Big Chuck

It takes a village. Here are five impressive men in “our village.”

Anthony Eardley of Oneonta. Young, smart, talented, courageous and driven. Anthony got the collective heart of Oneonta beating rapidly as he jumped, dodged, leaped, grabbed, dashed and swung his way to the highest levels of television’s “American Ninja Warrior.” While the 28-year-old was spectacular to watch, he is even more impressive to listen to. Great vision, caring heart, solid message. How proud we are of this and how lucky we are to call this impressive young man a native son.

Pastor Mel Farmer. As far away on the age spectrum from Anthony Eardley as you can get. Now well into his 80s, “Oneonta’s Pastor” has been delivering uplifting messages of hope and inspiration on the airwaves of WDOS for over a half-century. A long-time man of the cloth, Mel served for 43 years as the leader of the flock at the River Street Baptist Church on Oneonta. He has been there for countless residents in our area to cheer with them in times of joy and to lend his shoulder when the clouds darken. I see Mel when he comes through the front door of WDOS each week delivering his gospel music show to be aired on the weekends. Now going it alone after the passing of his beloved soulmate, Bonnie, Mel is stooped and moving a lot more slowly than he once was, but his spirit is undimmed, and his message is one of love and kindness. Yes, Pastor Mel is an impressive man.

Gene Schmidt. Unflagging in his efforts to aid his fellow comrades, this Vietnam War-era veteran is a great source of pride to our men and women in uniform. Gene worked unselfishly for months in his successful attempt to bring the traveling Vietnam War “Wall That Heals” to Oneonta. Last weekend hundreds enjoyed the U.S. Army band in concert at SUNY Oneonta, for free. All because of Gene Schmitt. A stand-up guy. An impressive man. We salute you for your service, sir.

Al Cleinman. The owner of Cleinman Performance Partners, a successful eyewear company in Oneonta, Al’s fingerprints are everywhere in this community. From planting gardens to enhance the beauty of the city (Mayor Dick Miller Park at the Lettis Highway entrance to Oneonta) to hosting events that showcase local musical talent, to supporting the arts and events of all kinds that keep our city flourishing, Al is an important and often unsung part of what makes Oneonta work. And, yes, he too is an impressive guy.

Bob Brzozowski. Imagine Bob’s day for a moment. He is the executive director of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society. Each morning, he opens the front door of the center on Main Street and then spends his day hip-deep in old newspaper clippings, cataloging artifacts from every decade of Oneonta’s past, surrounded by items for sale which illuminate our glorious past, overseeing exhibits of all kinds, both revolving and permanent. Bob spends his days immersed in City of the Hills memorabilia. His mind is always on the go, trying to keep different topics from years ago alive for today’s visitors: Oneonta in World War II, the evolution of the city’s rail transportation, stories from our old movie theaters, the histories of industries from long ago and so many others. Bob is welcoming and enthusiastic when strangers or old-timers alike come through the door to look around, ask questions or do research. Bob has assembled a great team at GOHS and their Main Street storefront location is a key part of our downtown. These history centers are important bridges to our past, they act as arcs for our memories and treasures and they are usually the first stop a newcomer will make when exploring a possible new locale to work in or raise a family. “What happened in Oneonta years ago? Why is there a red caboose in the park? Who was Fairchild and what is the story of his mansion? What was Bresee’s? Why was there a need for the world’s largest railroad roundhouse?” I’d be curious about all of this too if I was investigating Oneonta as a potential new home for my family or business. I’d ask these questions and no doubt, Bob Brzozowski would have some pretty interesting answers. Every town has a story to tell and Oneonta’s is an epic one. Stop into the History Center on Main Street and see for yourself. Thanks for keeping our past alive, Bob.

Five impressive women will follow in a future column.

I’ll catch you in two….

"Big Chuck" D'Imperio's morning radio show can be heard weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Otsego County, WDLA-AM 1270 in Delaware County and WCHN-AM 970 in Chenango County.  All of his columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns.

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