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Obituaries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 2, 2012

"Rudy" Rudolph Valentino Stempel

BERNE — Rudolph “Rudy” Valentino Stempel was an honest man, a straight talker, and a loyal friend. A former town supervisor, he was known for his “salt of the earth” personality, and for his family sawmill.

“He was a true-spirited guy,” said his daughter, Sandra Kisselback. “He was an unbelievable supporter of his family. He was the biggest shoulder to cry on as a father. He helped me so much, and I know he helped our other family members out when they needed it.”

Mr. Stempel died on Monday, Jan. 30, 2012, after collapsing at a bowling alley where he played in a league for over 40 years. He was 82.

His close friend, Rodney McCathran, was there when it happened.

“We were in the fifth frame,” Mr. McCathran said. “He bowled a ball, and it was a right-on hit, but he only got nine pins. Rudy stood there like he always did, like, ‘What in the devil is wrong with that ball?’ So, he turned over and looked to the rack. Then, he turned again, and came back toward the bench. I saw his head leaned-over like, and I looked over, and his knees started to buckle. I came over and grabbed him, and I laid him on the floor.”

His friends brought his oxygen tank over, and got him breathing again. He was rushed to St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, where doctors fought to save him, but to no avail.

“I guess he had a couple heart attacks at the hospital,” said Mr. McCathran. “They had him stabilized, and then it happened again, and that was it.”

Mr. Stempel was born on Feb. 9, 1929, in Albany, the son of the late Therezia Yanik and John Stempel Sr. He joined the United States Army in January 1951, and served his country on the front lines in the Korean conflict in the Army Corp of Engineers.

But first, he met the love of his life, Sheila Stempel. She had moved to the Hilltowns from Albany, and was living with her Aunt Margaret at the time, she said.

“She ran the telephone office, and we found out there was going to be a dance at the Maple Inn,” Mrs. Stempel said. It was the summer of 1950.

“It was just one of those things: He was there, and we danced the night away,” she said. “We did that most of our lives. Every weekend, we used to go dancing.”

Months later, they were engaged, and he joined the military the following January. He was sent to the front lines in Korea, where he ran a bulldozer, building roads and digging holes for the tanks. Reminiscing about it this past summer, he said he liked the intensity of the work.

“You didn’t have things to worry about,” he said. “Your only goal was just keeping yourself alive. You had your meals and a place to sleep. You took care of yourself and made sure not to get hit. You lived or died. That was it.”

He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1953.

“He went away for almost two years,” his wife said. “He came back, and we got married and started raising a family.” Their wedding was on April 11, 1953.

His experience in the military helped him to get work in the construction industry. After getting married, he took his life savings and bought a sawmill, which he used to cut lumber and build his home.

“A Frenchman he became acquainted with taught him to saw, and his sawmill business was in the wing when he wasn’t farming on his father’s farm,” his family wrote in a tribute. “The life of a sawyer was more in his blood than farming.”

As a young husband, Mr. Stempel worked well into the night to make a living for his wife and six children. The Rudy Stempel Family Sawmill would eventually grow into a well known and respected local business.

John Egan befriended Mr. Stempel when he heard of the sawmill, and began purchasing lumber from him.

“Rudy was never artificial,” said Mr. Egan. “He dared to speak regarding unpopular truths…He’s going to be sorely missed in our community.”

Though Mr. Stempel was “simple in many respects,” he could speak on sophisticated subjects, Mr. Egan went on.

“He knew hard times, and he knew good times,” said Mr. Egan. “But he never forgot where he came from.”

Dr. Lyon Greenberg, a friend who met the Stempels through his medical practice, remembers Mr. Stempel as an individualist — “beyond what most people expect of government,” he said.

He was an “unbelievable guy — the salt of the earth,” Dr. Greenberg said. “He was a real character, and I don’t know if there was anyone like him.”

Dr. Greenberg, like many others, bought wood from the Stempels.

“Much of the lumber down at my son’s farm came from Rudy,” Dr. Greenberg said. “And, if we needed some special hardwood to do some cabinetwork, like cherry wood, he would cut up a special kind of wood for us.”

Mrs. Stempel remembers her husband as a very hard worker, who was occasionally stubborn.

“He worked, and I did all his bookkeeping, and he didn’t believe in vacations,” she recalled. “If you had an idea that was better, he’d say, ‘No,’ and then the next day, he’d say, ‘Oh I had this idea,’ but he wouldn’t admit to whatever you were saying,” she said with a laugh.

