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News

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Plenty of great pieces in Tupper Lake Art Show underway now

Dan McClelland

Over three dozen local and area artists' officially opened the Tupper Lake Arts Show with a reception and “meet the artists” event last Wednesday. The show, which features some very exquisite and detailed artistic pieces, runs through September 7 so there's plenty of time to take in all the talent between now and then at the Tupper Arts headquarters at 106 Park Street. Jim Lanthier provided the Free Press this week with this great group shot of most of the artists, photographers and sculptors participating.

Over three dozen local and area artists' officially opened the Tupper Lake Arts Show with a reception and “meet the artists” event last Wednesday. The show, which features some very exquisite and detailed artistic pieces, runs through September 7 so there's plenty of time to take in all the talent between now and then at the Tupper Arts headquarters at 106 Park Street. Jim Lanthier provided the Free Press this week with this great group shot of most of the artists, photographers and sculptors participating.

Fortune’s Hardware paint donation helps Tupper Lake CSD youth achieve

Dan McClelland

Paint to brighten school    Maurice Fortune of Fortune's Hardware and School Superintendent Seth McGowan were joined by Tupper Lake day campers last week to show off the 30 gallons of paint that will soon be applied to the interior of the L.P. Quinn Elementary School. The town day campers (not in order) who helped build this paint-can pyramid were Layne Locke, Olivia Chesbrough, Braydon Shannon, Sireea Zaidan, Lacy Pickering, Liam Kavanagh, Tucker Savage and Ashton Metz. (McClelland photo)

Paint to brighten school

Maurice Fortune of Fortune's Hardware and School Superintendent Seth McGowan were joined by Tupper Lake day campers last week to show off the 30 gallons of paint that will soon be applied to the interior of the L.P. Quinn Elementary School. The town day campers (not in order) who helped build this paint-can pyramid were Layne Locke, Olivia Chesbrough, Braydon Shannon, Sireea Zaidan, Lacy Pickering, Liam Kavanagh, Tucker Savage and Ashton Metz. (McClelland photo)

A fresh coat of paint brightens any room, and this summer LP Quinn Elementary School will refresh its learning environment with 30 gallons of donated paint.

Tupper Lake Central School District was selected as the winner of a paint grant through Fortune’s Hardware’s partnership with True Value Foundation’s Painting a Brighter Future program. A True Value Foundation paint grant helps improve a school’s learning environment and can have an impact on student attitudes and academic performance. Over 1,600 schools across the country have been awarded paint since the program’s inception in 2009, covering nearly 17 million square feet of learning space.

Partnering with True Value Foundation, Fortune’s Hardware nominated Tupper Lake CSD for a 30 gallon paint grant to help refresh its learning spaces. Maurice Fortune of Fortune’s Hardware delivered the asthma- and allergy-friendly paint to the school Friday.

True Value’s EasyCare Ultra Premium Acrylic Latex paint has earned the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Mark via an independent certification program established in the United States, which helps consumers identify products more suitable for people with asthma and allergies. The program performs physical and chemical testing on products to ensure they minimize irritants and pollutants in the air and reduce potential exposure to allergens. The asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Mark is awarded only to products that are scientifically proven to reduce potential exposure to asthma and allergy triggers.

LP Quinn Elementary School is using the paint to give its cafeteria a much-needed makeover. The students next fall will enjoy grabbing their meals in the newly painted facility.

True Value Foundation unites retailers in helping improve the lives of children in the communities True Value serves. The foundation advocates for youth and serves as a catalyst to provide tools and resources to help youth realize their dreams and achieve their potential. It encourages its partners to get involved and give back through volunteerism, mentorship, community improvements, and raising funds.

Frank Bencze honored by Lions

Dan McClelland

Frank Bencze 1 copy.jpg

A man who has devoted six decades of community service through his active membership in the Tupper Lake Lions Club was honored by local members Thursday at the Burgundy Steakhouse.

Many of President Dan McClelland remarks that evening centered on Frank's prominent role in the local woods industry during that same time.

“We're here this evening to honor one of the early Lions of the Tupper Lake woods industry (pun intended).

“I sat with Frank Bencze in his new home on Underwood Ave. last week in an effort to pin together some of the highlights of his impressive life here, but like every time you chat with Frank our hour-long chat was dominated with “stories.” By the way, Frank's got a nice little garden down there, but not as nice as Betty's.

