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Quick Questions with Amy Sidari

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Dance Studio owner has embraced arts and music

Photos by Tom Rivers – Amy Sidari has given her dance studio a dual purpose as the cabaret with live entertainment and desserts.

ALBION – Life-long Albion resident Amy Sidari opened her own dance studio in 1997 at the corner of West Bank and Liberty streets. She and her dance instructors work with hundreds of children (and some adults) each year.

Sidari, 46, expanded the scope of Gotta Dance last July, opening the Cabaret at Studio B. More than 20 different acts have been in Studio B in the past 12 months and Sidari will debut a variety show this Saturday. (The site at 28 West Bank St. has professional sound and lighting.)

Sidari will be one of the performers, along with high school music teacher Gary Simboli and Gloria Lear, one of Sidari’s dance instructors. Marcy Downey will join the variety show in the beginning and other community members will perform with the group in later dates.

Marcy Downey, left, and Amy Sidari pose in front of the curtains at the Cabaret at Studio B in this photo from a year ago, when Downey was the debut act in the Cabaret. They will be part of a new variety show starting this Saturday at the Cabaret.

The Cabaret Variety Show will be a throwback to the variety shows of the Dean Martin and Lucille Ball era. Sidari wants to bring humor and showcase local performers in the new show.

She talked with Orleans Hub editor Tom Rivers on Thursday about the latest venture and career with Gotta Dance.

Q: I remember when you started here. It was the former DA’s office.

A: We just had the one room. There wasn’t even a waiting room. Blessings to my dad (Ace Caldwell) for all of his craftsmanship. I tell him I’m the creator and you’re the builder so let’s do it, and we do it.

Q: Why is this fun for you, working with all of these kids and some adults?

A: I think it is what God wants me to do. I just think my gift is loving people. I love them through any way that I can and music seems to be the easiest way to love people.

Q: It seems like there are a lot of dance options with several studios. I wonder why it’s so popular because when I was a kid I don’t think we had any dance places.

A: It was a different time when we were kids. I think it’s because we have good teachers. No matter where you are dancing kids are being more inspired to take on the performing arts.

I think our school programs with the dynamic music and drama inspires the children as well. When they come to me they already understand music. There is sense that this is a passion for them. I think it’s a credit to all of the studios. Everybody is doing a good job.

Some of the Gotta Dance students perfomed on Main Street during the Strawberry Festival Parade on June 14.

Q: What is the benefit for a kid to do this?

A: There are a lot of benefits. When they’re in that awkward age, their puberty time, it doesn’t appear when you’re a dancer. There is a sense of grace, centering, elegance that comes through.

I would say that mathematically, the right side of the brain, it’s been proven it’s a little more engaged. There is memorization, patterns, muscle memory. There is a fluency and things become more natural to put yourself and your mind into the sequence.

These kids are sharp. When they’re coming in they’re not just doing dance. They have other clubs and other activities. They might come in and go through four different dances flawlessly. Their minds are working.

You know what if they’re here with me they’re safe. They’re not doing things that aren’t good for their body or good for them. The environment is only a positive, acceptable environment. They learn a lot of respect for each other and how to work through relationships here that maybe are uncomfortable because we all have to work together.

Q: I know you have the dance studio, but you also started the Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas.

A: That’s been four years. That was really God.

Q: You’ve added more besides the dance studio. You added the Hometown Christmas and then the Cabaret last year. The Cabaret seems to be working, don’t you think so?

A: There is a need. When I see people walk through my door for the first time, and the puzzled look on their face, and then they walk through this door. You watch their face and there is a sense, ‘Wow, this is Albion?’ You watch them leave and they have tears in their eyes because they are so happy they came. It’s a good, good feeling.

Q: You took a leap trying the Cabaret?

A: I wanted something more in my life. It was very peaceful once I decided to do it.

Seamus Kenney, a 1993 Albion graduate, returned home for the Christmas holiday and also put on a concert in December at the Cabaret. Kenney, a professional musician, lives in Durham, North Carolina. For a decade he traveled and performed with the band SNMNMNM.

Q: Can you talk about the new variety show?

A: Gary (Simboli) will open with an original jingle that he did lyrics and orchestration for. Gloria (Lear) is kind of like the Ed McMahon on the Tonight Show to me. She is there to help my transitions run smoothly. Gloria is really funny. The three of us with Gary included have a really good chemistry. We’ll do a little comedy, the three of us, with what’s going on in real life.

We have skits involving the community. I’ve got a hilarious skit that Gary can hardly play the music through because he gets too hysterical. That’s with Jill Albertson, Mary Dunham, Sandra Monacelli McNall, Danny Monacelli, June Schuck and David Sidari.

Later on in the evening Jim Babcock comes out, but you won’t recognize him. He closes my show.

We have a special guest appearance with Marcy Downey, and it’s something that’s on her bucket list. She’s always wanted to do a dance with me, and I’ve always wanted to sing with her. We’re doing a little trade-off and it’s pretty funny.

We’ll have comedy skits with Kyle and Gina (Sidari’s children). I told Mr. Simboli don’t be shy this time and hide behind the piano when you sing your solo. It’s center stage, spotlight on Gary and I want to hear something deep from your soul.

The Reverend Mother kept a crowd in stitches last August at the Cabaret at Studio B. Phyl Contestable is the comedian. She passed out buttons that said, “JESUS LOVES YOU, but I’m his favorite.”

There will be audience participation. If you’re in the audience you don’t know what your job may be. You may be on that stage helping me do something pretty funny. It will be good and I’ll try to feel them out ahead of time so I don’t traumatize them.

We’re going to go back to old-fashioned live commercials and Brown’s Berry Patch is my first business. We’re going to interview each business that presents with us and to see what’s new in their business.

We have a ventriloquist act, a special visitor or a character from the Laugh-In Show. We’ll share some family secrets and take questions from the audience.

A: All in 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Q: It will be a brisk pace, but with enough time to laugh until you can’t control yourself. I want my audience, my community actively engaged in it. I want them to send me videos of their talents. I want to pull in people with different acts and varieties.

My future plan is I would like this to go all year. I feel more than anything it’s time to have a joy in laughter.

(Reservations are required and may be obtained by calling Ticket Team 585-354-2320.)

Medina, Albion marching bands get high scores at Seneca Falls

Photos courtesy of Medina Marching Band: The Medina Marching Band was named grand champion in the senior high division of the parade competition Saturday in Seneca Falls.

