HEMLOCK — In a bittersweet ceremony, a community reached out to honor a man who brought so much joy to its sleepy hamlet.
On Sept. 20 the Little Lakes Community Association, Sen. Catharine Young, the Evans Family, local officials, and community members came to dedicate the gymnasium to Jack Evans.
The old Hemlock School was first rescued in the early 1980s by Jack Evans, a former valedictorian and graduate of the 1929 school. Evans went on to love his hometown throughout his life until he passed on Sept. 20, 2008. His children, Mitch and Alayne, continue the family business (Velmex Inc.) in East Bloomfield. Karen, Jack’s other daughter, was present for the dedication as well.
LLCA Historian Rick Osiecki operates the History Room in the center, and talked about some important people and buildings of times long ago. This room will have a display of old photos every month that highlight a part of the Little Lakes Region.
There were two school houses that merged to create the Union School in 1912. This school burned down in 1928, and it was at that moment the hamlet worked tirelessly to rebuild. In 1929 the old Hemlock School was erected on the same spot. This is now the Little Lakes Community Center.
Osiecki reached out to other local historians to find photos of the area for the first display. He had an overwhelming response from eager historians. Some of these people include Joyce O’Neil, Tom Westbrook, Lore D’Salvo, Jane Schryver, and Amie Alden.
Not much of the old Hemlock is still standing, which makes the center that much more important. It has managed to keep a small piece of the history alive.
The last photo taken before the 1912 school burned to the ground was of a 1927 High School Baseball Team. This hangs on the History Room along with a handmade map by Charles Reed.
The ceremony took place in the gymnasium as several committee members and Sen. Young talked about what this building means to so many.
Mary Ann Thompson, LLCA president, welcomed everyone to the grand opening of the center and dedication.
“Thank you for coming to this very special celebration. It is really on behalf of all our board members, steering committee members, and volunteers that is why we are here today,” she said. “We here at the Little Lakes Community Association are extremely excited to see this come to fruition. Since we purchased the building we have met with a lot of the people in the region, and this is the strength and vision of it.”
Thompson added the goal of the center is to support all of the Little Lakes Region.
Bonnie Sykes, LLCA events director, thanked everyone who had a part in making this dream come true for the community.
“This building means so much to me, and this represents all of us. This isn’t just a building. It is so much more. It is about history, vision, hard work, being creative, and above all dreams.”
Sykes said that everyone worked side by side to make this happen, and bonds were formed with several of the members.
“My husband and I pass by this building all the time, and we never dreamed we would be a part of it,” she said. “There is so much left to do here. Our dreams don’t stop here. This is here to benefit all of the region. I hope you take part in this very special dream.”
Robert Thompson, LLCA steering committee member, had the pleasure of talking about Jack Evans, and introducing his children.
“If not for Jack Evans none of us would be here today. Jack graduated as valedictorian in 1935. We have his photo on the wall,” he said. “The gym hasn’t changed much since Jack was here. He played basketball in this room. After highschool Jack went to University of Rochester, and got into physics. He was an adventurer, entrepreneur, and a business owner. He was a man of many talents.”
Thompson said that Jack Evans loved to sail his boats around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. He built a family business in East Bloomfield, which his children still run.
“He shared his vision with all of us, and gave back to the community,” he said. “He purchased this old school in the 1980s with a vision to turn it into a community center. They brought the building back to life, and gave it to the town in the 1990s.”
Sen. Young shared some remarks about what the community center means as a whole.
“This is a vision and the whole point of this is to have economic development, and jobs, and tourism. We want to bring the region together in a very positive way, and I can’t think of a better effort than that,” she said. “By working together as a community you made this happen. We are here today to honor a very special person. I didn’t know Jack, but I know this is a bittersweet day, because it is on the anniversary of his death. Here is someone who really understood community. I love this kind of building, as you are sitting here right now, just think if these walls could talk. If we could see and hear some of the past memories in these halls.”
Karen Evans said that she is thrilled to be here for this special moment, and that it would mean a lot to her dad.
“I am so impressed with the passion of a small group of people to bring this all back to life,” she said. “My dad would be extremely pleased by all of this.”
Mitch Evans said that his dad had a sentimental attachment to the old school, and he always looked for the business opportunities.
“My father would be happy to have the gym dedicated to him,” he said. “I am glad this group has the same vision as him. He spent a lot of money on the heating system and windows. He had a remote clock put outside of the building.”
Karen Evans added that her dad wrote stories about growing up in Hemlock, and this entire community meant a lot to him.
Little Lakes Community Center is located at 4705 South Main Street in Hemlock.