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Sean Kirst

Sean Kirst, a columnist for The Buffalo News, is a recipient of the Ernie Pyle Award for human interest writing and the national Society of Professional Journalists award for excellence in column writing. Raised in Dunkirk, a graduate of SUNY Fredonia, the son and grandson of Buffalonians, he has been an Upstate journalist for more than 40 years.


Buffalo

The July morning began in the same way as years of Tuesdays for Helen Bowen. As always, she picked up Daisy Estelle Anderson at a Baptist Manor apartment in Buffalo, and they did their volunteer duties at the Ladies of Charity headquarters on Broadway before stopping for a quick lunch at Wendy’s. Only then did things take an unusual turn. Estelle, which is what her frie…

Columns

The greeting was familiar, old friends reunited as teammates on a baseball field. "Hi, Rory," said Aaron Cohn, welcoming another young man near a baseball diamond at Community Pool Park in East Aurora. "I miss you in school." Cohn and Rory O'Connor attended classes together a few years ago, before they happened to end up on the same team this summer in the Aktion Club l…

Crime

A year and eight days after she lost a son, Donna Lynskey attempted Monday to accomplish what she knew, for any mother, seemed all but impossible. With her two surviving children, other family members, a parish priest and her husband, Michael Sr., at her side, Donna tried to explain to Genesee County Court Judge Charles Zambito what it meant to learn her 18-year-old son…

Columns

Nancy Miosi took a good look at the top. She was about to climb onto a midway ride known as the Sky Wheel or more generally as the double Ferris wheel, and Miosi realized she had forgotten one thing since she rode it as a teenager in the 1960s at the Erie County Fair. At almost 80 feet at its peak, this was one tall ride. Still, Miosi had promised to join her 9-year-…

Columns

Janice Bartela immediately had her suspicions. She was walking along an all-but-deserted Cedar Beach in Dunkirk on a Friday morning, in the shadow of the shuttered hulk of the old NRG power plant, when she saw a solitary man with a shovel and a bunch of pails, digging deep into the beach. “I got irked,” said Bartela, who was there with her brother-in-law, James Watkins.…

Buffalo

As recently as 19 months ago, Jonpaul Okal did not believe he would ever see a day of reckoning. He would remember the shock of his own pain at unexpected times – before sleep at night, or on long drives in the car, or after some item in the news triggered memories of the attack. “I didn’t know where he was," Okal said of then-Rev. Norbert Orsolits, the priest he says s…

Columns

For a few years in a row at the Erie County fair, Grandma Rainbow kept offering a gentle warning to her fellow clowns. “This might be the last one for me,” she would say, while such longtime friends as Kasper, Bubbles, Blue Belle and Sparkle hung onto faith that Grandma Rainbow would find a way to make it back. “She loved the fair and she loved children and somehow she …

Columns

Whitey Von Nieda has a sense of wonder about it all. He is 97, and he learned recently that he is now the longest-lived of all the players who ever competed in the National Basketball Association. For a couple of reasons, that has meaning to Buffalo. As Von Nieda pointed out by telephone last week, he played for the Tri-Cities Blackhawks of the old National Basketball L…

Buffalo

Patricia White Hancock still has vivid memories of her brother. She was a little girl when Gatlin White served with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, a guy who would routinely show up with teddy bears and even a children's table and chairs for his sisters at Christmas. They were born into the Seneca Nation on the Cattaraugus territory. After Gatlin completed his duty w…

Buffalo

The bicycle was the priority for Jason Phillips. On the May night when he almost lost his life in Buffalo, his first mission was storing the bike in his Schuele Avenue basement, not wanting it to end up stolen in the same way as the ones he owned before. The bike is his liberty, his way to get around. Only when it was safely locked away did Jason go upstairs to peel off…

Environment

A group of volunteers, including members of a legendary Niagara River family, will gather at 1:45 p.m. Sunday near the Whirlpool Golf Course in Niagara Falls, Ont., before descending a long trail to do a cleanup at the whirlpool. The event is organized by Kip Finn, a great-grandson of Red Hill Sr., patriarch of a family known for countless rescues and recoveries along t…

Buffalo

Maybe a week before last month's graduation ceremony for Grand Island Senior High School's senior class, Scott LoHouse had a question for his youngest daughter, Grace. She learned in the spring that she would be senior valedictorian, and the honor carried a traditional responsibility. Scott wondered if she had started working on her commencement speech. Grace responded …

Amherst

The elation in Wheatfield arrived with a note of caution. A half-century ago this weekend, legions of skilled workers from the old Bell Textron plant could rejoice at playing a direct role in helping America put a man on the moon. That sense of triumph had to be kept in check. Those workers understood, through the work done by their own hands, why the make-or-break mome…

Buffalo

Sydnie Perkins already knows how much she will miss her sister, Joanah. Sydnie, the older sibling by three years, shared a childhood room where she and Joanah played games of make-believe before they slept at night – pretending, for instance, they were alone in the ocean, swept adrift. In the morning, before their feet touched the ground, the sisters would recall their …

Columns

Roger Woodward is traveling soon to see his newborn grandson Jack. The infant is the fourth grandchild for Woodward and his wife Susan, a “really wonderful person” he married 43 years ago. The couple raised three sons, the youngest now 32, and describing his family is Woodward's best answer for the question everyone asks. What does it mean to survive going over Niagara …