By Dan Hust
LIVINGSTON MANOR August 15, 2003 Two of Sullivan Countys most famous residents Alice and Russell Hodge and one of its hardest-working Beatrice Schoch were honored Sunday with the Sullivan County Historical Societys highest awards.
The awards dinner, held at Kings Catering House in Livingston Manor, attracted upwards of 100 people, all connected in some way with the countys largest historically-focused group, based out of the Sullivan County Museum in Hurleyville (which will be debuting a new Sullivan County Room next year).
It is the work of the historical society to remind the local community of its heritage. Without a sense of history, theres no such sense of country, remarked Aileen Gunther, who had been invited to talk about her late husband, Assemblyman Jake Gunther, and his affinity for the past, especially the Civil War. Jake loved to walk the grounds [of the Gettysburg Battleground Park] and think of those times.
Closer to home, society member Bernita Kimble told the crowd that meeting Bee Schoch has always been the high point of her 18 years of involvement in the historical society.
She is my very best friend, said Kimble. She is very meticulous in every project shes taken on [including the popular Theme Tree exhibit during the holidays].
Bee is also a person very committed to her Town of Bethel, she continued, mentioning Schochs 10-year tenure as town historian. Keeping history straight and true is her motto.
With that, County Legislators Chris Cunningham and Leni Binder presented Schoch with the societys History Preserver Award, in recognition of her efforts in her hometown and 20 years of work at the museum, including serving as president of the historical society.
Ive been walking on air ever since I heard about this, said Schoch, who explained that her involvement in the society started by chauffering her mother and aunt to meetings. Then I became acquainted with my Town of Bethel people . . . and thus began my journey into the land of yesterdays. Thank you all!
Before introducing the Hodges, emcee Judge Robert C. Williams, who grew up in Bethel and won the History Maker Award several years ago, mentioned a unique fact about Schoch and him.
I believe this is the first time both the History Maker and History Preserver were born, raised and proud to say they live in Bethel, he said.
Calling Schoch the first lady of history in Sullivan County, Sullivan County Historian John Conway took over the introduction duties from Williams and presented the mother-son duo who won this years History Maker Award: Alice Arden Hodge and Russell Hodge of Roscoe.
Conway, a former sports reporter, recalled his first awareness of Russ Hodge, who set decathlon records and participated in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
He was the biggest, strongest, fastest athlete in track at the time, said Conway, who eventually got to know the Olympian much better. I consider him a very good friend and mentor of mine in many ways.
But Conway didnt forget Hodges mother, Alice, either herself an accomplished high jumper and basketball player who represented the U.S. at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
She had the opportunity to see Adolf Hitler in action, as well as Jesse Owens, explained Conway, adding that the former Alice Arden met her husband Rusty while competing against him in a Sullivan County basketball game (Alice as a center for the Long Island Ducklings, Rusty as the center for the Liberty Emeralds).
Years later, Alice and son Russ still comprise the only mother-son Olympians in history.
I think either one of these honorees could accept this award on their own, said Conway.
Russ Hodge, who owns a fitness center in Roscoe with his mother and remains a chaplain for U.S. Olympians, was just fine with the shared award.
Shes my favorite mom, he said of Alice, 89.
Of course, the 64-year-old added, I didnt think I was old enough to be in the history books!
With his wife, son and four daughters at his side, Hodge mentioned that a film about Jim Thorpe at the old Roscoe Theater initially encouraged the young dairy farmer to pursue an athletic career.
The theater is long gone, but the building remains, and Id love to see somebody restore it, he said.
As for Alice Hodge, she simply thanked the audience for the award her beaming face evidence enough of her pleasure.
Dorothy and I are proud . . . that there are folks in Sullivan County that carry on the tradition that has been and . . . will in the future be as a result of everyone in this room tonight, concluded Judge Williams, speaking of his wife, Dottie. We have something to be very proud of keep up the good work!