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August 20, 2012 - 7:42pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, business, sports, Fisher Sports NY.

Who knew Batavia had a Syracuse Orange dad hanging out behind Pizza Hut?

Kurt Fisher and his family own Fisher Sports NY, at 412 E. Main St. in Batavia. His son, Andrew, a graduate of Oakfield-Alabama High School, plays football for Syracuse University.

"I trained (Andrew) through the years," Fisher said. "Now I follow him around the country."

Fisher, a 1981 Batavia High School graduate, opened the storelast month to provide a venue for players of various sports to access needed equipment. He felt that was something lacking in our area.

"No one sells quality equipment in Batavia," he said. "There are a couple stores that carry a little, but not the major stuff. (It's been that way) probably since Chuck's Sporting Goods closed (in the 1980s)."

A passion for youth sports is part of what inspired Fisher to open this store. He has assisted with football at Oakfield-Alabama High School and is looking to make more opportunities available locally.

"I'd love to get punting and kicking opportunities for kids," he said, "so that they have the same opportunity as my son."

He encourages anyone interested in such opportunities to contact him, either by phone or by coming to the store.

Making equipment readily available is a big part of his mission to preserve and increase athletic opportunities, and that's where Fisher Sports NY comes in.

"(Business) has been getting better as we go along," he said. "But we're still trying to get our name out and let people know we're here."

Store hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 344-2500.

August 18, 2012 - 11:42pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Neighborhoods, Redfield Parkway.

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley shook the hand of "Mayor" Jim Owen today at the Redfield Parkway 100th Anniversary celebration (see Wednesday's article, "Redfield Parkway celebrates 100 years Saturday," for previous coverage).

There was a pretty good turnout, including some folks of considerable importance locally.

Batavia City Manager Jason Molino attended the ceremonies with his wife, Anna, and their two daughters, Sophia (standing) and Stella.

Local historian and published author William F. Brown (whose book, "The Story of Redfield Parkway: The Beginning," was for sale at the event) also attended.

Wayne Fuller, of WBTA, served as Master of Ceremonies.

Fuller presented proclamations on behalf of Senator Michael Ranzenhofer and Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, who could not be there.

More after the jump (click on the headline):

August 17, 2012 - 9:54pm

The Grammy-nominated country music band "Restless Heart" performed at "Jam at the Ridge," a concert series at Le Roy's Frost Ridge Campground, around 8:30 tonight. Doranne Kelly, the band's road manager, arranged a photo shoot before the show.

Band members are, from left, Greg Jennings, Dave Innis, John Dittrich (who is from Batavia), Paul Gregg and Larry Stewart.

See the Aug. 14 article, "Grammy-nominated country band to perform in Le Roy -- one of its members is from Batavia" for previous coverage.

August 17, 2012 - 6:20pm

Press Release:

I am having a community clean up this Sunday for individuals and families to help our town and the environment.

It is good to teach our kids (our future) that it is important to take care of this earth that takes care of us. If you would like to join us in cleaning up, please contact me for details.

Thank you and I pray you can make time to help such a good cause. God bless.

You can reach me at [email protected] (or see the event's Facebook page). Thank you for your time.

August 15, 2012 - 6:37pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, celebration, local history, Redfield Parkway.

Redfield Parkway, one of the City of Batavia's historic neighborhoods, has changed quite a bit over the years.

Photo provided by Jim Owen

Above is a picture from 1912, when it was first founded by Charles A. Williams (former Genesee County Sheriff and mayor of Batavia) and his then-partner, David Garrett.

Jim Owen, a Redfield resident known as "the mayor" to some of his neighbors, is part of the committee organizing the "100th Anniversary Redfield Parkway Program" on Saturday.

Other members are Linda Conroy, Kathy Owen (Jim's sister, who lives with him), Tricia Clark, Lori Wendt, Julie Mancuso, Jane Johnson, Lisa MacDonough and Alicia Kaus.

There will be a ceremony that is free and open to the public from 1 until 2 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday is the rain date. It will include:

  • Music by the Batavia High School "Blue Bells"
  • Proclamations by Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, City Councilman Pierluigi Cipollone, City Councilman-at-Large Jim Russell, County Legislator Ed DeJaneiro Jr. and possibly Congresswoman Kathy Hochul (who is a former student of Owen's)

Wayne Fuller of WBTA will be the Master of Ceremonies.

