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Clarendon native who lived to be 107 will be laid to rest on Wednesday at Hillside Cemetery

Photos courtesy of Melissa Ierlan: Clarendon Town Historian Melissa Ierlan is pictured last July with Ida M. Brace Cook.

Posted 29 August 2017 at 3:50 pm

By Melissa Ierlan, Clarendon Town Historian

The Cook family monument is prominent at Hillside Cemetery.

CLARENDON – Ida M. Brace Cook born March 30, 1910. The first time I saw this I was sad to think that a person had passed away and a date of death wasn’t on her headstone.

This was probably 2012 and little did I know that this woman was still alive. I discovered that she was living in New York City somewhere.  Several years went by and I thought of her every time I was in the cemetery. I learned a little more about her and her connection with a well known family from Clarendon.

I discovered that an old family photo album of the Cook family had been donated by her to our county historian who then donated it to the Clarendon Historical Society.

Fast forward to 2016, and I find myself in NYC visiting the Museum of Natural History. By this time I was able to locate and contact Mrs. Cook with the help of Bill Lattin and made arrangements to visit her. Mrs. Cook was 106 years old when I met her and lived in a nursing home in NYC.  She visited with me for an hour or so and told me the story of how she grew up in Albion and how she met Gordon Cook, a descendant of Lemuel Cook, the Revolutionary War soldier who lived in Clarendon.

She spoke of his family, especially his mother who made her way to the USA with an ox cart and her children by herself. Gordon was many years older than Ida when they married but they made a life and did quite well.

Mrs. Cook was very independent up until an accident in 2013 which left her in a wheelchair. She went from assisted living into a nursing home.  She had a very sharp mind and although she was almost deaf, she would respond to written questions and speak about anything you could ask.

Before I left the nursing home, she was giving me suggestions of places in NYC that I might go to eat. She even gave directions on how to get to several places. She was a very remarkable woman and I feel fortunate to have met her even for a short visit.

Mrs. Cook passed away last week on Aug. 22. She will be laid to rest on Wednesday, August 30, at 1 p.m. at Hillside Cemetery in Clarendon. There will be a graveside service.  The public is welcome to attend.

Mrs. Cook will be laid to rest at the family plot that includes her husband Gordon.

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Holley’s summer school camp gives students an academic boost

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 25 August 2017 at 8:36 am

This is one side of a two-sided bookmark created by middle schoolers at Holley. The other side includes a photo of Myron Holley and facts about his life.

HOLLEY  – A summer school program for Holley middle schooler help students boost skills that they had struggled to learn during the regular school year, Holley Board of Education members were told this week.

Michelle Roman and Nick D’Amuro, both Holley teachers, shared highlights of the program with the Board of Education.

“For the most part, all showed some growth in skills,” Roman said. “We need to make plans for more support and we will follow-up with students during the school year.  We made goals for future summer camps.”

The three-week summer program included a half-dozen 7th and 8th graders who focused on Math, ELA, Science, Social Studies and critical thinking skills.

“I call them self-sufficient skills,” D’Amuro explained. He said students can take the skills they learned during camp and use them to teach themselves new skills in the future.

Roman said summer camp enabled her to uncover reading skills deficiencies in her students. She said the program, “allows us to build relationships and develop a love of learning” with students.

The program also included community service at the Holley Community Free Library, and guest speakers including Clarendon historian Melissa Ierlan and a presentation by GCASA about making better choices.

The students walked to the library from the school campus for their community service work which included devising the most efficient way to clean books in the Children’s section. Students also designed a bookmark which featured information about Myron Holley.

Holley, a Rochester abolitionist who served in the NYS Assembly in 1816, was an Erie Canal Commissioner and founder of the Rochester Freeman, an anti-slavery newspaper which sparked the Underground Railroad in western New York. The Village of Holley is named in Myron Holley’s honor, although he never lived there.

D’Amuro and Roman encouraged Board of Education members to consider requiring students who fail core classes to attend the skill-building summer camps in the future to provide them with an opportunity to receive additional support for academic success.

Board President Brenda Swanger thanked the teachers for their presentation. “The extra caring,” which the summer camp provided, “is what they also need,” she said of students.

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Holley school asked to allow tax discounts for commercial solar projects

Photo by Kristina Gabalski: A new playground at the Holley Elementary School nears completion. It is part of the ongoing Capital Project at the district.

