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Talking with a couple of spelling bee-nefactors

Mary and Joel Abramson have been long-time sponsors of the Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — In the more than six years they have co-sponsored The Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee, Joel and Mary Abramson still recall one of the comments they received from a youthful speller who took part in the competition.

“You helped make learning fun again,” Joel Abramson recalled the student saying.  

Longtime owners of Flagship Travel and Swampscott residents, the Abramsons look forward every year to the late winter and spring spelling bee regional and national competitions.

Fifty-eight spellers will compete in the 34th annual Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee on Wednesday, March 13 at Veterans Memorial Auditorium located in Lynn City Hall.

The winner goes on to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which begins on May 27 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Fort Washington, Md., outside Washington, D.C.

The Abramsons cover the cost of airfare for two to Maryland for the regional bee winner as well as hotel and meal costs at the Gaylord Center and spending money for the speller. They also provide financial help for the regional bee and Joel Abramson estimated the couple’s contribution tops $6,000 annually.

The couple also treat bee winners to a Red Sox game.

Their contributions to the regional bee extend beyond food and beverages served to participants and Barnes & Noble gift cards (this year, it’s Amazon) for all regional bee participants.

Longtime advocates for education enhancement who have been active in supporting the Knowledge Is Power Program charter school in Lynn, the Abramsons stepped up to support the regional bee when another co-sponsor stopped participating.

“We said, ‘We’ve got to get involved.’ Participation had declined dramatically and I started making phone calls,” Joel Abramson said.

He is an East Lynn native and member of the English High School Class of 1964. Mary Pickering Abramson is a Beverly native who shares her husband’s interest in supporting community, including aiding Lynn education initiatives.

The couple moved to Swampscott in 1977 but always maintained close ties with Lynn and mentored young Lynn residents.

“From a support perspective, we never left the city and I always realized the importance of trying to get kids to read,” Joel Abramson said.

They sold their business to Marlborough-based Atlas Travel last year but continue to keep a Marblehead office. Joel Abramson said job interviews he has conducted over the years with young people have demonstrated that communication is paramount skill. Reading, in his view, translates directly into strong communication skills.

“It all begins with reading and spelling,” he said.

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