The Week: What Caught Our Eye

February 5, 2022

A sunrise over a frozen lakeIt’s not just you — sunrises and sunsets in winter really are more awe-inspiring. The air is generally cleaner, there is less humidity, and low cloud decks that break at the horizon are illuminated from beneath by the rising and setting sun. (John Bulmer).

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

Kindness begets kindness. That’s where we begin today.

JESSICA LIBURDI was born without an esophagus. Growing up was a blur of surgeries and out-of-town hospital trips. At 6, she first met the good people at Make-A-Wish. She asked only for a trip to see her grandma. Make-A-Wish encouraged her to think a little bigger. They sent Jessica and her entire family to Disney World. Today, fully grown and in good health, Jessica has become the manager of volunteer engagement at Make-A-Wish Northeast New York, the first former Wish child to join the staff of the organization.

SPREADING JOY: If there’s one thing we hope everyone can agree on, it’s that we could all use a little more joy in our lives. NPR crowd-sourced the question to its audience — how are you finding joy in the pandemic, and what advice do you have as a result of your experience? You’ll find some common themes: Try something new. Get outside. Do what you love. Be grateful. But it’s the stories themselves that prove joy can be found in nearly every circumstance.

WIRED TO SERVE: Diners at The Distillery restaurant in Victor, N.Y., near Rochester, are getting accustomed to one of the newer members of the serving staff. Lilly the robot is steady, sturdy, and does exactly what she’s programmed to do — deliver food and drinks to the table and return to pick up the dirty dishes.

THE LONG JOURNEY OF TRUTH: Isabella Baumfree was born into slavery in the Town of Esopus, Ulster County, around 1797, one of about a dozen children of James and Elizabeth Baumfree. When her slave owner died, Isabella was sold at auction with a flock of sheep to another master for $100. She was 9. The new master beat her daily. She gave birth to five children, one the result of a rape by her master. She escaped in 1826 with only her infant daughter and found her way into the protection of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen in New Paltz. She took their last name. It was there that she learned that her son Peter, 5, had been sold into slavery in Alabama. With the help of the Van Wagenens, she sued for his freedom in New York and won the case, becoming the first Black woman to win such a case against a white man. We know Isabella today as Sojourner Truth. Now, court documents from the case, including her deposition and the judge’s decision — missing since 1828 — have come to light in the New York State Archives.

WARM GLOW OF SUCCESS: Turns out the folks who imagined an enduring winter attraction in the Lake George region were on to something. Ice Castles, a life-size winter playground that features tunnels, soaring caverns, slides and fountains — all ice, all built by hand and spectacularly illuminated — is drawing big crowds to Charles R. Wood Park since its opening in late January. It took a team of ice artisans and about 25 million pounds of ice to assemble. “Ice Castles is a game-changer for the winter season in Warren County and the Lake George area,” Warren County Tourism Director Joanne Conley told the Adirondack Explorer. Ice Castles is scheduled to run through February, and could last until March if the weather cooperates. Check their website for ticket availability.

Deer walk across a frozen lake, with trees in the backgroundWith deep, persistent cold through January, most water bodies in the Adirondacks have frozen over – making the daily deer commute just a little more efficient. (Nancie Battaglia)

ANOTHER WORLD-CLASS WINTER WONDERLAND: Lake Placid is the only place in the world to have hosted the Olympics twice. It’s the only place in the country to have sent competitors to every Olympics since 1924. And as the Winter Olympics begin in Beijing, there is nostalgia for the little Adirondack village that grows Olympians and keeps the flame alive. The New York Times and NBC’s Today Show both visited recently and found a place firmly rooted in and lifted by its Olympic past, where competition, ambition and achievement still are celebrated and fulfilled.

RETURNING MAGIC TO THE MOUNTAIN: Mount Ascutney, in southern Vermont, fell on hard times and closed in 2010, threatening the future of West Windsor, Vt. – population 1,099. Today, the mountain is back, and the community is a magnet for families and those who enjoy the outdoors, thanks to residents who took over the ski mountain’s management.

MORE HOLLYWOOD HERE: Filmmakers are in love with the old neighborhoods of the Capital Region. A Hallmark movie about the Rockettes is being shot at A. DeFazio’s Imports, the iconic specialty grocer in Troy. The teen mystery thriller Pretty Little Liars, on HBO Max, is returning to Schenectady to film its next installment. And Showtime recently filmed scenes for “Three Women” and Discovery shot an episode for its long-running “A Haunting,” both in Schenectady.

HEALTH WARNING: The U.S. exceeded 100,000 deaths from diabetes in 2021, the second year in a row that milestone was reached. An estimated 37 million Americans have diabetes, and one in three Americans will develop it in their lifetimes if current trends persist, according to the National Clinical Care Commission, which was created by Congress to evaluate and provide  recommendations about federal health policy and programs to combat the rising number of metabolic and autoimmune diseases in the U.S. “The large number of diabetes deaths for a second year in a row is certainly a cause for alarm,” Dr. Paul Hsu, an epidemiologist at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, told the news service Reuters. “Type 2 diabetes itself is relatively preventable, so it's even more tragic that so many deaths are occurring.”

