Wednesday, October 21, 2009


A little more Mom today. I just made goulash in Mom's fry pan and cooked the macaroni in her saucepan. I probably put more red pepper flakes in it than she wanted but she just smiled and had another bite. After all, it was free and she doesn't have to worry about chloresterol anymore. (That's weird; the spellchecker doesn't like "chloresterol" so I checked myself.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

bookending the day with thoughts of Mom

Most days, I go for a walk and my usual path is the loop up around Pine Hill Drive and Fraternity Row. Sometimes my path is clockwise and sometimes counter-clockwise. I occasionally meet Elizabeth Gulacsy who lives on Pine Hill Drive and goes for early morning walks with her dog Duna (Danube, in Hungarian). Since the Uni-Mart was out of unfiltered Camels, I thought I'd take this morning's walk down to the Mobil to see if they could supply my habit.

We were getting a beautiful snow shower as I started out on my walk to the Mobil. There were spots of sunshine, especially beautiful on the northern hills as I passed the Alfred State horticulture facility. The Mobil did have my cigarettes and as I passed the road up into the cemetery, it beckoned me. I walked in to Mom and Dad's gravestone and thought of them, and Uncle K and Aunt Ahvy and many others who are memorialized there. Our folks and K and Ahv so nicely surround Aunt Roberta. It wasn't particularly heavy or solemn but more like comforting to have the spirits with me.

The day progressed rather like many: a couple errands, a visit to the Box of Books, a visit to the campus store to pick up my Times, email, an hour of ARTstor cataloging, other online work.

Just as I was about ready to get something to eat for supper, Doug stopped by to say he was going to fetch someone to look at the old fridge out behind the garage. I don't know how that went but I fixed some food and then did the dishes. Mom could never understand how many suds I used. I still haven't figured out quite the right amount and I was rather drowning in suds. Well, not really drowning but there were still plenty when the last plastics had been washed for recycling. Since I rinse my dishes as I use them and then do the dishes every few days, there aren't a lot of them with lots of detritus for washing. Oh, well, it was probably Mom's thriftiness more than a sense of green but it doesn't matter.

I am glad to report that I am not haunted by morose thoughts as I meander around the house and the village.

As I contemplated sharing these thoughts about starting and ending the day with thoughts of Mom, I realized that the 14th of October was drawing toward a close and tomorrow would be her 80th birthday. So happy birthday, Mom, and best wishes to all of us.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's been a while . . .

It has been a while since any of us posted anything here, but now there are fewer excuses NOT to do so. Sherm and I traveled to Queensbury (I almost started to type "Stephentown" even now) a week and a half ago, and took Bert's new MacBook to her. We installed Microsoft Office Suite and Firefox browser and an external back-up drive, and helped her choose and install a printer. She proved herself to be a quick learner on how to operate the new machines, which replace an old desktop that preferred to freeze, rather than operate effectively. We trust and hope that this will mean we'll be in more frequent contact, although I am calling more often than I used to, anyway. We trust she'll be able to stay in better touch with Mike and Sue, now that they've moved to Two Rivers, Alaska. We regret that we didn't get to see Kim and Brian, but hope to do so next time.
When I took Ian to Dr. Taggart, who has had several sessions with him since he was depressed last February, she handed me a letter she received from Jessie A. Hanes at Greater Binghamton Health Center , stating "Our Health Information Management Department received your request regarding the above-named individual [Chester Smedley Clarke]. We have made a thorough search in our State Archives and it appears that Mr. Clarke's records were destroyed by the Willard State Hospital. In the early 1900[s] there were no requirements that facilities save medical records. We are sorry we cannot be of more assistance at this time." This might seem to be the final word on the subject, but I notice that they list his date of birth as Unknown and Social Security Number as 10/23/1925, which was his date of death, so it's possible they missed something, however unlikely.
I was very concerned about our dog, Nicky, last week, as she seemed to be in a lot of pain, and initial concerns were regarding a relapse of whipworms for which she'd been treated when Mike and Sue passed through on their way north. Mention was also made of kidney or other problems, but now the best evidence suggests she just has arthritis, so we've begun treating her with steroids and "Glycoflex".
Ian went to his first school dance last Friday, and had a great time. He's also enjoyed medieval club fighting, and Science and English classes this year, although he continues to ask to be home-schooled. We're still looking into this, but don't know if it would be best for him, or not.
I could write more, but should probably get back to doing stuff around the house, so look for another installment later . . .

