Editorial, July 6, 2018
Homer Osterhoudt, Citizen
A Life Of Service, Leadership,
Joy Is An Example To Us All
Interviewed as his 100th birthday last January, Homer Osterhoudt remained full of life and curiosity, enthusiastically reporting deer peering in the window of his Woodside Hall room most evenings.
His back, which had carried
Cooperstown’s mail on a 10-mile
route daily for many of his 34 years at the Cooperstown post office, had begun to bend, but he was as warm and pleasant as always, as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
While waiting for him to return to his room from lunch, his caregivers praised his courtesy and calm. He was uncomplaining as the inevitable approached, perhaps a testimony to his Baptist faith.
The inevitable arrived Saturday, June 30, and Homer Osterhoudt, one of Cooperstown’s first citizens – none were more beloved – made his final departure from the community that had been his home for a century.
Many knew of Homer through his connection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which goes back to the very beginning. At 19, he was running a cement mixer in front of the post office on Main Street for Bedford Construction of Utica. The cement he produced, he would remember fondly for the rest of his life, was used in every single part of the original building.
Then, he thought the Hall of Fame would be “a little museum on Main Street” – so did Stephen C. Clark, his granddaughter attested when she and Homer participated in a panel discussion in the Bullpen Theater during 75th anniversary commemorations. Both, it turned out, were wrong.
Still, Homer must have had an inkling of great things to come during the first Induction in 1939, when he photographed Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and other immortals in the first class. Those many photos are now in the Hall’s collection, a permanent memorial to a curious and lively mind.
Since, there have been 74 Inductions – during World War II, the practice lapsed 1940-34 – and Homer reported his was proud to have attended all but three. In recent years, what frequenter of Inductions doesn’t remember Homer, under his bucket hat, with a “I was here on June 12, 1939” sign around his neck.
His obituary on the front of this week’s edition further reminds us that his Induction record was just a small part of a small-town life well lived.
He maintained friendly relations for decades as a long-time member of the Cooperstown High School Alumni Association, serving as its president. He was, of course, eventually a Native Son – his birth, in Oneonta, forestalled that until he reached age 50 – serving as president of that signature community organization.
He was active in his church, locally and as vice president of the Otsego County Baptist Men’s Association; (one of the three Inductions he missed, he recalled, was to attend an annual state Baptist conference.)
He was more than a postal carrier, (although he credited the miles he walked daily, in part, for his long and, until and healthy life): A career-long member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, he once was president of the Southern Tier District.
All of these community and professional leadership roles underscore that Homer Osterhoudt lived a full life of service, leadership and caring.
That final quality was passed on through his and wife Marion’s only child. The care and attention son Darrell and his wife Priscilla devoted to tending the beloved man in recent years, frequently commuting back and forth from their home in Springfield, Va., was an example the rest of us can only hope to duplicate.
A life well-lived: What was Homer’s secret?
At his 100th birthday party Jan. 14 in the Baptist Church’s community room, Ina Phillips of Hartwick, who worked at a downtown law firm during Homer’s years delivering mail, recalled, “He always came down the street with a smile.”
Asked about his father’s cheerful outlook, son Darrell replied, “Maybe that’s his secret.”
It’s a secret we’d all do well to emulate. Meanwhile, we can only reflect in awe and appreciation on a happy life well lived.
Goodbye, friend to us all, and thank you.