Retrospective of 2016: people (July through December)

Retrospective of 2016: Today is the conclusion of part three of a three-day retrospective of 2016. The focus is on people, and the pictures are from July through December.
A few days before Independence Day, I joined a group that picked up litter from Grand Island Boulevard. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we were getting ready for a parade. Members of various organizations assisted the newly form Grand Island Guardians, including the Kiwanis and the Lions Club.

Equipped with garbage bags, Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray and his son search for rubbish amidst the prairie grasses of Western New York. 

On July 3rd, I went Amy, Bev, and Jo to watch Buffalo’s AAA baseball team play the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Alas, the Bisons lost by the score of 2-3. After the game, however, we were treated to a musical production by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, as well as an excellent fireworks show.

At bat.

Buster Bison, the team’s mascot, decked out for Independence Day.

Bisons fans enjoy the game and the fireworks and the music by dancing with great glee.

Amy Heist and a lovely little new friend.

Bev Black and canine friend enjoy quality time after the baseball game. 

On July 4th, I went to watch (and photograph) the parade in Grand Island. It is a big event for the town. People set up their chairs several days before the parade. Kids love the parade, which, for them, is just as good as Halloween. Lots of candy is thrown in their direction, and the kids are very fast when it comes to diving for, and picking up, wrapped pieces of candy. Here are Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty marching together. Don’t you think that they make a lovely couple?

Big bear

Tom Thompson (and pitchfork) on the Grand Island Agriculture Co-op’s float.

This is one of the cowboys from Fantasy Island. There were several cowboys, along with a horse-drawn carriage. Every now and then, the cowboys would draw their weapons (filled with noisy blanks) and have a super loud shoot out. 

This is Kayla Fyfe. She is a dance teacher at the Grand Island Dance Center. She choreographed the dance for the group of jazz dancers who performed in the parade.

What is a parade without a few bagpipes?

Knights of Columbus

Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles

Saint Martin in the Fields’ annual chicken barbecue was held on July 9th.

It included a silent auction, face painting, a bounce house, and fun balloons.

Here is Larry Austin, taking pictures for the Island Dispatch. He also enjoyed a delicious meal. Journalism can be a lot of fun (not to mention tasty).

Bishop William Franklin (aka Bishop Bill) also enjoyed his time at the chicken barbecue, not to mention the delightful meal and the companionship.

On July 10th, Amy Heist and I enjoyed the Grand Island Garden Walk, which was organized by three of Grand Island’s garden clubs (Bridgeview, Cinderella Isle, and East Park). We met up with Eloise (in the red floral shirt) and her friend enjoying the day’s activities. It was a delightful day of exploring gardens all over Grand Island.

I wrote this poem about the garden walk:
beautiful day
for exploring gardens
and spending time with treasured friends

Four members of Daughters of Creative Sound came to perform at Riverside-Salem Environmental Chapel on July 27th. The four who came were Yvonne Harris (“Big Mama Blue), Sharon Holley, Karima Amin, and Sandra Williams Bush.

This is Karima Amin. She is a member of Daughters of Creative Sound and she is also a professional storyteller. The drummers invited us to be part of the music by dancing. They also talked about the drums and what the drumbeat meant. The drumbeat, said Karima, is “the first sound you hear before you’re born.” The baby hears the mother’s heartbeat and is soothed by that. 
The sound of the drumbeat brings us together because it comforts us and reminds us of the beating of our own hearts.

“We’re all interrelated and interconnected,” Karima said. 
July 30th featured the annual Paddles Up! event at Beaver Island State Park. This event is a celebration of the Niagara River and was begun by the Niagara River Greenway Commission. It features a noncompetitive paddling event and an ecotour to two of the Niagara River’s small islands: Motorboat Island and Strawberry Island. This year’s event was organized by Joe Menter, recreation supervisor for Grand Island. Above, a recreation department employee shows off the shirt that was given to all of the paddlers.

Boat stewards from New York State. They teach people how to clean their boats properly to prevent the accidental transportation of invasive species of both plant and marine life.

This gentleman is dressed in a French Explorers outfit from the 1700s and 1800s. The explorers traveled from Quebec via the Great Lakes to western Canada. They carried supplies, which they exchanged with Native Americans in Canada for furs, which were then sent on to Europe to be made into coats and hats.

Mark Thomas is regional director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. He officiated at the start of the noncompetitive paddle.

kayaking adventure.

Sharing the adventure in a purple kayak.


