Stepping Back in Time to Re-Visit the School and Church That Shaped My Life

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

I grew up in the All-American City, Cohoes, NY....for my first 13 years of life.  My dad came from Canadian ancestors who settled in Cohoes generations before him.  His mom died in the same building she was born in, having lived her dash (the time in between her birth and death) in 3 homes all within the same short block of Cohoes.  Imagine, 76 years living within the same 1/10th of a mile!   I find that pretty extraordinary.  I spent a lot of time with her growing up, before and after school.  I also walked to her home for lunch each day from my elementary school - St. Marie's on Vliet Boulevard, just a block from her home.  Our house was only a 1/3 of a mile from church and school but in the opposite direction. You can imagine that that short, 1/2 mile of geography holds a significant piece of my past - and my memories.

Being born into a long line of Catholics on both sides of my family, it was not surprising that my parents sent me to St. Marie's for a parochial school education.  My dad had been an altar boy at St. Agnes Church, had attended St. Agnes Elementary School and graduated from Christian Brothers Academy.

My Dad - Ron Durocher

  His cousin, Lois Durocher, joined the convent and was a Sister in the Order of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary which was founded by Blessed Marie Rose Durocher (born Eulalie Melanie Durocher) believed to be a Canadian ancestor of my family.  Sister Marie Rose was beatified in May of 1982 by Pope John Paul II.  I suspect that is why Lois may have been inspired by her when she became Sister Alice Maureen.  For a time as a young girl, fascinated by the many mysteries of a nun's life in the convent, I thought I might like to be a nun one day.   A crush on a boy in my class in 6th grade made me realize a future in the convent may not be for me.

Sister Alice Maureen

Perhaps my strong Catholic lineage can explain my vivid memories of life at St. Marie's and spurred my interest in revisiting the buildings that were the foundation of my character and the reaction I had when I did.

A few years ago, after several years of wishing I could walk the halls of St. Marie's School again, I got the chance to do just that when we attended an indoor flea market with my bestie and her husband.  Ann Marie had also attended St. Marie's.  Neither of us had been back since.  I can't find words to explain what it felt like to revisit my elementary school almost 50 years later. The memories came rushing back, many of them I've since written in my memoirs for my kids and grandkids.  Memories of hearing the news of John F. Kennedy's assassination,  Christmas programs in the cafeteria, baby chicks incubating in the basement, Kindergarten with Miss Marion....... You would think revisiting a church would be much easier since churches are open to the public, but I hadn't.  It wasn't until this past weekend when in Cohoes taking photos of ancestor's homes that I decided to step into the church where I spent so much of my early years...the church that instilled values, discipline and a good, old fashioned 'fear of God'.  The nuns of the 1960's were a stern breed and as much as I may have feared them, I thank them today for their education and strict standards they lived by and also expected of us.

St. Marie's is currently known as Church of the Holy Trinity after merging with St. Agnes and St. Patrick.  As we walked down the sidewalk to the side entrance of the church, I couldn't help at that moment but be reminded of the many days we walked from morning mass, out the side door of the parish, across the street to school.  Of course on those days, days when we had fasted to receive Communion, our school day would begin with breakfast.  For me, breakfast would be a bologna sandwich, my favorite, and a carton of chocolate milk.   Those walks back and forth from school to church were many and long ago, but on this day, I remembered them like they were yesterday.

Although I'd gotten glimpses of  the church in the past couple of years online, this was the first I'd been inside of St. Marie's (it'll always be St. Marie's to me) since Ann Marie's wedding in 1974 and before that in 1968 before we moved to Saratoga.  The first thing that struck me was the profound beauty, the gorgeous wooden beams, and the striking stained glass windows...none of which I had noticed or appreciated as a child, even though I'd spent much of my young life inside these walls.

As I sat in the pew gazing from one side to the other, I remembered special occasions taking place within these walls .....First Communion, Confirmation, first confession, May procession.  I gazed at the confessional, now wide open, remembering the heavy velvet curtains that covered the two side openings.  I can remember kneeling inside the confessional, dark and quiet, hearing the priest slide open the window to hear my confession as I nervously recited, "Bless me Father for I have sinned....." as I tried to come up with sins to confess.  As an only child in a very strict household, there wasn't much opportunity to sin, but in confession I felt compelled to 'produce' something so the priest could do his job and deliver absolution...usually 3 Hail Marys and occasionally an added Our Father.  Writing this I'm reminded that despite my fear of God and my mother, talking back was regularly on my list of sins.

