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Beyond the crossroads and into retirement, public invited to send-off

By Joanne Beck

There will be a retirement party for Crossroads House founder Kathy Panepento from 4 to 7 p.m. June 21 at the Legacy Living Center, the second site for Crossroads House, at 409 E. Main St., Batavia.  Everyone is invited to the tent to be set up in the parking lot with hors d’oeuvres, cake and punch during this time as an opportunity for people to come out and send her off with best wishes and fond recollections.

Crossroads has served more than 600 patients over the years, Director Tracy Ford said, and Panepento will be spending some well-deserved time off with her husband Frank. 

“At Crossroads House, we lead with compassion. And no one embodies compassion more than our beloved founder, Kathy Panepento. For the past 26 years, she has challenged us all to find new and meaningful ways to support families with dying loved ones. Under her guidance, the community has rallied around and lifted up the families of Crossroads House,” Ford said. “We are incredibly thankful for Kathy's contributions, and it is with warm hearts that we share the news of her decision to embark on a journey of travel and quality time with her husband and grandchildren this summer. Don’t call it a retirement, but rather a new way to share her compassion with her own family. 

“I hope I will be able to continue her legacy,” Ford said. “She will be available as a consultant and as a trainer for the end-of-life doula program. Kathy’s an amazing lady, and we’re going to miss her.”

During her retirement party, Panepento hopes to see many of the families they have taken care of these past years, discharge planners, hospice workers, and all of the faces that have created a memory of some sort. 

Some people have surmised there’s a negative situation that has prompted Panepento’s departure, but that’s not it at all, she said. In fact, “if it was in disarray, I wouldn’t be leaving.”

“Our new director, Tracy Ford, is incredible. When you leave, you want to hand the baton to competent people,” she said. “It’s in the best place it’s been in a long time.”

If interested in the end-of-life doula training program, contact Panepento at 585-201-0048. 

Guests are asked to register for the retirement party by June 14. Email your RSVP to or call 585-297-8937. 

What's next for Crossroads House founder after retirement? Family, fishing and truck driving

By Joanne Beck
File Photo of Kathy Panepento and Betty James at Crossroads House.
Photo by Joanne Beck

Talk about dedication — as Kathy Panepento worked toward getting a comfort care home on its feet, one of its volunteer board members, Cindy Lowder, began alongside her before one was even established. 

Lowder recalled how, when she was an Avon representative selling her cosmetics line, Panepento would fill her in on the pursuit for that perfect place to fill the void for a suitable hospice-type home. 

“She had found the house, and she took me there one day. And she walked me through it, and I looked at it. And I looked at her, and I said, ‘You’ve got to be crazy girl. How are you ever going to get this house livable?’ It was really quite the disaster because it had been let go for quite a few years,” Lowder said to The Batavian. “But she had her dream, and she said I think we can make this work, we can make this work. And she certainly did. I mean, the house is a lovely, peaceful place now. You would never know, going through it now, what it looked like 20 — how many years? 25, 26 years?”

Not only was Lowder’s attention captured all those years ago, but so too was her heart, and she jumped on board, literally, for the next 16 years.

Even before they had the house, the first board meeting was in February of 1996, and fundraising began immediately for the legal fees to become incorporated and tax-exempt. A few months later, the board acquired a vacant home, formerly the manse for the Batavia First Presbyterian Church at 11 Liberty St., for a dollar a month rent. The church leadership had contemplated tearing the place down to make the parking lot bigger but believed in the Crossroads mission enough to make the generous offering.

Community donations of volunteer labor, including twice from local prisons, materials, services, furnishings, gardening supplies and green thumbs, remodeling, and ongoing fundraisers helped to renovate the house and grounds.

Staff was hired, volunteers were trained, the house was named, marketing had begun, and after enough funds were raised to open the doors and provide services two years later, Crossroads House accepted the first resident on Jan. 7, 1998.

“We now can provide the home-like setting to the dying while the staff and volunteers become the dying individual’s surrogate extended family in an atmosphere of love and support 24 hours a day,” Panepento said. “We are truly blessed and are deeply thankful for having such a supportive community, caring professional staff, dedicated selfless volunteers and an active working board of directors. Without all of these, Crossroads House would not be. Thank you to all of you who made my dream a reality.”

Throughout that time, there were countless fundraisers as that “disaster” turned into a warm and inviting home and haven for hundreds of terminally ill people to live out their remaining time with dignity and, oftentimes, fun, cookies, laughter, healing tears, and hugs.

After eight or so years at the nonprofit, Lowder’s own mother became a resident, which, she said, added another level of meaning to how people care and are cared for at 11 Liberty St. in Batavia. 

“I always knew from a business standpoint what an asset Crossroads House was, but I learned from a very personal standpoint when my own mother passed there,” she said. “I got to be the daughter again and take take a break from the caretaker role. That is huge; that’s the best part about Crossroads House.”

Panepento’s vision reached a quarter-century marker for the site in January 2023 that she hadn’t imagined when the doors first opened, she said, and there’s a newly hired director, Tracy Ford, that she feels confident about. Throw in the fact that her husband Frank is also retiring this year — on the same day of June 28 along with his wife — and she’s actually able to let go of this place she’s held dear the last 25 years.

“I hope she does retire and let herself enjoy life. She’s such a hard worker,” Lowder said. “I think it’s going to be hard for her to distance herself from the caretaker role; it’s just her fabric. She laid down the groundwork. The house is in a good position: she has a phenomenal director. Tracy was the right person at the right time and the right place.”

Lowder loved her time on the board and believes “we made a lot of leaps and bounds” during it, she said. She wasn’t alone in thinking fondly about those early days of Crossroads. Betty James, a registered nurse, met Panepento seven years before the house was established.

