June 23 – Happy Birthday Eddie Kuczek

photo_012420_2749454_1_photo1_cropped_20141009.jpgxIt wasn’t surprising that a future Major League ballplayer like Steve Kuczek could average .536 during Amsterdam High School’s 1941 varsity baseball season and help extend the team’s winning streak to 13 straight games. But the shortstop wasn’t even the best player on that squad. That honor went to his older brother and today’s Amsterdam Birthday celebrant, Eddie Kuczek. It was Eddie who led the team in batting average with a .620 mark while also leading Coach Jack Tracy’s outstanding ball club in runs scored. At the time, Tracy called the gifted second baseman “the best Major League prospect he’d ever coached” and the New York Yankees agreed. (Note: Eddie and Steve had four other brothers who played AHS baseball and all six Kuczek’s were incredibly good at the sport!)

Steve (l) and Eddie Kuczek in 1946

During his junior season at AHS, Eddie had been invited to work out with the Amsterdam Rugmakers, the Yankees’ Class C affiliate in the CanAm League. Eddie Sawyer, who managed the Rugmakers during that 1940 season loved the kid and had recommended that the Bronx Bomber braintrust sign Kuczek right then and there. But the Yankees head scout at the time, the legendary Paul Krichell decided it was best to let the young infielder finish school. So Kuczek spent a second consecutive season playing with his high school team and practicing with the Rugmakers. He was then asked to ink a Rugmaker contract in January of 1942 and he would have become the first ever Amsterdam-born player to sign with the local team.

Unfortunately, the timing of the offer couldn’t have been any worse. Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor just a month earlier and the US was at war. Eddie decided to continue his education instead and that spring, he enrolled in the pre-dental program at Colgate University and also play collegiate baseball. All he did at the Hamilton, NY school in his freshman season was lead their varsity baseball team in hitting with a .365 batting average and get offered a tryout at the Polo Grounds by one of New York City’s other baseball teams, the Giants.

By 1943, Kuczek decided it was time to serve his country and he did so as a member of the Army Air Corp. He made it back home safely despite being involved in an airplane crash that injured his hand. He returned to Colgate in 1945 after being discharged from the service and earned his diploma that spring. But he still had some baseball eligibility left so he returned to the school in 1946, where he was reunited with his brother Steve. The siblings expected to form the Raiders starting middle infield. But Ed’s hand injury hindered his return to the sport he had once mastered. At the age of 25, he gave up the hope of playing in the big leagues and instead went to work for Sears for the next 38 years and ended up living in Pennsylvania. He died there in October of 2014 at the age of 91. His younger brother Steve had passed away four years earlier at the age of 85.

In addition to baseball, Eddie Kuczek was also a world-class speed skater in his younger days. He won regional and state championships skating for the Fort Johnson AAU Skating Club.

(This well-known Amsterdam physician also celebrated his birthday on June 23.)


June 22 – Happy Birthday Norbert Petricca

By the late 1930’s World War II was already raging in Europe and the Japanese were already engaged in hostilities in Asia. Though America had not yet entered the fighting, the US Government saw the need for preparation so Congress authorized the expansion of Naval Shore Activities including construction of military bases in both War theaters. According to the Federal Government’s protocol at the time, private US firms were hired to oversee these projects. The civilian employees of those firms were urged not to resist military actions by the enemy because if they did and were captured while doing so, they could be executed as guerrillas under existing international wartime conventions. When the US entered WWII, the need to militarize these construction crews became apparent and that’s how the Seabees were born.

The “Sea” portion of the name came from the fact that the the Seabees were a branch of the US Navy and the “Bee” from the insects of the same name, who are always busy working, bothering no one unless they themselves are bothered first at which point they retaliate with a sharp sting. The official logo was a flying bee wearing a seaman’s cap and carrying tools and a machine gun with its six legs.. The Seabee motto translated from Latin was “We build, we fight.”

