Hall of Distinction 2023
Mary E. Parker Audrain
Joyce (Bliven) Ardron – Class of 1948
Joyce (Bliven) Ardron is a 1948 graduate of Oxford Academy and Central Schools and a 1949 graduate of Eastman Dental Dispensary, Rochester, NY as a Dental Hygienist. She married Ralph A. Ardron, Jr. in 1953 (he passed away in 2015). Joyce has 3 children, 6 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.
She worked outside of the home as a dental hygienist for Dr. Crouch and for OACS and worked at NBT Bank as a proofreader. Joyce also babysat children at her home with the assistance of her sister.
Joyce is a communicant of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oxford and a member of their Altar Guild, ECW, choir and assisted with monthly dinners, bake sales, Applefest, Christmas Baskets, etc. She is also a member of Church Women United of Oxford and volunteered for many of their events which included preparation of the Thanksgiving dinner held each year at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. In 2017, Joyce received a Certificate from the Church Women United of Oxford recognizing her with gratitude for the many years of dedicated service to their organization and to the Oxford community. During their children’s school years, she (and Ralph) were involved in their extracurricular activities and in 1986 received a plaque from the Oxford Blackhawk Marching Band for their dedicated service.
She also served on the Board of Directors for Chenango County Habitat for Humanity and was involved in their fund raising events. Joyce was a member of the Community Band (she played trombone) and enjoyed being a poll worker for National and local elections. She devoted many hours to the success of the Taste-n-See Soup Kitchen and continues to be involved by way of washing their dish clothes, towels, and aprons. In 2002, Joyce was chosen as Volunteer of the Year by United Way; in 2011, she received the DeWitt Clinton Masonic Award for Community Service; and in 2018 she was recognized as Citizen of the Year by the Oxford Lions Club.
Joyce wanted to further help those individuals and families in need and in 1983 opened the Oxford Community Clothes Closet under the auspices of the FISH program (Friends in Service Here). In 1990, the FISH program was phased out and the Clothes Closet partnered with Church Women United of Oxford to help support the Oxford Food Pantry. The Clothes Closet has been housed in many places such as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church, Oxford Memorial Library, Oxford United Church, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and downtown Oxford. Initially, clothing items were delivered to Joyce’s home where she sorted them out, washed some if it was necessary and delivered them (with the assistance of Ralph) to the Clothes Closet to be displayed for sale. In 2009 they began selling household items in addition to the clothing and changed the name to Common Cents Thrift Shop. They are now in their permanent location in a building on Route 12 which they purchased. A monetary pledge is given monthly to the Oxford Food Pantry and to the McDonough Food Pantry. They also accept referrals from ministers, Social Services and government officials for free items to victims of fire, flood, etc. The Thrift Shop continues to be an all-volunteer organization which makes everyone feel very proud to help and support others.
We commend Joyce for her dedication and wisdom to care enough about her community to initiate such an undertaking and we honor her with this lasting tribute of being added to the Oxford Academy Hall of Distinction.
Neil Bartle – Class of 1964
Neil Bartle, a 1964 Oxford Academy graduate, has deep roots: He lived in the same house for 42 years, built businesses, and raised a family in Oxford. Although Neil Bartle and his wife Linda now spend time in South Carolina near their youngest daughter and her family, he was clearly shaped by our community and has spent a lifetime giving back.
After graduation he served in the US Army until discharge in 1968 as a Specialist/5. Back in Oxford he worked for D.W. Bartle Coal and Oil, hauling coal from the mines in Pennsylvania. In 1971, that business was sold to Reese-Baldwin Oil in Norwich and he managed their Oxford division until 1979. When his friend Dave Emerson invited him to join as a partner in Thompson Fuel Service of Oxford – now Blueox Energy– they worked hard to grow the business from 4 employees to over 200. For the past 26 years he’s been CEO of the company, providing fuel resources and employment to many across our region.
In addition to his professional contributions to the energy needs of our community, Neil’s deep well of talents and resourcefulness poured into organizations across our area. Neil earned Oxford Lions Citizen of the Year and Lion of the Year awards as capstones to his over half-century of service to the Oxford Lions Club. As a member of the Methodist Church, he was a trustee and 3-year Chairman of the Administrative Committee. Neil served on the Riverview Cemetery Board, and is a member of Oxford’s American Legion post.
A businessman who knows the importance of resources needed to do the next good thing, he helped found the Oxford Area Community Fund. Together with David, Mary El, Tom, and Bonnie Emerson, Neil and Linda started this fund “with the intent of being able to give back to the community that we all hold so dear.”
