Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has Albert Colone, founding president of the former National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, musing about the immigrant experience, when times were REALLY tough. This is the first of two columns on the immigrant experience of his grandparents, Frank and Lucia (Valentini) Colone.
COVID-19, which hit America hard starting in early 2020, turned our worlds upside down. I haven’t been able to hug my grandchildren since early February 2020 on my last visit with them. So here we are hunkered down, adhering to the virus protocols, playing it safe and staying healthy.
So, what do you do to maintain your sanity?
I reflect on stories surrounding the trials and tribulations of my ancestors to understand the struggles they plowed through in their lives.
Remember, they were handicapped by not having all of today’s quality-of-life assets, no cell phones, computers, the luxuries of travel from automobiles to airplanes, prepared foods, safe housing, money and all of assets that we enjoy, and perhaps take for granted, today.
Do you hear where I’m going with this? Let me share with you some of the storied struggles of the early lives of my grandfather and grandmother.
Chris Gustafson, top, counts the chimes as Rev. Mark Montfort rings the church bell at First Presbyterian Church in Oneonta this morning. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of Brenda L. Utter, Morris, who was the first COVID related death in Otsego County. In the year since Utter’s passing, 55 residents have died from COVID-19, and this morning members of the congregation took turns ringing the bell in memory of those lost. “This is a somber anniversary for the community,” said Montfort, “We didn’t ring the bell for those who believed the way we do, vote how we vote, or for any other consideration. We’re all in this together and each loss is a loss for everyone. We rang the bell for all who have gone on and for everyone who is still here.” (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
ONEONTA – “Testing is the secret sauce to our success,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said today at a noontime press conference as students begin returning to SUNY Oneonta in advance of the Feb. 1 start of the spring semester.
This coming semester, all students will be required to take a weekly swab test, “and we are using the number one saliva test in the world here at SUNY,” said Malatras, who appeared with campus President Dennis Craig at the Dewar Arena, where testing sites have been set up.
The swab, in combination with mask wearing at all times and social distancing, makes him “optimistic” that last fall’s outbreak, where 750 students tested positive in a few days and campus was closed, will be avoided this spring.
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/AllOTSEGO.com)
While the annual Halloween parade may not be on, that gave throngs of ghouls, ghosts, superheroes and princesses all the more reason to head downtown for the annual trick-or-treating event on this afternoon on Main street in Oneonta. Above, Brendan DeFalco, a brother with Chi Phi fraternity, hands out candy outside Tokyo Japanese Cuisine to Oneonta’s Reese Robinson and Rowan and Wyatt Keto. At right, Benjamin Reese shows how to walk like a robot in his homemade robot costume. College students were invited downtown to help hand out the candy in front of local businesses as part of the renewed Town-Gown work groups, part of the city’s Survive, Then Thrive initiative. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
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/AllOTSEGO.com)
ONEONTA – Residency and the budget process were two of the strongly-debated topics as Common Council continues refining the City Manager role to a City Administrator.
“We’ve had so many issues with the last three city managers finding a place to stay, as well as issues with our housing stock, that we should allow the City Manager to live outside the city,” said Council member Dave Rissberger, Third Ward.
At what its organizers called “The Patriots Rally” this afternoon in Oneonta’s Muller Plaza to combat “white supremacists and racism,” co-organizer Diandra Sangetti-Daniels, above, calls for the continued defense against racism in all forms. Sixty-five people stopped to listen to several speakers, including co-organizer Johnny Brown, inset photo, as well as Anthony Baron, Zach King and Anthony Eardley, who recited Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “America’s Chief Moral Dilemma.” Sangetti-Daniels is also organizing a Community Speak-Out, where people can come and tell their experiences to community leaders. While the date has yet to be set, she is excited for the meeting; “Many people come to these rallies and tell their stories, but feel the people who need to hear them are elsewhere. At this meeting, the people who implement chance will be there.” (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Downtown Oneonta was filled with seasonal flair this afternoon as Hartwick and SUNY students gathered with merchants to stuff and hang “branded” scarecrows from light poles as part of the Town-Gown Work Group collaboration. Above, Hartwick Student Government Association members and college seniors Jennifer Paszko, and Lydia Mateney, work at filling the body of a scarecrow with newspapers outside of GOHS. At right, members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity Dalton Wooder helps Betsy Cunningham, owner of Artware, and Susan Blass, Oneonta, decorate the Artware scarecrow outside the store. The scarecrows will remain on display throughout the month of October. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Jennifer Mickle, Chair of the Relay For Life of Otsego County Committee, pins a purple ribbon button on the vest of Chris Chase, Assistant Director of the American Legion Riders, before the start of the third annual Foliage Run to benefit the Relay for Life at the American Legion Post 259 this afternoon. “Cancer didn’t stop just because COVID happened,” said Mickle. “We can’t hold the walks right now because of social distancing, but donations are appreciated and needed now more than ever.” Another rider who drew some attention was Chase’s dog Pixel, pictured at right, who was ready to ride inside her safety harness and goggles. To donate, please call (607) 287-3588, or visit the Relay for Life of Otsego County facebook page. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)