For the past year there has been an interest in cleaning up the Old Liberty Cemetery which is located about a quarter mile from Liberty’s Main Street on a high hill overlooking the Village. cemetery

Cemeteries and family plots which were privately owned were commonplace in America in the early to mid 1800’s.  Liberty itself didn’t have a formal cemetery until 1811 when the Presbyterian Church purchased one acre of land on Cold Spring Road from the owner of the local grist mill located down the hill.

The cemetery was maintained by the Church until some point when ownership fell to the Town.  Over the years it has been neglected and brush and brambles took over a once well-tended piece of Liberty’s history.  Headstones were obscured,  some toppled by vandals and others worn away by weather and acid-rain.


One thought came to mind as we were busy with clean-up efforts….. how might these stones be cleaned?  Much of the names, dates and family information was hard to read and decipher.  Rather than take the cleaning upon ourselves we found Marianne Greenfield of “Gravestone Cleaning Service” who not only has her own business in stone preservation but also presents programs & workshops on proper cleaning & repair of headstones.

One might ask why we would go to the trouble of cleaning stones in the first place.  As Marianne explains, we must be aware that headstones & monuments are “irreplaceable historic artifacts bequeathed us by our ancestors to be cared for in perpetuity.”  We should want to honor our ancestors and our history by keeping memorials clean and in good repair.  We have to ask, however, does every stone need to be cleaned?  Too often,  well meaning people mistake patina for dirt.  They want the stone to look as it did originally, and this is a misconception. It doesn’t have to look brand new and may be damaged if that is the end result.  Long-term preservation should be the main focus.


On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in September we met in the Old section with  Liberty High School Honor Students & school advisor, Ms. Cindy Nolan to learn first-hand how to correctly clean headstones under Greenfields direction.

We were instructed on proper care & the use of D/2, the preferred cleaner of stones for the National Park Service, Arlington, Gettysburg  and other Federal sites.   We were told never to use bleach, Dawn, Ivory Soap, Windex, Fantastic or other commercial cleaners which are destructive to the stone’s surface and can cause delamination and crumbling.  Nylon brushes, never metal, are a must.  Care and preservation of the stone is of utmost concern.

Equipped with buckets of water & scrub brushes we were directed to a stone of our own to clean.  The freshly sprayed stones revealed bits of history that gradually exposed themselves.  Names, dates, family relationships, Scripture verses and design motifs were brought to light.


Before and after photos documented the final reveal in the cleaning process.



While some students were cleaning stones others were busy clearing more ground & exposing areas of forgotten stones.  How grateful we are to these young people who took an interest in helping to preserve our local history and reclaiming yet another area of forgotten sacred ground!





It may be hard to believe but there are people among us who willfully violate cemeteries in our communities.  Particularly upsetting is the deliberate toppling of stones where people may gather to drink, party and litter the place where family members and ancestors lie.


We are partly to blame, as a community,  because we have left areas unguarded and ill maintained.  Money that should be available for care is gone or not allocated for upkeep.  We have turned our backs on those that have lived before us.  If we can’t be responsible for those who have passed on, can we be responsible for those now living in our communities?  I see a direct correlation.  If our dead are easy to forget, so too are our living.

In spite of these disturbing sights there are many who feel this has to be rectified.  It was with great respect and admiration as I watched these men right stones that were toppled.



Great thanks to Elton Harris for his expertise in how to get this done;  Gene Burns & Rob Ackerly for their dedication in this endeavor.  We would like to engage interested parties in continued work days … those interested in history, genealogy, preservation and those wishing to assist with a good cause!

We will be persuing cameras, lights, volunteer patrols and work days in the near future.  Please contact Spirit of Liberty to stay connected.





What a great day for a hike …. and what a beautiful place !    Walnut Mountain Park on a summer day.  The afternoon was hot, humid and sunny but the woods were cool and fragrant.  Dappled sun bounced off branches and trees.


Leaves swayed lightly as a soft breeze blew past us.  A milkweed patch was busy with orange and yellow monarch butterflies.  A grassy field dotted with goldenrod opened before us…..and we hiked on…..

IMG_20180809_120509600 (1)

We headed straight up the hill but along the way found marked paths branching off that intrigued us.  I wanted to take the one marked “easy”, but was out-voted by my 2 hiking partners who opted for something more challenging.  I didn’t protest as I was enjoying the scenery along the way.


The path circled on through woods & fields.  A trickle of slow moving water over green mossy rocks turned hard soil into soft mud.


