Bernard “Bernie” Ellsworth, the former Saugerties highway superintendent, died Friday, November 9, at Northern Dutchess Hospital at the age of 69. He was remembered by co-workers and friends as a hard worker with a wry sense of humor and a willingness to help whenever he was asked to.
“He was always available to work with us when needed,” former supervisor Greg Helsmoortel recalled. “His first priority, after his men, was the taxpayers.”
Ellsworth “always had the town on his mind, and he was willing to serve. He was out in Hurricane Irene in August, 2011, followed closely by Tropical Storm Lee in early September,” Helsmoortel said. “Bernie was out in the storms, and he was also deputy fire commissioner in Ulster County, which was a help. If any department needed help, he was there to assist.”
Ellsworth joined the highway department in 1984 as assistant highway superintendent, and was elected to the highway superintendent post in 2002.
Councilman Fred Costello noted that Ellsworth developed new paving techniques that were widely adopted throughout New York State, and that he had been nominated to represent the state highway superintendents throughout the state.
While Ellsworth’s successor, Douglas Myer, worked with him for only a few weeks before he took office, Myer said he knew Ellsworth through their work with volunteer fire departments.
Myer was the fire chief in Mount Marion at the same time Ellsworth was the Malden fire chief, and they worked together on many occasions, he said. As a county coordinator, Ellsworth was very helpful to fire departments across the county.
On a more personal note, Myer said that “our community lost a real asset and an upstanding citizen.”
Like others, Fabiano praised Ellsworth for his willingness to help people in the community, and he dedicated his life to public service. And, while Ellsworth would be out on the roads during storms, “he was most effective behind a desk,” Fabiano said, a reference to Ellsworth’s ability to apply for and receive grants, and to stay ahead of department paperwork.
Councilman Fred Costello recalled Ellsworth as “a kind person, who would always do what he could to help people. I wish he had had more time to enjoy his retirement; he worked hard and he deserved it.”
Costello said he spoke to Ellsworth last Wednesday. “He was out and about, and I was glad to see him before he died.”
Councilman Jimmy Bruno also recalled that Ellsworth “was a great guy, and he was always very helpful in Bishop’s Gate (Bruno’s community). He was so recently retired; it’s too bad he didn’t get to enjoy it.”
While she was not directly involved with the highway department, former town councilwoman Nancy Campbell said she recalled that Ellsworth “loved to talk, and we were all invited to the highway garage for a cup of coffee anytime. He was very hospitable, and he loved to be with people.”
At Christmas, he would invite everyone to his home for doughnuts and coffee, Campbell recalled.
“Bernie used to say that Saugerties has more miles of road than the state of Rhode Island,” Campbell said. “He was proud of the job that he did.”
Ellsworth did not mix politics with his job, Campbell said. He worked for everyone in the town.
Bernard “Bernie” Ellsworth was born December 18, 1942 in Kingston, the son of the late Abel and Augusta Ellsworth. In addition to his work with the highway department and as past chief of the Malden West Camp Fire Company, he served as a deputy fire commissioner of Ulster County and was a member of the Saugerties Exempts Fireman’s Association, the NY State Fire Coordinators Association, Ulster County EMS Association, Ulster County Fireman’s Association and a past board member for the Arson Task Force.
He enjoyed his trips to Saratoga gaming with his wife, Charlotte. His family would like to extend a special “thank you” to all the staff of Northern Dutchess Hospital for their constant care and kindness to Bernie and his family during his illness.
Survivors include his wife, Charlotte (Hagadorn) Ellsworth, with whom he recently celebrated a 47th wedding anniversary on Sept. 5 of this year; daughter, Melinda (Mindy) Esposito and her husband Steven of Glasco; sons, Brian and Jason Ellsworth, both of Malden; and granddaughter, Amanda Esposito.
His funeral was held Tuesday, November 13 with interment in the Mt. Marion Cemetery. The family suggests memorial donations be made to St. John’s United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 33. Malden-on-Hudson, NY. Expressions of condolence may be shared on Bernie’s memorial page at www.seamonwilseyfuneralhome.com.