On the weekend of August 12th through August 14th, I went to Washington, D.C., for a reunion of women who had served time at either the Federal Correctional Institution or the Federal Prison Camp in Danbury, Connecticut (or both). Above, I am pictured with Justine, who was my bunkie. We called her “Taz.” She is out of prison now. She has become an activist in the campaign against mass incarceration. 

Ready for a tour of Washington, D.C.

Women in prison form families to cope with their time away from home. On the right is Phyllis, whom everyone called “Grandma.” She was in prison for more than 20 years and was released, when President Obama granted her clemency. Her husband, Willie, waited for her for all of those years. He came to the reunion with his wife. He said, when she was in prison, “I felt incomplete.”

At the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., monument

We also went to the Frederick Douglass museum. Here is Gillian, posing with a life size statue of Frederick Douglass, a brilliant man who taught himself to read when he was a slave, then escaped, and then became a famous speaker and civil rights leader in the nineteenth century.

On the last morning that I was in the Washington, D.C., area, I went out to breakfast with my friend Hengemeh. Here we are in Alexandria, Virginia. How I met Hengemeh is an interesting story. I was on a bus, returning to Buffalo from Washington, D.C., and no one was sitting next to me. The bus was almost ready to leave, when a woman ran up and got on. She sat next to me. She told me that she had never ridden on an intercity bus before and that she had prayed for a nice seatmate. We ended up by talking for ten hours nonstop. At the end of the bus ride, we were friends for life and we continued to stay in touch. We have very similar personalities and are happy for our time together.

Carol Alt is at Riverside-Salem Environmental Chapel, teaching us some of the finer points of making jam.

This is Steve Cichon, who was the guest speaker at the September meeting of the Grand Island Historical Society. He told us about Buffalo during Grover Cleveland’s time there in the nineteenth century. It was a rough and tumble place, where people drank and worked hard. There were groggeries (disreputable barrooms) and disorderly houses. Politics were corrupt, and drunken people got into fights. As mayor of Buffalo, Grover Cleveland did a lot to try to get the corruption under control. He went on to be the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms. 
On September 4th, I went to June and Roger’s annual Labor Day picnic at their home on the Niagara River. The picnic featured a smorgasbord of delicious foods, music, and some vendors, including Santiago Masferrer, who brought colorful goods from El Buen Amigo in Buffalo.

Jazz band!

The rhythm section

People enjoy the collection of foods, brought by everyone.
Grand Island farmers market, held on Labor Day (September 5th) at Tom Thompson’s farm. It featured produce, eggs, plants, and goodies. During the short amount since the start of the farmers market, it has become a social event.

At the stand is Trish Birtz. She and Steve Birtz have a farm, where they raise chickens and grow lots of garlic, as well as a variety of produce. I know that they grow lots of garlic because I helped them plant it in October!
September 6th was the first day of school. Here is a father with his daughter, waiting for the school bus. She is very excited about starting her school year as a second grader.
I joined a group from Saint Martin in the Fields Church on the weekend of September 16th to the 18th for a camping weekend at Camp Duffield, in Delevan, New York. We spent the weekend exploring nature, hiking, playing games, relaxing by a campfire, and eating. Mostly eating. The food was scrumptious and there were massive quantities of it. We were truly well fed and happy.

Mike Walker, Amy Heist, and Beth Boron.

Mike Walker and his sister, Beth Boron.

Tom and Sharon Petz

Eric Boron and Pete Schlau enjoy jogging through the woods.

Amy Pickwell and Paula Cramer in a lean-to. 

Beth and Eric Boron and their daughter, Allie.

Marge Schlau explores the waterfalls.

Engaged couple Allie and Dave are a very attractive pair of love birds.

I gave Beth the camera so she could take a picture of me, enjoying the waterfalls.
The Taste of Grand Island was held on September 24th at the Town Commons. Whitehaven Road was undergoing renovation, and the surface had been removed. Nevertheless, we walked up and down Whitehaven Road, which had a very rough surface. Here is Amy, experiencing autumn.

The Grand Island Historical Society had an exhibit of maps, shadow boxes, and other memorabilia. Here are society members Jeri Benzing, Sharon Nichols, and Maggie Gushue.
Mary Kay ladies tell us about the makeup and the skin care products that Mary Kay offers.

Keith Tripi raises rock doves at his local farm.

These birds are very soft to the touch and very easy going about being handled.
In the morning, on the 24th, I participated in a cleanup behind Burger King, along Spicer Creek. There was a lot of debris, such as this truck tire, waiting to be removed.

We didn’t have a big group, but we had a very busy and productive group, and we removed massive amounts of debris. Afterwards, we were treated to a free breakfast at Burger King.

