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Obituaries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 22, 2007

Higgins, PI, photographer and raconteur, dies at 82

GUILDERLAND — Joe Higgins was a gumshoe and proud of it. He had a wiry build, a gravelly voice, and a discerning eye.

As the longest practicing private investigator in the state, he had many tales to tell, laced with crime and intrigue.

He died on Monday, March 19, 2007, at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady after a brief illness. He was 82.

A former detective with the Cohoes Police Department, he lived in Guilderland and developed a close relationship with the Guilderland Police over the years.

"We’re all saddened by his death," said Guilderland’s acting police chief, Carol Lawlor, yesterday. "He was a good friend, a colleague."

She went on, "He had been involved in police work all his life. He was very enthusiastic about it".He’d hear something on the scanner and call us at home. Even since he was sick, he’d call to tell us something was going on and offer his advice."

Higgins did forensic photography for the Guilderland Police Department, Lawlor said. "His skills as a photographer were second to none," she said.

He had jobs as a staff photographer at the Times Union, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Rockefeller Administration.

He was particularly proud of a canoe trip he took, as a Times Union photographer, following the Hudson River from its start in the Adirondacks all the way to its confluence with the Atlantic Ocean. He saved a scrapbook, its pages now yellowed with age, that documented the trip.

Higgins never made the switch to digital photography. He took great pride in the clarity of the shots he got with his 35 millimeter film camera.

He worked as a photographer for The Enterprise late in his life. His photographs livened the newspaper’s pages just as his presence livened its newsroom.

The paper received many requests for his photo "Pilgrims Progress," of a pair of Christ The King students dressed in paper Pilgrim bonnets, ready for their Thanksgiving feast.

He produced a stunning page of pictures documenting the lowering of the copper dome, made by WeatherGuard Roofing, onto the new train station in Rensselaer.

His front-page shot, "Here Comes the Judge," showed a beaming Victoria Graffeo, an Altamont native, in 2001, moments after she was sworn in as a member of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

But Higgins’s forte was covering crime. Week after week, he captured criminals on film along with the police who brought them to justice. From murder to misdemeanor charges, Higgins shot them all. He even featured Nikko, the Guilderland Police Department’s German shepherd, among the crime fighters in a front-page spread: "Suspected ‘Booze Burglar’ busted.

Often, Higgins’s inquisitiveness led The Enterprise to cover stories it wouldn’t have otherwise. Once, for example, he brought in a picture of a man mired in mud up to his waist on the edge of the Watervliet Reservoir. He was fishing when a misstep left him stuck and he had to be rescued.

Higgins added that one to his repertoire of other stranger-than-fiction tales. He loved to regale friends with stories based on a rich and varied life — serving in the Army during World War II, raising championship beagles and hunting with friends, competing at archery and winning Senior Olympic championships nine times, singing and playing guitar with his band, Country Joe Review.

"We enjoyed all aspects of Joe," concluded Acting Chief Lawlor, emphasizing his humor. "His stories were always amusing. He was quite a character."


Joseph P. Higgins was born in Cohoes, the son of the late William and Mary Frances Smith Higgins.

His wife, Karen E. Keefer Higgins, died before him as did his brothers, William and Leo Higgins.

He is survived by his daughters, Emilie Mary Caroline Higgins of Guilderland and Marsha Livecchi and her husband, Patrick, of Willow Spring, N.C.; his grandchildren Tara Bennett and Brian Livecchi; his great-grandchildren Michael, Jake, and Josh Livecchi, and Abigail Bennett; and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be today (Thursday) at 9 a.m. at St. Boniface Episcopal Church in Guilderland. Arrangements are by NewComer-Cannon Family Funeral Home in Colonie. Expressions of sympathy may be made to Newcomerfamily.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Boniface Episcopal Church of Guilderland, 5148 Western Ave., Guilderland, NY 12084.

Paul J. Loomis

Paul J. Loomis, a restaurateur with a passion for sports, died, after a long illness, on March 10, 2007 in Bonita Springs, Fla. where he lived. He was 48.