While I have not chosen the Catholic church as my adult place of worship, I cannot deny the incredibly strong emotions that overcame me as I visited the church that shaped who I grew up to be.  The strict nuns, the catechism, the recited prayers, the many hours in church, the sacraments, traditions and beliefs were not wasted on me.  And while I have not been physically present in this particular house of worship in a half a century, there is no mistaking that I felt a sense of  'home' the minute I walked through its doors again.  God met me there at this visit and His presence was palpable, probably more than I'd ever felt so many years ago when my hours in this church were more of an obligation than a choice.  

The reason I chose to share my experience visiting my childhood church was to point out how we often take things in life for granted.  We navigate day-to-day going about the business of life, preoccupied with just getting by.  We often miss the small stuff and for many, not look back at where we came from.  We don't think about why we are who we are or who contributed to who we've become.  I've always had fond memories of my time at St. Marie's, both school and church, but I never realized just how deeply affected I would be when I took a moment to revisit a time gone by.  My past, that piece of it, has stayed with me all these years and more than ever, I now realize just how impactful St. Marie's was on the person I am today.  I am filled with gratitude.  I hope you'll be inspired to revisit places of your youth and to take a moment to appreciate and thank the people and places that shaped your past and consequently, your future.

Above, yours truly after the 1962 May procession. (top row) Second graders wore our First Communion outfits. 

St. Marie's School (Now Church of the Holy Trinity Parish Center)

Inside the Warren Chapel at the Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Troy NY

Friday, May 20, 2022
 Today it is an honor to share with you the Warren Chapel at Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, NY.  Reopened for the first time in many years, and after a million dollars worth of restorations, the Warren Chapel is a sight to behold.

Friends of Oakwood volunteer, Christy Fronhofer, hosted a lucky group of visitors last weekend when the chapel was opened to the public.  We were among those visitors and today, I'm happy to be able to share this family chapel with you too!

Built in 1860, designed by Henry Dudley of New York, the chapel was built to provide a permanent resting place for members of the Warren family.  Taken and quoted directly from the site linked here (which also contains Warren family history):

"At the time when the Oakwood Cemetery was planned this half-forgotten anecdote was brought to mind, suggesting to his descendants the idea of a mortuary chapel, Indeed, public opinion then required that the family should erect some suitable memorial, which at the same time should be an ornament to the cemetery. A chapel was therefore decided upon, and is that which now occupies a conspicuous position near the centre of the cemetery. It is a cruciform building, early English in character, of stone from quarries at the aqueduct, combined with granite. The more highly-wrought portions of the building are of Aubigny and Caen stone, imported from Normandy. The graves of the senior members of the family are covered with plain slabs of marble, containing appropriate inscriptions; upon these rests an alter-tomb of Caen stone, supporting a sculptured representation of the Last Supper, over which is a triple window of painted glass, the subject being the Ascension of our Lord. In a word, this picturesque building, in the language of architecture, might be considered a hymn of praise, as well as a confession of that faith in which those who rest beneath have lived and died."

The deceased members of the Warren family are buried beneath the floor of the chapel. one or two deep. The chapel can accommodate about 150, though only 95 are currently laid to rest there.  Some time ago, the family turned the chapel over to the cemetery who now maintains it and raised the funding for its very necessary restoration. 

By the glorious Resurrection and Ascension - Good Lord deliver us!

Notice the inscribed slabs on the floor 

Tower stairs

Tower Stained Glass

This is my third blog post about Oakwood Cemetery (links to earlier posts will be included at the end of this post).  I've also penned stories about Albany Rural Cemetery and St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands.  I used to consider myself to be rather blasé when it came to cemeteries, but having spent considerable time in all of these local historic landmarks in the past few years, I have to admit I have become a tad obsessed.  All I could think of listening to the Warren family history, as impressive as their story and accomplishments might be, was how incredibly beautiful it was of the early members to erect such a magnificent resting place for their loved ones. resting places vastly vary, even today, from stately mausoleums to simple scattering of ashes.  On one special visit to Oakwood, we were taken by this sight...

Oakwood Cemetery is a sight to behold in any season, but I'm especially fond of spring and fall.  It was in the depths of autumn that we first visited Oakwood, that visit being the subject of my first Oakwood blog. The colorful backdrop of vivid color is only slightly challenged by the magnolia and daffodils of spring.