Walking-sticks in hand we entered a clearing …. and sunlight up ahead.   The woods have to be experienced slowly.  There is so much to see!IMG_20180809_123227335_HDR

Walnut Mountain Park ….. enjoy it……. keep it clean & beautiful…… and don’t litter !







Liberty has been buzzing with energy for months with work on a new Interpretive Trail at Walnut Mountain Park in cooperation with the “Friends of Walnut” who work to promote the beauty of this 265 acre park;  0300207271549319905157194451100improvements at the Parksville Rail Trail where you can enjoy biking, hiking & cross-counrty skiing;  teens joining in for a Main Street clean-up day;  the purchase of the Liberty Theater by local Bruce Davidson with restoration plans in progress;


the opening of the New Munson Diner;  the beautiful hanging flower baskets & flowers in the 2 traffic circles; walking Main Street to pursue code enforcement; the beautiful exterior preservation & landscaping of the Keller Building.

And why all the buzz???  Because Sullivan Reniassance was putting towns & villages on notice that the competition was on !  Those places that spruced up their communities could be eligible for money awards…..the grand prize being the Golden Feather $250,000 award.  IMG_20170525_151423

The challenge was taken !  Supervisor Brian Rourke & Mayor Ron Stabak united efforts of their governmental boards to address issues in Liberty’s Downtown Historic District.  They said the district is the “heartbeat of our township & its physical condition and visual appeal is essential to any revival”.

With this in mind many individuals, groups and volunteers spent much time and energy with the Golden Feather as the prize!

After months of eager participation the Ceremony was held tonight at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.  Volunteers, businesspeople, teachers, clergy & elected officials were acknowledged for their work in moving Sullivan County forward.  parksville-o-and-w-cce4e48f5056b3a_cce4e5cd-5056-b3a8-4974be2fd65394c3

With great expectation Liberty was announced as the winner of the Golden Eagle and the grand prize!  Many thanks to Brian and Keri-Ann Poley for their enthusiasm, support and dedication in this effort.





THE LEFT BANK GALLERY RECEPTION – Friday, August 3, 5-7 pm


Several days ago I received an email to “Friends & Art Lovers” that there is going to be an art show reception at the Left Bank Gallery in Liberty. Could it possibly be that this beautiful building that once housed the Sullivan County National Bank would once again be open to the public after all these years? And with an Art Show? I had to know more.

This building has been a part of my life since I was a young “Willing Worker” in 4H. We would meet regularly after school on one of the upstairs kitchens to learn how to cook. What a great thing…. it was fun.


As a teen I opened my first bank account there and even took out a car loan at $50 month! The tellers were silent & serious as they took my payment. The large vault in the rear stood open & imposing beneath a large painting of scenic Liberty.

Back in the mid-1800’s JC Young & Uriah Messiter were two local businessmen who operated a store on Liberty’s Main Street. JC (James Chandler) Young was a nephew of the owner of the beautiful Keller Building that currently houses the Town Hall.  His picture still hangs in the foyer of this grand home.  Capture

Young & Messiter were advertised as “being dealers in a general assortment of merchandise” from wheelbarrows to lamps & clothing. Their business flourished so far beyond their expectations that JC Young decided a new building was needed & he had the 3-story brick structure built on the corner of School & Main in 1904. It had polished stone veneer and a central entrance flanked by large plate glass display windows at street level. The upper stories were divided into 3 sections with arched and triple windows. It became known as the best department store in the county.  The business changed hands in 1917 and was sold to Otto Keller who ran it as Keller’s Department Store for 34 years. In 1952 it was sold to the Sullivan County National Bank where it operated into the 1970’s.


Sitting empty for so many years there seems to be new life coming to this great structure.  Recently I’ve noticed some activity there …and even an sandwich board sign advertising their open hours! Thursday through Saturday 1-6 !

The artist exhibiting her work this Friday, August 3rd, is Nancy Lew Lee. Nancy was born in China and “grew up with the Confucian ideals of pride and respect for family & heritage. Not many words were exchanged but she and her 4 siblings knew what was expected of them”.

She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.  While there she made a living as an electrician renovating lofts.  Her husband Richard Kreznar was born & raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and came to NYC as a young artist after receiving his Fine Arts degree and then Master of Fine Arts degree at Brooklyn College.  Together the pair lived in a loft in Tribeca. They considered leaving that area, but when a disco move in next door, the area became one where many artists located they stayed on.  They eventually moved to Callicoon Center where they raised their 2 children. Besides being the artist, Nancy has served her community on the local town board, planning board, and the Callicoon Center Ladies Auxillary to the Fire Department. She views exhibiting her art as another form of community service.