“To prepare my remarks this evening I turned to my old friend Louis Simmons' 1975 best seller, to the section on “The Men Who Made the Town.”

“Appropriately Lion Frank's bio was there. I know Louis wouldn't mind me plagiarizing a bit.

“Over the years the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse has contributed a number of hard-working, civic-minded men who have left their mark for progress and improvement on this community. Frank Bencze has earned a place with that group.

“Born on a farm in Greenfield Center, near Saratoga Springs in 1927, he learned the value of hard work at an early age. Frank graduated from New York State Ranger School in 1946 and from Paul Smith's College in 1951. He also did a short stint in the in U.S. Army in the final days of World War II, working in the counter-intelligence corp. He also worked for International Paper Co. for a short time as a forester after his army discharge.

“In 1953 Frank completed his forestry training at Syracuse.

“That year he also came to Tupper Lake as a forester for the Oval Wood Dish Corp. which would be the start of a 65-year affiliation with the “wooden spoon and wooden bowl” corporation. He continues with the skeleton of that once grand company today as one of its vice-presidents.

“His first job was to cruise and map and estimate the company's 19,000-acre tract at Kildare. That took two summers and included a complete timber inventory.

“The company also had a 8,000-acre tract near Parishville, at Sylvan Falls, and the 6,000-acre Mt. Morris tract, which Frank also managed.

“Frank advanced rapidly at the Oval Wood Dish as a vice president and manager of its extensive woodlands in Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. He still oversees its remaining Mt. Morris tract, which may someday soon (hopefully) be the site of the two dozen great camps on huge tracts there.

“The Oval Wood Dish Corp. began winding down its operations on The Boulevard and in the woods, closing its plants in Potsdam and Quebec City in the early 1960s.

“In May 21, 1964 the huge plant on Demars Blvd. was sold to a newly formed entity in New York called the Adirondack Plywood Corporation, headed by Allie Salls and others. Heavily involved in that move was the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce Wawbeek Development Corp. led by a number of local leaders, including Lions Harold Nichols, Charles F. Bud Murray, Wilbur Chalmers and Ernie Wood.

“Within a few months of its start, the company was sold to one of the giants in the industry, the New York-city based U.S. Plywood Corp. which in 1966 undertook a major modernization there.

“Frank stayed on with the new company as a procurement manager, assisted by two buyers, one based in Peru and one based in Old Forge. They bought logs all over the region. The trees they purchased were mostly yellow birch, which was a good candidate for the company's production of wall paneling.

“U.S. Plywood occupied the entire plant during its time there and later sold a small corner of it to Rutland Plywood.

“Two years after the complete destruction of the warehouse in 1967 U.S. Plywood announced it would terminate all operations here and out of that development came the creation of two industries there- the Tupper Lake Veneer Corp. and Major Rod from Montreal which only lasted a year or so.

“For three years Frank worked at a mill on the Colton “plains” called the Northern Lumber Company, owned by C.C. Canada. After the main mill there burned, Frank converted a planing mill into a saw mill for them.

“Following his time there he returned to the Tupper Lake Veneer Corp. as its procurement manager.

“It wasn't long before Tupper Lake Veneer Corp. officials began grooming Frank to succeed the popular Reginald Sherman, who was quite a smoker and had pronounced emphysema.

“After Reggie's untimely death Frank was appointed manager for the Tupper Lake Veneer Plant, owned by Rutland Plywood, in addition to looking after log procurement for the firm. Under his direction the company purchased the rest of the industrial complex, formerly occupied by Major Rod, for inventory storage. The only part of the complex the company didn't own was Roger Sullivan's O.W.D. Inc. part. Frank continued to run the Veneer until its closure abut 1982. His time as manager lasted about 15 years.

“During his time there the mill employed as many as 105 employees, running three shifts a day for many years. The 11 to 7 shift was for just drying the veneer. Two big dryers- run from the steam generated in the plants boiler plant- ran 24 hours a day. Chipping the trimmings from the best sections of the veneered wood pieces also fed two tractor trailer runs to the IP mill in Ticonderoga every day.

“Buying logs took Frank all over the North Country, down every dirt and gravel road to meet farmers and wood producers- both big and small. Frank could write a book on some of those colorful folks he met along the way.

“The Veneer plant didn't need the quantity of wood that U.S. Plywood did. A lot of the wood came from local producers.

