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Belle Pronman Memorial

Belle Pronman

Belle Pronman lived and worked in Jamaica Plain for over 20 years. Belle passed away in November 2005 as a result of brain cancer.This website is dedicated to her.The following text appeared in the Jamaica Plain Gazette on December 16, 2005 in order to notify the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood of her passing:
BELLE PRONMAN: JUNE 7, 1962 to NOV 26, 2005

Many Gazette readers no doubt will remember my friend, Belle Pronman, the "jewelry lady" who ran her own jewelry stand in front of J.P. Licks on Centre Street for many years. She was practically a second Centre Street monument!

Like me, she was making an independent living. We became fast friends ( Our birthdays were just two days apart.), and I hung out with her many summer days at her stand while I waited for my appointments to show up. People thought we were sisters and even mistook us for each other. Although I am not related by blood to Belle, over the years we had become soul sisters. Perhaps because of this I could sense that there were difficult times ahead when I snapped the above happy photo of her a few months before her October 2004 operation.

Belle was always a fighter, and four months after that operation she found her way out of the coma into which she had fallen. With the help of her friends, she managed to have another year, month and a day to celebrate this world of sound, light, laughter and friendship. Although I grieve at her passing, I rejoice in her brave attempt to carve out a little more time, and how she slipped naturally, at the end, through the door of our existence and into the unknown.

JP Licks is in JP Center

This is JP Licks in the Center of Jamaica Plain. Belle was famous in JP for having her jewelry stand right out front.

Belle's Park

This is the area on JP Licks property next to the Post Office that will be dedicated as "Belle's Park" in memory of Belle Pronman.The Memorial Dedication for Belle's Park, Belle Pronman Memorial Park will take place beginning at 5:00pm on Saturday, September 30, 2006, on the premises of JP Licks located at 659 Centre St. This event will bring our community of Jamaica Plain together to celebrate and remember Belle Pronman, the JP Licks jewelry lady. If you would like to participate in the event, or if you have something to say and would like to speak about Belle at the event, please contact me.

Memorial Sign is Installed

On September 30th Belle Pronman Memorial Park was Dedicated.

Dedication Event was a Hit!

The Celebration was enjoyed by Jamaica Plain residents, Belle's friends and customers.During our Memorial Dedication, Jamaica Plain Open Studios was in full bloom! Many artists works were on display throughout JP, and many passers by stopped in to witness Belle's Dedication!

Excerpts from Memorial Event

Greetings! Welcome to Belle's Park! Today we are gathered here to dedicate and memorialize this space in tribute and memory of Belle Pronman, the JP LIcks Jewelry Lady! Belle made herself a memorable fixture in Jamaica Plain on this lucky spot! Now this familiar destination has a name! With this action, we fill a void in our town...an empty open space is no longer that place between the post office and the outer wall of JP Licks! Now we can say to each other, "Hey, I'll meet you at Belle's Park!"

So why should she get a park? Belle symbolizes the independent spirit and success of local small business. Belle liked to think of Jamaica Plain as a place where local business and artists help each other to succeed, and where the spirit of cooperation and community awareness is alive and well. Also, Belle's generosity and big heart towards those in need will be honored and remembered. One of her favorite causes was The Jimmy Fund, benefitting kids with cancer. She herself was a child with cancer. Her survival all these years was a modern medical miracle!

In her 40's, Belle faced the greatest challenge of her life. She grappled with questions of her own mortality, and she decided to take the biggest risk of all by undergoing an operation in October 2004. Her friends stood by her during her darkest time. The final year of her life was marked by her brave battle to recover from brain surgery and stroke. There were many obstacles blocking her path to wellness. She faced them all with grace and dignity, a true testament to her strength, character and adaptable nature.

Belle's friends believe that these are noteworthy reasons to have a park named after her, especially since this place was her stomping ground for so many years.

Adrienne Speaks

Belle and I have been friends for over twenty years. We were both street vendors in Boston.I would pass Belle's stand on my way home from work and I would often stop by and have fun watching Belle interact with the neighborhood. She was always free with a smile, a kind word or the latest joke.
Belle would find it very amusing when
ever I called the area around her table, Belle's Park. I know Belle would be extremely happy and honored to know that now it is official.

I would like to say something about Belle's struggle after surgery. Her suffering provides an important lesson that I would like to share. When Belle was tested after her stroke the MRI indicated, according to the experts, that for her to achieve any degree of comprehension again would be impossible. The doctors were wrong. Belle made slow but steady improvements following many hours of brain stimulating activities. Towards the end she had begun to be able to engage in a growing list of activities and was beginning to read and write.
Belle's experience proves that when things look completely hopeless, don't give up. The human spirit can overcome insurmountable odds and achieve miracles with hard work and perserverance.

