The environmental science department staff pitched in to purchase a plaque to hang on the walls in memory of Charles Kaminski.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Thomas Tyning described his late friend Charles Kaminski as a "6-foot-2 Paddington bear," with "a cavernous voice that seemed to emanate from the depths of his heart and yet the kind of quality that put people at ease."
Kaminski — known as Chuck to some, Charlie to others — loved nature, cooking, and music. He never seemed stressed and was loved by many from across the state.
"It's not an exaggeration to say that Charlie's life truly mattered. He modeled consistency in issues that mattered most to him," Tyning said.
The Berkshire Community College dean of business, science, mathematics, and technology unexpectedly died in January at age 51. Kaminski had been vacationing in San Agustín in Colombia with his husband, Tom Connelly, whom he had been with for more than 30 years.
"In all of that time, I have never seen him helpless until he died in my arms," Connelly said on Friday when friends, family, and the higher education community joined together at the college to honor Kaminski.
And, "his strength is what I've drawn upon to get through this ordeal."
Connelly described the trip to Colombia as they toured cities and nature, drank coffee, and ate well. The couple went to the Andes and took tours. Kaminski was enjoying nature on an excursion but at one point Connelly had thought, "is he having a heart attack?" when Kaminski's breathing seemed irregular.
And suddenly, "he collapsed and we couldn't revive him." Kaminski loved the outdoors, nature and traveling, and Connelly takes solace knowing Kaminski died doing exactly what he'd want.
"His last days and moments were exactly what he'd want, traveling, experiencing another culture and geography," he said.
Friday, though, wasn't so much about that moment. Connelly and his sister Sheila discussed the village of friends and family that had come together to bring Kaminski home from deep in the hills of the Andes but Friday was focused on who Kaminski was and the impact he had made during his life.
"He was friendly. He was humorous. He was obviously very bright. He was also very engaged in everything we were doing. Charlie was tremendously gifted," said a colleague.
Not only was he an accomplished educator, Kaminski followed his passion for the environment in making the Green Team at the college nationally recognized.
"Charlie wore his love of the natural world like a comfortable sweater. It was just who he was," said Laura Saldarini, who worked with Kaminski on the Green Team at the college.
Another colleague told stories of birds Kaminski had helped rescue and the passion the two shared for birdwatching.
Kaminski's impact wasn't just on the BCC campus. His colleagues said it seemed he had friends on every campus in the state they visited. Friday's memorial was attended by friends from the Board of Higher Education, from Boston, from Greenfield and Holyoke, and from all corners of the state.
Tom Connelly, Kaminski's husband, reflects on his loss.
He joined BCC 17 years ago after teaching at Middlesex Community College, decision that sent shockwaves throughout the community colleges in Massachusetts.
"When Charlie was recruited here and came here, I bet that made a pretty big impression on them. If Charlie saw something in this place, and I'm sure he spoke very well of the place afterward, that was something they noticed," his colleague said.
A childhood friend shared stories of their youth, others shared funny stories about him or just reflected on who Kaminski was. Another recalled Kaminski raving about seeing a band and the passion he shared with Kaminski about music.
BCC President Ellen Kennedy said Kaminski wouldn't have been one to want such a memorial. But it was something the college community needed.
"This might not have been what he wanted but it was something the rest of us wanted," Kennedy said.
She joked that the college did go out of the way to make some accommodations that would have appeased Kaminski — there was no program, little paper used, and everything was compostable.
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Hancock Shaker Village Opening For Baby Animals, Outdoor Spaces
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Hancock Shaker Village will hold a limited opening on Thursday, June 4, as part of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's Phase 1 initiative.
The Village will open only its outdoor spaces — including its beloved baby animals in outdoor fenced-in areas — to the public Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This schedule will be in place at least through June, as the Village plans for a full reopening in Phase 3.
Leaders of the iconic living history museum have been working for weeks on a reopening plan with new measures in place to ensure the safety of visitors and staff. Such health and safety measures include online and timed ticketing, guest capacity limits, one-way paths to control guest flow, clearly designated distance markers ranging from 6 to 10 feet, enhanced cleaning protocols, more hand sanitizer stations, and COVID-19 training for all staff.
Visitors will be required to pre-purchase timed admissions, available online at hancockshakervillage.org or by phone at 413-443-0188. Members are always free, but must reserve a time slot prior to their visit. Guests and staff are required to wear face coverings.
"The health and safety of our community remains our top priority," Director Jennifer Trainer Thompson said. "With guidance from Governor Baker, we are looking forward to once again welcoming visitors and continuing our mission of connecting people to the Village and the stories of the Shakers."
The museum has been offering virtual programs such as a stream on YouTube of a dance performance by Reggie Wilson and Fist and Heel Performance Group in the Round Stone Barn and virtual talks with authors and Shaker collectors. The Village also expanded its social media presence, offering programs such as Facebook livestreams from the farm and popular Zoom with Baby Animals sessions. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Village also made the decision to plant its 5-acre vegetable garden, which supports a 65-member CSA and provides 15 percent of its crops to local families in need.
"We know people have been eager to visit the farm when it is safe to do so," Thompson said. “Self-guided discovery has always been important to the museum experience here, and with baby animals, the trails, the architecture, and the gorgeous gardens, we’ll offer what has always been a hallmark of the Village: an inspiring, holistic experience."
The donation, which was made in honor of all BHS employees and medical staff, will be designated to support two major programs that provide reliable access to healthy food for residents of Berkshire County. click for more
Any other year, the graduates of Berkshire Community College and their friends and families would be filling The Shed at Tanglewood in Lenox.
But instead of taking the stage, speakers stood alone in front of a backdrop. And instead of being handed their certificates and diplomas, the more than... click for more