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

Paul R. Robinson, 79, Oneonta; Marine, Teacher, City Alderman


Paul R. Robinson, 79, Oneonta;

Marine, Teacher, City Alderman

Paul Robinson and wife Martha were grand marshals of the 2016 Oneonta Fourth of July Parade, a memory he treasured. ( file photo)
Paul R. Robinson

ONEONTA – Paul Raymond Robinson, 79, a Marine, retired teacher and two-term Oneonta alderman, died peacefully on Oct. 22, 2020, at Bassett Hospital, after years of struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.

An engaged community leader, driven by a sense of fairness and a steadfast commitment to helping those in need, Paul was a lifelong Yankees fan, an adventurous pilot, a curious hobbyist and a collector of coins with a soft spot for dogs and children.

Many people will remember him walking his Boston terriers, Beacon and Sugar Bear, through downtown Oneonta.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: New SUNY President Determined To Halt Further C-Outbreaks


New SUNY President

Determined To Halt

Further C-Outbreaks

Having formed an emergency response committee years ago early in his tenure at SUNY Purchase, Dennis Craig, SUNY Oneonta’s interim president, said he was “very paranoid” when the threat of coronavirus appeared on the horizon early this year. Quick action kept positive cases at his Westchester County campus to 25.  Now, he’s tasked with winding down SUNY Oneonta’s worst-in-the-nation outbreak.
Get the details of his plan in an exclusive interview in this week’s Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal, on newsstands tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon. (Ian Austin/
City Committee Lauded By NY Conference Of Mayors

City Committee Lauded

By Conference Of Mayors

ONEONTA – The city’s “Survive, Then Thrive” committee has awarded the “Local Government Achievement Award” by the NYS Conference of Mayors for their work in seeking grants, planning events and strengthening partnerships for both the present and the “post-COVID” world.

“In March, I called upon 6 people to form a committee to identify strategies for Oneonta businesses to Survive, then Thrive,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “Fifty more people – you – volunteered to join and give of their time and skills. Both Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta provided support. Thank you to all.”

Meridy Gets 22 Years In Worcester Slaying

First Defendant

Receives 22 Years

In Worcester Death

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Nicolas Meridy

COOPERSTOWN – Nicholas Meridy, who plead guilty to second-degree murder in the October 2019 death of Kenneth Robinson at his home in Worcester, was sentenced to 22 years to life in prison during a hearing in Otsego County Court this morning.

“I’m satisfied with it,” said District Attorney John Muehl. “After speaking with the family, that was the offer I made so we didn’t have to put them through a trial.”

Wedding, Red’s Ale House Source Of Local COVID Spikes

COVID-19 Spike

Traced To Wedding,

Red’s Ale House

10 Cases At Hartwick; 18 From Nuptials

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

CDC image of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN –  A weekend trip to Red’s Ale House.

A 75-guest wedding in Cooperstown.

These are the source of the two major outbreaks in the county, with 10 students testing positive at Hartwick College and 18 positives linked to the wedding, including three people living in a group home and a staff member at Cooperstown Elementary School.

Supporters Of OPD Parade Through Town


Supporters Of OPD

Parade Through City

Amy Smithling of Oneonta, above, addresses crowd members gathered at the former Christopher’s Restaurant site on Southside as they prepare for a parade earlier this afternoon in support of the Oneonta Police Department. “This is about the OPD and the support they deserve,” said Smithling. “This is not about us versus them. This is not a Trump Rally. This is simply a show of force to support the OPD!” Inset, Genesis Bushnell, Laurens, and Shannon Speenburg, Unadilla, wave the “Thin Blue Line” flag in support support as they fall in line with numerous trucks and cars, including firetrucks and cement mixers, joined led the parade with flashing lights and sounding horns on their path through the city.  The issue came to the fore when Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner removed the “Thin Blue Line” flag from the pole in front of the Oneonta Public Safety Building a few days ago. (Ian Austin/

Jerry Jeff Walker, 78, ‘Mr. Bojangles’ Creator; On Historic OHS Team


Jerry Jeff Walker, 78,

‘Mr. Bojangles’ Creator;

On Historic OHS Team

Jerry Jeff Walker hoists his OHS Wall of Distinction plaque, awarded to him during his last local performance, Aug. 14, 2010, at the Oneonta Theatre. ( file photo)
A publicity shot of Jerry Jeff in his heyday.

