Thousand Island Museum decked up for the holidays with festival of trees

Eight-year-old Louka Shaponick knew the perfect spot for the 4-foot-tall Christmas tree decorated in brightly colored ornaments, ribbons and animal shapes at the Thousand Islands Museum on Saturday.

Her bedroom.

“I like it because it’s not that tall of a tree and it would go with the colors in my room,” the third-grader at North Elementary School, Watertown, said while taking a tour of the 38 trees on display at the museum’s Festival of Trees.

In its 20th year, the event, which opened Tuesday and runs through Dec. 27, is one of the museum’s biggest fundraisers during the year, museum Director Sharon D. Bourquin said.

Patrons of the museum are encouraged to vote on their favorite tree in three categories: most beautiful, most old-fashioned looking and most unique. The winner in each category wins a yard of St. Lawrence tartan that was woven in Scotland.

About 200 people visited the museum Saturday to look at the trees and other decorations submitted by local businesses, organizations and individuals.

Instead of a Christmas tree, Reinman’s Department Store used its inventory to make a series of snowmen from material from a dryer vent. They had corn-on-the-cob holders for their noses and plastic cups for hats.

“It’s kind of cool that they used stuff from their store,” Mrs. Bourquin said.

The DiPrinzio Italian Market decorated its tree with different-shaped pasta, while Thousand Island Middle School student Sydney Langkathel made the colorful tree that the Watertown 8-year-old would like in her bedroom.

The middle school wanted teens to have their own special tree, Mrs. Bourquin said.

The third-grader attended the festival of trees because of the book-signing event that was going on in another part of the museum.

She came with her classmate Isaac Reynolds, whose grandmother, Susan E. Rothenberger, was one of seven authors signing books. Ms. Rothenberger wrote “Mattie: Life at the Paddock Mansion.”

“They’re my biggest fans,” the grandmother said.

Isaac Reynolds voted for the blue-fur tree featuring all gold ornaments that the Clayton Lions Club submitted.

“It really has a sense of beauty,” the little boy said.

 

By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer

North country braces for snowstorm’s second round

Don’t put those gloves away, because snow isn’t done dumping yet.

People in the city said Wednesday they were prepared to get slammed by the second round of this winter’s inaugural lake-effect snowstorm, which has been dubbed Bozeman by the Weather Channel. It could dump 2 to 3 feet of snow from 3 a.m. today to noon Friday in Jefferson and Lewis counties, according to a snow warning issued Wednesday by the National Weather Service.

The heaviest-hit areas are expected to be from the Tug Hill Plateau north to Watertown and Fort Drum. Snow bands are projected to be intense enough to drop several inches per hour, with near-zero visibility at times.

Snowfall accumulations in southern St. Lawrence County are projected to be from 8 to 18 inches, according to the weather service. The heaviest snowfall is expected to be south and east of Route 11.

North country residents took the brief respite from the snow to get ready for the second round, which is projected to come with wind gusts of up to 35 mph. Travel has been strongly discouraged by the weather service.

“We’ve stocked up on some bottled water and ramen noodles, and I have a gas grill in my truck if we need it,” said Watertown resident Aaron P. Quencer, who clutched a six-pack of Bud Light on Wednesday night at the Stewart’s Shop on North Massey Street. He was accompanied by his wife, Melissa S., who said that her father plowed the couple’s driveway on William Street on Wednesday morning.

“Last year he wasn’t around all the time, so we had to do most of the shoveling ourselves,” said Mrs. Quencer, who is seven months pregnant. The Clayton native said the snowstorm has been somewhat stressful for her.

“It’s unreal how early it is this year,” she said. “And I’m a little bit worried because I’m pregnant and don’t want to fall.”

Couple William W. Smart and Kathleen E. House of Antwerp, employees at the Bull Tavern on West Main Street in Watertown, said Wednesday they’re undaunted by the ongoing snowstorm and prepared for what comes next.

