“ONEONTA _ Catlin Thomas, 23, of Oneonta, lost his courageous battle with cancer on Sunday evening. He passed peacefully at his grandmother’s home into the Lord’s hands surrounded by many of his loved ones.
Catlin had an enduring spirit throughout his life and illness.
He was born Jan. 8, 1986, in Stamford hospital. He attended Oneonta Job Corps in the Culinary Arts Department under his mentor Chef Eric Erway from Nov. 30, 2004 until Sept. 17, 2006. He graduated completing all three levels within the trade and logging over 1,200 hours of work based learning. He was a curious and creative student, never giving up on his dream and excelling in his studies. Cooking was a huge part of who he was and he truly loved entertaining for his family and friends.
He loved music, fishing and camping with his family, gardening with his grandmother and the simple things in life like his PB & J’s…”
The above is taken from Catlin’s obituary in today’s Oneonta Daily Star. It does not explain why Catlin is in this blog and why we are so deeply saddened by his death.
Some years ago, when our son was a young knucklehead working in restaurant after restaurant in the Syracuse area, he was told about Job Corps by a friend. It seemed the perfect opportunity for him to see if he could make it in a school that would teach him some culinary skills. We felt that if he could get his certification at Job Corps, maybe then he would be ready to handle something like SUNY Delhi. We didn’t know he’d run into Chef Eric Erway.
To be frank, and in Scott’s words, Job Corps was like a cross between the military and prison. You had to earn privileges, and Scott was not the only student who had more than a thing or two to learn about rules, boundaries and proper behavior. But Scott wanted to cook… very badly… and hung in there, taking the majority of his classes with Chef.
To make a long story short, Scott did so well, Chef felt Scott could make it at his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). We had never considered this as a possibility, for many reasons. But Chef pushed Scott to reach for his fullest potential, and he took a few of his best students to visit the CIA to make it real to them. With the help of Chef and other staff members of Job Corps, Scott made it into the CIA and went on to earn two degrees there.
In the meantime, Catlin Thomas was the next up-and-coming star in the Job Corps culinary program. Chef took him, too, to the CIA. Ill health interrupted his Job Corp schooling for a time but he went back and worked hard. We were rootin’ for him, hoping to see another Job Corps student make it to graduation from the CIA.
Time went by, and Scott stayed in touch with his mentor. Today he got the phone call from Chef Erway; Catlin had passed away.
This is the point at which words are ridiculously insufficient. Something tells me that we have a responsibility to this family to do something for some kid who has a passion that needs to be nurtured. Perhaps we know someone who needs some guidance and some high standards to reach for, as Chef Erway provides to his students. And for goodness’ sake, maybe we can teach them how to grow and cook their very own food. I think that would make Catlin smile.