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Savvy Senior: ‘Must I Inherit My Parents’ Debt?’ Best New Restaurant in the Country? It’s Right Here in Geneva


80-year-old man has a challenging job: he gives cows pedicures — 25 cows a day


PLUS Issue 70 August / September 2017

For Active Adults in the Central New York Area

New Life Award-winning newspaper columnist Sean Kirst has a new book out — and a new job

‘Mo’ Laws Honored for Most Volunteer Hours

Superior stroke care. It’s about time.


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August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


91865 / FULL PAGE / 55+ MAGAZINE (PAGE 3)



Savvy Senior: ‘Must I Inherit My Parents’ Debt?’ Best New Restaurant in the Country? It’s Right Here in Geneva


80-year-old man has a challenging job: he gives cows pedicures — 25 cows a day



August/ September 2017

PLUS Issue 70 August / September 2017

For Active Adults in the Central New York Area

New Life Award-winning newspaper columnist Sean Kirst has a new book out — and a new job

‘Mo’ Laws Honored for Most Volunteer Hours



Savvy Senior 6 Gardening 8 Dining Out 10


• 84-year-old Jim Howard still busy keeping up with his bees

16 Golden Years 27 RADIO My Turn 20 Aging 35 Financial Health 37 Life After 55 44 Druger’s Zoo 46

LAST PAGE Fulton resident Maurice “Mo” Laws, 81, honored for working most hours as volunteer 4

55 PLUS - August / September 2017

• Sal Sciuga Sr. has co-hosted a radio show about home improvement since 1993


• David Huxtable’s job: has one of the rarest jobs: He’s a hoof trimmer, a blacksmith for cows.


• Laurie Leonard of Syracuse developed her passion for quilts later in life. Now, she can’t stop doing it




• Sean Kirst: New life for awardwinning newspaper columnist now working in Buffalo


• Lucille Laws: City slicker to homesteader


• Father Jim: more than two decades at St. Lucy’s Church in Syracuse


• Even the most educated shudder at the thought of figuring out finances


• Ten things to do in Staten Island

August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


savvy senior By Jim Miller

Must I Inherit My Parent’s Debt?

55PLUS Editor and Publisher Wagner Dotto

Associate Editor


hat happens to a person’s debt after they die? In most cases when a person with debt dies, it’s their estate — not their kids’ — that is legally responsible. Here’s how it works. When your mom (or dad) dies, her estate — which consists of the stuff she owns while she’s alive (home, car, cash, etc.) — will be responsible for paying her debts. If she doesn’t have enough cash to pay her debts, you’ll have to sell her assets and pay off her creditors with the proceeds. Whatever is left over is passed along to her heirs as dictated by the terms of her will, if she has one. If she doesn’t have a will, the intestacy laws of the state she resides in will determine how her estate will be distributed. If, however, she dies broke, or there isn’t enough money left over to pay her “unsecured debts” — credit cards, medical bills, personal loans — then her estate is declared insolvent, and her creditors will have to eat the loss. “Secured debts” — loans attached to an asset such as a house or a car — are a different story. If she has a mortgage or car loan when she dies, those monthly payments will need to be made by her estate or heirs, or the lender can seize the property. There are, however, a couple of exceptions that would make you legally responsible for her debt after she dies. One is if you are a joint holder on a credit card account that she owes on. And the other is if you cosigned a loan with her. Note to Spouses: These same debt inheritance rules apply to surviving spouses too, unless you live in a community property state — Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington


55 PLUS - August / September 2017

Lou Sorendo

or Wisconsin. In these states, any debts that one spouse acquires after the start of a marriage belongs to the other spouse too. Therefore, spouses in community property states are usually responsible for their deceased spouses debts. Protected Assets — If your mom has any IRAs, 401(k)s, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies or employer-based pension plans, these are assets that creditors usually cannot get access to. That’s because these accounts typically have designated beneficiaries, and the money goes directly to those people without passing through the estate. Settling Her Estate — You also need to be aware that if your mom dies with debt, and she has no assets, settling her estate should be fairly simple. Her executor will need to send out letters to her creditors explaining the situation, including a copy of her death certificate, and that will probably take care of it. But her children may still have to deal with aggressive debt collectors who try to guilt them into paying. If your mom has some assets, but not enough to pay all her debts, her state’s probate court has a distinct list of what bills get priority. The details vary by state, but generally estate administrating fees, funeral expenses, taxes and last illness medical bills get paid first, followed by secured debts and lastly, credit card debts. Need Help? If you have questions regarding your situation, you should consult with a consumer law attorney or probate attorney. Or, if you just need a question or two answered, call your state’s legal hotline if available (see, or legal services provider.


Deborah J. Sergeant Aaron Gifford, Matthew Liptak Marie Kouthoofd, Ashley M. Casey Patricia J. Malin, Mary Beth Roach


Eva Briggs, M.D., Bruce Frassinelli Marilyn Pinsky, Harold Miller Jim Sollecito, Marvin Druger Michele Reed, Sandra Scott David Zumpano, Jacob Pucci Mary Ann Pierce .


Amy Gagliano Cassandra Lawson

Office Assistant Kimberley Tyler


Dylon Clew-Thomas

Cover Photo

Chuck Wainwright 55 PLUS –A Magazine for Active Adults in Central New York is published six times a year by Local News, Inc., which also publishes In Good Health–CNY’s Healthcare Newspaper. Published at 185 E. Seneca St. PO Box 276 Oswego, NY 13126. Subscription: $15 a year; $25 for two years © 2017 by 55 PLUS – A Magazine for Active Adults in Upstate New York.

No material may be reproduced in whole or in part from this publication without the express written permission of the publisher. Third class postage paid at Syracuse, NY. Permit Number: 3071

How to Reach Us P.O. Box 276 Oswego, NY 13126 Phone: 315-342-1182 Fax: 315-342-7776 Email:

We invite you to join us in creating a legacy gift through your will or financial plans. Together we can do great things for Central New York. Dr. Michael & Rissa Ratner

For them it’s personal! Upstate legacies: lifesaving and life-changing Mike and Rissa Ratner love kids; it’s that simple. Rissa has been a teacher for 41 years. She could have retired long ago but she sees teaching more as a vocation than a job. Mike recently retired after 40 years as a highly regarded pediatric surgeon at Upstate golisano children’s Hospital. For years, the Ratners have generously supported the Children’s Hospital. With Mike’s retirement, they decided to create a legacy gift with the Upstate Foundation. The gift plan arrangement they selected will pay them income for the remainder of their lives and create a long-term gift that will enable nurses at the Children’s Hospital to continue their education. as Mike puts it, “it’s terrific! You can have your cake and eat it, too!” Both Mike and Rissa have touched the lives of countless children and their families in profound ways. Through a legacy gift to the Upstate Foundation, they will continue to do so beyond their lifetimes. it’s also personal for you since every Upstate legacy dollar stays right here in Central New York to help assure happy, healthy and longer lives for your loved ones, friends and neighbors.

For free and confidential information on how to make a low cost, high impact legacy gift contact, or have your professional advisor contact, John Gleason at 315-464-4416 or email us today at Our legal name is THE UPSTATE FOUNDATION INC. August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


gardening By Jim Sollecito

Postcards from the Edge


t’s possible that I dismiss incoming information despite its supposed appropriateness. The AARP invitations have no more impact on me than flyers for new gutters or driveway sealing. I guess I have become immune to many forms of advertising. Yet many of us do take action based on what a neighbor might tell us. Is this person suddenly a home improvement expert? My thinking is that if we took all of the advice our neighbors told us and threw it into the ocean that would be good for us and bad for the fish. But some things are indeed worth heeding. A landscape client and sweet friend Barb Rinella, recently asked, “Why don’t you charge people to drive through your Garden Center? The colors are so spectacular, you could put them on a postcard.” The truth is, she was correct. In the past 44 years our display gardens have never looked better. Besides the pure enjoyment of garden appreciation, it’s helpful to see how shrubs, trees and perennials grow in a setting much like your own home. This has been a growing season among seasons. If your landscape doesn’t look spectacular this year, take a little road trip and see what the possibilities might be. Come see our postcard-worthy garden, no charge.

Fall Is For Planting Fall is my favorite time of year to plant. The ground is warm and the ample rains enhance root development. The tops of plants have stopped growing and this allows the below-ground parts to become well established. These are picture-perfect conditions for building value in your property right now. Someone once said that “you should always finish what you started.” It may be just as important to re8

55 PLUS - August / September 2017

‘Fall is my favorite time of year to plant. The ground is warm and the ample rains enhance root development. The tops of plants have stopped growing and this allows the below-ground parts to become well established.’ member: “you don’t have to finish a mistake just because you started it.” Life is about being able to tell the difference between good ideas and the not-so-great ones, the ability to admit a mistake and change courses when needed. Then the follow-through. That’s how you end up with better results. There is no reason to put up with a plant that doesn’t perform any longer. A bit of editing can reap color rewards by the bushels. And it’s critical to know where to

get trustworthy advice. The internet? There is not enough space here to say what needs to be said. Even a phone call might not reach the right knowledgeable resource. It is well worth a short drive and a face-to-face. Photosynthesis is not the latest feature on a smart phone. And don’t get me started on text messages. They should only be used to inform if you will be late for your dinner or appointment. Not a real conversation. So if you can’t picture yourself in your own healthy landscape, do what your parents did: an in-person meeting. Join us over a cup of coffee to discuss opportunities and obstacles. No need to go postal, this is really fun. Particularly now at the onset of fall, finishing strong is what this year is all about. Jim Sollecito is the first lifetime senior certified landscape professional in NYS. He operates Sollecito Landscaping Nursery in Syracuse. Contact him at 468-1142 or

Social Security


Q: I'm trying to decide when to retire. Can Social Security help? A: The best place to start is with a visit to the online Social Security Statement. It provides you with estimates of benefits for you and your family as well as your earnings record and information you should consider about retirement. It is easy to access your statement online by creating a “my Social Security” account. To create an account, visit www.socialsecurity. gov/myaccount. The “right” time to retire is different for everyone and depends on your individual situation. To help you make your own decision, we offer an online fact sheet, which can be found at www. html. Q: Is it true I must now receive my benefits through direct deposit? A: Anyone applying for benefits on or after May 1, 2011, will be required to receive their payments electronically. Paper checks will no longer be an option for most people. If you don’t have a bank account, you can get your benefits through the Direct Express debit MasterCard. Q: Is it true I can save about $4,000 per year if I qualify for Social Security’s Extra Help with the Medicare prescription drug program? A: Yes. If your income and resources meet the requirements, you can save nearly $4,000 in prescription costs each year. Resource limits for 2017 are $13,820 (or $27,600 if you are married and living with your spouse). Income limits are $18,090 (or $24,360 if you are married and living with your spouse). If your income or resources are just a bit higher, you might be eligible for some help with prescription drug costs. Visit visit prescriptionhelp.

What’s Next for You? Individual and couples career coaching / retirement life planning Group programs available

Leslie Rose McDonald

Certified 2Young2Retire Coach Certified Retirement Options Coach 315-453-7608

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August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


DiningOut By Jacob Pucci



First course at FLX Table.

FLX Table Finger Lakes restaurant features one table that accommodates 12 — it was named the best new restaurant in the country by recent a USA Today 10Best poll


inner at FLX Table in Geneva starts gathered around a long live-edge wooden table, slurping chilled gazpacho from ceramic saucers and savoring paper-thin sheets of Spanish ham sliced tableside from a whole leg. We mulled over the wine list and sneaked another slice of jamon as we waited for the rest of our dining companions to arrive. Not long after all 12 diners arrived, we were given playing cards that corresponded to a seat at the dining room table and sat down. FLX Table is a lone 12-seat table, 10

55 PLUS - August / September 2017

where dinner is served twice nightly from Thursday to Monday. It is located on a one-way alley with no sign except for the restaurant’s logo on a single piece of paper and a sample menu taped to the door. The only menu is a list and descriptions of the five courses, selected by chef Christopher Bates. The wine list was filled with selections from the Finger Lakes and elsewhere, but we, like everyone else at the table, opted to go for two of the five beverage pairings (Baller and FLX Baller, both $55) and again put our meal in Bates’ capable hands.

