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GOOD NEWS!: Former columnist, volunteer Norma June: A life of service

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Norma June, honored with a bench dedicated in her name, greets family and friends at a celebration at Henry Hudson Park last Saturday. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

SELKIRK — Over more than 50 years of service, Norma June left an indelible mark on her community and last Saturday the community turned out to show how much they appreciate her contributions.

June, 94, now lives at a residential facility in Columbia County, but greeted friends and family at a ceremony this weekend at Henry Hudson Park, where a bench dedicated in her honor was unveiled.

June, writing under the pen name “Murt Emmet,” wrote two columns for the Ravena News-Herald for more than half a century, often sitting by the side of the Hudson River to gain inspiration.

So, it seemed only fitting that a bench in her honor sit beside the river where she wrote some of her best works.

June was a volunteer with the Selkirk Fire Department and for Delmar-Bethlehem EMS for half a century, bringing her compassionate care to anyone who needed it.

“Today we are presenting Norma with a bench to remind the public of the years of service that she had put out for the public — over 50 years with the ambulance and with the Selkirk fire district,” said District Fire Chief Thomas Neri. “She was a center of the community — she knew everybody. If we went to an accident, she knew who the person was. If we went to a fire call, she knew who the person was. She was known by everybody in the town because she was always helping people.”

District Fire Chief Thomas Neri of the Selkirk FIre Department greets June at a ceremony at Henry Hudson Park last Saturday. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

June was a volunteer with the Selkirk fire company’s fire police, doing stints as the department’s president and secretary.

She was also a founding member of the Bethlehem Historical Association and was a key figure in securing the former one-room schoolhouse on River Road in Selkirk as the museum’s permanent home.

“She was very active in the community,” Neri said.

June’s daughter, Phyllis Buckley, said having a bench dedicated in her honor was a fitting tribute.

“This is due — she served in so many ways,” Buckley said. “So many times I would walk into a store or restaurant and people would tell me all the things my mother did for them. She would doctor them, comfort them, hold their hand, whatever they needed. Even at the nursing home, she is still helping people.”

The bench dedicated to Norma June in honor of her accomplishments faces the Hudson River at Henry Hudson Park, where she once used to sit to write columns for the Ravena News-Herald. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

June’s works at the Ravena News-Herald spanned over a half century. Her News and Views column always featured a sketch of a lion and the tagline “Keep your powder dry” at the end of the column. The tagline is also included on the plaque that adorns the park bench, recalling yet another of her contributions to the community.

She wrote weekly, for decades, about the goings-on in the area, dropping off her handwritten columns to the newspaper’s Ravena office without fail. See samples of her writing on page A8.

Ever a Renaissance woman, June also wrote poetry, and a volume of her works was published by Bleezarde Publishing, the former owner of the Ravena News-Herald.

Neri said researching June’s many contributions to the community and her more than 50 years of service was challenging because much of her work pre-dates computers.

“I got to the number 50 and just said, let’s put 50-plus, because I can’t even research that far back,” Neri told the crowd with a laugh.

“You don’t know how much you have affected this community and helped people,” he told her.

Norma June and her daughter, Phyllis Buckley, try out the new bench with a plaque honoring June’s work in the community over more than five decades. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Nancy Newkirk from the Bethlehem Historical Association read one of June’s poems, “River of Legend and Lore,” at the dedication ceremony.

“Norma is one of the founding members of the historical association, so we are pleased to be here today to recognize this great honor,” Newkirk told June. “It’s been more than 50 years with Bethlehem Historic. We thank you for everything that you’ve done.”

June and her son, Herb June, were instrumental in getting the former one-room schoolhouse to serve as a permanent historical museum, Newkirk said.

Norma June has six children, 21 grandchildren and around a dozen great-grandchildren.

She said she will never forget Saturday’s ceremony.

“This was unbelievable,” June said. “It’s one of the moments of history that I will hang onto forever and ever.”

June with her daughter, Phyllis Buckley. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media
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