Staff Reports Posted 20 May 2019 at 8:05 am

SENECA FALLS – The Seneca Falls school district hosted its 47th Annual Pageant of Bands on Friday and Saturday with 14 schools performing in competition in a variety of events. The weather was excellent and many people from Albion and Medina came out to see the parade as the schools put on their best shows.

In High School Jazz Medina took 1st place with a score of 97.5, followed by Solvay in 2nd with 97 and Albion in 3rd with 91.

In Junior High Jazz, Medina took second place. Solvay was 1st and Mexico came in 3rd.

In High School Concert Band, Medina took 1st place as well as the top score in Twirling with 90.5.  The Medina Colorguard came in 2nd with 89.6 and was bested by Corning Painted Post.

Medina entered the Stand Still Percussion and won 1st place with 97.5.

The Medina Colorguard earned a second place at Seneca Falls.

There were 10 schools that entered parade competition in 7 different classifications. Albion earned a score of 89 in its first show of the season.

Outstanding Jazz Musician in the Senior High class went to Sophia Cardone for piano. Mexico won the Class Champions in the Jr. High B Division. Medina won the Class Champions in the Sr. High Division.

Grand Champions for Jr. High went to Mexico and Grand Champions in the Sr. High Division went to Medina.

Medina will perform in the Memorial Day parade at 11 a.m. on May 27 and will enter its final competition May 31 and June 1 in Sherborne, NY.

The Albion marching band will be in the Memorial Day parade at 10 a.m.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Kiebala: Arella Ives, an Albion drum major, leads the band in the parade on Saturday.

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Lyndonville Canning Company pioneered applesauce production

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 4 May 2019 at 8:32 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 18

LYNDONVILLE – Taken some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s, this image shows thousands of bushels of apples piled outside of the Lyndonville Canning Company. Yates farmers established a cooperative canning company in 1916, which was then purchased by Theodore and Frank Visscher in 1917. The Visschers marketed their products under the “V.B.” label, which stood for “Visscher Brothers.”

In the early 1920s, the Visscher Brothers advertised the sale of Cumulative Preferred Stock at a cost of $100 per share; the annual dividends of seven percent were paid to owners on a quarterly basis. Shortly after, William A. Smith and Wilson McCagg purchased 50 percent of the business and the two men began to gradually shift production from a variety of vegetables to apples.

The Visschers previously manufactured applesauce in large batches using copper kettles, producing as many as 24,000 cases of applesauce in 1924. Smith brought with him an interest in innovating and improving that production process, inventing a method for continuously cooking the apples to improve uniformity and quality. In 1930, Frank Visscher died and the business passed to Smith and McCagg. During the 1930s, Smith would file at least three patents for cooking apparatus used in the manufacturing of applesauce; an apparatus for preparing food substances (1935), a method and apparatus for refining fruit sauces (1935), and an apparatus for making fruit products (1939).

According to Smith’s sons, George and Clayton Smith, their father was a pioneer in the applesauce industry, largely due to his invention of the above listed apparatus. By the 1950s, other manufacturers were utilizing these machines to continuously cook down their product. The company remained under local ownership until 1979 when it was sold to Pillsbury.

Around 1929 or 1930, William Smith constructed a large applesauce can at the intersection of Rt. 63 and Rt. 104 on the south side of the road. A replica of the Very Best brand applesauce, travelers could stop for a sampling of the locally known product.

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April begins with National Public Health Week

Posted 1 April 2019 at 2:20 pm

Health Education Team for Genesee & Orleans Counties

The first week of April is National Public Health Week, a week set aside showing us how we can choose healthier living.  National Public Health Week started in April of 1995 by the American Public Health Association with a focus on Public Health prevention topics. This years’ theme is, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: For science. For action. For Health.”

The topics for each day are:

• Monday, April 1st – Healthy Communities: People’s health, longevity and well-being are connected to their communities. Americans face many issues in their community such as being exposed to air pollution, lead, and even unsafe places to walk. Working with transportation planners to create safe walking and biking paths and organizing clinics for vaccines such as flu shots are all steps that can be taken to benefit people in the community and prevent preventable deaths. By making health a priority in policymaking we can help make a difference in communities.

• Tuesday, April 2nd – Violence Prevention: Violence is a significant public health problem in the United States, whether it is gun-related, rape, domestic abuse, suicide, or even child abuse. As public health professionals, it is part of our job to prevent acts of violence. This can be done through urging policy makers to inforce stricter gun laws, working with local colleges to help victims of sexual violence, and enforcing home-visits to prevent child maltreatment. It is important to advocate community-driven solutions that target the source of where the violence is coming from that do not punish the community as a whole.

• Wednesday, April 3rd – Rural Health: Americans who live in rural communities have an increased risk of death from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory disease. There has also been a higher rate of suicide and opioid overdoses shown in rural communities. To improve rural community’s health it is important that we focus on social determinants that negatively impact health. By offering telemedicine, increasing job training opportunities and helping children achieve success academically; we can help improve the health of those living in rural populations.

• Thursday, April 4th – Technology and Public Health: Technology can be a powerful public health tool. It can be used to help educate and advocate communities, can help practitioners swap their best practices, can be used for GIS mapping, and can even be used as a text line to find out information about certain health topics. It is important that public health funding levels continue to be supported to allow workers to have access to the latest technology.

• Friday, April 5th – Climate Change: Climate change is seen as one of the greatest threats to public health. It can lead to natural disasters, impact food security, water and air quality, and even increase the risk of vector-borne diseases. Climate change is a real issue that has already begun to occur. Supporting policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, carpooling, and steering toward renewable, clean energies instead of fossil fuels can help make a difference in climate change and our health.

• Saturday and Sunday, April 6th & 7th – Global Health: America’s health and the world’s health are fundamentally connected. Consider that during the H1N1 flu pandemic, the virus quickly traveled around the world and a global effort was required to track its movements and eventually contain the disease. Across the world, communities still struggle with preventable and often-neglected diseases. The World Health Organization’s top 10 threats to global health include: pandemic flu, cholera, violent conflict, malaria, malnutrition and natural disasters.

Public Health covers a wide variety of topic areas. According to the WHO, public health refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole. Its activities aim to provide conditions in which people can be healthy and focus on entire populations, not on individual patients or diseases. It is important to remember that most of public health is prevention!

“As you can see, public health isn’t just about being physically healthy,” stated Paul Pettit, Genesee and Orleans County Public Health Director. “It includes the health of the whole body and mind, as well as community resiliency, and the safety of the environment we live, work and play in.  The Health Departments’ are moving into the role of Chief Health Strategists, we want to embrace and encourage our communities to work with us to create new and innovative ways to improve health, so please reach out.”