“And you always had to have meals on time,” his wife said. “It was like he had an alarm clock in his stomach.”

Their work took up most of their time, she went on. But then, one day, one of their children fell ill.

“My daughter Sandra had a kidney transplant from my one son, and she started volunteering for the Kidney Foundation. We went to different places in the country, where the Kidney Foundation would have games where you competed. So, she needed company, and we’d go along.”

Mr. Stempel was instrumental in building a baseball field on Stage Road on part of his father’s farm, where Rudy coached the East Berne Indian Little League team.

He embraced challenges. Although Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2 to 1 in Berne, Mr. Stempel ran for and was elected supervisor — the first GOP supervisor in 40 years. He ran on the Republican line many times after that. Admiration for his tenacity cut across party lines.

“I think anybody would tell you that, if you tell Rudy Stempel that something couldn’t be done, he would get it done,” said Joseph Golden, a Berne Town Board member.

When snow caved in the roof over his mill a few years back, he vowed he’d rebuild, and he did. Last year, when his mill needed a new part he couldn’t afford, Mr. Stempel went back to using the mill he started his business with a half-century before.

As safety coordinator for the Memorial Day Parade in Berne, Mr. Stempel got the help of the New York State Police to lead the parade. He sat on the passenger side of the trooper car, and people along the parade route would cheer and applaud as he went by.

He was also a charter member of the East Berne Fire Company, and he served for years as one of the directors of the Kiwanis of the Helderbergs. It was there that he met his friend, Mr. McCathran, about nine years ago.

“He was a good man,” Mr. McCathran said of his bowling buddy. “He had sort of a gruff way of talking, and I think people misunderstood him. But he was like a big teddy bear. Just a fine person.”

Friends and family alike will miss him.

“We’ll have to do without Rudy for a while,” Mr. McCathran said of his friend. “We’re going to keep bowling, I think. We’ll bowl for Rudy.”


In addition to his wife of almost 59 years, Sheila, Mr. Stempel is survived by his children: Catherine and her husband, Arthur Appleby; Brian and his wife, Kathy Stempel; Sandra and her husband, James Kisselback; Linda and her husband, Paul Gicewicz; and Greg and his wife, Tammy Stempel.

He is also survived by 10 grandchildren: Avery, Nathan, and Molly Stempel; Mark Conklin; Allen and Rudy-Greg Stempel; Gwen and Christopher Appleby; and Sarah and Charlotte Gicewicz; as well as five great-grandchildren, Kaya and Fox Rifenberg-Stempel; Logan and Trevor Stempel; and Austin Conklin.

He is survived, too, by his big brother, Patrick Stempel Sr.

Mr. Stempel’s sister, Veronika, died before him, as did his brother, John Stempel Jr., and his son, Eric Stempel.

A funeral service will be held at the Thompsons Lake Reformed Church in East Berne on Friday, Feb. 3, at 12:30 p.m., followed by interment in Woodlawn Cemetery in Berne. Friends may call at the church from 10 a.m. till noon.

“In lieu of flowers, help someone in need,” his family wrote in a tribute. “Rudy was a one-of-a-kind human being, never afraid to lend a helping hand to his neighbor. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.”

(Mary) Elizabeth Stevens

KNOX — (Mary) Elizabeth Stevens, an active member of her community, died on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. She was 97. Her friends were like family to her.

Miss Stevens was born in Knox, to the late Pearl Mae Elsass Stevens and Lucius Stevens, and lived there for more than 94 years.
“She had a long and interesting life,” wrote her friends in a tribute.

She worked on her family farm, but also held a variety of other positions over the years. She did seasonal work for the state’s Department of Taxation; worked as a cashier and checked the pool temperature at the John Boyd Thacher State Park; was a waitress at the Merryman’s Tea Room in Knox; cooked at several locations including a local rest home and the Altamont Manor; and served as the registrar of vital statistics for the town of Knox.

She was a member of the Knox Republican Club; the Knox Ladies; the Knox Historical Society, where she was a trustee for three years; and the Knox Reformed Church, where she was a member for over 80 years.

“Liz was an independent woman known for her wonderful baking skills and fine meals,” wrote her friends. “She could make something delicious from very few ingredients.”

Miss Stevens enjoyed her home, her garden, canning and sewing; and she loved the color purple. She often sewed her own clothing, according to her friend Linda Carman.

