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quick questions

Quick Questions with Chris Wylie

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 February 2015 at 12:00 am

Cerebral palsy doesn’t keep pastor from pulpit in Knowlesville and Millville

Chris Wylie

Photos by Tom Rivers – Chris Wylie shares the children’s message during Sunday’s service at The United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest in Millville. Wylie preaches there at 11 a.m., following a 9:30 a.m. service in Knowlesville.

Chris Wylie was born struggling to breathe. He had cerebral palsy and doctors said he would never walk. He was put up for adoption.

Wylie, now 46, was welcomed into a loving home as a young boy, and he would learn to walk chasing after his sister. He played lots of sports as a kid and went on to a career as a banker for 10 years in downtown Buffalo with HSBC.

He felt a call to the ministry about a decade ago and attended the former United Theological Seminary in West Seneca, a pastoral training program run through Houghton College. He would lead United Methodist churches in Hartland, Alden, and Pavilion before being appointed as pastor for the Millville and Knowlesville United Methodist churches almost two years ago. For more than two decades, the churches shared a pastor while maintaining their own congregations and buildings.

Under Wylie’s leadership, the churches have merged into The United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest. That merger became effective on Jan. 1, following approvals from each congregation, and the Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“It ties the two churches,” Wylie said. “They have two distinct talents. By tying them together you can compound those talents for one great tool for God.”

Wylie leads a 9:30 service on Sunday mornings in Knowlesville at this church, which put on a new roof last year and also started a pie shop across Knowlesville Road at its fellowship hall.

Wylie built support for the merger by listening to members in both churches, and guiding the process, said long-time member Peter Beach of the Millville church.

“He tries to make changes without rubbing people the wrong way,” Beach said.

Wylie preaches while sitting down and uses a cane or a wheelchair to move around church.

“He’s overcome a lot in his life,” Beach said. “Things we take for granted are a struggle for him. What he does is inspiring.”

The Knowlesville church has about 40 regular attendees and last year completed a $15,000 project to put a new roof on the building at 3622 Knowlesville Rd. The congregation also started as coffee and pie shop at its fellowship hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. “That has taken off more than we expected,” Wylie said.

About 60 people attend the Millville location. Both sites have upgraded their projector screens, multi-media equipment and sound systems. Wylie enjoys using videos and pictures in his sermons.

(His wife Jennelle, director of academic support and training at Roberts Wesleyan College, helps with the church’s technology and multimedia issues. The Wylies have an 8-year-old daughter, Hope.)

Each church, or campus as Wylie calls the two sites, has its own service. Wylie leads church in Knowlesville at 9:30 a.m. and then goes to the Millville location at 11 a.m.

That hasn’t changed from before the merger. But Wylie said the congregations are doing more sharing, and will have a unified web site, social media presence and other collaborations.

The service in Millville on Maple Ridge Road starts at 11 a.m. on Sundays with a lunch to follow.

Wylie chatted for an interview on Sunday at the Millville site. The church was busy with its weekly luncheon after the service. Wylie is happy to see several families with young children stay for the lunch.

On Sunday, Wylie preached about “restoration,” a message that included photos of a beat-up El Camino that was repaired. He said there is symbolism in that vehicle and God’s restorative work in people.

Q: Is part of your ministry showing people that you shouldn’t hold yourself back and not let fears or limitations prevent you from trying?

A: I would say, and in fact I often say, ‘Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can.’ I try to live that way. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy and that doesn’t mean there won’t be times of discouragement, but that’s where the support comes in. That’s what we have, the community.

Q: It seems like these churches are not very accessible for people in wheelchairs or who may have challenges getting around?

A: This one (Millville) is, while Knowlesville isn’t so much. We’ve looked at making modifications for handicapped accessibility. I can get up the stairs, but certainly there are times of the year when that is a problem.

In Knowlesville there are people who come to a point in their life where they can’t come to church because they physically can’t get in. So we try to address these things as we go. Sometimes it’s as simple as railings, or other things that were never there that were put to help Chris, and then you see other people also using them.

Chris and Jennelle Wylie

Chris Wylie is pictured with his wife Jennelle inside the fellowship hall in Millville.

Q: I wonder too if people see you getting a little help then they realize that that is OK for all of us as human beings, that we don’t have to do everything on our own?

A: Yes, they see it’s great to lean on each other.

Q: I think some people might have too much pride and may not want help, especially in a public way.

A: I think there is absolutely that. I talk about this a lot. As people, especially as people get older (and I’m living some of that now), you want to do the things you always used to be able to do, and sometimes that’s not possible, sometimes that involves doing things a little bit differently, and other times that involves asking for help.

