Former AU professor Tuskegee Airman and honored leader Wally Higgins

Wallace C. (Wally) Higgins still serves the area.

Years after his death, the former professor emeritus of the NYS University School of Ceramics of Alfred Wally Higgins is still shaping the state and list of services available to seniors in Allegany County.

At the entrance to the Allegany County Office for Aging at the Crossroads, which he helped build, a memorial wall was opened in his honor on Wednesday by the Allegany Senior Foundation, a group he has helped found in 2003 to help the OFA. Funds from the sale of memorial blocks in the wall help fund many programs for the OFA. These include meals on wheels and donations to Centraide.

When it was founded, Higgins defined the Foundation’s mission: “Our mission is to identify gaps in services, find programs to fill those gaps, and fund those programs. We want to make sure that Allegany County remains a wonderful place to grow and age.

“Since its founding in 2003, the Allegany Senior Foundation has funded more than $ 500,000 in services for the elderly in Allegany County,” Reita Sobeck-Lynch, current president of ASF, told over 30 people gathered in the hall.

Family and friends were on hand for the unveiling of the Memorial Wall and to remember the generosity and service Higgins has shown throughout his life.

Longtime colleague and former OFA chief Kim Toot recalled how she first met Higgins in the early 1990s.

“We shared stories about his time as a professor at Alfred University, his family, his trips to other countries to help them develop ceramic engineering, his service with the Alfred Lions Club and how he wanted to help the Allegany County Aging Office by sitting on their advisory board, “Toot said.” We have worked together for years. His calm but persistent nudge, pushing us in the county to keep doing what we do, but also insisting that we could do more. ”He led the advisory board for years.

In 2013, Toot, then the head of the OFA, led efforts to create the wall in honor of Higgins.

“We’ve had it for a few years, but we’re only just beginning to dedicate it to Wally’s honor. We call it Wally’s Wall, ”she commented.

At the dedication ceremony Donald Higgins, son of Wally Higgins, thanked the group for honoring his father. Before cutting the ribbon, he said, “We are very honored. The work my father did with the Area Foundation was very important to him. I am very proud of my father and hope that one day I will be half as good as him.

A plaque designates the Office for the Aging Memorial Wall in honor of Wally Higgins.

Other members of the Higgins family were also at the dedication service.

Outgoing County President Curt Crandall and Lawmaker David Pullen also spoke at the event, recalling how persistent Higgins was in building the current OFA building at Crossroads.

“We wouldn’t be in this facility like we are today without Wally’s efforts. If this is a reminder from Wally, it’s a good reminder, ”Crandall said, adding that the dedication ceremony was his last official act of service as chairman of the County Council of Legislators. ‘Allegany.

Higgins was born in Kendall, NY in 1927 and lived on a farm. He trained with the Civil Air Patrol before enlisting in the US Army Air Corps in 1943 at the age of 18. After initial training, he transferred to the Tuskegee Airman program in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he learned to fly.

His flight training was interrupted after the end of World War II in Europe. He was transferred to the Pacific Theater where he led a road, bridge and storage building squadron. At the end of the war he attended the NYS College of Ceramics at the University of Alfred, from which he graduated in 1952. He began his career as a pattern maker / mold maker for Glidden Pottery in Alfred for five years, then became a technical specialist at the College. of Ceramic. He then became Associate Professor there, retiring in 1985 as Professor Emeritus.

He has been a member for over 50 years and four times chairman of the Alfred Lions Club, life member of the Alfred Station Volunteer Fire Department, past chairman of the Allegany County office for the Advisory Council on Aging , and Emeritus and Past President of the Allegany Senior Foundation. He was a long-time member of the Bakers Bridge Historical Society at Alfred Station and was a member of Union University Church in Alfred for 64 years, where he served on the board, sang in the choir and was a lay leader. He passed away in August 2018.

Throughout his military and civilian career, Higgins received numerous honors and medals for his military service, including the Congressional Gold Medal.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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