In addition to being chef and co-founder of Element Winery in Arkport, Bates is a master sommelier, the highest level a wine professional can achieve. As of this writing, there are currently only 236 master sommeliers worldwide. Dinner started with a selection of cheese, raw and roasted vegetables, fruit and charcuterie presented on a sliced tree trunk slab, along with a selection of dipping sauces, to be shared between two diners. Platters of several types of butters, including brown butter, smoked pork schmaltz and a yellow turmeric

Third course: Smoked pork fat polenta with a 64-degree egg, foie gras, black licorice and black truffle puree.

Second course: A salad of raw, pickled and roasted mushrooms atop button mushroom hummus. butter shaped like a rubber duck, were passed around the table, as one would do at a family dinner. The next dish highlighted yellowfoot, lion’s mane and maitake mushrooms, served pickled, raw, roasted and pureed to a hummus that served to bind the dish together. Black garlic and oniony ramps provided a fresh kick of flavor. The menu at FLX Table changes often, but judging from past and subsequent menus, our next dish is a frequent appearance in some form or another—and for good reason. That same smoked pork fat that we spread on our loaves of locally-baked sourdough bread in the first course was whipped into a bowl of polenta. An egg cooked to 64 degrees Celsius in a sous vide water bath was placed on top of the polenta. My knowledge of the Celsius temperature scale was admittedly rusty, so I had assumed the egg would be barely cooked with a yolk that would run over the dish at the slightest fork prick. Instead, the yolk had thickened, but not hardened, perfectly mimicking the consistency of the polenta. A dusting of black licorice on the egg helped cut some of the richness from the small piece of unctuous foie gras and streak of black truffle puree on the plate. We visited FLX Table on Easter Sunday, so to recreate the biblical lamb with bitter herbs, Bates rolled a coarse lamb sausage in a seaweed powder and served it with salty sea beans, piquant

black olive puree and ethereally tender “pee-wee” potatoes, with a scattering of finely chopped pitchblack dried olives over the plate. The seaweed powder gave the meat a grassy and intensely savory flavor that paired well with lamb’s natural mild gaminess. The sea beans, also known as sea asparagus, gave the dish a burst of salty sea freshness, like slurping down a freshly-shucked oyster. Dessert that evening was a chocolate pot de crème served with rosemary ganache, peanut dust, bitter almond brownie and brown butter caramel, topped off with a light meringue. Additional brown butter caramel was passed around the table. The unofficial sixth dish was a homemade marshmallow — with a catch. Diners had to walk to a nearby bar to receive it, from where they can keep the good times rolling. Earlier this year, FLX Table was named the best new restaurant in the country in a USA Today 10Best poll and after eating there, it’s clear to see why. Dinner at FLX Table is a deeply intimate experience, like being invited to an exclusive dinner party where all the guests know how lucky they are to be there. The food and drink is pure fine dining, but even with the initial apprehension at dining at a table of strangers, FLX Table is immensely comfortable and welcoming, thanks in part to the mismatched chairs and silverware and Eminem and Frank Sinatra playing in the open kitchen. You won’t feel weird rip-

ping off a piece of bread to scrape up the last of the butter, or reaching to pick the last piece of smoked duck breast from the farmers board. At $49, it’s an absolute steal for dinner you’ll never forget enjoyed among friends you’ve just met.

Fourth course: Lamb sausage with roasted peewee potatoes, sea beans and black olive puree.

FLX Table Address:

22 Linden St., Geneva, NY 14456. Phone:

315-730-3083 Reservations:

Required. Reservations are available online at on the first of each month for the following month.


Thursday to Monday. Two seatings daily at 5:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


55+ hobby Jim Howard working at his apiary in Oswego. He is also shown at the inset.

Busy as a Bee

At 84, Jim Howard nurtures a honey of a hobby


By Marie Kouthoofd

e don’t do it unless it’s fun!That’s the motto of Jim Howard, owner of Hives of Howard in

Oswego. “I came from nowhere to somewhere, really,” said Howard, noting “good mentors” have offered encouragement along the way. A former high school and college


55 PLUS - August / September 2017

wrestling coach, Howard finished his last 10 years at SUNY Oswego as the director of conferences. Now at 84, he continues his legacy as the multifaceted proprietor and manager of Hives of Howard. Beginning with two back yard hives, his grassroots organization has reached the heights of a 30-hive empire, procuring at peak up to 200

pounds of locally produced honey per hive. Whether genetic or modeled t h ro u g h t h e g e n e r a t i o n s , t h i s octogenarian wrestling coach turned beekeeper seems to drink from the fountain of youth, waking each day with vim and vigor. When not totally immersed in his bees, mentoring, teaching or advising, Howard may

be found golfing, riding his mountain bike or with a gun or bow in hand during hunting season. “I think that’s why my higher power keeps me alive at 84,” Howard says, “because I’m active, very active.” With that, it should come as no surprise that his wife Barbara would be equipped with the same zeal found in her spouse. Armed with knowledge gleaned from her sister-in-law’s four California beehives, Barbara returned home from a short visit once and was determined to start her own bee colony. Like any startup, the learning curve can pack a wallop or in this particular case, sting like heck, 50 stings to be precise. “One day, I lost a hive over the winter to whatever reasons,” Howard recalls. “Before we could buy new bees and get them in, what they call a feral hive took up residence.” Feral bees are aggressive, and Howard could not mow the lawn or till the garden without being under threat of attack. ”They’d go right after the tiller!” he exclaimed. Honeybees, in contrast, are traditionally passive and docile in nature. “You can walk right through them. They’re just happy that the sun is out and there’s no clouds in the sky,” Howard said. He decided the best plan was to let the aggressive hive thrive and start a new one in the spring. “I’m down on the lawn one day and here Barbara comes. She’s got all her bee garb on, smoker in hand, and I said, ‘Don’t do it, Barbara, don’t go near the damn hive!’ Well, she didn’t listen to the old coach, and in she went.” Barbara was stung at least 50 times, rushed to the hospital for a shot of adrenaline and as the old coach mused, “We weren’t living happily ever after for a while.” Lesson learned, the hive was eventually destroyed and order restored.

Jim Howard showcases a group of queen bees he has at his Hives of Howard in Oswego. Each box (or hive) can produce up to 200 pounds of honey.

Empty hive syndrome “So that’s how it started,” Howard said. “We went from one or two hives, with the grandchildren helping me, to 30 and then the kids all left. I’m left with 30 hives to take care of.” Grandkids, as they do, grew up, August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


went to work, got married or went to college. “They went on with their lives,” Howard said. Meanwhile, the entomology program at SUNY Oswego, which focuses on the scientific study of insects, was a blessing for Howard. The program afforded him the opportunity to once again share his wealth of knowledge and tap into his love of teaching. “The college kids come to my apiary and we spend an afternoon in the Hives of Howard,” he said. He was back teaching and he loved it. “That’s what life is all about, in my opinion, the people you touch along the way,” he added. Transitioning from a masterful wrestling coach to master beekeeper took effort and time. Now as an authority in the business of bees, Howard said, “There’s probably 101 ways to keep honey bees and all of them are correct. I’m just one of the many that does it my way.” Honeybees are needed for the pollination of a plethora of fruits and vegetables. Although wind and other insects have the capacity to pollinate, Howard says these methods aren’t as

thorough as the honeybee. A great example is the Bartlett pear. These pears must be pollinated near the trunk of the tree. The only insect that will go inside and pollinate by — you guessed it — bees or other insects.. “You can’t raise pumpkins without bees,” Howard said. “Only bees will pollinate that flower.” Almonds, pumpkins, blueberries and the like all rely on the honeybee. “Every single one of the pumpkin growers on the east end of Oswego County have beehives,” Howard noted. However, honeybees in recent years have met their challenges, whether caused by climate fluctuations, parasites like Varroa mites, disease or the most recent predator in this area, the black bear. Having little defense against bears, the bees ultimately swarm, abandon the hive and take their queen with them. “I had a black bear and her 80-pound cub wipe me out. Probably $2,000 worth of honey and equipment,” Howard said. As a consequence, Howard and his crew spend most of their spring

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consolidating hives and erecting electric fencing, both costly and time consuming. “It’s a whole new world, the bear thing,” Howard added. “There’s a madness for my meanness,” Howard said. “I’m directing myself to do certain things to help honeybees live longer.” Facing his own challenges, Howard had open-heart surgery in July of 2016. “Just before they put me on the operating table, the doctor said, ‘We are going to move this guy onto the operating table. He is the only fit 80-year-old that’s ever been on this table, so let’s do a good job, OK?’” “OK, so they did a good job. I’m living happily ever after and having fun along the way,” he said. It seems, however, being the honey man has unforeseen advantages. Had he not bribed the entire medicalsurgical team with a two-pound jar of honey, “I probably would not be here today!” he said. Editor’s Note: For more information about Hives of Howard or if you would like to start your own apiary, email Howard at

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Sal Sciuga Sr., 84, is on the air during the Home Repair Workshop, a radio show in Syracuse that he’s co-hosted since 1993.

Making Waves

Sal Sciuga remains talk radio royalty in CNY By Ashley M. Casey


al Sciuga Sr. has had many jobs over the years, but the one for which he is best known in Central New York is the one he never expected to take on. “I have had absolutely no training to do radio,” said Sciuga, “and never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be on the radio.” In addition to owning Sciuga Custom Builders in Solvay, Sciuga is one of three co-hosts of the Home Repair Workshop show on NewsRadio 570 WSYR and 106.9 FM. Sciuga, 84, has joined fellow contractor Steve Khanzadian and plumber Mike Cannavino to field homeowners’ questions live on-air most Saturday mornings since 1993. The trio has covered everything from painting and patching holes in the wall 16

55 PLUS - August / September 2017

to consumer fraud. “There are more people that know me from the radio than from doing work for them,” Sciuga said, “and we’ve been in business a long time.” After nine years as a social studies teacher at Grant Middle School in Syracuse, Sciuga started Sal-Nic Contractors in 1966 with a relative, Nicola Grillo. Nic and Sciuga amicably parted ways, but Sciuga continued as a contractor, bringing aboard his sons, Tom and Sal Sciuga, Jr. The company rebranded as Sciuga Custom Builders in 1991, and “Babe” — as Sciuga, Sr., refers to Sciuga, Jr. — is now president of the company. His daughter, Dana Sciuga Bakowski, is customer selections coordinator. The Home Repair Workshop has been intertwined with Sciuga Custom Builders since its beginning. Sciuga’s son, Sal Sciuga, Jr., sold a house to Alan

Furst, former program director for WSYR. Furst invited Babe to appear on a radio show. More reserved than his gregarious father, Sciuga, Jr. declined the opportunity, but he volunteered Sciuga, Sr., for the guest spot. “It was very easy to do,” the elder Sciuga said. After reprising his appearance the following Saturday, WSYR asked Sciuga if he’d like to make it a weekly venture. He turned them down. “I work on Saturdays,” said Sciuga. “Saturday is catch-up day [for] when you forgot to do your homework during the week.” But once he learned it would be a paid gig, Sciuga signed on. He was joined by Steve Khanzadian and Mike Cannavino. For about a decade, the show was sponsored by Wegmans’ now-defunct home and garden store, Chase-Pitkin. When Chase-Pitkin was

