Fredonians have Temple street reunion

Linda D. Weidig

Special to the OBSERVER

During the week of July 4th-fifty-five years after Carol, Linda and Tina Weidig had left Fredonia-six former Fredonians gathered at Carol’s home in Portland, Ore. for their first “Temple Street Reunion.” The six-Betsy Rosselot Cogan, Kristine Alilunas Rodgers, Valerie Thies Richter and the three Weidig sisters-brought along photographs and, perhaps more importantly, their memories, of the people and places they grew up with in the 1950s.

Living on in memory only are many of the places that had featured in the landscape of their childhood. In the mid-1960s, the state of New York exercised its right of eminent domain, purchasing properties on the east (odd-numbered) side of their Temple St. neighborhood, and demolishing most of the homes, to make way for the expansion of the SUNY Fredonia college. Among the homes bought were those of the Whitneys (George Whitney owned Whit’s Gun Shop), the Alilunases, Lawsons and Rosselots.

Betsy Rosselot Cogan is the daughter of Ruth and Harry Rosselot and resided at 275 Temple Street. This property had been in Betsy’s family since at least 1864 until it was purchased, and the house on it demolished, becoming a part of the SUNY at Fredonia campus. Today, Betsy is a retired physical therapist and she and her husband live in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. They have two daughters. Betsy returns to Fredonia on an annual basis to visit friends.

Valerie Thies Richter is the daughter of John and Lucille Thies, who owned the Cherry Park Greenhouses. Their house, at 286 Temple street, was built in 1850. John dedicated one of his geraniums to Valerie, naming it “Valle Jo.” Valerie married her high school sweetheart, Jack, who lived on Water st. She and Jack now live in Apache Junction, Ariz. They have a son and a daughter.

Kristine Alilunas Rodgers is the daughter of Leo and Wilma Alilunas and lived at 289 Temple St. Leo was a professor at SUNY Fredonia and Wilma was an artist. Kristine lived in France for many years and then in Australia, where she worked as an editor. She now resides in Santa Fe, N.M. The Alilunases’ Temple Street home was also purchased and demolished and the property became part of the SUNY at Fredonia campus.

Carol, Linda and Christina Weidig are the daughters of Joel and Marion Weidig, the granddaughters of Violet and Erie Lawson and the grandnieces of Laura and Mel Evart and Crystal and Howard Potter, who all resided on Temple Street. (The Evarts’ house, at 248 Temple St., directly across from the college entrance, was built in 1850.) The Weidig girls lived at 287 Temple St., “The House of Lawson,” a home built in the mid-1800s. The second floor was rented to college students. Erie grew acres of grapes on his Temple St. property; Violet was a retired schoolteacher. This home also became subject to the “forced” purchase by New York state in the mid-1960s. Violet and Erie attempted to negotiate with the state to move the house across the street to an empty lot. The state refused, saying the intention was to leave the house right where it stood and use it as part of the college campus. Instead, the house was eventually moved to the same vacant lot, where it sat unoccupied for many years and where it remains today.