Afton Chamber Announces Charles Decker 2017 Citizen of the Year
The Afton Chamber of Commerce 2017 Citizen of the Year
The Greater Afton Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that Afton historian, Charles Decker, has been selected as its 2017 Citizen of the Year. “Charlie”, as those who know him well address him, recently retired from his 43-year post as preserver of Afton’s past, accomplished by faithfully recording and recollecting many decades of its “goings on”.
Decker is responsible for establishing and curating the Afton Historical Society located at the Afton Museum on Main Street in Afton Village, which provides a personalized look into the past of Afton and its neighboring area. Charlie is responsible for a huge collection of artifacts, documents and memorabilia reminiscent of Afton’s history. One owner of an historic home in the Village recalls meeting Charlie for the first time right after moving in. “He brought me pictures and documents relating to my home and allowed me to copy them. They are cherished mementos that I am very grateful to possess. I realized the dedication and passion for Afton that this warm, friendly man possessed. He made me want to know more about my new home.”
In October of 2016, “Charles Decker Day”, sponsored by the Afton Historical Society and Museum, became a day of festivities dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of its 90-year-old, dapperly-dressed guest of honor. Area residents, to whom Charlie has been a beloved “fixture” in the community and a source for almost any local history or folklore, had the opportunity to honor and thank their longtime friend and colleague. Congratulatory letters submitted prior to the festivities, from colleagues, community members and fellow historians expressed likeminded opinions of Decker as attaining “Superstar” status for his efforts through the years. One historian remarked that to do anything for 43 years is an accomplishment, but to be a continuous promoter of local history is something truly extraordinary. It was noted that Decker’s research would help future generations understand the importance of community.
Decker has prolific knowledge concerning events related to the origins of Mormonism in NYS and Pa., much of which took place in the Afton area; and was renowned by many as the author of “The Way We Were”, a column published for years in “The Tri-Town News”. Readers of the paper anticipated his carefully researched pieces of local history that either brought forth some old memories or stories long tucked away in “mental mothballs”’; or for younger folks, his column birthed an interest in learning more about “from whence we came”. It is this intrinsic passion for uncovering bits and pieces of the past related to our community that endears Charlie to young and old alike.
In notes taken from a Tri-Town News article from last October’s special day, the feelings and thoughts of those who know Charlie were expressed. Quoting John Lawrence, Afton Town Supervisor, from that article, “How blessed the town and village have been to have you to remind us of our past and educate us on our history”. Decker has been honored with a plaque installed on the Chenango County Heritage Wall, for which he played a part in establishing. He also was a winner of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Lifetime Achievement Award for all of NYS. Decker is one of only two recipients in 2016 to receive this honor bestowed by the Association of Public Historians of New York State.
At the conclusion of his very special day, Decker himself looked out from the porch of the historic building housing the Museum which he was instrumental in founding, at the adoring crowd there to honor him. Decker’s hands and lap were brimming over with the various placards, certificates and statements all decreeing heartfelt appreciation for one man’s life’s work to preserve for all “who we are and how we got here.”
Charlie is not seen as much in our communities recently, and his presence is missed. The members of the Board of the Greater Afton Area Chamber of Commerce has each had a connection with Charlie over the years, and feel the desire to continue to honor this very special man. A reception will be held on Sunday, June 4, from 3-5 p.m., at the Afton Fair Grounds. At that time, Charles Decker will again receive accolades from his peers. All who desire are invited to attend. An application to attend the reception is available on the Chamber’s website: www.aftonchamberofcommerce.com.