“She had an incredible memory and could entertain with stories of past events, including food, weather, and the people who attended,” her friends wrote.

She was also known for her love of animals, and had many pets over her lifetime, including her faithful dog, Major.

“ She was a wonderful friend,” concluded Mrs. Carman. “We had a lot of good talks and good laughs.”


She is survived by her cherished friends and relatives, Nikki Barber; Chuck and Deborah Batcher, and her family; Elmer Becker; Pastor Dan and Mary Carlson; Linda and Bill Carman; Geraldine Chase; Leonard Clickman; Dawn Coffey; Loretta and Ken Crewell; Staci Ebel; Jean and Tony Forti and family; Pamela Gaige; Alyce Gibbs; Margaret LaGrange; Michael, Doris, and Warren Lott; Sara and Raymond Luhrman, and family; Darlene Marr; Patricia B. Pinchback; Ron Quay, Sandra Quay, and Wallace Quay Jr.; Brad and Emma Stevens; Ron Taylor; Sharlene Vanderbilt; Reverend Ed and Janet VanKampen; Kathy and Carl Walls; and Shirley Willsie.

Her parents died before her; her mother, Pearl Mae Elsass Stevens died on Dec. 14, 1965, and her father, Lucius Stevens, died on March 19, 1967.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4., at the Knox Reformed Church. Friends may call at the Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3.

She will be interred in the spring alongside her parents in the family plot in the Knox Rural Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Association for the Blind, 2 Penn Plaza, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10121; the Knox Rural Cemetery, 2198 Berne-Altamont Road, Post Office Box 131, Knox, NY 12107; or the Knox Reformed Church, Post Office Box 86, Knox, NY 12107.

Gloria Rosenblum

GUILDERLAND — Spunky and resilient, Gloria Rosenblum always managed to maintain a positive attitude despite numerous health problems and personal losses.

She died on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. She was 81.

“She loved her family and friends and endeared them to her with her kindness and goofy sense of humor,” said her daughter, Denise Rosenblum, in a tribute.

Mrs. Rosenblum was born in Brooklyn, N. Y. to the late Bertha and Louis Sacks. Her father died when she was only 11 years old. “From then on, she was often left to her own devices because her mother now had to work outside the home,” said her daughter. “Despite the temptations for living in a large city, she never got into trouble and was a happy and popular teenager.”

She met her husband, the late Dr. Ira Rosenblum, Ph.D., when he returned to Brooklyn from serving in the Navy during World War II. They married in 1951 and moved to Omaha, Neb. where Dr. Rosenblum obtained his first job, teaching at Creighton University.

“They lived in a miserable apartment that was hot in the summer and cold in the winter but they made do,” said their daughter.

The couple moved to Albany in 1954 to be closer to family. After saving for many years, they bought their first car and their first house, moving to Altamont in 1959. The Rosenblums lived on Sunset Drive until 1966.

Mrs. Rosenblum volunteered at the Altamont Elementary School library and with Girl Scouts, which she served as the cookie sale coordinator.

“We had a little, rickety gravel driveway,” recalled her daughter with a chuckle. “And one spring evening, a giant tractor trailer backed up and delivered about 5,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, and they took up the whole house.”

After a research sabbatical overseas, the family settled back in Guilderland. The devoted couple worked together for many years at Albany Medical College where Dr. Rosenblum taught pharmacology and toxicology. Mrs. Rosenblum assisted her husband with his medical research. She obtained and prepared organ specimens for experimentation and collected the ensuing data for the development of research publications.

“They published reports with both of their names on them,” said their daughter.

Reflecting on her parents, she went on, “They were old-time people. They started out with nothing.” Physical things weren’t important to the couple.

In their middle age, work took them to New Mexico for a while. “They lived in a house with just lawn furniture,” said their daughter. They cared about each other and their family.

“When she wasn’t working, he’d call, just to talk to her, twice a day,” said their daughter. “They couldn’t wait to get home from work each day,” she said. “They just loved family life.”

Dr. Rosenblum’s unexpected death in 1984 was devastating for his wife. “She never quite adjusted to being without him but she retired from work and spent the winter months, when her health permitted, living in Florida,” said their daughter. “Her last years were very difficult. She suffered numerous health problems and found it increasingly difficult to lead the active lifestyle she so enjoyed.”

