RICHFIELD SPRINGS – John Patrick Murtha, 87, who retired her after a career in the electronics industry in New Jersey, passed away peacefully on Tuesday evening, March 24, 2020, in his home after an extended illness. He had the comfort of his loving family at his side.
He was born on June 17, 1932, in Brooklyn, son of the late Patrick Joseph and Bridgett Dorley Murtha. John was raised in Brooklyn and was a graduate of New York School of Printing. After high school he enlisted in the Air Force, where he served as an aviation maintenance technician for four years and was honorably discharged in 1955.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – In the early 1960s, as Bob Moshier tells it, if you bought three snowmobiles, you qualified to be a dealer.
Looking for a year ’round use for the family’s Otsego Lake marina just north of the Otsego-Springfield town line, William Thayer picked up three Trail Makers.
“The first time someone passed Willie on a Ski-Doo, he bought a Ski-Doo,” said Moshier.
The three Trail Makers – one unused – sat in the back of a barn on property that’s now part of the
The older brother passed away in 1984. The younger Thayer brother, Rufus, was a friend of Moshier’s grandfather, and the older and younger man started turkey hunting together and became close friends.
In 1995, Rufus – wanting to put the machines back in use – offered Bob Moshier, then a young father, the Trail Makers, which by then had been sitting untouched for decades.
“I didn’t have the time and space for them,” said Moshier. Still, he wrote down the markings on one of the machine’s decals: “The Trail Maker – Abe Mathews Manufacturing Co., Hibbing, Minn.”
The next week, his curiosity growing, Moshier picked up the Trail Makers and stowed them in the barn behind his home on the west end of Richfield Springs.
His love affair with antique snowmobiles had begun.
Today – 25 years later, Moshier is Eastern Regional director for ASCA, the American Council of Snowmobile Associations – its slogan, “Uniting the Snowmobile Community.”
The sole duty, he was told, is raising the profile of antique snowmobiles, a 12-month interest for ASCA members. “Shows!
You could go to one every weekend,” he said.
While the ASCA is based in Lansing, Mich., and while Mike Meagher, the president of the VSCA – the Vintage Snowmobile Club of America – holds sway from Grey Eagle, Minn., the largest show Moshier’s ever attended was last Aug. 3-4 in Lowville.
Some 100 miles north of Richfield Springs, the VSCA put on its 14th annual Vintage Snowmobile National Show, filling the Lewis County Fairgrounds with some 140 exhibitors. Once a year, Moshier contacts a local news outlet to keep getting the story out.
So the other day, he rolled one of the Trail Makers out of his barn onto one of the few remaining snow drifts in his backyard. (Although knowing the weather around here, we still could get another snowmobile-enabling snowstorm.)
As Moshier pointed out, “it’s very simple.” For instance, “the skis were culvert pipes.” His Trail Makers’ skis are unpainted at the bottom, indicating they are early models.
The engine is a K161 7-horsepower Kohler – it was also used to power riding lawnmowers. And Moshier still has the original sparkplug. It’ll do the job, although he uses a contemporary sparkplug to save wear and tear on the original.
The Trail Maker’s advantage of simplicity; no computers: “You can work on it,” he said.
Once in hand, one thing led to another. Drilling down, Moshier discovered Abe Mathews Engineering primarily did work for iron mines in the nearby, and famed, Mesabi Range.
Iron mining went through periodic dips and, during one of them, Mathews’ mechanic John Howe sold his patent on his snowmobile to the company, which began producing the Trail Maker in the early 1960s.
In an article he wrote in 1999 for the ASCA’s magazine, Iron Dog Tracks, Moshier interviewed Gerald “Tony” Heald, who worked with Howe, who “described how the exclusive octagon drive unit was designed to vibrate snow out of the track, whereas Polaris and Artic Cat would get snow in the track belt and slip.”
The rear engine was another positive feature, creating a smoother ride, Heald told Moshier, who also recalled Ski-Doo’s trials with the first front-engine sled: It would burrow the vehicles into snowbanks. The engine had to be shifted to the back, at some expense to the company.
In the 1990s, Moshier was happy to show off his new acquisitions: He and son Bobby, now an engineer in the Rochester area, would use one Trail Maker to pull a trailer bearing another in the annual Richfield Springs’ Firemen’s Parade, an annual summer highlight.
(His wife, Robin, is current Richfield Springs mayor, and daughter Katie was an aide to state Sen. Jim Seward.)
It’s unknown to most of us driving up and down West Lake Road that we’re passing a historical vignette: In 1964, Willie Thayer used a sturdy Trail Maker to pull a NYTel cable across the ice, near Sunken Island.
When the ice melted, the cable sank to the bottom, and is still serving our communications needs today.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Robert “Bob” Francis Fahey, 86, who worked for 24 years at Bill’s Auto Auction, passed away peacefully on Thursday morning Feb. 27, 2020, at Bassett Medical Center, Cooperstown. He had the peace and comfort of his loving family at his side.
Bob was born on Jan. 29, 1934, in Cooperstown, the son of the late Francis Joseph and Mildred Smith Fahey.
A lifelong area resident, he was raised and graduated from VanHornesville High School with the Class of 1952.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Susan J. Vaughn, 52, who held leadership positions in Catholic Charities and Youth Care in the Seattle area, passed away Feb. 9, 2020, in Lake Stevens, Wash., as a result of a car accident.
