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Obituaries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 19, 2009

Jonathan William Pratt

A religious young man who wrote poetry and played his own music with passion, Jonathan William Pratt packed a lot into his short life.

He died on Feb. 13, 2009. He was 23.

“When we were trying to encourage him,” said his mother, Debra Pratt, “we told him, ‘You’ve flown solo, you rode your motorcycle to Florida and back, you were called to Hollywood to record where Elvis recorded....’”

“He’s done some amazing things, most of us won’t do in a lifetime,” said his father, William Pratt.

“He used up his candle,” said his mother. “The light went out.”

Since Jonathan’s death, his parents said, they have been hearing from his many friends, about how much he helped them, particularly through rough times.

His parents have looked at recently posted entries on Jonathan’s Facebook page with awe. “I’m totally blown away by the outpouring of emotions,” said Mr. Pratt.

“Jon William Pratt was an amazing talent, friend, and a true artist,” wrote his friend, Steven Evan Bush. “He devoted himself to his art wholeheartedly — as well as his friends’, always there when you needed him whether you asked him to or not....”

Mr. Bush wrote that Jonathan was the kind of person “who spoke his mind profoundly, good or bad,” and went on to describe him as “a spiritual person.” He wrote, “Like his soul, his music was deep and real and his poems the same.”

“Jon lived a rich and fulfilling 23 years,” wrote another friend, Jared Levine, an English literature major at the University at Albany where Jonathan had been a student. “He met failures and successes, suffered trials and tribulations, endured agonies and ecstasies,” wrote Mr. Levine. “He rode a motorcycle from New York to Florida; he flew airplanes; he worked in Hollywood studios; he was a musical prodigy and a passionate singer; he was an academic standout, an enthusiastic poet, an overachiever whose goals were even too high for himself.”

Jonathan was born in 1986 on New Year’s Day. He spent his early years with his parents and older sister, Cassandra, in Guilderland. When he was 7, his family moved to Altamont, the village he considered his home.

Jonathan attended Altamont Elementary School through the fifth grade. From those earliest years, he demonstrated his love of music, animals, the wilderness, and God.

When he was 7, he started studying piano under Altamont’s Agnes Armstrong. Jonathan formed his first band while in high school and made his first professional recording with Tarpon Trees while a college student.

In March 2007, he was invited to Hollywood, Calif. by the band The Hills to play organ and piano. “It was all-expense paid,” said his mother. “They sent him a plane ticket.”

Last summer, Jonathan formed the band Heavy Water with his former band mates from The Hills. Heavy Water recently played shows in Manhattan and Long Island to rave reviews, his parents said.

Jonathan wrote his own songs — both the music and the lyrics. “He was a musical prodigy,” said his mother. Jonathan easily mastered a wide variety of instruments, said his father.

The summer he was in third grade, Jonathan went to Fowler Camp and Retreat Center in Speculator, N.Y. He loved kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and wilderness adventures in the Adirondacks.

As he grew, he took on a leadership role at the camp, spending two summers as a student working in ministry at Camp Fowler.

“He loved being out in the wilderness,” said his father, who has the same inclination. “He didn’t like it just for its beauty...He respected it as God’s creation.”

Jonathan went to a Christian preschool, Pine View, which set the tone for his life, his mother said. “He was there for many years,” she said, as Pine View had after-school programs, too. “They taught him to pray from his heart, not little memorized things,” said Mrs. Pratt.

Jonathan was a member of Lynnwood Reformed Church in Guilderland where he was baptized and confirmed. He later became a worship leader for the youth service, and played guitar on the adult worship team at Christ’s Church of the Capital District in Guilderland.

When Jonathan was 16, he went on a mission trip to an Omaha Indian Reservation. “He was wonderful there,” said his mother. “It really opened his eyes. The little kids just loved him. They would sit up on the piano bench with him and he’d give them piggyback rides. He was very gentle with them.”

“He was a very gentle person,” chimed in Mr. Pratt.

“He had a really deep relationship with God,” concluded Mrs. Pratt.