To staff these new construction battalions, the Navy sought experienced highly skilled craftsman in all areas of the construction trade. Young Norbert Petricca, a 1935 graduate of Lynch High School who was born on June 22, 1916, had learned the plumbing trade from his dad Joe. The elder Petricca had moved to Amsterdam’s South Side from Schenectady in 1924 and started his own plumbing and heating business. Norbert had gotten married to an Amsterdam girl named Geraldine Loucks in 1939 and he and his Dad were in the process of growing their client list when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. One month later, Petricca enlisted in the newly formed Seabees.

In late January of 1943, he boarded a ship with the rest of his unit and headed off to Europe. The ship never made it to its destination. It was attacked by a German U-Boat somewhere in the North Atlantic on February 2 and Norbert Petricca was officially declared as killed in action that April. Besides his Wife and Dad, the young hero left behind his Mom Anna and a sister Clara.

June 21 – Happy Birthday Sam Fox

2SamFoxIf you lived in Amsterdam, NY during the 1950’s, ’60’s or ’70’s and remember shopping in the city’s downtown, there were two great clothing stores that should stick out in your mind. If you were a man or teen age boy it was Mortan’s and if you were a woman or young lady, Holzheimer & Shaul was “the” place to shop. The folks who ran these two businesses just seemed to work harder at everything. They always carried the latest styles, they offered the biggest variety, they had great promotions and each store always looked absolutely fantastic inside and out.

Today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Sam Fox was the merchandising wizard behind the longtime success of Holzheimer & Shaul. He was born in Rhode Island in 1914 to a German Jewish family and graduated from Bryant College planning to become a Certified Public Accountant. The problem with that career goal was that at the time, America was in the midst of the Great Depression and hiring accountants was not a top priority of struggling companies. So instead, Sam went into the family business of retailing, first going to work for his Uncle, who owned a department store in Elmira, NY. Then, after serving in the Navy during World War II, Sam came to Amsterdam.

bus_345_wemSam’s Grandfather had started a department store in Amsterdam back in the 1860’s called S. Levi and Sons. It was a large store located on the south side of East Main Street and it sold menswear, womenswear, furniture, china, cosmetics and even had a full service beauty salon on site. Sam’s Uncle eventually purchased the store from his grandfather, moved it to its iconic location at the northeast corner of East Main and Church Streets and renamed it Holzheimer & Shaul.

The store began catering exclusively to women and became one of the most successful retail establishments in the history of the Rug City. Sam’s promotional instincts and his ability to recognize what female customers wanted were keys to the store’s success. It was Fox who came up with Old Fashion Bargain Days, Farmers’ Markets and Fashion Shows as promotional events and each caused significant increased traffic to downtown. After managing the store for his Uncle for many years, Sam purchased it outright in 1968.

When the first phase of the Mall opened in 1977, Sam made Holzheimer’s one of its anchors. At first, the store thrived in its new location but by the time Sam retired in 1987 and closed his beloved business, it was pretty clear the Mall was not going to be the long-term savior of retail in downtown Amsterdam.

In addition to running one of Amsterdam’s most popular shopping spots, Sam became deeply involved in the community via the Boy Scouts, Kiwanis, the Chamber of Commerce the Masons, and his beloved Temple if Israel Synagogue. There were few local charities he did not support and few local people who did not know him. He and his wife Maxine had two children, a daughter Amy and a son Alan. Sam died on September 4, 2001.


June 20 – Happy Birthday Robert Trent Jones

9174353-smallIt sits on a 196 acre plot of land that forms part of the border between the city and town that share a common name. Most of the area used to be owned by the family of former Amsterdam Mayor John Carmichael and was known as Carmichael Heights. During the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration was put in place to fund public works projects that would benefit and expand the infrastructures of our country and its state’s counties and cities and more importantly, give the unemployed jobs. In 1934, then Amsterdam mayor Art Carter is credited with getting it put on the list of approved WPA projects but it was today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant who took the money, men and materials provided and turned Carmichael Heights into a masterpiece.