That was part of my message today at church that it’s not about Chris trying to everything, because Chris, even in an able body, can’t do everything. It’s about what we can all do together.

Q: What do you like about being a pastor?

A: The people.

I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me in my life and help me. I’ve had people help me who didn’t have to do what they did. They went beyond themselves to be connected to others.

Q: Do you think your condition has made you a more compassionate person and helped you connect with people?

A: I can see it. It gives me better understanding. I have not been through every situation, but I definitely have some understanding that maybe others might not have because they haven’t been there yet.

Q: (People are talking in background at fellowship hall.) I’m struck by the number of children and younger families that attend church here. You have a good intergenerational mix.

A: I connect with the older people because of the body in which I live. But I’m also, even at my age, fairly young for a pastor, and having the young daughter, and knowing that I like a different style of music and knowing that I sometimes experience things in a different way so we’re bringing in the multimedia, we’re connecting with younger people on a different level and being intentional about that.

We’re not only saying we want you to come, but we’re giving them a voice as part of the community. That’s so important because no matter what you’re doing, if you don’t have a voice you’re not going to be connected.

Knowlesville has teen-agers and here at Millville with have a lot of younger kids.

Chris Wylie leads the congregation at Millville in prayer during the service this past Sunday.

Q: So many of the rural churches seem to be struggling. What do you think has been working here?

A: It’s as simple as being part of people’s lives, just sitting down and talking with them. We did that when we first started. I don’t come and tell them what I wanted. I asked them, ‘What do you want to see here?’ So not having it be Chris-centered, but instead what do we want, what is our hope here, what to we want to be? So it’s listening and moving into that.

Q: Is the fellowship hall and food a big part of that, of doing life together?

A: That’s exactly what it is. If you look at the Book of Acts, Chapter 2, it says that they ate together, they worshipped together, they did life together. That’s what we’re trying to do. It’s connection.

That’s something the church here was doing before I got here. We also have had people in to the parsonage for dinners in smaller groups, from anywhere between 1 to 5.

Q: Do the churches work together on the popular Lenten fish fries?

A: We’re working on that. We’re still at the early stages of making us-and-them just us. That’s the hope here.

Sunlight pours through a stained-glass window at the church at Millville.

Q: You do basically the same service at both places?

A: I do, yes. The bulletin, in general, we keep the same. There is a choir here (Millville) but there is no choir at Knowlesville. But mostly it’s similar.

Q: You could see how having the choir in Knowlesville, if someone wanted to sing from Millville, they could be part of the choir. And maybe the choir would sing at Millville on some Sundays.

A: That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

Q: It looks like you have to work harder than everyone to get around, especially in the winter.

A: Some days. We all have those challenges. Mine are just more visible. We all have challenges in one way or another. Some people have things you don’t readily see, and to me that’s harder because you look healthy. With me, everything that Chris is going through is on the surface.

I know my body is breaking down faster than I’d like, but I don’t know what it’s like to be an able body, so to speak, so I’ve always had to adapt. I’ve had to do things outside the box a little bit, but you still get them done.

Q: You mentioned you could have been on disability and not worked?

A: Nobody can deny I am disabled, just look at me. I could have done that, but as long as I can find a way to keep moving forward, I’m going to keep moving forward.

There will be a day for all of us, sooner or later, when we can’t do, but while I can do, I’m still going to do.

Mary Zelazny has seen lots of changes in 37 years with Medina bank

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 February 2015 at 12:00 am

Quick questions

KeyBank branch manager retiring today

Photos by Tom Rivers – Mary Zelazny, fourth from left, is pictured with KeyBank staff in Medina on Thursday. The group includes, from left: Bob Rice, Evie Osborne, Sharlene Pratt, Mary Zelazny, Jacky Organisciak and Tina Sheeler. Two other employees, Laurie Newton and Kathy Kepner, were working at the drive-through on Maple Ridge Road.

MEDINA – Mary Zelazny was 18 and working at Jubilee when she was approached to work at Marine Midland Bank in Medina as a teller. That was 37 years ago. Zelazny also typed loan documents early in her banking career.

She worked her way up through the ranks and became branch manager about a decade ago. Marine Midland would become HSBC Bank and about two years ago KeyBank bought the HSBC sites in Medina at 514 Main St. and also a drive-through on Maple Ridge Road.

Today is Zelazny’s last day at the bank. She is retiring. She will still be a Main Street presence. She will join her husband, Michael Zelazny, across the street at his accounting business. The Zelaznys have two grown children: Jacob works with Michael at the Walter Zelazny and Sons farm and Nicole is the marketing manager for Smokin Joes in Niagara Falls.

The following interview was conducted on Thursday at Zelazny’s office at the bank.