Mr. Smart, an Antwerp native, said the only somewhat unusual aspect of the snowstorm was its relatively early arrival.

“We’ve been through blizzards here before, and those of us who have been here for a long time know how to handle it,” said the 28-year-old, who used a snowblower Wednesday to clear his driveway. He used a shovel to remove snow in particularly deep areas pushed into his driveway by a snowplow.

“It’s not our first rodeo,” he said. “The only thing unusual is just that it’s before Thanksgiving. I don’t remember this much snow before the holiday. People who think this is a big deal either aren’t from here or aren’t prepared. The biggest concern I hear people talk about is driving.”

Ms. House said she and Mr. Smart tweaked their driving routine from Antwerp to Watertown on Tuesday to account for the snow. They left about an hour earlier than usual to get to Target on Town Centre Drive, where they also hold part-time jobs.

“That’s the only thing we did differently,” she said.

There was a lot of social buzz about the snowstorm Wednesday night at LeRay Market. Cashier Keshia L. Marquez said employees at the store on LeRay Street take breaks during their shift to shovel snow from the building’s porch. A snowplow takes care of the heavy-duty work.

“We never close for snowstorms here,” the Malone native said. “We have to shovel off everything when we’re open.”

Making a purchase Wednesday night at the store was George R. Felton, who lives a short walk away on West Main Street. The 45-year-old said he made preparations for the snowstorm.

“I already have salt, shovels, flashlights with batteries, and a little small generator for emergencies,” said Mr. Felton, a native of Columbus, Ga., who’s lived in Watertown since 1987. “I’m thinking about getting a snowblower in the future.”

Snowfall accumulations recorded by the National Weather Service on Wednesday show the snow season has had an emphatic opening. In St. Lawrence County, Edwards received 30 inches of snow, while Star Lake, Fine and Balmat were close behind with 24 inches each. Other affected areas include Russell, Fowler and Oswegatchie, with 18 inches each, and Gouverneur, with 16 inches.

Jefferson County posted similar marks, as Philadelphia received 22 inches, south Theresa had 16 inches and parts of Carthage saw 13.5 inches. Areas of Watertown received 12.8 inches.

In Lewis County, Beaver Falls had the most snowfall with 16 inches. Harrisville received 15 inches and Lowville got a foot of snow.

 

By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

Waddington couple raises money for school piano

A couple from Waddington is looking to give back to the school that educated their two daughters by helping to purchase a grand piano for the music department.

Judy T. and Lawrence E. Jones, of Waddington, will be raffling off hand-blown glass ornaments, a Christmas tree and a tree skirt to raise money to help cover the cost of a new piano at Madrid-Waddington Central School.

“We fund-raise every year for school programs,” Mrs. Jones said. “But this year it is going to be extra special since it will be 50 years since I graduated from Madrid-Waddington.”

Mr. and Mrs. Jones said their daughters, Stefanie A. Jones and Michelle M. Keel, benefited from the music program at Madrid-Waddington.

“They were involved in NYSSMA (the New York State School Music Association) and all of the plays every year,” Mrs. Jones said. “But those are all things that take extra money in the budgets and that money is not there now. I think these programs are going to become more and more dependent on private donations as time goes on. If we can be the start of that, then so be it.”

Mrs. Jones said it is imperative for the community to support schools and nonprofits.

“I think when you invest in our child today, you’re also investing in our future as well,” Mrs. Jones said. “What better way to do that than through the music and the art program? Those are very important skills for a student to have.”

The glass ornaments were hand-blown by glass artist Tim Tiernan. The hand-embellished tree skirt was crafted by Marcia Tiernan.

The piano, which was purchased earlier this year, sits in the school’s auditorium.

Previously, students and teachers relied on an electric keyboard for choral, band and musical performances and rehearsals.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time the school has had a grand piano,” Principal Eric Burke said Tuesday. “We have a phenomenal music program and a ton of talented students. This will be an excellent complement to their abilities.”

