OSWEGO, NY – Prominently displayed on the door to the room Bob Chetney uses as his office is a large handmade wooden plaque.
Boldly printed on the plaque are the words: “Cead Mile Failte” above “Chetney Real Estate.”
For those who don’t understand Gaelic, the translation appears in the middle of the plaque — “One Hundred Thousand Welcomes.”
He had the plaque made while he was at an Irish fest in Auburn, Chetney explained.
Chetney is very proud of his Irish roots. Both he and his wife and partner in the real estate business, Helen, have been presidents of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Oswego.
Years ago, Bob hosted the Irish Hour on WSGO Radio.
“We’d broadcast live from noon to 1 p.m. from the Hiberninans,” he said.
The show was popular in the Oswego area, as well as in Canada.
“The Irish Hour signal would bounce across the lake and be heard in Canada,” Bob said. “We even had people from there actually call in and request a song.”
More often than not, he was able to pull out the requested song and play it for the listener.
“We had a very large library of Irish music, in fact, we still do,” Bob said.
He was active in local government, serving as the representative of the Third Ward and was also on the Board of Supervisors (legislature). Over all, he spent 25 years in government.
In 1970, “for the first time in three-quarters of a century, the Board of Supervisors is expected to have a man from Oswego as its chairman. Sources said Third Ward Councilor Robert Chetney will be the only announced candidate for the honorary office,” the media reported.
After leaving the Board of Supervisors, Bob went to work as an elections commissioner from 1972 to 1986. He was elected president of the New York State Board of Election Commissioners during his tenure.
He had served on the ad staff of the local newspaper, prior to its sale by the local owners to an international corporation.
During his public service life, he has served on a number of key committees, being particularity active in the fields of industrial promotion and health.
He introduced legislation establishing the Oswego County Medical Scholarship plan and the Oswego County Traffic Safety Board.
As a public servant, he was dedicated to serving the residents of the community. However, he has a mischievous side that was always most evident around this time of year — St. Patrick’s Day.
As March 17 approached, stories would begin to circulate around the Port City about oil being discovered on part of the Oswego Country Club’s golf course. The Hibernians, the club’s neighbors across the road, would allege the oil was on their property.
Several other tall tales would involve Irish Mist whiskey in the mix somehow.
“We used Irish Mist in our stories so often,” Bob recalls, “that we actually received an award from them. “The little people (leprechauns) struck the Oswego Country Club for years. They (club members) were very good about it. It was all in fun.”
“This is a wonderful community,” he said
At the time when Lord Thomson purchased the city’s newspaper, Bob said he got a call from Ernie Duvell in Sen. Bob McEwen’s office in Washington.
He told him McEwen wanted him to move to Washington to become a legislative aide for him.
“My wife and I decided to stay here,” Bob said, explaining that, “I enjoy bringing jobs and commerce to the area. It makes it healthy for the children and grandchildren. We have two grandchildren and a third on the way. We want to do all we can to make sure they don’t have to leave the area. We want to keep opportunities for them and everybody here for the future.”
In his Bob’s office, the keys to the various properties listed by the agency hang in cases on the wall. They are outnumbered, however, by the myriad of mementos of his life in government as well as a real estate agent.
Among the items are certificates of appreciation from the hospital and the county as well as others. Sprinkled in throughout all of this are highlights of his family life as well.
He has souvenirs from people such as Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller and President and Barbara Bush.