By EMILIA TEASDALE
KINDERHOOK—At a ceremony on July 29, Village Mayor Michael Abrams read the Village Board motion declaring that “the village park at the western corner of Broad and Hudson streets be named Dunham Park in honor of James C. Dunham and the Dunham family, in recognition of the many ways Dunham family members have benefited Kinderhook through their legacy of public service and sacrifice.”
The pocket park is next to the bandstand and Village Square, where a statue of former Kinderhook resident and U.S. President Martin Van Buren is seated on a bench.
James “Jim” Dunham has a long connection with the park and the village. According to the motion passed by the Village Board on July 12 to rename the park, Mr. Dunham’s “commitment to the village and to public service started at a very young age.” He served on numerous village boards and committees, including multiple terms as mayor and village trustee, “and generously donated his time and engineering expertise to important village infrastructure projects, such as the Kinderhook/Valatie sidewalk-link project, the business-district sewer project, and multiple street-repair initiatives.”
He has been an involved member of the Kinderhook Reformed Church and coached little league for over 30 years.
“He has been active in civic life and volunteer activities as long as his son and daughter can remember and continues to volunteer today at age 80,” Mayor Abrams read.
Several former mayors spoke at the event on July 29, all praising Mr. Dunham for his commitment to the village and his involvement in many projects, including putting in the park.
Mr. Dunham’s grandparents, George E. C. Dunham and Jean A. Dunham, gifted the village a portion of the land comprising the park through a deed dated May 11, 1945. The motion says that according to local historian Ralph Duck, George Dunham bought the building at 1-3 Broad Street from the heirs of Charles Palmer in 1944 and opened a second hardware store there after running a successful one on Main Street in Valatie.
Mr. Dunham was two years old when his father, Private George H. “Bud” Dunham, was killed while serving in the Third Infantry Division in the United States Army in France during World War II. He was raised by his mother, Mary (Van Schaack) Van Alstyne Dunham, on Sunnyside Farm, located now in the Town of Stuyvesant but once part of the Town of Kinderhook. His family has long been in the county and according to the motion “Dunham represents a trailblazing family whose history dates back over 350 years in this immediate area.”
The motion also acknowledged his wife Bonnie Becker Dunham for her work on behalf of the community. “As a long-serving, dedicated, and skilled educator, Bonnie impacted the lives of many young people and their parents. She also assumed lead volunteer positions at local organizations, including the Columbia County Historical Society and the Kinderhook Reformed Church.”
Mr. Dunham, a retired engineer for the state, did not run for reelection as mayor in 2020 after serving, at that time, since 2016 (he was also mayor from 2002 to 2006) but he ended up having to stay in the job for several months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the ceremony, he received a standing ovation from the crowd in front of the bandstand.