From his earliest years, Jonathan loved animals. As a teenager and young adult, he worked for Merilyn Reese at Acres Meadowdale Animal Inn in Guilderland Center. “There wasn’t an animal at that inn, he didn’t have a natural sense of connecting with,” said his mother. “If a dog was out of line, he’d give it a look and it would come back in line.”

Jonathan’s favorite dogs, his mother said, were Australian sheep dogs; they had the same boundless energy and zeal for life that he did.

Jonathan’s responsibilities grew with his years at the inn. “Merilyn trusted him with every phase of the operation,” said his father, adding, “He was an honest person. Any place he worked, they knew they could trust him.”

Also from an early age, Jonathan was fascinated with airplanes and outer space. During his spring break as a fourth-grader, his mother splurged, spending her annual bonus from her work at the phone company to send him to space camp.

“So many kids were into sports in elementary school, he was picked on,” she recalled. “When the movie Space Camp came out, I found out it indeed existed....We put Jon on an airplane all by himself — “With airport escorts —” interjected his father. “And he flew to Orlando,” said his mother, where Jonathan went to the United States Space Camp at Cape Canaveral.

“The kids go through a short version of training using actual equipment, culminating in a simulated mission,” said Mr. Pratt.

Jonathan went back to the camp in fifth grade. “They made him the commander of the space shuttle,” said Mr. Pratt.

For Jonathan’s birthday one year, his father took him to ride in a small plane in Schenectady. “Jon taxied it out the runway,” recalled his father. “After they took off, the pilot let him fly the plane.”

“He had no fear,” said his mother. “We did anything we could to encourage his gifts.”

Jonathan completed his secondary education at Christian Brothers Academy in Albany, where he was captain in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and graduated as a Presidential Scholar in May 2004. After high school, he pursued his dream of becoming a pilot at the Florida Institute of Technology where he soloed, his parents said, but left for medical reasons in January 2005.

Jonathan then attended the University at Albany, where he studied poetry, journalism, and writing. He frequented the Thacher Park overlook and Mohawk Canal locks where he spent many hours each day, writing his thoughts and observations of life in a journal, his parents said.

He was first encouraged to write poetry at CBA, his mother said. In sixth grade, he wrote a poem about God. “Brother Mark submitted it and it was published,” said his mother.

Jonathan’s poetry became more complex and intense as he did.

His motorcycle trip to Florida during his spring break in 2006 inspired his first book of poetry, The Virginia Acid Rain Experiment.

 He later chronicled his experiences in Hollywood and, upon his return to New York, wrote another book of poetry, Life in Radioland.

“It was a Jack Kerouac kind of thing,” Mrs. Pratt said of her son’s writing.

“His poetry is so deep and so intense, I can’t comprehend it,” said his father.

“We’ve been going through his things,” said his mother. “He’s journaled since middle school. I always told him he could leave his things anywhere. No one would touch them or read them.”

His parents have been looking through Jonathan’s stacks of papers since he died, finding comfort there.

“He had a stack of favorite pictures next to his desk,” said Mrs. Pratt. “There are pictures of his friends, his pets, and photographs he’d taken of sunrises and sunsets in the Adirondacks....They are really beautiful.”


Jonathan William Pratt is survived by his parents, Debra and William Pratt, of Rotterdam; his sister, Cassandra Pratt, of Guilderland; his aunts and uncles, Susan Deprez of Annandale, Va., Lucinda Uhorchak and her husband, John, of Cornwall, N.Y., and Janice VanHouten of Gilbertsville, N.Y., Michael Walker of Unadilla, N.Y. and Andrew Pratt of Norwich; his grandmother, Barbara Walker, of Sidney; and his grandfather, Dowell Pratt, of Norwich.

He is also survived by cousins, Nicholas Uhorchak, of Fort Hood, Texas; Jacqueline and Andrew Uhorchak of Cornwall, N.Y.; Amanda and David Deprez of Annandale, Va., and Jessica Crisell of Norwich; Michelle Schwartz of Sidney; and Steven Walker of Fort Bliss, Texas. Also, Joshua VanHouten, Stephanie Pratt, and Dakota VanHouten of Gilbertsville, N.Y.

