Yates County loses three leading ladies

John Christensen

Yates County recently suffered a triple bereavement with the passing of three prominent and long-serving members of the County Legislature; Thelma Flynn on Oct. 12, Nancy Taylor on Oct. 13, and Betty Christensen on Oct. 17. It would be an understatement to say people were shocked and saddened by their passing so close to one another.

“We lost a number of independent thinking ladies that week,” said Legislator Doug Paddock who served with Taylor and Flynn, but knew all three since boyhood. “It was very odd – truly a shock,” said fellow Legislative member Donna Alexander.

When speaking to several legislators of their memories of the trio, I was struck by how often they were described in the same terms:

“Dedicated and hard working.”

“Always had the best interests of the community at heart.”

“Was never afraid to speak her mind,” and “Tough.”

Perhaps these qualities were exactly the reason they were each so successful in the cut and thrust of county politics, and also remembered with such respect and admiration.

Thelma Flynn was remembered best by past Democratic legislator Loretta Hopkins. “She was a very intelligent woman – she was a Democrat.” As the only two from their party on the legislature for many years, they would joke over who would be minority chairman.

Paddock recalled being just the kid on the block to Flynn, even when he was elected to serve with her in 1988. In the chamber, Chairman Taylor Fitch publicly praised her activities for both the legislature and the community.

Nancy Taylor was remembered for her frankness and strength. Nancy and her late husband, Dan, were noted for their dedication to the Public Safety Committees of both Yates County and Penn Yan — always with the public interest in mind.

Alexander described her as a mentor to new legislators, even to the point of telling them where to park. “She was tough and didn’t mince many words, but when we lunched or went to dinner together, which was often, we never discussed county business.”

Hopkins recalled, “Even though we were from different parties, we got along very well, and many times voted the same way. We often went to meetings together and shared flowers.”   Her sense of humor was cited many times. Paddock remembered her composing a comic poem for the end of meetings entitled, “Off to Lloyd’s We Go.”

Betty Christensen was remembered for her ironclad loyalty to the Republican Party. “She always helped the Republican Women any way she could, even when it was difficult for her.

She worked with people from the other party too, but she thought they ought to become Republicans,” recalled Alexander with a chuckle.

Loretta Hopkins agreed saying, “Even though we were from opposite parties, we were always friends.”

Another one not to suffer fools, when a new legislator proposed an addition to the court house to connect it to the county building, she told him he hadn’t done his homework and that she would never vote for it. Betty was equally noted for her abundant sense of humor and her ability to get things done.

That is perhaps the lasting legacy and example of these three strong women; they got things done. Not just for the legislature, but for the towns, villages, and organizations that make up the whole county. In a time when it grows increasingly difficult to convince the best people to take part in the good government and good works of our community, perhaps the memory of Thelma, Nancy, and Betty might convince them.