Mar 14, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
After just missing her chance to wave to the president as he drove by last year, a former Cazenovia woman recently received something even better: a signed personal letter sent straight from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
As soon as she heard that President Barack Obama’s motorcade was driving through Skaneateles on Aug. 23 of last year, Pat Campbell, a nurse’s aide at the Athenaeum of Skaneateles, hurried to assist resident Winifred Coleman, a former Cazenovia College dean, outside to see the sight.
In the middle of a visit to Upstate New York that included a visit to Syracuse and an overnight stay in Auburn, the presidential tour bus, with little advance notice, took the scenic route as it headed out of the area, driving east on Route 20. As word spread that the president was headed for Skaneateles, locals lined the sidewalks to wave to Obama, who waved back from the front of his bus.
However, by the time Campbell and Coleman got outside to the driveway of the Athenauem, the bus had already passed by. Coleman, called “Winnie” by the residents and staff at the Athenaeum, was crestfallen after learning she had missed her chance to see the president, of whom she is a big supporter, Campbell said.
“As soon as we got down, he had passed though and if you could have seen the look on her face … I think that’s why I wrote the letter,” she said.
A few days later, Campbell wrote a letter, addressed to the commander in chief, to tell about Coleman’s distinguished career as an educator, and the fact that she was saddened by the missed opportunity to see him.
“She loves you and your family and is a true supporter of your policies and vision,” she wrote.
Due to a past stroke, Coleman has difficulty with her verbal communication, though she is still a “brilliant mind” who keeps up on current events and applauds Obama’s principles on education, she said.
A resident of the Athenaeum since 2008, Coleman is a former dean of students at Cazenovia College, where she is a trustee emerita and has donated money to start a scholarship in her name, according to the college’s website.
About five months after Campbell sent her letter, the Athenaeum staff were thrilled to learn via phone call that the White House staff had passed the letter along to the president and that he would be sending a reply, said Athenaeum Executive Director Trudy Scarr.
In February, the Athenaeum, received a manila folder containing a personal note addressed to Coleman and a photograph, both signed by Obama himself.
“Because you did not catch me go by, I wanted to send a quick note to let you know I am deeply grateful for your lifelong dedication to your students and fellow educators,” Obama wrote in the letter. “Our Nation would not be what it is today without the hard work and passion of people like you.”
The Athenaeum staff plans to get the letter and photograph framed and hung on the wall in Coleman’s room so she can be reminded of the gesture every day.
Coleman and Campbell both said they were overjoyed to receive a reply from the president, especially one in the form of a personalized response.
“It sounded like he really read the letter and he answered it,” Campbell said.
“Everybody cared,” Scarr said. “The fact that she [Campbell] went out of her way to write the letter and that in the response he [Obama] recognizes her contribution to the society, that was really sweet.”
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.