Friends are invited to call at Cornerstone Christian Church, 183 Schoolhouse Road, Albany, 12203 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21. Funeral services will follow at Cornerstone, officiated by Pastor Gareth Gilpin. Burial will be in the Fairview Cemetery in Altamont in the spring.

Arrangements are by Fredendall Funeral Home of Altamont. Please refer to FredendallFuneralHome.com for further obituary.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Fowler Camp and Retreat Center Capital Campaign Fund, in care of the Regional Synod of Albany, 1790 Grand Blvd., Schenectady, NY 12309.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

Willem B. Hladun

Willem Bernard Hladun, whose tiny life was marked with sickness and good humor, died on Feb. 6, 2009. He was six months old.

“They called him Will from the day he was born,” said his grandmother, Linda Hladun, of Voorheesville. And, when he was diagnosed with AT/RT, a type of cancer, at two months, he became Brave Will. “Everyone called him Brave Will,” she said.

Will’s parents and two brothers moved in with Linda and James Hladun while their new house was being built. “We were so grateful he was so easy going,” his grandmother said, looking back on Will’s very happy first two months.

After the diagnosis in September, Will’s father, Matthew Hladun, wrote to his son, “When we heard that news, it was like the floor had dropped out from beneath your mom and I. Life just stopped.” Hladun chronicled Will’s life through letters that he wrote to him on the website caringbridge.org/visit/bravewill.

“He wrote these love letters to Will,” said Linda Hladun. Her son had been an English teacher, she explained, and had always taught his students to know their audiences, but, here, he didn’t know who his audience was. So, she said, “He wrote to Will.”

The story “has touched more than 250,000 visits to the web site, and over 10,000 messages from people all over the world, leaving a legacy of concern and love for Will and his family,” his family wrote in a tribute.

The family expected that Will would be able to pull through and read the letters some day. But, on Feb. 6, Matthew Hladun wrote to his son, “Today, at 1:30 p.m., you finally soared little buddy, and earned your angel wings. You were, of course, nestled in the arms of your mother and lying right beside Ben and I. Your family and friends surrounded you and boosted you to the heavens. You battled for every breath for nearly twelve hours today — we wouldn’t have expected anything less from you.”

“He put up a long, hard fight,” said Linda Hladun. The months of close calls and surgeries, moments of hope and bitter setbacks are detailed in his father’s entries.

“Matt and Tammy — they’re the strongest two people I’ve ever met,” Linda Hladun said. She recalled her daughter-in-law saying, “In six months I sold a house, had a baby, built a house, and buried a child.”

Their family has pulled even closer together over the last four months, Linda Hladun said, concluding, “We’re at peace that he’s at peace.”


Willem Hladun is survived by his parents, Matthew and Tammy Murphy Hladun, of Schauber Road, and his brothers, Bennett and Maxwell. He is also survived by his grandparents, James and Linda Hladun of Voorheesville, and Bernard and Beverly Murphy of Burnt Hills; and by his great-grandmothers, Eileen Court of Cairo and Elaine Murphy of Saratoga Springs; his aunts and uncles, Lara and John Bishop of Schenectady, Megan and Doug Bellinger of Brockport, Helene and Mike Verdile of Burnt Hills; his cousins, Michaela, Julia, and Sam Verdile and Lauren and Jenna Bellinger; and his godparents, Ben and Darcy Shaw.

Visit www.bravewill.com for more information.

A funeral service was held on Feb. 11 at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, on Midline Road in Ballston Lake. Arrangements were by DeVito-Salvadore Funeral Home, Mechanicville, with a spring burial to be in the Jonesville Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Brave Will Foundation, to benefit the children and families of Albany Medical Center Children’s Hospital, 207 Scotchbush Rd., Burnt Hills, NY 12027.

Saranac Hale Spencer

Dorothy E. Hillman

SELKIRK — Dorothy E. Hillman, who for many years worked the Delmar and Albany farmers markets with her late husband, John, died on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, at St. Peter’s Hospice Inn surrounded by her loving family. She was 85.

