Jeanne Sager | Democrat
ANNA LEROY GREETS well-wisher Kim Klein, a former clerk at her store, at Sunday's party in her honor at the Youngsville Pavillion.
Youngsville honors Anna Leroy
By Jeanne Sager
YOUNGSVILLE It was never official. No vote was taken.
But ask anyone in Youngsville about Anna Leroy, and they grin.
“We always told her she’s the town mayor,” said Mary Nosek.
And no wonder. For 44 years, she sat behind the counter at John’s General Store, quite literally the corner store in Youngsville.
If something happened, Anna heard about it.
If something needed to be done, Anna did it.
But at 80, Leroy has decided it’s time for someone else to take the reins.
“I’ve been taking ‘Loafing 101,’” she cracked to an old friend at her town-wide retirement party Sunday afternoon. “I got an A plus.”
If her signature grin and a mischievous twinkle in her eye didn’t give it away, the people who filled the Youngsville pavilion for her party would. She’s just kidding.
After all, Anna can’t sit still.
Since the June 4 sale of John’s General Store less than three months after Leroy’s 80th birthday she’s been to Bethel Woods several times, been to shows at the Forestburgh Playhouse and out with friends.
“She’s never home,” said friend and former store clerk Kim Klein.
Oh, but she is.
Raised in New York City, Anna moved to Youngsville in 1953 with husband John Dunnigan. It was the place where she’d spent summers as a child, where she had shirttail relatives. It was a nice place to raise a family.
In November 1963, the owners of the general store for some 40 years handed the keys over to the Dunnigans with their blessing.
John died in the 1970s, but Anna kept the business up. She kept Youngsville residents in flour and milk, eggs and cold cuts.
When the firemen held dinners at the firehouse next door, Leroy left the back door unlocked so they could run in for extras.
“I told them if you take something, write it down. If you don’t write it down, that’s OK too,” she said. “I left my store unattended many times, and when I’d come back there would be a note on the counter, ‘Anna, I took cigarettes, I think this is what they cost’ or ‘Anna, I grabbed a gallon of milk.’
“They’re such good people,” she said of Youngsville’s residents. “I’ve had so much pleasure to be among them.”
By the size of the turnout on Sunday, the pleasure was returned tenfold.
Everyone played a hand in Anna’s official retirement party and 80th birthday celebration, said main organizer Linda Babicz, Anna’s across-the-street neighbor for the past three decades.
The firemen brought out tables, the Cutting Garden offered up flowers. Local teens put together a ladder ball game. Her sons, John and Jed Dunnigan and their wives, Jill and Gabby, brought food. Then the residents began arriving with food in hand.
“We’ll have to have a bake sale,” Leroy said, looking around at the pavilion tables piled with cakes and cookies.
That’s Anna always on a mission.
She helped bring the Sullivan Renaissance program to Youngsville, helped fight for stream remediation after the floods washed into her store time and again.
“You could always count on Anna,” said resident Maria Grimaldi. “Not having her in the store, we kind of lost something Anna was a fixture of Youngsville.”
And so she’ll be.
She’s no longer in the store, but Anna isn’t leaving Youngsville anytime soon.
“Why would you build a relationship and network with people over 50 years and turn around and leave them?” she asked. “There isn’t one person here that if I called and said, ‘I’m stuck, would you help me’ wouldn’t be there.
“If anybody’s in trouble, they come out with their hearts and their hands,” she said. “It’s something to have a whole town to throw a party for you.”