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Obituaries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 1, 2010

Michael Francis Fields Jr.

ALTAMONT — An artistic man from a creative family, Michael Francis Fields Jr. became a master craftsman and cabinetmaker.

“His woodworking talent could rival the best industrial artist of the day,” his family wrote in a tribute.

He died unexpectedly in his Altamont home on Sunday, March 28, 2010. He was 45.

Mr. Fields, known to his friends and family as Mikey, loved the outdoors. “He was an avid fisherman who was more at home in a trout stream than anywhere on earth,” his family wrote.

Mr. Fields grew up in Voorheesville, the middle of three brothers. His father, for whom he was named, was the facilities manager at Albany Medical Center. His mother, Marilyn C. Fields, ran a beauty salon out of her home.

His younger brother, C. Matthew Fields, a publicist for Consumer Reports magazine, described their family as creative. The oldest brother, J. Mitchell Fields, became an architect.

“As kids, we all used to do some sort of craft,” said C. Matthew Fields. “Mike and Mitchell started a wooden toys business. They made soldiers and cars that they would sell at Christmas time.”

Their mother had a basement workshop where she made dolls and teddy bears, and painted ceramics. She also sewed quilts.

Although Mr. Fields played some school sports as a Voorheesville student, his heart was in outdoor sports, said his younger brother. “He was a free spirit,” said his brother. “He was not a big fan of school. He liked the outdoors, fishing and hunting. He had a fantastic relationship with our paternal grandfather…They used to stock the Vly Creek with brook trout.”

After graduating from Voorheesville’s high school in 1982, Mr. Fields did an apprenticeship in woodworking and cabinetry. “He was a craftsman,” said his brother, doing both commercial and residential work.

Mr. Fields did a lot of customized work, his brother said, and took great pride in solving challenging projects.

“He liked the figuring out,” Mr. Fields said, recalling how, when his brother was doing a project as a favor for someone in the family, “He’d get it 90-percent done and you’d put the stain on it yourself.”

Mr. Fields had two children — Amanda and Justin — of whom he was very proud. “He had a huge heart,” said his brother. “He always did the right thing with his kids as much as he could. When he fell on hard times, he made sure his kids were taken care of.

“When his kids were young, they looked up to him as a hero. They spent a lot of time at their camp at Sacandaga…That’s where they’ll go to visit their father, mentally. They have a lot of good memories there.”

When Amanda Fields had a baby, Christopher Michael, “He opened up his heart to his grandchild,” said his brother. “He was proud of how great a mother she was.”

Mr. Fields went on about his brother’s personality, “He was larger than life. He did things his own way. They may not have been the right way. He could be obstinate, but he was very giving and fun loving. He would welcome complete strangers into his home. If he didn’t know your name, he’d give you one.”

“Michael was a loyal friend,” his family concluded, “and will always be remembered for his larger-than-life personality and his generosity.”


Michael Francis Fields Jr. is survived by his children, Amanda Marilyn Fields and Justin Michael Fields; their mother, Debbie Flansburg; his grandson, Christopher Michael; his beloved, Kim Keenan; his father and stepmother, Michael and Kathleen Fields of Voorheesville; his older brother, J. Mitchell Fields, and his younger brother, C. Matthew Fields, and their families.

His mother, Marilyn C. Fields, died in 1986.

A wake was held at Reilly and Son Funeral Home in Voorheesville on Wednesday, March 31, and a memorial service will be held today, April 1, at 9:30 a.m. at St. Matthew’s Church in Voorheesville.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

Frieda Saddlemire

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

KNOX — As a kindergarten teacher, Frieda Saddlemire taught generations of Hilltown students life lessons.

After retiring, she continued teaching — at the Heldeberg Workshop, as the Berne librarian, and as the Knox historian.

She died on Tuesday, March 30, 2010, at Our Lady of Mercy Life Center in Guilderland. She was 94.

“She was always on the go, always open to helping someone else, always eager to learn,” said her oldest son, Austin. Always curious, Mrs. Saddlemire traveled around the world in her retirement years.

“Everyone loved her as a teacher; she was extremely creative,” said Helen Lounsbury who was mentored by Mrs. Saddlemire when she came to Berne-Knox-Westerlo as a young teacher. “She originated the school’s nature trail. She’d take the kids down to the stream and they’d sit there with their feet in the water, with tadpoles nibbling at their toes. They’d learn about water life that way. On the trails, they’d learn about the flora and the fauna.”

“My cot was right next to her desk because I was a trouble-maker,” recalled Dr. Gary Kolanchick with a laugh. He became like a son to Mrs. Saddlemire.

“My mom had six boys and Frieda had five. When she lost her husband, the families got very close,” he recalled. “She led the Cub Scouts and my father led the Boy Scouts…

“Her whole life, she was a dynamo. She loved nature. She would slog through the snow to find the first pussy willows. She would point out lady slippers and adder’s tongues,” he said, naming woodland plants.

When the doctor built a second home in Maine three years ago, Mrs. Saddlemire made it a point to find the best lady slipper in the Helderbergs to plant in the Maine woods there, he said.

Mrs. Lounsbury had a similar story about Mrs. Saddlemire’s generosity. She admired the clematis in Mrs. Saddlemire’s luscious gardens, filled with colorful perennials. The vine with showy flowers can be tricky to grow in this climate.

“Every year, for my birthday, she would give me a clematis,” said Mrs. Lounsbury. “Every year, it would die…One year, at age 90, she said, ‘That’s it.’ She came to my yard and was out there digging, to plant it right.”