Monday, June 8, 2009

My first journey to Alabama

I learned last autumn from Tim Bancroft, that the Baptist History and Heritage Society was calling for papers on the subject of "Baptist Contributions to Social Justice." Tim's wife had presented a paper on women in ministry to their conference in 2005, and I'd been interested in presenting a paper to them, ever since.
I knew that Alfred had fostered the first truly coeducational institution on the continent, and its inhabitants had helped escaped slaves on their way to Canada and its women had voted before it was legal for them to do so. So I decided I would like to bring some more of this history to light, and sent in an abstract which was accepted shortly after that.
A couple months later, I attended a meeting of the Historic Preservation Roundtable of Allegany County. I mentioned that I was writing a paper and was interested in some anecdotal accounts of women in Alfred, voting before it was legal for them to do so, and one of the participants told me they remembered cataloging an item or two on the subject. I soon received two items in the mail, and this gave me enough information to go to the county Courthouse and find records of the voting incident(s) that had been legendary but unverified to that point.
I was able to come up with enough material to put together a paper that I presented in Huntsville, Alabama this past weekend, at the Society's conference. It was the first time I had been to Alabama, and it's the 44th state I've at least visited. While I was there, I made some new historian friends, who are researching such topics as abolitionism, Black Americans in the missionary field, Baptists in the Civil Rights Movement, and a Baptist ethicist who is promoting holistic sex-education, among other things. I met one fellow who had been to the only Seventh Day Baptist Church in Alabama AND to Buck's Pocket, which is where Jeanette's grandmother lived. On Friday afternoon I walked around the city, mostly in its historic districts, enjoying the varied architecture of all the houses. The First Baptist Church, where the sessions were held, is a huge complex that includes a carillon, a huge sanctuary with a large organ, and lots of classroom and a large informal assembly area downstairs, where we had a banquet meal.
I'll include the paper here:

A Familial Story:

Contributions of the First Seventh Day Baptist Church of Alfred, New York, to Social Justice

Presented to The Baptist History and Heritage Society
June 5, 2009

G. Douglas Clarke

I’ve called this paper “A Familial Story” because of the smallness of our denomination and because my own ancestors figure into the telling of this story, so I hope I’ll be forgiven for alluding to some of those connections as I tell it.
The website for this august organization states:

While theological differences contributed to the formation of a large number of Baptist groups, Seventh Day Baptists formed as a result of their Saturday worship practice. In America, the first Seventh Day Baptist Church formed in 1671, and nearly 100 years later, the group organized a national body, called the General Conference. Today, this group has ninety-eight churches with approximately 4,800 members.1

