Page 1

Learn More About Social Security’s ‘Viagra Benefit’ for Kids

Experts on Financial Resolutions For 2016


Issue 60 December 2015 / January 2016

For Active Adults in the Central New York Area

Square Dancing Anyone? More Baby Boomers Joining the Party

Tiny Homes Why more people in CNY are considering a drastic downsizing

President LeMura First female layperson to lead a Jesuit college, Linda LeMura talks about career, growing up with the boys, rising from the ranks, fitness and her future plans for Le Moyne College


INSIDE: Need Help from the IRS? Good Luck!

Superior stroke care. It’s about time.


eceiving the area’s fastest stroke diagnosis and treatment starts even before you arrive at Crouse Hospital. That’s because our EMS

partners start communicating with our team the moment they arrive on the scene. Once here, our stroke specialists immediately assess your condition. And if more advanced care is needed, our boardcertified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons use the most progressive stroke-rescue therapies and technology available. When it’s about time, say “Take me to Crouse.”

LIVE INDEPENDENTLY AT HOME Embracing Age Offers Personal Support for Better Living • Transportation • Companions • Housekeeping • Shopping Services • Meal Preparation • Home Health Aides • Lifeline Medical Alert System Contact Embracing Age Today- 315-877-3779 or Personal Support for Better Living

333 Butternut Drive, Suite 100, DeWitt, New York 13214 Embracing Age is affiliated with St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center and the Franciscan Companies network


A N D R E W L L O Y D W E B B E R ’S


LANDMARK THEATRE • APRIL 6 - 17 ON SALE DECEMBER 14 (800) 745-3000 • Group Sales (315) 424-8210 • Information (315) 475-7980


December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




Learn More About Social Security’s ‘Viagra Benefit’ for Kids

December 2015 / January 2016

Experts on Financial Resolutions For 2016


Issue 60 December 2015 / January 2016

For Active Adults in the Central New York Area

Square Dancing Anyone? More Baby Boomers Joining the Party

Tiny Homes Why more people in CNY are considering a drastic downsizing

President LeMura First female layperson to lead a Jesuit college, Linda LeMura talks about career, growing up with the boys, rising from the ranks, fitness and her future plans for Le Moyne College


INSIDE: Need Help from the IRS? Good Luck!



Savvy Senior 6 12 MONEY Financial Health 8 • Experts: what financial resolutions Gardening 10

you should make in 2016

My Turn 20 14 HOUSING Aging 38 • Is it a tiny home for you?

Life After 55 42 15 Golden Years 34 SPORTS • An Oswego basketball team

Consumers Corner 44

finishes fourth in the country

Druger’s Zoo 46 21 Visits 48 CHANGES

• Former reporter John Mariani featuring a different kind of byline

LAST PAGE Art Vercillo, former Excellus leader, talks about his new life as semi-retired. 4

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016


• Karen Mihalyi, founder of Syracuse Community Choir, which turns 30 this year




• Binge drinking more common with middle-aged than young adults


• President Linda LeMura talks about career, plans for Le Moyne College


• An English native making a difference at Syracuse Meals on Wheels


• Square dancing still alive and well in CNY

Smart Giving is Easy

Mansukh J. Shah, CLU, ChFC, an AXA Advisors representative, stands in his Liverpool office.

After my wife passed away, I wanted to make charitable donations in her memory in a way that made the biggest impact in our community. It would have been cost-prohibitive to establish a private foundation, so I chose the Community Foundation to administer the Indira & Mansukh J. Shah Fund. This structure makes my giving easy. I can write one check to the Community Foundation at the end of the year, and then they distribute money to the organizations of my choice throughout the year. I advise my friends, clients and community members to create a legacy through a fund at the Community Foundation to ensure their charitable work will continue when they are gone. This community is our home; whatever we can do to ensure a bright future for Central New York, we should do it! I am still working, in part so that I can utilize my steady income to give charitably. The Community Foundation makes my giving easy and effective because it is Where the Smart Money Gives.

Where the Smart Money Gives. 431 East Fayette Street, Suite 100 Syracuse, NY 13202 (315) 422-9538

December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


savvy senior By Jim Miller


Social Security’s Viagra Benefit for Kids

reader has been told that his children, who are 13 and 16 years old, may be eligible for Social Security when he files for retirement benefits next this year. Is that correct? Yes, it’s true. If you’re retired and are still raising young children, there’s a little-known Social Security benefit dubbed the “Viagra benefit,” that can put some extra money in your family coffers. Here’s how it works. When you file for Social Security retirement benefits, each of your minor children can get money on your work record equaling half of what you would receive at full retirement age, which is currently 66. Even if you were to take a smaller benefit by claiming earlier, your kids will still get half of your full retirement age amount. To qualify, your kids — whether they’re biological, adopted or step children — must be unmarried and under age 18. Kids that are over 18 but still in high school can collect too, until they graduate or turn 19, whichever comes first. (Other rules apply to kids that are disabled.) But that’s not all. Because you have one child who’s only 13, your spouse (if you’re married) can collect Social Security benefits on your work record too. And it doesn’t matter if he or she’s just 40 years old. The minimum age requirements to collect retirement benefits (62) or survivor benefits (60) do not apply when it comes to collecting benefits as the caregiver of a young child. The spouse’s benefit, which is also worth up to half of your benefit, will stop when your child turns 16. But be aware that there are limits to the amount of money that can be paid to a family. The Social Security “family maximum payment” is determined by a complex formula (see ssa. gov/oact/cola/familymax.html) and


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

can range from 150 to 180 percent of your full retirement benefit amount. If the total exceeds that, each person’s benefit, except yours, is cut proportionately until it equals the maximum. Here’s an example of how that’s figured. Let’s say, for example, that your full retirement age benefit is $2,000. After doing the Social Security math computations that would make your family maximum benefit $3,500. Subtract your $2,000 benefit from the $3,500 family maximum benefit, which leaves $1,500. That’s the monthly amount that can be split between your two children — $750 each. If your spouse wants in on it too, the individual checks are smaller, at $500 apiece, but the family amount is the same. File and Suspend One other benefit boosting strategy you should know about that’s relevant here is “file and suspend.” If you’re still working and would like to wait, say to age 67 or even 70 to start claiming your own benefits, you can file and suspend starting at full retirement age 66. This option gives you the ability to start monthly payments for your minor children and spouse, but suspend your own benefit so you can collect a larger amount later. Your benefit will increase by 8 percent per year for every year you delay collecting your retirement benefit up until age 70. That means your retirement benefit at age 70 will be 132 percent of what it would have been if he had collected at age 66. You should also know that minor children can collect Social Security benefits based on the earnings of a parent who is disabled or dead too. To learn more, see the SSA publication (No. 05-10085) “Benefits For Children” at

55PLUS Editor and Publisher Wagner Dotto

Associate Editor Lou Sorendo


Deborah J. Sergeant Aaron Gifford, Sandra Scott Matthew Liptak


Eva Briggs, M.D., Bruce Frassinelli Marilyn Pinsky, Harold Miller Jim Sollecito, David J. Zumpano Marvin Druger, Michele Reed .


Amy Gagliano Cassandra Lawson

Office Manager Alice Davis

Layout and Design Chris Crocker

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 © 2015 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:

Let’s Talk!

Mary Ann Pierce, CLU

Turning 65? New to Medicare?

Take the first step & make an appointment.

It just gets easier from there. • We have an experienced team of financial professionals. • We help our clients strive to reach their financial goals. • We offer a complete range of services including retirement planning, investments, financial strategies & insurance.

Need help in selecting a Medicare plan and learning your options at no cost to you? LET ME HELP!!!! I am a Licensed Insurance Agent, available for individual consultations and enrollment.

James A. Pizzolanti, R.Ph. CLTC

Medicare Supplement Insurance, Medicare Advantage Plans, Part D Prescription Drug Plans, Long-Term Care Insurance 315.446.5797 • Securities and investment advice offered through Cadaret, Grant & Co., Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC Marathon Financial Advisors (Formerly Susan Budrakey & Associates) and Cadaret, Grant & Co., Inc. are separate entities.

Home: 315-468-3598 Cell: 315-256-5993 •

Choose Choose the the best...

Central New York’s Leading Choice for

“I highly recommend McHarrie Place for short-term rehabilitation. I was home within three weeks, and now we are back to doing what we love to do.”

Short-Term Rehabilitation


7740 Meigs Road, Baldwinsville, NY December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


financial health

Bennett Manor Apartments

By David J. Zumpano

Senior Housing (Elderly and/or Disabled) In Residential Section. E. Irving and Dausman Sts East Syracuse

Rent Based on Income Many Outstanding Features • On Bus Line • All One Bedroom Units • 24 Hour Maintenance • Secure Building • Wall to Wall Carpeting • One Pet Welcome • Total Electric w/ Individual Controls Apply Rental Office

100 Bennett Manor Drive, E. Syracuse Mon-Fri 7:30 – 3:30


Invest in Oswego County’s future. The Oswego County Community Foundation is a union of gifts, big and small, made by those who want to make a charitable investment in this community.

We invite you to join us. Learn more at The Oswego County Community Foundation is an affiliate fund of the Central New York Community Foundation. 315.422.9538


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016


The Gift That Keeps On Giving

etty had been a client for over 15 years. Her only daughter and her husband were deceased. Betty had two grandchildren whom she cared for deeply. Betty is a very smart woman and over the years she had come to rely heavily on her estate planning attorney for guidance. So much so, that she would travel over 45 miles to see him. Recently, Betty’s grandson Benson announced that he planned to start a photography business. In addition to his day job, he had been working weekends photographing weddings and parties for several years, and had developed a strong following. Betty knew that her grandson had worked very hard and wanted to help him get his new business off to a solid financial start. There was a lot of equipment to buy, a small space to rent and a change in income for Benson when he left his job to pursue photography full time. Betty thought she could help financially and wanted to make a gift of about $150,000 to her grandson to get him up and running. Betty set a time to visit with her attorney to make sure it was OK to make the gift. She had heard about gift taxes and was worried about paying those. She also was worried that somehow she was not being fair to her granddaughter, who was a stayat-home mom. Betty wanted to make sure that her granddaughter would be treated equally, but did not feel that it was the right time to make a large gift to her granddaughter. Once they were satisfied that she had the money to make the gift, the attorney explained that she could make annual gifts to her grandson of $13,000, but she could also make lifetime gifts of up to $5 million. All without paying any gift taxes. Finally, Betty’s attorney explained that while she could gift the

money outright to her grandson, she might be better off making a loan to him, secured by the photography equipment. Betty was not sure she liked the idea so she asked for reasons why she should make a loan instead of a gift. The attorney explained that the loan would make the transaction more businesslike and might encourage her grandson to work hard to make sure the loan could be re-paid. It also meant that if something went wrong with the photography business, the equipment could be sold and Betty could recover some of her investment. In addition, the loan would be an asset in her estate and could be forgiven. But it also would be a way of tracking the fact that Benson had received money and allow the estate to equalize this “gift” to Betty’s granddaughter when Betty died. Betty decided that it made sense to make the loan. She had her attorney document the loan with a promissory note and an amendment to her living trust to add loan forgiveness language. Several years later, Betty is still alive and enjoys watching her grandson’s success. She has since made a similar loan to her granddaughter to help her buy a small ski home in Vermont. Gifting or loaning money to your grandchildren can help your grandchildren get a good start in life. Gifts can also give great pleasure. Keep in mind that there are several ways to accomplish your goals. An experienced attorney can be helpful in terms of thinking through the different ways to accomplish your particular goals in the best way possible. 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.



magine your buisness in a serene environment without the hectic city “hubbub” but still only a few minutes from downtown if necessary. As you look out your office window there is a view of a lake instead of traffic and high-rise buildings. Now there is a new contempoary office building that offers you, your employees and your clients this Class A atmosphere from which to conduct business. Lakeland Professional Building.

Dental Office for rent: Previously a general practitioner office, 2000 square feet, all set up for 4 operatory offices, large waiting room, private doctor’s office, staff lounge with private bathroom and shower, lab and sterilization area, private office manager’s office, suitable for specialists, handicapped accessible, available immediately at the Lakeland Professional Building, 812 State Fair Blvd. Contact Skip DeLorenzo at 315-727-7547

Curious about your cardiovascular and cognitive health? The Exercise Science Department at Syracuse University is recruiting participants for a RESEARCH STUDY examining the effect of whey protein (milk protein) on artery and brain health! You are eligible if you are 60 - 85 years old and do not smoke or have diabetes or kidney disease. You will visit the laboratory 4 times over the course of 12 weeks (2 hours each visit). You will be given either whey protein or carbohydrate to consume twice each day for 12 weeks. You may receive up to $100 compensation for completing the full study Please contact us at or 315-443-4540

December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


gardening By Jim Sollecito


Journey Preparation is Best Part

e can never know about the days to come, but we think about them anyway.” That Carly Simon song from freshman year in college still resonates in my head, especially at this time of year. I love talking to people about plants and the positive impact they can have on our lives. Plants make me the eternal optimist. You need to have some faith in order to be successful, just like with fishing. Like Carly, I am a natural storyteller. Remember, I am a fisherman. Telling an animated, lively story is part of the pleasure. It’s easier for people to remember narratives than facts. Try to recall the formula for the area of a circle. Next, try to remember the famous Italian explorer popularly given credit for proving the world was round. The enduring Columbus tale is more story than fact-filled but we sure

remember it. Of course, the importance of math cannot be minimized; without navigation calculations, Christopher Columbus might never have left the Strait of Gibraltar. At this time of year we reflect on what went right in our lives (and landscapes) over the past year and what we can improve. My philosophy has been to never waste a perfectly good mistake. Mistakes are learning opportunities. The person that never made a mistake probably missed a lot of life’s options. A story of struggle can yield valuable lessons. But a story of anticipation inspires us for adventure and accomplishment. Anticipation is contemplating and planning for what lies ahead, literally and figuratively. A favorite example of anticipation is the year-long wait for the breathtaking display of a particular flowering tree, shrub or perennial. The stunning spectacle of changing seasons — new

When you choose a two-tone tree or shrub with bicolor foliage, you will literally buy color. Two-tone summer leaves double your pleasure. Then just when you think your plantings might be getting drowsy, the fall hues are enough to wake up any landscape. 10

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

buds emerge in spring; a tree or shrub explodes with a confident display of flowers; autumn hues of fall foliage; graceful branches artfully dressed in freshly fallen snow.

