A ribbon cutting at Smithfield Presbyterian Church in honor of Oakleigh Thorne for church column restoration was held Saturday afternoon. Despite bone-chilling drizzle, 140 people from the area appeared to honor church benefactor Thorne, who was presented with an eloquent framed proclamation from the church. Due to inclement weather, the pitched tent outside was abandoned, and festivities were held inside the partially renovated church.
Pine Plains’ Stissing House catered the event while Will Carter’s Pine Plains liquor store provided wine. Principal players in the renovation were honored: pro-bono architect Darlene Riemer, chairwoman Katherine Dunlop, fundraiser Jane Winfrey, construction manager Sean Foley, and master carpenter Ian Schwandt who hand-carved the fluting on the columns. Reverend Douglas Grandgeorge as presiding emcee provided amusing, self-deprecatory anecdotes.
In addition to the church proclamation, Thorne was honored by the naming of the single young oak tree on church property as the Oakleigh Thorne tree in perpetuity. This tree is the natural offspring of the glorious oak tree (subsequently made into the gavels for judges currently working in Dutchess County) that had been dedicated to famous orator Reverend George Whitefield (1714-1770), who, despite the impairment of being cross-eyed, once delivered a notable sermon at Smithfield Church in the era predating radio, television, and internet.
This was a notably genial event with friends, neighbors, and strangers conversing in happy celebration of a remarkable communal achievement that prevented this historical landmark from imminent collapse.