By Jay Behrke
WASHINGTONVILLE – Wednesday marked the official unveiling of John Spear Way here at the corner of Route 208 and Von Trapp Court, less than two years after the 74-year-old president of Spear Printing and former editor and publisher of the Orange County Post had fallen to cancer. The larger than normal crowd that turned out to see Spear so memorialized on what would have been his 76th birthday was a living tribute to his enduring local legacy, further ingraining his iconic stature amongst those who knew and loved him. And in this section of Orange County, that’s pretty much everyone.
“We typically don’t have this type of a crowd for media events and unveilings,” said 99th District Assemblyman James Skoufis. “I think this is a testament to the love in the community for John Spear. So, it’s great to see so many people here.”
“Everything John did was for the community,” said Senator Bill Larkin. “His family was embedded in what happened here. When you say Washingtonville, Blooming Grove, Chester, you say John Spear was there for that community. And we owe you a debt of gratitude.”
When I was the editor of the Post back in 2014 and 2015, John was “semi” retired, and still penned his weekly column, “Just Wandering ‘Round”. I was fortunate to have gotten to know the man near the end of his life. His was a study in uncomplaining perseverance and courage reminiscent of Gary Cooper in “High Noon”. He made it in to work next door to my office most days, and never moaned, despite chemotherapy and his fast-approaching mortality. More than once, I found him on his back on the cold floor trying to fix one or another of his often cranky printing presses with varying degrees of success.
Spear served as a lector and daily mass altar server at the church for all of his adult life, founded and directed St. Mary’s CYO basketball program in Washingtonville, and coached several teams to championships. “He always wanted to play when he was young,” said his wife, Mary. “And he thought other children should be able to play, too.”
Skoufis and Larkin passed legislation in June to rename this portion of Route 208 in honor of Spear who, even in death, continues to inspire, and ‘have his way’ with a new generation.
“If there was ever a Washingtonville resident who deserved the honor of having a street named after them, it’s John Spear,” summed up Skoufis. “John was passionate about making our community a better place for everyone. From serving for 50 years on the village planning board, to mentoring multiple generations of children in the CYO basketball program, he touched the lives of so many.”