Bernice Symonds McNeil
November 9, 1925 – July 28, 2021
Beloved Community Volunteer
Bernice Symonds McNeil’s résumé included several noteworthy Chenango County companies – Bennett-Ireland and Gaines Dog Food Factory – among others. A beloved community volunteer, McNeil was active in St. Paul’s Catholic Church, including the Altar and Rosary Society, Monday Evening Rosary and Novena Group, and Mother Club. Known for fastidious record-keeping, this skill transferred over to McNeil’s genealogical hobby as well. Her love of history inspired many, including daughter Mary Pat Lanfair, a former member of the CCHS Board of Trustees.
Dale M. Brown
June 7, 1932 – April 12, 2017
Editor & Writer
In 2019, the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Freeman declared that Time-Life Author and Editor Dale M. Brown’s “American Cooking,” first published in 1968, endures as one of the five best books on American food. The first chapter celebrates the culinary heritage of South Otselic, immortalizing Brown’s great affection for the North Pitcher farmstead which has remained in his family for more than 200 years. In sharing childhood epicurean inspirations, Brown made the nation’s food vocabulary synonymous with Chenango County.
Born: April 5, 1937
CCHS Board Vice President
Del was born and raised in Chenango County and has been a dedicated citizen and family man his whole life. He grew up on a family dairy farm with his 4 brothers and graduated from South Otselic school (currently Otselic Valley). He attended Cornell University, served in the US Army including 13 months in Korea, and was employed at Procter and Gamble (previously Norwich Pharmacal or Morton Norwich) for 36 years where he attained the position of Director of Purchasing. He married Betty Mae Law on June 7, 1958, and has 4 children, 6 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. Positions he’s held in the community include vice president and board member of the Chenango County Historical Society, board member of the Earlville Opera House, Sherburne-Earlville school board member, president of the board of the Lillian Thompson Scholarship fund for the Otselic Valley Central School, board member of the Sherburne United Methodist Church as well as Lay Leader and Chairman of the Finance Committee and long time member of the choir, board member of the Adirondack-Catskill chapter of the Safari Club International, and member of the Central New York Landowner’s Coalition for gas drilling. Del is an avid hunter including whitetail deer and bear in NY, elk in Montana and Colorado, caribou in Quebec, and moose in Newfoundland. He has also been a little league coach, Sunday School teacher, marching band booster and has been seen on stage as a thespian, singer, trumpet player, and a great public speaker. Other activities he has enjoyed are bowling, golfing, fishing, traveling, genealogy, and being a wonderful father, grandfather, and great grandfather.
Born: March 22, 1934
Author, Volunteer, Naturalist
Windsor, originally born in Chicago, eventually made his home in Chenango County and became a local resource beloved by many in the community. For decades, Windsor has been closely involved with a number of organizations, clubs, and associations, including CCHS, the Chenango Chapter of the NYS Archeological Association, the Chenango Bird Club, and the Bullthistle Hiking Club. In addition to his involvement in the community, he is also a published author, having had five books and a multitude of articles regarding Chenango County history to his credit, as well as Birding Chenango County, a book for which Windsor was both author and co-editor. When not serving the community, he enjoys hiking and a variety of visual and written arts.
July 19, 1937 – March 1, 2021
Characterized as “the ultimate mother and homemaker,” Nancy Wendolyn Webster Elsbree enjoyed camping, cooking, gardening, and photography. Elsbree and her husband, Bill, spent winters in Florida where they owned and operated the Oasis RV Park for 24 years. Known as a “talker” who always showed a genuine interest in others, she encouraged all she met. Elsbree’s gift of finding humor in any situation is shared by her brother, Bruce Webster, a current member of the CCHS Board of Trustees.
Ralph Byron Spicer
Born: May 4, 1898
Died: February 12, 1972
CCHS Pres. & Vice Pres.
Ralph Spicer was instrumental in the property purchase and renovation of Ward School No. 2 school house on Rexford St. for the new location of the Chenango County Historical Society and Museum. In 1968, as president of the society, Spicer announced the start of a fundraising campaign for a new roof and general repairs to the museum. Collection boxes were placed throughout the county and were used for a membership campaign and to receive donations for the new roof. His goal was to keep the museum structure in first class condition and maintain it for optimal operation. A year earlier, in 1967, Ralph and other society members did the preliminary work needed to install a furnace in the building so that CCHS could hold tours in the winter. He was proud of the extensive representation of various time periods in the county’s history within in the museum and often held open houses to encourage the community to learn about the society and it’s future goals. In 1969, Spicer donated the cabinet work for Indigenous History display at CCHS. At the time of his death, Spicer was a trustee for CCHS and Chairman of the Building Committee.