All posts by Nicole Reitz

SUNY Oswego alumnus gift adds up to hometown help

James F. Okoniewski, a graduate of Fulton’s G. Ray Bodley High School and SUNY Oswego, feels strongly about two things: his love for his hometown of Fulton and the Oswego County area and his belief that mathematics is a key subject for success in life.

He decided to act on those convictions by establishing a scholarship for students from G. Ray Bodley High School to attend SUNY Oswego and study math.

His gift of $50,000 will endow a scholarship for a Bodley graduate with financial need who majors in mathematics or in education with a concentration in math.

The first scholarship will be awarded for the 2013-14 academic year, and it is renewable, provided the recipient meets certain academic standards.

“I’m trying to counteract the feeling out there that the study of mathematics is not that important,” the 1972 SUNY Oswego graduate said. “Math is clearly important in analyzing any situation.”

He pointed out that if people were better able to analyze the risks versus the return on their investments, it would benefit not just individuals, but the economy as a whole.

It’s a strategy he used to build a successful real estate business by analyzing the value of his property investments.

Now he would like to share his success with students from his hometown school, where his cousin Joseph Sczupac was chair of the math department. Francis Godici was a Bodley math teacher who influenced Okoniewski.

Okoniewski’s roots run deep in Fulton, particularly in its Polish community. He was the youngest president of the city’s Polish Home, a post he held in his teens during the 1960s.

“When I was younger I hung around adults more than kids my own age, so that is when I joined the Polish Home,” he explained.

As a SUNY Oswego student, he took his love for his ancestral homeland one step further and studied one summer in Poland at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University, thanks to encouragement from professor emeritus Joseph Wiecha to apply and win a Kosciuszko Foundation fellowship.

Okoniewski shared his Polish heritage by starting a Polish language affiliation club at the college, holding a book drive to raise money to buy Polish literature for Penfield Library and bringing the first polka band to SUNY Oswego.

He became a DJ at the student radio station WOCR. WRVO station manager Bill Shigley recognized his talent and invited him to go on air at the public radio affiliate.

His other mentors were in the college’s math department, including professors emeriti Richard Orr and John Daly.

Now the influence comes full circle, as Okoniewski reaches out with this scholarship to help students from Fulton succeed at SUNY Oswego, now and for generations to come.


Eighteen kids participate in free fishing class

Mike Hutton of Fulton holds daughter Grace’s first strawberry bass. They participated in a kids fishing class conducted by local author Spider Rybaak and McGrath & Associates Carp Angling Services June 8 at Lake Neahtahwanta in Fulton.
Mike Hutton of Fulton holds daughter Grace’s first strawberry bass. They participated in a kids fishing class conducted by local author Spider Rybaak and McGrath & Associates Carp Angling Services June 8 at Lake Neahtahwanta in Fulton.

Eighteen children participated in a kids fishing class conducted by local author Spider Rybaak and McGrath & Associates Carp Angling Services June 8 at Lake Neahtahwanta in Fulton.

Mike McGrath kept several youngsters and their guardians hooked for hours discussing fishy subjects ranging from terminal tackle and tying knots to demonstrating how to mix and use chum to draw monster fish averaging 10 pounds to your line.

“I’m not just talking theory, I’m showing how it’s done,” McGrath explained, casting out a couple rigs.

A few minutes later, he had his first carp, followed by another several minutes later and then another. He landed a total of 15 fish ranging from eight to 25 pounds in less than three hours.

Meanwhile, at the boardwalk, Spider was teaching how to fish with worms and Berkley PowerBaits. It had been raining for the past few days and the water was high and murky, but 14 kids caught something, mostly sunnies, white perch and strawberry bass.

Loaner Shakespeare Classic rod and reel combos were available for the day.

Spider and McGrath are holding another fishing class on Lake Neahtahwanta July 13 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Those seeking more information may contact McGrath at  or 882-1549.

North Bay Campgrounds to host annual fishing derby

North Bay Campgrounds will be hosting its sixth annual fishing derby on Lake Neahtahwanta Saturday, June 29 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Registration desk opens at 9:30 a.m. This event is free and open to the public.

Children ages 16 and under are welcome to attend and must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. All children will be placed in three divisions depending on their age: Tadpole: age 6 and under; Perch: age 7-11; and Bass age 12 –16.

Prizes will be awarded for largest fish caught, smallest fish caught and the most fish caught. There will also be a raffle for a new fishing rod for each age group.

Those seeking more information may call North Bay Campground at 592-2256.

