News of Otsego County

This Week’s Newspapers

Lord’s Table Serves Up 800 Thanksgiving Meals


Lord’s Table, St. Mary’s

Serve Up 800 Meals

In a collaboration of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the Lord’s Table, 600 meals – turkey with all the trimmings – had already gone out the door for delivery by noon Thanksgiving Day, when curbside pickup began. Above, Volunteers Rosemary Collie and Keton Kling, both Oneontans, shuttles  bags of food to the Lord’s Table.  “We were averaging about 10 meals a minute.” said event overseer Mary Southern, seen at right advising Joyce Collier.  “This year people are in even more need and we are making sure they all have food This year we planned for 800 meals.” The only lull in the action came when the turkey ran out with a handful of dinners to go. Some volunteers offered up their own meals without hesitation. Others were dispatched to Hannaford and returned with enough turkey to complete the meals. “This is the first year we ever ran out of turkey!” said Southern, “But we will provide!” Volunteer driver Paul Patterson, his car filled with meals, rolled his window down on the way to deliver meals saying, “Mary did an amazing job. It was like clockwork. Henry Ford would have been proud!” (Ian Austin/

Chiropractors: Lose Weight, Build Wells

Oneonta Chiropractors:

Lose Weight, Build Wells

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Drs. Shirley and Joe Rufrano pack ingredients for their “Transform In 21” weight-loss program. Registration fees go to building wells in Cambodia. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA –  Drs. Joe and Shirley Rufrano know that you can’t take water for granted.

“In a pandemic, not only is fresh water crucial for drinking, but for washing your hands as well,” she said. “We’ve always been passionate about safe water projects. But now, even more so.”

The owners of Southside Chiropractic are hoping to raise $50,000 from their “Transform in 21” weight-loss event to donate to Samaritan’s Purse “Oasis of Hope” project, which builds village wells in Cambodia.

“We were first introduced to the greater need for fresh water about 10 years ago,” said Joe. “And we realized that the best thing we could do to help people in need like this is to raise the resources to build wells.”

In addition to drinking, cleaning and raising food, access to water also increases access to education and protects children from predators, Shirley said. “Many children spend all day traveling to get water and they can’t go to school,” she said. “And often, they’re traveling alone and they’re not being watched – the degree of trafficking among these children is insane.”

The “Oasis of Hope” drills community wells, linking all the households in the remote
villages. Last year, they drilled 40 such wells, reaching 34,700 people in 25 villages.

According to Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization, it costs $18,500 to drill and connect a well; $5,500 for the well, $5,500 for the pipes and $7,500 for the storage tank and stand.

This year, the Rufranos gave a $5,000 donation, and soon realized that they could give even more – and potentially save lives.

“The spread of COVID is so much worse there,” said Joe. “It just broke our hearts, but we have the ability to increase our own donation 10-fold.”

Though the Rufranos have previously offered the 21-day “Transform” weight-loss project at different times of the year, this year – their 21st year is 2021 – they have taken the program nationwide in hopes of bringing in more people – and registration fees, which go towards the $50,000 goal.

“COVID has been so stressful physically and emotionally,” said Shirley. “This will help people reset. When you feel physically better, you can handle emotional challenges a lot easier.”

Because “Transform in 21” will be held over Zoom, the Rufranos can bring in health practitioners from across the country. “Our event was recently featured in American Chiropractor magazine,” said Joe. “It’s starting to get some attention.”

The event will focus on diet, wellness, exercise and whole food supplements, as well as inspirational messaging. “We’re taking our usual program to a whole new level,” said Shirley. “Every day we’ll talk about a different topic, such as anxiety or body image, and we’ll have different speakers who will give a nugget of information to transform people emotionally, physically and financially.”

They will also have testimonials from previous participants. “The winner of our last contest said her doctor took her off 21 different medications after only three weeks of the program,” said Joe. “She also lost 15 pounds in three weeks and is now symptom-free without any medication.”

And some lucky participants will get a “Detox Survival Kit” from the Rufranos, which includes supplements, essential oils and other supplies to help combat the cravings.

Vacant-Seat Controversy May Go On

Oberacker’s Vacant-Seat

Controversy May Go On

By JIM KEVLIN• Special to

Jennifer Mickle
Diane Addesso

SCHENEVUS –  After a week of political wrangling, two women – one Republican, one Democrat – have emerged as prospective successors to state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, on the county board.

The Republican is Jennifer Mickle, an Oneonta businesswoman who lives in the Town of Maryland, where she has chaired the town Board of Assessment Review.

The Democrat is Diane Addesso, former Worcester town supervisor who operates a graphic-design studio there.

