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Out Lexington Way: The story of the ‘big elm’ in West Kill

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    The “Big Elm Tree,” the landmark of the West Kill hamlet, no longer stands but the memories of its history continue. Services for the traditional West Kill Memorial Day Parade were held under the “big elm.” School children were dressed in patriotic costumes and sang patriotic songs. Many organizations, 4H groups, Boy Scouts, Veterans, Lexington Fire Company and Ladies Auxiliary, the West Kill Community Improvement Association all participated in the parade. Even though the “big elm” is gone, the West Kill Memorial Day Parade tradition still continues. Services and parade now begin at 9 a.m. at the Community Hall in West Kill on May 27.
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    Left to right, Joe Montebello, owner of Beech Ridge Builders, Glenda Lauten and James were just a few of the many volunteers who participated in the “Work Days, May 11 and May 12 at the Community Hall in West Kill.
May 15, 2019 11:38 am Updated: May 15, 2019 11:40 am


Hope all the Moms had a great Mother’s Day. The snow, sleet and ice were certainly unexpected.

Great turnout for the Work Days at the Community Hall in West Kill May 11 and May 12. Lots of preparation for painting and major cleaning inside and outside. Good fellowship and so grateful for all the help and dedication. Glenda Lauten and Joe Montebello were doing prep work all week leading up to the “work days.” Joe Montebello, owner of Beech Ridge Builders, has graciously offered to paint the hall free of charge.

May 18 is the Lexington Historical Society’s annual meeting at 7 p.m. at the Historical Building, Church Street, Lexington. There will be a short business meeting followed by a showing of the documentary film, “The Loss of Nameless Things.” This film is about playwright Oakley “Tad” Hall III, founder of the Lexington Conservatory Theater. In 1978, at the age of 28, he fell off the Lexington bridge. He survived but his magnetic personality and creativity did not. This is the haunting story of all that was lost when a young man on the verge of greatness suddenly disappeared. Archival Day raffle tickets will also be on sale. Popcorn will be available for those wishing to nosh during the showing of the film. There will be a door prize too.

Birthday greetings to Jim Buscarello on May 19.

May 19 is also Kip Rikard’s birthday.

Dan Davern celebrates his birthday on May 22.

Janet Nicholls has a birthday on May 22.

Best wishes to all.

Greene County Public Health rabies clinic for Greene County cats, dogs and ferrets will be 6-8 p.m. May 22 in the Leeds Firehouse, Old Route 23B, Leeds. Donations highly encouraged. Call ahead for ferrets. Please bring record of pet’s previous vaccination to receive a three-year certificate. If you have questions, call 518-719-3600.

Starting off the Memorial Day weekend there will be a T.G.I.F. Brooks’ Chicken BBQ 3-6 p.m. May 24 at the Lexington UMC hall, 54 County Route 13A, Lexington. The menu will include half a chicken, baked potato, green beans, coleslaw, roll, gingerbread with real whipped cream. You can takeout or enjoy the fellowship in the dining hall. An adult dinner is $12; children 5-10, $5; children under 5, free; chicken half, $7. Tickets are available in advance. Give JoEllen a call at 518-989-6568.

May 25 is the first Lexington Farmers Market of the 2019 season held under the pavilion at the Lexington Municipal Building from 10 a.m.-noon. Lots of vendors with local produce and products so don’t miss Opening Day.

The following was written by Laura Lasher of West Kill and ran in the Windham Journal June 4, 1981:

“The elm is gone, but.....The memory lingers on, that’s why the 1981 Memorial Day parade in Westkill started on Ray Lasher’s lawn. The tradition started over 60 years ago under “The Big Elm Tree” in the center of town (now Lasher’s lawn) by Sidney Deyoe. The “big elm” for local people was the meeting place — like the clock in Grand Central Station in New York City.

“According to folk lore, this is the story of how the elm tree happened to be there. It seems a young man was driving cows up the Spruceton Road which was then only a lane. He had pulled up a small elm sapling to use as a switch to keep the cows in line. Being tired and wanting to give the cows time to graze, he sat down on a bench and stuck the elm in the muddy ground. After a period of rest, he went on his way, leaving the sapling where it was, at the side of the road. It grew and flourished and became a huge, beautiful tree. The landmark of the village.

“Several years ago, about a century and a half after this took place, the tree was cut down. Like all living things it became old, diseased, difficult to feed and nearly dead. The dead limbs falling in the road were hazardous to people and cars passing by.

“Some day, we hope a small tablet will mark the spot where the big elm once grew, and be a memorial to the elm and to the man, Sid Deyoe who started the Memorial Day tradition in Westkill. Sid Deyoe was proud of his county, his town, and those who had served under the flag he loved. It was out of his generosity that flags were first provided, and a treat given to all who came or took part.

“This fine tradition has continued because others give in the same spirit as the founder. Currently, the Town of Lexington Fire Department, the Ladies Auxiliary and the Westkill Community Improvement Association sponsor this event.”

Now in 2019 on Monday, May, 27, we no longer meet at the site of the “big elm.” We meet at the West Kill/Lexington Community Hall, 141 Spruceton Road, West Kill at 9 a.m. Attending will be the Lexington Fire Company and Rescue Squad, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Lexington Fire Company, American Legion Virgil E. Deyo Post 1327 and Ladies Auxiliary Unit No. 1327 and Veterans in uniform, residents and visitors. After a brief service, we march to the two West Kill cemeteries to pay respect to the memory of those who gave all to keep us free. The traditional serving of ice cream after the parade continues at the West Kill Firehouse. Hope to see you there.

Until next week take care, be thankful and please be kind.