Owen looks forward to celebrating Redfield's heritage with his neighbors and fellow Batavians.

"From an historical point of view it's neat to find out where we came from," he said.

At 1:45 p.m., a time capsule will be dedicated. Made by Redfield resident Rick Wendt, it will include news articles, a DVD of photos from Saturday's event -- to be made by Redfield resident Alicia Kaus -- a current phone book, literature on the street's history and much more.

Owen said the tentative plan is to bury it near the pillars, with a stone made by Derrick Monument Co. of Le Roy marking the spot.

Copies of local historian William F. Brown Jr.'s book "The Story of Redfield Parkway: The Beginning" will be available for purchase for $5 from Owen.

Redfield Parkway: A quick history

Photo from Brown's "The Story of Redfield Parkway: The Beginning"

Redfield Parkway was named in honor of the family of Heman Redfield, a local politician, lawyer, landowner and one-time Le Roy Postmaster. His home, according to Owen, was where Batavia's Valu Plaza is located today.

Redfield was born in Connecticut on Dec. 27, 1788, but he lived in Genesee County for most of his life. A member of St. James Episcopal Church, he served as a warden and vestryman. He also helped build St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Le Roy.

He was elected to the New York State Senate in 1823, serving with Attorney General Martin Van Buren (before he became the eighth president of the United States).

A War of 1812 veteran, he fought at the battle of Queenston Heights at age 24.

On July 22, 1877, Redfield died at age 89. According to literature provided by Owen, his funeral procession was the longest in the history of Batavia at that time. He is buried in the historic Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue.

He had 12 children, and his family owned the land where Redfield Parkway now stands until 1912.

A postcard of Redfield Parkway from the 1940s. Photo provided by Jim Owen.

Redfield Parkway was a private street until 1928, at which point it became part of the City of Batavia. It has existed in its present state since 1966, when the last house was built.

Over the years, it distinguished itself not only by its beautiful flower beds, but also by the row of American flags running down the street's median. Appropriately, the flags would eventually lead the way to the Batavia VA Medical Center (they were stolen, but Batavia Downs is supplying new ones).

The Owens

Photo provided by Jim Owen

Owen and his sister are lifelong Redfield residents. Their parents, Frank and Natalie (pictured), bought the house in 1930 and the adjacent land in 1945. They bought the land from Edna Gruber, who was Batavia's "most famous madam" and well-known for her local charitable work.

Interestingly, 2 Redfield is technically 4 Redfield (anyone who drives by and looks closely will see that although the house has a "2" on it, the house right next door is 6 Redfield).

The vacant space to the right of the house is 2 Redfield. The Owens had lived at 4 Redfield for 15 years by the time they bought this space, so they just gave the same number to the whole property.

Here is a photo of the real 2 Redfield, a garden well tended by Kathy.

Celebration of a heritage

People can learn more about these and other stories on Saturday.

"(Our neighborhood) has a tradition that's been carried on for 100 years, and I hope it continues," Owen said.

To that end, he added that the neighborhood will be making an effort to save the pillars at the parkway entrance in the near future.

"They're 100 years old, and the mortar is coming out," he said.

At this point, the pillars are owned by the city. Owen said the repairs will cost about $16,000, and they are hoping for a grant.

For more information and for any updates, visit the Redfield Parkway 100th Anniversary page on Facebook.

Heman Redfield trivia

  • Redfield's daughter, Jane, was said to have been the first woman to cross Niagara Falls in a basket;
  • Some people trace his ancestry to the Mayflower;
  • His grandfather fought under General George Washington at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War.
August 14, 2012 - 2:37pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in music, Le Roy, Frost Ridge Campground, John Dittrich.

"It isn't often that someone makes it big in the music business, nor for the number of years that John Dittrich (second from left in picture) has."

So says Greg Luetticke, co-owner of Frost Ridge Campground in Le Roy, which will host the Grammy-nominated country music band "Restless Heart" at a concert on Friday, Aug. 17.

Dittrich, a native of Batavia and a 1970 Batavia High School graduate, has been with "Restless Heart" for more than 20 years as a drummer and vocalist. The other band members are, from left, Paul Gregg, Larry Stewart, Greg Jennings and Dave Innis.

