In Memoriam: Marie Post

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Longtime Saugertiesian Marie Post died Friday, Feb. 20 at Kingston City Hospital. Still active in the community at age 90 — and still managing the town transfer station and the animal shelter she helped to establish — Post is being remembered today by those who knew her best as someone who loved her community, loved to help people and animals, and “just never stopped,” as her daughter, Jean Marie Fellows, puts it.

Post was of that generation that retained modesty about their accomplishments; when I spoke with her in 2012 to write a profile about her for this newspaper, she downplayed her role in making Saugerties a better place to live. “When I came here as a young girl,” she told me, “Saugerties was very good to me. I was a stranger, and they were very kind.” From that point on, it seems, Marie was intent on returning the favor.

Compassion was the quality she told me she most enjoyed finding in other people, and her achievements speak to that in the way she lived her own life. Best known, perhaps, for her work with animals, Post also devoted a great deal of her time to projects that benefitted senior citizens and the underprivileged, and she served for 11 years on the Saugerties Town Board. Her efforts over a lifetime led to the Saugerties Area Chamber of Commerce honoring her with their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, and the same year she was named Ulster County Senior Citizen of the Year.

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“You get a good feeling helping people,” she said in our 2012 interview. “We’re public servants; it’s really to help people, and that’s what we’re here for. And if we can’t help people, we can refer them to someone, so that they can get help of some kind. We do what we can.”

The daughter of the late William and Ada Gowing Stage was born May 24, 1924 in Mountain View, New Jersey. Her family moved to Jersey City shortly afterward. Marie’s first experience with Saugerties was attending summer camp here as an 11-year-old. Over the course of the summers that followed, she returned as a camper and met her future husband, Claude Post, a teenager at the time working at the camp. They married 73 years ago on the fourth of July, and raised five children in Saugerties.

“We’re a very close family, and we had a wonderful, simple childhood filled with loads of memories,” says Fellows. “Every Sunday after church, my father and mother would put all five of us children in the back of the car to take us for a ride, and we would sing the entire time. We’re so grateful to have had the childhood that we had.”

Claude, a mechanic, operated his own garage while Marie stayed at home with the children until the youngest was old enough to go to school fulltime.

“She was an amazing mom, and she was a perfect role model,” says Fellows. “She was kind-hearted — always helping the animals, of course — and always eager to learn. She even went back to Ulster County Community College as an adult and took evening courses; she received straight As and was on the Dean’s List. And in recent months, even though her body was slowing down, her mind never missed a beat.”

Marie’s path to running the animal shelter in Saugerties began when she went to work at the Saugerties Animal Hospital as a receptionist and veterinary assistant before moving on to South Peak Veterinary Hospital in Saugerties, where she worked at the front desk for 19 years. When she was elected in 1992 to the Town Board — a position she would hold until 2003 — the town supervisor at the time suggested that with her background in veterinary work and having served on the board for the Ulster County SPCA, she should become the Town Board’s liaison to the animal shelter.

Marie went on to manage the town transfer station as well as serving in the role of animal control officer, on call 24/7 to take those calls about stray dogs in the middle of the night; responsibilities she was still carrying out at the time of her passing. She maintained a food pantry for pets at the shelter so that animal lovers in financial straits never had to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their pets, and she kept up the Animal Emergency Fund she established in 1999 to subsidize spaying and neutering costs and to provide for medical treatment of sick and injured animals in cases where the owners were financially unable to cover the costs. Marie also organized twice-yearly tag sales to benefit the shelter.

“I’m very proud of both the shelter and the transfer station, and of the people that work there,” she said in our interview two years ago. “They deserve the credit. I don’t like to say ‘I,’ I like the word ‘we.’”

Post’s absence will be felt among town officials

“If you tried to list everything she did for this town, it would take a full page in the paper, maybe even more than one page,” said Saugerties Councilman Jimmy Bruno.

“She was an asset to this town in so many ways,” said Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel. “She hadn’t been feeling well for several months, but she worked right up to the very end. As well as losing a friend, the town will lose a lot because she is gone.”

Bruno, the Town Board liaison to the animal shelter and the transfer station, said his relationship with Marie Post goes back to his teen years. “I was in school with her son, Ken. She always had Saugerties in her heart. She loved animals, and she would sometimes put her own money into pet food and supplies.”

