[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Obituaries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 30, 2010

Michael Kuhar

RENSSELAERVILLE -— Michael Kuhar, a highway worker who enjoyed outdoor sports, died at his Rensselaerville home on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010.

Mr. Kuhar was born in Albany on March 6, 1949, son of the late William and Edith (Von Linden) Kuhar.

He was employed by the Albany County Highway Department until his retirement. He was a member of the Rensselaerville Rod & Gun Club and active in the Rensselaerville Ambulance Squad when able.

“He enjoyed hunting and fishing and was a friend to many,” his family wrote in a tribute.

He is survived by his sister, Jane Coutant and her husband, Malcolm; two aunts, Shirley Voin Linden and Marie Bogue; and one uncle, John Kuhar.

His parents died before him as did two uncles, James and Thomas Kuhar.

The funeral service will be Saturday, Oct. 2, at 2 p.m. at the Cunningham Funeral Home, 4898 Route 81 in Greenville. Friends may call at the funeral home from 1 to 2 p.m. prior to the service. Mourners may “light a candle” at ajcunninghamfh.com

Memorial contributions may be made to the Senior Bus, Town Hall, Medusa, NY, 12120.

Dorothy McDonald

Dorothy McDonald, a vibrant principal who knew the students at Clarksville Elementary School personally, died on Tuesday, Sept. 28 after being absent for months due to illness.

“She was a phenomenal person, a real role model for school administrators,” Michael Tebbano, superintendent of the Bethlehem School District, said yesterday. “She gave 150 percent of herself to see that kids were successful both academically, and socially and emotionally. She was the synergy that made Clarksville Elementary School the place that it is.”

The school will be closed tomorrow, Oct. 1, so that staff can attend the funeral.

Ms. McDonald grew up in New Salem, the oldest of four children. Her father worked for the state, and her mother was a homemaker.

She loved small-town life, which, Ms. McDonald said, was one of the things that attracted her to the Clarksville school.

She was a pupil in New Salem’s old-fashioned two-room schoolhouse and fondly recalled the teacher there, the late Phoebe Sisson. “Mrs. Sisson was the most warm, nurturing teacher,” Ms. McDonald said, using adjectives that this week were applied to her.

Ms. McDonald never forgot how kind and caring her elementary teacher was, she said. She went on to graduate from Clayton A. Bouton High School in Voorheesville. There, she was inspired by her English and Latin teacher, Ellen Murphy.

“She supported female students in ways that encouraged them in all subjects,” said Ms. McDonald. “She was an outstanding role model.”

When she was in high school and first started seriously thinking about a career, Ms. McDonald said, she didn’t know exactly what path she’d take. But, she said, “I always knew I would be in some form of human service.”

As a way to explore that interest, Ms. McDonald attended Emmanuel College in Boston, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She went on to earn a master’s degree in special education from The College of Saint Rose.

She took her first job as a teacher at a preschool in Albany. “Once I began that work, I just knew,” she said of wanting to work in education.

She later worked for the R.E. May School at St. Catherine’s Center — an elementary-age school for children with special needs — as a teacher for 13 years and then as the school’s principal for 12 years.

“It was a wonderful school,” said Ms. McDonald. “I learned a tremendous amount, particularly from the students.”

She left the R.E. May School in 2002 when she was 53 to become the principal at Clarksville Elementary. “Clarksville is a special school, she said, describing the joy she felt from the warmth of the community. She valued the camaraderie from the faculty and also said, “There’s very strong parent involvement in the school, and that’s a strong value to me.”

Clarksville is the smallest of Bethlehem’s five elementary schools and, in the early part of the decade, there was talk of closing the school.

“We were looking at developing a construction project,” said Dr. Tebbano, “and, while Dorothy was appreciative of the financial situation, she was the rallying force for keeping the school open. She believed Clarksville education was strong and worth keeping. She gave her darnedest for keeping a very special school.”

The school underwent $2.9 million in renovations, completed in 2007, as part of a $93 million district project approved by voters in 2003.

Dr. Tebbano went on to praise Ms. McDonald for being responsible for “building the feeling of community, the community ethic” at the Clarksville school.