Recently, Kris Neidecker, the gallery director made a visit to Nancy’s studio to see her work and that of her husband, Richard. He was impressed with the breadth & caliber of their work and offered them a viewing venue at the Left Bank which is scheduled for this Friday.

Nancy’s Left Bank Gallery show will feature work from her politically inspired series, “Wild Wonder(ful) Women with Crazy Hair”, and 2 large sculptures from 2006. Nancy creates in various media as can be seen by her sculptures, charcoal sketches and paintings.



Richard will also be exhibiting some recent work and paintings from 1966.  Richard says since moving to the Catskills, the land has been the focus of his work and he imagines himself walking through the painting.  Should the painting evoke a sense of a particular, special place, he sees that as good.  He says if someone is going to spend time looking at his paintings, it is his obligation to give them something challenging to see.






CaptureI love music…’s playing in the background of my life all day long. In the car; at work; at home when cleaning the house…. It’s always on somewhere. It was always on when I was home with our children… in the background of our days…..doing homework, chores, cooking dinner. We listened, we danced, we sang…..we enjoyed the rhythm of music in our lives.

It wasn’t any surprise when we decided to start our children on piano lessons from Aunt Chris at the age of 3. It wasn’t a surprise when Papa decided to start them on the fiddle shortly thereafter. Each of our children had their preferred instrument. Our youngest called the piano a “finger magnet”.  She couldn’t walk by it without playing a little tune.  Our oldest daughter heard the violins play the Nutcracker Suite at a concert and said, “Oh Mom, it’s so beautiful”.  Our son would bang out Rolling Stones on the piano in one breath & switch to Classical in the next.   The “live” music has ceased in my home as the kids are grown & moving on , which is sad for me.  When I have the opportunity to enjoy LIVE music it is not only a treat…it is treasured !

Who doesn’t remember the live music bands we had at the Station, The Place and Bum & Kells out in Loch Sheldrake. Live music in the local gathering places was the thing to do in the summer. We listened, we danced, we sang…… That all fell by the wayside and has become a forgotten piece of Liberty.  capture.png

So, when I heard that Brian Rourke had opened a live music venue in Liberty I looked forward to it with great expectation!!  He remodeled an old & antique livery barn complete with massive ceiling beams & wide wooden floorboards. A loft complete with hay bales and an old leather saddle slung over the balcony rail added to the “old” feeling of days past in Liberty.  Back then the barn housed horses & in later years it became a mechanics shop.  I always remember seeing it at the bottom of Grant Street … uneventful and obscure.

That all changed & this old structure was given a new lease on life. The first band we saw there was “Too Blue” who describe themselves as “traveling freely between the genres of bluegrass, swing, Celtic & jazz…with a dose of serious fun” thrown in. They say their “smooth harmonies & adventurous musicianship bring stellar arrangements to life” which I can attest to.  Banjo, mandolin, stand-up bass, fiddle, guitar and vocals !!  How can you go wrong with that !  Once the music started I was ready to get dancing ! As Joan Harrison, guitarist for Too Blue said, “The Barn is one sweet venue. The charming restoration, state of the art sound system and warm vibes provide an intimate musical experience for both the listener and the performer…Keep this gem on your musical radar!”  

 TOO BLUE will be playing again at the Downtown Barn on Saturday, August 4th.  COME TO LIBERTY FOR A NIGHT OUT OF LIVE MUSIC!  Doors open at 7pm, show at 8pm.  $12 at the door….Roscoe Beer & wine available



The efforts in the Old Liberty Cemetery that started this spring have continued thanks to the hard work of Gene Burns who has been cleaning & trimming brush from overgrown and obscured graves. Elton Harris took a day righting stones in the Veterans Circle with the help of Cindy & Veronica Gieger, and Jim Dennis from the Knights of Columbus was also busy in the clean-up.

Gene is interested in our local genealogy and history and we often find ourselves perusing census records, old photos, family histories and cemetery records to make connections to our past which goes back many generations.

This section of the cemetery is referred to as the “Old” Liberty Cemetery because it is the oldest of the 5 cemeteries located in Liberty. This cemetery joins many across the country that have fallen into disrepair after decades of neglect with little money coming in to fund and sustain them. Many have felt the loss of caretakers and the apathy of younger generations.

