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Cory returns as Holley principal on Monday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 February 2019 at 12:29 pm

Dan Monacelli praised for serving in interim role at school last 3 months

Photo from Holley Central School: Dan Monacelli is shown on Friday with a cake on his last day as interim principal for the Holley Junior-Senior High School.

HOLLEY – Dan Monacelli’s interim role as principal for the Holley Junior-Senior High School ended on Friday after nearly three months.

Monacelli, a retired Albion principal, filled for Holley while Susan Cory was on a personal leave of absence. She will be back at the school on Monday.

“The kids loved him,” said Brenda Swanger, the Board of Education principal. “He did a great job. He’s a great guy who is so full of life.”

Monacelli, an Albion native, retired from Albion in June 2017. He started his teaching career in Elba, and returned to Albion as a Correction Room specialist. Then he taught health before getting into administration at Pembroke and the Niagara Academy. He was hired as high school principal at Albion in 2007 and then moved over to lead the middle school.

“We’re very thankful he was willing to fill in for us,” Swanger said.

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Competing at Westminster, ‘dream come true’ for Holley senior, 17

Photos by Annette Mrzywka: Nicole Mrzywka and Hughie, her English Springer Spaniel, are pictured after competing at the Westminster Dog Show. Mrzywka made it to the final eight in the junior showmanship competition.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 February 2019 at 10:01 am

Nicole Mrzywka advanced to final 8 out of 102 in junior showmanship competition

NEW YORK – A Holley High School senior who competed at the Westminster Dog Show is calling the experience, “a dream come true.”

Nicole Mrzywka, 17, has been showing dogs since she was 9, starting with the Orleans County 4-H program. On Tuesday she was on the biggest stage for dog shows, the prestigious Westminster event that is broadcast on television.

Nicole qualified to be one of 102 youths in the junior showmanship competition. She needed to win seven American Kennel Club sanctioned events to qualify.

The 102 youths in the competition were separated into groups of four with about 25 in each group. The top two from each group advanced to the finals.

Nicole was picked for that exclusive group – the final eight. She and Hughie, her English Springer Spaniel, were able to compete in the main ring at Madison Square Garden. She received a $500 scholarship for making it to the finals.

Nicole Mrzywka and Hughie compete at the Westminster Kennel Club’s Dog Show on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

She was judged on how well she presented her dog in confirmation how Hughie meets the standards of the breed.

“It’s all about smoothness and how you react with your dog and how you handle it if he acts up,” Nicole said by phone this morning.

She has competed at big dog shows before in Philadelphia and in Florida at the national championship for the American Kennel Club. The Westminster show is considered the Super Bowl of dog shows, she said.

She expects to be back next year in her final year as a junior. She has already won six events this year and only needs one more to qualify for Westminster in 2020.

Nicole said she is grateful for the friendships she has made at the dog shows, from the local 4-H club to the bigger national events.

“Getting into the dog show world, you meet so many people who really become a second family,” she said.

The Holley senior wants to be an elementary school teacher. She is planning to major in early childhood education in college.

Two benefits of being a teacher: “I’d get weekends and summers off for dog shows,” Nicole said.

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Holley senior, 17, competing at prestigious Westminster Dog Show

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 February 2019 at 5:20 pm

Photo by Annette Mrzywka: Nicole Mrzywka rides the subway with her English Springer Spaniel this afternoon. They will be in the showring at 7 p.m. at the Westminster Dog Show.

NEW YORK – A Holley High School senior is competing with her dog at one of the most prestigious dog shows.

Nicole Mrzywka, 17, advanced this morning to the finals of the junior showmanship competition at the Westminster Kennel Club. She will be back in the show ring 7 p.m. today at Madison Square Garden. She is wearing arm band No. 63.

Nicole is showing Hughie, an English Springer Spaniel. The competition can be viewed on the Westminster Kennel Club app.

“It’s always a big thing when someone from Orleans County competes on the national stage, and not only competes but excels,” said Robert Batt, executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County.

He has known Nicole for about a decade. She is a member of the Orleans County 4-H Heelers Dog Cub.

Batt said Nicole is well regarded for her skills in showing dogs.

“It’s her dedication and her practice,” he said, explaining why she is so successful.

Nicole last July was named queen of the Orleans County 4-H Fair. She shows more than dogs. The past four years she has been the reserve champion in the grand master showman competition, which features the top showman in several breeds of livestock.

