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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, December 8, 2005

BKW’s ‘Superman’ mourned by family, friends

By Matt Cook

CLARKSVILLE — Anthony Hill was known among his friends as Superman, and not just for his love of the comic book character.

"We all call him Superman because he’s the strongest person we know," said Breanna Dees, one of Mr. Hill’s closest friends.

Three and a half years after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Anthony Earle Hill died Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005 at home, surrounded by his family. He was 17, a senior at Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School. He was born in Dearborn, Mich., on July 5, 1988.

Mr. Hill’s ordeal has been very public, as Hilltown community members banded together in the past three years to support him and his family, with money and friendship.

"He knew that he was loved," said his mother, Jackie Hill.

Early in his treatment, Mrs. Hill recalled, her son was given some positive news about his response to chemotherapy. He told the doctor he wasn’t surprised.

"He said, ‘Yeah, well I’ve got a lot of people praying for me,’" Mrs. Hill said.

The doctor, taken aback by the words spoken by a 14-year-old, responded that medical advances were probably more responsible for the upturn, Mrs. Hill said. "Anthony said, ‘I really don’t think you understand how many people I have praying for me,’" she said. "His faith had a lot to do with getting him through all of this."

Mr. Hill attended the First Baptist Church in Westerlo.

He was an active youth. He liked skateboarding and dirtbiking. Even while he was sick, Mr. Hill would take his dirtbike out for a spin on the track in his family’s yard, said his father, William Hill.

"He just had to pull over and take a break sometimes," William Hill said.

Anthony Hill was also a dedicated and fanatical follower of sports. According to his friends, he dreamed of moving to Ohio to follow the Ohio State University Buckeyes. Miss Dees became friends with him last fall, as the two closely followed their beloved Boston Red Sox while the team pursued its first World Series title in over 80 years.

"We’re huge Red Sox fans," Miss Dees said.

During his illness, Mr. Hill was able to meet some of his sports idols: the members of the New York Giants and pro skateboarder Bam Margera.

"We ate dinner with his family," Mrs. Hill said of Margera. Her son loved meeting the stars, but, Mrs. Hill said, "He would’ve taken it all away just to be healthy."

Mr. Hill’s greatest dream was just to live life like a normal teenager, his mother said. A few of his friends have been struggling with their final years of high school. Mr. Hill would encourage them, telling them how lucky they were to be able to go to school, Mrs. Hill said.

Mr. Hill was proud to have recently passed the test for his driver’s license, his family said.

At BKW on Wednesday, the day after Mr. Hill’s death, the tone was somber, said Associate Principal Fred Marcil. The school is "coping," Mr. Marcil said.

Mostly, he said, teachers and students remember Mr. Hill’s attitude.

"He was very well-liked," Mr. Marcil said. "He was just a nice kid. I can’t think of anything negative about him...He was a quiet guy, but everybody liked him."

Counselors were on hand Wednesday for grieving students and faculty and students have been gathering in groups to talk about Anthony Hill, he said. The boys’ basketball team has written his initials on their sneakers, Mr. Marcil said.

The school has participated in a number of fund-raisers for the Hill family and it will continue to do so. Soon, bracelets Anthony Hill helped design will be on sale at the school, Mr. Marcil said. They say, "Live fearlessly."

Mr. Hill’s friends remember his sense of humor. A group of them gathered Tuesday night to watch goofy home movies Mr. Hill had made.

"He’s hilarious. He’s never not smiling," Miss Dees said. In a word, she said, Anthony Hill was "amazing."

"He affected a lot of people’s lives," she said. "He’s the most positive person."

"He was always so caring about people," said his father, William Hill.

Even throughout his illness, Anthony Hill maintained his optimistic outlook, his friends and family said.

"The Lord’s just always been there with him," Mrs. Hill said.

Mr. Hill was very grateful for the support he got from the community, which ranged from a huge garage sale at BKW to a motorcycle run through the Hilltowns.