Ms. McDonald would greet students as they disembarked from their buses, Dr. Tebbano said. “She knew every student in the school,” he said. “She knew something special about every one…Her smile and encouragement made children comfortable in school…She knew their families and she valued and cherished each student.”

Ms. McDonald also worked hard with the faculty on boosting student achievement and was successful in raising test scores, he said. And, he went on, “She mentored a lot of new principals in our school district.”

Under her tutelage, Dr. Tebbano said, “Kids learned to respect each other. Clarksville has a code of behavior that each child lives with.”

When Ms. McDonald first came to Clarksville Elementary School eight years ago, she said she could see herself spending the rest of her career as Clarksville’s principal. “It’s a really exceptional education community and it’s exactly the kind of place where I want to be,” she said then. “There couldn’t be work more rewarding than this.”

She said of elementary-age children, “It’s a tremendously formative time in the life of a child. They’re forming a value system, carrying ideas about the world, and learning about basic things like right and wrong, and issues of character…

“Elementary educators are able to be part of the influencing process. We help them develop fine, strong characters, to see themselves as competent, caring people, and to develop learning strategies they’ll use their whole lives.”

Ms. McDonald did not marry and had no biological children but, she said, she felt she had hundreds of children in her school.


Calling hours will be held today, Sept. 30, from 4 to 8 p.m. at All Saints Catholic Church (formerly St. Margaret Mary) at 1168 Western Ave. The funeral service will also be held at All Saints, at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 1.

Melissa Hale-Spencer

Mary Catherine Schaible

ALTAMONT — Mary Catherine Schaible, a long-time Altamont resident and selfless member of the community, died on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010. She was 89.

Ms. Schaible was born in Altamont, to Mabel and Christian Benjamin Schaible. She graduated from Altamont High School, and Mildred Elley.

“She was a deeply committed member of the Altamont community, giving of her time selflessly, to many concerns,” wrote her family in a tribute. Mrs. Schaible served the Altamont Reformed Church as an ordained deacon, the coordinator of the clothing exchange, and the overseer of the church library.

She worked extensively on the behalf of the Altamont Free Library, and had a lasting interest in the history of Altamont and its environs.

“She advocated tirelessly on behalf of ‘Running Strong for American Indian Youth,’ had a passion for the care of creation, and loved nature in its fullest,” her family wrote.

She is survived by many nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews, and great-great-nieces and great-great-nephews.

Her parents died before her, as did her sister, Shirley Mattice, and her brother, Benjamin Schaible.

Ms. Schaible donated her body to Albany Medical College for the purpose of medical research.

A memorial service will be held at the Altamont Reformed Church, at 129 Lincoln Ave. in Altamont, on Friday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. All are welcome to share in a time of fellowship with Ms. Schaible’s family after the service.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Altamont Rescue Squad, at 1853 Western Ave., Albany, NY 12203; the Altamont Free Library, at 105 Park St., Altamont, NY 12009; the Altamont Reformed Church, with address above; or Guilderhaven, at 6655 Route 158, Altamont, NY 12009. 

Ernest F. Stressel

GUILDERLAND — Ernest Frederick Stressel, who served in the United States Navy during World War II and the Korean War and then worked in the elevator construction and repair industry for 30 years, died on July 3, 2010. He was 82.

A celebration of his life will be held will beheld at the Lynnwood Reformed Church at 3714 Carman Road in Guilderland on Saturday, Oct. 2, at noon. A luncheon will follow.

“Ernie left us a legacy of laugher,” his family wrote. “Guests are welcome to share their memories during the celebration.”

Arthur Dare Willis

Art Willis maintained a defiant pitch in his classroom and his life, tempered by his interest in understanding his fellow man.

The long-time teacher and poet died on Sept. 24, 2010 in his home in Quaker Street Village. He was 74.

In a book on education he wrote with Marcia Greenberg, Mr. Willis described the merits of defiance in his students, writing, “Like bright pieces of stained glass in a kaleidoscope, scattered energies in the classroom will turn into a symmetry that is unexpected and delightful… This attitude of defiance ensures that this being — this student or this teacher — intends to follow his or her journey of context, connection, and meaning.”

His own journey was shaped largely by a year he spent as an 11-year-old boy in a Moscow school, when his father was acting as the first American cultural attaché to the U.S.S.R. His teacher there instilled in students an unquestioned belief in their own ability to understand and excel.

