Obituary is kind of a dirty word. I’ve never particularly loved it. It is supposed to be about someone’s life, but the word alone means someone’s died.
My family doesn’t use dirty words. They called what went into the newspaper “Life Legacy”. I like that.
Esperance (Schoharie County): James Elon VanDerwerken, 80, passed away at his home in Esperance on September 9, 2011, after a short illness. He was born in Central Bridge to Elon and Florence (Drumm) VanDerwerken. In 1949 he graduated from Schoharie Central School where he began his lifetime love of basketball. He received his B.S. from Cornell University in 1953. While there he was in the Select Glee Club, the Big Red Marching Band and was president of the agricultural fraternity. On December 5, 1953, he married Lois Gutke of Smithfield, Utah, whom he met when they were both working at Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park.
In 1955 they purchased a dairy farm on Creek Road in Esperance, New York. Their farming operation evolved from a dairy to raising registered Holsteins. Later they grew field crops and vegetables for market. During this time James supplemented his income with various other jobs – working for General Electric, teaching school and running a construction business. In 1985 he and Lois founded PickAPumpkin Pumpkin Patch. He loved sharing his farm with families so they could make their own happy family memories there.
He was active for decades in the Boy Scouts of America who awarded him the Silver Beaver for his years of service. He played French horn in and was a charter member of the Schoharie Valley Concert Band. For many years he was the Secretary/Treasurer of the Schoharie Valley Association. He was also a member and past president of Farm Bureau.
He was an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In church he served as branch president/bishop for 21 years in Schoharie Valley and Fort Plain. As President of Liahona, Inc. he was instrumental in raising the funds for and constructing the church building on Church Street in Central Bridge.
James is survived by his wife, Lois; their children: Debra Schaffer of Central Bridge, NY; Cynthia (Craig) Taylor of Meridian, ID; Michael (Tina) of Scotia, NY; Joseph (Suzy) of Pittsgrove, NJ; Paul (Leslie) of Las Vegas, NV; Ted (Mayona) of Tooele, UT; Jay (Angela) of Schoharie, NY; 34 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
He is also survived by his brother, John VanDerwerken, of Central Bridge, NY, and several nieces and nephews. James was predeceased by his daughter Julia, two grandchildren and his sister, Frances LaMonica.