Webster resident reflects on cemeteries in her new book

25 Sep

I’m a sucker for cemeteries. They’re so peaceful. I love to just wander through them, enjoy the solitude, look at the epitaphs, and think about the lives they’re trying to sum up in just a few words.

So when I heard about a recent book about cemeteries written by Webster resident Jane Hopkins, I sat up and took notice. Then I started reading it, and realized that Hopkins and I are of the same mind when it comes to the power of cemeteries to touch us deeply.

The book is titled Cemetery Reflections, and it was sparked in part by a single, simple headstone. Hopkins was taking a walk in a historic cemetery in Canada a few years ago and came across the grave of a young child. The epitaph read, “Step Softly, Here lies a dream.” A much larger monument which stood nearby detailed the death of four children three weeks apart, and their father several months later. Hopkins writes in her book, “I thought about the dreams of these parents for their children, and the harsh reality that comes to many of us who experience an early death in the family.”

As Hopkins continued to wander the cemetery, she contemplated the deep grief expressed in the words on the child’s headstone. It compelled her to explore more cemeteries, perhaps, she wrote, “looking for a workable philosophy of loss and afterlife ─ including my own death ─ and how to  make it easier for those left behind.”  

The result of those wanderings is the new 206-page book, Cemetery Reflections, a visual journey through notable cemeteries, illustrated by stunning black and white and color photos. Historic poetry and beautiful prose accompany the photos, giving the book a free-flowing feel similar to what one would experience on a cemetery walk. 

You can meet Hopkins yourself and learn more about her book at a talk she’ll hold on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. in  the Gleason Auditorium at the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, 115  South Ave., Rochester. The talk is free and open to the public.

Copies of Cemetery Reflections are available for $44.95 at Amazon.com.   

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(posted 9/25/2022)

Florence Kinney, Webster’s “Mrs. Claus,” approaches amazing gift-giving goal

24 Sep

It’s only the last week in September, but Florence Kinney is already thinking about Christmas.

Actually, she’s been thinking about it and working on it for the last nine months, purchasing and preparing the thousands of gifts she’ll be delivering to children this holiday season.

Florence Kinney — or as some know her, “Mrs. Claus” — is the driving force behind a grassroots ministry which she calls “Santa’s Workshop,” dedicated to bringing presents to children who might not get many gifts, or anything, for Christmas.

The effort began very simply in December 1989, when Florence read a story in the Democrat and Chronicle about two brothers who were going to be spending their Christmas at Rochester General Hospital. After reading the article, she asked her husband Charles if they could go to the store and buy a toy truck for each little boy. He agreed; just one toy.

But after dropping the trucks off at the hospital, something kept nagging at Florence. So she asked Charles, again, if they could go out and get just a few more toys. He agreed, again, and they headed out to shop.

They came back with 400 gifts, which they delivered to 400 more children at the hospital.

That was going to be the end of it, Florence said. But word spread and they started getting calls from other hospitals, and a reporter called to do a story. When they told him they had no plans to continue, he encouraged them to pray about it.

“It was a very emotional moment for us,” Florence remembered. She and Charles stood in a corner of their kitchen and prayed. “Next thing we knew, this heat just rose right up from our feet, right through our body. We both started crying our eyes out, and I looked at (Charles) and said, ‘This is a calling.’”

Santa’s Workshop was born, and has grown every year, even after Charles passed in 2003. The agencies it serves have expanded well beyond RGH to include the Ronald McDonald House, Williamson Community Center, Cure Cancer Association, House of Mercy and a half dozen others, and the number of children and adults who receive gifts every year numbers in the thousands.

Last year, Santa’s Workshop delivered 4,889 gifts, bringing the total number of gifts since the first year to 97,506. This season, which marks the 33rd year, Florence only needs another 2,500 gifts to reach an incredible goal: 100,000 gifts delivered.

What’s especially amazing about what Florence does is that she receives very few donations. She basically goes out and purchases the thousands of toys and clothing items herself, with her own money.

Thanks to raging inflation and supply chain issues, purchasing enough gifts this year has been especially challenging. Money doesn’t go anywhere near as far these days, and it’s been difficult buying games in bulk quantities. But she’s persevered, and several rooms in her Webster home are already piled high with games, stuffed animals, dolls, books and toys, ready for the workshop to “open” in November, when her team of dedicated volunteers will start sorting, packing and delivering the gifts.