Q: You started as teller and typed loan documents, and then what happened in your banking career?

A: I worked my way up. I didn’t like staying in one spot. I liked learning. I wanted to help the customers. If we were slow at one time and we were idle I would ask if there was something I could do and that’s how I learned.

Q: You’ve been in this building the whole time?

A: I have been here the whole time which is kind of unusual for banking. I raised here. I’ve been here my whole life and I’ve been here my whole career.

Mary Zelazny is pictured outside KeyBank’s historic site on Main Street, a site that was originally Central Bank of Medina.

Q: Were you thinking 37-year career in banking when you started?

A: Absolutely not. I had just turned 18, just graduated and I was working at Jubilee. Ken Sylvester came in and asked if I would be interested in putting my name in. I thought, “Maybe.” I didn’t really pursue it but he came in and asked me again. I thought I’d try it. I put my name in and got hired and I’ve been here ever since.

Ken used to go to the little grocery stores and that’s where he hired a lot of his people because they had cashier’s experience and customer service.

Q: What have you liked about this for 37 years?

A: My customers. I have to say I’ve made some great friends, great relationships along the way. I’ve been on all kinds of journeys of their lives, from going to school, graduating, going to college, getting engaged, getting married, buying a house, having children, going through everything in their lives. That’s been very exciting for me and now the next generation has come up.

It’s just knowing your customers, and not just waiting on them. It’s getting to know your people, building that relationship is what it is about. That’s where you get the trust from the people.

At this bank we’ve always been very family oriented. I don’t just treat them as a customer. I treat them as a family member because that is how I would want to be treated.

Q: It seems like there has been a lot of new technology in banking.

A: When I first started we had what you call scratch pads. You didn’t have adding machines and all that. It was a little scratch pad and you would write the customer’s name on and if they had a check and they were going to make a payment, you would write that down. You would actually do the adding and subtracting right in front of them.

The difference between then and now, you put the information in a computer and it tells you if you owe them money or if they owe you money. It tells you everything now. It was more manual back then.

Some of the other things that are different are your mobile banking today. You can take a picture of the check you are going to deposit, the front and back of it, and it’s automatically into your checking account.

Q: Do you mean take a picture with your phone?

A: With your iPhone. You have to sign up for the mobile banking. You just take a picture. Say you’re out of town and you can’t get to the bank. You just take a picture of it and it credits to your account immediately. That has become quite popular. It’s more for the younger customers.

ATMs, who would have thought years ago that you would drive up to a building and put a card in? You’re going to a wall and money comes out. Who would have thought that? ATMs are huge now.

Your on-line banking, internet banking, bill pay, transferring between accounts. When I first started here that had what they called a microfiche and it was like a screen. Everyday you would put in a fiche, and it would come up on a screen and give you the customer’s account number and the activity they did for the day.

Now you just put their name or account number in and it all comes up on a computer.

Bob Rice, the relationship manager at KeyBank in Medina, has an old piggy bank given out by the Central Bank of Medina, which used to operate out of the site at 514 Main Street. The piggy bank belonged to Rice’s father, Leonard. Technology in banking has evolved in a big way since Leonard Rice was a boy. (KeyBank still gives out piggy banks for kids.)

Q: With all the new technology, it seems like there would be fewer customers who actually come inside a bank these days.

A: There is a lot less traffic now, any bank will tell you that because they are using on-line banking and the ATMs, especially your younger generation.

Q: What do you see the roles being for the branches in the future, and the employees here?

A: They’re going to be here for a while. I’m sure as time marches on there will be changes. I still think you need that personal touch. If you got a problem, you have someone you can come in and see or call.

Banking is a lot different now. When a customer comes in, we look at the entire relationship. It’s not just a checking account. We look at the whole package. We talk to you about insurance, we talk to you about mortgages, refinancing. We’re trying to help you out and save you money.

It used to be you can in for a checking account and that’s all you got. Now we talk to you about your whole entire package: retirement, investing, everything.

Q: What are you doing for your husband’s accounting business after you retire from here?

A: I’m going to be smiling, filing and answering phones.

Q: It’s great that you’ve been able to stay and work here your entire career in the same building given all the changes in the banking industry.

A: I’m very happy I was able to do that.

Q: Do you sense a resurgence in Medina?

A: I think you can see in Medina, at least on Main Street with some of the new shops, you can feel that people are excited again. You have younger people coming in. I like the old in Medina with all of the history and believe it or not I think the younger people do, too. There are not many empty offices or buildings. There is some excitement. I think you will see more.

When KeyBank took off the HSBC sign about two years ago, the original bank sign was underneath.