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick/Milford/New Lisbon, who chairs the county board’s Administration Committee, scheduled a special Admin meeting for 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30, after Democrats called the process hurried and unfair.

“My goal in having that meeting,” she said Tuesday, Nov. 24, “is to allow the questions and answers for both candidates … even if it doesn’t come to a vote.”

She added, “The process did not allow both sides to be heard, and I’m trying to remedy that.”

What followed was set in motion Monday, Nov. 16, when Oberacker resigned from his District 6 county board seat.

The next evening, county Republican Chairman Vince Casale convened a meeting of District 6 Republican committee members, and they endorsed Mickle, Oberacker’s choice to succeed him.

Wednesday, reported the news, and Democrats responded with dismay that they weren’t briefed. “I had to read about it on,” one of the Democratic reps said at the Thursday Admin meeting.

That day, Admin Committee members and county reps in attendance from both parties participated in a Zoom interview with Mickle. The committee then voted 3-1, along party lines, to send her name to the full board at its next meeting Dec. 2.

That evening, the county Democratic Committee convened and selected Addesso as its choice to succeed Oberacker. And the next morning, Kennedy announced her decision to vet Addesso as well.

“Hearing from both sides, and giving the opposition ample time to field a candidate and vet them is the right and fair thing to do,” said Democratic County Chairman Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta, on hearing the news.

Casale demurred, saying both Republicans and Democrats knew on Nov. 3, Election Day, that Oberacker would have to resign. “The Democrats are acting as if they are victims to politics, when they are actually victims of their own ineptitude and lack of planning,” he said.

In an interview, Mickle, who operates United Student Rentals with her husband, Ron, and chairs the Northern Otsego Relay for Life Committee, said joining the county board would be “a wonderful opportunity. I’ve always believed in public service and giving back to the community. I hope my experience will not only be a benefit to District 6, but to the county as a whole.”

In another interview, Addesso said that, while Worcester town supervisor, she streamlined polling places from four to one. That, in addition to her predecessor buying a gravel pit as a savings measure, led to a state citation for good governance. Kennedy said she isn’t sure if the second Admin meeting will achieve anything concrete, since the committee has already recommended Mickle to the county board. The committee’s makeup is three Republicans, two Democrats.

An added wrinkle: With Oberacker having resigned, neither Republicans nor Democrat have a majority of votes. If no Democrat will vote with the Republicans, Mickle can be confirmed.

If that happens, County Attorney Ellen Coccoma has ruled the reps would have to petition Governor Cuomo for a special election, but there’s no guarantee he would OK it.

District 6 is considered a Republican district, so if Mickle had to wait until next November’s election, she might have an advantage.

The county Board of Elections reports there are 1,624 Republicans in District 6, compared to 789 Democrats.

However, there are other voting parties as well: Conservatives (72), Working Families (11), Green (13), Libertarian (15), Independence (225), non-affiliated (704) and “other” (3).

So Long Rocky! Tiny Owl Flies Free

So Long Rocky!

Tiny Owl Flies Free

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Rocky, the Saw-whet Owl, who – trapped inside the Dick family’s Norway Spruce – was transported to New York City, then to a Saugerties wildlife refuge, then set free Tuesday evening, Nov. 24. (Photo Credit: Ravensbeard Wildlife Center)

ONEONTA – Cooperstown artist May-Britt Joyce knows a muse when she sees one.

“I’ve been doing pet portraits for the Susquehanna SPCA,” she said. “But the Rockefeller Owl intrigued me; she was so sweet looking and so different.”

Rockefeller, the Saw-whet Owl found in “Daddy Al” Dick’s Rockefeller Center-bound Christmas tree, has captured the hearts of Otsego County – and the nation.

Nicknamed “Rocky,” the diminutive raptor was featured on CNN and in the Washington Post. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame made a figure of her.

She made international media, including Tagesschau, Germany’s oldest news broadcast. The requests for interviews got so big that Ravensbeard Wildlife Center hired a PR Firm, Karbo Communications, to handle Rockefeller’s press.

The fandom began on Wednesday, Nov. 18, when Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties posted on Facebook that it had received a phone call that a small owl had been rescued from the 75-foot-tall West Oneonta Norway Spruce after it arrived in Manhattan.

“These guys are so small and they like to hug right up next to the center of the tree,” said Kathryn Davino, Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society board member. “He probably just hunkered down, and then got caught in a cage of branches when they were wrapping up the tree.”

Nicknamed “Rockefeller,” – “or Rocky, to her friends,” Ravensbeard said – the owl, the smallest breed in the Northeast, has been eating “all the mice she can eat” and was reported to be in good health with no injuries.