At a young age Belle was given a special gift of a butterfly collection from her father. This was the beginning of a long affinity with butterflies. She was drawn to anything that had the image of a butterfly on it. When the first Belle's Park sign was being attached to the brick building I was here. At the precise second the drill bit left the second hole in the sign I was startled when, out of the blue, a butterfly came sailing towards my face. I was shocked and amazed and wondered if this butterfly showing up at that time was merely a coincidence or could have actually been a miraculous sign from Belle. I guess I'll never know for sure but I do know for sure that Belle would want to thank you all for coming and honoring her today. She loved JP, loved the people, and her life out in the street in her spot that will now be officially known as Belle's Park.

Barbara Speaks...

A Tribute to Belle Pronman
Part of Jamaica Plain History

Belle Pronman passed away a few months ago at the age of 43.

Belle Pronman, who most of us know as the “silver jewelry vendor” on Center Street, was an icon in the Jamaica Plain community for almost 20 years. She passed away a few months ago. We, as a community, will miss her deeply.

I worked with Belle for almost 20 years. In 1985, after my many travels to Nepal, India and China, I began to sell jewelry and clothing in front of Bruegger’s Bakery (which is now JP Licks Plaza). Not far after that, Belle began to come and sell silver jewelry. In 1985, Sana Belle, who also sold Balinese clothing, Belle and I started selling steadily through the JP Arts Council which shared the building with Bruegger’s Bakery. We created an atmosphere of friendliness and funkiness that JP later became famous and known for and the reason why so many people claimed they wanted to live here. People came from all over to visit our stands even from as far away as New Hampshire. Many of visiting parents and friends of residents came to buy from us. It was a happening place and a great “tourist” site. With music playing, dressing rooms and great customers we created an ambience of creativity and joy. It became a gathering place for the community here.

Then, the building was sold and we had to leave. Belle and I went across the street to Same Old Place driveway and Sana Belle opened a shop in Brookline Village. JP Licks bought the building and Belle and I came back on the plaza the following year due to the good graces of Vince Petryk (owner of JP Licks). Vince has always been a community person. He knew we were wanted, appreciated and that we created an atmosphere of what we perceived JP to be and what we wanted it to be.

I want to say a few things about Belle. I worked with her side by side for almost 18 years. I loved and admired Belle. She had a special gift of being able to work “no matter what”. She was a veteran of hard work and very committed. Rain or shine, she would be out there. She was inspirational and very motivating. She would call me in the mornings and see if I was working or not. One morning she called me and asked if I was working that day and I said “Belle it is 17 degrees!” She replied with utter calmness and not the least bit concerned “So”. I said, “ Alright, Belle, I’ll be there at 9 o’clock.” We supported each other constantly out there. We shared watching each other’s stands. She was a great motivator to me. Belle always wanted me to stay past 5 o’clock when most people were coming home from work. She worked hard, relentlessly and professionally.

Belle had a great sense of humor. We often told a lot of jokes to tell each other day after day, year after year. She even performed at The Comedy Club a few times. She was a self made comedian. Very dry humor but she could be very funny. That is something most people did not know about her.

What a loss to this community. This community will miss you very much, Belle. I promise I will try to stay after 5 p.m. whenever possible. Many customers ask me about you.

Sundown is approaching...

As we are gathered here today, we bear witness and participate in this action of creating and maintaining a collective memory of Belle Pronman. As the new year of Rosh Hashona begins, we can feel the change of season in the air. As time moves forward, Belle's Park will blend effortlessly our memories of Belle's physical presence to a reality of Place within our landscape. In order to connect to those forces beyond us that bind our action to this Place, let us now prepare for the lighting of candles in honor and memory of Belle Pronman. Let these lights be the sparks of our spirit reaching to the heavons, igniting our hearts and minds.

Memories and Thoughts about Belle, by Faye Simon

Belle grew up in New Jersey in an Orthodox Jewish family where all the men are Rabbi(s). She thrived intellectually at Yeshiva High School and graduated top of her class. She was a competitive game player, winning several Backgammon championships.

In Boston, she attended Brandeis University, and then discovered her love of jewelry. She was a very creative person who found expression through her jewelry business. Often her self made beaded earrings would sell better than the just bought stuff.

Often I would sit with Belle at her stand, and give her a break so that she could leave for a half hour. People would come by and not notice that it was me, thinking I was her and then start a conversation as if I were Belle. I dodged many mysterious moments, having been puzzled by conversations I let myself get involved in until she would return with her lunch.

Belle entertained us periodically with her dry humor, funny jokes, and live performances at Upstairs at the Hong Kong in Harvard Square. She collected jokes and funny stories and then she would try them out on us to see if her timing was right.

Whenever there was a Jewish holiday, Belle was Our Rabbi. She spoke the Hebrew blessings and prayers of the lengthy Haggadah during Passover Seder, without letting the food get cold.

After a great dinner, Belle would clobber us with merciless Scrabble manuevers, either defensive blocking or outrageous letter combinations on mysterious 2 letter "words". This was also known as "Death Scrabble". One rarely emerged from those games without having been shaken to the core of one's very being. Victory or Annihilation...those were the alternatives!