Sophomore Josh Barkley said the acoustic piano makes a big difference in performances and rehearsals.

“I do everything with the piano,” Mr. Barkley said while testing out the keys. “Before I was either on stage using the keyboard or in the pit using a keyboard. It was all electric and we didn’t have anything acoustic like this. The way that I look at it is, you can’t match the touch and sound. It is a different feeling playing a piano than a keyboard. From my standpoint, I love it.”

To purchase a raffle ticket, contact the school at 322-5746. Tickets are $5 for one ticket or $10 for three. The prize drawing will be Dec. 18. The winner will be announced and notified by phone.

The school is also sponsoring a fundraiser in which parents and the community can purchase a piano key in name of someone for $30. Each dollar spent will help defray the cost of the five-foot Wurlitzer baby grand piano.

The school hopes to raise $4,000. For more information, contact the school.

 

By Amanda Purcell, Johnson Newspapers

Good food draws community to Adams for fun and fellowship

 

The community came out in full force Saturday evening for food and fellowship at the second annual Taste of South Jeff: Savor Sixtown in Adams.

With a sampling of food from 10 area restaurants, participants ate their way through the Sixtown Community Hall.

“We came again this year because we had such a great time last year,” said Cathy C. Behling of Adams.

At the height of the event, some diners had obvious difficulties balancing their piles of food as they navigated the crowd. Plates were overloaded with lemon meringue waffles, chicken wings, cake pops, doughnuts, stuffed mushrooms, seafood bisque, pork sandwiches, pizza, macaroni and cheese and more.

“I love this event because of the food,” said Adams’ resident Nancy C. Murphy. “I also enjoy seeing people here that I don’t see every day.”

Sponsored by the South Jeff Chamber of Commerce, the event brought in numbers similar to those of the year before. With an hour to go before closing, more than 200 people had walked through the doors of the Sixtown Community Hall.

“Last year, the weather was great and we had 250 attend,” Susan L. Creighton, Adams Center, said.

Mrs. Creighton, a member of the chamber, managed the tickets and front door sales.

“It was a good turnout this year, especially with the snowy weather,” chamber member Paula P. Biazzo said. “The numbers were about the same. I’m impressed.”

Area solo artists Brittany M. Cean and Brian S. Topping provided a backdrop of blues and folk music.

The chamber gave out several awards to the participating restaurants. RJ’s Catering, Adams Center, won the People’s Choice Award and Best Booth. Gram’s Diner, Adams, won Best-Dressed Chef.

The 2013 Taste of South Jeff: Savor Sixtown earned $4,000 for the Adams Fire Department and the South Jefferson Rescue Squad.

All proceeds from this year’s event will go to the Historical Society of South Jefferson County and the historical societies for both Mannsville and Henderson.

Participating restaurants included: Gram’s Diner, Adams; Green Thyme, Adams Center; RJ Catering, Adams Center; Pearl’s Pastry Shoppe, Adams; Barley Pub, Belleville; Cooper’s Landing, Henderson; Mimi’s Depot Cafe, Adams Center; Pizza Shack, Sackets Harbor; and Embellished Catering, Henderson Harbor.

 

By Heather, L. Berry, Johnson Newspapers

Five Things Friday – Nov. 14

Happy Friday! We’ve survived our first snow of the year. November is almost half over (where has the time gone?!). Thanksgiving will be here soon, and Christmas won’t be long after that! As for this weekend though, here are the highlights of what’s going on in the north country…

1) Shop to Share 

This is a night of tastings and crafts: wine, beer and liquor, crafts.  All donated items will be given to local schools and churches as part of Bonnie Castle’s year of “pay it forward.” For more info, call 482-4511 or 800-955-4511.

  • Beat the Black Friday Rush Sale: Today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the hospital lobby of the Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center214 King St., Ogdensburg.

There will be a wide variety of locally made items including fall and Christmas decorations, house hold items, personal items, doll clothes, items for babies and much more. All proceeds benefit the hospital auxiliary. For more info, call 393-1559.