Robert Trent Jones was born in England on June 20, 1908. He came to this country at the age of five and his family settled in East Rochester. He fell in love with the game of golf at a very young age and became very skilled at the sport. Health problems would prevent him from competing at the professional level but would not stop him from becoming a legend of the game anyway. When he was ready for college, he went to Cornell University and convinced officials there to let him devise his own curriculum for golf course architecture. Because golf courses were WPA fundable, he couldn’t have picked a better time to become a course designer.

Jones formed a partnership with a golf architect from Canada named Stanley Thompson and after designing several Canadian courses they opened an office in New York City. It was Mayor Carter who called them up and asked them to design Amsterdam Municipal and during the years 1935-38, Robert Trent Jones became a frequent visitor to the Rug City and a regular guest at the Barnes Hotel.

After just three weeks on the job, Jones told Recorder Sports Editor Jack Minnoch that the site chosen for the Amsterdam course was “spectacular” and that the crew of workers placed at his disposal “the best” he’d yet worked with, which was very impressive praise considering by that point the firm of Thompson and Jones had already designed 100 golf courses. Jones’ goal with Muni was to create a paradise for both nature and golf and though that sounds a bit superfluous, this author can attest to the fact that he came awfully darn close!

Jones made sure the course was designed and constructed in such a way that it challenged the very good golfers while at the same time providing forgiveness to the beginning hacker. For example, he built the fifteenth hole in such a way that a long straight drive from the elevated tee had a great chance of landing in the creek that crossed the center of the narrowing fairway at the 220 yard mark but he left everything before that creek wide open to give a duffer a clear and shorter second shot over the same obstacle.

Jones absolutely loved the natural ravine that ran through the property and used it to serve as the setting to two of Muni’s most picturesque par 3 holes, the fourth and sixteenth. I challenge anyone to find a more picturesque view in the Mohawk Valley than the one you can gaze at from the patio of the Muni clubhouse looking south over the course. It’s as if Jones took the hand of God and gave it a perfect manicure.

It took work crews that varied from 50-200 men (depending on the season) three years to finish the course itself. The grand opening was held in July of 1938, when Jones arranged for the great Gene Sarazen and PGA champion Tom Creavy to play an exhibition match. Creavy’s partner was Antler’s pro John Lorde while Sarazen played with Amsterdam Muni’s first-ever first pro, Frank Hartig. Hartig’s initial staff included Dick Stennard as his assistant and Alphonse “Measles” Raco as the caddy master.

Jones went on to design a total of 500 courses. He died in June of 2000 at the age of 93.

(June 20 is also the birthday of one of Arthur Carter’s successors as Mayor of Amsterdam.)

June 19 – Happy Birthday Bruce Anderson

BruceAnderson2Bruce Anderson, a black man, was born on June 19, 1845 in the town of Mexico, NY, which is located about an hour’s drive north of Syracuse, near the southern shore of Lake Ontario. By the time the Civil War broke out, Anderson had moved east and was living with a white family in Gloversville, most likely working on the family’s farm. Then in August of 1864, he enlisted in the 142nd New York Infantry Group K, one of the few mixed-race regiments in existence in the Union Army at the time.

On Christmas Day in 1864, Anderson’s regiment landed just north of Fort Fisher, NC, a heavily fortified position protecting the key southern port of Wilmington, NC. It was the last major coastal stronghold still held by the Confederate Army. The 142nd was supposed to have joined in on the first attack on the Fort but the battle was called off shortly after it had commenced and Group K was brought back. Three weeks later, Anderson’s regiment was made part of the brigade led by Brigadier General Newton Curtis, which was to lead the second attack on the Fort.

Curtis asked for 12 volunteers who were to attempt a mad dash over open ground and under withering fire from 600 enemy riflemen to the large wooden pole fence that served as the Fort’s first line of defense. Then using only axes, those 12 men were to create holes in that fence so that the rest of the brigade could break through at various points. Anderson was not one of the first twelve to volunteer but when he realized a friend of his from Gloversville, who had a wife and two children had done so, he insisted he be allowed to take his place.