Mystery abounds Anticipation is also employed in the classic design of a strolling garden. This technique includes the elements of suspense and discovery as we go around bends, over rises, into the shadows, through gates and behind bushes. What will we find? Maybe bright yellow contrasting foliage, hot pink flowers, giant glowing white blooms, subtle mauve blossoms, graceful arcing trees, or bright orange flower petals. Another layer of landscape design provides us with chirping songbirds, nimble hummingbirds, graceful butterflies, and industrious pollinators. These are all stories worth anticipating. Anticipation is the prequel to the story we want to tell. It gives us a reason to forge on, to see what awaits us. But it isn’t enough to wait. We can guide the future by outlining the next chapter. By planting the ornamental flowering tree, the elegant hardy hydrangea, or the brilliant tangerinecolored flower. We can start the story and watch it unfold. You can jump start someone else’s story with the gift of nature. When the gift is a plant, the joys return exponentially as the plant grows, spreads, changes with the seasons and matures. It might provide a colorful welcome home with each drive into the driveway, a canopy for cookouts and tea parties, or a backdrop for graduation photos. The stories you generate now may be your lasting legacy, so why not help fill them with giddy anticipation? 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 at

Social Security


Q: Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that affect me? A: It depends on your age. If you are full retirement age and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can choose to file and receive benefits on just your spouse’s Social Security record and delay filing for benefits on your own record up until age 70. By filing for just benefits as a spouse, you may receive a higher retirement benefit on your own record later based on the effect of delayed retirement credits. You can earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70 as long as you do not collect your own benefits — and those credits can increase your benefit by as much as 8 percent for each year you delay. You can use our online “Retirement Estimator” to test out different scenarios. Go to www. Q: I saw a poster that advised people 65 or over with limited income and resources to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Next month I’ll turn 65, and I thought I’d be eligible for SSI. I planned to apply until my neighbor told me I probably would be turned down because I have children who could help support me. Is this true? A: Whether your children are capable of helping to support you does not affect your eligibility. SSI eligibility depends solely on your income and resources (the things you own). If you have low income and few resources, you may be able to get SSI. However, if you are receiving support from your children or from anyone living inside or outside of your home, it may affect your eligibility or the amount you can receive. Support includes any food or shelter that is given to you, or is received by you because someone else pays for it. Learn more about SSI at www.

Gift certificates available year-round at tt Hill Rd 4094 Howle 13215 Y Syracuse, N 2





Landscaping Nursery

December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




Financial Resolutions for 2016 What four local experts say about them By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

If you’re not far from retirement age, your financial situation differs greatly from when you were in your 20s. Along with eating better and exercising more, why not shape up your finances? Area experts shared their ideas for financial resolutions you should make. Lorraine McGee, vice-president, relationship manager, certified fund specialist, and certified wealth strategist with Key Private Bank in Oswego. • “A lot of times, for us to get the best view of where we want to get to in the future, we have to have a solid picture of where we are: income, assets, liabilities, e x i s t i n g planning, cash flow in, and cash flow out. Understand the present. You have to be grounded in where you are to know where you want to get to. • “Determine your goals. How McGee do you want the 12

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

next chapter of your life to look? Are your goals achievable and realistic? Making them achievable one step at a time makes them achievable ultimately. • “Maximize your savings opportunities throughout the next few years until you retire. Starting in 2015, you can contribute a maximum of $24,000 in a 401k if you’re 50-plus. If you don’t have a 401k, you may be able to make IRA contributions. If you’re 50-plus, it can be $6,500 per year. Doing it year after year for 15 years can make a big difference. • “Having a team of professionals working for your best interest is probably the best step you can take for making your retirement goals a reality. You can do it on your own, but it will be a lot more difficult. There’s too much out there that can cause an issue, like regulations and taxes.”

Cynthia Scott, president, chartered financial planner and founder of OMC Financial Services, Ltd., DeWitt. • “Wives often tend not to be involved in the financial area. One reason is that women often perceive themselves as not having the ability to understand and are afraid of asking questions about financial matters. In that event, if they are the surviving spouse, it places the burden on them of having to deal with many financial decisions which they are not prepared to make. • “Medical costs have i n c r e a s e d Scott dramatically over the last couple of years and I think many people are not prepared for the additional cost in this area and should evaluate the impact on their overall budget. • “Share your financial matters with your children because if you don’t and something happens do you, they won’t be completely in the dark. That makes it a very difficult situation.

You don’t have to divulge everything, but make sure the kids know where things are so if they do have to handle anything, they are at least aware.” Kent Schmidt, registered representative and accredited investment adviser for Haylor Freyer & Coon Financial Services, Syracuse. • “Make sure the investments you are in are appropriate for your current age. A recent client I brought in had a portfolio that was nearly 100 percent into stocks. No matter what age, you’re going to always want some percentage of stocks, but someone in their late 60s or early 70s, having mostly stocks is fairly risky. • “[Some] life insurance policies that have long-term care riders you can Schmidt put on them and

Randy Zeigler, financial adviser with Ameriprise in Oswego. • “It makes sense to review the use of credit and debt. I think that everyone should really be concerned about how much debt they’re carrying and the interest rate they’re carrying and whether they’re being thoughtful about how they’re spending. • “Use cash if you can do it. Systematically save up capital to replace each vehicle. If the alternative is pulling money from investments that have tax ramifications or higher interest rates, it makes sense to buy a vehicle [with a car loan]. • “Re-assess your investment risk level. Too many people are too cautious as they retire because they don’t have the ability to generate earned income.


NEEDS YOUR HELP LIVES SAVED THROUGH GENEROSITY OF OTHERS Every day the flood of orphaned and homeless animals arrive needing help. Some are abused, neglected or abandoned. Your support is critical because without it we could not accomplish the responsibility that comes with preparing these homeless sweet souls for a new life and a better chance. Please do not wait to send your financial support. Please do it NOW, for every day another one awaits. We will continue to provide each one with the love, care and opportunity they deserve. But we need every one who care enough to help us do exactly that.

ADOPT.FOSTER.VOLUNTEER.DONATE 7138 Sutherland Dr. PO Box 535 Canastota, NY 13032


That perspective works well if you only live five to six years after retirement, but most people don’t. I have many clients who have been retired for over 20 years. Being too conservative during retirement Zeigler may mean the investment capital doesn’t keep up with inflation. Their money may run out. • “With some of my clients, I have to encourage them to spend money. That’s not the average, but some people I encourage to review their ‘bucket list’ items and their dreams and goals and decide if they should pursue them now. • “They should make sure they have a good power of attorney set up in case they become incapacitated and need someone to manage their income and output. It should include beneficiaries. Families can change and circumstances can change.”

those policies pay out in a similar fashion to a long-term care policy, should you require home or facilitybased care. If it’s a business or unique family property, there are always things like trust planning, so it can go in the family even if there’s long-term care.”

We bring people nature together



• Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders • Regionally Formulated Bird Seed • Nature Gifts • Children’s Books • Jewelry • Candles

Wild Birds Unlimited Located in Fayetteville Towne Center 314 Towne Dr. 637-0710 •

Perfect gifts for the nature lover! December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




Tiny Houses

Downsizing Solution? Why more and more people are opting for very small homes By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


ids already out of the house? Property and school taxes too high? If you live in a home you consider large, you may consider downsizing. The average American residence is 2,600 square feet, as estimated by the Census Bureau, which is quite a bit of extra space for many couples after their children have left the nest. Who needs all that extra space, anyway? Tiny houses — ones around 400 square feet or less — provide a diminutive option that’s starting to catch on. Various websites, meet-up groups, construction companies and even a cable TV program — Tiny House Hunters — focus on tiny houses. The show’s crew filmed Syracuse Tiny Houses back in July 2015 for a fall 2015


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

episode. “We have a lot of interest from a lot of different places,” said Ed Ryan, owner of Syracuse Tiny Houses. “Some are couples looking to downsize their lives completely.” Currently, the company is building a 24-foot by 8.5-foot house for Kiersten R. Matthews, a Syracuse-based investor. “I just fell in love with the whole idea,” Matthews, 54, said. When she stumbled across a Craigslist ad for Ed Ryan’s tiny home business, she jumped at the chance. At this point, Matthews is still considering renting her tiny house or building an entire community of tiny homes. But she’s sold on the concept and on Ryan’s custom construction methods. While cynics might dismiss tiny houses as fancy RVs or over-priced mobile homes, Ryan said that the

construction methods and materials aren’t the same. “Our tiny homes have a lot of wood,” he said. “They’re heavy and made to last.” Reclaimed redwood and cedar are favorite building materials of Ryan’s. His custom-made homes cost about $80,000 compared with $50,000 kit homes. Portable tiny homes can incorporate lightweight versions of standard building materials to remain movable. Although RVs tend to depreciate in value, tiny homes retain value, according to Ryan. Tiny homes are also built in the standard frame style of larger homes of the same, long-lasting components and can accommodate additions and customizations more readily than RVs or mobile homes. In fact, many people draw up their own tiny home plans.

Cindy Seymour, age 58 and coowner of Laci’s Real Estate Ventures in Syracuse, buys and sells real estate as well as helps design tiny homes. Her firm has struggled to place them in the city because of prohibitive ordinances. At present, she’s working on tiny homes for homeless women veterans by partnering with the Veteran’s Administration and local charities that will provide case workers and programming to help them get on their feet. But she can sell tiny homes to those who have land where ordinances isn’t an issue. Seymour sees plenty of advantages to tiny house living for people 55-plus. “They’re low maintenance,” Seymour said. “Everything is brand new from the ground up. There’s no room for clutter. All your utility bills would be lower. “You don’t have to go all over the place for stuff because everything you need is right there. I think as I age, that’s what I’m looking for. As we get older, this is when we’re supposed to enjoy life and not work harder.” Some tiny homes in the market today incorporate the sink, toilet and shower into one waterproof room. Or employ fold-out or slide-under beds. In addition to a tiny home’s diminutive size, these features may be problematic when entertaining small children. But designers can work around issues if clients clarify what they want and don’t want in a custom-made tiny house. Dan Christmas, 56, owner of Christmas and Associates Land & Camps in Oneida, sells land that may be suitable for placing a tiny house, as well as cabins and cottages. About 80 percent of his homes are under 500 square feet and many of those are less than 350 square feet. His company is currently building two tiny homes for retirees. “The majority [of people seeking tiny houses] start out saying they’ll do it seasonally and eventually move there,” Christmas said. “It’s a transition. Some really have this dream of being off grid but they want to dip their toe in the water before selling everything and moving up here.” Christmas theorizes that many people in their 50s or 60s show interest in ecologically-friendly small houses because it’s a throwback to their youth, when life consisted of simple pleasures

such as spending time with friends in nature. His homes, including land and finishing, cost about $80,000 to $100,000. Tiny homes aren’t about price, but embracing a simpler lifestyle, he said. Christmas said that most builders in Central New York have not embraced tiny house projects because the profit margin is much larger for a full-sized home. As for disadvantages, tiny house dwellers may lack the privacy they crave. Especially once you’re retired and spending more time at home, too much “us time” can lead to friction. As Seymour found, local ordinances may prohibit building a tiny house in some communities. Some tiny house bedrooms are a sleeping loft, which may be problematic to impossible to use if you have mobility issues (although single-story designs could solve that problem). December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




Oswego basketball team, sponsored by The Press Box, recently competed at the National Senior Games in Minneapolis / St. Paul, finishing fourth among 20 other teams around the country. Players are, from left: Joe Grant, John Ruskowski, Doug Campbell, Jack Simmons, Brent Lewis, Moe St. Germain. Absent are from the photo are Chuck Waters and Steve Cianfarano.

Fourth in the Country A local basketball team finishes fourth in the country in the 65—plus category By Matthew Liptak


ome might say basketball is a high-impact, highenergy game meant for the young, but eight men from the area don’t see it that way. They took their passion for the sport to new heights this summer and were recognized as being one of the best teams for their age group in the nation. 16

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

And they hope to keep the momentum going. The Oswego team, named after its sponsor, The Press Box, went up against 20 other teams from around the country in the 65 and over category at the National Senior Games in Minneapolis this past July. They came up just shy of a medal, placing fourth.

“For us to finish four, it was quite an accomplishment,” said Press Box Players’ team captain, Doug Campbell. “We’re all guys from one community basically. The team that won it, they were from North Carolina and it’s an all-star team. The team that’s won it in two previous years had former professional players on their team.”

“I think what it boils down to is how healthy we can stay and still be significant on the court,” he said. “You don’t want to go and play when you really aren’t playing anymore.”

Janice Egan partners with “Tiny Homes” to provide “baby boomers” an alternative to downsizing!


Press Box Players’ team captain Doug Campbell. The Press Box Players don’t have any former pros on their team and they don’t have a huge talent pool to draw from. So how did they do it? Practice. Decades of it. The team started out 15 years ago, but most of the team members have been playing with and against each other for much longer. “Seven of us had played in the Oswego recreation league from the time we were 25 until like into our 40s,” Campbell said. “We knew each other as friends. Two of the guys went to high school together. We were all kind of connected. Oswego’s a small town and people who are athletes know each other.” All the guys are between 64 and 67, so that’s at least 39 years of playing hoops together. They know each other and what each player is going to do on the court. Unselfish play is another big factor. Campbell remembered, with a bit of wonder in his voice, how the team was down a point in one of its last games in Minneapolis. There were just 15 seconds left, he said. A teammate got the rebound and, rather than take the last shot of the game, he passed the ball to Campbell instead of taking a chance it would be blocked. Campbell put the ball through the cylinder. They won the game. “It was just like so unselfish,” he said. “He could’ve put it up and maybe made it, maybe not. He saw the opportunity I had.”


