Alden is reeling from the deaths of two longtime community leaders while scrambling to fill the vacant seats they leave.
Planning Board member Russ Savage died of a heart attack at age 51 on June 30.
Less than two weeks later, Town Justice Daniel R. Pautler died July 9 after a lifetime of service to the community, including 19 years as a town justice.
"Judge Pautler served this community very well," Supervisor Ron Smith said at the close of last Monday's board meeting, just before members of the board and the audience paused for a moment of silence to remember Pautler and his family.
"First as a health care provider and then as a town justice, he is leaving a hole that is very hard to fill. He was a kind and compassionate man," Smith said.
The passing of Savage also left a hole in the Planning Board.
"Russ was a great guy, very dynamic and outgoing," Councilman Bill Weber said. "He was very knowledgeable and owned his own business [Nature's Way, an environmental restoration service]. He employed people from Alden. He was very helpful and generous."
Savage left behind a wife, three children and one stepchild.
Deputy Supervisor Ronald Snyder said the board members have yet to discuss how they will fill either opening.
"I think we are going to hold off on that [Planning Board] appointment," Snyder said. "We are incredibly lucky to have a very strong board that is able to fill in all the bases during a time like this."
Weber said Savage would draw on his life experiences to help the board, as well as those who appeared before it. "No one expected this at all," Weber said. "We are just trying to keep our chin up and go forward."
Assemblyman Michael Cole, a past town supervisor, said "family" is exactly what the community and Town Hall are made of. It's a sentiment he shared during the eulogy at Pautler's funeral.
"This is a small Town Hall, they are really like a family," Cole said. "Doc Pautler was a patriarch, and Russ Savage was very well known in this community. People are really taking it hard."
As Cole spoke of Pautler, there was a sense of nostalgia in his voice as he recalled stories from his court room.
"When people came into the court, Judge Pautler had a way of reading them. He had a sense for people," he said. "He would say to them 'Do you have your toothbrush? Then I guess I can't send you to jail.' "
The court recently has been overwhelmed with a caseload too large for one judge. Cole offered to help in any way he can, but town officials said the position can only be filled by an acting judge or a lawyer.
"Alden is a busy court. They have to do arraignments for three nearby prisons. Judge [Larry] LaDuca has really had to pick up the slack," Cole said. "This is just my opportunity to give back."
Josephine Pautler was married to the judge for 59 years, she said he was a "very good man" who always made sure he included her on his trips and made her feel special by bringing her flowers nearly once every week.
"He was an exception to all men," daughter-in-law Colleen Pautler said. "He made me a part of his family from day one."
Pautler leaves a wife, three children and eight grandchildren.