At Holley, she plays on the volleyball team and was a Genesee-Region league all-star this past season.

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Holley, Kendall plan to take the Polar Plunge on Sunday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 February 2019 at 12:06 pm

Photo from Holley Central School: A polar bear mascot tries to rally support for a team from Holley, including students, staff and superintendent Brian Bartalo. Holley has raised $1,295 so far towards its goal of $2,000.

Holley and Kendall schools are both sending groups to the Polar Plunge this Sunday in Lake Ontario. They will be at Ontario Beach Park in Charlotte at noon to jump into the cold water.

Holley and Kendall have participated in the Plunge for several years. The event typically raises more than $200,000 for the Special Olympics.

Holley and Kendall are both trying to raise $2,000 for the Special Olympics. Kendall has raised $550 so far towards its goal. (Click here for more on Kendall’s fundraising page.) Holley is up to $1,295. (Click here for more on Holley’s fundraising page.)

Last year Holley students and their teacher and Student Council Advisor Jim Di Sessa raised just under $1,100. That passed the group’s fundraising goal of $1,000. Holley has doubled its goal this year.

Last year Kendall raised $1,875 at the Polar Plunge.

File photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from Feb. 12, 2017 shows a group of people jumping into Lake Ontario for the Polar Plunge in Charlotte at Ontario Beach Park.

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Veterans, Holley church remember 4 chaplains who sacrificed lives in WWII

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Veterans from Orleans County fill the front pews of the First Baptist Church of Holley on Sunday, where they participated in a memorial service honoring four chaplains who died at sea during World War II. The chaplains are remembered for giving up their life vests, locking arms and praying together as their ship sank.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 4 February 2019 at 10:19 am

Chuck Eberhardt tells the story of Rabbi Alexander D. Goode during the Four Chaplains service Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Holley.

HOLLEY – The legend of the Four Chaplains, while tragic, is one which has gone down in history.

Each year on Feb. 3, it has become customary in churches throughout the country, including the First Baptist Church of Holley, to present a service honoring the four chaplains of four different faiths who gave their lives to save four other sailors during World War II.

The service in Orleans County was started by Larry Montello of Albion, who learned about it in 2007 from a lady he met after moving here from the Adirondacks. He has organized a service, with help from the American Legion, VFW and Legion Auxiliary ever since.

The first service was at the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, and Montello moved it to various other churches, but for the last four years, it has taken place at the First Baptist Church of Holley.

The four chaplains were Clark V. Poling, a Baptist minister; John P. Washington, a Catholic priest; George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; and Alexander D. Goode, a Rabbi.

During World War II, they were all assigned to the USAT Dorchester.

In the early morning of Feb. 3, 1943 while sailing through the icy waters of the North Atlantic from Boston to Greenland, their ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat.

The chaplains got on deck and started handing out life vests. When all were handed out and there were still many men without any, the chaplains took theirs off and gave them to four sailors.

Larry Montello, right, reads a certificate of appreciation before he, Cathy Fox, president of the Orleans County American Legion Auxiliary; and Steve Johnson, County Legion commander (in cap), present it to Elder Todd Thomas (next to Fox) and pastor Joe Willis with the First Baptist Church.

Ron Ayrault of Holley plays Taps at the conclusion of the Four Chaplains service.

As the ship sank, the chaplains locked arms and prayed and sang in their own religions. Each was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross.

Participating in Sunday’s service were members of the American Legion in Medina, Albion and Lyndonville; VFW in Medina and Holley; Orleans County Legion Auxiliary; and Orleans County Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer program, which provided refreshments.

Also in attendance was American Legion vice commander of Gasport, Dan Fuller and his wife Susan.

Veterans formed an honor guard, while several others read the life histories of each chaplain, followed by laying a rose by each chaplain’s picture and lighting a candle in his memory.

Readings were given by Steve Goodrich, Clark V. Poling; Earl Schmidt, John. P. Washington; Ron Ayrault, George L. Fox; and Chuck Eberhardt, Alexander D. Goode.

Steve Johnson with the American Legion in Medina explained the service, saying an act of Congress in 1988 proclaimed Feb. 3 annually as Four Chaplains Day.

There were 902 men aboard the USAT Dorchester; only 230 survived.

