By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE February 25, 2005 The annual Livingston Manor "Heart of the Manor" Dinner was held Thursday, February 17 at Sullivan County Community College.
The 2005 honorees were Gerard Ilaria and Steve Wilkinson, the guiding forces behind several projects that in recent years have breathed new life into a dying town, otherwise rich in local lore and blessed by the beauty of the Beaverkill Creek.
Theyve also been responsible for Catskill Morning Farm, the rebirth of the local chamber of commerce, the creation of the "Heart of the Manor" dinner, Livingston Manor Renaissance, a main street beautification project that included new sidewalks and streetlamps, and the Livingston Manor Development Corporation.
As the big fish behind the 1st Annual Livingston Manor Trout Parade, they started a local tradition inspired by Coney Island's legendary Mermaid Parade, and in so doing were featured in the pages of the New York Times.
In addition, the dynamic duo hold seats on the board of directors of the Sullivan County Community College Foundation, Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce and the Sullivan County Visitors Association.
"When I drive in Livingston Manor, it's a changed place, and it's getting better every day," said NYS Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther
Speaking of the honorees, she added, "They are one-of-a-kind fellows, and I love them dearly."
"These guys stole my heart years ago," said Pat Pomeroy, supervisor of the Town of Rockland.
In February 2003, she nominated Ilaria and Wilkinson for recognition by the county's chamber of commerce for its "Pride of Sullivan County Award."
"They are the builders, the designers, the planters, the planners, the doers, the movers and the shakers," said Pomeroy. "When all is said and done, it may very well be that their major talent is an incredible ability to marshall talented people together and create wonderful energy."
Wilkinson said the awards dinner was established "as a way to recognize people who have done a lot to beautify the town."
Previous honorees include Shirley Fulton and Mary Fried (1st year), Jean Stevenson and Joyce O'Keefe (2nd year) and Al O'Keefe and Cory Wolcott (last year).
Once six people were honored, the steering committee decided to turn the selection of future recipients over to the past winners, who in turn picked Ilaria and Wilkinson.
Ilaria is in charge of the AIDS program at Catskill Regional Medical Center, and Wilkinson serves as Gunther's legislative director in Albany.
"It's amazing to hear people say such nice things about you," said Wilkinson.
Asked why they've invested so much blood, sweat and tears into fixing up Livingston Manor, Ilaria replied, "We've always had strong feelings about this beautiful town. . . . It's a great main street town along a river filled with wonderful people."