It is our hope that others will become interested in this endeavor and join us in the reclamation effort. Work and clean-up days are being planned to not only improve what is there, but also to ensure a regular presence to cut down on camping squatters, vandalism and crime. Huge stones have been toppled not by one person, but by groups of people. This is unacceptable and it is my hope exterior lighting can be installed & people will become interested to assist in caretaking.

Someone said, “it is a great reflection on any community, how it takes care of their cemeteries. Being a good member of a living community also means taking care of sacred areas in town and advocating for those that can’t speak for themselves anymore.” We must stand up for what is right and correct what has occurred.

Recently Gene ran into Pat Killian who has an interest in the age-old art of grave dousing. Several months ago Gene was working in St. Peter’s Cemetery when he noticed Pat walking through with a dousing rod. Pat explained that he could locate unmarked graves by walking slowly through a cemetery and as he did his dousing rods would cross and uncross according to the graves he stepped over.

Recently Gene decided to contact Pat to see if he could find unmarked graves in the Old section. Pat did his dousing and could see that there were 15 rows of unmarked graves. His plans are to plot what he finds and in conjunction with any lists we find, perhaps re-create and re-discover the layout of the Old section.

Connections have been made with decendants of this cemetery and we would like to see such interested individuals assist in funding for the continued care of this area.

Please pass the word to anyone who might be sympathetic in this continued effort. Contact the Spirit of Liberty at


LaPolt Park

I am a Liberty native and have lived here all my life, as did my grandparents & great-grandparents.  Some things bring back memories and one of those is the LaPolt park that sits on Main Street in the middle of town.   After all these years I feel it is time to remember how this park came about…….

As a child I remember the Firestone building that occupied the area where the park is today.  It was a large brick building that sold anything a kid would love…..bikes, balls, bats….. things that summer fun were made of!   I remember the trips there with my Dad and the excitement of getting a new set of streamers for the handlebars on my bike!


One afternoon in October 1965 the quiet on Main Street was interrupted by smoke and fire.  Six fire companies were called to battle the blaze that was started in the Firestone building by several boys playing with matches.  The smell of burning rubber permeated the air and thick clouds of black smoke made passing through town impossible.  Main Street was shut down and kids were let out of school.  I still remember the thick black air,  burning odors and commotion of people and fire trucks.  The Firestone building was gone and all that was left was a hole of smoldering

In the years that followed the Village cleared the area where this building once stood and built the Senior Center along with a mini-park for all to enjoy.  The park was completed with the dedication and efforts of many.

John LaPolt, Sr managed the Dairy Queen ice cream stand on North Main Street which was owned by his brother William.  He occupied the window and would gladly take your order with a smile and friendly greeting.


It wasn’t summer until they opened with their Dilly Bars, Sundaes and cones with the “curl on top”.


John LaPolt, Jr son of John & Adelia LaPolt left Liberty in 1965 at the age of 22 for Camp Humphreys in South Korea after completing 8 weeks of Army training in Georgia.  He was stationed in Taejeon as a US Army military police officer for 15 months.  lapoltWhile there he met a local girl named We [Saeng] Kwon.   It was “love at first sight” for the couple during the time John was in Korea.   Their romance was cut short when John was sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to finish out a two-year military obligation.  When his tour was done John returned home to Liberty,  but soon realized he loved the beautiful Korean girl he left behind.  He returned to South Korea and married Miss Kwon (Vicky) in an official ceremony at the US Embassy,  which was followed by a ceremonial wedding in Daejon, South Korea.  The local Korean newspaper covered the unique event of this couple who didn’t let their nationalities keep them apart. wedding weddings

Photo May 01, 7 36 52 PM

John & Vicky purchased the ice cream stand from John Sr. in 1970 and ran it as the Dairy Barn for close to 20 years.  John was a local businessman & supporter of Liberty and was a member of the Catskill Society of Model Engineers;  Liberty Fire Department Ontario Hose Company No 3;  and the Liberty Presbyterian Church.

He created the Liberty Community Coalition which was the precursor of the Liberty Chamber of Commerce.  His vision was for Liberty’s Main Street to be a nucleus of activity for all and not just Liberty natives, but those in outlying hamlets, as well.  In 1992 John became the first “Citizen of the Year” in Liberty which recognized his love and concern for his home town of Liberty.  John passed away in 1993 at the young age of 50, but he was not meant to be forgotten.

In 1994 the mini-park created on the site of the Firestone store & fire was renamed LaPolt Park in his honor.   Over the years many improvements have taken place in the park including the addition of gardens tended to by the Parks & Rec department and Renaissance folks;  a stage that hosts music events and grade school celebrations;  and the return of the “Liberty Chicken” which now has a prominent place in the Village.