"It's amazing to still be able to do what I do," Dittrich said.

He embarked on a profession in music in 1975, and has enjoyed a long and successful career that owes itself, in large part, to a Batavia City School District teacher.

"My most important influence and probably the guy I would credit with helping me in this direction was Neil Hartwick," Dittrich said.

Hartwick was the Batavia Middle School band director and the director of the jazz workshop at the high school.

"He brought in Ed Shaughnessy (of "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson") to do a concert," Dittrich said. "And when I found out that Mr. Hartwick had invited him specifically for me, that blew me away."

As a college student, Dittrich went to New York City once a month for two years to study under Shaughnessy.

"And he remembered me," he said.

As an original member of "Restless Heart," Dittrich was part of what he calls a "crossover" period in the history of country music.

"Our producer (Tim Dubois) had written some songs that were kind of in a gray area as far as the market was concerned," he said. "They were too pop for country, but not pop enough for pop."

Part of the band's success, Dittrich said, was due to the willingness of RCA Records to take a chance on them.

"There was a strong push in traditional country music at the time," he said. "But some groups did have more edgy music and enjoyed some success. RCA liked the direction of our music and they were willing to make the investment."

In addition to four Grammy nominations, "Restless Heart" has had six #1 hits and seven Country Music Association nominations. They have also been lucky to see 26 of their singles make the Billboard Country Charts. Their numerous crossover hits include the 1992 song "When She Cries."

A good 15-20 years have passed since Dittrich last returned to Genesee County. He said it will be "pretty nice" to be back for the concert, especially since some old friends and 10 family members will be in attendance.

"I hope somebody gives me a beef on weck!" he added.

The concert is part of the three-day "Jam at the Ridge." Gates will open at 4 p.m. Friday, with the concert itself starting at 4:30.

"Restless Heart" will go on at 8:30 p.m. for a performance of about 75-90 minutes. Singers Worthy Duncan and Johnny Bauer will open the show.

Here are the ticket prices:

Regular seating: $15 in advance, $20 at the gate.

Preferred seating: $22 in advance, $29 at the gate.

Preferred Plus seating: $42 in advance, $55 at the gate.

VIP seating: $79 in advance, $99 at the gate.

VIP seating includes front row seats, a private meet-and-greet dinner with "Restless Heart," a poster for autographing and a picture with the band.

Frost Ridge Campground is located at 8101 Conlon Road in Le Roy. For more information, call 768-4883 or go to www.frostridge.com.

Photo submitted by Greg Luetticke

August 14, 2012 - 1:59pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in fundraisers, chicken BBQ, Boy Scouts.

Boy Scout Troop 6069 will hold its first chicken BBQ from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. (Cub Scout Pack 6069 has held a couple in the recent past, but this is a first for the whole troop).

The money raised will help pay for future scout outings as well as new camping equipment. Event organizer and Boy Scout dad Steve Ognibene said that depending on how successful the chicken BBQ is, they may make it an annual thing.

Dinners are take-out only and include half a chicken, salt potatoes, green beans, a dinner roll and butter. Tickets are $9 and can be purchased at the event -- which is at Clor's Meat Market, at 4169 W. Main St. Road in Batavia -- or in advance. Call Ognibene at 409-8358 or Lorelei Roll at 300-9500 for pre-sale tickets.

Free delivery is available to local senior living communities.

Photo taken by Steve Ognibene. Pictured are Jon Slezak, Ethan Gaylord, Andrew Freeman, Jon Totten and Thomas Ognibene. (There are 14 boys in the troop, but only these five were able to make it for the picture.)

August 8, 2012 - 7:17pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Batavia Motor Speedway, Announcements, racing.

On Saturday, Aug. 11, the Batavia Motor Speedway -- at 3500 Harloff Road in Batavia -- will host its first national championship ever. The ATV (all-terrain vehicle) Extreme Dirt Track National Championship will take place from noon until 7 p.m., with the races themselves starting at 5 p.m.

Registration begins at 2 p.m., followed by practice from 3 until 4 p.m. and a rider's meeting from 4 until 5 p.m.

The WNY Extreme Dirt Track Racing Club is sponsoring the event, which will feature over 200 ATVs at speeds of 60 miles per hour or more.

