Posts Tagged ‘Ulster County’

Once There Was a Place …

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

(A news obit, written & filed to Facebook  on June 25, 2016).

By Jeremiah Horrigan

Jeremiah Horrrigan

Jeremiah Horrrigan

A desk. A phone. A computer. A place to hang your hat, or just a place to hang. It doesn’t sound very glamorous. Certainly not romantic. Until it all disappears.

I’m going to a wake tomorrow. Not a wake for a person. A wake for what most people would call an office. Those of us who worked there called it “the bureau.” It was a place where news was discovered, reported and written about. My connection to it ended a little more than a year ago. Everybody else’s connection to it — the list is long — ended on yesterday. After more than 20 years, the Ulster County bureau of the Middletown Times Herald-Record was officially shuttered. Killed off by the usual suspects — greedy owners, inept managers, the internet, the times. Dead and dying newspapers like The Record have such a rich variety of villains to blame for their demise, it hardly seems worth reporting the cause of death, it’s become so mundane.

Over its 20 years, the bureau occupied several offices across the county, all of them bare-bones, usually situated on the cheap side of town. Or even out of town. I’ve been a reporter who worked out of all the county’s bureaus, almost from the day the paper waded into the county. When I worked there, I thought of the bureau, when I thought of it at all, as a place. A place where I went to do my job. That meant sitting at a desk and working the phone and kibitzing with colleagues and writing stories and cursing editors I never saw and officials I saw too often, usually at night in drafty town halls or, less often, at some sweltering murder scene or worst of all, at a cemetery where a solitary bugler played Taps and young men wept bitter tears.

No one’s going to weep at tomorrow’s wake. We’ll drink beer and curse managers who wouldn’t dare set foot on the premises, the owner/ investors who see us as cogs in their money-making machine. We’ll toast each other and praise absent friends. And we’ll tell stories on and about each other and those friends, stories being the point of it all.

And then we’ll all go home. And once there, we’ll be alone with our thoughts and at least one of us will wonder where the time went and he’ll look for comfort in the usual direction he turns to. He’ll look to the past because he’s an old newspaperman and a sentimental fool who knows in his bones there’s no longer a place — a bureau — where what was best about newspapers can ever happen again.

Jeremiah Horrigan is an award-winning newspaper reporter, now retired, who has spent his professional life telling other people’s stories  Over the years, his freelance essays, columns and features have appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated  and the Miami Herald. These days, he tells his story in Salon, Memoir Journal, narratively.com and in several national anthologies, including Woodstock Revisited and Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine. He writes a bylined blog for the Huffington Post and is the author of a memoir, Fortunate Son: A Dying Father, an Angry Son and the War on the Home Front.

Death Penalty Dilemma Again

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

I carry with me a special loathing for the monsters in our midst who take out their frustration and rage by beating children, or killing them.

Recently I recalled several such stories I wrote in my years at The Record in Bergen County. Such as the young pregnant woman who felt funny at her high school prom, went to the ladies room, delivered a baby, strangled her, ate a salad and went back to the dance. Note: There is no exaggeration in that description. And such as the man who beat his son to death because the little boy pressed the wrong buttons on Dad’s TV remote.

What brought this recollection in these days leading to Christmas, was a story in the Times Herald-Record that demonstrated yet again what some people are capable of doing to children. The story centered on a boy named Mason Decosmo, or to be precise, the late Mason Decosmo.

Mason was about 2 years old. He was murdered, basically beaten to death.

The TH-R story was about testimony offered by the Ulster County medical examiner on the condition of Mason’s body. The story was accompanied by a head-and-shoulders picture of Mason. That photo shows a sweet little boy with reddish hair and a toothy smile. He looks like a happy kid though I noticed he had bags under his eyes, something you don’t expect to see in a toddler. There’s no mistaking him for anything but a child, yet those bags, and a slight crease in his cheek, give him the momentary look of a little old man.

Two years old. Walking around, in all likelihood. Understanding some words and maybe repeating some to his mother. Toilet trained? Maybe, maybe not. Was he in the early stages of the Terrible Twos? Did he love to watch TV? What was his favorite toy? His favorite storybook? We don’t know.

What we do know is that there’s someone in this world who had an unquenchable hatred for this little boy. For, as reported by the Times Herald-Record, this is what the medical examiner, Dennis Chute, found when he examined Mason’s body:

Mason was hit so hard that he suffered liver damage. Mason’s pancreas was torn into two pieces. Mason had internal bleeding. Mason had blood on the brain. Mason had a broken rib. Mason had a damaged lip. Mason had 60 bruises. Mason had torn skin on his anus. Mason, two years old, had bruises on his penis. Mason had bruises on his scrotum.

On trial is Kaitlin Wolfert, Mason’s mother, charged with negligence and abuse. She said she was unaware of how badly her son had been hurt and therefore didn’t take him to the hospital. Later, there will be a separate trial for Kenneth Stahli – Wolfert’s boyfriend – who is charged with murder.

When the killer, whoever he or she is, finally is found, my shaky opposition to capital punishment will again be tested. I grew up opposing it and was happy when it was outlawed in New York. After all, how certain can we be of a capital defendant’s guilt? What if we execute someone who’s innocent? These are absolutely legitimate questions, and I wish I had rational answers.

In the meantime, what do we do with the beast who murders a little boy like Mason Decosmo? Should he or she be allowed to live in our society? If capital punishment is cruel and inhumane, what then do we do with the people who kill little kids like Mason?

For now, let’s remember this little boy. May Mason and his suffering never be forgotten.