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Historical Ramblings: A quiet man of little note

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    Roy Strever
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    An old photo of the school buildings in Chatham.
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    A graduation program from Chatham High School from the class of 1906.
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    Roy George Strever and his family.
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    Chatham High School class photo, 1906.
September 13, 2017 11:33 am

He was born to a farm family in Spencertown on Dec.27, 1886, and attended Chatham High School on Woodbridge Avenue, boarding his horse at a barn during his school day.

He went on to become an accountant and stenographer then volunteered for naval service during the war to end all wars. After an honorable discharge, he returned to his work in New York City and joined the Staten Island Yacht Club. This quiet man enjoyed traveling, visits to the old homestead, and photography.

Roy George Strever was christened at Spencertown’s Methodist Church. Roy would be the first son of three born to Alice and Charles Strever. He had a paternal grandfather and uncle who both served in the Civil War. His mother was a descendant of the Shufelt line and traced her Germanic ancestry back to the 16th century. When the family harnessed up the wagon to head to Chatham, it was usually Alice at the reins. While her husband generally managed the farm and built their new two-story barn with the help of the boys, Alice focused on heartily feeding her family and raising white leghorn chickens primarily for their eggs. The eggs were sent by train to New York and sold giving her a tidy income from her egg money.

All their boys were hands-on with the farm work but Roy leaned toward academic studies. Following his grammar school years at the Spencertown Academy, he would attend the high school built on Woodbridge Avenue in 1883 that stood south of the Grammar School that had been constructed in 1882. By the time young Mr. Strever was about to graduate, the Chatham Republican was boasting “her (Chatham’s) Public Schools will rank with the best in the State or country. Two fine commodious brick buildings harbor one of the most successful and thorough educational systems extant.” Students were offered four courses of study; a high school diploma, a classical course for college, technical school preparation, and a commercial course that began in 1902 for business orientation. It appears that the addition of the latter line of study was introduced just in time for Roy for him to learn accounting and stenography.

Always small in frame and shy by nature, it would appear Alice’s son kept his nose to the grindstone in the fashion of his industrious mother but also had an unexpected wit about him that his father, Charles, outwardly displayed on a daily basis. In The Hexapola, the 1906 graduating class yearbook, classmate William Hartigan received the quote “A baby figure of a giant mass” while Roy Strever was to be remembered as “A still small voice”. His commencement role was to give the *Oration, The Farm and the Farmer, but the asterisk indicated that this was *Excused. In the class photo, where he is standing in the center row flanked by two young ladies on his right and three to his left, one can sense his timid demeanor by looking at his face.

In the Class History of the yearbook- “The Class of 1906 offer a prize to anyone who is successful in making Mr. Strever laugh.” In contrast, the Programme for “Gradatim” for the June 18, 1906, Class Day Exercises listed Roy Strever as the Class Jester. So, when the Honorable Sanford W. Smith presented diplomas, his classmates and family had to be wondering what his future would hold for him. They need not have worried.

Roy was employed as an accountant and stenographer in New York City until the 5th of December, 1917, on which date he enlisted as a yeoman in the United states Naval Reserve Force. ‘He was assigned to the Naval Communication Service and as a member of this branch he served for the following ten months at the Navy Yard in New York City and at the 3rd Naval District Headquarters at 280 Broadway, New York City. Strever was promoted to the rank of Chief Yeoman. As a member of the Naval Communication service Strever was assigned to the U.S.S. Agamemnon on which transport he sailed overseas several times during the last three months of the war. Landing was made each time at Brest, France. His last return trip to the states was made in the latter part of November, 1918. Strever was given his honorable discharge from service on December 9th 1918.’ – Columbia County in the World War, Home Defense Committee, 1924.

The Columbia County Home Defense Committee dedication in the book:

To the Boys and Girls from Columbia County who entered the military or naval services of the United States in the World War, and to the memory of “Those who died;”

To the Fathers who were touched with pride by their courage and fidelity;

And to the Mothers who bore them an nurtured them with such infinite tenderness and anxiety-

This book is affectionately and gratefully dedicated.

It is said that, “Still water runs deep.” Roy G. Strever, the reticent Chatham graduate, demonstrated that with his voluntary naval service and he still had much more life to live.

Questions or comments? Contact Gail Blass Wolczanski at