“When we picked Rocky up she was struggling,” said Ellen Kalish, Ravensbeard Wildlife Center director and founder. “We believe it had been about three days since she ate or drank anything. The first order of business was to give her fluids and feed her all the mice she could eat.

“She was underweight so we assumed at the time she was male, as males typically weigh less – on average only 75 grams (2.6 ounces) – while females typically weigh a little more, about 100 grams (3.5 ounces). So it was a surprise to find out Rocky was a girl.”

It was initially reported Rockefeller would be released in Oneonta over the weekend, but that turned out not to be the case. She was released Tuesday night, Nov. 24, in a conifer forest
near Saugerties, as recommended by avian experts and researchers. She’s expected to continue her
migration south from there.

“People are adamant that she come back (to Oneonta),” said Davino. “While Saw-whet owls are found here, they are migratory, so to bring her back here, further north than Saugerties, would bebacktracking, and the travel would further stress her out. We have to think about what’s best for her.”

But Rocky’s discovery has inspired Davino to look into building a nest box in hopes of seeing a Saw-whet Owl of her own. “The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has instructions, as well as how to place them and where.”

They like to nest in coniferous groves near water, Davino said. “They’re rarely seen, but if you build a nest-box, you might see one of your own!”

But even before you build your box, you could own Joyce’s painting, which goes up for auction on Friday, Nov. 27, at the Family Tree Gallery, 171 Main St., Cooperstown.

Bidding starts at $50 and bids can be emailed to, with all proceeds going to the Susquehanna Animal Shelter.

“I grew up in New Jersey, so as a kid, I used to go to Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center,” Joyce said. “So I felt a real kinship with him.”

BOUND VOLUMES: November 26, 2020


November 26, 2020


Land for Sale Low: One Farm of 44 and three-quarter acres of excellent land lying in Richfield, Otsego County, on the Hamilton and Skaneateles Turnpike road leading from Richfield to Skaneateles, on which is a good framed house and barn, a fine young orchard which bears fruit sufficient for a family’s use. The fences are in good repair and 30 acres of which are under good improvement; and lies near the center of the Town. Also, one other Farm of 83 and five eighth acres of as good soil of land as any in the same section of the County, situated on the Third Great Western Turnpike from Albany to Buffalo, by way of Cherry Valley and Cazenovia, on which is a good house and barn, wood-house, cow-house, and other out buildings, to make it a delightful home for a good farmer.

November 27, 1820

NYS SHERIFFS: 10 Per Table? A Step Too Far

10 Per Table? A Step Too Far

Editor’s Note: The New York State Sheriff’s Department issued this statement Monday, Nov. 23, saying local sheriffs lack the resources to enforce Governor Cuomo’s edict requiring
that no more than 10 New Yorkers celebrate Thanksgiving together.
This is an excerpt.

Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order which limits “non-essential private residential gatherings” to no more than 10 individuals.

That has caused great consternation among many of our citizens, who envision armed officers arriving at their doors to count the number of people around the Thanksgiving table.

Many Sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders have felt compelled to allay those concerns by assuring citizens that officers will not be randomly coming to their homes on Thanksgiving Day to count the number of people inside.

That would be neither practical nor Constitutional.

The Governor has responded by dismissing those serious concerns on the part of local law enforcement, saying, “Law enforcement officers don’t get to pick and choose which laws they will enforce.”

We find that comment ironic, and disingenuous, since the Governor has directed that his own State Police do not have to enforce the order. Apparently, it is another case of “do as I say, not as I do,” such as we have seen with many other political leaders.

He has also called sheriffs “dictators” for following the Constitution rather than his orders, which we also find ironic.

We do not know if the Governor’s limit on home gatherings to ten individuals is the right number or not. That is a decision for science, not us, to make.

We do know, however, that the Governor has attempted to foist upon local law enforcement an impossible task. How are officers to know, without violating citizens’ right to privacy and other Constitutional rights, how many people are in the home?

How are they to determine if the family gathering is to be deemed “essential” or “nonessential?” …All of those are serious questions which make it impossible for law enforcement to know how to legally enforce the Governor’s order. They are questions that could have been addressed if we had a functioning State Legislature, creating clear and enforceable laws after input from those who would be impacted by them.

Instead we are faced with an unenforceable dictate issued without any consultation with law enforcement or the public as to enforceability.

We believe that rather than issuing orders that cannot be practically enforced, and then blaming law enforcement when they are not enforced, the Governor would better serve the people of New York if he were to use his position to encourage citizens to use common sense and voluntarily adhere to the guidance of state and federal health officials…

We urge you to listen to our public health officials.