Q: Wasn’t there something about the sign on the bank, a discovery of some sorts when KeyBank bought the building?

A: When they took off the HSBC logos, one of the engineers got excited to see the original Central Trust sign behind. We wanted to keep it. Key is very much into the community and the history, so we kept it and the people have been very happy about it.

Q: Any other comments?

A: I just want to say thank you, thank you to my staff and my customers.

Medina votes to pursue federal grant to pay for 2 firefighters

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 February 2015 at 12:00 am

MEDINA – The Village Board voted on Monday to pursue a federal grant to cover the salaries and benefits of two full-time firefighters.

The board has discussed the issue in recent meetings. Medina Fire Department leaders asked the board to seek four firefighters. That would cover the department’s staffing needs and also give Medina a better chance of getting the funding for over two years, said Captain Mike Maak.

The department currently has 13 full-time firefighters and two full-time temporary positions, as well as about 20 call men. The grant could be used to make the temporary positions permanent.

Village Board members said they didn’t want to boost staffing to an unaffordable level after the grant expired.

“It’s certainly in the village’s interest to pursue it and have some of the personnel costs covered even for two years,” Mayor Andrew Meier said. “The question is, ‘Is it sustainable for the long-term?'”

The village received a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grant before, when the department became the primary ambulance provider for western Orleans beginning in 2007.

Medina Fire Department leaders have been pushing the past year to have more staff for the department. The call volume reached 2,986 in 2014, the highest ever. When the department pitched the plan to take over ambulance calls, the projections were for 1,800 calls annually for the department.

The department has raised mileage reimbursement rates for ambulance calls and added out-of-district charges for calls outside western Orleans to try to boost revenues. However, Meier worries if the village can pay the salaries for 17 career firefighters when the grant expires. Right now there are 13 on the payroll, plus the two temporary positions.

Other board members agreed to pursue the grant for only two positions.

“Why hire four when we know we can’t sustain them after two years?” said Trustee Marguerite Sherman.

In other action, the board:

Appointed Tim Elliott to the Village Planning Board, filling a vacancy created by the resignation of Rachael Tabelski. The Village Board also appointed Kathy Blackburn as an alternate to the Planning Board, filling the spot by the late Marcia Tuohey.

Accepted the resignation from Krista Bacon as a part-time water billing clerk. Her last day will be Feb. 19.


Lyndonville man sentenced to state prison after violating Probation

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 February 2015 at 12:00 am

Lyndonville man sentenced to state prison after violating Probation

ALBION – A Lyndonville man had his Probation revoked and was sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years in state prison on Monday.

Joseph R. Hagen, 31, was charged in October with harassment for pushing and threatening to kill a person, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

In court last month, Hagen pleaded guilty last month to violating terms of his Probation. He admitted to pushing his wife, failing to report to numerous Probation appointments, traveling to Florida without Probation permission, moving in October without notifying Probation of a change in his address, drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and not paying restitution since October.

Hagen could have faced up to 7 years in prison. Orleans County Court Judge James Punch decided on 1 1/3 to 4 years.

“He wishes he had done better on Probation,” said Hagen’s attorney Dominic Saraceno.

In other cases in County Court:

An Oakfield resident, Jeremy Lyons of Pearl Street, pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary and could be sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison on May 4.

Lyons, 30, admitted he broke into a house on Eagle Harbor Road in Barre on Aug. 10, 2014. He said he was retrieving items that belonged to him. He took those items and also stole copper piping, he told Judge Punch.

A 17-year-old Albion boy pleaded guilty to attempted burglary in the second degree. The judge said he will likely give the defendant youthful offender status. Because of that, Orleans Hub won’t publish the boy’s name.

He admitted he broke into a house on East State Street on Oct. 16, 2014, and took guns from the homeowner. Those guns were later recovered.

The 17-year-old could be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail and be on Probation for five years. Sentencing is April 20.

Jeffrey J. Farrell Jr., 27, of 431 West State St., Albion, was arraigned for third-degree burglary, fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and petty larceny. Farrell was charged on Dec. 20 and suspected, along with four others, in a series of break-ins in November and December.

Farrell pleaded not guilty in court on Monday. He remains free on $5,000 bail.

A Holley resident pleaded guilty to attempted burglary in the second degree. Dylan DiPlato, 26, admitted he was in a house uninvited on Sept. 21. Stolen items were in his backpack.

DiPilato said he was drunk when he committed the crime. He said he didn’t intend to be inside the house or steal.

He considered not pleading guilty to attempted burglary in the second degree, but he didn’t want to go to trial and risk being convicted of second-degree burglary.

Assistant District Attorney Susan Howard said DiPilato was interviewed by police when he was arrested and he answered officers’ questions. He also walked upstairs in the house. He wasn’t extremely intoxicated, she said.

