The “circle of life” was in full swing this week, as I augmented my schedule minute by minute. Sullivan County lost one of its local treasures on Wednesday, March 16th when Blanche Masters, the irascible, tenacious, one-of-a-kind pit bull (with a heart of gold) owner of Blanche’s Diner on Rt. 17B in Mongaup Valley passed away peacefully at home.
Affectionately dubbed “Mama” and famous for her pancakes far and wide, Blanche was revered throughout the Catskills as an icon, holding court at the register for 25 years. So it was no surprise that hundreds of people showed up at the United Methodist Church in White Sulphur Springs on Saturday to pay their respects to Blanche’s family.
The service, led by daughter-in-law Rev. Bridgette LeConey of Liberty, NY, was personal, touching and a fitting tribute to the Queen of the Catskills as traffic came to a standstill outside the church. LeConeys’ eulogy touched on the fact that, over the years, Blanche “was hostess to celebrities, statesmen, politicians... and maybe even a mobster or two” alongside the regulars who flocked to the diner for decades, knowing that she treated everyone equally, with a sharp tongue, an affectionate wink and as a member of the family.
As folks milled about after the service, memories and stories filled the air. Personally, I may hold the distinction of being one of the few that Blanche ever “treated” to breakfast. A few years ago, after schmoozing with the regulars and cleaning my plate, I made my way to the Queen herself, to pay the tab. Blanche gave me a sly look and said, “this one’s on me, honey.” You could have heard a pin drop as every head turned to see who was being honored in such a way, and I still don’t know what I did to be singled out, but will never forget it. I do know that Blanche touched thousands of lives during her reign and although off on a new adventure, will never be forgotten.
Celebrating Blanches’ life was (IMHO) entirely appropriate, and I headed off to the BrookHouse Gallery (brookhousegallery.com) in Barryville, NY to celebrate life in a different manner. The gallery presented NEON, “an art showing in support of the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA, artsalliancesite.org), showcasing the works of Tom Holmes, Janet Rutkowski, Walter Kenul, Kim Lust, Laurie Stuart and featuring the work of special guest, neon artist Rocky Pinciotti.
The stunning gallery was packed as admirers bid on pieces in a silent auction, made donations to the DVAA and made purchases, munching on hors d’ouevres, while thanking artist-in-residence David Bush (davidbushdesign.com) and sponsors of the event (thegaysofsullivancounty.com). I’ve known Pinciotti for years, but this was the first time I’ve seen his neon art, and I was mightily impressed by his work and that of his fellow exhibitors.
TRR’s own Laurie Stuart had several pieces of her “felt artistry” on display, and although I have no clue where she finds the time, I’m glad that she does, and found this unusual, labor-of-love art form to be particularly fetching.
There were other noteworthy events over the course of the week: The Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless (845/794-8091) banquet at Mr. Willey’s (mrwilleys.com) in Monticello, a trip to the Narrowsburg Inn (nar rowsburginn.com) for their open mic/fundraiser on be half of the upcoming Roots and Rhythm Festival (honesdalerootsandrhythm.com) and a few personal stops along the way.
As usual, my dance card was full and I stopped for a breather, snapping a few pics of the impressive vernal equinox full moon, while making notes of coming attractions. The high school musical season is in full swing, and while I can’t make them all, I will do my best to catch a few. Monticello (monticelloschools.net) is presenting “Kiss Me Kate” on March 25 and 26, while across the county Eldred Central School (ecs.schoolwires.com) will be performing “All Shook Up” on the same dates. Not to be outdone, Liberty Central High School is rehearsing perennial favorite “The Little Shop of Horrors” for April 1 and 2.
These are but a few of the shows that our local talent will be presenting as the weeks progress. Check our calendar section for more and make your reservations, as these productions are invariably (and deservedly) SRO.
I gasped in horror myself as I observed the snow coming down this morning, and while spring is clearly in the air, the weather report for the Upper Delaware Valley is iffy for the week. I won’t put away the snowshoes just yet, but will remain a “cockeyed optimist,” knowing full well that I’ll be out and about regardless of what falls from the sky.