-- Babe Ruth, April 27, 1947
This was the quote that former New Paltz Town Supervisor of 24 years William Yeaple’s daughter, Leslie, read at the dedication of a gazebo, built in his honor and perched on a hill overlooking three baseball fields at the New Paltz Sports and Recreation Park last Friday.
Yeaple, who served the town from 1976-1990 as supervisor, passed away at age 84, surrounded by loved ones on Dec. 28, 2010. In lieu of a wake, his family -- wife Joan, seven children and many grandchildren -- decided instead to ask the New Paltz Town Board if they could build a gazebo in his memory, alongside ball fields, with a view of the Shawangunk Ridge. The board unanimously approved this request.
“There were a couple of reasons we decided to do this,” said Leslie Yeaple, during the dedication. “My father loved baseball. This place has a view of the mountains, which as supervisor he worked so hard to protect -- both the Mohonk Preserve and ensuring that Minnewaska remained a public spot. He gave many of his children and his grandchildren the love of baseball, and of enjoying and respecting nature and this just seemed to be the perfect way to honor him.”
Heidi Jewett, who grew up with the Yeaple children, agreed.
“I played sports with the Yeaple kids -- softball, basketball -- just about everything,” she said. “And I always remember him playing in the adult league here in New Paltz and coming to every one of our games, even when we had left high school and played in the adult softball leagues. He was so enthusiastic in his support of us.”
“My dad loved baseball and I played and now my three children play,” said Lisa Yeaple, who lives in Colorado with her family. “He played in the New Paltz ‘Beer League,’ at least that’s what they called the adult league back then, and just enjoyed it immensely.”
Yeaple grew up in New Paltz, attended SUNY New Paltz where he met his wife Joan and went on to earn his masters degree in education at SUNY Albany. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was honorably discharged as a corporal. He taught in many local school districts, including Pine Bush and Highland and then went on to open and run the New Paltz Army Navy Store until he entered the political arena and served as the town’s supervisor for more than seven, two-year terms.
“We were both elected and re-elected during an era when it was very difficult to get elected as a Democrat in what was then a very Republican town,” said former long-time mayor Tom Nyquist, who worked with Yeaple for several years in his capacity as mayor while Yeaple was supervisor. “Now, of course, it’s difficult to get elected in New Paltz if you’re a Republican!”
Nyquist recalls a man who was “very serious about his position as supervisor -- always a gentlemen, someone whom I was able to work with very well on behalf of both the village and the town, and there were a lot of issues that we had to deal with.”
Yeaple governed the town as it grew from a $1-million annual budget to a $4.5-annual budget with a great influx of new residents and an increasingly more complicated governance structure that led to Yeaple to become the first full-time supervisor with a salary of $30,000.
Not only did Yeaple fight to keep Minnewaska in public hands, he was the supervisor that signed the historic “Open Space Covenant” in 1977 with the Smiley family to ensure that what is now the Mohonk Preserve land would not have any commercial, residential or industrial development, but would instead “be used for charitable, educational, ecological research, historic, cultural scenic and open space purposes of benefit to the and value to human society. It was also under Yeaple’s tenure that the town and village jointly agreed to purchase the Moriello Pool and Park, as well as twelve acres of additional land from the New Paltz Park Association in 1979 after the association fell into financial difficulties and could no longer support the public pool and park.
Both Nyquist and Jewett remembered Yeaple and his Army Navy Store and his ability to get along with so many people.
“There were so many cool things in that store,” she said. “And I remember him being supervisor. He was able to get along with everybody even though he was a Democrat. And that was back when New Paltz was really a Republican town -- so that was no easy feat, but he did it.”
“That was a great store,” recalled Nyquist. “And Bill was someone who grew up in New Paltz, who cared deeply about this community and served it for so many years and accomplished so much.”
“This is the most picturesque spot, and I just wish my dad could be here to see it,” Lisa said at last Friday’s dedication. “This was the town he grew up in and loved and this is the sport he enjoyed the most and the mountains that he wanted so much to protect. I really give my sister (Leslie) the credit for doing all of this.”
Leslie thanked Chuck Bordino, the town’s recreation director, and the Town Board for “making this so easy for us to do and lending so much support.” She thanked town attorney Joe Moriello and the building department, particularly Stacy Delarede. “Everyone was so gracious and helpful and it was a pleasure to work with the town on this.”
She also thanked Randall Brown and some of her nephews and their friends for building the wooden gazebo, which Brown did free of charge.
Once the dedication was complete, the rain held out just long enough for three generations of Yeaples and friends to enjoy an inning of baseball.