The Living Landmark award honors an individual who has demonstrated commitment and service and who has made a difference in Rockland and beyond. In doing so, this individual represents the County of Rockland’s spirit and history.
The awards program was created to help bring awareness to the Historical Marker Program at The Historical Society of Rockland County. Since 1980, The Historical Society has been working with the community to identify and highlight historic sites in Rockland County through its historical marker program.
Over 70 cast aluminum historical markers on posts plus 3 plaques on boulders have been erected since the historical marker program began in 1980. An earlier marker was installed in 1967. A notebook containing the text of each marker as well as photographs and further information about the sites is in the Historical Society’s library.
Local historian and Historical Society member John Scott was, for many years, the driving force behind the historical marker program, currently, Marianne Leese, the HSRC Senior Historian, and Past President, heads the program.
About Tess McCormack-Raso: Tess McCormack-Raso is a native of Rockland County. She has spent most of her life in the area. A veteran of the US Air Force, she was a communications specialist at the Pentagon Building, Washington D.C. She then returned to Rockland County to live and participate actively in the community. While engaged in community service, for 25 years Tess was employed as Law Office Administrator for the firm McCormack, Damiani, Lowe & Mellion, Esqs. She was Wife – of Gilbert R. McCormack, Esq; Mother of three children – Richard, Ronald andTeri; Grandmother of six -Kelly, Jesse, Michael, Megan, Danielle and Zachary; and Widow – Gilbert E. McCormack died after a long illness.
In September 2000 she married Joseph F. Raso. She has served on many boards, she has received numerous awards including Woman of the Year from Nyack Hospital, Helen Hayes Hospital and The American Heart Association and citations including Good Samaritan Hospital’s Medal of Honor. She continues to serve her community without hesitation, most recently as the driving force behind the establishment of United Hospice of Rockland’s Hospice Residence. Tess McCormack-Raso remains a source of positive energy, support and development for the community of Rockland County.
About Gardner Watts: Gardner Watts has enriched the lives of hundreds of people by sharing his love of history, hiking and out of doors. In 1956 he established the Suffern Historical Hikers and led hides, along with his wife, Josephine, into the Ramapo Mountains. His hikes introduced new and old residents to Rockland’s extensive state park system and its many historical sites. Teaching history in a positive, affirming and interesting way, Gardner had upwards of 200 people join him for the weekly Historical Hikes in spring and fall. He wrote hiking pamphlets for Cooperative Extension in the 1970’s and was a contributor to the Trailside Museums & Zoo Historical Papers. In 2010 his Historical Paper on Boy Scout founder Daniel Carter Beard was reprinted in South of the Mountains.
Gardner Watts has served and lived in the Suffern community for most of his life. For over 30 years Gardner taught history at Suffern High School. From 1958 – 2007, he served as the appointed historian for the Village of Suffern and was instrumental in establishing the Suffern Village Museum. An avid tennis player, Gardner was the high school tennis coach for 25 years, was Rockland County tennis champion four times, and continued to play a vigorous game into his nineties. Devoted parents, he and Josephine (who died in 2006) raised five children.