That isn’t many members compared to many denominations, but there is a saying among Seventh Day Baptists, that we “weigh more than we count” and I’ll try to live up to that today. It may be because of this unique genesis and the fact that we are small enough to be almost “tribal” that our denomination has encompassed a wider spectrum of beliefs and values than some other denominations have done.
I am sad to report that I believe that spectrum has narrowed in my lifetime, because diversity of views is healthy for progress in social justice. But I believe there is still reason for pride, and for hope. In any case, I am delighted to be here among other Baptists, telling you about one of our congregations – “my” church – today.
Seventh Day Baptists have contributed uniquely to social justice in part because we have had to defend our positions at times when other denominations were more comfortable, not being handicapped by smaller numbers and this “peculiar” practice of Sabbath-keeping.
There are perhaps many definitions we could use but, for the current purpose, let us say that contributing to social justice means working for the extension of rights to those who have not previously enjoyed them.
Seventh Day Baptists mixed with other Baptists at first, in Newport, Rhode Island, but after founding our first church there in the 1600s, they moved westward, as did other colonists. Seventh Day Baptists often moved in groups of families, knowing that they, by pioneering en masse, might prevail in a new location and not suffer so much from ridicule and discrimination, as they may have, previously. Some arrived on foot in Alfred, New York about 1812, carrying with them a dogged dedication to religious and personal liberty.
I should say here that there are actually two Seventh Day Baptist churches in the Alfred community, but I will be telling the story of the one in the village, known as the First Seventh Day Baptist Church of Alfred. The two sprang from the same root, but some of the early members moved quickly on to other places. Those who stayed, met in homes and schools for a dozen years, and then built a church that was, in the days of initial settlement, at the center of the community, but today would be half-way between the village of Alfred and the community known as Alfred Station, which lies in the northern portion of the larger township. A second church was founded in 1831 and built its building about a mile north of the original one, while the First Seventh Day Baptist Church of Alfred began building a new structure about a mile south of the original building, in 1853. The two have competed for members and resources at times, but cooperated in many endeavors, and serve the Alfred community independently.
Although the influence of Alfred’s Seventh Day Baptist Church has waned toward the end of its second century, it is still an essential part of the community and denomination. During most of its life, Seventh Day Baptists have constituted a numerical majority in the community, and its members have traveled in all directions in waves of migration and missionary work, while its institutions have educated and mentored pastors, teachers, farmers, and builders.
Early settlers in Alfred quickly built schools, and this is how Alfred came to be the “mother of churches” among Seventh Day Baptists: By not only promoting but practicing the idea that education was important for men and women, including those of European descent but also Native Americans and Blacks, even in its earliest years. And Alfred’s University educated young people for all vocations, not just for ministry. Students who attended the Theological School at Alfred University during its century of existence were employed in evangelical ministry in churches throughout western New York and Pennsylvania especially, and the nation, in general. So there were as many as 21 churches within a day’s drive of Alfred in 1910. 2
Until Alfred University’s former provost, Dr. Susan Strong, re-discovered it, Alfred’s unique, pioneering egalitarianism was not well known. In the process of writing her doctoral dissertation on co-education, she found that Alfred’s was the earliest institution in these United States to conduct education in which men and women were all permitted to write papers and to speak in public.3 Even though the college at Oberlin, Ohio was founded three years earlier, women were not permitted this right for a number of years after the school’s founding.
Alfred University was never officially Seventh Day Baptist, but its financial and other support was almost all from Seventh Day Baptist sources, from the time of its founding in 1836, until well into the Twentieth Century.
Alfred University’s first President, William C. Kenyon, had known many difficult days, having been an indentured orphan, himself. He was a hard task-master, according to his students, but he was so dedicated to his students that he was well loved. His every effort went into educating students so they might surpass the limitations that might otherwise be imposed on them, and his leadership started a trend which persisted for many years.
Later on, Frederick Douglass, a former slave who campaigned fervently for the abolition of slavery, came to Alfred more than once, and reported the following in 1851:
My anti-slavery tour in this county is completed. I have visited during my absence from home, ten towns . . . To say that I am gratified by my visit to Alleghany County, is but a feeble expression of my feelings. . . On Wednesday afternoon, I held an excellent meeting (the largest of the series) at Alfred Centre. There is here a flourishing Seminary, under the direction of Prof. [Wm. C.] Kenyon. This Seminary has students to the number of two hundred, about all of whom attended my meeting in the afternoon, the school being adjourned for the purpose. At the close of my lecture, such was the desire to hear further on the subject that I yielded to the request to speak in the Chapel [Alumni Hall] connected with the Academy in the evening, where again I had a full house. In Alfred I was most kindly and hospitably entertained by the Rev. Mr. [Nathan Vars] Hull, a Seventh-day Baptist minister. I found the people of this denomination generally anti-slavery in sentiment, and disposed to co-operate with me in my efforts to promote that sentiment through the country. The students at the Seminary nearly exhausted my box of books, and I came away feeling that I had left the good seed of anti-slavery sown in good ground. 4

