A column by John Anderson
When two well-known local Wellsville residents died recently, Eric Trimble and Tim Joyce, writing tributes to them flowed from my keyboard, and a lot of that was thanks to the words and thoughts from others.
As I post obituaries to the Wellsville Sun, I learn a lot of fascinating things about people in our community that I wished I knew when they were alive. Then, there are obituaries that come across the desk that I know much more than what is put together announcing their deaths.
I want to take a few minutes today to talk about four deaths that have been very difficult on me this month, Marty Smith of Elm Valley, Sandy Taber of Belfast, Kevin Dewey of Angelica and Judge Wayne Feeman. If you want to know more, click on their names and it will take you to their obituaries.
First Marty, who was just laid to rest yesterday. If you worked at Dresser-Rand, you knew Marty. If you lived in Wellsville, Whitesville, Elm Valley or Andover, you knew Marty. And if you ever had a small tractor or anything else mechanical break down, you had a friend who said, “Let me have my friend Marty look at it,” and then you knew Marty.
This is the funny part about him. Most know him as a loving husband, great father and grandfather and a quiet man who was dedicated to his job and working fields for his neighbors.
But that guy pulled an amazing Mr. Rogers every week. He would take off his work shoes and put on golf spikes and go out and absolutely shock you with his ability on a golf course.
One year for the New York State Moose Lodge State Championships for golf, I went with Marty, Dennie Miles and one other above average golfer. When we arrived, many of the golfers from around the state were dressed like they stepped out of the pro shop catalogue. Marty stepped out of the Sears catalogue.
He went toe-to-toe with Miles on long drives, as as Coach Miles yelled at his irons and putter, Marty was calmly making the shots or getting us in a position for a birdie or eagle. Marty will not say a bad word about anyone. We finished in the top 3 and during the steak dinner, our team decided we were coming back next year. Miles said, “except John, you can drive the cart and Marty can find your replacement.” Marty was still laughing about that on the ride home.
Like I said, he was a great parent and grandparent. Full of love but not the hugging type or one who would talk about relationships or romance. That’s where I find myself blessed. At one point in my life, I wanted to marry his daughter. This is a big deal because Marty and Sharlotte lost their son Greg after a tragic auto accident, and I’ve never seen a family keep a memory alive as beautiful as they do. They have one child left, and I am threatening to take her hand.
I talked to Marty about it, and he jumped up and showed me a ring he was going to give his wife for their anniversary. It was still a ways from their 50th, but he knew she wouldn’t expect it. He talked to me about the little things in a relationship that have to be done on a daily basis.
He talked to me about respect and compromise.
I never expected to hear these words over a kitchen table from Marty, but I am so glad I did. It made sense why he was so successful as a man.
Oh where to start ….
First of all, she was smart. She ran a darn bank. She ran a household with three daughters and a legendary racing husband, Tom. She figured out how to finance the Empire Super Sprints Tour during a time that tracks and tours were shutting down because of bad management.
She did it because she knew people, she knew quality and she knew how to treat everyone with respect.
Sandie and Tom did everything together, and a few months ago, they got very sick together. But she is so tough, I think we all figured she would pull through. When she passed away, there was this strange silence on social media and in life around the Belfast area. I knew something was wrong. And then the family made the stunning announcement.
I don’t remember where, but I remember posting a comment, “She was someone no one had a bad word to say about, but she loved to say bad words.” Oh, Sandie knew how to get a point across! But man we loved her for it.
I did countless stories about Tom over the years. And there was no Tom without Sandie. She was always there to greet you at the door, invite you in and make you feel part of the family. She was devoted to her family, and that included anyone she considered a friend. It’s an exclusive circle. And I see that circle remembering her each day.
They are the lucky ones to have known her, to be part of her group texts, visits and bonding. And I don’t expect the stories and the impact of Sandie to ever end.
There was Don Insley, and there was Kevin Dewey. If you knew them both, you know exactly what I mean. Two men who cared so much about the development of basketball and making sure kids learned and love the sport for life. Sure, they supported the varsity teams, but they helped teach the game to hundreds in Allegany County and promoted camps, clinics and teams run by their friends and family.
As a result, you would see them talking to countless teenagers at the Blue Cross Arena (Rochester War Memorial) who were at the sectional finals cheering on their classmates or their school. They talked about the memories of small court or the Hill-Warner Tournament or the many games and unofficial tournaments at Angelica Central School.
Kevin was one of those guys who had keys to every gym. Unlike larger schools, usually he got them from the superintendent who wanted his son or daughter to be part of the fun when Kevin opened the gym on a Sunday morning before church.
Kevin was passionate and had opinions. We would talk soccer and basketball for hours, and by the end of the conversation, I learned something and usually my opinion had changed. He always had facts, stats and common sense on his side.
I lived in Belfast and then Wellsville. He would drive to my home with a hand-written press release for the paper. The press release was always a free camp, clinic or tournament he got the funding for and many times, used his own money to finish covering the costs for trophies. I couldn’t get it in the paper fast enough. But he STILL felt he owed me for doing my job. He would leave the press release with two sleeves of Dewey’s Waffles.
Now, I don’t care what allergy, diet or health belief you have. Those deep fried waffled perfectly sugar powdered put Krispy Kreme to shame. My kids loved those tournaments. Not just because they allowed ICS to play in them, but they knew waffles were coming.
It always feels good when someone says something nice about your children. But one year, my son, wearing his Kmart And1’s and taking advantage of the unofficial “four steps before we call travel” rules had a pretty darn good Hill-Warner American Legion Post Tournament. Kevin came up and said, “Zeus, your kid is pretty good.” Of course, it came out slower than that and he emphasized the words “pretty good” and it was one of the best compliments ever.
Kevin loved newspapers, he loved film and if you read his obituary, you’ll know he was a war hero.
I was so upset I didn’t get a chance to visit with Kevin before he passed away. But I’ll be at the Barkley Showcase this year, watching every single game, and I’ll have a seat for Kevin. He won’t be forgotten.
I don’t have many regrets in life, but I do regret not being around to sit in the law offices of Feeman, Euken and Gardner. That may have been the mother of all reality shows. When Jim Euken and Wayne Feeman were judges, it was such a fun time. Throw in Terry Parker as DA and judge, the different members from the sheriff’s department, some colorful defense attorney’s and you had Allegany County Night Court.
Judge Feeman had this knack for making your life feel interesting. And make you feel important. Imagine a State Supreme Court Judge walking down the hall, then stopping to ask you your opinion on things. Or your work or life. Or even talk about the Buffalo Bills. He would then walk away and the entire hallway would wonder who I was and why I was so important.
But he did this with everyone. He wanted to learn about so many different things and he wanted to learn about your life and what made you tick. He truly cared.
He didn’t have to volunteer his time in Wellsville, but he made time to serve on the hospital board, the Lions, Elks and Mason’s. He rose to the top of the Shiner’s. Judge Feeman was a heck of a golfer, but privately he was also outstanding as a trap and skeet shooter. There was a lot about Judge Feeman we didn’t know. I guess that’s what happens when you do more listening than talking.
As many of us reflect on what we are thankful for this time of the year, I am reflecting on knowing these individuals and so many others who make this region special and a reason you want to call it home.
(John Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or through this publication at firstname.lastname@example.org)