Editorial: A salute to a truly dedicated inspector

Monday, November 27, 2017

Here are some brief thoughts on some of the events making news from around Franklin County and the North Quabbin area:

Herb Hohengasser turned 90 years old Saturday, making him one of the oldest active plumbing and gas inspectors in Massachusetts. For those of us who believe in the value of work, he is an inspiration.

Andy French, the regional plumbing inspector at the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, said the people in his office call Hohengasser “the energizer bunny because the man can’t stop.” Hohengasser covers all inspections in Montague and Wendell, and acts as an alternate to French for the entire Franklin County region.

Earlier this month at the Franklin County Master Plumbers Association’s monthly meeting, about 45 peers, plumbers and inspectors from around the state saluted Hohengasser with a special award for his longstanding work in the plumbing and gas industries. We do the same.

Signs of Christmas

Little Drummer Craft Fair was held recently, a prelude to the holiday gift-buying season ahead of us. And now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we will be seeing many more holiday gift-selling fairs that will look a lot like the Little Drummer, but each with their own flavor and flair.

At Little Drummer, hundreds filtered through the gym, hallways and classrooms at Franklin County Technical School, browsing the booths of 65 artisans and craftspeople. The juried craft fair raises money for Tech School student scholarships.

Some may remember the fair as the Candy Cane Carnival that was held at the Holy Trinity School in Greenfield for many years. When the school closed, the fundraiser moved to the Tech School.

In the next few weeks, we’ll have the opportunity to help other local organizations with their annual fundraising and help ourselves by buying some unique local gifts. These holiday fairs, festivals and bazaars will benefit nursing homes, hospitals, school PTOs, churches and other help-giving organizations around the county. So take the opportunity to shop locally while helping locally.

Music to the years

How wonderful that Whately Elementary School music teacher Steve Damon serenades the parents, staff and students as they enter school every Wednesday morning.

Damon lives in Gill, and has taught music in public and private schools throughout Franklin County since 1993. He has been performing personal concerts for his students since becoming a teacher, in classrooms and occasionally in the cafeteria during lunchtime. He’s been doing it in Whately for four years.

“When they graduate from high school, I want them to know they can set up a chair and play anywhere. Or play for their kids, or get together 50 friends,” Damon said of the inspiration he’s trying to instill. “(Music) is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be something you enjoy for the rest of your life,” he said.

Applause, please.

Conway mounts Monte’s bandwagon

Conway Grammar School students couldn’t march from Springfield to Greenfield last week as did 93.9 “The River” radio personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte to raise money for Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. But they did their part anyway.

The 150 or so pupils marched around school grounds and raised more than $2,000 and almost 200 pounds of food. While fundraising, a representative from the regional food bank spoke with them about hunger in the region.

“A lot of people aren’t able to get food that’s needed. And during the holidays, it’s even harder to get the food because prices go way up,” said 6th grader Patrice Moriarty, after completing the march. Standing beside her, 11 year-old Leah Gump noted, “I think if you create good habits at a young age, they’ll carry through for the rest of your life.”

Well said and well done.

Happy trails

Kathryn “Kay” Burnett’s dedication to maintenance of 22 miles of hiking trails in the Pioneer Valley earned her the nickname “Trail Lady.”

And her legacy will continue even after her death. Nearly six months after the longtime Smith College employee and outdoorswoman died, two local land trusts are receiving a combined $500,000 from Burnett’s estate to continue their work of preserving land and making it accessible to the public.

One of them is Franklin Land Trust based in Shelburne Falls, which will receive $250,000.

Burnett believed that trails are essential for connecting people to the land, and we hope that the land trust will be able to do just that with her gift, which is the largest ever received by the 30-year-old trust that works to conserve farms and forests and other natural resources, promoting the quality of the region’s environment, economy and rural character.