Fulton boys track team to be loaded with potential in 2014

by Rob Tetro

The Fulton boys varsity track and field team earned three wins in 2013. The Red Raiders defeated Oswego, Fowler and Cortland.

Fulton was led by the senior leadership of Kyle Loftus, Pat Fink, Mike Ledger, Alan Cronk, Cody Pickreign and Tim Conners. Coach Joel Carroll said he has high regard for his six graduating seniors.

Loftus was one of the league leaders in distance events. Fink led the team in the discus event while also having a solid season in both the shot put and relay events. Ledger developed into an athlete who was solid in both the triple jump and sprint events.

Cronk’s specialty was in distance running but he also served as a solid substitute in other running events. Pickreign’s season was limited by injury and illness but he still managed to be decent in sprint events. Conners managed to take part in discus events throughout the season as well.

Carroll feels quite strongly that next season’s seniors could be impressive. The Red Raiders will be returning Jimmy Martin, Conner Aldasch, Chase Halstead, Mike Holcomb, Matt Holden, Brandon Ladd, Tony Paulich and Chance Porter.

Other athletes who will be returning for Fulton next season as juniors are All-League distance runner Bailey Lutz, Jacob Belcher, Jacob Cuyler, Logan Defenbacher, Nick Kenyon, Mike Lewchanin, Geof Michaels and Nick Reitz.

According to Carroll, the Red Raiders will be in search of more student-athletes next year to make up for their smaller group of sophomores. Sophomores who will be returning to the team next season are Ian Devendorf, Jake LaVea, Scott Littleton and Garet Roik.

Despite the smaller group of sophomores, the incoming freshmen appear to be a group that Carroll looks forward to developing.

Appeals court upholds murder, manslaughter conviction

by Andrew Henderson

Jay J. Barboni’s second-degree murder  and first-degree manslaughter conviction for striking and killing a 15-month-old boy in 2008 was upheld by the New York State Court of Appeals Tuesday, according to Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes.

“Although I am pleased with the court’s decision to affirm the conviction, there is no celebration,” said Oakes. “At the end of the day, an innocent little boy lost his life and, unfortunately, we cannot undo that senseless loss.”

On Aug. 18, 2008, emergency personnel were called to an apartment in Fulton. First responders arrived to find a 15-month-old boy, Nicholas Gage Taylor, who was not breathing. The baby was immediately transported to A. L. Lee Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

The Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy and found that the baby had suffered multiple skull fractures. He also suffered bleeding in the brain as well as retinal bleeding in his eyes.

At the trial, a doctor testified that had Nicholas lived, he would have been rendered legally blind. Additionally, he had over 20 separate contusions from head to toe with the worst bruises located on his head.

Barboni was convicted in 2009 after a jury trial. At the time, he was sentenced by Oswego County Court Judge Walter Hafner to the maximum sentence of 25 years to life on the murder conviction as well as a concurrent 20 years on the manslaughter conviction.

He appealed his conviction, arguing in part that the evidence at trial was legally insufficient to support his conviction for depraved indifference murder.

Barboni also argued that certain items of physical evidence should have been suppressed by trial court. He also argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

To read the rest of the article, pick up a copy of The Valley News. You can subscribe by calling 598-6397 or click on the link on our home page.


RoyHodge_WEBby Roy Hodge

Last Thursday morning I discovered that life must go on as usual, despite a torrential rain storm. Life as usual in my neighborhood on Thursday mornings means the weekly supply of trash is left at the side of the road to be picked up by the city’s DPW workers.

It was raining hard — I mean really hard — as I said, it was torrential. I realized quickly that things had to move on, it had to be business as usual, the business of picking up the week’s leftovers had to stay on schedule

As I watched from inside my dry house — the windows were covered with huge drops of rain — the two DPW guys along — side the truck moved along quickly, emptying the full bins of curbside recyclables into the truck.

As they threw our bin to the ground and headed for the next block, one worker got in the cab with the driver, the other one jumped up on the back of the truck, opened up a big umbrella, and they were on their way.

Now that’s what I call “being prepared.”

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Once I got started last week looking through a list of columns I had written about food (and the art of eating it), I couldn’t stop.

On October 9, 1979, I had written about one of my Patriot building neighbors, Al Scheuerman, and his recipe for making sauerkraut.  Yes, sauerkraut.

“I hesitate to call it a conspiracy, but through the combined efforts of my good wife and Al Scheuerman I found myself bent over Al’s antique ‘kraut cutter’ last Saturday painstakingly mangling eight heads of cabbage.