“She was a loving wife, a homemaker, and a devoted mom,” her family wrote in a tribute.

Mrs. Hillman was a communicant of St. Thomas Church in Delmar.

Her husband of 61 years, John H. Hillmann Sr. died before her. She is survived by her daughter, Mary Lou Wahl and her husband, Steve, of Selkirk; sons, David and his wife, Mary, of Altamont, Daniel of Tennessee, and John Hillman Jr. and his wife, Debbie, of Selkirk; sister Alice Mattice of Selkirk; 10 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; one great-great-granddaughter; and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Her brothers, John and Francis Riley and Robert and Lester Byrnes, died before her as did her sister, Olive Motzer.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Babcock Funeral Home in Ravena. Calling hours at the funeral home start at 10 a.m. Immediately after, the funeral begins at 11 a.m. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery in Glenmont.

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

Frank C. Jablonowski

VOORHEESVILLE — Frank C. “Jabby” Jablonowski, a Navy veteran of the Korean War, died on Feb. 15, 2009 at the Stratton Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a brief illness.

Born in Albany and a graduate of Voorheesville’s high school, he was the son of the late Walter and Helena (Ozog) Jablonowski.

Mr. Jablonowski retired from Suburban Propane and most recently enjoyed part-time work at Gade’s Farm in Guilderland.

He was past commander of American Legion Post 493 and past assistant chief of the Voorheesville Fire Department.

He enjoyed gardening and crosswords puzzles.

He is survived by his children, Patricia O’Mara and her husband, John, of Guilderalnd Center; Mary Ann Veshia of Watervliet, and Tom Jablonowski and his wife, Lori, of Voorheesville; sister Jennie Stevens of Knox; grandchildren Nicole, Erin, Doug, Margaret, Sean, Josh, Kelly and Kailee; sister-in-law Patty Magin of Albany; several nieces and nephews; and a dear friend, Nancy Mosher.

His wife, Anna Mae (Foley) Jablonowski died before him as did his siblings, William and Henry Jablonowski and Helen Zeronda.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on today, Feb. 19, at 10 a.m. in St. James Church, 391 Delaware Ave., Albany. Daniel Keenan Funeral Home made arrangements. Interment will be at St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands.

Marshall C. Miller

GUILDERLAND – Marshall C. Miller was devoted to community service — as a volunteer firefighter, rescue squad member, and Scout leader.

He died on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009, at Our Lady of Mercy Life Center, with his family by his side. He was 89. His family describes him as a devoted father and beloved husband to his wife of 57 years.

Mr. Miller was born in Albany and lived in North Bethlehem for 57 years.

A United States Army veteran, he served his country during World War II.

He worked for 20 years at the Freihofer Baking Company and then in fire protection until his retirement.

Mr. Miller was a charter and life member of the North Bethlehem Fire Department, where he held many offices, including chief and president. He was also a life member of the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad and a life member of the American Legion Ambrose J. Scully Post 1019.

Mr. Miller was a Scout leader for Boy Scout Troop 82 in McKownville and a communicant and Eucharistic minister at St. Catherine of Siena Church.

He is survived by his wife, Mary M. (Fliegel) Miller; and his children, Paul Miller and his wife, Ellen, of Albany, Nancy Fefer and her husband, Marty, of Auburn, N.Y., Peter Miller and his wife, Karen, of Burke, Va., Rose Wehnau and her husband, Mark, of Averill Park, and Mark Miller and his wife, Shareen, of Falls Church, Va.

Also surviving are many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild, nieces and nephews.

His grandson, Marshall Robert Miller, died before him as did his brothers, Harold and Ambrose Miller.

