News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.


Oneonta News

Elizabeth Bishop Focus Of Travisano Talk, Book

Elizabeth Bishop Focus

Of Travisano Talk, Book

Tom Travisano, Professor of English at Hartwick College, stands at the podium talking about his new biography “Love Unknown: The Life and Worlds of Elizabeth Bishop” at Foothills Preforming Arts Center on Saturday. Travisano spoke on the poet’s upbringing and early days while including photos of her childhood as well as scans of her earliest letters. Following the talk Travisano met with fans and signed copies of the book which was published this past November by Viking. Copies are available locally at the Green Toad. (Ian Austin/


Richard ‘Dick’ Pindar, 90; Owned Cross Supply Co., Dick’s Golf Shop

IN MEMORIAM: Richard ‘Dick’ Pindar, 90;

Owned Cross Supply Co., Dick’s Golf Shop

ONEONTA — Richard “Dick” Pindar, 90, of Oneonta, owner of Cross Supply Co. who, on retiring, started Dick’s Golf Shop, offering custom clubs and professional repairs, passed away on Jan. 22, 2020, at Cooperstown Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing.

He had been residing at Heritage at The Plains at Parish Homestead for the past two years.

Family & Friends Bid Farewell To Bud Pirone


Family, Friends Bid

Farewell To Bud Pirone

Friends, family, colleagues and students filled the Belden Auditorium at Oneonta High School this afternoon where a service was held celebrating the life of William “Bud” Pirone, a beloved teacher, OHS principal and coach, who passed away on Jan. 13 at age 80. Retired Methodist minister Dick Breuninger gave the sermon, remarking, “If Dick saw paradise as a walk in the woods on a golden afternoon, the best way to honor his memory would be to go for a walk on a lovely day. If it’s too cold to walk, sit down with a good book.” Pirone’s son and daughter, Michael Pirone and Kim Pirone Baskin, seen at left, remarked on memories of their father. “My father had a reputation as a harsh grader, and once told me he gave himself a B+ as a father and husband,” said Michael. “But I gave him an A+.” (Ian Austin/

Beth LeTendre, Digital Marketing Pioneer, Will Speak At Commencement

Beth LeTendre, Digital

Marketing Pioneer, Will

Speak At Commencement

Keynoter Graduated From Hartwick In ’90

Beth LeTendre

ONEONTA – Beth LeTendre ’90, chief executive officer of GroupM Performance U.S., has been chosen as the speaker for Hartwick College’s 2020 commencement at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 16, at Elmore Field.

LeTendre, a 1990 graduate of Hartwick College, was the first choice among nominated speakers considered by the Student Commencement Committee and reviewed by President Margaret L. Drugovich.

Seed Swap Moves To Huntington Library

Seed Swap Moves

To Huntington Library

Mark Boshnak, Ellen Alex and Sandy Anders look over some of the offerings at the 3rd annual seed swap, which was sponsored by the Otsego County Master Gardeners The Huntington Memorial Library this morning. Guests could come and get a wide selection of seeds for vegetable gardens and flower beds. For the past 2 years the event had been held at the Kinney Memorial Library in Hartwick, but it was moved to Oneonta to be more centrally located. (Ian Austin/
At Wistful Event, Seward Receives Standing Ovation


At Wistful Event, Seward

Receives Standing Ovation

A visibly pleased state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, above, who announced last week he will retire at the end of the year after 34 years representing Otsego County in Albany, receives a standing ovation from the 140 attendees at the Otsego Chamber’s State of the State Luncheon today at SUNY Oneonta’s Morris Hall.    He is flanked by Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-19, right, and Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield.  Insert, left, Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, gave a thundering address after soliciting from the audience three reasons why people are leaving Upstate New York:  High taxes, over regulation and no jobs.  “Let’s address these three issues and bring people back to New York State,” said Tague, a leading Republican prospect to succeed Seward; he would face Jim Barber, a Schoharie farmer, who has won Democratic backing.  “I’d have big shoes to fill,” said Tague, then reported his shoe size as 14 1/2, triple E.   Seward said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back next year.”  He won’t be at the head table, he said, “I’ll be in the audience with you, asking tough questions.”  Also speaking were Mayors Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch of Cooperstown and Gary Herzig of Oneonta.  (Jim Kevin/