The benefits of prevention are undeniable. For example, public health is credited with adding 25 years to life expectancy of people in the United States. “Promoting public health in community development, local businesses and through community events will help us move toward being the healthiest counties in New York State,” stated Dr. Gregory Collins, Commissioner of Wyoming County Public Health.

What can you do throughout the year to encourage better health in your home, neighborhood, work place and county?

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Lyndonville debuts new baby grand piano

Provided photos: Mr. John Bailey, Mrs. Jennifer Trupo, and Mrs. Kristina Best perform a six-handed arrangement of Aram Khachaturian's "Saber Dance" during the "Music in our Schools" Prism concert at Lyndonville Central School last Tuesday.  The special performance inaugurated a new Yamaha baby grand piano purchased by the district and two community organizations: the Lyndonville Music Boosters and the Lyndonville Area Foundation.

Posted 1 April 2019 at 10:26 am

Courtesy of Lyndonville Music Boosters

LYNDONVILLE – March is recognized nationally as “Music In Our Schools” month.  In recognition of this, the Lyndonville Music Department hosts an annual “Prism” concert showcasing its top musical talent through a variety of small ensemble performances. Only select musicians are invited to participate from grades 5-12.  The concert is fast paced, with one performance beginning as soon as another ends, featuring both instrumental and vocal groups.  It is normally a solid 1 ½ to 2 hours of fantastic music with no interruption, however last Tuesday night was an exception.

Tamara Huzair, a senior at LCS who intends to pursue a career in music, took to the microphone half way through the concert.

“As a special part of tonight’s concert, we are unveiling the new baby grand piano you see before you,” Tamara told the audience.

With joint financial support from the Lyndonville Music Boosters, Lyndonville Central School and the Lyndonville Area Foundation, the funds were secured for this instrument. This piano truly represents all the hard work, dedication and collaboration from every facet of the community that helps create the wonderful music program we have here, Tamara said.

She then introduced music teachers John Bailey, Jennifer Trupo and Kristina Best who performed a six-handed arrangement of Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.” Tamara joked that the teachers wanted to “show you as many keys as possible at the same time.” Lyndonville Music Boosters president Michelle Dillenbeck said, “the performance was the perfect way to christen the new piano… the audience loved it.”

Click here to see a video of the teachers playing “Sabre Dance.”

Pictured with the new piano include from left: Jennifer Neroni-Trupo, vocal music instructor; John Bailey, elementary instrumental instructor; Darren Wilson and Rita Wolfe, President and Vice President of the Lyndonville Area Foundation; Jason Smith, Superintendent of Lyndonville Central School; Tamara Huzair, senior music student; Patrick Whipple, Vice President of the Lyndonville Music Boosters; and Kristina Best, high school instrumental instructor.

Dillenbeck, while helping to set up for a Christmas concert last December, joked with elementary instrumental instructor John Bailey that the piano currently used in performances was showing significant signs of wear and age.

Darren Wilson, president of the Lyndonville Area Foundation who attended the concert that night, also mentioned that the piano had perhaps reached the end of its useful life. Ironically, late that evening, after the concert had concluded, vocal music instructor Jennifer Trupo noticed an important post on Facebook.

“Tom Miller of Miller Piano Service posted some photos on Facebook of this beautiful Yamaha piano for a great price,” Trupo said. “There was immediately interest from other potential buyers, so I knew we had to jump at it right away before it was purchased by somebody else!” The next day, Music Boosters officers set out to acquire the instrument. They immediately approved a non-refundable down payment, and sought to partner with other organizations to secure full funding before the deadline to purchase passed. They applied for a grant from the Lyndonville Area Foundation, and asked for a matching donation from the district. Thankfully, both the district and Foundation jumped at the opportunity to be involved, and the piano was purchased with equal contributions from all.

The Lyndonville high school jazz band, directed by Kristina Best, was the final performance of this year’s “Music In Our Schools” PRISM concert which involved vocal and instrumental music students in grades 5-12.

“The District was honored to partner with the Lyndonville Music Boosters and Lyndonville Area Foundation to provide this beautiful piano to enhance our already outstanding music program,” said Superintendent Jason Smith. “Every year our concerts are a major event in the community, and this piano will be enjoyed and appreciated for generations!”

Wilson expressed similar sentiments. “The Foundation recognizes the central role that Lyndonville Central School occupies within the community. The Foundation also recognizes that, like many other communities, overall funding for arts and music programs has been diminishing, requiring greater outside support for their continuation. As the school and the Music Boosters stepped up to provide a major portion of the purchase price of the new piano – a much-needed, long overdue but expensive asset to the school’s music department – the Foundation’s Board of Directors were unanimous in their decision to contribute the remaining amount needed for the piano’s purchase. The piano will be a centerpiece for the music department for many years to come. The instrument’s longevity was a contributing factor in the Foundation’s decision to assist in its funding.”

All three organizations hope that the procurement of this beautiful piano will increase the quality of events they host in the future. The Boosters and district are excited to show off the piano for the whole county next year as they host one of the two high school All-County music festivals scheduled.

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Business with vintage goods to open in downtown Albion

Photos by Tom Rivers: Laura Kemler on Saturday will celebrate the grand opening of Laura Loxley, a business at 45 North Main St., Albion. She makes baskets out of tie-dyed cotton ropes.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 February 2019 at 3:51 pm

‘I have an absolute fascination for when things were made with quality and love.’ – Laura Kemler, owner of Laura Loxley

ALBION – A business that has grown too big for an Albion woman’s home will celebrate its grand opening Saturday at a downtown storefront.

Laura Kemler is owner of Laura Loxley. She makes vintage style baskets and other gift items.

The past three months Kemler and her husband Kevin have worked on the storefront at 45 North Main St. They wanted to create a space with a 1930s-’40s theme.

Mrs. Kemler wants her shop to take people back to an era when products weren’t mass produced.

“I have an absolute fascination for when things were made with quality and love,” Kemler said today at her business.

This basket was made in pink with a theme of breast cancer awareness.

She will open the doors to the public at 10 a.m. on Saturday. That day she is one of the host sites for the Sip & Stroll by the Albion Merchants Association. Laura Loxleys will host Circle B Winery from Elba.

Kemler didn’t plan to run a business creating rope baskets and vintage goods. She was teaching an art class over a summer a few years ago at Forrestel Farm in Medina. She dabbled with tie-dye and fabric manipulation. Kemler wanted to do more than the typical tie-dyed T-shirts for the students.