Left photo shows Sal Sciuga, Sr. (right), founder of Sciuga Custom Builders, his son, Sal, Jr., president of the company, and Sal’s daughter, Dana Sciuga Bakowski, customer selections coordinator. The illustration on the left is a promotional piece of the hosts of the call-in radio show Home Repair Workshop. shuttered in 2005, the Home Builders Association of Central New York picked up the show for the next decade before selling it to the Home Repair Workshop hosts. “[They said] if we could sell the advertising ourselves, we could stay,” Sciuga recalled. While Sciuga and crew must sell ads to pay for their airtime, the name recognition he has received from the Home Repair Workshop is the best advertising he can get. “I have people who say, ‘I know — I recognize your voice,’” Sciuga said. While many audiophiles and news junkies have shifted their attention to satellite radio and podcasts, radio listenership remains strong. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2015 “State of the Media” report, 91 percent of Americans aged 12 and older said they had listened to traditional AM/FM radio in the past week. News, talk and information radio stations such as WSYR are surging in popularity as well. After country music, news radio is the second most popular genre in the nation. Nielsen reported an uptick in news radio listenership after the 2016 election, and Americans tuned in to a combined 11.5 million hours of news radio in 2016. The format is gaining popularity with millennials (ages 18 to 34), but listeners over 50 make up the lion’s share of news radio listeners. About 20 million boomers turned their dials to

On the air —Sal Sciuga, Sr., hosts the Home Repair Workshop with Steve Khanzadian and Mike Cannavino from 8 to 9 a.m. each Saturday on WSYR 570 AM or 106.9 FM. news radio in the first quarter of 2017. Sciuga estimated the average age of his listeners at 45 and older. The evolution of technology in the radio world has allowed Sciuga to broadcast from conventions in Atlantic City and Las Vegas and from his winter home in Florida. When he’s far from snowy CNY, Sciuga streams the Home Repair Workshop via iHeartRadio and calls in to chat with Khanzadian, Cannavino and Sciuga, Jr., who fills in for his father in the studio. “As much as all the stuff we have, the radio is the easiest connection,” Sciuga said. “You turn the radio on in your car. You take your iPad and there’s 500 stations on iHeartRadio.” The advent of streaming radio has been a boon to snowbirds and other far-flung listeners of Sciuga’s show, but the rise of technology has its downsides, too. “Our audience can take their iPads and get a lot more information than I can give them,” Sciuga said. However, Googling home repair

how-to’s lacks the human connection that Sciuga, and his co-hosts share with their listeners. “It’s personal,” said Sciuga. “It’s not the same contact.” While Sciuga continues to connect with his listeners, he is preparing for the future of his construction business. At 84, he is no longer a hands-on builder, but he still visits job sites and comes to the office daily. His son, Sciuga, Jr., and granddaughter, Dana, hold integral roles in the business. According to Sciuga, Dana had to convince her father and grandfather to hire her. They knew the field was difficult and thought she was destined for greater opportunities. “Finally, she sat us both down and said, ‘What is it you don’t understand? I want to work with you,’” Sciuga recalled. Dana’s mettle was tested with a difficult, detailed project — a Parade of Homes custom model — and she took her place in the Sciuga dynasty. “If both Sciuga, Jr., and myself didn’t show up tomorrow morning, she can run the whole business,” Sciuga says of his granddaughter. “She could show both of us up.” As the radio show became an additional career for Sciuga, its history has always been wrapped up with the story of Sciuga Custom Builders. “I’m a vintage person, so my story is long,” Sciuga said. “This part of it is fascinating.” August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


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s you age, the friends you keep wield an ever-greater impact on your health and sense of happiness, new research reveals. They may even outstrip family in terms of the sway they have over you, according to a new study. Lead investigator William Chopik cited several reasons why friendships might pack a bigger punch than blood relationships when it comes to influencing health and well-being. "We spend leisure time with friends. We freely choose to continue relationships with friends," said Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University. If the friendships last until older adulthood, "clearly these are good friendships," he added. "As we age, we prune away at some of the friendships that are more superficial and acquaintance-like," he said. That means that as older adults, "we're left with the ones that are deeper and make us happy," Chopik explained. In contrast, he said, family interactions can be very serious or monotonous, and those relationships are harder to leave. The study findings stem from two surveys that, in total, asked almost 280,000 people about their relationships, their happiness and their health. Chopik found that people who placed more importance on friendship and family tended to say they were happier, more satisfied and healthier than those who didn't. But older participants indicated that only their friendships loomed large as reliably strong predictors of how happy and healthy they felt. This rising impact of friendship occurs gradually, Chopik said. "I would say the changes begin around age 30 (or) 40, and then peak for ages 50 to 60, and remain large throughout the rest of life," he said.


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my turn By Bruce Frassinelli Email:

Grocery Store Pet Peeve. Is It Just Me?


iving alone, I am engaged in shelf-to-shelf combat in my own personal version of the supermarket wars. One of my biggest pet peeves is the requirement to buy multiple items to get the sale price. The most recent affront was a great Cheerios sale price of $1.87, but to get this price I needed to buy four boxes. I like a bowl of cereal now and then, but It will take me months to eat four big boxes of Cheerios, and by that time the last box will be borderline stale, so there goes my savings. For the last decade or so, supermarkets have tried to entice me with offers such as 10 containers of yogurt for $5. This was OK, though, because if I bought one or two, I paid 50 cents or $1 — no penalty for the smaller number of purchases. Shoppers in the know realize that you are not required to buy 10 units to get the sale price. You can buy as few as you want and pay only the per-unit price times the number of units.


55 PLUS - August / September 2017

When I shop, I must be on constant guard for my mortal enemy — the fine print. The other day I saw Kraft Cracker Barrel cheese for $1.97. My eyes widened. I love cheese, and normally this product sells for $3.39, but as I reached for an 8-ounce package, I spied the dreaded fine print — “must buy four, all others $3.19.” My heart sank. My mood darkened. I felt disrespected, betrayed. I calculated briefly how long it would take to consume four packages of this cheese, especially since I might have a piece or two with a glass of wine. I quickly concluded that it just wasn’t worth taking the chance. Moldy cheese is not my idea of an appetizing accompaniment to Ritz crackers. Sometimes it is clearly stated that you must buy the advertised quantity to get the advertised price. At other times, I wished I had brought along my magnifying glass. Depending on where the product is positioned, I sometimes must get on my knees to read the

small print. Then I’ve got to get up. Well, that’s another story. No combat compensation either. At least twice during the past year, I went home thinking I had paid a certain price for a product, only to realize that I had paid up to 40 percent more. Why? I didn’t pick up on the blasted fine print. In each case, I went back to the store to plead my case. Each time I was given a refund, because the store manager agreed that the disclaimer was small and possibly difficult for these senior citizen’s eyes to read. Now, before I leave the store, I sit on a bench near the checkout and go over each purchase carefully, paying special attention to the bargains I thought I was getting. So far, so good. I don’t want to be a skeptic, but I figure stores may be counting on the fact that most shoppers don’t check their store receipts carefully and won’t catch the higher price if they missed the fine print and bought just one of the advertised items. When I was discussing my

discontent with pricing policy, a friend, who is married with three children, told me to “suck it up” and “stop whining.” He said the requirement to buy three, four or more works out “just great” with his family of five. “It’s discriminatory,” I told him, the same argument I made with the manager of the supermarket where I shop. I have complained so many times that the manager decided to shut me up. He told me that even though the advertised price requires multiple purchases, he would allow me to buy just one item at the best sale price. It’s a bit inconvenient, however. I must go to the service desk where I am charged the higher price, then I am given the difference between this price and the sale price in cash. “What, are you nuts?” my friend asked. “You sometimes must wait in line five minutes to save 26 cents?” “Hey,” I told him, “better to have the 26 cents in my pocket. Besides, I’m retired; what do I have to do that’s so urgent that I can’t wait around for five minutes?” Phil Lempert, a California-based food industry analyst known as the “supermarket guru,” advises shoppers to adopt my tactic. In stores where buying the whole deal is required, Lempert said that shoppers should take the items to the courtesy counter and ask if the store will give the discount on just one item purchased. “If not, and it’s a product that will not spoil, see if it is one that you might use over the next 30 or 60 days. It may well be worth the savings to buy both.” These chains need to realize that not every shopper has a family at home. We seniors who have lost spouses are especially vulnerable to this discriminatory pricing practice. “This is not fair for the elderly who do not need that many of the same item because of storage problems or price,” says shopper Helen Olander of Mexico. Among large chains, Wegmans promotes consistent low prices so customers don’t have to run around town chasing deals, a spokesperson at the Rochester area-based company said. For multiple-item promotions, in almost every case you can buy just one item at the sale price, the spokesperson said.

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August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS




Hoofing It David Huxtable, an 80-year-old man from Herkimer County, has a challenging career: he gives cows pedicures — 25 cows a day By Patricia J. Malin


avid Huxtable has spent his entire life working on his family farm in Miller’s Mills, a hamlet in the Herkimer County town of West Winfield. He started milking cows when he was 8 years old. “They gave me the ones with the shorter teats,” he said with a laugh. He turned 80 last March, and while he gave up dairy farming several decades ago, he never stopped working with cows. Huxtable has one of the rarest jobs in agriculture today: He’s a hoof trimmer, a blacksmith for cows. They have hooves, and as with other mammals, the nails and teeth grow throughout their lifetime and need regular care. As implausible as it sounds, Huxtable has a challenging career giving cows pedicures. He does it year-round, and unlike human dentists, he has to commute to his job. He has contracts with dairy farms in Madison County, Otsego County and Montgomery County, near Canajoharie. It’s just a handful, but these dairy farms have an average of 100 cows apiece. He generally handles 25 cows a day and works a few days a week. “I used to do 35 to 40 cows a day when I was young,” he said.


55 PLUS - August / September 2017

At two of the farms, he plies his trade in the barns, but occasionally works outdoors in the pasture, even in winter. In the spring, Huxtable indulges in making maple syrup, which is a brief but intensive job. Though it’s somewhat profitable and fun, “the maple business is still a hobby for me,” he noted. Huxtable’s innate love of farming comes from an unusual source. Neither his grandfather, who was an English immigrant and minister, nor his father, who had worked as a cobbler in Boston, were involved in agriculture initially. They converted to the dairy business later in life. “My dad was 60 when I was born and he retired when I was 4,” Huxtable explained. “I have three half-brothers who are 20 years older than me, plus a full brother [Donald] seven years younger, and all were in farming at one time. We only had 40 cows when I was growing up and we didn’t have electricity either. We milked the cows twice a day, all by hand. We also mowed hay using teams of horses.” In 1959, Huxtable graduated from Cornell University, which has one of the most illustrious agricultural science programs in the United States. He decided to return to the farm after college. “I liked the people in the dairy

business and the cows,” he said. The Huxtable Farm supplied milk to the Dairylea Cooperative. Prices slowly climbed through the decades, but eventually the business became unsustainable. “I gave it up in 1980,” he said. “We were losing money and there was no equity in the farm.” He began weighing his options. Luckily, his hoof trimmer had a suggestion. “The fellow who had been doing my cows complained about a shortage. He trained me and then moved to Virginia. He sold me the works and a list of his customers. I thought I would do it for a while. I thought about working for the farm bureau, but after a year I couldn’t afford to quit and I figured we needed hoof-trimmers more than bureaucrats.” “By my second year [1981-82], I was up to 100 farms. I had so many customers that I didn’t get done until July. You want to get it done before the cows go out to pasture.”

Is it my turn? When the cows are in the barn, they are managed easily. They are so familiar with the painless procedure that they line up willingly for their turn at trimming.

