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Remaining close often offers best of both worlds

Some people stay in Western New York. Others leave town.

And then there are the tweeners.

They enjoy the best of two worlds -- tapping into the opportunities of another place, while staying close enough to be home for chicken wings or a Bills game on a day's notice.

Some former Buffalonians say they started to feel the pull back home -- well, closer to home -- once they started to have children.

Iroquois grad Joseph Kunick and his wife, Kiersten, have planted their roots in the Rochester area. They and their three children live in the Ontario County town of Victor.

Joseph and Kiersten lived near Los Angeles as newlyweds, then moved to New Hampshire around the time their twins were born. Five years ago, the couple decided it was time to take the next step back toward Western New York.

"The older you get, the draw home gets stronger and stronger," Kunick said. "You want for your kids what you grew up with. The home atmosphere, the support of the community does draw you back."

Kunick, an optical designer, asked Optical Research Associates for a transfer to Rochester. That was as close as he could get to Wales, where he and Kiersten grew up.

"There's not a lot of optics in Erie County. Rochester made more sense, just from the optical community that's supported in the area," said Kunick, who now works for Corning's division in Fairport.

The family lives in Victor, a community that he says offers the same type of tight-knit feel and the strong schools that made his own childhood special. Yet they're close enough to Western New York to see the extended family regularly.

Raymond Tan can identify. He and his wife, Catherine, decided to do their residencies in Rochester after attending Albany Medical College. They've remained in Monroe County ever since.

"We both were very fond of upstate New York," he said. "From Day One, we wanted to stay in this area."

The family lives in Pittsford, a Rochester suburb similar to Amherst, where Tan grew up.

Their two children aren't exactly a bike ride away from either set of grandparents, but the kids still get plenty of time with both sets. They're just over an hour's drive from Raymond's parents in Amherst and a few hours from Catherine's parents in Albany.

Tan, the chief of radiology at Highland Hospital, said recruiters have tried to lure him and his wife to Erie County. So far, the couple has decided to stay put.

The area they live in emphasizes many of the same values he grew up with, he said. At the same time, the Rochester area has more of a white-collar flavor that appeals to him.

"Buffalo has for a long time had that industrial base," said the Nichols grad voted first to make a million. "The last 20 years, it's been shifting toward something more like Rochester, but I think there's still that residual flavor that characterizes the two towns."

For some expatriates, ending up a short drive from Buffalo was less by design than by happenstance.

Kelvin Lee is on the faculty at an Ivy League university whose academics and research attracted him. But, as luck would have it, he's close enough to Buffalo to get easy access to some of the best that his hometown has to offer.

"The cool thing about the cable system in Ithaca is that we get feeds from Syracuse, Elmira and Binghamton," said Lee, a professor in Cornell University's School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. "They show all of the Bills games, home and away, sold out or not. Sabres games are all on TV in Ithaca. That need is satisfied here."

He has never thought much about wanting to move back to Western New York as an adult, but Buffalo is very much in his blood.

Wherever he goes, he seems to find people from his hometown.

"Even if I'm in Switzerland or L.A., you meet someone from Buffalo, and the first question is what high school did you go to," said Lee, who was Williamsville North's salutatorian 20 years ago. "Depending on the dates, you might find common people you know. There's that immediate connection. I don't think people from other places have that connectivity."

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com and dswilliams@buffnews.com

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