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Guest Column: Leslie Danks Burke

“In Memoriam”

Leslie Danks Burke is running for New York State Senate in the 58th district, which includes Schuyler, Chemung, Steuben and Yates counties, and part of Tompkins. Her office is at 700 N. Franklin St., Watkins Glen.

WATKINS GLEN, May 27, 2020 -- Last weekend’s long Memorial Day Holiday was like no other. Contemplative. Subdued. Perhaps, more in keeping with the purpose. I found myself focusing throughout the weekend on whom we honor and why we recognize Memorial Day.

Not surprisingly, I found the answer in the words of Abraham Lincoln, delivered almost 160 years ago in the Gettysburg Address:

“Our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal ... We are ... testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure.”

History lives all around us in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes. Take a walk around any village or city, and you will see commemoration of theĀ  dead. Civil War memorials and cemetery markers remember young men from Penn Yan, Elmira, Ithaca, Montour Falls, Corning and Bath, who mustered into the Grand Army of the Republic and marched South to save the Union.

After World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam Conflict, more memorials were erected to honor the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who fell. And masons have more recently chiseled in names of our neighbors who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

The memory of fallen soldiers and sailors never fails to move me. In my home county of Tompkins, you might consider taking the Tompkins County Veterans’ Memorial Tour this spring or summer. The tour includes the Terrence C. Graves Memorial honoring the former Boy Scout who joined the Marines and earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions when he was killed in action in Vietnam. It includes the Civil War Nurses Memorial at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3).

If you take the tour, be sure to stop at the War Memorial at Cornell University’s Lyon and Mcfaddin Halls, listing the names of 264 Cornellians who died in World War I. Then take a short walk over to Annabel Taylor Hall and read the names of more than 500 casualties of World War II. More names have been added to honor those who died in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and other conflicts.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

And now, we’ve lost other veterans who aren’t memorialized in landmarks.

Thousands of our veterans have recently lost their lives in the COVID-19 Pandemic, a large number of whom resided in state run nursing homes. They deserved better deaths, and it is for us, the living, to be dedicated to their unfinished work. Still more of our veterans are homeless, appalling in light of their service. It is worthy work to protect and support the men and women who put their lives on the line to preserve ours, which is why I’ve laid out my detailed plan to help get veterans back on their feet, expand their access to health care, and end chronic veteran homelessness.

“The great task remaining before us:
-- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion
-- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain
-- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom
-- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This is why we recognize Memorial Day.

Photo: Leslie Danks Burke

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Carl Blowers, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Gary Gray, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro


Legislature Chairman

Carl Blowers, 535-6174 or 237-5469

Legislature Members:

Gary Gray, 292-9922

Van Harp, 329-2160

Jim Howell, 535-7266 or 227-1141

David M. Reed, 796-9558

Michael Lausell, 227- 9226

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro, 398-0648

County Clerk: Theresa Philbin, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Holley Sokolowski, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2017
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869