One cow at a time walks into a chute that encloses the animal comfortably. Then she is tipped on her side, a few feet off the ground about belt-high to Huxtable. He then applies an angle grinder to all four hooves. The job takes about 10 minutes per cow. Huxtable has six children and 13 grandchildren. His daughter, Karen, is married to Patrick Hooker, who grew up in Erieville outside Cazenovia and later served as New York State Commissioner of Agriculture under Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Although the elder Huxtable and his sons had dabbled in making maple syrup, his son-in-law introduced him to more efficient techniques. Hooker still works for the state as an agriculture consultant and lobbyist in Albany. He and Karen live a stone’s throw from Huxtable and his wife, Carole; Huxtable’s sons, Jeff and Mark; and Huxtable’s half-brother, James — all on Huxtable Road. The maple syrup business, too, has changed dramatically since Huxtable’s childhood. Though it is considerably less taxing physically, there is still a steep commitment in terms of time and equipment. This year, Mother Nature decided to bless the farmers with warm weather in February, so the sap in the maple trees started running early. That set Huxtable and his family in motion, too, and they answered the call around the clock for a few days before the fickle winter resumed its normal coldness. Then the lions of March arrived in the form of Storm Stella, dumping 40 inches of snow on the trees and the maple syrup equipment. So while most in the region were grudgingly clearing off their cars, sidewalks and porches, Huxtable had to deal with removing heavy snow and downed trees on his own 15 acres, plus several hundred acres on the Hookers’ property. “We had to wait four days for the snow to settle, then we were able to get out on snowshoes,” said Huxtable. First, they had to break trail and wade through hip-deep snow before bringing in small plows to dig out the long lines of tubing. In late winter, the farmers hammer small metal taps into the trees and connect them to long lines of plastic tubing, or stiles. When the sap begins running, vacuum pumps get turned on and the raw syrup in the tubes is extracted, drip-by-drip, into metal

Dave Huxtable, a former dairy farmer, applies a small, handheld, electric angle grinder to the hooves of the cow while she is encased painlessly in a chute that rotates her onto her side.

Huxtable knows how to reassure the cows as he lines her up in the chute for her “pedicure.” August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


bins. “I have 1,100 taps now, but at one time I had 2,000,” he added. Huxtable has a modest hut a few yards from his home where he boils the sap in large evaporators. “Our season normally runs for a month, from about the 20th of February to the 7th of April,” he pointed out, and he and the family will bottle about 400 gallons. Huxtable has survived all sorts of physical challenges through the years. Seven years ago, he had his right hip replaced. He was planning to have his left hip done this spring, but when he went through cardiology screening recently, the doctors came back with stunning news. He needs to undergo doublebypass heart surgery first. He will miss about two months’ worth of work, but his son, Jeff, will take over his duties. Huxtable fully expects to be back on the job by fall. “The doctors told me to keep on doing what I’m doing,” he said. “Thanks to modern medicine, my heart will be good for another 30 years.”

A cow, at left, on the Mohican Farm in Springfield, outside Cooperstown, nervously awaits her turn for a hoof trimming. Huxtable says most cows are nonchalant and not afraid of the trimming, which takes about 40 minutes per cow.

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Centenarians Often Healthier Than Younger Seniors They have less chronic disease than those in their 80s and 90s, researcher says


mericans who are 100 years or older have lower rates of chronic illness than younger seniors, a new study finds. George Washington University researchers used U.S. Veterans Affairs Administration data to compare centenarians with people in their 80s and 90s. Most were white men who had fought in World War II. “Additionally, this generation lived through the Great Depression,” study author physician Raya Elfadel Kheirbek said in a university news release. “It is a wonder, considering the hardships they had faced, that they have achieved such longevity.” She said this never-before-studied group of centenarians at the VA offers an important message of resilience to anyone who is struggling. Kheirbek, an associate professor of medicine at George Washington, is also a palliative care doctor at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Due to their military backgrounds, many centenarians in the study had a strong sense of discipline and, therefore, tended to make healthy decisions such as not smoking or drinking, according to Kheirbek. The findings were published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.


55 PLUS - August / September 2017

golden years By Harold Miller

‘Train Wreck’ Waiting to Happen?


’m sure you have heard the cliché about today’s 80 being yesterday’s 70 and today’s 70 being yesterday’s 60 — and so on. However, in our Florida condominium complex the average age now is over 80 and for many, the octogenarian years are becoming a train wreck. Skin cancer is prevalent, arthritis has caused many joints to fail and need replacement, and heart disease is running rampant among our neighbors and friends. There are those who would argue that longevity is to be found in the genes rather than at the gym but I have done much research on this subject because of doing a column for 55 Plus magazine. Moreover, my daughter Marcia is professor of physical therapy at Nazareth College in Rochester and she has indoctrinated me in the philosophy that lifestyle and diet will dictate whether we decline in that fateful 70-90 corridor. The sins of our youth start catching up with us in our 50s. A lifetime of obesity, lunch at your favorite hamburger joint, a pack of cigarettes a day and lack of exercise start taking their toll. The magazine you are reading is an excellent source of information about the health aids, nutrition programs, gym facilities, physical therapy facilities and everything else you will need to pursue a healthier lifestyle. My generation did not know that smoking, overeating, eating the wrong foods, lack of exercise and ignoring the immune system would shorten our lives, but there is no excuse today. The odds are staggering that if you do not adapt a healthy life style, you will encounter the train wreck. Creating a healthy life style is not easy. It requires discipline, dedication and a dose of PMA, or positive mental attitude. You can’t do it all by yourself. You should consult your doctor who in turn should be able to line you up with a physical therapist and nutritionist. Fifty-five plussers are heeding this advice. The gyms that my wife Janet and I faithfully attend three or four times a week are full of baby boomers and the prognosis among the medical community is that living an active life until and beyond 100 is within their grasp. Frankly, I am scared to death about becoming indigent or being warehoused in a nursing home or being a burden to my family. Consequently, I established a personal goal many years ago to lead an active life until the century mark. As I approach my 84th birthday, it becomes obvious that there is more work to be done — but it will be done. No one knows what the future holds in store, but it appears that I am still on course and if I can do it, you can do it.

Debt?’ rit My Parents’ or: ‘Must I Inhe

Savvy Seni in Geneva try? It’s Right Here urant in the Coun Best New Resta he a challenging job:


80-year-old man has — 25 cows a day gives cows pedicures


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August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS




This Quilt Maker Doesn’t Quit

Laurie Leonard of Syracuse developed her passion for quilts later in life. Now, she can’t stop doing it By Matthew Liptak


aurie Leonard is a Syracuse resident who has been putting needle and thread together for the love of quilts for two decades. The 59-year-old has been sewing, however, since she was 8. “I like the creativity of it,” she said. “I like the art of it. I’m not really a painter or a drawer or anything like that. I never felt that I really was talented that way. I really like fabric. I like the tactile feel of fabric — the touching of cloth. Working with fabric really speaks to my soul.” It wasn’t long before the young Leonard was sitting down at a sewing machine and outshining those around her. She found it came naturally to her. “When I learned how to sew I soon became better than my mother,” she said. “I was better than the home early childhood teacher in eighth grade. I recognized that I could sew better than her.” Although she loved to sew, it wasn’t until well into adulthood that Leonard began her passion for quilts. She joined the Sankofa Piecemakers Quilting Group at Beauchamp Library. Its members meet at the library on Syracuse’s south side each Saturday morning. “Sankofa is an African symbol,” she said. “There are two symbols. One is a bird and she is looking back with an egg in her mouth. And one kind of


55 PLUS - August / September 2017

Laurie Leonard poses with her rendition of an underground railroad code quilt. Legend says quilts like these were put out to help lead escaped slaves to the North and freedom. looks like a heart. It’s symbolic that in order to learn for the future, you have to learn from the past. “It’s a racially-mixed quilting group. Not everybody quilts. Most people quilt. Some sew. You don’t find that too often, where there’s a racial mixture. We probably have 15 to 20 key people who come most of the time. Then we have some that don’t come too often.” The group is accepting more members, but they need to know how to sew to become a member. Sankofa doesn’t teach beginners.

A quilt is actually three layers of material. The back, the middle — which is a batting material — and the cloth front. When she does teach quilting to others, Leonard says she’ll often light-heartedly explain that a quilt is like a bologna sandwich. There are two types of quilting that she does. One is patchwork quilting. That is the traditional method of quilting, piece by piece, like our grandmother might have done and many still do. The other are art quilts. These tend to be non-symmetrical. They might have symbols on them

or even pictures. They can even use a fusion technique to add imagery, which doesn’t require sewing. Leonard mostly does art quilts now. She got involved with them as the quilter for the Michigan Women’s Music Festival for 11 years. “It was in Hart, Michigan,” she said. “It was a festival for 40 years. It ended two years ago. Now there are other offshoots of it. I had a friend who worked there and she kept saying ‘You have to go. You have to go.’ Finally my partner and I said ‘OK, we’ll go.’ We did. It was an amazing community.” The Syracuse resident enjoyed her time being in charge of the quilt aspect of the festival. “I was the quilter and what I would do is I would make the quilt for the festival, take it and put it on a frame while we were there,” she said. “Then the women could come and embellish it however they wanted to. Then we would take it off the frame and it would be the big raffle prize.” Leonard sees quilting as an expression of feminism. She is not the only one. The University of Michigan plans to digitally archive the quilts that have been done for the festival

Sample of quilt created by Laurie Leonard of Syracuse. She is part of the group Sankofa Piecemakers Quilting Group, which meets at Beauchamp Library in Syracuse. before it closed, so they can be studied, Leonard said. Leonard never sells her quilts. She is always giving them away to friends and family, even though she said a good quilt can sell for as much as several hundred to thousands of dollars. She does it for the love of creating something with her own

hands, not for income. She said she has done maybe 50 quilts over the years and plans for more in the future. The Art Rage Gallery will be exhibiting her work in September. She is making a quilt just for the show. “I’m doing a piece for an exhibition of ArtRage,” she said. “It’s called Seen and Heard commemorating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.” That show will be in ArtRage Gallery in Syracuse in September, she said. Leonard encourages any one to give quilting a try. She said almost anyone can do it. Her 6-year-old granddaughter is a quilter. But more generally, Leonard encourages everyone to take up some form of creative expression. All art is beautiful, she believes. “I’d like to encourage people to be creative whatever their muse is...fabric, paint, string. Created things bring joy to people and we often don’t take time enough to play. Whatever that might be, take time to play, hopefully every day. Don’t ever think that what you make isn’t good enough. It’s beautiful. Whatever art you make is beautiful. Just keep at it.”

August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS




The Storyteller New life for columnist Sean Kirst By Aaron Gifford


ean Kirst learned about humility in a gritty industrial community south of Buffalo. His family moved from house to house, always looking for cheaper rent. Many of his relatives died relatively young and Sean and his siblings inherited genes that also made them vulnerable to health problems. And yet, the award-winning newspaper columnist, husband, father, and author of three books always considered himself very fortunate. The Kirsts had full bookshelves. They read anything they could get their hands on. And they loved to tell tales and listen to tales, fact or fiction. It was a household that inspired curiosity, creativity, education and a sense of craftsmanship. “For us,” Kirst said, “story telling was huge.” Kirst, the 2009 recipient of the prestigious Ernie Pyle award for human interest column writing, took some time recently to tell his own story around the time his latest book, “The Soul of Central New York,” was released. 30

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To follow up that success, Kirst was recently hired by The Buffalo News as a metropolitan columnist. Kirst, 57, is a native of Dunkirk, in Western New York, near Fredonia. He is the youngest of five siblings. His mother worked as a cleaning lady and his father was employed as a crane operator for Niagara Mohawk. Money was tight in the Kirst household, but all of the schools in their community were good. Kirst still remembers the names of his favorite English teachers from fourth grade through high school. The Kirst children loved sports. Kirst was a good infielder but considered himself “a frustrated ball player” because his older brothers were exceptional. He started working for his community paper, The Evening Observer, at age 14. Kirst contributed to the sports page and stuck with it while attending SUNY Fredonia. He hitchhiked to class every morning and remained on campus into the evening to work for the student newspaper, The Leader, where he served as a sports editor and also wrote columns.

