Three inducted into Lake Placid Hall of Fame

From left to right: Nell Painter, Glenn Shafer, Vito Arste, Martha Swan, Naj Wikoff, Martin T. Tyler, Susan Orlando and Yunga Webb, friends of Russell Banks, accept his honorary Lake Placid Hall of Fame plaque for him at the Lake Placid Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday. (Photo provided —Martha Allen)

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Hall of Fame held its 40th annual induction event Saturday in order to introduce three new members — Sally Warner, Russell Banks and Richard Armando Persico.

Friends, family and members of the public gathered in the Mount Van Hoevenberg North Lounge to honor these individuals who, coming from diverse spheres, have all influenced Lake Placid and the surrounding region in very different but equally important ways.

The late Sarah Louise Smith Warner, known as Sally, might be described as the archetypal Lake Placid girl next door. As her daughter Katherine McQuade pointed out at the induction event, Warner often told people that she was “born and raised in Lake Placid,” and proud of it. Among her many accomplishments, Warner was a champion skier, a teacher and the first woman elected to the North Elba Town Council. Civic engagement was her specialty. When asked what her mother was like, McQuade smiled and answered that people often said “she’s a corker!”

The late Russell Banks was born in Newton, Massachusetts. He and his wife, Chase Twichell, lived part of each year since 1982 in their home on Hurricane Road in Keene. A prolific writer, Banks based five of his score of novels in the Adirondacks: “The Sweet Hereafter,” “The Reserve,” “Rule of the Bone,” “American Spirits” and “Cloudsplitter.” He was a thinker as well as an activist with a predilection for human rights.

The late Richard Armando Persico was born in Gloversville. A long-time resident of Lake Placid, Persico was an environmental and land use lawyer who was the principal author of the Adirondack Park Agency Act. He served as the agency’s first executive director. He also wrote legislation to create the state Olympic Regional Development Authority and served as its first general counsel.

Katherine McQuade holds an honorary plaque awarded to Sally Warner at the Lake Placid Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Mount Van Hoevenberg Saturday. (Photo provided —Martha Allen)

The members of the Lake Placid Hall of Fame Committee for 2023 are Nancie Battaglia, Bob Birk, Mark Gilligan, Doug Hoffman, Emily Kilburn-Politi, Butch Martin, Don McMullen, John Morgan and Tricia Preston. Courtney Bastian organized and coordinated the event.

To be considered for induction into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame, individuals should be past or current residents of the Olympic region or have some significant connection to the area. Nominees are chosen for significant contributions to the region in the fields of sports, the arts, historical heritage or civic leadership.

McQuade gave a brief speech as she accepted the honorary plaque for her mother. Warner, she told the group, “just loved being a member of this community.”

McQuade used seeds as an analogy for values instilled in the young. Parents, as well as teachers, plant seeds in hopes that they will grow along with the child and eventually flourish. The seeds Warner planted in her elementary school students were qualities she herself embodied: Perseverance, tenacity (she wouldn’t let things go — “not always a good seed,” McQuade admitted) and inspiration. McQuade said she wasn’t sure if her mother was aware how much she inspired others by her example.

Warner was an accomplished ski racer. She won both slalom and downhill Winter Carnival events when she was a high school senior and was also Winter Carnival Queen that year. The next day she won the New York State Ski Championship.

Sally Warner taught elementary school in Lake Placid and the surrounding communities for nearly 30 years. She was also actively involved in the community, as a member and past president of the Kiwanis Club, vestry of the Episcopal Church and the Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education, as well as other organizations, and somehow found time to teach skiing, golf and bridge.

Three examples of Warner’s influence on the daily lives of residents and the personality of Lake Placid: The ban on jet skis on Mirror Lake, the refusal to allow Walmart to establish a store in the village and the creation of a brick walkway around Mirror Lake.

Poet Chase Twichell, the wife of Russell Banks, was unable to attend the induction event, but composed a letter of thanks accepting the honor on his behalf, which was read by Lake Placid News Columnist Naj Wikoff.

“Russell,” she wrote, “would have been proud and delighted to receive this honor.

“When Russell first came to the area in 1987, he was thrilled to discover that one of his heroes, John Brown, was buried just up the road in North Elba. He immediately began delving into the history of the place, and never stopped. Russell’s curiosity about it never diminished, and he continued to explore its mountains, valleys and towns, their people and local lore, right up until his death in January. Russell spent many hours in local taverns watching games and listening to stories, some of which ended up in his novels in one way or another. Some of you might remember Adrian Edmonds, a resident of Keene Valley for many years, and a repository of knowledge about the area. Russell was especially fascinated by his language, which had direct roots in the 19th century because he grew up working with older men whose language preserved the distinct dialects of the region. In Russell’s novel ‘Cloudsplitter,’ the words of the main character, the abolitionist John Brown, were directly inspired by Adrian Edmond’s way of talking.

“Russell’s attachment to the area worked in both directions. He brought the region to the larger world,setting both stories and novels here (in the fictitious town of Same Dent), and he brought the larger world to the region, particularly in the form of the Lake Placid Film Festival, of which he was a founder. Over the years, many directors, actors, writers and producers came here to participate and many returned simply because they loved the beauty, atmosphere and uniqueness of the place.”

Martha Swan, executive director of the freedom education and human rights project John Brown Lives!, spoke about the ways Russell Banks contributed to the cultural and civic life of the region, citing his collaboration with the Recovery Lounge in Jay and the founding of the Lake Placid Film Festival as examples.

“His epic novel ‘Cloudsplitter'” she said, “animated a serious — and long overdue — reconsideration of the abolitionist John Brown and his place … in the nation’s history of slavery, race and violence.”

Barbara Persico, Richard Armando Persico’s wife, accepted the honorary plaque awarded to him. She said that he had always been called “Dick” until he retired, at which time he announced that he had always preferred to be known by his middle name, Armando, and so he was Armando from then on.

Former bobsled racer and Olympic bobsled commentator John Morgan said a few words about Armando Persico, as did Persico’s former law partner, Thomas Thomas Ulasewicz. Both spoke about how unpopular the APA and some of Persico’s environmental legislation was in the early days. As chief counsel to Governor Rockefeller’s Office of State Planning, Persico drafted legislation that enacted into law the controversial Adirondack Park Private Land Use and Development Plan, the most sweeping state-level land use control program over private lands in the United States. That year he was appointed the first executive director of the APA, responsible for the administration and enforcement of the land use control law.

Like the U.S. Constitution, Ulasewicz said, the legislation “is still bitterly fought over, but rarely amended.”


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