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Character Counts...


By Gail Smith
Many times lately I’ve heard at Town and Village Board meetings that one thing Hoosick Community does well is come alongside her people in time of need. At a recent meeting where the Town and Village sat together for the first time (in maybe forever), someone suggested that we need to find out who we (Hoosick) are at our core, and pursue that.

I think it has become evident over the years who we are at our core, at least in part. We are a community of character, one who cares about her people, who rallies in the face of adversity, and bears one anothers’ burdens. It is unfortunate that walking out this part of our being typically means that someone in our midst is suffering greatly.

Last week, twenty-one year old Husson College student Stephen Colvin met an untimely death in a skiing accident. As a result, people we know and love are facing the pain and heartache of losing a young man who was deeply loved and cherished and rooted in their hearts, in our community and in the lives of anyone he touched.

This article is birthed from an e-mail that was forwarded to me from Carol MacDonald, Trustee for the Hoosick Cemetery. It included a photo of Stephen’s friends who had shoveled off his gravesite. In a conversation with her, Carol shared that she had the idea to ask them to help out so the family wouldn’t have to incur expenses to have the shoveling done. A phone call was placed to her co-worker Susan Burns, whose son Bradley was mentored by Steve when he started playing football. Almost immediately Brad called back to confirm that they would be happy to help.

At 11:00 the following morning, car after car pulled into the cemetery and out got almost 20 of Stephen’s friends with shovels in hand. Forty-five minutes later, the shoveling of the gravesite and paths to it from the roadway was done. They were grateful that Carol had thought of them and asked if she would take a picture. She was so inspired by this experience, that she wanted to share the story, and passed along the photo with a comment, “Another reason Hoosick is such an amazing community: This is the response I received when I asked if any of Stephen Colvin's teammates, classmates & friends could help clear snow from his gravesite today.”

These young adults arrived at Hoosick Cemetery with an eagerness to help, despite the pain and grief that was in their hearts. Though tearful at times, these were wonderful moments that they could spend together doing something useful and meaningful in their time of loss. As blessed as Carol was to have them shovel, they were doubly blessed to be able to do something to make a difference for their dear friend and his family. You know how that goes. One can feel so helpless at a time like this. This simple act made a huge statement about these boys’ character.

I called my cousin Shari Hand because I knew her home had been a gathering place for Steve’s friends after they learned of his passing. It was the natural thing for the Hands to do. Steve was like a son to them and like a brother to their sons. Opening their home and their hearts at a time when these “kids” needed to be together to talk, to laugh, to cry and share memories was critical. The Hands “rallied” as did many of you, but what I learned through further conversation with Shari about their oldest son Ryan and his friends brought tears to my eyes and confirmed that it was the character of these individuals that I needed to focus on here.

Ryan was a close friend, a classmate and teammate of Steve’s. Upon receiving the news of the accident, he determined that his friends would not hear about Steve’s passing through Twitter or Facebook, so he purposed in his heart to place personal phone calls to each of those who were out of town, then coordinated with other friends to help get them back home.

If that was not enough, one of Stephen’s friends purchased part of John Michael Crucetti’s plane ticket from New Zealand so he could come home to grieve with them. Some friends headed to Hartford to pick up John Michael, while others drove to Albany Airport during the snowstorm to pick up another friend. “They just rallied together,” Shari said. Character and rallying is what this article is all about - just getting the job done in the midst of pain and suffering, not really knowing how it’s all going to come out in the end, but taking one day at a time, doing the right thing in the moment, and trusting that it will (all come out). And it did. Steve’s friends were able to be home to be together because of the rallying of his friends. Thank you.

These young adults have character and their character is a reflection of Stephen, a beloved friend, leader and role model in our community and at Husson College and beyond. He would have been so proud.

Shari concluded, “This community has so much to be proud of in its young people. They make mistakes like other kids do. It’s a part of growing up, but when it comes to really digging in and doing what’s right and where their hearts are, there’s no question that these kids are all heart. It proves that they would do anything for anyone in need.” The photo generated many inspiring e-mail and Facebook responses which gave testimony after testimony of the character and integrity of Steve’s friends, Hoosick’s young people in general, and our community as a whole.

HAYC3 President Mike Baker gave a little deeper perspective, “Character like this does not happen by accident. Good parents, good community, good educators and good role models all helped in making these young men who they are. You all played a role in this. You should all be proud. This is why we choose to live in a community not just a village, town or city. A community is not a zip code or a location on a map, rather a group of individuals and families who come together to make Hoosick Falls a better place to live and raise families.”

Laura Reynolds added, “We can never underestimate what this community has done to prepare our youth for their future, and no matter how many times they may stumble, there are many to pick them up. It is the beauty of this community. Thank you to all.”

Through these statements, I was reminded of a quote by teacher and scholar Forrest Witcraft, “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove... but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” Individuals, families, schools, organizations, churches and our government – thank you for making a difference in the lives of our children.

Character is defined as “a set of qualities that make a place or thing different from other places or things.” Hoosick Community has a very special character that sets us apart. It seems we have seen more than our share of tragedy. Many families have walked through much pain, but in the wake of it all we have rallied, and walking through these things together has helped develop our character. It has helped make us who we are at our core. It has strengthened and unified us. Grieving the loss of Stephen Colvin together will further develop our character, strengthen and unify us. May he rest in peace.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Stephen’s families and friends. We pray you will experience God’s grace and comfort, strength and peace in your time of loss.