Important and Influential People Who Shaped the Hudson Valley (1972-2012)
Meet the people who helped shaped the Hudson Valley for the past 40 years Featuring: Former Governor George Pataki, singer-songwriter Pete Seeger, Scenic Hudson’s Franny Reese, the Bardavon’s Chris Silva
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When an old stone building in High Falls (previously an early 19th-century tavern frequented by D&H Canal workers) was listed for sale in 1964, local history buff and restaurateur John Novi had to have it. The DePuy Canal House opened in 1969 and enjoyed worldwide recognition. Novi’s philosophy of food as art — something to be crafted, shared, and enjoyed — is perhaps one of the reasons why Time magazine called him the “Father of New American Cooking.” Today, Novi — a supporter of local farms as a board member of the Rondout Valley Growers’ Association — continues to share his culinary skills through private functions and as a consultant to chefs and restaurant owners.
Now president of the Carey Center for Global Good — a think tank located in Rensselaerville — Ash’s professional career path included stints as head of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (she was the first woman ever to hold that post) and as state director of the Nature Conservancy. An unwavering proponent of land conservation and preservation, she has worked to preserve Sterling Forest and to build the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor. From 2007 through 2010, Ash served as the commissioner of New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; the opening of the Walkway Over the Hudson — one of the Valley’s crown jewels — took place on her watch.
It would be tough to find a Valleyite more influential than this Beacon resident — although determining which of his many activities has had the greatest impact, both locally and nationally, is more problematic. As a singer, musician, and songwriter, Seeger helped ignite the folk music revival of the 1960s, performing with the Weavers and writing (or cowriting) several classic tunes (“If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” among others) that became huge hits for other artists. A lifelong political activist, he popularized the spiritual “We Shall Overcome,” the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement. And as an environmentalist, he founded Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the nonprofit organization that works to keep our namesake waterway pollution-free. At 93, Seeger’s dedication to music and political causes has not waned with age. He continues to perform locally, taking the stage in 2009 at Vassar College (where his political leanings were front and center) and at last year’s Clearwater Festival.
Though New York’s 53rd governor has been out of the political spotlight for a few years, his impact on the state — and particularly the Valley — remains monumental. Approximately 600,000 acres of state land were preserved during his time in office, which included adding 17,000 acres to Sterling Forest, acquiring Orange County’s Schunemunk Mountain for parkland, and doubling the size of Putnam’s Fahnestock State Park. Communities like Beacon, Greenport, and Hudson developed parks and better access to the river, and cities like Newburgh and Kingston engaged in urban renewal projects thanks to Pataki’s grants. Still an active man, the former governor now serves as counsel at Chadbourne & Parke in New York City.
When the Evening News newspaper endorsed Democrat Lucille Pattison for Dutchess County Executive in 1978, she was described as a “strong adversary” to her Republican opponents, and as one who was “willing to compromise in order to achieve her goals.” She won the position, but it wasn’t just a victory for locals — Pattison was the first female Democrat elected to county executive office in the United States. She served until 1991, when she decided not to run. During her tenure, she not only made an impact on women, but on children and the homeless. In the 1980s, Pattison was concerned about the rising rate of homelessness in the area and worked to develop an emergency shelter that took care of a family’s immediate needs while assisting in their transition to permanent housing. With many buildings still in operation, the main office of Hudson River Housing is located in Poughkeepsie. To honor her hard work and endeavors, the Dutchess Democratic Women’s Caucus established the Lucille Pattison DDWC Woman of the Year award, given annually to a female Democrat who is “working to advance women in elected office and at every level of the political process.”