Sentencing is set for April 20.


Portion of Parkway will close for rest of winter

By Orleans Hub Posted 9 February 2015 at 12:00 am

Press Release, DOT
CARLTON – The State Department of Transportation will again be closing the 2-mile, western portion of the Lake Ontario State Parkway between Lakeside Beach State Park and Route 98 for the rest of the winter effective Friday. The highway will be opened later this spring as weather allows.

The savings in de-icing materials, equipment maintenance, and in repairs to the often damaged pavement come spring is expensive and consumes many hours of manpower. Eliminating excess use of heavy plow equipment would preserve the existing infrastructure including pavement and bridges over Oak Orchard Creek.

About 800 cars travel this section every day and likely even less in the winter. The Parkway already prohibits commercial truck traffic. Motorists will be directed to use Route 18 as a detour route.

The same section has been closed in recent years in November, but this year coordination with unplanned repairs to the Route 18 bridge over Oak Orchard Creek was needed. Bridge repairs, slated to take about two weeks, are scheduled to begin later this month. The road will remain open to traffic throughout the construction with use of an alternating traffic signal.

We appreciate your understanding in advance. If you have any questions, please contact Resident Engineer Pat Reinhold in Batavia, at 343-0502 or via e-mail at


Rho Mitchell recalled as sparkplug for community

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 February 2015 at 12:00 am

Rho Mitchell recalled as ‘sparkplug’ for community

Provided photos

Rho Mitchell is pictured with Lorraine Oakley and the giant Candy Canes he made from drainage pipe and red ribbons. Mitchell placed them along Route 31 as a holiday decorations.

ALBION – As kids growing up in Albion, David and Patty Mitchell remember helping their father wrap red ribbon on white drainage pipes. Rho Mitchell was making giant Candy Canes as holiday decorations along Route 31.

It was one of the many ways he tried to promote community pride. His children, including another son Michael Mitchell, all played in the Clown Band and the Bum Band. Their father was the ringleader. Patty played the clarinet, David the trombone, and Michael the trumpet.

“We just had fun and staggered around the street during parades,” David said.

Rho Mitchell, co-founder of a funeral home in Albion in 1957, died on Feb. 1 at age 86. He is being remembered as a devoted community member, involved in many causes.

“He was a real sparkplug,” said John Keding, a long-time leader in the Albion Lions Club. “He did a lot of work, there’s no question about it. He came up with a lot of ideas and he worked on it. He didn’t just leave the work to other people.”

Rho Mitchell, left, leads the brass percussion section of the Lions Club Clown Band in May 1982. Other members pictured include, from left: Howard Cotton, drummer; Mark Brailey, trombone; Frank Mack, saxophone; Tom Fitzak, trumpet; Mike Coville, bass; Jeff Long, trumpet; and John Long, trumpet.

Keding and Mitchell were longtime friends and members of the Lions Club. Keding was impressed with Mitchell’s creativity and commitment, especially the Candy Canes that lined the Route 31 corridor. Most of the community decorations were focused in the downtown. Mitchell wanted 31 to be jazzed up for the holidays.

Mitchell was a medic in the Navy during the Korean War. Afterhis military service, he was active in the American Legion, twice serving as commander.

He served as funeral director at many of the services for veterans. He brought along his trumpet and played “Taps” at numerous funerals and also on Memorial Day.

Rho loved music, his children said, and he wanted to promote it as much as possible in the community. Besides the Clown and Bum bands, he recruited members for the Legion Band. When some of the members became older senior citizens and struggled to march and play on a parade route, Mitchell secured a school bus for the band. He and others took the top off the bus so the band could be seen in parades.

“He was a real go-getter,” Keding said. “He made things go.”

Rho Mitchell plays Taps at a Memorial Day service on West Park Street with the VFW and American Legion.

Mitchell grew up in Elmira. He married his high school sweetheart, Beverly. She was a year behind him in school. They had a study hall together in high school.

"We sat across from each other and he completely ignored me,” his wife said. “I was surprised when he asked me out for Valentine’s day.”

They attended a dance together and Rho, “Buck” as his wife calls him, impressed her by dancing the Jitterbug.

“He was a good dancer,” said Mrs. Mitchell, his wife of 64 years. “I had two left feet.”

Mitchell initially eyed a career in the printing business as a linotypist. But he was allergic to the lead used in printing. He had a friend whose father was in the funeral business. He suggested Rho pursue it as a career.

After serving in the Korean War as a medic, he graduated from Simmons Institute of Funeral Service in Syracuse. He moved to Albion in 1955, and started his funeral director career at the former Leon Grinnell Funeral Home. At the time Albion had four funeral homes.

