The Week: What Caught Our Eye

May 7, 2022

Churchill Downs racetrack with horses training on the track and the grandstand in the background during sunsetThe Kentucky Derby, the marquee annual event of thoroughbred racing, takes place this afternoon at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., with a New York horse among the top contenders. (Skip Dickstein)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends:

It’s a weekend to celebrate Moms and Mo. When your day rounds the home stretch at just about 6:45 this afternoon, mix mom a (subscription) perfectly muddled mint julep and settle in to watch Saratoga favorite Mo Donegal compete in the 148th Kentucky Derby. You can’t miss him: He’s in the No. 1 post position and will be proudly bearing the Skidmore College name and colors, thanks to Donegal Racing partners and Skidmore benefactors Ken Freirich and Ray Bryan. Mo arrives at Churchill Downs with serious racing mo, trained by Todd Pletcher, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., and coming off some red-hot finishes. Forbes says Mo’s the horse to beat. Joe Drape of The New York Times sees Mo in the money.

KEN FREIRICH wanted the Skidmore students who followed him to have the opportunity to experience transformational entrepreneurship. The former CEO of Health Monitor founded Skidmore’s Kenneth A. Freirich Entrepreneurship Competition in 2010, now one of the best-funded in the Northeast. This year’s winner is a remarkable junior named (subscription) Dylan Telano who, while attending classes and working full time, built a global online manga comic business that now has 750,000 monthly users and is attracting major investors.

BICENTENNIAL RETROSPECTIVE: The 200th anniversary of his birth on April 27, 1822, has occasioned a fresh look at the life and legacy of President Ulysses S. Grant, who finished his autobiography and lived his final days at a remote mountaintop cottage in Wilton, N.Y. He remains an enigmatic figure, especially by today’s evolved norms, though recent times have also generated greater appreciation for his work to guarantee the civil and voting rights of freed slaves and his fight against the Ku Klux Klan.

LET IT GROW: More free time and helping the ecosystem? Sign us up. Appleton, Wisc., is the U.S. epicenter of a nascent movement known as No Mow May, wherein participants refrain from mowing their lawns or trimming weeds for the month, providing an important food source for pollinators as they emerge from hibernation or their winter habitat. About 500 residents in Appleton, a city 75,000 people, are participating, including the mayor. More than 30 U.S. cities now have No Mow May, mostly in the Midwest.

A man and woman with a young girl in a wheelchair in front of a wall painted as a seascapeEsmé Savoie, who uses eye-gaze technology to write short stories that are part autobiographical and part fantasy, is having her unique wish fulfilled by Make-a-Wish Northeast New York/Courtesy of Make-a-Wish Northeast New York.

MAGICAL WISH COMES TRUE: Make-a-Wish Northeast New York is helping fulfill a unique wish — to be the subject of a museum exhibit. Esmé Savoie, an 11-year-old from Troy, N.Y., was born with conditions that impact her ability to speak, walk and eat. She uses eye-gaze technology to write short stories that are part autobiographical and part fantasy. Make-A-Wish worked with local artists and The Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy to create a multimedia art show — “Esme’s Stories: A Magical Journey” — inspired by Esmé’s works. The exhibit will run through June 4.

WHERE THE SUN SHINES: The city of Cohoes, N.Y., this week celebrated the imminent start of a first-of-its-kind floating solar array on the city’s reservoir, a $5.9-million project that was boosted by $3 million in federal funds and a $750,000 grant from National Grid. The city also is home to Norlite, which manufactures lightweight aggregate that is used in a variety of green building and landscaping applications and does so by harvesting the energy value from liquid waste, destroying the waste in the process and helping New York State achieve its climate-change goals by reducing reliance on fossil fuel, both in the manufacturing of its product and in the avoidance of transportation of waste to out-of-state management facilities.

A SIMPLE REQUEST: Victor W. Butler was determined to fight in World War II, even if it meant doing so under the Canadian flag. His parents nixed his plan and he enlisted under the flag of his home country. The military was segregated at the time, and he became a mechanic for the famed Tuskegee Airmen. He turns 100 in two weeks, and would like nothing more than to receive birthday cards. If you’re so inclined, the address is: Victor W. Butler, c/o Gary Butler; PO Box 3523; Cranston, RI 02910.

DON’T RUN LIKE A DEERE: Russian troops stole $5 million worth of John Deere farm equipment, including two compound harvesters valued at more than $300,000 each, from a dealership in Ukraine and transported their bounty 700 miles, only to discover that the equipment had been remotely disabled and was useful to them only as scrap.

CASH FOR COLLECTIBLES: It’s hard to imagine many instances when a simple post-game jersey swap would create life-changing wealth for one of the participants, but that’s what happened for Steve Hodge. Hodge in 1986 was a member of the English national soccer team that lost to Argentina in the World Cup semifinal. Hodge exchanged jerseys with the late Diego Maradona, who scored both goals in the match — one known forever as the “Hand of God” goal, the other voted “goal of the century” for its artistry and athleticism. A buyer this week paid $9.3 million for the jersey at auction, a record price for a piece sports memorabilia. Not to be outdone, literally, a 300-year-old violin, a rare Stradivarius said to have been played in the score to “Wizard of Oz,” is expected to fetch between $16 million and $20 million when it goes to auction next month.