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 22 August 2017 at 9:59 am

HOLLEY – The Holley Board of Education was asked on Monday to approve a resolution to allow for PILOT agreements to be established between the district and commercial solar farm energy systems.

Ron Vendetti, the code enforcement officer for the Town of Murray and Village  of Holley, attended the Board of Education meeting.

He said the school district earlier decided to opt out of tax exemptions for commercial solar developments. Without a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), Vendetti said the commercial solar projects won’t move forward.

Vendetti has attended several conferences around the state and has worked with developers to better understand how municipalities and school districts are trying to regulate commercial solar farms. He said many developers are now look to construct 2 megawatt or less solar farms on 10 to 12 acre parcels due to the shorter review process by the state. The Town of Murray isn’t considered “a high priority area” by solar developers, but Vendetti said there could still be interest in Murray by developers.

Vendetti and school district attorney Jeff Martin noted the solar farms could increase property assessments significantly – as much as $5 million – and that PILOT agreements would mean the district would be receiving at least something in tax revenue.

“Forty percent value on a PILOT is better than 100 percent of nothing,” Vendetti said.

The Town of Murray recently adopted Local Law No. 3 of 2017 which requires developers of commercial solar farm energy systems to enter into a PILOT agreement with the town. The Board of Education needs only to approve a resolution, Jeff Martin said.

There are no commercial solar farms currently in Orleans County, but developers are showing an interest, Martin and Vendetti said.

The Village of Holley might enact the legislation because the former Diaz Chemical site potentially could be used for a commercial solar farm, Vendetti said.

School Board members took no action on Monday.  Board President Brenda Swanger asked Martin to continue to gather information for the board.

School supplies can be costly for parents

In other business, Swanger told Elementary School Principal Karri Schiavone that a parent had expressed concern over the length and expense of items on the school’s supply list for students for the upcoming school year.

“We have pared it down,” Schiavone said. “Teachers get $200 for supplies for the entire school year,” she said, and noted that is not enough to cover student supplies such as pencils, paper and folders.

“We have made (supply lists) consistent across grade levels,” Schiavone said.

Both the Elementary School and Middle School/High School do have supplies available for students who are in need, Schiavone and MS/HS principal Sue Cory said. During the district’s back to school night Sept. 5, tables will be made available for anyone who wishes to donate unused school supplies. Students in need of supplies will be able to take what they need at the same time.

The Holley Rotary Club has donated funds in the past to the district for the purpose of purchasing school supplies and would be donating $300 to $500 again for the coming school year, said Martin, a member of the Rotary Club.

Contractors working to have capital project done by school opening

In his report, District Superintendent Robert D’Angelo re-assured district administrators, teachers and staff that the on-going capital project work would not prevent school from opening on schedule Sept. 6.

“The project has an aggressive schedule,” D’Angelo said, and explained that it is not unusual for school officials to feel anxious when a project nears completion, but, “School will open on time and we will be in good shape.  The campus will be safe for occupation.”

D’Angelo said contractors will continue to be present on campus after the first day of school to complete jobs such as painting tennis courts and replanting grass.

“The end product will be something we can all be proud of,” he said.

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Big crowd in Clarendon to hear from author trapped in Nazi Germany almost 80 years ago

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 17 August 2017 at 11:19 am

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Marlies Adams DiFante describes her harrowing experiences of being trapped in Nazi Germany as a young child.

CLARENDON – A talk by Rochester author and Naples native Marlies Adams DiFante drew a large crowd to the Clarendon Historical Society meeting Wednesday evening.

DiFante made those in the audience both laugh and cry as she discussed her book, Queen of the Bremen, an autobiographical account of her childhood experience of being trapped in Nazi Germany with her family during World War II.

In 1939 at age 5, Marlies traveled with her parents and brother to her parents’ native Germany. The family wanted to visit Marlies’ dying grandfather. Marlies’ mother was pregnant with her third child at the time and Hitler invaded Poland shortly after they arrived, closing German borders and ports. The Adams were not allowed to leave the country due to the fact Marlies’ mother was so close to her due date.

The family endured what Marlies describes as a seven-year “living hell” during the war, suffering starvation, homelessness, abuse, bombings and constant fear.

