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Albany street renamed in honor of Arbor Hill booster

 A street sign marking Charles E. Traynham Way
Lucas Willard
A street sign marking Charles E. Traynham Way

Family and friends gathered Thursday to share stories about an Albany resident they say had a major impact on the Arbor Hill community, as a street was named in his memory.

Charles “Chuckie” Traynham Jr., a community booster, youth advocate, and Albany High School basketball star, died of cancer in March 2020 at age 70.

On Thursday afternoon, a small crowd gathered at North Pearl and Mohawk Streets to witness the renaming of a portion of Mohawk Street in honor of the person some remember as the “Mayor of Swan Street.”

Albany County legislator Wanda Willingham, who read a proclamation for the man, said Traynham attended her wedding and even helped her get elected.

“I knew Chuckie as a very kind person. I knew him as sincere. When I wanted something done, I knew that he was the leader to go to. He was always the go-to person. These men that you see around here today? They were his friends. But not only that, they looked up to him, too,” said Willingham.

Willingham’s husband Elijah was a longtime friend of Traynham’s, and reminisced about their youth together.

“But the thing that stood out, Chuckie Traynham had 45 rebounds, 35 rebounds in one game. And as we went on, Chuckie, and myself and others that are here today, formed the Sons of Arbor Hill. But Chuckie Traynham was the force behind Sons of Arbor Hill,” said Elijah Willingham.

Traynham was the first secretary of the organization, which organized community fundraisers, Halloween and Christmas parties, and basketball tournaments.

Vincent Carrington is a past president of the Sons of Arbor Hill.

“It was a bunch of brothers hanging out on the corner of Swan Street, of Swan and Third. And we decided to get a club started. And the club, we went from there where we got the city, people in the neighborhood to donate. We used to take five busloads of kids up to Grafton State Park. Fed them. Gave them trophies, played games and stuff…won trophies. And we all did that. The neighborhood,” said Carrington.

Traynham worked for the St. Joseph Church after school program for 20 years and spent years teaching kids to play basketball. Here’s friend Kenneth Holmes…

“When I was running the Arbor Hill Community Center, Chuckie used to be there just about every day or when he had time to help me with the kids and stuff. He always said, ‘Kenny, what can I do to help?’ I’d say, well, just be in here and help show the kids what to do and keeping them…because we had some kids that if you didn’t put a rope on ‘em, they was gone,” said Holmes.

During the ceremony Thursday afternoon, Traynham’s wife, Galenda, was presented with her own sign marking Charles E. Traynham Way.

“I took care of Chuckie to the end. And I will always love him. It’s real hard some days. It’s just hard to wake up without him. But I miss him so much. And I just want to say, thank everyone for coming out and honoring him. What a beautiful day,” said Galenda Traynham.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.