It’s been a tough week for the chronically troubled village of Ellenville. The first portent of looming disaster was a comically misspelled headline in the Daily Freeman, calling the village “Ellenvile.” No corrections or apologies were forthcoming from myopic proof readers and inept editors.

Next came the worst news of all, a devastating fire in the village’s biggest car dealership. The mayor thinks the fire started with a spark in a building where millions of dollars of HBO equipment was being stored for a movie being shot in the area. Also lost were some 20 vintage cars, some owned by local residents for the film.

But the worst loss of all might have been the sudden death of village manager Joe Stoeckeler Jr. at 59. Joe, a five-term county legislator and realtor, was a village pillar, a man I was proud to call friend. Movie equipment can be replaced, buildings and car dealerships can be rebuilt, but community leaders like Joe Stoeckeler are treasures.

Towns, like people, go through cycles of ups and downs. Fifty years ago, Ellenville was booming with hotels and resorts and a solid manufacturing base. The revival of Ellenville Regional Hospital ten years ago sparked a comeback, but the village’s core issues of unemployment, drugs and general decline persisted. The much-publicized county “Ellenville million” garnered headlines but was more band-aid than bane. Nonetheless, Ellenville, so long on the mat, seemed ready to rise.

Movie makers will move on, of course. The owner of the car dealership says he’ll rebuild and reopen as soon as possible. Joe Stoeckeler would have been a big part of that, cutting through red tape, hooking people up with the right people, encouraging progress. In his memory, it is now for others to step up.

Lake what? – I can assure readers that we journalists, charges of “fake news” notwithstanding, take great pride in accuracy. Accuracy goes to the heart of credibility, but mistakes happen.

As a former editor, I am no stranger to the kind of self-inflicted headline horror mentioned above. Back in the day when I owned the weekly Ulster County Gazette, I once stupidly wrote “Lake Latrine” in a headline, meaning, of course, the town of Ulster hamlet.

“Lake Latrine?!” the town supervisor screamed at me. “Lake Latrine! It’s Lake Katrine, you idiot!”

I apologized profusely, in person and in print the very next edition. The newspaper is dead, as is the supervisor, but I still hear about it.

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