2017 Grand Marshal: Colette Fulton
The Cornwall Independence Day Committee has chosen Colette Fulton as the Grand Marshal of the 2017 parade to honor her 39 years as historian for the Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson and recognize her devotion to the Cornwall community.
Historian Colette Corwin Fulton credits her father’s interest in history for stoking her connection with the past.
“My father loved American history,” said Colette. “And he was always talking about democracy.”
Colette also acknowledges Harriet Wells, a teacher at the New Windsor School, who gave her the book, Cornwall, a history of the town written by Lewis Beach in 1873, when she was 10. Wells encouraged her to join the Clintonian Chapter of the New York State Historical Association.
“If you know your history, you take more interest in everything around you.”
Colette was born September 8, 1936, in the Cornwall Hospital. She grew up in New Windsor. In 1951 her family moved to a part of New Windsor that was in the Cornwall school district.
She went to Cornwall-on-Hudson High School in the 10th grade. She met her future husband, William Fulton, at The Campus, a luncheonette and bowling alley, run by the parents of the late Floranne Terwilliger Moulton, who with her husband Ed were last year’s grand marshals, The Campus was located across from what is now the Cornwall-on-Hudson High School and now is the elementary school. Bill was related to Robert Fulton, who built the Clermont, a steamboat that plied the Hudson River.
They were married March 5, 1955, at St. Thomas of Canterbury Church in the village. They had four children: Raymond, Kathleen, Karin and Ryan.
Cornwall-on-Hudson Mayor Charles Obremski appointed Colette as the village’s first historian in 1977. She served for 39 years, retiring in 2016. She worked in a small museum room in village hall, crammed with artifacts and documents pertaining to the village.
“By learning history, you gain a feeling for the people who lived here, who settled here, worked on the land and developed it.”
Over the years, she collected many artifacts, often learning about them through word of mouth. She is proud that the collection includes a replica of the Chauncey Vibbard steamboat. Vibbard operated steamships and he was part owner of one named for him that on the Hudson River. The steamboat would dock at the once bustling Cornwall Landing in Cornwall-on-Hudson, where Mead and Taft Company once employed 500 people constructing homes and public buildings. Another artifact in the museum is a crock made by Nathan Clark. While it was made in Athens, NY, Clark learned his trade at a pottery factory off River Avenue in Cornwall-on-Hudson.
Through an employee at the Storm King School, she learned of a scull at the school that was used by the Ward Brothers, who were world champion rowers in the second half of the 1800s. They had a boathouse on Ward’s Beach in Cornwall–on-Hudson. The scull is now on loan to the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston. Gilbert Ward taught a crew at New York Military Academy for a few years and led a team to a championship.
Colette often collaborated with the late Janet Dempsey, longtime Town of Cornwall historian. They conducted oral histories of residents of the town, which are available at the Cornwall Library. Together, they took on the monumental task of indexing issues of The Cornwall Local from the 1875 to 1972. Colette founded the Cornwall Historical Society in 1999.
Colette wrote a book, Cornwall-on-Hudson in 2009, based on glass plate photos of people and places in and around the village taken by Louis Chivacheff, from 1890 to 1920. Chivacheff, who was born in Bulgaria, established his business under the name Storm King Studio.
As Colette talks about the history of the village and her museum, names and dates roll off her tongue effortlessly, as if she were chatting about her family and friends.
With her husband, Colette helped bring back the village bandstand; Mead and Taft built the original in 1897. Bill was a retired teacher from Dutchess County BOCES and a re-enactor as a member of the now defunct Cornwall Continentals. He arranged for the construction of the bandstand by BOCES students to honor the centennial of the village in 1985. Colette sold shares, for as little as 50 cents to raise money for the new bandstand. She also led the fundraising campaign to refurbish the bandstand in 2015.
“People in Cornwall have a loyalty and pride that doesn’t exist in other places.”
“I would never want to live anywhere else.”
Brendan G. Coyne
Past Grand Marshals (since 1990)
2015 – Eileen Zwart (teacher)
2014 – Belding and Doris Jones Clearwater (Jones Farm)
2013 – Betty and Chic Jurgens (community servants)
2012 – Harry Houlis (CIDC, former chair, longtime member)
2011 – Aisling Cuffe (outstanding long distance runner and scholar)
2010 – Glen McGinnis (teacher and coach)
2009 – Andy and Jean Maroney (community servants)
2008 – Jimmy Kent: Little League coach, town recreation director
2007 – Anna Vandermark – Cornwall high school guidance counselor
2006 – Jeanne Theis – Cornwall Teacher & Administrator (posthumously)
2005 – The Schempf Family - Cornwall Musicians and Music Teachers
2004 – Afghanistan/Iraq Armed Forces, Cornwall’s Lt. Gen. David Petraeus
2003 – Walter Koch – Cornwall Boy Scout Leader
2002 – Ken Kumpel – Cornwall NYC Fireman (posthumously)
2001 – Winnie Swenson – Businesswoman and Community Mother
2000 – Rev. Dick Mills – Cornwall Presbyterian Pastor
1999 – Jim McEnery – Cornwall Teacher
1998 – None (candidates declined)
1997 – Vincent J. Connolly – CIDC co-founder (posthumously)
1996 – John F. Gould – Cornwall Artist (posthumously)
1995 – Curt Remfrey – Cornwall Little League Official
1994 – Loraine Donahue – CIDC Co-founder
1993 – Eileen DeFreest – Cornwall Teacher
1992 – Rev. Herman Badecker – St. John’s Episcopal Pastor
1991 – War Veterans
1990 – Ed Doty & Pete Ransom – Cornwall Little League Officials