Fence-painting party true to Twain theme
By Jim Hoekema
(Middletown, NY) Times Herald-Tribune, April 30, 2004

fence painting


Painting the new picket fence at the old Dutch Reformed Church in Newburgh last Saturday was billed as a "Tom Sawyer" party, and that's just how it happened.

The unpainted fence had been erected last October, after the City completed repairs to the foundation wall and the drainage system of the former Church — a National Historic Monument that the Newburgh Preservation Association wants to see restored and adapted for re-use.

When volunteers gathered at the church to start painting, something happened straight out of the pages of Mark Twain's classic story. Henry Martinez, also known as "Mad Dog," was on his way to the Hudson River with an impressive array of fishing poles, nets, and bait. "What are you guys doing?" he asked.

Peter Billman, coordinator of the event, said "We're going to have some fun painting this fence. Want to join us?" Martinez set aside his fishing gear and pitched in, staying with the effort until the project was done.

Others came, too, including Tom Hughes, director of a Washington's Headquarters, and Elizabeth McKean, the City's archivist.

Carlos Vasquez, age 12, stopped on his bike to ask if the group would let him paint. Receiving a positive answer, he rode his bike home, came back, and took up the brush until the entire fence was painted.

When the work was completed, everyone felt a great sense of accomplishment. The only problem, several painters agreed, is that the freshly painted fence makes the church look that much worse in its present condition.