In the space of a few days, Oneonta has lost two giants — Sidney Levine and Robert A. Harlem.
Both men continued to contribute greatly to their community far past the biblical “threescore years and 10.” Harlem was a member of Oneonta’s St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and a supporter of the church’s school. Levine was a founding father of Temple Beth El, and was instrumental in its renovations and in setting up its cemetery.
Harlem, a former state Supreme Court judge who died Thursday at age 86, was honored by the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce as its Distinguished Citizen of the Year in 2009.
He was an Otsego County Surrogate Court judge, Otsego County attorney, incorporated the Oneonta Boys and Girls Club and served on its board.
Harlem was a member of the Fox Hospital Foundation and Oneonta Country Club, and served as a director and as president.
He was also involved with Orpheus Theatre, Hartwick College, Oneonta Elks Club, Oneonta Indians football team and the Knights of Columbus.
A community is like an apple tree — its fruit can be picked, but it also needs to be cultivated and protected, Harlem said in 2009. So it was natural for him to become involved in many community organizations and boards.
“I can’t just belong,’’ he said.
Levine was 99 years old when he died in his sleep Sunday. He leaves behind a rich legacy highlighted by more than four decades of baseball franchises in Oneonta along with his partner and friend Sam Nader.
Nader, a former Oneonta mayor, was usually the more loquacious of the partners, but Levine was no less important to the Oneonta Yankees and Tigers teams that started playing here in 1966.
“Sid was one heck of a guy,’’ said Nader, who described Levine on Sunday as his best friend for more than 75 years. “He was a first-class citizen. He believed in giving. He put his money where his mouth was. … His great love was Fox Hospital.’’
“It was God’s grace indeed, that Sid died the way he did,” said former A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital spokeswoman. Maggie Barnes. “It makes perfect sense that his wonderful heart just stopped, quietly and without fanfare. The same way he lived his life.”
Levine raised millions of dollars for the foundation at Fox. The Fox Hospital emergency room was dedicated to Levine and his late wife, “Smitty.” The Sidney Levine Conference Room was named in his honor at the hospital. His many awards included ones from the Otsego County Chamber, Boy Scouts of America and Hartwick College
Citizens such as Harlem and Levine cannot be replaced, but the rewards of their contributions will continue to enrich our lives.