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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 5, 2011
Singer and handyman
By Saranac Hale Spencer
NEW SCOTLAND Conversation often turns to a gravely croon with George Kendall, who played for decades at area bars. Now, at 76, he sings at old folks’ homes.
“People are people,” he said, explaining that the crowds aren’t so different in the end.
Growing up on a dairy farm at the dead end of Bullock Road, Kendall learned to sing. His father, who played the fiddle, took Kendall when he was 14 with him to get new strings. At the store, Kendall first picked up a guitar. By the time he was 17, Kendall said, he started strumming in bars.
He stayed on the farm until he was 36. “I liked the farm work, but I also liked the music, and the two didn’t mix,” he said. He’d get home at 3 in morning and have to be up a couple of hours later.
Of the six hours he played each weekend night at the Checkered Flag for five years, he said, “I don’t know how I ever did that.”
Now, he goes to the Day Break senior center and sings for an hour. He also drives the town of New Scotland’s seniors’ van and helps the elderly with household chores. He was recently honored by Albany County Executive Michael Breslin for his volunteer work.
His father is “always and forever” helpful, said James Kendall. And he never asks for anything in return.
“I suppose it was the old ladies,” Kendall said of what drove him to be so helpful.
He joined the Unionville Dutch Reformed Church 50 years ago, after he returned from a stint in the Air Force. He had been stationed in Texas and, on a whim, asked a man on the street where the smallest church was in Wichita Falls, Texas. It was a Baptist church in a Laundromat. “Christ’s word is Christ’s word, and God is God. And I like that,” said Kendall, explaining what he called, the Bible Baptists.
He grew fond of the congregation but missed home. Another enlisted man gave him $170 to buy a ticket back home to check on the farm. That generosity touched him. “So, it didn’t start with me, it started with other people,” Kendall said.
When he came back to the area for good, Kendall, again, looked for a small congregation. He took care of the centuries-old Reformed church and was soon called upon to help the elderly with mowing lawns and fixing sinks.
He didn’t like to see ladies ripped off for handy work, so he’d do it himself for free or recommend an honest worker. “It just progressed and progressed,” he said of becoming the person called upon for chores.
Those things don’t necessarily merit recognition, Kendall says, naming half a dozen people whom he thinks are more deserving. He concludes, though, that he is blessed, a sentiment he often expresses.
“Other people go through the torments of hell and here I sit, happy as a lark,” Kendall said.