The annual pet blessing at Saint Martin’s was held on October 1st. The pet blessing is in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, who is the patron saint of animals and ecology. He was born in the early 1180s. He preached to the birds, and he blessed the animals. His feast day is October 4th.

Dogs and their humans came for the blessing. There was also one cat that came to be blessed.

The service included prayers, songs, and readings.

Father Earle blessed each animal.

On the same day, there was also a fundraiser for the Jack and Jill preschool, which rents space at Saint Martin’s. It included a bake sale, food trucks, a 50/50 split, and Operation Child Find with the Erie County Sheriff’s Department.

Father Earle, the baby whisperer

The annual CROP walk was held in the afternoon on October 2nd. Money is raised so that all will have enough to eat. One quarter of the money raised is given to local organizations.

Everyone starts off running, but, at some point, we all prefer to walk.

Norma Orton with a friend at the Farmers Market at Kelly’s Country Store on October 8th.

Trish Birtz shows off the garlic and a large hot pepper.

The open house for the Grand Island Fire Company was held on October 14th. It featured a basket raffle, a controlled burn (furniture inside an open trailer that was set on fire), and law enforcement agencies trying to make themselves look good. Apparently, law enforcement folks speak their own language. One guy from the Border Patrol was telling about the vehicle that they use when they “hit a house.” I got to have a tour of that large vehicle, too. But… hit a house? “How did you pass your road test?” I asked to much laughter (I failed two road tests for driving over curbs and this guy was hitting houses???). 

But all was good. Firefighters put out the fire in the trailer and Border Patrol, as it turns out, didn’t actually crash into people’s homes.

One of my tasks for the Huth Road Elementary School PTA is to edit the newsletter. I interviewed Karen, a new second grade teacher, for the newsletter. She said, “Being a teacher is just who I am.”

I also interviewed Heather, a new library aide. She said that she really enjoys putting just the right book into kids’ hands.

Steve Birtz and Tom Thompson are enjoying the fundraising dinner for the Grand Island Agricultural Cooperative. It featured food, a basket raffle, and a 50/50 split. 


On November 4th, the Union Fife and Drum Corps were the featured presenters at the Grand Island Historical Society’s monthly meeting. This meeting was held at Historic Trinity, instead of at River Lea, so that more people could attend.

Music was an integral part of the Civil War. It was used for communication, morale boosting, inspiration, mourning, and ceremonies. Each unit had at least two field musicians (fife and drum). Both the Union and Confederacy had field musicians. They were uniformed noncombatants. When they were not playing their instruments, they were called on to perform other tasks, such as carrying stretchers and helping with surgery.

The music was great. I bought the CD.

On November 11th, the Union Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps played at Veterans Park at the annual Veterans Day ceremony.

Drumming in the park

Joe enjoys the music. He is a World War II veteran. At the age of fifteen, Joe joined the 508 Parachute Division, which was part of 82nd Airborne Division. In 1946, Joe was part of the honor guard in Frankfurt, Germany. He returned to the United States and continued to serve with 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. He was discharged from the Army in 1948. 

Joe, who is now 86 years old, says of the world today, “Things could be better. Somehow we lost our way. Families took care of their elderly. We took care of our parents.” 

A visit from my nephew, Devin, who had business meetings in Toronto.

This is Maria Maybee. She is speaking about the value of water at the Standing with Standing Rock rally that was held in Buffalo on November 15th. Maria said, about the Cattaraugus Creek that has been contaminated with nuclear waste, apparently from the West Valley Demonstration site, “The health of the creek is very personal. I’ve lost family members to cancer and to auto immune diseases. The fish are sick. The plants are sick. The water is sick. We walk for water.”

“Put positive energy out. We can heal ourselves. It’s why we walk. It helps us heal our waters,” Maria said.

We stood with Standing Rock joyfully, with singing, stories, and dancing.

Joe: “Once you’ve awakened yourself to the reality of our people and the need to stand together, you can’t go back.”

Agnes: “This is the American holocaust that no one talks about,” said Agnes Williams. “We are Indians, and we are invisible. We must stand for aboriginal rights.”

On a warm November day, I took a walk and met up with this gentleman and his bird, perched on his shoulder. 

And speaking about birds, on November 25th, I went on a birdwatching walk with Tom Kerr of the Audubon Society. During the time that we were walking through Buckhorn Island State Park, we saw many species of birds.

On Saturday, November 26th, I went to the winter edition of the Grand Island Farmers Market. Here is Robin Shipman, showing off her honey and various other goodies that she had for sale.

Santa Claus was at Kelly’s Country Store on November 26th.

