Village Mourns Former Mayor
Former Mayor Charles Coolidge Succumbs to Pneumonia
Story by John Thomas
Longtime Mayor of the Village of Ellicottville Charles R. Coolidge died last week from complications of pneumonia at Olean General Hospital. Well-liked and respected by the community Charles Coolidge left an indelible mark on the Village. He was known as an affable mayor and a good neighbor to the residents on Rockwell Avenue. He voluntarily mowed the lawns and snow blowed the driveways and walks of the houses in Rockwell.
It was while snow blowing one of his neighbor’s driveways last Tuesday that the trouble began. Mr. Coolidge came into his home complaining of being cold. He settled down next to Sharon his wife, and tried to warm up. She tried to aid him with blankets, but he kept shivering. That evening he was transported to Olean General and was diagnosed with the flu. The first x-ray showed his lungs were clear, but the next day his cough worsened and his temperature rose. A second x-ray revealed pneumonia. On Thursday the 4th at around 7am the former Mayor died. He was 70 years old.
Word of his passing spread quickly around the Village. By midafternoon current Mayor John Burrell posted on Facebook, “Charlie Coolidge gave nineteen years of service to our village on the Village Board. Eighteen of those years were as our Mayor. I believe that was a record!” Sherman Wilkens, whom the Mayor had asked to serve on the Board in 2006 said, “He did a phenomenal job as Mayor. He is going to be greatly missed.” Harold Morton, who was Mr. Coolidge’s brother in law and served for many years as Superintendent of the DPW, recounted the many improvements the Mayor had made to the Village. He said the streets and sidewalks were all improved under Mr. Coolidge’s guidance. Morton added, “He was a great guy to work for and always looked out for the Village.” Mary Klahn who worked many years with the Mayor as Village Clerk said she was, “always proud to call him a friend.”
Among Charlie Coolidge’s other civic endeavors were his lifetime membership in the Ellicottville Volunteer Fire Department. He was also a lifetime member and past President of the Southwestern Volunteer Fireman’s Association. He served many years on the board of the Fireman’s Home on the Hudson, a retirement community for former firefighters. The former Mayor was also an usher at the Holy Name of Mary Church.
Perhaps the people in the best position to gauge the Mayor’s effect on the community are his three sons: Chuck, Bill and Rob. They said when Coolidge took over as Mayor the Village was a small community with two small ski areas fighting for acceptance. As the area grew, under the guidance of Mayor Coolidge, the Village transformed from a place where people came to ski for a day, to a place where people wanted to buy a home. They said he seamlessly wedded the ski areas to the Village. The sons remembered how the Mayor could reach out to people and “work the system,” calling people in the County or other towns, to accomplish a project. Even those who had disagreed with the Mayor still had his respect, “He always had your back no matter what. His word was good, if he said something would get done, it got done.” But mostly they remember the lessons he taught them. “We learned how to live by watching our Dad live. He truly loved Ellicottville, he truly loved his family, and he truly loved life.”
Reached at the viewing at the Mentley Funeral Home in Little Valley on Monday, his widow Sharon summed up her and the communities’ feelings, “It’s a great loss for all of us.” About 100 family and friends attended the service Tuesday at the Holy Name of Mary church. Just before Mayor Coolidge’s casket was wheeled out of the sanctuary, Sharon Coolidge supported by her sons, leaned over his coffin and gave it a kiss. A last loving moment with a husband, father, fireman, and mayor, who had served his family and community with dedication and love.