“It all started last summer when innocently enough I learned of Al’s expertise for many years as a ‘kraut maker.’ Knowing that the cabbage harvest was still months away, I vaguely remember saying that I’d like to give it a try sometime. In a moment of mental fatigue I must have passed all this on to my wife, which brings us up to the Farmer’s Market last Saturday morning.

“It was there that a chance meeting between Al and my wife resulted in twenty pounds of cabbage on our kitchen table and a quick course in sauerkraut making for me in Al’s kitchen, the only caution being to watch my fingers if I enjoyed a meatless variety of sauerkraut.

“The next thing I knew I was alone with the cabbage and Al’s guillotine with Joel Mareinnis play-by-playing Syracuse’s football game in the background.  My cabbage cutting routine kept up with Joel’s commentary and I recalled Al’s advice just in time as Joel screeched out the first S.U. touchdown.

“I ran out of cabbage and Joel ran out of plays simultaneously, and none too soon. His voice and my right arm were both wavering.  But it all worked out well.

“Some unknowing farmer got rid of all of his cabbage; Al’s kraut maker got a workout; Syracuse and Joel won their football game; and there’s twenty pounds of sauerkraut and a funny smell in my basement. I wonder if Joel Mareinnis likes sauerkraut.”

To read the rest of the column, pick up a copy of The Valley News. You can subscribe by calling 598-6397 or click on the link on our home page. 

In and Around Hannibal: June 15, 2013

by Rita Hooper 

Now continuing on in Miss Grace Hawkins hand-written book on Hannibal…with additions from Hannibal Histroy in Pictures and Prose compiled by Lowell Newvine and available through the Hannibal Historical Society.  With some additions by RH!

The Post Office was established at Hannibal Nov. 4, 1816 with Asa Dunton, postmaster. At that time Hannibal was known as Hannibalville. Back then postmasters had a rapid turnover and Asa was replaced in 1818 by William Henry.

It’s interesting to note that in 1815, three members of the Hawks family married. Asa Dunton married Lois Hawks and Eliza Dunton married William Hawks.  Wonder if Asa and Eliza were brother and sister.

Within the corporation of Hannibal on Nine Mile Creek were two mills, one grist mill and two sawmills, a tannery, a stave factory, a cheese factory, and a cheesebox factory.

Gristmills were required to grind the grain of the farmers.  Sawmills were essential for the construction of homes and barns.  Tanneries were built to satisfy the need for leather.

All the early mills were operated by water power. Typically a mill dam would be constructed on Nine Mile Creek or some other stream in the Township and water would be directed, by means of a spillway, over a water wheel which in turn would drive the moving machinery.

The first gristmill to be constructed in the Township was located in Hannibal Center. It was erected in 1806, on Nine Mile Creek and was owned jointly by Watson Earl and Orren Cotton.

Also at an early date, the Bullen family ran a gristmill on Mill Street in the Village, the Chamberlains eventually acquired the Mill Street gristmill,and at one time there was a sawmill connected with it.

In 1820, John Brill constructed the first tannery in the Town.  Two years later, Thomas Skelton erected a second tannery in the Village of Hannibal. This tannery was located on Church Street.

As settlers continued to locate in the Hannibal Township during the 1820s and 1830s, the number of mills increased dramatically.  Different types of mills were also introduced.

In  1820, Towsley and Dunton built the first fulling mill (process that increases the thickness and compactness of woven or knitted wool by subjecting it to moisture, heat, friction, and pressure until shrinkage of 10–25 percent is achieved, producing a smooth, tightly finished fabric that is light, warm, and relatively weather proof.) Wonder if that was Asa Dunton!

There was also a Fanning Mill to separate grain from chaff and sort grain size. and a cheese box mill or manufacturer both owned by Walker Dada.

Hilon Young owned a Flax Mill.   Flax mills are mills concerned with the manufacture of flax. The earliest mills were ones for spinning yarn for the linen industry.

C. Amos Reed and Jeremiah J. Reed owned a shingle mill. Shingles were used for roofing and siding.

William R. Cox owned the planing mill. A planing mill is a facility that takes cut and seasoned boards from a sawmill and turns them into finished dimensional lumber.

In 1866, Andrew Beecher and William R. Cox constructed a barrel and stave factory close to the west bank of Nine Mile Creek behind the present Hannibal firehouse. The barrels were used for storing flour and packing apples. It is said that during the peak of barrel manufacturing in the area, a man stood at each window (seven on each side) and worked continuously.

The local coopers were Jehial Blodgett, Rensselaer Matteson, Myron Ormsby, Albert Gurnsey, Green Parsons, Nelson Eber and Norman Simmons. A cooper is someone who makes wooden stave vessels, bound together with hoops and possessing flat ends or heads. Examples of a cooper’s work include but are not limited to casks, barrels, tubs, butter churns.

