James Ellis has kept the faded yellow clipping from The Buffalo Evening News for 35 years.
"Making it official – James Herman Ellis, the small, cuddly person show above, had the distinction of being the first baby born in the new wing of Children's Hospital," the caption read. "The son of Theodore and Barbara Ellis, above, of West Seneca, James was born at 3:08 p.m. Wednesday."
The photo above shows Barb Ellis in a hospital bed wearing unmistakably 1980s-era glasses and a frizzy perm as she proudly holds up newborn James swaddled in a blanket.
"I used to take that article to school as something interesting in my life," James Ellis said in an interview earlier this week. "That's a story nobody else can have."
James Ellis was born Dec. 1, 1982, the day the new maternity wing and other inpatient units opened in the 10-story Variety Tower at what is now called Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo. The medical facility will close for good this weekend after all patients are moved to the new John R. Oishei Children's Hospital on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Barb Ellis recalled going to the doctor that day in 1982. He told her she'd better get to the hospital. "Your water's going to be break," he said. She was already planning on having a C-section after having a previous one for her older son.
The Ellises drove to Children's and they were directed to the brand new wing.
"It was so nice and new and pretty," Barb Ellis said.
But the maternity ward wasn't quite ready.
"There were no sheets on the beds yet," Barb Ellis said. "The nurses were running around… They were all upset."
But Barb and Theodore took in all in stride.
"All we did was laugh," Barb Ellis said.
Her husband was especially happy about the giant TV in the waiting room.
As they waited for the C-section, hospital staff peeked into their room, apparently trying to figure out which patient was going to give birth first.
Barb Ellis remembers waking up in the recovery room and quickly being surrounded by photographers.
She later learned a photo of her and her baby ended up in a brochure for new moms that was handed out for years at the maternity ward. She still laughs about her hair in the picture.
"That's what happens when your girlfriend says: 'I'm in cosmetology school. Let me play guinea pig with you,'" she said.
Nearly 35 years later, mom and baby, now a grandma and dad, are excited about the new John R. Oshei Children's Hospital.
James Ellis, now of Cheektowaga, said he's a little sad to say goodbye to the old Children's.
"But it's a step forward to bring better care and new technology," he said. "That's always a good thing."
His mother agreed: "I'm thinking anything new is nice."