July 13, 2007

A family tradition at the fair


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Three generations of Ripleys chat Thursday afternoon in the livestock barn at the Cortland County Junior Fair. From left are Tom, Seth and Roland. Roland Ripley competed at the fair in 1954. He was followed by his children, and his grandchildren are competing this week.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — A father of five and grandfather of 21, Roland Ripley was the first in his family to show a cow 53 years ago at the Cortland County Junior Fair, but since he started he has certainly not been the last.
Nearly all 28 members of the Ripley family have shown cows at the Junior Fair, dating back to 1955 when Roland Ripley started the tradition at 16 years old.
Since then all of his children have shown at the fair and four of the five have won the contest. The fifth, Cherie McKenzie, placed second several times and took first at the New York State Fair, Ripley said.
Thursday afternoon Ripley, 68, was sitting with his wife of almost 50 years, Patty, 68, and several of the couple’s grandchildren waiting for the day’s shows to begin.
“She was a city girl,” Roland said, remembering when he and Patty began coming to the fair together before they were married. Patty began attending the fair with Roland around the same time he began going, she said.
Roland Ripley said all his children began showing cows at age 8 and nearly all his grandchildren are old enough have done the same. Several of his grandchildren are competing this year in various age groups ranging from 8 to 12 years old. Some of the younger children will learn the ropes in the noncompetitive Clover Leaf show, he said.
“They’re out practicing in the pasture,” he said.
“They get knocked down and dragged around sometimes,” Patty added, laughing. “We tell them it builds character.”
Roland and Patty Ripley said nine of their grandchildren, ranging in age from 6 months to 17 years old, live on the family farm on Homer Gulf Road in Summerhill along with their two sons, Thomas and Daniel, who are partners with their father on the farm.
Five more grandchildren live in Auburn while five others live in Deposit. All of them travel to the family farm regularly and participated in the fair, Roland Ripley said.
The only grandchildren that don’t compete in the Junior Fair are McKenzie’s three who live in New Jersey. That family runs a camp during the fair but come to visit for the State Fair every year, Roland Ripley said.
Ripley said his family brought 15 of the farm’s 700 diary cows to the fair this year and that the children are responsible for keeping them clean, well-fed and ready for competition.
Christel Axetell, of Deposit, is the Ripley’s oldest daughter. She was at the fair Thursday and said all five of her children, who range in age from 7 to 27, have participated in showing cows at the fair.
“Well, last night my kids said my favorite part of the whole year is going to the fair,” she said, adding that she thinks the experience builds  a strong work ethic.
Axetell’s daughter Caylie, 10, said she has been showing for four years. She was at the fair this year with her 4-month-old calf, Trixey.
“I like that I can be able to go out there and control the calf,” she said.







In McGraw —
Community cries out against firing of principal

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — The Board of Education hired an interim high school principal Thursday to replace the current principal, who abruptly was asked to resign on June 25.
About 75 parents and teachers, and a student who graduated in June urged the board not to hire a replacement for principal Curt Czarniak, who has been with the district one year.
Czarniak has been on administrative leave since June 25, when Superintendent of Schools Maria S. Fragnoli-Ryan gave him a letter stating her intention to recommend his termination, said Jim Weiss, a teacher in the district.
Teachers said Czarniak was ordered to clean out his desk while administrators watched and was told not to come onto school property again unless asked.
Board President Michelle Stauber rejected that characterization, but would not say how it was handled.
Fragnoli-Ryan would not comment Thursday night.
No one on the board would reveal why Czarniak was being fired, only that it was a confidential personnel matter.
Czarniak did not return a phone call by press time today.
Community member Dorothy Bilodeau asked the board if pornography was involved, as had been rumored. “Absolutely not,” Stauber said.
“This was not an easy decision for us at all,” Stauber said at the beginning of the meeting, acknowledging the strong showing of support for Czarniak.
She said the board researched and asked questions before making its decision on Czarniak.
Board members said the decision was unanimous.
The board hired William “Mike” Doughty, former executive principal at Cortland and former science teacher at McGraw, as interim principal, effective from July 30 to June 30, 2008. His pay will be $375 a day.
The board has asked for Czarniak’s resignation by its July 26 meeting.
Jacqueline Preston, a parent, asked what the protocol for dismissing teachers or administrators is.
“It was so abrupt,” she said.
Stauber said when making the decision the board tried to consider everything that would happen. She said nothing was leaked to the public and Czarniak was shocked when told.
She said he was put on administrative leave with pay and the board had locked in its choice for interim principal before making a decision on Czarniak’s future.
Board member Dave Bordwell said he is confident if the public had all the information the board had, it would have made the same decision.
“Not one member had to be swayed,” board member Tony Opera said. “This should tell you something.”
Rebecca Preston, a 2007 graduate, said Czarniak made positive changes in the district, affecting students positively with programs he added, such as the math olympics.
“I was proud to be a senior at McGraw,” she said later outside the school.
Bob Schlicht, a science teacher in the district, said he went on vacation in Maine after school was out and returned to find out about Czarniak.
“I can’t tell you the disappointment I felt,” he said.
He said the principal was highly regarded by almost all teachers in the building.
“Mr. Czarniak had a way of making you want to work for him,” Schlicht said. “How can a person who did that for 50 to 60 people get a bad review from another group?”