Well that does it for this week – as they say “A brain is a terrible thing to waste” – like everything else, it needs to be exercised – just because school is out (and has been for many of us for a long time) doesn’t mean we can stop learning.

*  *  *  *  *

Hannibal Senior Citizens will be meeting at noon for dinner. This week’s menu features barbecue turkey, au gratin potatoes, vegetable, tropical fruit Monday; Hoffman hotdog on roll, baked beans, seasonal salad, juice, cookie Wednesday; and

Healthy choice platter, cook’s choice dessert Friday.

The Jammers will meet at the American Legion at 7 p.m. Monday night.

The Hannibal Library Friends will hold an organic goat milk soap class Saturday, June 22 at 10 a.m. Learn how to make soap and take home several bars. There is a fee and spaces are limited. Register at the library or call Linda at 564-6643.

“Kids Just Want to Have Fun” summer raffle basket includes a $25 Michael’s gift card, sidewalk chalk marker, and lots of backyard and/or beach fun items.

By the way, Summer Reading at the Library for children begins Tuesday, July 9. The sessions are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 to 11 a.m. for six weeks. This years theme is “Dig into Reading.”

Plans are underway for the 21st Concert in the Park to be held at the Hannibal Firemen’s Field located on Rochester Street in the Village of Hannibal July 7. Featured bands will be Anybody’s Guess, Fulton Community Dixieland Band and the Fulton Community Band.

Covered bridges

Leon Archer
Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

Washington County has never been at the top of my list in the past when I was thinking about outdoor activities, but that is not a reflection on what they have to offer.

It’s only thaat many of us, including myself, have a tendency to be creatures of habit when it comes to where we fish and hunt, and to some extent, where we vacation.

That’s more than a bit unfortunate when one lives in a state that has such a large variety of activities to offer and some of the country’s greatest venues. From Niagara Falls to the Finger Lakes and on to Lake Champlain, from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence bordering the North to the Atlantic Ocean with Long Island cradled in her arms to the south, along with and all the streams, rivers, lakes and ponds in between, we have nearly limitless swimming, boating, and fishing opportunities within a few hours drive.

It took me a little over three hours to drive from Fulton to Cambridge in southern Washington County for the New York State Outdoor Writers Association Spring Safari. I took my grandson, Nathaniel, with me, because I knew I would be doing some fishing, and I don’t get as much time as I would like to do that with him.

Lake George and Lake Champlain border Washington County and I am sure I could fish them many times and never be bored, but for this trip I had the famous Battenkill River in mind. Nathaniel and I were going to fish for trout.

Most of the writers stayed at Battenkill Valley Outdoors in their long lodge. The owners, Don and Lisa Oty, were wonderful hosts; the lodge was comfortable and right next to the Battenkill River.

The Eagleville covered bridge is just a short distance down the road from the lodge and that was where Nathaniel and I would begin fishing. We tried hunting turkeys the first morning of our stay, but we had gotten up a little too late for a good hunt and after a couple hours watching leaves grow and song birds flit about, we headed for the stream. It was much more rewarding.

Nathaniel was intrigued by the covered bridge and just like a kid, he had lots of questions which I tried to answer, but I have to admit that I am hardly a covered bridge expert. Don’t laugh! How much do you know about covered bridges?

Here are the practical reasons for covered bridges, just in case one of your grandkids should ask you: the roof allowed water to be kept off the floor planking and beams, allowing them to last many times longer than an uncovered wooden bridge which could rot out in as little as ten years, and thus saved money on repairs and replacement.

The walls protected from the weather also to a lesser extent, but in addition it was claimed that they helped keep horses calm when crossing a swollen, fast moving river (they couldn’t see it). Horses also had no compunction against entering a covered bridge – it looked exactly like the entrance to a barn.

On the romantic side, it was said that a covered bridge was a favorite spot for courting couples to exchange a kiss, sort of like a drive-in movie without the added entertainment. Whatever the reasons for them, they look really great and are a wonderful subject for artists. So there you have it in a nutshell.

There are other covered bridges in Washington County, one of which is the Shushan Bridge that has been made into a museum. It was not far from the Eagleville Bridge, which is still used by regular traffic today.

Nathaniel and I settled down to fishing in the huge picturesque pool under the bridge after we finished admiring the structure. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful setting, and it turned out to be the only place where I outfished my grandson that weekend.

To read the rest of the column, pick up a copy of The Valley News. You can subscribe by calling 598-6397 or click on the link on our home page.