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More Amsterdam birthdays

By: Bob Cudmore

Date: 2017-01-28

New book a collection of stories about Amsterdam residents
By Bob Cudmore, Focus on History, Daily Gazette, 01-28-17

A new book by Michael Cinquanti, “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays: Second Edition,” profiles hundreds of people with Amsterdam connections.

The essays previously appeared in a daily online blog that Cinquanti stopped writing at the end of last month. An Amsterdam native long active in the community, he expects to work on other local history projects in the future.

MINUTEMAN
David Shephard, who fought with the Minutemen in the American Revolution, was born October 23, 1744, in Westfield, Massachusetts. Shephard went to Yale, became a doctor and settled in Chester, Massachusetts.

When the fight against Great Britain began, Shephard was a surgeon to the rebel troops at Lexington and Concord. He also fought in battles at Ticonderoga and Bennington.

After the war ended, Shepard practiced medicine in Chester and was active in town government.

Cinquanti wrote that in 1802, “He purchased a farm in Amsterdam and relocated his family to the Mohawk Valley settlement.

“Shephard’s spread was located at the top of what is now Steadwell Avenue and he lived and worked it until his death in 1818. The farm would much later become the site of Fairview Cemetery.”

SODA BOTTLER
Gerald Fitzgerald was born January 24, 1895, thirteen years after his father Timothy founded the Fitzgerald Bottling Works. Cinquanti said the plant originally was on lower Reid Street and later moved to the corner of Church and Reid, current location of the Polish National Alliance. The bottling works relocated in 1915 to 465 East Main Street in the town of Amsterdam on what is now Chapman Drive.

Gerald Fitzgerald took over the company after his father died in the late 1920s. An Amsterdam man named Benedict Karutis was Fitzgerald’s top assistant. Fitzgerald and his wife, the former Margaret Thisse, lived across the road from the bottling plant. They had no children.

He put his bottling machines behind large windows so people passing by could see the process in action.

Their best-selling soda was ginger ale but Fitzgerald’s also bottled bright colored orange, grape and lemon sodas. Most cream sodas were light brown but Fitzgerald’s cream soda, Cinquanti’s favorite, was deep red.

After World War II Fitzgerald built a new facility on Freeman’s Bridge Road in Glenville and bottled national brands such as Pepsi under contract. The Amsterdam plant eventually closed. Gerald Fitzgerald died in 1970 and Fitzgerald’s Glenville bottling works closed soon after that.

ELEGANT DANCER
Virginia Willoughby Noble taught generations of Amsterdam children how to dance. The daughter of Bernard and Grace Currie Willoughby, she was born on March 8, 1912. Her grandfather was John Edward Willoughby, a highly regarded managing editor of the Amsterdam Recorder who was related to Ulysses S. Grant and Ethan Allen.

Virginia married Alfred Noble when she was a high school senior. They had three children. In 1947 she joined her sister Rita who had started a local dance school ten years earlier. Virginia took over the business when Rita moved to Long Island.

The dance school was originally on Market Street over the old Regent Theater. In 1953 the school moved to the first floor of a large Victorian home at Stewart Street and Northampton Road.

Cinquanti wrote, “Her expert choreography became a key reason why the summer shows sponsored by the City of Amsterdam’s Recreation Department (and directed by Bert DeRose) were such high quality and entertaining productions.”

Cinquanti said she would disappear when dance class ended “and reappear dressed to the nines like she just stepped out of an ad in Vogue.”

Willoughby Noble died in 2001 at age 89. An understudy, Rosemary Brzezicki, continues to operate the school.

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