But Florence is still looking for bargains and buying gifts, because she’s bound and determined to reach her goal. “If we can make that 100,000, I will feel very good about it,” she said.

Last year when, Florence told me she was so close to her goal, I asked her if she’d be retiring once she reached it. She answered, “The only way I could do it is if God tells me that. He called me to it, he’ll call me away from it. I know that in my heart. It will be his decision to make.”

Turns out, she got that message. A couple of times. She told me,

A few weeks ago I was praying about it. I was led to go get one of my devotionals. When I picked it up and opened the page, you won’t believe what it said. The title was “Retirement?” It was all about how you never retire from the Lord’s work.

Before that hapened I was eating breakfast, looking out the window, and thinking about the last year. All of a sudden I heard “I have not called you from it. I called you to it.”

Sounds like Santa’s Workshop will be hanging around a little while longer.

(Click here to read more about Florence in the blog I wrote about her last year.)

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(posted 9/24/2022)

Webster community mailbag

23 Sep

I’d like to lead this week’s mailbag with a huge THANK YOU from the Webster Museum.

The recent Museum Barn Sale, held Sept. 15 to 17, was a tremendous success, reportedly the best ever. Museum volunteers would like to thank the Webster community for all the donations, purchases and “delightful company.”

Your support for this — the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year — assures that the Webster Museum will be with us for another year, carefully preserving our town’s rich history.

The Webster Museum is located at 18 Lapham Park in the Village of Webster, and is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 2 to 4:30 p.m.


In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Webster Public Library brings these two events your way:

  • Hispanic Heritage Month Night, Thursday Sept. 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. Celebrate the month with a culture-filled evening of food, dance, music, crafts and more. All ages are welcome, and registration is requested. (Click here)
  • Hispanic Heritage Month Crafts, Saturday Sept. 30, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All ages are welcome, drop in anytime and no registration is required.

Also from the library, their big Fall Book Sale is right around the corner.

It happens Thursday through Saturday Oct. 6 to 8, with the best deals saved for Friday and Saturday. Check out all the details in the flyer below.

If your kids are REALLY into fire trucks, then you’ll want to mark these dates on your calendar.

The West Webster Fire Department will hold their open house on Sunday Oct. 16 from 1 to 4 p.m., and the Webster Volunteer Fire Department will hold their open house on Saturday Oct. 29 (during Halloween in the Village). These events offer much more than fire trucks, too. There are demonstrations, giveaways, a chance to check out all sorts of emergency equipment and talk to real first responders. But of course, there’s definitely plenty of opportunities to take a picture of your young firefighter sitting in a real fire truck.

The West Webster Fire Department is at 1051 Gravel Rd., and the Webster Volunteer Fire Department is on South Ave. in the Village of Webster. These events are both free and open to everyone.


Gleason Orthodontics, on South Ave. in the village, will be hosting a winter-wear donation drive from Oct. 1 through Nov. 20.

You can drop off adult and youth-sized coats, hats and gloves at the office, 246 South Ave., during regular business hours.

The Webster Recreation Center, Webster Central PTSA and Webster Teachers Association are also hosting a Concert Apparel and Coat Drive. They’re looking for any size (toddler through adult) of the following items in good condition:

  • Winter coats, jackets, pants, boots and accessories
  • Concert apparel: white and black tops, shoes, bottoms and accessories

Collection boxes are loated at each Webster Central School building through Oct. 27.

On Saturday Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Webster Recreation Center, 1350 Chiyoda Dr., anyone who needs winter or concert gear can come “shop” for gently-used items for free.


The Webster Aquatic Center will be hosting a Blood Drive on Tuesday Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Aquatic Center, 875 Ridge Rd.

Call 1-800-RED-CROSS or log onto RedCrossBlood.org to make an appointment.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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(posted 9/23/2022)

Chamber of Commerce gets a beautiful upgrade

22 Sep

I’m discovering that among the many benefits of my retirement has been having extra time to work on my blog — to track down more stories, meet more interesting people, and discover places in Webster I’ve not seen before. Basically, I now have more time to become better connected with my community.

I especially want to improve my connection with our local businesses. I took the first step in that direction last night when I attended an open house at the Webster Chamber of Commerce. Chamber president Barry Howard had invited members to the offices for drinks and hors d’oeuvres and to show off some recently completed renovations.

