Belva A. WaiteBelva A. Waite Memorial Scholarship Fund (2000)

In 2000 the Will of Belva A. Waite, the widow who operated a small restaurant in Rushford, was probated, naming the Allegany County Area Foundation as the residuary beneficiary.  If anything over a million dollars is a fortune, this unassuming proprietress of a lunch counter in Rushford bequeathed one.

Over the years the Belva A. Waite scholarship fund has continued to grow.  In 2014 the Foundation awarded $92,000 in scholarships from this fund alone.  Belva’s legacy will continue to touch the lives of Allegany County students for many years to come.

The following is an adapted version of a message written by Ken Nielsen in 2000.  (Ken Nielsen was an Allegany County Legislator & a former president of the Allegany County Area Foundation.)

But who was this lady who created a fund to help so many students from across our county each year?  Everyone in and around Rushford knew Belva.  She was the unassuming supporter of her husband, Max Waite.  After a 1968 traffic accident caused his untimely death, Belva continued to promote his interests.  She commemorated his love for horses when she instigated the establishment of the Bel-Max Horse Arena. Max was the well-known public figure who trucked animals (cows, horses, and pigs) to Buffalo and brought back feed, fertilizer, and other farm necessities.  Belva and Max lived at 9024 Main Street in the forties, and Belva operated the Waite Luncheonette in the fifties while Max ran the bowling  alley  and Restaurant in Cuba.  They closed the Rushford Luncheonette in the sixties so Belva could assist with the cooking in Cuba.

In the seventies, Belva lived in her new house on the northeast corner of Buffalo Street and Main Street, across from the revitalized luncheonette, renamed the “Waite Coffee Shop.”  This is the Belva, who during the next thirty years, became a Rushford institution of friendliness and impartiality.

Belva, the daughter of Charles and Linne (Marble) Bopp, grew up on the Agett Road family farm.  She and Max, together, shared many business ventures which enriched community life.  They were always willing to help others in day by day encounters.

After Max died, Belva and her sister Lulu made the coffee shop a rendezvous for post-ballgame social life.  Friendships were enriched around the pool table.  On many cold winter nights, they served hot coffee, hamburgers, and fries long after closing hours to accommodate the basketball team and spectators.

People combined good food with opportunity to discuss issues of community interest.  Early in the morning, by eight o’clock, the breakfast boys had the world problems solved.  The next breakfast contingent took over; to be followed by the morning coffee-break gang.  The lunch regulars were welcome to carry on their philosophical discussions, with Belva in the background, silently entering into the prevailing mood.

Belva is gone, but her memory continues, through financial contributions which speak of the Waite thoughtfulness and also through the final gifts to several local groups.