Jeff Forziati

Keller Williams Realty Real Estate Agent Listing Specialist 315-391-5082

Keller Williams Realty Buyer Specialist 315-459-6616

Scientific Breakthrough

Specialize in treating Bulging, Herniated & Degenerative Discs

No Pain, No Drugs, No Surgery Call 315-454-0656 to schedule your FREE Consultation and Information Session. Upstate Spinal Decompression Dr. David J. Cifra, DC

7000 East Genesee St., Fayetteville, NY 13066 •

New Location - 5633 West Genesee St., Camillus

Recipient of 2015 Excellence in Healthcare Award

Familiarity breeds success Jack Simmons, one of Campbell’s teammates, agreed that the team’s success has a lot to do with the guys being familiar with each other. He said the team has won five of the December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


The Oswego team, named after its sponsor, The Press Box, went up against 20 other teams from around the country in the 65 and over category at the National Senior Games in Minneapolis this past July. They came up just shy of a medal, placing fourth. side by side with young people that last six gold medals in its age group are 18 to 22 years old,” he said. in the Empire State Senior Games. The game the Press Box When the Press Box Players Players play is half-court, threestarted competing nationally on-three basketball. Each game a few years ago, things got goes to 40 points. That may not even more challenging. sound like it’s as rigorous as full“There’s some very good court basketball, but the game ball players around the United provides serious competition. States — really good ball players,” Campell said it’s not uncommon Simmons said. “You see different for players to get knocked down kinds of ball players every time or come home with bruises. It’s you play different teams. There are not a game someone can just jump a lot of people that are still staying right into after having been away in shape after they receive Social from it for years. The players work Security. It’s really surprising.” out to stay in shape for the court. The team doesn’t get to its level But as hard as the players of performance by accident. They condition themselves, the practice quite a bit. The players game can wear them down. gather at a court on the SUNY “Father Time. We jump Oswego campus to practice twice a less, our endurance is less,” week for two hours, 10 months out Campbell said. “But I think as of the year. Campbell is appreciative a team we’ve maximized it.” of the college’s willingness to let Off-the-court medical issues the team reserve a court so often. 3.5we x are 4.75” 55+ CC can be a concern too. Although “A lot of times playing

Convenient … comfortable … affordable!

some teams play with members that are in their 80s, Campbell doesn’t expect that to be part of the future for them. He’s hoping his group might be able to stay on the court for another 10 years or so. “I think what it boils down to is how healthy we can stay and still be significant on the court,” he said. “You don’t want to go and play when you really aren’t playing anymore. I think most of the guys on our team are pretty competitive and once we stop being competitive, I don’t think that would go very well with our group.” Simmons agreed. He said the team takes it year by year and sees what players show up each season to compete. There are no guarantees. But he’s optimistic the Press Box Players will contend again for the national senior title. When he walks off the court for the last time though, he said his love for the game will come with him. “I’ve loved it since I was a kid and I always will, probably even when I can’t play anymore,” Simmons said.

Art Classes All Levels Welcome

Painting • Drawing • Wheel Throwing Hand Building Clay • Glass • Fusing

New classes start continuously Days, Evenings and Saturdays

In Oneida County Christopher Community offers safe, subsidized onebedroom apartments for income qualified individuals age 62 or older, or handicapped/disabled any age over 18 in a neighborhood settings. Call today. Noyes Manor Residence 600 West Hinds Avenue Sherrill, NY 13461 (315) 363-0074 NoyesManor@

Register in Aug. for 10% Off 8 Session Classes Commission Portraits or Murals

Ilene Layow, BFA, MFA, CAS 18

TDD/TTY (800) 662-1220

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

Teaching Artist, Owner 126 Doll Parkway, Syracuse Gallery hours by appointment (315) 345-4576

At Your

e c i v r e S

Affordable Windows Factory Direct Pricing

$229 SPECIAL Thousands Of Satisfied Customers


Sample of services offered: Companion care • Respite care • Errands Referral progam-Call to get more information. Contact Joan Sardino @ 315-382-4300 New Business now opened in Oswego County. Our mission is to empower seniors to stay in their homes as long as possible.  We offer Peace of Mind to you and your family knowing that you’re loved one is in good hands.

A Helping Hand with a Loving Heart Errand & Companionship for Seniors

Errands • Grocery Shopping • Appointments Companionship • Social Activities Insured, Bonded, CPR Certified Hours by Appointment

Richard Foley


Your Expert in Tile Installation Bathrooms Kitchens Floors • Entries Accessibility Modifications

FREE Quotes

Time for a home in Florida?

Lois Luber FL Realtor Cell: 315-529-1815 Office: 239-471-3997

Call Dawn


Senior Sidekick, LLC


Call Ron for a “FREE” Confidential Health Plan Review

Ronald Rabideau Insurance Agency, LLC | 315-250-1277


Advertise in this spot to reach CNY’s fastest growing population One ad working for you for two months. Please call 315-342-1182 for more info. December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


my turn

By Bruce Frassinelli Email:

Need Help from the IRS? Good Luck


The IRS has made the term ‘customer service’ an oxymoron

f your boss needed you at a critical time, and she called you to elicit an important piece of information that only you knew, and you hung up on her, not once but a dozen times, what do you think might happen to your job? Far-fetched? Not when you realize that the Internal Revenue Service hung up on 8.8 million callers in the spring of 2015. This, of course, was the critical time when taxpayers needed assistance in completing their 2014 income tax returns. No heads rolled in bureaucratic land, and there were plenty of excuses. In fact, while it was cutting customer service, the IRS spent $60 million on employee bonuses last year. The IRS also allows employees to spend nearly 500,000 hours annually working on union activities while being paid by us taxpayers. If this weren’t so outrageously true, you might believe I was making this up. While it borders on the unfathomable, the IRS has been


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

hanging up on us customers and clients for years, but 2015’s number was striking in the extreme. Compared to 2014, this was an increase of about 1,518 percent. In typical government fashion, it calls these hang-ups “courtesy disconnects,” a euphemism for an overloaded system that hangs up on a caller when there’s no one to answer the phone. One-third of the callers did get through, but they were on hold an average of 23 minutes, according to a report issued by National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson. “Millions of taxpayers were unable to reach the IRS by phone; millions did not receive a timely response, if any, to their correspondence, and many more may have had to pay a tax preparer or professional for answers to tax law questions or for assistance they could previously have obtained from the IRS for free,” wrote Olson, who leads an independent office within the IRS. When callers did get a real person, they couldn’t ask questions that required special knowledge or

complexity. These were considered off limits, starting this year. Customer service agents could answer only basic tax questions. Taxpayers trying to work with paper forms didn’t fare much better. Libraries, post offices and local assistance centers didn’t get their forms and publications until Feb. 28, almost halfway through the filing season. When the forms ran out, there were no more to order. Olson described the 2015 filing season as a “Tale of Two Cities”: If you didn’t need to get involved with the IRS, the system served you fine. If you needed to deal with a human, it became a case of unending frustration. The “loss of trust” could lead some Americans to just stop paying their taxes, the Olson report warns. IRS officials blamed the lousy performance on budget cuts and fewer personnel. “The IRS must carefully balance limited resources to meet its dual mission of providing taxpayer service and enforcing the tax laws,” said IRS spokesperson Julianne Fisher Brietbeil. “The continuing cuts to our budget have severely hampered our ability to provide taxpayers with the services they need and deserve.” A staff report by House Ways and Means Committee Republicans was critical of the IRS’s spending priorities. The report said the agency diverted $134 million in user fees that had been spent on customer service last year to other areas. We deserve better, and we need to demand better performance by one of the most important agencies of government. Finger-pointing isn’t going to cut it any more. As we are approaching another tax season, the IRS needs to make radical changes so we don’t have to suffer through the same frustration again in 2016.


From Pen to Paint


John Mariani worked for more than 30 years with The Post-Standard wearing several hats: reporter, editor and online community engagement person. After he retired the summer of 2014, he started spending more time on a new passion: paiting.

John Mariani, a former reporter, now featuring a different kind of byline By Mary Beth Roach


ormer journalist John Mariani bylined stories for The PostStandard and for more than 30 years. But now it’s his paintings that bear his name — or at least his initials, JGM. While recovering from surgery about three years ago, Mariani was inspired to try painting, and upon retiring from the Syracuse Media Group in May of 2014, he began to pursue his art more earnestly. He explained what led him to discover his talent and love for painting.

“I woke up one morning and I couldn’t move my left arm,” he said. His wife, Vikki, took him to St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, and after a day of tests, it was determined that he had an impingement in his neck. A disc had swollen and was sitting on a nerve that controlled his left arm. Following surgery to remove the disc and replace it with a plastic one, he returned to his home in Syracuse to recover. “All I could do was sit around the house, so I watched a lot of television. Noontime, I’d tune into PBS. There’d be all these art guys,

like Bob Ross. I’d be watching them, creating a masterpiece every half-hour, and I thought, ‘I could do that,’” he said, laughing. The late Ross was the creator and host of PBS’ “The Joy of Painting,” and recognized for his trademark curly hairstyle. Two weeks later, Mariani was cleared to drive, so off he went to a local arts store, where he purchased paint brushes and other supplies. “I had no idea what I was doing,” he said, although he’d always been interested in art. He explained that he sat down December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


and just started smearing paint on the canvas, and the first one “spun off the top of my head.” By January of 2015, Mariani decided to begin to “show” his works. “I decided to get brave and post some of my stuff to my Facebook page. Facebook is the refrigerator door of the universe,” he joked. One of his earliest postings was a view of the village of Skaneateles

looking back at the town from the pier on the lake. He had done the picture for his daughter, Amanda. A Facebook friend and Skaneateles native, currently living in North Carolina, saw the painting and asked if she could acquire it. While the original was hanging in Amanda’s apartment, Mariani offered to make her friend another one. The friend paid him for the work, and Mariani said

that he hasn’t had a week since then without a commission. Transitioning into retirement by painting appeared to be relatively easy because he finds such delight in creating art. “I think a lot of people, when they’re contemplating retirement, have a fear: ‘I don’t know what I’d do,’” he said. “I think more than anything else people like to feel productive, like to feel that they are accomplishing something. Rather than be unhappy, find what makes you happy. Some people have that hobby already.” Mariani said he is not only fortunate to have found a hobby he enjoys, but he has found an audience, which he called a “miracle.” “I’m grateful to the people who hire me. I’m grateful that God gave me the talent to be able to do it,” he said.

‘Right brain’ guy

John Mariani relaxing in front of one of his paintings 22

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

He has always had a creative side to him. Not only a painter, he has been a news reporter and enjoys playing guitar. “I guess I’m a right-brain kind of guy,” he said. Most of his paintings are landscapes, and he’s been trying to do more plein air, working in the open air on site. He has a portable easel, a camp chair and table, and a bag on wheels filled with all his supplies, allowing him to set up and work wherever his spirit takes him. Because he uses acrylics, which dry quickly, he needs to work quickly, he said. He often does the detail work in the studio. When working plein air, he always draws a crowd, he said. “Invariably, I hear, ‘I wish I could do that. I can’t do that.’ Yeah you can. If I can do it …” he tells his spectators. “The hardest part is getting the nerve to pick up the brush the first time. The second hardest part is putting paint on the brush and putting something on canvas. It’s nothing that’s going to happen overnight. You may not like the first couple of things you do, but as you get practice, you get more practice using the gear, and your hand will do what your brain wants it to do,” he said. He might claim that anyone can paint, or that all he knows about

“I decided to get brave and post some of my stuff to my Facebook page. Facebook is the refrigerator door of the universe.” John Mariani painting is boldly smearing the paint on canvas until he gets something he likes and something others like. But there is much more to it than that. There’s passion, patience and a keen artistic eye. As Mariani continued on his current painting in his studio, his words and actions prove that he possesses these assets. He was detailing a scene he’d painted of the Erie Canal in DeWitt, mixing precise color combinations of white and greens, dabbing them in just the right places on the foliage, and adding streaks of grays to a stretch of pavement. The latter was a suggestion from wife Vikki, whom he credits with having a great eye. All the time, he’s enthusiastically explaining how to capture light and form, and how sun angles can change the light being refracted off the water. It’s this ability to capture light and form that makes Vincent Van Gogh his favorite artist, and one of his favorite paintings is Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” “The huge blobs of paint, streaks of paint, the stars are swirls of color,” he said, in describing this art piece. “So many of his paintings, you can see the air. He’s got a self-portrait that is just dab after dab after dab of paint — all different colors, but when you step back, it all combines,” he said. When asked if he could travel anywhere and paint anything, Mariani, born and raised in Syracuse, stayed true to his Central New York roots. “There’s so much around here to paint. I’ve seen a lot of the country, but I don’t think there’s anything prettier than the drive on Route 81 from Binghamton to Syracuse. The rolling hills are gorgeous. The thing is, I see pictures everywhere. I see paintings everywhere. It isn’t so much finding a place; it’s finding the time to paint it all.”

Don’t let life’s everyday demands and geographic separation prevent you or your loved ones from getting the care and attention they need! Call 315.380.6195 to reach Geriatric Care Manager, Gail Rosenholm, R.N., C.P.A. Your geriatric care manager can serve as a consultant, an adviser, a mediator, and advocate, a problem solver or a surrogate daughter managing all your services.

Visit to learn more.

PROVIDING THE BEST REHAB SERVICES AND THERAPISTS. SO YOU CAN GET WELL AND GET HOME. After surgery, you need the right place to recover. Elderwood offers a wide range of rehab services, no matter what level of care you require. We’ll customize a treatment plan to your personal needs, using protocols and technologies that coordinate your care more effectively for enhanced strength, improved motion and decreased pain. You’ll benefit from therapists with highly specialized training, along with access to diagnostic services that no longer require a hospital visit. So you can get well and get back home, faster. It’s why Elderwood is the right place, for the right care.


Get in touch with us to schedule a tour and learn more. December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS



profile Karen Mihalyi is the founder of the Syracuse Community Choir, which is celebrating 30 years this year. The group rehearses at the Grace Episcopal Church in the University area. “I think the choir has sustained me in a way I didn’t think. I kind of saw myself as sustaining the choir, but the choir has really sustained me. It gives me comfort, it gives me hope,” Mihalyi says.