Mr. Miller’s family would like to thank the staff of Our Lady of Mercy Life Center, Guadalupe Unit for all of the care and compassion extended to him during his stay.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend a Mass of Christian burial on Saturday morning at nine at St. Catherine of Siena Church, 40 Hopewell St., Albany. Calling hours will be Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at New Comer-Cannon Funeral Home, 343 New Karner Rd., Colonie (Route 155, south of Central Avenue). Interment will be in Our Lady of Angels Cemetery in Colonie. To leave a special message for the family online, visit www.NewcomerAlbany.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to Our Lady of Mercy Life Center, 2 Mercycare Lane, Guilderland, NY 12084 or to North Bethlehem Fire Department, 589 Russell Road, Albany, NY 12203.

George Wright

BERNE — George Howard Wright, head custodian at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District for 30 years, was a handyman, a sports fan, a traveler, and a family man above all.

Mr. Wright died on Friday, Feb. 13, 2009, at St. Peter’s Hospital. He was 67. A funeral service was held on Sunday at the South Berne Christian Congregational Church.

“If my husband could have opened his eyes and seen how many people were at his viewing, he would have turned around and pulled the lid down — he was such a humble man,” said his wife, Judy Wright. “He would have been absolutely shocked.”

They would have been married 33 years this June.

“Never in all those years did I ever hear George say a negative word about anybody. He would always play devil’s advocate and try to make people see the other side. And I think he instilled that in his kids,” his wife said, along with his work ethic, and his love. He got along with everybody, she said.

“His three grandchildren were the absolute love of his life,” Mrs. Wright said. “He retired to take care of them, and he was teaching them about the birds and showing them his birdfeeders.” Their oldest grandchild will be 5 in March, she said.

“He was very much an outdoor person,” his wife said. They have a fishpond, of which he was very fond, she said. But, no matter what Mr. Wright was doing, his wife was with him.

“We did everything together,” she said. “He was always at my right hand. For a while, we made clocks, and did a lot of woodworking together, but he liked any kind of handicraft, and, anything creative, he was good at.”

Wright and his wife loved to travel together, and saw “pretty much all the United States,” Mrs. Wright said. His favorite place was Tennessee.

“We’ve taken road trips and camped, but he loves Tennessee; we went there every year for at least a week,” she said. “Ultimately, I think he would have loved to move there at some point in his retirement. Tennessee is a wonderful combination of the look of the Helderbergs, and warm weather. Plus, he loved country music, so Tennessee was his perfect combination of music and home.”

He was a devoted fan of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), his wife said, but Mr. Wright loved all sports ever since he was a child growing up in Florida. He graduated from Fort Lauderdale High School before coming to the Northeast. His love for sports led to his support of the BKW Bulldogs.

“He always followed the BKW sports in the paper,” Mrs. Wright said. “It was always an important part of his life, and he looked at them all as his friends.”

Before working as head custodian for the BKW School District, Mr. Wright worked as a mechanic and a chicken farmer, his wife said.

“But, when he got hired at school, we looked at it and said, ‘Well, it’s not the best paying job, but he’s home with the children by three o’ clock,’” she said. “He cared so much about that place, and the people. When I just think about acquaintances that we’ve run into over the years, it’s really overwhelming. We couldn’t go anywhere — even shopping in Albany or Cobleskill — without a kid pointing to him and saying to their mother, ‘That’s George!’”

Mr. Wright met his wife while working at Tasco, Reverend Jay Francis’s business that “made portable little barns,” for smaller animals, Mrs. Wright said.

“I worked for Jay as an office manager, and George came in one day, looking for a job,” she said.

“[George] was very handy; he could do electrical work and carpenter work. One day, Jay had a dinner for employees, and George asked me to go with him. From then, we’ve never been apart.” It was love at first sight, Mrs. Wright said.

“In Berne, we were known as George and Judy,” she said. “The hardest part now will be learning how to just be Judy.”


Wright is survived by his wife, Judy Wright; his three sons, Craig Wright, Jeremy Wright, and Andrew Wright and his wife, Amy; three grandchildren, Alexis, Andrew Jr., and Arlan; his sister, Barbara Eriksen; his sister-in-law, Carolyn Wright; and many cousins and nephews.

His parents, Howard and Celia Wright, died before him, as did his brother, Robert Wright.