OVERACHIEVER: David Rush, who lives in Idaho, has a method to his record-setting madness: He wants people to know that it’s possible to achieve difficult things. He has illustrated this point by setting more than 200 Guinness World Records, including one a week in 2021. His records include fastest 100-meter sprint while juggling blindfolded, most marshmallows caught in his mouth in a minute, most toilet paper rolls balanced on his head and fastest time to arrange a chess set.

GUBERNATORIAL PROCLAMATION: West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is nothing if not colorful. A billionaire coal baron who’s also the longtime — and still active — coach of a high school girls’ basketball team in the southern part of the state, he brought along his English bulldog, Babydog, for an appearance at the end of his State of the State address. A few days before, taking a shot at U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, singer and actress Bette Midler called West Virginians “poor, illiterate and strung out.” Justice closed his televised remarks by lifting Babydog, holding her tail-less rear end to face the cameras, and declaring, “Babydog tells Bette Midler and all those out there: Kiss her heinie.”

PAINFUL DISCOVERY: An Ohio family, excited that their daughter was traveling to her father’s ancestral homeland in Italy, got her an at-home DNA test for Christmas, hoping the results might help her connect with family she would not otherwise meet. It turns out the daughter, conceived through artificial insemination, wasn’t biologically related to the only father she has known. Lawsuits are filed.

MASK BACKLASH: No, not that kind of mask. Deadline is reporting that Rudy Giuliani was revealed as a contestant during a recent taping of the reality competition series “The Masked Singer,” and that judges Ken Jeong and Robin Thicke left the stage in protest before returning. Social media, predictably, was in full outrage mode. The episode is expected to air in March.

TO THE PRAIRIES: The rapid shift to flexible work accommodations for millions of Americans has spurred an outmigration from crowded, expensive cities, with communities across the nation competing to lure these new housing free agents. Small towns in Kansas have been trying for years, with mixed results, to lure new residents with free land and inexpensive homes. For some newcomers, the savings — in costs, in pace, in stress — are well worth it. But in some places, the abundance of free land has depressed real estate values for everyone, and the amenities and diversity common to metro areas can be hard to come by.

LIVES

BOB CURLEY was a community banker straight out of central casting: A shock of white hair and dazzling blue eyes, an irrepressible smile, and a handshake you could take, well, to the bank. He started as a teller on Long Island, ultimately became Vice Chairman of Key Corp. and chairman of Berkshire Bank’s New York division, and along the way (subscription required) mentored more than 30 future Capital Region bank executives. He loved his family, local charitable organizations, Lake George, and Siena College basketball. He was 74.

THE NORTHEAST LOST two stalwart sportswriters this week. Garry Brown’s byline first appeared in the Springfield Union in 1950, and was a fixture in Western Massachusetts for the next seven decades. His final column in The Springfield Republican was published on Saturday, two days before his death at 90. And in Buffalo, Miguel “Miggy” Rodriguez, who covered high school sports for nearly two decades at the Buffalo News, died at 47 after a month-long battle with COVID-19. “No one worked harder, laughed louder or had a bigger smile,” a former colleague said.

ROBERT McEVOY was deeply respected for his integrity and skill as the man in charge of the day-to-day operations of Schenectady County for 22 years and trained generations of men and women in public administration as a professor at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs. The longest-serving administrator in county history, his steady hand guided the county through some turbulent financial times, and he balanced careful spending practices with support for people who needed it most. Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, praised him as a “professional administrator to his core” and added, “While small in stature, he was a skyscraper in government administration and encouraging others to lend their talents to serve the public.” McEvoy was 85.

ROBIN HERMAN covered the NHL’s New York Islanders in the mid-1970s, but was routinely kept out of the locker room after games because of her gender. After pressing the issue, she was granted access in 1975 during the All-Star game, but equal access didn’t become the standard for another 10 years. She died of cancer at 70.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“It feels silly to watch endless hours of winter sports every four years, when we never watch them any other time, and we don’t even understand the rules, which doesn’t stop us from scoring everyone, every run, every skate, every race.”
‑ Jill Lepore, journalist and historian

THE SIGNOFF

ON THE NUMBERS: Three bettors wagering with the online sports book FanDuel picked the exact final scores of both the AFC (Bengals 27, Chiefs 24) and NFC (Rams 20, 49ers 17) championship games last weekend, a parlay that offered them nearly 29,000-to-1 odds. One of the lucky bettors turned his $20 wager into $579,000.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, John Bulmer, Nancie Battaglia, Tara Hutchins, Claire P. Tuttle, Kelly Donahue, and Katie Alessi.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback.  

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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