She started experimenting with different fabrics. She found she enjoyed tie-dying cotton ropes, and turning them into colorful baskets.

The baskets have proven popular to store envelopes and stationary. Kemler makes them in a variety of colors and themes. She turned it into a business about three years ago and made the products out of her home, selling most of them online through Etsy.

Kemler also makes magnets. This one has an anchor that she tried to make look like it had been submerged for years in a lake. These magnets are mostly made of egg shells.

Her baskets were featured in a national magazine in October, the 45th anniversary issue of Old House Journal. The magazine did a spread on “clever” American-made items used for storage. That writeup gave her business a boost.

Kemler named her business, Laura Loxley, because she likes the English-sounding name of Loxley. She has visited the country several times.

Kemler believes Albion’s downtown is headed in the right director. Her friend Tara Thom opened a quilt business, Town and Country Quilter, on East Bank Street in October 2017. Earlier this month Kylie Hughson opened Adara Fashion at 101 North Main St.

Kemler also thinks her business will benefit by its location next to the 39 Problems restaurant, which opened last year.

She would like to see more awnings and projecting signs in the downtown. She is a fan of the show, Small Business Revolution, which highlights flourishing small towns. She thinks Albion could be one of those towns with a business district full of energy and entrepreneurs.

“As more shops open Albion will start to flourish again,” she said. “The shops will create a destination, but we need to keep the ball rolling.”

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NY to close 3 prisons due to fewer inmates, drop in crime

Posted 15 February 2019 at 4:20 pm

‘These new closures are another step toward reversing the era of mass incarceration and recognizing that there are more effective alternatives to lengthy imprisonment.’ – Gov. Cuomo

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced plans to close up to three correctional facilities following record reductions in the state’s incarcerated population and reported crime.

Specifically, under legislation introduced as a budget amendment, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision will select the prisons, transition staff and incarcerated individuals, and cease facility operations by no later than Sept. 1, 2019. This decisive action is proof positive that the governor’s smart and fair criminal justice reforms are working to reduce reliance on mass incarceration and improve the rehabilitation of the individuals who are involved in the justice system.

“In my first State of the State address eight years ago, I said prisons are not a jobs program,” Cuomo said. “Since then, I am proud to have closed more prisons than any governor in history and at the same time proved that New York can remain the safest large state in the nation. But we must do more. These new closures are another step toward reversing the era of mass incarceration and recognizing that there are more effective alternatives to lengthy imprisonment.

Since Governor Cuomo took office in 2011, the prison population has declined by nearly 10,000 – a 16.7% reduction – from 56,419 to 46,973 people, as of today. In fact, the current population is at its lowest level in 30 years and leads the nation with the lowest imprisonment rate of any large state.

From its peak of 72,649 twenty years ago, the population has decreased by more than 25,000 people – a 35.3% reduction. As the number of people involved in the criminal justice system plummeted during his administration, Governor Cuomo has taken aggressive action to right-size the correctional and juvenile justice system, closing 24 prisons and juvenile detention centers, more than any governor in state history. These prison closures eliminated over 5,500 beds resulting in an annual savings of approximately $162 million. This restructuring was recommended by the Governor’s Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission.

New York’s reduction in prison population has coincided with significant decreases in reported crime, including both violent and property offenses. In 2017, reported crime reached an all-time low since statewide reporting began in 1975. Preliminary data for 2018 shows that crime continued to decline for the sixth consecutive year and will mark yet another historic low. Over the past decade, the state’s crime rate has declined by nearly 25 percent due to the precipitous decline in crime and increase in number of residents. This has cemented New York’s position as the safest large state in the nation.

Now, the shrinking population of individuals in state custody and plunging crime rate have resulted in the need for fewer correctional facilities. At the Governor’s direction, DOCCS will carefully review the operations at its 54 correctional facilities and select up to three for closure based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to physical infrastructure, program offerings, facility security level, specialized medical and mental care, and potential reuse.

The closure plan will not anticipate staff layoffs and will provide impacted DOCCS employees with opportunities to transition to other facilities or positions. In prior facility closures, more than 96 percent of staff have chosen to continue state service, retire, or pursue other opportunities. While it is ultimately dependent on the exact facilities, the closures are estimated to eliminate at least 1,200 beds and result in an annual savings of at least $35 million. The budget amendment provides the Department with the authority to close the prisons on an expedited schedule.

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Meals on Wheels provides important service throughout the year for local senior citizens

Photos courtesy of the Arc of Genesee Orleans: Volunteer Bob Burtwell of Lyndonville carries meals to the door of a 98-year-old Meals on Wheels recipient in Albion.

Posted 21 December 2018 at 7:06 pm

Press Release, Arc of Genesee Orleans

Vicki Havholm, Arc’s Meals on Wheels director, shows Arc employee Leah Knab emergency dinner kits that were distributed to seniors for use if a snowstorm prevents meal delivery.

ALBION – There is nothing “virtual” about hunger. Volunteers and staff at the Meals on Wheels program in Orleans County know that nothing solves hunger among seniors like an in-person visit with a hot meal. To visit the elderly isolated by many country miles during the holidays, and sometimes snowy roads, shows the dedication these volunteers offer.

Bob Burtwell of Lyndonville is one of six volunteers who picks up coolers of hot food from the Arc of Genesee Orleans’ Meals on Wheels headquarters in Albion several days a week. Driving his own car, he stops at the homes of local seniors who are unable to get groceries or cook for themselves.

Burtwell is nothing short of a lifeline to these community members, who may also have medical problems. After passing background checks, volunteer drivers are trained to provide daily safety and wellness checks for seniors, especially those living alone. If seniors are having unusual difficulties, the volunteer will seek help. The program welcomes new volunteers.

After volunteering for over a year, Burtwell has gotten to know the seniors on his routes. After a knock at the door, he is greeted warmly by a 98 year-old woman who places her meals directly on her walker. When asked, she says she’s doing well and offers wishes for a happy holiday.

At another home, a man in his 60s recovering from an illness asks Burtwell to come in. Burtwell is asked to place the meals directly in the refrigerator for later.

This year, the Orleans Meals on Wheels program provided 31,857 meals by November, similar to previous years. The program is funded by the Orleans Office for the Aging, the United Way of Orleans County, and the Arc of Genesee Orleans. The program provides a hot noon meal and a cold bagged supper Monday through Friday, as well as freezer meals for weekends and holidays if desired.