The “Liberty Chicken” was purchased by John to place at the Dairy Barn.  It soon became a landmark and signature piece of Americana in Liberty!  Years later when Vicky sold the business the chicken was removed by the new owners and for many years it disappeared.   It would frequently be spotted here & there around town … the top its head peeking over the top of a fence to the surprise of kids who spied it.  It resurfaced at the 2009 July 4th parade to the happiness of many and through the efforts of those involved in purchasing it back !  It has come full circle and has returned to Liberty and it’s rightful home in LaPolt Park!  We thank John & Vicky LaPolt for their concern and love of Liberty.  They are examples for us to follow … stay involved, give back, be concerned, shop local ….. if not, we will never be able to return our town & village back from where we are!  Liberty’s future depends on us all !



Manzi’s Cafe

In the late 1800’s Liberty consisted of Main Street or Liberty Street as it was known,  with a mix of residential, commercial and religious buildings.  Main Street commercial properties were crowded with a variety of warehouses, barns, carriage houses, sheds, a blacksmith shop and feed mill.  The Liberty Steam laundry and the Liberty Gazette fronted on School Street, as did a two-story wheelwright shop that bridged the creek.   School Street, so named for the elementary school located there still retains several older buildings built in the early 1900’s.  Related image

10 School Street is one such property that was purchased by Richard and Yna Manzi in 2016.  They  opened their doors as Manzi’s Cafe shortly thereafter.  Richard, a carpenter by trade was looking for inside work and Yna wanted to grow her “helado” business of selling tropical ices.  Manzi’s provides  a quaint, small, intimate and relaxing dining space just a block off Main Street.   Their menu features hot dogs, burgers, homemade fries, rice & beans, floats, ice cream and homemade tiramisu which you can even order to take home.  Large with 12 servings is $30 and the small 4 serving size is $12.

The Cafe building was built in 1920  as a two-story wood frame structure that has housed many businesses over the years.   It has 2 original street level display windows with a central entrance to the second floor.   A unique “diamond” window centered between three window bays adds detail to the exterior.  Stepping inside the Cafe you notice the manzivintage tin ceiling and wood floor that brings back a nostalgia of years gone by.

Richard is a 42 year cancer survivor and does what he can to raise money for the American Cancer Society as he says they were helpful to him when he needed it.  He walks in the Relay for Life every year and recently sponsored his Second Annual Chili Cook-Off raising funds for the Sullivan County chapter of the American Cancer Society.

Rich and Yna also have a party room available should you need a space to host a party, event or family gathering.  The Cafe is a welcome addition to the Village of Liberty.  When you are driving through town, make a turn down School Street to Manzi’s Cafe for lunch and an ice cream sundae or tiramisu for dessert.  Relax and plan to stay a while….because you most likely will !

Check them out at







The Preservation League of New York State Tax Credit Workshop was held this afternoon in the United Methodist Church in Liberty.  The workshop event was co-sponsored by the Sullivan County Division of Planning and Community Development, the Town of Liberty, Sullivan Renaissance and NYS Senator John J. Bonacic

Liberty Town Supervisor Brian Rourke opened the workshop which was followed by information on tax credits for those owning commercial properties in historic districts and on the National Historic Register.  Frances Gubler from the Preservation League of New York State;  Julian Adams & Kath LaFrank from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation; and Dadras Architects all lended their expertise on how Liberty might invest in rehabilitating our historic places.


The Preservation League invests in people and projects that champion the essential role in community revitalization, sustainable economic growth, and the protection of our historic buildings & landscapes.

Owners of historic properties may be eligible for 20% federal and 20% state historic preservation income tax credits for rehabilitation projects.   So….before ripping and tearing an old building that may have historic significance and be eligible for tax credits…. give their office a call before it’s too late and the integrity of your building is altered!   518-462-5658  x-10 or email at



Town of Liberty Supervisor – Brian Rourke



Back in October Brian Rourke posted on Facebook, “I’ve been asked a hundred times whether I was “crazy”, “lost my mind” or just took a “blow to the head” to be seeking the Town Supervisor position in Liberty”. He was asked why he would voluntarily leave the security, prestige, salary & benefits of a 14 year judgeship to run for this office. He thought of the “impossible & thankless task” of the taxes….worn out buildings…tension in the Town Hall…the dissention in the other departments…the abrupt resignations….clearly the government must be dysfunctional” they would say.

