CANTON, October 5 – There is something special about growing up in Canton. It’s not the largest town in the area and nor does it have every opportunity as some of the neighboring towns may have.
But there has always been a spirit of hard work and ingenuity in a town that was once home to the Collins Company – a company that once the largest integrated axe manufacturer in the world.
Every fall, Canton High School honors graduates for their outstanding contributions to their chosen field of work and/or to the community with their Wall of Fame induction ceremonies.
The Wall of Fame honors the hard work and ingenuity that Canton High graduates have displayed since graduating and moving into the world.
Six Canton High graduates were recently honored in a ceremony in the high school library – Patricia (Sarmuk) Canny (Class of 1991), David Drumm (1960), Burton and Lucillia Harrington (1933), John K. Luntta (1939) and Mark Sawyer (1980).
Patty (Sarmuk) Canny was an exceptional athlete and student in her days at Canton High School. A member of the National Honor Society who ran cross country, played basketball and softball. She was an All-State basketball player and an All-State pitcher on the softball team.
That softball team under head coach Nancy Grace won a state championship in 1991 – the first in the program’s history. “When we won the state championship, we all won the state championship and the village of Canton celebrated with us,” Canny said. “We were a tight, tight community and I will never forget that.”
She attended Trinity College in Hartford where she played basketball and softball for four years along with earning a degree in Mathematics. She returned to Canton where she has been an eighth grade Math teacher for six years. She has coached the Math team and was a middle school softball coach for three years.
After resigning from Canton Middle School to spend more time with her children, she taught at the Canton Academy in the evening, took over the middle school’s math tutoring center and substituted when she could. She returned to teaching two years ago and is currently a seventh grade Math teacher at Canton Middle School.
She treasured her childhood in town and when it was time for her and husband, Bill, to settle down and raise a family, they chose to live here in Canton. She wants her children to have the same opportunities and experiences that she had.
“What I bring forward to my students is the ability to have the same connection that I got to have,” she said. “Picasso once said that the meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. I hope that I can give my students the experience that I got to have.”
Sawyer was recognized for the work he has done over the past 30 years teaching area students Tang Soo Do at his martial arts school on Route 44.
Sawyer began training in Tang Soo Do a year after he graduated from Canton High. Six years later, he began teaching through the Canton Park and Recreation Department. In 1991, Sawyer opened his first Tang Soo Do school here in town. Outside of three years spent in New Hartford, his business – Sawyer’s Martial Arts — has been in town ever since.
Sawyer was a member of a 1990 USA Karate team that competed in Russia. He was ranked No. 1 in black belt fighting by Ippone in 2001 and 2004. He was honored by the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2003 as the Tang Soo Do instructor of the year. In 2004, he was honored as the male athlete of the year.
In 2008, he was recognized by the Action Martial Arts Magazine into their Hall of Honors for outstanding dedication to martial arts.
In the past 30 years, Sawyer has taught hundreds of Canton and area residents Tang Soo Do with his students learning fitness, strength and confidence.
Sawyer is a 6th Dan Master Belt in Cheezic Tang Soo Do Federation. He lives in Canton with his wife, Julie, and their dogs.
Luntta was killed while serving on the U.S.S. Nevada when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 during World War II. He joined the Navy in December 1939 after he turned 18.
Luntta was one of 2,403 Americans that died on that Sunday morning when Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He was one of 60 sailors that was killed on Nevada, which was able to get moving during the attack. The ship became a prime target for Japanese planes during the second wave of the attack, trying to sink the ship in the channel to block the harbor.
Eventually, the ship was forced to run themselves around after multiple bombs hit the ship but the gunners on the ship did bring down several Japanese planes.
Drumm, a retired engineer who grew up in town, volunteered with the Friends of Canton Library organization for many years, serving as president for two years and secretary for one year. He has been a regular contributor at the library volunteering at book sales and helping out where he could. He has been a big supporter of the alumni events at Canton High.
The Harrington’s were honored for the charitable giving to the town. In the 1990s, Burton and Lucilla Harrington donated $500,000 to the Cawasa Grange that helped to establish the Cawasa Grange Memorial Scholarship Fund and $500,000 to the Canton Public Library, according to published reports in 2012.
Lucilla was pleased to establish a scholarship. After graduating from Smith College in Northampton, she worked in Washington, D.C. for several years before returning home to help look after her ill parents. Their father, Charles, operated a general store on Maple Avenue.