We urge you to limit your exposure to those outside your household as much as you reasonably can. If we all do that, we will sooner be able to get back to normal.

We in law enforcement do not have the resources nor the legal authority to force you to do those things.

It is a matter of individual respon-sibility and we are confident that you will all voluntarily rise to the occasion.

COVID-19 Vaccine Due; Drugstores Prepare

COVID-19 Vaccine Due;

Drugstores Prepare

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

COOPERSTOWN – When the COVID-19 vaccine is available, Otsego County will be ready.

“Before the pharmacies could give the flu shot, we used to do a lot of the vaccinations,” said Heidi Bond, county public health director. “We are well aware of what needs to be done when we go into communities that may not have a lot of options for vaccinations.”

With the announcement that Pfizer, whose vaccine reportedly has a 90-percent rate of effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, is applying for “Emergency Use” by the Food & Drug Administration, Bond hopes healthcare workers and first responders could start receiving it as soon as mid-December.

“Front-line workers will be prioritized,” said Bond. “That includes healthcare workers and EMTs.”

And Pfizer isn’t the only trial that’s showing success.

Moderna’s vaccine was reported to have 95-percent efficiency, according to NPR, and the AP reported that the AstraZeneca vaccine,had also shown 90-percent efficiency and, unlike the other two, only required one shot.

In addition to the county Health Department, CVS pharmacies in Cooperstown and Sidney, and Kinney Drugs in Richfield Springs have stepped forward to offer their services in administering the vaccine.

“We’re excited to be part of the community effort to vaccinate against COVID,” said Autumn Koniowka,
pharmacy manager, Cooperstown CVS. “As soon as there is more information made available publically, we’ll start letting people know about the process.”

“When vaccines are authorized and made available to the general public, Kinney pharmacists will be able to administer them following federal vaccine prioritization guidelines,” said Rebecca Bubel, R.Ph. Kinney Drugs president, in a statement. “As we have since 1903, our employee-owners remain 100-percent committed to supporting our communities on the front lines. By working together, we can help bring this pandemic under control.”

Appointments would be scheduled in a similar fashion to their current program, with appointments made online or by calling the pharmacy.

In Oneonta, Walgreens, which has three locations in the city and town, has not indicated whether or not they will offer the vaccine, although they do offer flu and shingles vaccines.

Community partners are critical, said Bond, because otherwise, the Health Department staff could be
“a challenge.”

“We may find ourselves trying to prioritize between contact tracing and vaccinations,” she said.

But with the right resources, including the Health Depart-ment staff, supplemented by volunteers and nursing students, the whole county population – all 59,493 of us – could be vaccinated in three to five days.

The vaccine will be free, although providers may bill a patient’s insurance. Those without insurance will be covered by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund, according to the Center for Disease Control.

But it could still be “3-4 months,” warns Bond, before the general population can line up to get their shot, and much of that depends on how much of the vaccine is sent to the county at a time.

“The earliest I see it available to the general population is March or April,” she said.

COVID-19 Cases Triple In County

COVID-19 Cases

Triple In County

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Heidi Bond

COOPERSTOWN – Last Tuesday, Nov. 17, there were 37 new cases of COVID-19 reported.

In the seven days since, that number tripled to 126 by Nov. 24, with hospitalizations up two, from four to six, since last week, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health Director.

That makes the highest number of community cases – that’s not counting the 700-plus SUNY Oneonta outbreak – since the pandemic started in March.

“If our cases continue to increase the way they have, even taking the holiday out, we are facing unprecedented community spread,” she warned. “Now put in the holiday, and if we don’t take precautions, that number is going to continue to rise.”

Forty-one of the cases are already linked to a gathering of people eating and drinking at the Copper Fox Tavern in Oneonta, making it the largest community cluster.

“Reportedly, they were following all guidelines,” she said of the Copper Fox outbreak. “But patrons don’t have to wear a mask when they’re eating or drinking, so dining out is still a risky activity.”

Two more Oneonta bars have also reported cases, with one employee testing positive at the Beer Barrel Inn in the Sixth Ward. At the Red Jug Pub on Main Street, patrons who were at the popular college bar on Friday, Nov. 20 are being asked to quarantine and monitor their symptoms after an employee who worked that night tested positive.

First responders, including several in the Oneonta Police Department, and both residents and employees of both residential and nursing homes, have also tested positive in the last week.

SUNY Oneonta had a spike in cases, with 12 students and three employees testing positive before students returned home for the rest of the semester, while Hartwick College saw four cases.

