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Four Steuben County notables inducted Monday into Hall of Fame

  • / Updated:
  • Concetta Durso 

A hero during the Flood of ’72, a New York State assembly member and notable agriculturists
were inducted into the Steuben County Hall of Fame Monday.

Steuben County Deputy Fire Coordinator Hobart “Hobie ” Abbey had oversight and direction of 12
Corning area fire departments on June 21, 1972, as Hurricane Agnes pounded the region with torrential rains.

A U.S. Army veteran and 22-year veteran of the Corning Glass Works, Abbey was a ham radio operator and an expert firefighter. He served his community as Forest View Gang Mills Fire Chief, the department’s liaison with the Town of Erwin board and held terms as President of the Steuben County Firemen’s Association and as a New York State Chiefs Association member.

During the height of the flood, and while personally engaged in evacuation and recovery efforts in
Painted Post, Abbey and Gang Mills Fire Chief John “Jack” Charles Kuehnle were unable to return to
base due to the rapidly rising water.

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As their rescue became more uncertain during the dark, early morning hours of June 23 the men
attempted to use a wooden back board to float through the twisting current to safety.
Kuehnle slammed into a telephone pole, clinging to it while he called out for Abbey. Abbey reportedly called back twice before he was swept away by the raging current. Kuehnle later found safety on a rooftop.

Abbey’s body was recovered the next day. At the age of 44, he left behind a wife, two teenage daughters and a county-wide community of mourners.

He was named New York State Fireman of the Year 1972 posthumously by The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York.

NY State Assemblyman James Bacalles, R-Corning served elected positions in local and state
government including city mayor, county legislator and state assembly representative. He is a life-long resident of the City of Corning.

Representing the City of Corning on the Steuben County Board of Supervisors from 1979-1989,
Bacalles served on numerous committees and was active in social services and health-related issues. He was a member of the New York State Association of Counties’ Medicaid & Welfare Reform Task Force and was part of the decision to consolidate county departments and build a centralized county office building. During his tenure, the county board evolved into a 17-member county legislature with a county administrator.

During his two terms, beginning in 1992 as Corning City mayor, Bacalles oversaw a city charter change establishing a city manager form of government, a progressive change for the city’s governing body.

In 1995, Bacalles succeeded the now-late Assemblyman Donald Davidsen, R-Canisteo, who had been appointed state Agriculture Commissioner by then Gov. George Pataki. He was elected to eight more consecutive terms as assembly member, serving until 2010. During his tenure, he was a member of the Cities. Health, Transportation and Environmental committees, and the Commission on Rural Resources from 1999-2010. He rose to a leadership role in 2003 as the Assembly Minority Conference Assistant Minority Whip helping shape and direct the conference’s policymaking on statewide issues. In 2006, he was named chair of the Assembly Republican Conference.

Now- Bacalles worked very closely with the district’s state Republican senators, first Randy Kuhl and then his successor George Winner Jr., coordinating programs and financial assistance to communities across the area, notably the Shared Services program which provided much-need equipment and resources to municipalities.

Bacalles operated his own business, Bacalles Glass Engravers, the wholesale division of the familyowned business, Bacalles Glass, founded by his father, George J. Bacalles, in 1966.
Bacalles remains involved in community services and has served on a number of local boards, including Corning Hospital, Corning Area Youth Center and Steuben County Youth Board, Institute of Human Services, Finger Lakes Association, Southern Tier Catholic Charities, Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board and United Way. He is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Order of the Arrow.

The longtime owners of “Frangin Farm” in Rexville, Francis and Virginia Meehan were noted for their nationwide involvement in agriculture and their community.

A 1942 Greenwood Central School graduate, at the age of 19, Francis Meehan bought his 140-acre
family farm on contract for $3,000.

The family farm since 1846, Frangin’ Farm’s 60 acres of tillable acres were built by the Meehans into a working farm of 500 acres.

National leaders in the dairy industry, the Meehans purchased their first purebred Holstein in 1949, as Francis Meehan went on to serve as President of the Board of Directors of the Allegany-Steuben
Holstein Club from 1965-66, and chaired the first NYS calf sale in 1967.

Other accomplishments included building of Club Sale barn in Canisteo; membership in the executive committee and later president of the NYS Holstein-Friesian Association; the association’s Southern Tier merchandising and selection agent (including other states and countries); Mutual Health Agency trustee; membership in the Steuben County Farm Bureau; assistant treasurer and later vice-president of the Northeast Dairyman’s Cooperative Executive Committee.

The couple founded the first local 4-H Club, the “Rexville Clovers” and were active members for more than 18 years.

In 1984 they were the first recipients of the NYS Dairy of Distinction Award in Steuben County.
A 1944 graduate of Wellsville High School, Virginia Meehan sserved as the West Union Town Clerk
from 1984 to 2009 and was an election officer for the town. She was also involved in fundraising for various charities and community assistance including the 4-H, West Union Fire Department, Greenwood Central School, West Union Ambulance Department and Whitesville Central School.

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She was honored in 2005 by then state Sen. George H. Winner, Jr. as one of the first New York State Woman of Distinction Award.

The annual awards recognize local women for making a difference in their community and the lives of others in the face of unprecedented challenges. Awards are given for various fields including healthcare, business, education and military service.