Voice to be Heard

Activist, community organizer at heart of Syracuse Community Choir, which turns 30 this year By Mary Beth Roach


a re n M i h a l y i h a s b e e n working for three decades to change the world — one concert at a time. Apparently, she’s been hitting the right notes. She founded the Syracuse Community Choir in 1985, combining her passion for singing with her work for social justice. As the executive and creative director of the choir, Mihalyi calls it her “heart’s work.” Mihalyi has always loved to sing, and while in the sixth grade in Lowville, she organized a small


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

singing group. Later, as a student at Syracuse University, she worked at a local girls club and helped direct musicals. But it was the late 1960s, a tumultuous time throughout the country, and she became involved in the anti-war movement on campus. She eventually dropped out of school in 1970 and traveled to Europe, but her time abroad made her want to come back to the United States. So she returned to SU and earned her undergraduate degree in social work. During this time, her inspiration came from teachers in the program

who were involved in community organizing. While she had thought about pursuing music and had even taken voice lessons while at SU, she said at the time that it was more important for her to be out organizing. Then, a performance by folk musician Holly Near and a series of life experiences in the 1970s and early 1980s inspired her to create an arts program that would be all-inclusive and present the message of peace. At the beginning of the 1970s, as the war in Vietnam continued and the women’s movement was taking hold, Mihalyi was working at The

Women’s Center and with one of its sister agencies, the Syracuse Peace Council. Together, these two groups brought to Syracuse an anti-war tour, which included Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Near. When Near began singing, Mihalyi recalled asking herself, “Who is this woman?’ and she began talking about the value of music and social change. “I never heard anyone sing like that before, about the things she was singing,” she said. “Holly said, and it was true, that music is very important in how we change consciousness. By our heart and our words. And music has been a part of the great movements in the world forever.” At this time, too, Mihalyi was working at The Women’s Center on Syracuse’s east side and coordinating women’s harvest weekends, in which women gathered for a series of workshops with a festival-like atmosphere. While doing a brochure for one of these weekends, Mihalyi mentioned to some friends that she’d always wanted to direct a big choir. They suggested she write a short piece for the brochure, inviting those who might be interested in forming a choir to join her that weekend. She had about 80 women respond. “It was thrilling to stand in front of these amazing women, raise my hands, and they would sing. They were singing harmonies I had written,” she said. The choir continued to grow and the members eventually found themselves at rallies, including the Women’s Pentagon March.

Arts and culture In the mid-1980s, Mihalyi and a local contingent connected with a group called Madre, an international women’s rights organization. During a trip to Central America, she saw an experiment in which music and art were woven into their revolution. There were literacy campaigns, with people writing poetry and having poetry readings. “The whole philosophy was that art should be available to everybody, that music and art are part of basic human rights, that everyone should have the opportunity to create beauty,” she said. She saw the potential for art not only as an inspiration to move a

community or a culture or a country forward, but also as a process to build community. “I came back. I was all fired up. And I thought, maybe I’ll do a choir that includes everybody,” she said. In the spring of 1985, a group was organizing a Peace Day event at Thornden Park. Mihalyi put the word out that they were going to start a choir and another 80 people responded. They rehearsed and sang at the event at Thornden Park Amphitheatre. It was the year that “We Are The World” was released, and she said, with a chuckle, they must have sung that particular tune for about 30 minutes. Right from the start, Mihalyi said, they decided that the choir would have no auditions, everyone was welcome, and they would not be a religious choir. So there wouldn’t be a Christmas concert, but a winter and summer solstice concert. “What we learned,” she said, “is it’s much easier to organize and be comfortable with people like you. It takes more attention and intention to create a world where everyone’s included. That’s what we want to do. I wanted to have the choir be this world I was experiencing — diverse and filled with different voices. Every voice matters.” When they first started, Mihalyi had no idea that the choir would be around 30 years later. “The time has just flown by,” she said. During that time, she gave birth to her daughter, Cora, who grew up in the choir and is now 21. Cora sang in the choir ’s teen ensemble, and she, along with many of other young people, continued right up until they left for college. “Each time there was a milestone anniversary, we were asked, ‘Wow, how did we get here?’” she said. She says, however, that it hasn’t been easy to keep any small arts organization going. Recently, the choir has joined several other small arts organizations, including The Dance Theater of Syracuse, Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company and the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble to form “The Mosaic Collective,” with the objective of providing support to each other.

has seen and has been a part of many changes. “Our job is to work on issues of oppression,” Mihalyi said. Toward that end, the choir has been immersed in the issues of the day. When the group first started, Mihalyi said apartheid was still strong in South Africa. She was able to obtain a copy of the official anthem for the African National Congress, and the choir learned the music and about South Africa while performing at antiapartheid rallies. When the gay rights movements began, the choir took part in of those demonstrations as well. If the choir was to be all-inclusive, as she had vowed it would be, that meant that it would welcome gay members and sing at gay rights rallies. Over the years, the message of their songs has shifted. “We became more environmentally conscious as it became clear we were in trouble,” she said. Through earlier projects she was involved in, Mihalyi developed a relationship with the Onondaga Nation, which led to various joint ventures, including a concert at the Syracuse Inner Harbor several years ago titled “Water, Precious Water,” and the recent Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign. Mihalyi is also a member of the People’s Music Network, which has

continued page 39

Backing the oppressed In its 30-year history, the choir December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




Surprise, Surprise Binge Drinking More Common with Middle-Aged than Young Adults By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


he latest age group of heavy drinkers may surprise you. It’s not 20-somethings emptying kegs at raucous fraternity parties. It’s people 55 and older: lonesome empty nesters; stressed out career people juggling older teens’ needs, a fading marriage and work; retirees with a lost sense of self. “There’s a lot of pressure on that age group,” said Michelle Stevenson Counselor, licensed mental health counselor private practice in Syracuse. “They’re having more financial pressure than previous generations of that age. They’re caring for their parents and kids and they’re caught in the middle.” Apparently, the problem affects many middle-aged adults. The Centers for Disease Control states that 76 percent of people who die from alcohol poisoning in the United States are aged 35 to 64. “Although college students commonly binge drink, 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involve adults age 26 years and older,” the organization also states. It’s not just poor people who turn to the bottle. The CDC states that it’s more common among people with an annual household income of $75,000 or more than those making less. 26

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

The CDC also stated that in the US, binge drinking is the most common pattern of drinking too much. Binge drinking involves regularly, about four times a month, bringing the blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above. For women, that’s about four or more servings of alcohol; for men, it’s five or more in a time frame of two hours — on average. The amounts and time span varies based upon individual size, metabolism, medication, illicit drug use and other factors. Many people who binge drink would not consider themselves alcoholics by definition, but their alcohol intake Carmody

surpasses the maximum one drink per day for women or two drinks per day per men. The amount of alcohol contained in their drinks often exceeds bingers’ perception. Now they can buy the “top shelf” alcohol they couldn’t afford in their collegiate days. “It’s very different for people in their 50s,” said Tracy Carmody, licensed mental health counselor in private practice in Syracuse. Carmody often sees clients about addiction. “The percentage of alcohol in craft brewed beers is higher. A lot of individuals are on medications that they weren’t when they were in college. Their bodies can’t process alcohol as they once did.” Since they maintain their social standing, and function in their day-to-day roles respectably well, they don’t see their drinking as a problem. The CDC states that they’re not “alcohol dependent.” But their excessive drinking does harm themselves and others and can lead to alcoholism and other health-

affecting issues. Issues related to regular episodes of heavy drinking include memory damage or decreasing overall brain and organ function; triggering alcoholism; Lewis destroying relationships, reputations, careers, and property. “Binge drinkers can certainly become alcoholics,” said James F. Lewis, licensed mental health counselor with Christian-based Counseling Services, in Syracuse, who has spent the majority of his career treating addictions. “Frequency of drinking is one of the major indicators of a drinking problem. The progression of binge drinking as it continues on can lead to alcoholism.” A binge drinker faced with an unexpected tragedy may more readily succumb to

It’s not just poor people who turn to the bottle. The CDC states that it’s more common among people with an annual household income of $75,000 or more than those making less. alcoholism because they already rely upon heavy drinking to improve an occasional rough day or celebrate a fun time. “Alcohol is not a healthy way to cope with emotional stress,” said Paul Batkin, licensed marriage and family therapist and partner with Counseling Services of Syracuse. “Seek help from a mental health professional, clergy if you’re religious, or a friend or family member. Alcohol is a powerful analgesic, and it will relieve anxiety but your problems will be waiting for you when the alcohol is gone.”

Batkin encourages people to frankly look at their use of alcohol, and the consequences of when they use it. “If people think they might have a problem or a Batkin loved one might have a problem, it’s better to check or seek help,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem, but if you have difficulty in cutting back, you might want to seek help.” Alcoholics tend to hurriedly consume alcohol for its effect, spend most of their free time with other habitual drinkers, hide how much they drink, lie frequently, and depend on alcohol to get through their day. Anyone concerned about his drinking habits or those of a family member should seek help from a mental health counselor or a group such as Al-Anon.

Care for Your Lifetime Private Apartments, Duplexes & Cottages Restaurant-style Dining Complimentary Transportation Premier Retirement Living

Springside at Seneca Hill

An Affiliate of Oswego Health

10 County Route 45A, Oswego, NY



Oswego Health Home Care extends the arm of skilled services from hospitals, clinics and physician offices into the home.

Short-term Rehabilitation Services Adult Day Health Services Program 24-Hour Skilled Nursing Care Building the bridge between hospital and home.

The Manor at Seneca Hill An Affiliate of Oswego Health

20 Manor Drive , Oswego, NY


When family can’t be with you Philips Lifeline can. Call 343.1887

Oswego Health December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




Making a Difference at LeMoyne First female layperson to lead a Jesuit college, Linda LeMura talks about career, growing up with the boys, rising from the ranks, and her future plans for Le Moyne College By Aaron Gifford


inda LeMura learned early on that she had what it takes to compete with boys. It was on the basketball court in Syracuse’s gritty north side, where LeMura, the daughter of Italian immigrants, schooled the older and taller male opponents. She outperformed them in the classroom as well. Her Catholic faith helped keep everything in check. LeMura earned a college scholarship, played Division I basketball and completed a doctorate degree. Then she embarked upon a rewarding career as a teacher, researcher and administrator, en route to becoming the first female layperson in the world to lead a Jesuit college or university. Yet, friends and colleagues say, LeMura balances that milestone with a strong sense of humility, intelligence and compassion. “That brain power, energy and kindness — to have all three of those things — is rare,” said Joanie Mahoney, Onondaga County executive and LeMura’s longtime friend. “We’re so


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

lucky to have someone like that here.” Added Sharon Kinsman Salmon, chairwoman of Le Moyne College board of trustees, “She brings the whole package.” LeMura was appointed to the presidency of Le Moyne College July 1, 2014. She recently talked about her upbringing in Central New York, the path she took to return here as an accomplished academic, and her goals for the growing Jesuit institution. LeMura, 55, grew up in a family of six children. Her parents and older siblings emigrated from Sicily to the United States. Dad, James, was a carpenter who fixed up houses and later worked at Crucible Steel in Solvay. Her mom, Mary, stayed at home to take care of the kids. Church at Our Lady of Pompei was a regular part of their weekly routine. “Having so many siblings, it was like a comfort zone. There was always someone there,” LeMura said. “And Dad had to work hard. The whole point of working so hard was so his children didn’t have to. His kids wouldn’t be the laborers. They

would be the business owners or the educators.” During elementary schools, LeMura filled her bag with as many books as the nuns would allow. Her favorite subjects at the time ranged from astronomy, to geology, to anatomy. She loved completing book reports and signed up for as many reading competitions that she could fit into her schedule.

Hoops heaven Like church, basketball was an extension of family in Syracuse’s Italian-American community. But at that time most of the competitive players were boys, so LeMura was often placed on the stronger squad “to balance out the teams,” she said with a laugh. “My two older brothers made sure I knew I wasn’t very good.” I f re v e r s e p s y c h o l o g y w a s their intent, then their plan worked swimmingly. LeMura blossomed as a hoopster, starred on the court for Bishop Grimes High School and earned a scholarship to Niagara University.

Linda LeMura during her inauguration as LeMoyne president on March 20, 2015 December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




“Academics came first,” she recalled, “but basketball was such a joy. There’s something sacred about team work.” Niagara University is a Vincentian i n s t i t u t i o n w h e re t h e m i s s i o n statement, based on the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul, is to develop leaders who will make a difference in their communities locally and beyond. Much of the curriculum focuses on the challenges of combating poverty and injustice. Jesuit schools, by contrast, promote the mission statement of developing the whole person – mind, body and spirit. On the court, Le Mura recalled, there were intense rivalries between Vincentian and Jesuit schools. “The coaches would tell us, ‘We don’t care if you lose the other games — just don’t lose to the Jesuits!’ There was always this tension. But the Jesuit school of thought also appealed to me. We should care about social justice, but we also need that deep understanding to get to the root of the problem,” she said.

President LeMura talking with sstudents in the summer of 2014. LeMura gravitated toward the sciences in high school but began her college career as an education major. She later chose biology, first

LeMura with college chaplain Daniel Mulhauser S.J. 30

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

wanting to become a physician and then preferring the idea of teaching it someday. There was also a unique challenge in that vocation as most scientists at the time were men. “I thought it was time to mix things up a little,” she said. “We still have a long way to go.” LeMura returned home to complete a Ph.D. in applied physiology at Syracuse University. She studied childhood obesity well before it became such a hot topic, getting an early glimpse at the link between poverty, eating habits, health choices and obesity. “I didn’t realize,” she said, “that it was going to explode to the epidemic it became today.” Her hope was to see more research in the direction of social science with a focus on poverty and economic disparity, as opposed to just the behavioral and biological aspects of the problem. “Unfortunately, so much of it [research] has been in the wrong direction,” she said. LeMura later left her hometown again, this time to accept an associate dean position at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, a small school heralded for its health science program. Even though LeMura signed on as an administrator, she was still able to remain involved with research and teaching. It was a great fit for her.

