Closed Labor Day Weekend
Research by appointment:
Thank You to Our Event Sponsors!
Strategic Financial Services; Trenton Technologies & Albert S. Mazloom, CEO
F. Eugene Romano, Linda E. Romano, Frank Tomaino
Russel & Michelle Czerw ; Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce, Highlander Communications; Earle Reed; John & Kathy Zogby
The 17th Annual Oneida County History Center Telethon presented by Bank of Utica surpassed its goal and raised more than $37,000 to protect and preserve Oneida County history! These generous contributions will enable the History Center to continue to care for its growing archival, artifact, and genealogical collections, and to offer free public programs, rotating exhibits, internship opportunities, educational outreach, and low-cost or free access to its research library for all members of the community.
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.
The telethon was broadcast live on WUTR-TV and CNYHomepage.com from the History Center’s main gallery on May 18, 2022. This special event highlighted the importance of local history and the community partnerships that make implementing the History Center mission possible. More than 100 callers, 10 behind-the-scenes volunteers, 14 phone bank volunteers, and the WUTR crew made both the event and broadcast smooth and successful. On-air guests included local public officials, community leaders, partners, and volunteers that all share a passion for and commitment to local history. With so many deserving causes, the History Center is grateful for the continued support of its membership and the community. Thank you to everyone who joined, renewed, donated, or tuned in.
A special incentive was offered during the broadcast. The first 40 callers who pledged $50 or more were eligible to receive a limited-edition, History Center travel mug and bag of Utica Coffee. Thank you to Oneida County Tourism, Utica Coffee Roasting Company, and Proforma for sponsoring this giveaway.
The History Center staff, volunteers, and Board of Directors would like to extend a special thanks to its Naming, Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Star sponsors. This investment made by the community is vital to the History Center’s success.
Historical Hall of fame Class of 2021
Thank You to our Sponsors!
Bank of Utica
Platinum Sponsors ($2,000+)
Adirondack Financial Services; DBJ Wealth Management; Chris & Virginia Kelly; Coleman Harding
Gold Sponsors ($1,000-$1999)
Caruso McLean & Co. Inc.; Coldwell Banker Faith Properties; Dick Williams; History Center Board of Directors;
Scalzo, Zogby & Wittig; Staffworks
Silver Sponsors ($500-$999)
F.X. Matt Brewing, Co., Inc.; Goldmine Jewelers; Greater Utica Magazine; Greg Evans; MARCH Associates; Dan Marino,
New Hartford Eye Associates; Leigh Baldwin & Co; Passalacqua & Associates, LLC; UFA Alumni Association
Bronze Sponsors ($250-$499)
Dr. William Boyle Jr.; Janice Collier; Leonard England; Highlander Communications; Jay-K Lumber; Oneida Chapter NSDAR; Drs. Cynthia Parlato & Doug Hurd; The Roman Agency LLC; Pat & Patty Sherman; Elizabeth & Richard Tantillo
WUTR; Oneida County Tourism; Northland Communications; Lafa Mediterranean by Zeina's;
Utica Coffee Roasting Company; Proforma
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.
Hours of Operation:
Monday-Friday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Oneida County History Center
The History Center partnered with the Tug Hill Commission to interview 2016 Living Legend Mr. Herbert Thorpe in December 2021. Many know him for his fame as a Tuskegee Airman, but this interview centered upon his work at the Civilian Conservation Corp camp in a remote corner of Oneida County, Empyville. Mr. Thorp shared his memories of camp life including his time working there during the winter of December 1941, where he heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The interview was recorded and is available on the History Center YouTube Channel.
2021 Richard W. Couper Living Legends
2022 Oneida County History Center Telethon
2021 Historical Hall of fame & Living Legends!
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.
Oneida County History Center
Closed Labor Day Weekend
Research by appointment:
Hours of Operation:
Monday-Friday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm