My Dad was an excellent athlete. He was called “Irish” growing up because he loved the Notre Dame, “Fighting Irish.” By stature he was not terribly big but was incredibly agile, he used that asset to excel. He was a five-letter man in High School, played Navy Basketball and semi-professional baseball for the Kingston Dodgers farm team.
He was a great dad, hard working, loving, always helping each of his six children to find their talent and their identity. Personally, he taught me how to hit a baseball. I was a miserable ballplayer, but he gave me the lessons and skill to win the Little League batting trophy. My dad was a small-town pharmacist. Akins Pharmacy was a bit of an epicenter of activity in the early days. It had a soda fountain that many still remember – after school it was the place to meet up, catch up and be cool! The New York bus, “The Warwick Stage Line” started and ended at the front door of Akins. This was the 1960s and the world was changing very fast. Akins is at the corner of Main Street and McEwen Street. McEwen Street was a mostly residential street and many of our African American families lived in this neighborhood. My dad truly cared and loved the folks that lived there. He gave many young men and women the opportunity to work when there was still the cold shadow of discrimination in our country.
Along the way, my dad gave his community so much. He was active in his church, active in civic groups, dedicated to his family and a public servant. My dad was a trustee on the Village Board and liaison to parks and recreation. When a scrappy bunch of young men came to him to build a skate park – he listened and started working with them to make that a reality. When he passed in 1997, he left a legacy of commitment and many lessons that I still learn from today.
I was appointed to my dad’s seat on the Village Board. It was an honor to finish his term. Little did I know that it was the beginning of the life of public service and that I was prepared by a mentor, role model, but most of all a father.
When my well seems overdrawn or when the challenges of being a responsive representative, fair judge and leader seem difficult, my dad and the example he left remains my guide. The greatest gift he gave me is what it means to be a good father, and that is to give my son opportunities and choice to lead a full and giving life – so far, it’s working. He had the greatest influence on my life, he taught me to be myself, believe in my convictions, how to succeed and be resourceful. The most important lesson though is he showed me how to view the world with empathy and to be above all kind.
On behalf of the Village Board, I wish all our Warwick Fathers a Happy Father’s Day!!
The next Village Board meeting will take place on Mon., Jun. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Village Hall, located at 77 Main St. in Warwick.
The above column, written by Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, has been published in the June 12 issue of the Warwick Valley Dispatch.