By Maddie Orton
It’s a tremendous tribute in small packaging. In a first day-of-issue stamp dedication ceremony at Sarah Vaughan Concert Hall — part of Newark Symphony Hall — Newark-born Vaughan became the seventh artist immortalized in the U.S. Postal Service’s Music Icon Series.
“For stamp collectors, this is unique because the first day of issue will never happen again. So for them to come to get signatures on the program, this is really an historic event,” said U.S. Postal Service Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman.
The ceremony included performances by jazz vocalist Carrie Jackson, the New Mount Zion Baptist Church Choir (of which Vaughan was once a member) and Tony-winner Melba Moore.
It also featured tributes by Vaughan fans like Grammy-winner Dianne Reeves, who recalls meeting, but not recognizing her idol backstage.
“There was this woman sitting on the sofa minding her own business. I walked over to her and I said, ‘hi’ and she said, ‘hi.’ She said, ‘What’s your name?’ and I said, ‘Dianne Reeves’ and she said, ‘What do you do?” and I said, ‘I sing,’ And she says, ‘Well, who do you listen to?’ and I said, ‘Sarah Vaughan’ and she said, ‘Really?’ I said yeah and I started telling this woman all about Sarah Vaughan and how she sang this song and that song,” she said.
Fans of The Divine One weren’t the only ones enjoying the day’s pomp and circumstance. Philatelists — or stamp-lovers — like USPS workers LaDonna Cooke and Zebulon Clayton traveled from Maryland for the event.
“We got our first day covers. Oh my gosh. Everybody’s going to be begging for them when we get back to work,” Clayton said.
Cook started collecting stamps as a child. Her father worked in the postal service, too.
“It’s the closest I ever get to a piece of history, miniature art and just culture,” Cooke said.
“It’s important because when you go back with your grandkids, you have something there for them to say, ‘This is what happened during this time,'” Clayton said.
As the ceremony comes to a close, stamp collectors and Sarah Vaughan fans alike leave with their Forever Stamps and the knowledge that Vaughan will forever have a place in history.
This event was part of the Newark 350 Celebration.