“We were drawn together as good friends,” James said. “She’s a great teacher, she opened the door for me, I found my passion with hospice.”

James said that to someone who had a facial reaction of confusion about why anyone would want to work in a field of dying people. “People can’t get their head around it,” she said. “It isn't like you're happy they're dying. They don't understand that. It's just so fulfilling, and you get so close to the people. Because life is condensed at that time, they’d love to talk to somebody who cares and opens up. Sometimes they’re more comfortable talking to the staff rather than their family because they don’t want to make them cray or unhappy. I’ve got those memories, but I am not that involved in it anymore.”

James was not only present when the nonprofit was founded but also experienced divine intervention when the name Crossroads House was whispered in her ear during a lunch meeting. 

Nobody else heard it, mind you, which prompts James to refer to it as a “God wink,” but the name seemed befitting of the mission and rang true in a verse of Jeremiah: “Thus says the Lord, stop at the crossroads and look around you. Ask for the ancient paths, where the good ways, and walk in it. You will find rest for your souls.”  

And the next two and a half decades and hundreds or thousands of volunteers and staff ever since have provided that rest for the souls that have stopped at the house. 

So, what is next for Panepento?

Kathy Panepento

“When growing up, I was debating whether to be a nurse or a truck driver,” she said. “And I became a nurse, but you know what, I think in my retirement, I’m gonna get my CDL license because I go and have surgeries at Cleveland Clinic and a hospital in New York City because of my rare connective tissue disorder. And after having 31 surgeries, I have to go to top-notch places for this, and many of them have these shuttle buses that go from the different areas within the main clinic … I’ve always loved driving; it’s very relaxing for me. And I said, I could do that in my retirement, and my husband goes, ‘yeah, that’s for sure. They’ll grab you because you’re a nurse.’”

On the more romantic side, she and Frank have a place at Fawn Lake in Bliss, where they plan to swim, walk, and recoup some lost time from busyness. A technology teacher at Batavia Middle School, Frank plans to retire right along with his wife on June 28, she said. 

She will stay on with Crossroads as a consultant and trainer for the end-of-life doula program but has forewarned new Director Tracy Ford not to call her during the summer. That time will be spent with family, including grandsons Declan, 5, and Easton, 3.

She wants to pursue the interests she’s had little time for, such as photography, researching her ancestry, and activities other than “reading books on death and dying,” she said.

“So we’ll take the boys fishing and they’ve got tents and sleeping bags, and they want to do some camping,” she said. “And my mom is still alive; she’s 87, and so being around for her.”

Can Panepento really put her Crossroads interest on the shelf for at least the summer? It’s going to be a challenge, she said, but the natural Adirondack beauty of Fawn Lake and being a doting Oma and Pop Pop (Grandma and Grandpa), while also getting those grandparents “back into shape,” is pretty good motivation, she said.

Has there been one major accomplishment or the accumulation of people that you have helped that you feel best about?

“I think the accumulation and being the only comfort care home in Genesee County. I guess I take it for granted. I believe that every human being needs a beautiful death at the end. And, people say, ‘Well, look what you did,’ and it's like, but, you know, I had the dream, and I started it, but I have people helping. You know, it says it takes a village, and it does. We have tons of volunteers, I had many staff members that helped bring my dream to fruition. And that it continues, I had no idea we’d get up to 25 years. I just didn't even think that far,” she said. “But now what I'm happy about is bringing the end-of-life doula program in, and we're going into the community to provide end-of-life doulas in the community. And I was hoping to do that. That was one of the things I wanted to do.”

There is one regret: “I wish I would have been able to open up another comfort care home because there's not enough in Genesee County,” she said. “And maybe now, as a consultant and being on the board, we can work towards that, and maybe within five years, we'll have another one.

Kathy Panepento WOD 2015 award
2015 File Photo of Kathy Panepento, second from left, when she received the 2015 Women of Distinction Award for Peace.
Photo by Howard Owens

Paul Townsend Memorial bowling tournament raises more than $3,000 for Crossroads House

By Mike Pettinella
Townsend family
Tom Fluker, left, proprietor of StrikeForce Lanes in Oakfield, greets members of the Townsend family, James, Joanne and Holly, during Saturday's Paul Townsend Memorial No-Tap Doubles Tournament. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

The bowling community came out in force to remember one of its own over the weekend and a Batavia organization dedicated to providing end-of-life care reaped the rewards.

Seventy-one teams participated in the first Paul Townsend Memorial No-Tap Doubles Tournament on Saturday at StrikeForce Lanes in Oakfield, helping to raise more than $3,000 for Crossroads House, a not-for-profit two-bed comfort home on Liberty Street that serves terminally ill residents of Genesee and Wyoming counties.


A portion of the entry fees plus proceeds from a large number of basket raffles and other fundraisers went to Crossroads House in memory of Paul Townsend, a lifelong Batavian and avid bowler who passed away on Sept. 27, 2023, at the age of 61. 

The tournament was organized by his wife, Joanne; son, James, and daughter and son-in-law, Holly and Joshua Napoli, with assistance from family members, friends and representatives of Crossroads House.

James addressed the bowlers and others who took part in the event before each of the three squads of bowling.

"We can't thank you enough for the support you have shown our family," he said. "My father would be overwhelmed by the turnout here today."

Twelve of the 71 teams earned prize money, with Dennis Maid of Byron teaming up with Jeff Pangrazio of Batavia to earn the $400 first prize with a 1,789 score with handicap.

