Sean Kirst, The Buffalo News
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Sean Kirst

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

Typically, the call would have come right around this time of year. The phone would always ring on a busy day in early March at the Buffalo Irish Center in South Buffalo, and Mary Heneghan, amid her duties, would pick it up. The caller would be Joe Kelley, offering to help. For decades, Kelley was part of the Irish Center fabric. He painted delicate Celtic knotwork o…

For many Americans with hair that's turning gray, their first vivid sports memory - that first nostalgic instant to come out of the childhood haze - is some glittering moment: Mickey Lolich wins three games in the World Series for the Detroit Tigers, or Wilt Chamberlain leads the Lakers to a National Basketball Association title after a monumental playoff showdown with Kar…

Joseph Kutlina never bought into one of the oldest arguments in Western New York. He was born and raised in Niagara Falls, a self-taught artist who learned his skills through sheer will and perseverance. He survived grief and bloodshed during World War II to return home to a city that he loved, and he never wavered from a fierce belief shaped in his childhood: He had no…

I reached Dr. Syed Raza by telephone last week. I was trying to find the man who saved my father’s life. Was it Raza? Neither of us could be sure. What is beyond question is that Raza extended hundreds, even thousands, of lives in Buffalo. He is a cardiac surgeon. He speaks with awe of the feeling when you operate upon a human heart, when you see a heart that wa…

George Smith has seen some monster snowfalls in Western New York. A little more than two years ago, when parts of the region received up to seven feet of snow in an almost unimaginable November storm, Smith stumbled and fell while walking across the back yard of his Southtowns home. Now in his 70s, he copes with stenosis of the spine, a degenerative condition. The snow …

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had shared the story before. In a “State of the State” speech last week at the University at Buffalo, a speech in which the governor promised another $500 million in state investment in Western New York, Cuomo spoke of the late Tim Russert as “the first person who used to bring me out to Buffalo.” That was in the early 1980s, Cuomo said, whe…

David Sandford had been waiting for the wind and sky he saw last week. For more than two months, the Canadian photographer had been trying to recapture the magic he bottled in November 2015, when he put on a wet suit and made a series of trips to the Lake Erie shoreline at Port Stanley, in Ontario. The result was akin to master portraits of someone you've known and love…

Erica Hammond Carlson sent me a message on Facebook the other day. She told me her father was retiring after 45 years, and that she was contacting old friends for some reflections about his career. She wondered if I might have a point or two to add. A point or two? How about this: You're reading this because of him. Her dad is Bill Hammond, longtime news editor wi…

Maybe it's appropriate. In a week when the firing of yet another Buffalo Bills head football coach leaves the Western New York sports world in a tumult, we also commemorate the anniversary of an almost forgotten tale of Buffalo sports disappointment. In this case, the bad news was delivered on what’s supposed to be the most joyous day of the year. The Atlanta Hawks wer…

As the crowd broke up Saturday at St. Peter and John Episcopal Church in Auburn, Jim Buschman carried a wreath to his pickup truck. He had played a role in Saturday’s Wreaths across America service in this Cayuga County city, part of a national Yuletide effort to put wreaths on the graves of veterans or those who gave their lives in military service. Buschman is super…

Jon Hitchcock glimpsed the Golden Snowball only once. In the early 2000s, he was a student volunteer with the National Weather Service in Buffalo. The famous trophy, at the time, was still a fixture in the office. Yet when Hitchcock returned a few years later to take a job as a full-time meteorologist, the snowball was gone. This morning, with almost 10 inches of new sn…

Ed Stone enlisted in the U.S. Navy in Buffalo, in December 1940. He did what the Navy told him. He brought only a light spring jacket. He remembers that he slept the night before at the YMCA. He remembers the stone steps of the old Post Office were coated with ice, and it took him three tries to reach the top, without breaking his neck. He remembers the heater wasn't wo…

Throughout Western New York, we’ll be gathering with our families today for Thanksgiving. If you have a minute, I’m hoping you might join me in a toast. It involves one Donald Palmer, who died this week at 49, although that's probably not the name you knew him by. I never met him, never had a chance to shake his hand. Yet like countless thousands of others, I spe…

Christina Feldman Wiegand, a second grade teacher at the Syracuse Latin School, takes part in what’s called the “mystery reader” program. In October, she needed someone from the community to stop by and read a book to her class, and to somehow relate it to life outside the school. Michael Feldman, Christina’s younger brother, volunteered. It happened to be “pa…

This is a call I wish I could make, right now. Mario Cuomo, almost certainly, would have had plenty to say about the election of Donald Trump. For many years after he served as governor, Mario was a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in New York City. His assistant was a patient woman named Mary Porcelli, and if you caught her at the right moment, when Mario was at hi…