The University’s second leader, Jonathan Allen, was first a student who paid his tuition in firewood, and rose to the presidency of the University and served as such for many years. He was active in the life of the church and the community as well as the school, and was highly revered.
One of the professors who taught during Allen’s time was Darwin Eldridge Maxson, who was described as follows:
[He was] An anti-slavery agitator, and reformer. In 1852, he became an instructor in Alfred University at Alfred, New York, where he soon made for himself a reputation as an anti-slavery propagandist. He was one of the most active agents of the so-called under-ground railroad, engaged in forwarding runaway slaves to Canada. His zeal as a reformer, and his superb qualities as a leader won for him his election, in 1859, to the Assembly of the Legislature of the State of New York, where he was conspicuous for his advocacy of personal liberty. In 1861, he enlisted in the Union Army, and became chaplain of his regiment. He was a prominent Seventh-day Baptist clergy-man, and for the last sixteen years of his life he was a Professor in the Theological Seminary at Alfred University. 5

The Sabbath Recorder, which is the denomination’s mouthpiece even today, was published in Alfred for many years. In 1869 the following article appeared:

On the 8th of February, the Assembly of Wisconsin passed, by a vote of 39 to 22, a bill submitting to a vote of the people of the State, at the November election of 1870, the question of extending the right of suffrage to females, with the same conditions as already prescribed for males. The bill was introduced by Mr. D. E. Maxson, who advocated it in a speech of an hour, which is outlined in a report of the Assembly’s proceedings, as follows: . . . He quoted Abbott’s History of the civil war and Bancroft’s History to show that the corner stone of our government, what exalted us above all other nations, was the doctrine that all mankind were endowed by nature with equal rights, claiming that if we ‘went back’ on that doctrine, and allowed the existence of aristocratic privileges before the law, one class would be proscribed to-day, another to-morrow, and our nation in time be destroyed. Then taking the principle of the Declaration of Independence, that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, he inquired as to the position of woman; . . . and then claimed for woman the right to the ballot, because, just as much as man, she was one of ‘the people,’ who ordained this government . . . 6

Maxson was the one who first proposed in 1858 that women be made voting members of the Alfred Seventh Day Baptist church. It took him and his supporters until 1874 to persuade enough of the men to gain a constitutional majority for the measure, but his persistence won the day.
Soon women were being ordained as deaconesses (including our great-great aunt), and later the women would take it upon themselves to organize into a Society, raise money, and build a social hall for the church. This building has housed dinners and receptions and Sabbath School classes and business meetings since 1906, and now the congregation worships there when the weather is cold (as a cost-saving measure), as does the Alfred Friends Meeting, and various civic groups. Since the 1970s the women’s thrift store, called “The Opportunity Shop,” has been housed upstairs, making used goods available at low cost, raising money for the benefit of the Women’s Society and the congregation, and fostering many relationships.
Experience Fitz Randolph obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree from the Alfred Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1885. A biographer wrote that, at the time of Burdick's unexpected death in 1906: "Records show that she has conducted fifty weddings, ninety funerals, and ten years ago had preached eight hundred and ninety sermons.... At the time of her death she was pastor of the Seventh-day Baptist church at New Auburn, Wisconsin, where her work was very efficient and greatly appreciated by all who came under her influence." 7 Our father pastored that same church in the 1950s.
By the 1880s, some of the women in the Alfred Seventh Day Baptist Church began to feel that women should have the right to vote in general elections, not just in the church. So they simply went and voted. Let me read a newspaper account of one of these incidents:
The women at Alfred Centre asserted their rights yesterday and voted at the municipal election held at that place. Ten ballots were offered and received by the election officers who declared that the legal opinions gathered and published by counsel for the woman's suffrage party had convinced them of the legal right of women to vote. 8

