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2022 Richard W. Couper Living Legends

2021 Historical Hall of fame & Living Legends!

 Dr. David A. Brown (1921-1986)

Dr. David A. Brown was Utica’s first Black dentist and a community leader who had a tremendous impact on the Mohawk Valley. He was a World War II veteran, served as president of the Oneida County branch of the NAACP, chairman of Utica’s Human Relations Commission, and treasurer of the board of Head Start. He was a member of the Frontiersman International, the Advisory Board of SUNY College of Technology, and was active with the Utica Kiwanis Club, the Utica YMCA,  and several professional dental organizations. Born in Wilmington, NC, Brown graduated with honors from Williston High School in 1939 and attended Dillard University on scholarship. He attended Meharry School of Dentistry in Nashville, TN, and earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1952. He completed internships at the Eastman Dental Dispensary and Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester before moving to Utica in 1953. Dr. Brown opened his practice at 402 Court Street and became Utica’s first Black dentist.

Charles F. Cleveland (1844-1908)

Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Charles F. Cleveland was born August 14, 1844, in Washington County, NY. He moved to Utica in 1855 and worked as a marble cutter until the outbreak of the Civil War. He enlisted in the Union Army on May 3, 1861, and became a member of Company C 26th New York Volunteer Infantry. He participated in the battles of Cedar Mountain, Thoroughfare Gap, Second Bull Run, Chantilly, and South Mountain, but it was at the bloody Battle of Antietam, that he performed an act of exceptional courage that earned him the highest award for bravery during combat, the Medal of Honor. Cleveland led the siege after the color bearer of the regiment was shot down, suffering himself from multiple gunshot wounds. He rejoined his regiment after only two months in a Baltimore hospital and was honorably discharged in 1863. Cleveland returned to Utica where he worked as a police officer for more than 30 years and married Katherine Burns with whom he had four children. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1895.

Beatrice “Bea” DeSantis (1900-1991)

Beatrice “Bea” DeSantis was a public servant, pioneer, and leader who made sure that her gender never stood in her way of making a difference in her community. She was born in Utica in 1900 and attended Utica Free Academy and the Utica School of Commerce. During World War II she assembled and distributed rationing books to the citizens of Greater Utica. She served the City of Utica for more than 25 years working as secretary to the city treasurer, cashier, deputy treasurer--- becoming just the second woman to hold this position---, and secretary to Utica’s commissioner of assessments and taxation. DeSantis was an active volunteer in the local community and beyond. She was a founding member of the East Utica Senior Center and the first Heart Fund collection in Oneida County, the forebear of today’s Central New York Heart Association, and volunteered with numerous organizations including the League of Women Voters, the American Cancer Society, and cultural groups such as Daughters of Columbus, and Utica’s Society Pugliese. She served on several political committees including the NYS Democratic Committee, Oneida County Democratic Committee, and as a member of the City of Utica Democratic Club. DeSantis summed up volunteering by saying “you find the time to help out.”                                                       

Peter Gansevoort (1749-1812)

Colonel Peter Gansevoort served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and made his mark in Oneida County history with his successful defense of Fort Stanwix (then known as Fort Schuyler) from the British in August 1777. Third-generation Dutch, he grew up in Albany and worked in his father's lumber and brewing businesses before joining the Continental Army. He was commissioned as a major on June 30, 1775. He was later promoted to full Colonel of the 3rd New York Regiment and sent to Fort Stanwix, which would become known as “the fort that never surrendered” after he and his men successfully held off the British siege for 21 days. This success later contributed to the crucial American victory at Saratoga and foiled British efforts to bisect the thirteen colonies. Gansevoort settled back into life in Albany after the Revolution and continued in the family business. He purchased land to build a mill town that would eventually become Gansevoort, New York, and later served as an Indian Commissioner, Sheriff of Albany County, and a US Military Agent. A statue commemorating Gansevoort stands in Rome, NY.

Bonnie Woods (1969-2021)

Bonnie Woods was a founding member of Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen. She was born in 1969 and grew up in Utica attending local schools. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Hartwick College before starting her 30-year career at Bank of America. Woods established herself in the community she loved and volunteered with numerous nonprofits including Rebuilding Together Mohawk Valley, Mohawk Valley Network Continuing Care, Visiting Nurse Association, and the YWCA Finance Committee. She served as board chair for Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS), and a trustee for both the Community Foundation and Upstate Caring Partners boards. Friends described her as “an inspiring leader who went the extra step in everything she did and for everyone she encountered. “To co-workers, she was “a leader, a mentor, an advocate.”  Whether it was at her professional work or in her many volunteer endeavors, Woods made an impact. 