Bill Lyons Sr. of Elba and Ron Shultz of Oakfield placed second with 1,737, good for $280, while brothers Peyton and Colton Yasses of Oakfield finished in third place with 1,693, winning $240.

Other cashers were as follows:

Cassidy Bratcher and Jimmy Macaluso of Le Roy, 1,688 ($200); Bob Zemla of Buffalo and Bob Van Dorn of Batavia, 1,663 ($190); Corey Winters of Middleport and Alishia Foss of Brockport, 1,659 ($170); Jane Chaddock and James Elmore of Batavia, 1,640 ($150); Danielle Schultz and Chris Fowler of Batavia, 1,611 ($130).

Dennis Maid and Chase Cone of Bergen, 1,606 ($120); Rich Mortellaro of Corfu and Scott Shields of Batavia, 1,589 ($100); Aiden Warner of Basom and Peyton Yasses, 1,588 ($90); Shawn Illerbrun of Warsaw and Brian Green of Batavia, 1,586 ($70).

The tournament was sponsored by Striking Effects Pro Shop in Batavia and StrikeForce Lanes/Rusty Rail Bar & Grill.

James bowling
James Townsend gets ready to roll the ceremonial first ball to start the bowling tournament/fundraiser in memory of his father, Paul.

Former resident leaves behind token of peace and comfort at Crossroads House

By Joanne Beck
Shawn Gibson, Arianna McGurn, Victoria Safford, James McLaughlin
Helpers Shawn Gibson, Arianna McGurn, Victoria Safford and James McLaughlin rest easy after moving this large fish tank from a former Crossroads House resident's private home to its new location at the nonprofit on Liberty Street, Batavia. "I'm proud of the whole team," McLaughlin said of his colleagues after emptying, moving and reestablishing the tank Thursday. "It's an extension of Lester's dying wishes." 
Photo by Joanne Beck

Lester Gill, a U.S. Navy veteran who, as a teenager, used to race motocross and later enjoyed building intricate Lego models, was a dog lover — adopting Shiba Inu Max as a faithful companion for him — and was a meat cutter at Tops Friendly Market in Warsaw while living in Batavia.

After he was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago, Gill also brought a tank full of tropical freshwater fish into his life as a source of peace and comfort while battling his illness with chemo and radiation treatments.

When it seemed imminent that the 52-year-old was going to lose that battle, he checked into Crossroads House in Batavia. The nonprofit’s founder, Kathy Panepento, said that one of his biggest concerns was not about himself, she said. 

He was worried about his fish and the tank.

“He said ‘it brought me peace, it brought me comfort, and I don’t know what to do with it,’” she said Thursday at the house on Liberty Street. 

Panepento, with the help of four people from a local pet store, was able to arrange for Gill’s fish tank to be relocated to Crossroads. She pointed out the location where it would be, and Gill gave her “a little smirk” of satisfaction, she said. He died March 25. 

A small marble table was moved aside and the empty space seemed to be waiting to perfectly accommodate the 55-gallon tank. But not before some maneuvering, lugging and hauling of water.

“It took 10 buckets of water,” James McLaughlin said of the emptying and refilling process. He and his team of colleagues carefully preserved the fish in separate containers, and then carried the tank, he estimated to be about 150 pounds, down a flight of narrow stairs from Gill’s Batavia apartment. 

They drove it over to Crossroads and set it all up, complete with the featured fish: Perry the pleco (Plecostomus), a black highly visible character with a very prominent oval-shaped mouth, suitable for scraping food such as algae off the tank walls. He’s a very good poser and not at all camera shy.

Once in place, the tank emitted a soft fountain-like bubble sound that everyone agreed seemed soothing.

“It will bring a lot of joy to a lot of people,” new house Executive Director Tracy Ford said. 

Gill’s parents, John and Joyce, had driven from Florida three weeks ago to be with him, and they and two of his siblings were with him when he died. 

“Those people who came into our lives are saviors,” Mrs. Gill said. “This is beautiful. I helped at a Hospice, that was not a bit like this. This is fabulous. Everybody was so friendly, and they were so friendly to him. He didn’t want us to come, but we did. ”

It took some coaxing to get them to describe the real Lester — exuding a tough exterior and perhaps a bit of rough and tumble bravado on the outside, he was actually nothing like that, his dad said.

“And anybody that I’ve talked to up here who knows him, even the people at the laundromat this morning said he was the most gentle and kind person,” Mr. Gill said. “Anybody we talked to said the same thing, and that makes me proud.” 

Panepento added that, despite being in pain during his time at Crossroads, Lester, a native of Carthage, “was so kind to the volunteers and nurses.”

After his diagnosis, Lester had two surgeries for his cancer, which affected half of his lower face and traveled down his neck and shoulder. He brought his dog Max with him to treatments and Max was with him when he rang the bell known for when a patient is thought to be “cancer free,” Mrs. Gill said.

His dog found a new home with a registered nurse when Lester’s treatments got to be too much for him to walk and care for his beloved pooch. He checked into Crossroads six days before he succumbed to his illness. Before then, however, he was able to communicate his wishes for those fish to be well taken care of. 

McLaughlin was happy to oblige. He and his team, including Shawn Gibson, Arianna McGurn and Victoria Safford volunteered their time to go over to Gill's apartment and retrieve the tank and fish and carefully relocate them to Liberty Street.

"I'm proud of the whole team," McLaughlin said. "It's an extension of Lester's dying wishes."

Lester's mom said they were so thankful to have gotten the assistance and for the fish tank to find a new home. They have been gradually clearing out his apartment and didn't really know what they'd do with all of the tropical fish and accessories. 

"The tank was the last of it, and that was good," his dad said.

