January 4, 2011
Dio mourned, groups flee quake
People impact the community as year marks passing of many notables
Area people who made the news in 2010 covered a wide range of careers and impact on their communities.
The January earthquake in Haiti left two groups of local residents in dire straits, as they tried to get home to the U.S. A Cortland native became president of a prestigious Midwestern college. A long-time county mental health leader retired.
A group of 14 people in their 20s from the Ukrainian Pentecostal Church in Cortlandville were supposed to leave Haiti on Jan. 12 when an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale devastated the island nation. The group survived events that might have killed them, reached the Port-au-Prince airport and escaped on a plane to the Bahamas.
Three United Church of DeRuyter missionaries arrived on the day of the quake. Rev. Vern Groves, Linda Springer and Andy Clendenning found a way to get home, after helping as much as they could in a coastal village.
Another story emerged at about the same time, as McGraw Mayor Pamela Ross suffered a stroke on Jan. 9, then underwent rehabilitation over the following months. Ross steadily resumed her mayoral duties, sharing them at times with Deputy Mayor Bob Martin.
Ruth King, retiring Homer Elementary School principal, was named the state’s Elementary Principal of the Year by the state School Administrators Association. King taught in Homer from 1977 until 1990, then was principal since 1992.
The year marked the passing of several prominent local residents.
Bill Whiting, a Homer High School teacher who founded the school’s Shakespeare Society and directed numerous plays in the area for 50 years, died in August at age 77.
Whiting was remembered for his ability to recruit people who had never considered acting, as he cast his plays.
The year saw the passing of two long-term Cortland County legislators, Ted Law and Robert Share.
Law’s 36-year legislative career was remembered by friends and colleagues as one that was fair and deliberate.
Law represented Cincinnatus, Taylor, Freetown and Willet from 1972 to 2001, chairing the Legislature from 1981 to 1983. Law served on the county Board of Supervisors prior to the Legislature’s inception, from 1964 to 1969 and again from 1971 to 1972. He remained on the newly renamed Legislation until 2001.
Law died at the age of 78 on Oct. 5.
Share represented Cortland’s 6th Ward for 10 years on the Legislature. Colleagues remembered Share as diplomatic and respectful.
Share died at the age of 90 on Oct. 17.
Former city mayor and SUNY Cortland health professor Charles Poskanzer died Oct. 13 after a battle with cancer, at age 84. The mayor in 1978 and 1979, after serving three terms as alderman for the 3rd Ward, he was remembered as one of the college’s premier faculty during a 41-year teaching career.
Poskanzer helped the health major grow dramatically, advised federal agencies on health care policy, and authored studies that led to the creation of Medicare and Medicaid.
Poskanzer’s legacy also encompassed son Steve’s rise in higher education, as Steve became president of Carleton College in Minnesota during the summer after serving as president of SUNY New Paltz.
The younger Poskanzer displayed the energy and confidence that people associated with his father, as he said he wants to make Carleton — a prestigious small liberal arts college — as well-known as similar colleges such as Middlebury and Williams.
Cortland resident and longtime lawyer Lee Taylor retired from practicing law at the end of the year, ending a 62-year career.
The Poughkeepsie native came to Cortland after finding a job practicing law with a local attorney, the late John D. Fitzgerald,
For several years Taylor has been working part time at Pomeroy, Armstrong, Casullo and Monty, a successor firm to his practice with Fitzgerald. Taylor used to practice real estate law but has lately solely handled private estate planning.
Taylor also served as city judge for six years in the 1950s before deciding he would rather not pursue a judicial career.
The man believed to be Cortland’s last Pearl Harbor survivor, Clayton Hill, died on the 69th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on U.S. naval and air bases.
In a 1998 interview with the Cortland Standard, Hill recalled watching the Japanese bomb the American ships and developing a “hard spot on my stomach” that would take a week to go away. After seeing the bombings, Hill loaded his machine gun and took a ferry to an artillery maneuvering ground.
“He was a survivor of Pearl Harbor and he cashed in his chips on Pearl Harbor Day,” said John Lansdowne, who served in the Navy and knew Hill for 65 years.
The family of another wartime hero hailing from Cortland County finally got closure this year.
The remains of Douglas J. Glover, an Army sergeant first class killed in action during the Vietnam War, were officially identified in October.
The announcement by the U.S. Department of Defense ended years of doubt about the Cortland native’s fate after his helicopter was shot down by enemy fire in Laos in 1968.
A Veteran’s Day memorial service honored Glover. Friends and family members paid tribute to him.
Glover was aboard a UH-1H Iroquois helicopter on Feb. 19, 1968, as part of a special mission with one of the Special Forces’ A-teams, when the helicopter was shot down.
Glover and his fellow soldiers were involved in a reconnaissance patrol in the mountains of Attapu Province at the time. The crash killed Glover and two other men. The remains of all three were officially identified by the Defense Department in October.
The remains were not discovered until 2007 because of political problems and other circumstances, and were identified years later at a forensics lab in Hawaii. The remains of the soldiers will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery in the spring.
Heavy metal rocker Ronnie James Dio, who grew up in Cortland as Ronald Padovona, died May 6 of stomach cancer, at age 67. The 1960 graduate of Cortland High School was remembered for the rare voice that he displayed first in doo-wop songs with groups of high school friends, then through the rock world as lead singer of Elf, Rainbow and Black Sabbath.
Several old friends of his attended Dio’s funeral in Los Angeles. A tribute concert is being planned for July 10 at the McDonald Sports Complex.
Bob Gardner retired in October from Family Counseling Services after a 37-year career at the organization. He began as a volunteer when it was created in 1971 when he was a junior at SUNY Cortland and he became the third employee in 1973. The nonprofit organization that has programs for family counseling, youth counseling, and alcohol and drug counseling. It assists more than 1,700 people last year.
Gardner was replaced by Lisa Hoeschele, former city Board of Education president who did not seek reelection this year. She left her fundraising job at Syracuse University’s law school.
Joely Rice, an 11-year-old and sixth-grader at Cincinnatus Elementary School, became a kids reporter this year for Sports Illustrated Kids website, SIKIDS.com kid reporter.
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