Thomas “T.” Craig McKinney

Thomas “T.” Craig McKinney

Craig, at 79, passed away on a recent Thursday. He lived in Ohioville and later New Paltz, New York from 1951 to the moment of his passing. Craig was born in Hohokus, New Jersey, the second child of Thomas Craig and Adelaide Katherine Kuber McKinney. His first sister Susan Elizabeth died in 1942 when she had an allergic reaction to anesthesia. During WW2 simple surgeries, to avoid using hospitals, were handled in doctor’s offices. It affected his upbringing.

When Craig was 10 years old, the McKinneys moved to Ohioville in 1951 and found a community he liked. There, he formed many friendships that lasted throughout his life. His friends were uncommonly intelligent and was proud of them, and would follow their careers throughout their lives.

In high school he was a baseball player, bridge player and manager for the basketball team.

In 1959, to the great joy of his parents he was admitted to Ursinus College, graduating in 1963.

He returned to his hometown to work for his parents’ business, the Hudson Valley Newspapers, publishers of weeklies in four Southern Ulster County towns, the New Paltz News, Highland Mid-Hudson Post, Southern Ulster Pioneer (Marlboro), and Wallkill Valley World. He began a career in journalism that continued until the end of his life. He started as a reporter. In those days, small-town weekly newspapers did little in the way of reporting, relying primarily on submitted news releases to fill the paper. Craig took his job seriously, and while in time he would become a columnist, editor, publisher, and owner, his first love was always getting out in the community and informing and explaining to his readers what was happening in their towns.

Craig became a familiar figure on his beat, there for meetings of local government and other organizations, school sports and other events, community activities, parades, fires, everything that went on in a small town. He saw it as his responsibility not just to report on what he saw, but to explain it as well. His aim was always to use his role as people’s ears to better the communities he served. Local officials knew that their actions would become public if Craig was around, but also, that if their motivations were pure, having Craig there to report was a good thing.

In his years on the beat, practically everyone who played an active role in their community came to know Craig. Knowing Craig was synonymous with being his friend. No skills were required to start up a conversation with Craig. It is unlikely anyone in Southern Ulster had as many friends or garnered as much respect as Craig McKinney.

For all the importance his role as government watchdog played, he was most proud of the role he played with the area’s youth. From his job as sports reporter, he became deeply involved with the young people he met. He would tell stories of their achievements, both on and off the field, and served as a mentor to many. Craig understood how important it was for young people, trying to establish their identity, to see their name and accomplishments in the paper. Nothing engenders pride and self-respect quite like being in the paper, for all to see. It assured that long after his capacity to get out in the field very often was limited, there would still be generations of young and middle-aged men and women who would gratefully greet the man they knew as “Scoop” wherever he went. He was a part of their lives.

After his father died and his mother sold the newspapers, Craig stayed on to help the new owner. However, the business was a challenge for an owner from outside of the area, and the newspapers, by default, returned to Craig in 1980. He then took on the role as publisher, now being sole owner of the papers. It assured his continued involvement in Southern Ulster even if his responsibilities were now more expansive. Craig continued to be the ears and voice of his communities until 2002, when the papers were sold to Geddy Sveikauskas, of Woodstock, and became a reporter to the New Paltz Times. Geddy gave Craig a very fair price and agreed to consider, but not guarantee, Craig a long term job. Ultimately his job with Geddy lasted for about 10 years until the declining economics of the business reduced the local news presence. He enjoyed his tenure there.

Although Craig never married, the more than 1,000 student interviews he wrote over his 50 year career created a relationship with 3 generations of southern Ulster’s sons and daughters and this is among his proudest accomplishments.

With the need to remain active he became the Highland editor for the then new Southern Ulster Times in Marlborough and continued to this day to have an outlet for the pieces he wrote every week.

Work aside, he had another life. About 50 years ago he learned of a recently orphaned boy and offered his aunt Teresa to provide support. That boy was to become the man Anthony Porpiglia who he supported to go to college. Anthony became an electrical contractor. Years later, Anthony married Paula Perticaro and they succeeding, years later he encountered Charles McClean, another child wanting parenting and Craig became his surrogate. Charles has struggled but Craig remained committed to him to his last day, believing Charles will become the substantial man he always saw in him. Fourteen years ago he and Tiffany (Davis) had a beautiful child, Tiana, and since has focused his attention on her.

Craig’s will reflects that commitment. He leaves some money to Charles and for Tiffany and Tiana he leaves a trust fund to ensure “that little girl will go to college.”

Craig lived a life that mattered.

His next of kin: Linda Marie Sullivan and her sons, John Francis and Edward of Woolwich, Maine; Bruce McKinney and his wife Jenny and their children Adelaide of San Francisco and Thomas of Preston, Connecticut; Laura Lee Eckert, Bruce’s daughter by a first marriage and her husband Arno and their children Stella and Oscar De Kreij in Singapore; Anthony Porpiglia, Paula and their daughter Nicole of Middle Hope, New York, Charles Davis of Atlanta, Georgia and Tiffany and Tiana of Bayside, New York.

A zoom memorial is planned but the date is not yet confirmed. For information contact us at rememberingcraig2021@gmail.com

A memorial of remembrance is planned for Craig and for the many sons and daughters of southern Ulster who have slipped away, will be celebrated, Covid-19 permitting, in New Paltz in September, 2021.

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- Geddy Sveikauskas, Publisher

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