Kirst brushes off his early success as a student journalist. “We thought we were artsy,” he said. “We weren’t.” When Kirst tried his hand at campus news, that’s when he developed a passion for writing stories that could make a difference. He filed an informative piece on how students can protect themselves from local slumlords. As he recalled, “It felt good to write.” SUNY Fredonia was also where Kirst met his wife, Nora. They got to know each other at a campus picnic. Back then, Kirst said with a laugh, it was rare “for a townie to date a co-ed.” During one summer semester break, Kirst worked at a Kraft Foods plant. He connected well with his co-workers and learned to appreciate what factory workers go through. He also decided that he didn’t want to make a career of it, and returned to campus with an even stronger passion for writing. “With jobs like that, my mom would say, ‘I hope your day goes fast’,” he said. “With journalism, my

Sean Kirst photographed by Chuck Wainwright at the Onondaga Lake Park in Syracuse, near his home. August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


Sean Kirst writing one of his columns at The Post Standard in Syracuse. Kirst wrote his last column for the paper in October 2015. He now writes for The Buffalo News. Photo courtesy of Michelle Gabel.

days always go fast. I wish they were twice as long.” After graduation, Nora got a teaching job in her native Rochester, and Kirst followed her. He signed on for a position at Hillside Children’s Center while he continued looking for newspaper openings. The job entailed working with troubled youth, some of which had been in and out of the criminal justice system. He obtained skills there that would come in handy later on as a journalist. “I learned more about the reality of life in the cities,” Kirst said. “The challenge was to be consistent, to be empathetic, and to not be manipulated.” A year later, Kirst was hired by City newspaper in Rochester, a publication that some might compare to the Syracuse New Times. It was considered an alternative publication to the much larger Democrat and Chronicle newspaper, but it was focused on hard news and investigative reporting. The staff included only three reporters and a freelance photographer. City established a niche by covering issues in individual neighborhoods. The highlight of Kirst’s two years there was producing an expose of repeat drunk driver offenders and the shortfalls of existing laws and policies that did little or nothing to encourage offenders to stop drinking. “It generated debate about the program,” Kirst said, “so I guess we did our job.” 32

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Kirst’s most recent book, “The Soul of Central New York,” was released last fall. It’s a gathering of columns and stories about Central New York.

Falling for Niagara The next stop for Kirst was the Niagara Gazette. He enjoyed working at City, but the pay was too low and the opportunity in Western New York would better prepare him for work at larger, better-paying papers. At that time, the city of Niagara Falls was a hot place for headlines, rife with corruption, pollution and controversy. The community, Kirst said, “was in

economic free fall.” The Gazette also gave Kirst his own column. In 1988, Kirst arrived in Syracuse, where he remains today. In his quest to leave The Gazette for a metro daily, Kirst had been in contact with The Syracuse Newspapers, The Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. When Kirst followed up on the Syracuse job one day in 1988, an editor apologized for the delays and invited him for an interview. That was a personal touch that no other paper offered him before. “From that moment, I knew it would be a great place to work,” Kirst said. Kirst was assigned to the Oswego bureau. He loved being able to walk to all of his interviews from the office there. The area was also unique, with the opportunity for “a million great stories,” Kirst recalled. “Here was this guy from Buffalo,” said Nolan Weidner, then the Oswego bureau chief and a longtime friend of Kirst. “This guy would be calling me at 5:30 at night and saying, ‘I’ve got a couple more stories if you want them,’ and he had already filed two that afternoon. He was unbelievable. But he wasn’t trying to impress anyone. He just had this thing for meeting people and filing stories. He just had a sense of what made a good story.” Six months later, Kirst took on the overnight general assignment beat at the main office in downtown Syracuse,

where he was responsible for running on breaking news. He compares it to playing shortstop in baseball — fast paced and “electric.” In 1991, Kirst became a sports columnist, revisiting the passion that led him into journalism in the first place. He covered the Buffalo Bills’ historic run to four consecutive Super Bowls. While it was a thrilling experience, it was also painful for the Western New York native to see his favorite team fall short each time after coming so close. He also covered the Syracuse University men’s basketball team’s road to the 1996 National Championship game. He loved sports, but decided in the fall of 1996 that his heart was in news, and accepted a position as the Post-Standard’s regional columnist. His job was to speak to the concerns of everyday people and write about issues that build communities. That was where Kirst made it big, and he developed a reputation as a guy who was literally willing to get dirty to make improvements, even if it involved picking up trash. “I do have a soft spot for that,” Kirst said. “First impressions are so powerful. It’s easy to build a coalition of people who want to help you pick up the trash.” Kirst doesn’t think about which columns he liked the best. He doesn’t regret any columns, but he did say he regrets not writing a column on a rather sensitive issue where he felt he should have clarified his position. This was regarding the new amphitheater on Onondaga Lake. Kirst had been critical of how county officials pursued the

Kirst at one of his book signing at Barnes & Noble in DeWitt. He has written three books during his career. The most recent — “The Soul of Central New York” — was released late last year. Photo courtesy of Mike Roy. amphitheater’s construction without, as he saw it, regard for what would become of the grandstand at the Great New York State Fair. “I wish I had written a column suggesting that the grand stand could have replaced Chevy Court,” he said. “I wish I had said early in the process that there are other routes they could have followed. I wish I had thought of it.”

Rock ‘n’ Roller A rock ‘n’ roll fan, Kirst had seen many great shows in the Syracuse area during his time there. His favorite was Bob Dylan with Joni Mitchell, where he was able to get a spot in the front row.

In 2009, Kirst was awarded the Ernie Pyle award for human-interest writing. Traditionally, recipients have hailed from much larger news organizations. The Syracuse columnist was enshrined with the likes of journalism legends Andy Rooney (columnist) Dave Barry (humor columnist), Roger Ebert (movie critic), and Clarence Page, just to name a few. Ernie Pyle wrote a national travel column and was a World War II correspondent. He covered action in Europe as well as in the Pacific, providing firsthand accounts from the front lines. He was killed in 1945 during an attack on a Pacific Island. While Kirst certainly appreciated all of the accolades he received after getting the award, sometimes the

Lifelines Name: Sean Kirst Age: 57 Hometown: Dunkirk, NY Residence: Syracuse (weekends) Buffalo (weekdays) Family: Wife, Nora. Grown children: Sarah, Liam and Seamus Current Job: Metropolitan columnist with The Buffalo News Awards: Ernie Pyle Award for human interest writing, Syracuse Press Club Wall of Distinction honoree, several Associated Press awards Hobbies: Reading, running, walking his dogs, listening to rock music, spending time at public markets,

following sports, especially Buffalo and Syracuse teams Did you know: Kirst attempted to quit drinking coffee about 10 years ago. “It lasted about a week,” he said On healthy living: Even though he is a sucker for Buffalo wings that remind him of home, Kirst gave up red meat in 1982. He cut out alcohol 12 years ago. He never smoked, and prefers whole foods and the best locally grown produce available. His parents and grandparents died fairly young, so he feels he needs to make a strong effort to combat genes that would

otherwise leave him vulnerable to health problems “ We ’ v e [ K i r s t s ] h a d s e v e r a l generations who didn’t know their grandparents,” he said. “I want to change that” On the future of print journalism: “I’ve got to believe there’s a future,” he said. “We’re going through a very different moment, but I have hope. Hey, people still listen to the Beatles, right? Maybe not with records, though. The form of storytelling is changing. People will still laugh, cry and mourn tomorrow.” August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


praise made him uncomfortable. Likewise, years later he’s unlikely to bring up the award unless asked about it. “It’s really more of a reflection of every person that worked with me at The Post-Standard,” Kirst said. “It really wasn’t about me winning it, but it’s nice to think about what it means. My Dad was in the Pacific (World War II), and what Ernie Pyle did was so important to him. It meant so much to my father.” But, Kirst cautions, “The more you think about an award and yourself, the more the quality of your work can go downhill.” Kirst endured a new era of journalism that saw more attention focused on short stories and videos for the website and less attention on longer pieces for the daily newspaper. There were multiple staff reduction initiatives at the paper, including two buyouts and a massive layoff. Kirst wrote his last column for The Post-Standard in October 2015, resigning to spend more time with his wife and grown children. Son Liam and daughter Sarah work and live locally, while son Seamus, who is also a writer, lives in Brooklyn. The Post-Standard was not Kirst’s last stop in his writing career. He hooked up with Syracuse University, which employs him as a contract writer, and he also began contributing columns to The Buffalo News. In addition, Kirst has written three books — “Moonfixer: The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd,” “The Ashes of Lou Gehrig and Other Baseball Essays,” and his latest, “The Soul of Central New York,” which includes a collection of his columns from The Post-Standard. He says the book is a tribute to the newspaper’s readers, the countless people he enjoyed working with and the wonderful times he’s had in the Syracuse area. The answer to a question he’s been asked so many times during his career — Why do you care about Syracuse so much? — is answered in the book.

‘Very lucky here’ “I’ve felt very lucky here,” says Kirst, who has always lived in the city since he relocated to Central New York. “There are strong neighborhoods, 34

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Kirst with son Seamus and the family dogs, Luna (left) and Bentley. Photo courtesy of Mike Greenlar.

diversity, and a sense of community. It’s just a community full of great stories.” As much as he loves the Salt City, Kirst could not turn down the chance to return to his native Western New York for a job he once only dreamed about. In May, he was hired by The Buffalo News full-time to work as its metropolitan columnist. For now, he stays in a studio apartment in Buffalo during the week, returning to Syracuse to spend time with his family on the weekends. Nora Kirst is not yet eligible for retirement. They plan to consider a move at a later date. “I now have a foot in two communities I deeply love — the two communities that have shaped who I am,” Kirst said. “That is not a problem. It is a gift.” Weidner, the editor who Kirst worked for in his early days at The Post-Standard, is a long time running buddy of Kirst’s. They ran often for a number of years, scaled it back some when their kids were growing up, and recently got back into it more. Weidner says running the Syracuse Mountain

Goat footrace is one of Kirst’s most beloved past times. “He loved it because it’s Syracuse,” Weidner said, recalling when Kirst was able to push him to break his targeted 90-minute time, which the editor then did not think was possible. They crossed the finish line together. “It’s not as sexy as the Boilermaker, but that doesn’t matter to him. He likes the hills and the terrain and the grittiness. It’s so Sean. It comes through in everything he does.” Lately, Kirst has been working out with five-mile runs, setting his sights on returning to “10-mile shape.” He approaches writing and his latest venture with a similar attitude. He had about 10 book ideas, but he would have liked to have at least 100 more. The passion is just as strong now as it was when Kirst was living in Dunkirk and helping out The Evening Observer. “Since I’ve managed to catch a breath,” Kirst says, “I really understand the importance of storytelling. I think it’s more important to tell stories that matter to the community. In one way or another, I’ll always keep doing it.”

