A Legacy for the Future
Walter Rich believed in the future of upstate New York. As Chairman, President and CEO of The New York Susquehanna and Western Railway and The Central New York Railroad, based in Cooperstown, he worked to ensure that the region had a viable, safe rail transportation system to move freight from local markets to those of larger metropolitan areas. He was widely respected and greatly liked, a fine achievement for any lifetime. But there was more to Walter than that.
He grew up in Franklin, where his family owned a dairy farm and his mother worked in the local school as a teacher and librarian. After graduation from high school, Walter attended Syracuse University, receiving his BA and a law degree. But according to his wife, Karine, Walter never practiced law. "He started his career running a [railway] dining car service," said Karine, "but then bought the railroad he serviced, an eight mile piece of track." Eventually, the eight miles were superseded by a railway running from both Syracuse and Utica all the way down to metropolitan New Jersey. It was more than enough to keep a man busy, but Walter always had a wide variety of other interests and collections, including railroad and baseball memorabilia, as well as a collection of photographs by Lewis W. Hine, to whom he was related. Hine is famous for a series of expose' photos he took of children working in sweatshops in early 20th century America.
Walter and Karine, for Walter relied on his wife to be his partner on many projects, was also involved with a vast number of community organizations. Glimmerglass Opera, WSKG and Catskill Area Hospice were just three of the many nonprofit boards of directors to which he belonged. He also sat on the boards of several for-profit companies, including Energy East and Security Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. "Walter always had a strong community service ethic," said Karine, "and a strong belief in supporting the local region."
In 2006 Walter became seriously ill, but even then he didn't stop thinking about and planning for the future. He and Karine began to talk about the eventual disposition of his collections, which by this time included a historic railroad car known as the Grover Cleveland Car. Their discussions eventually evolved into a plan for the creation of the Franklin Railroad and Community Museum, to be located in the Delaware County village where he grew up. In the months before he died he took great interest in planning for the Museum.
Prior to his death in August, 2007, Walter also made plans to ensure that his family members could continue the charitable work they had done together in the broader community. One of the steps he took resulted in the establishment of a Donor Advised Fund here at the Community Foundation.
The Foundation honors the memory of a most accomplished and caring man, and we thank him and his family for placing their confidence in us.