I was very kindly invited to attend by Steve Conger of Spectrum Business. Steve reached out to me a few weeks ago, hoping to lay the groundwork for a stronger relationship between the Chamber and my blog. I jumped at the opportunity.

Not surprisingly, I saw several familiar faces at the event (Webster is a small town, after all), but also met some business owners, handed out several business cards, and introduced people to Webster on the Web.

Basically, I started making those connections.

I always love meeting new people, but last night was doubly enjoyable because I got a good look at the Chamber of Commerce’s new digs. Well, they’re not new, actually. The office hasn’t moved from its current location at 1110 Crosspointe Lane, although that prospect was definitely in the cards. When it was clear that the Chamber needed more space, Howard said they started looking around town to see what was available. Even though they visited and rated 17 places, nothing checked all the boxes they needed.

So they took a closer look at redesigning the space they already had. “We’d like to stay here if we can afford it,” Howard told the architects, and they got to work.

The result is beautiful. Without increasing the actual square footage, somehow they managed to make the space bigger and brighter. Over a three-month period, workers eliminated storage closets, moved and added doors, installed new windows, updated the lighting and slapped on fresh paint. In the process, somehow they added a third office — which can be rented out to members for meetings and interviews — updated their technology, opened up the conference room, and created a much more accessible and welcoming atmosphere. (Check out some photos below.)

I’ll be attending more Webster Chamber events in the coming months. I look forward to getting to know its members better and sharing more business news with my readers.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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(posted 9/22/2022)

Former cold storage building recognized

21 Sep

In our daily lives, we frequently walk by or drive by things of historical significance without even realizing it.

Such is the case with the building at 206 North Ave. in the Village of Webster. Most of us know it as Climate Controlled Self Storage, or “that place where you can rent U-Hauls.” Fewer of us realize the building has a long and rich history in our village, a history that recently earned it recognition as the Webster Village Historic Preservation Commission’s September Site of the Month.

In the early 1920s, the building at 206 North Ave. was known as Webster Cold Storage, a cooperative created by local apple growers including Louis Kittelberger, George Hosenfeld, William Stokes, George Dunn and Earl Wright. In her book Webster Through the Years, Esther Dunn reported that the building had about 400,000 cubic feet of space, enough for 50,000 barrels of apples.

Over the next four decades, the Cold Storage building saw many changes in both the facility itself and the products stored there. In 1923, an addition was made to install an ice-making tank, and years later, more than half of the space was converted from coolers to locker space. The variety of produce stored there over the years is impressive: apples, cherries, grapes, peaches, prunes, berries, currants, all sorts of vegetables, and even seafood.

Before it closed in March 1965, Webster Cold Storage had become a true community business. Even individual residents leased some space for their own use.

But the building’s history is not the only reason it was recognized by the Historic Preservation Commission. Members of the commission choose their Sites of the Month based not just on the site’s history, but also what its current owner has done to maintain and improve the property.

The building’s present owner, Dimitri Stefanou, has made significant improvements since purchasing it in 2002. It needed a lot of repairs, and when Stefanou started planning how to redevelop the property, he decided to return it to its original purpose, storage, saying that he hoped “to once again make (the) building a landmark.”

Stefanou put windows along the front of the building and added an office, and even managed to build the storage units around existing pillars. But the top two floors were still empty, and rather than turning them into storage units as well, Stefanou decided to take the renovations to a whole new level and create luxury apartments.

The Lofts of Webster was created, 20 luxury units on the third and fourth floors, complete with a private resident entrance, a porte cochere, a new elevator and fitness area. Outside, he added a vegetable garden, a flower garden, and a huge picnic table for the residents to enjoy.

The improvements are kind of a reincarnation for this historic building, assuring its position once again as an vital part of the Webster Village community.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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(posted 9/21/2022)

Sloppy, muddy, mucky fun at the Rec Center

18 Sep

Webster Parks and Recreation did it again, devising a very successful, tremendously fun and unique event that the whole family could enjoy.

I’m talking about last Saturday morning’s second annual Mud Run, held along the lawns and walking paths behind the Rec Center on Chiyoda Dr. The two-hour event drew several hundred children and adults of all ages, who payed $5 each for the privilege of scrambling over obstacles, wading through muddy streams and combat-crawling through pits filled with about six inches of muck.