The event features raffles, bake sale, vendors, crafters and photographs. Benefits Ogdensburg Relay for Life. For more info, call Greg Denny at 528-1031.

This event is hosted by North Country Spouses’ Club to benefit NCSC scholarship fund and community outreach grants. For more info, email NCSCCraftFair@gmail.com.

  • Your Dream Boutique: Tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Trinity Church Macsherry Center, 227 Sherman St., Watertown.

Come check out new, unique, designer clothes, shoes and accessories. The bouique benefits Watertown Urban Mission. For more info, call 782-8440.

2) Be Healthy, Be Happy

The Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad is running free blood pressure and blood glucose clinics.

  • View Yoga Classes: Today from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., and 10 a.m. to noon; tomorrow from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the View (Arts Center) Old Forge, 3273 Route 28, Old Forge. Cost: $10 per class; $7, members; $75; $55, members, monthly rate for unlimited classes.

A variety of classes are offered all week at the Arts Center. Preregistration is required. For more info, call 369-6411, ext. 201 or email info@viewarts.org.

  • Community yoga: Tomorrow from 9 to 10 a.m. at Yoga Loft, 30 Court St., Canton. Cost: $5.
This is a basic Hatha Yoga class for all levels of ability; no experience necessary. For more info, email info@yoga-loft.org or call 605-8637.
Meet at the trail head and enjoy the great outdoors. For more info, call 705-5022 or email ncrebirth@yahoo.com.

There will  be music by Adirondack Playboys and refreshments available. For more info, call 629-4931.

3) Appreciate the Arts

  • Artists’ Studio TourTomorrow and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days throughout the north country.
Presented by St. Lawrence County Arts Council, this self-guided tour takes you through artists’ studios in Hammond, Morristown, Ogdensburg, DeKalb Junction, Canton, Norwood, Potsdam, Colton, Parishville. For a list of studios, visit www.slcartscouncil.org > Calendar > Studio Tour. For more info, call 265-6860 or email arts@slcartscouncil.org.
Stop by for the art show and sale, with music by Capo3. For more info, call 348-8119. 

This exhibit contains the best new work by MAA members. It includes several award-winning pieces, and the work used in selecting the “Artist of the Year” for 2014-15. For more info, call 769-9914.

  • Adirondack Detective Series Exhibit: all weekend at Gallery/Quilt room, Old Forge Library, 220 Cosby Blvd., Old Forge.

The works of John Briant, author, are available for sale and on display until Wednesday, Dec. 31. A portion of each sale donated to library. For more info, call 369-6008.

This exhibit runs through Sunday, Dec. 7. It includes “On and Off the Wall” exhibit by Adirondack Regional Textile Group. For more info, call 369-6411, ext. 201.

4) Bend Your Brain

  • “A Window to the Future of Zoos: from Watertown to the World” Presentation: 7 p.m. tonight in the East Hall, room H-116, Jefferson Community College, 1220 Coffeen St., Watertown. Free.

Join Jefferson Community College, New York State Zoo at Thompson Park and North Country Animal Health Center for this presentation by Donald E. Moore III, scientist at Smithsonian Institute. A reception will follow the talk. For more info, call Mark Irwin at 786-2342.

Bring your children ages 3 and older for books, storytelling, finger plays, poems, songs. For more info, contact Christine at 714-2510 or ckschrauth@gmail.com.

Presented by Birdsfoot Organic Farm and Local Living Venture, this event will be a hands-on morning with Emlyn Crocker. Reservations required. For more info, email LocalLivingVenture@gmail.com or call 347-4223.

Join in as Allison Brant teaches how to make soap using goat milk. Presented by Local Living Venture and Homestead Soap. Reservations required. For more info, email LocalLivingVenture@gmail.com or call 347-4223.

This event is for children ages 6 to 11. Parents must remain. No registration required. For more info, call 785-7709, or email apickett@ncls.org or atehomica@ncls.org.

