NORWICH – A large crowd gathered before the Chenango County Courthouse steps Saturday to celebrate the historic structure’s 175 years as the area’s centerpiece and what many continue to call the jewel of Chenango County.
Honored during Saturday’s noon celebration were a trio of World War II veterans – Sam Sastri, Francis Hillsinger and Bernard Merritt – all of whom departed from the courthouse steps to serve their country more than half a century ago, as well as Chenango County Court Judge W. Howard Sullivan, who will retire at the end of the year, a position he’s held since 1999.
Speakers during the event included the Honorable Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York; the Honorable Karen Peters, Presiding Justice, Third Department; the Honorable Michael Coccoma, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for courts outside New York City; and the Honorable Kevin M. Dowd, Chenango County Supreme Court Justice, who gave the keynote address. All four said they were honored to be a part of Saturday’s ceremony, which began with the raising of the American flag and a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by the Oxford United Brass Band, under the direction of Don Sheldon.
Judge Dowd, in his humorous and jovial keynote address, described the courthouse as a “magnificent” structure, citing its importance as a symbol to county residents. One can “truly feel the unseen hands of the past,” upon entering the historic location, he added, as well as the “memories of the people that have been there before.”
According to Dowd, the courthouse is more than just a symbol of liberty and freedom, but something that “belongs to the people,” citing the Latin phrase that is found above the judge’s bench in the courtroom itself, which states, “Let justice prevail though the heavens may fall.”..