“Beech was the wood of choice for the mill then. It was the main species for making plywood for cable reels which Rutland Plywood sold worldwide through a parent company, Carris Reels, owned by Henry Carris.

“Frank knew Henry. “Henry was quite a guy...he started out in the garage.” General Motors was a major user of small Carris reels to house auto wire.

“There came a time when the company could buy pieces of the reels from Russia cheaper than they could manufacture it here, he explained last week. 'That was the beginning of the end for our mill!' Frank told us.

“Lion Frank has been very involved with many state and regional woods industry organizations over the years. During 1973-75 he served as chairman of the Adirondack chapter, Society of American Foresters and was one of a committee of only four people widely known in the field who were delegated to draw up a set of timber harvesting guidelines for New York State's loggers. Locally he served over the years as a member of the village zoning appeals board, the Town of Altamont Zoning committee, a commissioner on the Tupper Lake Housing Authority and as chairman of the New York State Tree Farm Committee. Thanks for all that, Louie!

“Since its inception in the 1950s Lion Frank was an integral part of the operation of the Woodsmen's Field Days, chairing it at least once. It was eventually lost to Boonville. After the event was revived in the late 1970s Frank served as a board member for over 35 years, overseeing various aspects of July's biggest event. He was treasurer of it for many years. Lion Hawkeye can testify to Frank's good work there.

“Lion Frank was inducted into our club on October 1, 1959 under the sponsorship of former town supervisor and county lawmaker the late Ernie Wood. Ernie, who is the uncle of Lions Stu and Paul, was at that time Betty Bencze's boss. Frank was one of the local men who pushed Ernie to seek elected office as town supervisor, which he did. Ernie was later chairman of the then Franklin County Board of Supervisors.

“Frank joined Lionism at a time when this club was a big deal in Tupper Lake, not that we aren't now. Thursday nights were Lions meeting nights and local officials learned quickly not to schedule their meetings or other community events on Thursdays.

“Our club in those days met every week, for a long time at very notable hot spots here like the Waukesha and the Riverside.

“Some weekly meetings would boast 50 members- including many of our old Lions friends like Sam Parmelee, Harold Nichols, Bud Murray, Lorne Tooley, Ray McGill, Vin Jay, Roy Colburn, John Maroun, who many of the older members of our club knew well. We've heard many stories over the years of those early morning trips home from the Moody meeting places before DWIs were a concern. Lion Frank Corneau seems to have always figured prominently in those drinking stories.

“Lion Frank is our oldest member. Frank served in a number of the club posts over the years including secretary and later club president in the 1960s. He was followed by Roy Colburn.

He has attended meetings regularly over the years and contributed to the many community service projects sponsored by our. He's an example for all our us. At age 91 he continues to be a regular at meetings of the club. He still comes even though it has proven hazardous to his health in the past year or so. Frank is tough! He heals well and then he returns.

“Frank did three important things in the 1950s, when many of us here weren't even born. He moved to Tupper Lake and our community and the North Country has greatly benefited from that.

Frank Bencze copy.jpg

He hung around the Oval Wood Dish office a lot so he could win the attention of one of Duffy Bedore's four daughters, Betty who was a secretary there. Frank goes after what he wants and can be pretty persuasive. Betty's father Duffy worked in the log yard there, so Frank may have squeezed permission to date his daughter from the old man.

“-And of course the third important thing Frank did in the 1950s was to join the Tupper Lake Lions Club, and all of us here tonight are happy he did.”

Bike Rodeo a huge sucess

Dan McClelland

Tim LaBarge promoted to Two-Star General

Dan McClelland

New York Air National Guard Major General Timothy LaBarge, the commander of the New York Air National Guard and a Tupper Lake resident, receives his second star from his daughter Emily (left) and his wife Petra, during promotion ceremonies held on June 1, 2019 at New York National Guard Headquarters in Latham, N.Y. LaBarge and Major General Thomas Owens, Air National Guard Assistant to the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, were promoted to Major General rank in a dual ceremony by Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ben German)

New York Air National Guard Major General Timothy LaBarge, the commander of the New York Air National Guard and a Tupper Lake resident, receives his second star from his daughter Emily (left) and his wife Petra, during promotion ceremonies held on June 1, 2019 at New York National Guard Headquarters in Latham, N.Y. LaBarge and Major General Thomas Owens, Air National Guard Assistant to the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, were promoted to Major General rank in a dual ceremony by Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ben German)

Tupper Lake resident Timothy LaBarge, a member of the Air Force and the New York Air National Guard since 1983, was promoted to Major General (two-star) during a June 1 ceremony at New York National Guard headquarters in Latham, N.Y.