Exploring the world of aging Her body of research also covered studies on aging where there was shared work on the pediatric and geriatric side. The work reaffirmed what LeMura, who focused on mind, body and spirit, already knew: The importance of a good diet and exercise over a lifetime can never be overstated. “It’s like investing in the stock market,” she said. “The investments you make every day pay off.” In the 1990s, LeMura was building an impressive resume. She served as a research consultant for both the U.S. and Italian Olympic Committees. She authored a physiology laboratory manual and a textbook that was translated into several languages and used at various schools across the globe. She also won a fellowship to complete work for the American College of Sports Medicine. LeMura loved teaching and research and had no desire to become a career administrator. Still, when a position opened up at Le Moyne College back in Syracuse, she was intrigued. The school’s rigorous academics and its dedication to the students impressed her, so LeMura took the job and never looked back. “The importance of humanities [studies] here is key. Graduates always tell me, the most important part of their education was not what they majored in. I absolutely love what this college is doing,” she said. LeMura was Le Moyne’s dean of arts and sciences from 2003 to 2007. Then she was appointed to serve as both the school’s provost and its vice president of academic affairs. Selecting her as the next president a few years later, said Sharon Kinsman Salmon, the board of trustees chairwoman, was an easy choice. “For the 10 years [before her appointment], she did such an outstanding job,” Kinsman Salmon said. “She was so knowledgeable of the Le Moyne culture, but she was also innovative and took risks to move the school forward. She developed great connections with the community and other schools.” Kinsman Salmon said LeMura is especially strong in the area of alumni relations. “She’s incredibly warm and engaging to everyone, whether they are contributing $1 or $100,” Kinsman


Linda LeMura Off-Campus: Family: Husband, Lawrence Tanner, environmental systems science professor at Le Moyne College; daughter, Emily, a student at Fordham University in New York City Hobbies: Visiting museums and admiring architecture, especially in New York City. “It’s interesting to try to understand what buildings, by their design, say or don’t say,” LeMura says. “They show us what was important at a critical moment in time.” Favorite place (other than Central New York): Taormina, Sicily. This coastal town has some of the most impressive architecture in all of Europe, snowcapped mountains and beautiful beaches on a bright blue sea. The Greeks, the Normans, the French and the Spanish all played a role in shaping Taormina’s culture, and it has been called a crossroads of civilization.

Salmon said. “People love her. If you’re talking to her face to face, she makes you feel like you’re the only one in the room. She’s totally with you in the moment.”

Holistic approach LeMura said one of her top priorities is to promote a strong balance of humanities and liberal arts over the concept of “hyper specializing “in any one area. A college major may help a graduate land their first job out of school, she explained, but a solid core curriculum is what’s needed to help that graduate with their next 10 jobs. “ Wi t h a s h i f t i n g e c o n o m i c landscape, we’re preparing them for jobs that don’t exist yet,” she said. “We will never sell our students short.” Even with the school’s physician assistant and nursing majors, which train students for a hands-on field, ethics courses (bio ethics and medical ethics) are required so students have

“Once you see Taormina,” LeMura said, “you can die.” On healthy habits: As a researcher on the topics or health and obesity, LeMura tries her best to practice what she’s preached, though she admits that she loves sweets. She also loves Italian food, and dines with moderation. But reading, engaging in thoughtful conversation or debate, and her Catholic faith are equal parts of the mix. “Physical health, cognitive functions and faith — they work with one another. Faith challenges me to be a better person, and I take it quite seriously,” she said. On eventual retirement: LeMura sees herself working at least another 20 years, though not necessarily as an administrator. “I never had a job I didn’t enjoy,” she said. “I’d like to think I’d continue to teach and do other things into my 70s. It’s important to stay active and intellectually nimble.”

an understanding of biases in medical research, conflicts of interest, and gender and racial inclusion in medical research, LeMura explained. “The inclusion of humanities must be there,” she said. “We want them to be broad thinkers.” While LeMura is touted for improving the school, she said growth in programs and opportunities does not mean a significant increase in enrollment. With about 3,400 students, Le Moyne has preserved its intimate nature and the high placement rate of 90 percent of graduates employed or enrolled in graduate school. “We don’t want to tinker too much,” she says, “with the success of Le Moyne.” On the topic of college affordability, Le Mura said she believes the public has the right to be skeptical and worried about the rising costs of higher education. While Le Moyne has a reputation for being generous with financial aid, administrators December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




are constantly looking for new ways to contain costs without sacrificing quality of education. The president said one way to do that is to forge partnerships with SUNY schools for shared services and to work with local businesses that can arrange for mentorships with students. “We are bringing unconventional resources into financial aid,” she said. The college president is also credited with building and strengthening partnerships, both locally and globally. With Syracuse University, for example, Le Moyne has an arrangement where its top undergraduate engineering students can start taking master’s level courses at SU before they graduate. The goal is to increase the number of highly educated engineers who can be recruited to work in the Central New York region. Traditionally, SU’s graduate-level engineering program attracted international students who return home after graduation or go to work in other parts of the country. “We are a very important pipeline,” LeMura said, adding the number of Le Moyne students who continue their education at SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship or S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications is also on the rise. The college president’s eyes light up when she talks about arrangements that Le Moyne, the second-youngest Jesuit school in the world, has with 188 other Jesuit schools across the globe. This network includes schools in Argentina, Spain, Taiwan and India. She’s been to many of them and jokes that the next trip will be to Antarctica. Students are required to perform some type of community service abroad, such as tutoring orphans. So far, LeMura has enjoyed making history as the first female layperson to lead a Jesuit institution. “I’m hoping that in the not-sodistant future it won’t be a big deal,” she said. “But the other exciting part of it is, we are the second-youngest Jesuit school in the world. I’ve actually met some members of the first graduating class. Not many presidents can say that!”


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

President LeMura jogging on the Le Moyne campus recently.

Fitness Champion


resident LeMura current exercise regimen includes weight training and cardiovascular workouts spanning a half hour four times a week. She also likes to run, especially in her Syracuse neighborhood, Sedgwick. She said she occasionally runs on the Le Moyne campus as well. She has maintained this level of fitness or greater since her days playing Division I basketball at Niagara University, she says. At 55, LeMura says it’s a challenge to remain in shape when there are so many types of food she loves, including Italian. She also admits to “having a total sweet tooth.” “I’m very well aware of

the issue of moderation,” she said with a laugh. “Make it up with exercise!” But in addition to constantly striving for that mind, body and spirit balance, the Le Moyne president also wants to remain true to her previous research on the subject. An academic pioneer on the topic of childhood obesity some 30 years ago, LeMura stresses that following a reasonably healthy diet, getting at least a moderate level of exercise and avoiding harmful habits such as smoking should have the same appeal as making wise investments in the stock market. “The investments you make early on pay off,” she says.

“With their help, I can still live at home.” Johnnie Drake, Syracuse, NY

VNA Homecare provides comprehensive, cohesive home care for all stages of life, from expectant mothers to the aged. Whether you or a loved one suffer from chronic illness or are recovering from recent surgery, VNA Homecare will be there to help you every step of the way. We provide expert, high-quality medical care, as well as non-medical services for those who need just a little extra help to be able to stay at home. Our focused approach improves the quality of each patient’s life, and helps each individual achieve maximum independence.

all the care you need. where you want it most. at home. Could you or someone you love benefit from our services? If so, contact us today, and we will be happy to help you.

call 477-HOME 1050 West Genesee Street, Syracuse, New York 13204

December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


golden years By Harold Miller

Get in the Game! We have little choice: Join the high-tech generation now!


inety percent of the entire world’s technology since man first learned to rub two sticks together to make fire occurred in the later part of the 20th century, and the first decade of the 21st century. Obviously, the computer is making a significant impact on our lives. Consequently, whether you are just joining the 55-plus fraternity or an octogenarian like me, you must make friends with that device or the world will surely pass you by. Here are but a few things in our daily lives that are taken for granted now but will drastically change or disappear in the near future — all the result of the computer and Internet. • The post office. Certainly you have noticed that most everything that comes via your friendly mailman these days is junk mail and advertisements. Billions of our tax dollars are spent yearly propping up this obsolete government service. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS are wiping out the minimum revenue needed t o keep t h e post


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

office alive, and sometime in the near future it will just disappear. • The newspaper. This generation simply does not read the newspaper. They get their news from the Internet and our generation is dying off. The Syracuse Post-Standard has cut delivery down to Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (it’s available every day on the Internet) and even then the news is watered down. You can hardly call it a newspaper. •  The check. Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. Eliminating checks will hasten the death of the post office. When you cease paying bills by mail and stop receiving them by mail, it will be the final nail in the coffin for the post office. • The land-line telephone. Virtually everyone has a cell phone today and this has already made the land line telephone obsolete. This not only doubles the cost of telephone service but 90 percent of the calls we do get on the land line are solicitation calls. The only people who still have land-line phones are those who don’t yet feel comfortable with wireless devices. I am still trying to convince my betrothed about this. The world is becoming wireless and soon wires and cables will be a thing of the past — which leads us to the following.

• Television. Revenues to the networks are down drastically. People are now watching TV and movies streamed from their computers, and they’re playing games, and lots of other things. Prime time television has degenerated to the lowest common denominator. Cable TV is the biggest rip off in the infotainment industry. They offer quantity not quality with hundreds of duplicate programs most of which are not beamed to intelligent viewers. Television will not die completely but it will be transformed to something that we 55-plussers will likely not want to watch. The caveat for the wonders of the computer is the everlasting loss of privacy. Actually, it’s been gone for some time now. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. “They” know who you are and where you are 24/7 — right down to the GPS coordinates. Additionally, have you ever noticed that when you order something on the Internet, you get solicitations from dozens of vendors selling like products? This is because the vendor sold your e-mail address. This is why I seldom order from the Internet. Is the computerization of your life worth it all? You bet it is. I’ll give you an example. My children gave wife Janet an iPad for her last birthday. Now instead of reading books and watching the boob tube as her main entertainment, she spends a good portion of the day communicating with family and friends, sharing pictures of the grandchildren, getting valuable information about her health from the Internet. She even plays Scrabble with her friends. In other words, she has joined today’s world and she loves it.


Stay In The Comfort of Your Home!

• Stairway Chair Lifts • Wheelchair Lifts

• Home & Business Elevators • Dumbwaiters

FREE CONSULTATION! 1-844-851-5163

Bruno 55+ Ad 3-14-14.indd 1

3/17/2014 10:15:35 AM



PLUS The Magazine For

CNY’s Active Adults

Subscribe today and get 55 PLUS magazine mailed to your home! Name_____________________________________________________ Address___________________________________________________ City / Town_________________________State_________Zip_________

Clip and Mail to:


P.O. Box 276, Oswego, NY 14564

15 1 year $ 2 years 25 $

December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




Happiness at Your Doorstep Local volunteer drives away hunger one delivery at a time By Matthew Liptak


ndy Latchem came all the way from England to help feed her hungry neighbors in Syracuse. Latchem, 71, a native of England, moved from London to Syracuse in 1968 and started a secretarial job at Syracuse University. One job led to another and almost a half-century

later, she remains in Central New York. Only today, she shares some of her time delivering food through Meals on Wheels. According to Dave Allen, a director at Meals on Wheels of Syracuse, Latchem has delivered over 2,100 meals to program recipients this year. The organization only asks volunteers

Andy Latchem, a 71-year-old English native, has delivered more than 2,100 meals to recipients at Meals on Wheels of Syracuse. 36

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

to put in one shift per month, but Latchem does about one route a week, delivering to 14 or 15 people. “I do it because it makes me feel good that I can do something to help other people,” she said. “If we aren’t all willing to reach outside ourselves and maybe put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes and help them, the world will continue on the path that it is going which doesn’t seem to be particularly cheerful at the moment.” She retired from SU in 2009, having wound up as the head of the college’s gift and estate planning program. Then she took a part-time job with the Food Bank of Central New York raising money until the end of 2013. Latchem started volunteering at Meals on Wheels in 2008, getting involved slowly at first by volunteering just on Thanksgiving. She had realized long before though that giving back was important to her. She recalled sitting down with a friend and designing a budget that would allow her to buy a new car. Latchem went over her expense figures with the friend and realized she could get a nicer car if she used some of the money she normally gave to charity. The friend confronted her with the question, “What’s more important, a car or giving money to charity?” It made Latchem pause. She realized then that she could tolerate a less extravagant car if it meant helping those in need in her community. Latchem is involved in Syracuse in other ways too. She’s on the board of Focus Greater Syracuse, supports local theater, the Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music, started a tai chi class

and took a course on Pope Francis at OASIS. Although she professed a curiosity to learn about the pope, Latchem said she is not much of a churchgoer though she was born into the Church of England. “I was interested because he in many ways has very different views from the popes before him, so I was interested in finding out more about him,” she said. “But I’m also taking a course on Jack the Ripper — from the sublime to the ridiculous!”