For more information, call 737-5698 or e-mail [email protected].

July 31, 2012 - 8:20pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in Announcements, children, Falleti Ice Arena.

The annual "Safe Summer Children's Carnival" will be held Thursday, Aug. 2, from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Falleti Ice Arena, at 22 Evans St. in Batavia, will be the venue. Genesee County AmeriCorps is running this event in partnership with the Genesee County and Batavia Youth Bureaus.

Nickel City Reptiles will be there for the first hour, followed by games from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Kids can play 10 games with a $1 ticket. They will have the chance to win "funny money," which can be used to redeem for prizes. Additionally, they can win an iPod Nano by visiting community agency booths.

Call Angela at 344-3960 for further details.

 

July 28, 2012 - 11:34am
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Announcements, local history, Peace Garden.

As part of an interstate tour focused on the history of the anti-slavery movement in the Northeast, 16 educators from California and Kenneth Morris, the great-great-great grandson of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, will come to Batavia's Bicentennial Peace Garden around 3:30 pm on Sunday.

The Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden, the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce and the office of the County Historian are planning an afternoon of educational entertainment that includes refreshments and costumed reenactments. It is free and open to the public, but people should bring their own chairs.

The Peace Garden is located at West Main St. in Batavia. It is right next to the Holland Land Office Museum, which is at 131 West Main St.

July 27, 2012 - 11:49am
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Jackson Square, fundraiser, live music, Don Carroll.

T-Shirts, Etc. and the Batavia Business Improvement District (or "the BID") will present "DC in the Square," a benefit for local philanthropist Don Carroll, on Sunday from noon until 4 p.m. It will be downtown at Jackson Square.

Carroll, who is well-known locally for raising thousands of dollars on behalf of underprivileged youth, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in April.

Brian and Beth Kemp of T-Shirts, Etc. have known Carroll for several years and helped him every year with Toys for Kids, an annual toy drive Carroll founded to purchase Christmas presents for children who might not otherwise receive them.

"When I found out about Don's cancer," Beth said, "I went to Brian and suggested we host a benefit. Because he has helped so many people, I thought it would be awesome for the community to be able to give back."

They approached the BID to ask if they could use Jackson Square as the venue. The BID went even further and agreed to sponsor the event.

"DC in the Square" will feature live performances by three bands: "Old Hippies," "Soul Craft" and "Savage Cabbage," plus a Chinese auction and a 50/50 raffle.

Items included in the auction and raffle will include all kinds of goodies donated by several local businesses, including:

  • Clothing apparel from Lamb Farms (Oakfield)
  • A goodie basket from Oliver's Candies
  • T-shirts and gift certificates from The Batavian

Coffee Culture Manager Brenda Richardson, who is also helping out with the event, said that M&T Bank has donated money, which they may use for a kids' basket or something similar.

Clor's Meat Market will be providing BBQ dinners for $9. People have their choice of chicken, rib or pulled pork dinners. Each dinner comes with a roll, butter, and two out of the following three sides:

  • Salt potato
  • Coleslaw
  • Macaroni salad

Tickets can be purchased at the Square on July 29 or in advance at the following Batavia locations:

  • T-Shirts Etc., 111 Main St.
  • Clor's Meat Market, 4169 W. Main St. Road
  • Coffee Culture, 6 Court St.

A minimum $2 donation is asked of everyone at the gate.

Jerry Foster, a former teacher and lifelong friend of Carroll's, provided an update on his condition.

"He's completed his third cycle of chemo," Foster said. "He is starting to be able to swallow a little bit, though not much. ... He will be going back to Strong Memorial Hospital to see if the tumor has shrunk enough that they can operate on it."

For more information about "DC in the Square," contact Brian and Beth Kemp at 345-1993 or email [email protected].

Picture courtesy of Brian and Beth Kemp.

July 16, 2012 - 1:09pm

The painting above is titled "The Clash of Cultures," in it artist Tom MacPherson shows us some of the dynamics of his family history.

It's part of a new exhibit at Genesee Community College's Rosalie "Roz" Steiner Art Gallery called "Documente: The Italian American Family Album," which includes original egg-tempura portraits, old-fashioned furniture, photographs, music and stories. It will be on display through Aug. 27.