Major General LaBarge, who has served as the commander of the 5,800- member New York Air National Guard since 2018, was promoted by Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York.

The New York Air National Guard is the largest Air National Guard in the country with five flying wings operating 42 aircraft and the Eastern Air Defense Sector which is responsible for the air defense of the United States east of the Mississippi.

The ceremony included the promotion of both LaBarge and Tom Owens, currently serving as the Air National Guard assistant to the commander of the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command.

"I can't say enough about working with both Tom and Tim," Shields said before inviting the families of both general officers to present the new stars.

"With the number of two-star general officers with ties to New York, we now have a small fire team of senior leaders if we need them," Shields joked.

LaBarge also serves as the assistant adjutant general for air for the New York National Guard. LaBarge is the primary advisor to Maj. Gen. Shields on all Air National Guard matters.

"I get to work with Tim every day," Shields said. "It's been a great relationship. I rely on him a lot and I couldn't ask for a better partner in leading our New York National Guard."

"Sir, thank you, and while I work for you, I know that I work directly for the men and women who serve in our New York Army National Guard, Air National Guard, New York Guard and New York Naval Militia," LaBarge said.

"My career, and this promotion, is the end result of the foresight of key Air Guard leaders back in 2002, selecting key officers from across the state for command positions," LaBarge said. "It was the source code for generating today's wing commanders and senior leaders across the New York Air National Guard, and it has done a terrific job of it."

“Our goal now is to inspire and groom our next set of leaders, and the next set after that," he said. "Our job now is to man, train and equip this New York National Guard for whatever comes next."

Tim graduated from Tupper Lake High School and from St. Lawrence University in Canton in 1983 and received his Air Force Commission from the Officer Training School in 1984. He served eight years in the active Air Force and joined the New York Air National Guard in 1991.

He has served in a number of leadership positions, to include command of the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia from 2010 to 2012 and command of the 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh from 2012 to 2016.

LaBarge was promoted to Brigadier General in 2016.

He served as Chief of Staff of the New York Air National Guard from 2016 to 2018 and as Director of Joint Staff for the New York National Guard in 2018 before assuming his current role.

He served at United States Air Force Headquarters from 2006 to 2007 as a staff officer in the Air Force Directorate of Total Force Integration.

LaBarge is a command pilot with over 5,800 hours in the T-37, T-38, C-5, C-130, and LC-130 and C-17 aircraft.

He has flown combat missions and combat support missions in support of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He has also flow mission in Antarctic in support of the National Science Foundation.

LaBarge is a graduate of the Air Force Squadron Officers School, Air Force Command and General Staff School, the Air War College, the Joint Forces Staff College and received a Master of Arts in Military Studies/Strategic Leadership from the American Military University.

LaBarge's awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Combat Readiness Medal the National Defense Service Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal , the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal , the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon, the Antarctic Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kuwait Liberation Medal Government of Kuwait.

Tim and his wife Petra live in Tupper Lake and have two daughters Lyndsay and Emily, a grand-daughter Tayler and a grandson TJ.

A number of friends and family members attended the impressive ceremony. Among those were his parents, Bob and Sue LaBarge of this village, daughters Lyndsay and Emily, son in law Jake, his uncle, Jim Frenette, Tupper Lakers Dr. William Maroun, Tom and Barbara McCarthy, Mayor and County Legislator Paul Maroun and Joe Kahn.

“Devoted groomers” honored with gifts from town board

Dan McClelland

Trail team members Jules Callaghan, Jim Frenette, John Gillis, and John Quinn

Trail team members Jules Callaghan, Jim Frenette, John Gillis, and John Quinn

by Dan McClelland

The men who devote many hours each year to making the town's expanding trail network at the Tupper Lake Golf Course the best it can be to ski or snowshoe on were honored Thursday by the Tupper Lake Town Board.

Councilman John Quinn, who is himself a grooming and trail maintenance volunteer on John Gillis' team, presented insulated vests that evening to John, Jim Frenette Sr., who was a pioneer trail groomer on the town's course on Mt. Morris, and Jules Callaghan. Unable to make the presentation were volunteers Eric “Shakey” Lanthier and Scott Chartier.

