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The Oneida County History Center Telethon presented by the Bank of Utica raised over $37,000 on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. This special event was broadcast live on WUTR-TV and CNYHompeage.com from the History Center’s main gallery and encouraged the community to call in to pledge; $37,545.00 in new memberships, membership renewals, and donations were received. Thank you to the many individuals, organizations, and businesses who showed their support!
Dr. James Dennison
Dr. James (Jim) Dennison is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with subspecialty training and board certification in sports medicine. What he has enjoyed most about his career is attending athletic events for his children, their friends, and patients over the years, and seeing the injured athlete return to the playing field following treatment and physical therapy. Dr. Dennison attended Hamilton College, graduating magna cum laude, and SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse (Upstate Medical Center). He was the head team physician at the University of Western Alabama and has treated several NFL, NHL and MLB professional athletes. He served as the United States Olympics Team Physician at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs CO. Locally, he has served as team physician for Hamilton College, Mohawk Valley Community College, the Utica Blue Sox, and several area high schools including Whitesboro, Clinton, New York Mills, Oriskany, and Oneida. He also was the Utica Comets Orthopedic Surgeon during the 2020 – 2021 season. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Lori, where they raised three children, which he considers his greatest accomplishment.
Greg Evans is a lifelong resident of Oneida County and a proud graduate of Whitesboro Central School, Mohawk Valley Community College, Clarkson University (BS Chemical Engineering), and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (MBA). He has worked for only one company in his 40-year professional career, Indium Corporation. He joined the materials manufacturing company as a technical service engineer before moving on to several roles including product development engineer, president, and, ultimately, CEO. Greg helped the company grow from approximately 50 people to over 1,100 today, and expanded from a single facility in Utica to 14 sites, worldwide. Under Greg’s leadership, the values-based company maintained its keen focus on respect, appreciation, and achievement to provide long-term security and growth, as well as a caring atmosphere. Greg gives back to the community through board and organizational service He has shared his time with the Utica Zoo, Clinton Central Schools Foundation, MVHS (current board chair), and Utica First Board of Directors, as well as several global industry associations.
Ray Halbritter is the Representative of the Oneida Indian Nation and the Chief Executive Officer of its enterprises. The grandson of an Oneida leader and the son of a nurse, he lived in an impoverished community on the Oneida Indian Nation’s sacred homeland. He supported himself as an ironworker before attending Syracuse University and Harvard Law School. Halbritter returned to central New York to help build the first major enterprise on the Oneida homelands, and has continued to give back to the community as a business and cultural leader ever since. He served as chairman of the Turning Stone Resort Championship and the Upstate New York Empowerment Fund, which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for dozens of Central New York charities and civic groups. He serves as the chair of board of directors of the Environmental Media Association, Harvard Native American Law Board, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Montpelier Spring Water Company, Mohawk Valley Edge, the Hofmann Sausage Company, and the Museum of the American Revolution. Halbritter has received numerous awards including the Mohawk Valley EDGE Leading Edge Award, the Native Voice Award from the National Congress of American Indians, and the Environmental Media Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
Rufus Ventura Jr.
Ventura’s restaurant is a 77-year community staple in East Utica. The original owner, Rufus Sr, opened the doors of the restaurant in 1943. Today, the restaurant is run and owned by the second- and third- generation Ventura’s. Rufus J. Ventura Jr., fondly known as “Nini,” started working in the kitchen while a teenager at Proctor High School. He took over full operation in 1992, and has strived to uphold the standards and traditions created by his father; to serve authentic, homemade Italian food, and to “treat every customer that walks through that door like a member of your family.” Nini and his family enjoying giving back to their community. Most notably, he revived the Ventura Family Golf Classic in 2003, which was a charity golf tournament that attracted celebrities such as baseball great Joe DiMaggio, and has supported a variety of organizations including Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, the Dollars for Scholars Fund, Upstate Cerebral Palsy, and Pathfinder Village.
Rev. Dr. Mary Webster
The Rev. Dr. Mary Webster, known as Pastor Mary, has been a volunteer, community advocate, and spiritual advisor in Oneida County for decades. An ordained minister and certified substance-abuse counselor, she worked for General Electric prior to becoming a pastor. She attended Mohawk Valley Community College and SUNYIT Utica-Rome. She earned her Master of Divinity at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, NY, and her doctorate in theology from Life Christian University in Tampa, FL. She was ordained in 1995, and worked at three churches before becoming the full-time pastor of First Baptist Church at New Hartford, NY in 2006. She retired in 2016, and was named Pastor Emerita. Throughout her life Pastor Mary has given back to the community. She spearheaded a project to construct a Memorial Hall of Fame for the Late Rev. Franklin J. Upthegrove in 2005, and was elected president of the New Hartford Rotary Club in 2007, where she was instrumental in starting an annual blood drive. She has also been a volunteer advocate and spiritual advisor to the Oneida County Family Drug Court, organized an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting, and helped prepare Thanksgiving meals for the firemen in her district.
