New York State Funeral Directors Association

Funeral Director Kristin Catalano and Children Maria, Frankie, Rocco and Sonny

It’s 5 a.m., the phone rings.

“Hello?”

A robotic voice answers, “This is an alert. St. Mary’s School in Wappingers Falls is closed today due to inclement weather.”

The children appear.

View of the Elks Lodge, Tacoma, Washington. Photo by John Margolies

The church in the rural, thinly-populated area filled up quickly before the funeral.

There was only room to stand when ceremonies began for a man who was clearly beloved by many.

Halfway through the service, I realized why so many people were there.

The NYS Capitol

He was known as a friendly, cheerful man, and Samuel J. Abbott’s actions showed a dedication to nation, state and community.

Though the Civil War veteran died on the job working for New York, it took more than a century for his home state to formally recognize him.

Video: Slaves No More

New York's Capital Region honors, re-buries Colonial-era slaves. Found by accident in an unmarked cemetery, scientists pinpointed their African origin and the community held a wake and funeral.

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