aging By Marilyn L. Pinsky

Visiting India, Nepal


Last of three articles about India

aranasi, one of the oldest cities in the world, is where Hindus make pilgrimages to dip in the Ganges River. It is also where families bring their departed loved ones to be cremated as the city is considered sacred. You see wrapped bodies on the tops of cars hundreds of miles away driving to Varanasi for the cremations. Cremations take place night and day. After a religious ceremony, the bodies are brought down to a platform on one of the many levels on the riverside ghat (broad stairs) and set on fire. Our group went at night, watching from a short distance away, sitting in small wooden boats surrounded by mourners and tourists in other wooden boats. Vendors floated in between the boats selling food and religious items. The oldest male in the family shaves his head and dresses in white; he is the chief mourner and in charge of the pyre. The sounds of ringing bells fill the air and multiple fires light up the night. After the cremation, the ashes are put in the Ganges so the soul may travel to heaven. The sight of multiple cremations all up and down

the ghat was amazing, emotional and lovely. But, like many things, there are other considerations. So much wood is needed for a cremation, that it is causing problems with the forests. The best wood for burning is hardwood but it is expensive and out of reach for many families. Pollution of both the air and the river is a problem. But cremation on wood pyre is so ingrained in the Hindu culture that available green alternatives are being ignored. I really hate to write about air pollution again because climate change is such a hot button political topic right now. But it would be negligent to have had the experience of mass pollution and not write about it. Within a week of our group’s arrival the majority of people had difficulty breathing even while wearing masks. People were sick with hacking coughs and burning eyes. In the United States we take breathing clean air for granted and often forget the benefits brought about by the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. Though the Indian government is

The author in burka at Old Delhi Jama Masjid mosque. “Within a week of our group’s arrival, the majority of people had difficulty breathing even while wearing masks,” says Pinsky. making great strides in changing their fuel sources to green alternatives in order to reduce pollution, it will take time. As an additional problem, many farmers cannot afford to clear their fields other than burning straw left from the previous season’s crops. That smoke then travels hundreds of miles contributing to pollution and smog. As Americans we comply with certain safety rules and as much as there are complaints about government

Evening cremations in the Ganges River in Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world. It is also where families bring their departed loved ones to be cremated as the city is considered sacred. August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


intrusion, seeing places without these regulations is startling. There, for instance, public buses and even trains have people sitting on the top, hanging off the sides and jumping on and off even as they’re moving. People congregate on the roofs of five story buildings that don’t have railings. Because there is no real effort for smoking cessation, mouth cancer runs rampant in India and seeing people with badly deformed faces is not unusual. And road marking lines are merely decorative. Enough lecturing. Despite all that, I still loved the country. One thing that cuts across all languages and cultures is food. On a flight from Mumbai (Bombay) to Udaipur, I sat next to a woman who had ordered a “Jain” meal. Her husband had a vegetarian meal and as both their meals looked vegetarian to me, I asked her what the difference was. She explained that Jains only eat vegetables grown above the ground as their belief is non-violence and respect toward all living beings. Therefore potatoes and onions are not eaten as they grow below the ground and tiny life forms, such as small insects, could be injured when the root vegetables are pulled from the ground. I’m leaving out so much more that was fascinating to me. The contrast was striking between New Delhi with its British buildings and wide streets and Old Delhi, where the streets are lined with small shops and small houses over them that hold large families. It was scary to see hundreds of electric wires crossing over streets and going from building to building. Old Delhi is predominately Muslim and religion is involved in every facet of life. It has the most important mosque in India and 20,000 people pray there at a time. I wore a burka to tour the mosque, which is beautiful. I left the good friends I had made on the tour and flew to Nepal for a few days. I feel badly giving short shrift to a fascinating country. I only visited Kathmandu, the major city, and was awed by the work they are doing to recover their beautiful ancient buildings from a massive earthquake two years ago. In addition to Hinduism, Buddhism is a very visible religion with Buddhas and stupas (religious structures) everywhere. In one, known as the Monkey Temple, monkeys literally jump in front of you and 36

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Old Delhi with wires running from building to building. “It was scary to see hundreds of electric wires crossing over streets and going from building to building,” says Pinsky.

A typical scene in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay): people sitting on the top public buses and even trains, hanging off the sides and jumping on and off even as they’re moving. conduct their lives around you. I was lucky to see Mt. Everest as the daily tour planes could only fly right after dawn and were not guaranteed to take off depending on weather conditions. As it was a small plane, or rather a large sardine can with wings, the pilot invited us to take turns coming into the cockpit to take pictures. I really wanted him to stop talking and just pilot the darn plane. But the view of the Himalayas was spectacular, though to me all the mountains looked alike. I was told I saw Mt. Everest, so I guess I did.

Getting back on earth was pretty good, too. I will end with a story of my favorite part of traveling — encounters with people that in a short time you know could be friends. On my way home, I met a Pakistani woman in Abu Dhabi as we were waiting for our connecting flights. She spoke English and in our intense half hour together, we knew each other ’s life stories. Neither of us wanted to stop talking and we hugged when we had to go our separate ways; I felt I was losing a friend.

financial health By David J. Zumpano


How Can I Be Sure I Qualify For Medicaid If I Have to Go to a Nursing Home

a v e y o u h e a rd t h a t i f Further, if you give your assets you need long-term care away, it doesn’t mean you won’t Medicaid can take your qualify for Medicaid. Depending home? Have you been told on how the 12 key factors apply to give your assets away to protect to you, you may be able to qualify them, and have you heard that if you immediately for Medicaid, even if you give them away, you have to wait five have assets in excess of $500,000. years to qualify? None of this is true. If you do have too many assets, The truth is Medicaid is a complex then there is a proper way to ensure set of laws, rules, exceptions, and you qualify for Medicaid in the even exceptions to the exceptions, shortest time possible while ensuring but simply stated Medicaid applies you protect what you have worked a to every single person differently lifetime to have. depending on 12 key factors. Medicaid eligibility is different For example, your home is exempt, for each person and rarely requires whether you’re married or single, a 60-month wait. It’s important you except if you are single, Medicaid has understand how the 12 Medicaid a right to take your home after you die factors apply to you. Unfortunately, to be reimbursed the cost it expended many people attempt to plan based during your lifetime. If you’re married, on what they hear and actually 3.5 x 4.75” Christ.Comm. 3.5 x they 4.75” Medicaid can’t. 55+ - Madison/Oneida - disqualify themselves when

otherwise would have been eligible. Get informed about your options while you’re healthy, and if you’re not, it’s still not too late. Proper planning can protect 60 to 80 percent of your assets even after you enter a nursing home. It’s not risky — it’s actually the law. Learn how the 12 factors apply to you and if you already qualify. Talk with an estate planning attorney to ensure your Medicaid planning is done properly and learn how the 12 Medicaid key factors apply to you.

Black White David & J. Zumpano is an attorney and a certified public accountant (CPA). He operates Estate Planning Law Center. He can be reached at -315-793-3622. 55+ - St. Luke Christ.Comm.

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Lucille Laws: City Slicker to Homesteader By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


eeting Lucille Laws at her farm in Victory, Cayuga County, makes it pretty tough to believe she was a dyed-in-the-wool city slicker from New York City a decade ago. Now operating Our Lady of Victory Farm, the 54-year-old looks pretty comfortable in jeans and muck boots. Laws’ transition away from the city started when her daughter, Cassie, became ill. Laws felt that much of the reason behind the girl’s poor health lay in the environment in which she and her husband, Charles, were rearing their youngsters. She believes that city life and eating food that was so far removed from its sources had a lot to do with why Cassie fell sick. As Charles also struggled with health, Laws wanted to find some way of making a living while staying home to care for him and in a place that would help her daughter recover. The couple bought a 25-acre former dairy farm in Victory because farming seemed to meet all their needs. Laws looks back at her lack of knowledge and laughs now, but it wasn’t very funny when she started out. Several people gave her animals to help her get the farm going despite her limited knowledge of farming. Helpful neighbors and Cornell Cooperative Extension workshops have helped her learn how to take care of her animals, which now include 24 head of beef, three sows and their piglets, a flock of chickens, ducks, a goat and more. Just as Laws doesn’t represent a typical farmer who grew up in the profession, misfits seem to find a welcoming home at Our Lady of Victory. They include Lucy, a calf 38

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Lucille Laws, left, and her daughter, Cassie, check on Lucy, a calf at Our Lady of Victory Farm in Cayuga County.

A variety of jams grace the shelves at Our Lady of Victory Farm Co-op Store.

rejected by its mother who now roams the farm like a puppy, One-Eyed Sy, an unfortunate cat, and a donkey no one wanted. Whenever she encounters a farm quandary, she doesn’t hesitate to ask others. Or, she lives up to her nickname, “Mrs. Google” and searches online for answers. Laws partners with Becky Burger, her neighbor and friend who owns 200 acres. When Laws’ husband experienced a rough patch in his health, Burger took Laws’ pigs to her farm, Horeb Farm, which helped decrease the chores on the farm. Though Charles is doing better, Laws and Burger agreed to continue the arrangement since Burger’s farm is well suited to raising pigs. Laws raises nearly all the family’s food. Their daughter, Cassie, moved back to the farm to help care for her father and the farm. The women pasture their Angus beef and pigs and eschew antibiotics and hormones to grow a natural product. The birds live freerange, which Laws feels provides them with a happier, healthier life and produces more nutritious meat and eggs. The farm is doing well enough that Laws opened a Our Lady of Victory Coop Store on the property June 17. Using a 20-by-20-foot renovated building on the farm, she offers products from local farms, including maple syrup, honey, bath products and her own freezer beef and pork. “This is what made America great and what will make it great again,” Laws said.

Locally-made soap and other bath products are part of the wares at Our Lady of Victory Farm Co-op Store.

A devout Catholic, Laws credits God with her ability to undertake a farm and store, especially considering her lack of knowledge about agriculture. She had worked in the restaurant industry for many years and understands operating business; however, raising crops and animals represents an entirely different effort. “I have a great devotion to the

blessed mother and feel she has prayed and interceded for me,” Laws said. “God gave my husband another chance. He was never supposed to walk and he had 28 more years of walking.” She hopes that her farm will help people return to eating more natural, locally raised foods.

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Father Jim

Reverend has led St. Lucy’s Church in Syracuse for more than two decades, devoting time and energy to the poor By Mary Beth Roach


t’s Pentecost Sunday, considered to be the “birthday” of the Christian Church, a day that commemorates Jesus’ disciples receiving the Holy Spirit. That is when the apostles and believers were united in a common language and began to preach the Gospel. It’s raining and brisk outside, but the weather cannot dampen the spirit inside St. Lucy’s Church, on Syracuse’s 40

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near west side. In celebration of this church feast, Rev. Jim Mathews leads his parishioners up and down the aisles of the church, singing and waving colorful streamers. Father Jim — as he’s known to everyone — has been leading St. Lucy’s Church for more than a quarter century, but he’s also been a leader in the near west side neighborhood, one that continues to see its share of

challenges. According to the United Way of Central New York, it is one of the most indigent in the country. An article that appeared in November of 2014 on stated that more than half of the residents in this neighborhood fall below the poverty line. Statistics on the city of Syracuse’s website indicate that in 2010, the median income in that neighborhood

was just over $14,400. But for Mathews, it’s a neighborhood rich in spirit and the people are the core of his ministry. “It’s just being with the people in the neighborhood. I love being with the people because they are my moral theologians. They teach me more about Gospel spirituality than any institution that I’ve been in,” he said. Mathews is beginning his 26th year at St. Lucy’s. “It’s some kind of record for me. I don’t keep a job that long,” he said with a chuckle. This year, he is also marking his 80th birthday and his 55th anniversary as a priest. Since his ordination in 1962, he has served in seven different parishes in and around Syracuse. He claimed to have gotten fired twice because he and some of the pastors at his assigned parishes didn’t get along. But Mathews, who grew up in Solvay, went to Christian Brothers Academy for high school and then on to Holy Cross, has found a home at St. Lucy’s. The church, according to one local newspaper, is one of the four pillars in the near west side neighborhood. “I wouldn’t want to live any other place. I love it there. I love the rectory. We have a big old rectory. And I’m very comfortable there,” he said. “The people are my family. I’m very close to them. I enjoy them. They’re my closest friends.” Some attribute Mathews for bringing some lapsed Catholics back to the church, but he doesn’t quite see it that way. “I don’t think I do any of that. I think that there’s a real good Gospel spirituality at St. Lucy’s, and we find so many people from the suburbs that are attracted by it. That’s why we have so many suburbanites coming down to St. Lucy’s. They see something special,” he said. Mathews said it’s not about the rules; it’s about being open to people’s suggestions and involvement that makes the church. “It’s the spirituality taught by Jesus that we find in the Gospels. It’s not rules and regulations,” Mathews said. “It’s nice to say that everyone’s following the rules and everybody’s doing exactly the same thing, but that does not work because you’ve got people that are totally different — different cultures, different language,

different backgrounds, different economic status. “And so you’ve got to be creative and open to doing things in a new and different way and hearing the voice of the people and letting them speak,” he said.