Be active, stay active Latchem said it’s important to live an active life, even as you get older. She said her mother lived to be 96 and just died a couple years ago. From observing their mother’s attitude toward aging, Latchem and her sisters got a definite impression on how not to approach later life. “My sisters and I talked about that a lot because our mother got to be afraid that she would fall and so she didn’t walk very much,” Latchem said. “And then in the end she couldn’t walk. We don’t want to be there. I feel better when I’m active and busy and doing things.” By helping her neighbors, Latchem may be preventing decline in the shutins she serves too. “Andy delivers more than just a meal,” Allen said. “Andy delivers a

Volunteers work hard to prepare meals in the kitchen at Meals on Wheels Syracuse. They prepare around 17,000 meals per month for shut-in residents of Syracuse. friendly “hello!” and a ‘How are you doing today?’ reassuring many seniors that they are not forgotten. Meals on Wheels helps ensure that seniors can live in their homes longer, delaying the possibility of having to move into an assisted living facility or nursing home.” She said one of the main challenges of volunteering at the organization can be winter driving. But she is willing to take a few moments out of her life

And visits with one of the residents of the Syracuse Housing Authority Apartments.

to brave the cold. Latchem enjoys driving and recalled that learning to drive in America required a bit of an adjustment. The British are used to driving on the left side of the road, but that really wasn’t the problem for her. “I would find myself trying to change gear with the door handle,” she laughed. “In England you change gear with the other hand. I didn’t really have much of a problem driving on the other side of the road. I don’t know why.” Latchem will volunteer for Meals on Wheels as long as she can and encourages others to volunteer too. One encounter she had working for a different charity stood out for her. She took the wisdom an older woman gave her and now uses it as her own. “I did work for the Salvation Army for a while as their director of planned giving in Upstate New York,” she said. “I went to call on a lady. She was out in Glens Falls somewhere. I think she was 80 or 82 at the time. I got there. It was a nice sunny day. She wasn’t a particularly big lady and she was outside really chopping away at this great big bush. I made some comment and she said, ‘You know I decided I’d rather wear away than rust away.’” “That was a good way of looking at it,” Latchem said. For more information on Meals On Wheels, go to or call 315-478-5948. December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


aging By Marilyn L. Pinsky

Matter of Preference Gay married couples flourish under new perceptions Second in a series on long-term gay relationships


icki Brackens and Earlene Jones have been together for more than 21 years and married for the last four. They met when they were both working at Met Life as financial planners and, according to Jones, who said with a smile, they became good friends. After Jones’ partner of 25 years died, they dated for a while and eventually became more than just friends. “When we got together,” Jones said, “I told her the good news is, I do keep relationships a very long time.” In addition to working at Met

Life, Brackens’ career has included working as an ESL (English as as second language) instructor, sales for the computer industry and, since 1986, financial planning. Most recently, she opened Brackens Financial Solutions Network, LLC. Jones, a Bronx native, has also had an interesting and diverse career, from being a nurse, to the COO of Allen Tool, to then becoming a financial planner with Met Life. When the couple worked together at Met Life, they formed Brackens and Jones Financial Planning. Did people at work know that you were more than friends? “People knew,” said Brackens, “but for many years they didn’t acknowledge it except for very close friends.” The turning point came in 2005 at Met Life’s Leaders Conference, which

Vicki Brackens and Earlene Jones have been together for more than 21 years and married for the last four.  38

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

is held annually to honor outstanding performances by financial advisers within the firm. When attending together, Jones said, “I’m tired of going to this dance and not dancing. We asked each other if we were ready, said yes, and took to the dance floor. At that point, four other gay couples did the same. It was an historic moment for Met Life and to their credit, they embraced us.” How did they find the acceptance level in Syracuse for gay couples? “Most people didn’t ask the question — if someone asked me directly, I would say yes, but mostly no one asked,” said Jones. “When my first partner and I moved to Clay, our next door neighbors were wonderful. They helped me buy a lawn mower and snowplow and helped us adjust to living on a large plot of land.” How are they different, how are they alike, and what has contributed to this wonderful relationship? “I never worry, I never wear a watch and I’m never late,” said Jones.  “I’m also not overly friendly.  Vicki, on the other hand, is very outgoing and though we both cook, she is the gourmet cook.” And they both love to dance — to anything.  “We used to go to Provincetown Women’s Week for years as there wasn’t anyplace in Syracuse for a gay couple to dance. For our honeymoon, we went to South Africa,” related Brackens, “which was outstanding and a little strange.  You see, we left the U.S. and went to a country where same sex marriage was legal, yet, on the other hand, they had struggled with racial equality for decades.” “At some point in time you get tired of carrying the extra weight of ‘two lives,’” she said.  “It was wonderful to finally have the strength and courage to be our authentic selves,

Activist, community organizer at heart of Syracuse Community Choir continued from page 25

Gretchen Barfoot and Beverly Taylor have been together for almost 32 years.  to acknowledge freely that we are a couple.  We have had many friends help us make that journey. “As an example, I remember one instance in particular.  A friend, Anne Messenger, asked me to join the Century Club. She knew, and was correct, that joining the club would be a great business move for Brackens Financial Solutions Network.  On the application there was a line for a spouse’s name and I didn’t know how to answer that.  When I mentioned it to Anne, she pulled together a heavyhitter group of people and the by-laws got re-written.  It is such an amazing feeling once you’re totally out and you can do that.”

‘Meant for each other’ Gretchen Barfoot and Beverly Taylor have been together for almost 32 years.  Taylor retired from the New York Telephone Company and Gretchen, a CPA, worked in public accounting before holding various positions in private industry.  They met through committee work at the Women’s Information Center. “When I was working,” said Barfoot, “I never came out per se, but many people could figure it out.” After knowing each other about a year, “we realized we were meant for each other,” said Barfoot.  “Everyone said it wouldn’t last. I was still married at the time but my ex-husband and I were both ‘questioning.’  He is also

gay. We tried counseling, starting with marriage counseling, but it morphed into, ‘What to do with our lives?’”  “Our children were always brought up to be open-minded and knew all kinds of people — couples, not couples. The kids were 5 and 8 at the time and they went back and forth between our houses,” she said.  “My former husband and I still remain friends.” Their first commitment ceremony was in 1985 after they had been together a couple of years. In 2004, they married in Canada and in 2011, finally wed in New York state. Their social group is fairly small and predominantly gay men and women.  Barfoot hikes with the Adirondack Mountain Club and they have a camp in the Adirondacks. “We’re not big party people,” explained Bev, “but we’re both involved in Sage and Gretchen is treasurer of the organization.” Why does it seem that gay marriage has suddenly become accepted? “The fact that more people have come out and are just blending in like other families is one factor and another is television shows with gay characters who are just normal people,” Barfoot said. “The gay community has been invisible for such a long time; we owe thanks to the brave people who brought the legal cases to allow gay marriage.”

been a source of inspiration, putting her in contact with musicians, social activists, songwriters and others in the music industry. The network was founded in 1977 by folk singers Charlie King and Pete Seeger, who was one of Mihalyi’s idols. Building and sustaining these relationships is key to her. “I’ve learned this fundamental thing — by doing the hard work, by creating community and reaching across, and building relationships with people who are not like me, my whole life has changed. I’ve gotten deeper and I’ve learned things about myself and I’ve learned things about the world,” she noted. The choir, too, gives her a sense of balance from her work as a counselor involved in trauma recovery work in Syracuse. As the choir marks its 30th anniversary, some transitions are in the making. Mihalyi no longer needs to be in the middle of everything, she said, and the group is undergoing some internal organizational development and doing more fundraising and planning to better enable the group to continue. Eventually, Mihalyi will move out of the choir’s central position and into a creative consultant position, then retire fully at 70. The associate creative director is Danan Tsan. Each rehearsal ends with a session called “Appreciations,” as a means of acknowledging what members have done. Mihalyi’s 65th birthday earlier this year coincided with the choir’s annual meeting, and it concluded the meeting with “Appreciations.” During this session, choir members’ comments reflected how deeply they knew and understood their director. “I think the choir has sustained me in a way I didn’t think. I kind of saw myself as sustaining the choir, but the choir has really sustained me. It gives me comfort, it gives me hope,” Mihalyi said. December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




Time To Do-Si-Do! Square dancing still alive and well in CNY By Matthew Liptak


n a S a t u rd a y n i g h t i n October, the North Syracuse Community Center was full of 30-somethings do-sidoing and promenading. Their feet stomped and the hall echoed with laughter as they learned the steps from caller Ron Brown. The fun was infectious. Square dancing is America’s folk dance and it has wide appeal. People from 9 to 92 are enthusiasts. And for good reason. Dance events can offer a chance to socialize in a relaxed setting and are a great source of exercise for mind and body. Traditionally, square dancing is thought of as a country and western


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

style dance, but that doesn’t have to be. It is possible to call the music popular music too. On this October night in North Syracuse, Brown sang a Lady Gaga favorite and taught the dancers to dance to “My Girl.” Karen and Warren Babcock are from Sheds. Karen is 71 and has been square dancing regularly for more than 20 years. She likes it because of the exercise it provides “and you can make some good friends,” she said. “We went to the open house in Cazenovia and we got hooked,” she said. “That’s how we started it. We joined in 1988. The first year we took lessons. Then you become a member of the club and you go on from there. You

can go up to different levels.” There are 68 calls in square dancing. It can take about a year of practice to learn them all. But you don’t need to know all of them to have a good time. “Repetition is the key until you learn the terminology and what to do,” Brown said. “There’s no pressure whatsoever. I take the pressure out of the learning process. If they’re having issues, I spend extra time with them. The objective is to have a good time.” “ T h i s w e e k e n d we’re going to Cooperstown to Brown

spend a weekend with friends of ours who are square dancers,” Babcock said. “They’re having a big dance Friday night.” She has made lots of friends all over the country through dancing. She and Warren were recently dancing with a group that included a couple from Indiana. The Midwesterners said they would hook the Babcocks up with a dance if they ever visited Indiana.

A couples thing The Babcocks do take advantage of the many campouts that are offered around the state which include square dancing in the summer. “There’s a couple’s weekends in Watkins Glen,” she said. “All over. You kind of have to figure out which ones you want to go to. We do the ones right in Boonville. There’s a square dance campground right in Boonville. They have a big weekend on Memorial Day and then starting Fourth of July, they have a square dance weekend every weekend until Labor Day.” She said a lot of her friends go to Florida in the winter. Square dancing’s popular there as well. “Down in Florida, you can dance

several times a day every day of the week,” Brown noted. “That’s how popular it is.” He said a lot of snowbirds taking square dance lessons locally go there in the winter. When they do, he offers to connect them with a caller who can help them continue with lessons in Florida. When they come back to New York state, they are caught up. Brown is one of a few professional callers in Upstate New York. He travels a lot and even does cruises. This is his 28th year of being a caller. He said he puts about 30,000 miles on his car each year. “You have to love the activity,” he said. “I’m all over the state, but predominantly on a regular basis Tuesdays in Rochester, Wednesdays in Syracuse and Thursdays in Auburn.” The beginners in North Syracuse seem to love it too. Sixteen of them were there working hard to learn the calls with frequent snack breaks and time to chat in between. “It was an experience that I’ll never forget,” said Dave Rydelnik from Albany, who had donned cowboy boots. “I get to work up a sweat. Especially with these heels, I get a good

calf workout. And for once I don’t mind country music.” Though there is now popular music integrated into square dancing, it remains predominately set to country music. At formal dances, Karen Babcock said couples wear Western attire with the women donning prairie skirts and dance partners sometimes color coordinating. S q u a re d a n c e r s c a n d o a n equivalent of a 5-mile walk during a two-hour dance. Brown knows because he’s checked dancers with a pedometer. It can be up to 200 to 500 calories burned an hour. It’s low impact too. But most of the dancers at the community center didn’t seem to be counting calories that night. They were just raising their hands, stomping their feet and enjoying themselves. “I like it,” said dance organizer Jodi Butterfield. “[It’s] lots of fun. This is the third time we’re with him. He’s amazing. It’s a blast!” Brown said those interested in learning more about square dance or taking lessons can get in touch with him at his email: rbrownraytron@aol. com.

A recent square dance practice at the North Syracuse Community Center. December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


life after 55 By Michele Reed

We’re Now French Homeowners


nyone who’s ever bought a house knows that feeling of excitement, mixed with more than a little trepidation, when the day for the closing comes. Signing the papers takes forever, but the thrill of holding the keys to a new life is well worth the hassle. On a sweltering day in mid-July, we experienced the French version of a closing. The fact that it was Bill’s birthday really put the icing on the cake, if you’ll pardon my cheesy joke. Adding to the butterflies-in-thestomach feeling such a momentous life event causes was the fact that, not only was the language foreign to us, the whole process is different than in the States. In France the arrangements for

buying a home are handled through a notaire. This mixture of a notary public, lawyer and accountant represents both buyer and seller, as well as the government. The notaire is responsible for gathering all the documents pertaining to the sale, including surveys of the property and inspections for lead, termites, asbestos and proper electrical wiring. He or she must be sure all permits are in place for any improvements made to the property at any time in its existence — if some previous owner installed a rooftop terrace without proper permission, the new buyer could be forced to cover it over, returning the home to its earlier state. Finally all money is funneled through an account in the

The main square of our village, the Place Courneuve, is literally the “new heart” of the village. It dates from 1905 and includes the school, built that year, and the only café in town. 42

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

Editor’s Note: Oswego residents Michele and Bill Reed bought a retirement vacation home in the South of France. In a series of articles, they take readers along on their journey, sharing the ups and down of senior expat living.

notaire’s office. We had to make an international transfer of the money into the account of our notaire, and she paid the seller, the interpreter, the inspectors and all government fees. With all the work the notaire does for each property transfer, it is typically a three-month lag between when your offer is accepted and you pay a 10 percent deposit on the house, and the final closing. In our case, we had our offer accepted in March on my birthday, and closed in July on Bill’s birthday, giving new meaning for both of us to the old Beatles’ song, “When I’m 64.” We took the train from Barcelona the day before and checked into an adorable bed and breakfast in the notaire’s village, about half an hour away from our new home. The south of France was in the middle of a record heat wave and the temperature easily topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Emma, our British-born innkeeper, kindly lent us her dog, Maddy, to walk and we set out with Google maps on our phone to make a dry run to the notaire’s office, since having no car, we would have to hike there the next day. The ancient stone walls of the

village made the GPS signal hard for our phone to find, and we promptly got lost! The street turned into a country road with no sidewalks and gravel inching its way into our sandals, and the trees of the inn’s residential neighborhood were long behind us. Finally, hot, sunburned and tired, we gave up, returned Maddy to her owner and begged for Emma’s expert direction. She pointed out where we had taken a wrong turn and assured us the office was an easy 10-minute walk. With her help we found it, proving that human navigation is often better than the smartphone variety! We arrived the next day a few minutes early for the appointment. It would be weeks before we internalized the southern French mentality that appointments are really suggestions. Dinner engagements, meetings and, as we would find out on more than one occasion, repairman visits, typically happen at least 10 minutes after the appointed time, and can be much later. I admit to a moment of panic, when we arrived only to find the door locked. The mid-day sun was beating down and there was not a lick of shade. I could feel the sweat start to frizz my hair and melt my makeup, thinking, “Oh, what a great first impression I’ll make.” Lucky for us the interpreter had let himself in the back way and came to our rescue, as he would several times in the process, explaining not only what the documents (which are all in French) said, but also the quirks of French regulations. One thing that will surprise most Americans — it did us! — was French inheritance law. In the States, when a couple buys a house and one spouse later dies, the remaining spouse owns the house in its entirety, and in a will can leave it to whomever he or she wishes. In France, when one partner dies, the children inherit half of the property immediately. The surviving spouse has life use of the house, and the kids can’t force a sale. But if the property is sold, half of the proceeds are divided evenly among all the children. With the papers signed and proudly in possession of a ring of keys — our front door has a huge antique skeleton key and one

A view up Rue des Trouilhes from the bottom of the hill. Our new home is the third on the right, with green shutters. for a modern lock, in addition to the mailbox key, the water meter key and more — we hiked back to Emma’s inn. She generously gave us a ride to our village, since the buses don’t run between the two towns and the nearest taxi is in the city of Beziers and would have cost us $50 for the trip. The twisty medieval streets of our village neighborhood are so narrow and steep, she parked up the hill at the Place de la Mairie — City Hall Plaza. With Emma helping, we wheeled our suitcases containing three-months worth of clothes and sundries over the plaza’s cobblestones and down the steep incline of Rue des Trouilhes to number 24. There we turned the skeleton key in the cheery green wooden door and stepped over the threshold to our new life — as owners of a holiday home in the south of France. The thick stone walls and tile floors of our shuttered home had kept the blistering July heat at bay and we entered feeling the cool welcome of the next chapter in our European retirement adventure.