CELEBRATION OF BASEBALL: A baseball moment went viral for all the right reasons this week, and it got even better. On Tuesday night in Toronto, Aaron Judge, the enormous Yankees slugger who is off to an excellent start this season, launched a ball into the seats at Rogers Centre. A Blue Jays fan who caught the ball turned and handed it to a 9-year-old in a Judge jersey, who immediately burst into tears and hugged the generous stranger. The next day, there were more tears as young Derek Rodriguez, along with Jays fan Mike Lanzillotta and Derek’s younger brother, met Judge in the Yankees’ dugout. Meanwhile, in New York’s Capital Region, the minor league Tri-City ValleyCats played a practice game against a barnstorming team of players hoping to catch a scout’s attention. Eric Ezersky, a 28-year-old chauffeur from Long Island, pitched. As he left the field, he was stopped by the ValleyCats’ manager, who, having witnessed his mid-90s fastball, signed him on the spot. Speaking of scouts, they’re on to Gavin Van Kempen, watching and recording as he blew away batter after batter in his third consecutive no-hitter for Maple Hill High, a small school southeast of Albany.

WARNING SIGNS: A scholar and expert on international affairs is drawing parallels between the harsh economic sanctions on Russia and those imposed by the U.S. on Japan as punishment for its brutal and aggressive campaign for dominance in Asia before World War II, warning Russia could respond recklessly in desperation, as Japan did in attacking the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. The circumstances are different, of course, and the weapons more terrifying, making the potential consequences of a cornered Russia hard to fathom.

SPRUCING UP THE Q: Tyler Herrick grew up outside of Boston, but followed his wife, Sarah, to her hometown of Glens Falls, N.Y., after graduating St. Lawrence University. He took a job as a front desk agent at The Sagamore hotel in Bolton Landing, climbed the ladder to assistant GM, then helped form a hospitality management firm, Spruce Hospitality, with his neighbor, Zack Moore, to lead the renaissance of downtown Glens Falls’ classic Queensbury Hotel, owned by Zack’s dad, Ed. Tyler’s a leader in the Warren County/Lake George region hospitality industry and a good friend of our firm. (subscription) Get to know him with this Albany Business Review profile.

FOX WREAKS HAVOC ON WASHINGTON: Say Fox in Washington and you won’t necessarily think of this. A few weeks ago, a wild fox harassed and bit people near the U.S. Capitol before it was captured and euthanized. This week, a few blocks away, a fox broke into the flamingo habitat at the Smithsonian National Zoo, killing 25 of the birds and a northern pintail duck. Zoo staff spotted the fox but it escaped.

HONEYBEE HELL: Millions of honeybees bound for beekeepers in Alaska died after Delta airline employees left their crates on a hot airport tarmac in Atlanta. Honeybees do not fare well in extreme heat, and by the time local beekeepers could get to the airport to check on the bees, most were dead. “This is a disaster,” one of the Georgia beekeepers told Alaska Public Media.

LIVING MONUMENTS: Deep in the Adirondack forest of upstate New York resides a regal stand of Eastern White Pines, immense trees that have been growing for more than 300 years and whose crowns touch the sky. Enjoy them while they last, experts say; once they fall — and they’re falling now more frequently — they’re likely to be replaced by other, smaller species.

LIVES

BRUCE YOUNG knew all about turbulence. A native of the remote northern Lake George community of Huletts Landing, N.Y., he joined the U.S. Air Force after Cornell and trained at its “Top Gun” school for fighter pilots. He flew Air Force fighters during the Cuban missile crisis and Cold War and finished his career flying United’s 747s for 30 years. He was named to the Lake George Park Commission 1996 and since 2002 had been its chair, serving under four governors of different parties, creating model stream corridor and stormwater protections for Lake George and successfully fighting Eurasian milfoil. “He was a good listener with a quick wit and steady hand,” said Commissioner Ken Parker, his successor as Chair. He was 86.

NAOMI JUDD was a single mother struggling to make ends meet when she took a job as a nurse near Nashville and began a singing duet with her daughter, Wynonna, whom she bore while in high school. Together they achieved 14 No. 1 country hits in a career spanning three decades, won five Grammys and had 20 Top Ten hits. Naomi Judd’s struggles with mental health were well-documented, and she committed suicide at 76 the day before the duo were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

IRENE DUNHAM could attribute the final 95 years of her life to a sore throat. She was 19 when she stayed home from Bath Consolidated School in Michigan the day a fellow student destroyed the school with 1,000 pounds of dynamite planted in the basement, killing 44 people and injuring dozens, including her brother. Before that, she survived the Spanish Flu, and long after a bout with colon cancer. She lived until two years ago in the home in Lansing, Mich., where she raised her family, staying active by gardening and pulling dandelions by hand. She was the 10th-oldest person in the world when she died at 114.

NORMAN MINETA was interned as a child with his family along with thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II. Four decades later, as an influential California congressman, he co-sponsored legislation that resulted in reparations and formal apologies to families and descendants of Japanese Americans who were pre-emptively incarcerated during the war. He made history as the first Japanese American cabinet member when he served the final six months of Bill Clinton’s term as commerce secretary, them transitioned to become transportation secretary under George W. Bush, the only Democrat in Bush’s cabinet. He died at 90 of a heart ailment.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“All that I am or hope ever to be I get from my mother – God bless her.” 

—    Abraham Lincoln

Happy Mother’s Day, Moms.

THE SIGNOFF

GREEN MACHINE: A Detroit man told federal agents who arrested him on weapons charges that he made $2,000 a day selling marijuana from a vending machine attached to his house. He was in business for four years before agents, acting on a tip, bought marijuana from the machine to collect as evidence. 

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Skip Dickstein, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, Tim Maisonet, 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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