In the small Adirondack Mountain village where I grew up, Tupper Lake, there was a stunning stone house tucked away in the woods at the head of the lake, 10 miles from town. We passed it often en route to family picnics, waterfall swimming and later, to my job as a waitress at a rustic veteran’s resort down the road. I was always enchanted by the granite house, which didn’t look like any other homes I’d ever seen. It looked like a magical castle, surrounded by moss and green grass on its perch high over the lake. As a child I fantasized about living there when I grew up.
It was a vacation home to a family called the Goodmans. A family involved in social justice. When I was just a child, one of the Goodman sons, Andrew, came to Tupper Lake for one of his usual visits before heading out for the summer of 1964 as a civil rights activist. He’d been trained for the “Freedom Summer” project to register blacks to vote in Mississippi. He was teamed up with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.
I was just six when they were brutally murdered, buried, and found a month and a half later after a massive search. I didn’t know anything about voting rights, discrimination against blacks, or death. But on Saturday, when I was at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, and reading about events being held on the actual August 28th anniversary, I thought a lot about Andrew Goodman. I got shivers when his name was called from the podium. I thought about his place in the world and his place in my hometown.
An arrest was never made for the deaths of the three young men until 2005– 41 years later. Goodman’s family kept very busy in the meantime, creating the Andrew Goodman Foundation. In his honor, the foundation’s signature is “He traveled a short while toward the sun, and left the vivid air with his honor.”
My uncle Bill Frenette,an avid outdoorsman and hiker, knew the Goodmans. He knew the Goodman boys, David, Jonathan and Andrew, hiked an unnamed mountain near their summer home in Tupper Lake in their youth. He found a slab of rock there with the boys’ names painted on it. Bill, now deceased, was the town historian, and began a process of petitioning the United States Board on Geographic Names to name the mountain Goodman Mountain, which he detailed in an interview on NPR. It was successful in 2002.
Today, my father Jim Frenette, Bill’s brother and a retired teacher, is among a group of people working to have New York acknowledge it as an official trail so state crews can maintain the trail for hikers. Right now, the local group bushwhacks its way up to the top of the 2,176-foot peak and works to keep it clear for others.
There are so many people who inspire me, who remind me to keep climbing. I’m honored when I learn about them, or get to meet them. There are many who do small, good deeds quietly and often, and these are some of my heroes. There are many, like my uncle, who work so that others may be honored. And there are other heroes who risked all so that others would not have to suffer — young men like Andrew Goodman. Now, here is a mountaintop where the air may be vivid with his honor. Come breathe it in.