NEXT: Settling in

We crossed the mosaic threshold and entered through the green front door to our new home in the south of France. 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. December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


consumers corner By Eva Briggs, M.D.

Improve the Health of Heart Disease Patients


Could cell phones be good for your health?

e all know that sitting in front of a screen all day is bad and texting while driving or even walking can have disastrous health consequences. But some researchers in Australia decided to tap into the positive side of those ubiquitous little devices. They devised a study to determine whether text messaging could help cardiac patients. The cutely-named TEXTME study stands for tobacco, exercise and diet messages. Its goal was secondary prevention — that is, preventing worsening of a disease after it’s occurred — as opposed to primary prevention, which is preventing the disease in the first place. The idea was to see whether text messages to people with proven heart disease could help them lower their cholesterol, the primary outcome. They also measured secondary outcomes of lowering blood pressure and body mass index, increasing physical activity, and quitting smoking. The study took place in Sydney, Australia. Researchers screened 1,301 patients at a

teaching hospital to find 710 eligible for the study. The most common reasons people failed to qualify for the study were poor English language skills and lack of a cell phone. Those 710 patients were randomly divided into two groups. Half would receive their usual care. The other half, the intervention group, was sent healthrelated text messages in addition to their usual care. The plan was to send the intervention group four messages per week for 24 weeks. The messages were sent on four randomly selected days, at randomly selected times during the business day. There were four modules — smoking, diet, physical activity, and general cardiovascular health. The messages supplied information on subjects like chest pain action plans, guidelines, risk factors, medications and adherence. T h e researchers used a mail-merge program to personalize some of the messages. For example,

John might receive the message: “John, try to identify the triggers that make you want a cigarette and plan to avoid them.” The patients were instructed that the messages were automated, and not to text back, except to text “stop” if they wanted to opt out. The researchers called anyone who requested to stop to determine if they truly wanted to stop and why. Only 7 patients out of 341 who completed the intervention opted out — four didn’t like the messages, one had other medical problems, one moved to another country, and one went on holiday. So how did it work? At the end of six months, the main outcome was a decrease in LDL cholesterol. The intervention group showed a 5 point drop, that was statistically significant. In addition they did significantly better on all the other measures. Their systolic blood pressure dropped by 7.6 mm Hg, their BMI decreased by 1.3 percent, they were more active, and were more likely to have quit smoking. The majority of patients, more than 90 percent, reported the messages useful and understandable. About 75 percent felt that the messages motivated change, helped them to eat a more healthy diet, exercise more, and remember to take their medicines. The cost of the text messages was about $10 per patient — which seems pretty inexpensive compared to most medical interventions! But still to be answered — will the text messages produce a lasting effect? And will they produce any long term benefit it preventing hear attacks and similar bad cardiovascular events? Eva Briggs is a medical doctor who works at two urgent care centers (Central Square and Fulton) operated by Oswego Health.


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016



Better Bonding with Grandchildren By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


uth Wraight, a licensed mental health counselor in the Syracuse area, follows her own advice: keeping in close touch with her grandchildren via phone, text and Skype to help build a close bond with them. Little gestures help them feel better connected, such as Wraight mailing dried maple leaves to her grandchildren’s Jackson, Miss. home. She also mails them cards outside of the normal holidays. Beyond her love for them, she makes the effort because “grandparents and extended family are important,” she says. With today’s busy schedules many families find it challenging to make time to get together. But staying close requires face time — and meaningful face time, at that. Your grandchildren may seem like strangers at times if you don’t try relating to them on their level. Wr a i g h t ’ s 1 3 - y e a r - o l d granddaughter enjoys make-up, so she has treated the girl to a professional makeover as a special outing (after clearing it with mom). Sharon Sheppard, who’s nearly 55, interns at Harvest House Counseling in Oneonta while earning her degree in marriage and family therapy. She connects with her 10-month-old grandson in Tulsa, Okla., by chatting on the phone. Similar to Wraight, she also sent a box of autumn leaves to her grandson to play in since his home lacks fall foliage. Sheppard was present at his birth, visited him

twice since and also plans visiting for Thanksgiving. The two connect via Facetime at least weekly, so little Henry knows his grandma by face and voice. “Henry is a continuation of my family,” Sheppard said. “I’m very close to my children. Family is important to me. It’s what it’s all about.” As for deciding where to go or what to do with the grandchildren, Sheila M. Clonan, psychologist in private practice in Syracuse, encourages grandparents to “show interest in what the kids are involved in. I love when people have regularly scheduled events.” Movie night (they pick the title), for example, gives you something to talk about. Talking with them with open-ended questions (“What did you think about the ending?” vs. “Did you like the movie?”) helps foster more conversation. However, introducing them to your world can help them get to know you better, too, especially if you haven’t been as close in the past. Keep in mind their developmental stage, however. A 4-year-old won’t care much for an antique show; however, taking him to see a model train exhibition you would like to see could really punch his ticket. Yo u c o u l d a l s o t a k e t h e grandchildren to a place where there are many different things to do such as a recreation center or shopping mall. It won’t hurt to broaden your horizons, too.

“Maybe schedule a ‘Grandma Camp’ where the kids all come over, or once a month where they stay overnight,” Clonan suggested. “The kids can learn the grandparents’ way of living, like board games and spend quality time doing things the grandparents like doing.” Grace Puchalski, registered licensed clinical social worker with Bright Path Counseling Center in Syracuse, said that spending quality t i m e w i t h g r a n d p a re n t s h e l p s grandchildren “feel valued by their rooted, wise, full-of-rich-history grandparents.” She encourages grandparents to allow the youngsters to be themselves and not pressure them to like or do certain things. Acknowledging the children as individuals is all part of nurturing them. But at the same time, grandparents should remember that children aren’t just miniature adults. “A 13-year-old may look adult sized, but their brain development finishes at 23 or 24,” Puchalski said. “Respect the age and the child’s emotional and cognitive needs and the connection the child wants and you want.” Sometimes just hanging out fosters good bonding time. You don’t have to plan everything. A leisurely walk, chatting over an after school snack or playing a board game can help grandchildren relax and get to know you better without any expectations. December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS


druger’s zoo By Marvin Druger

Wildcats Reunite ‘School reunion made me appreciate the true nature of friendships and the importance of living every moment as best we can’


y old high school, New Utrecht High School, in Brooklyn, recently celebrated its 100th year of existence. When I first heard about the celebration, I decided not to attend. I was fearful of seeing who was missing, and I generally don’t like reunions, anyhow. However, my childhood friend, BZ, asked if I was going to attend, and I changed my mind, since live representatives from my youth would definitely be there. In fact, three surviving members of my childhood gang, the Wildcats, and one wife of a deceased gang member did attend. What I enjoyed very much was that everyone in attendance spoke “Brooklynese.” There were no attendees with Midwestern purity of speech. A distinct Brooklyn accent dominated the scene and made me feel that I was hearing my own voice. The event brought back many memories. I grew up in Borough Park in Brooklyn. It was a poor neighborhood, highlighted by a candy store on the corner and an elevated train station that added noise and character to the neighborhood. Around the corner were Schertz’s Bakery and a large, open playground with a basketball court. BZ and Junior were my best friends and we spent a lot of time together. We grew up as a gang and added Larry, Carl, Irwin, George, Joel, Allen, Marty and a few others. We played punchball and basketball in the playground. Stoop-ball, “hit the penny” and stickball were occasional activities. We played softball and


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

even baseball, using a ping-pong ball and a small, wooden bat. We were a good gang. We were interested in sports activities and we didn’t smoke or drink or care much about “girls.” We had a clubroom in the basement of a house, and we sometimes had parties. Instead of marijuana, sex and alcohol, we drank Pepsi Cola and ate salami sandwiches. We had purple jackets with “Wildcats” embossed on them. We all did well in school, even though none of our parents were well educated.

BZ was the leader of the group, and everyone respected him. His sense of humor and kind disposition was a blessing to all of us. BZ’s mother, Rose, often cooked dinners for us. BZ’s father, Jerry, was an auto mechanic who lived above his shop. Jerry worked seven days a week and retirement was never in his future. His dedication to his vocation was a model for all of us. He would repair cars for $2. My father was a truck driver and my mother was a housewife. We were crowded into a small apartment

with my sister, Milly, and my two younger brothers, Lenny and Steve, along with cockroaches and mice. My father and mother had little education, and they had little interest in my education. I think they were proud of my academic achievements, but they never understood what my schooling was all about. “You have good grades. That’s nice. Now, eat your supper.” There was virtually no intellectual climate in our home.

Grateful to sis In those days, poverty sent graduates to work immediately after high school. My sister graduated from New Utrecht and then went to work to help support the family. Because Milly went to work, I was not obliged to do so. BZ told me that, after graduation, he was going to attend Brooklyn College and it was free. When I heard Brooklyn College was free, I said, “Great. Then I’ll go too.” The annual fee for Brooklyn College was $3. There was a lot of protest years later when they raised the annual fee to $5. My sister never was able to go to college. She currently lives as a widow in Staten Island in a house that my late wife and I bought for her to live in with her daughter’s family. I owe Milly my lifelong gratitude for enabling my education. At Pershing Junior High School, Pauline was the valedictorian (first) of the graduating class, and I was salutatorian (second). At New Utrecht High School, I was valedictorian of the graduating class and Pauline was salutatorian. I was surprised to see that the large wallboard with our names was still intact on the wall. My name was the first one listed as valedictorian (June, 1951). While I was looking at the name board, a photographer from the Brooklyn Courier newspaper took my photo and said a reporter would interview me during the week. It seems that I can never escape publicity, no matter where I am. I love it. At the reunion, I walked into the men’s gymnasium where I played on the New Utrecht High School basketball team. I stood under the basket and remembered a trivial incident. We played Erasmus High School the year they won the national high school basketball

The New Utrecht High School reunion in Brooklyn made me appreciate the true nature of friendships and the importance of living every moment as best we can. championship. We lost 72 - 14 and we scored only two points the entire second half. In the days when nobody dunked the ball, the Erasmus players dunked the ball. I was under the basket yelling, “I’m free! I’m free!” Our point guard, Art, didn’t pass me the ball. Our coach called a timeout. “Art, you saw Druger free under the basket. Why didn’t you throw him the ball?” Art’s ego-deflating reply was, “He would have missed the shot anyhow!” As I stood under the basket, the re-living of this incident was vivid in my mind, even though this incident took place more than 60 years ago. We never know which experiences will stay with us, regardless of how unimportant they may seem.

Where are they now? At the reunion, it was interesting to reflect on what happened to Wildcat members. BZ taught science and was chairman of the physical science department at New Utrecht High School for many years, and he is now retired. I stayed at his home for the reunion and he still is one of the kindest, most generous, most caring persons I know. Junior was a heavy smoker, and he died of tongue cancer many years ago, leaving a beautiful wife, Marilyn, who attended the reunion. She never dated after Junior’s death, and she spends her time with many girlfriends. Carl and his wife, Marilyn, were at the reunion. He retired after his office near the World Trade Center was destroyed in the 911 disaster. Irwin was also at the reunion. He is a financial adviser and he still works full time, despite his advanced age. Larry and Allen became scientists. Marty was the

biggest surprise. As a young friend, nobody thought he would amount to much. He went into international banking and is now a millionaire living in Florida. Irwin often expresses his envy and surprise about Marty’s financial success. All of the Wildcats found women that they loved and married. I was the first Wildcat to get married and my wife, Pat, and I enjoyed a wonderful, loving relationship for nearly 60 years, before she died from cancer in 2014. We passed on our genes in the form of three children and seven grandchildren. BZ’s wife died from complications of diabetes many years ago, but he has had a relationship with a woman named Joan for many years after Rita’s death. She collects postcards and he collects stamps, and they met at a convention. They are not married, live in separate houses, but are together. Joel lost his wife a few years ago and he is now a retired electrical engineer. George dropped dead many years ago from a massive heart attack while working on Wall Street. Despite an impoverished childhood, all of the Wildcats fared well in life. As adults, we started getting together as a group once each year. One year, we all went to Las Vegas. Another year, we took a cruise to Nova Scotia. More recently, we gathered at my lake house near Owasco Lake. The Wildcats remain true friends throughout life. Even though we live apart, the bonds formed in childhood cannot be broken. It’s gratifying to know that we are close, loyal friends no matter whether we see each other often or not. The New Utrecht High School reunion made me realize how quickly the years have gone by. Each Wildcat appeared similar but different from the younger version. Age was taking its toll. On one occasion, BZ said, “When we meet, let’s stop talking about the past. Let’s only talk about the future. Which nursing home do you want to go to, and do you want to be buried or burned?” The New Utrecht High School reunion made me appreciate the true nature of friendships and the importance of living every moment as best we can. December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




Bon Bini (Welcome) to Bonaire By Sandra Scott


he Caribbean island of Bonaire is 50 miles north of Venezuela and 86 miles east of Aruba. Bonaire was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 2010 when it became a special municipality within the Netherlands. The best thing is that it is out of the hurricane belt so any time of the year is a good time to visit. There is plenty of sunshine year round. The island is only 24 miles long and between three to seven miles wide. The people of Bonaire speak Papimento (the local language) plus Dutch, Spanish and English.


Kralendijk: Bonaire’s capital,

Kralendijk, is a port city. The colorful city is small with a population of 4,000 making for a great walkabout. The architecture has been well preserved. Start at the visitor’s center to pick up a 48

55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

free walking tour brochure. Visit Fort Orange, the quaint churches and Queen Wilhemina Park.


History: The original

inhabitants were the Caiquetios, a branch of the Arawak Indians. Rock paintings and petroglyphs from that time have survived in several of the island’s caves. The first Europeans to claim the island were the Spanish and then the Dutch. Control seesawed between them until 1816 when the Dutch took permanent control. Near the town of Rincon is the newly upgraded cultural center, Mangazina di Rei (The Storehouse of the King) where slaves were given provisions.


