Born on December 18, 1924, like all of his brothers, Pete LaBate was a great high school athlete during the early 1940’s, who served his country during WWII as an airplane mechanic in the US Navy. After coming home from war, he began his career as a crackerjack and highly respected plumber, married his beloved Eileen and they did what all good Amsterdam LaBate’s did back then, they increased the population of our City. They had a total of six children but sadly lost their daughter Margaret at the age of 4 in 1963. Through the years I would run into Pete often. It could be while he was golfing at Amsterdam Muni, attending his kid’s (and later his grandchildren’s) diversified conglomeration of activities, in church at St. Mary’s, or bartending social events with his delightful assortment of brothers. Every single time I did he was smiling.
My friend Joe Pepe had asked me to be a part of his 1987 Mayoral campaign committee, which is how I first met fellow member John Northrup (born December 18, 1919) He and his good buddy and neighbor, the one and only Jimmy Bergen would drive down to Joe’s campaign meetings from their Henrietta Heights neighborhood and regal us with their amazing first-hand knowledge of just about every family that lived in Amsterdam since the turn of the 20th Century. Like Pete LaBate, John was a proud veteran of WWII, serving in the Army Air Force in the European theater as a flight officer. After the war, he married his wife Clara and began a 24 year career with the Post Office, retiring as the assistant postmaster in 1972. He then started a second career with the State of New York as an audit clerk. Like Pete LaBate, John was an active member of St. Mary’s Church and loved to golf at Muni. He also absolutely loved his Henrietta neighborhood and neighbors and was a lifelong advocate for the Sassafras Preserve. John and Clara had one child, a son Bruce, who now lives in Niskayuna.
Unlike LaBate and Northrup, the name “Frank Drazek” won’t sound familiar to most Amsterdam residents. That’s because after being born here on December 18, 1925 and graduating from Lynch High School in 1943, he went to Cornell and earned his degree in Veterinary Medicine and settled in central New York. In 1968, Dr. Francis Joseph Drazek became the Assistant Director of the Division of Animal Industry at the Diagnostic Laboratory of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He and his wife Lorraine were residents of Ellenville, NY, where they raised four children and where Frank was elected and served as Mayor for 21 years.
Pete LaBate, John Northrup and Frank Drazek are three classic examples of the type of folks this Mohawk Valley city produces, proud, caring, hard-working, involved, loving human beings.
I’ve already started work on the second volume of “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays” and the three guys we salute today will be included in it. I will be sharing the complete posts of some of the Volume II birthday celebrants in my Amsterdam Birthday Blog Newsletter, which is distributed every month. If you are not yet a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up for free here.