Mrs. Rosenblum had many interests. She loved to travel and go shopping for bargains, and, despite the fact that she wasn’t able to drive, she would find her way around cities from Paris to Washington, D.C. by walking and taking public transportation. She also loved knitting and rug-hooking and was an excellent baker. She enjoyed playing movie critic, watching movies and then discussing and rating them.

Mrs. Rosenblum was also a big sports fan. She loved to watch hockey, bull-riding, and baseball, especially her beloved New York Rangers and Yankees.

“She was just really resilient, really spunky,” concluded her daughter. Despite illness and setbacks, “She just kept moving on,” her daughter said.

Speaking on Wednesday, the day her mother died, Denise Rosenblum went on, “Today, she made the final sacrifice. She made sure she passed away on a beautiful warm, sunny day when we could all run around and get things done.”

“It is difficult to think of Gloria as anything but indestructible,” concluded the tribute. “She leaves a great void in the lives of everyone she knew and loved.”


In addition to her husband, her brother, Jack, died before her as did her sister, Shirley. She is survived by her daughter, Denise Rosenblum.

Arrangements are by the Levine Memorial Chapel at 649 Washington Ave. in Albany with interment at Temple Israel. “It’s just simple and quiet,” said Denise Rosenblum.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

Kennard Frierson Stephenson Jr.

RENSSELAERVILLE — Kennard Frierson Stephenson Jr. was a scientific man, who married into a family with deep roots in the Hilltowns, and developed a great interest in genealogy.

“He was a very dedicated person, dedicated to his family, and dedicated to the town of Rensselaerville, though he was a very quiet and behind-the-scenes man,” said his daughter, Laura Carter. “He was a chemical engineer, so, he always had a very logical approach to things. He was always interested in what was going on in Rensselaerville, especially if there were engineering concerns.”

He died on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, at Friendship Manor Nursing Home in Pewee Valley, Ky. He was 85. The cause of death was cancer.

Mr. Stephenson was born in Albany on July 6, 1926, to Mary (Flugel) and Kennard F. Stephenson Sr. He grew up in Loudonville, and attended Milne High School in Albany.

“His family was from Loudonville, but they rented a house in Rensselaerville in 1940s, early ’50s, and my father spent some time there in his 20s, and that’s how he met my mother,” his daughter said.

At the Lake Myosotis boathouse, the Huyck Preserve organized activities for the teenagers.

“My father and mother were on the committee, and that’s how they met,” Mrs. Carter said. Mr. Stephenson’s wife, Ann Elmore, was a descendant of the Huyck family. They married in 1950, and she died in 1985.

Mr. Stephenson was a sergeant in the 29th Infantry Regiment in the United States Army from 1944 to1946. He attended Princeton University in the 1950s and earned bachelor and master’s degrees in chemical engineering. His father was also a Princeton alumnus.

In 1952, Mr. Stephenson joined the New York City firm of M.W. Kellogg Company, which specialized in oil refinery and chemical plant design and construction. He carried out process design assignments for Kellogg for 12 years, including two extended stays in Belgium, where he participated in the development of a new acetylene process.

In 1964, he joined the Allied Chemical Corporation as a process supervisor in Buffalo. In 1966, when Allied relocated his group to Morristown, N.J., Mr. Stephenson moved with his family to Basking Ridge, N.J.

In 1980, Mr. Stephenson moved to Crestwood, Ky., to work for the Bechtel Corporation in Louisville. When Bechtel closed its Louisville office a few years later, he chose to stay in Kentucky to work as an engineering consultant.

One assignment was helping the United States Army figure out how to use modern technology to reopen a World War II ammunition manufacturing facility, in Charlestown, Ind. Another project was starting an ethanol-manufacturing plant in North Dakota.

He retired in 1993.

Mr. Stephenson served for several years as a board member and officer of Particulate Solid Research Inc., an international industrial consortium that conducts applied research in fluidization, solids transport, and other fluid-particle areas.

He was also a member of the board of directors at the Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve in the 1960s. In his retirement, he enjoyed researching his family’s genealogy and traced his father’s family back to the early 1700s.

“We’re just discovering now how in-depth he got into this,” his daughter said. “Now that we’re going through his papers, we’re finding out a lot more about him than we realized. He was very modest about what he was doing.”

Through his genealogy research, Mr. Stephenson discovered that the Frierson branch of his family helped found the Zion Presbyterian Church and Frierson Settlement, both in Maury County, Tenn., in 1805. His mother’s side of the family included the American journalist and satirist, H.L. Mencken.