The Oneida County Historical Hall of Fame, begun in 1946, has named five individuals to its 2021 inductee class: writer Jack Behrens, international literacy advocate Welthy Honsinger Fisher, abolitionist Rev. Beriah Green, Congressman Richard Hanna, and Utica’s first Black teacher Jermain Wesley Loguen. The Hall of Famers were inducted alongside the 2021 Richard W. Couper ‘Living Legends’ class: orthopedic surgeon and Olympic physician Dr. James Dennison, community leader and Indium Corporation CEO Gregory Evans, cultural leader and Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, beloved community figure and owner of Ventura’s Restaurant Rufus Ventura Jr., and community advocate and spiritual advisor Rev. Dr. Mary Webster. Biographies for each inductee are below.
This year’s inductees are 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. They were honored during the annual Historical Hall of Fame and Living Legends Awards Celebration held at Valentino’s Banquet Hall, New Hartford on Wednesday, October 27, 2021. Proceeds from the event are designated towards education projects and facility improvements at the History Center.
Historical Hall of fame Class of 2021
Jack Behrens (1933-2021)
John “Jack” Behrens was a nationally known columnist, editor, and writer who was a teacher for more than 40 years, but still found time to write 24 books and thousands of articles, columns and essays for national and international publications. He was born in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1933, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and a master’s degree from Penn State University. He served in the US Army and taught at Ohio Wesleyan, University of Maryland, and Marshall University before joining the Utica College faculty in 1965 as an assistant professor of public relations. In 1972, he founded UC’s journalism studies major and was successful in bringing many national grants to the college. His 1976 book, Typewriter Guerillas, was a best seller. His work appeared Harvard’s Nieman Reports, Writer’s Digest, Mankind, National Observer, Business Journal and hundreds of other publications.
Welthy Honsinger Fisher (1879-1980)
Welthy Honsinger was born in Rome, New York. She was an intellectual, activist, and feminist, best known for her work as the founder of Literacy House, a grass‐roots organization that focused on teaching farmers to read. She was educated as a teacher and graduated from Syracuse University in 1900. She moved to China in 1905 to head the Ban Lin School, which was the only school for girls in the province of 45 million people. She worked in Europe as a member of the War Work Council during World War I and edited the Methodist magazine World Neighbors after the war. She married Frederick Bohn Fisher, American Methodist bishop of India and Burma and friend of Mahatma Gandhi, in 1924. In 1956, she opened Literacy House's 23‐acre campus in Lucknow, India. Today the organization is part of World Education, which aids education programs in 30 countries, including the United States. She was honored by the Indian government, which based its village literacy programs on her ideas, and appeared on an Indian stamp issued in 1960. She returned to the United States in 1973, and passed away at the age of 101 in Southbury, Connecticut.
Rev. Beriah Green (1795-1874)
Beriah Green was a noted reformer, abolitionist, temperance advocate, minister and educator. He attended Middlebury College in Vermont, served as a minister at the Andover Theological Seminary, and taught at Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio . He was a charter member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, the New York Anti-Slavery Society, and the Liberty Party. He led the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York from 1833-1843, where he transformed the school into a truly abolitionist school. He required that the Institute put no restrictions on the admission of students based on their race or class, changed instruction to reflect practical reform, and admitted more African American students than any other school of the time period. Historian Dr. Milton Sernett wrote “(Beriah Green) was a radical abolitionist at a time when the voices for freedom in America were few in number. Green embraced an educational and social vision that went beyond the mere ending of slavery and embodied equal opportunity for all.”
Richard Hanna (1951-2020)
Richard Hannah was born in Utica, New York, raised in Marcy, and graduated from Whitesboro High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics and political science from Reed College in Portland, Oregon and founded a construction business Hanna Construction. Hanna was deeply involved with the community working with the United Way, local hospital boards, Habitat for Humanity, and Annie’s Fund, a charity he founded to provide grants to impoverished women in Herkimer and Oneida counties. Hanna was a member of the US House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017. In the 114th United States Congress (2015–17), Richard was ranked as the second most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives. “He worked across the aisle to get things done, and he really cared,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. “His focus was always on the people, never the politics. We need more of that in Congress.”
Jermain Wesley Loguen (1813-1872)
Jermain Wesley Loguen has been identified as Utica's first African American school teacher. He was born in Davidson County, Tennessee on February 5, 1813. He escaped from slavery in his early 20s, and after a few years living in Canada, moved to New York State. He studied at the Oneida Institute in Whitestown. Here, Loguen learned that the African American children were not allowed to attend the common schools in the city, so he started a Sunday school for African American children in Utica. He moved to Syracuse in 1841, and was ordained by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in 1842. He was called the “Underground Railroad King,” and is credited with having aided more than 1,500 freedom seekers. He passed away on September 20, 1872, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Syracuse.
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Oneida County History Center
2021 Richard W. Couper Living Legends
2021 Oneida County History Center Telethon
Utica Native Donates Books to Support Youth
2021 Historical Hall of fame & Living Legends!
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Oneida County History Center