Eulogy for Harold Pier

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Harold, 77 earned a B.S. in chemistry at Penn State, an M.A. at Columbia University, and a Ph.D. at the University of Delaware.  He taught chemistry at Utica College for 40 years and was an avid biker, hiker and skier after retiring in 2000. 

He started his volunteer work with the ADK RR as a car host in 2007.   He volunteered at our Utica, Thendara, Saranac and Lake Placid Stations…I first met Harold at our RR rules class in Remsen in the spring of 2008 and we began as Student Trainman together that year.  I immediately took a liking to Harold and his laid back approach to life. I quickly learned that he was an avid hiker and all around outdoor enthusiast.  Every time I worked with Harold I would always end the day by saying…”so where you hiking this weekend Harold”…the guy amazed me because I knew that he had me by more than a few years but I never learned his real age until I read it in the paper…and then I was truly amazed!… 

Later that same year we were certified as official Trainman on the ADK RR.

Harold and I enjoyed many assignments together working on the train crew…An interesting and somewhat humorous ADK RR incident occurred our first summer working together…on a trip south from Thendara we arrived at the Snow Junction switch…now this switch is about 22 miles north of Utica in the middle of nowhere and it’s the merging of the M A & N tracks and the ADIX track…at this junction a crew member calls the train to a stop, gets off, unlocks and throws the switch and then re-locking the switch and re-boarding the train…Harold realized about half way to Utica that he inadvertently left his keys in the switch…unfortunately he had to drive north after finishing his train duties, park his vehicle and walk about a mile into the woods to get to the switch…of course for anyone else this might have been a big inconvenience but for a guy like Harold that hikes “for a living” this was like taking a busman’s holiday…needless to say every time Harold was on a crew that passed Snow Junction he always took some good natured ribbing at the hands of the crew…I don’t think I’ll ever throw that switch at Snow without thinking of Harold….

He was the President of the Utica Tramp & Trail Club and submitted several blogs which I found interesting reading.   Two of his co-authors and fellow club members left the following tributes after his passing.

“Harold was a strong man, in action as well as in thought.  But strength can be fleeting, and all stories come to an end sooner than we would like. Harold became ill and left us, but he never became old! (Dianna Morris)”

“Harold had many words left to put on paper, many memories left to share and I for one feel cheated that we will never be able to reads nor hear them.  Harold, wherever your soul may now be, your memories will live on. Thank you for your contribution to our lives. (Lu Blanchard)”

In one of Harold’s final blogs this past fall titled, “Autumn” which was written shortly before his death, he ended it with the following:

“I visited the spring that once fed my home’s water supply but now is responsible only for an easement that allows me to trespass with impunity upon the property of the Barneveld Horseman’s Society.  The spring still provides water for horses and I suspect may also slake the thirst of some equestrians.  Again, musing on Frost and clearing the pasture spring I turned and wandered slowly homeward.”

I suspect many of us only wish we got to know Harold a little better.  Sadly, I learned more about Harold after his passing than I knew about him in life… He truly was a special person and a great volunteer.  He also wanted any donations made after his passing to go to the ADK RR.  He requested that his family remember him by scattering his ashes at the site of the Kinzua Bridge, a tall railroad trestle near Mount Jewett, PA.

 –Don Marino

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