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Thomas Herrera-Mishler: Tough to say goodbye to Western New York

Life and work are taking my family and me to San Diego soon and I am finding it hard to say goodbye to Buffalo, with so many dear friends, great times and special places. Most folks might associate me with my work at the Olmsted Parks and Parkways, however, my memories and connections to Buffalo are very broad and rich.

I’ve been embraced by so many wonderful people. Buffalo’s vibrant faith-life has been an inspiration. The great guys in my men’s group at St. Bernadette’s have been a terrific support during my time here and I will miss them very much. I’ve been privileged to lead an interdenominational prayer ministry called Unbound that helped many to find hope and healing, working with faith-filled people from across Buffalo.

I have loved working with the good folks at the faith-based Jericho Road Community Health Center, dedicated to providing holistic health care to all who need it, regardless of their ability to pay.

Northgate Christian Community has provided a rich spiritual environment, dynamic friendships and joy. The National Day of Prayer, which brings together so many faith-filled people each year, has tapped into a deep place of unity and prayer here, especially at our annual evening of prayer at Mount Olive Baptist Church.

I am particularly fond of the generous and hardworking men and women involved in Plant WNY, the landscape and nursery professionals who are responsible for the amazing Plantasia Show, a much-needed early burst of spring. But you may not be aware of their generous landscape donations and joint work to re-create inner-city places, transforming entire city blocks with green and living beauty.

There are also the wonderful folks who put together the National Garden Festival each year, a five-week celebration of plants and gardens in our garden-crazy region. I hope you will take advantage of one of the 14 free garden walks in Buffalo this year, where so many generous neighbors open their gardens for you.

I’ve been inspired by the generous donations of time, talent and equipment by the local chapter of the New York State Arborists Association each Arbor Day to provide professional tree care at no cost to an impoverished inner-city park system.

There are far too many great things in Buffalo to mention them all, but here are a few of my favorites. I love the excellent restaurant scene, with so many diverse and delicious options, and of course, Buffalo wings and fish fries.

I’ve had fun going to see the Sabres and the Bills play, with some of the craziest and most dedicated sports fans on the planet.

I’ve enjoyed visits to Niagara Falls, the emerging Buffalo waterfront, Letchworth State Park, Ellicottville, the Broadway Market during Holy Week and Dyngus Day, the Botanical Gardens and Chestnut Ridge to view the Eternal Flame.

I was entertained by concerts of the mighty BPO, as well as my daughter Sofia’s Orchard Park Color Guard competitions.

We had relatives visit from Costa Rica between Christmas and New Year’s so they could see snow and they were never disappointed!

For all of this, I am truly grateful. We are excited about our new life in San Diego, where I will be working as director and CEO of the Balboa Park Conservancy, but also sad to leave so many friends, special memories and places behind. This is an amazing place and I will miss it.