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Big Chuck

August 1, 2011

I Was Just Thinking: Messages from the (virtual) mailbag

Well, it's mail call time again. Every six months I like to recap some of the correspondence I have received from readers. I welcome any and all emails!

Here are the five columns from the first half of 2011 that have generated the most comments. (All columns are archived on the Daily Star website, if you missed any of them.)

My column of Feb. 14 ("Oneonta's Parks") brought many remarks. To a person they heaped praise on Oneonta's small but dedicated Parks and Recreation Department, and Director Steve Andrews in particular. A snail mail letter from Lorraine (West Oneonta) said: "We are so blessed to have such wonderful parks in our community. The pool at Wilber Park is a welcome 'babysitter' for me and others with small families. It is a great place to catch up with friends while cooling off in a beautiful spot. I love it there!"

My March 14 column ("Llama Rescue") brought emails regarding Wes Laraway, whom I dubbed the "Savior of Schoharie." Many had not heard about the emergency rescue of more than 100 llamas by Wes and his volunteers up at Red Maple Farm overlooking Vroman's Nose. An email from terri250 said: "What a great guy. Doing God's work high up on a mountain in Schoharie County. Congratulations to Mr. Laraway. That is what living in Central New York is all about!" I agree.

On April 25 I wrote a column fantasizing about a never-realized phone interview with long-gone country singer Patsy Cline. From the three dozen emails and letters I received, Patsy is as popular today as ever. The column was in response to the Oneonta Stage Players popular production of "Always, Patsy Cline" at the Oneonta Theatre. One email really summed it all up. JKAPPLE wrote: "I loved your "interview" with Patsy Cline, Big Chuck. It is almost as if it actually took place. I can hear Patsy's sweet voice chatting and laughing with you. She was one of the greatest artists of any musical genre of the last century and tragically she left us too soon. I thought the play at the Oneonta Theatre was a wonderful tribute to her. We love you Patsy Cline."

Who would have thought that the second greatest reader response from one of my columns came from the one I wrote about a stupid vacuum cleaner! On March 28, I wrote about my travails in getting a vacuum cleaner repaired in 2011. Needless to say, Lana Alkes came to my rescue. I am still hearing from people I meet in the stores and on the street about this column. One email at the Daily Star online from HIYALOK recalled the durability of those old days appliances. He (or she) wrote: "Why even my mother still has her 1960 GE refrigerator and her 1959 Kitchen Aide dishwasher and they keep going and going and going." This was a fun column to write, for sure. It not only generated a lot of emails, but also a lot of letters. Several people wrote me out long letters describing their owns trials and triumphs over the old appliances we knew and loved so much (but which could be cantankerous to the point of driving us crazy)!

And the column that received the most public feedback was my most recent one regarding the closing of St. Mary's School in Oneonta (July 18 column). I never dreamed that I would be hitting such a sentimental nerve from so many readers. Dozens of emails affirmed the love for this near-century old institution in Oneonta.

Some regretted that I left off some names from the past (especially the beloved late Father William Jillisky), but almost every email was a sentimental thank-you card to the school. One email from Ron Shapley (St. Mary's Class of 1961) said: "The memories are warm and wonderful. The names will forever live on: Sister Nolasco, Sister Maura, Mrs. Patrick, Monsignor Cunningham, and many others. Good friendships and great memories."

A particularly sweet note came from Marilyn Roper, a member of the St. Mary's faculty for over 18 years. She said, "Your article on St. Mary's closing really touched me. I was the last one out of the door on the last day, Big Chuck. I heard my footsteps echoing through the halls behind me. I turned around and walked into the chapel to say goodbye. R.I.P. St. Mary's."

I couldn't have said it better, Marilyn!

Thanks for the cards and letters and emails. Keep them coming!

I'll catch you in two ...

'Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at His columns can be found at

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