"We’re just so blessed," Mrs. Hill said.

But, the Hills weren’t the only ones who benefited from the community support. A bone-marrow drive in Mr. Hill’s honor netted 518 donors, mostly people unknown to the Hills.

The family hopes this spirit of giving—money, time, blood, and marrow—will continue as part of Mr. Hill’s legacy.

"All it takes is a little bit of blood," Mrs. Hill said. "What a great thing to be called to do—to give someone a second chance in life."


Mr. Hill is survived by his parents, William and Jackie, and his sisters, Lindsay and Sarah, all of Clarksville.

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Westerlo at 618 Route 143 in Westerlo. Interment will follow in Onesquethaw Cemetery in Clarksville.

Relatives and friends may call on Friday, Dec. 9, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Applebee Funeral Home, 403 Kenwood Ave., Delmar, and Saturday beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the church.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Children’s Cancer Program, Albany Medical Center Hospital, D-7 North, Mail Code 1119, 43 New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY 12208.

BKW and Berne to share services

By Matt Cook

BERNE — The town of Berne and the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District are close to collaborating on waste disposal and snow removal.

At a school board meeting Monday, BKW Business Administrator Gregory Diefenbach told the board about a plan suggested to him by Berne Supervisor Kevin Crosier. Crosier, who was unable to attend Monday’s meeting, told the Berne Town Board about the idea at a meeting last month.

According to Crosier, the school and the town are eligible for a grant from the state for projects involving shared municipal services. A total of $2.5 million is available for projects submitted by Jan. 13.

Crosier proposed using grant money to purchase a roll-off truck with a plow and wing attachment for $120,000. The grant requires participating municipalities to contribute a combined 10 percent of the costs, which would mean $12,000 to be split between Berne and BKW, Diefenbach said. How it would be split—50-50 or otherwise—has yet to be decided, Diefenbach said.

According to the plan, once the truck is bought, the school will contract with the town to haul away its trash from the newly-renovated town transfer station.

Currently, Diefenbach said, the school district contracts with Waste Management at an annual cost of $19,000.

"Kevin feels the cost for disposing the waste will be $8,000 to $10,000," Diefenbach said.

That cost includes drivers’ salaries and tipping fees at the dump, Diefenbach said.

The method for getting waste from the school to the transfer station still needs to be worked out, Diefenbach said. The school generates about 80 compacted tons of waste per year, he said. Some of it, recyclables and bulk waste, is placed in roll-off containers, which can be removed with the new truck, if purchased.

The rest of it, 720 yards of loose waste, poses more of a challenge. The school could buy four wheeled hoppers, at $6,000 each, and roll them to the transfer station when they are full, Diefenbach said. Or, he said, the school could bag its trash and put it in a Dumpster for the town to pick up. The cost of the hoppers or the Dumpster could be included in the grant, Diefenbach said he believed, but he wasn’t positive.

In addition to garbage duties, the town would use the roll-off truck as a plow, clearing the BKW parking lots in the winter.

Currently, Diefenbach estimated, on a light snow day, it takes one person an hour to an hour-and-a-half to open the parking lots. On a day with heavy snow, it could take three people two to four hours, not including the time it takes to move 54 buses in and out of place.

Employees earn between $17 and $26 per hour, before benefits, for clearing snow, Diefenbach said.

The district’s transportation supervisor, Alan Zuk, said that, if the town plowed the parking lots with the large roll-off truck, the school would still have to get the spots closer to the buildings with its smaller vehicles. Also, he said, the real work is clearing the snow after it’s plowed. Still, Zuk said, "It will save us some time."

Zuk noted that sometimes the county uses the BKW parking lot to turn its plows around.

"They do as much in a five-minute turn-around as we do in 15 to 20 minutes picking at it with a Suburban," Zuk said.

With Crosier’s plan, Diefenbach said, the district would definitely save money, in waste and snow removal.

