May 21, 2007
SUNY Cortland students reminisce, think of future
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Ryan Anderson, a sports management major, gives a hug to his friend Allison Baptiste as they celebrate their graduation from SUNY_Cortland on Saturday.
CORTLAND — Andy DiNatale summed up the feeling of many of his fellow graduates when he said his friends are what he’ll miss most about SUNY Cortland.
“You have all these people that have a lot in common in one place,” said DiNatale, a 21-year-old business economics major from Long Island.
DiNatale was among 1,330 SUNY Cortland students who received their bachelor’s degrees during two ceremonies Saturday at SUNY Cortland.
At the ceremonies, administrators, the president of the Student Government Association and guest speakers urged the graduates to keep close the times that made their college experience memorable, to always be curious about the world around them and to do what makes them happy.
Kaitlyn Boyes, a junior who is president of the college’s Student Government Association, told the students to remember how scared and confused they were their first day on campus, surrounded by strangers.
“Now they are seated next to you and you couldn’t imagine your life without them,” Boyes said. “They are friends for life.”
She reminded the students of some great times they spent together, from celebrating three Cortaca Jug wins to watching the men’s lacrosse team win a national championship to going out in downtown Cortland.
During the morning ceremony Saturday, at which half the graduates received their diplomas, keynote speaker Dr. Sylvia Earle, an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society who_has conducted more than 60 scientific expeditions worldwide that have involved more than 7,000 hours underwater in research,_told the students to observe the world around them and ask many questions.
“Do not be content with the way things are,” Earle said. “Do believe that you can make a difference, and that the great era of exploration has just begun.”
Earle received an honorary degree at Saturday’s graduation ceremonies, as did Robert Antin, a 1972 SUNY Cortland graduate who created Veterinary Center of America Inc., a national network of veterinary clinics.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) made cameo appearances at the morning and afternoon ceremonies, where he told students_that they should follow what makes them happy. He said his parents wanted him to work for a big law firm where he would earn lots of money, but he went into public service instead.
“I wanted to do something that would excite me and challenge me every day,” he said.
After Saturday’s morning graduation ceremony, graduates Matthew Beattie, a 21-year-old physics major from Endicott, and his friend Rebecca MacBlane, a 21-year-old environmental conservation biology major from Preble, said they’re following Schumer’s_advice.
Beattie said he’ll be going to graduate school at SUNY Binghamton to study engineering while MacBlane said this summer she’ll be interning in Brewster, a village in downstate New York. “I’ll be chasing turtles in a wetland,” she said, smiling.
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History lies just behind present
Renovation project finds sign of produce business that was a downtown staple for 45 years.
Attorney Ron Walsh Jr., a former Cortland mayor with offices in the First Niagara Bank building at 1 N. Main St., looked out his window Friday and saw something hidden since 1970.
“I saw it out the window, and it was like a blast from the past,” Walsh said that afternoon. “And now as I look out my window, it’s gone already.”
The red-letters, painted onto a white facade, advertised the nickname of a grocer that had operated out of that location for 45 years: Tom The Fruitman.
They were uncovered when workers with Ithacor property management removed the sign for Soothing Solutions Massage Therapy at 7 Clinton Ave. to install lighting during the renovations to the business’ facade.
“I think it was the mid-60s because I was a really little kid,” Walsh said.
Chuck Cortright, with Ithacor, remembers when “Tom The Fruitman” operated a grocery store out of the building.
“I was probably 10 years old when it was a fruit stand,” Cortright said. “They had meats and stuff, but mostly it was fresh fruits and vegetables.”
New windows were put into the building Thursday, and the sign was removed Friday morning and put back by mid-afternoon.
The building’s owner, Shannon Allen of Kent Drive, said the work on the facade had begun last week.
About $20,000 worth of work has been put into the building, said Rich Cunningham, project manager with Cortland-based Thoma Development Consultants, which is overseeing a downtown facade improvement program.
About $10,000 has come from city’s Community Development Block Grant program, which has been used to renovate downtown facades.
“Wow, that’s really neat,” Allen said during a telephone interview from Myrtle Beach, where she was vacationing, Friday night. “I know there were a lot of people in there before me.”
Born in Paglieta, Italy, in 1896, Camillo Tom the Fruitman Cimini emigrated to the United States in 1913 at the age of 17.
