A terrible fire begins its fire prevention mission | News, Sports, Jobs
One of the pleasures of life as you get older is wandering the mind. The older we get, the further back we go. And given the world we live in today, traveling back in time becomes more and more enjoyable, a pleasant escape from reality. In my case, these mental journeys often take me to that place where I spent the best five years of my life – on the shores of old Lake Erie – home of the Blue Devils – State University of New York at Fredonia.
As usual, I selectively accumulate only the memories that bring the most joy. Weekends at the Colonial Inn, sucking on 25-cent Michelob drafts, bowling with Lepar, Mac and Loucksie on shifts, chasing and getting shot by darlings, heading to Chimera’s for the best pizza ever. the temperature. Or drive to the point on Lake Erie near Dunkirk, pat a keg, swap great stories in front of a raging fire, then venture to Mark’s for the best submarines ever.
Partying, contrary to my mother’s protests, was a necessary respite from the rigors of college life. But even they (the rigors) had their own rewards – like taking classes with the best social science teachers in the world; Drs Roselle, Chazanof, Hagan, Akolekar and J. Murdoch Dawley. And then there are the memories of the good deeds done. Omega Chi Beta. The campus service organization that kept Marty Fox, Charlie Ohlinger, Rog Quinn, and myself honest. One of our most memorable and useful activities was about fire safety. On a beautiful sunny October morning, we split into pairs and surveyed the community distributing fire prevention information and asking people to check their smoke detectors. This memory becomes even more poignant in light of what follows.
On December 22, 1991, in my hometown of Little Falls in the historic Mohawk Valley (Battle of Oriskany), the six McCleod children, ages 10 to 2, perished in a house fire. The tragedy was all the more sincere because it was personal. Raised by their single mother, the children often went without.
The oldest boy, Douglas, did odd jobs to help and, on one occasion, avoided personal desires instead of buying three pizzas for the lifeguards at the provided pool. Why? Because they had been nice to him. He may have lacked material goods, but certainly no values. My youngest daughter, Jennifer, was one of those rescuers.
The future graduate of the Berklee School of Music found the courage to sing at their funeral. I have never been so proud of her. As for me, my Christmas Adopt-A-Child program at Herkimer County Community College (taught 30 years ago) which provided clothes and a toy, book or game of choice for children in need, this year included there the McCleod children. In the bitterest irony, the gifts we gave them remained intact in the cellar.
In the wake of the fire, my Students for a Better World organization took action. Remembering the aforementioned Omega Chi Beta experience, I split my students into pairs and this spring (1992) they walked around the city, handing out fire prevention information, asking residents to check their fire detectors. smoke and carbon monoxide and buy these for those who didn’t. We did the same over the next two years for the other towns in the Valley. Later we sold Christmas decorations with children’s faces engraved on its six panels to buy Sparky the fire robot dog, one of the most effective and entertaining ways to teach children about fire prevention. .
Then incredibly, just before Christmas in 1988, it happened again. Kris Cagwin, whose mother Valdean graduated with me, and his younger brother and sister, perished in a house fire. Kris was one of my favorite students. He had the appearance, blond hair and blue eyes of Alexander the Great, was bright, witty, kind and empathetic beyond his age. One morning I walked into my Western Civ classroom and saw it written on the blackboard in big capital letters –“God thinks he’s RJ” You got it. Another cagwinism. His humanity has never been more evident than on that beautiful day in May when, during my class’s 9 mile march in protest against the .5 cuts. Bending down, he picked it up and put it on his shoulders, carrying it about seven miles to our destination. In memory of Kris, SBW (previously mentioned) was renamed Kris Cagwin Volunteers.
Over the past 20 years, our Herkimer County Hunger Coalition (hchungercoalition.org) has continued to advocate for fire safety on behalf of the McCleods and Cagwins. But this year, the 30th anniversary of the death of the first, we have decided to step up. We re-launched our 50/50 contest among third graders across the county. The creation of my then nine-year-old nephew, Logan Crouse, half and half is half one thing and half another, for example the birtle-half-bird, half-turtle; ostridile-half ostrich, half crocodile. To enter the competition, each student must include an exit plan for their home. The competition booklet also includes valuable fire safety information for parents and teachers. In addition, every Kindergarten to Grades 5 and 6 student receives a take-home fire prevention flyer and each contest participant receives a certificate of participation. Sparky has been dusted off and is ready to go. Older students, to the extent that the pandemic allows, will have the opportunity to renew the Omega Chi Beta canvassing. To date, eight schools have joined the project.
I would like to offer third year students from Fredonia and Dunkirk primary schools the opportunity to participate in the Demi-Moitié Competition (principals can contact me at 315-866-7765). And I would like to encourage older students to get involved in some way. With October being fire prevention month, it’s time to do everything we can to prevent another tragedy from McCleod, Cagwin or DeCarlis (three young brothers who died in a 2018 house fire in Herkimer) from happening again. We can start by checking our smoke detectors and practicing our exit plans on the 22nd of each month, and placing a note on the refrigerator with those two words in bold – Never Again!
Oh oh. The spirit began to wander again. It’s spring 1962 and the Blue Devils baseball team led by Coach “Hillbilly” Ludwig has just beaten his big rival Buffalo State. Pitcher Ray JL tied Jim Mangano’s strikeout record of 15 while going 4 for 4 in the process. Big Tommy Stelmach had 3 hits and ribs. Norbie Miller, Lynn Chapel and wide receiver Bob Staffin also played. Yessirée! That was the time.
Ray Lenarcic graduated in 1965 from the State University of New York at Fredonia and resides in Herkimer.