A sad day in Bethany after passing of Supervisor Louis Gayton
People in Bethany are mourning tonight following the unexpected death of Town Supervisor Louis J. Gayton.
News of Gayton's death spread shortly after volunteer firefighters and medics were dispatched this morning to his home on a report of a 79-year-old unresponsive male.
Town Clerk Debbie Douglas heard the call on the radio and couldn't believe it.
"He worked hard and he did a lot for this town that people will never know," Douglas said. "He was an awesome guy."
The town board had a regularly scheduled meeting tonight and met as planned. Deputy Supervisor Walter Wenhold opened the meeting with a moment of silence and a short prayer.
Afterward, board members remembered Gayton fondly and said he was a great supervisor for Bethany.
"I think Louis was a very compassionate type of guy," Sue Neer said. "He always listened to everybody. He never came out with an opinion and said, 'This is it. We're not going to talk about it.' He listened and listened and listened and wanted everybody's opinion, then he formed his decision."
Ed Pietrzykowski said Gayton pulled the town through some tough times, particularly when he took over as supervisor around 2005 when the fight was on over windmills in the town.
"It was a hard time and it was hard on him," Pietrzykowski.
But he always kept his cool, Wenhold said.
"He was always cheerful," Wenhold said. "I never seen him get crossed, no matter what happened."
Paul Fleming said, "He liked helping the people of the community. He cared about the community."
Most recently, Gayton was a big proponent of public water for Bethany and Gayton was pushing hard to make it happen for the town's 1,800 residents.
"The town has no industry and he always said, 'if you want industry you've got to have public water," recalled Pietrzykowski.
His obituary hasn't been released yet, so biographical details are scarce, but people who knew him said he came to Bethany nearly 50 years ago from Perry, where he still has family.
He was a member of the Bethany Volunteer Fire Department from the 1960s and served as chief around 1988. He was highway superintendent for a number of years before becoming supervisor.
Wayne Walker, also a former Bethany chief in the 1980s and volunteer going back to the 1960s, was at the fire hall tonight and recalled Gayton as a man dedicated to his community who would do anything to help people.
"He wanted to be there for people," Walker said. "He was the same way as highway superintendent. If people needed something he was there to help."
We happened to talk on the phone with former Elba Town Supervisor Lucine Kauffman tonight and she recalled Gayton as one of her favorite people to run into at GAM meetings.
"He was one of those guys who always had a smile on his face," Kauffman said.
Gayton did a lot for the Town of Bethany, Douglas said, but his biggest contribution was putting the town on a strong financial footing.
"He put this town in a fantastic financial situation," Douglas said. "We've had no debt to speak of. We pay off everything in cash. He did a great job with our finances and I think that's very important in this day and age."
Douglas teared up more than once while talking about Gayton, saying she would miss him terribly.
"This town is like family, which is why we all get along so well and we work together so well and he's a family member who's gone," Douglas said.
My condolences to the Gayton family.