A Chappaqua Mom Extraordinaire!
By Grace Bennett
When Georgia Hobaica Frasch (friends call her Georgie) arrived in Chappaqua eight years ago, she could not have predicted that, fast forward three years, she would be so heavily involved with a powerfully influential social media platform (now over 5,000 members strong) that has been all the rage in New Castle: Chappaqua Moms on Facebook!
Georgia, and her husband Ron Frasch, a former President of Saks Fifth Avenue and CEO of Bergdorf Goodman’s, arrived here for the same reasons so many of us do: they viewed Chappaqua as a wonderful place to raise a new family, and they prepared to take advantage of our highly ranked schools and all the natural beauty this town has to offer.
And it is here that the couple has been happily raising twins: Honor, a 5th grader at Bell, Christian, a 5th grader at the Windward School in White Plains; and Gracie Bea., a second grader at Roaring Brook. The most recent adorable addition, Buster, a mini goldendoodle puppy greeted me too, wagging his tail happily from inside his crate.
While their house hunting began in Greenwich, the couple shifted their sights to Chappaqua, after falling in love with a 1902 Center Hall Colonial on Hardscrabble Road, a home they have lovingly and completely refurbished, including restoring an original, stone chapel in the backyard–and in 2013, adding a jewel of a pool. Their quaint and welcoming but meticulously restored home has since been featured in a New Castle House Tour by the New Castle Historical Society, and Georgia has added membership on the board of the NCHS to an impressive list of volunteer activities. “I have a million ideas for ways to promote local music, art and history,” she excitedly shared.
Indeed, what emerged most from meeting Georgia is that while many of you may know her best as the lady who so diplomatically manages so much of the chatter on Chappaqua Moms–the page originally founded by professional photographer and Chappaqua Mom Julie Scott–there is way more to Georgia than her role with Chappaqua Moms. The same combination of TLC and professionalism she displays on a Facebook page is in full swing elsewhere too.
But first, there are humble beginnings to note…underpinnings of the seemingly storybook life Georgia leads today. Her early life experiences shaped her deeply ingrained work ethic and also a profound sense of appreciation for everything she enjoys today. That is as true for her as it is for her husband Ron too, she related. “I pinch myself every day. I never lose sight of the fact that I’ve been blessed to have everything I’ve ever wanted. I’m so content,” she said. “Ron and I both come from similar backgrounds and feel honored to be able to give back to the community”
For Georgia, giving back has been an exercise of offering her time toward what she is most passionate about. Music, and specifically a love for Bach, ranks as #1. “I studied piano as a child and classical music really spoke to me, especially Bach,” said Georgia, who, after ten years on the board, is now Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Orchestra of St. Luke’s–the orchestra that is in residency at Carnegie Hall and the Morgan Library from fall to spring, and every summer at Caramoor.
She is also on the advisory board of the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and on the Board of Directors for The Bach Vespers in New York City.
Georgia was born in Utica, New York, in 1962. Her parents were both first generation Lebanese. The family struggled for a time while her father went to dental school (thanks to the provisions of a GI Bill) and her mother raised Georgia, the eldest of three children. She describes jobs cleaning homes in Utica at age 12 to start saving money for college. “I had three or four houses I cleaned. I did what I had to do. I raked leaves too and sold Christmas cards door to door.” Georgia was also a bright, diligent student. And in high school, she studied Italian for all four years.
With a proficiency in Italian, she was off to enjoy a three-month exchange program “all over” Italy immediately post high school. Soon, Georgia (while working full time at Barney’s) attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and graduated in 1982. Her next plan was to attend Boston University to study art history. She never made it to B.U., she explained, after being approached by Zanella, the Italian men’s clothing company, to help them develop a fledgling women’s wear line. (They were impressed by her Italian language skills!) The only caveat was “that I’d have to be available to travel every six weeks to Italy.”
“I was having doubts about art history, and wondering how I would parlay that into making more money to support myself,” she said. Accepting the job offer, Georgia began to lay the groundwork for a highly successful career in the merchandising and production of Italian luxury goods.
Early on, at Zanella, Georgia met her first husband from Stockholm, a marriage that lasted three years. Between that time and when she met Ron, Georgia described a “Sex in the City” single-woman lifestyle, living in several Italian cities: “I dated but I also had a knack for staying friends with most of the men I went out with- some are still my closest friends!”
