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)
COOPERSTOWN – A total of 5,223 ballots were cast during the nine-day early-voting period that ended at 2 p.m. today, according to Mike Henrici, the Democratic elections commissioner.
That compares to 367 early votes in 2018, according to Democratic Elections Commissioner Mike Henrici. That was a non-presidential year and the first time early voting was allowed.
Of the early votes, 2,620 were cast by registered Democrats; 1,402 by registered Republicans, said Henrici. (It’s not known how many Democrats and Republicans may have voted for the other party’s candidates.)
“The city doesn’t have the money in the budget for it, but someone suggested GoFundMe,” he said.
A fan of Jerry Jeff’s music for years, Decker even taught Walker’s sister, Cheryl Harder, how to play “Mr. Bojangles,” now an American classic, on the guitar when he was teaching at the Eighth Note.
He first met Walker in the early ’80s, when Nick Lambros came into the music store “He said Jerry Jeff was coming to the Diana restaurant to give a concert, and he needed some gear,” he said. “I told him I could provide it – if he got me a ticket. It was invite-only, so Nick said, ‘You’re invited!’”
It was “the best concert I ever saw,” said Decker, and after that saw Jerry Jeff concerts whenever he could, including when he played at the Oneonta Theatre in 2010.
A longtime radio personality at WCDO, Decker also interviewed the star frequently.
The 2010 show was a rare sell-out for the theatre, and while Walker may have brought
the hits, Oneonta had something more in store for him.
“Jerry Jeff didn’t come to his induction into the OHS Wall of Fame,” said his former coach, Tony Drago. “So at intermission, Ron Brazier went backstage, and then on stage to present him with his award!”
Long before Walker was the country music icon, he was a member of the Class of 1960, playing on Drago’s 1959-60 record-breaking basketball team – undefeated, untied.
“He was one of my nice boys,” said Drago. “He was 6-foot-1 and a good shooter; he could score 11 or 12 points in a game.”
In addition to sports, he also played in a local band, The Tones. “My husband played with him before we were married,” said Oneonta’s Cecelia Russell, whose late husband was also a Jerry, and also a member of The Tones. “I never got to meet him, but whenever he was in town, they’d get together.”
Walker came from a musical family; his grandparents played for square dances and his mother, Alma, played piano.
“Our grandmother gave him his first guitar,” said sister Cheryl.
“I only met him one time,” said fabled local DJ Chuck D’Imperio. “But I told him that my father, Don, and his Aunt Norma both played in the same orchestra, The Bards of Swing. He got a big charge out of that!”
After high school, Walker moved to New York City, where he played in folk clubs and busked on the sidewalk. “We always hear the word ‘troubadour,’ but Jerry Jeff was a real-life one,” said D’Imperio. “He truly was a free spirit.”
His sister agreed. “He was 15 years older than me, but one time when he came home to visit my parents, he had long hair,” she said. “I was 7 or 8 years old, and I remember walking down Main Street with him, feeling so proud of my brother, with his long hair. I thought it was the coolest thing – and my parents were walking behind us! They didn’t like it.”
“When he came back to Oneonta, it didn’t matter if he was Jerry Jeff or Ron,” said Mike Syron, a fellow basketball player. “He was always a great guy.”
Walker later moved to Texas, where he became one of the “grandfathers” of the Austin music scene. His annual “birthday party” concert at the Paramount Theatre and at Gruene Hall was a major event in country music, featuring local and national recording artists for a night of songs and stories.
In 2012, he held a major fundraiser for President Obama’s reelection at Austin City Limits.
But he never forgot his coach, and the two kept in touch. “He’d call me whenever Duke was playing basketball,” said Drago. “We’d critique the game together.”
Drago’s son, Charlie, lived in San Antonio, and went to Walker’s shows whenever he could. “When my dad would come visit, we’d all play golf, then go see Jerry Jeff play at night,” he said. “I was at the last show he ever did at Gruene Hall. We had tickets for his birthday bash, but he canceled the show.”
“I always wanted to go to the shows he did at his house in Belize,” said Decker. “I kept saying, ‘next year, next year.’”
Walker was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017 and released his final album, “It’s About Time” in 2018.
Walker was cremated and no funeral service is planned, but Harder said that a tribute concert is in the early planning stages.
“His music and his storytelling will live on for generations,” said Harder. “I can always put on a CD and hear his voice. He’s gone, but he’s not really gone.”
BASEBALL AUTHOR – 2 p.m. Presentation on ‘Designated Hebrew’ presented by co-authors former New York Yankee Ron Blomberg and his biographer, Dan Schlossberg. Book chronicles Blomberg’s baseball story at a time when the sport was changing and his struggles during. Free, registration required. Presented by Baseball Hall of Fame. Visit baseballhall.org/events/virtual-author-series-dan-schlossberg-ron-bloomberg?date=0 for info.
ELECTIONS – 9 a.m. – Noon. Vote in your town and village elections. Fire Hall, 24 Chestnut St., Cooperstown.
COVID-19 TESTING – 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Get free rapid testing for Covid-19. Pre-registration required. Oneonta Armory, 4 Academy St., Oneonta. 607-547-4279.
COOPERSTOWN – Rebounding from the year-long investigation of Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr.’s son, Otsego County may have gotten a head start in meeting the wide-ranging reforms coming out of Albany, said county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield.
Last year, the county already upgraded pre-employment testing for correctional offices, deputies, parole officers – “anyone who carries a gun,” said Bliss, when asked about Governor Cuomo’s executive order and new laws the state Legislature enacted last week in the wake of national tumult caused by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while being taken into custody.