DAY ONE: Accelerant Was Isopropyl Alcohol, Witness Testifies

Gabriel Truitt Trial

Accelerant Isopropyl Alcohol,

Expert Arson Witness Testifies


COOPERSTOWN – Video evidence, District Attorney John Muehl said, placed accused arsonist Gabriel Truitt inside his Tru Cuts Barber Shop at 4:30 a.m. the night of the fire that killed John Heller.

“He walks in the back door, turns to the right and squats in front of a cabinet,” Muehl said in his opening remarks. “He lights a lighter, takes out two bottles, puts them in his pocket and walks out.”

Those bottles, Muehl told the jury, were isopropyl alcohol.

Investigator Testimony: Accelerant Found Under Door

Gabriel Truitt Trial

Investigator Testimony:

Accelerant Under Door


District Attorney John Muehl questions Oneonta firefighter Matt Hitchcock in the opening day of Gabriel Truitt’s trial. (Ian Austin/

COOPERSTOWN – Just before the noon break, District Attorney John Muehl brought Bill Haynes, an origin and cause investigator with Sotera Investigative Group, to the witness stand in the case against Gabriel Truitt, the Oneonta man accused of setting the fire that killed John Heller at his 5 Walling Avenue apartment in December 2018.

“The way the burn and char pattern on the inside of the door,” – of Apartment C on the second floor of the building – “indicated a liquid was splashed there,” he said.

“What kind of liquid?” Muehl asked.

“An accelerant,” Haynes replied.

Beatrice Gage Merzig, 97; Managed Husband’s Oneonta Medical Office

IN MEMORIAM: Beatrice Gage Merzig, 97;

Managed Husband’s Oneonta Medical Office

ONEONTA — Beatrice “Bea” Gage Merzig, 97, mother of City Attorney David Merzig, who managed her husband’s Oneonta medical practice for 30 years, passed away on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, following a brief illness.

Born Feb. 3, 1922, she was the daughter of Scott and Florence Gage of Morris.

She attended Morris Central School and graduated with honors from Houghton Academy in 1940, and graduated from Wheaton College in 1944 with a degree in Christian education.

Proceedings Underway In Truitt Court Case

Proceedings Underway

In Truitt Court Case

District Attorney John Muehl, above, makes his opening remarks to the jury during the opening day of the People Vs. Gabriel Truitt, now underway at the Otsego County Courthouse in Cooperstown.  Truitt, seen at right, is charged with arson in the first degree and murder in the first and second degree for his alleged involvement in the fire that claimed the life of John Heller at 5 Walling Ave. in Oneonta on Dec 29, 2018. Check back throughout the day for developments in this case. (Ian Austin/

Dissertation, Documentary, Now, The Book



Now, The Book

Sorin’s ‘Green Book’ Thesis

Led To ‘Driving While Black’

CGP Director Gretchen Sorin’s “Green Book” thesis led to a PBS documentary last year and, now, her book, “Driving While Black,” is due to be published next month. A reading is planned at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Oneonta’s Roots Brewing Co. (Ian Austin /

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Gretchen and brother Gary prepare to embark on a family trip in the 1960s.

COOPERSTOWN – Gretchen Sorin has a clear memory of how family vacations always started.

“We would get up at 3 a.m. and get on the road,” the director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies remembers. “We wouldn’t stop at a restaurant or a hotel, and my parents only stopped at Esso gas stations.

“We drove straight through from New Jersey to North Carolina, where my mother’s family lived. I thought that was just how people took vacations.”

But as she got older, she realized that they had a reason for driving that way. “It was all about not wanting to be denied service when they stopped.”

Her new book, “Driving While Black” compiles many of these stories, as well as research into how car travel facilitated and aided the Civil Rights movement.