At the same time, Georgia’s career catapulted her to roles at different Italian wear companies, and she continued to grow professionally–first at Malo (an eight year position running their women’s cashmere division in Florence) and finally at the famed Rebecca Moses, north of Milan.
While at Rebecca Moses, Georgia met Ron Frasch (but not for the first time), at the Principe Hotel in Milan; they were both there for the Italian fashion shows. He was with his people and Georgia was with hers. The encounter was professional: “In fact, I had been keeping a clipping folder on Ron since my days back at Zanella,” she recalls. Following one meeting in which Ron was clearly harboring a secret crush, a date followed at Calle Ocho in NYC. “We had such a great time, and discovered we were both from upstate. We laughed our heads off; I thought he was a wonderful man but that maybe I could set him up with an older and beautiful woman I knew.”
She continued, “I didn’t think of him as a candidate. I was 38 and he was 53. I still wanted kids; he already had grown children!” (Ron’s kids from his first marriage are Nicholas, who lives in New Mexico, and Laura, outside of Atlanta.) A cat and mouse game ensued for weeks as Georgia did possess a clear “sense that he liked me.”
“Ron was everything I was looking for but we seemed to be in different places in our lives.” Ron wasn’t letting this one go without a fight, however. On Bleeker Street, over another date at Da Silvano–a hot spot of “who’s who in the fashion world”–the two kept comically being interrupted by fashion celebrity figures.
“Just as Ron was getting confessional, Calvin Klein came over to our table, and then the fashion director of Bloomingdales. Finally, Ron found a quiet, intimate moment in which to say to Georgia that he thought we made a “great couple” and would make “even better parents!” Basically, Ron Frasch made crystal clear to Georgia that he was open to having more children. “We quickly fell head over heels, crazy in love, and went off for a magical year of travel, south of France, Capri, Portofino…
That these love birds eventually found their way to raising three children in Chappaqua in recent years has proved to be a boon to the community at large.
In 2008, Chappaqua-based photographer Julie Scott, then a parent of preschoolers, decided that a “Chappaqua Moms” page on Facebook would foster a much-needed sense of community. And not only as a place to exchange tips for travel or find a referral to a good plumber.
“In dire circumstances, especially, such as Hurricane Sandy and the recent Metro North tragedy, it has been an incredible tool.” Over time, Julie tapped Georgia for help with the page. “She was very encouraging and supportive of me and has become a great friend too,” Julie explained.
“Georgia puts so much of her time into it, and I applaud her efforts. Three years ago, after Sandy hit, Georgia said they thought it would be good to “open the group to other towns to share information and resources,” and membership then quickly exploded.
So, of course, I had to ask: “With all you do, Georgia, why are you taking the time to manage Chappaqua Moms?” She was very prepared to share her reasons:
“I view it as a civic obligation to the community.”
“I enjoy it.”
“I enjoy seeing people come together for the greater good.”
“I feel satisfied and fulfilled to be part of that process.”
“I am proud of the many philanthropic and kind people in this community. When a call to arms is raised, we come together: whether it is helping a family forced out of a home on account of a fire, or helping to find transport for a mom going through chemo, or creating meal trains for people who are ill or otherwise challenged. We have collected eyeglasses for third world countries and bundles and bundles of clothing.”
What have you learned, I asked. Georgia is unequivocal when she states that she believes in the goodness of everyone. “If people are given a chance to do good, they will. Chappaqua Moms offers that platform. I am very proud to be part of a virtual Main Street USA that connects people in the community.
It is not without its issues.
The exchanges can create a guise of intimacy that can be somewhat false, Georgia offered gently. “People write things they might say to a friend but forget it is being broadcast to 5,000 people.”
“Sometimes, comments exceed the boundaries of graciousness and good manners,” she adds too, with a wink.
“I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, however; I’m not Judge Judy; I don’t want to act as the arbiter of what is polite and what’s not. But I draw the line if there is character assassination, name calling and business bashing. I’ll private message the offender first with a heads up.”
By and large, the greater good far outweighs the occasional conflict. “It’s a wonderful group of people. We support our local moms and help get the word out about who we are and what we can do for each other and the community.”
Grace Bennett, publisher and editor of Inside Chappaqua and Inside Armonk Magazines, has gotten great story tips “listening to Chappaqua Moms talk” and appreciates the opportunity to share Inside Press posts with this virtual community.