In Memory of Alice Dickinson

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Alice Dickinson passed away late Easter Sunday after a long and painful coexistence with cancer. Many people battle cancer, but Alice was told from the diagnosis that there wasn’t much that could be done. And instead of battling, she worked on accepting, and bringing those of us who love her, to acceptance as well. In dying, Alice taught me how to appreciate life, and to live each moment to the fullest.

Maybe you didn’t know Alice, but you have probably been affected by her actions without realizing it. Alice founded a nonprofit called the Rural Development Advisory Council (RDAC), which saved countless people from foreclosure, and brought Green Jobs New York to our area.

RDAC has built senior housing in the Town of Montgomery, and created many local jobs. One of Alice’s passions was affordable housing, so that “people who live here can afford to work here, and people who work here can afford to live here.”

She fought for affordable-housing laws in the Town of Montgomery, and won more battles than she lost. She also served on Montgomery’s Industrial Development Agency to help shape the economic development strategies for our town to reflect human needs. She advocated for open space, pedestrian-friendly downtowns, mass transportation – the things that make a town more livable. Alice was a community-builder, and had no real financial stake in the things she worked for, just a deep, abiding caring for our county and its residents.

I met Alice at a Town Board meeting. We often wound up on the same side, which was usually the minority opinion, during those meetings. I’ll never forget her eloquence at a meeting when she called for raising our building codes to meet Energy Star Standards. The overwhelming opinion was against us. Yet Alice spoke truth to power many times, and never backed down. She was a mentor and a “shero” to me.

I always admired her tenacity, much of which came from being a single mom to her four children. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for her to parent these lovely people and start a nonprofit at the same time. She taught me that life’s experiences often shape us to handle the challenges that are later dealt to us. Alice’s children are all unique individuals who reflect her strengths and community-mindedness. For example, her daughter Faith stepped up to the plate and took over leadership of RDAC when her mother was unable to function effectively.

Faith has made decisions and run the business with the same spirit and heart that Alice would have.

Alice didn’t want a traditional funeral. So her daughter and friends threw a party for her while she was alive. Last fall there was a “roast” for Alice, at which many people were able to say their piece to her. She leaves behind many close friends and a loving family. She was blessed with a sweet husband, Chuck, who stood by her and cared for her during her illness. She faced death with dignity and grace, the way she dealt with life. Community builders are rare people, and we were lucky to have her in our midst. If you were touched by Alice, or want to see her life’s works carried on, please support the Rural Development Advisory Council (RDAC) in Walden.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School of Art in Montgomery, NY.

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One Response to “In Memory of Alice Dickinson”

  1. Michael Kaufman Says:

    Thank you, Shawn. I did not know Alice but I was touched by her through your fine tribute.

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