Joseph T. Fraccola (New Hartford)

Joseph T. Fraccola proudly served his nation after he was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1968. A Vietnam War veteran, Joe received the Purple Heart for wounds received during an enemy rocket attack on June 7, 1969.  He returned home and became an active veterans advocate and integral to his community. Fraccola worked US Postal Service for more than thirty-six years where he co-chaired the Utica Post Office Veterans Committee and petitioned Congress to rename two local post offices for local soldiers killed in Iraq. In 2004 he reactivated the local CNY Chapter 490 Military Order of the Purple Heart and helped establish the 22nd Congressional NY District as a Purple Heart Congressional District, becoming the first district in the nation. Fraccola was a ten-year rider for the Ride for Missing Children and successfully petitioned the Post Office for a stamp honoring and promoting this cause. He was a participant in laying a wreath at the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” and was highly involved with the Oneida County WWII Veterans Trip Committee, sending over 850 WWII Veterans to visit the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC.

Sister Maureen Denn (Utica)

Sister Maureen Denn, CSJ is known in her community and beyond for her selfless compassion and desire to better the lives of anyone in need. She attended The College of St. Rose in Albany, majoring in history, and taught high school before discovering her true passion. She went on to serve as chaplain and pastoral care counselor in the Mohawk Valley Health System for nearly 30 years, retiring in 2012. She has been at the bedside of countless patients and their families working very closely with medical staff to provide the best support possible. Sister Maureen also worked in funeral ministries and has conducted workshops and retreats on stress, and the care and spiritual needs of dying patients and their families. Always an active volunteer, she served on several boards and councils including the American Cancer Education and Rehabilitation Committee; Hospice Care, Inc. Staff Support; Bereavement Counseling and Pastoral Care Committee; Faxton Hospital Bioethics Committee; and the Samaritan Counseling Center board. Sister Maureen was honored as the 2014 Grand Marshall of Utica’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and received the Health Friends of the Year Award in 2010.

Robbie Hamlett Dancy (Utica)

Mrs. Robbie Hamlett Dancy exemplifies the work done by leaders of the African American community that is historically overlooked and undervalued. She is a force behind the community’s recognition and understanding of the importance of African American history. Under Mrs. Dancy’s guidance, the Juneteenth celebration has expanded in the last few years to encompass the entire community. Working with the NAACP Utica/Oneida County, she has partnered with local businesses including Bank of Utica and Excellus BCBS, and local organizations such as the United Way and Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, to create a three-day community celebration attended by thousands of people. Dancy has received numerous awards for her service to the community including the Utica/Oneida County Branch N.A.A.C.P. Outstanding Volunteer Service Award, Mid-Utica Neighborhood Preservation Corporation Award for Education and Service, the New York State Assembly Women of Distinction Award, and New York State Comptroller Outstanding Service Award. Mrs. Dancy grew up in Utica and is a graduate of Bennett College.

Jim Moran (Vernon)

Jim Moran was known as “The Voice of Vernon Downs” and called the horse races for more than 40 years. Moran grew up in Springfield, MA, and attended Springfield College before moving to central New York where he became sports editor for the Oneida Dispatch. He started calling the races at Vernon Downs four nights a week in 1964 and two years later started calling the races every night. In 1975, he became director of publicity at the track and continued calling the races.  He has served as chairman of the board and president of the North American Harness Racing Publicists Association and alternate president of the Harness Tracks of America. Moran has been honored by numerous organizations. He received the Harness Horse Association of Central New York Golden Pen Award and was inducted into the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame. In addition to his work at Vernon Downs, he announced basketball and football games at Hamilton College and coached youth sports.

The Oneida County Historical Hall of Fame has named five individuals to its 2022 inductee class: community leader and Utica’s first Black dentist Dr. David A. Brown, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Charles F. Cleveland, political pioneer and public servant Beatrice “Bea” DeSantis, Revolutionary War hero Colonel Peter Gansevoort and Bonnie Tamer Woods, community ambassador and founding member of Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen. The Hall of Famers will be inducted alongside the 2022 Richard W. Couper ‘Living Legends’ class: cultural leader Robbie Dancy, spiritual advisor Sister Maureen Denn, Purple Heart recipient and veterans advocate Joseph T. Fraccola, and “The Voice of Vernon Downs,” Jim Moran. Biographies for each inductee are below.

The Historical Hall of Fame was started in 1946 to honor individuals from Oneida County who made an impact on our community and the world. The class of 2022 is being recognized for their service as civic leaders and community advocates, and for their efforts in furthering the region's industries, culture, and educational opportunities. The inductees will be honored during the annual Historical Hall of Fame and Living Legends Awards Celebration to be held at Valentino’s Banquet Hall, New Hartford on Wednesday, October 26, 2022, starting at 5:00 pm.


Tickets are $55 for current History Center members and $65 for the general public. Tickets should be purchased in advance on-site at the History Center, online through its e-Bookstore, or by calling 315-735-3642.  Proceeds from the event are designated towards technology improvements at the History Center.​ Sponsorship and advertisement opportunities are available. Contact rmclain@oneidacountyhistory.org for more information.

Historical Hall of fame Class of 2022

NEWS

​​​​​​​​Oneida County History Center

Hours of Operation:

Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm 

Hours of Operation:

Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Research by appointment​: 
Call 315-735-3642​

​​​​​​​​​Oneida County History Center