"He spent his whole life in the restaurant business," said his sister, Mary Elario, of Altamont.

As a junior at Guilderland High School, he got a job as a busboy at the old Thruway House and then went on to work at the Bavarian Chalet, she said. He graduated from high school in 1976 and went from busboy, to wait staff, to bartending, she said, eventually owning his own tavern, the Cape House, in Troy.

"He liked working with people. He knew his stuff," said his sister.

Mr. Loomis moved to the Bonita Springs area of Florida in 1996. When he moved, he traded in his passion for a cold-weather sport for a warm-weather sport.

Growing up in Altamont, he had played both baseball and football. "He played Little League when Little League was really Little League," his sister said. "The fire department sponsored a team and supplied T-shirts. They played at the elementary school," Mrs. Elario said.

He also played Pop Warner football and was on the freshman football team at Guilderland High School.

Then he discovered his real passion — snowmobiling. "Paul and my father would get up before dawn and drive to places like Boonville"in the Tug Hill Plateau, where they get lots of snow," said Mrs. Elario. "My father was his pit crew."

Mr. Loomis raced in the teen class and then moved up to the adult class his senior year of high school.

"He got the Florida bug," said Mrs. Elario "from visiting our grandparents who lived in Florida."

When Mr. Loomis moved to Florida, he played golf with the same passion he once had for snowmobiling, his sister said. "My son, Matt, went down there and played golf with him; they had a great time," she said.

Before he became ill with cancer, she said, Mr. Loomis was the assistant food and beverage manager for an upscale country club, the Quail West Country Club.

He became a wine expert. "He was a connoisseur when it came to good food and good wine," said Mrs. Elario. "He really took pride in good service"He was a real perfectionist about his work."

Mrs. Elario said she will sorely miss her brother. "We lost both of our parents in 2003 and 2004. He was my rock".Forty-eight was too young to die"He kept his great sense of dry humor, and he was loyal to his friends to the end."

He is survived by his sister, Mary Elario, and her husband, Henry, of Altamont; his niece Joanna Elario of Rochester; his nephew, Matthew Elario of Altamont; his great-niece, Abigail Houck of Rochester; and his best friend, Bill Berg of Estero, Fla.
His parents, Arthur and Irene (nee Mulak) Loomis Jr., died before him.

The family will receive friends on Saturday, March 24, from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont; funeral services will follow, at 2 p.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to Joanne’s House at Hope Hospice, 27200 Imperial Parkway, Bonita Springs, FL 34135.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

Norma H. Mead

VOORHEESVILLE — Norma H. Mead died at home on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2007. She was 86.

"Born and raised in Voorheesville, she enjoyed her entire life here among family and friends," her family wrote in a tribute.

Wife of the late Harold (Coach) Mead, she is survived by her son, Edward C. Mead and her granddaughter, Debra E. Mead.

Funeral services will be private at the convenience of the family. Arrangements are by Reilly & Son Funeral Home of Voorheesville.

Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of Albany County, 445 New Karner Rd., Albany, NY 12205.

Harold Earl Whitney

GUILDERLAND CENTER — Harold Earl Whitney, a World War II veteran and a forester, died Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at the Community Hospice Inn at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. He was 87.

He was born in Salisbury, Vt., son of the late George M. Whitney and Mabel Strong Whitney.

He graduated from the University of Maine, majoring in forestry.

He served as a pilot in World War II, a member of the 314 transport squadron, serving in the European Theater.

Subsequently, Harold was a forester for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

He married Martha Warner in 1954.

He is survived by his wife and four children: Lisa Whitney Smith of Delanson; Seth Whitney of Berne; Grace Whitney of Brewster, N.Y.; and Jonathan Whitney of Northhampton, Mass.

He also is survived by a sister, Eileen Wilson of Manchester, Conn.; three grandchildren, one great-grandchild, a niece, and a nephew.

A mass of Christian burial was held Saturday at Christ the King Church in Guilderland. Arrangements were by the Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont. Burial will be in Fairview Cemetery in the spring.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Community Hospice of Albany, 445 New Karner Rd., Albany, NY 12205.

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