Cold Spring’s community spirit shines brightest on two types of occasions. 

One is when it’s time to celebrate, such as the Halloween Parade, Community Day or when a Haldane team returns by bus with a championship late at night to find Main Street lined with fans. 

The other is when someone needs support, whether because of a family tragedy, a house fire or the loss of a loved one. 

I saw that spirit recently as villagers rallied for George Stevenson, a Haldane High School graduate, Vietnam veteran, artist and long-ago stroke victim who suffered a setback in January and was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor. 

He was missed immediately. He wasn’t making his daily walk to Foodtown. He wasn’t hanging out by Cold Spring Pizza or the firehouse. 

After a short stay in the hospital, George was transferred to the New York State Veterans Home at Montrose.

A Facebook post let villagers know they could deliver greetings to George through The Current office on Main Street, and soon a pile of good wishes came through our mail slot: more than 50 cards with heartfelt messages, family photos, artwork, candy, emails, Valentine’s cards and notes from children. 

George Stevenson reads his get-well cards at the state veterans home in Montrose.
George Stevenson reads his get-well cards at the state veterans home in Montrose. (Photo by M. Turton)

The Methodist Church Shawl Group made him a blanket. A family gave him a Book of Psalms. Members of the Cold Spring Fire Co., American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and employees at Village Hall, Drug World and Cold Spring Pizza sent cards with multiple signatures. 

I delivered the pile to George at the VA on Feb. 17. He lit up like a 500-watt bulb. He was surprised, amazed and grateful. Best of all, he is doing well, is in a good frame of mind and taking part in activities at the facility.

He raved about the food. I heard several times about the hamburger he had just eaten for lunch. He winced, saying physical therapy for his knee is painful but added he will continue to fight and is getting “strong, strong, strong.” He admitted to flirting with the nurses, whom he said provided excellent care. 

We had our traditional conversation. George claimed he was a much faster-skating hockey player than I was. I gave him my usual response; I would have knocked him on his ass anyway. George laughed hard, which was good to behold. 

His life story is compelling. A lifelong Cold Spring resident, he excelled in football at Haldane and still holds the school record for pass receptions. He also was a standout baseball player. 

After graduating in the mid-1960s, he worked at ConEdison for a year before enlisting in the U.S. Army. He was sent to Vietnam, where he flew into rice paddies or the jungle by helicopter, always with the possibility of encountering a firefight. 

During one period, on five consecutive sorties, the pilots who flew George and the other soldiers into battle were killed. He fought in the Mekong Delta, survived malaria, was wounded and received a Purple Heart. 

After his tour, he returned to Cold Spring and worked as a lineman for the New York Telephone Co. But within a year, he suffered a stroke, losing the use of his right arm. His right leg was severely weakened and he could not speak. 

As part of his therapy, George began to paint. Using his left hand, he became prolific and developed a distinctive, primitive style. Initially, he painted scenes from the war. Over time his subjects changed to local landmarks and peaceful landscapes. 

He learned to speak again using short phrases and to walk, despite his bad right leg, but never regained the use of his right arm. 

For decades, until the pandemic shutdown, George rode Metro-North to New York City for weekly art lessons. He lived independently at the Spring Brook Condominiums. 

During my visit on Feb. 17, he crossed his fingers and expressed hope that if he continues to improve, he might return to Cold Spring in a month or two. Whatever the future holds, I know two things: George will never stop fighting, and he is a genuine local hero. 

Cards can be mailed to George Stevenson, c/o NYS Veterans Home, Deer Park Wing, Room 105, 2090 Albany Post Road, Montrose, NY 10548. 

Behind The Story

Type: Opinion

Opinion: Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

Turton, who has been a reporter for The Current since its founding in 2010, moved to Philipstown from his native Ontario in 1998. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Cold Spring government, features

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  1. When George was in Vietnam, someone took a picture of him without a T-shirt on. Many people from Cold Spring mailed him one.

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