Diving: Frommer’s rates

Bonaire No. 1 when it comes to scuba diving. The island is surrounded by reefs that are pristine and easily accessible. Go out on a dive boat or enter from the shore where the access to the sea is clearly marked by bright yellow painted rocks that names the dive site. The waters of Bonaire have been designated as a National Marine Park so divers and snorkelers need to purchase a permit tag ($25 for scuba divers, $10 for snorkelers).


Catching the wind: It is almost always windy on Bonaire making it a mecca for wind surfers and kite boarders. The clear water of Lac Bay is the perfect place for beginners to learn and for freestylers who want to hone their skills. Kite boarding takes place

on Atlantis Beach. Newbies can be wind surfing after a few lessons whereas kite boarding requires more lessons. Both locations offer equipment and skilled instructors.


Salt: On drive-about or an

escorted tour in the southern part of the beautiful island of Bonaire it is impossible not to be amazed at the white mountains of salt and the rose-colored salt pans. The salt of Bonaire is a natural product made by the evaporation of seawater by the sunshine and wind. Fragile-looking windmills pump seawater into condenser ponds where the water evaporates until it reaches full saturation. The brine is then pumped into crystallizers where it remains for about a year during which the salty water turns green and then a beautiful rose. When it is ready to harvest it is piled in large mountains of salt waiting to be transported worldwide. Nearby are replicas of the small huts for the slaves who at one time worked in the salt industry.


Donkeys: The Spanish

brought the donkeys to the island to use as draft animals. When they were no longer needed the donkeys were set free to roam the island. They did not fare well. In 1993 Dutch Nationals, Marina Melis, and her husband, Ed Koopman, established a donkey sanctuary on Bonaire for sick, wounded and orphaned donkeys. Currently there are about 600

donkeys under their care including newborns. They provide food, drinking water, medical care plus a free-roaming area. Visitors are welcome to visit and interact with the donkeys for a nominal fee. The special care area is accessible by foot behind the visitor center but the highlight is feeding and interacting with the friendly animals on a drive through the sanctuary.


Birds: With over 200 species Bonarie is a bird-lover’s paradise. There are migrating birds, seabirds, shore birds, and land birds but the iconic symbol of Bonaire is the elegant pink flamingo. Bonaire is only one of four areas in the world where flamingos breed. The flamingos are shy so it is important to not get to close and disturb them. For picture-taking a telephoto is a help. The best place to see them is Lake Gotomeer in the north and around the salt pans. The breeding area is off limits.


Shopping: There are several art

shops in Kralendijk including Jan Art and on the edge of town is G. N. driftwood Art shop. There is a regularly scheduled art and craft market in the city. Paintings depicting Bonaire scenes, or a stone painted yellow with the name of your favorite dive site, and a piece of driftwood art make great remembrances of Bonaire. Visit the Salt Shop to buy Bonaire salt in a variety of packages great for giftgiving or for personal home use.

A heron among flamingos


Tours: There are a plethora of tours for those who want to bike, hike, kayak, fish, go caving, have an off-road adventure, go horseback riding, repel, plus Segway tours, and a city tour in a luxurious tuk-tuk. A glass-bottom boat tour is perfect for those who want to see the coral reef without getting wet. Woodwind offers snorkeling and sunset tours. Many people rent a car and explore on their own.

10 Kayaking on the Chenango River. At one time it was connected to the Erie Canal by the 97-mile long Chenango Canal. A replica of Dutch slave housing.

Wining and dining:

Visitors will find that hotels and most restaurants offer international fare including the fresh fish of the day. There is even a Subway and KFC. Those who want to try something new should head to the historic village of Rincon. Cadushy Distillery uses the cactus that is found all over the island to make cactus liqueur in a variety of flavors. Posada Para Mira, also in Rincon, is one place to sample local fare such at goat stew. They also serve conch soup and, the more adventurous should try iguana soup. It tastes like chicken but is very boney.

December 2015 / January 2016 - 55 PLUS




By Lou Sorendo

Arthur Vercillo, 60


etired regional president at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield talks about his semi-retirement, fitness (‘I’m in the best shape right now than I’ve been in 20 years’) and why sometimes he cheats when it comes to food. Q. We see you are remaining a general surgeon as well as an independent contractor-consultant. Can you characterize the role you now play in the healthcare field? A. I’m still seeing patients and active in my clinical practice on a part-time basis. I’m also doing consulting in regards to dealing with professional liability issues. I see most of my patients in Fayetteville at the Northeast Medical Center building, and do my surgeries at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center. I am also a professor of otolaryngology at SUNY Upstate Medical University. I have residents join me in the office and in the operating room. Q. What motivates you to continue practicing instead of full retirement? A. All my life, I’ve been interested in all aspects of providing the best possible healthcare for the greatest number of people. For many years, that was done exclusively through my clinical practice, but there were other times I’ve done it by training residents, taking a leadership position with the county medical society, and then through the health insurance industry. There, I continued to promote quality care at an affordable price for the maximum number of people. I’ve been doing the same thing, but just in a variety of different ways. By taking a step away from the insurance aspect, I’m still doing the other ways. Q. How many hours a day do you spend in your practice? A. I still get up very early. I am


55 PLUS - December 2015 / January 2016

out of bed by 5 or 5:30, get a cup and coffee and read the paper. I also do my New York Times’ crossword puzzle. I catch up on all kinds of things. On my clinical days, I either go into the office or into the hospital. On days that I’m consulting, I go into that office. And then on my off days, I’m spending a lot of time with friends and family. I’m also big into tennis, biking and staying physically fit. I think I’m in the best shape right now than I’ve been in 20 years. Q. How to you maintain a high level of fitness? A . I adhere to primarily a Mediterranean-type diet, which consists of a lot of fish, vegetables and fruit. But I also allow myself to cheat a little bit. I think when people get too tight on these things, then it becomes a flash in the pan. With that said, life is short; be good to yourself. We all have to have those moments of enjoyment. I would have to say 90 percent of my diet is Mediterranean, while the other 10 percent is all the other crazy stuff that probably isn’t so good for you. Q. How are you adjusting to semiretirement? A. I’m adjusting pretty well. I’ve had a half dozen phone calls from people in organizations who said, “You’re not going to last a month in semi-retirement. You need to get back in the game. Get ready, because I have a job for you.” I have to tell you: I’m really loving this. I am living the dream right now. Q. What aspect of working as an administrator do you miss the most? A. The people were wonderful. I miss the day-to-day interaction with them. You learn about them — their lives, interests, successes and failures. As a physician, I think people tended to open up to me more than they

Physician Art Vercillo served as Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield’s top official in CNY from 2009 until the summer of 2015. would the average regional president to the point where I almost had office hours. But people are fascinating. Give them a little time and engage them in conversation. I think as a society we tend too often to have these very superficial, segmented relationships and you never really get to know people in their entirety. Q. What do you look forward to the most in retirement? Are you going south for the winter or staying in CNY? A. I split my time about 50-50 between Upstate New York and Florida and that’s what I’m planning on doing for the foreseeable future. By 50-50, I don’t mean six months in one place and six months in another. I will break up every month and spend part of it here and part of it down in the Palm Beach area. Q. Have you adjusted your lifestyle now that you are not working as an insurance company administrator? A. One of the things I’ve been very careful about is that I don’t want to disrupt my wife Melissa’s lifestyle. She has had her routines and there are things she likes to do. I think it’s healthy for people to have their alone time and to engage in activities they like.

Convenient … comfortable … Convenient … comfortable … Convenient … comfortable … affordable senior living! Convenient … comfortable … affordable senior living! affordable senior living! affordable senior In County North In Onondaga Onondaga County Living! North 7.25 x 10” 55 Plus Onondaga North Full Christopher Community

In Onondaga County North In Onondaga County North

Christopher Community offers safe, subsidized one bedroom apartments for income qualified Christopher Community offers safe, subsidized one bedroom apartments income qualified Christopher Community offers safe, subsidized one bedroom apartments for income qualified Christopher Community offers safe, subsidized one bedroom apartments forfor income qualified Christopher Community offers safe, subsidized one bedroom apartments for income qualified seniors and mobility impaired individuals in a variety of neighborhood settings.. Call today. seniors and mobility impaired individuals a variety neighborhood settings.Call Calltoday. today. seniors and mobility impaired individuals in aa variety of neighborhood settings.. seniors and mobility impaired individuals in in variety ofof neighborhood settings.. Call today. seniors and mobility impaired individuals in a variety of neighborhood settings.. Call today.

Byrne Manor Byrne Manor Manor Byrne Drive 4122 Pine Hollow Byrne Manor Dr. 4122 Pine Dr. 4122 Pine Hollow Hollow Dr. Liverpool, NY 13090 4122 Pine Hollow Liverpool, NY NY 13090 13090 Dr. Liverpool, (315) 622-0410 Liverpool, NY 13090 (315) 622-0410 (315) 622-0410 Byrne@ Byrne@ (315) 622-0410 Byrne@ Byrne@ Byrne@

Malta Malta House House Malta House 212 North Main St. Street Malta House 212 North Main St. 212 North Main NY St. 13212 North Syracuse, 212 North Main North Syracuse, Syracuse, NY NY St. 13212 North 13212 (315) 452-1028 North Syracuse, NY 13212 (315) 452-1028 (315) 452-1028 MaltaHouse@ MaltaHouse@ (315) 452-1028 MaltaHouse@ MaltaHouse@ MaltaHouse@

O’Brien O’Brien Road Road Apartments Apartments O’Brien Road Apartments 7170 O’Brien Rd Road O’Brien Road Apartments 7170 O’Brien Rd 7170 O’Brien Rd Syracuse, NY 7170 O’Brien Rd Syracuse, NY 13209 13209 Syracuse, NY 13209 (315) 635-3339 Syracuse, NY 13209 (315) 635-3339 (315) 635-3339 Obrien@ obrien@ (315) Obrien@635-3339 Obrien@ Obrien@

Rogers Rogers Senior Senior Apartments Apartments Rogers Senior Apartments 5490 Miller Road Rogers Senior Apartments 5490 Miller Road 5490 Miller Road 13029 Brewerton, 5490 MillerNY Brewerton, NYRoad 13029 Brewerton, NY 13029 (315) 676-4174 Brewerton, NY 13029 (315) 676-4174 (315) 676-4174 Rogers Rogers@ (315) Rogers 676-4174 Rogers Rogers

Long Manor Manor Long Long Manor Manor 5500Long Miller Road 5500 Miller Road 5500 Miller Road 5500 Miller Road Brewerton, NY 13029 Brewerton, NY 13029 Brewerton, NY Brewerton, NY 13029 (315) 668-9871 668-987113029 (315) (315) 668-9871 (315) 668-9871 LongManor@ LongManor@ LongManor@ LongManor@ LongManor@

Malta Manor Manor Malta Malta Manor Malta Manor 107 Trolley Barn Lane Lane 107 Trolley Barn 107 Trolley Barn Lane 107 Trolley Barn Lane North Syracuse, NY 13212 North Syracuse, NY 13212 North Syracuse, NY 13212 North Syracuse, NY 13212 (315) 362-3502 (315) 362-3502 (315) 362-3502 (315) 362-3502 MaltaManor@ MaltaManor@ MaltaManor@ MaltaManor@ MaltaManor@

Pitcher Hill Apartments Pitcher Hill Apartments Pitcher HillHill Apartments Pitcher Apartments 114 Elbow Road 114 Elbow Elbow Road Road 114 114 Syracuse, Elbow Road North NY 13212 North Syracuse, NY 13212 North Syracuse, NYNY 13212 North Syracuse, 13212 (315) 454-0697 (315) 454-0697 454-0697 (315) (315) 454-0697 PitcherHill@ PitcherHill@ PitcherHill@ PitcherHill@ PitcherHill@

Sacred Heart Heart Apartments Apartments Sacred Sacred Heart Apartments Sacred HeartStreet Apartments 8365 Factory Street 8365 Factory 8365 Street 8365Factory Factory Street Cicero, NY 13039 Cicero, NY 13039 Cicero, NY Cicero, NY13039 13039 (315) 699-1509 (315) 699-1509 (315) 699-1509 (315) 699-1509 SacredHeart@ SacredHeart@ SacredHeart@ SacredHeart@ SacredHeart@

Lucille Manor Lucille Manor Lucille ManorDr. Lucille Manor Lucille Manor 5569 Legionnaire 5569 Legionnaire Dr. 5569 Legionnaire Dr. 5569 Legionnaire Dr. 5569 Legionnaire Drive Cicero, NY 13039 Cicero, NY 13039 Cicero, NY 13039 Cicero, NY 13039 Cicero,698-0507 NY 13039 (315) (315) 698-0507 698-0507 (315) 698-0507 (315)(315) 698-0507 LucilleManor@ LucilleManor@ LucilleManor@ LucilleManor@ LucilleManor@

O’Brien Road II 7174 O’Brien Road Syracuse, NY 13209 (315) 635-5434

St. Mary Apartments St. Mary Apartments St.Mary Mary Apartments St. Mary Apartments St. Apartments 100 La Madre Way 100 La Madre Way 100 La Madre Way 100 La Mandre Way 100 La Madre Way Baldwinsville, NY 13027 Baldwinsville, NY 13027 Baldwinsville,NY NY13027 13027 Baldwinsville, NY 13027 Baldwinsville, (315) 638-2003 (315) 638-2003 (315) 638-2003 (315) 638-2003 (315) 638-2003 StMarys@ StMarys@ StMarys@ StMarys@ StMarys@

TDD/TTY (800) 662-1220

Follow your spirit of adventure to OASIS! Reconnect with a previous passion or learn something totally new. Join us today!

OASIS is an age 50+ community learning center offering classes in Arts and Humanities, Technology, Health and Fitness, Personal Enrichment, Science, Travel and so much more! Start anytime. Single and multi-session classes range from FREE to reasonable. Easy access and plenty of free parking. Located next to the DoubleTree Hotel.

OASIS 6333 State Rte 298 East Syracuse, NY 13057 315-464-6555 See our Catalog online at Like us on Facebook: Syracuse OASIS

55plus no60  
55plus no60