“I never intended to put it into a book,” Marlies said. She began taping her story only as a way to preserve her first-hand experiences for her grandchildren.

The Clarendon Historical Society Museum Barn meeting room was filled Wednesday evening for a presentation by local author Marlies Adams DiFante.

Marlies’ daughter-in-law transcribed the tapes, typing everything down for her Master’s thesis, but at the time, Marlies said she was not ready to share the story with anyone other than family. Eventually, her feelings changed and she decided to publish the book.

She described the horrors of the war, including severe food rationing, being bombed out of her home, and the British dropping of dolls and fountain pens embedded with explosives.

“Children were maimed and killed,” she said. “The German people had nothing but fear in them…. Hitler took everything, the German people had no control at all. I felt sorry for the German people, that they let that monster take over like he did.”

Marlies also detailed an especially harrowing year she spent with an aunt, who was a Nazi informant. She suffered horrific neglect, and turned to the animals on the farm for companionship. She became attached to one of the cows, in particular. “That cow was my best friend,”

Marlies said, and added that she believes the cow was really an angel whose comfort helped her survive the ordeal.

She also discussed the power of forgiveness and how their strong faith in God helped her family to cope and survive. “If you don’t believe God watches over you, He does,” Marlies said.

“I’m so proud that God let me be born in this country,” she said of her native United States.

Marlies Adams DiFante speaks with Clarendon residents following her talk.

Marlies mentioned the recent violence at protests in Charlottesville, VA. “When I see the swastika… it’s a good thing I am not in that town,”  she said, and called the swastika a symbol of evil. “It’s the worst symbol that ever came out …… (the Nazis) destroyed everything…. we can’t let that ever happen again.”

Marlies’ son, Tom DiFante, who serves as Clarendon town justice, attended the presentation with his family.

“She does a fantastic job,” he said of his mother. He noted the book, “has given her a new purpose. It makes me proud and I appreciate what she’s endured.”

Tom’s wife, Amy, agreed. She said it is remarkable that the Adams family was able to survive their ordeal and move on with their lives.

“They stepped beyond it. I’m amazed at how strong she is,” Amy said, and noted Marlies’ story is inspiring. “She shows that it doesn’t matter how hard it gets, there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Tom and Amy’s daughter, Marlayna, and son, Mitchell, also attended the presentation. Mitchell, 13, enthusiastically promoted his grandmother’s book. He said his grandmother has taught him much.

“It’s hard to explain how much she’s gone through,” Mitchell said. “She’s spectacular. I thank God for all the blessings we’ve had and she’s had.”

He said his grandmother’s experiences make him more appreciative of what he has.

“It makes me realize how much I take for granted and that I might need to re-focus.”

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With grant deadline looming, County Legislature backs “transformational” project at old Holley High School

This rendering shows how the former Holley High School would look after $17 million in renovations.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 July 2017 at 10:31 am

ALBION – The clock is ticking and developers of the former Holley High School are trying to line up as much support as possible for a proposed $17 million renovation of the school.

Kim Russell, executive vice president of Home Leasing, met with the Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday, seeking the body’s official support for the project.

The Legislature approved a resolution in support of the effort to turn a building that has been vacant for nearly 30 years into residential apartments and offices that would be used for the village government.

Legislature Chairman David Callard said the project would be transformational for Holley – and the whole county.

“We are so favorably impressed with the presentation put forth,” Callard told Russell. “We give you our full support. It’s dynamic and would help improve the entire county.”

Home Leasing is working along with Edgemere Development, Glasow Simmons Architecture L.L.P. and Marathon Engineering – all Rochester-based firms – on the project.

The developers of the project were denied funding in the form of housing tax credits this spring by the New York State Homes and Community Renewal. Home Leasing is again seeking those tax credits to make the project financially feasible.

It also is seeking grants through the state. The applications for the grants are due on Friday.

Russell said the company is seeking $350,000 through Empire State Development, $300,000 through the Environmental Protection Fund, $150,000 through NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research & Development) and $100,000 through the NY Main Street program.

Russell said the project is costly partly due to the environmental contamination that needs to be cleaned up. If the state grants and tax credits don’t come through, Russell said the project may not work financially. Without a redevelopment, she said the building may need to be torn down.

