Archive | December, 2012

How tragedy brings a community together

31 Dec

Today, as we lay to rest young Tomasz Kaczowka, we come together as a community one last time, and hopefully begin to put this tragedy behind us.

But it’s not going to be that easy. That was obvious yesterday after Michael Chiapperini’s funeral procession passed the West Webster Fire House. Even well after the last bus had rounded the corner toward the cemetery, people still hadn’t started to disperse.  Our hearts were still bursting with love for these men that we needed to express.  There were still so many more tears to be shed.  We did not want this feeling of community — of family — to ever end.

And if any positive has come out of this awful event, it is that it has drawn the greater Webster community much closer together. My friend Kathy Saunders summed it quite well yesterday, when she said, “Even though Webster’s grown so big, it still feels like a small town.”

These last few days, as we all wrestled with the same feelings and sense of purpose, we were no longer strangers. As shoppers passed in the aisles of Wegmans, they nodded to each other. Dozens of Barry’s Old School Irish patrons stepped up to help with final preparations for the candlelight vigil. People are performing random acts of kindness for perfect strangers, first responders or not.  Everyone is being just a bit more patient and understanding in everything they do and with everyone they meet.

And because we all feel this strong bond with our community, and our fallen heroes, everyone wants to do something to help honor our two family members.  In my position as a blogger, I have been fortunate to have the important role of communicating information. Being able to write blogs and post regular updates on Facebook has given me a purpose, and has helped me work through my grief.

In many ways, the terrific Facebook page Prayers and Support for Webster Firefighters does the same for everyone else. It is a public place to express grief, post photos and videos, and give thanks, and it will make you cry. If you haven’t discovered it yet, please check it out. But in the meantime, here’s a sampling of some of the postings you’ll find there, which come from all over the country:

My daughter (Rochelle) works at Applebee’s here in Concord, NC. While working tonight she was talking with a customer who ordered a Labatt’s blue. She said “You don’t happen to be from up North are you?” The man answers “Yes, from Syracuse.” My daughter tells him we are from Rochester/Webster area. “He says, so you know all about the WWFD?” “Oh yes, ” my daughter says. The man says, Do you see the person over there?” He is pointing to another customer with our EMT uniform on. He says, “Here is $50.00. Don’t tell him where it came from.” — Melanie Secore DiBenedetto

* * *

I am a member of the Selden FD from Selden, NY on Long Island and just returned home tonight. Words cant even describe how humbled I am from the generosity and kindness from the people of Webster. Every where we went people thanked us for coming “to our town”. Hugs handshakes and even some tears were exchanged. To the two anonymous parties who paid our meals I can’t thank you enough. As I look back I still feel that wasn’t necessary. I wish I could been able to thank those people in person. Now I want to thank the Town of Webster for allowing my brothers and myself to be apart of honoring two heroes “Chip” and Tomasz. It was an experience I will never forget. The love and support shown to the West Webster FD from that town was amazing. I wish I could have visited your town on better terms. Some of us are planning to visit another time on better terms. Thank you again! And to my fallen brothers “Rest easy brothers we got it from here.” — Jonathan Barnett

* * *

I work at a Wegmans…for the past several days, I have personally witnessed several instances of kindness. When a fireman wearing a west Webster coat would be in line buying groceries, another customer would pay for them. When one of them was in line for coffee, i saw an employee jump in front of him to pay….I’ve seen random customers walk up to volunteers and give them hugs…the eyes of more than one of us welled up with tears.. — Lynn Watterson

* * *

Living in West Webster at this moment reminds me that humanity is kind and caring and our community is incredible! I am so touched by how people have paid for hotel rooms for complete strangers many out of the town first responders, and family, food and bottled water donated non stop from many businesses and individuals, people gathering for candle light and a moment of silence, standing ovation to first responders entering places, but most of all hugs and understanding by many that this has affected so many within our community and beyond! — Kim Corpus

Finally, I leave you with three videos which I made from yesterday’s funeral procession.

The first is a slide show of the photos I took at the procession. The second is a video of the procession itself.  The third is a short video of comments from some of the people at the procession about why they decided to attend.

If you’d just like to see a Facebook gallery of photos, click here.


Information about today’s events

30 Dec

Here are some details about today’s events:

Funeral services for Past Chief Mike Chiapperini will be held today at Webster Schroeder High School, 875 Ridge Road, at noon. Attendees are encouraged to car pool as much as possible. The general public should utilize the parking lot at Schroeder High School, or if filled, the east end of the Webster Town Center, 1028 Ridge Road, Webster. Buses will be provided on a continual basis to Schroeder. Overflow parking will be available at Thomas High School, 800 Five Mile Line Road, with transportation to services provided.

There will be no public procession to the cemetery at the end of services, but community members are invited to join their friends and neighbors as we line the procession route from Schroeder to the cemetery on Maple Road in West Webster.  I found out about this effort from Debbie McCabe, who wrote,

Bystanders can wave banners/flags or simply show their support by lining the procession route.  Parking could probably be found at the movie theater, the Visiting Nurse Service, or Abbotts.  Timing is somewhat tenuous at this point, however 1:15 – 1:30 is a reasonable estimate -the memorial service is slated to start at noon and the procession will make a final pass by the firehouse before heading to Maple.

Immediately following the funeral today, the Webster Police Department is hosting a lunch reception at the Webster Thomas High School Field House, 800 Five Mile Line Road.  The reception is OPEN to the PUBLIC.  Food service starts at 2:15 PM.