They were both pleased, as well as other family members, that Lester found Crossroads House for his final days, Mrs. Gill said. 

"There’s a special place in heaven for people like this," she said.

Lester John Gill is survived by a son, Tyler Gill of Tennessee, three grandchildren, and five siblings: Christine and Michael Tundo of Brownville, New York; James and Darlene Gill of Hayesville, North Carolina; David Gill of Watertown, New York; Deborah Aubin of Utah; and Herbert and Rebecca DesRosiers of Tampa, Florida.

He is pre-deceased by his mother, Norma Hague, and two siblings, Donna Frye and Danielle DesRosiers.

Arrangements are entrusted to the Bruce Funeral Home, Black River. In accordance with his wishes, Lester will be cremated, with burial to follow in Maple Hill Cemetery in Watertown.

Donations in his memory of Lester may be made to Crossroads House, 11 Liberty St., Batavia, NY, 14020.

Online condolences can be shared at

Joyce and John Gill
Perry the Pleco appears to be posing with Joyce and John Gill, who sit next to their late son Lester's fish tank that is now at Crossroads House in Batavia. The tank gave Lester some peace and comfort while he battled cancer this past year, he told Crossroads staff.
Photo by Joanne Beck
Brothers Herbie and Lester
Lester Gill, thought to be about 15 at the time, and brother Herbie Desrosiers pose for a photo during their active teen years.
Submitted Photo

New executive director at Crossroads House

By Joanne Beck
tracy ford crossroads
Tracy Ford

Crossroads House has hired a new executive director after the gap was temporarily filled by interim director Tom Staebell in July 2023. 

The nonprofit's leaders happily announced the news Monday that they have found Tracy Ford, who "stood out from a pool of excellent candidates."

"We are pleased to announce that after a very intentional and thorough search, aided by a selection committee consisting of several community leaders and one of our very own volunteers, we have hired a new Executive Director to lead Crossroads House as we head into our second quarter century providing premier comfort care to our residents," nonprofit leaders said. 

Ford is to take the helm on March 4, but not before she gets her feet wet with an introduction at 9 a.m. Tuesday on WBTA. 

Crossroads House lights first Remembrance Christmas Tree at Eli Fish

By Howard B. Owens
crossroads christmas tree

Supporters of Crossroads House were invited to hang an ornament on a Christmas tree to display at Eli Fish for the holiday season, with the tree being lit in a ceremony at the tavern in Batavia on Saturday.

Pinecone ornaments cost $25 each, and Crossroads was able to raise $2,500 to support its operations.

"Our memorial cones are all personalized with a person's name," said Debbie Paine, who chaired the fundraising effort and is secretary of the board of directors. "There are some that honor volunteers or whatever somebody felt that they wanted to buy and remember somebody for. It's a holiday fundraiser that first allows people to memorialize someone and also brings together our community."

This is a first-year event for Crossroads House, which provides hospice care at no cost to people in their final stages of life in Genesee County.

Photos by Howard Owens

crossroads christmas tree
crossroads christmas tree

Baseball stars and famous furniture men, all eventually get their own bobblehead

By Howard B. Owens
phil pies bobblehead
Phil Pies inside Max Pies Furniture on South Jackson Street in Batavia with a bobblehead in his likeness, created as a fundraiser for Crossroads House.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Every celebrity, even local ones, deserves a bobblehead, and now Phil Pies, Batavia's "Furniture Man," has one.

The collectible was the idea of long-time Max Pies Furniture employee Peggy Cancelmi, who was looking for a way the 118-year-old retail store at 400 South Jackson St., Batavia, could support Crossroads House.

"I was also trying to think of a way I could torture Phil, so I worked with Tom Brown at AdStuff productions, and we came up with the bobblehead," Cancelmi said. "We went through three designs and settled on Phil in his famous khakis and his famous blue sweater, and I think it looks just like him."

The bobblehead wasn't a surprise to Phil. He knew what Peggy was working on but didn't really expect to ever see one.

"When they came, he couldn't believe it.  For the first time, he was speechless."

Now that the bobbleheads are in, Phil is clearly proud of them.

"I think it's wonderful. I think it's great," he said. "Why not? The money goes to Crossroads. That's the main thing. I never thought I'd see it (his face on a bobblehead), never in my whole life, but it's for a good cause."

Cancelmi ordered 200 Phil Pies bobbleheads, and they are for sale exclusively in Max Pies for $20 each, with proceeds benefitting Crossroads House.

phil pies bobblehead
The Phil Pies bobblehead with Peggy Cancelmi in the background.
Photo by Howard Owens.

From board member, volunteer and doula, Staebell takes on interim ED role at Crossroads

By Joanne Beck
Tom Staebell
Tom Staebell, interim Executive Director of Crossroads House, takes a seat to relax outside of the Liberty Street site. He can get comfy, Board President Steven Johnson says, as the search for a permanent director will likely take awhile.
Photo by Joanne Beck.

Sometimes the title of being a best-kept secret isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While it may sound like a clever marketing ploy, it still leaves something to be desired: more knowledge about your establishment.

That’s exactly why interim Executive Director Tom Staebell wants to ditch the soft tagline for Crossroads House. Enough of the comfort care home being Genesee County’s prized little-known service. He wants it known far and wide.

“And so my goal is to make sure that it's not the best-kept secret in the county. So we're really reaching out now to the community, we hired a new volunteer coordinator that's going to be able to get out into the community more,” he said during an interview with The Batavian at the house. “And just getting the word out there is one of our biggest things.”

For an interim, this is perhaps an unusually vocal role of articulately expressed goals and a vision for the Liberty Street site to not only embrace its two residents and their families during their stay but to also, at some point, carry the philosophy of Crossroads into other facilities with an end of life doula program.