She was born Dec. 30, 1967, in Ilion, daughter of Roger S. and Diane S. (Slocum) Vaughn of Richfield Springs.
She was educated in the Richfield Springs school system and received her B.A. in Human Services from Western Washington University in Bellingham, and her M.A. in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix in Arizona.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – John B. Barown, 67, an Air Force veteran and former Milford postmaster, died Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, at his home in the Village of Richfield Springs after a period of declining health.
John was born May 31, 1952, in Jersey City, N.J., the son of Bartholomew and Inge (Wappler) Barown, Sr. When John was young, he and his family moved to Hartwick, where, for many years, they engaged in farming.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Elaine LaBarge, who retired from Bassett Hospital after a career in nursing, passed away Jan. 19, 2020 at Bassett Hospital after a courageous battle with pulmonary fibrosis. She was surrounded by those she loved deeply in her heart.
She was born in Ilion on Feb. 19, 1945, to the late Francis and Esther Werthman.
Elaine was a 1963 graduate of Mohawk High School and a 1964 graduate of nursing school. She started her career at Mohawk Valley General Hospital and retired from the ENT clinic at Bassett Healthcare.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Frances “Fanny” Gorney Wright, 76, who filled many roles at Richfield Springs Central School, including district tax collector, passed away unexpectedly Saturday morning, Jan. 11, 2020, at Albany Medical Center, Albany.
She was born on April 27, 1943, in Cooperstown, daughter of the late Alfred M. and Rosa Isenor Gorney.
A lifelong Richfield Springs resident, she graduated from Richfield Springs High School with the Class of 1961. She continued her education at Mohawk Valley Community College and graduated in 1963.
I’m writing to express my gratitude for living in a place that has such good, caring people. I have lived in Oneonta, Otsego County, and Upstate New York only for a year and a half.
Wednesday night, Jan. 8, I was driving to Richfield Springs that evening, heading to the Food Co-op to give a presentation. With the snow pouring down at times and blowing up onto the roads – and my windshield — from fields, I was driving as slowly and as carefully as I could. But on NY-28, about 6.5 miles from RS, the snow was coming down so fast and furious that I could not see where I was on the road. I ended up sliding (fortunately) slowly into a (fortunately) shallow ditch on the left. My car was stuck in there at about a 45-degree angle.
A driver and his wife immediately stopped to see if I was OK. At least eight other drivers paused or stopped during the half hour or so I was stuck there to do the same. One of them, a young man named Eddie Bello, who lived up the road from where I got stuck, not only stopped, but called a tow truck for me, and most importantly, stayed with his headlights shining on my car until the tow truck arrived so drivers could see it. Joe, the tow truck driver from Chuck’s Towing, got my car out in 10 minutes; neither car nor I was damaged.
I now have had my first New York Upstate Winter Experience, which included the not so good and the great aspects. I got stuck, but the good, caring people of Otsego County were there to help. Now that I’ve been christened a Real Upstate New Yorker, I’m going to get snow tires put on the car.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – At the Richfield Town Board’s two-hour reorganizational meeting this morning, the shoe was now on the other foot.
Where Town Board member Larry Frigault’s 3-2 majority was in control through Dec. 31, the control shifted today to newly elected Town Supervisor Nick Palevsky and his allies, Town Board members Fred Eckler and newly elected Ed Bello Jr.
From 9 a.m., when the meeting started, to just past 11, where 43 motions were mostly approved, 3-2, several over Frigault’s objections. Town Board member Rex Seamon allied with Frigault.
Key among the motions was one that could throw out the town’s new zoning code – approved 3-2 in October by the Frigault faction – based on a disputed new Comprehensive Master Plan that led to the new majority’s election Nov. 5.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Dennis G. Suhocki, 67, a Navy veteran, outdoorsman and taxidermists, passed away on Dec. 28, 2019, in his home, following a short illness. He had the comfort of his loving family at his side.
Dennis was born on July 15, 1952, in Herkimer, son of the late John and Margaret Irene Stiler Suhocki.
A lifelong area resident, he was educated at Owen D. Young Central School in Van Hornesville and graduated from Richfield Springs High School.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Jeanne M. Palmer, 90, a retired teacher and whose father operated Ehrmann Prescription Pharmacy here while she was growing up here, passed away Dec. 13, 2019, with her family by her side at the Charles T. Sitrin Health Care Center.
She was born on July 6, 1929, in Amsterdam, a daughter of the late Raymond G. and Marguerite Hayes Ehrmann. She graduated from the College of St. Rose in Albany. Jeanne was united in marriage to Richard B. Palmer, on June 20, 1959, in Richfield Springs; Richard passed away June 9, 1978.
ALBANY — The Village of Richfield Springs was the big local winner today, receiving $1,325,000 in the annual round of state economic development grants announced this morning at The Egg in Albany.
In all, the county received $3.5 million in so-called CFA grants through the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council, including $325,000 to fast-track development of the Richfield Springs Industrial Park, and $1 million to reduce runoffs into Canadarago Lake.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Walter J. Hribar, 84, a Korean War veteran and longtime Richfield Springs resident, passed away peacefully on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, in his home. He had the comfort of his loving family at side.
Walter was born on March 6, 1935, in Fly Creek, son of the late Anthony and Anna Pope Hribar.
A lifelong area resident, he was educated at Richfield Springs Central School.