On November 28th, Lakota spiritual leader and Chief Arvol Looking Horse came to speak in Buffalo about the Standing Rock Sioux. He is also a sun dance chief. Chief Looking Horse said: “This is a very sacred place. People should go there with a good mind, to be there and to pray. No foul language. Come with a good mind. Eat everything natural. Non natives bring vegetarian food, which is good, too.”

“We need to have our way of life protected. We are healing from all of the things done to our people, such as the massacre at Wounded Knee (1890).

On December 2nd, Nancy LaChiusa and Denise Voelker shared their stories about miniature worlds (aka doll houses) with the Grand Island Historical Society at its holiday luncheon. People who work with miniatures create tiny worlds that exist in boxes, bags, and other objects. 

This is Adele Upton, vice president in charge of programming at the Grand Island Historical Society.

Robin Shipman serves coffee.

Maggie Gushue gets ready to pour the tea.

There was a presentation on December 4th on the issue of the pollution caused by emissions from Tonawanda Coke.Grand Island Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray grew up in Tonawanda.  “My father died at 39 of cancer and left behind seven children.”
Joe Gardella, professor of chemistry at the State University of New York at Buffalo: “We are hoping to find historic pollution in the area. We are looking for every possible priority pollutant we can. We will sample for heavy metals and a variety of organic EPA priority pollutants. At this point, it is hard to pinpoint an exact source of many of the pollutants. Within a two square mile area, there are 50 companies that hold permits to pollute the air. This is the highest density of polluters in New York State.”

Jackie James Creedon talked about long-term exposure to toxic and carcinogenic pollutants. “I grew up in an area called Pretzel Park in Tonawanda. My mom died of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). I grew up in the 1970s in Tonawanda. I remember the creek catching on fire. The creek was really stinky, and it was loaded with chemicals.

In Jackie’s blog, she said that exposure to pollution caused the deaths of two of her children. Her son died at the age of five of non-Hodgkins Burkitt’s lymphoma, and her daughter died at 27 of glioblastoma (a brain cancer). Her surviving daughter suffers from debilitating headaches.

This is what I thought of the 2016 presidential election.

Peace rally at Town Commons in Grand Island on December 10th. Town Supervisor Nate McMurray said, “Diversity produces new types of creative thought.” 

This is Bekki D’Orazio-Orton, one of the organizers of the rally. She said that one of the goals of the rally was to “show that Grand Island is a welcoming community because ‘unity’ is part of community.” 

Kristen Dennis Obarka said that the goal of the rally was to let people know that this is a community “where everyone is welcome.” 

Dave Reilly, an animal rights activist.

Several people spoke at the rally, including Dave Reilly and Nicole Gerber. They talked about trapping on public lands, an issue that has been rather contentious in Grand Island. They asked us to remember the animals, too.

Christmas in the Woods is the sing along that is held every December. This year, it was on December 11th. Here is Riverside Salem Environmental Chapel co-pastor Cathy Goddard-Reilley introducing the program.

Nan Hoffman shares songs, and the audience harmonizes.

Contemplating the next selection.

Tom DeLoughry enjoys the music.

Kathy DeLoughry sings.

Visiting family! My great nieces Adelise and Claire, who are very delightful little girls. 

On December 22nd, I went to the Assembly at Huth Road Elementary School. It featured the fifth grade band, the jazz band, the orchestra, the Select Chorus, a trio of fifth graders (two playing flute and one playing oboe), the music teachers, all of the second and third graders, and all of the fourth and fifth graders. The teachers sang, as well, with band teacher Craig Poissant playing saxophone.

Claire’s gingerbread house

My nephew James with Adelise and Claire

My nephew Devin

My sister Diane shows her camera to Claire.

Devin works on his photobombing skills.

Claire enjoys Christmas.

Adelise enjoys Christmas.

Christmas Eve. Father Earle is a radio station announcer who is distracted by a shepherd reporting news of a baby that was born underneath a great star.

The sudden appearance of  an angel causes the radio station talk show host to keel over in amazement.

“You’re fired!” the exasperated producer tells the radio station talk show host, who get another job as an Episcopal priest.

On December 29th, I went to a party that was held for all of the people who attend the art class at Stella Niagara. The party was relaxing and fun, and everyone shared stories of Christmases long ago. This is Sister Lucina. That radiant smile is her usual look.

Thank you for reading my retrospective of 2016!

Happy New Year!

8 thoughts on “Retrospective of 2016: people (July through December)”

  1. No one can ever say you have a boring life Alice! I loved reading and looking at the pictures. When we were last together I admired your talent for remembering so much and educating Sam and I. I hope that we can visit again in 2017. Love you sweet woman!

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