After years of placing folks on a waiting list, staff has decided to train prospective doulas that can go to residential and nursing homes to work with people in their final moments of life.

Staebell is a trained doula and Crossroads volunteer, as well as a former board member, which is where he began his journey with the nonprofit. He was amply experienced on the topic of loss, as his wife died in 1994, and then both of his parents, mom Irene in 2017 and then his father Andy in 2020, died at home, requiring additional care.

“It was that caring process that drew me into doing work here,” he said. “You know, this is the philosophy here; everyone should have a good death. And that sounds kind of strange when you say that. But our mission here is that you're living until you take your last breath. And we'll do everything to help support the family and the resident here in making that a good death.

“And that involves all the different areas, like emotional, the social component, physical, you know, pain management is a really important part of our work here. And spiritual, kind of meeting the families and the resident where they're at,” he said. “Some people come in, and they're still in denial, but meeting them at that place, and letting the process develop, and unweave all the intricacies of the death process for them. Education is one of the biggest pieces that we do here.”

As much as staff — which is small due to financial constraints, and volunteers, which are dozens of caring, trained and dedicated community members — do with residents at the house, there’s an overall effort to get the word out about what the organization does and what the philosophy is all about. 

People don’t go to Crossroads House to die; they go there to live out the remaining time they have left with dignity, laughter, tears, oftentimes some type of familial or spiritual closure, and maybe a treat or two from the kitchen.

Within all of Genesee County, there are only three beds available to someone at the end of life, and two of them are at Crossroads House.

“And so, we really want to make sure the word is out there … One of the biggest goals, as you probably know, is that we're self-funding here. We don't get any insurance or health insurance coverage. We don't get any support from the state or federal government. And so all of our funding is through donations, memorials, business appeals or getting community appeals, our fundraising events, and, you know, memorials that people will give to us after the person has died,” he said. “So that's one of our biggest things, and looking at it from my point of view as being the new interim director here is to really make sure that the annual campaign, that we do it really, really well, and, and get out there in the community and let them know we're here and what we need from them.”

Another goal is to make sure that families and residents know that “we’re part of their family,” he said. He cited the example of a woman’s daughter who came from Florida to stay at the house, and Staebell made sure she didn’t feel alone, even though she left her family down south while staying with her mom.

“I told her now you have a family,” he said. “She’s going to be loved, cared for and taken care of.”

Staebell filled the gap left by former director Charlotte Crawford in March, and he has the full backing of the board, President Steven Johnson said. Staebell’s goals are mutually the board’s goals to increase public awareness and education, ramp up the annual campaign and initiate the end-of-life doula program with a newly received grant specifically for that purpose, Johnson said.

“One of the visions we have is that we’ll provide doulas working with Hospice with their training program for families that have no place to go,” Staebell said. “It lets you be the wife, the daughter, (the family member) instead of the caregiver.”

He’s excited to be over the hurdle of the house’s 25th anniversary and looking forward to “another 25 years with a strong strategic plan that will take us into the future by building relationships.” Staebell’s professional relationships have been in education for 33 years before he retired as an elementary principal at the Pembroke, West Seneca and New York City school districts.

He has been a Crossroads House volunteer for seven years, providing resident care and serving as an end-of-life doula and grief peer support facilitator. 

He and husband Mark, live in Pembroke and have five children and nine grandchildren between them. They enjoy the theater, Philharmonic, and sometimes “doing nothing at all.”

For those interested in learning more, there will be a Chamber of Commerce after-hours garden party later this month. It runs from 5 to 7 p.m. July 13 and will include some informal talks from volunteers and staff and a tour of the site at 11 Liberty St., Batavia.

A neat part about this event is that products from local businesses will be served.

“We want to support the businesses that support us,” Staebell said. “It’s a gift to the community made possible by the community.”

For more information about the garden party, end-of-life doula program or Crossroads House, call (585) 343-3892.

February tournaments include 'Super Bowl' singles, Crossroads House, GRUSBC Doubles No-Tap

By Mike Pettinella

Mancuso Bowling Center is hosting the annual “Super Bowl” Handicap Singles Tournament this Sunday with one qualifying squad set for noon.

First place in the event, which is sponsored by Red Bull, is $450 based on at least 32 bowlers. One in four bowlers will advance to the head-to-head final rounds.

Entry fee is $45. Handicap is 100 percent of the difference in the bowler’s average and 215 – using the 2021-22 highest United States Bowling Congress-certified average unless this season’s is 10 or more pins higher.

To enter, contact Mark Brown at 716-474-7960.

Other local tournaments during February are as follows:

  • Feb. 17-18, “Strike Out for Crossroads House.”

The 27th Annual Betty Ellison Memorial "Strike Out for Crossroads House" No-Tap Tournament returns to Mancuso Bowling Center, with squads at 6 p.m. Feb. 17 and noon and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 18.

Registration fee for the four-person team event is $100. Entry forms are available at the bowling center or on the Crossroads House website –

For more information, contact Vicki Johnson at or at 585-343-3892.

  • Feb. 18-19, Genesee Region USBC No-Tap Doubles.

Letchworth Pines in Portageville is hosting the 3rd GRUSBC No-Tap Doubles event with squads at 1, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. on both days.

Open to GRUSBC members, the entry fee is $60 per team. One in four teams will cash.

The maximum team average is 420 -- based on the bowlers' highest USBC book average in a league for at least 21 games over the past three seasons, unless this season's average is 10 or more pins higher (for at least 21 games).

To sign up, send an email to or call 585-343-3736.

