Village of ‘heroes’ must remain united

By SYLVESTER CLEARY

It was 34 years ago on a Friday evening I moved into my house in Forestville. The very next morning there was a knock at my door. I opened the door and there stood this little lady with a warm and infectious smile. In her hand was a homemade, deep dish, blueberry pie. I could see the steam rising and the aroma made my mouth water.

She said, “My name is Winifred Budd, I’m your neighbor up the road, and if there is anything I can do for you, call me.” This was my first introduction to the caliber and the value of the citizens of Forestville.

Winter came, and as I recall there was approximately 4 feet of snow on a very cold and blustery Sunday morning. Something happened with my well. We had no water. I wanted to call Mr. Gern Ferry who owned Forestville Hardware for assistance, but it was Sunday. They were closed. I was desperate, so I decided to call him at home and told him of my problem. He said four words. “I’ll be right up.” Ten minutes later he was on his hands and knees under terrible weather conditions. He dug up my well, pulled the lines, replaced a valve and started to get back into his truck. I said, “Mr. Ferry I don’t have the money to pay you now.” As he drove off he said, “Don’t worry about it, pay me when you have it.” I couldn’t believe a man would do all that for me and not demand immediate payment.

That day Mr. Ferry became one of my Forestville heroes.

Spring came and it was T-ball time for my son. Since I was new to the area I didn’t know what to expect from a local T-ball program. The first time I walked out on the field there was Homer Bowker. A man they call “Chum.” As I watched him work with the kids I realized here was a man whose dedication, love for the kids, and the proper way to play the sport was something I had rarely seen. That day Mr. Bowker became one of my Forestville heroes.

There was the time I was stuck in the ditch with my tractor. Coming from the city and trying to learn how to live in the country I got my tractor buried so deep in the mud I didn’t think I would ever get it out. I didn’t have a clue how to get out of this one.

Along came my neighbor, Mr. Eugene Richter, who immediately pulled me out and gave me some great advice to avoid a situation like this in the future. This is a man who has kept the art of farming alive and well in our area which is a task very few have been able to do. Another hero.

I recall the first time I met Judge Lee Towne Adams. I didn’t know who he was at the time but just by the way he walked and talked inspired me. I introduced myself to him and we had a conversation that never ended until he passed. What a man. A true gift to this community. We would usually catch each other at the post office for some provocative conversations. He was one of the few men I knew you could have an inspiring intellectual conversation on any subject.

Yes, you guessed it. Another one of my Forestville heroes.

I could list at least 10 more people from Forestville, who influenced me to become a better person because of the values I saw in them. People like Russell Polisoto, hard working people of substance who cared and shared and helped to make Forestville a great place to live and raise a family.

From Winifred Budd I learned the value of being a good neighbor; from Gern Ferry unconditional service to others; from Chum Bowker be dedicated and love all kids in our area because they are our future; from Eugene Richter help others as you take care of your livestock and your land and it will take care of you; from Judge Adams be who you are and share the best you have.

“We” the people of Forestville have so much to offer. One of our greatest assets is each other. We have an obligation and a duty to preserve the values and traditions that came before us. These values are in our care to maintain and pass on to the very talented children who one day will face some of the same challenges.

As a Forestville resident, I have listened carefully to the conversation in our small community regarding the dissolution of the village. I’m sure this conversation was initiated in our area because many small municipalities are faced with increasing costs and a decreasing tax base from which to generate income to meet those expenses. This scenario is unfortunate and frustrating, yet it is a political reality.

So as a property owner, a parent and a proud member of this community I would like to make a few suggestions for consideration as this debate over the status of the village continues.

First, let’s keep in mind that we are a community! We need each other and regardless of what decision are made. We will still be neighbors and friends and our children and grandchildren will still continue to go to school together. So, we must remember that political and business decisions will be made but we can work to set aside our various opinions regarding those issues and remain the tight knit community that has always made Forestville such a great place to live.

My second suggestion is something that I feel is both timely and effective: Sharing services and working collaboratively with neighboring entities and agencies is a concept whose time has come! We need to think outside the box and be willing to do things we’ve never done before. We are faced with challenges we never faced before so it is likely that we can’t tackle those challenges as we have in the past.

What do our neighboring communities offer that will be of benefit to us and what do we offer that will help them? Those are the first questions we need to ask that I feel will lead us to our solution. Each small, rural community in Western New York provides very similar services to their residents.

Why do we all need to duplicate this work when we might be able to combine forces and increase our efficiency in meeting the needs of our towns, villages and hamlets.

I believe this is a legitimate step toward an ultimate solution to this complicated problem that impacts all of us. It will require someone to take the lead and be willing to consider creative solutions. It will also require a community that is forward thinking and willing to reach out to other towns and villages to create a dialogue that can pave the way for this collaborative work.

Why can’t Forestville take and make this happen? I think we can! Sharing isn’t just something we teach our kids; it is really a practice that we should also value as adults and I think it may just be the key to unlock the solution we need today!

Sylvester Cleary is a Forestville resident and school board president.