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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, January 19, 2012
DNA tests given more weight, too late for Calabro estate
GUILDERLAND While the $3 million estate of Joseph Calabro has been wending its way through probate, state law governing out-of-wedlock children’s rights to their biological fathers’ estates has changed.
Calabro, who owned Ma’s Service Station and Joe’s Service Station on Route 20, died in 2009, leaving behind two-dozen properties with no will. He was 78. Soon after his death, the Surrogate’s Court, which presides over the estates of those who die without a will, put Calabro’s sister, Laura Reggio, 83, in charge of his assets. This summer, those powers were curtailed following a petition from Derick Dalrymple, who, according to DNA-test results in court papers, is Calabro’s biological son.
Dalrymple, 44, was the issue of a years-long love affair between Calabro and the late Dolores Dalrymple. She died in 2006.
In 1964, Dolores Dalrymple had moved with her husband and five children into a house owned by Calabro that was located next to the service station over which he lived. She worked as a bookkeeper in Calabro’s office, which was inside his two-bedroom apartment, and her normal hours were from 9 p.m. to midnight, according to court papers. She gave birth to Derick Dalrymple in 1967 at the age of 38 and raised him with her other children, although he spent considerable time with Calabro, according to the court documents.
As a child, Derick Dalrymple worked with Calabro in his vegetable garden and, when he was 5 years old, Calabro “taught him how to drive a standard shift automobile by placing wooden blocks on the petals of [a] Volkswagen,” the papers say.
Dalrymple grew up working at Calabro’s service station and, when he was weighing whether or not to drop out of high school before entering his junior year in 1984, he discussed it with Calabro, the court papers say. Calabro, who had also dropped out of high school, told him “that he should not worry about quitting school because he would always have a job with him if he wanted it,” according to the papers.
Dalrymple then worked full-time at Calabro’s station until he was convicted on felony drug charges in 1985 and served 18 months in jail.
Among the court documents is a hand-written letter that Derick Dalrymple wrote to Calabro from jail. He asks about blue spruce seedlings and the asparagus patch in the garden and complains that his lawyer has forgotten to work on his case. “He did say that he would get me out of here, for an hour or two, on fathers day, to go see Eric in the hospital,” Derick Dalrymple wrote of his lawyer’s promise to help him see Alexander Dalrymple, who died in the summer of 1985.
“Joe, I’ve been strong and very patient, like you said to be, and always pray for the best,” he wrote.
In 1993, Dolores Dalrymple told her son that Calabro was his father, according to court documents.
Laura Reggio, in court papers, vehemently denies that her brother had a child. She declined to comment for this story. Derick Dalrymple could not be reached.
In 2010, the state amended its law governing inheritance by out-of-wedlock children, allowing for DNA testing to establish paternity. Until then, the court had to be convinced that the deceased was the biological father.
“The law has been amended over the years to parallel society’s acceptance of the inheritance rights of non-marital children and to reflect recent advancements in science whereby paternity may be established by genetic marker testing,” says a memo that accompanied the bill.
As science progresses, more definite testing can give a more accurate answer, Carl Baker, a lawyer who practices estate law, said of the change. That standard that must be met in the court, he explained, is clear and convincing, as opposed to the more stringent standard that must be met in a criminal case, which is beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Although Derick Dalrymple entered the results of a DNA test into the court record, the amended law applies only to cases beginning after it was implemented.
By Saranac Hale Spencer