By the end of the semester, SUNY’s numbers totaled 764, Hartwick’s, 71.

In all, Oneonta has 66 of the cases, the highest concentra-tion in the county. By contrast, Cooperstown, had numbers “too small to say,” according to Bond; “America’s Most Perfect Village” was singled out by Governor Cuomo at his daily briefing Monday, Nov. 23, for having the lowest numbers in the state.

However, to keep those numbers low, the Cooperstown Village Board this week voted 6-0 to return to meeting over Zoom, beginning at its Dec. 28 meeting.

“I know members who feel that, with the increase in cases, would like to return to virtual meetings for now,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch.

Bassett Healthcare restricted visitors at their hospitals to “only individuals considered essential to the medical care of a patient” – parents, birth partners and those with family members receiving end-of-life care, effective Monday, Nov. 23. Visitation is also suspended at the Fox Nursing Home.

And with the holidays looming, Cuomo issued an executive order banning gatherings of more than 10 people in an attempt to combat the spread. Sheriff Richard J. Devlin said he has insufficient resources and no plans to enforce the order.

“We’re having trouble handling police calls as it is,” he said. “We don’t need to be checking on people’s Thanksgiving dinners, and we won’t.”

He did say, however, if his deputies respond to a domestic or a fight, for instance, and guidelines are being flouted, they might issue tickets.

It’s a sentiment echoed by the state Sheriff’s Association, who issued a statement on Monday, Nov. 24 saying that they lacked the resources to enforce the order. (See text, page A5).

“We in law enforcement do not have the resources nor the legal authority,” said the statement, which was unsigned.

“We have trust that our citizens will be responsible,” said Devlin. “And the governor’s executive order doesn’t have the teeth for us to even enforce or make arrests.”

But even if enforcement isn’t possible, Bond said that’s no excuse to pack a house full of out-of-town guests.

“My recommendation is not to have Thanksgiving with anyone you don’t associate with on a day-to-day basis,” said Bond. “There is so much community illness, and people are unintentionally spreading it, because they don’t know they have it.”

EDITORIAL: Pilgrims’ Energy, Ambition Lives On Today

Pilgrims’ Energy,

Ambition Lives On Today

In Custom Electronics President Mike Pentaris, the American spirit lives. ( Photo)

‘Tribute to the Entrepreneurial Spirit.” That’s what the Otsego Chamber of Commerce called its annual awards program on Nov. 12, conducted this year largely via Zoom.

That rallying call couldn’t have come at a better time, given this year’s challenges – a pandemic, a particularly divisive Presidential election, and riots in cities and challenges to the very idea of policing.

The stories the Otsego Chamber’s honorees were a tonic. Liberty lives, and a somewhat level playing field, imperfect as it may be, is still enabling success stories aplenty.
For all that, we offer Thanksgiving.

Yes, the Otsego Chamber celebration underscored that freedom, ambition, achievement and access to prosperity are alive today on our “new Promised Land,” as the Pilgrims envisioned it.

Proof it’s so was Michael Pentaris’ story: As a boy, his family lived in a shipping crate near the harbor of Larnaca, Cyprus. Recognizing her kids were smart, Michael’s mom obtained scholarships for them to the American Academy there.

A scholarship to Brescia College in Owensboro, Ky., followed, and two degrees from SUNY Binghamton. Then, a role in rescuing Graham Labs in Hobart, and guiding its acquisition by a Fortune 500 company. And then, a rise to presidency of Custom Electronics, creating ultracapacitor-maker Ioxus along the way.

In time of COVID-19, Pentaris shifted the technology in BriteShot, which enabled “Law & Order,” “Blue Bloods” and other hit TV shows and movies to be powered
on location anywhere, to AirAffair, which, in three steps, removes the virus from movie sets – any enclosed location, for that matter.

Mike Pentaris was just the beginning:

• BETTIOL DISTINGUISHED CITIZEN: State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford,
had a dream of public service that led him to the pinnacle of state decisionmaking. He had hard-working parents who believed in community service, but he’s wasn’t born with a silver spoon at hand.

• BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS: Pathfinder Village tapped the energies of its residents, many with Down Syndrome, to create Pathfinder Produce & Mobile Market, which not only provided productive labor, but turns out vegetables and food products for needy families.

• SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Theresa’s Emporium, which has figured out how to thrive in downtown Oneonta, on the ground floor of the former Bresee’s for the past 10 years. Despite the Great Recession of 2008 and other challenges, Theresa Cyzeski continues building her business, adding lines and pursuing opportunities.

