Greystone Oral Histories
A special thanks goes to all of the interviewees who shared
their memories and insights in this effort to preserve Greystone for posterity.
The Oral Histories are grouped by categories, as listed below,
or you can click here for an alphabetical index of all the interviewees.
Nora Guthrie, Daughter of Woody Guthrie and President of Woody Guthrie Publications, President of Woody Guthrie Foundation, Founder of Woody Guthrie Archives
Nora talks about her father’s treatment at Greystone Hospital and visits that his family and notable people such as Bob Dylan made to see him there. Nora also discusses her efforts to preserve her father’s legacy through the Woody Guthrie Productions, the Woody Guthrie Foundation, the Woody Guthrie Archives and participation in numerous educational endeavors.
Lyle Brooks, grandson of Naomi Ginsberg (Greystone patient) and nephew of Allen Ginsberg (author of poem, “Kaddish”).
Lyle recounts his grandmother’s mental illness and her treatment at Greystone Hospital. A brief video of Naomi Ginsberg at Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital is shown followed by a reading by actor Jerry Hurley of excerpts of Allen Ginsberg’s poem, “Kaddish” .
Dr. Robert Kirkbride, Dean of Parsons School of Constructed Environments, Associate Professor of Architecture and Product Design, and Spokesperson of Preservation Works.
Dr. Kirkbride provides a fascinating scholarly overview of Greystone’s architectural and cultural significance, the efforts to save it, and its legacy for other historic psychiatric institutions.
Rod Leith, Daily Record of Morristown (1974-1977) Reporter
The Record of Hackensack (1977-1989) Reporter
As a veteran of reporting on psychiatric hospitals, Rod recounts his focus on the management of Greystone and its treatment of patients. Rod also describes his coverage of the advent of deinstitutionalization and its impact on Greystone patients and the local community
William Westhoven, Daily Record Reporter/Editor (1994-present)
Bill, a long time Morris County, NJ resident and decades old local reporter/editor, chronicles the media coverage of the protracted fight to prevent the demise of the last remaining Greystone building. Poignant memories of being present at the demolition of the building are explored.
Vilma Berry, Quality Assurance Director (1980-2016)
As the QA Director, Vilma was responsible for the hospital’s compliance with 1,200 patient care regulatory standards. Vilma also talks about the highly successful transition of patients from the former hospital to the new Greystone in 2008.
David Bugen, Associate Hospital Administrator to CEO (1976-1979)
David describes his prior employment at the state agency overseeing Greystone and the various areas of institutional change he implemented at Greystone.
Dr. Thomas Craig, Medical Director (1977-1988)
Dr. Ilana Lev-El,, Clinical Psychologist (1973-74, late 1975-1991)
Dr. Craig and his wife, Dr. Lev-El describe the post- Doe v. Klein changes that Dr. Craig introduced including a strong emphasis on family participation, an interdisciplinary treatment approach, and extensive outreach to other service providers.
Father Bob Diachek, Catholic Chaplain (1980-1998)
Father Bob recounts his focus on providing spiritual comfort to patients, staff, and family members as well as organizing the local churches to engage with Greystone patients.
Morris Foye III, CEO Greystone Hospital (1971-1974)
Morris provides a candid view of his unique tenure as Greystone’s first non-medical CEO.
Henry Howerton, Assistant Administrator to 2 CEOs, President of Greystone’s local AFSCME union. 30 years tenure.
Henry provides a unique perspective, both as a union officer and then as an administrator, into staffing concerns including racial inequity.
Grover Kemble, Music Therapist, Recreation Supervisor,
Summers (1967-1970), Full-Time (1985-2010)
Grover offers an extensive range of experiences at Greystone:
His father worked there as a psychiatrist, Grover worked in the Recreation Therapy Dept. for many years and retired as its Director. He was very active in the Preserve Greystone movement and was the author/performer of the “They’re Trying to Tear Ol’ Greystone Down” song.
Richard Maizell, Psychology Intern (9/85-6/86)
Dr. Maizell shares his experience working in the Dormitory and the Krol Ward (patients found not guilty by reason of insanity). His responsibilities included providing therapy to patients, conducting evaluations, and supporting family members.
NJ State Health Inspector (REHS), Greystone Hospital (1976-2008)
Gary provides detailed descriptions of Greystone’s various public health issues and his recommendations for corrective action
Karl Marx, H.R. Director, Business Manager (1952-1988)
Karl was highly regarded by many employees as the steady hand that guided Greystone through many years of change. He shares his recollections of successfully performing his extensive responsibilities and the institutional changes during his tenure.
Viollett McGee, Assistant Hospital Administrator (1964-1999)
Viollett discusses her role as a nursing and then general hospital administrator as well as the staff education activities which she oversaw.
