The offbeat side of the news - The Buffalo News

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The offbeat side of the news

Where the boys are

Myrtle E. Johnston, a West Seneca woman who turned 100 Sunday, is a “superb” cook, an “avid” reader and “dedicated” solver of crossword and jigsaw puzzles. But those aren’t the most interesting parts of the ad published in Sunday’s News to mark her big birthday.

No, what caught our eye was the description of her family tree. She has three sons, six grandsons and eight great-grandsons – no girls at all.

The centenarian told Off Main Street that the last girl born in her family, excluding herself, was a sister of her late husband, Robert, born in 1902.

“The only way we get the girls is when the boys bring them home,” said Johnston, who was unable to explain the multi-generational streak of XY chromosomes.

The chances of having 17 children, over three generations, all be boys are a little like flipping a coin 17 times in a row and having them all come up “heads.” The odds of that are 1 in 131,072, or the same as the Bills winning the Super Bowl next year.

We checked with Alan Hutson, chairman of the University at Buffalo department of biostatistics, who did say the odds of having a boy go up slightly over time if you’ve previously had boys.

The odds of a first child being a boy are actually 51-49. If he was a boy, it’s 50-50 that your second will be a girl. The parents of two boys have a 47.7 percent chance of having a girl, and parents of three boys have a 43.6 percent chance of having a girl.

This isn’t just academic for Hutson. “I have three boys. I’m off to a start on this,” he quipped.

The one that got away

Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard has received some prestigious honors over his long career. But one award has eluded him all these years.

At a swearing-in ceremony Monday for his third term, Howard used the occasion to honor former Erie County Sheriff Michael A. Amico but also made reference to the fair amount of criticism he’s faced during eight years in office, including in the pages of this paper.

“The Buffalo News once named Mike Amico as the Man of the Year,” Howard said before pausing. “It’s an award I’m certainly not likely to ever receive.”

The standing-room-only crowd erupted in laughter. But maybe there’s hope yet for Howard.

Sister Mary Johnice Rzadkiewicz of Response to Love Center recounted during the ceremony’s benediction an attempt to comfort Howard when the sheriff was at a low point, a place familiar to the New Testament’s most famous figure.

“Are you any different than Jesus?” she asked him.

Who needs public praise when you have private counsel like that?

We have an ‘in’ at the Post

The Washington Post included “Buffalove” on the “In” side of its annual, highly subjective and, we think, pointedly on target In and Out list. Out was “Keep Austin Weird.”

How did that happen? We sent a note to former Buffalo News reporter David Montgomery, now at the Post, to see if he had anything to do with the mention, or was it perhaps a suggestion by editorial cartoonist Tom Toles, also a News alum and Hamburg native?

Nope. Credit goes to Washington Post reporter Dan Zak.

He’s a former Buffalo News intern and is from Kenmore.

With that kind of representation on L Street, no wonder Washington is feeling the Love.

Gods and superheroes

Who knew City Hall was filled with such luminaries?

Early this week, Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk called city department heads seeking to be re-confirmed by the Council “a good pantheon of talented people.”

A few days later, after Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen was elected president, he acknowledged his predecessor, Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana and Fontana’s habit of helping the police solve crimes and mowing lawns, calling him “superman of the Lovejoy District.”

Written by Jill Terreri, with contributions from Stephen T. Watson, Joseph Popiolkowski and Melinda Miller. email:

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