The new vests are the first souvenir garments here to sport the new James C. Frenette Sr. Recreational Trails logo, which was designed by the ROOST (Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism) staff. Earlier this year the town board named the trail system after Mr. Frenette.

The vests were ordered from and embroidered by Stacked Graphics.

“These are our gifts to our devoted groomers,” Supervisor Patti Littlefield said of the presentation that began Thursday's monthly meeting in the town hall basement.

She said she was delighted the pieces carried the new logo in honor of Jim Sr.

Councilman Quinn called the vests “just a small token of the town's appreciation” for all the trail-maintenance and trail-grooming work of the small band of volunteers.

John Gillis expressed his team's thanks, quoting the expression often heard from country singers that “it only takes ten years to be an overnight success.”

“We've crested!” he said, adding, this past season, in particular, was abundantly successful and the longest season to date. “We started grooming before Thanksgiving!”

The plentiful snowfall this year and the preparation to the trails to make them skiable drew hundreds of nordic skiers from across the North Country every winter weekend, it seemed.

This season over 600 individuals registered when they came to Tupper Lake to ski the course and another 500 people attended the chamber's annual Brewski, Mr. Gillis told the town officials.

He said the sliding hill, which is also groomed by his team “was wildly popular” with local kids and their parents all winter long.

A number of the trail volunteers were headed up to the course the next day to remove directional signs and attend to other end-of-season chores.

The supervisor remembered the telephone call from Mr. Gillis in 2011 after Jim Frenette, who has been grooming trails on Mt. Morris for over four decades asked him to help him out. She said John was looking for town help to maintain and expand what was already there.

“It was a whole bunch of people you talked to” to build momentum for the work you had planned, the supervisor told him.

Other core volunteers soon followed, under Mr. Gillis' leadership.

Mr. Frenette brought along a Free Press clipping that evening when Big Tupper Ski Area cut the official ribbon at the 1973 opening of the Mt. Morris network which was eventually expanded to the golf course site.

Jules Callaghan said he remembered making the sign for the new trail network.

In the off-seasons of recent years the town's trail team has also been at the center of volunteer trail-building efforts, which drew the help of many in the community. The new trails have been built in the woods, rather than in open areas, to protect them from the wind and the sun, boosting the season's longevity.

Mr. Gillis reported that evening that much of the Adirondack Park Agency permit application work has been completed for the new multi-season trail soon to be built, which in his words, will cover the entire “backside” of the course. “We're inching closer!”

Part of the trail work will involve the construction of three new bridges which will cross wetland areas, requiring the APA permit.

Much of the tree-clearing in the new trail right of way has already been completed Mr. Gillis, Mr. Lanthier and others up to where the first bridge will be built, Mr. Quinn noted. “Work has to hold off now until we get a wetland permit.”

“We're not slowing down, however,...we are going to get the trail done!”

He also reported that a feasibility study commissioned by the town through a grant program has pointed up the cost of paid labor to tackle the bridge construction to “be way high.”

He said the trail-builders will need some town funds for materials and predicted with numerous local volunteers, like the numbers which have come out at past trail-building work bees- the new trail and its bridges can be built for “a fraction of the costs” detailed in the study.

John Gillis agreed. “We put out a call and people show up. Hundreds have over the years. That's how all the trails have been done so far. I'd rather build it locally...people like the ownership... they get that community pride...it's what has propelled us!”

Councilman Quinn reported that evening that the town has filed the first piece of a grant application through the Development Authority of the North Country to the Northern Forest Council for funds to winterize the pro shop and make other changes to help make it a four-season facility. The town's first application last year was unsuccessful.

The supervisor said this is actually an application to submit an application, which is the process that must be followed. Once the town is invited to apply the second submission is a very quick process- 30 to 60 days.

A year-round pro shop building would give skiers indoor restrooms and a warming place.

He also thought a small warming hut could be erected near the relocated fire pit adjacent to Cranberry Pond. An electric line is very near that site to furnish power to it.

“These improvements are necessary to making the golf course a four-season facility!” chimed in Councilman Mike Dechene.

“Maybe even a rope tow” for the sliding hill someday? the supervisor speculated.

Mr. Quinn also commended Bill Dechene and his highway crew, who he said were invaluable in terms of helping with the trail network's equipment maintenance and transporting of the machines to area dealers for service.