Peggy Mesinger, Director of Pastoral Services (1976-2001)
Peggy describes the uplifting impact her 25 years of pastoral care had on patients who actively participated in the creation of a spiritual community.
Greg Roberts, CEO, Greystone Hospital (2000-2003)
Greg describes Greystone’s challenges, the importance of a committed team and accomplishmentsduring his tenure.
Michael Sclafani, Supervising Program Development Specialist (1962-1977)
Michael documents his influential role in introducing innovative treatment approaches such as the concept of “normalization” and the establishment of the very first free standing group of residence cottages for inpatient treatment on the grounds of a state psychiatric hospital in the United States.
Doug Scherzer, Patrolman, Greystone Park Police Dept. (1978-1982)
Doug describes unique aspects of Greystone’s Police Dept. and his wide range of duties including interacting with criminally insane patients and patrolling Greystone’s fabled ducts.
Geri Silk, Dance Therapist (1980-1985)
Geri’s recollections of her employment at Greystone, reflect her free spirit and originality when creatively engaging patients. She also describes her participation in the various advocacy efforts to save Greystone’s last standing building.
Norma Stanton, R.N., Student Nurse (1954-1955)
Norma describes her very positive experience as a nurse in training and provides a glimpse into the nursing profession in the 1950’s.
Bill Ulrich, ACSW, Director, Social Services Dept., Volunteer – Post Retirement (1958-1991)
Bill’s touching stories of preparing patients for their discharges and taking them to the opera as a connection to the outside world, speaks to his upbeat belief in the potential of Greystone residents.
Butch Acker, Part Two – A Frequent Visitor to Numerous Greystone Buildings
During his child and teen years, Butch accompanied his father, the Greystone Fire Chief to perform fire inspections throughout the hospital campus. Butch shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the structure and use of various buildings.
Marge Brady, Local History Researcher (Morris County, NJ)
Marge shares the little known history of George Vail, a Morristown industrialist, who was the driving force behind the establishment of Greystone.
Kurt Hirschberg, Architect
Kurt discusses his arduous and successful efforts to place the only section of Greystone, its gas plants, on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
John Huebner, President (2013-2015), Preserve Greystone
John tells the inspiring story of the grassroots advocacy group, Preserve Greystone, and their efforts to preserve the last of the former Greystone buildings. The necessity of historic preservation and the value of repurposing buildings is discussed in depth.
Ted Hussa, Co-Founder of Preserve Greystone, Former Mayor of Denville
Ted chronicles the early stages of growing community concern regarding potential demolition of a local iconic landmark, Greystone Hospital’s Main building. He describes the beginnings of the advocacy group, Preserve Greystone and analyzes some of the barriers the group faced.
Jody Johnson, Aerial Photographer
Jody talks about her inspiration and technique in making the award winning video “Greystone Rising” which offers a unique perspective from the sky of Greystone’s Main Building being demolished and then “reconstructed”.
Mark Moran, Co-Founder of Weird NJ
Weird NJ introduced Greystone and the efforts to document and preserve it to the magazine’s numerous readers. Mark also talks about the urban explorer and paranormal investigation communities’ interests in the hospital.
Dr. Anil Nanda, Chairman, Department of Neurological Surgery at Rutgers New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson Medical Schools and Hospitals.
Dr. Nanda examines the history of psychosurgery and Columbia University’s research on Greystone patients who received lobotomies.
Dr. Carla Yanni, PhD, Professor, Department of Art History, Rutgers, The State University of NJ
Dr. Yanni, the author of The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States gives a detailed overview of the architectural and social history of psychiatric hospitals in the United States, including Greystone Hospital.
Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, District 25, 1996-present.
Assemblyman Carroll discusses his ongoing role as a legislator and pro bono attorney to advocate for Greystone patients and their families
Governor RIchard Codey, Driving Force Behind NJ Mental Health Care Reform
Governor Codey recounts his lifelong efforts to promote NJ mental health reform with a focus on Greystone. The Governor shares his memories of going undercover at Greystone, his relationship with its patients, and his thoughts about the Main Building’s demolition.
Robert Davison, President, Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris County, NJ
As a proponent of mental health care in NJ for over 30 years and the Chairperson of Governor Codey’s Mental Health Task Force (2004), Bob shares his knowledge about the operations of the Greystone throughout the years. He also provides insight into the importance of patient advocacy and mental health reform.
Hanna Fox, author of the monologue “Dorothea Lynde Dix: Woman with a Mission”
Hanna relates the amazing life and critical role that patient advocate, Dorothea Dix played in establishing psychiatric hospitals for indigent individuals in New Jersey
Dr. Eileen McEvoy, Student Psychologist (1974)
Dr. McEvoy recounts joining with other psychology students to report untenable hospital conditions to a local newspaper. She recalls the anxiety of testifying before the NJ legislature, whose findings initiated the Doe v. Klein lawsuit.
