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North Tonawanda Common Council welcomes back its president after two major surgeries

NORTH TONAWANDA – A month ago, Common Council President Phillip R. “Russ” Rizzo said he was at a meeting, dropping things, confused. He was able to make it to the hospital and told his doctor he thought he was having a heart attack.

Instead, he was diagnosed with a large malignant brain tumor. He underwent two surgeries to remove 98 percent of the tumor at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

But he told those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting of the Common Council that he doesn’t remember much, until he woke up Feb. 23.

“I lost most of February,” Rizzo said.

He said doctors were amazed that at 82 years old, he would be up and walking around after he had gone through two major surgeries. He said the prognosis is unknown, but positive. He started a 30-day radiation treatment eight days ago and will continue to go every day.

But he said this health scare will not stop him from continuing his work on the Council.

“When I woke up on the 23rd, I said to my wife, ‘Get my book and circle March 1st. I’m going to be at that meeting,’ ” Rizzo said.

He thanked those at the meeting for all the kind words and prayers, “even from some people that I thought didn’t like me,” and said he was grateful to be living in North Tonawanda.

The Council also had another good reason for living in North Tonawanda, recognizing two 17-year-old North Tonawanda High School juniors, Shawn Edim and Anthony Minardi, who went to the aid of an older woman with a walker who had fallen in her garage Feb. 10.

Mayor Arthur G. Pappas said that it was a frigid day and that if the boys hadn’t responded, it could have been a “very serious situation due to the extreme temperatures.”

“These young men heard her calls for help. They didn’t walk away,” Pappas said. “They looked for the sound and discovered what had happened and called for help.

“Our young people are fantastic. They do great things, and these are two examples.”

The Council also had an impromptu discussion about the location for the Classic Car Cruise, which has been held Monday nights on Webster Street. Council members said they don’t want to end the show, but Rizzo suggested a better location would be at Gratwick Riverside Park.

Kurt Klepp, of Erie Avenue, who also shows cars said the reason the show has been growing is because of the location on Webster.

He said that on Webster, there are things such as food and ice cream, but if they moved to the park, there would be nothing there for them. Klepp said he believes that it would stop the show.

“We are trying to keep it downtown on Webster,” Klepp said. “It’s peaceful, and everybody has a good time.”

In another matter, the Council gave approval for the Greater Niagara Frontier Council, Boy Scouts of America, to hold its air show at Gratwick Riverside Park on July 10. The themed event would include kite club demonstrations, remote control airplane clubs, building pop rockets, frisbees and paper airplanes. Local participation will be sought from Mercy Flight and law enforcement air units.