Another account says:

The grand jury which finished its work at Belmont on Monday, among the other work, presented indictments against the women who voted in Alfred Centre, for illegal voting . . . The first named lady [Lucy Barber] is the one who voted in the election two years ago and who after swimming the gauntlet of the U. S. Commissioner was discharged and then failed of indictment before the grand jury last June which had her case under consideration. Her apparent success in this escaping punishment encouraged several of her sisters in the cause to follow in her footsteps, so they offered and swore in their votes at the recent corporation election held in Alfred Centre, to the number of ten . . . It is but just to remark that the ladies indicted embrace representatives of the very best of Alfred citizenship, and that they have got into this position from the belief that they were fully entitled to the privilege . . . 9

Now let me read a retrospective piece about Lucy:

Lucy [Barber] was an ardent suffragette. Those of us today who take voting so casually often do not realize what moral stamina it required to espouse the cause in the early days. Women who worked for the vote were reviled, put in jail, and made to look ludicrous by the most insulting cartoons. Alfred contained an ardent group of suffragettes, composed of faculty wives and the like; and they decided they were going to vote in the impending presidential election . . . they marched in a body to the polls and before the astounded men knew what was happening, they had snatched ballots, marked them, and stuffed them into the ballot boxes. The women were arrested and put in jail for illegal voting and disturbing the peace. Their husbands promptly bailed them out, all but Lucy Sweet Barber, who spent a night in the Alfred jail, and thus became a martyr to the cause . . . the women were taken to Belmont [the county seat] to stand trial. The court was filled with excited spectators. Everyone in Alfred who could possibly arrange it took a day off to see what was going to happen to the leading ladies of the community. But as the proceedings began, the judge ruled that before they could proceed with the trial, they must first prove that they were women. This so horrified the good men of Alfred that the charges were immediately dropped. The martyrdom of Lucy Sweet Barber reached the ears of the suffragettes in New York City, who felt that this brave woman should be recognized. They invited her to a banquet at the Waldorf Astoria to be given in her honor, would pay train fare, etc. Now as I said before, Lucy kept a farm. Her husband was a small ineffectual man and Lucy did the farm work, or most of it . . . This was considered an eccentricity or even worse in those days when it was immodest for a woman to show what she stood on, let alone what she sat on. But Lucy declined the invitation to New York saying that she had to stay home and do the chores. One can’t help but wonder what impact Lucy would have had on the New York suffragettes, let alone on the Waldorf Astoria. 10

Apparently the writer of that sketch mixed details of the two incidents, because the court records I recently found indicate that Lucy was tried and sentenced to one day in the county jail in 1887, so probably the legendary dropping of charges was in 1885, when only Lucy voted. 11
One of the women who voted with Lucy was none other than the wife of University President Jonathan Allen. In her obituary, it is said of Abigail Allen, that:
[she] was one of the pioneers in the state of New York for the advancement of the political rights of women, and counted among her intimate friends the leading spirits in this movement, Julia Ward Howe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others. At the reception given to Susan B. Anthony, at Washington, on her eightieth birthday, Mrs. Allen was by special invitation an honored guest . . . It is a striking fact that her old friend and fellow laborer in the cause of equal rights for women, Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, should have died on the same day with Mrs. Allen. 12

