Former Cassadaga Resident Remembered Fondly

Fern Derby

CASSADAGA — Several checks rolled in when the obituary of former Cassadaga resident Fern Derby requested donations, in lieu of flowers, be sent to the village for the Cassadaga Beach fund. One that stood out, though, was a donation in the name of the first Cassadaga Beach female director, Marcia Lawson — or, as beachgoers knew her in those days, Mouse.

Many residents remember Derby fondly for her service with the PTA, to the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, and her instrumental role in establishing the Cassadaga Beach Program. Lawson remembered Derby for all of this, as well as her kindness and encouragement.

“Many years ago, from 1966 to 1970, I was the beach director at Cassadaga Lake,” Lawson’s letter to the village board began. “My first summer, I was a little nervous because I was the first woman director there, and I didn’t know many people as I had always lived in Lakewood.

“Mrs. Derby was just wonderful. She was so sweet and encouraging and supportive. I believe she worked at the gate collecting entrance money in those days. We had a complete swimming program in those days, from Tiny Tots to advance swimming, along with canoeing and life-saving classes. I have so many fond memories of super-cooperative kids, pajama swim, across-the-lake swims, beach dances with live music and the annual end of the summer carnival.

“I met so many wonderful people … everyone was so nice that I stayed on for five summers until I had to go to graduate school and get my permanent teaching certificate.

“Mrs. Derby always stood out as a lovely, classy, caring individual. She once told me that she worked in the vineyards in the spring — not easy work, I’m sure — in order to pay for Nancy’s dental braces. I was really impressed.

“… I must admit, the best summers of my life were spent at Cassadaga Beach. Sincerely yours, Marcia Lawson — Mouse.”

Derby, 95, of Sanford, N.C., formerly of Cassadaga, passed away Nov. 21, 2016. She retired from the Cassadaga Valley Central School District after 32 years of service in 1995.

The family asks that memorials be made to the Village of Cassadaga Trust and Agency (Beach Program), c/o Roxanne Astry, 22 Mill St., Cassadaga, N.Y. 14718.