When I first got to Woodstock back in the early 1970s, everyone went to Colonial Pharmacy for ice cream. It was the place to go. The shop was in the Bradley Meadows plaza then, having moved from Tinker Street just up from the corner of Tannery Brook, where the Golden Notebook now sits. Joe Forno would inevitably be there, dishing out the flavors, a kindly smile for the kids, some chatter with the adults. It was the last of it’s kind in town, complete with swiveling aluminum stools with red leather seats lined neatly in front of a gleaming countertop (well, the News Shop had such stools, too.)
Joseph Forno, the proprietor of Colonial Pharmacy, and so much more in the community of Woodstock over many decades, died Thursday, September 29 at Kingston Hospital.
He was born December 3, 1915 in Hackensack, New Jersey, the son of the late Rosario and Maria Giarritana Forno and he resided in Bearsville for many years.
“What a life, it’s something to celebrate,” said Joe Forno Jr. “He’s the last of the old time Woodstock businessmen.” He cited his father’s friends from the mid-20th century, “Lou Wilson, Deanie Elwyn, Adolf Heckeroth, Kermit Schwartz. And the political people Abe Molyneaux, Ken Wilson.”
Joe Forno began his pharmacy career with Mack Drug Co. in New Jersey and later in Albany. He built Colonial Pharmacy on Tinker Street in 1947. “The original building was an extension of what is now Taco Juan’s. They cut the lumber at Nelson Shultis’ mill in Wittenberg. Dad worked for Nelson…he had been working in Albany for Mack Drugs. When he met my mom on a blind date in Albany, he saw the way to move back to Woodstock and continue his pharmacy career.” Colonial Pharmacy moved to Bradley Meadows in 1968.
But his career as a pharmacist only scratched the surface. He served as Woodstock town councilman from 1949-1953 and as town justice, 1954-1957 and again 1968-1969.
“By all accounts he was a pretty good judge,” says the younger Forno. “The choice my friends had was go before him or Rudy Baumgarten. They all asked what night was my dad going to be there. He gave everybody a second chance when he was judge.
“When The Band was in that car accident on 212 over by what’s now the sewage treatment plant — Richard Manuel had crashed a car and the police were already there and Levon was driving a new corvette about 70 mph around the s-turns and he sideswiped the police car and nearly killed (Chief constable) Billy Watrous. There was a brawl there, fists flying. I think Levon wrote it in his book.
“All of ‘em went in front of my dad that night. He didn’t know them, it was one of their first days in town. He told me the fine was 250 bucks. And he refused to take Albert Grossman’s check, he didn’t know who he was. We knew then he could handle authority. But he later became good friends with Albert and the guys in The Band.”