“He wanted to help people,” David said. “Being a funeral director came natural for him.”

Mitchell had hoped to buy the Grinnell business in 1957. Grinnell sold it to another funeral director that year. Mitchell enjoyed the Albion community and didn’t want to leave.

Rho and a friend, a fellow funeral director Ken Scharett, started Scharett Mitchell Funeral Home in Albion in late 1957 at the Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes site on Route 31. The site has been expanded twice since then.

Rho Mitchell and Ken Scharett started Scharett-Mitchell Funeral Home in Albion in 1957. Here is how the property looked in 1958. Mitchell, a skilled woodworker, made the sign.

Scharett retired in 1974. Mitchell joined with Michael Christopher and the two opened a new funeral home in Holley in 1971 on Route 31. Christopher would retire from the business in 1982.

Rho’s son David joined Christopher Mitchell in 1984 and David’s son Josh became a funeral director, joining the family business in 2012.

David said his father welcomed input from his son and staff.

“I was very blessed with dad from a business end,” David said. “He wanted to know what ideas I had to improve the business. He wasn’t stuck in his ways.”

His father was skilled as a woodworker and made wagons, model ships, petal cars and dump trucks as toys for his grandchildren. Those toys have endured for decades and David and Josh say they will be treasured by the family for generations to come.

Rho and his wife moved to Florida for the winters in 1991. Rho was seriously injured in a car accident in 1997 in Florida. He had to relearn to walk and talk after suffering a brain inury, as well as a broken neck and other bones.

He was at The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center in Albion the past four years.

“They took wonderful care of him,” David said. “We can’t say enough about the staff.”

Patty, a vocational painting and wall papering instructor at the Orleans Correctional Facility, said her father left a powerful legacy in the community.

“It was all about working together and making it a better place,” she said.

Rho Mitchell is pictured in 2012 with his son David and grandson Josh. All three made their careers as funeral directors. Bruce Landis took this photo that hangs inside Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes.


Local growers help promote new apple

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 February 2015 at 12:00 am

RubyFrost gets stars treatment from Wegmans, other grocers

Provided photo
Brett Kast, right, of Kast Farms in Albion is pictured with his wife Amanda on Saturday at the Wegmans in Buffalo on Sheridan Drive. Peter Weisenborn, a Kast family cousin, stopped by to sample the new RubyFrost apple.

An apple that debuted last year at farm markets is out in bigger numbers this time, and local growers are helping to promote the new variety.

RubyFrost is one of two new varieties developed exclusively for New York apple growers. The apple is a late season variety. After spending some time in storage, New York apple growers and several big grocery chains are pushing the apple right now throughout the state and the Northeast.

Many of the apple farmers are taking turns in stores, answering consumers’ questions about the RubyFrost variety. Brett Kast, a partner and orchard manager at Kast Farms, was at a Wegmans in Buffalo last Saturday with his wife Amanda.
Customers sampled the apple, and Kast said people were overwhelmingly positive.

“It was a great experience to see the hard work you put into it and then see the consumers’ reaction,” Kast said. “Everybody who tried it absolutely loved it.”

RubyFrost is a cross between Braeburn with Autumn Crisp. The new apple is 95 percent red. It is firm with a sweet taste. Kast said the flavor matures while the apple is in storage.

New York apple growers also partnered with Cornell to grow and market SnapDragon. That apple is a cross between Honeycrisp and NY 752. The apple is ready earlier in the season.

The apple growers formed a new cooperative, New York Apple Growers LLC, to manage where the apples would be grown. The new varieties have been planted on 930 acres in apple-growing regions throughout the state. Roger Lamont of Albion is chairman of the cooperative.

The new apples won’t be grown in other states. Michigan and Washington, which are big apple producers, won’t have access to SnapDragon and RubyFrost. The exclusivity will be a benefit to New York growers.

But they need to make consumers of aware of the new varieties. That’s why Kast and other growers are appearing in stores to introduce consumers to SnapDragon and RubyFrost, and to let the public know the apples are excusively grown in New York. For consumers in the Buffalo and Rochester markets, the apples may have been grown only a short distance away, perhaps at orchards in Orleans or Wayne counties.

Kast said most of the consumers who tried the apple decided to buy a bag of the RubyFrost.

“I didn’t have to push too hard to sell the apple,” he said.

For more information on RubyFrost and where it is available, click here.


Go Red to promote heart health

By Orleans Hub Posted 3 February 2015 at 12:00 am

‘Go Red’ to promote heart health

By Kristine Voos, Public Health Educator for Genesee County Health Department

Heart disease kills an estimated 630,000 Americans each year. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women. In the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack. You can greatly reduce your risk for CAD through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication.