But, Brian moved ahead believing he could be a positive influence and make a difference in Liberty. Instead of looking at all the negatives flourishing in the town he chose to overlook its shortcomings and move ahead. He acknowledges a town that has been welcoming and good to him for the past 31 years; he appreciates a town that has been a good place to raise his children; he recognizes the tremendous individuals and families that live here and he chose to step into the political arena to give back to Liberty.

How positive we all felt when he won the election in a landslide and began to look forward with optimism. Brian is a mover and a do-er…. freshing in a climate where things move slowly and take forever to get done. Rather than just talk, Brian wants to get things done.

So how upsetting it was this week to learn  – from Facebook – that there are already stirrings of opposition to things he wants to do. It was posted that Brian decided to appoint Bruce Davidson as his Deputy Supervisor which was quickly met with discord from the Town Board.  We don’t know all the details and hopefully answers can be forthcoming at the Town Board meeting.  Those who care about Liberty and it’s future for ourselves, our families, our children … please come out to this meeting.

Brian has to be commended for stepping out and opening the Downtown Barn. This is a tremendous live music venue that is way ahead of Liberty’s time ! We are so fortunate to have this caliber of musical talent coming to Liberty….the likes of which has never been seen here! He has spent time, effort and expense over the past several years doing the impossible on Darbee Lane.  We are thankful for Brian’s determination, commitment and involvement in Liberty !


Bruce has to be commended as well,  for his involvement in purchasing the Liberty Theater on Main Street. For YEARS this building – once a beautiful example of art, architecture, community involvement and Liberty pride – has stood behind a black wall. The wall came to represent the downtrodden & depressed Liberty.   Within a short time of his purchase, Bruce DID bring the wall down, with every intention of renovating and refurbishing this jewel. How thankful we are to Bruce and so appreciative of HIS determination, committment and involvment in Liberty.


Both men have to be supported in the efforts they have put forth thus far which are supportive of the arts & music.  They not only talk….they are doing the work. If ever Liberty is going to rebound and get back to the great town it once was, that time is now.

PLEASE ATTEND THE NEXT BOARD MEETING?   January 16th at 7pm at the Senior Center at 119 N. Main Street to support Brian & Bruce. We need them both for the good of Liberty !  Let’s move ahead, work together as a team and assist all those who are working so hard to improve our Town.  They need our support.

Can you respond with a “commitment of attendance” to let us know how many people we might expect.

Thank you !

Spirit of Liberty


Liberty – VanAlstyne Star

This week the Star shining in the dark winter sky will be extinguished until next year.  While it will be sad to see it go we will be left with good memories of Christmas 2017.  Two memories in particular….. one of a journey completed;  another of rebounding community spirit.23405992_10214972934819179_3811405035841879999_o

Dick VanAlstyne erected the Star on his property that overlooks the Village of Liberty in 1967.  Dick maintained and kept the Star lit until his passing 10 years later.   His son Chris left the area and the Star continued to be lit by neighbor Linda Bult, the Johnstone family and town residents.

Although Chris moved away he returned periodically and over the past year proudly shared with anyone who would listen the “fact that the 50th anniversary of the Star’s lighting was approaching….and my Dad built it”.  To his surprise, and without exception, the response was one of fond memories and emotion.  “I remember taking my kids up there on a sled when they were young”;   “a winter date on a snowmobile took me to the Star”;   “we would go out on our front porch to look at the Star” were some of the responses.24301258_1536445093101129_2424517973467763822_n


Chris realized the “connection” was universal and the Star didn’t belong only to his family history, but to that of the town.   With that understanding he had an idea to use the anniversary of the Star as an opportunity to plan a family reunion for relatives who hadn’t seen each other in years.

Chris also recognized that his Dad was alive for 10 years of the 50 that the Star was maintained.  Neighbors, friends & townspeople took it upon themselves and kept it going for 40 more years.  They raised money and volunteered to replace lamps, repair and rebuild the Star. They not only considered it theirs, but they were willing to take money out of their pockets and get their hands dirty to make sure it survived.  That was what has made the Star so special and that was the story Chris wanted told.

He can’t say exactly why his Dad built the Star.  He was too young and doesn’t remember, but he does know they were extremely blessed and had many presents under their tree.  Chris believes he built it to remind us what the holiday was supposed to be about. Not something we could touch or play with, but something we should feel.  An article in the Liberty Register referred to the Star as a “symbol of light and hope at Christmastide.”25790994_10215390320173552_1159164686965105933_o

Chris wanted an event and to spread the word,  but had no idea how to make that happen.   He knew he wanted to say “thank you” to those involved with the Star.