The 12 men miraculously succeeded at their mission but ten of them were killed in the process. Anderson was one of the two survivors. Major General Adelbert Ames, the Union commander of the successful second assault on the Fort, prepared a report recommending all twelve men be awarded the Medal of Honor. Somehow, his report was then misplaced.

After the War, Anderson moved to Illinois for a short time, but census data verified he was back in New York, living in Johnstown by 1870 with his first wife and three children. He then divorced his first wife, moved to Amsterdam, NY married a women named Julia James and fathered four more children. He worked as a servant for the family then living at 317 Guy Park Avenue and listed that address as his residence. In 1914, he hired a lawyer to petition for the Medal of Honor he had never received. The Army’s Adjutant General opened up an investigation and on December 28, 1914, he was awarded this country’s highest military honor.

Anderson died in Amsterdam on August 22, 1922 at the age of 77 and is buried here, in Green Hill Cemetery.


June 18 – Happy Birthday Maria Riccio Bryce

Mary HeadshotThere is no shortage of Amsterdam Birthday Blog celebrant candidates for June 18th. For example, Felix Aulisi was born on this date. He’s the shoemaker’s son who immigrated to Amsterdam from Italy as a 12-year-old and grew up to become a revered Supreme Court Justice. Then there’s Sammy Pepe, who opened and ran one of Amsterdam’s most popular Italian restaurants and was also a noteworthy promoter of local boxing. Congressman Paul Tonko was also born on June 18. I believe he is the only congressman in our City’s history to be born here and to live here his entire life. All three of these gentlemen certainly deserve to be featured in their own Birthday Blog post, which should tell you just how much I admire the woman I will be honoring today.

Maria Riccio Bryce used to be my babysitter. Well actually, my working Mom would hire her to watch my younger sisters and brother during the summer months but when she was at my house I usually stuck around too. At the time, she was a student at Wilbur Lynch High School and one of the most talented student actors and musicians to ever grace the stage of the elegant Lynch auditorium. Back then she played a marvelous Anita in West Side Story, and absolutely nailed the lead role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl.

After graduating from Lynch, she went to Manhattanville College, married an Englishman named Alan Bryce, who she had met in summer stock and then moved to London. The two of them founded and ran The Overground Theatre, which became one of that city’s leading fringe (think off-Broadway) theatres in London during the 1970’s. Then came the 1980s and Margaret Thatcher, whose Conservative Government ended subsidies for the arts, which in the high rent district of London meant the Bryces’ theatre could no longer afford to operate.

She and her husband decided to return to Amsterdam with their two young sons and a third on the way. To say Maria was not happy about the move would be a gross understatement. Slowly but surely, however, she reconnected with family and friends and watched her sons thrive in school, become fanatic followers of the New York Mets and get woven into the fabric of her old hometown. For Maria, Amsterdam was evolving from being a great place to grow up to becoming a great place to raise her own family. She’s never again left.

I reconnected with Maria when all three of her boys, Duncan, Andrew and Peter played on the Firefighters Wee Men baseball team I helped coach. Her husband became a de facto assistant on our coaching staff and Maria came to every game, often with her Dad, the late Pete Riccio, who was the guy who convinced Kirk Douglas, his best friend from High School to go with him to St. Lawrence College.

Once back in Amsterdam, Maria returned to her composing, writing and theatre direction at both Proctors and The Egg in Albany. Her play, Hearts of Fire, which commemorated the Schenectady Massacre was well received. Then in 2000, she responded to an advertisement she saw that was publicizing grant availability for a community art project. Maria’s marriage had just ended in divorce and her youngest boy, Peter had just left for his first year of college, making her the emptiest sort of an empty nester. She applied for the grant. She got it. The result was what I personally believe was one of the greatest gifts the City of Amsterdam ever received.

The idea for writing a choral work about Amsterdam had originally come to Maria as she was riding back to Amsterdam after bringing her Peter to Harvard. Her oldest boy Duncan had gone to MIT and the middle son Andrew, to Swarthmore. As she made her way back up the Mass Pike she started thinking about how big of a role Amsterdam had played not just in her life but also in the lives of her three boys. She began thinking of a way she could show her gratitude.