My checking of the membership rolls of the Alfred Seventh Day Baptist church establishes that probably eight of the ten women were members at the time of these voting incidents, and that the other two were from families having strong association with the church, at the very least. 13
For a time, Seventh Day Baptists in Alfred did prevail to the extent that not only most businesses, but even the two Post Offices in the town of Alfred were open on Sunday but not Saturday. They were apparently the only ones in the nation to do so, until the United States Postal Service demanded an end to the practice, about 1954. 14
During the 1960s and ‘70s, members of the Alfred Seventh Day Baptist Church and others in the area, led by my father and mother, worked at lifting up migrant workers who lived in virtual prison camps run by the owners of the region’s large produce farms. I recall my parents working with Quakers and others to raise funds and gather food, and set up a corporation which ran a center which offered services and shelter for migrant workers who were otherwise completely beholden to the farm owners. Called “Harvest Center,” it was a place where people could gather, get help obtaining public and other assistance, and gain a greater measure of independence. There were soul food dinners and other fund raisers in Alfred, and my parents helped put together Christmas baskets of food and gifts to be delivered to each migrant worker, every year, into the 1980s.
So these have been a few highlights of this one church in rural western New York. The Alfred Seventh Day Baptist congregation once numbered about 600, but is now about a dozen active local members, perhaps approximating its original size. But this habit of working for the good of others continues even in these days, when the women of the church, all of retirement age, continue to sort and sell used goods at minimal cost, for the benefit of Alfred’s residents, and to raise money to support the continuing work of the church. Not that the men of the church aren’t busy, too . . .
Rev. Patricia Bancroft, who presented her paper on Seventh Day Baptist women in ministry to this organization in 2005, has pastored the church at Alfred for eight years. Her husband, Dr. Tim Bancroft reviewed the church’s history and found – not surprisingly – that the church was most vigorous in its first hundred years, when it held some sort of revival every ten years or so.
Seventh Day Baptist churches – including the ones at Alfred – have traditionally been small and rural, and some have argued that this is why our denomination has never been much larger than its current size. Another contributor may be the fairly common practice, even in mission endeavors, of focusing on being of practical service to people in need, rather than on being purely evangelical. I found confirmation of this in the following excerpt from a presentation by a cousin of ours, about Rosa Palmborg, a Seventh Day Baptist Doctor who worked at several missionary endeavors in China between 1894 and 1940:
“. . . we often hear criticisms of the Bible-in-one-hand/ medical-help-in-the-other attitude of missionaries. I don’t think this was as true of the S[eventh] D[ay] B[aptist]s in general, as of some – certainly not of Dr. Palmborg herself. The Christian salvation message was extremely lowkey and more to be delivered by example than by exhortation. If you think I am wrong, study the records of the mission. Often only one member a year was received by baptism – this, I think speaks for itself – more was being given than was taken back.” 15

So it seems that this balance between evangelism and practical service is different in different times, which allows me to live in hope that a recent commitment from our regional Association to work to re-build this “mother of churches” will bear good fruit. There is even talk of further support coming from the denominational leadership, so it may be that Alfred may once again be able to put off its concern for survival, in favor of devoting its energies more toward furthering social justice.


1 Pamela Durso,

2 William L. Burdick, “The Western Association” in Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America Vol. II, (Plainfield, NJ: American Sabbath Tract Society, 1910), 732.

3 Susan Rumsey Strong, "'The Most Natural Way in the World:' Coeducation at Nineteenth-Century Alfred University." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Rochester, 1995.

4 Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass Paper Item #24291, October 16, 1851, Rochester, New York.

5 Corliss F. Randolph, "Representative Seventh Day Baptists,” The Sabbath Recorder, Vol. 64, Issue 26 (June 29, 1908): 815.

6 The Sabbath Recorder, Vol. 25, Issue 9, (February 25, 1869): 34.

7 A[bram]. H[erbert]. Lewis, "Rev. Perie R. Burdick," Sabbath Recorder Vol. 62, no. 50 (December 10, 1906): 793.

8 Author unknown, Wellsville Daily Reporter Oct 13, 1887, unknown page [clipping provided by Wellsville, New York historian].

9 Author unknown, Wellsville Daily Reporter October 25, 1887, unknown page [clipping provided by Wellsville, New York historian].

10 Helen Cottrell, “Alfred History – A Sketch,” (Alfred Historical Society Monograph #2, Feb. 7, 1968), 2.

11 Book Three, Sessions Minutes, Allegany County Court, Belmont New York: 511.

12 L[ester]. C. R[andolph]., Sabbath Recorder, Volume 58, No. 44 (Nov. 3, 1902): 692.

13 Ilou M. Sanford, First Alfred Seventh Day Baptist Church Membership Records (Janesville Wisconsin, Heritage Books, 1995), 1, 6, 29, 32, 40, 47, 55, 69, 75, 98.