I was one of those hundreds of people, and boy was it a blast. To the Rec Center’s credit, there were ways around most of the obstacles or mud pits for anyone who really wanted to take advantage of them. But most everybody embraced the opportunity to go a little crazy and get as muddy as they could. Several groups went through three or four times. (I only did it twice.)

Fresh from their success at the Mud Run, Rec Center staffers have turned their attention to this year’s Third Annual Pumpkins on Parade, scheduled for Saturday Oct. 29.

This is an amazing, family-friendly Halloween-time event, when the Chiyoda Trail is lined with creative, scary, and downright funny jack-o-lanterns. Community members and businesses are encouraged to carve up some pumpkins, drop them off at the Rec Center that morning, and then come back that evening with the family to look for them along the mile-long trail which winds around the back of the property. Afterwards, everyone gets free donuts and cider.

More info to come about this in the next few weeks, but start thinking about now about how you want to carve your pumpkins!

Thank you to my friend Patty Wyble for the photos above.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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(posted 9/18/2022)

Webster’s very own “My Evil Twin” to perform at the Fringe Festival

15 Sep

Two former Webster Schroeder students (class of ’74) are teaming up at the Rochester Fringe Festival to perform a funny, fast-moving mini-musical, based on their lives growing up as identical twin brothers.

Jim and John Demler are both opera singers, so the show, which they call My Evil Twin, will naturally include a little bit of opera. But it will be blended with elements of Broadway and pop and (according to the Facebook event page), will “provide the twins the chance to unleash their virtuosic basso voices with madcap energy and emotion.”

The page describes My Evil Twin the show as

an intimate musical …. Funny, poignant, and adventurous, My Evil Twin exposes tenderness and vulnerability beneath masculine bravado as the twins tell the story of their lives in words and song. It is a tribute to sibling love.

Members of the Class of ’74 may remember Jim and John Demler, especially since John wrote they were both “above-average athletes,” albeit only “mediocre students.” They both played in the Ridgecrest Elementary orchestra under the baton of Jeff Frasier, and both went to school not to study music, but to become teachers.

The show we are performing at the Fringe Festival was written for us, and is a funny, brief chronicle of our lives as twins and performers. We have remained best friends throughout our 65 years, but this essentially the first show we’ve ever done where we’ve sung duets together.

My Evil Twin will be performed at the Geva Theatre Center on Wednesday Sept. 21 at 5:30 p.m. and Thursday Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. Tickets for the 75-minute show are $18 for adults, $12 for students. They can be purchased online here, by phone at (585) 957-9837 (fees apply), at the door or at the box office at the corner of Main and Gibbs.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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(posted 9/14/2022)

Webster community mailbag

14 Sep

I’m going to begin today’s mailbag with lots of stuff from the Webster Public Library. I haven’t blogged about them much recently, but it’s NOT because there’s nothing going on over there. Actually, there are so many new programs happening at the library, I’m just going to kind of list them, and you can get even more detail from the flyers posted below.

  • Thursday Sept. 15, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.: Classical Guitar Salon. Bring your guitar and meet other guitarists of all ages to socialize, share and perform. Registration is requested.
  • Saturday, Sept. 17, from 2 to 3 p.m.: a parenting program from Parent to Parent called Understanding OPWDD Support Services (Office for People with Developmental Disabilities). Especially for parents of children with developmental disabilities.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 20, from 2 to 3 p.m.: Practical Tips for Aging in Place, a discussion offering practical tips, strategies and home modifications to allow you — or your loved ones — to age in place. Registration is required.
  • Thursday Oct. 6 through Saturday Oct. 9, the Webster Public Library Fall Book Sale returns, with an incredible variety of books at more incredible prices. More to come about this, but check out the flyer below for more information.

Here are some follow-up reminders about some things I’ve already blogged in more detail about. If you’re interested in any of them, click through to the original blog.

