Meet The Essentials
Two-dozen people -- 12 women and 12 men not in the Schuyler County Hall of Fame -- who have impacted life in Schuyler County
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 26, 2018 -- Welcome to The Essentials.
This group of outstanding Schuyler County natives or citizens are not members of the Schuyler County Hall of Fame -- have not been granted that high accolade. Perhaps they should have been, or will be.
In any event, they have impressed with their life choices and their contributions -- historic, artistic and societal -- over a wide swath of time. They include a couple of historic figures of note, but are mostly contemporary citizens of Schuyler County. Some have left the public stage, but others are still very much a part of its fabric, or of the regional fabric.
We -- a committee -- decided there were certainly as many females worthy of notice as there are men, a divergence from the Hall of Fame's tendency to favor males. Even with three women inducted this year, men outnumber women in the Hall, 40-8.
The selections are subjective in nature. Other women and men could easily have been chosen. This is not intended to disparage or slight anyone, but merely to accentuate the positive -- to turn the spotlight on some among us who have had a tendency to shake up the status quo, making life a little better for all of us.
The 24 selectees -- The Essentials -- are as follows.
Glenda Gephart: A longtime reporter for the Star-Gazette, she is also the former editor of the Watkins Review, which she turned from an advertising medium into a journalistic one. She headed a successful WGHS Sports Boosters; is currently executive director of the Schuyler County Historical Society's Brick Museum; held a key role at the International Motor Racing Research Center; has helped spearhead the annual Friends of the Library book sale; and has headed such organizations as the Schuyler League of Women Voters.
Angeline Franzese: Now retired from political life, she, along with her husband, runs the Villager Motel in Watkins Glen, but more notably was an effective member of the Schuyler County Legislature for 16 years, and was in fact the first female to chair the Legislature -- a reign respected by many and feared by some, for she was an intimidating presence. She served the former Legislative District 1 from 1981 to 1997.
Barbara Halpin: Twice a member of the Schuyler County Legislature, she served for a total of 15 years -- first from 1991-1997, with one year as chair, and then from 2010-2017. She was known as a very direct, very smart, very effective legislator who never hesitated to speak her mind. Recently retired, she has left a void -- including a gender void, since the Legislature is, alas, all male.
Beverly Stamp: She and her late husband, Monty Stamp, took over Lakewood Vineyards decades ago, building the business into a tourist destination while also building a family. Widely admired as an ambassador of the region's wine and grape industry, she was one of the founding members and longtime treasurer of Women for New York State Wines, a promotional arm of the state Wine Grape Growers. Active too, in the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, she has served on various industry organizations and on the Reading Town Board, and was named as one of the New York State Senate's Women of Distinction in 2013.
Judy McKinney Cherry: A relatively recent arrival, she has in her few years here packed a wallop as Executive Director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development. She was instrumental in Watkins Glen securing $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds from the state, serving as co-chair of the DRI Local Project Committee; and in establishing a business (at long last) in the Business Park alongside Rt. 414 in the Town of Dix. She personifies a can-do spirit that promises to turn Watkins Glen into a tourist mecca beyond its most aspirational imaginings.
Jane Delano: Turn-of-the-20th Century figure from Townsend and Montour Falls who was known as "the Nightingale of America" for her nursing service during a Florida yellow fever epidemic. She served as Superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps, and then built up the fledgling Red Cross Nursing Service, along the way designing the outfit -- blue cape with scarlet lining, and a cap with a red cross in front -- still worn by Red Cross nurses today. When Schuyler Hospital was built in 1972, it was dedicated to Jane Delano.
Kim Laursen: A longtime teacher, now retired, Kim has served the children of the county for decades, directing many school plays, and has tended to adults by organizing the Easter Sunrise Service each year and community choirs to perform at special functions like Memorial Day services at the Schuyler County Veterans Park. She has performed the National Anthem at countless events, and served as Mrs. Claus at the Odessa-Catharine United Methodist Church for years. She is currently head of the Lake Country Players acting troupe. If there is a musical voice of Schuyler County, it is hers.