"On the surface, the costs benefit’s there, but we don’t have it all laid out," he said.

Diefenbach said he would continue to work with Crosier on the details of the plan. The board agreed to hold an emergency meeting before the grant application is due if it’s necessary to pass a resolution supporting the plan.

Other business:

In other business at its Dec. 5 meeting, the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board:

—Continued a discussion, from last month, on weighted grades and the recognition of the valedictorian and salutatorian. Each board member said he or she is against weighted grades, so no vote was held. So, marks for courses of varying levels at BKW will continue to bear equal weight when averaged together for class rank.

The board then discussed information provided by high school Principal Mary Petrilli. Petrilli surveyed local schools and found that many of them have done away with the recognition of the valedictorian and salutatorian, including Bethlehem, Colonie, Niskayuna, and Guilderland.

The board asked Petrilli to find out why these schools made their decisions, what they replaced the honors with, and if any college scholarships were lost as a result. The board agreed to discuss the issue more in future meetings;

—Approved a number of new fiscal policies, most of which were recommended state-wide by Comptroller Alan Hevesi;

—Approved an extracurricular activity account for the Alliance for Tolerance. According to a statement the group submitted to the board, the Alliance for Tolerance will "seek to raise diversity awareness, including homophobia as a form of oppression. We will also advocate for equal treatment and tolerance for students of all sexual orientations, genders, races, and creeds"; and

—Agreed to contract with Slant Consultants for a review of the school lunch program. Slant charges $1,800, Diefenbach said.

Making cookies for warmth and light

By Holly Grosch

RENSSELAERVILLE — Winter is when the "appetite for comfort rises," writes best-selling cook-book author Molly O’Neill. Friday, she’ll help kids decorate Christmas cookes at the library in Rensselaerville, where she has a second home.

O’Neill, formerly a food columnist for the New York Times Sunday magazine and a former reporter for The Times, spends most of her time in New York City — a place where many different kinds of cookies are made: Lithuanian, Mexican, and Swedish. A recurring theme, she said, is sugar and light.

A number of cookies made this time of year recognize the winter solstice — the darkest day of the year towards the end of December. Sugar gives a sense of warmth and gives light, O’Neill said. Sugar is one of the first pleasurable sensations that people feel as infants, she said.

O’Neill believes that December is a time for slow cooking, which embodies the cautious, self-occupied mood of winter. This theory can be applied to baking as well, she said. At Christmas, there is "a lot of activity and nostalgic activity," she said. "People do what makes them feel good."

"Cookies are very American," O’Neill said. "Everyone has some family cookie, a family ritual, and Christmas is a time for family."

"They’re our cookies — who we are, this is us," said O’Neill. Her mother, who is 80 years old, still makes about 30 different Christmas cookies every year. O’Neill has a favorite, but her brother has a different favorite, and each person has one they like best, she said.

While the cookie originated in Germany and Scandinavia, it was a hit in America for two main reason, O’Neill said. Americans like anything convenient, and a cookie can be held in the hand and eaten on the go. And, she said, American’s "get really attracted to things made commercially."

The sugar cookie is popular at Christmas because it is easily shaped, decorated, and personalized, she said. One of the reasons gingerbread is a Christmastime staple is simply because of the gingerbread house, a sweet that can be personalized, she said.

Ginger falls under the category of a warm spice, which complements winter foods, O’Neill said. Her second book, A Well-Seasoned Appetite, published in 1995, through short essays and recipes, looks at the foods of different seasons.

A few of the winter foods she writes about include cabbage, root vegetables, and venison.

The warm spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger—are all very wintry, O’Neill told The Enterprise, they go well with the heavy foods of the winter season, such as a heavy meat. "You wouldn’t put cinnamon in gazpocho," O’Neill said.

While in today’s modern world many foods that used to be available seasonally are now at consumers’ fingertips all year, but nonetheless, in the last five years, O’Neill said, she has seen Americans turn back to eating seasonally.