Since 1963, February has been celebrated as American Heart Month to push Americans to join the battle against heart disease. Since 2004, February also has been the signature month for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign and the message that heart disease is not only a man’s problem.

Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming County Health Departments will be celebrating National Wear Red Day this February with The Heart Truth!

The Heart Truth and its supporters empower women to live for their hearts. But there’s one day each year when our message is loudest. On National Wear Red Day, Feb. 6, every person is encouraged to wear red to draw attention to women’s heart health. This day also officially kicks off American Heart Month.

Although major progress has been made in growing awareness among women that heart disease is their No. 1 killer, most women fail to make the connection between heart disease risk factors and their personal risk of developing the disease. This disease is largely preventable, yet it kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.

“The major risk factors that put either sex in jeopardy of suffering a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular complication include physical inactivity, poor diet, tobacco use, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight/obesity, and diabetes,” said Paul Pettit, director of the health departments in Genesee and Orleans counties. “These risk factors are all common health behaviors and issues today. It is important to personally combat this problem by exchanging bad habits for good ones.”

Heart attack symptoms may include:

Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back.

Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.

Chest pain or discomfort.

May feel nauseous and/or break out in a cold sweat.

Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulders.

Shortness of breath.

If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.

While heart disease risk for both men and women begins to rise in middle age, heart disease develops over time and can start at a young age, even in the teen years. It’s never too early, or too late, to take action to prevent and control the risk factors for heart disease.

Consider the following to help reduce your risk of heart disease:

Eat a healthy diet.

Maintain a healthy weight – talk with your health care provider if you need to lose weight. Do NOT go on a crash or popular diet or take over-the-counter diet aids.

Exercise regularly – even parking further away or taking the stairs can help.

Monitor your blood pressure.

Don’t smoke and if you use alcohol, limit useno more than one or two servings per day or occasion.

Manage your diabetes.

Take your medicine as prescribed. If you have questions on how to take it or can’t afford it, talk with your primary care provider.

Make your primary care provider a member of your health team. Talk to him/her about how you can lower your risk for heart disease or manage your heart disease.

To find out more about women and heart disease, talk with your primary care provider, visit The Heart Truth web page by clicking here or call the NHLBI Health Information Center at 301-592-8573. You can also visit the CDC web site (click here) for more information about heart disease.

Remember to wear red on Friday to show your support for both men and women who have heart disease.


Writer is grateful for help after car accident

By Orleans Hub Posted 31 January 2015 at 12:00 am


On Thursday night I had an automobile accident. It was the first major accident in my 40-plus years of driving. I encountered a very slippery road and despite reduced speed and early breaking I slid through an intersection and a ditch and landed in some trees!

The blow was significant enough to blow out the driver door window into me! I was stunned and quite upset as my car is one month shy of a year of ownership.

The very first person to help was a town of Shelby snowplow operator. He was concerned enough to inquire as to my well being and if I needed to call for help. I assured him I was OK and had a cell phone. I called 911 and was connected to Niagara County, who got Orleans on the line for me.

A wrecker from Lyons Collision in Medina was dispatched, as well as law enforcement. I called my wife and asked her to come to the scene to take me home after everything was properly settled.

Lyons arrived first with a tow and flat bed. The drivers had to wait for law enforcement before they could do anything. However, their concern about injuries and my comfort was outstanding.

Soon, a State Trooper arrived. I actually was a little afraid, as they have a reputation for toughness. Trooper Radford was extremely professional and very compassionate. He brought my wife to the vehicle and let her listen to all his instructions and questions, as well as being safe and warm. He saw no wrongdoing on my part and issued an accident report.

I went to Lyons Collision on Friday morning to clean out my car and authorize an estimate and arrange for my insurance company to deal with them. I can only say that I was treated very well. They are the best to if you need help after an accident.

Bottom line, we have great residents in Orleans County that care for others! If I had to have an accident, I am glad it was at home! Thanks to all who offered help, including some other passersby!

Dayton Hausman


Medina village officials look for ways to cut taxes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers
Jonathan Higgins, a captain with the Medina Fire Department, was on the scene at a fire on Friday in Carlton. Higgins wants the village to pursue a federal grant that would add personnel for fire and ambulance calls. But the Village Board worries if there are enough ambulance revenues to pay for staff when the grant runs out.


MEDINA The Medina Village Board says it will leave no stone unturned as it looks for revenue to help offset property taxes. The board will also work to reduce costs in village operations.

Resident Betty Rogowski attended Monday’s Village Board meeting and wanted to know the next steps for the community after dissolution was rejected a week ago, 949 to 527. Rogowski said she pays $7,802 in taxes annually, and she wants some relief from the big tax bill.

