Other Voices


Charlotte Palmeri, Cancer caregiver

After Charlotte Palmeri was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, she thought, “I wonder how long until I can help someone.” Inspired by a verse in Ecclesiastes, about how farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant, Palmeri founded a support and prayer group for women with cancer in 2015. She named it In His Presence. The group this month moved from meeting at Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church, where Palmeri is the church organist and choir director, to the Lynnwood Reformed Church to be accessible to those who can’t manage stairs. The group has sent out over 700 cards, often handmade, each with heartfelt messages, to people suffering from cancer. In this week’s podcast at AltamontEnterprise.com/podcasts, Palmeri describes some of the many ways she has helped others. This includes helping those she is close to — being with a friend as she breathed her last breath — and helping those she doesn’t know; she plays music for a weekly luncheon at St. Peter’s Hospice and has organized faith retreats — the first featured a Christian magician and the second a Christian ventriloquist. “When you give, you get so much back,” says Palmeri. She also advises: “Take a bad experience and use it for good.”

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Ed Biittig — Lessons in recovering from alcoholism

Ed Biittig, who is 72, has been in recovery from alcoholism for over 46 years. He started drinking at age 13 and by the time he was 26 had totaled five cars in drunk-driving crashes — yet was never arrested. For one of those crashes, Biittig says in this week’s podcast, “I had my 3-year-old son in my car. That crash, I could have killed my own son.” Biittig was finally arrested for driving while intoxicated, after nearly swerving into a police car, and tested .20 for blood-alcohol content. He says that East Greenbush Judge Patrick Maney probably saved his life. Judge Maney gave him a choice between jail or enrolling in the new SPARC (St. Peter's Addiction Recovery Center) program. Biittig wears a piece of slate around his neck, inscribed with the date he had his last drink: Valentine’s Day, 1974. He makes slates for others recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. For more than a decade, Biittig has shared his story through the Choices program, founded by Ed Frank in Altamont and now run by Sergeant Tracy Mance with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office. School kids, now grown, have told him the difference it made in their lives by telling them about his journey on the road to recovery. Biittig spoke at his brother’s funeral two weeks ago. His brother, who called Biittig his best friend, recently died of COVID-19. “Nine days later, his wife died,” he said. Biittig believes he caught COVID-19 at his brother’s funeral. Biittig faces his demons every day, counting each sober day — over 17,000 — as a victory. His advice to others who are battling addictions: “I don’t care if you’ve tried to stop drinking or drugs 10 times, there’s the 11th time.”

Helen Marie Lounsbury and Walter Galicki — 1950s Berne on film

Helen Marie Lounsbury and Walter Galicki, pictured here on their wedding day, Dec. 21, 2019, combined their movie collections as well as their households when they married. As Galicki was organizing the collection, he came upon a DVD of a film of typical Hilltown scenes made in 1950 by Ray Morrow. Through “computer wizardry,” he paired the images with music of the era. Galicki, who grew up in Brooklyn, played the accordion as a child — once with Arthur Godfrey and Lawrence Welk — and often on a Polish radio show. “I was known as Dizzy Fingers,” he says in this week’s podcast. Lounsbury, over her years as a teacher at the elementary school in Berne, had delighted her students with the film. She used her many Hilltown acquaintances to piece together the identities of each of the buildings — from houses to businesses to churches to post offices — and each of the people — from proprietors to teachers to ministers to farmers — pictured in the film. The information culled from heartfelt sessions where old timers shared their memories is included at the end of the film. “Visually, Berne is a place that time has forgotten,” said Lounsbury. “A lot of the houses are still standing.” While the landscape and many of the structures remain the same, the experience of watching the film is like going back in time — to an era when women wore dresses and pillbox hats, where men lined up to shoot clay pigeons, and where children took care of their farm animals and in their free time went swimming in a pond in summer and sledding down a hill in winter — not a screen in sight.