Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of stories about Fulton Families. The monthly series tells the stories of families that have either lived in Fulton for ages or perhaps only a short while — but the common bond is that they love the city and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. If you know of a family we should highlight, please email Debbie Groom, Valley News managing editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ashley M. Casey
It’s well past Christmas, but Bob and Sandy Weston’s tree is still decked out in the living room. It’s not a Christmas tree anymore, though — it’s a celebration tree.
“The bulbs come down (and) we put pictures, we put cards, birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, any kind of card that we get from friends and from family we put on the tree,” Bob said.
The celebration tree stems from his wife Sandy’s love of Christmas and their family, which, while not the largest Fulton family, is steadily growing. A little less than two years ago, the Westons’ first great-grandson, Nathan, was born to their granddaughter and grandson-in-law, Jill and Steve Lunn. Another granddaughter, Nikki, got married in September 2013.
“Three years ago, she said, ‘Let’s keep the tree up.’ After we had it up for a while, we decided, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to put cards on there?’” Bob remembered. “Cards are special. They’re from your kids and from friends. I can’t throw them away. I end up saving them.”
Over their years in Fulton, the Westons have accumulated lots of cards and pictures. Alison Weston Marsh called her father the “unofficial mayor of Fulton” because of the family’s involvement in numerous organizations and activities.
Bob served as Third Ward councilor from 1993 to 2009. Departing alderman Peter Franco said Bob, his predecessor, encouraged him to run. Sandy has also been a part of environmental and water quality campaigns locally and statewide.
“We had water quality problems back in the late ‘80s. I figured if they were affecting me, my family, my home, they must be affecting other people in the community as well,” she said. “So I took on addressing water quality problems with a group of neighbors.”
Through her nearly 25 years in environmental and community activism, “I got to know my community inside and out.”
“When I was running for office, I stopped at a house and the guy said, ‘I know you — you’re married to Sandy. She’s the water lady,’” Bob said.
Although Bob retired from politics in 2009, the Weston presence is still felt all over the city. Bob and Sandy like to attend local concerts, plays and benefits.
“Because of the community we’re in and because we know so many people, we try to support organizations and fundraisers. I tell people, ‘If you have a function I can give you one hour,’ and that’s all it takes,” Bob said. “We try to reach out to organizations and individuals that need a little help. … A lot of times, just being there means something to somebody.”
Along for the ride
In 1962, Bob Weston was the manager of a Grand Union store in Elmira, N.Y.
“They asked me if I was interested in being a manager in Fulton and I said, ‘Where’s Fulton?’” Bob recalled.
The Westons moved north to build their lives in Fulton. Bob went on to buy a Pepperidge Farm and Thomas Muffins franchise and was a distributor for 38 years before retiring in 2005. He and Sandy raised three girls: Cindy, Kelly and Alison.
Today, the whole Weston clan lives within five minutes of each other in Fulton — except for Kelly, who lives in Granby.
“(It) is very unusual because I’ll talk to people and they’ll say, ‘Well, I’ve got my daughter in Seattle, I’ve got my son in Arizona…’ So here we are with our whole family. We are just so fortunate,” Bob said. “That just makes it so much easier (for) holidays and getting together … Everybody makes it special.”
The family gathers at Kelly’s on Christmas Eve, and they spend Christmas Day at Bob and Sandy’s. The Westons have other holiday traditions as well. On Halloween, they whip up clam chowder to share before handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.
“Ten of us will answer the door,” Kelly said with a smile.
Bob still lines up his children, grandchildren — and now, great-grandson Nathan — for a Valentine’s Day surprise.
“I line up the girls here and they close their eyes and put their hands out and put something in their hands,” Bob said. Of course, after a while, then we started adding some boys — my grandson (Kaden Marsh) and my great-grandson.”
Holidays or not, the Westons are rarely apart. They enjoy frequent family breakfasts, apple picking in the fall and family movie days. They also cheer on Kaden at his Knee-Hi Basketball games.
“We’re the only family that does that out of all of my friends,” said granddaughter Nikki. “We think it’s normal, but they’re like, ‘You guys get together all the time?’”
In fact, a one-time boyfriend of one of the Weston girls commented that the family was like a “school of fish because if one was at a place, then everybody was there. That continues to be the case,” Bob said.
“Everything they did, we did,” granddaughter Jill said. “We went along for the ride.”
The close-knit family and community have kept the Westons near to Fulton.
“I’m not going to go anywhere,” Cindy said. “My family’s here, I’m staying here.”
Kelly, who is now the school-home liaison at G. Ray Bodley High School, has stuck to her roots as well.
“I went to Ithaca College for undergrad. When I was graduating, a lot of my friends were going on to grad school, going to different communities, but I knew that I just wanted to come back home,” she said. “I didn’t want to be away from my family, my parents, my sisters. That’s where I felt more comfortable, so I wanted to come back home.”
Alison said she takes pride in having everyone in this small-town city know her family.
“It’s just nice to have everybody recognize your family. Growing up here, everyone knows my parents … My friends know my family and appreciate what they’ve done, so that’s a nice feeling,” she said.
Kelly said her parents “go the extra mile” to acknowledge others in the community through attending community events and letters to the editor.
“If your son or daughter’s picture is in the paper for a sporting event, (they’ll) call them,” Alison added.
Sandy, Cindy and Jill participated in the Fulton Community Task Force for several years.
“The whole purpose of it was to improve Fulton in a lot of different ways,” Cindy recalled. “We had Respect Day every year. The whole purpose of the day was to bring everybody together to focus on the positive in Fulton and talk about ways that we can respect and care for one another.”
Bob and Sandy have devoted much of their time to contributing to their community, and it shows in their daughters and granddaughters as well. They pointed out that several members of their family have pursued careers related to helping others.
Kelly is the school-home liaison for GRB, Jill is a psychologist for the Phoenix school district, and Nikki is a nurse in Oswego. Cindy has been a daycare provider in Fulton for more than 30 years; now, she is watching the children of the kids she used to babysit.
Alison’s daughter, Sami, is working toward a master’s degree in social work through the Greater Rochester Collaborative MSW Program, which is offered by SUNY Brockport and Nazareth College.
“I’m in social work a large part due to my grandparents because they’ve shown me from such a young age the importance of volunteering and giving back to your community and helping others,” Sami said.
“I can remember when I was young, I did the Respect Week with my grandma, and every year I ring the Salvation Army bell with my grandparents,” she said.
Jill’s husband, Steve, also serves the community as an investigator with the Fulton Police Department. He said while Fulton may lack some of the conveniences of larger cities, the small-town atmosphere is an advantage.
“There’s a ton of things you could do that I don’t think you could do in a bigger city, or there’d be more precautions you’d have to take … That’s what I enjoy about it most,” he said.
“We do have a lot of things for young people with the Knee-Hi Basketball and Fulton Youth Soccer and the wrestling program,” Jill added. “There is a lot of things in our community for kids, which I think are hard to find in other areas.”
Jill said the fact that everyone seems to know everyone else is a plus.
“Your children are friends with your friends’ children. You know the family from the grandparents to the kids,” she said.
The Westons acknowledged theirs is not a perfect city, but they stressed their efforts to make it a better place.
“I think it’s changing. It should be able to rebound, with all the organizations and community events we have, and people like Bob and Sandy,” Steve said.
“If you live somewhere, you might as well contribute to it and you might as well be part of the community,” Bob said. “Don’t just be there and complain about things. Try to do something to make them better.”