ONEONTA – Jerry Jeff Walker, the Oneonta native who found country music stardom with his 1968 hit “Mr. Bojangles,” has died after a three-year battle with throat cancer, according to reports.

Born Ronald Clyde Crosby on March 16, 1942, in Oneonta, was a member of OHS Coach Tony Drago’s unbeaten, untied 1959-60 varsity basketball team.  He also formed his first band locally, The Tones. He graduated in 1960 and moved to New York City, then to Austin.

Angelina M. Koury 90; Husband, 3 Sons Among Her Survivors

IN MEMORIAM: Angelina M. Koury 90;

Husband, 3 Sons Among Her Survivors

Angelina M. Koury

ONEONTA – Angelina M. Koury, 90, died peacefully Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at the Albany Medical Center, surrounded by her loving family.

 She was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, and friend to many, and was a life-long resident of the Oneonta community. She took pride that she lived in the same house on Park Avenue for over 85 of her almost 91 years.

Her family, and all those who knew her, will remember her for her kindness, and unconditional love. The four-legged feline and canine creatures of the world always held a special place in her heart, as well, as she would feed and befriend the neighborhood’s homeless kitties looking for food, and shelter.  Her beloved, “granddog” Ozmo, will also greatly miss her, as she would unconditionally hold watch over him in the absence of his owner.

COVID Cases Climb To 6 At Hartwick College

COVID Cases Climb To

5 At Hartwick College

ONEONTA – Three new cases of COVID-19 were reported this afternoon at Hartwick College, rising the total to five active cases on the campus after several weeks without a reported case.

“We still don’t know the origin,” said Paula Lee Hobson, VP, College Advancement. “But we are holding to the Social Compact and encouraging students to remain on campus.”

Commission Backs Council Member’s Plan To Examine Offensive Plaque

‘We’ve Got Your Back,’ Murphy Told

Rights Commission Supports

Review Of ‘Savagery’ Plaque

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to


ONEONTA – The city’s Commission on Community Relations and Human Rights supported Council member Luke Murphy, First Ward, as he begins reaching out to groups about the plaque in Neahwa Park that refers to “Indian savagery

“I’m excited to say I have made contacts with the Oneida, Onondaga and Mohawk nations,” he said at this evening’s commission meeting. “I also have reached out to the president of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I want to make sure I have complete engagement of all parties before we proceed.”

Turkey Trot 5K Goes Virtual, Honors Late Founder John Hayen

Turkey Trot 5K Goes Virtual,

Honors Late Founder John Hayen

ONEONTA – Helios Care’s annual Turkey Trot 5K race will go virtual this Thanksgiving, with the 10-day run dedicated to the memory of founder John Hayen, who helped plan and support the event in the years before his passing earlier this month.

“We are all deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend John Hayen.  Many will miss him and his passionate spirit,” said Kelly McGraw, Helios Care’s Director of Access and Turkey Trot Event Director. “Dedicating the 2020 race to John will allow Helios Care to show our gratitude for the enthusiasm he brought to this event and his advocacy on behalf of hospice care.”




Landmark Adopts ‘Pick-It-Up,

Take-It-In’ Approach This Week

Gio Curto, from Oneonta by way of Long Island, packs a takeout order. After conferring with his crew, Ryan Brooks added a second line to process the growing demand. (Jim Kevlin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Proprietor Ryan Brooks holds up an “Imaginary Friends” sign, that will be set on tables to encourage patrons to maintain proper social distancing.

ONEONTA – Ryan Brooks, third-generation owner of Brooks BBQ is a man of his word.

“I made a promise to my grandma” – Frances Brooks, co-found with husband Griffin – “that I was always going to keep this place going,” he said.

When the COVID threat shuttered the restaurant in March, he began innovating almost immediately to ensure the regional culinary landmark would make it through.

