Jeanne Sager | Democrat
PHIL COOMBE OF Grahamsville, left, was one of the honorees at Thursday’s ceremonies at the CVI Building in which Sullivan Renaissance handed out grants for beautification projects.
Hailing Three Who Get Things Done
By Jeanne Sager
FERNDALE April 3, 2007 There was no doubt about it.
Barbara Hahn is a Renaissance woman. And for that matter, Phil Coombe is a Renaissance man.
The official start of this year’s Sullivan Renaissance season paid tribute to the root of the program’s success the people.
Hahn, Coombe and Liberty High School senior Valerie LaGattuta were hailed with videos produced just for the occasion with friends, family and neighbors waxing poetic on their tributes.
“Don’t bother saying no to Barbara Hahn,” said Sullivan West Central School Board of Education President Art Norden to laughter from the audience. “You’re wasting your time.”
Hahn, founder of the Jeffersonville-area JEMS beautification group, is inspired by inspiring others, said her husband, former Jeffersonville vet George Hahn.
A member of the local garden club, Hahn took Renaissance’s beautification challenge head on.
She stepped down as chair of JEMS a few years ago, but remains a driving force behind the projects.
A Jeff native, Hahn combines her love of local history and gardening with a good old-fashioned work ethic.
“She knows everybody has potential in them,” said Dawn Erlwein, who took the helm of JEMS after Hahn. “She believes in you, so you kind of believe in yourself.”
“It sure would be nice having her help to clean your room, but you wouldn’t want her to inspect it,” said Erlwein’s son, Austin.
Coombe got a similar send-up from folks in Grahamsville where his name is linked to everything from the fairgrounds to the library.
“They say, ask a busy person to do something and you know it’ll get done and that’s Phil,” said neighbor Phyllis Moore.
“The guy’s like a million miles an hour,” added Jason McCarthy, another community volunteer. “A million miles an hour up Denman Mountain because a million miles an hour isn’t fast enough for him.”
Coombe, once head of the state department of corrections, is now a part-time farmer and full-time participant in his community.
As the new wing of the Daniel Pierce Library slowly takes shape, Coombe said he’s gratified to see so many people stepping up to the plate without a penny going into their wallets.
LaGattuta's one of those people.
A teenager from Swan Lake, she symbolizes the future of Sullivan Renaissance, and it earned her this year’s leadership award.
“I have two wonderful boys, but if I had a daughter, I’d want her to be just like Val,” said Nancy Levine, head of Swan Lake’s Golden Feather winning Renaissance project.
Every time Levine called on Valerie, the teenager went running.
“And she loved it all,” said mom Ana.
Her award was a thank you for “bringing the Sullivan Renaissance principles to a new generation.”
And with the announcement of 69 projects funded Thursday night from $200 Spruce Up Your School awards to $5,000 multi-year projects (with another $5,000 promised come judging in August) the Renaissance principles will be put into action once again in the coming months.
“Not all will be winners,” said Wurtsboro volunteer Lyman Holmes, “but being part of Sullivan Renaissance makes us all winners.”