SPRINGFIELD CENTER – Noel Dries, who played an important role in the overall establishment and maintenance of Hyde Hall, passed away unexpectedly Monday morning, Feb. 8, 2021. A life-long resident of Cary Mede, Town of Springfield, he was 82.
A teacher, historian, and tireless researcher and well-loved Springfield resident, he was born May 30, 1938, at what was then a tiny Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown.
He was the only child of Frank Lawrence Dries, Jr., and the former Ruth Margaret Kelly. His mother’s family went back several generations in Springfield, while his father, who was from Brooklyn, came to the Springfield area during the Depression and worked at Cary Mede as a groundskeeper.
In his youth spent at Cary Mede, Noel developed a lifelong love of Otsego Lake, and had great fun as a child learning to swim in it.
He attended Springfield Elementary School in Springfield Center, and graduated with the Class of 1956 from Springfield High School in East Springfield. He then went on to study science at Syracuse University, where he graduated with a degree in secondary science education.
For 28 years he taught chemistry and physics in the Walton Central School District. Upon retiring from teaching in 1994, Noel became the caretaker of Springfield Cemetery and faithfully served in this position for close to 20 years.
His devotion to the Town of Springfield was legendary. He worked for many years to assure his well-loved town’s history was maintained in good order. A long-time member of the Springfield Historical Society, he served as president for many years and was at the forefront of creating the Springfield Historic District.
Upon the closing of the Catlin Library in Springfield Center and the Clinton Library in East Springfield, Noel served as president of the newly formed Springfield Library Association. He was also a faithful and active member of St. Mary’s Church in Springfield Center, serving for many years on the Vestry, currently as senior warden.
In honor of his devotion to Springfield, he was named a grand marshal along with Jim Weeks of the 103rd Springfield Fourth of July Parade in 2019.
Perhaps closest to Noel’s heart was Hyde Hall, where he served on the Board of Trustees since 1999 and was currently serving as vice chair. He worked tirelessly, day in and day out, through good times and bad, to maintain this jewel at the head of Otsego Lake.
As chairman of the Collections Committee, he dedicated countless hours to studying and analyzing the documents in the Clarke Family Papers, and was intimately aware of the history of the home and its relevance to local history. Always searching for documents that could prove or disprove theories about how the Clarkes stitched together their huge agricultural empire, Noel managed to solve many long-standing mysteries, often calling out, “I found it!”
In addition, Noel spent a lot of time and research on George Clarke’s bedroom, and personally funded the restoration of this room to the 1820 period. He was extremely proud of the result. In recognition of his contributions to historic preservation and cultural awareness, Noel was the recipient in 2015 of the 5th Annual Anne Hyde Clarke Logan Cultural Preservation Award for his notable achievements in preserving the heritage of the Leatherstocking Region of Central New York.
Throughout his entire life, Noel resided at Cary Mede, the Goodyear-Smith family’s summer home in Springfield. His favorite pastime was croquet, beginning as a boy at Cary Mede with Backyard Croquet, which is the nine-wicket version. About 20 years ago he took it up again with Bradley Goodyear Smith and several friends. As the players became more serious in the game, they switched to six-wicket croquet sanctioned by the U.S. Croquet Association, and brought in professional players for coaching. They called themselves the CMCC, or Cary Mede Croquet Club. A professional croquet court was built at Cary Mede and cut-throat games were enjoyed for many years, after which all would adjourn to the Cary Mede porch for drinks, their motto being, “Win before gin.”
Noel will be greatly missed by Jeanette Goodyear Weldon and husband William, and their children, William James Weldon IV, Bradley Goodyear Weldon, and K. Gunter Weldon of Cooperstown, and Susanne Smith McAvoy and husband Matthew and their children Christian Gallagher McAvoy and John (Jack) Goodyear McAvoy.
He was preceded in death by his father, Frank Dries and his mother, Ruth Dries; Bradley Goodyear Smith and her husband, T. Gunter Smith; and his beloved dog, Bella.
At a time in the future, there will be a memorial service for Noel at St. Mary’s Church in Springfield Center. He will be laid to rest near his parents in Springfield Cemetery.
In a 2014 Cooperstown Graduate Program Community Stories Interview, Noel noted that Otsego Lake is our treasure, and in the winter he couldn’t wait for the ice to leave and for it to get warm so everyone could be on the lake. He concludes the interview by stating, “Spring is around the corner.”
As a way to memorialize Noel, please consider a donation to any of the organizations that were near and dear to him throughout his life.
Arrangements are under the care of Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.