"Clash of Cultures" depicts MacPherson's two grandmothers in 1940s Le Roy. Grandma MacPherson (foreground) was a Methodist (the ribbon around her waist reads "Methodist Church of Le Roy") of Scottish ancestry, whereas Grandma O'Geen (Gugino) was Italian and Roman Catholic.

While Grandma MacPherson stands outside, Grandma O'Geen stands secure in the "bastion" of her Catholic household (behind the front door), with Swiss Guards from the Vatican guarding the entrance, St. Peter (the first Pope) standing by her side, and Pope Pius XII (upper left) keeping watch overhead.

Born in Batavia and raised in Le Roy, MacPherson now teaches studio art at SUNY Geneseo. His family history is kind of a microcosm of Le Roy's overall past.

His Scottish forebears came to Le Roy in 1801, before it even became a town.

"They were the ones who set the tone for what the local culture would be all about," MacPherson said. "And then my Sicilian relatives had to blend into that."

From the MacPhersons' immigration from the Scottish Highlands to the O'Geens' (who changed their name from Gugino to more easily fit in with American culture) immigration from Sicily in 1896, "Documente" is a detailed panorama of the artist's roots.

Included are the adventures of intrepid MacPherson aunts, elderly Italian aunts praying their Rosaries, the persecution of Italian immigrants by the Ku Klux Klan in Le Roy, and the experience of fathers and uncles in overseas wars.

Scenes re-creating household decor circa 1940-60 add three-dimensional reality, an intimate visit into the artist's everyday world at that time. 

Here in "The Pioneer," MacPherson depicts his bold, adventurous great-aunt Kitty standing on the rocks of her ancestral Scotland.

"No, I'm Not Colonel Sanders" depicts great-uncle Rossolino Barone. Like all of MacPherson's portraits, this is based on a family photograph -- in this case, of uncle "Ross" at a family wedding in the 1970s.

In the background is the drug store that he owned in the Rochester suburbs, and overhead are angels borrowed from Fillipino Lippi's "Madonna with Child and Saints."

MacPherson incorporates images from Italian Renaissance art into his portraits in order, in his words, to "infuse my relatives with their heritage."

"I wanted my Italian relatives to be able to relate to their heritage," he said. "And I wanted (the Renaissance elements) to say something about their personalities."

In the case of uncle Ross, the angels are showering roses on him for the kindness he showed other people.

Great-aunt Catherine MacPherson is the subject of "The Conversion of Great-Aunt Catherine." Catherine was an Army nurse during World War I, and she converted to Catholicism in France after seeing the bravery of the priests and nuns who took care of the wounded and dying.

She is set against the background of her ancestral home in the Scottish Highlands, and the overhead image represents her conversion (when she "saw the light").

The subject of "The Walking Dead" is MacPherson's father, Neil Lewis MacPherson. According to the written description next to the portrait, Neil came back home a "changed man" as a result of his experiences in World War II. MacPherson chose to illustrate this by appropriating the figure of death (right) from German artist Hans Baldung Grien's "The Three Ages of Death."

Here are a few other "Documente" displays:

A series of photographs in honor of MacPherson's cousin, Frank O'Geen.

"La Vita Mia"

"What Ya Gonna Do?" (a portrait of an aunt surrounded by religious icons)

"The Adventures of Great-Uncle Pete" (To view a video explaining this one, click here.)

Having explored the history of the two sides of his family in this exhibit, MacPherson is now working on a book on the subject. He hopes to have it published within the next few years.

Roz Steiner gallery is located at 1 College Road in Batavia and is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free. Gallery Director Shirley Tokash Verrico always welcomes group tours (though children's groups may not be appropriate, as some of the images are more suited to adult audiences).

For more information, email Verrico at [email protected] or call 343-0055, ext. 6490.

July 14, 2012 - 3:03pm

Ed and Beverly Corcoran would like everyone to know that Stephen's Table, the soup kitchen that Ed runs, will be open on Saturday, July 21 from 10:30 am until 12:30 pm.

Stephen's Table, a ministry of Batavia Assembly of God Church, serves free meals to needy families in Genesee County. Lunch typically includes a sandwich, a bowl of soup, some crackers, a cup of fruit, a drink and a dessert. Coffee and breakfast sweats are also available.

