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Obituaries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 18, 2010

Frances E. Benedict

BERNE — Frances E. Benedict was an optimistic, compassionate, charitable, and hard-working woman.

She died on Wednesday March 10, 2010, at Our Lady of Mercy Life Center in Guilderland. She was 94.

“She had a very even-tempered personality,” said her son, Joseph Benedict.

Mrs. Benedict was born on April 6, 1915 on the Benedict family farm in East Berne, the youngest daughter of the late Adelbert and Mary (Snyder) Long.

Her son recalls their camping trips at Tupper Lake.

“We did a lot of camping together when we were kids,” he said. “She camped at the same spot with my father for about 50 years, and we camped with them for about 20 of those years.”

Mrs. Benedict was involved in the Ladies’ Aid of the Thompson’s Lake Reformed Church, a group that was instrumental in coordinating church suppers of chicken, turkey, and roast beef, her family wrote in a tribute. In addition to its fund-raising functions, the Ladies’ Aid was a social outlet for women like Mrs. Benedict, who would get together for quilting bees — gatherings where members of the group would work together on a quilt.

She was also a respected member of the community, her family wrote, and was approached on several occasions to provide historical background on books written about the area.

Mrs. Benedict was a charter member of the Berne Fire Department Auxiliary and a charter member of the Berne Historical Society. She was also a New York State grand chaplain of the Order of the Eastern Star, and was also a grand matron of its U’hai Chapter, and a charter member of its Onesquethaw Chapter.

“One time, my parents traveled across New York State together because she was the New York State grand chaplain,” her son said. “They would travel from territory to territory in New York State, chapter to chapter, uniting people in the organization on a state-level basis.”

Mrs. Benedict met her late husband, Joseph H. Benedict, while visiting her sister in Albany. Mr. Benedict and her sister were neighbors.

“My father used to sneak out of the house, and, in order to get out of the house, they had to go through the yard, and she was the gatekeeper,” her son said. “She wouldn’t let him go through so he wouldn’t get in trouble.”

It wasn’t long, he said, before the two eloped. They were married for nearly 80 years, and had five children.

For a time, they lived in Albany; Mrs. Benedict enjoyed city life for the conveniences of running water and indoor bathroom facilities, her family wrote in a tribute. But, eventually, she and her family moved to the old farm in East Berne.

When her children were young, Mrs. Benedict was a homemaker, but spent some time working the small farm to supplement the family’s food needs, while canning, sewing and crocheting.

She loved to crochet, her son said, and she took every opportunity to use this skill for her family.

“Every time one of her grandchildren or great-grandchildren was born, she crocheted a blanket for them,” said her son. “I used to tease her a lot because, when she’d crochet, she’d fall asleep. Then, she’d wake up, and I’d see her unraveling stuff because she made a mistake. So, I used to tease her and say, ‘If you had a blanket for every time you ripped one up, you’d have a gift for the whole world.’”

Mrs. Benedict continued to crochet in her later years, when she lived at Our Lady of Mercy Life Center in Guilderland, making lap blankets for veterans, he went on. These blankets were sent to the Stratton Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center in Albany for Christmas.

“She used to crochet potholders for the cancer patients, and she used to make little Christmas ornaments and stuff,” her son recalled. “She was a craftsperson.”


Frances E. Benedict is survived by four of her children: Emma Marie (Benedict) Nelson and her husband, Frederick, of Albany; Frances Alice (Benedict) McCormick and her husband, Robert, of Slingerlands; Joseph Harold Benedict Jr. and his partner, Gloria, of Chestertown, NY; and Margaret Mary (Benedict) Cardinal and her husband, Robert, of Schenectady.

She is also survived by her grandchildren: Lori Marie (Nelson) Ashman and her partner, Paul; Frederick Joseph Nelson and his wife, Cheryl; Kimberly Dawn Raferty and her husband, Andrew; Scott Warren McCormick and his wife, Diane; Brian Arthur Benedict and his wife, Mari; Timothy Joseph Benedict and his wife, Leslie; Kelly Rafferty and her husband, Erick; and Michelle Cossalman and her husband, John.

She is survived, too, by her great-grandchildren: Tanya Lee Perras; Julie Perras; Mary Kathleen McCormick; Emily Jane Ashman; Joseph Michael Ashman; Dana Katherine Ashman; Sara Elizabeth Nelson; Daniel James Nelson, Erin Michelle Rafferty; Lauren Marie Cossalman; Nicholas John Cossalman; Grace Helen Benedict; Kaitlin Ann Benedict; Madison Chase Benedict; Elaina Rose Benedict; and Matthew Joseph Benedict.

Her son, Frank Adelbert Benedict, died before her.

