GNH Lumber-Outdoor Living-JUNE 2024

Corporal Johnson honored with ceremony at Sheriff’s Office

Pictured are Deputies Peter Merante and Brian McSween holding the replica of Corporal Clifford Stanley Johnson’s Purple Heart, which will be displayed in the lobby of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. Photo by Lance Wheeler

GREENPORT—The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office had an early Memorial Day ceremony to honor Valatie native Corporal Clifford Stanley Johnson.

Cpl. Johnson was listed as Missing in Action December 6, 1950 in the vicinity of Hagaru-ri, North Korea and was presumed dead December 31, 1953.

In 2018, following a United States and North Korea joint-summit, the North Korean government returned the remains of 55 unknown U.S. soldiers to U.S. custody. On April 23, 2021, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that one of the unknown soldiers was identified as Cpl. Johnson.

Deputies Peter Merante and Brian McSween had the distinct honor of escorting Cpl. Johnson from Bradley International Airport in Connecticut to the Bond Funeral Home in Valatie, May 15, 2021. Deputy Merante, a staff sergeant with the NYS National Guard, 727 Military Police Detachment said in a press release, “It was an honor to bring a fallen comrade home.” Deputy Merante has been in the National Guard for 18 years and felt a strong connection with Cpl. Johnson.

Deputy Merante had the opportunity to meet and speak with the corporal’s family during the Military Ramp Ceremony—a memorial service for a fallen soldier, conducted at the airport on the arrival of the aircraft carrying the soldier. Having attended Military Ramp Ceremonies many times before, family members of the deceased found Deputy Merante’s friendly and outgoing personality welcoming during that emotional time. A friendship was established between the deputy and the family members that extended beyond the funeral services. Cpl. Johnson’s family was so thankful for Deputy Merante’s assistance, professionalism and compassion that they sent a replica of the corporal’s Purple Heart to him to share with his children and family.

Cpl. Johnson made the ultimate sacrifice and Deputy Merante wanted to honor his legacy and requested that the Purple Heart be displayed in the lobby of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office so that everyone can honor the life of the Columbia County native.

Boating safety is always in season

In the photo, l-r: Sergeant Heath Benansky, Sheriff Donald Krapf, Undersheriff Jacqueline Salvatore, Hudson Power Boat Association Dock Master Henry Haddad, Sergeant Ian Boehme, Deputy Dan Keyser and Investigator Josh Oakes assemble at the Hudson Power Boat Association docks to launch the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office boat and emphasize the importance of watercraft safety during Boating Safety Week and all during the boating season. Photo contributed

HUDSON—To mark on the importance of Boating Safety Week, May 22 to 28, Columbia County Sheriff Donald Krapf, Undersheriff Jacqueline Salvatore, and officers of the Columbia County Marine Unit assembled at the Hudson Power Boat Association, May 27.

According to a press release, in his remarks about boating safety Sheriff Krapf said, “We encourage you to enjoy the local natural resources that the Hudson River offers and ask that you always adhere to the rules of safe boating operation, and above all, wear your life vest.”

According to recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, where cause of death was known, 86% of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket in 2020. Additionally, one of the top five reasons for boating accidents is boating inexperience.

Sergeant Heath Benansky attended the Boating Safety Week event sponsored by the New York State Sheriff’s Association at the Albany Yacht Club. He reported that the occurrence of boating accidents caused by inexperienced boating operators is rapidly increasing due to the fact that during the 2021 boating season many people unfamiliar with the requirements and rules for operating personal watercraft and power boats purchased them and then set out on the water without any awareness of boating safety.

Free New York State Boating Safety Classes are given throughout the year by qualified New York State Boating Safety Instructors. Dates and locations can be found at, and for paddleboat sport safety, One of the recent classes was sponsored by the Hudson Power Boat Association (HPBA).

Commodore Bill Hogencamp said in the release, “The Hudson Power Boat Association is committed to safe boating on the Hudson River, and for providing dockage to the boating public.”

The commodore encourages everyone to take a Boating Safety Class as soon as possible. Classes will be in high demand as those born on or after January 1, 1978 will need a safety certificate beginning January 1, 2024 and all power boat operators regardless of age will need a certificate beginning in January 2025. Anyone can take a class. Even passengers on boats should be aware of safe boating practices.

The officers of the Columbia County Marine Unit: Lieutenant Mark Dunspaugh, 1st Sergeant Ian Boehme, Sergeant Benansky (the officer to call for information about the Marine Unit at 518-828-3344), Deputy Dan Keyser, Deputy Dayna Scott and Inv. Joshua Oakes are ready to respond to any on the water accidents or calls for assistance on any body of inland water inclusive of all the geographic areas that border the Hudson River. To call for assistance, or to report an observed watercraft accident call 518-828-0601 or 911.

Understanding the need for immediate access to the Hudson River, for the past 21 years, the Columbia County Sheriff’s boat, the Greenport Rescue Squad boat, and the Hudson Firefighters’ boat are gifted dock space by the HPBA. For public dock space, 80 feet are reserved in front of the HPBA building.

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