Callard said the project, at the corner of routes 237 and 31, is ideally located near the downtown and the Public Square. The project would revive a historic landmark in the village center, and would bolster local housing stock for residents, including senior citizens.

The Legislature’s resolution notes the Orleans Economic Development Agency already has a PILOT agreement in place for Home Leasing to pay to support local government services. The EDA also has approved mortgage and sales tax exemptions, purchase contract, and its own resolution of support for the project.

Russell has encouraged community members to send letters of support about the project. Those letters should be dropped off at the Village Office, 72 Public Square. The village will then scan and forward them to Russell for Friday’s deadline.

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Tractor-trailer driver hits building, flees scene

Staff Reports Posted 20 July 2017 at 1:40 pm

Damage from truck crash at ABCD Holley

A tractor-trailer truck struck Grace’s Place Agri-Business Child Development today at about 12:30 p.m., damaging the front façade of the building on Maziarz Drive in the Holley Business Park. The trucker then fled the scene. In the above photo, Holley firefighters Ron Meier, left, and Fran Gaylord inspect the damage to the building.

Damage from truck wreck at ABCD Holley

Holley police are attempting to locate the truck driver. Gaylord said tractor-trailers sometimes make a wrong turn at the business park and go past the child care center. A truck has hit the building once before, he said.

Clarendon officials not happy with trash strewn at town park

Photo by Kristina Gabalski: The Town Park in Clarendon is pictured on a quiet summer evening

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 July 2017 at 7:39 am

CLARENDON – Town Board members have decided to take a “wait and see” approach to a continuing problem of trash being left in the Town Park.

Town Supervisor Dick Moy said he and his wife cleaned-up a recent mess which included toilet paper being strewn about and beer cans being dumped in the toilet.

“It was a disaster,” Moy said.

People who rent the shelter for gatherings are expected to keep the park clean and neat, he said. Town officials noted trash has been left behind both by people renting the shelter and those who have congregated in the park late into the evening.

“There’s always a few that spoil it for someone else,” Town Councilman Paul Nicosia said.

Moy questioned if someone should be appointed to keep an eye on gatherings in the park to help prevent the problems from occurring.

Town Code Enforcement Officer Melissa Ierlan suggested a laminated sign with park rules be placed in a prominent spot where people enter the park.

“Put it where you pull into the parking lot,” Ierlan said.

A fence and gate, which could be closed at night, might be a solution, said Councilman Marc Major.

“People are driving in and using it after hours,” he said.

Following their discussion, board members decided to wait before taking any further action, to see if the problems continue.

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Holley will join multi-municipal effort for grant to bolster ‘underutilized’ Erie Canal

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 17 July 2017 at 11:07 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Holley’s Canal Park is a popular spot along the Erie Canal.

HOLLEY – Orleans County Legislator Ken DeRoller has encouraged the Village of Holley to be part of a multi-municipality effort to obtain a planning grant to develop a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) for communities along the Erie Canal.

“It would provide a future view of how we want to use the canal corridor,” DeRoller said.

In addition to the Village of Holley, DeRoller said the Village of Albion, Town of Albion and Town of Murray should also be involved.  He noted the Village of Medina is already pursuing a plan on their own.

DeRoller spoke to members of the Village Board during their regular meeting last week.

According to New York State, Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans follow a step-by-step process by which communities can advance their planning from vision to implementation. The state offers grant funding for plan-related projects, once plans have been approved.

“I think we have a great product,” DeRoller said of the canal front in Orleans County.

The LWRP will help communities to “enhance its use and plan for the future … we can be the new Fairport in Orleans County.”

DeRoller mentioned attractions and recreational activities on the canal which Holley offers, including Holley Falls and the nearby Public Square. He also discussed potential recreational activities on the canal such as kayaking and hydro-kayaking, as well as activities when the canal is de-watered in the winter season.

“It’s very well worth it,” Holley Mayor Brian Sorochty said of creating a plan. He likened it to the village’s application for a Brownfield Opportunity Area Step 2 grant.

“To do this with other communities strengthens the application,” the mayor said. “I think we can put together a strong application. The canal is underutilized in Orleans County.”

Village Board members also heard July 11 from John Pera, the new post commander for the Jewell Buckman American Legion Post in Holley.