The result was The Amsterdam Oratorio, sixteen wonderful songs, each focusing on a different aspect of life in our old Rug City. One celebrated birth another death. Love, going to school, immigration, the mills, church, war, Maria brilliantly put to music and words the path of life so many of our families have followed as residents of this City.

I was just as impressed by Maria’s ability to put together a huge, multidimensional group of people to promote, stage and perform her work. Every aspect of the production was handled near flawlessly. Then, less than a month before the scheduled October 5, 2001 opening night, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our Country occurred. Maria’s first thought was to cancel the Oratorio but her crew argued that it needed to go on. Thankfully for Amsterdam, she listened.

I was one of the hundreds of people Maria and her staff had contacted to see if I was interested in working on the project. I offered to serve as an usher. I will never forget the impact that first performance had on me. The brilliance of Maria’s work was that every single person in the audience sitting in that packed Lynch auditorium could make a direct personal connection to every line of every song in that magnificent production and they did. After each of the three ninety minute performances of the Oratorio that took place, the long meandering hallway at Lynch that led from the auditorium to the parking lot exit door would be crammed with people. I can still see the tears and the smiles on their faces, hear the excitement in their voices and sense their pride and amazement at what they had just witnessed.

You know there have been lot’s of times people have asked me why I stay in Amsterdam. I wish they had time to listen to sixteen songs.

A few years ago, Amsterdam’s Bob Going got the brilliant idea to take a recording of Maria’s son Peter singing the song Requiem, from the Oratorio and synchronizing it with pictures of the young Amsterdam heroes who lost their lives in World War II. You can experience the power of this presentation and the incredible talent of today’s Amsterdam Birthday Blog Celebrant via YouTube.

I’m sure if Felix Aulisi and Sammy Pepe were alive today, they’d join Congressman Tonko and me in saluting Maria Riccio Bryce for her long and steadfast devotion to our Amsterdam and for her amazing Oratorio. Happy Birthday Maria!


June 17 – What if Louise Corapi Rossi never got born on this day?

Louise with her husband Lou

So what if back on June 17, 1927, Louise Corapi doesn’t get born in Hudson, NY? That means she doesn’t end up in Albany, NY working as a hairdresser at the conclusion of World War II, which means she never meets a Marine bomber navigator from Amsterdam, NY named Lou Rossi. If Louise and Lou don’t meet and end up getting married and living in Amsterdam, their third child, a girl named Rosemary never gets born, which means she doesn’t get mono during her first year at Cobleskill College and transfer to FMCC, which means she never meets her future husband.

If Rosemary and this guy don’t get hitched, they never have four kids of their own who are named Michela, Matthew, Michael and Marissa. No Matthew means ditto for his three children, Mianna, Francesca and Vincent and no Michela means she never gets married to Aaron which means no Natalie, Bradley or Genevieve, whose middle name is Louise in honor of her great grandmother, who turns 92 years old today.

So the author of the Amsterdam Birthday Blog is taking this opportunity to wish his very special mother-in-law a very Happy Birthday, because without her, I’d be standing alone on in the photo below, wondering what the hell I was doing there all by myself and why was that lady taking my picture! Love you Louise! Happy Birthday! I owe you everything!


June 16 – Amsterdam Birthday Bits

jamesMartin222The Electric City’s loss was the Rug City’s gain when 18-year-old James Martin (born June 16, 1930) and his family moved into a house on Amsterdam’s Harvard Avenue in 1948. He finished his last year of high school at Wilbur Lynch, then went to Clarkson College where he played varsity football and got a degree in engineering. Enlistment in the US Navy came next along with marriage to a young lady from Granville named Monica Minogue. He thought he might want to then become a lawyer but decided to try selling insurance for a career instead. It proved to be a very good choice. He became an agent for Northwestern Mutual and would eventually become partners in his own agencies, Martin & Bergen in Amsterdam and Martin & Holloway in Gloversville. Before he retired, he had become one of the top agents in the history of the Northwestern Mutual network. He had also become a pillar of the Amsterdam community,

