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An Icon Bridging Two Centuries

A sounds of the hymns rose to the rafters of St. Joseph’ Sanctuary, the funeral service of an icon spanning two centuries, was taking place. The appearance of friends in our lives still leaves me somewhat mystified. How the human chemistry works its magic to create a lasting friendship still leaves me in wonder.

Back in 1972 when I was pouring the foundation to the first home of my own, a car raced up my driveway ahead of the concrete trucks. It was the owner himself coming to check the mix being delivered to the job site. I politely asked who he was and he introduced himself as owner of the company, namely, Amenia Sand and Gravel. As a relative youngster in his early thirties I was in awe of the owner coming to a jobsite to check the composition of the delivery.

From this acquaintance time seemed to pass between John and I in terms of decades. He would occasionally appear at school budget meetings and complain about taxes. He was always professional in his approach with his criticism being associated with his complaints.

My next meeting with John Segalla was at the early planning of the golf course he had in mind for the retired Murphy farm in Amenia. I talked briefly with him in his office at the Sand and Gravel business. We batted around ideas of a hotel the size of the course etc. He talked about the clubhouse design etc. When we left his office I was ecstatic.

Now was the ideal time to get a school golf team started at Webutuck High School, being only five miles down the road from the school building. With some discussion by the school board a school team was established that spring. John’s cooperation with the young people was stellar. He had Ralph Destefano as his course manger the first year when he opened and he to was a gem working with young people. Life couldn’t have been more exciting for everyone involved. The rest is history.

Much to my dismay I was never aware that John was instrumental in developing Life Star in Sharon. My spiritual thanks go out to him for in 2004 after I had retired from teaching I had a terrible bicycle accident and suffered a serious head injury resulting in a subdural hematoma. A couple of weeks after my brain surgery I felt like I was having a serious heart attack on a Saturday morning. I summoned my wife to take me to Sharon Hospital. They ran some blood tests and stated I was not having a heart attack. They then sent me to have a chest CAT Scan for the pressure wasn’t subsiding. As I was being returned to the waiting area the ER Physician, with a troubled look on his face , told me I was in grave danger for I had two pulmonary edemas blocking my lungs. Being a Saturday, no surgeon was in the hospital, a call to Hartford and Poughkeepsie returned the same answer no surgeons available. Next step was to call Albany Medical Center and there was a surgeon on call. Life Star was in Newberg at an airshow and was immediately summoned for a trip to Albany. My wife said she would drive up and meet me but the ER Physician said that would take to long that she should get on board the helicopter. This truly raised my adrenaline level, for suddenly what was going on now became very serious, and caused my imagination to run wild. With my wife as copilot, and me strapped to a backboard, we flew to Albany in less than twenty minutes from Sharon. To end this short history everything turned out successful for me, especially having this wonderful asset available, who knows what would have happened without it.

As one reflects and we proceed quietly to the cemetery, I strongly sense the loss of a dear friend. Although this does not compare to the sense of loss felt by his wonderful wife of 63 years and two dedicated daughters, it nevertheless creates a void of another longtime friend. And in John’s words of advice, reiterated by John Perotti in reading John’s eulogy, “Life should never look back but instead look to the future! “This is the best advice to us all.