In a reflection of the diversity of his interests and skills, Neil also served in various leadership capacities on a number of boards for years: Chenango Memorial Hospital Trustee (14 years), Chenango Memorial Hospital Foundation Board (10 years), Chenango County Association for the Disabled (28 years), Chenango County IDA, Lounsberry Real Estate Partnership, Chenango Mutual Insurance Company, North Country Insurance Company (currently Vice-President), Educational Opportunities for Chenango, the Chenango Traffic Safety Council, and an array of trade associations. The Baden Powell Council Boy Scouts of America Award also named him the Chenango County Citizen of the Year.
You can take the measure of a person by their accomplishments, but even more telling is what they have to say about their work. “Seldom do we take time to reflect on the past,” Neil wrote recently, “so thanks for getting me to do that. I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to learn so much from so many wonderful people that I have served with for so many years–and the Emersons top the list. I always seemed to do things the hard way, but what I have learned along the way has been priceless – way beyond Business 101.” Neil’s greatest blessing, however, has been those closest to him: Linda, Jared, Ashley, and their families, as well as Krista who is no longer with us.
Neil is recognized, with gratitude, for honoring his roots through hard work and decades of service to our community.
Jeanne Marshman – Class of 1964
Jeanne Marshman was born and raised in Oxford, the daughter of Dr. William and Mrs. Helen Mayhew. She attended Oxford Academy and Central School, graduating in 1964. After her very successful high school years, she went on to SUNY Oswego where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Art. Following graduation Jeanne and Dan Marshman were married and Jeanne began many years of being involved with, and supporting Dan’s numerous agricultural endeavors. In addition she became very active in the Lion’s Club where her community service began.
Jeanne has devoted her life to children through teaching. She began her career in Greene, NY teaching for five years in both Kindergarten and 2nd grade. She then moved on to Oxford where she spent the next thirty-three years teaching at the Primary School. From the beginning at the Primary School she was never able to get out of the first grade. She taught regular first for ten years and then the innovative “pre first” for the next twenty three years. She was influential and helpful in developing and starting up the Developmental Education Program that provided a strong beginning for many students. In addition, Jeanne created the Blackhawk Box program for three and four olds who would soon be entering school. It was a “school readiness” box filled with books, activities and materials to be shared with children by their parents. She prepared the boxes and invited parents in to explain how to use the “Box” and its contents. She was loved by her students and is still making student friends and connections by continuing, since her retirement in 2006, to substitute.
Jeanne is also devoted to her two children, Travis and Danielle, and her grandchildren, Troy, Thomas and Elizabeth.
When Jeanne was teaching she would always quietly provide for students in need. That has been a mainstay in her life. She continues to find people in need and provide what she can to help. She has delivered flowers and food to shut-ins, provided rides, made memorial items for friend’s loved ones, and is supportive of school and community events and activities. She provides a very needed service by delivering Community Soup Kitchen dinners every week, being sure to check on the welfare of the recipients each time.
Jeanne is what we would call, without a doubt, a “Super Helper!”
Mary E. Parker Audrain – Class of 1935
Mary E. Parker was born in Oxford, Chenango County, New York on December 24, 1917. She was the youngest of three daughters born to Charles Joel and Florence VanWagenen Parker. Mary attended Oxford schools and graduated from Oxford Academy in June 1935. She went on to Russell Sage College in Troy, New York where she earned her teaching degree and graduated in 1939. Following her graduation from Russell Sage College, Mary taught at the Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut.
Russell Sage College yearbook, Sage Leaves, described Mary as, “To a stranger, the sophisticate, To a person who knows her, the charm and freshness of a natural personality.” It goes on, “Jovial laughter with Style, Tall and Lanky with grace – a true impression of earnestness.”
On March 26, 1943, Mary decided to enter a new phase of her life. To help with the war effort and support the demand for women in the services, Mary joined the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots), a new corps of pilots in the Army Air Forces, that eventually provided 1,100 trained women pilots for the war effort. Mary entered the fifth class of the WASP and completed 27 weeks of AAF flight training at the WASP training base at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. Mary earned her silver wings on September 11, 1943. Among the 124 entering her flight training class, she was among the 85 graduates and graduated as class flight leader.
A typical training day at Avenger Field began at 6am and ended at 10pm. The WASPs cleaned their barracks for inspection, marched, then completed physical and drill training, flight instruction in link trainers, basic, or advanced aircraft, and studied weather, navigation, physics, math, and aircraft and engines, among other subjects. After completing the WASP training program, Mary was chosen to be among only 13 WASPs to complete flight training in the four-engine B-17 “Flying Fortress” at Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio. She went on to fly Fortresses for gunnery training and crew cohesion for crews heading for missions overseas. The WASPs flew over 60 million miles in the short time they were in service to their country and flew all types of AAF aircraft.
