Sean Kirst, The Buffalo News
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Sean Kirst

Sean Kirst is a columnist for The Buffalo News. Raised in Dunkirk, he has been an Upstate journalist for more than 40 years.


Sometimes there's a certain benefit in coming into a community from the outside. I'm a Western New Yorker by birth, but I haven't been around for the entire civic opera involving Carl Paladino, a guy I've never met. I wasn't here when he made the remarks last year that triggered the motion toward his state-ordered ouster Thursday from the Buffalo School Board, the momen…

A serviceman born in Buffalo left more than 65 years ago to fight in the Korean War. He was an African-American corporal, sent to the front lines in an all-black Army unit. He was caught in an explosion, wounded by shrapnel. He came home to raise a son who was the center of his life, a son whose  passion in life remains education. The father died too young, in circumst…

When Tim Haniszewski Jr. was growing up in Lancaster, he and his brother Tyler didn't worry about Little League baseball or Pop Warner football. Their passion was the demolition derby. The boys used to set up a make-believe fairgrounds in the bedroom they shared. They'd smash Matchbox cars to smithereens, just like they watched their father do with real cars on weekend …

Remember the photographer who captured those stunning images of ferocious waves on Lake  Erie? He is at it again, but this time his subject is great white sharks, not the Great Lakes. In a way, David Sandford explains, there is a connection. A renowned Canadian sports photographer - he has photographed many hockey games in Buffalo - he grew up in London, Ont., not f…

For Joe Collier, whose connections to Buffalo and the old American Football League go back more than 50 years, this particular loss involved far more than a game. Dick MacPherson died Tuesday in Syracuse, at 86. He earned his greatest fame as head coach at Syracuse University, where he breathed new life into a once-elite program that had fallen off the map. His 1987 Ora…

Once Jim Beiter could no longer speak, he had plenty of time to contemplate what he wished that he could say. He is a hunter and an angler, a guy who has spent a lot of quiet hours in the woods or standing alongside a pond. He understands how to tell a great tale, how to pack all the meaning or humor into the crescendo. Yet he appreciates the communion that can be a gif…

Tosha White, based on all she's seen, has a theory about cascading violence in Buffalo. She grew up in neighborhoods racked by bloodshed, places where sidewalk memorials to murder victims are all too commonplace, in a city where the incidence of people being shot rose 18 percent last year. White has her own take, her own analysis, on what's gone wrong – and what would…

The nickname, the story went, came from the old television show, "Bonanza." Joe Enriquez used to tell his friends he was a big fan of the series, and for many reasons he felt an affinity for the Michael Landon character: Little Joe. It is certainly what they called him in Syracuse, at Phil Malara's old Geddes Street barbershop or during his working life or at St. Luc…

More than 70 years ago, when Dunkerque, France remained devastated in the aftermath of World War II, the little American city of Dunkirk, N.Y. — a city named for its waterfront similarities to the French community — stepped in to help. The release of the Warner Brothers film, "Dunkirk," has put a new spotlight on that once-passionate bond, which gradually faded away…

Lamont Perry couldn't simply let it pass. Last month, a contractor for the city leveled the old Salem Evangelical Reformed Church on Sherman Street, leaving just the bell tower as a kind of neighborhood monument. If you look through the chain link fence that separates the sidewalk from the brick rubble, the lonesome tower is the only sign a church was ever there. To…

The stinking discharge is a prime reminder of why Thomas Kegler, a few years ago, hesitated about painting Niagara Falls. The East Aurora artist was deeply influenced by the Hudson River school of painting, a group of 19th century visionaries who sought the sublime and dramatic in nature. Kegler went searching for a location that offered similar majesty. The falls were …

Fran Barry is the living resolution to a mystery, even if he sees it as no mystery at all. Barry points out that he hasn't exactly been in hiding. You can find the 80-year-old Buffalo Bisons fan at almost any game at Coca-Cola Field, seated next to his good friend Jim McGowan, in the first row behind the Bisons dugout. Yet Barry holds the answer to a question Cy Krit…

If you want the secret, maybe it was the shoes. Officer Patrick McDonald does not wear your grandfather's thick-soled leather police shoes. He wears jet black, uniform-matching, department-approved black Under Armour sneakers, which allow him to be nimble in any number of split-second on-the-job situations. Let's say, for instance, he was playing wide receiver in a game…

Marsha Connor had a gift Friday for Helen Donovan. She brought a golden bag and pair of slippers, covered with glittering golden sparkles, for the 98th birthday of the woman who is believed to be the oldest Gold Star mother in New York State, and certainly among the oldest in the nation. Helen loved the presents. She gave Marsha a kiss. She laughed and sang a song, a…

The great structure is almost unimaginable for its size, stretching for a distance of not quite 2 miles at a height of 42 feet, with a width that extends at its base to 150 feet. It is a vast wall of stone, impossible to see in its entirety, its function and history intertwined with the absolute DNA of why Buffalo exists. While much of it is invisible, it is the ultimat…