“It’s Cuomo time!” Ronni Diamondstein calls to her best friend and pet poodle.
The sound of dog tags jingling signals the incoming arrival of Maggie Mae, the 13-year-old black and white parti toy poodle, who jumps up on the couch, snuggles up next to her mom and watches Governor Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefings on the TV.
The middle of March 2020 meant that quarantine was in full-swing and the only thing set in stone was Maggie Mae getting a treat at 11 a.m. right before Cuomo was about to start.
If you know Diamondstein, then you know Maggie. The two of them have been inseparable ever since 2008, when the dynamic duo began. You’ve probably seen them in town on walks or maybe you’ve even seen Maggie painted on the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival mural.
Although they were seemingly attached at the hip before, if this pandemic has done anything, it has brought the two of them even closer together.
“We got into new routines…Having another living creature in the house is comforting,”
Diamondstein said. “She’s good company, she’s funny and she has very good self-esteem. I like when she walks in town; she has a good sense of herself. She’s a lot like me in that she likes her alone time but she also likes to see people. And she’s also very curious.”
Maggie is basically a town celebrity. She loves walking around town and checking in on her favorite merchants, ensuring that everyone and everything is just the way it should be. She must’ve gotten that from her mom, for Diamondstein puts a lot of effort into making this town even greater than before.
The philosophy “make where you are better because you’re there” is one that Diamondstein has tried to follow her whole life. Whether it be in Chappaqua, White Plains or the Netherlands, she has strived to make an impact wherever her time is spent.
It’s safe to say that mission has been accomplished over and over and over, starting every single morning on Facebook.
Social media these days can be a source of unwanted negative energy or controversial content, leaving many of us with the urge to drop our phones at the bottom of a lake and never see them ever again. But if you become friends with Diamondstein on Facebook…you might change your mind!
She starts each morning by posting an inspirational quote as a way of communicating her thoughts and getting her friends to think about certain things. You know what they say, a quote from Ronni a day keeps the doctors away!
The quote that inspired her way of life?
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
And inspire her way of life it did, even early on, as Diamondstein won her high school senior award for excellence in service. But her passion for helping her community didn’t stop there. It just got started.
After vacationing in the Netherlands, she ended up getting a job as a school librarian at an American international school where she started a gifted program. Working at one of those schools had always been a dream of hers.
A few years later, she came back to the states and settled in Westchester, where she was a library media specialist in the White Plains schools for 20 years. Among other things, she has served as the Chairman of the Adult Education Committee at Temple Beth El, Board Member of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival, League of Women Voters of New Castle and the New Castle Community Media Center, creative behind the Maggie Mae Pup Reporter Column, member of the New Castle Council for Race and Equity and the Katonah Museum Artists’ Association, provider of beautiful nature photos for local exhibits and more.
“And now, the most amazing thing that I am doing, because libraries have been my life’s work…In 2017 I was elected to the Chappaqua Library Board and as of October, I’ve been the acting President…” Diamondstein said.
Since January, Diamondstein has served as the President of the Chappaqua Library Board for the ‘21 year.
“I’m very humbled to have this responsibility. I’ve worked very hard as a board member, in looking at really taking my responsibility seriously…I’m very optimistic about how things will go.”
She pitched the idea of having MSNBC political analyst and author Rick Tyler speak at the library, offering to do the interview herself since she is a seasoned journalist. The idea was well-received and in January, she interviewed Tyler over Zoom about his new book.
“I told Joan Kuhn, the program director, that she’s made one of my dreams come true. I always wanted to do what Barbara Walters did, interview people like that on television…I’m really excited about it.”
Throughout the last year, the library has seen some major changes with their renovations and of course, the pandemic. With curbside pickup, new online book discussions and even a website feature that allows you to chat with a librarian, the library “has done a great job of connecting with the community.”
Eventually, Diamondstein is hopeful that more kids and teenagers will gravitate toward coming back to the library due to a brand new teen area with new technology similar to the kind that is provided at school.
Being in the book biz, her favorite one is a children’s book about a dog. It’s called Dominic by William Steig and it’s one she thinks every adult should read, saying “it’s just really a story about life.” She gives it as a gift often, even giving one to President Clinton at one point.
Throughout the pandemic, while reading is probably an activity that was done to combat quarantine, Diamondstein has been keeping busy doing other things as well. Whether it’s baking her Amazing Double Chocolate Brownies, speaking to at least two friends daily or doing Facetime Pilates, she “just [took] one day at a time.”
The way Diamondstein saw it was, “You had to find joy every day during this pandemic in the little things.”
Perhaps the most important little thing to happen over these last months?
Maggie Mae’s Bark Mitzvah! Mazel Tovs are in order in the Diamondstein household because Maggie Mae officially became a young lady in October during Temple Beth El’s Noah’s Bark service. People hopped onto the Zoom call with their pets and Maggie got to celebrate with her friends and family which hopefully made up for the fact that “she has noticed that people, nobody pets her when [she] goes for walks anymore…”
While Diamondstein is lucky to be able to celebrate the little moments during these times, she also recognizes that there are others who are struggling. This past June for her birthday, she raised over $3,000 for Feeding Westchester to support her concern of food insecurity problems that only grew with the pandemic. In the past she has also helped fundraising efforts for the Amy Marie Crabtree Foundation and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Although there are currently no longer daily Cuomo briefings for Maggie Mae to watch, at least there are three things we can still rely on: Diamondstein gets flowers every week from Whispering Pines in town, which remind her of her time in Holland, she has switched out the Brownie Starmite camera for her iPhone 11Pro but is still taking photos of flowers and she is still doing everything she can to make a mark where she lives.
Which makes us wonder…what will she do next?