Seward’s Eugene A. Bettiol Jr. Award was created by Gene Sr., whose first business was running an ice-cream truck, and who ended up developing Southside Oneonta into the commercial strip we

Gene Bettiol

all frequent today. His son, taken by cancer in his mid-40s, was a chip off the old block, promoting the National Soccer Hall of Fame, then Foothills – anything he perceived as beneficial to the community.

What’s driving people like these today isn’t so different from what motivated the Pilgrims. Freedom to pursue their dreams brought 102 of them aboard the cramped Mayflower on a dangerous ocean voyage to New England’s shores, coming ashore 400 years ago last Saturday, Nov. 21, at today’s Provincetown, Mass., on the tip of Cape Cod.

It was “new Promised Land,” in their view, where they would be allowed to pursue their beliefs and, after a dozen years in exile and penury in Holland, to improve their economic conditions.

Before going ashore, Pilgrims and crew members signed “The Mayflower Compact,” agreeing to rules of order to ensure the survival of the fledgling community. It’s said to be the first time free people mutually agreed to a form of government.

Remarkable. Also remarkable that, with COVID-19, urban riots and a bitter presidential contest, we Americans mostly let the anniversary pass with so little notice.

Revisiting Jaci Bettiol’s assessment of her father at the time of his passing in December 2017 underscores our point: The Pilgrim spirit lives today. She called his life “inspirational.”

“He lived as if he was going to live forever; going full force each day without slowing down. No one could convince him to stop and smell the roses. There were simply too many opportunities awaiting his vision.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

This Week, Nov. 26-27, 2020
BERKSON: Chickie’s Greatest Gift

Chickie’s Greatest Gift

Terry Berkson, who has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College, lives on a farm outside Richfield Springs. His article have appears in New York magazine, the New York Daily News Sunday Magazine, Automobile and other publications.

When I was 8 years old, the hero in my life was my cousin Chickie, who drove an oil truck and often took me with him on deliveries.

The job led him all over Brooklyn and, being somewhat of a scavenger, he often came home with a bike or a wagon or some other discarded contraption he thought would be useful.

We lived in Bensonhurst, in a 12-room Victorian that had been divided into apartments. I occupied the second floor with my dad, while Chickie and his wife and two babies lived on the first floor and my Aunt Edna and Uncle Dave and their sons Leo and Charlie lived on the attic floor.

There was also Mr. Bilideau, the boarder, who was a leftover from the time when my grandmother had rented rooms. There had once been a Mr. Yumtov as well, a man who liked to store smoked whitefish in his dresser. Mr. Bilideau was from Canada. He had a room on the second floor and shared the bath with my father and me.

Just about everyone in the house owned something that Chickie had brought home and thrown on the front porch. “I thought you could use one of these,” he’d always say.

In spite of the partitions, it was difficult for so many people to be housed under one roof without having feuds over hot water and noise and things disappearing from refrigerators. Half the time somebody upstairs wasn’t talking to somebody downstairs. Chickie, with his various street finds, was often instrumental in getting them back on speaking terms.

One year, about a week before Thanksgiving, arguments were running high when Chickie came home with a live turkey in a crate. “It’s a 27-pounder,” he announced to several of us who had gathered on the front porch.

I had never seen a turkey alive and up close like this. “Where’d you get it?” I asked, cautiously poking a finger through the bars. “Did it fall off a truck?”“Never mind,” he said. “There’s enough here for all of us.”

I was placed in charge of watering and feeding the bird, which to me looked like some kind of prehistoric monster. I had to lower the water pan through an opened hatch in the top of the cage.

“Don’t worry,” Chickie reassured me when he saw the concern on my face. “That big bird’ll never get through that little hole.”

I figured they must have put the turkey in the crate when he was small and kept feeding him.

So any hard feelings were put aside and preparations for a Thanksgiving dinner at one table were divided between Aunt Edna and Chickie’s wife Ann.

Aunt Edna would bake the pies – mince, blueberry and apple – while Ann would roast the turkey, make stuffing and gravy and prepare candied sweet potatoes, plum pudding and the rest.

Dad, who was working nights on his taxi, would supply the wine and cider and Mr. Bilideau would buy some fruit – and chestnuts, I hoped.

Meanwhile, Chickie had taken to calling the turkey Sylvester, and would spend time with it out on the porch when he came home from work.

He’d stick a fat calloused index finger through the bars and let the bird peck at it. “You’re gonna be a good turkey,” he’d say affectionately.

I was still afraid of the thing and hadn’t warmed up to it that much, but all the talk about how this bird was going to taste sent uneasy twinges through my wishbone.