Let congregation speak And let them speak he does. He has 25 people that serve as preachers. During the liturgies on a Sunday, he said, he doesn’t sit in the celebrant’s chair, but among the members of the congregation. But Mathews has his critics, some who find his ways too unorthodox, but their opinions don’t faze him. “I don’t have to defend or apologize to them,” he remarked. “I worked hard to get where I’m at. And some people, they’re just going to follow the same old rules that they’ve always had, and if that’s fulfilling for them, that’s OK but it’s not fulfilling for me.” In the 55 years since Mathews was first ordained, he has seen a great deal

of changes. Two challenges facing the Catholic Church are intertwined — the decreasing number of men opting to enter the priesthood, which is causing churches to close or parishes to merge. Mathews is candid about the problems. “Sooner or later, it’s a question, do we want the Eucharist or do we want celibacy? Which is more important?” he asked. “Celibacy is obviously decreasing the candidates for priesthood, and the result is that the Eucharist is not available, the sacraments are not available for the people. Sooner or later we’ve got to deal with the problem. “It’s not going to go away and it’s not going to get any better. And the answer’s not to keep closing churches, so someday we’ll have mass at the War Memorial,” he said. “That’s not the way it was founded. It was founded to have small communities. So we have to be open and creative in different way.” Another matter causing Mathews concern is the recently announced policy being instituted by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. The diocese is notifying priests older than 80 that they must give up their day-today administration of parishes. In a recent local news article on this new policy, a spokesperson for the diocese explained that older priests are being asked to retire from the duties of running a parish, but can still perform the sacraments. According to canon law, a pastor or bishop must submit his letter of resignation at age 75. At that point, a bishop can decide to accept the resignation of a priest, or allow an extension, or in the case of a bishop, the Vatican decides on extensions, the diocesan representative said. While the diocese has not approached Mathews about retirement, it still is a matter that raises his ire. “These priests have given 60 years of their lives, the best years of their lives to the church,” he said. He added that he’s talked with several of these priests, and remarked that some of them are hurt and angry. He would have preferred that the diocese reached out to the affected priests and asked if they wanted to retire and how the diocese could make their last days happier. “They make a decision saying you’re out,” he added. “That’s not the way to do business in today’s church. August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS




Fear of Finances Even the most educated shudder at the thought of figuring out finances By Mary Ann Pierce


met with a wonderful group recently to talk about investment basics. This group was a mix of people of all ages, from different backgrounds and varying professions. Every single person in this group appeared to be confident and competent. We had a lively discussion, and there were many relevant questions asked that were interesting to group members. However, at one point, a woman remarked, “I feel so stupid about finances and investing. I just feel as though I should know this.” This sentiment was echoed by just about everyone in the group. All of a sudden, this great group of intelligent, capable people began to put themselves down. Why do so many feel this way? Why should you be expected to understand all of the “ins and outs” of financial planning and investing? Financial planning is not something that is generally taught in school unless that is the course of study chosen. Finances and investing are also not necessarily intuitive. We’re not born knowing how to save, invest and plan for our financial well-being. I believe that part of this stems from the myriad of advertisements we are exposed to in magazines, on TV or on the internet that encourages us to be a bunch of do-it-yourselfers. These ads tell us that we can — and should — be able to navigate a labyrinth of information to evaluate among the thousands 42

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of investment options available to choose an appropriate investment mix of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. And we’re also told that we can balance our portfolios so that we can someday retire and live comfortably off our investment earnings. Feeling overwhelmed by all of this is understandable. Also understandable is an urge to procrastinate when faced with this overabundance of information. Then we beat ourselves up because we feel that we should be doing all of these things, in addition to spending time at work, running our household, and perhaps raising a family. It would be easy to feel incompetent.

Do your homework My suggestion is to take enough time to learn the basics of investing — learn about the different types of investments, and what vehicles, such as a 401(k) and IRA’s, are available to help us save and invest for our future financial goals. Having a good grasp of the basics will lend a sense of empowerment and trust that we are making sound financial decisions. I also think it is important to have a team of reliable professionals to work with to assist in meeting financial goals. It is important to work with an attorney to discuss your will and estate plan. Tax advisers are important to ensure that we are not paying more tax than we are obligated to.

It is also important to work with an insurance and/or financial adviser to define and implement strategies for achieving financial goals. Each of these professionals will work together to ensure that you have an appropriate financial and estate planning strategy. Every one of the individuals I was speaking with had the intelligence and capability to learn all about investing and financial planning if that was his or her desire. However, finance is not their chosen career and they did not have that knowledge. For them to feel they are somehow “not smart” is placing unreasonable pressure to be proficient in an area that is not their main area of expertise. As I said to this woman, “Let’s turn this around. Should I feel bad that I don’t understand your profession (medicine) and should I have my hand held throughout every exam and procedure and have the ‘language’ explained to me?” I asked. Of course not, and neither should she or anyone else. • Mary Ann Pierce is a securities licensed principal at Marathon Financial Advisors, Syracuse, East Syracuse. She holds the chartered life underwriter designation, awarded by The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Pierce has been involved in the insurance and financial services industry since 1989.

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August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


life after 55 By Michele Reed

Toujours Bonjour Q. Can one word be magic? A. Yes!


f you are planning a trip to anywhere in France — or even the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec — learning one little word can make your life so much easier. It is truly a miraculous word, opening doors, making friends and smoothing the way for pleasant relationships. You may ask: Can one word really be that magic? Yes, if that word is “Bonjour.” Whole books have been written about the power of politesse, or politeness among the French, most recently 2016’s “The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed” by Julie Barlow and JeanBenoit Nadeau. We witness the importance of politesse every day we are in France. Whether it’s greeting a neighbor or shopkeeper with a friendly “Bonjour” or thanking the bus driver as you exit after every ride, there are certain rules you must follow in France. But the benefit is that good things flow your way. The French open up their hearts to you and you make friends, learn new things and even get gifts. s I opened the door of our house one day, my market basket slung over my arm, I heard a noise like a gaggle of geese. A group of about 25 schoolchildren who looked to be no more than 6 years old was walking up our narrow street on a field trip to the mairie, or city hall. They were accompanied by one young teacher at the front and another bringing up the rear, like the goose girls from the fairy tales. I stood on our doorstep to let them pass and every one of those little schoolchildren greeted me politely, “Bonjour, Madame.” They said it seriously, and didn’t even poke each other and giggle. I even got some smiles and a few waves along with the required greeting. In France it is important for kids to be “bien élevé,” literally well-raised,

or as we would say, well brought up. They learn it from the cradle. One day, the young mother across the street held her 2-year-old up so he could see over the terrace wall while we were chatting from rooftop to rooftop, hanging out our laundry. “Say Bonjour,” she told him. He did, just before shyly hiding his face on his mother ’s shoulder. Another neighbor walks her dog at the same time Bill, my husband, and I take an evening promenade. She has one of those automatic leashes. She releases the catch and the leash spools out while the dog runs over to us for a pat. “Say Bonjour,” she tells him and we all laugh. Often as we wait for the bus, we pass the time with an older villager, originally from Morocco. We always

talk, although early on in our sojourn in France it was more one-sided, with him talking and us listening and nodding. As our skills have gotten better our conversations have gotten longer. One day we greeted him, “Bonjour, Monsieur,” and made some small talk about the weather. Just then a guy came out of the café and walked past us. Our friend nodded to him, but the man walked by without a greeting. As soon as he turned the corner, our friend said, “Did you see that? He didn’t even say ‘Bonjour.’ There is something wrong with him,” and then he gave a few grunts like a pig oinking. That’s the thing about “Bonjour.” Say it and the world is your gourmetprepared French oyster. Omit it,



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At the used book fair and the antiques market alike, be sure to say “Bonjour” to the sellers, if you want to get good price — or even a little free gift.

and you are instantly marked as an uncultured foreigner. At our first visit to the brocante, or open air antiques market, I saw an object that caught my eye, a vintage inkwell. I picked it up, turning it over and over in my hands. It was beautifully forged metal and looked to be an Art Deco treasure. No price tag. I looked around but the proprietor was not there. It turned out she was having lunch with other vendors a few booths away. (On market days vendors will frequently set up a little table complete with table cloth and crystal glasses and share a full French lunch, including wine, with one keeping watch to alert them of any potential customers.) A few minutes later, she came over, wiping her hands on a linen napkin. I held up the item, asking about the price. She fixed me with a steely look, as she said, “Bonjour, Madame?” in a stern voice. I quickly realized my mistake. “Bonjour, Madame,” I replied, “Please, what does this item cost?” But the damage had been done. I think she priced it a full 10 euros higher because of my rudeness. It was out of my range, and, red-faced, I left without it. At the next brocante, I remembered my manners, and greeted a seller with a polite “Bonjour, Monsieur,” before inquiring about a lovely set of bookends. He gave me a fair price, and I bought them immediately and didn’t even haggle, thanking him with a polite, “Merci. Bonne journee (have a nice day).” My politesse must have impressed him. A couple of minutes later, I heard, “Madame, madame!” He had trotted down the aisle of booths to catch up with us and present me with small gift — a silver teaspoon — at no extra charge. It may not be “Open sesame,” but a simple “Bonjour,” uttered with a friendly smile in the presence of any French speaking person, will definitely open doors for you.

Michele Reed retired after a career spanning four decades in public relations, advertising, journalism and higher education. She now writes travel articles, book reviews, haiku poetry and fiction. Bill Reed retired after four decades in social services with the county of Oswego, and now works at travel photography and photojournalism, along with writing book reviews.

Walk down any street in France, like this picturesque avenue in the seaside town of Port Vendres, and you absolutely must greet everyone you pass with a friendly “Bonjour” or risk branding yourself as an uncultured foreigner.

The bus stop in front of the local school. Here we practice our politesse, trading “Bonjours” with those who wait for the bus with us, as well as the children leaving school for the lunch break and their parents. August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS


druger’s zoo

By Marvin Druger

Bonjourno! A Trip to Italy


Journey to southern Europe features history, unmatched beauty

onjourno! That is the extent of my knowledge of Italian, but I traveled to Italy with a companion anyhow. It turned out that most people we met spoke English. It is common for people in other countries to be bilingual, but it is not common in the United States. We drove to Toronto to get an Alitalia Airlines flight direct to Rome. Usually, the customs officers at the Canadian/U.S. border are grim-faced and serious. I prepared myself for the usual questions, i.e., “Where are you from? Are you carrying any weapons or drugs? Where are you going?” When asked where we were going, I replied, “Italy.” With a solemn face, the customs agent replied, “Which boat are you taking?” He was actually telling a joke. I didn’t know whether or not to laugh. For the first time in my life, I flew business class. I highly recommend it. My seat was like a robotic coffin. By pushing buttons, I could get the seat into any position. When I had to go to the toilet, I couldn’t figure out which buttons to push to enable me to stand up. My companion came to my rescue. A tablecloth was put on the table, and drinks and food were very good and


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plentiful. There was even a hot towel for refreshment. The stewards were incredibly handsome and I’m sure every woman aboard instantly fell in love with them. I watched three modern movies while the plane zipped across the Atlantic, uneventfully. Another luxury of being in business class was that we could use the KLM lounge, where drinks and snacks were abundant. I greedily devoured all the free food that I could eat, and became ill from eating a very creamy potato salad. I fought the nausea and survived the experience. If you have not planned a trip to Italy, plan one. Everyone we met was friendly, pleasant and helpful. In Rome, we only had time to visit the Vatican and the Colosseum. It was a bit frightening to see many vigilant soldiers armed with machine guns. By contrast, we hardly saw any police or military in Florence or Venice. We took a train from Rome to Florence and then from Florence to Venice. The train ride was fast, scenic and pleasant. Florence was spectacular and packed with young students and art galore. The works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were everywhere. We visited the Syracuse University Study Abroad Center in Florence. Six buildings housed art facilities for students and it was obvious why students would choose to study in Florence.

