Richard E. Ogsbury

Richard E. Ogsbury

WRIGHT — Richard E. Ogsbury was a tough man who rose to meet challenges.

“There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do,” said his wife, Florence Ogsbury. “He was a jack of all trades. He always liked a challenge. He had to prove to people he could do it.”

He died on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady after a long illness. He was 81.

Mrs. Ogsbury says it is fitting that her husband died on Veterans Day. He served his country in the United States Army during the Korean War and was discharged as a private first class in 1956.  

He had been working at Gage Stock Farm in Delanson when he went to enlist, she said; he was fit and his hands were calloused.

The doctor doing the exams to admit soldiers exclaimed, “You’re blind.”

Mr. Ogsbury had lost the vision in one eye when he was 7 years old. “He was helping his mother peel a pumpkin with a butcher knife when the knife slipped and went in his eye,” said Mrs. Ogsbury; he then suffered from rheumatic fever.

When the Army doctor made his pronouncement, Mr. Ogsbury was not to be dissuaded. His wife reported, “He said, ‘No shit.’” Mr. Ogsbury went on, gesturing to other men, fit to enlist, “I’m as good as those sad sacks of shit over there.”

“They stamped it,” his wife said of his papers to serve. “He was a tough man…He was proud to serve.”

Mr. Ogsbury was born on Aug. 13, 1935 in Albany, a son of Clarence and Hilda (née Settle) Ogsbury. He was the oldest of six children; he had four sisters and a brother. His mother stayed home to raise them.

“His father had a backpack like a camel; he moved all of the time,” said Mrs. Ogsbury. The family lived in several places in the Altamont area.

Clarence Ogsbury drilled wells and worked for Alcoa, making trains, in Schenectady, Mrs. Ogsbury said. Recently, the Ogsburys’ son — “He likes to play in the dirt like his dad,” said Mrs. Ogsbury — was  clearing a site for a casino to be built in Schenectady and brought home some remnants of the old Alcoa plant where his grandfather had worked.

“He had a tough life,” Mrs. Ogsbury said of her husband. “He had to work since he could walk.” His childhood work including chopping and bringing wood for the stove and then taking out the ashes, plowing fields, and tending to animals.

Mr. Ogsbury — known to friends and family as “Dick” — was educated at the former Delanson High School and later received an associate’s degree in agricultural services from Cobleskill. “He enjoyed school,” said his wife. “He liked math and science, and working with his hands.”

He met the woman who would become his wife, Florence Penk, in 1961 at the Knox Cave roller rink. Mr. Ogsbury, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, wrote a letter to the Enterprises editor last August that expressed his love and gratitude for his wife.

“My wife requested that I roller skate Ladies’ Choice Moonlight with her,” he wrote. “I informed her that I had already been asked, but the first one there I would skate with.”

“I wasn’t that good of a skater,” recalled Mrs. Ogsbury. “The other gal could skate circles around me but I got there first.”

The next night, the couple saw a movie at the Hellman Theatre and stopped at the Bumble Bee diner in Guilderland afterward, she said. After dating for two months, Mr. Ogsbury wrote, a visit to his uncles’ farm made him want to marry Florence. She was raised on a dairy farm and did the work of a farmhand.

When the couple arrived at the farm of Mr. Ogsbury’s uncles, it was milking time and one of the two brothers was away at a funeral.

“This 18-year-old young lady jumped in and started running the milking machine,” wrote Mr. Ogsbury. “At that point in time, I made up my mind that this woman, one way or another, was going to be my life partner. We’ve had 54 years of wonderful life together. Now, not only is she my wife, but chauffeur, housekeeper, cook, baker, nurse, and doctor 24/7.”

Richard Ogsbury and Florence Penk wed on March 7, 1962.

Mr. Ogsbury worked a wide variety of jobs as they raised their son and daughter. He worked as a mechanic at H.L. Gage in Altamont, and then as a mechanic and groundskeeper at Albany Country Club.

He next worked as a carpenter for Fleetway Construction and joined the Carpenters’ Union. He helped build houses in Voorheesville, his wife said. “He could do anything — plumbing, electricity, bulldozing,” she said; he once told a customer, “We’ll even cook your first meal for you.”

He also worked as a carpenter at the Gilboa Pump Storage Project and for Guilderland’s parks and recreation department. “He helped put up the Tawasentha sign that still stands,” said his wife, “and he laid out a road back to a pavilion, [sketching it] on the hood of his truck.”

Finally, Mr. Ogsbury started his own general contracting company, which he ran for 40 years. “He was a workaholic. We never had many vacations,” said his wife. “He’d get up from the supper table to fix a farmer’s electricity or whatever was needed.”

In recent years, he enjoyed having Tuesday breakfasts with The Old Men of the Mountain. And his family wrote, he always “enjoyed tinkering, helping others, ‘keeping things running,’ roller skating, and old trucks and tractors.”  He was a member of the N.E. Antique Power & Equipment Association, and the Hudson Valley Old Time Power.

“A lot of people didn’t like him because he told the truth,” said his wife, adding, “All in all, he was a good man.”

She went on, “He taught me, if I needed something, to look it up.” She did and was able to install her own garbage disposal.

She was also able to care for her husband as he suffered from cancer and blindness. Always a slim man, Mr. Ogsbury stood 6 feet, 1 inch tall and had weighed about 170 pounds. “He lost over 40 pounds in the last two years,” said his wife. “He was down to 126 pounds.”

In September 2014, she said, doctors “gave him two months to live.” She reported, as he defied their predictions, they would say, “Here comes the Miracle Man.”

****

Richard E. Ogsbury is survived by his wife, Florence (née Penk) Ogsbury; his daughter, Celeste Junge, and her boyfriend, Tony Hinkley, of Middleburgh; his son, Sheldon Ogsbury, and his girlfriend, Amy Meyer of Delanson; two grandchildren; and five step-grandchildren.

He is also survived by his brother, Arthur Ogsbury, and his wife, Mae; his sisters; Dellene Rowlison, Diane Glogner, and Donna Guyotte; and several nieces and nephews.

His grandson Adam Ogsbury died before him, as did his sister Delores Lott.

Calling hours will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, at the Langan Funeral Home at 327 Main Street in Schoharie where a funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday Nov. 19.  Burial will follow in the Gallupville Rural Cemetery. Mourners may leave condolences online at  www.langanfuneralhome.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Hudson Mohawk Humane Society, 3 Oakland Ave., Menands, NY 12204, or to the Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley, Post Office Box 40, Howes Cave, NY 12092, or to the Regional Food Bank, 965 Albany Shaker Rd. Latham, NY 12110.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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