A funeral service was held on Wednesday, March 17, at the Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont. Friends called at the funeral home on Tuesday, and a service was conducted that evening by the Order of the Eastern Star.

Spring interment will take place at Knox Cemetery.

The family of Frances Benedict thanks Our Lady of Mercy Life Center for the personal support and excellent care during her stay at the center.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Thompson’s Lake Reformed Church, Post Office Box 94, East Berne, NY 12054.

— Zach Simeone

Pius Wairegi Gakure

BERNE — Pius Wairegi Gakure was a polite, athletic, and charismatic young man from Kenya who had a deep love for people.

A Berne-Knox-Westerlo graduate, he died on Friday, March 12, 2010, in Albany. He was 22.

“His death came as an unexpected shock,” his family wrote in a tribute. “He was loved by many, and will be missed by all.”

“He was a very good, kind boy,” said his father, John Gakure. “He was energetic and loving. He was always smiling, and never had any problems with anybody.”

Pius Gakure attended Lukenya High School in Nairobi, Kenya, though he graduated from BKW following his family’s move to the United States in 2004, shortly after his mother, Elizabeth Gakure, had retired. His parents now live in Berne.

Pius had not returned to Kenya since he left, but it was there that he took interest in soccer as a teenager, and he continued playing at BKW.

“He liked it there, and every child there liked him,” his father said of BKW. “He loved the game, and he loved his colleagues.”

Pius also loved basketball and music, his father went on.

“I know he liked modern music, but most of the time, it was his cassettes from Kenya,” said his father. “We enjoyed working together in the house; if we had anything to do in the house, we would take care of it together.”

Deborah Herrin, a family friend from Ballston Lake, recalls the time that Pius spent with her children, and with her old dog, Cody.

“I feel a big hole in my heart,” said Mrs. Herrin. “I never had a son, and he kind of filled that void for a while.”

She called Pius warm, friendly, and optimistic — “an absolute joy.”

“He was a wonderful man, and comes from a wonderful family,” Mrs. Herrin said. “And he was a very hard working man, willing to do pretty much anything to earn money to save towards school: stone masonry, painting, cleaning the gutter, cooking Chinese food.”

Mrs. Herrin recalls a trip they once took to Sacandaga Lake. Pius liked being in the water, she said.

Through Mrs. Herrin, Pius met Timothy and Andrea Francis of Buffalo. He lived with the family in the summer of 2006, before he began pursuing a degree in pharmacy at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

“He was really just an amazing kid,” said Andrea Francis. “We became friends with the family, and they basically said, ‘Would you keep an eye out for him while he’s out there?’ So, we did.”

They kept busy with landscaping projects, and Pius enjoyed lending a hand.

“We were building a stone house that he helped with, and a giant stone wall in front of our home,” said Mrs. Francis. “And he dominated every social scene. People were just drawn to him, and he wasn’t afraid of anything.”

He loved doing backflips off of their dock at the end of the day, Mrs. Francis went on, and he liked to teach card games at parties, too.

“We always played for a special prize,” said Mrs. Francis, “and the prize for Pius, because he won so many games, was a pair of bright, screaming-red Crocs, which he wore proudly to every bonfire, and pond party, and other occasions that we had. It was part of his panache. He didn’t gloat, but he had that look on his face like, ‘Yeah, I am a boss around here,’” she laughed.

“He just kind of parachuted into our lives,” recalls Timothy Francis, Andrea’s husband. “He was just the most gregarious and kind-hearted fellow I think I’ve ever met, with a marvelous personality, and an amazing sense of humor.”

Mrs. Francis agreed — “He just reached out to everything that was there.”

And he was the first in his family to follow his chosen career path, his father said.

“The way I understand it is, when you are one who has sympathy for other human beings, you want to be in medicine,” Mr. Gakure said. “He just had a heart for it.”

His family wrote in a tribute, “Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.”


Pius Wairegi Gakure is survived by his parents, John and Elizabeth Gakure, of Berne, as well as three brothers: Maxwell Gakure of Kenya; Patrick Gakure of Columbus, Ohio; and Kevin Gakure of Houston, Texas; and four sisters: Jane Gakure; Ann Lantey; Lilian Gakure; and Patricia Gakure, all of Kenya.

A funeral service will be held at noon on Friday, March 26, at the Rock Road Chapel in Knox. Interment will follow at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Guilderland. Friends may call at the church that morning, between 10 a.m. and noon. Arrangements are by the Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont.

— Zach Simeone

Alberta B. Wright

BERNE — A woman of true grit, Alberta B. Wright was deeply rooted in the Hilltowns where she was born and raised and lived her whole life. She was involved in every aspect of her community — teaching mathematics at Berne-Knox Central, teaching Sunday school at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church where she worshipped, and helping to found the library and the historical society in Berne.