“If you’re boycotting buses, how else are you going to get to work?” she said. “During, for example, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, leaders bought fleets of cars and drove people to work. If you were black and you flew into an airport, cabs were segregated, but you could rent a car at the airport.”

Driving gave African Americans freedom that Jim Crow-era buses and trains did not.

“It was accepted that African Americans would be drive trucks or be chauffeurs,” she said. “I heard many stories about black men who would save their money and buy a Cadillac, but would keep a chauffeur’s cap on the seat next to them – if he was pulled over by police, he would show them the cap and say it was his boss’ car.”

The book, which comes out Feb. 11 from Liveright, a W. W. Norton imprint, had its earliest roots in Sorin’s Ph.D. thesis at SUNY Albany, which focused on “The Negro Motorist’s Green Book,” a travel guide for African American travelers.

“I don’t know if my parents had a copy of the Green Book,” she said. “But 90 percent of the people I spoke to said their parents always went to Esso gas stations.”

Esso was a sponsor of the annual Green Book and was known for its policy of opening its gas stations – and just as important, bathrooms – to black travelers.

“A lot of places would be happy to take your money, but wouldn’t let you use a bathroom,” said Sorin. “But Esso was owned by the Rockefellers, who were Baptists, and they did not believe in discrimination.”

But more than the Green Book, her research, which was also used by documentarian Rick Burns, Ken Burns’ brother, for a PBS program, “The Green Book,” delved deep into car culture in the African American community.“

One of the things that was fascinating was that your ethnic group determined what kind of car you bought,” she said. “For instance, Jews didn’t buy Fords, but African Americans did, because Henry Ford employed black workers.”

Most importantly, she said, black families bought cars that were fast, heavy and reliable. “They liked Buicks because you could carry food and water, spare parts, and blankets and pillows,” she said. “They were also too heavy to turn over, and could accelerate fast.”

Speed and weight were crucial, she said, in case you found yourself in a “Sundown Town,” where African Americans were faced with violence if they remained after dark.

“Thurgood Marshall has a story from when he was a lawyer for the NAACP that he was waiting for a train to Shreveport and a man came up to him and said, ‘(Expletive) the last train is at 4 p.m. and you had better be on it, because the sun is never going down on a live (expletive) in this town’,” she said. “So travel guides like The Green Book were crucial to telling you where it was safe to go.”

Sorin will give a reading and do a signing from the book at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12 at Roots Brewing Company.

A one-hour cut of the “Driving While Black,” documentary, meanwhile, has been making the rounds at film festivals, including ones in Martha’s Vineyard and Albany. “It got a very positive reaction,” she said. “We still have an hour’s worth of footage to record to make it a two-hour documentary.”

LUNACHIX RULE! Belly-Dancing, Troupe Builds Skills, Community


Belly-Dancing, Troupe

Builds Skills, Community

Lunachix, from left, include Erika Miller, Rose Carba- lleira, Sarah Cummings, Sondra Pederson Gielskie and Elizabeth Raphaelson.

By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to

Publicity shot shows Lunachix in full regalia.

ONEONTA – The Lunachix are shaking things up.

A regional belly-dancing group called the Lunachix is trying to shake things up in the world of body positivity and women empowerment.

“The Lunachix is a place where real women can be their best self,” said Jo Boring, director of the belly-dancing troupe that she says is really about body positivity and women’s empowerment.

“Some days that means being the star of the show, other days it means eating dinner together and having an ugly cry,” she said.

The all-women’s group began with a class, but it soon evolved into something more than just dancing.

“It started out as a class, but it very quickly became about each other. Something like dance is physical and creative, but it’s also social,” said Boring.

“As much as we are about performing and doing shows, it’s equally as important that we get together every week and support each other. It became a community of friends so the goal superseded dance at some point.”

And welcoming all women became a crucial component of that community.

“…We represent regular women who work hard to be showgirls. Very few of us had childhood dance training. We’re just regular girls.”

Boring first entered the world of belly-dancing in the early 2000s after seeing the Goddess Hour troupe perform at a festival in Rochester.

