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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Professor Lambert, Callicoon Center Band share accolades from Historical Society

By Dan Hust  - staff writer

Dan Hust | Democrat
Dr. Richard Dunn (at podium) tells a packed Mr. Willy's about his fondness of and fascination with fellow SUNY Sullivan Professor Tom Lambert. Lambert was honored Sunday by the Sullivan County Historical Society but could not attend due to a death in the family.
MONTICELLO — History being the story of life, it's not surprising Sunday's annual Sullivan County Historical Society (SCHS) Awards Dinner led to both tears and laughter.
Chuckles abounded when emcee Charlie Barbuti calculated he'd played tuba on “American Patrol” 700 times since he joined the Callicoon Center Band 36 years ago.
Later in the evening, eyes moistened as longtime SUNY Sullivan professor Dr. Richard Dunn shared a letter written by his now-retired colleague, Tom Lambert, relating the recent death of Tom's son Craig.
“We cannot be present today because our souls are badly damaged,” Tom and wife Arlene painfully wrote.
Both Tom Lambert and the Callicoon Center Band were the honorees that evening, with the SCHS naming Lambert its 2016 History Maker and the Band its 2016 History Preserver.

Professor Emeritus Lambert, a teacher of sociology, joined SUNY Sullivan when its Loch Sheldrake campus opened in 1973.
“It was probably one of the best things the college ever did ... because Tom was something special,” affirmed longtime SUNY Sullivan Board member Harold Diamond.
Diamond used to call him “Mr. SCCC” because “Tom was a person whose heart and soul was in Sullivan County Community College. ... Without him, the college would not have had as much success as it did have.”
Colleague after colleague extolled Lambert's style, skill and humanity.
“He is inspiring, educational, and no matter how long you've known him, startling,” said Professor Anne Ruszkiewicz, recalling his incredible ability to face the class and talk whilst simultaneously writing on the blackboard behind him.
But what most students remember about him is his legendary compassion - so much so that Ruszkiewicz, who's office adjoined Lambert's, often found herself serving as “traffic director” for people looking for Lambert.
“People come to him with everything,” she related. “One of the reasons is because when you come to talk to him, he always says, ‘And how are you, my gentle friend?'”
Now this gentle man's legacy will be recognized through a bench SCHS Director Myron Gittell said will be installed underneath the pine tree where Lambert frequently counseled students and friends.
“Tom has spent hours and hours there, talking and smoking and drinking Diet Pepsi and talking,” smiled Ruszkiewicz.
Why such a sought-after mentor?
“He was an expert on suffering and remains so to this very second,” Dunn somberly noted.
“He has suffered a terrific loss,” acknowledged Diamond, speaking of Craig's death (the second of three sons to pass away). “The college has also suffered a terrific loss with Tom retiring.”
“No one who's ever taken a course with him will forget it or regret it,” concluded Ruszkiewicz, “no matter what grade they got in it.”
Likewise, anyone who's ever heard a Callicoon Center Band performance will never forget it. Generations of residents and visitors have cherished sitting out amidst the gathering twilight of downtown Callicoon Center as dozens of familiar faces share their musical talents.
American standards, German favorites and memorable marches comprise the ever-popular repertoire, having been honed for nearly a century-and-a-half.
The current iteration of the Callicoon Center Band dates back to the 1930s, when Clarence Krantz resurrected it from obscurity. Since that time, only two men have conducted - Ray Shaara and Jim Newton.
“Ray had a stroke, and [I was asked] would I fill in,” Newton recalled. “That was 42 years ago!”
Many of those who dazzle audiences each summer have been doing so for decades.
“I've been in the band for 48 years, so I guess it's safe to say it's become a really bad habit,” quipped Chuck Sommers, who succeeded his father as the Band's president.
The music spans generations, too.
“We are a living museum for about one-and-a-half hours for 10 weeks every summer,” nodded Newton.
If you haven't stopped by on a summer Wednesday evening, you're warmly invited to bring a lawn chair and a friend. Just be warned: you'll be hooked.
Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez found that out when years back, as a Sheriff's deputy, he responded to what proved to be a non-emergency call in Callicoon Center.
“I just got so involved in the music,” he remembered, still supposed to be on duty, “everyone came looking for me!”

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