  • Feb. 19, Tommy Kress 60-and-Over Tour.

Oak Orchard Bowl in Albion will be the site of the next Tommy Kress 60-and-Over Tour stop.

Check-in begins at 10 a.m. with competition getting started at 11 a.m.

The entry fee is $50. Walk-ins are welcome.

  • Feb. 24-26, Ron Riggi Memorial 4-Person Handicap.

Legion Lanes in Le Roy will be conducting the 21st annual Ron Riggi Memorial tournament in honor of the late well-known Le Roy native.

Squad times are 6:30 p.m. Feb. 24, noon and 4 p.m. Feb. 25 and 1 p.m. Feb. 26.

Entry fee is $100 per team and first place, based on 32 teams, is $800. One out of every five teams will cash.

An optional singles tournament will take place, with an entry fee of $5.

To enter, contact Mark Brown at 716-474-7960.

Photos: The first 25 years of Crossroads House celebrated in gala fundraiser at Batavia Downs

By Howard B. Owens


The leadership at Crossroads House often talks about the importance of the volunteers who assist people in their last stages of life.  For Cathy Winding, volunteering at Crossroads House saved her life.

"I moved here many years ago, and it was hard," Windings said during the 25th-anniversary celebration of Crossroads Hosue at Batavia Downs on Saturday. "I left my family, my friends. I moved to Batavia, and I found Crossroads House. 

"I had read about it in the newspaper, and my mom had passed, then my dad passed, and I wished I had a place like Crossroads House because they had a horrible time."

She said she finds it rewarding to care for the people who stay in Crossroads House.

Julie Tybor, who is also a volunteer, also said it's rewarding.   

"Being with other families, spending time with other families has been the most rewarding part," Tybor said.

Tybor, left, and Winding, right, are pictured above with Benita Scoins, with stars from a wall of honor.  As part of the event's fundraising event, people could buy stars with names on them, either of people who have passed while staying at Crossroads or of the volunteers they appreciate. Scoins is holding the stars dedicated to family members, including Ron Weimer, who was the first resident of Crossroads House.






Paul Figlow and Joanne Patri pull numbers in the night's reverse 50-50 drawing -- when you're number is called, you're eliminated from the drawing.  When there are only two numbers left, the number pulled is the winner ... 


Meghan Gallagher was the winner ... 


She donated her $600 prize back to Crossroads House.





Shine a light on the star in your life at Crossroads 25th gala

By Joanne Beck


Is there someone who’s the star in your life? They may still be with you, or maybe they've passed. Either way, if their light has been a bright spot that you’d like to recognize, Crossroads House staff is selling tribute stars to memorialize or honor someone special during the nonprofit’s Red Carpet Gala on Jan. 28.

Buy a star (or more) for $25 each, and it will line the red carpeted walkway during the Crossroads 25th-anniversary event. They may be purchased at the house, 11 Liberty St., Batavia, or online at, and do not need to be named after someone who stayed at the comfort care home.

Tickets for the gala dinner are also available for $75 each and include dinner, entertainment, three types of auctions, a 5X7 photo for each couple or group, and $15 Free Play. Doors open at 5 p.m. Jan. 28 at Batavia Downs, Park Road, Batavia.

A VIP sponsorship is $1,000 for a table of eight, and also includes an hour of open bar at 4 p.m., special seating and company advertising throughout the evening.

Auction items include spa packages, romantic getaways, a recliner, and diamond earrings, just to name a few, Director of Development Vicki Johnson said. And people that purchase stars do not need to be attendees of the gala, she said.

Johnson recommends reserving your spot soon, as the event ticket deadline is Friday. Stars may be purchased up to the date of the event.

For more information, call 585-343-3892.

Photo of Crossroads House Director of Development Vicki Johnson showing examples of stars available for the nonprofit's 25th Red Carpet Gala. Photo submitted.

Update: Mayor of Redfield Parkway still smiling, wants to do good in community

By Joanne Beck


Jim Owen enjoyed a milkshake Tuesday morning and asked The Batavian to take his picture during her visit to see him at Crossroads House.

Owen is no typical City of Batavia resident, and taking his picture has become commonplace amongst local media during special events. So commonplace, in fact, that when he saw a second volunteer, he wanted a picture taken with her as well. 

Crowned the Mayor of Redfield Parkway by City Council for his longtime civic and neighborly involvement in the community, Owen has been fighting his most important battle this year: esophageal cancer.

His temporary residency at United Memorial Medical Center brought many visitors to his room, and the flow of people has not stopped at the Liberty Street comfort care home that he moved into more recently. It has been so busy with well-wishers that it has, at times, been hard to keep up with the continuous traffic.

Crossroads staff and friends have been maintaining his online presence and posting updates. This was the latest one:

“Update on Jim, and a reminder from the Crossroads staff. Jim is still resting and being well taken care of at Crossroads House. Visitors are still welcome and very much appreciated; however, we want everyone to know that Jim has grown somewhat more confused over the last several days.  The staff feels that the visitors Jim receives are comforting and beneficial to him, but asked us to remind everyone to keep the visits to no more than 15 to 30 minutes in length so he can get his rest.

Again, please do not let this message discourage anyone from coming to visit, but just be advised of the Crossroads House staff wishes which they feel are best for Jim. Thank you, and we will keep you informed of any changes or news.”

Likewise, people have responded with likes, hearts, care emojis and fond messages of encouragement. Visitors may also sign a guest registry and offer words of comfort to Jim, who, despite seeming tired, still has his sense of humor and kindness intact.

During Tuesday’s visit, he said that volunteer Julie Mancuso lives on his street. He then corrected himself to say that “I live on her street.” And as they discussed which street was the best in the city, he gave a thoughtful pause and rephrased it all together.