He died at Cortland Memorial Hospital in October 1974, just four years after retiring, according to his obituary in the Cortland Standard.
Cimini sold his business to Joe Charles & Sons Sports Shop of Syracuse at the end of August 1970, and an article in the Cortland Standard business section — courtesy of the Cortland County Historical Society and city historian Mary Ann Kane — features a picture of Cimini being handed the check for the building by Joe Charles, Charles’ son, Jack, and Jim Murray and Jim Russell of Murray Real Estate.
Cimini moved to Cortland and opened his first business, the Cortland Public Market at 38 Main St., in 1922 when he was 28. Three years later, he transferred the business to 16 Main St. but the building was soon sold out from underneath him and he moved into the Clinton Avenue location.
Cimini, whose wife’s name was Frances Natoli, was a relative on Philomena Corsi’s grandmother’s side.
“I was going up Groton Ave. when I saw that; I had to go all the way home to get my camera,” Corsi said as she snapped a few shots and talked about different Natoli families with Cortright.
“You guys are too young, but that’s very historic,” Corsi, of Locust Avenue told the Ithacor workers as they installed the lighting.
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Trooper hurt in car crash
A local state trooper was still in serious condition this morning after crashing his patrol car in Cincinnatus while rushing to a emergency call.
An official from University Hospital in Syracuse said this morning that Trooper Steven Bilodeau, an officer assigned to the Homer State Police barracks, is in serious condition after receiving head, neck and chest injuries on Saturday.
State Police said Bilodeau, a 28-year veteran of the department, was southbound on Route 41 around 10:30 p.m. responding to a call when he was unable to make a left hand curve and lost control of the vehicle. Police said the car went off the east side of the road and down an embankment, rolling over twice before coming to a rest in a wooded area.
A Cortland County Sheriff’s officer discovered Bilodeau in the car around four minutes after the accident. Police said they are still investigating what caused the accident, but they believe wet roads and a light rain played a factor in the crash.
Cincinnatus Ambulance took Bilodeau to the town of Willet, where a Mercy Flight helicopter picked him up and flew him to University Hospital, where he was initially listed in serious condition.
— Anthony Sylor
Firefighters help give muscular dystrophy the boot
Cortland city firefighters raised $3,500 on Saturday to help pay for wheelchairs, clinic visits and summer camp stays for Cortland County residents with muscular dystrophy.
From 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. about 20 firefighters took turns holding out firefighter boots at the intersection of Broadway and Tompkins Street, collecting money from passing cars.
Firefighters Derek Reynolds, 22, and James Zelsnack, 35, got their fellow firefighters to start participating in the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s national “Fill the Boots” fundraiser last year; they raised more than $5,000 last year from two “Fill the Boots” fundraisers.
Reynolds said they wanted to raise money to help combat a disease that largely affects kids.
“These kids aren’t even getting a chance,” Reynolds said.
Muscular dystrophy is a chronic, noncontagious disease characterized by a progressive deterioration of the muscles.
Laura Lee Crowell, a program coordinator for the Muscular Dystrophy Association who helped the firefighters raise money, said that about 400 people in Central New York have muscular dystrophy. She said in some cases those with the disease have a couple of years to live; in other cases they will live longer but in pain.
Cornell bus may run by June
Shuttle would run between Cortlandville and campus
The Tompkins County Legislature approved a bus route between Cortland County and Cornell University on Wednesday, paving the way for the route to begin operation in early June.
“We’re anticipating a startup by the first of June, we just need the (Cortland) county attorney to review the agreement and sign off on it at this point,” said Sandie Perry, manager for Cortland Transit.
Tompkins County modified the language in the inter-county agreement for the route, according to Dan Dineen, director of the Cortland County Planning Department.
Dineen said that the changes were minor, but that they still should be cleared by the county attorney.
Perry said marketing and advertising for the route would begin as soon as the county attorney gives the OK, which she hoped would come by the middle of this week.
The delays in getting the route going — it has been discussed since November 2005 — and the June start date should not affect the success of the route, Perry said.
Perry has estimated that 20 to 25 people would be interested in using the bus on a daily basis.
Cortland Transit has done surveys suggesting that a number of Cortland residents who work at Cornell would use the route, and Perry said she was relatively sure they would do so year-round.