"It’s a healthier way to eat," O’Neill said. With out-of-season foods, people pay extra for the transport and end up consuming a lot of chemicals, she said. It is much healthier to eat close to the source, and the flavor is better, she said. She compared a piece of asparagus from Chile in the winter to a piece of asparagus from upstate New York in season.

During World War II, O’Neill said, the food and grocery industry grew and people stopped eating seasonally and close to the source. But now, just within the last five years, people are going back to cooking and eating the way of the 1930’s and before. "Price Chopper has huge a organic section," O’Neill said; organic foods are no longer found only in specialty stores, but average people are now drinking organic milk, and eating organic canned produce.

It’s important for children to learn and participate in food preparation, O’Neill said. Youth are continually removed from physical work, so hands-on cooking builds their esteem. After laboring and seeing a final product, children feel a sense of accomplishment and realize they don’t have to rely on McDonald’s — they see they can make it themselves. Additionally, in preparing meals, children have a better sense of what the food starts out as, so they are less removed.

"A science and an art"

Cynthia Nicholson, a recipe writer for Real Simple magazine, who is also teaching at Friday’s event, believes that it is important to pass down family food traditions to children.

"It’s gotten to be an exception to sit down and eat dinner together, let alone spend the afternoon making homemade cookies and candies together," Nicholson said.

Food is a part of her background, culture, and heritage, Nicholson said. "I want my daughter to be exposed to that," she said.

Friday night’s cookie seminar at the library is for children ages nine to 12, which is a great age for kids to learn, Nicholson said, they are still young enough that they don’t think it’s "not cool," and they are like sponges, sopping up something new.

This cookie evening is part of a two-year program of the Upper Hudson Library System funded with grant money to teach students academics through cooking. The intent of this workshop is to teach math and science through cooking, said Rebecca Lubin, Rensselaerville’s library director.

"I think it’s important to learn the basics of baking, such as how to measure sugar and flower," Nicholson said, or that butter comes in one pound packages, which means that one stick is so many ounces.

Nicholson grew up in the South, where everyone made candy, not cookies, for Christmas: pralines, fudge, penuche, and rum balls. She thinks this tradition comes from the Gulf Coast and French influences. New York’s Capital Region has a lot of Italian and Germans, and there is "strong baking in those cultures," Nicholson said.

Cookies are made world-wide, Ruggala, of the Jewish tradition, uses a dough based on cream cheese, an ingredient that was integrated in Jewish baking once Jews came to America. In the old country, they used farmers’ cheeses instead, but, once in America, they found the closest thing readily available was Philadelphia cream cheese to make their dough easy to work with, Nicholson said.

And, while sugar cookies are fairly universal, the cookie-cutter shapes vary, she said, reflecting various cultures. "Snowmen cookie cutters are not in Italy," Nicholson said.

Winter desserts are warm and comfy, she said. She named Indian pudding, bread pudding, and the desserts that complement warm beverages. Hot cocoa, tea, and coffee go with biscotti and scones, Nicholson said.

"To me, eggnog has always been a drinkable dessert, so rich, so yummy...It’s always something I’ve associated with Christmas memories," she said.

Nicholson’s grandmother would beat the eggs by hand, refusing to use an electric mixer, Nicholson said, so making eggnog was an all-day process; she would beat the whipcream by hand as well.

"Baking is a science and it’s an art too," Nicholson said. It’s a craft that takes a lot of time. She said she hopes by participating in a cookie workshop, those children as adults on their own make cookies; love goes into it. Nicholson said she takes to heart what her grandmother always told her, "It’s not going to taste too good if there’s not any love put into it."


The free cookie-decorating program is Friday, Dec. 9, at 5 p.m. at the Rensselaerville ilbrary, located on Main Street. The program is open to children age nine and up, although younger children may participate with permission from the library director. Registration is required; call the library at 797-3949.

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