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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 9, 2010
Former Rensselaerville supervisor mourned
By Saranac Hale Spencer
RENSSELAERVILLE Bob Lansing was a man who centered on his family and extended it to include the town that raised him.
His mother died when he was 11, his children said, and the community took care of him. He had an allegiance to it.
Mr. Lansing expressed his loyalty by serving for decades in almost every civic organization in Rensselaerville. He died on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010 at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. He was 84.
“The whole community was his family,” his son, Douglas Lansing, said.
“He watched out for the town,” said Myra Dorman, a close political ally of his when they served on a bitterly divided town board. “His goal was fairness for everybody [and] honesty in politics,” she said.
Regardless of what he did in town government, Mrs. Dorman concluded, “Family came first. That was it.” She added, “His children learned a lot from him and kind of followed in his shoe steps.”
After graduating from Greenville Central High School in 1942 at the age of 16, Mr. Lansing wanted to join the Army and went north with a friend to Canada, where the military took young recruits. He was turned around and told to wait, Douglas Lansing said. For the next two years, he worked at Hale’s Garage until, in 1944, he could join the United States Army Air Corps, where he hoped to be a pilot.
The Army had too many pilots and the closest he could get was to be a tail-gunner on a 13-29, which was one of the most dangerous posts, said his daughter Sharon Marillo. “He was willing to do anything,” she said, so he took the assignment and was stationed in Italy in the midst of World War II.
When he came home, he and his brother-in-law bought a farm out near Canajoharie. “The story goes that my mother came with the farm,” said their daughter Donna Kropp.
The couple went on their first date to the Fonda Fair in September of 1948 and they were married in March of 1949.
For the first 10 years of their marriage, they moved several times, ending up back in Rensselaerville. Mr. Lansing was always busy with commitments to various organizations and Republican politics, but he never missed his children’s school events.
Donna Kropp remembered her constant nerves backstage during the 4-H dress reviews, and said, “He was the first person I saw when I walked out.”
“He was firm, but he was always supportive,” said Douglas Lansing. “Family always did come first.”
The most intense moments are often the most revealing, said former town supervisor Jost Nickelsberg, who worked with Mr. Lansing on reforming town government in the midst of turbulent politics. “There were certain points of pressure, that you got to see what he was about,” Mr. Nickelsberg said. “He always came up very strong inside.”
During heated emotional displays from political opponents, “Bob just stood his ground,” Mr. Nickelsberg said. “He was just steady.”
Mr. Lansing was not just a political ally, but was also indispensable for his experience with accounting and budgets, Mr. Nickelsberg said. “He helped me. He taught me… He’s a really good teacher,” he said.
For 22 years, Mr. Lansing was the business manager for the Greenville Central School District. The question he would invariably ask when faced with changes, Sharon Marillo said, was, “Is it best for the kids?”
After he retired from the school district, he and his wife, Edith Lansing, who had run the Village Market early in their marriage, bought Bell’s Hotel in the heart of the Rensselaerville hamlet. Each Thanksgiving, they hosted 35 to 50 family members for a sit-down dinner they’ve done it for the last 30 years, since Mr. Lansing’s sister, Helen, died. It is an annual testament to the importance of family.
“The most important part was my mother,” said Mrs. Marillo. They were “always together. Always each other’s support.”
Each night when he got home from work, Mrs. Marillo said, her father’s first words were, “‘Where’s your mother?’ Cause he wanted to kiss her.” His last words were the same.
J. Robert Lansing is survived by his wife of 61 years, Edith (Saltsman) Lansing, and his children: Diane Lukonis and her husband, William, of Meriden, Conn.; Donna Kropp and her husband, Thomas, of Rensselaerville; Sharon Marillo and her husband, James, of Buffalo; and Douglas Lansing and his wife, Veronika, of Rensselaerville. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Neil, Wayne, Tyler Lukonis; Jeremey, Jaclyn Kropp; Nicholas Lansing, James Jr, Gary Marillo; and Judith Russell, as well as several nieces, nephews, and great grandchildren.
His grandson, Thomas Marillo, died before him.
Mr. Lansing is also survived by the community organizations that were like his extended family. He spent 52 years with the fire department, 25 years on the ambulance squad, 59 years with the American Legion Clark White Post, 50 years with the Hiawatha Grange, and served on the board of directors for the Cornell Cooperative Extension, as the president of the Rensselaerville Historical Society, and as a trustee of the Rensselaerville library.
He also served the town as a judge for five years, its supervisor for 10 years, and a councilman for four years, and was the driving force behind the creation of the Rensselaerville Volunteer Ambulance Company and the construction of the Rensselaerville town building.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Sept. 11, at 2 p.m. at the A. J. Cunningham Funeral Home at 4898 Route 81 in Greenville. Calling hours will be on Sept. 10 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the funeral home. Interment will be in the Rensselaerville cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Rensselaerville Volunteer Fire Department or the Rensselaerville Ambulance. Memorial messages may be left at www.ajcunninghamfh.com.