Get to Know the Spletes

By Wild Harmony

Allen and Marilyn Splete

What brought you to Cranberry Lake? 

Allen – I grew up in Carthage. My Dad was the Director of the Branaugh Memorial Boys Club and ran a summer camp which I was part of for many years. He also was a charter member of the Diana Corporation, a Hunting and Fishing Club near Harrisville so I grew up loving wilderness. My experience with the region as a child set the stage for my love of this place. It was my long-time friendship with Peter VandeWater – we were undergraduates at St. Lawrence University, and we both served as Vice Presidents there in the 1970’s- that led to later becoming neighbors here on Cranberry Lake. 

I was President of Westminster College for three years (‘82 to ‘85) and then left to join the Council of Independent Colleges in Washington DC. I became President and stayed 15 years. Their purpose is to help small independent colleges help one another. These experiences shaped my approach to volunteer activities at Cranberry Lake. Led me to really caring about a place and its people..

Marilyn – Allen introduced me to the North Country. I am a child of the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA but I think it was being a free spirit child living in a neighborhood filled with kids who played outside all day long who could walk or ride our bikes anywhere we wanted to go gave us much in common. We met when I was an admissions counselor working for my alma mater, Dickinson College, in Carlisle, PA, traveling to high schools and speaking at College Nights. There were few women in that field in the 1960’s so I was kind of a pioneer. I went to a conference at the Concord in the Catskills. Allen was an admissions counselor for the University of Rochester, and we met the first night, introduced by one of the few people I knew. For me it was love at first sight. We were married two years later. 

We moved to Syracuse and he started a PhD in Higher Ed Administration at Syracuse University. I was hired in August to be the 9th grade teacher of cultural studies at a local high school. I agreed to get a Masters degree and certification by taking courses at Syracuse at night.

Allen finished his degree and Frank Piskor, then President at SLU, brought him on board to be the VP for Academic Planning which at the time was a new uncharted title. It involved working with all parts of the university community to bring about change, a position that required tact and an ability to listen. We moved to Canton with a two-week old baby, bought a house and two years later son Michael was born. I decided to stay home with the kids and be a volunteer.

I met Peter and Becky VandeWater and we have been friends ever since. They had bought land on Cranberry Lake and later gifted part of it to SLU. We bought the lot our home sits on from SLU in 1998 and built a log home. We hired local contractors Tom Popham and Dan Foster to help build the house and then finish the inside.

How many summers have you been here?

23 years

When you first came, did you think you’d end up staying here for so many summers?

Allen – Sort of. I always said, if we can have ten good years it will all be worthwhile. We’ve made it to 23.

What was your first volunteer activity? How did you get started?

Allen – I think it was through the Boat Club that Peter and also Jimmy and Ginny Myers and I started the first 5k race in 2007 or so. It never took off till we moved it to the 4th of July. We were all former competitive long-distance runners. Then the Boat Club asked me to come on the Board and I became Vice Commodore. 

I learned then to never miss a meeting in Cranberry Lake because when I did I was appointed Chair of the Boat Club Centennial celebration. We ran 35 different events in 2009 from history presentations to boat rides, float plane rides sailboat race to several publications :

Boats and Boating on Cranberry Lake, an Arcadia Press book which Marilyn and I did together
Camps Around the Lake, photos by Susan Smeby of every dock in Brandy Brook
History of Old Camps, pictures and history
Around Cranberry Lake in 2008, a picture book of boats and boathouses photographed by Ellen Giraud

Marilyn – I was invited to join the Board of Directors of the Remington Museum in Ogdensburg after we began spending 6 months here and 6 months in Maryland. It was natural opportunity since Allen and I had written a book together, Frederic Remington:Selected Letters, (1988). My biggest contribution was to write the narrative for the materials to support an essential building preservation/restoration campaign. 

How many volunteer jobs have you had here?

Allen – Cranberry Lake Boat Club 

Leading the Centennial got me more involved in the larger region of Clifton Fine. This effort created new ties among people living in Cranberry Lake, Wanakena and Star Lake. 

Eventually I got involved in the Clifton Fine Hospital and the Wilderness Healthcare Foundation. The hospital needed to do a fundraising campaign to replace the clinic which had burned. The board was devoted but they had no fundraising experience at all, and I knew I could help. I ran a successful campaign and now the hospital has a more meaningful role – it’s more up-to-date offering more services. 

I love the former Cranberry Lake Presbyterian Church and served on the Session. We helped orchestrate the sale to the community. Session was very supportive of the transition to the HUB and it was a great accomplishment for all of Cranberry Lake.

Marilyn – I volunteered to host a yearly event for the Remington fundraiser called “Art of Dining.” Allen and I offered lunch on our porch and a tour around the lake on our pontoon boat, pointing out Remington’s favorite haunts here and local lore about him. I also make arrangements for the Frederic Remington Museum to participate in the annual Art Show in August.
Here in Cranberry Lake I help the Friends of the Library and do what I can to support the group.

Why do you volunteer?

Allen – I want to help people. I care about making it better for the people that follow. I get great satisfaction about seeing good things happen through shared community effort.

I have learned that a good cause plus passion moves mountains.

Marilyn – I come from a family of volunteers and have found ways to be involved all my life. Together Allen and I are “Splete and Splete.” It is a shared effort. As our old friend Frank Piskor used to say, “A lot gets done when no one cares who gets the credit!

Who Inspires You Here?

Allen – Clint Farnsworth in terms of what he has given back. Bob Raymo, who has now passed, had more ideas and passion than we could ever do. There is a tight group of people in the seasonal community that step up and want to make things better. My work with the hospital board and foundation has inspired me. Peter VandeWater inspired me, and lots of people along the way who gave their time and talent and money to help things along.

Marilyn – People here will step up to help when presented with the opportunity to do something that promises to be good for the community. It is this willingness among a few to take the next steps after someone else has stepped forward with an idea which then encourages others to pile in the door to make it happen. To me, the growing HUB is an example of this kind of thinking. 

What are the best memories you have of Cranberry?

Allen – Success of the Boat Club Centennial because with it we laid the seeds of all the good that would come after.

Marilyn – My best memories are found in the fun Allen and I have had while together helping the community. 

What do you hope for the future here?

Allen – I hope that the HUB is a community resource that meets a variety of needs that will help to draw more people here – serve as a place where ideas are generated and projects can advance. 

Marilyn – I am hopeful because the Community Center is here in the middle of the community with its new landscaping, and paint, its tennis and new Pickle Ball courts, story walks and playground for kids, updated library facilities, meeting space and the remarkably versatile pavilion out back…ripe for new ideas. 

Across the street is the HUB and dock; locations with easy access; ripe for new ideas too..

Down the road is the Beach with its pavilion; a bright spot on the lake.

New ownership of local businesses is sparking excitement and encourages others. 

I believe that Cranberry Lake-Forever Wild can be compatible with Cranberry Lake-Forever Forward.

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