He marshalled a three-vehicle fleet – his own included – and began to delivery to homes and offices.

He offered take-out and curbside pickup with online ordering.

He moved waiters and waitresses onto the bottling line so that none of his employees had to go without a paycheck.

As the weather got warmer, he expanded outdoor dining by 50 seats, and added an outdoor with a restroom trailer that’s cleaned every 20 minutes.

“We could serve 900-1,000 diners a day,” he said. “Folks didn’t stop coming, and we were so thankful for them for supporting us.”

And now, with the outdoor dining season winding to a close and many his army of loyal patrons still wary of dining indoors, he’s turning to “pick-it-up, take-it-in,” a model that’s become popular nationwide.

Ryan is active in national restaurant organizations, and at conventions he and other barbecue vendors seek out the most popular such establishments in the host cities.

“I’ve travelled to some of the best barbeque restaurants in the country,” he said a few days ago at an interview in Brooks’ spacious dining hall at 5560 Route 7, “and every single one of them has a ‘pick-it-up, take-it-in’ concept.”

It’s simple: order your food – either online or in person – pick it up at one of the windows and take it inside to dine with your party – for now, at socially distanced tables, of course.

“It’s about being able to sit and eat with your friends,” he said. “It’s very relaxed, very back-to-basics.”

Gone are the self-serve salad bar, the beef bun and the sampler platter, where supply issues made getting the top round cuts difficult.

“We were even having trouble getting our take-out boxes,” he said. “If you came in once a week for a month, each time, you’d probably have a different manufacturer making the containers.”

The beef bun was replaced by brisket, which Brooks said has been a popular addition. “It’s flying,” he said.

But that’s not the only change. “People were always disappointed that we didn’t serve beer,” he said. “The pairing of beer and barbeque is a natural.”

Partnering with Cooperstown Brewing Co., diners can order a can of their new “Third Man Ale” with their meal. The restaurant will also have beer on tap, as well as Sidney-based Awestruck hard cider and seltzer.

Three take-out windows have been added at the front of of the building – as takeout multiplied at with the New York Pause, line multiplied too.

“We had one telephone line when this started,” he said. “Now we have seven, and they are constantly ringing.”

The gift shop has also been expanded and moved from behind the main building to the front of the restaurant.

And if you’re looking for a familiar face, Phyllis O’Sullivan, Ryan’s aunt and waitress of 60-year tenure, will still be up front to help serve her customers. “She’ll be right there when we open our doors,” he said.

Brooks worked alongside his kitchen crew on the busiest days. “It’s like being in a submarine,” he said. “We had to change the whole flow to two prep lines, and we incorporated a lot of their ideas to make it easier to work in there. We learned so much about each other.”

At the bottling plant, he had to add a second shift to keep up with the demand for take-home sauces. “Our bottling business is up 110 percent,” he said. “We’ve got 50 people on the line.”

Brooks stopped the vaunted catering business in the spring, but he’s again Brooks reached out to non-profits – which he recognized are also struggling – to partner for “drive-thru” dinners.

“Our catering is back up to six days a week,” he said. “We just did over 6,000 dinners for the health care workers at Albany Med, at cost.”

He paused, then went on: “70 years of history had to change in seven months,” he said. “But it’s time to rethink our process and update.”

Councilman Questions Plaque Referring to ‘Savagery’ Of Iroquois

Councilman Questions

Monument Referring

To Iroquois ‘Savagery’

Murphy Said He Will Raise Issue

Today Before Rights Commission

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Council member Luke Murphy, First Ward, is facting-finding on what to do about this marker, in front of Oneonta Neahwa Park, which refers to the “savagery” of the Iroquois people.

ONEONTA –  After 118 years, Common Council member Luke Murphy, First Ward, is concerned about a marker in Neahwa Park referring to the “savagery” of the Iroquois pursued by the Clinton-Sullivan Expedition.


A neighbor of Murphy’s walking through Neahwa Park alerted the freshman council member to the plaque at the park’s River Street entrance, which says the 1779 expedition “destroyed the Indian savagery and opened the westward pathway of civilization.”

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