Oakwood Cemetery is hosting a variety of activities this summer including Full Moon Twilight tours, a Memorial Day Ceremony, The Gilded Age Rises Again in Oakwood, Oakwood's Revolutionary War Veterans, Stories From the Stones, and many more.  You can find out more by contacting Oakwood Cemetery at:  The cemetery is located at 186 Oakwood Avenue, Troy NY.
To see more of this beautiful cemetery, check out my earlier blog posts including a tour of the Earl Crematorium Chapel: 
For tours of Albany Rural and St. Agnes Cemeteries....
And the Gerald B. Solomon National Cemetery in Schuylerville....
If you enjoyed this posts and want to see more but don't want to depend on social media to bring them to you, consider subscribing to receive each new blog directly to your email.  Just enter your email address here: Subscribe and receive one or two blogs a month!  To see previous posts, check out my blog directory:

Thanks for stopping by Life As I See It!  See you soon!

Rodgers Book Barn - A Mesmerizing Rabbit Hole in Wonderland for Book Lovers to Discover

Monday, May 2, 2022

 "One does not stop buying books just because there is no shelf space."

Anyone who loves books knows that statement to be true, including the proprietors of the very best bookshops, including our latest discovery, Rodgers Book Barn, in Hillsdale NY.

I recently happened upon a post on Facebook picturing the inside of this wonderland of literary treasures and immediately added it to our spring itinerary.  A couple weekends ago, the weather was perfect for a road trip and my chauffeur was happy to oblige.  Hillsdale is a new place for us, just 70 minutes from Clifton Park down the Taconic Parkway, in Columbia County near Hudson and Great Barrington MA.  Typically I don't chase destinations, as it's the journey that I enjoy, but in this case both the journey and the destination were well worth the time and the gas.

Maureen Rodgers opened the Book Barn in 1972 and is in her 50th year of business.  She was a 29 year old bookseller when she came to Hillsdale from NYC, having started her book career selling books to colleges.  Maureen figured out that colleges don't buy books in the summer so to make ends meet year 'round, she apprenticed in the antiquarian department of Barnes and Noble on 17th Street.  After vacationing in Hillsdale she and her husband decided they wanted to move there permanently and purchased the five acre-parcel, a barn and a house for $8,000.  There's so much more to this part of the story and I encourage you to use this link to read Chris Atkins and Laura Lettelier's story about Maureen and the Book Barn on the blog, Historians of Hillsdale, NY A Visit with Maureen Rodgers.   It's a fabulous read!

Like the Owl Pen Books in Greenwich that I blogged about last year, Rodgers Book Barn is a little like Alice's rabbit hole in wonderland, filled to the brim (on two floors) with neatly shelved and organized books of every genre imaginable.....used books and cd's.  From the outside, no one could guess that behind the modest exterior awaits over 50,000 old and unusual books, most for just a few bucks.  We left with 3 for the bargain price of $9.00.  

As you're driving to Rodgers Book Barn, once you've left the highway portion of the trip, a series of back roads through gorgeous horse and farm country, leaves you wondering how (and why) anyone would choose to open a book store in the middle of nowhere.  Yet, just like Owl Pen, when we finally reached our GPS destination, we found we were not the only book enthusiasts to have made the trip that day.  Several other shoppers were deep in exploration of all the titles available.  For some, it may be a little overwhelming, but not to worry, Maureen has a large number of chairs of all styles and sizes tucked in every nook and cranny just begging for shoppers to sit, relax and flip some pages.

In case you prefer enjoying your book in the fresh air, some tables and chairs are scattered throughout the country property, that day among the hundreds of daffodils in full bloom.

Not surprisingly, a bookstore of this sort would have to be run by someone who is a)passionate about books, b) knowledgeable and c) loves helping people.  When I was boasting about the magnificent barns and landscapes we enjoyed on our drive, she took out a brochure of the Hudson Valley Book Trail and spent several minutes directing us to another bookstore on the trail, one that she thought we'd like that also would take us through some beautiful countryside with great barns.  Talk about hospitality!

Rodgers Book Barn is open year round, weekends and by appointment.  Check the website for particulars.  If you love books, I highly recommend a trip to Hillsdale NY to this half century old treasure!

For more information, check out their website:
and on Instagram at @rodgersbookbarn
Be sure to also check out the Owl Pen Bookstore under new ownership, celebrating their opening weekend this past weekend.  To read my blogpost:
Thanks for stopping by Life As I See It.  I hope you'll check out these great businesses and take in the beautiful sights of our rural landscape in NYS.  For more posts like this one, check out my blog  Directory

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