The program operates 10 routes across Orleans County, and serves meals at its dining sites at Academy Street in Albion and in Kendall. Senior citizens with health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease may find it especially difficult to obtain and/or prepare food that meets their dietary restrictions.

Volunteer Mike Groden leaves the Meals on Wheels headquarters in Albion with hot food for the Kendall community dining site.

The program offers both no salt added and reduced sugar meal options. Nutritional counseling is provided by the registered dietician from the Orleans Office for the Aging at no charge to seniors, and makes referrals to appropriate service agencies.

The elderly face a variety of challenges in meeting their nutritional needs. Factors include lack of transportation to grocery shopping or dining, disabilities, dental/chewing problems, memory loss, reduced appetite, inability to prepare food, dependence on junk foods, and income. Despite the challenges, it is generally preferable for individuals over age 60 to continue living independently in their own homes.

For information about receiving Meals on Wheels in Orleans County, or to volunteer, contact the Arc at (585) 589-7817 or vhavholm@arcoforleans.org. Donations may be sent to Arc of Genesee Orleans, 64 Walnut St., Batavia, NY 14020 or through www.arcgo.org/ at the “donate” tab.

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$17 million rehab of old Holley school gets lots of praise from officials

Photos by Tom Rivers: Many Holley residents, local officials, developers and state agency leaders gathered on the front steps of the former Holley High School for a photo this afternoon during a “Preservation Celebration” for the school, which will be turned into 41 apartments for senior citizens and the Village of Holley offices.

Posted 11 December 2018 at 6:14 pm

Press Release, New York State Homes and Community Renewal

HOLLEY – New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas today announced the start of construction on a $17 million rehabilitation of the historic former Holley High School in the Village of Holley. When complete, Holley Gardens will include 41 affordable homes for seniors and public meeting space and offices for use by the Village of Holley.

The historic Holley High School, located at the intersection of Wright and Main Streets, is a three-story brick building originally constructed in 1931 in the Neo-Classical architectural style. The building served as the community’s high school into the mid-1970s but has been abandoned for many years. Due to its design, prominent location in the Village’s historic district and its severely deteriorating condition the building was named one of the Landmark Society of Western New York’s inaugural 2012 “Five to Revive” priorities.

The newly rehabilitated building will include 41 residential apartments for low- and moderate-income seniors 55 and up. Seven of the apartments will be available for households where at least one member is a person with a physical disability who will have access to supportive services through the Orleans County Office of Aging.

The school is in the heart of the community, at the intersection of routes 31 and 237.

The existing auditorium will be renovated for commercial use by the Village of Holley, preserving the existing stage and seating to provide a staging area for board meetings and public forum and the area beneath the balcony will be fitted to house the administrative offices.

Building amenities include a community room, on site management, Energy Star appliances, air conditioning, laundry facilities and computer lab, along with outdoor space. Located in the heart of the Village’s downtown, Holley Gardens is within walking distance to the library, restaurants, churches, bank, hair salon and pharmacy. The developer is Home Leasing in partnership with Edgemere Development.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s financing for Holley Gardens includes federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits that will generate a total of $6.8 million in equity for the project, a $1 million Rural and Urban Community Investment Fund award, and an additional $3.1 million in subsidy. Additional financing includes nearly $6.4 million in Federal and State Historic Tax Credits and a Restore NY grant from Empire State Development.

Hom Leasing has started construction on the former school. Construction is expected to be complete in about a year.

The State’s commitment to providing all New Yorkers with access to safe, affordable housing is reflected in the state’s unprecedented $20 billion, five-year Housing Plan. The plan makes housing accessible and combats homelessness by building and preserving more than 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 of supportive housing. The plan is a comprehensive approach to statewide housing issues and includes multifamily and single-family housing, community development, and rent stabilization. Since 2011, HCR has invested $442 million in the Finger Lakes region that has created affordable housing for about 14,650 residents.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said, “The redevelopment and restoration of the beloved high school building has long been a priority for the Holley community, and we have worked together tirelessly to give new life to this building.  At last, this vacant yet historic structure will receive the restoration it has long deserved – as the home to new senior housing and village office space.  It will breathe new life into the Holley community.”

Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “The Holley Gardens project is another great example of how Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits are bringing new life to underutilized buildings in Upstate New York. Investing in historic structures helps lift local economies, encourage sustainable neighborhoods and preserves the heritage of our communities.”

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Transformative projects like Holley Gardens are at the heart of the Restore NY Communities Initiative, supporting redevelopment efforts that revitalize communities and generate new economic growth.”

Senator Robert Ortt said, “Renovating historic buildings into new and functional facilities can inject new life into a community. By revitalizing what was once a deteriorating building, we are preserving a piece of Holley history while also ensuring the character of this local landmark is not forgotten. I am also thrilled that this facility will help provide those with physical disabilities a place to live safely and have access to necessary supportive services.”

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley said, “I am excited to see the construction of Holley Gardens underway and am confident that its affordable housing, office space, revitalized auditorium and other great amenities will be of great benefit to government employees and local residents. Investment in and transformation of previously unused infrastructure proves that Western New York is on the rise and I look forward to continuing to work with officials in the legislature and executive to bring attention and resources to similar local projects with great potential.

Lynne M. Johnson, Chairman of the Orleans County Legislature, said, “It’s a pleasure after all these years to see this very important building in the Village of Holley undergoing a badly needed transformation.  By leveraging public and private partnership across all levels of government, this building will finally see the investment needed to put it back into productive use.”

Nelson Leenhouts, Chairman & CEO of Home Leasing, said strong community support from Holley, and work from local, county, state and federal officials were critical in the project.

John DeFilipps, Orleans County Legislator – At Large East, said, “It’s projects like this that revitalize our communities, create more access and grow our local economy. Holley Gardens shows what we can achieve when we work together. I want to express my gratitude to the many partners who have worked together to make this project a reality.”

Village of Holley Mayor Brian Sorochty said, “On behalf of the Village of Holley we are so thankful for all of the hard work, dedication, and cooperation that has gone into making this project a reality. For over 3 years the Village has worked with Home Leasing and Edgemere Development as well as all levels of our government and a variety of funding agencies to bring this endeavor to this point. Most importantly, the adaptive re-use of this historic structure will preserve its rich history while providing affordable, accessible housing for seniors as well as an updated and handicap accessible office space and meeting room for the Village of Holley. Thank you to everyone for their support and efforts!”

Nelson Leenhouts, Chairman & CEO of Home Leasing, said, “We are excited to get started on the rehabilitation of Holley Gardens which will provide 41 affordable homes to seniors in the Village of Holley. We are grateful to New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the Village of Holley, and all the partners we have in this project for their commitment and dedication to making this project a reality.”