5) Think About Theater

  • Annie: The Musical“: Tonight at 7 p.m.; tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Watertown High School, 1335 Washington St., Watertown. Cost: $10; student and senior citizens, $5.

The performance is hosted by Rhonda Foote. Tickets are available at Seaway Plaza and Washington Street Tops Markets. For more info, call 785-3800.

The play is presented by Pendragon Theatre. For more info, call 518-891-1854 or email info@pendragontheatre.org.

Operas featured are “A Letter to East 11th Street,” “In a Mirror Darkly,” and “The Fox and the Pomegranate.” For tickets or more info, call 267-2422.

  • “The Matchmaker”: Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at Canton High School, 99 State Street, Canton. Cost: $8; $5, students, seniors, tickets available at the door.

Presented by Canton Thespians.

  • Thunderchild: Tomorrow from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at The Paddock Club, 1 Public Square, Watertown.

If you miss this performance, the band will also be playing Dec. 13. For more info, call 786-6633.

For an entire list of the weekend’s offerings, visit the Watertown Daily Times events calendar.

Have a great weekend!

St. Lawrence Central Elementary principal participates in daylong reading challenge

He read from a lift. He read from the pool. He read all day long — at the elementary school.

Wednesday was the Book Reading Principal Challenge, and St. Lawrence Central Elementary School Principal Johnathan R. Hirschey could be found reading everywhere at the school — all day long.

“Where’s Mr. Hirschey?” a sign in the lobby asked.

Well, dressed as Waldo in the iconic red and white striped shirt and beanie to follow the theme of “Where’s Waldo,” he was on a lift truck outside the school as buses arrived at 8:30 a.m., reading a tale from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

Undeterred by a brisk wind that stirred leaves around the lawn and sidewalk in front of the school, he kept on reading as a crowd of students gathered around the lift after exiting their buses.

Once the students were inside their classrooms, there was more reading for the remainder of the school day until the students left at 3:45 p.m. Mr. Hirschey could be found stretching his vocal cords to the max on the deck of the pool during swim classes, in the cafeteria as students were eating lunch, in the gymnasium and in classrooms.

“I have a handful of cough drops in my locker,” he said.

His choice of books was eclectic, from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” to smaller titles such as “Froggy Goes to Hawaii” and “Smelly Socks.”

Wednesday’s reading challenge was part of the Pizza Hut Book It! program’s National Young Readers Week celebration, which began Monday. The annual event, now in its 30th year, was cofounded by Pizza Hut and the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress to raise awareness of the importance of literacy and to generate a passion for reading among young people.

All principals who complete the challenge can tweet or post a snapshot of their day and enter for a chance to win one of 101 copies of Jeff Kinney’s ninth book, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” for their schools.

“We have been involved in the Book It! program,” Mr. Hirschey said, in which students who read for a certain number of minutes each month from October through March win personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut.

Under the program, which was created in 1984 and reaches more than 14 million students in 38,000 elementary schools annually, the teacher sets a reading goal for each child in the class. As soon as a child meets the monthly reading goal, the teacher gives him or her a reading award certificate.

In addition, the local Pizza Hut rewards Book It! children who meet their monthly reading goals with a free one-topping personal pan pizza and a Passport to Reading sticker on their first visit. On each subsequent visit, they get another stamp for their passport and another personal pan pizza.

The program benefits not only the students, but the school as it looks for creative ways to encourage reading, according to Mr. Hirschey.

“We’re looking at ways of increasing the climate in school and morale and reinforcing reading,” he said.

 

By Bob Beckstead, Johnson Newspapers

New York City lawyer heads to north country courtrooms

Michal Gross left the Big Apple for St. Lawrence County three weeks ago and now spends her days defending low-income people charged with crimes and learning about rural life in the north country.

The 29-year-old is working as a lawyer for the St. Lawrence County Public Defender’s Office through a new internship program offered through the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Manhattan, and the New York State Defenders’ Association, Albany.

