Last week, the community lost an exceptional friend in Bob Schlather. Those who attended the Mass at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Cooperstown on Saturday were graciously asked upon entry if they were with a particular organization, to be shown where others from their group were seated. This spoke volumes about Bob, who was involved in a dizzying array of groups and causes encompassing healthcare, human services, education, arts, historical associations, Rotary — basically, anything established for the betterment of the community. And it was with compassion, dedication, gentleness and a legendary and comforting sense of humor that Bob jumped into his volunteer roles as advisor, advocate, contributor and leader. In her homily during the Mass, the Rev. Betsy Jay referred to Bob as “invincible;” he was always there to get things done, and he did so with understated deliberation.
The Glimmerglass Festival was incredibly fortunate to be a keystone cause of Bob’s. He and his wife, Karen, first became involved as volunteers and supporters in 1979, when the Opera was still in its infancy. By 1984 he was elected to the Board and during his nearly 40 years as a Trustee, Bob served as: Treasurer for seven, Vice President of Personnel for four, Vice President of Legal Affairs, Chairman of the Audit Committee, an At-Large member
of the Executive Committee, and importantly, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for an impressive six years — in tandem with Peter Duchin as his President, with whom he then swapped the Presidency and Chairmanship positions for a year.
Editor’s Note: Our columnist and Oneonta businessman Al Colone died April 13, without finishing a two-part series about his ancestors. As a tribute, his brother, Frank Colone, wrote this memorial about their parents.
By Frank Colone
In the aftermath of World War I and the pandemic of 1918, Ma and Pa Colone returned to Oneonta and Depew Street. Oldest son Ani and baby Adelia (Ethel), who was born in Italy, came with them. Ma and Pa were determined to provide a better life for their family, both those in Italy and those in America.
After living for a time on Depew Street and West Broadway, Pa bought a home on River Street and the family settled permanently in the Sixth Ward in Oneonta’s “lower deck.” They were proud of their home and the fact that they could call Oneonta “home.”
Pa resumed work for the D & H. He worked briefly at the roundhouse and eventually spent most of his working years in the shop.
An unfortunate accident in the shop cost him an eye, but it did not cause him to stop working. He worked in the shop until he retired.
As a young man, Pa served in the military in Italy and acquired reading and writing skills there.
After returning to America, Pa worked to learn how to read and write in English. He so valued education and he constantly preached the value of learning to his family. Pa became a naturalized American citizen in 1928, a very proud moment in his life. Like many immigrant families, Ma never learned to read and write English and, therefore, could not become a citizen.
The Old World ways and skills learned in Italy helped them survive the Great Depression. Without a lot of money, Ma and Pa worked hard and used all their resources to keep their growing family secure. Despite her lack of a formal education, Ma had the primary role in maintaining the household and in raising the family.
►BORN on Aug. 11, 1951, in Oneonta, the youngest of four children. Raised in Milford.
► EDUCATED in Oneonta city schools, graduating in 1973 from Hartwick College, a
political science major.
► MARRIED former Cindy Milavec in 1973 at Schenevus Methodist Church.
► FAMILY includes son Ryan, b. 1978 (and wife Kelly), daughter Lauren, b. 1984; two granddaughters, Nora and Vivian.
► SERVED as Milford Town Justice and Republican County Chairman, attending Republican National Conventions in 1976, 1980 and 1988..
► AIDE to state legislators, including state Sen. Steve Reifert, Auburn, whom he
succeeded, winning election
to his first term in 1986.
► REELECTED 16 times, rising
into leadership positive, including chairing the Standing Committee on Insurance and Energy & Telecommunications Committee, serving as majority whip and assistant majority leader.
► HONORED many times, most recently with the Eugene A. Bettiol Jr. Citizen of the Year Award in November from the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce.
► RETIRED to accolades from appreciate constituents on Dec. 31, 2020.
In reflecting on Jim Seward’s tenure as our state senator, one vignette always comes to mind.
It was the fall of 2006, and Cherry Valley’s Pam Noonan, on a Sunday afternoon at her home on Montgomery Street, was hosting opponents of Reunion Power’s 24-turbine wind farm proposed for East Hill.
Senator Seward had been invited and, prior to his arrival, attendees expressed some vexation that the senator, with his interest in jobs and tax-base enhancement, would not support the opposition.
The senator arrived and, as he always does, listened intently to his constituents’ concerns, not exactly Sphinx-like, but without letting on too much about what he was hearing and thinking.
