ELLENBURG CENTER — In 1830, when Ellenburg first became a town, all the town officials worked out of their homes.
For her 44 years as Ellenburg town clerk, Thelma LaBombard has worked out of her home, too.
Now, at age 80, she is retiring, and the next person to take the position will be working out of a town building.
“It’s changing a little bit,” Thelma said.
As town clerk, Thelma often handled requests for birth certificates, marriage certificates and family information.
“Her door is open six days a week,” said Ellenburg Supervisor Dave Leonard, who noted LaBombard had the reputation of always being ready to answer questions or search for information.
“She has served her community, for almost half a century, above and beyond the call of duty,” he said.
Those years of service will be recognized with a dinner in Thelma’s honor.
At the event, Leonard said, “There will be opportunities for people to tell some stories they’ve experienced with Thelma. All her children will be there. Her friends might be bringing her some gifts. I’m sure it will be a lovely afternoon.”
Leonard recalled he first met Thelma through her family. She and her late husband, Richard, ran LaBombard’s Gulf Service in Ellenburg Center for more than 20 years.
“I knew Richard through the garage, and he was a wonderful man — I think the kindest and most generous man I’ve ever met.”
Eventually, Richard was diagnosed with ALS — Lou Gehrig’s disease. Thelma cared for her husband for years, customizing her van with a lift gate to accommodate his wheelchair so she could take him to doctor’s appointments and to visit family.
“She keeps everyone in the family together,” said son Ron LaBombard.
Thelma has had custody of a handicapped grandchild, Angela, for more than 25 years, Ron said.
“The two are inseparable to this day,” he said.
Thelma has five children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Ron believes that his mother’s service to her family is mirrored by her service to the community.
“She’s devoted herself to the service of others.”
Thelma herself summed up her 44 years as town clerk with a simple statement: “I should be grateful for those years, and I hope I did a good job.”
She said part of the interest the job held for her lay in family histories and the study of old records.
“I spent a few winter evenings cataloging and alphabetizing the records.”
That allowed her to more promptly answer people’s questions.
Thelma was also interested in researching her own family history. She has discovered French-Canadian and Scottish roots, and she had ancestors who were soldiers in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
The Civil War soldier was captured in Virginia near the war’s end but returned to Ellenburg and was granted a plot of land, apparently for his military services. He was granted the land for 100 years.
That plot of land became a family farm where Thelma spent her high-school years.
Thelma has also tried to record events in local history that she witnessed firsthand — for example, by keeping a diary during the Ice Storm of ‘98.
In her retirement, she will be cataloging some of the oldest Ellenburg documents for possible restoration.
And she will continue to research her own family history.
Having spent so many years answering other people’s questions, it seems Thelma now has more time to answer some of her own.
The farewell dinner honoring longtime Ellenburg Town Clerk Thelma LaBombard will be held at the Rainbow Tavern in Altona, on Jan. 19, starting at 3 p.m. It is open to the public.
The roast beef dinner costs $25 per person, which must be sent to Dave Leonard by Jan. 9.
Checks can be written to Dave Leonard and mailed to Dave Leonard, P.O. Box 22, Ellenburg Center, NY 12934.