Todd Thomas, an elder at the First Baptist Church, spoke on the sacrifice made by the four chaplains and how they willingly gave their lives.

Larry Montello, left, gives instructions to Legion and VFW members who formed the honor guard for Sunday’s Four Chaplains service at the First Baptist Church of Holley. Lined up are Glenn Whitmore, American Legion commander in Medina; Dave Kusmierczak, a member of Medina VFW; John Pera, commander of Holley American Legion; and Fred Heschke of Medina, member of the VFW.

Ron Ayrault salutes the American flag after lighting a candle in honor of George L. Fox during the Four Chaplains service.

Earl Schmidt, director of Orleans County Veterans’ Services, shares the story of John P. Washington, a Catholic priest and one of four chaplains who died in World War II when their ship was sunk by the Germans.

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Holley school superintendent gives rationale for keeping school open today

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 January 2019 at 12:50 pm

HOLLEY – Many school districts closed today in Western New York, including Albion, Medina and Lyndonville in Orleans County. Holley and Kendall both stayed open. (Kendall has cancelled all afternoon and evening activities at the school today.)

(UPDATED at 2:36 p.m.: Holley has also cancelled after-school activities today and school on Thursday.)

Brian Bartalo, Holley’s Superintendent of Schools, posted on the district website his rationale for keeping school open today. Her is his explanation:

“I want to assure you that the decision to close school is taken very seriously and with the safety of all in mind. If any one reason, or combination of them, suggests that we should close school, I will do so.

“Here are some of the factors I consider when deciding to keep the district open or closed based on weather conditions: visibility, road conditions, temperatures (including wind chill), and the pending forecast. I consult with a number of people inside and outside of our district and monitor these factors continuously. I also make sure the heat in all our buildings is functioning and busses are able to run. Once I’ve been assured we are within a safe range to open, school remains open.

“Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower issued a ‘travel advisory’ for today (Jan. 30), not a ‘ban,’ based on the weather conditions in the western parts of Orleans County. If there had been a travel ban declared, we would be closed.

“Some area districts elected to close today, due to a high number of students who walk to school. All our students have the opportunity to be transported to school. While we have some that chose to walk to school, they can all board a district bus to get to and from school. Most of our students are picked up at their home (driveway). At dismissal time, no students are “out waiting” for a bus. They are picked up right near our buildings and then let out to go directly into their homes.

“School is an important place for our students to be. I want them to know and understand that. Some students are warmer and have more nutritious meals in school. Some parents can’t provide adequate supervision at home when we close and they have to go to work. Some parents have to choose to miss work and forfeit pay if they have to stay home to provide care for their children on emergency closing days.

“In the end, my decision is to do what’s best for our students, staff and community.

“If weather conditions worsen, I will get the message out ASAP if we need to cancel any activities or close school.”

Holley man charged with DWI after hitting porch on 104

Staff Reports Posted 22 January 2019 at 12:11 pm

MURRAY – State troopers have charged a Holley man with driving while intoxicated after he allegedly drove off Ridge Road and hit the porch of a house on Saturday afternoon.

Lawrence Lentz, 44, showed signs of being intoxicated and subsequently failed standardized field sobriety tests at the scene, troopers said.

Lentz was arrested for DWI and transported to the State Police Barracks in Albion, where a chemical test revealed him to have a .11% BAC, troopers said.

Troopers responded to the intersection of Route 104 and Route 237 in Murray at about 3 p.m. for a report of a vehicle that struck a house. The roof of the porch of the house needed to be stabilized.

The Holley Fire Department used rescue jacks to lift up roof and apply support beams for the time being.

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Historical marker headed to Holley for home on Underground Railroad

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 January 2019 at 11:57 am

HOLLEY – A new historical marker will be erected this spring on South Main Street in Holley at the former home of Chauncey Robinson, who was an abolitionist who opened his home to hide escaped slaves as part of the Underground Railroad.

The county, Orleans County Historical Association and two local donors are sharing the cost for the marker at 35 South Main, west of Geddes Street.

Local historians have long suspected there were houses in Orleans County on the Underground Railroad, which was a secret network of trails and homes. But there wasn’t documentation to back it up, until Clarendon Historian Melissa Ierlan found a letter from Robinson’s grandson.

In the lengthy letter, the grandson details visiting his grandfather, who took him up to the second floor of the back side of the house. The grandfather pulled back a curtain, and there was a group of escaped slaves on beds.

