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Remembering Difference Makers: Honoring Lives That Enriched Our Community

Alice Howes (95) sits in her wheelchair at the entrance of the Central Park Rose Garden in Schenectady. 

Photo: Alice Howes (Spring of 2022) sits in her wheelchair at the entrance of the Central Park Rose Garden in Schenectady. Alice passed away in July 2022. 


There are many things about living in Schenectady County that can enrich our lives.

More than three centuries of history to uncover and commemorate is always fun, and recognizing the the people in your lifetime who have made a difference is something we don’t do often enough.

As a newspaperman for more than 40 years, I have often documented the wonderful place that is Central Park, also known as the city’s “crown jewel.” On some occasions I have also written stories about the Central Park Rose Garden, and while my tennis friends and baseball players may disagree, the real diamond in that “crown jewel” might indeed be the rose garden.

I took Alice Howes there on several occasions before she passed away last summer at the age of 95, and it was always an enjoyable visit and a great way to get her out of the house. She loved the place, and was never too tired for a quick trip to the rose garden. If she had ever met Dave Gade she would have loved talking to him about roses, other flowers and general gardening issues. And he would have loved sharing his knowledge with her.

Gade, who passed away on July 12 at the age of 88, shared his knowledge of roses with anyone willing to listen, and there were plenty of people listening. Gade and his wife, Sharon, are the two people responsible, as much as anyone, for bringing the Central Park Rose Garden back to life in the late 1990s. Dave, a Master Rosarian with the American Rose Society, was a past president of the Central Park Rose Garden Restoration Committee and continued as the “operations supervisor” until 2019. He got people like Mike Cuevas and Larry and Yolanda Matura involved in improving the grounds so that in 2010 it was named as the third best municipal rose garden in the country by the American Rose Society. Other state-wide honors were also regular occurrences throughout that time. His work, with help from plenty of others, kept the rose garden a beautiful place, keeping alive the efforts of Charles Brown Jr., who along with others turned a bunch of old, crushed-stone tennis courts into a destination for flower lovers back in 1959.

Gade was a Draper High School graduate who worked for the General Electric Company for more than four decades, having graduated from its apprentice program back in 1962. I can’t say I knew him all that well, but I knew him well enough to say he really seemed like a great guy. And when he was honored with the Patroon Award by the city of Schenectady in 2015, it was a choice everyone could feel great about it. He will be missed, but his legacy remains. If you haven’t been to the Central Park Rose Garden lately, check it out. It really is a beautiful spot.

Recognizing people who have recently passed away won’t become a regular practice in this space, but sometimes when very good people leave us it seems a shame not to give them some small mention when you can.

Often when a prominent public figure dies, the local newspaper will produce a news obit detailing that person’s life as well as gathering reaction from family, friends and colleagues. Sometimes, however, their “celebrity” perhaps doesn’t rise to that level, and any mention of their death is restricted to the obituary page.

So let me take this occasion to thank a few others who have made the world a better place, and now have sadly left us.

Jim Eignor was born in Halcott Center in the Catskills, graduated from Union College in 1969 and after a long career as a civil engineer with GE he became a tireless volunteer with the Schenectady County Historical Society.

Thomas Haffner was an outstanding athlete and a 1971 graduate of Niskayuna who went on to become a teacher, a coach and – after suffering a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed - an attorney who eventually had his own solo practice.

Franklin Moon graduated from Niskayuna High in 1994, having earned all kinds of honors in various sports while also excelling academically. He eventually got his Ph.D from Georgia Tech University, focusing his research on strengthening masonry structures to withstand earthquake forces.

Geoff Stroebel, a Linton High graduate, was a long-time teacher and tennis coach at Niskayuna where he mentored various Section II champions in his 32 years there.

Along with Gade, these were four men who really made a difference in people’s lives. We commend them for lives well-lived and offer our condolences to their families and friends.