Charlie Oster, VP of Real Estate Development, Edgemere Development, said, “Edgemere Development has worked for many years to bring about this critical project. We wish to thank our partner Home Leasing, the Village of Holley and countless supporters at the local, state and federal levels for their unwavering commitment. Holley Gardens represents the very best of what is possible through public and private partnership.”

About Home Leasing

Rochester-based Home Leasing specializes in the development, construction and management of high-quality apartment communities. Founded in 2006 by veteran real estate developer and former co-CEO and co-Chairman of Home Properties Nelson Leenhouts, the company is owned and operated by three generations of the Leenhouts Family.  Home Leasing today employs over 120 people who provide support to or are directly involved in the day-to-day operations of affordable, mixed-income and market rate residential communities across New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

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Group raises $1,100 for at-risk children with exercise challenge at YMCA

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Will King, a personal trainer and owner of Studio Fit on Main Street in Medina, joins the action at a fundraiser called Burpees 4 Gifts he organized Saturday at the YMCA in Medina to benefit underprivileged children.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 9 December 2018 at 9:01 pm

Rita Zambito of Medina, front, joined a handful of exercise buffs Saturday at the YMCA to do burpees for money to provide Christmas for underprivileged children. At rear are Mike Zambito, Teresa Wilkins, and Lindsay Eaton.

MEDINA – A personal trainer in Medina found a unique way to turn muscles into money to help at-risk and underprivileged children have a happy Christmas.

On Saturday morning at the YMCA, Will King, who recently opened Studio Fit on Main Street, sponsored a fundraiser called Burpees 4 Gifts, in which he challenged anyone to come and do burpees for 30 minutes.

For those who aren’t familiar with a burpee, it is an exercise used in strength training which combines a squat, push-up and thrust (or jump-up).

King wanted to do something to help those less fortunate and chose to donate to New Directions Family Services in Lockport, an agency which helps at-risk and foster children in Orleans, Niagara, Monroe and Genesee counties. He formerly worked there and knows the need which exists, he said.

When King approached the YMCA, director Gred Reed offered to let King have use of a fitness room for the event, in which those participating got sponsors and then did burpees for 30 minutes.

One of those was Sandra Baxter of Albion, who thought the event was pretty exciting.

“I like to exercise and have done it for years, so I joined Studio Fit as soon as he opened,” Baxter said. “And I enjoy doing things to help others.”

Participants jumped and moved to a variety of holiday tunes, including “Jingle Bell Rock” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” taking an occasional break to catch their breath before starting a new round.

Several, including Kelly Moriarty and Vanessa King did 60 burpees before taking a short rest.

Among a dozen supporters who participated in Burpees 4 Gifts Saturday morning at the YMCA are, from left, Mike Zambito, Megan King, Rita Zambito, Teresa Wilkins (partly hidden), Kelly Moriarty, Lindsay Eaton, Vanessa King, David King, Fredericka King and Sandra Baxter.

At the end of the 30 minutes, the group had completed a combined 2,753 burpees and raised $1,100 in donations.

The object of the event wasn’t to be a fitness challenge, but a way to do something enjoyable for a good cause.

Rita Zambito, owner of Zambito Realty, trains with King and wanted to show her support, she said.

Anyone may still make a donation to the cause by sending or bringing a check for New Directions Family Services to Will King at his studio, 525 Main St., upstairs, from 5 a.m. to noon and 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Since I had such a great turnout and support from local businesses and the community, I have plans to do this fundraiser again as an annual event,” King said.

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Lyndonville Elementary School, PTSA recognized as a School of Excellence

Posted 2 November 2018 at 7:53 pm

Press Release and photos, Lyndonville Central School

LYNDONVILLE – National PTA has recognized Lyndonville Elementary School and Lyndonville Centralized PTSA as a 2018-2020 School of Excellence for their commitment to building an inclusive and welcoming school community where all families contribute to enriching the educational experience and overall well-being for all students.

“Research shows that when families and schools work together, students do better in school and schools improve,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “Lyndonville Elementary School and Lyndonville Centralized PTSA have worked hard to strengthen their family-school partnership and create an environment where all families feel welcomed and empowered to support student success. We are pleased to recognize them as a National PTA School of Excellence.”

National PTA’s School of Excellence program helps PTAs become partners in identifying and implementing school improvement initiatives based on PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Schools that exhibit improvement at the end of the school year are honored as a National PTA School of Excellence, a distinction that spans two years.

Lyndonville Elementary School and Lyndonville Centralized PTSA are one of only 278 PTAs and schools nationwide recognized as a 2018-2020 School of Excellence.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our families and the community,” said Dr. Elissa Smith, PreK-6 principal at Lyndonville. “I am truly thankful for the collaboration between our PTSA and our school. We are very fortunate that we have so many involved families, staff members and community members.”

With the help of staff and parent support, Lyndonville Elementary School hosted a February Boost and nearly 100 students attended school on the Wednesday over February Break. Staff members worked with students on a variety of hands on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) based projects.

Through the Lyndonville PTSA, we began a Watch DOGS program at school, which is designed to increase positive male role models at school. Mr. Vern Fonda, Lyndonville Centralized PTSA President, was instrumental in getting this program up and running, helping the PTSA to host Donuts With Dads and Pizza Party events to get male volunteers to take an active role at school.

Extra-curricular activities were also increased at Lyndonville Elementary last school year, through the support of our PTSA, community and staff.  The elementary school showcased a K-2 mini-musical, 3rd & 4th grade chorus, soccer club, Minecraft Club, Taekwondo Club, 4H, storytelling and extended ages for After School Reading Program! Special thanks to Cornell Cooperative Extension, Yates Community Library, the Lyndonville United Methodist Church, OCALS and Kwandran’s Taekwondo for their help with these initiatives!

To celebrate their achievements, National PTA presented Lyndonville Elementary School and Lyndonville Centralized PTSA with a National PTA School of Excellence banner. For more information about the National PTA School of Excellence program, visit PTA.org/Excellence.

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Old Medina HS transformed by artists

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 October 2018 at 11:16 pm

Show with 29 artists continues on Sunday

MEDINA – The former Medina High School on Catherine Street has been transformed by artists for a special three-day show that continues on Sunday.

The high school is hosting 29 artists, including Virginia Melynk of Buffalo, shown with her creation using triangular shapes made out of spandex that utilize geometric patterns.

