Longtime Liverpool activist Sharon Fulmer died Saturday May 10 at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center of complications from multiple myeloma.
Fulmer had also served as president of the Liverpool Public Library Board of Directors and had worked for nearly two decades as a reporter and editor of The Review, dating back to when it was known as The Liverpool-Salina Review.
Fulmer was also active at Liverpool First United Methodist Church and worked as director of communications for the North Central New York Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Although she had stepped down as LPL Board president in 2004, Fulmer remained a member of the board.
40-year Liverpool resident
According to Linda Loomis, Fulmer’s friend and former co-editor of The Review, Fulmer was born Jan. 17, 1942 to Rev. Luther Ridgeway and his wife, Emma. In 1964, she married David Fulmer; they moved to the village in 1966. In their home on Meyers Road, the Fulmers raised three children: son Scott, now married to Michelle, whose daughter Morgen attends Long Branch Elementary; daughter Melissa, a music teacher at LBE and Soule Road Elementary who, with husband Scott Cannan, has a son, Matthew; and son Andrew, who is expecting his first child with wife Kelly in August.
Survivors also include two sisters: Sally Eldred of Cooperstown and Sandra Stansbury and her husband James of Bradenton, FL; a sister-in-law, Beverly Ridgeway of Fort Worth, TX; ten nieces and nephews and several great nieces and great nephews, and a legion of friends. She is predeceased by her brother, R. David Ridgeway.
Fulmer began at The Review as a freelance reporter in 1972. She quickly rose to the position of co-editor. While she was at the helm, The Review won more than two dozen awards from the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, including Best Front Page, Best Coverage of Local Government and Best Coverage of Education. Fulmer was also instrumental in redesigning the paper, working with renowned graphic designer Mario Garcia. In recognition of her efforts, the Syracuse Press Club honored Fulmer with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996.
In 1993, Fulmer became managing editor of Eagle Newspapers, which then published more than a dozen suburban weeklies. In 1994, she was elected president of the statewide New York Press Association.
Her sister, Sally Eldred, had also worked as a reporter for The Review before becoming director of the Greater Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. More recently the two sisters worked together out of an office at the Gleason Mansion where they established Myredith Press, a desktop-publishing business, frounded after Fulmer left The Review in 1995.
One of the reasons for Fulmer’s long service to the library was her lifelong interest in history and genealogy. She was a member of both the Liverpool Historical Society and the Historical Association of Greater Liverpool.
LPL board member since 1972
“We knew her condition was quite serious,” said LPL Board President George Alessio. “Last Wednesday (May 7) we had it all set up that she would attend the board meeting from her home via video conferencing, but then we learned that she had been hospitalized.”
During her tenure as LPL Board president the library suffered setbacks when voters defeated an expansion project and later rejected the 2003 budget.
“She didn’t let us become discouraged,” Alessio recalled. She always maintained a positive outlook, he said.
Although Fulmer’s recent illnesses were serious, she hardly slowed down.
“Even though she was sick,” noted LPL Board member Michelle Welcher, “she was still doing so much. She’s been so much a part of that board for so long it’s going to be hard to replace her.”
Indeed, Fulmer joined the board in 1972. She served almost continuously until the present. LPL Executive Director Elizabeth Dailey praised the contributions Fulmer had made to the library over the years.
“She had very high standards,” Dailey said. “She always wanted the staff to be the best they could be. She always made it a point, as a board member, to make sure that all of the community was being served.”
Dailey said Fulmer was the driving force behind bringing computer technology to LPL.
“She immediately saw the potential of technology for public libraries,” she said. “She helped the Liverpool library become one of the first to use it.”
Dailey agreed with Welcher that Fulmer would be hard to replace.
“I know how much we’ll miss her,” she said. “She helped make us a better library.”
A Liverpool promoter
Fulmer’s death came just 15 days after Liverpool First emerged victorious after its hard-fought five-year battle against locating a Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 57.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” Fulmer told The Review on April 26. “We knew we were right from the start, that Route 57 was just the wrong location for a store of that size. So we’re pleased that they made the decision that they should have made. It’s wonderful news.”
“Wal-Mart probably hated her,” joked Joseph Spado, a friend of Fulmer’s. “They probably couldn’t stand the sight of her.”
Spado, a music teacher with the Liverpool Central School District and director of the Liverpool Community Chorus, of which Fulmer was one of the original members, said he had known her since childhood.
“I knew her my whole adult life and most of my kid life,” he said. “She was such a great lady.”
Spado recalled her efforts on behalf of the village and the community.
“She was really a Liverpool person,” he said. “She was so pro-Liverpool — she was always doing everything to promote Liverpool.
Founder of Liverpool First
That love of her community prompted Fulmer to start Liverpool First, a small organization meant to promote village life and protect it from outside influences like Wal-Mart.
“Liverpool First started as a small group in 2002,” remembered Liverpool Mayor Marlene Ward. “She was chair and my husband, Ace, was co-chair. She did a lot of behind-the-scenes work, writing and so forth.”
Because of her newspaper background, Fulmer maintained a long list of community contacts.
“Sharon knew everybody,” Ward said.
Alessio agreed. “She supported so many activities she had a good pulse on everything,” he said. “Whenever you needed any kind of information about something happening in the community, she knew right where to go.”
Rooted for Yankees
Fulmer was a rabid fan of the New York Yankees and would travel to the Bronx to see them play live whenever the chance arose.
Mayor Ward recalled journeying to the Big Apple with Fulmer one autumn weekend.
“Her brother had connections apparently, and he got her four tickets to ‘Saturday Night Live,'” Ward said. “She gave Ace and I better seats than she took herself, and, gosh, we really enjoyed ourselves. Another time we introduced her to the Carnegie Deli and those delicious pickles.”
Everyone had fond memories to share of the local activist. All expressed sadness that someone who had so embodied the community was gone.
“You know that contest they have at the high school every year, Mr. Liverpool?” Spado said. “Well, she was Mrs. Liverpool. That was her legacy We lost a good person. Hopefully young people will pick up the gauntlet and carry on her legacy.”
There will be a memorial service for Fulmer at 2 p.m. Sunday May 25 at the Liverpool First United Methodist Church. Gifts in her memory may be made to Camp Casowasco, P.O. Box 1515, Cicero, NY 13039, or The Memorial Fund for Piano at Liverpool First United Methodist Church, 604 Oswego St., Liverpool, 13088.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.