Essex celebrates neighbor’s devotion to community

Frisky Irwin, left…, and her daughter, Alice Cole.

by Nick Muller

In 2002-03, Meredith Prime approached former Essex resident Suzanne Perley about the possibility of developing a community fund under the aegis of the Adirondack Community Trust, now Adirondack Foundation. Suzanne assembled a committee of local volunteers, including Francisca P. Irwin, Frisky to all who knew her. Sadly, she passed away this spring. Frisky served as the first chairperson of the Essex Community Fund’s Advisory Council, a position she held for a decade when she assumed emeritus status.

"She touched innumerable lives, and was a distinct personality.” — Peter Paine, Jr., nephew of Frisky Irwin

With Frisky’s leadership, the Fund has assembled an endowment of over $600,000 and made over $170,000 in grants to Town of Essex organizations and those regional ones that serve Essex residents. These grants try to help with capacity building rather than support  operating costs and have gone to historic preservation, the arts, economic development, small capital projects, local churches, children’s playground, schools, community supported agriculture and more.

The Allen Scholarship and Education Program supports the educational aspirations of Essex students making one $4,000 scholarship each year to an Essex resident graduating from high school. The students may continue to receive the scholarship for up to three succeeding years.

The Heating Project, in conjunction with the Essex County OffŒice for the Aging, supplements heating assistance aft‘er public funding runs out.

Last winter, several of the members of the Council determined to raise at least $50,000 to endow permanently an annual grant from the Fund in Frisky’s honor. We informed Frisky about the grant at her 88th birthday in March: her long-time friends had donated or pledged $53,000 in her honor. A few more promised donations will increase that total. The news visibly moved her.

Among the most rewarding aspects of the effŒort comes the clear aŒirmation of the high esteem, aŒffection, and respect that she earned from so many of the folks with whom she worked for many years. Frisky Irwin did a great deal to make the Adirondacks and Essex a better place. Her legacy will continue year a‘fter year.

Nick Muller is secretary of ECF’s Advisory Council. To learn more about giving and granting with ECF, email Nick at or visit