“I never was a dance kid and never took dance classes when I was younger. I didn’t have a lot of exposure to it, so it was something I saw and thought was beautiful. I had a little part of me that wanted to be a showgirl.”

After joining and dancing with Goddess Hour for several years, Boring moved back to Delaware County.

“I thought I would never find anyone who belly-dances,” but then she met Caroline Huxtable, who was teaching it at Oneonta’s Armory, and took classes with her from 2008 to 2015.

In 2013, Boring started a beginners’ class of her own at Delhi’s Cardio Club, and those beginners eventually grew into today’s Lunachix.

Elizabeth Raphaelson of Oneonta was is that first class.

“I’ve always been into dancing so I was looking for a way as an adult to do a new kind of dance,” she said.  “I also loved the aesthetic of it and I think those were the main attracting factors for me.”

She also embraced Boring’s concept: “One thing that is particularly neat about belly dance is that, as Jo says, ‘every body’ can dance.

“I also felt that Jo was really encouraging us to keep going and to get something as close to perfect as possible, but in a fun way.”

And after seven years, the Lunachix show is still shaking things up and going strong.

“I think a lot of times when you become an adult and you have a job and a family, you forget to nurture your creative expression. This is a place that all of us can do that,” said Boring.

The Lunachix have danced on stages nationwide and internationally, with plans to travel to England for a performance in April.

This Week Jan. 23-24, 2020


The Freeman’s Journal • Hometown Oneonta

Jan. 23-24, 2020


With state Sen. Jim Seward’s announcement he will retire at the end of his term, we took a photo trip down Memory Lane.  When the Cooperstown “Birthplace of Baseball” license plates were issued in the 1990s, Senator Seward received #3. You can still see him driving around with them today.  #1 went to Harold Hollis, former Freeman’s Journal managing editor and then-mayor of Cooperstown. (Later, it was passed on to Jane Forbes Clark.) Then Hall of Fame Director Ed Stack, right, received #2.


With Retirement Decision, Seward Era At End

Schoharie’s Tague May Run To Succeed Seward

At Anticipated, Derek Jeter To Enter Hall Of Fame

County Treasurer Back From Djibouti Deployment

FOTOT Aims To Buy, Revive Oneonta Theater

Trial Of Truitt Begins In Oneonta Fatal Arson

Schenevus Students May End Up At Milford

Common Council Funds Destination Oneonta

Finally, City Buys Oneonta Ford Property


Hasta Luego, Senator Seward, Not Goodbye


DELGADO: With Love, Via Martin Luther King

ATWELL: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

BENNETT: Sanctuaries Are For People, Not Guns

DOSTAL: Arguments For Legal Pot Harmful, Empty


MARTIN: Solar Farm Saves Overworked, Overtaxed

COLONE: Use Bed-Tax Hike To Build Better Future

BROCK: Renewables, Not Gas, Cleaner Way To Go


BOUND VOLUMES: Jan. 23, 2020


Lunachix: Belly-Dancers Build Skills, Community

‘Green Book’ Leads To ‘Driving While Black’


Bud Pirone, 80; Principal, OHS Wall Of Famer

Merle Keller, 60; Worked At Brooks, Denny’s

Peter Martin, 96; WWII Vet, Active In Community

Frances Gorney, 76; Mainstay In RSCS Operations

Martha Quinn, 105; Retired To Cooperstown

Sonya Skoglund, 34; Home Health Aide



Previous Edition Click Here

HOMETOWN History Jan. 24, 2020


Jan. 24, 2020

150 Years Ago

No Snow – Track Clear: Reports from the Pacific Railroad to January 20 say there is no snow on the Great Plains nor in the Black Hills, nor in the passes of the Rocky Mountains, nor in the lofty chain of the Sierra Nevada, to obstruct the trains – but a clear track from ocean to ocean. At the same time the record shows the Hudson open to Albany and the same is reported of all the European rivers emptying into the North Sea and the Lower Baltic, which are usually fast-locked in ice in mid-winter. Surely some wonderful things in the heavens and the earth, in the sun and his satellites are going on of momentous import to our little planet of which we know nothing.