“It’s pretty unusual to find descriptions like that,” said Matt Ballard, the county historian and president of the Orleans County Historical Association.

More research showed that Robinson was in fact an outspoken abolitionist,.

The Orleans County Historical Association considered other sites for a marker, but decided on Robinson and his work with the Underground Railroad. Ballard said this will be the second historical marker in Orleans County about African-American history. Medina in April 2015 unveiled a marker on Main Street in recognition of two speeches delivered in the community by Frederick Douglass, a leading abolitionist. Ballard likes how the Holley marker highlights a local resident advocating for escaped slaves.

“This is more a man who lived in the community who was well respected and was participating in the Underground Railroad,” Ballard said today. “There has been a lot of speculation and rumor with the Underground Railroad, but no written documentation.”

Ballard wants to see markers recognize underrepresented groups in the county’s history, and also bring attention to overlooked and unappreciated sites.

The Holley marker will be two-sided with one side highlighting Robinson and the Underground Railroad, and the other side noted the work of Ezra Brainerd, who built Robinson’s home and oversaw construction of the canal embankment over Sandy Creek, “which was a major undertaking,” Ballard said.

The Historical Association is considering other spots for historical markers in the future, including:

• The childhood home of Henry A. Spencer on Chamberlain Street in Albion. Spencer was the first African-American student at University of Rochester, a pall bearer for Frederick Douglass’s funeral, a member of Frederick Douglass Memorial Committee, and secretary for the NYS Assembly.

• Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church on Brown Street in Albion, the first Polish rural mission church outside of Buffalo, and center of Albion’s Polonia.

• George Pullman’s home on East State Street in the Village of Albion

• Silas Mainville Burroughs’ home at State Street Park in Medina. S.M. Burroughs Sr. was a NYS Assemblyman and a congressman. S.M. Burroughs Jr. was founder of Burroughs Wellcome & Co., now GlaxoSmithKline.

• Carlyon Calamity in the Town of Carlton on Yates-Carlton Townline, This is the site of a railroad accident on R.W.&O. Railroad, causing deaths of 17 passengers.

• Stangeland property on Norway Road in Kendall, the site of Andreas Stangeland home. Stangeland traveled with Cleng Peerson in 1824 to select land for Sloopers, and remained with Norwegians as Peerson traveled westward.

• Bidelman’s Tannery on Ridge Road near Rt. 279 in Gaines, which was originally Mather’s Tannery. Masons allegedly stopped at site while transporting the kidnapped William Morgan to Lewiston.

• Brady’s Quarry on Butts Road near the canal in Albion. The site allegedly provided sandstone for the Capitol Building in Albany. (Historians need to confirm location.)

• Sgt. Isaac Hawkins home near Glenwood & Ryan streets in Medina. Hawkins, an African-American, was a member of 54th Massachusetts Infantry. He was captured at Battle of Olustee, a prisoner at Andersonville, and buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

• Lake Alice in Carlton, a man-made lake that was constructed by Western New York Utilities Co. in 1917. The company purchased over 50 parcels of property and relocated buildings to create reservoir.

• Wilson Hanging at Courthouse Square in Albion, the site of only public execution in Orleans County.

Ballard welcomes suggestions from the community for other markers. To contact him, send an email to

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Holley has highest school-age poverty rate in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 January 2019 at 1:51 pm

None of Orleans County districts are in top 50 in state for poverty rates

Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau about poverty rates for school districts shows that none of the districts in Orleans County are even close to being in the top 50 of the districts with the highest poverty rates.

The Rochester City School District has the highest school-age poverty rate in the state at 52.2 percent, with 17,895 school-aged children out of 34,286, in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. The 50th highest rate is 30.2 percent of school-age children in poverty and that’s in Sidney Central School n Delaware County.

The Census Bureau detailed the poverty rates for children, ages 5 to 17, in each school district. In Orleans County, Holley has the highest poverty rate at 22.4 percent or 245 out of 1,094 school-aged children in 2017.

That is just above the 22.0 percent in Albion, the 20.8 percent in Medina, the 19.5 percent in Lyndonville and 17.8 percent in Kendall.

