WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 24, 2013 — They came, 400 people strong, to the Watkins Glen Fire Department on Saturday, Nov. 23rd, to pay their respects to the late Ernie Thurston.
Such a large turnout in a small community is unusual, but when the departed has done as much — has impacted as much — as Thurston did, then the number in attendance, 400, seems fitting. Or perhaps even understated.
Ernie Thurston was, as ceremony emcee Bill Yessman put it, “the biggest little guy I ever knew. His enthusiasm for life and for his family was extraordinary. All his friends were family; he called us ‘brothers.’ Ernie had a lot of brothers.”
That enthusiasm for life took Ernie Thurston into a lot of arenas. He was an Airman First Class in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, a member of the highly praised Squires Drum & Bugle Corps, a deputy sheriff, a Schuyler County Fire Coordinator, a county legislator, a longtime member of the Watkins Glen Fire Department and at one time its Assistant Chief, and Director of Race Operations at the Watkins Glen International (WGI) racetrack, where his call number was “55.”