By happenstance the “Spirit of Liberty”, was having their very first meeting at Charlie’s Restaurant on Main Street.  They were shortly interrupted by Chris who asked, “are you locals…and do you know anything about the Star”?   They were surprised to hear him tell his story about his Dad and the upcoming anniversary.   They were just discussing ideas on how to revive Liberty when Chris and his Star came their way.   Wheels began to turn & ideas were formulated.  They worked to put an event together with the help of Brian Rourke who supported their efforts.

On December 1st many braved the cold winter night to meet at the Liberty High School.  The venue was chosen as the viewing point for the lighting “countdown” complete with fireworks.  As Chris was surrounded by his Mom, cousins and family friends I could see his journey was complete.  Chris was estatic & humbled as he took the opportunity to share his story & honor his Dad.   Chris has come full circle & is following in his Dad’s footsteps with his altruistic desire to give back to Liberty !  He calls himself a “die-hard optimist” and he looks forward to Liberty’s positive future.  We thank him for that!



Spirit of Liberty member, Cindy Kurpil Gieger spoke about the Star saying, “24291539_10215179491302962_2850761504833229577_o It’s our Star…our  symbol of community spirit and the selfless volunteerism of those who continued the tradition for generations.  For me personally, it has been a reminder of the first Christmas Star leading to the manger where the Christ child lay….a symbol of light and life to the world.  To others, it’s a symbol of community that says “Here in Liberty, we care”.

“And so… upon a chance meeting of the “Spirit of Liberty” folks and Chris VanAlstyne, who expressed a desire to honor those who continued his fathers efforts…a Star event was born!  Tonight…as we look upon the Star shining throughout our town, we are filled with hope that through renewed efforts of our newly elected Supervisor Brian Rourke, Deputy Russell Reeves and our Town and Village boards we can move forward with new initiatives. We can work together with a mutual passion and shared energy to revitalize our town …together…reaching common ground.  To quote, “At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished’s about who you’ve lifted up, what you’ve made better.. it’s about what you’ve given back”.

Supervisor Brian Rourke did the honor of declaring that the VanAlstyne Star “shines brightly over us throughout the holiday season and connects us with its warm history”  and recognized and thanked the VanAlstyne, Bult & Johnstone families for their keeping this “beloved tradition shining bright above our beautiful town & making the holiday season happy & bright for 50 years”.  The Star is forevermore a part of Liberty’s history!24174675_10215834573243926_8520219757322933512_n.jpg

Chris was proud of what his Dad did and looked for an opportunity to acknowledge him publicly.  The event that night was perfect & he was blown away by the affection, dedication and sense of community it represented.  “In an era of fear, greed and divisiveness, the light of the Liberty Star remains a beacon of hope, joy and gratitude. How cool is that! ”


In conclusion we say “thank you” to:    Steve, Cheryl, Troy Johnstone & Kassondra Ambrosi for organizing;  Santa Claus;  Mrs. Nolan & LCHS Honor Students for assisting;  LCHS chorus for singing;  Project Identity teens for singing;  Cindy Gieger & Christina Jones for their music;  Linda Babicz for her “Star” craft;  Friends of Liberty Library;  Mr. Strassman;  Dara Smith & cafeteria; Liberty Diner for the cake; Mark & Lane Mitchell for fireworks,; volunteers who donated cookies.  I apologize if I’ve missed anyone.

And those over the years:  Linda Bult and family, Barbara & Bob Burns, Johnstone family; Liberty Bells;  Liberty Masons;  Elks, American Legion, VFW, Clickin’ Chicken 4H group; Liberty Police PBA; St. Paul’s Church;  St. Peter’s Church;  Livingston Manor Lumber;  Ken Ross & Ross Electric;  Mike Schwartz;  Roger Mohrmann;  Vinny McPhillips;  Allie Hasbrouck;  Woods family;  NYSEG;  Chester Slaver;  and numerous anonymous donors who contributed money towards the Star’s upkeep.



Christmas Star


Liberty High School will be the viewing point for the Anniversary lighting of the Liberty Star on Young’s Hill. Join us on December 1st beginning at 5pm for this event.

For 50 years Liberty residents and Route 17 travelers alike have welcomed the Star in the dark winter sky signaling the beginning of the Christmas season!

