H. Delila Walter
Hannah Delila Reynolds recounts in an autobiographical sketch that she was born during a blizzard on January 31st, 1915, in a three-story log house located at the foot of Burch Mountain, on the Glen-Athol Road in Thurman. She was the first of four daughters born there to Ida Parker and her husband George Burton Reynolds. The second child died in infancy, a wrenching loss to "Lila," who also lost her beloved grandmother, Delila Daggett Parker, in a fire that ravaged the grandparents home.
Lila and her sisters Elsie and Amy attended the Frost Street schoolhouse a couple of miles away. “When I passed the eighth grade Regents, I wanted to continue my schooling. There was no way to go to high school, and I believe there was a small tuition fee at that time. Mother had worked with a woman during the summer who would sometimes take a child to work for room and board. She lived in Glens Falls. We went to see her. She agreed to give me a try.” School in Glens Falls was considerably different from Frost Street school, but Lila persevered. “I stayed and finished high school. Upon graduation, I was awarded the first girls’ Hi Y scholarship of seventy-five dollars. With this, and my summer’s wages, I went to the Oneonta Normal School. After my first year there, I married Loren Walter. He came to Thurman to help his brother, Vernon and wife, start Ski Hi, the first dude ranch in the East. I did not finish my second year the following fall because I was expecting a baby. … Thereafter, I attended school off and on, as much as possible, and graduated in 1936.” She was hired at the District #3 school in Thurman, teaching thirty-two to thirty-four children in eight grades, and later taught at the South Johnsburg schoolhouse not far away.
Loren worked a succession of jobs, one of which took them to Glens Falls for a time, and eventually they returned to Thurman to buy the former Sanford Kenyon store and operate Walter’s Trading Center in the Kenyontown area of Thurman. Their second child was born when they lived there. Loren, a member of the Thurman Volunteer Fire Department, collapsed while fighting a fire one day, and died immediately of a coronary occlusion. Shock and pain rocked the family. Perhaps it was the strength and independence inherited from her grandmother that helped Lila pull her life together and muster on. She discovered she had a gift for recognizing the value of real estate, and she has bought and sold (and rented) numerous parcels totaling hundreds of acres in her lifetime.
One of Lila’s major projects was conceiving and implementing the creation of Glen-Hudson Campsite on the Hudson River off River Road. She hammered out a partnership and after very a primitive and rough first season, her experiment grew into a fine campsite. When she needed to devote her time and energy to care for her mother in Ida’s final years, her oldest daughter took over Glen-Hudson.
In 1963 Lila hosted the very first meeting of the John Thurman Historical Society in her home in Athol, a session that launched an all-out effort to form an organization to discover, collect and publicize the history of Thurman and surrounding areas. This group was blessed with the organizational skills, the historical knowledge and passion for history of such people as Jim and Myra Magee, B. Frank Cameron, Bea Cameron, Neil Campbell, Jean Reynolds and Mae Rozell. The organization has continued to the present, with a thirteen year hiatus in the eighties and early nineties.
Today Lila spends time with each of her daughters, enjoys visits from friends, talks history and brightens the world with a friendly phone call or a bit of her whimsical poetry. In her quiet unassuming way, she discounts the feats she has accomplished and the mark she has made on our small town, but her influence is evident everywhere.