Catskill loses long-time volunteer

Jane Patterson

During the fall of past years, the Dept. of Human Services provided a luncheon for all Greene County volunteers to thank them for their services to the community. Unfortunately, this year is different. All volunteers are highly appreciated for their selfless devotion to others.

On Aug. 15, the people of Greene County lost a unique individual. Since Rosemary Graham chose to write her own obituary, we did not have a chance to honor her many contributions to this community. She was a friend, teacher, volunteer and colleague to many.

Rosemary volunteered with the Greene County Department of the Aging for more than 22 years, accumulating a total of 1,172 hours. She started volunteering at Home Sweet Home and then moved on to volunteering at Congregate Meal Sites. Eventually, she joined the RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) Advisory Council and the Recognition Committee. She was active with the planning of the annual RSVP Luncheon and for many years, she would write an original song based on the theme of the luncheon. Several years ago, she had the opportunity to sing with Assemblyman Peter Lopez. They joked that they got to rehearse behind the dumpster! Rosemary always made the best of any situation.

And could she write! Her friends at the Senior Center can attest to that. She wrote numerous songs, skits and parodies that the members were thrilled to perform. As one friend states, “she would write a song for any occasion; give her a week and she’d write a whole show with laughs aplenty!” The skits rivaled Broadway Productions! As a member of the Senior Chorus, she helped to bring joy to other Seniors by performing concerts at the FASNY Firemen’s Home, The Pines, The Festival of Trees, The Eliot and Home Sweet Home of Athens.

It was at the Senior Center in Catskill that she really shone. She was an enthusiastic participant in Line Dancing, Chair Yoga, Wii Bowling and Meals on Wheels. She relished her spot on the serving line and absolutely insisted on helping out after lunch was served, not leaving the kitchen until everyone else was done too. She helped organized various activities, including the very popular Ice Cream Socials. She loved playing Rummikub and her new favorite game Hand & Foot. She also graciously welcomed newcomers to the Center by helping them feel at ease and asking them to join in.

She continued to be politically astute. Rosemary was aware of and opinionated about the news of the country...and wouldn’t hesitate to tell you how she felt! As a matter of fact, she wouldn’t get both feet in the car before she was voicing her opinion about some newsworthy event she saw on TV. She was particularly proud of the fact that The Daily Mail printed one of her Letters to the Editor (and not the first time either) just this past summer. Rosemary felt strongly that it was a citizen’s duty to participate in our Democracy; she did this by standing up for what she believed in and writing about it.

Rosemary taught English at Catskill High School for 20 years. She was the advisor for the Journalism Club that produced the school newspaper. Her students loved her classes, as they never knew what she’s come up with. She was one of those ‘fun’ teachers, who always held their interest while at the same time giving them a solid education. During the spring, after putting in a full day teaching, she would spend countless hours as the Dramatics Director for 15 Catskill High Musicals.

Rosemary was into ‘secret societies.’ It started when she was in the 9th grade and she and six friends formed the ‘Secret Seven’; they vowed to stay friends forever...and they did. Rosemary was the last of that formidable group. Their story was even featured in a Times Union article in 2008. More recently, Rosemary was part of the ‘Secret Six’ at the Senior Citizen. They loved going out to lunch at various establishments and enjoying each other’s company. During the pandemic they would visit with each other on Rosemary’s porch, where Rosemary made them ‘play games that would embarrass them and make them all laugh.’

Rosemary was fiercely independent. She stayed in her own home and managed just fine, while overcoming challenges with no complaints. She was assisted with this by her good friend, Gethen, who drove her to the supermarket, hairdresser, local doctor appointments and her all important Senior Center. She was always so grateful and appreciative of people driving her places, that she’d be waiting on her porch as you drove into the driveway...that way, you wouldn’t have to wait for her for even a second.

Some of the qualities that her friends have remembered her by are her grace, sense of humor, respect for others, caring spirit, one-liners, appreciation of the little things and good conversation. Ruth Pforte remembers her as a ‘woman with a wonderful spirit that touched everyone she came in contact with.’

Rosemary felt blessed to have so many devoted friends. But I’m sure her friends would agree with me, that we were the ones who were blessed to have her in our lives. The world is a better place because of Rosemary Graham, and she will be dearly missed.

Jane Patterson taught Biology at Catskill High School for 32 years. She is currently retired and living in Earlton with her husband.

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