Three days before Thanksgiving, Chickie came home with bad news. The butcher around the corner didn’t want to slaughter Sylvester. He tried other butchers and they refused too. It suddenly looked like we weren’t going to have turkey for dinner.

A Thanksgiving turkey brought peace to Terry Berkson’s boyhood home in Brooklyn.

We were all gathered in the kitchen trying to come up with a solution. Chickie had carried the crate into the house and put it on top of the stove. “I hear you just chop off his head,” he was musing.

Uncle Dave mentioned that Mr. Bilideau had grown up on a farm in Canada: Surely he’d know how to butcher the bird. “But what about cleaning it and plucking the feathers?” Aunt Edna protested. “That’s a real mess!”

All this talk about butchering must have been too much for Sylvester, too, because suddenly, impossibly, he was out of his crate, flapping his tremendous wings and scratching at anything in sight with his clawed feet.

Everyone scrambled out of the kitchen. Leo and I ran for the bathroom while the others headed for the hall. The last thing I saw was Chickie struggling to keep Sylvester from becoming airborne. I worried that the bird would take my cousin’s eyes out.

How was he going to squeeze Sylvester back through that small trapdoor? I could hear both of them swearing.

After what seemed like a very long time, Chickie announced that the coast was clear. We all crept into the kitchen and found that Sylvester was back in his box. He didn’t look much worse for wear.

“I was careful not to hurt him,” Chickie said.

Mr. Bilideau came downstairs and entered the kitchen to find out what all the commotion was about. When asked he said, “Yes, I’ll butcher the turkey if you have a sharp hatchet.”

He explained that the way to get the feathers out easily was to scald the freshly killed bird in a vat of boiling water. He would use the tree stump in the back yard for the first part of the operation and a lobster pot from the cellar for the second. The procedure would take place the next day after work. We were going to have turkey after all. Chickie stood there in the kitchen with his hand on the hatch door as Sylvester tried to bite through the bars.

The next morning when I left for school the bird wasn’t on the porch. He wasn’t in the cellar or out in the garage, either. Chickie’s Nash was gone from the parking place next to the house. Maybe he had come up with a brainstorm on how to get Sylvester butchered and avoid all the mess.

I was glad that Mr. Bilideau had been relieved of the job. With him doing it, I pictured us all sitting around chewing on feathers.

After school I ran home and eagerly waited for Chickie to return with Sylvester. I felt a little guilty about it, but I was kind of looking forward to seeing the bird stripped of his claws and feathers and head. I sat on the stoop as big wet snowflakes floated toward the ground.

Chickie pulled in the driveway right on schedule. He got out of the car with a large brown paper bag and walked up to where I was sitting.

“Is that the turkey?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. I looked in the bag. There was a bald thing with pockmarks all over it.

That Thanksgiving was one of the most festive I can remember. The table was so long we had to set it up in the hall. I noticed that Chickie, sitting at the head, was in especially good spirits.

In my mind, the feast with a golden-brown bird at the center seemed to exude a joyous radiance. Somehow I understood that it was our turkey, Sylvester, that had brought us all together.

Years later, on a cold November day, as we were on our way to make an oil delivery, I asked Chickie if it had really been Sylvester in the bag that afternoon. He chuckled as he shifted the Mack down to a lower gear.

Then he looked over at me and said, “Nah.”

HOMETOWN HISTORY: November 26, 2020


November 26, 2020

150 Years Ago

Highway Robbery – Early last Wednesday morning Mr. Moak, driver of the Schenevus Stage, was accosted by a suspicious looking individual near the Russel Bridge who asked for a tobacco chew. Mr. Moak said he did not use the weed, whereat the robber demanded of Mr. M. his money and the mail bags. His request was not acceded to by our modern John, who dismounted from his coach and struck the would-be highwayman with a stick of wood from an adjacent woodpile. The scoundrel dropped and the faithful guardian of the mail bags went his way rejoicing. Work is progressing slowly at the round house during the present cold weather.Lester and Theodore Emmons and Wm. H. Strait have purchased a lot containing 40 feet front and 100 feet back on Broad Street of E.H. Ford, on which they will erect a machine shop for the manufacture of the celebrated Firkin Head Cutter, and a general repair shop.

November 1870

After Downturn, Sale, Ioxus Returns

After Downturn, Sale,

Ioxus Returns To Expand

Building And Workforce

Ioxus’ headquarters, in the former National Soccer Hall of Fame, was built with expansion in mind. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Chad Hall

ONEONTA –  Ioxus was going strong, with manufacturing plants here and in Japan, and a growing reputation as producer of the best ultracapacitor in the world.

