By Nathan Mayberg
LIVINGSTON MANOR December 14, 2004 Fifty years translates to a lot of memories for a lot of people. And the Livingston Manor Rotarians are no different.
The Rotary club celebrated its fifth decade in western Sullivan County and longstanding heavy involvement in community affairs on Saturday evening at Kings Catering Hall in the Manor by honoring past and current members, holding an auction, dancing and having a good time.
Barry Foster, who is in his second term as president and also served as master of ceremonies, said Livingston Manor would look a lot different if it werent for the Rotary.
Their party was joined by members of the Liberty and Monticello Rotary clubs. After all, it was members of those neighboring clubs who helped the Livingston Manor contingent begin a half-century ago.
The late Charles Topper, the Special Representative of the District Governor and president of the Liberty chapter, and Herbert Mickey Machson, the Governors Aide, helped organized the new chapter. Dr. Joseph Brandt was the groups first president. He served two consecutive years.
Leon Siegel, one of the four still-living original members of the Livingston Manor Rotary, recalled with fondness how Topper and Machson continued to visit and assist the new club throughout the years. He said Topper kept visiting into his 90s.
Siegel said the Livingston Manor Rotary is the dearest [organization] to my heart.
Two of the other three charter members were in attendance. Past presidents Martin Schwartz and Victor Shaver were both honored, and all three posed together for a memorable photograph.
Tony DiLorenzo, a two-time former president of the organization and a member since 1981, said he was very fond of this club. He said the level of camaraderie and community support is great.
Among the clubs most visible accomplishments are its beloved annual winter festival and, as DiLorenzo mentioned, its ice rink, baseball fields, picnic pavilions and youth center.
Youth activities are our prime goal, added DiLorenzo.
He said the youth facilities the club offers are important for a town without the financial resources to maintain them.
Like all Rotary clubs, Livingston Manor donates a portion of all the money it raises from raffles and other events to the international effort to eradicate polio.
Jack Etter, President of the Liberty Rotary Club, said the Livingston Manor club never says no to a project. He complimented them for their involvement in their local community, as well as the national and international affairs of Rotary.
New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther agreed. She helped hand out some honors to Rotarians and commented that Livingston Manor was becoming even more beautiful than it had been in the past. She congratulated the club for their hard work in improving the area.
Cory Gaebel, one of the clubs newest members and owner of Manor Motors, called the change in the hamlet unbelievable over the last few years.
Gaebel, a native of Jeffersonville, remarked that when he returned home from college in Florida, there were a lot of closed stores in town. Now, there are a lot of new shops, lights and other obvious beautification efforts.
Of course, Rotary isnt the only group who has helped in the resurgence. That is why the club made sure to honor Steve Wilkinson, President of the Livingston Manor Chamber of Commerce, and Livingston Manor Renaissance President Gerard Ilaria and not once, but twice.
A light-hearted moment was shared between the Liberty and Livingston Manor clubs when Liberty received back its prized plaque which had the names of its first ten presidents engraved on it. Livingston Manor obtained it, wrapped a long chain around it and even photographed former two-time President Dr. Don Simkin posing with the plaque while wearing Sponge Bob Squarepants shorts.
All kidding aside, Etter announced to the grateful Livingston Manor contingent that his club would be donating a centennial bench to their Rotary Park.
And in a moment to remember, Livingston Manors past president Tom Babich, became the thirteenth member of his organization to receive the Paul Harris Fellow Award, the highest honor in international Rotary service.
Bridget Auer, District Governor, representing 66 organizations, urged those in attendance to live life to the fullest and not to let the dark clouds get you down.
Always look for the good in others, she said.