored interior designer Geoffrey Bradfield and philanthropists Margaret and Greg Hedberg.

To learn more about FHS visit:

L. to r.: Elizabeth Stribling and Guy N. Robinson; Guillaume Gallienne.
Monique Raimond (Madame Jean Bernard Raimond), with Bernard and Catherine de Montferrand (Marquis et Marquise de Montferrand).
L. to r.: Diane de La Morinière and Stanislas de Laboulaye; Guy H. Robinson and Rodica Glaven.
Juan Pablo Molyneux, Dena Kaye, and Dick Fallin.
L. to r.: Juan Pablo Molyneux and Elizabeth Stribling; Jennifer Herlein and Elizabeth Stribling.
Bertrand Lortholary, Michèle le Menestrel Ullrich, Elizabeth Stribling, and François Delattre.
L. to r.: Chris and Caroline Cardon; Philippe Bélaval, président CMN.
Olivier Jo, with Ambassadeur and Madame d’Ansembourg.
Diane de Roquette Buisson, BerylMoizard, Samantha Kohli-Brisolier, and Victoria Estivalèz.

Yesterday afternoon I went over to Jean Louis David to my favorite haircutter Lyudmilla for my monthly trim. Having emailed my plans to JH, when I got back to my apartment, he sent me this commercial of an old Vidal Sassoon commercial from 1981, as sort of a “joke” (wrong word, right idea) because he remembered the Sassoon “slogan” from when he was a kid: “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” He later learned — when we started working together on the NYSD – that it had been created by our friend Peter Rogers when he owned an advertising agency back then. 

These commercials were so successful that Proctor & Gamble bought Peter’s agency (at which point he retired and began a life of travel and leisure – although I think he still misses the work because he’s always got a new idea). Today Peter lives in New Orleans, his old stomping ground when he was a kid from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Famous in the business, especially for his memorable ad slogans, he even coined one for us when we created the NYSD 20 years ago and still in use today: “Your link to society.”

Photographs by Annie Watt (Park Avenue lighting); Julio Piatti (French Heritage Society).

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