January 1870

125 Years Ago

General County News – Miss Bertha Matteson of Morris, Raymond Snyder of Salt Springville Almon T. Olney of South Edmeston, and N.D. Root of Oneonta are among the students now at the Albany Business College from Otsego County. The revival of business is making an increase in
the demand for graduates of the college and the outlook for those who attend is highly encouraging.
H.W. Smith of Wells Bridge, recently sent a case of fresh eggs to New York City and the other day received word from the commission merchant that they were all hard-boiled when received. The cause can hardly be understood. But, it is supposed that they came in too close contact with the steam pipes in transportation.
Collections were taken in several of the village churches in Oneonta last Sunday in aid of the proposed hospital. The total amount secured was $137.81.

January 1895

100 Years Ago

Dorothy Garrique, playing a leading role with the musical comedy “My Soldier Girl,” coming to the Oneonta Theatre Monday, January 26, is a niece of Thomas Garrique Massaryk, president of Czecho-Slovakia, the new republic in Europe. Mr. Massaryck, previous to the war, was president of the University of Bohemia. He was a believer of free speech and at the outbreak of hostilities made many fiery speeches in behalf of the Allied cause. This so enraged the Central Powers that he was arrested, cast into prison and an order went forth to execute him. He avoided the death penalty only by a remarkable escape from prison. He succeeded in reaching London and afterward came to America. During his time in this country he visited relatives in Chicago and there met Miss Garrique.

January 1920

80 Years Ago

Hartwick Head Addresses Lions – “The whole world is in dire need of more and stronger centers of intellectual and spiritual activity which will leaven modern culture with Christian education and Christian philosophy of life,” Dr. Henry J. Arnold, President of Hartwick College, declared at last night’s meeting of the Lions Club at the Oneonta Hotel. Dr. Arnold talked on “The Education Democracy Needs.” He opened his address with a reference to a story in Rudyard Kipling’s second jungle book and said that “it is hardly necessary for us to use our imagination as to whether the jungle is creeping into our civilization. In international affairs, the jungle of might, of fear, of suspicion is quite wide-spread. In national policies, the Christian form of government – democracy – is giving
way to the totalitarian state, which controls the affairs of business, industry, the school, and to a large degree the church, and where men cannot read, cannot write, and cannot speak about what they wish. In secular education, naturalism has reduced man to matter, so that it does not matter what he does. Morals and morality are relative in such a philosophy and the end justifies the means. To the lawless, America means only a place in which to rob, to thieve, to destroy and plunder.”

January 1940

40 Years Ago

The SUCO Student Association wants to establish a center to distribute information on sex problems and sell birth control devices in spite of administration objections to the plan. S.A. President Greg Floyd said students need more information on venereal disease and other sex-related problems. “We wouldn’t be counseling or anything like that. We’d just be acting as a clearing house for information. We’d just give out pamphlets and things like that,” he said. In addition to passing out literature, the center will also sell birth control devices at a “reduced cost,” he said. “We have volunteers ready to man the thing. The only real problem is where to put it.” Dean of Students Francis Daley said Monday he won’t provide a home for such a center. “I wouldn’t provide them with a spot for their center if they asked me for one. It’s not the place of the college to provide an outlet for birth control devices. We do provide counseling and information on sex as part of our function as an educational institution.” Daley said SUCO has no more cases of venereal disease than most colleges its size. Daley had no information on the numbers of pregnancies on campus. “If we can help just one person avoid a pregnancy or keep them from getting VD, it would be worth it,” Greg Floyd said.

January 1980

20 Years Ago

Josh Brown, an Oneonta High graduate, hit a 15-foot jump shot at the buzzer to lift the Hartwick College men’s basketball team to a 62-60 victory over Alfred University on Saturday. Brown finished with 19 points on 5 for 8 shooting from the field and 8 of 10 from the charity line. The Hawks are 8-5 overall and 2-3 in the Empire Eight circuit. The Hawks have won four of their last five games.

