Town honors Proper for lifetime of service

The family of Larry Proper, his wife, children and grandchildren were present at the unveiling of a plaque in his honor. Photo contributed

COPAKE—He treated everyone fairly and kindly during the 40 years he served the people of Copake in a multitude of capacities, including as an elected official (town clerk and highway superintendent) and volunteer firefighter.

That Copake was lucky to have Lawrence O. Proper was the sentiment echoed in remarks made by several speakers when a standing room only crowd packed the main room at Town Hall Saturday morning, November 26 for a special Town Board meeting to memorialize the man known to all as, Larry. It had been almost a year since his sudden, untimely death, November 29, 2021, at the age of 64.

Former Copake Supervisor Angelo Valentino, who served from 2000 to 2008, said it was a “real honor” to talk about his friend and colleague. When Mr. Valentino joined the park commission and the fire department in 1980, he met Larry.

Mr. Valentino said he quickly learned that despite Larry’s numerous commitments to community organizations, his number one priority was his family.

Mr. Valentino said the secret to being able to accomplish things when he was supervisor was to “surround myself with good people” and Larry was one of them.

He recounted Larry working his way up in the town highway department to superintendent, a job he held for 11 years. He served with the fire department and the Community Rescue Squad. When the fire department went on a call, “he was driving the truck, he was running the pump, he was doing whatever had to be done and that’s the way Larry was,” said Mr. Valentino. As an elected highway superintendent, Larry found out he could also hold another job, as long as it was not an elected position, so he took on the post of director of maintenance with the Taconic Hills School District. Mr. Valentino described the long hours Larry put in with the town, before and after his 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. work day at the school.

Mr. Valentino ended by acknowledging Larry’s family, seated in the front row, “Thank you for sharing your husband and your dad with the town for almost 40 years.”

Former Town Clerk Vana Hotaling spoke next. She served in that post from 1999 to 2011, with Larry serving as deputy town clerk; then she served as deputy town clerk when Larry was town clerk from 2012 to 2020.

“He was like a son to me,” she said tearfully. They worked together for 28 years. She said, he was always there. “He was a vibrant person, who brought out the best in people… We miss you and love you, Larry. It’s inconceivable that he’s gone.”

Chairman of the Copake Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners, PJ Proper, said Larry joined the Craryville Fire Company at age 16. At age 23, when he and his wife moved to the Copake hamlet, Larry became a member of that company and held various positions with both the fire district and the fire department. He was a fire commissioner at the time of his death.

“Larry loved to cook and he was involved with all the fundraisers at the firehouse. His famous barbecued chicken, always sold out,” he said.

Larry later organized the fire company’s Five Alarm Caterers. Professionally attired in white jackets with black vests, the group catered weddings, birthdays and other special occasions. “Larry never charged anything for his expertise, that’s the type of person he was, always giving,” said Mr. Proper.

“He loved his community and there was not one organization or person he would not help out day or night. Our community was so lucky to have a man like Larry and we will all miss him.”

Former Copake Town Board member and longtime Copake resident, Mary Ackley could not attend the meeting, but sent an email praising Larry for all he did for Copake and his ability to handle any situation. She said she would always honor her friend “the Mayor of Copake, Larry Proper.”

Copake Supervisor Jeanne Mettler called Larry “the consummate public servant.” He treated everyone with respect and was generous to everyone. Everyone who came into his office and met him, felt they had a friend in Copake, she said.

During her first year in office along with then newly-elected Town Clerk Lynn Connolly, Larry continued to lend a hand at Town Hall.

“He would always take our calls and come back across the field if necessary and help us out.”

She sometimes wondered if her calls intruded on Larry’s time with his family, “whether the Town of Copake asked for too much sometimes, what it was like to share your husband and your dad with the Town of Copake.”

She noted, it was not just calls from Town Hall, but the fire whistle or the road that had to be plowed. “Larry never said No to Copake, he always answered the call, he always stepped up—for an entire lifetime. Larry loved Copake and we loved him back…”

Supervisor Mettler then read an official proclamation detailing the long list of life events, community service and accomplishments of Larry Proper.

The declaration concludes: “… we the members of the Copake Town Board do hereby honor Lawrence O. Proper, for a life of public service and on behalf of the Town of Copake,

now dedicate the Copake Town Clerk’s Office in his memory.”

A framed copy of the proclamation was presented to Teri Proper, Larry’s wife of 44 years, by Town Highway Superintendent Bill Gregory and Town Clerk Connolly. The crowd responded with a standing ovation.

A brass plaque is now posted on the door to the town clerk’s office. It says, “Dedicated in Memory of Lawrence O. Proper, Town Clerk 1986-1998, 2012-2019. In Gratitude for his years of Service to this Town.” It was unveiled by Mrs. Proper and Town Clerk Connolly.

The proclamation in its entirety may be found on the town’s website at townofcopake.org.

To contact Diane Valden email

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