The idea is to place new attorneys from the New York City area in upstate counties where many public defenders’ offices are short-staffed, underfunded and overburdened with excessive caseloads.

St. Lawrence County is the first to take advantage of the program, which may expand to other counties looking for assistance managing heavy caseloads, said Jonathan E. Gradess, executive director of the New York State Defenders’ Association. “It’s sort of a city-mouse, country-mouse idea,” Mr. Gradess said. “There’s a gigantic upstate crises caused by the lack of resources to deliver quality services. We wanted to aid underfunded upstate offices.”

Through a fellowship from the Cardozo School of Law, Ms. Gross receives a stipend to cover basic living expenses, but she does not receive a salary from the county during her 10-week internship.

The New Jersey native said she’s passionate about public defense work and jumped at the chance to gain valuable experience in rural New York, where the supply of defense lawyers is much lower than in New York City.

“I wanted to go someplace different and someplace where they could use my help,” Ms. Gross said. “You see defendants at their worst and you get to be that one person who says this person has rights. I love my work and I get a real sense of satisfaction from it.”

She received her law degree from Cardozo in May and recently learned that she passed the state bar exam. She started working at the public defender’s office Oct. 20 and has handled cases in several local courts, including Ogdensburg, Canton and Gouverneur.

“The first day I was in the office I was meeting with clients and in the courtroom,” Ms. Gross said.

She is allowed to represent clients in local courts with “general supervision” and in County Court with “direct supervision,” she said.

In New York City, Ms. Gross said, those charged with a crime are automatically provided with a public defender for arraignment, which is not the case in St. Lawrence County and many other upstate counties where it’s not uncommon for a defendant to appear in court without a lawyer.

“In New York City, the judge won’t even speak to a defendant without an attorney. Here, there is a whole docket of people without their own lawyer,” she said.

Lack of access to public transportation and long distance to a highway are other noticeable differences between the north country and New York City.

Ms. Gross said she’s been warned many times about the upcoming winter weather.

“I think I’m prepared,” she said. “I have a warm coat and boots. I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful.”

Before law school, Ms. Gross worked as a political consultant for several campaigns. A highlight was traveling to North Carolina in 2008 to work for the Obama presidential campaign.

“The Obama fever just got to me and I needed to be a part of it. It was an amazing place to be,” she said.

Public Defender Stephen D. Button said the internship program is a “win-win” for all those involved.

“She is getting legal experience in a rural setting and she can help alleviate the caseload burden that our attorneys regularly face,” Mr. Button said. “She is a great asset and a very good resource for us.”

Over the past three years, Mr. Button said, he’s obtained $2 million in grant funding to help support his office. Those funds were used to hire two assistant public defenders and a legal secretary.

“We are always on the lookout for ways to provide more assistants,” Mr. Button said.

 

By Susan Mende, Times Staff Writer

Robert Thomas remembered as cool-headed legislator, consensus builder, with humor to spare

On Oct. 22, several Jefferson County legislators gathered at the home of Robert J. Thomas for a photograph.

It was the same day as the funeral for Francis Xavier Caprara, a north country auto magnate and noted local citizen, and many of the legislators were dressed formally, having come from the services.

Mr. Thomas, who had just begun his final bout with pancreatic cancer, was wearing a gray polo shirt and a pair of jeans — a fact he noted with equal measures of humor and regret from his room at Hospice of Jefferson County a few weeks later.

“They took a picture of me with my jeans on,” the longtime legislator said, with some embarrassment, before adding, “What is there left to do but sit there and laugh at yourself?”

He died Monday at age 77.

Mr. Thomas was first elected to office in 1994, the year before county government transitioned from a Board of Supervisors to a Board of Legislators.

After nearly 20 years of showing up for county meetings in jacket and tie, serving two terms as vice-chairman and two terms as chairman of the board, Mr. Thomas didn’t have to go to the legislators. The legislators came to him.