“The best street is the street you live on,” he said.

He knew this reporter and The Batavian’s publisher — who he refers to as his adopted brother. (Jim’s last name is Owen versus Howard Owens.)

When many people in his situation would be thinking about things they missed out on in life, Jim talked about how he wanted to do more for the community during Tuesday's visit, Owens said. 

"He said he always tried to treat people well because 'when you feel good about yourself, you do good things. You make a contribution,'" Owens said. "He said he would like to see a scholarship set up to help people with his disease. Jim Owen has spent his life trying to teach us all to be better human beings, and even now, he's still trying to spread that message."

Jim seems to be absorbed in wanting to help people, help the community, and perhaps even help the world in some way. He described himself as just a pin or cog in the wheel of life, but if he can make at least one person happy, he has accomplished something.

Jim Owen, you have done far more than that. You have reached out to neighbors and friends, shared tidbits of Batavia and Owen family history, garnered support for the naming of the BHS auditorium after your late father Frank E., fought for the restoration of Redfield’s well-known pillars that have served as guideposts to the VA Medical Center, and greeted, supported, chatted with and smiled upon countless folks during your longtime commitment to Batavia and its citizens.

That’s not only worthy of a milkshake and a photo, but also a grateful nod of thanks from your friends and community members.

Mission accomplished.


Top photo of city resident and Mayor of Redfield Parkway Jim  Owen enjoying a milkshake with volunteer Cathy Winding Tuesday at Crossroads House in Batavia; and above, also with volunteer Gail Wysko. Photos by Joanne Beck.

Gala celebrates 25 years of Crossroads House

By Joanne Beck


What better way to celebrate your 25th anniversary than a red carpet affair?

That’s exactly what Crossroads House organizers thought. Doors will open at 5 p.m. Jan. 28 at Batavia Downs Park Place Entertainment Center, Park Road, Batavia.

“We’re going to do a lot of celebrating,” Director of Development Vicki Johnson said. “There will be a memorabilia table and photos, and the auctions.”

For musical entertainment, Dueling Pianos International will be performing in a fun, light-hearted style, she said. Patrons can offer tips for a pianist to play a particular song, or to stop playing one, she said.

Going along with that musical theme, the reverse auction includes a piano pin with a flashing light to indicate who is still in during the drawing. Once a number is pulled, the light goes out.

A buffet dinner with cash bar will begin at 6 p.m. The evening will include several auctions in the form of a live one — maybe you’d like to bid on four tickets to see comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, a comfy recliner, or an overnight getaway — silent auctions of various gift packages and a reverse auction with a cash prize.

Never heard of a reverse auction? It works completely opposite of most raffle drawings, in which participants are eliminated as their numbers are drawn, dwindling down to a final winner. Or perhaps the last two remaining participants will opt to split the cash pot.

Star tributes may be purchased for $25 to honor or memorialize someone special, because, after all, this is a time to recognize the stars in one’s life, organizers said. Past and present employees, volunteers, board members and families served are invited to join in the celebration.

The first resident’s name was Jean, and she moved into Crossroads House on Jan. 7, 1998. A process that took two years and many hands — of staff, volunteers, board and community members — has established a comfort care home for 575 residents, Johnson said. (For the full story, click HERE.)

Future goals are to continue educating the community about the fragile topic of death and to open a second home.

In the meantime, the Red Carpet Gala is an occasion to celebrate the accomplishments and lives that have been touched by Crossroads House.

Tickets are $75 each, which includes dinner, entertainment, auctions, free 5X7 photos for each couple or group, and $15 Free Play. A VIP sponsorship is $1,000 for a table of eight, and also includes an hour of open bar at 4 p.m., special seating and advertising throughout the evening.

“We’re lining our red carpet with stars in memory or honor of someone,” Johnson said. “The board is hosting it, and the goal was really to celebrate.”

Go here for tickets.  Seating is limited to 350, and Johnson recommends reserving your spot soon. Stars may be purchased up to the date of the event.

Photo: Vicki Johnson, director of development, Kathy Panepento, founder and director of resident care and doula services, and former nurse Betty James reminisce with a scrapbook of history about Crossroads House. Photo by Joanne Beck.

People, stories, community support and nurturing have been part of Crossroads House for 25 years

By Joanne Beck


Memories began as a trickle, and soon they were gushing as Kathy Panepento and Betty James recalled the early days of Crossroads House.

There were certainly recollections of how the comfort care home became a fixture in Batavia, but perhaps even more special were the people that filled the beds over the last two and a half decades.

Like the gentleman who had three wishes to not die at his residence, have a beer and watch the Buffalo Bills game scheduled for later that day, Panepento said. He moved into Crossroads, and she went home to get him a beer; however, he died in a short six hours, before the game came on.

“But he got two wishes,” she said.

Crossroads House will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a Red Carpet Gala on Jan. 28 at Batavia Downs. (See related article for details.)

Panepento has been the face of Crossroads as a registered nurse in the hospice field and eventual founder of the site in January 1998. She has worked at Buffalo Hospice and helped to get a hospice for Genesee, and Wyoming County certified, training volunteers and continuously learning about the needs of the community.

She had gone from the OB-GYN field to hospice because “I fell in love with it.”

“You know, it’s such a personal approach,” Panepento said. “So then I got involved with the planning committee with them starting hospice with JD LeSeur and Father Scheider. And I was the first paid employee and training the hospice volunteers … and then getting it to certification and getting it approved by the State Department of Health.”

