The Week: What Caught Our Eye

May 29, 2021

An American flag blowing with a clear blue sky behind itGood Morning, Colleagues and Friends, and Happy Memorial Day weekend!

THE SACRED TRADITION of honoring men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States began 155 years ago in Upstate New York.

Nobody called it Memorial Day.

In the years just after the Civil War, in towns of both the North and South, the first witnesses to our national carnage were buried in the silent straight lines of old, overgrown cemeteries. As all around spring flowers bloomed, their sacrifice went uncelebrated, marked only by cold, gray stones. The very picture of loneliness.

Could the nation have forgotten so quickly? No, across America, there seems to have been an almost spontaneous impulse to honor fallen soldiers by decorating their resting places with beautiful flowers and flags. In places like Columbus, Miss., Macon and Columbus, Ga., Carbondale, Ill., Richmond, Va., and Boalsburg, Pa., there were tributes.

The first major national observance came on May 5, 1868. It was led by Major Gen. John Logan of the Union Army at Arlington National Cemetery. Flowers were placed on graves both Union and Confederate, the former home of Gen. Robert E. Lee was draped in mourning, and Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant were in attendance.

Many sites laid claim to having founded Decoration Day, as it was called then, but in 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared a Finger Lakes community with a name drawn from military history, Waterloo, N.Y., as its birthplace. The people of Waterloo had been paying tribute to their fallen heroes at that point for 100 years.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress.

THROWBACK MOTEL: Rob Blood is betting big on nostalgia. His sweet spot is travelers who seek a vintage roadside motel experience, but with coffee bars and WiFi instead of jammed icemakers and buzzing lights. The founder of Lark Hotels, Blood is opening the first of his Bluebird by Lark properties, the Spa City Motor Lodge in Saratoga Springs, on June 4.

MEANWHILE IN LAKE PLACID, the historic Hotel North Wood, an aging fortress on Main Street, has undergone a transformation and is set to reopen this fall. It will be called the Grand Adirondack Hotel, featuring the highest rooftop bar in the Adirondacks, locally sourced food, and rooms decorated in the style of the Great Camps.

BUILDING BLOCKS: New York’s Hudson River Valley once was the brick-making capital of America, its endless veins of clay mined, molded and baked into billions of bricks that built the country. At the turn of the 20th century more than 135 brickyards employing thousands of people, many of them immigrants from Europe, lined the banks of the Hudson. They’re all long gone now, but plenty of remnants remain, and one old brickyard has even been converted to a boutique hotel and retreat.A calm lake with mountains in the background under a partly cloudy skyWhere does beauty begin, where does it end?  A perfect morning on Lake George, America’s “perfect summertime destination.’’  (Jeff Killeen)

LAKE LOVE: Fodor’s, the authority on interesting world travel, names Lake George one of the 10 must-visit freshwater paradises in America, the “perfect summertime destination.”

DEEP DIVER: Luke Dow of the Lake George Steamboat Co. has seen things most people never will, hundreds of feet down in the clear waters of Lake George. And he never has to leave the surface, thanks to a deep-diving drone that he is using to capture unique and fascinating images.

TOP GUN: Giovanni Pellielo is an ordained Roman Catholic bishop who built a church in his home, celebrates Mass daily, and was personally inspired by Pope John Paul II to continue both his faith journey and his life as perhaps the surest shot in all of Italy, a nation that takes its shooting sports very seriously. At 51, he remains one of the best competitive shooters in the world, and now is taking aim at his eighth Olympics. “There are two types of sports persons,” Pellielo told The New York Times. “The first type must satisfy their needs: ‘I want the medal. I need the medal.’ I’m not among them. The second type is people who love it. I love sport.”

RAINBOW WELCOME: Saratoga Springs is sending a message of safety, support and inclusion with a new downtown rainbow crosswalk. Thanks to the work of Saratoga Pride, Spring Street near Congress Park now glows with a statement of community values and a conversation starter.

A RECKONING IN TULSA: The Greenwood section of Tulsa, Okla., was a prosperous and thriving Black community, its business district known as the Black Wall Street. That all changed beginning May 31, 1921, when a white mob attacked the community, killing 300 people and destroying Black Wall Street in one of the worst instances of large-scale racial violence in U.S. history. “My soul cries for justice,” wrote Mary E. Jones Parrish, a teacher and journalist who survived and documented the massacre in her self-published memoir, Events of the Tulsa Disaster. "How long will you let mob violence reign supreme?" It’s a question her great-granddaughter and others find resonant today.