Carmella Hoffman: A longtime clerk/collector of the Town of Catharine and the town's court clerk, she is founder of the Sunset View Creamery on her family's farm at Catharine Corners, a 415-acre dairy operation. The cheese business has continued to grow, reflecting the growth, too, of the annual Finger Lakes Cheese Festival held on the same farm grounds each July. It attracts thousands of people each year. Hoffman was also honored in 2017 as a New York State Senate Woman of Distinction, with the award presented in Albany.
Peggy Scott: A former member of the Watkins Glen School Board, she is longtime head of the Seneca Santa organization that provides Christmas gifts to children in need; longtime executive director of the United Way of Schuyler County that serves 22 member agencies; and president of the Watkins Glen High School Alumni Association, spearheading an annual banquet that attracts hundreds of alums each year and honors distinguished WGHS graduates.
Michelle Benjamin: She has been the voice of Schuyler Hospital public relations for years, serving most recently as its Community Relations Director and as Executive Director of the Schuyler Health Foundation. She has been a force behind the Schuyler Steps Out walking competition that occupies local businesses and their employees for eight weeks each year, and with husband Tim has served as director of Watkins Glen High School senior plays for 15 years. She has also been a kickboxing, indoor cycling, and Step Class instructor at Exercise Enterprise, and helped organize the recent Family Fit Fest in Montour Falls.
Rev. Sheila Price: Longtime pastor of the Odessa and Catharine United Methodist Churches, she oversaw consolidation of the two, and has been instrumental in a Soup-to-Go-Sale that raises funds to help send the church's children to summer camp. She is beloved by her congregation and by others -- such as Odessa File publisher Charlie Haeffner, who says: "Reverend Price was on her way to the hospital to visit my cancer-stricken wife when Susan was killed by a pulmonary embolism. Rev. Price ended up ministering to me instead. So I speak from personal experience when discussing the special gift of kindness and healing that she brings to her parishioners, and it resonates 14 years later." Added Haeffner: "Spiritual guidance, especially from a caring soul, is essential to any community."
Rebecca (Cleveland) Franklin-Guild: A former longtime Odessa firefighter, she works as laboratory manager in Bacteriology and Mycology at Cornell University. She is also an EMTB who has worked with local, regional and state emergency-service organizations; has been a member of the Firemen's Association of New York State's Membership Committee for 17 years and is currently its chair, and is a past president of the Central New York Firemen's Association, representing fire departments in 20 counties.
Jim Guild: Owner of the Famous Brands department store, which he built from scratch, Jim is also a Watkins Glen landlord, including the building now housing the Chamber of Commerce; helped found a local church, from which he has undertaken mission work; and was the moving force behind the establishment of a Ben & Jerry's ice cream franchise on Franklin Street in Watkins. Considered a maverick by some, he has added significantly to the economic vitality of the village's downtown.
J.C. Argetsinger: A native of Montour Falls, he is a former U.S. government counsel who moved back here and became Schuyler County District Attorney. He was then elected County Judge in 1998, serving too as Family and Surrogate's Court Judge. He was re-elected to the bench in 2008, and retired at the end of 2011. He was also president of the International Motor Racing Research Center for years and represents it at the annual Cameron R. Argetsinger Award dinner at the Corning Museum of Glass.
Frank Steber: Recently deceased at the age of 96, Mr. Steber was a beloved English teacher in the Watkins Glen school district from 1955-1984 and, in his long retirement, was a columnist for the Watkins Review and Express ("The Seneca Spectator"), and the author of a history of St. James' Episcopal Church and of three historical novels based in this region: Seneca Dawn, Seneca Sunrise and Seneca Hope. A World War II veteran (service in the South Pacific), he was a gentleman, beloved by many.
Tony Vickio: An accomplished sign painter and sign creator (the welcoming Watkins Glen sign on the concrete wall at the bottom of Corning Hill, and the Hall of Fame and record boards in the Watkins Glen High School Field House, for example), he is also a racing promoter, drone videographer/photographer, author (of Shifting Gears, an autobiography), and head of the Spirit of Schuyler, which provides emergency funding to Schuyler residents in need.