The reason for the occasion: Mr. Thomas, who had survived 13 years after his initial diagnosis, was unlikely to ever make it to another board meeting. And he knew it.

Gazing out on a small pond from his hospice room, occasionally sipping on a chocolate-strawberry milkshake, Mr. Thomas spoke of the prospects for his future stoically but not without hope.

“My death and funeral will remind people to stand shoulder to shoulder, cross the line to the other side and do what’s right for the county, state and country,” Mr. Thomas said.

Those who knew him said Mr. Thomas was a model when it came to doing the right thing.

Talking with the men and women who worked with him for years, it’s clear that Mr. Thomas was a unique individual: a man with political contacts in some of the highest offices in America but a deep and abiding love for his hometown and a commitment to integrity and transparency that earned him the admiration of his colleagues, competitors and the reporters who covered his career.

“Bob knew how to connect with people,” said Legislator Michael J. Docteur, R-Cape Vincent. “It didn’t matter if it was a senator or someone he knew from the community. And that’s what made him a great legislator.”

“My heartfelt condolences go out to Bob’s family,” said John M. McHugh, former congressman and now Secretary of the Army. “Bob served Jefferson County with the utmost professionalism and dedication. He was a good friend and leader who will be greatly missed.”

“Many of his friends still call him the ‘chairman,’” said James W. Wright, CEO of the Development Authority of the North Country and a former state senator. “He was the epitome of a leader. … Honor and duty are the words that describe Bob Thomas.”

“Just because you’re new, doesn’t mean I’m not going to put you to work,” Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, said Mr. Thomas told him when he first joined the board.

Mr. Thomas had surgery in July 2002 at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, to remove his spleen, part of his stomach and a large tumor on his pancreas.

Two of the people who came to know Mr. Thomas best, and who spent time with him on the road as he traveled back and forth to Buffalo for his follow-up treatment, were former Times reporters Drew Mangione and Jude Seymour.

To Mr. Thomas, Mr. Mangione was his “adopted hairbag son,” a distinction bestowed upon Mr. Mangione at Diane’s Coffee Shop in Dexter, where Mr. Thomas often held court, ordering simple meals from the menu and sometimes indulging in strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Mr. Mangione, who had long hair at the time, was briefly mistaken for someone who might have been Mr. Thomas’s son, a joke the two shared for years but a sentiment that ran much deeper.

“It’s easy to like your sources,” Mr. Mangione said. “It’s hard to love them like a member of your family.”

Mr. Seymour wrote that Mr. Thomas was the “great unifying force on the board” — a characterization that was reflected by conversations with all of his fellow legislators, past and present.

“He always voted his conscience and you always knew it was for the betterment of the community,” said Barry M. Ormsby, a former legislator from Belleville.

“He was the consensus builder, someone you could look up to,” said James A. Nabywaniec, R-Calcium.

Despite suffering from Parkinsons disease and diabetes in addition to the cancer he battled for so many years, Mr. Thomas never complained, according to Philip N. Reed, R-Fishers Landing.

“He always had a joke, he always wanted us to be the example,” Mr. Reed said. “He never lost that focus.”

“You would never know he was battling cancer,” Mr. Nabywaniec said. “That’s Bob’s personality. He was a fighter.”

“I’ll stay on this board until they carry me out of here,” he reportedly told Robert D. Ferris, R-Watertown.

Mr. Thomas was a police officer and police chief in Brownville, Dexter and Glen Park and served in the U.S. Navy from 1955 to 1957. Those experiences no doubt informed his leadership style.

Mr. Thomas was known for his coolheadedness as much as for his sense of humor.

“His experience was such that very little would rattle him,” Mr. Wright said. “Nothing intimidated him.”

It was during the course of his duties that he met his second wife, Deborah R. Love, whom he married on Oct 21, 1990.

“That was the only ticket I ever fixed,” Mr. Thomas said last Wednesday at Hospice.

“You know what I really thought? He was too short to be a cop,” Mrs. Thomas said.