Memorial contributions may be made to the South Berne Christian Congregational Church, 101 Church Road, Berne, NY 12023, or to the American Heart Association, Post Office Box 3049, Syracuse, NY 13220.

Funeral arrangements were made by Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont. Burial will be in Woodlawn Cemetery in Berne this spring.

— Zach Simeone

Oliver K. Zipp

VOORHEESVILLE — Oliver Zipp, an artist who encouraged debate, died on Dec. 27, 2008. He was 91.

Growing up on Long Island, when the land was still rural, Mr. Zipp spent much of his youth playing baseball with the neighborhood kids, said his daughter, Judy Ramsey, of Voorheesville. There was no Little League, she said; the kids organized themselves.

While his family lived in Hempstead, where Mr. Zipp’s parents, the late William and Edith (Mealley) Zipp, moved with their family when Mr. Zipp was a very small boy, his mother was a Dodgers fan, Mrs. Ramsey said.

Mr. Zipp played first base and, she said, he had a chance to play in the minor league, but he became sick with tuberculosis at the age of 19 or 20.

Just a few months before that, he had seen a photo from a co-worker’s afternoon at the beach and asked to be introduced to a girl in the picture who had caught his eye. By the end of their first date, Mr. Zipp and Jeanne M. Angus knew they had something, their daughter said.

During his sickness, Mr. Zipp was living in an out-of-town sanitarium and she would take a train and a couple of buses once or twice a week to visit him, Mrs. Ramsey said.

“He lived because of my mother… He was so in love with her,” she remembered Edith Zipp saying of the young couple. “They had a lot of time to talk, that’s for sure,” Mrs. Ramsey concluded of her parent’s courtship.

As soon as Mr. Zipp was able to have a full-time job, the couple married, their daughter said. It was in 1942, after five years of courtship.

After they had been married a few years and Mr. Zipp’s life-long friend, Mainy Schill, had tired of the construction business, he built a bowling alley in Islip and asked Mr. Zipp to manage it.

“He hadn’t bowled — I don’t think — before that,” said Mrs. Ramsey, who did grow up bowling.

“He just loved to draw,” she said of her father, who made all the posters and such for the bowling alley. “He had an imagination and he loved being creative,” she said.

Mr. Zipp started with cartoons for Islip Bowl and later moved into painting scenes of nature and portraits, she said, and he later did wedding photography and wrote poetry.

“He became a self-educated man through his reading, and dearly loved having good debate on almost any topic,” his family wrote in a tribute. He was a strong debater, his daughter said, and genuinely enjoyed it. “Just for the fun of it, he would take either side,” she said. “He loved a good laugh and he loved a good debate.”

When the Zipps moved to Voorheesville in 1987, to be near their only daughter, they quickly made themselves a home at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Mrs. Ramsey said, where Mr. Zipp served as an elder and taught a lively adult class. The couple also started a Shepherd’s Visitation program for congregants who were confined to their homes or nursing homes.

“He was very honest and very compassionate,” Mrs. Ramsey said of her father.


Mr. Zipp is survived by his daughter, Judy Ramsey, and her husband, Dick, of Voorheesville and by his three grandchildren: Matthew Ramsey, of Voorheesville; Kate Ramsey, of Brooklyn; and Jennifer Rennels and her husband, Roger, of Henderson, Nev. He is also survived by his great-grandchildren, Martina and Dylan Rennels.

His wife, Jeanne Zipp, died before him, as did his brothers, Bill Zipp, Bob Zipp, Stuart Zipp, and Jim Zipp, and his brothers- and sisters-in-law, Maynard and Mariam (Angus) Schill and Elbert and Margie Angus.

A memorial service was held at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, in Delmar, on Dec. 30 with arrangements by Reilly & Son Funeral Home; burial will be in the Knox Cemetery in the spring.

Memorial contributions may be made to Good Samaritan Lutheran Health Care Center, 125 Rockefeller Rd., Delmar, NY 12054 or to the Community Hospice of Albany County, 445 New Karner Rd., Albany, NY 12205.

— Saranac Hale Spencer

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