14 Lyle Palmiter, interview by author, May 13, 2009.

15 Carol Burdick, “Written by Carol Burdick for the [Alfred] Historical Society,” March 1987, page 4.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

How things might have been different . . .

I think all you siblings know that Mom had been dating and planned to marry a guy in Brookfield, but her Dad forbade it. She met Dad when she went away to college, but Mom and Dad occasionally checked to see what had become of Bob -- I have his name written down somewhere and will add it when I (re-)discover it.
Over the years I've learned a little more and a little more about Dad dating Peg Rase. I don't know when it was first intimated to me that they had dated, but I remember asking Dad about it. He confirmed that they had dated but didn't say much more. Then, last year, I was interviewing Peg for the Alfred Bicentennial oral history project, and I think it was in one of the preparatory sessions or after the formal interview was concluded, she told me that she and had had "been an item". and that if he hadn't gone off to Kansas to college and she hadn't gone to Albany Girls' Academy, they might have gotten married. We laughed about that, and I told her I had always felt warmly toward her. She reiterated something she has said to us more than once: that we are like family. It puts a twist at the corner of my mouth, a plaintive smile on my face, to think of Dad and her in their youth, growing up together. Then I reflect on the years I spent growing up with Dan and Peg's son, Jere, and the closeness we have sometimes shared, and I think of how I enjoy Peg's reminiscences and Dan's practical wisdom and his joking with Ian. It is a delight to think of all this, as I am just about to take Ian to their old house so he can help Dan get some yard-work done. He has taken Ian under his wing like a grandson, more than once, so to know the truth that had been hidden for so many years, is like the closing of a large circle of relationship. It is a delight.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Special Day, a Special Dad

A few days ago, I had found a message on the answering machine at 33 South Main, from a Social Worker at a Nursing facility in Bath, NY. She said she was looking for David Clarke, so I called her back, and when we finally connected it was yesterday. She told me she had been trying to figure out who he was and why he held a medical proxy for a patient. I said I was sure she was talking about Mary Shedrick, although she had avoided giving a name. So I explained how Dad and Mom had been involved in trying to assist migrant workers and all that Dad had done for Mary and her family. She said Mary's son from Florida had visited recently, and I guessed at his name (Sherlock), which she wasn't certain of, but thought I was correct. I said she had my permission to give our phone number to him if he was interested in learning about Dad. She thanked me.
When I was over at the homestead on South Main yesterday, I was having a hard time being there without feeling that lost feeling that he's gone for good. I have my memories and have a sense of his spirit with me most of the time, but although I'm not struck with abject sadness so frequently, it is still difficult for me.
This morning I had updated my Facebook status to say that today would have been Dad's 90th birthday and that I missed him again. A friend responded by saying Dad was a cool guy and that I had not turned out too bad, either.
So I called the Doctor's office this morning to see if they'd ever gotten Great-grandpa Chester's Willard records from Binghamton or Albany. They're going to check and find out.
At church this past weekend, I told people that I wanted to plant trees in the Alfred Cemetery, as many of the present ones are old and several have come down in the past few years. I told them I'd hate for someone in 50 years to look around and have no trees in that beautiful place. Later, Jennifer Breeze Schultze called to tell me she'd like to help in that effort. I said I would like to not limit tree-planting to the cemetery, and she thought that was good, but we agreed it was a good place to start. Her former landlord, Henry Bauer, used to plant trees for people, and he had gone from being a really nice guy to one who was kind of scary. He finally took his own life late last year, and it was hard for her to feel good about him, but she said she didn't want his young child to think his Dad was a jerk who everyone hated, so planting trees would be a good way to help her and the child, to have a more positive view. I think Dad would approve.
Happy Birthday, Dad.