Pera told the board, the Legion is hoping to do more for the Holley community.

“We want to be more a part of the community than in the past,” Pera said of the veterans organization. “We are looking for what we can do for our community. We want to enhance our image to more of a family-friendly organization.”

Pera noted the Holley American Legion has the highest recruitment rate in western New York and the Ladies Auxiliary now has nine junior members – part of an effort to encourage the younger generation to become involved.  He was joined at the meeting by Ladies Auxiliary President Deb Zicari.

“We want to do what we can to help the younger generation,” she said.

Anyone who served during war-time is eligible for membership, Pera noted. Family members of eligible members may join the Ladies Auxiliary or Sons of the American Legion, he said.

“They just need to show someone in their lineage is/was a member of Post 529 in Holley,” Pera said

“We will make sure we reach out to you,” Sorochty told Pera and Zicari and thanked them for reaching out to the board.

The Jewell Buckman American Legion Post 529 has a new website with information on Post activities and membership:

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Orleans EDA will pursue $500K grant for old Holley High School project

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 July 2017 at 9:37 am

ALBION – The Orleans Economic Development Agency called the effort to revive the old Holley High School for apartments and village offices a critical project on Friday.

The developers of the project were denied funding in the form of housing tax credits this spring by the New York State Homes and Community Renewal.

Home Leasing, developer for the project with Edgemere Development, is pursuing the state funding again this year.

The developers are looking for other state funding sources and shows of community support to make the case to the state for the bigger financial piece through Homes and Community Renewal.

The Orleans EDA agreed to pursue a grant on Friday for up to $500,000 for the project through the Environmental Protection Fund grant program for projects in Parks, Preservation and Heritage.

The funding is a matching grant for a property on the National Register of Historic Places. Home Leasing will pay the matching funds. The EDA will be the sponsor of the grant.

Home Leasing and Edgemere also will prepare and file the grant application.

“It certainly helps their project,” EDA attorney Kevin Zanner told the EDA board of directors on Friday.

Jim Whipple, the EDA chief executive officer, said the tax credits are ultimately needed to make the $17 million project a reality. The smaller state grants are also helpful.

“This shows EDA support and makes the story stronger,” Whipple said. “This is an important project.”

Revitalizing the old school, which has been vacant for about two decades, has been identified as a priority project in Holley’s comprehensive plan.

Home Leasing wants to turn the school into 41 residential apartments and offices for the village government. A restored auditorium would be used for meeting space. Developers said they will restore the historic building to its former glory as part of the project.

The school is located in the center of a historic district.

Kim Russell, executive vice president of Home Leasing, met with members of the Holley Village Board and Murray Town Board on Tuesday.

The company welcomes community letters of support as part of the funding applications.

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8 homes – abandoned after Diaz leak 15 years ago – all sold this week

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 July 2017 at 5:21 pm

HOLLEY – Eight homes that have been vacant for about 15 years after a leak at the former Diaz Chemical plant have all sold this week.

The houses were recently put on the market and eight purchase offers totaling $192,600 have been accepted for the sites.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency will receive 90 percent of the money after closing costs and real estate service fees are included.

The remaining 10 percent will go to Village of Holley Development Corporation, a village entity tasked with economic and community development.

Dan Schiavone, a local dentist, serves as president of the VHDC. He also was mayor during the chemical leak from Diaz in 2002, which led to the company declaring bankruptcy and go out of business.

Schiavone agreed to lead the VHDC to address blight and vacant properties in Holley. He was concerned the “Diaz homes” would linger on the market.

“I was worried they would be difficult to get rid of,” he said this afternoon. “It was a pleasant surprise.”

The buyers all have to have EPA certified contractors remove lead dust and encapsulate lead paint in the houses. That was a requirement from the EPA before a certificate of occupancy can be issued. The houses were otherwise deemed safe by the EPA.

The homes, which were listed by Jen Passarell of ReMax, were sold at a slight discount from the appraised values from the EPA.

“They were priced to sell,” Schiavone said. “It will be a big plus for the village to have them back on the tax rolls and not be eyesores in the neighborhood.”

The 10 percent that goes to the VHDC may be used for other community cleanup efforts.

“We’re hoping to be able to open a bank account and use this small amount for operating expenses and possibly grant writing related to future projects,” Schiavone said.

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