Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan Establishes COVID-19 Commemoration Commission

On the two-year anniversary of Ulster County’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, County Executive Pat Ryan signed an Executive Order establishing a commission that will develop a monument honoring frontline workers who risked their lives throughout the pandemic, and memorializing those Ulster County residents who lost their lives to COVID-19 

The COVID-19 Commemoration Commission is an 22-member board that will be tasked with citing and curating a physical monument in Ulster County

KINGSTON, N.Y. – Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced today, on the two-year anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ulster County, that he has signed an Executive Order establishing a commission to develop a memorial honoring those frontline workers who risked their lives throughout the pandemic, and memorializing the lives of Ulster County residents lost to COVID-19. The COVID-19 Commemoration Commission is a 22-member board tasked with citing and curating a permanent monument in Ulster County to tell the story of the response and impact of the pandemic, and to highlight how the entire community rallied and supported each other during the course of this once-in-a-century pandemic. 

“Through the darkness of the pandemic, we witnessed countless moments of heroism, compassion, and service throughout our community. The COVID-19 Commemoration Commission will both highlight the service of our community members — from our doctors and nurses, to our teachers, to our first responders, and beyond — who rose to the challenge and risked their lives to protect us, as well as memorialize the hundreds of lives we tragically lost,” Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said. “On the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic arriving in Ulster County, and as we shift to managing COVID-19 in an endemic mode, it’s time to show our appreciation and support of the frontline workers who risked their lives to keep us all safe during these incredibly challenging times. I’m excited to see what this Commission will develop, drawing upon the talents of our rich arts community, to commemorate the impacts that COVID-19 has had in Ulster County.” 

“The pandemic changed forever the understanding of the definition of an essential worker,” Ulster County Chairwoman Tracey Bartels said. “Grocery store clerks, bus drivers, food delivery gig workers, emergency responders, doctors, and nurses stand side-by-side as everyday heroes. I am grateful for the opportunity to join my colleagues on the COVID-19 Commemoration Commission in this important work to acknowledge those whose tireless efforts place the needs of others first in service to our community and to remember those we lost.”

“I am looking forward to working with the members of the COVID-19 Commemoration Commission to honor those who faithfully served the residents of Ulster County throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and to pay tribute to those we lost to this terrible virus,” Ulster County Minority Leader Ken Ronk said. “I am proud to join County Executive Ryan and my colleagues in the legislature to partner on this important remembrance for the people of Ulster County.”

“Nurses cried, Nurses died. But when the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic was the greatest, the Nurses of Ulster County fought on. They fought often without proper protection. They fought despite being understaffed. They fought to protect our families, our community, and our city.  And they fought with courage above and beyond any standards of duty, most often with direct risk to their own lives constantly on their minds and the lives of their own families in turn,” Representative of New York State Nurses Association Estela Aquino-Woych, RN-BC, said.

“When COVID hit, the educators in Ulster County met your children where they were, zooming early in the morning, during the day, in the evening. We ran our afterschool groups to meet your students’ needs. We ran food drives, delivered books, learned how to teach in a whole new environment. We welcomed our students back with open arms, warm eyes, and smiles and, most importantly, with the joyous energy of being back in the classroom teaching,” Representative of NYSUT Melissa Servant said. “We are honored to be in the company of first responders: nurses, healthcare workers, and all of those on the front line of fighting COVID. Our students are our future, and we will always stand on the frontline for them.”

The COVID-19 Commemoration Commission members are:

  • Ulster County Legislature Chairwoman Tracey Bartels 
  • President of the Ulster Police Chiefs Association Kyle Berardi
  • ​President of CSEA Unit 8950 Tina Buono
  • Representative of APWU (American Postal Workers Union), Diana Cline
  • President of the Ulster Fire Chiefs Association, Chief John Heppner
  • Superintendent of Ulster BOCES Dr. Charles Khoury
  • Representative of Teamsters Union 445, Dan Maldonado
  • President of the EMS Association John Mathiasen
  • Assistant Store Manager at Adams Fairacre Farms, Patrick Paulson
  • Representative of Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 1120, Rob Pinto
  • Ulster County Clerk Nina Postupack
  • President of the United Way of Ulster County Stacey Rein
  • Representative of Kingston Interfaith Council, Rabbi Yael Roemer
  • Ulster County Legislature Minority Leader Ken Ronk 
  • Representative of North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, Matt Ross
  • Representative of NYSUT, Melissa Servant 
  • Representative of Hudson Valley Building Trades, Rich Whitney
  • Vice President of Medical Services and Regional Medical Director for Mid-Hudson Valley at The Institute for Family Health Dr. Walter Woodley 
  • Representative of New York State Nurses Association, Estela Woych-Aquino
  • Representative of SEIU Local 1199
  • Representative of Ulster County Association of Town Supervisors & Mayors
  • Representative of UFCW Local 1262 

There is currently no permanent COVID-19 memorial in the United States, and Ulster County’s plans include a focus on the COVID response by labor, medical professionals, and other frontline workers while paying tribute to the lives lost to the illness.

The COVID-19 Commemoration Commission will hold its first meeting next month, with a timeline for project completion, pending Legislative budget approval, in 2023.