The outcome, a few weeks later, was Seward’s reaffirmation of support for the state’s “Home Rule” doctrine – whatever powers are NOT given to Albany in the state Constitution devolve to localities.
Influenced by that or not, the Town of Cherry Valley adopted strict guidelines governing windmills, and Reunion went away.
But the Home Rule concept moved to center stage: A few years later to the state Court of Appeals, which ruled the Town of Middlefield, using its zoning powers, could block Cooperstown Holstein’s fracking plans.
What observers learned at Pam Noonan’s that afternoon was this: Seward’s prime interest wasn’t in ideology or partisanship – it was in representing his constituents.
Over the years, many praiseful words about state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, have appeared in this space.
We are proud to say that, throughout the current ownership, we’ve had the honor of endorsing him for reelection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.
The central reason for this was, again, not partisanship or ideology, but because of Seward’s main focus: To serve the people of his 10-county Central New York state Senate District but, foremost, to serve its centerpiece: Otsego County, where he was born, raised, educated and built his political career.
Another word that comes to mind is “nurturing.” Jim Seward sought to nurture his constituents, to protect them, to enhance their opportunities for a better life, to solve their problems on the macro and micro level.
Jim was stricken with cancer in 2016. When it recurred in the fall of 2019, he – weakened by one disease – was stomach-punched last March by deadly COVID-19 and almost lost his life. Then, the people he would nurture for 34 years nurtured him in return.
At the time, the outpouring of support and love on social media and www.AllOTSEGO.com was specific and impressive. People spoke about what he’d done for them, and they praised him, offered support to him and his family – wife Cindy, son Ryan and daughter Lauren, and granddaughters Nora and Vivian – and prayed (effectively, you might argue) for his recovery.
There are many examples to follow in the dozens of tributes to the retiring senator that appear in this week’s newspaper. We can enjoy them. But we can also be guided by them. Thanks, senator.
Eileen Lishansky’s tribute is a favorite. Approaching Seward with a sticky issue, he picked up the phone and started setting it right. “From that day on, whenever my husband or I would meet him in the community he addressed us by name,” she wrote.
It’s that personal touch, which grew out of who he is. Several tribute writers note, he likes people. Or that he’s not an angry man, and that doesn’t have to win every fight: He’s willing to talk things through, to take the long view.
In return, people like him. If you’re ever seen him walk across a crowded room, it’s a miracle he ever gets to his next appointment: Every half-step, someone wants to shake his hand, make a plea or give him an attaboy.
One of the people who knew him best is former state Sen. Hugh Farley, a Republican from the Capital District, now retired to Port Richey, Fla. They sat side by side in the Senate chamber for decades, and Farley saw Seward in action. (Only John Marchi of Staten Island, who served 50 years, was in the Senate longer than Seward, Farley said.)
“He got along with people,” said the retired senator in an interview from his Florida home. “It makes for a much better situation if you don’t get personal in your partisanship. He was always a gentleman. I never heard him confront or insult anybody. I was very proud of him for that.”
As we bid Senator James L. Seward farewell from his current job – thankfully, he plans to stay active in a manner still to be revealed – the dozens of complimentary tributes that appear in this edition give us pause for rumination.
We’re in a period of intense partisanship, where we believe we’re right and the other guy is wrong – or worse, immoral. In reflecting on Jim Seward’s 36 years serving all of us, we realize it doesn’t have to be that way.
We can disagree without insulting. We can believe strongly, without demonizing the other. We can have a diverse country – diverse lifestyles, diverse culture, diverse thinking – by being who we are and accepting that others may be different. No sweat.
It can be done. Jim Seward’s life to date proves it.
On Dec. 31, 2020, James L. Seward of Milford – everyone’s “Gentleman Jim” – retired from the New York State Senate, where he had served Otsego County since Jan. 1, 1986. Because of COVID-19, few of his constituents had the chance to say: Farewell – and thank you. When offered the opportunity, many of us – his fellow legislators, community leaders, top corporate executives and businesspeople, and citizens to whom he reached out and helped in time of need – have now done so in tributes that appear in this Special Edition – from The Editor
I join community members across Upstate New York – friends and colleagues alike – to say: We will all miss Bill Magee.
His service to our communities was a lifelong passion and commitment. He worked across the political spectrum to deliver for his district and he did it without the fanfare many politicians expect to receive. He did it by acting on solutions to meet constituent needs, and not making promises he couldn’t fulfill.