Filling a need
That was for the two-county hospice program. Panepento observed something about how the medical system was working: people weren’t dying quickly enough, which meant they couldn’t go to a hospital, yet also couldn't safely remain at their own residence, and instead were transferred to a nursing home.

“And a lot of times, they died before the transfer or in an ambulance on the way to the nursing home. So it's like, man, we're missing something. Even though Hospice is a great organization, they're limited in what they can give. So we just need something to fill in that crack there,” she said. “So I had the dream in ’95, my husband will recall: he said, ‘Oh no. What is it now?’ And I said we need to open up a comfort-care home. Batavia does not have an inpatient unit. They don't have a palliative care unit. There's only three beds in Genesee County for people that are dying.”

James, also a registered nurse who lives in Perry, became involved by way of Florida. One of her favorite aunts had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, and James and husband Tom went to Florida to see her. Her aunt was in hospice care at home. And her uncle was “just on edge.”

“There was a knock on the door, and a hospice nurse entered. I could see a visible relaxation of him, and I thought it was just a wonderful thing,” James said. “When I came back, I talked it up. That didn’t go anywhere.”

Then she saw an ad for a nurse at the Hospice of Genesee and Wyoming County and became Panepento’s first hire.

“She had to teach me a lot; you’re going into people’s homes. They’re hurting; it’s more symptom control management,” James said. “God ordained me to this field. You get to know the person and their disease process.”

Panepento had to insert a story about James and a male patient with a king-sized bed. Part of the job is to assist people where they’re at and not move them, so James attempted to care for him. She admitted that she had never seen a bed that big, so it was a challenge to reach him.

“And she fell into bed with him,” Panepento said as she and James broke into a laugh.

“You have to have a sense of humor,” James said, recalling the reaction of her and the man. “We laughed.”

What's in a name?
The name Crossroads came during what the women believe was a divine moment. A group of them was having lunch — a routine event at the Red Osier — and had been trying to come up with a name for this comfort care home in Batavia. James was sitting next to a nurse at one end of the table.

“I said, ‘Oh, that sounds wonderful.’ She said, ‘what, I didn't say anything.’ And I heard it: Crossroads House. And she said, ‘that's it,’” James said. “That was heavenly ordained because I remember there was a God wink. Yes, I like that term.”

Panepento began to cite a Jeremiah verse: “Thus says the Lord: Stop at the crossroads and look around you. Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it. You will find rest for your souls.”

“I believe that God led us to bring it to reality,” James said.

And over these more than two dozen years, there have been people who came — not to die but to live — out their remaining days at the home on Liberty Street. There have also been families of those 575 residents that settled in to support, and spend time, laugh and cry, and often reconcile old hurts with, a loved one.

There was an older gentleman who was there with his wife. And they were just so tight, James said.

“He was here every morning and he'd sit by her side. Every Thursday, he knew I was working. This is about the connection you get. And he'd come with a bag of (items) for the house. And after she passed, I think he just needed to keep the connection here for a while. Every Thursday, he’d bring things like paper towels … it's just one of the thousand things in my head about this place.”

Over the years, there have been countless stories, and many events, including baptisms, weddings, birthday parties and showers.

Panepento added that families do come back after a loved one has died, “because we nurture them.”

“We've held them up. And you know, they come back, and it's like reunion time,” she said. “We always tell our families, you're gonna adopt the Crossroads House family, but we're gonna adopt you too. You’re family.”

Community support
That nurturing has also come from a supportive community — First Presbyterian agreed to rent a vacant property for $1 a month when nobody knew where and how a home would be established, and well-attended fundraisers and donations have helped to float the nonprofit all these years while it charged nothing for the service.

“What a blessing! Now we had a home that needed extensive repairs, and with no money to start the renovations. Then came more blessings. On two different occasions, we were able to get prisoners to help with the remodeling process. The community came through for us, and area businesses donated building supplies and equipment. We even got volunteers to provide the manual labor,” Panepento said. “Staff was hired, volunteers were trained, the house was named Crossroads House, marketing was begun, and we fund-raised until we knew we had enough operating capital to open our doors and provide our services.”

Organizers themselves also “dug into our own pocketbooks,” James said. It took $7,000 just to get incorporated. As the house furnishings — donations seemed to miraculously fill the void when needed. Learning that a new furnace requiring $800 down was soon followed by a donation of $800. Needs of furniture and appliances often happened the same way. It was as though their needs — often seemingly out of reach — were somehow met time and time again.

Panepento looked up from the sitting room, recalling a huge hole in the roof over the kitchen. It got repaired, and they just carried on, focusing on providing services of care, comfort, and genuine love. More recently, the donation of a handicap-accessible van has furthered the offerings to include outings with residents.

Living at Crossroads
They took in the first resident, Jean, on Jan. 7, 1998. She was a good friend, nurse and mentor whose husband came with their dog and stayed there with her. Jean even helped to train volunteers, giving nuggets of advice such as how to move someone properly. There are even committee meetings conducted in her room to keep her involved.

“So we brought that to her bedside, and she did life,” James said. “And that's when we say you're not here to die. You're here to live until you take that final breath, whenever that may be.”


Top Photo: Kathy Panepento and Betty James look at a scrapbook of Crossroads House history at the comfort care home on Liberty Street, Batavia. Photos by Joanne Beck.

Photos: Fall basket raffle to benefit the Crossroads House

By Howard B. Owens


The annual Fall Basket Raffle to benefit the Crossroads house opened today at the Batavia First Presbyterian Church.

Sales of raffle tickets continue tomorrow from noon to 4 p.m. with drawings starting at 3 p.m.

There are 148 baskets to try your hand at winning.  The fundraising goal for Crossroads is $9,000.


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