What child has not marveled at its first appearance from their bedroom window, front porch or backyard? And what parent heading home from work hasn’t glanced towards this guidepost leading them home?

The VanAlstyne family may have built the Star and local families may have kept it lit for many years,  but the Star is a part of all of us.  A part of our cherished memories.

Memories that can never be taken away…. only shared.

The Star —-  IS —– LIBERTY
A symbol of ALL of our goodness
A symbol of ALL our hopes and our dreams

Merry Christmas !



There is no denying that Main Street Liberty is in quite the state of blight.  Sadly, the town that I’ve known my whole life has seen better days.  In light of this situation the Spirit of Liberty was begun…out of frustration and out of a desire to enact change.

That change came in the way of a Clean-up day scheduled on a frigid Saturday morning in November!  As my thermometer read 20 degrees I wondered how many people would leave their warm homes to come out and pick litter !  I was hesitant and without much confidence but headed downtown armed with brooms, rakes, and garbage bags.

My hesitation was put at ease as the volunteers arrived:  Liberty High School Junior & Senior Honor Society students; LCHS  government students;  Project Identity and St. Peter’s Church teens.   We had adult leaders:  Cindy Nolan from Liberty High School;  Krista & Meg from Bethel Woods;  Anne-Louise from Sullivan Renaissance;  Septemberr Rielly from St. Peter’s, Yna from Manzi’s Cafe; Spirit of Liberty team members:  Linda Babicz and Cindy Gieger & her children Veronica and Cameron;   and even my Mom, Fran Kurpil who came ready with her garden tools to spruce up the flower boxes !

For 3 hours everyone pitched in and raked leaves in the park;  picked litter along Main,  School and Church Streets and even managed to wash a few windows along the way.  The business people were supportive and positive.  We thank you, too, Ellen and Louie for the offer of coffee at Floyd & Bobo’s !

The greatest positive for me was these young teens !  I’ve been a bit depressed walking Main Street for the past few months, but today I was inspired by the young people who came out to “fix the place” where they live.   Their energy, aspirations, and willingness to help … all for the good of Liberty was commendable !  The Spirit of Liberty looks forward to working with them towards a better Liberty….one that we can all be proud of !

We finished the day with lunch at Manzi’s Cafe under the service of Richard who managed to feed us all in his delightful space.  We visited and enjoyed this time to share stories of the day.  THANK YOU ALL !

24 (1)




Liberty Press

LIBERTY PRESS is located in the old Hillig Photo Studio located at 94 North Main Street in Liberty.  The building, which is located in the Historic District,  was custom-built in 1914 by Otto Hillig who was Liberty’s distinguished native, photographer, trans-Atlantic pilot and builder of a castle on Washington Mountain, north of Liberty.  libertycastleThe 103 year old historic facade still displays the original decorative tile and stylized pilasters emblazoned with “Hillig” to either side of vintage window panes.

LIBERTY PRESS  is owned and operated by Nancy and Frank Benedek.  Frank’s story began in Hungary where his parents tried to escape oppression under Communist Soviet control.  Frank was only a year old when his parents made an escape from their country.  On their journey he was given sleeping medication to keep him from crying and giving them away.  More difficulties befell them when his mother fell and broke her leg.  Despite the circumstances the senior Benedek managed to get them all across the border safely into Austria.  They made their way to Italy where they lived for 5 years before finally immigrating to the United States. How ironic that this family’s struggle for freedom ultimately resulted in a business called “Liberty” Press!hilligIMG_9733a

Stepping inside the business you can hear the hum of machines at work as Frank tirelessly runs the presses in back.  He has been a pressman for 40 years and is the mastermind behind the business.  Nancy greets customers in the front office and manages its many aspects such as payroll, customer service, bindery and bookkeeping.  Jon Heaphy works as a graphic artist and email correspondent.   Nancy explains that the Liberty Press provides a service for many people who desire their products which  include business cards, postcards,  brochures, flyers, tickets, business forms, posters and ad journals – just to name a few.  Their services include graphic design, fax service, labels, color copies, folding & cutting.

With the advent of computers and the internet, running the business has been challenging, but Liberty Press provides a service to local towns, schools, restaurants and other businesses that appreciate a local face and a human voice on the other end of the telephone !  Any questions can be answered in a timely fashion by a local person ! Their reputation is stellar, quality top-notch, and customer service is provided with a smile !

Liberty Press,  94 North Main Street, Liberty, NY  12754

Hours:  Monday – Friday  8:30 – 5:00 PM

Phone/Fax  845.292.8151