Michael L. Perlin, Professor Emeritus at New York Law School and co-founder of Mental Disability Law and Policy Associates, was director of the Division of Mental Health Advocacy in the NJ Department of the Public Advocate, and was one of the lawyers who filed the complaint in Doe v. Klein.
Michael discusses the state of mental disability law in the early 1970’s and the conditions at Greystone Hospital before and at the time that the Doe case was filed, and contextualizes Doe with other mental disability law reform litigation in NJ and elsewhere.
Dr. Shirley Smoyak, Professor, School of Nursing, Rutgers University
Chairperson, Doe v. Klein Monitoring Committee
Dr. Smoyak recounts her connections to Greystone beginning in the mid 1950’s as a nursing student training at Greystone under the supervision of Dr. Hildegard Peplau. She also describes the Doe v. Klein lawsuit and her role as the Chairperson of the Doe v. Klein Monitoring Committee. Shirley was designed a Living Legend of the American Academy of Nursing in 2004. She also received the 2011 Award for Distinguished Services from the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.
Butch Acker, Part 1 – Growing Up At Greystone (1944-1961)
Butch reflects on his father’s position as Greystone’s Fire Chief and the unique experience of living on the Greystone campus during his childhood and teen years.
Harry Noble, Three Generations at Greystone
Harry recalls the pleasures of growing up at Greystone, along with other WWII veterans’ children. Harry also gives vivid descriptions of being employed at Greystone, as were his parents and son. His shares his supportive perspective of individuals with mental illness.
Leigh Busby, former Greystone Consumer
Leigh reflects on his resilience during some difficult years at Greystone, and his career as a professional photographer.
Christine D., Former Patient
Christine describes how her experiences with Greystone’s more troubling aspects have made her an effective patient advocate.
Cathy Cowing, Family Member
Cathy recalls in poignant detail her mother’s journey into mental illness, her treatments at Greystone, and the lifelong impact on Cathy’s family.
“Rhymes of a Raver: Tribute to a Castle of Salvaged Souls” Written by former consumer, Richard David Comstock in 1929.
Read by Jerry Hurley, actor and Bergen County Players member.
John, Patient at Greystone, ages 13-15
“I wanted to participate in this project to shed some light on mental health issues. And I’m asking anyone listening to this interview to please be kind to your fellow man. You never know what someone else has gone through in their earlier or present life.”
Pamela, former Greystone consumer (1998, 1999)
Pamela describes her feelings, relationships and treatment regimen during her stays at Greystone.
Clayton Bowman, age 97, WWII Mennonite Conscientious Objector
Clayton recounts his interactions with mostly helpful and occasionally violent patients in his role as orderly.
Paul Clemens, Willard Grass, Abram Landis
Korean War Era Mennonite Conscientious Objectors Three friends discuss how their experiences as I-W Conscientious Objectors at Greystone matured them and broadened their world view.
Elvin Horst, Mennonite Conscientious Objector,1967-1969.
Elvin discusses his wide range of positions at Greystone and shares his thoughts about changing public attitudes towards C.O.’s during that time.
Samuel Horst, WWII Mennonite Conscientious Objector
Samuel, age 98, talks about his commitment to the Mennonite ideal of pacifism and his employee orientation at Greystone while doing WWII alternative service.
Paul Lefever, WWII Mennonite Conscientious Objector
At age 98, Paul describes his duties as an orderly while serving his civilian public service at the hospital. Paul also shares information about the post-war Mennonite mental health hospital started by his brother.
Harold Lehman, WWII Mennonite Conscientious Objector
At the age of 97, Harold recalls his training at Greystone as a WWII Mennonite C.O. Harold’s experiences contributed to the Mennonite Church’s commitment to mental health reform.
Ivan Martin, Mennonite Conscientious Objector, 1971-72.
Ivan reflects on his numerous responsibilities as the Asst. Groundskeeper, including supervising patients mowing Greystone’s lawns.
Earl Martin (1966-68) , Gary Stevens (1965-67) Conscientious Objectors
These friends reminisce on the camaraderie of C.O.’s while living in Greystone’s Fire House and ongoing reunions with other C.O.’s
WWII Conscientious Objectors at Other Psychiatric Hospitals
The interviews below are of WWII Conscientious Objector who served in psychiatric hospitals other than Greystone, who also made a significant contribution to post WWII mental health care.
Laban Peachey, Mennonite War II Conscientious Objector
Laban, age 91, discusses how his positive civil public service at R.I. State Psychiatric Hospital influenced his career path as the former President of Hesston College and Dean of Eastern Mennonite University.