Scott Westervelt: A longtime Odessa-Montour teacher (1970-2003) and coach (85 school sports teams, including swimming, baseball and football) who served as Aquatic Director and Phys Ed Dept. chairman for 25 years and Athletic Director for three years, he is also a 16-year high school swim official. Beyond that, he is an 11-year member of the O-M School Board who initiated a philosophical change in the board that has carried it from administrative helpmate to respected policy-making body. When he tried to bow out by not running the last time his board term ended (2016), he was instead voted in again through write-ins.
Mike Stamp: Mike is head of an insurance firm, E.C. Cooper Inc. on Fourth Street in Watkins Glen. A longtime firefighter with the Watkins Glen Fire Department and a First Responder, he has long served on the board of directors for The Arc of Schuyler -- including two terms as president -- and is currently its treasurer. He is also on the board of Lakewood Vineyards, Arbor Housing and Development, and the Watkins Glen Fire Company, and is a member of the Montour Falls Zoning Board of Appeals
John King: A transplanted Canadian and a U.S. citizen for the past 25 years, he had a successful business career, working for Nortel and retiring as CEO of Computer Consoles in Rochester. Head of the Montour Falls Improvement Association for five years after arriving in Montour Falls, he became mayor and is now in his second term, which ends in 2020. A lay minister and involved in mission work in Haiti, he has been instrumental in the ongoing plan to develop a regional water treatment plant on the canal between Montour Falls and Watkins Glen, helping to secure financing and serving on its Joint Project Committee.
James Hope: A highly regarded Scotland-born landscape painter in the 19th century, he was a veteran of the Civil War who, sidelined by illness, sketched battle scenes at Antietam and later created five large paintings based on those sketches. He spent his last 20-plus years in the Watkins Glen area, with many of his later works depicting The Glen gorge area. He was the subject of a novel by local author Frank Steber, titled Seneca Hope.
Harold J. "Jay" Hoffmeier, Jr.: A transplanted Pennsylvanian, he has served generations of Schuyler County residents as a Physician's Assistant. He has also been a longtime community leader, serving most notably as board member (beginning in 1992) and currently board president -- and enthusiastic promoter -- for The Arc of Schuyler. A member of The Arc New York's Board of Governors and of the advisory board for Arnot Medical Services, he was honored by the State Legislature as recipient of the 2018 Older New Yorker of the Year Award.
Anthony Fraboni: Long dedicated to public service, he has served as treasurer for the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, on the Tri-County Housing Board, and is currently on the Watkins Glen Library Board. A former village Planning Board member, he is a trustee on the Watkins Glen Village Board and instrumental -- as a member of the Joint Project Committee -- in the developing construction of a regional water treatment plant along the canal between Watkins and Montour Falls. VP and branch manager of Community Bank in Watkins, he is an active Rotarian, having served as its president, and is the moving force behind a successful annual fund-raising auction there.
Michael Argetsinger: Michael, who died in 2015, was a veteran race-car driver (more than 400 races at 54 different venues in seven countries), instrumental in the formation and growth of the International Motor Racing Research Center, and author of five honored racing books (including works on Mark Donohue and Watkins Glen International). While working his later years in Chicago (the head of Michael Argetsinger Communications), he returned to Watkins Glen many times on behalf of his family and the Racing Center.
Craig Cheplick: A longtime Watkins Glen High School teacher, he had a successful coaching career, including with two honored football teams at Hobart and Cortland Colleges. He was an imaginative WGHS athletic director -- maximizing use of the Field House with various tournaments and events -- and is co-founder and chair of the long-running Top Drawer 24, which honors two-dozen outstanding high school scholar-athlete-citizens in our region each year. A member of the WGHS Sports Hall of Fame, he was instrumental in the growth (and ultimate success) of The Odessa File -- insisting it cover WGHS, and contributing advice in its formative stages. Without that persistence, vision and encouragement, you wouldn't be reading this.