Then, in 2019 it hit a bump: Its best-selling product, uSTART, a “smart power system” that “dramatically increases the starting reliability of trucks and heavy machines,” had to be recalled.

“That set us back,” said Walton-born Chad Hall, Ioxus co-founder and senior vice president, interviewed last Thursday, Nov. 19, on the second floor of the futuristic former National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Suddenly, Ioxus was in trouble.

“The salesperson I dealt with at the time reached out and basically gave me a heads-up,” said Scottie Johnson, president of XS Power Batteries in Knoxville, Tenn. Ioxus’ major customer, XS had been selling the Oneonta ultracapacitors under its own private label for half a decade.

“’You may need to look for another supplier,’” the salesman told Johnson. “He mentioned, ‘By the way, you may want to throw your hat into the ring.’ So I did.”

March 30, XS bought Ioxus. Since, “we’ve been working hard to outline a new product offering and to revitalize some of the existing product offerings,” said Johnson.

Mark McGough, Ioxus president for the past decade, assisted with the transition. Then, in August, he joined Hartland Controls, manufacturer of electronic equipment in Rock Falls, Ill., as president/CEO.

Meanwhile, uSTART has been redesigned and customers restocked. “The previous customers we had have all come back,” said Hall, and Ioxus will be marketing the improved product in “Q1.”

Reached in Knoxville the next morning, Johnson, who had just returned from here the afternoon before, said, “It was a great visit. Everything is going very well.”

All of this has Hall, who helped develop the original product and the company’s name – Ioxus is associated with “power” in ancient Greek – is looking to the future enthusiastically.

“We need to grow our footprint” in Oneonta by another 30,000-50,000 square feet,” he said. “There’s plenty of room here; it was designed to be expanded. And we would want to do that here.” (In addition to headquarters at Stadium Circle, the company has a plant on Corporate Drive in the nearby Oneonta Commerce Park, and a third in Karatmatsu, Japan.)

The company also is planning to expand its workforce from 35 to the “mid-50s” in the first half of 2021, he added.

Virginia and South Carolina will say, “Hey, we’ll build to suit, free for five years,” Hall said. “It’s hard to compete with that.”

Nevertheless, he said, Otsego Now, the local economic-development group, has been working New York State’s system for the money that is available, and obtained a $1 million Excelsior tax-credit award.

Otsego Now President Jody Zakrevsky, who briefed Common Council on the project earlier this month, said the local IDA board approved a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement, which, once Ioxus buys the building, would phase in property taxes over 10 years.

The IDA (Industrial Development Authority) also gave the company a sales-tax exemption on equipment purchased, and an exemption from the mortgage tax when the building is purchased.

NYSEG has agreed to provide low-cost power to the plant, and the Oneonta Town Board has agreed to
take over and maintain Brown Street, as well as Stadium Circle, which leads to the plant. And the Otsego Chamber prepared a list of homes on the market that would be available to executives brought in.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s chief of staff, Mike Lynch, called Scottie Johnson to pledge the senator’s support.

“Given that we’ve been in a pandemic,” Zakrevsky said, “we’ve been very challenged. “April 1, I met with Scottie. There were just the two of us in the large conference room at Ioxus. Everything else has been done by emails and phone calls.”

He added, “the state has a major deficit. Most of the grant programs that would apply just don’t exist right now.”

Last time Zakrevsky visited Ioxus – incidentally, there are 100 framed patents in the lobby – there were two contractors preparing estimates on the construction.

“We are competing on a global scale,” said Hall. “And we want to stay in Oneonta. With Custom Electronics also making ultracapacitors – its president, Mike Pentaris, was Ioxus’ founding president – Hall called Browne Street New York State’s “Corridor of Capacitors.”

Community Foundation: Apply For 2021 Grants 

Community Foundation:

Apply For 2021 Grants 

COOPERSTOWN – Our COVID Fund has now secured $220,000 to address many needs arising out of the pandemic. We issued 25 awards to date and have about $40,000 remaining to distribute.

Next Up is our plan for 2021. Our board has authorized allocation of $200,000 to the 2021 Awards Round. “We need community input on how to focus our investing these funds,” said Harry Levine, foundation board president.

Twenty-five non-profits have received funding so far, beginning with a $5,000 grant on May 5 to Helios Care, the successor to Catskill Area Hospice, for PPE equipment.

“COVID awards used funds to address issues ranging from rewarding first line health professionals with gift cards to buy food from local restaurants to extending working capital grants (not loans) to small businesses to help them get back on their feet after shuttering this spring,” Levine said.

“…Over 300 donors supported this Fund demonstrating the we live in a caring community.”

This Week, Nov. 19-20, 2020
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