Melynk submitted a proposal to be part of the “PLAY/GROUND” initiative. Artists were given free rein to create in old classrooms, stairwells, hallways and other space in the school.

“It’s getting to engage in an old space and make something new out of it,” she said.

The opening night show on Friday attracted about 400 people, with many from Buffalo.

The show will be open for a final day on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10, and is free to children 12 and under.

Jonathan Casey gave the back entrance of the school a radical new look.

The gym showcases art and has stops for people to create their own artwork.

Michael Hungerford, regional director for Takeform Architectural Graphics in Medina, sits in the stairwell of the school near a large papier-mâché alligator, created by Bethany Krull.

Hungerford read about a similar project as PLAY/GROUND in a vacant warehouse in New York City. Hungerford knew the old Medina school would be vacant for several months this year. His uncle Roger Hungerford acquired it from Calvary Tabernacle Assembly of God Church and has plans to create apartments out of the school. First, Hungerford is working to renovate the former Bent’s Opera House on Main Street.

Michael pitched the idea of the art installations in the school and the Roger backed the project.

“It is so far beyond my expectations,” Michael Hungerford said. “The work is amazing.”

A closeup of the alligator created by Bethany Krull.

Hungerford said PLAY/GROUND introduced many people to Medina who had never seen the community before, including many of the artists. They had a very positive reaction to Medina.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing the response to Medina, even from the artists who like it,” Hungerford said. “They see cheaper property, which appeals to them because many artists are on a limited budget. This project has planted a seed to get people to Medina, and to the younger people here to see that something like this exists.”

Kyla Kegler of Buffalo created “Thin Space.” She welcomes people to get in the space with the balloons.

Some of the art visitors today get a close look of the exhibit created by Nando Alvarez Perez of Buffalo, who is from Oakland. His artwork is his vision of an ideal classroom setup, with lots of color on the walls, beanbags to sit on and reading nooks.

Kyle Butler of Buffalo created this apparatus for animations. He moves the squares around to create different images. The Michigan native welcomed the chance to create artwork without the pressure of sales.

“Everybody gets a classroom,” he said. “It’s a rare artistic opportunity.”

Colleen Toledano made this piece with pink foam, which proved popular for photos.

Amanda Browder first created “Spectral Locus” for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in 2016, when large colorful fabric was draped on three buildings in Buffalo. The “Spectral Locus” is in the auditorium of the former school.

Bethany Krull made this hand-built porcelain creation she calls, “Your Very Own Mythical Creature.” It is in the hallway of the former school.

The plain white walls in the hallways are no longer.

Even the stairways were given a new vibe by the artists.

Elizabeth Cooper of Medina also is a featured artist. She created angels doing acrobatic moves in one of the stairwells. Todd Belfield of Jeddo Mill Antiques assisted with the installation.

“It’s fabulous,” Cooper said. “Everybody has very interesting stories on how they got started.”

Cooper has the angels doing acrobatics. The rings are from barrel hoops. She is impressed with the variety of art work in the project.

“I feel like this is a spark for something very interesting happening in Medina,” Cooper said.

For more on PLAY/GROUND, click here.

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Picnic connects veterans to services and to each other

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Two commanders of veterans’ agencies attended the Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Event and Picnic Saturday at Orleans County Fairgrounds. Here, Glenn Whitmore, left, commander of American Legion Post 204 in Medina, and Dan Anderson, right, commander of VFW Post 1483 in Medina, pose with Veterans’ Services director Earl Schmidt and his wife Cathy.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 7 October 2018 at 7:42 pm

KNOWLESVILLE – The Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Kick-off Event and Picnic was a resounding success and one which organizers hope will be the first of many such events.

Saturday at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds, dozens of veterans and their families showed up for the event, organized by Earl and Cathy Schmidt with grant money Mr. Schmidt applied for through State Sen. Rob Ortt.

Guests enjoyed lunch, popcorn, music by DJs Kenny and Bonnie Draper, and children’s activities.

The Niagara Falls Air Force Base provided a bounce house and children’s games.

Cathy Schmidt announced she is forming a group for veterans’ spouses and caregivers, which she calls “Clovers.” It stands for “caregivers, loved ones and spouses.”

Her goal is to organize a variety of activities for veterans’ spouses and caregivers, such as bowling, chocolate bingo, kayaking and excursions. She has already planned a bus excursion to a Sabres’ game.

The YMCA in Medina is also going to cooperate by giving 10 percent off the cost of membership to veterans.

Earl Schmidt, director of Orleans County Veterans’ Services, and his wife Cathy pose with Arianna Smith and her dad Brad Smith of Albion and Greg Stanton of Medina at the first Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Event and Picnic Saturday at the Orleans County Fairgrounds. Both Brad Smith and Stanton were Seabees. Smith was a Navy combat veteran in Iraq.

Greg Stanton of Medina said he heard about the picnic when talking to Earl Schmidt, director of the Veterans Service Agency in Orleans County, several months ago.

“So I came to see what’s going on,” Stanton said. “The whole idea is to gets vets in Orleans County connected with each other, and that’s pretty cool.”

He said it’s nice veterans are finally getting the accolades and appreciation they deserve.

Stanton is a Seabee who signed up for the military right out of high school. He served two and one-half years in active duty and two and one-half years in the Reserves and went to college on a VA loan.

“Just a few years ago, I found out I was eligible for health care,” he said. “I have nothing but praise for the VA in Batavia and Buffalo .”

Rachael Spearante of Albion, a volunteer with the American Legion Auxiliary, hands out informational pamphlets at the Peer-to-Peer Veterans’ picnic Saturday at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Earl Schmidt said he started the peer-to-peer program to provide a non-clinical approach for veterans and their families in Orleans County. The grant through Ortt’s office is for $52,500

Schmidt’s hope is to prevent any tragedy here such as the story of Pcf. Joseph P. Dwyer, for whom the Peer-to-Peer program is named. Dwyer was a North Carolina veteran who, after a year and a half of trying to navigate the system after his discharge, committed suicide.

“The system failed him,” Schmidt said. “We are brothers and sisters working together and I’ll be here as your liaison.”

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Albion students celebrate the past with Ghost Walk at Mount Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 October 2018 at 10:54 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Albion student Nia Rodriguez portrays Nehemiah Ingersoll (1788 – February 28, 1868), who played a major role in the development of Albion, donating land for the county courthouse and jail, and parceling out 100 acres of land in the downtown for development. He was one of about 15 interesting people from Albion’s past who were highlighted during a Ghost Walk on Saturday at Mount Albion Cemetery.