We were thrilled to see the magnificent 17-foot-high (5.17 meters) sculpture of David by Michelangelo. We were told that once you have seen this sculpture, you don’t have to see any others. You do have to be very careful guarding your wallet and passport. We met a Syracuse University faculty colleague in a museum in Florence and he told us that his wallet had been stolen in Rome. He took the wallet out of his pocket to buy an umbrella. When he reached for his wallet a few minutes later, it was gone.

Frightful experience Two ladies told us that they had a group of eight women who travel to a different country each year for a vacation. They rented a van in Rome. They went into a restaurant for lunch and when they emerged, their baggage and the entire contents of the van had been stolen. The message was clear. Guard your valuables, especially when in Rome. I had a scan-proof passport holder that I wore around my neck. When we got off the train in Venice, we both had a heavy suitcase and a backpack. Young boys with carts immediately besieged us, offering to transport our luggage to the hotel. I was fearful of being scammed by these porters, so I decided that we would carry our own luggage to the hotel. We had to climb 40 steps up and 40 steps down to cross the Grand Canal. My companion was struggling with her luggage, when a tall, muscular stranger from England took pity on my companion and said, “I’ll help you

with that.” He picked up her heavy luggage and walked up a few more steps. Then, he stopped and turned around to me and said, “I’ll help you also.” He picked up my suitcase, and easily carried both heavy bags over the canal. I was a bit insulted. I should have said, “That’s OK. I can handle it myself,” but I didn’t say anything except, “Thanks.” All the hotels on our trip were excellent, and they all came with a hearty breakfast. The hotel in Venice was like a palace, and even had a round, king-sized bed and a glassed–in bathroom. Open the window and we could observe gondolas moving along a branch of the Grand Canal. We did keep the windows closed, because the foul smell from the dirty water of the canal was distasteful. We did not take a gondola ride, because it looked too commercial and crowded. Instead, we traveled on a water-bus that stopped at many places along the Grand Canal. Italian restaurants were sensational. Every pasta dish was freshly made, and pizzas were the way pizzas should be. I generally don’t like to eat in very fancy restaurants. In one such restaurant, they served my companion five small raviolis in a very large plate for a very high price. I had a chunk of cooked veal that looked like a piece of the calf’s leg. A small sliver of cake on a large plate was the climax dessert at a high price. Handling money in Italy was easy. ATM machines were available for quick cash and credit cards were readily accepted everywhere. A Euro was worth $1.12, so I treated Euros like dollars. I found a Flying Tiger store that was like a fancy dollar store, with durable, novelty products from Denmark. I even found a 99cent store in Florence, thus satisfying my shopping needs. My companion luxuriated in the many leather shops. The flight home was uneventful. The greatest problem encountered on this trip to Italy was the time change of six hours. I never knew whether it was time to eat or sleep. It took several days to readjust our time frame in both directions. Our trip to Italy was like a pleasant dream. Like other wonderful experiences in life, it ended too soon.

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August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS




Staten Island is a 25-minute free ferry ride from downtown Manhattan.

10 Things to Do in Staten Island Surprise, surprise: Yes, there are tons of things to do and see in this NYC borough By Sandra Scott


hen people say they are going to New York City they usually are referring just to Manhattan. New York City is divided into five boroughs: Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Think of Staten Island as the “other NYC” and it is only a 25-minute free ferry ride from downtown. It is an island of parks, cultural activities, and where the hotels are reasonable, offer free parking along with complimentary transportation to/from the ferry. It is said “If you haven’t seen Staten Island, you haven’t really seen New York. Think of it as small town New York City. It is the least populated of the boroughs. Staten Island Museum: The museum has two locations, one near the Staten Island Ferry and one in Snug Harbor. It is the oldest cultural institution on the island and the only general interest museum in NYC. At the Snug Harbor location, check out “Remember the Mastodon” and at the one near the ferry learn about Staten Island’s first settlers, the Lenape. The Lenape Collection dates back more than 10,000 years.

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Snug Harbor Cultural Center: Snug Harbor, a Smithsonian affiliate, started as a sanctuary for aged sailors in 1801 and grew to have 50 structures and nearly a 1,000 residents. It was a self-sustaining community with a dairy, chapel, hospital and music hall and the richest charitable institution in the United States. Today it has been transformed into a center of art, culture and nature. Buildings are being restored including the Music Hall that rivals Carnegie Hall. It is also home to the Staten Island Children’s Museum. Historic Richmond: Step into the past at Historic Richmond Town, with over 30 original historic structures and where some of the treasures date to the mid-1600s. It is the only historic town in New York City. After watching the introductory video, take a guided tour that is available Wednesday through Sunday. The General Store is stocked with items typical of the late 1800s. Try to schedule a visit to coincide with one of their special events. Don’t miss an evening at The Tavern where the area’s top musicians regularly perform jazz, blues and sea

shanties. Fort Wadsworth: The fort is one of the oldest military sites in the United States. It guarded New York Harbor for over 200 years. Located on high ground overlooking the Narrows, an enemy entering the area would be caught in the crossfire between Fort Wadsworth and Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. It was especially important during the War of 1812 when it protected the harbor from the British. When the fort was closed in 1994 it had been the longest active military site in the United States. Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art: The museum provides a peek into the Tibetan world. Even the building, complete with a Chanting Hall filled with Tibetan statues and artifacts, was built to resemble a Tibetan mountain monastery. The Samadhi Garden features a fish pond and meditation area. Spin the Tibetan Prayer Wheel to spread spiritual blessings and wellbeing. There is a great view from the gardens even if is not a view of the Himalayas. The founder, Ms. Jacques Marchai, never visited Tibet but was an avid collector

of all things Tibetan and said “If I can give the world something that would be uplifting and a genuine help, perhaps, I should try.” Tai chi and meditation classes are offered. Staten Island Zoo: It may be small but they like to say they have “the best little zoo in America.” It is family friendly with plenty of animals to pet. Wander through the Earth’s various habitats and learn about the denizen of tropical rainforest, Sahara and temperate forest. Check out the llamas and the rare ibex, now nearly extinct in the wild. You have heard of Punxsutawney Phil, the famed prognosticator of the length of winter. The zoo’s Chuck the Groundhog has been better at predicting the end of winter with an 85-percent accuracy. Garibaldi-Meucci Museum: Who is the true inventor of the telephone? Antonio Meucci filed a patent in 1871. It is thought that when Meucci was ill, his wife sold his documents and projects to Alexander Graham Bell for $6. If the destitute Meucci had $10 to renew the patent in 1874 no patent could have been issued to Bell. Garibaldi, the “Washington of Italy,” was a friend of Meucci who took him in while he was in exile. National Lighthouse Museum: The newly created museum is dedicated to the history of lighthouses and the lighthouse keepers. Check out The Wall of Lights, models of a wide range of lighthouse types seen throughout the world. From May to October the museum offers a variety of boat tours. It is located in an area where, prior to Ellis Island, immigrants of questionable health were quarantined. Take time to walk out on the pier for a great view of Manhattan. Greenery: Staten Island with more than 170 parks is called “The Greenest Borough.” More than one-third of the island is protected parkland. Greenbelt Nature Center is a good pla -ce to start. It is three times the size of Central Park and a contiguous stretch of green land with miles of hiking trails. Their nature center offers educational exhibits and classes along with trail maps. It is a great place for bird watchers. At Snug Harbor there are nine distinctive botanical gardens including a Chinese Scholar’s Garden. And more: Not to miss is the Noble Maritime Museum to learn about the life and times of the retired sailors of Snug Harbor.



Photographer buffs will want to visit the Alice Austen House. The Staten Island Children’s museum is the perfect place to explore and learn.

Watch a Staten Island Yankee baseball game and no visit to Staten Island is complete with trying their famed pizza and Ralph’s ice cream.

Greenbelt Nature Center is three times the size of Central Park and a contiguous stretch of green land with miles of hiking trails.


A llama at Staten Island Zoo. Locals say they have “the best little zoo in America.”



Fort Wadsworth is one of the oldest military sites in the United States. August / September 2017 - 55 PLUS




By Matthew Liptak

Maurice “Mo” Laws, 81 Fulton resident honored by Oswego Hospital for working 1,660 volunteer hours in one year Q. How’d you get involved with volunteering? A. “It’s a long story, but the short portion of it is, I was advised by my doctor to get out of the house and do something. So I got out of the house and started volunteering seven years ago. I’ve been doing it ever since.” Q. What do you do at the hospital? A. “I’m here at 7 o’clock in the morning and I get out about 3. I’m here five days a week, Monday through Friday. I get here first thing in the morning. We have a newspaper delivery program. I make sure that all the offices get those first thing in the morning. After that I do some of the billing that comes in. I date-stamp that and take it up to the office. I’m mainly at the main desk. I do everything — transport the patients, take up flowers, candy baskets — all the little things. We have fun doing everything. I’m right there when you walk. I direct a lot of people. People come in to the hospital and don’t know where to go.” Q. What do you enjoy about it? A. “Just talking to people — making them smile. That is a personal challenge since I came here, to get everyone to smile and say good morning, hello, how are you? I’ve been in contact with people all my life through my other two careers. It’s just being around people and satisfying their needs makes me feel better. Q. What were your other careers? A. “I retired after 30 years in retail. And I was 20 years at Miller Brewing Company.” Q. How are you motivated to help people? A. “I’ve been around people — basically the elderly and the handicapped. I had a handicapped son. My wife and I did a lot of volunteering wherever we were ever since 1960 — off and on. We 50

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volunteered down in Florida for six or seven years. When we were here my boy was in the handicapped school. We did the volunteering, the bus trips and all that, with them. Q. Do you have any particularly memorable moments from volunteering? A. “Probably the big surprise birthday for my 80th birthday. That was awesome. It was excellent. Even my daughter showed up. It was a total surprise. We had it here in the hospital cafeteria. There was cake and tons of flowers and presents. A lot of good people showed up. The people at the hospital, they’re my family now. I consider them my family because I spend just about half my awake hours here.” Q. How do you feel about being recognized by the hospital? A. “That was another big surprise. It was just an amazing night. The people were just great. I enjoyed it. There was another gentleman form St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. We both got volunteer-of-the-year for all of Central New York. We had a nice dinner at the Welch Allyn lodge. It’s a beautiful venue out there. Q. How long do you hope to keep volunteering? A. “As long as they’ll have me. As long as I’m able to I’ll be here. Q. Do you recommend volunteering? A. “It’s good for everybody. We need volunteers. We have high school children all the way

through one that’s 91 years old. It’s a great rewarding feeling to see people healthy going home, and people that are coming in that need help, we get them to the proper office. I have fun. I enjoy doing it. Q. Is there anything else I haven’t covered you’d like to say? A. “Have a great day!”




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