Ed and Beverly officially begin serving lunch at 11 am, but people can come as early as 10:30 to chat and enjoy some coffee.

Due to church events and other engagements, the soup kitchen is sometimes closed on Saturdays. Whenever this is the case, a sign is posted on the front table during the week notifying people that the kitchen will be closed the following Saturday.

The soup kitchen is at 24 N Spruce St. in Batavia. For more information, contact Ed and Beverly at 344-0270.

July 13, 2012 - 4:13pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Announcements, austin park, cancer victim, benefit.

Jonathan Martinez is a happy, energetic young man who has come across a tough break.

Known by the nickname "Tan-Tan" to his co-workers at Rancho Viejo Mexican Restaurant (and formerly to his co-workers at Margarita's), Martinez is well liked by everyone.

"He's always smiling," said his sister, Elena Vega. "He's a really humble, amazing person."

Martinez, 24, was diagnosed with germ cell cancer in December. The cancer was successfully removed, and he enjoyed a period of remarkable recovery until he returned to the doctor for a follow-up in March. It was then that he was diagnosed with spindle cell cancer, which was found around his liver.

He is now in hospice at Batavia's Crossroads House. Things are tough, but he has a positive attitude and is confident that he can beat the cancer.

There is a benefit fundraiser for Martinez today at Austin Park, at the corner of Washington and Jefferson Avenues in Batavia. It started at 1 p.m. and will last until dusk. There is no admission fee, but donations will be collected.

Live music will be featured, including performances by Soulcraft and Amos Williams. Jerry Smith, known in local circles as "Honeybun," will be the master of ceremonies.

Donations will be used to help with the medical expenses of Martinez' treatment, which are quite daunting.

"It's really expensive," Vega said. "We haven't paid for anything yet."

Services from the past seven months for which Martinez' family must still pay include chemotherapy, surgery, X-rays, CAT scans, biopsies and blood transfusions (Vega said her brother's cell count is still very low).

Throughout all the challenges he has come to face, Martinez has been sustained by the love he has for his family -- especially his 3-year-old daughter, Jonelis (pictured).

"He keeps saying he's going to 'come out standing like a rock for his baby girl,' " Vega said. "She is his life."

Martinez' faith has also been key to his positive outlook.

"He has tremendous faith in God," Vega said. "We know there's a purpose in this. We're just waiting for a miracle."

Photo taken by Nelle Williams

July 11, 2012 - 6:07pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Announcements, children, Ellicott Street, speech therapy.

The newly opened "Learn Through Play Speech & Language Center" is set to hold an open house for kids and families on Saturday, July 14 from noon until 2 pm.

Owner Valerie Edwards, of Alexander, opened the center to serve children who struggle with language and speech difficulties but do not qualify for existing services. She is a licensed speech pathologist who has experience working with preschoolers and children with various disabilities.

"Learn Through Play Speech & Language Center" is at 56 Ellicott St. in Batavia. For more information, call 815-0327.

July 10, 2012 - 7:12pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Announcements, kathy hochul.

The staff of Rep. Kathy Hochul will hold office hours on Tuesday, July 17, from 10 am until 1 pm. They will answer constituents' questions and listen to their concerns.

In Genesee County, office hours will be held in the Conference Room at 1 Batavia City Centre.

Office hours will also be held from 2 until 4:30 pm in Wyoming County. Anyone who cannot make the office hours in Batavia can go to the Wyoming County Building, at 143 N Main St. in Warsaw.

July 9, 2012 - 7:52pm

"DC in the Square" is scheduled for Sunday, July 29 in Batavia's Jackson Square from noon until 4 pm. It is a benefit for Don Carroll, who has spent most of his life raising money for kids in need in Genesee County and is now battling esophageal cancer.

The event will include live performances by "Old Hippies," "Soul Craft" and "Savage Cabbage" as well as a Chinese auction and 50/50 raffle. Everyone is asked to contribute a minimum $2 donation at the gate.