“Always direct, never couched, always feminine, never frail, she conveyed to me a towering figure of intelligence, warmth, and strength,” he said of her.

Mr. Willis, who taught at Voorheesville’s high school for 25 years and at several other schools before that, would walk with his students outside of class, finding ways to connect with them and looking for where they were coming from, said his long-time friend, Dennis Sullivan. He took each student as he or she was.

Coming from a Quaker tradition, Mr. Willis gave advice to a new head of a meeting house, Mr. Sullivan recalled. “Always have respect for silence, out of which words come,” he said; that way, “when you say something, it will have full meaning.”

“He never minced words,” Mr. Sullivan concluded.

His wife, Judith Young Willis, credited his traveled upbringing with shaping him. “I think that kind of background helps a person be very broadminded,” she said, explaining that he had gone to kindergarten in Panama. “He didn’t judge people. He always tried to understand where they were coming from.”

It was important to him to instill in his students the value of their own voices. When he came to Voorheesville to chair the social studies department, he brought with him Howard Zinn’s People’s History of The United States, Mr. Sullivan said. “It’s important for students to understand what it is to have a voice at the most local level,” Mr. Sullivan said of his friend’s philosophy.

Sometimes Mr. Willis had the intensity of an Old Testament profit, Mr. Sullivan said, explaining, “Sometimes his ire would get going. He would see the injustice of the world.”

Mr. Willis never lost his compassion for people, though.

“He was like a fire engine,” Mr. Sullivan said. A figurative fire would erupt, and “he would be there with the hose.” He’d douse the flame and try to get at the core of the problem.

Mr. Willis wasted no time on minutia, said his friend. “There was nothing small about him.”

Although, Mr. Sullivan said, Mr. Willis’s poetry had a “certain impishness. Almost as if he were like a sprite.”

Mr. Willis read widely and published a book of his own poetry, called Poet in his Flying Suit.

Emily Dickinson was one of his favorite poets to read, his wife said, explaining, “She was able to put to words exactly how he felt about things.”


Born in East St. Louis, Ill. on March 13, 1936, Mr. Willis was the son of May Engness Willis and Armond Dare Willis. As a teen, he attended Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. in 1958 with a bachelor of arts degree in English and political science. He received a master’s degree in history and education in 1959 from the University at Albany.

Mr. Willis taught in both public and private schools for 39 years. Between 1959 and 1972, he taught at Milne High School in Albany; Arlington High School in Arlington, Ill.; Leysin American School in Leysin, Switzerland; Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Barlow School in Amenia, N.Y.; and Rhinebeck Central School in Rhinebeck, N.Y.

In 1973, he became chairman of the Social Studies Department at Voorheesville Central School where he taught psychology, anthropology, and sociology until his retirement in 1998.

He established many programs for his students and fellow teachers, including “Natural Helpers” (a peer counseling program), the Philosophy Club, and Poet’s Club. He created the high school’s literary magazine and facilitated a teacher exchange between St. Petersburg, Russia and the Capital District of New York in the early 1990s.

Mr. Willis served the greater community as a founding board member of Friends World College; festival paramedic; Duanesburg Town Historian; Duanesburg School Board member; and George Landis Arboretum Board member.

Mr. Willis is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judith Young Willis; and his daughters, Hannah Willis, of Port Orchard, Wash., and Annie Willis, of San Francisco, Calif., and his step-children, Thomas Yoder and his wife, Colleen, of Durham, N.H., Theodore Yoder and his wife, Michelle, of Penobscot, Maine, and Jennifer DeJoy and her husband, Derek, of Belfast, Maine. He is also survived by six grandchildren and his sister, Lesley Barg, of Lake Geneva, Wisc., as well as nieces, nephews, beloved family members, and friends.

A celebration of Arthur Willis’s life will be held on Sunday, Oct. 10 at the George Landis Arboretum at 1 p.m. Funeral arrangements are by the White-Van Buren Funeral Home in Delanson.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Duanesburg Historical Society, Post Office box 421, Duanesburg, NY 12056; the Schenectady Community Hospice; or the Friends Burial Plot Association, c/o John Peters, Box 146, Quaker Street, NY 12141.

— Saranac Hale Spencer

[Return to Home Page]