Besides insurance, Jim Martin’s trademarks were his smile, his firm handshake, his family and his legion of friendships. He and Monica raised five children and Jim devoted his life to helping them succeed. He was a member of the Bishop Scully High School Board of Education and the Amsterdam High School Football Booster Club. St, Mary’s Church and St. Mary’s Hospital were both also near and dear to his heart and his volunteer work on behalf of the hospital’s foundation reached “legendary” status. If there was a group of people trying to do something good in either Amsterdam or up in Fulton County, the chances were very good that you’d find Jim Martin among them.  He died in 2013, three days after his 83rd birthday.

clarkAlfred “Allie” Clark’s (born June 16, 1923) time in Amsterdam was brief, productive and painful. He was part of the 1941 Amsterdam Rugmaker Opening Day lineup, starting at second base for Manager Paul O’Malley’s ball club which had five future big league players on its roster, the most of any Rugmaker team in history. Clark, who was still known as “Al” at the time and not yet “Allie,” started off that year on fire with his bat and after 20 games, he was averaging a robust .368 and leading the team in hits. But he also had developed a sore right arm that got so bad, the team sent him home to Perth Amboy, New Jersey to recuperate. Unfortunately for Rugmaker fans, when Clark’s arm felt better, the Yankee front office assigned him to their D-level affiliate in Easton, Maryland, where the young infielder continued the torrid hitting he had exhibited in Amsterdam, batting .325 in the 80 games he played there. The parent club’s player development brain trust then decided to let Clark skip a return to C-ball, sending him instead to their B-level team in Norfolk, Virginia where the youngster continued to rip the cover off the baseball.

Serving his country during WWII interrupted his ascent to the big leagues but by 1947 he was wearing pinstripes and playing in the Bronx. He appeared in 24 games for Manager Bucky Harris’s club that season. Most of those appearances were as a first baseman. He was one of the last Yankees to wear uniform number 3 before it was retired upon Babe Ruth’s death in 1948. The highlight of Clarke’s short stay in pinstripes had to be his participation in the 1947 World Series. He appeared in three games against the Dodgers in that Fall Classic, came to the plate three times, getting a walk a base hit, scoring a run and delivering an RBI. He was then traded to the Indians for pitcher Red Embree and appeared in his second straight Series that year, when the Indians captured the AL Pennant. He played three plus seasons in Cleveland and then joined the A’s in Philadelphia for a while. He played his last big league game in 1953.

He probably would have had a much better career if that right arm that he hurt in Amsterdam had ever fully healed. In an effort to correct the problem, he had undergone arm surgery in 1946. The operation had not worked and Clark regretted letting the doctors cut him open for the rest of his days. He insisted it was his weak throwing arm that prevented him from cracking big league starting lineups. After retiring, Clark returned to Perth Amboy, where he became an iron worker in the construction industry. He died in the Spring of 2012.

June 15 – Happy Birthday Ryan Crane

You look at what’s happening to our country’s middle class and you listen to the evening news or Sunday morning week-in-review shows and its only natural that you worry about the fate of our younger generations. Then you look at today’s Amsterdam Birthday Blog celebrant and you smile and stop worrying so much.

Ryan Crane is on a mission. I remember him from his high school days when he was a member of those great Amsterdam High School football teams of the mid-nineties and friends with my oldest son. There are moments in everyone’s life when, regardless of what your life experiences have been up to that point, you decide once and for all what your future is going to be like and realize its entirely up to you to get there. Ryan seized that moment. He’s already figured out what it takes to be happy and successful in life and he’s implementing his plan to perfection.

But Ryan’s careers are clearly just a means to an end in his life. His number one priority is his family, beginning with his lovely wife and business partner, Megan. She’s the one who answers the phone when seal coating customers call and its that initial conversation folks have with Mrs. Crane that “seal” most of the company’s deals. But being an outstanding customer service representative is her second most important role in the Crane family empire. She and Ryan are parents of four young Cranes who are absolutely adorable, not to mention a full-time job in and of themselves.