Sometimes her donations were more substantial; Mrs. Saddlemire donated the land for the Helderberg Ambulance Squad to build its station.

Mrs. Saddlemire was born in Brooklyn in 1915 to Andrew and Julia Schultz. She was the third of seven children. Her father worked in a sugar factory, said Austin Saddlemire. “He came from Germany just before World War I,” he said. “Then he sent for his wife and family. When my mother was 3 or 4, they bought a farm on Cotton Hill.”

Although farm life was a lot of work, Mrs. Saddlemire enjoyed it, her son said. “She adored her Dad,” he said.

Later, the Schultz family moved to a bigger farm in Gallupville. “She milked three cows, by hand, before school every day,” said her son.

After graduating from high school, she went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in education from Oneonta State Teachers College. She later earned a master’s degree there in reading. She eventually earned another master’s degree, in library science, from the University at Albany.

Mrs. Saddlemire began her teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse in the Rotterdam area, and then taught kindergarten in Berne for over 35 years. She was recognized on the national level, winning the Leaders of Elementary Education Award.

Her husband, Austin Saddlemire, was a self-employed trucker who was often on the road, said her son, leaving Mrs. Saddlemire with their five sons. He died at the age of 51 in 1968.

All of the Saddlemire boys have first names that begin with an “A” for their father and a middle name that begins with an “F” for their mother: Austin Freeman, Andrew Frederic, Alan Foster, Alec Forrest, and Alden Freemont.

Mrs. Lounsbury repeated a story that Mrs. Saddlemire liked to tell: When her fifth son was delivered, she was trying to come up with a name for the baby. She said she was all done now. Then it came to her. “‘I know it — Alden’ and then she’d laugh and laugh,” said Mrs. Lounsbury.

Mrs. Saddlemire and her boys did a lot together. “She was instrumental in setting up the Cub Scouts in Berne,” Austin Saddlemire said. She was given the organization’s highest honor, the Silver Fawn.

“We were always outside, exploring nature with her,” said her son. “She was always busy. We’d pick wild strawberries and she’d can them and make pies.”

While many people had never heard of a pear pie, he said, his mother made a marvelous one.

“She was probably the best cook in the Hilltowns,” said Mrs. Lounsbury. She was especially good at cooking German foods like sauerbraten.

“It was just full speed ahead with her,” said her son. “We called her the mad dog.”

One of the things she was mad about was reading. Late in her life, both Dr. Kolanchick and Mrs. Lounsbury said, she would badger them to take her to the Voorheesville library where she would weekly select a half-dozen books and read them all. “She was like a whirlwind in that library,” said Dr. Kolanchick. “She’d read everything from histories to mysteries and best sellers. She just couldn’t get enough.”

Mrs. Saddlemire shared her love of books as the Berne librarian for over 26 years.

She was also passionate about history, and served as the Knox town historian for over 38 years. She liked researching genealogy and helping people discover their heritage.

Mrs. Lounsbury recalled taking her fourth-graders on an annual field trip to learn about local history. Mrs. Saddlemire would narrate the bus tour through the Hilltowns. One stop was at a small cemetery with a stone marker shaped like a soldier’s hat. She had a collection of letters for that young Civil War soldier that told how his parents didn’t want him to go to war, but he enlisted anyway. His letters home recounted first his training, and then the warfare. Then a letter from a nurse or doctor came from a hospital, and finally a letter from his mother told of his body being brought home.

“She was an engaging storyteller,” said Mrs. Lounsbury.

Mrs. Saddlemire was also dedicated to the Heldeberg Workshop, which runs creative summer programs for children. She chaired Discoverland. “She was a cherished board member who was loved and respected by all who worked with her,” her family said in a tribute.

“She tied all of her teaching directly to books,” said Mrs. Lounsbury. “She’d read, say, a book about leaves, and have everybody so excited that they couldn’t wait to go out on a trail and discover those things for themselves…She’d have the kids count acorns as they sat under an oak tree and she read them a story…She was a teacher’s teacher.”

After Crossgates Mall was built in Guilderand, Mrs. Saddlemire would get Mrs. Lounsbury to take her to the pizza place there. “She would hold court,” recalled Mrs. Lounsbury. “Former students would pass by and recognize her. If they were 50 years old, she’d still recognize them and remember things about them from kindergarten. She knew them, really knew them.”

One of those former students, Gary Kolanchick, became Mrs. Saddlemire’s doctor. He respected her determination. “She lived in her own house until she was ninety-three-and-a-half,” he said. “She wouldn’t take my advice and get a walker. Then she fell,” he said, and went to the nursing home.

“But,” he concluded, “her sons call her mad dog for a reason. When she got something in her head, she’d do it. You’ve got to admire that.”


Frieda Saddlemire is survived by her five sons and their wives: Austin and Laura Saddlemire, Andrew and Georgene Saddlemire, Alan and Jeanette Saddlemire, Alec and Eileen Saddlemire, and Col. Alden and Kathe Saddlemire. She also had a special motherly bond to Dr. Gary Kolanchick whom she loved as her sixth son. She is survived, too, by 10 grandchildren: Sarah, Rachel, Austin, Adrianne, Jennifer, Katherine, James, Anna, Jennifer, and Christopher, and by five great-grandchildren.

Her husband, Austin Saddlemire, died before her as did her four brothers — Fredrick, Rudolph, Otto, and George — and two sisters — Natalie and Martha.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 3, at 10:30 a.m. at the Knox Reformed Church. Friends may call on Friday, April 2, from 4 to 7:30 p.m. at the Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Heldeberg Workshop, Post Office Box 323, Voorheesville, NY 12186-0323.

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