“Yes and no,” Bliss replied when asked of former correctional officer Ros Devlin’s situation – an outburst in the county jail’s break room that eventually led to his resignation – prompted last year’s reforms. “It was probably instigated because of that, but it wasn’t a direct result,” he said.
Interviews this week indicated the three largest local governments – the county itself, the City of Oneonta and Village of Cooperstown – are already considering specific steps to respond to the new directives.
Over the past several days, Governor Cuomo signs several pieces that quickly moved through the state Legislature last week, including banning chokeholds, opening police disciplinary records for public review, and more.
He also issued an executive order requiring police departments to work with their local communities on “a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs,” and to submit it to Albany by next April 1 or lose state funding for law enforcement.
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, a Democrat, said Cuomo’s executive order “works hand in hand with what we’re trying to do, so I think it will be helpful.”
Herzig and OPD Chief Doug Brenner have proposed a Community Advisory Board to review police policies and practices. The mayor plans to discuss the concept with Common Council’s Planning Committee June 29, and bring it before the full council when it next meets on July 7.
In Cooperstown, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, also a Democrat, said “I 100 percent think it’s a good idea.” As for the April 1 deadline, she said, “The village doesn’t receive police department funding from the state, but that doesn’t negate this.”
Tillapaugh said she’s planning “a community group. That’s always the best thing, when you involve the community.” In addition to herself, the group might include the village’s two officers, a mental health expert, someone from Bassett, “a faith leader,” and a selection of village residents. A new police chief, when hired, would also be included.
For his part, Bliss said, “The executive order – it will mean what we are already doing,” said Bliss. “We already have a review in process. We haven’t had any accusation of those types, which I hope means we’re doing this well.”
He said he will ask county Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, who chairs the county board’s Public Safety & Legal Affairs Committee, to take the lead in meeting the governor’s order and implementing the legislation. Wilber did not return calls.
Sheriff Devlin said he’s participated in several conference calls set up by the state Sheriff’s Association, and is waiting for guidance from the association on how to move forward.
“We already review policy and procedures, annually or every other year,” he said, “and go by the best practices. A lot of those things (enacted last week) are already occurring.”
The sheriff said no complaints against the department are pending right now. “You get complaints from time to time, he said. “Those are investigated. Knock on wood, fortunately we haven’t had a use of force incident in some time.” They usually occur when a suspect resists being taken into custody, he said.
By ELIZABETH COOPER • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
UNADILLA – Things had been going so well.
Until the weekend, Otsego County had not had a positive COVID-19 case in more than three weeks.
Then on Friday, May 22, the county announced that an individual who attended a Unadilla Livestock Auction had later tested positive for the virus.
The individual, who is not a resident of this county, had been at a May 16 auction
from 1:30 to 9:30 p.m. and was not wearing a mask, according the Otsego County Health Department. There were about 150 others present.
“I think this is why the governor issued the executive order,” said county Health Director Heidi Bond. “To reduce the density of people.”
The livestock auction falls under the state Department of Agriculture & Markets, the auction was not covered by Governor Cuomo’s order that gatherings be limited to less than 10 people, Bond said.
“From what I understand they didn’t have social distancing in place,” she said. “There was crowding and people were standing within 6 feet of each other without a mask.”
The county Health Department issued an alert Friday warning local residents who may have been there to monitor themselves for symptoms.
So far, only one person has reported symptoms, but the test is not back yet, Bond said.
Also, in the past five days, two additional positive cases were reported. Neither was related to the auction, Bond said. Both individuals likely contracted the disease in a healthcare setting outside the county, one as an employee and the other as a patient, she said.
The Health Department is working with the auction house to better protect those who attend.
Bond also stressed the importance of personal responsibility as county residents work to avoid the virus and prevent others from getting infected.
“We all have to take personal responsibility,” she said. “If we don’t like what is going on at a business then don’t go there.”
She also said people who feel ill should make a point of not going out in public.
The case at the auction is a scenario that could have led to a cluster of cases locally, and because people come from other areas to attend the auction it could have led to a spread. So far, however, Bond is not aware of any cases in other counties that might be related.
The two week incubation period will be up May 30, and most people start to show symptoms within seven days, so she is hopeful that the region dodged a bullet, she said.
Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. said he had a complaint about the fact that the auction was still operating several weeks ago, but determined that they were deemed an essential business and pointed to state Ag & Markets.
“The governor’s made all these stipulations to put it back on local law enforcement, but no tools to deal with it,” he said.
Devlin said he had never been to the auction house and could not say whether it was large enough that 150 people could achieve proper social distancing while there.
ALBANY – All of the state except New York City is moving quickly toward opening.
Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced that the Capital Region has met all seven metrics required to begin phase one of the state’s regional phased reopening plan starting tomorrow, joining the Western New York, Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley Regions.
ALBANY – The two hardest hit counties outside New York City – suburban Westchester and Long Island’s Suffolk – are now eligible to resume elective surgeries and ambulatory, Governor Cuomo announced today at his daily briefing.
They join 49 other New York State counties where hospitals can also do so, including Otsego.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Mayor Robin Moshier still remembers the sound of the accident.
“My office was in the back, but you could hear the car going down the road, hitting things,” she remembered Tuesday after no charges were brought against the driver. “I had no idea what it was. But by the end of the night, we all knew.”
That was Dec. 10, 2019, when 10 people were injured when a state fire marshal, identified as Kevin Ritton, the secretary of the Otsego County Emergency Services, experienced a “medical event” and crashed his truck into four cars before coming to rest on the steps of the post office.