About 400 people attended the 10th annual Ghost Walk put on by high school students. There were nearly 70 students involved in the production.

Ryan Krenning is Hiram Curtis (April 1804 – May 17, 1871). He owned a foundry along the Erie Canal currently occupied by the Lake Country Pennysaver and Orleans Hub. Hiram manufactured agricultural implements including plows, cultivators and reapers. His company made 1,000 plows annually in a variety of patterns. The Erie Canal was a perfect place for his business allowing him to receive raw materials and ship finished product throughout the state and beyond.

Emma Tower portrays Jennie Curtis (1837 – October 23, 1921). She was the daughter of Hiram Curtis. Jennie was a spirited young woman who is considered to be the first female prisoner of the Civil War. She was thought to be a Yankee spy, but was eventually released and the charges were dropped.

In addition to portraying ghosts, students provided music at stops along the cemetery. Here students are shown singing, “Amazing Grace.” The trio includes, from left: Brie Haines, Lily Zambito and Alison Mathes.

Molly Wadhams portrays Laura Ward, wife of Judge Alexis Ward (1802 – November 28, 1854). Alexis Ward was Orleans County Judge from 1830-1840. He was instrumental in coordinating the Rochester-Lockport-Niagara Falls Railroad and the suspension bridge across Niagara Falls River. He was a supporter of public schools. In 1854 he was elected to the Assembly, representing Orleans County, but he died before he could take office.

Chase Froman impersonates Governor Rufus Bullock (1834- April 27, 1907). Bullock graduated from the old Albion Academy in 1850. His background in telegraphy helped him to invent a combination printing telegraph system that was used in many large cities. He moved to Augusta, Ga. and became assistant superintendent of the Adams Telegraph Company and formed the Southern Express Co. When the Civil War broke out, he worked with the Confederate Government and was in charge of the railroads and telegraph lines. After the war he helped organize the First National Bank of Georgia and the Republican Party. He was a key player at the Constitutional Convention and was unanimously nominated for governor. He was elected governor in 1868 and was instrumental in the reconstruction of Georgia with over 600 miles of new railroad built during his tenure.

Olivia Morrison represents Hannah Avery at the only “tabletop grave” at the historic Albion cemetery.

This year’s tour included the singing of a song by the late Albion Mayor Donna Rodden. Hannah Brewer sings Rodden’s song, “Top of the Tower,” at the Civil War Memorial.

Hannah Van Epps is Caroline Phipps Achilles (March 21, 1812 – January 26, 1881). Caroline taught in a log school house at Gaines Basin at the age of 14. She later taught in a classical school located at the Courthouse Square in Albion. She felt girls and boys should be taught separately and chose to teach girls. Her idea was very successful. She built a larger school to accommodate her students and in 1837 the Phipps Union Female Seminary opened its doors to girls from all over New York State.

Students also portrayed Elizabeth Harriet Denio, Judge Noah Davis, David Hardie, Judge Arad Thomas, Starr Chester, James Lewis and Emily Caroline Minton Pullman, and Elizabeth Josephine Vaile, MD.

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‘White Bronze’ markers provided alternative to traditional stone

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 8 September 2018 at 10:15 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 37

Photo by Matthew Ballard: The Amos & Rosamond Grinnell Lot is shown at Mt. Albion Cemetery.

ALBION – During tours of Mount Albion Cemetery, it is nearly impossible to visit a section of the cemetery that is void of at least one zinc marker. The “stones” themselves are a rather unique feature given their short-lived history, but the variety of sizes, shapes, and iconography provide visitors with a unique look into the beautiful art of cemetery monuments.

The photograph highlights a particular stone, belonging to Amos and Rosamond Whaley Grinnell, that stands near the front of the cemetery on Hawthorn Path and displays a stunning urn draped in a cloth that symbolizes the veil that separates Heaven and earth.

The Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut commenced the manufacture of these memorials in 1875. In addition to the company’s headquarters, subsidiaries opened in Des Moines, Detroit, and Chicago where the final stage of the manufacturing process was completed; all casting was performed in Connecticut.

It is important to note the use of the term “bronze” to describe these unique monuments. Although zinc was used to cast the memorials, the company understood the nature of marketing and thus affixed the name “white bronze” to the product in an effort to move more merchandise. The company boasted the use of 99% pure zinc that was rust, frost, and moisture resistant while preventing the growth of moss and requiring minimal cleaning. An artist in Bridgeport would fashion a wax model of the ordered monument and then use that model to produce a plaster mold. Molten zinc was then poured into these molds and allowed to set. On these larger stones, each side was crafted separately then fused together using zinc, which was stronger than soldering the joints.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of these monuments is the method in which they were sold. There were no showrooms or local dealers who provided samples of completed works. Instead, individuals received a visit from a salesman and sifted through the pages of the company catalog to select a monument style that appealed to them. If a potential customer wanted to see a physical example of a marker, they were encouraged to visit the local cemetery to look at examples. To place an order a customer would request an “order blank” through the mail, which provided space for illustrating the location of inscriptions and bas-relief emblems.

The white bronze monuments were marketed as more durable than their stone counterparts were and far more customizable. After installation, the markers developed their unique blue-gray appearance thanks to a sandblasting process that allowed for the formation of a layer of zinc oxide. On this particular monument are four tablets, one on each side, containing inscriptions and emblems. Visible in this photograph are tablets that show an ear of corn, representing the bounty of God, and the golden sheaf of wheat with sickle, representing the divine harvest. Each of these panels was attached with decorative screws that allowed the individual to remove and replace them upon the death of a loved one. In doing so, the monument always appeared complete and never displayed unfinished inscriptions.

Although the company marketed these monuments as superior to traditional stone memorials, the public failed to fully accept the product. Many failed to believe the claim that white bronze would outlast marble and granite and preferred the traditional appearance of stone. Perhaps it was the lack of the personal touch from a local businessman that limited the sale of these markers? Regardless of the reasons, production of white bronze monuments ended around 1912. Today we see that the claims made by the company held true, in many cases, holding their inscriptions far better than stone monuments. This particular memorial stands a large and beautiful example of the work produced by the Monumental Bronze Company.

On Saturday, September 15th, I will conduct two tours of Mount Albion Cemetery as part of the Orleans County Heritage Festival. The first tour, starting at 10 a.m., will take visitors to a number of stops located on the eastern end of the cemetery. The second tour, starting at 1 p.m., will take visitors around the western end of the cemetery. Each tour will last approximately 90 minutes and visit many sites not included in the August tours.

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