January 2000

10 Years Ago

New York Governor David Patterson was among the estimated 2,000 mourners who paid their respects at the funeral of New York State Police trooper Jill E. Mattice. She was the first female trooper to die in the line of duty. There were 500 members of the state police – including
150 members of Mattice’s Troop “C” – attending the ceremony. Mattice, 31, had been a member of the state police for more than six years and had worked the past five years as a school resource officer, most recently in the Franklin and Unadilla Valley districts.

January 2010

FOTOT Planning To Buy, Renovate Oneonta Theater

Elaine Bresee To Lead Effort

FOTOT Planning To Buy,

Renovate Oneonta Theater

Bob Brzozowski, GOHS executive director and treasurer of the revived FOTOT, discusses plans to revive the Oneonta Theater. (James Cummings/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

The revived Friends of Oneonta Theater elected Elaine Bresee, center, as president; Elizabeth Dunn, secretary, and Bob Brzozowski, treasurer
at an organizational meeting Friday, Jan. 17, at the Oneonta History Center.

ONEONTA – By the end of the year, Bob Brzozowski hopes, the newly revived Friends of the Oneonta Theater will have site control of the theater.

“We’ve seen places like Walton, Norwich, Bainbridge and Worcester re-open their theaters,” he said. “If small towns can do it, so can we.”

Brzozowski, Greater Oneonta Historical Society executive director, is one of three new board members of revived FOTOT. Elaine Bresee was elected president; Elizabeth Dunn, SUNY Oneonta Dean of Liberal Arts, secretary, and Brzozowski, treasurer. Ellen Pope, Otsego 2000 executive director, also joined the board.

The original Friends of the Oneonta Theatre formed in 2008, when the theater went up for sale.

When entrepreneur Tom Cormier bought it in 2009, FOTOT helped him with theater restoration. But they soon parted ways, and although the group became less and less active, it still maintained its not-for-profit status.

When the Oneonta Theater went up for sale in 2015, GOHS, in collaborate with FOTOT members and other interested people, won a $50,000 Technical Assistance grant a hired Duncan Webb, Webb Management, one of the country’s leading theater consultants, to do a feasibility plan.

Webb’s recommendations are available on the GOHS website.

“The theater has good bones, but there’s work to be done,” said Brzozowski. “It’s going to take some major renovation projects.”

$2 million could not only restore the theater to working order, but re-open the two balconies and expand the lobby, Brzozowski said.

“It would be a completely different building,” he said. “We could go in and uncover the original murals, we could do an exhibit on all of the people who performed there. There’s so much more we can do beyond just getting it open.”

Rather than forming a new not-for-profit to buy and restore the theater, Brzozowski and the remaining FOTOT members revived the Friends organization.

“As we got closer and closer to what we wanted to do, we realized it was just easier that way,” he said.

The reformed FOTOT will work to update some of its  rules and bylaws to make sure it is in compliance with newer New York State regulations. “The past members did a great job in setting things up, but there are a lot of other things that have changed at the state level,” he said.

At an organizational meeting Friday, Jan. 17, at GOHS, attendees voted to join the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON), whose local office is managed by Andrew Marietta, the county representative.

“We also joined the League of Historic American Theaters,” Brzozowski said. “We weren’t part of that before.”

In the spring, Brzozowski hopes to launch a capital campaign, after the group determines how much they want to raise – and how people can get involved to help.

“One of the models we’re looking at is like the State Theater in Ithaca,” he said. “When people make a donation of a certain amount, they own a share of the theater, so it’s really a community-owned theater.”

And more than that, they hope to get support from other institutions, including SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College, and said a “shared booking agent” would go a long ways to strengthening ties to Foothills

“Wouldn’t it be great to have the Catskill Symphony Orchestra play in that beautiful theater?” he said. “We could open it up to the Glimmerglass Film Festival as an additional venue. It’s got great acoustics, and it’s a shame it’s not being used.”

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