“Another interesting thing we learned is, my father’s ancestors went to Vanderbilt, and my daughter, Emily, graduated from there, so my daughter’s now living in Nashville, Tennessee, not realizing she’s back where part of the family came from,” Mrs. Carter said. “But Rensselaerville was always the center for our family, because that was the one constant in our lives.”


Mr. Stephenson is survived by three daughters: Laura Carter of Bethesda, Md.; Elizabeth Zuercher of Florissant, Colo.; and Annette Stephenson of Crestwood, Ky.; two sons: Kennard D. Stephenson of Crestwood, Ky.; and James Stephenson, of Bound Brook, N.J.; and nine grandchildren.

His wife, Ann Elmore, died in 1985; his sister, Katherine (Betty) Mollison, died in 1991; and his son, Lee, died in 2011.

A memorial service is planned this spring in Rensselaerville.

Memorial contributions may be made in his memory to the Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve, Post Office Box 189, Rensselaerville, NY 12147.

— Zach Simeone

Robert A. Raber Jr.

BERNE — Robert (Bob) A. Raber Jr, a hard-working man who led by example, died unexpectedly at his home on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012.

Mr. Raber was born on April 23, 1924, in Brooklyn, to the late Robert Raber Sr. and Ethel Raber.

He served in the United States Army as part of the 312th Unit during World War II, and, after returning from the war, he and his wife, Edith, moved to upstate New York.

He completed his master’s degree in electrical engineering at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and began his career at General Electric Company, working on advanced gyro guidance control and targeting systems, wrote his family in a tribute.

When he was ready to start his family, Mr. Raber moved to the “Hill,” and built his first family home with help from wonderful friends and new neighbors, his family wrote.

To reduce his professional need for frequent travel, he changed employment and began to work for Mechanical Technology Inc., a leading engineering firm in Latham.

In his spare time, he pursued numerous hobbies and projects, which included a tremendous love for flying, model trains, and fishing.

He took many wonderful trips, including two trips to Alaska with his son, Michael, to complete a lifelong pact created many years before with his Army buddies, his family wrote.

In recent years, he had reconnected with the remaining members of the 312th Unit, and he also attended weekly lunches with fellow Mechanical Technology Inc. retirees, and enjoyed the company of his grandchildren.

“He was a hard-working individual who was driven to lead by example, using the lessons from the war, school, and living through the Depression,” wrote his family.


Mr. Raber is survived by his sons, Thomas Raber, and his wife, Sharon, and Michael Raber, and his wife, Christine; and his two grandchildren, Christopher and Trinity.

His wife, Edith Raber, died before him, as did his two brothers, William and Michael Raber.

A viewing was held at the Fredendall Funeral Home, in Altamont, on Jan. 29. He will be buried in the Thompson’s Lake Cemetery, alongside his wife and parents, in the spring.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Empire State Aerosciences Museum, 250 Rudy Chase Drive, Glenville, NY 12302.

James E. Craft

FEURA BUSH — James E. Craft, a hard working man devoted to his family, died on Jan. 31, 2012 at Albany Medical Center Hospital. He was 60.

Born in Albany on Nov. 1, 1951, Mr. Craft was the son of the late Alton and Sylvia (Badger) Craft. He grew up in Feura Bush, where his father always kept a vegetable garden.

Mr. Craft carried on that tradition, growing tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers every year. “He loved tomato sandwiches,” said his wife, Kay Craft.

For 32 years, Mr. Craft worked at the county’s department of public works, a job he liked largely because of the camaraderie, said his wife.

He was a good father, she said, and he’d watch WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) with his sons. For a time, he kept track of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) and entered pools at work, Mrs. Craft said. He was also a New York Yankees fan.

“He was an excellent father, an excellent provider. He loved his kids to death,” Mrs. Craft said. “He was a good-hearted man.”

Mr. Craft is survived by his wife, Kay Craft, and his sons, Kevin Craft and Daryl Craft. He is also survived by his brother, Walter Craft, and his sister, Jacqueline Hilton, as well as many nieces and nephews.

His brothers Theodore, Milton, and William died before him.

Calling hours will be on Friday, Feb. 3, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Applebee Funeral Home in Delmar. A funeral service will be held on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the funeral home. Burial will be in the Onesquethaw Cemetery in Clarksville.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Onesquethaw Volunteer Fire Company, 2178 Tarrytown Rd., Clarksville, NY 12041.

—Saranac Hale Spencer

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