One of the saddest and most disruptive changes in this year of the pandemic has been our inability to properly honor those who have passed away. In the last 6 months I have lost two good friends and my Uncle and yet have not been able to attend one funeral or memorial service. I am sure everybody has had this experience, but I wanted to briefly mention three people who were very special to me: Paul Hepler and Sally Moses of Geneseo and my Uncle Peter Strong.
Paul was one of the members of the Bank Street Coffee Klatch that is rapidly passing into history. This group which included such Geneseso stalwarts as Ted and Peter Bondi, Bob McDonald and many more met every morning at the Bank Street Bagel and Coffee Shop to kibitz about the passing scene.
As a young newspaper editor I would stop in if I wanted to know something about the history of Geneseo. With the collective memory of this group, most of whom had been in town all their lives, almost anything could be uncovered.
As a newcomer, with a somewhat controversial background of taking political stands both in print and in real life, I can’t say I was welcomed by all. Coffee klatches can be cliquey. I lingered near the edge of group and listened, but did not join in the general conversation unless spoken to.
Paul was exceptionally welcoming and friendly to me. In later years after the klatch moved on, when he would stop in my print shop on various projects, or even if we met on the street, it usually ended up in a prolonged conversation. Although Paul came to Geneseo to teach art at the college, he became a townie in the best sense of the word. There was little that he didn’t know about local lore or personalities. I will miss him greatly.
I lured Paul once to play in our croquet league. He managed to win the match and then refused to play again despite multiple invitations. He will no doubt go down in history as the only person to ever retire undefeated in our league!
Croquet is how I got to know Sally Moses. I understand Sally was a good tennis player in her day, but by the time i met her she was in her late 80s, too old for tennis but still possessed of a great competitive zeal. Croquet was the answer.
Sally played well into her 90s and I partnered with her many times. With her great consistency we made a formidable team! Sally was (so far) the only person who ever had to be removed from the croquet court by ambulance!
Somehow she managed to hit herself in the leg with her own mallet and opened up a deep gash. She spent one night in the hospital and was back playing a week later.
Finally at age 93, when she could no longer play she donated her mallet to the club. Her memory will live on every time we strike a ball with it!
Sports are some of my happiest memories of my Uncle Pete as well. When I was young the entire Strong Clan would gather every year for Thanksgiving at my grandmother Strong’s house in Maryland. The highlight of the day, from my point of view at least, was the annual touch football game in the backyard. What great fun it was to have family members of all ages playing in the same game.
The last time I saw Peter we played a round of golf together. Well into his 80s his memory was starting to go. “How is your mother?” he asked. I had to inform him that sadly my mother had passed a few years before. “Too bad,” he said. “I always liked her!”
With Peter’s passing, I am now the oldest member of the Strong family. When my time comes I hope some normality will have returned to life. I want a big party for my funeral with people coming from all over the country! I deserve it, as did these people!