Presale BBQ tickets can be purchased at the following Batavia locations:

  • T-Shirts Etc., 111 Main St.
  • Clor's Meat Market, 4169 W. Main St. Road
  • Coffee Culture, 6 Court St.
July 9, 2012 - 1:28pm

Le Roy's Holy Family School closed its doors for the last time a couple of weeks ago, but the school will long be remembered for the outstanding staff and students who graced its hallways and classrooms, for the positive community atmosphere it enjoyed, and for what it meant to local families during its 123-year history.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Hansen

There were 10 students in the final graduating class of the school at 46 Lake St., which was attached to Our Lady of Mercy Parish and served pupils in pre-K through eighth-grade. Students came not only from Le Roy, but also from elsewhere in Genesee County as well as Wyoming, Livingston and Monroe counties.

Photo courtesy of the Le Roy Historical Society

The school has seen a lot of changes -- including a change in its name -- since it was first staffed by the Sisters of Mercy more than 120 years ago (see the  timeline of milestones at the end of this story). Throughout all of these changes, its tradition of academic excellence and thriving school family remained much the same.

People who were part of the Holy Family community are filled with sadness, but also with fond memories and hope for the future.

Here are some stories that give an idea of just how special a place Holy Family was:

Michael Ficarella

Michael Ficarella, of Batavia, was hired as a sixth- through eighth-grade teacher at Holy Family School for the 2011-2012 school year. It was his first full-time teaching job.

"I couldn't have picked a better school to start (teaching)," Ficarella said.

He talked about the supportive team of teachers who welcomed and helped him throughout the year.

"From real early on, they were always coming by my room to see how I was doing, offering pointers on how to make this or that lesson better or how to make the classroom run smoother, etcetera."

In addition to teaching science and social studies, Ficarella also worked with younger students in the school's after-school program. During his brief time at Holy Family, he got to know a lot of kids.

"The students were great," he said. "They were well-mannered, very eager to learn and took pride in their school."

He mentioned the eighth-grade field trip to Washington, D.C., on which the kids were "phenomenal."

Despite losing his job his first year teaching, Ficarella said he is "absolutely 100 percent" glad of the experience and has no regrets.

The Hansen Family

Photo courtesy of Kelly Hansen

One of Ficarella's students was Alex Hansen, who was part of Holy Family School's final graduating class. He attended the school from kindergarten through eighth-grade.

"(The graduation) was bittersweet," said Kelly Hansen, Alex's mother. "What we were witnessing was never to take place at Holy Family School ever again."

"There were many 'lasts' over the past few months. It was very difficult for everyone as the adults tried to make the last days of school the best they could possibly be."

Hansen said that the decision she and her husband made to send Alex to Holy Family was "curious to some because we live in Batavia."

"The answer is never an easy one," she said, "but it always contains the same elements. The high test scores, great word-of-mouth, a place where God could be mentioned without fear of ridicule, not to mention a stellar reputation within the community for more than one hundred years."

She and her husband were also impressed with the parish to which the school was connected, which was called St. Peter's at the time.

"I'm not sure there would be a way to calculate the grand sum from the parish that has kept the school afloat for 123 years," she said.

Photo courtesy of Our Lady of Mercy Parish Secretary Sue Bobo

Of course, the school environment was also a major factor in the decision.

"We were impressed with what we saw the day we first visited," Hansen said. "Children holding the door for us as we came and went, walking down the halls and having students greet us without an adult to prompt them, students standing and greeting adults as they entered a classroom -- all this left us knowing that we were making the right decision for our family."

Second-grade teacher Patty Page is pictured with her granddaughter at a Halloween party at Holy Family School. Photo courtesy of Sue Bobo.

As for the teachers, their "commendable dedication" has left an impression on Hansen.

"Many teachers at (Holy Family School) have taught for 20 or more years," she said. "Catholic school teachers are state certified yet make a small fraction of what their public school counterparts do. They clearly are not in their chosen profession for the money -- it is something they do because they love it."

She sees this as part of a pattern of sacrifices that everyone involved in the Catholic school system makes for what they consider the greater good.

"Most families who choose to send their children to a Catholic school quietly go without things other families take for granted so that their children may reap the abundant benefits," she said.

"We’ve had the same car over the course of all nine years (of Alex attending Holy Family School). It is a bit rustier and a lot noisier. It has driven from Batavia to Le Roy hundreds of times, often carrying multiple students to one event or another."

"To pay for education that could otherwise be obtained for free at a public school is a bizarre choice to some," she said. "But for us it was the only option we could imagine. Anyone familiar with Catholic education knows about the sacrifices made in order for it to be possible."