  • The Webster Recreation Center has two family-friendly events this week. The first is a concert at the Arboretum on Thursday Sept. 15 at 6 p.m., featuring the wonderful folk/pop duo Doctor’s Orders. Bring chairs, a blanket (it’s getting cooler in the evenings) and a cooler if you want. There’s no admission fee.
  • On Saturday Sept. 17, from 10 a.m. to noon, the Rec will hold its second annual Mud Run, a fun one-mile, non-competitive run through mud and obstacles. I’m definitely going to be there this year. Cost is $5/person for lots of laughs.
  • The Red Hot and Blue Band will hold a benefit concert at the village gazebo on Sunday Sept. 18, beginning at 3 p.m. There’s no admission fee, but free will donations will be taken at the concert, with all proceeds to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
  • Get your German on at the Challenger Miracle Field Oktoberfest, Friday and Saturday Sept. 16 and 17, Webster Firemen’s Field. The two-day event runs from noon to 10 p.m. each day and will have lots of great German bands and German food. Admission is $9, free for children 12 and under.

And finally, don’t forget about two big garage sales happening this weekend.

The Webster Hope, Inc. Garage Sale is going on today through Saturday Sept. 17 at Holy Trinity Church, 1460 Ridge Rd. Webster. And the annual Webster Museum Barn Sale runs Thursday, Sept. 15 through Saturday Sept. 17 on Phillips Rd. Click here to read about this incredible sale, which is the museum’s largest fundraiser of the year.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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(posted 9/14/2022)

It’s FINALLY Barn Sale time!

13 Sep

I’ve long been impressed by the volunteers at the Webster Museum. The challenges they tackle every week curating, organizing, sorting, setting up displays, serving as docents — all designed to keep Webster’s history alive for us all — take a lot of work and incredible dedication. But all that pales in comparison to the monumental task these volunteers tackle every year at Barn Sale time.

For weeks, the museum invited community members to drop their donations off at the barn on Phillips Rd. in anticipation of the sale, which takes place later this week. When I drove by a few weeks ago to drop some stuff off, I had a chance to pop into the big barn.

The sight was overwhelming. Toys and dishes and tools and books and dolls and home decorations were EVERYWHERE, stacked on tables in piles and boxes. I’m sure the barn sale volunteers could see some method to the madness, but all I saw was an organizational challenge of monumental proportions.

Over the last couple of weeks, however, these amazing folks tackled that challenge and turned confusion into orderliness, evidenced by the email I recently got from museum volunteer Kathy Taddeo. She provided a tantalizing example of some of the beautiful items shoppers will find at the sale: an elegant teacup and saucer collection, and a Boyd Bears collection.

They’re just a few of the thousands of items shoppers will discover, so many that they’ll not only fill the big barn, but also the carriage house and two adjacent barns, and even spill out onto the lawns.

Shoppers will find glassware, crafts, ceramics, lamps, dolls and jewelry, holiday wares, outdoor and garden care, books, music, electronics, paintings, toys and games, sports equipment, furniture, bikes and trikes, auto, tools and hardware and more, at really low prices.

The sale will run Thursday and Friday Sept. 15 and 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 394 Phillips Rd.  Please bring your own shopping bags and small bills!!!! This is the Webster Museum’s biggest fundraiser of the year, so come ready to shop!

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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(posted 9/13/2022)

Bonus gazebo concert this weekend will benefit St. Jude

12 Sep

Anyone who loves good music and good causes will want to hear about this weekend’s concert at the gazebo.

I’m calling it a “bonus” concert because it’s not one of the regular Friday-night gazebo concerts sponsored by the Webster BID, but a brand new event developed by the very popular Red Hot and Blue Band, featuring Village of Webster resident Doug Pucci.

Red Hot and Blue will be performing at the village gazebo on North Ave. on Sunday afternoon Sept. 18 at 3 p.m., to benefit St. Jude Childrens’ Hospital.

Pucci told me the band decided to host a St. Jude benefit concert for a couple of reasons. For starters, his daughter-in-law worked as a nurse for St. Jude for several years, and during that time the band grew close to the organization. But mostly, it’s just a terrific cause that everyone can get behind, especially this month, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

The band’s Facebook page explained,

Thanks to you donors like you, no family ever receives a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since it opened more than 50 years ago.

Admission is free; donations in any amount will be taken during the show. The band will also have t-shirts and stickers for sale, with all profits going straight to St. Jude. If you can’t make the show, you can also made donations directly by clicking here and then the “Find Tickets” button.

So grab your chairs, blankets and coolers, and enjoy some sweet, late-summer music by the Red Hot and Blue Band this Sunday. (Remember, the Bills aren’t playing until Monday. You’ll need something to do.)

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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(posted 9/12/2022)