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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

Dig it, dude

Joseph J. Kchodl, a 1975 Lewiston-Porter graduate better known as PaleoJoe, is a paleontologist who not only writes children's books about dinosaurs, but actually goes on digs to find dinosaur bones.

Lew-Port elementary and intermediate pupils got to know him last month when he spoke at the school.

Earlier this month, in the employ of the Burpee Museum, Rockford, Ill., PaleoJoe went on a dig in a place known as the Hell Creek Formation in Montana's Badlands and unearthed a 65-million-year-old triceratops.

He was prospecting on a hill when he came across two pieces of skull and a vertebrae.

"After digging for a while we knew it was a triceratops," he said. "They grew up to be 30 feet long and weighed several tons. I don't yet know how big this one was, but I expect to find out soon."

When he spoke at the Lew-Port school, Kchodl said the three-horned triceratops is his second favorite dinosaur. His favorite is the stegosaurus, whose long curving back was lined with large pointed plates and ended in a tail sporting large spikes.

Guess what's next on PaleoJoe's dig list?


Walk on the wild side

Niagara County Legislator Jason J. Murgia is an adventurous sort, which stood him in good stead recently when he ventured into the wilds of Niagara Falls' 1st District to gather signatures on his nominating petitions for his re-election bid.

The well-dressed Murgia, who has survived eight runs with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, was an object of suspicion in the run-down sectors of Niagara Falls.

"I'm walking with dress pants, polo shirt and a clipboard," he said. "I look like either the tax man or the census man."

Murgia said a 91-year-old woman yelled at him "for interrupting her happy hour" -- and then offered him some of her Coors Light.

Murgia said he then encountered "a 76-year-old woman in a one-piece bathing suit, who said if she were younger, she'd take a shot at me."

Younger women were interested in Murgia, too. "I was solicited by -- what should I call them? -- a tart or two," he said.

Asked if he obtained their signatures, Murgia said, "No, I don't think they were registered voters."


Della keeps her cools

Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker's decision last week to veto a Common Council resolution banning the use of outdoor wood-burning devices may have prevented domestic trouble for Council President John Lombardi III.

"I went out and bought one for my wife," Lombardi announced before last Tuesday's Council vote on the measure.

He said his wife, Della, had been after him to get a fire pit for the backyard, and he finally did for Mother's Day.

Lombardi said he could picture the conversation when he got home from the Council meeting: "Honey, guess what?" he imagined saying. "We just passed a local law. We'll call it the Della Lombardi Law."

But with the veto, Lombardi said Friday, "She's very happy now." And hubby won't be catching any heat.


Judge and jury

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza, briefing a crowd of prospective jurors for a recent trial, stressed the importance of jury service.

She also mentioned how hard it's becoming to get out of jury duty. Most of the automatic exemptions are now gone, she said -- even for judges.

"I got a jury notice a few weeks ago," Sperrazza said. "I couldn't serve because it was for a trial I was presiding over. But it was only a temporary excusal."

Somehow, we have the feeling Sperrazza's not going to be sitting in the jury box anytime soon.


Say what?

Maureen Ewart, wife of Starpoint School Board member Mark Ewart, has been coming to Starpoint meetings and speaking her mind long before her husband won a school board seat last year.

When asked at a recent meeting by Superintendent C. Douglas Whelan for public comments, Maureen Ewart piped up, "Mr. Ewart talks too low."

With contributions from Paul Westmoore, Thomas J. Prohaska and Pam Kowalik of the News Niagara Bureau.

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