I first met Bill Magee in 2013. I had an interest in public service and asked for his advice. He gave it. As we all knew about Bill – he did not add more words than needed, so his advice was short but still useful.
More than what he said to me he gave an example to follow. When I called his office to make an appointment, he set the appointment that day. I didn’t get any sort of , “I’ll get back to you.”
The day before our meeting a problem came up in his schedule. Instead of a staff member calling to reschedule, I got the call directly from Bill.
In short, I will miss Bill Magee. He served our district for many years, and as a result we have done better together. He also left us with many stories that we remember with a smile, and I suspect many reading this letter are thinking of theirs.
Going forward, I will remember Bill Magee as a friend and mentor, and whose example I hope to emulate.
Re: “50-Car Parade Salutes Cooperstown Mainstay” in last week’s newspaper.
As reported, some have said had they known of the tribute to Carol Waller on Dec. 19, they would have been there. Add my wife, Suzanne, and me to the chorus. We have known Carol through mutual friends for most of the 32 years we have been in Cooperstown.
My introduction to Carol was in the early 2000s during her tenure as a village trustee, then mayor. I was one of the original baseball aficionados involved with the formation of the Friends of Doubleday.
In those days, we were trying to work with the Village Board to establish an endowment to be used for the rehabilitation and enhancement of Doubleday Field. Some of the structural and legal issues involved in doing so were complex and did not present easy solutions.
Throughout the months, turning to years, of discussions between some of us proponents of an endowment and the Village Board, Carol distinguished herself by her consistent open-mindedness and intellectual integrity.
Although she expressed some skepticism at times as to whether our private initiative could be structured to meet municipal legal and other requirements, none of us ever doubted her sincerity – something some of us felt was not displayed by some of her elected colleagues.
I, for one, will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to interface with such an honorable and dedicated public servant. Thank you, Madam Mayor.
RECEPTION – 5 – 7 p.m. Opening exhibit by Central New York Watercolor Society and Luck of the Draw exhibit, buy tickets, enter to win artwork, final drawing 10/21. Cooperstown Art Association. 607-547-9777 or visit www.cooperstownart.com
RELEASE PARTY – 7 p.m. Celebrate first ever issue of The Green Zine, a collection of art & writing from local artists published by The Green Toad Book Store. Grab a copy, eat, drink, celebrate. Roots Brewing Company, 175 Main St., Oneonta. 607-433-8898 or visit www.facebook.com/TheGreenToadBookstore/
ARTISAN FESTIVAL – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Artists, Crafters, Makers from throughout the region come together to sell their works. Find handmade jewelry, textiles, soap, furniture, glass art, pottery, photography, more at Otsego County Campus, 197 Main St., Cooperstown. 607-547-9983 or visit www.cooperstownartisanfestival.info
FAMILY SATURDAY – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Field trip for families features hands-on activities for kids, guided tours, demonstrations of the water-powered sawmill, the gristmill, and woodworking shop. Admission, $9/adult. Hanford Mills Museum, 51 Co. Hwy. 12, East Meredith. Call 607-278-5744 or visit www.hanfordmills.org
ART LECTURE – 2 p.m. “Leonardo Davinci and the Human Body, Earthly and Divine” investigating Davinci’s anatomical studies when he pursued knowledge through observation/experimentation, and his iconic paintings where he tried to portray an ideal beauty of man that related to God. Cost, $11/non-member. Auditorium, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org/calendar-a
SUNDAY SERIES – 1 – 3 p.m. Learn about “Oneonta’s Restaurants: Memories of Former Favorites” with Big Chuck and Leslie Ann. Swart-Wilcox House Museum, Wilcox Ave., Oneonta.
TRIBUTE – 5:30 p.m. Celebrate our veterans with Eric Owens performing anthems such as “Over There,” “We’ll Meet Again,” “Goodnight Saigon,” more. Glimmerglass Festival, 7300 St. Hwy. 80, Cooperstown. 607-547-2255 or visit glimmerglass.org/events/over-there-with-eric-owens/
CONCERT – 7:30 p.m. In tribute to the innocent and brave lost across the globe. Features pieces like ‘A Curse Upon Iron,’ ‘Dona nobis pacem’, more. Free. Hunt Union Ballroom, SUNY Oneonta. Call 607-436-2216 or visit www.facebook.com/SUNYOneonta/