One of the projects Mr. Thomas was most passionate about was the beautification and rejuvenation of Fish Island, a once-vacant 4.6-acre parcel near Canal Street in Dexter.

The park now features dedications for three police officers — David J. Lane, a state trooper who was killed in a car crash in the Catskills in November 2009; Samuel A. Johnson Sr., the Dexter police chief who was shot and killed while responding to a police call on Pillar Point in 1987; and Richard E. Sanford, a retired state trooper who died in 2004 — as well as exercise stations and a handicap-accessible canoe and kayak ramp.

It was 54 degrees Monday on the island but felt much colder. Water was rushing through the nearby hydrodam and a flock of geese noisily took flight, but otherwise it was quiet. All the things that Mr. Thomas had worked so hard to bring to Fish Island — the exercise stations, the shelter, the commemorative stones, the handicapped-accessible ramp, stowed for the winter — were there. Mr. Thomas was not.

At Diane’s Coffee Shop, Judy L. Gracey was ordering her dinner. She grew up with Mr. Thomas, she said.

“He was a good man. He cared about his community. I really don’t know what else to say,” she said.

Calling hours will be Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Glen Park Fire Hall. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. at the fire hall. He will be buried in Dexter Cemetery.

 

By Daniel Flatley, Times Staff Writer

Sackets Holiday Boutique gives crafters, independent vendors a venue

Crafters and independent consultant vendors may have a disadvantage when competing against businesses that invest in Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

“We don’t have a shop so we sell out of our homes,” said Brenda M. Jock Derouin, organizer of Sunday’s Sackets Harbor High School Holiday Boutique and an independent consultant for Thirty-One. “A day [for independent vendors and consultants] would be awesome, at a large location where everybody can get together; one-stop shopping.”

“That’d be great,” said Ashley Sharp, proprietor of Lucie’s Boutique, where she sells her hand-crafted sterling and fine silver jewelry. “Anything we can get to bring attention to ourselves would be good.”

Both women joined 25 independent consultants and sole traders to sell at the boutique. The event was a benefit for the Sackets Harbor PTO, and cans were collected for the school’s backpack program.

But this was also an opportunity for people to sell their goods before the sales race against established corporations and small businesses at the end of the month. Black Friday is Nov. 28, Small Business Saturday is Nov. 29 and Cyber Monday is Dec. 1.

For some vendors, the only way to get their wares out is to sell at craft shows. They can sell items through personal websites, such as Ms. Sharp’s www.luciesboutique.com, or through websites like Etsy, which promotes the sale of handmade or vintage items. But without the physical presence a craft fair provides, a website can take a crafter only so far.

According to Ms. Derouin, once school sports begin, it becomes harder to find a big facility that could accommodate enough vendors, especially during the holiday season, when most school gyms are being used for winter sports.

“This is a great time frame, but it’s difficult to get a school gym before winter sports. If you don’t have it before November, the chances of getting a gym is slim,” Ms. Derouin said.

However, the event was fortunate enough to draw shoppers from a basketball tournament held in the school’s gymnasium. The event was hosted in the school’s multipurpose room.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to get out and help local businesses and direct sales and crafters,” Ms. Derouin said of why people should spare a thought for local vendors during their holiday shopping. “It’s keeping money here; this is how it’s getting back into the economy.”

“I think it works out well,” Ms. Sharp said. “People can get personalized stuff. When something is handmade, you get something made exactly how you want it, like with names and birth dates. If you go to Sears, you have to get exactly what’s available.”

Items at craft fairs can range from holiday-themed decorations, body soaps and candles to everyday items like clothing, woodwork and jewelry.

Sackets Harbor will get a leg up on the corporate competition the weekend of Nov. 22 and 23. That Saturday will host Sackets Harbor Unchained, in which local businesses offer discounts and specials, and Sunday is the Community Vendors Expo at Sackets Harbor American Legion. For more information, visit www.sacketsharborny.com.

 

By Amanda Thomson-Tangalin, Times Staff Writer