She died on Saturday, March 13, 2010, surrounded by her loving family.

Her heritage shaped her life.

“She was a sixth-generation teacher,” said her daughter, Jean Wright, who became a teacher herself. “She was passionate about teaching.”

On her 90th birthday, Mrs. Wright had reminisced about her life on Maple Ridge Farm. Her family began working the farm long before she was born to Clyde Ball and Alta Sholtes Ball on Jan. 6, 1913. As a child, she fed chickens and attended the red brick schoolhouse where her father taught. Her mother was a homemaker, tending to Alberta and her sister, Gertrude, as well as to the farm.

In June 1929, Mrs. Wright graduated from Schoharie High School at the age of 16. She went on to graduate from the New York State Teachers College in 1933. The next year, she married Raymond H. Wright. They had both grown up in Berne and knew each other their whole lives. Their marriage of 53 years ended only with his death. They raised three daughters — Ruth Elaine and twins Jean and Janet.

“She was a good mother,” said Jean Wright. “She was very, very busy…She was a very intelligent woman and committed to learning,” said her daughter, describing how Mrs. Wright, while teaching and going to school, earned a mathematics teaching degree in 1937.

Mrs. Wright began her teaching career with a two-year stint at Averill Park Central. She then taught at Bern-Knox Central for 15 years and then at Schoharie Central for 15 years. She was a member of the National Education Association and Parent Teachers Association and a lifetime member of Delta Kappa Gamma Fraternity, an honor society for teachers.

“She loved teaching,” said her daughter. “Mathematics was her favorite.”

Being a farmer’s wife came in handy when Mrs. Wright had to learn a new kind of trigonometry, she recalled a decade ago. “I studied it on the tractor,” she said.

Mrs. Wright admitted to being conflicted, which was rare for her, when Berne-Knox school teams played Schoharie. When she was teaching at Berne, she reported, “I’d say, ‘Beat ‘em, but don’t beat ‘em too bad; that’s my alma mater.’” When teaching in Schoharie, the statement was reversed: “Beat ‘em, but don’t beat ‘em too bad; that’s my hometown,” she said.

Her father, Mr. Ball, had chronicled Berne life for decades as a correspondent for The Altamont Enterprise. After he retired, Mrs. Wright took up the role, sending several typewritten pages to the paper every week. In her straightforward, no-nonsense style, she wrote of the births and deaths, the graduations and retirements, the illnesses and celebrations that make up the fabric of small-town life. She did this consistently for 35 years.

“I used to know everyone that lived in every house,” she said.

“She knew everybody,” said her daughter. “People really missed her column. I tried to take it on but it was too much.”

Mrs. Wright loved her town and was tireless in working to improve it. She had a major part in founding the Berne library. “She just loved reading and wanted to have a library in Berne,” said her daughter. “Her favorite books were religious ones.”

Mrs. Wright was an active member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church where she taught Sunday school and was treasurer for many years. She was also a member of the Hilltown Senior Citizens and a leader in the Order of the Easter Star.

She founded the Berne Historical Society and had a personal sense of her town’s history since generations of her family had lived in the Hilltowns. “That was her baby,” said her daughter. The historical society has museum rooms set up on the upper floor over the town hall. “Mom and Dad did the church room,” said Jean Wright. “History was personal for her.”

While Jean Wright described her mother as someone who “loved to work,” she noted that Mrs. Wright was also someone who had a great sense of humor, right up until the end. “The aids at home all said she kept them laughing,” said Jean Wright. She concluded, “My mother had gumption.”


Alberta B. Wright is survived by her daughter, Jean Wright, of Berne; her grandchildren, Stacey Wright, and David Clark and his wife, Holly, of Berne, Susan Pyne and her husband, Kevin, of Illinois, David DeWitt and his wife, Carolyn, and Jonathan DeWitt and his wife, Angie, of Ohio.

She is also survived by her eight great-grandchildren, Ben, Katie, and Jon Pyne; and Alyssa, Laura, Josh, Rachel, and Nick DeWitt as well as by many nieces and nephews.

Her husband, Raymond, died before her as did her daughters, Ruth Elaine Dewitt and Janet W. Salzer; her grandson, Timothy Salzer; and her sister and brother-in-law, Gertrude and Rev. Franklin Deitz.

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 20, at 1:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Berne. Friends may call from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A spring burial will be in Woodlawn Cemetery. Arrangements are by the Fredendall Funeral Home of Altamont.

The Order of the Eastern Star will conduct a service at 1 p.m.

Memorial contributions be made to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1728 Helderberg Traul, Berne, NY 12023.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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