Monday’s meeting was the first for the Village Board since the dissolution vote. Medina Mayor Andrew Meier pushed dissolution as a way to reduce the tax burden on village residents. A study on dissolution showed how the tax rate could drop by $6 per $1,000 of assessed property on villagers.

Meier said Medina will be hard pressed to come up with ways to reduce taxes in the village by a similar amount without dissolution. The village would need about $1 million in new revenue or cuts to make that kind of impact.

Village officials need to have a new budget approved by April 30. The 2014-15 budget took in $2,738,602 in taxes from village property owners for a $16.44 tax rate.
Meier sees trimming the budget as something the board has some control over.

“We will have to find cost reductions,” he said.

Assistance from the local towns, county and state are all outside village control, Meier said.

Trustee Mike Sidari said the other governments need to be asked for help.

"Let’s get the ball rolling and put some pressure on our elected officials,” Sidari said.

He wants the village to pursue more state aid and a bigger share of the sales tax revenue in the county.

Medina currently gets $38,811 in state Aid and Incentives to Municipalities. That is a paltry sum for a village of 6,065 people, Sidari said, especially when smaller-size cities get far more. Sherrill in Oneida County gets $372,689 in AIM funding for a city of 3,071 people, he noted.

Sidari said the village should craft an official resolution, seeking more state funding, and distribute it to other villages and towns in the county and region, trying to build a movement. The board tasked Village Attorney Matthew Brooks to write a formal resolution to be voted on soon in the future.

Meier said the board shouldn’t expect any more money from the state. The governor’s budget didn’t include any AIM increases. Meier doesn’t have much hope the state would respond to the villages.

“Any increase appears DOA (Dead On Arrival),” Meier said.

But he supports passing a formal resolution, stating the value of villages and why the state should provide them with fair AIM funding.

The county had a big year for sales tax revenue in 2014, increasing by 5.96 percent from $14,819,904 to $15,703,362. The county has frozen the share to local towns and villages since 2001 at $1,366,671. Resident Tim Elliott said now is good time to push for more sales tax because of the increase for the county and the fact that it is no longer paying for the county nursing home.

The village of Medina receives $159,586 of the local sales tax or about 1 percent. Meier estimated that 30 percent of the sales tax in the county is generated by businesses in the village or close to the village borders.

He said he has pressed for more of the local sales tax in recent years, but has always been rebuffed from the county leaders.

Sidari said the village should make it an issue and engage other towns and villages in the county in seeking more of the funding.

Prior to the dissolution vote, the leaders of the towns of Shelby and Ridgeway both said they had ideas for reducing village costs. Meier and the Village Board said they await concrete proposals from Skip Draper, town supervisor of Shelby, and Brian Napoli, the supervisor in Ridgeway.

In the meantime, the board will look closer at village operations, trying to reduce costs.

Medina Fire Department Captain Jonathan Higgins sees a federal grant for hiring four firefighters as a way to improve services in the community and reduce the local cost.

A federal Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grant would cover firefighters’ salary, benefits and retirement contributions for two years, as long as Medina maintains its existing staffing levels of 13 full-time firefighters, Higgins said.

The village could count two existing temporary positions for the grant and add two more full-timers, Higgins said. The added staff would reduce overtime costs for the department, and ensure the department has manpower for all of its calls.

Meier has concerns about adding the staff, even if it is grant funded. The village would unlikely be able to afford the positions after two years based on ambulance revenues.

“I don’t think we should set ourselves up for a difficult decision in two to three years,” Meier said. “I don’t see our revenues to the point where we can sustain four more firefighters.”

The village is 58 percent of the way through its budget year and the fire department has 57 percent of the revenues, putting it slightly behind pace for $1,050,000 budgeted. If the department keeps up that pace, it would be about 2 percent off budget or a $20,000 difference.

The fire department on Nov. 1 raised the mileage reimbursement rate for ambulance calls from $20 to $30. With 34,000 miles a year on ambulance calls that change could generate $340,000 if fully realized. But Meier said Medicare rates, self pay and other uncollected revenue makes that a big question mark.

The board delayed the decision to pursue the grant until Feb. 9 when it could have a better sense of revenue projections for the future, and the impact of added staff on reducing overtime.

The board did vote on Monday to raise most ambulance fees by 3 percent and increase the out-of-district charge from $50 to $75 for each call. That charge doesn’t apply to western Orleans County, including the villages of Medina and Lyndonville, and towns of Yates, Shelby and Ridgeway. The charge would be added to bill for calls in central Orleans County, eastern Niagara and Genesee County.