In June 1944, Congress voted to disband the WASP program as of December and Mary traded in her WASP uniform for another one – an American Red Cross uniform and served with the American Red Cross on Tinian Island. American Forces had supported the Battle of Tinian Island in July 1944 and by August 10, 1944, the battle was won. While Mary was based on Tinian, three airfields were built that provided air support in the Pacific war, including B-29s that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Red Cross workers served as field directors providing recreational and compassionate support for the troops, operated clubs, and were attached to military hospitals.
After Mary’s work with the American Red Cross, she moved to New York City where she worked as a buyer at Macy’s Department story and became personnel director for Macy’s, the equivalent today of Vice President for Human Resources.
On March 13, 1954, she returned to the chapel of the Westover School to marry Lawrence A. Audrain, editor of Print magazine in New York. Sadly, Lawrence died on September 9, 1957, only 3 1/2 years after their marriage. Mary remained in New York City as personnel director at Macy’s and then at Allied Stores, and on July 28, 1973, she died of heart complications at the age of 55 years. She and Lawrence are buried in the Van Wagenen Cemetery in Oxford, NY.
The women pilots of the WASP program were never entitled the same benefits of our military men until 1976 when Senator Barry Goldwater and Congresswoman Lindy Boggs presented a bill to Congress asking that these heroines be given the same status as their male counterparts. The bill passed and was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on September 10, 1976. As a result, Mary is now entitled to have a veteran’s memorial marker on her grave. In July 2009, the Women Airforce Service Pilots were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their World War II service. Fly high 1st Lieut. Mary E. Parker, you definitely earned your wings.
Francis Wilcox – Class of 1964
Francis Wilcox, a 1964 graduate of Oxford Academy, was very active in the total music program that was provided during his high school career. He was an excellent musician, enjoyed singing in the chorus and took advantage of all the musical experiences that his church offered. Following graduation, Francis traveled north to Potsdam State and enrolled in the Crane School of Music. Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has established a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. At Potsdam his instrument of choice was the organ and he was involved in all areas of the music program.
Subsequently, Francis enlisted in the Army and serviced his country for five years. Wilcox became a Chief Warrant Officer, Band Master in the Army and was stationed at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. At Fort Devens his group traveled throughout the New England states performing concerts, parades, military memorial services, dedications, and military funerals.
From 1973 to 1980, Francis taught at Cambridge City School, outside of Boston, directing the high school band and orchestras. In 1980 Francis returned to New York and starting teaching at Morris Central Schools. In 1982 he returned to Oxford Academy and continued the high traditions of the Oxford band. At Oxford Wilcox displayed his musical skills in many different ways. He endeavored to have the students perform locally in support of the school system as well as taking a major yearly trip to perform outside the Chenango Valley. The band played at a Hall of Fame baseball game in Cooperstown, journeyed to Philadelphia to play for the Phillies, traveled to New York City to perform at the Statue of Liberty and Lincoln Center, played at the Quincy Market in Boston, entertained audiences in Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, and performed at several amusement parks in Ohio and Toronto, Canada. These trips enabled the students of Oxford to expand their horizons and exposed them to another part of the state and country that they have never experienced. Furthermore, Wilcox continued to use the best educational practices in music to develop fine musicians. He established a rigorous music program that emphasized promoting and inspiring the development of good musicians. Many times, this skill set carried over to their adult lives.
After retirement Francis continued his own development by attending art school at the Munson-Proctor Institution. There he worked in acrylics and concentrated on depicting the agricultural history of the state. Moreover, he received an Associate Degree in Fine Arts from Mohawk Valley Community College. In order to enhance his skills, Francis traveled to Tuscany, Italy and England and participated in numerous seminars. From these visits he became acquainted with the “Christmas Markets” concept, where local artisans would sell and display their works during the Christmas season. With the assistance of the friends of “Six on the Square” and others he along with fellow artisans have established a Christmas Market in Oxford.
In 1976, Wilcox started the Oxford Community Band and retired from the directorship in 2018. The community band entertained residents of Oxford on the park during the summer months for many years. Additionally, he is still performing at the United Church of Oxford and at other services for local churches.
It has been stated that, “Art is a way to express our emotions and feelings. It can be used to communicate ideas and thoughts; it can be used as a tool for self-expression, used as a form of therapy, or even as a means to find beauty in life.” Francis Wilcox’s contributions epitomize this quote … he has inspired and educated generations of Oxford youth. Through his art and music Francis Wilcox has given much to his school and community.