The old adage “if you want something done… ask a busy person” aptly describes Historic Odessa Foundation volunteer Alison Matsen. She always seems to find the time to help out whenever called upon!
Alison’s first involvement with Odessa came in the 1970’s when her good friend, the late, Horace L. Hotchkiss, was curator of the Historic Houses of Odessa. “Hotch” pressed her into hosting lunches at her beautiful Federal farmhouse for special interest groups… and… opening her home for his University of Delaware Winter Session students researching and studying the vernacular architecture of the region.
Originally from northern New Jersey, Alison moved to Newark, Delaware at the age of 10. She graduated from Newark High School and went on to the University of Delaware where she earned a degree in German. Alison continued with her education while her children were young… attaining her Master’s degree in both German and Spanish, with graduate coursework in French. She and husband David moved to Middletown in 1972 and into their treasured historic home located on “the levels” in 1974. In 2004, after 17 years with the Appoquinimink School District, she retired from her full-time career as a foreign language teacher.
Volunteering at Odessa—enhancing education
Alison says she “married antiques” when she married David in 1969! Her first instructor was her mother-in-law, a dedicated enthusiast of American Decorative Arts. Together Alison and David have single handedly saved two local historic dwellings from the wrecking ball by moving them to their property… and she is always quick to offer objects from her various collections for special exhibit loan to HOF! In addition to her professional teaching position…in 2001 Alison started working for Winterthur on the guiding staff at their Historic Houses of Odessa. When Winterthur closed their Odessa site in 2003, she volunteered for intensive training to become a volunteer period room guide in Wilmington and guided there 3 or 4 days a month for the last ten years. When the new Historic Odessa Foundation opened in 2005…Alison immediately offered her time and talents as a volunteer docent, hearth cook, and school program guide!
But our foundation is not the only organization to benefit from Alison’s generosity of spirit. She has served as Secretary for Friends of Old Drawyer’s Church for 23 years. She is a member and volunteer at Forest Presbyterian Church… leading Vacation Bible School… and acting as Clerk of Session. She has been an active participant in the local chapter of the Association of American University Women chairing scholarship fundraising efforts. After retirement she began volunteering for the Middletown Historical Society and now oversees that organizations accessions program… conducts research… helps with planning for exhibitions and special events like Peach Festival… and is a frequent speaker on local history. Alison really enjoys helping members of our community learn more about the MOT.
Her friends at Historic Odessa marvel at her energy…Alison’s hobbies… in her free time…include traveling; studying Americana; singing in the chorus; attending the opera and ballet; cooking; baking; and raising chickens. She loves spending time with husband David, three daughters, and six grandchildren. Her one paying gig …is teaching German once a week to adults at the Delaware Saengerbund in Ogletown!
The Historic Odessa Foundation is very grateful that Alison chooses to include us in her very busy life…many, many thanks for ALL that you do for us!