Share this article

print logo

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.


Columns

From a distance Friday, you could see the two of them, solitary figures searching the ground in a green plot at Forest Lawn. They were in a section filled with rows upon rows of identical veterans’ graves near the Main Street fence – a place where a single tombstone can seem as hard to find as a grain of sand. Grover Coleman Jr. kept one arm around the shoulders of his …

Columns

My father told me the story only once, less than two years before he died. He was smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk, by a Dunkirk street where workers from the nearby steel plant flooded past each afternoon. This was more than 30 years ago. My mother was at the kitchen table inside our house, already staggered by the lung cancer that would take her life. That moment r…

Columns

The picture seemed to explode into life on Facebook. It appeared in the Utica Observer-Dispatch, and it showed "Mr. Utica College" front and center on the stage, on graduation day. His arms were in the air, thrown up with spontaneous passion, cap in one hand while the young man’s face was eclipsed by utter joy. If you wanted the definition of education as triumph, there…

Columns

This column originally ran only digitally, just before Mother's Day. It was revised as a tribute for the print version of The Buffalo News, following the death of Mario Pirastru. Thirty years ago this spring, my mother died of lung cancer. She was only 65. It was a fast and difficult descent. I was a young reporter at the time for the Niagara Gazette. After the funeral,…

Columns

Typically, Elliott Martynkiewicz keeps his attention locked onto a race. The 23-year-old from East Aurora was battling for the lead Sunday in the 39th annual Mountain Goat Run in Syracuse, a race that climbs steep hills not far from the geographical midpoint of the state, when he noticed the new statue rising above a high place on the course: A mountain goat, with the g…

Columns

Maybe a decade ago, John Hurley asked John Zeis for a favor. Zeis teaches philosophy at Canisius College. Hurley, now president of Canisius, was a high-ranking college administrator. Hurley told Zeis there was an alumnus, a guy in his 80s, who wanted to sit in on a philosophy class. Zeis suggested a 200 level course, one essentially built for sophomores, that met in …

Buffalo

Dr. Joe Nowak faced a difficult choice. His brother, Buffalo architect Peter Nowak, died on an August night 18 months ago from diabetes, alone, at the Stuyvesant Apartments on Elmwood Avenue. Joe, a California dentist, traveled here with his wife, Shalan, to settle Nowak’s affairs. They found few possessions in the apartment, Shalan said, only Nowak’s “drawing board and…

Local News

Montez Billquist had it all mapped out. On an April evening, long ago, the 15-year-old was on a quest with three teenagers from Jamestown: There was Montez's best friend, Ann Meurer, and Ann’s younger sister Pat, and Karen Sampson, another teen Pat asked to come along. Roy Meurer, Ann’s father, dropped them off in a parking lot at the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. He…

Columns

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…

Columns

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…

Columns

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…

Columns

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 was …

Local News

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 …

Columns

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, when he and…

Columns

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…