The Orleans poverty rates are higher than neighboring districts outside the county. Barker has a rate of 11.5 percent, while Batavia is at 18.3 percent. Brockport is at 13.6 percent; Elba is at 9.7 percent; Hilton at 8.8 percent and Roy-Hart, 9.0 percent.

Holley Central School Superintendent Brian Bartalo said the district’s leadership discusses the poverty rate and how the district can use technology and education to help students overcome poverty.

Bartalo joined Holley as school superintendent in July. He said he is impressed with the community support, and the push for high achievement for all students.

“The Holley community wants the best for their kids,” Bartalo said today. “The poverty rate isn’t defining us, although if the trend continues we will need to look for more ways to support our kids.”

Bartalo said Holley has technology and Internet access “that levels the playing field.”

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Holley students given trove of newspapers from historic moments since the late ’50s

Photos by Tom Rivers: Jake Peters holds the Nov. 23, 1963 issue of The Post-Standard of Syracuse, detailing the shooting death of President John F. Kennedy. The historic newspaper is one of many given to Holley students who are going through the papers and creating a database. Peters is also active in the Holley Hub, which does podcasts of current events.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 January 2019 at 8:10 pm

‘Holley Hub’ also does podcasts of current events

HOLLEY – Holley students in a current events class led by teacher Nick D’Amuro have spent this week poring over headlines from key moments in U.S. history since the 1960s.

One of D’Amuro’s colleagues, science teacher Kristen Pelkey, handed off five boxes of newspapers covering about 60 years since 1958. These are newspapers from Syracuse that show the news coverage from historic days, including the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and  Martin Luther King Jr.; the resignation of Richard Nixon as U.S. president; many achievements by astronauts; and other key moments as well as ongoing coverage of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.

Students are looking through the stacks of papers with rubber gloves, and making an inventory of the big headlines. They are making other observations, including the prominence of cigarette advertising, the lack of women in the news, and how newspapers weren’t very critical of government leaders until the 1970s with Nixon, who resigned in disgrace.

Holley teacher Nick D’Amuro and his students in the current events class look through newspapers of famous events from the 1960s.

The newspapers in the 1960s are very much in favor of government leaders, and really touted U.S. advances by astronauts as the country raced against Russia to have the first man on the Moon.

“In the 1960s, the newspapers were very patriotic and supportive of the government,” D’Amuro said during the class on Friday. “In the 1970s, the newspapers were more critical.”

There are 15 students in the class in grades 10 through 12. They meet each day for eighth period in the school library.

The batch of historic newspapers was a pleasant surprise. They were given to the science teacher, who thought D’Amuro and his class would enjoy going through the newspapers, which are considered “the first rough draft of history.”

“Martin Luther King Slain” – This April 5, 1968 edition of The Post-Standard in Syracuse covers the assassination of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The photo to the left shows Rev. Andrew Young, an aide to King shows where King was hit by a bullet in Memphis, Tenn. The newspaper cost 10 cents at the time.

The students have been digging into news this year, and it had been current events. The class created a “Holley Hub” podcast and has had about a dozen episodes so far. D’Amuro, who also teaches social studies, wants students to be critical thinkers and educated citizens. The podcasts are available through the Holley Hub Twitter feed.

D’Amuro said the old newspapers, covering historic events, has inspired students, and took them right back to key moments they had read about in class. With the newspaper coverage, the events didn’t feel like an event from decades ago.

The Holley students will go through the newspapers and compile highlights that they hope to share with the school community after they are done with their research, D’Amuro said.

D’Amuro holds a copy of The Post-Standard from Aug. 9, 1974 that includes extensive coverage of the resignation of Richard Nixon as president. This edition includes the rare use of red letters in the headline. Back then, the newspapers were almost solely black and white.

“Condition of Sen. Kennedy Remains Extremely Critical” – The June 6, 1968 Post-Standard is headlined by the shooting of Sen. Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles at a hotel. RFK was running for president was he was fatally shot by an assassin.

“Germans Celebrate Unity” – The Oct. 3, 1990 Herald-Journal highlights the reunification of Germany. “Forty-five years after it was carved up in defeat and disgrace, Germany was reunited today in a celebration of pealing bells, national hymns and the jubilant blare of good old German oom-pah-pah,” the article states. By 1990, there were color photographs on the front page.

These students are in the library discussing a podcast for the Holley Hub. They include, from left: Jordan Grein, editor Jeremy Crandall, and Jake Peters.

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