Falter family upset over release of details of son’s death

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — New details from a previously unreleased military report have angered local family members of a soldier slain in Iraq.
Linda Falter, of Homer, said she is hurt her family has to relive the ordeal and is upset that supposedly friendly Iraqi forces may have contributed to her son’s death in January.
Falter, the stepmother to Pfc. Shawn Falter, said she and her husband, Russell, will not read stories published in Thursday’s edition of USA Today, or any other news media accounts, which reveal more details surrounding the combat death of her stepson in Karbala on Jan. 20.
“We don’t really want to know,” she said. “It sort of makes you feel like you’re going through it all over again.”
Falter said she understands why the public may be curious about the details, but that most people do not understand how those details affect the families of the five soldiers killed in the attack.
“Everybody is concerned about it and everybody is interested to know what happened,” she said
The article printed on page 1 of Thursday’s edition of USA Today cites a military report from Feb 27 about the incident in which the five American soldiers were killed. Insurgents disguised as American forces shot Falter in the back after he let them through a gate he was guarding, according to the article.
The men, who arrived in a convoy of sport utility vehicles, wore American military helmets, spoke English and appeared to have U.S. weapons.
USA Today would not say how it obtained the report or release it to other news media. The Army verified the report as authentic.
Linda Falter said her family received a similar report described in the article a few months after Shawn Falter was killed.
She and her family have chosen not to read it.
She said Shawn Falter’s biological mother, Patricia Greenwood, also received a copy of the report and also chose not to read it.
“We put it away until some day when we are strong enough to read it,” Falter said.
Shawn Falter graduated from Homer High School in 1999.
Falter said the family’s casualty assistance officer, 1st Sgt. Raymond Swift, offered to review the report with them but that the family declined.
The report blames the Iraqi police for the attack, implying that even some shop owners in the area may have know about the incident before it happened.
The USA Today article says that U.S. forces were relying on the Iraqi police to man checkpoints leading to where Falter was stationed. On the day of the attack several Iraqi police officers vanished from the area and several nearby vendors closed their shops early, according to the article.
The military has also implicated Iran, saying it provided support and training to the Iraqi assailants.
Linda Falter said that although she has not read the report or seen the USA Today article, Swift did give her a brief description of the events surrounding her son’s death. She said she knows Shawn Falter was shot either one or two times and that it was done while he was on guard duty by men who were disguised as Americans.
She said she was also told that Iraqi police might have been in on the attack.
“That part really makes me angry,” she said, of the accusations that the supposedly friendly Iraqi forces were involved in the ambush. “It was the people who were supposed to be their support system.”
Falter said the actions of the Iraqi forces shows the people of Iraq do not want help from the United States, and that she believes American forces should be pulled out of the country.
“Let them fight each other,” she said.






Marathon man remembered by family, friends 

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — When Nathan Ensign was growing up he would always be doing something on the family farm.
“We always said he was making tracks,” said Joann Ensign, 51, of Marathon. “Either with his trucks or in the snow. With his Tonka bulldozer, bicycle or sled.”
Five days after the death of a 20-year-old Marathon man in a motorcycle accident Sunday, family, friends and co-workers are remembering the kind of man he was.
They say Nathan Ensign, whose funeral was Thursday, had an active spirit, loved welding and valued his family and community.
When Ensign wasn’t riding something around on the family farm, he was keeping himself busy by fishing, playing paintball with friends and playing soccer.
Joann Ensign said that growing up her son didn’t care much for school, but he just loved helping raise the family’s Rocky Mountain elk and helping fix farm machines.
Putting things together eventually became his passion. Colleen Northrup, who is Nathan Ensign’s aunt and lives in Rochester, said often when she visited the family when her nephew was growing up, he would come over with his latest invention.
“He made a box on the back of his four-wheeler so his dog could ride with him,” said Northrup, 57. “He made a log skidder for his four-wheeler with a log attached.”
Nathan Ensign’s inventions often came in handy. Robert Hamilton, who lives in Dryden and owns Hamilton Construction, said he probably worked with him on 15 to 20 different construction jobs in recent years.
One time, Ensign was helping a crew put a deck on Ensign’s sister Carrie Newkirk’s house when the crew realized the job was going pretty slowly with just one special tool for pulling boards together.
“There were quite a few guys working on the deck, and we needed another one of those special tools, so he jumps off the deck, went to his grandfathers’ workshop and made one of those tools that was as great as the one I had bought,” said Hamilton, 65.
Nathan studied welding at SUNY Delhi. He was set to be a second-year student and was at the top of his class.
He also had two certifications under his belt and Economy Paving, his employer at the time of his death, was about to send him to get another certification that students usually do not get until their second year, his mother said.
Nathan was also awarded $1,000 scholarship for the fall, said Viola Johnson, his grandmother.
While Nathan was at SUNY Delhi during the school year, he would visit his family and friends in Marathon on weekends and help out at the fire department. He had been a member of the Marathon Fire Department since the age of 16, said department First Assistant Chief Dustin Contri.
Nathan continued to help out after he moved home to Marathon for the summer. “There’s always a group of them down here nights, hanging out,” he said.