Story by Jennifer O’Connor
Family, friends, and local officials gathered on Wed., Oct. 24 at the Landmark Inn in Warwick to honor Doug Stage, Sue Gardner and Marge King-Porter for their many years of service to the community during a ceremony hosted by the Warwick Valley Rotary Club.
At the beginning of the event, Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton, a Rotary member and master of the ceremonies, acknowledged and introduced a special guest – Carole Tjoa, the chair of the Rotary’s District PolioPlus. Proceeds from the evening’s event will be matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation toward eradicating polio globally.
Sweeton also spoke about Doug Stage, a life-long resident and an attorney in a fourth-generation law practice, who was chosen as Warwick’s 2018-19 Citizen of the Year. Stage has spent numerous hours volunteering and helping residents, especially children in the community.
“I have seen the things he has done that half of us in this room will never know,” said Sweeton, who has known Stage since grade school.
As a member of the Warwick Rotary Club, Stage worked on the annual Christmas Party for underprivileged children. As a past president and Board member of the Warwick Lions Club, he chaired the Lions SEE (Screening Eyes Early) Program, a project that has been instrumental in early detection of treatable vision issues with young children.
Another childhood friend of Stage, who spoke at the event, was Stuart Durland. Everyone laughed as Durland joked about how in preschool Stage was a volunteer even back then – giving his snacks away to other kids and helping to pick up toys at the end of the day.
“During his 35 years in business, he has been a consummate community volunteer,” said Durland, praising how Stage’s wife, Christine, and their daughter, Katie, have also joined the family law firm.
Stage has served on many other organizations including the Warwick Ambulance, Village of Warwick Sesquicentennial Committee, Cemetery Association, Warwick Country Club, Bon Secours Community Hospital Foundation Board, Warwick Little League, Warwick Soccer League, the Chamber of Commerce, the Warwick Historical Society, and the Warwick Jaycees.
The Jaycees, a group of young people under the age of 35 that performed community service, started the Citizen of the Year award. Although the Jaycees is no longer in existence, eleven years ago the Warwick Valley Rotary Club revived the award.
The Warwick Jaycees first Warwick Citizen of the Year award was presented 50 years ago to Stage’s grandfather, Lawrence Stage. Both of their names are now displayed on plaques that hang in the Warwick Town Hall, located at 132 Kings Hwy. in Warwick.
Stage thanked his family, friends, co-workers, the Warwick Valley Rotary, Warwick EMS, and the entire Town of Warwick. He credited learning about community service from his grandfather, founder of the Warwick Community Ambulance, and from other family members including his parents.
“You learn from your family,” said Stage. “And with every volunteer comes a wonderful family behind them – my wife, Christine; my kids, James and Katie; and my grandkids. I couldn’t have done any of this without them.”
Stage further credits Lon Tytell, a retired school teacher and former reporter and sales representative at the Warwick Valley Dispatch, as his mentor. Tytell, a dedicated volunteer in the community, encouraged Stage to join the Lions Club and the Jaycees.
Also honored at the event was Marge King-Porter, who received the Outstanding Community Service award. As a long-time volunteer in the community, King-Porter is known as someone who prefers to works behind the scenes.
“Marge is a dynamo fundraiser and organizer who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to get something done,” said Sweeton.
She has raised countless funds for St. Anthony Community Hospital and other organizations. As a member and past president of Warwick in Bloom, she worked with other members to prepare for the Village of Warwick’s successful campaign to win the prestigious International Communities in Bloom Award.
As a member of the Rotary Club, she is the service organization’s chair for the Holiday Party for Children in Need, a server at the Warwick Senior Picnic, and heads the decoration committee for the Warwick End of Summer Luau. She has chaired the Applefest T-shirt committee and volunteers for the Warwick Valley Humane Society’s annual golf outing and car show.
Orange County Legislator Barry Cheney said to King-Porter, “You go about everything you do and all the contributions you made to this community with grace and dignity, and I appreciate that very much.”
Sue Gardner Receives Award
Another resident, who prefers to be out of the public eye is Sue Gardner. The Deputy Town Historian received the Outstanding Community Service award. She was acknowledged for volunteering countless hours of work in promoting, documenting and preserving the history of Warwick.
In the late 1990s when the Historical Society was in a small room at Baird’s Tavern, Gardner and her volunteer assistants began indexing and categorizing boxes of unsorted original papers, ledgers, photographs, maps, and manuscripts.
“As an archivist, she is a steward of our historic history in Warwick. It’s a very rich history that can easily be lost without someone dedicated to preserving and protecting our history,” said Sweeton.
Gardner has been instrumental in restoring the historical home of General John Hathorn, located on Hathorn Rd. in Warwick. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hathorn was a commander in the Battle of Minisink during the Revolutionary War. He was a Major General of the State militia. He served as a Town Supervisor, Assemblyman, and as a Congressman.
Gardner also worked with Town Historian Dr. Richard Hull on numerous volunteer activities at the Warwick Historical Society, Friends of Hathorn House, the Albert Wisner Public Library, and Town and Orange County historical projects. She has helped to create a clearer biographical and genealogical understanding of Warwick’s past.
“I am not actually interested in history, I am interested in Warwick. My goal is to help people understand that as you drive through our landscape the community of Warwick echoes back, and echoes back, and echoes back – and the story of people before us is relevant to us. If they can make it and if they can find solutions then we can too,” said Gardner.
Gardner, along with King-Porter and Stage, were presented with a plaque from the Warwick Rotary as well as certificates from the Town of Warwick; the Village of Warwick, presented by Mayor Michael Newhard; the Orange County Legislature, presented by Legislator Barry Cheney; and from County Clerk Annie Rabbitt, presented by Supervisor Sweeton.
Music during the evening was provided by Frank Truatt and Taylor Sterling of WTBQ.