Marie “was someone you could always count on,” Bruno said, noting that she worked many more hours than the job description calls for.

“She did a great job at the shelter and at the transfer station; she will be missed,” said former Councilman Bruce Leighton.

Councilwoman Leanne Thornton recalls running against Post for the Town Board. She didn’t think she was likely to win. She recalls speaking to Marie early in the election cycle, and being advised to “maintain your sense of humor and don’t take things personally.”

When the election was over, Post offered to give her help and advice any time she needed it. “And she did give advice whenever I asked. She was very active in so many town affairs. She was the liaison from the historical society to the town, and it was a thrill to see her son and grandson nail the last boards into the historic barn. That was three generations of service to the town.”

Marie was involved with people on a personal level as well, Thornton said. “If someone was sick, or needed help, she would pick up the phone and offer help.” And when Post wasn’t well herself, she continued working even so, using the telephone and computer to stay in contact.

Marie was a very nice person, said animal control officer Nancy Gage. ”I’ve been there [at the animal shelter] for 30 years. She got the shelter fixed up, and she raised money for the shelter, through the yard sales, fundraising… she did just about everything to keep the shelter working. If you needed something for the animals, she would get it for you.”

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Longtime Saugerties Times contributor David Gordon found Post to be “gracious and helpful on occasions when I photographed animals for brief appeals and covered events at the landfill and shelter. On a more personal note, several residents of the community in which I live discovered a litter of three kittens in a storage shed on our common property. I volunteered to take them to the shelter, but Marie Post said the tiny animals, whose eyes had just barely opened, were too young to be taken in or given up for adoption. She gave me instructions for feeding them and a voucher for a local vet to provide formula, to be fed from a doll-size bottle. When the kittens were weaned and litter box-trained, we were able to give two away. The third went to a local veterinarian for shots, a health examination and possible adoption, all organized by Marie Post.”

Marie was active in her church, as well, serving as choir director, organist, elder and member of the Cheerful Workers Ladies Society of the Blue Mountain Reformed Church. “She was part of the search committee that came up with me [in 2004],” says Reverend James Alley, pastor at the church. “She was kind of the matriarch of the church, you might say. While she was still driving, she helped me do some visitations to shut-ins, and for a long time, she did both the bulletin and the music, and she did that for other churches, as well. As Marie got older, she let go of that, but she did so reluctantly. She really enjoyed being a part of the action.”

And Marie made sure that the new pastor got involved in the greater community. “She kind of shepherded me along,” says Rev. Alley. “She always wanted the church to maintain a presence in Saugerties. Marie suggested that I join the Blue Kats, which I did, and she made sure I did all I could to get involved in the Saugerties Area Council of Churches (SACC). She had a lot of heart.”

Marie joined the West Saugerties Rebekahs, a service organization, and helped manage the SACC’s Ellen Russell Finger Emergency Fund, which helps community members bridge the gap when confronted with unexpected financial emergencies. In her time on the Town Board, she served as liaison to the Saugerties Police Department and was instrumental in the formation of the Canine Unit. Her term of service included the formation (with SACC) of a committee that secured temporary housing for the homeless or victims of domestic abuse.

Marie is survived by her husband, Claude, with whom she celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary last July; daughters, Jean Marie and her husband, Bruce Fellows and Adele and her husband, Robert Zinderman; sons, C. Howard “Howie” and his wife, Gail Post and Kenneth W. and his wife, Denise Post; son-in-law, Jerry O’Connell; grandchildren, Griffin, David and Kenneth W. Post, Jr., Ashley Amici, Steven and Scott Fellows, Troy, Craig and Mark Zinderman, Damian Kane, Sara English, Kristin Houston and Daniel, Shannon, Owen and Joseph O’Connell; nine great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her daughter, Dori O’Connell; son, David Post; sisters, Dolly Malone and Dora Garbee; and brother, Jack Gowing.

Her funeral was held previously with interment in Blue Mt. Cemetery. The family suggests memorial donations be made to the Animal Emergency Fund, 19 N. Main St., Pine Plains NY 12567. Expressions of condolence may be shared with Marie’s family at www.SeamonWilseyFuneralHome.com.

David Gordon contributed to this piece.