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January 9th, 2013

This Week in Orange County 1-9-13

Orange County Executive Edward Diana

Happy New Year! I hope that your 2013 is off to a great start. If you’ve kicked off the New Year by making resolutions, I trust that you’re doing well sticking to them. They may seem easy on day three, but if you find yourself having trouble – especially with those plans to make healthy lifestyle changes – a few days, weeks, or even months down the road, remember, you don’t have to go it alone. There is a great deal of helpful information and support to be found on the County’s website at, as well as the Department of Health’s site at

Sadly, we ended 2012 with the loss of a few close friends of Orange County. Among those we said goodbye to were three octogenarians - Orange County’s first County Executive Louis Mills, acclaimed actor Charles Durning, and local artist Valentine Sorrentino.

Lou Mills was a long-time resident of Middletown and spent 26 years in public office. He held office as the County’s first elected executive for seven years and helped the County successfully transition from a board of supervisors to the legislative form of government we maintain to this day. He laid the foundation for many of the programs and services we continue to enjoy in Orange County today, including creation of the Human Rights Commission. Lou’s appreciation for the environment and recognition that Orange County’s open spaces were rapidly declining as the NY Metro region began to expand led him to found the Orange County Land Trust which continues to do positive work for our communities to this day.

If you’ve seen "Everybody Loves Raymond", you may recall Ray’s visits with the local parish priest. That recurring role was played by Orange County native Charles Durning, a graduate of Highland Falls High School. In addition to being a widely known character actor with a career spanning more than 50 years on stage, TV, and film, Durning was a decorated army veteran. He survived D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, and received three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star. The next time you find yourself in Highland Falls, look for the sign marking Cook’s Lane, where Mr. Durning grew up, as Charles Durning Way.

We were also saddened to mark the passing of our friend, artist Val Sorrentino, a long-time resident of Middletown. A veteran of the Marines, Val spent many years working as a baker. He’s best known for his remarkable collages, a number of which he shared with the County, including two recognizing the work of the first responders on September 11th. In the lobby of the Orange County Emergency Services building we are fortunate to have a fine example of Val’s artistic talent – a hand carved and beautifully painted bald eagle. We will miss Val’s visits to our office, the new art pieces he’d show us, and the warm smile and enthusiastic laugh he was quick to share.

On behalf of the residents of Orange County, I extend our condolences to the families of Lou Mills, Charles Durning, and Val Sorrentino. They each leave a unique legacy by which they will long be remembered.

Until next week, I wish you good health and happiness.

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