Ode To An Iconic Public Servant

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Jeanne

I don’t remember the first time I met Jeanne Loberg, but I remember how I felt. She immediately struck me as the new kid on the block. What did that make me? The newer kid on the block.

This may sound ironic, but her knowledge and wisdom overshadowed all that “new kid” stuff. She was “new” because she hadn’t lived in Mendon her whole life. I was new because I had just moved into town. And because I wasn’t yet thirty years old. Despite my obvious youth and inexperience, she took it upon herself Continue Reading “Ode To An Iconic Public Servant”

Thoughts On Trains, Natural Gas, And The Interstate Highway System

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Photo by Antonin Duallia on UnsplashIt was a lonely vigil.

And by “vigil” I mean Easter Vigil on Saturday night.

And by “lonely” I mean I was by myself, all alone in a church I never went to before. Betsy was staying with her recovering father and Peter was not feeling well.

Only I wasn’t alone. Parishioners packed St. James (aptly named because it’s in the City of Continue Reading “Thoughts On Trains, Natural Gas, And The Interstate Highway System”

How Ice On The Rocks Reveals Our Destiny (Part I)

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They bent the course of mighty rivers. They carved and scraped, forever leaving their imprint on the land we call home. But they did more than merely shape our local geography. They have guided us through the centuries.

And still do today.

The paths we take without thinking, the things we see every day, the very property upon which we build our homes, these all seem somewhat random events that accumulate over the course of our lives. But they, in fact, map the very destiny of our lives.

It supports our every move. It carries our weight without complaint. It provides the Continue Reading “How Ice On The Rocks Reveals Our Destiny (Part I)”

Remembering Mike Francesco: A Community Builder

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Mike-Franscesco-photoAs I sat in the pews of St. Catherine’s last Friday morning, I couldn’t help but admire the courage and clarity of Andrew Boyce and Conner Boillat as they described and honored the very full life of Mike Francesco.

Mike touched the lives of many in our little neck of the woods, even those who may have never known him. He, together with his late son Michael, Jr., conceived and built what has become the hamlet of Mendon’s community cornerstone.

For almost four decades, I was one of those who was blessed to have experienced the wonder of Mike. While I can’t pretend to offer more than his family, I can share memories – and, more importantly, the context of those memories – that affirm their stories from a non-family perspective.

I met Mike and Rose in the mid-1980s shortly after I moved back to Mendon in the house I Continue Reading “Remembering Mike Francesco: A Community Builder”

The Story of Abraham Parrish, Mendon’s First Tavern Keeper (Part I)

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Wyoming Forts A-Fort Durkee, B-Fort Wyoming or Wilkesbarre, C-Fort Ogden, D-Kingston Village, E-Forty Fort, G-battleground, H-Fort Jenkins, I-Monocasy Island, J-Pittstown stockades, G-Queen Esther’s Rock Source: Lossing, Benson, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, Harper & Brothers, Publishers, January 7, 1859, p. 353

In many ways, the life of Abraham Parrish wasn’t that different from any other person participating in the formative decades of the grand American Experiment.

In other ways, he lived a unique life that exposed him at an early age to the rarified frontier air that existed when Western New York emerged from its dense terra incognita forest. He witnessed firsthand nearly all the major personalities of our region and saw how they forged this thickly wooded region into an industrious civilization.

But let’s not get too far ahead…

Zebulon Parish represents a typical American story. He was born on February 12, 1726 in Windham, a town in the eastern half of the Colony of Connecticut between Hartford and the Rhode Island border. He not only shares a birthday with Abraham Lincoln, he shares something else – his descendants were active in the abolition movement.

There was a very good reason Zebulon’s family joined the fight against slavery – his grandfather, John Wattles, came to America as a slave.

Our story, therefore, begins in Scotland…Continue Reading “The Story of Abraham Parrish, Mendon’s First Tavern Keeper (Part I)”

So Long, Hal. We Hardly Knew Ye…

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The signs were ominous.

As I pulled into the familiar parking spot, I couldn’t help but notice the unbroken blanket of fresh fallen snow. No one had parked here. In fact, save for a long pair of footprints making a path in the snow to the door, there was no sign of life.

I glanced up at the storefront windows to see if the lights inside were on. But the blinds shuttered the windows completely, barring any spying eyes from the outside.

On one hand, the daily hours remained posted in their usual spot. On the other hand, there was neither a “We’re Closed” sign or a “We’re Open” sign.

That was strange.

I told my father to wait in the warm car and that I’d check out the situation. I got out of Continue Reading “So Long, Hal. We Hardly Knew Ye…”

A Look Back (Part I): An Early (1841) View Of A New Village

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Here’s an annoying problem I discovered while researching for the book Hamburger Dreams: there’s a lot of people and places that come up when you search the words “hamburger” or “hamburg” that have nothing to do with the delicious sandwich that spawned a trillion-dollar industry.

This required me to be both creative and patient as I sifted through hundreds of century old newspaper articles. It eventually worked, but it took a lot of time. In the end, it proved worthy.

The same thing is happening now as I complete my research on the Masonic Temple/Wilcox Hotel/Wilcox House/Falls Hotel (yes, that one building has gone by several names during its nearly 200-year existence). It turns out Continue Reading “A Look Back (Part I): An Early (1841) View Of A New Village”

Ode to a Once Mighty Oak

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And in that brief moment, its reign ended.

We don’t know how old it really was, but the centuries had exacted their toll. Despite the efforts of the valiant few, the rot that builds with age had eaten its way through the internal fabric that once supported its mighty infrastructure.

When that final gust rushed through, the great citadel had fallen. It had stood for so long that those closest to it, stunned by the fatal reality before their own eyes, could only muster an anemic disbelief.

All that incredulity could not suspend the finality that was. It was gone. Not really. But really.

*          *          *

The Seneca tribe was a fierce warrior tribe. They had to be. They guarded the “west gate” of the Iroquois Confederacy. From that position, they both protected one flank of their Continue Reading “Ode to a Once Mighty Oak”

The Torch Is Passed

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Like a bright beacon, Jack Leckie stood as a steady torch light, forever illuminating our lives, our community, our very essence. In his remarkably demur way, he reminded us of where we came from, why it was important to embrace that past, and how those previous travels help guide our future.

I was the new kid on the block when I first met Jack. Literally. I had just moved to Mendon (well, technically, it was a permanent return after an earlier short residence at my parents’ new home). I was also a “kid.” I was only 26 years old when I moved into my home.

You get the picture. Definitely the new kid on the block.

So you could understand why I might have been nervous when, shortly after moving in, Jack invited me to his home on Boughton Hill Road. Imagine my thoughts. There was me – a newbie – and Jack – the Town Supervisor.

I was in awe. I was unworthy. I was a mere peon of youth compared to this big man of Continue Reading “The Torch Is Passed”

Ode to Larry Pierce: Forever Among the Colonnade of Community Pillars

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They are few and far between. Any vibrant community is blessed by no more than a handful. They’re unassuming when you see them. But the moment they speak, you know them.

They are the bedrock of any sustainable community – the foundation upon which everyday folks like us can confidently build our everyday lives. They allow us to assume a comfortable regularity of our surroundings. This makes our lives more pleasant. This makes our lives easier. This, indeed, makes our lives.

Yet, they are much more. Beyond the rock of a common foundation, they represent the solid stone pillars that uplift our community. In doing so, they not only make our lives Continue Reading “Ode to Larry Pierce: Forever Among the Colonnade of Community Pillars”

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