Yet another thing I love observing via the miracle of a Facebook friendship is watching the ongoing development of the “Crane Ranch.” It includes their solar-powered home, the headquarters and infrastructure of Crane Sealcoating and a veritable playground for their energetic, into-everything boys.

A husband, a dad, a full-time teacher, an owner of a growing business, and more recently, a member of his local Board of Education, Ryan Crane’s to do list must get mighty long but something tells me he doesn’t mind at all. Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished Mr. Crane and Happy Birthday!

June 14 – Happy Birthday Father Anthony Sidoti

The two uniforms of Father Anthony Sidoti
The two uniforms of Father Anthony Sidoti

It is all together fitting that on this Flag Day Sunday we celebrate the birthday of Father Anthony Sidoti. Born in Brooklyn on June 14, 1914, Father Sidoti’s parents moved upstate to Amsterdam seven years later and lived in homes on both Forbes and Union Streets. Devoted Catholics, the Sidoti’s were parishioners of St. Michael’s Church and young Anthony was a student at St. Mary’s Institute, graduating from there in 1930. He then graduated from Niagara University and made the decision to go into the priesthood, which culminated in his ordination in 1940. His celebratory first mass took place at his home Parish, a packed-to-the-rafters St. Michael’s Church and was followed by a dinner at the Elks Club on Division Street, attended by well over 100 guests. Amsterdam Mayor Arthur Carter was one of the speakers and in his remarks referred to the war then going on in Europe, telling the assemblage the world needed more young men like Sidoti to lead us in prayers for peace.

As we now know, those prayers were not answered and Sidoti, whose first church assignment was assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Parish in Gloversville, NY, enlisted in October of 1942. He became Chaplain of the US Army’s 358th Infantry Regiment of the 90th Infantry Division. At first he saw action in the Pacific and then was transferred to the Atlantic theater. Stationed in Ireland, he crossed the Channel with the invasion forces and remained with them on their march to Germany. Along the way he put his own life in danger on a consistent basis, tending to the injured and dying on the battlefield. In France, he won a Silver Star with Oak Clusters during the Moselle Crossing, when he established an aid station in an abandoned cement plant and worked around the clock retrieving wounded American soldiers from the front. He was shot at by a German sniper twice and had two bullet holes in his field jacket to show for it. He also took fragments to the shoulder from an enemy grenade, while administering to a wounded soldier. Before being sent home, this fearless priest was awarded a second Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, making him one of the most decorated Army Chaplains in history and a genuine war hero.

When he returned home after the war, he served as associate pastor of St Mary’s Parish in Frankfurt for two years before getting assigned to Albany’s St. Anthony’s Parish where he would remain for the next 22 years. He was made the first Director of the Bishop’s Fund in 1955 and in that role he helped get Bishop Scully High School built a decade later. In 1957, Father Sidoti was also appointed Chaplain of NYS National Guard, a position that had been left vacant since the end of WWII. His final church assignment was Albany’s St Thomas Parish, where he remained until he died in 2004 at the age of 89.

I first found out about Father Sidoti a few years ago from John Pepe, former Montgomery County Commissioner of Public Works. John had just begun an effort to publicize and honor Father Sidoti’s war record. He had first met the priest when he was a teenager working in his Dad’s eatery, Pepe’s restaurant on West Main Street in Amsterdam. Father Sidoti used to treat some of his Altar Boys from Gloversville’s Mt Carmel parish to spaghetti and meatball dinners at Pepe’s. Amsterdam author Bob Going dedicates an entire chapter to Father Sidoti’s heroism in his outstanding book, “Where Do We Find Such Men?”

I never served in the military. I have no idea how I would respond under fire. I’d like to think I would have made a decent soldier but that’s strictly a guess on my part. But I’ll tell you what. If I was in a battle and saw this Father Sidoti selflessly putting himself in extreme danger not for the purpose of doing harm to the enemy but instead to bring aid and comfort to my wounded and dying comrades it would be both a huge inspiration and comfort to me. Its an honor to share a birthday with this special man. May he Rest in Peace.