POLICE PROPHECY: An algorithm used by Chicago Police to predict who might be either a victim or perpetrator of gun violence, a tactic known as predictive policing, brought them in 2013 to the porch of Robert McDaniel. He didn’t understand why four people, including two officers in uniform, had come to his home in one of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods, especially considering the absence of violent crime on his police record. They told him they were just there to talk, to warn him that their algorithm identified him as very likely to be involved in some sort of gun crime, either as perpetrator or victim, based on his proximity to and relationships with known shooters and shooting casualties. His neighbors were watching. You can guess what happened next.

ONE OF A KIND: Simone Biles already is widely considered the greatest gymnast of all-time, a winner of four Olympic gold medals and 19 World Championship gold medals; pretty much the definition of Nothing to Prove. But champions are champions because they’re driven to do what no one else has done, and that’s exactly what she did in the U.S. Classic in Indianapolis, landing a move so dangerous that no other woman had even attempted it in competition.

SPRINGING BACK: A fabled Saratoga spring may come gurgling back to life. For years, the waters of the Coesa spring were said to aid digestion, but the spring had been inaccessible at the south end of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center parking lot. The Friends of the Spa State Park are seeking state funding to clear the land, renovate an old spring house, and install a fountain. The water may be potable, Saratoga Living says, but is it palatable?

WRONG YARD: John Earl, a 72-year-old Army veteran with a flowing white beard, saw a man running through his backyard, but when he tried to ask why, the stranger pushed him away. Big mistake.

LISTEN AND LEARN: An aluminum foil maker knew Latin American immigrants to the U.S. weren’t buying much foil. The data were clear. So, the company decided to make a big push to attract that segment of consumers. The initiative failed. Why? Because those immigrants were using traditional means to cook traditional foods and had no interest in changing. Companies that rely strictly on volumes of data to deduce what their customers want are taking a huge risk. Yes, data are helpful in identifying broad patterns and trends, but often miss the “why.” And that type of information can be gleaned only by talking with people. (subscription required)

THE SKIES HAVE IT: Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was a proud son of Searchlight, Nevada, and a searcher of the skies himself. For years, he’s been fascinated by UFOs. His staff urged him to keep his interest quiet, but his curiosity, and legislative power, resulted in an investigation of U.S. military encounters with what scientists prefer to call unidentified aerial phenomena. A new government report is about to be released.

LIVES

STEVI SWIRE had no broadcasting experience when Larry Barnet, owner of Albany radio station WQBK, invited her to brainstorm some ideas about who should get the midday slot between the station’s popular morning and afternoon talk show hosts. He didn’t know who, but he knew he wanted a woman. Swire volunteered herself, becoming the first woman in the Capital Region with her own radio talk show and building an audience that tuned in for her unapologetically progressive views on the issues. She was smart, informed and opinionated, and expected the same of others. “She wasn’t ‘radio’ or formulaic,” Barnet told the Times Union’s Steve Barnes. “She was an original. And she just loved interacting with callers.” She died at 88.

ERIC CARLE spent part of his childhood in Syracuse, developing a fascination for the natural world while on long walks with his father. He was nearly 40 when he started illustrating books for children, including “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” one of the bestselling and most beloved children’s books of all time. “I think it is a book of hope,” Carle said in a commemorative video released by Penguin Random House in 2019, the 50th anniversary of the book’s debut. He died at 91. 

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
     That mark our place; and in the sky
     The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
     Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
     In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
     The torch; be yours to hold it high.
     If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
     In Flanders fields.
— John McCrae

THE SIGNOFF

A WINNING TEAM: Yeva Klingbeil, a senior at Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, NY, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2019. Unable to compete as she fights the illness, three of her teammates on the school’s track and field team made sure she had one more chance to cross the finish line, arm-in-arm. It’s a moment you won’t soon forget.

Thank you to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Claire P. Tuttle, Lisa Fenwick, Jeff Killeen, John Brodt, Tara Hutchins, 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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