Maurice Hinchey talks with a supporter in Saugerties last Saturday. (Photo by Hugh Reynolds)

Good line, but even funnier when I learned from picnic committee chairman Beth Murphy that Van Blarcum had donated the $3,500 to cover expenses for the four-hour affair. Van Blarcum, who drinks sparingly, probably paid a thousand bucks a beer, and was grateful to do it.

“He supported me when I ran and lost [in 1998] and he’s supported me ever since,” Van Blarcum, like Hinchey a Democrat, said. “He’s a loyal guy.”

Van Blarcum suggested Hinchey might be underappreciated as a congressman. “It wasn’t just all the money he brought home for special projects around here,” he said. “He was [is until Dec. 31] a congressman. He voted on things that affected the whole country, the world.”

A woman spoke to Hinchey’s effect on her life and that of her husband, a victim of Agent Orange in Vietnam. “Maurice took up our cause when he was an assemblyman,” she said. “And he stuck with it. He changed our lives.”

Organized by a volunteer group of residents, the event drew — with people coming and going — at least 400 people.

The guest of honor, attentively accompanied by former wife Ilene Marder and their daughter Michelle, was clearly delighted by the turnout and the reception. People, some from his school days in Saugerties stood in line for autographs and photos with their children.

With the wisdom of a child, a little girl, accompanied by her parents, reflected the spirit of the occasion. “This is an historic event,” she solemnly told me.

Mike Zollo of Blue Mountain got an autograph with a message on a napkin. “He’s my man,” he said, beaming. “I’m going to miss him dearly.” Zollo’s wife, Sally Ann Lamouree, called Hinchey “a real gentleman. He did the job well.”

Hinchey of course has been hearing all this for years, unceasingly this year, as he makes what seems an endless round of farewell events.

But this was a homecoming. This was special.

New Paltz honors itself

Pop quiz: What the heck does the word “quasquicentennial” mean? Ans.: 125th anniversary, which is what the Village of New Paltz will be celebrating on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the post office parking lot.

A wonderfully eclectic place, the village was founded in 1887, a year before a local newspaper declared Ulster County “noxiously corrupt for years.” Whether there was any connection, I have no idea. Perhaps it was a good-government movement, like the kind so frequently extolled at SUNY New Paltz. Who knows?

One of the more contentious hamlets, New Paltz seems to revisit issues every generation or so. Currently, residents are at loggerheads regarding the possible merger of the town (circa 1677) and the village. Stay tuned.

Perhaps Sunday’s working slogan should be “Just be nice to each other.”