The Winters Family

Photo courtesy of Bryan Winters

When first-grader Anna Rose Winters learned that her school would be closing, she was very sad. But then the first question that came out of her mouth was: "What are the uniforms like at St. Joe's?"

Anna Rose, like other Holy Family students, will attend St. Joseph School in Batavia in the fall.

"She went through the normal grief stages," said her father, Bryan Winters. "There were tears, but then she very quickly started to incorporate St. Joe's."

Winters was on Holy Family School's Finance Committee for several months, which put Anna Rose in a "unique situation."

"She's a smart kid -- she could read the writing on the wall," he said. "We were honest with her from the beginning that her school could close, but we'd try our best."

And try they did. According to Winters, who makes his living raising money for the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, the committees formed by parents to help save the school "were doing all the right things."

"It's remarkable how much money we were able to raise with the time constraint," he said. "But there were a lot of needs-based scholarships (and other expenses that could not be met with the current student enrollment)."

Like his daughter, Winters also went through the grieving process. But he has a "very great feeling" about St. Joe's and is optimistic about Anna Rose's future.

"(Of course), there are families who have been at Holy Family for three or four generations," he said. "Their grieving process is probably longer, and that's understandable. But I need to think of the best interests of my daughter. We're going to get fully involved in St. Joe's."

Bryan and Kate Winters moved to Le Roy from Monroe County a few years ago. Holy Family School was the main reason for their move.

Having just started a family, they wanted to move to the country to give their kids (they have two younger children in addition to Anna Rose) some "breathing room." But they also wanted to make sure the kids received a Catholic education.

"We looked around Western New York and the Finger Lakes region," Winters said. "We toured different schools in Livingston and Monroe counties, and even some in Erie County."

They were very selective in their search, because everything in their lives is a "distant second to our kids."

When they went to an open house at Holy Family, "that sealed the deal."

"That was where we knew we felt at home (at Holy Family)," Winters said. "We learned about the different programs and the curriculum -- they had a very rigorous program. We liked the student-teacher ratio. It was primarily for that reason that we moved to Le Roy."

With three years as a Holy Family parent under his belt, Winters still sings the school's praises loudly.

"It blows my mind that there were people around here who didn't send their kids to Holy Family," he said. "They must not have known what we had there."

Pictured Principal Kevin Robertson with Mrs. Page's second-grade class. Photo courtesy of Sue Bobo.

Like Ficarella and Hansen, he touted the supportive atmosphere the school offered.

"We could call or email any time, and (the issue) was taken care of," he said. "There was a real family feel, whether it was students with teachers or families with teachers. It was an open community."

Part of this openness was the teachers' willingness to share personal stories with their students.

"Every once in a while Anna Rose would share a story at dinner about a teacher's dog, or about Mrs. So-and-So's son getting into a certain college," Winters said. "The fact that these teachers would recognize (for example) that a first-grader wants to hear stories about a dog means a lot. It goes back to that feeling of family."

Winters' wife is a teacher, so the two of them "have a pretty good pulse on what a good teacher is."

"And these teachers -- they had it," he said.

And the students weren't bad, either.

"The Holy Family slogan was 'Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders,' and I think that's what they were doing," Winters said.

He commented on how the kids would hold doors for people and demonstrate politeness in other ways.

"All that stuff goes above and beyond two plus two," he said. "It was about more than just standardized testing; the focus was on growing the student as a person. It was built into the curriculum."

Anna Rose is excited about going to St. Joe's, but she and her family will always have fond memories of Holy Family School.

STORY CONTINUES after the jump (click the headline to read more):

June 30, 2012 - 10:34pm

Grab a lawn chair and come to Batavia's Jackson Square for the 2012 "Ramble Music & Arts Fest." Sponsored by the Business Improvement District, this annual event is free and open to the public. It will be held on Saturday, July 7, from noon until 8 pm (a moment of silence for past musicians will be held around 4 pm).

Local and regional groups will perform a variety of tunes while artists showcase their work for display and sale.

Like last year, there will be two stages -- one for electric in Jackson Square and another for acoustic on Center St.

For more information or to reserve a spot, contact Bill McDonald at [email protected] or call 343-1929.

 

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