I have been unable to find out whether the PD still needs help serving or cleaning up after the lunch, but a lot of people are just going to show up to be on hand if help is needed.



Trying to keep on top of this weekend

30 Dec

So much is happening so fast this weekend. Reports are coming in fast and furious about funeral arrangements, volunteer opportunities, businesses stepping forward to provide goods and services, hotel rooms being paid for, random acts of kindness of all shapes and sizes.

I know that a lot of people rely on my blog to report on what’s happening around town, and I have been trying my best in the last few days to do that.  But if I wrote a blog each time I heard about another wonderful thing happening in our community this weekend, I’d be posting three blogs an hour.

So what I will try to do, instead, is post updates on my Webster Blog Facebook page.  I know that not everyone is on Facebook, so I will try to gather some of the more important notes into a blog tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, I do want to bring a few things to your attention:

Click here to read the beautiful story in this morning’s D&C by Tiffany Lankes about yesterday’s calling hours.

Click here to see the Prayers and Support for Webster Firefighters Facebook page, which has become a clearinghouse for requests for donations of time and goods.

And you gotta see this: 13WHAM is preparing an end-of-year retrospective, and has posted a preview of the part about the Webster tragedy.  It is very moving. See it here.


Another way you can show your support

30 Dec

I just found out about another great way people can help show their support for our fallen firefighters. Debbie McCabe sent me this email:

I have been made aware of another avenue for the Webster Community to pay their respects to Lt. 7Chiapperini. Community members have been requested to line the route of the funeral procession that will take on Sunday from Schroeder High School to the cemetery on Maple Road. Bystanders can wave banners/flags or simply show their support by lining the procession route. Parking could probably be found at the movie theatre, the VNA, or Abbotts. Timing is somewhat tenuous at this point, however 1:15 – 1:30 is a reasonable estimate -the memorial service is slated to start at noon and the procession will make a final pass by the firehouse before heading to Maple.

I will be there.

Please continue to let me know of other ways people can help — especially non-monetary ways — so I can pass them onto the community at large.

P.S.  I also just saw an email from Principal Glenn Widor at Webster Thomas High School which touched my heart and I wanted to pass along:

The Webster Central School District family is keeping the loved ones of Lt. Michael Chiapperini and Webster Thomas graduate Tomasz Kaczowka in our thoughts and prayers following the tragic events on Christmas Eve.

 At the request of Lt. Chiapperini’s and Tomasz Kaczowka’s families, our district is honored to open its doors to the community – and the nation.   This weekend, both high school buildings will provide a place for our community to gather, mourn, and begin to heal, following the unthinkable events that occurred just a few days ago. We salute Webster’s fallen heroes – Lt. Mike and Tomasz — and the legacy of public service and selflessness they leave to their loved ones and our community.

 This Sunday, Webster Thomas is hosting a meal in the Field House after the funeral service for Lt Michael Chiapperini at Schroeder. 

Wegmans is donating all the food. (Wow.) A follow-up email indicated that he had a tremendous response to his call for helpers to set up and clean up, but this would be a great chance to gather with people from all over our town, the state, the nation, and the world, and start to heal.

email me at

Saying farewell to our fallen, and how you can help

30 Dec

Click on the photo to see Mike Chiapperini’s obituary.

Today begins a very sad weekend for Webster, as we bid goodbye to two of our family members. If you would like to attend the calling hours and/or funerals, here are the details:

* Calling hours will be held for both firefighters at Webster Schroeder High School this evening for firefighters, police and first

responders. Webster community members will have a chance to pay their respects tomorrow (Saturday) from noon to 3 pm and 6 to 9 pm, also at Schroeder.  Parking will probably be limited, so people are encouraged to carpool, and a shuttle bus will be running regularly from Webster Thomas High School.

* Funeral services for Mike Chiapperini will be held at Webster Schroeder at noon on Sunday.

* Tomasz Kaczowka‘s service will be held on Monday at 10 am at Saint Stanislaus Church on Hudson Avenue.


Click on the photo to see Tomasz Kaczowka’s obituary.

Many Webster residents have offered to open up their homes to firefighters expected to be flying in from all over the country to attend the services.  But arrangements are being made through the fire district to house everyone in hotel rooms, at no cost to them.  Residents are welcome to join that effort by “donating” a hotel room. Many others have already done so, as you can see on this Facebook page.

Naturally, many other fund-raising efforts have sprung up in recent days as we all try to come to terms with our grief.  I don’t for a second think I know about all of them, but here are a few which have come to my attention:

This from Hegedorns:

Hegedorns Market has been serving the Webster community since 1953.  We feel an obligation to help provide for the families of the injured and fallen heroes of the West Webster Fire Department.  We have setup an avenue … at the cash registers at our store to donate.  While we have set a lofty goal, no amount of money can bring back a loved one or fully heal a devastating injury.  But as we have said, we feel we need to help in any way that we can.  Thank you.

This from Pizzeria UNO:

We’ll be hosting the ‘Dough Raiser’ at UNO this Friday through Sunday, December 28-30. Guests who would like to participate in the fundraiser can either go to our Facebook page (Uno Chicago Grill Webster) and print off a voucher, or ask for one at the host desk when the arrive. Up to 20% of their check from dining in or ordering take out will go directly to the West Webster Volunteer Firemen’s Association.

 And of course, you can also donate directly to the West Webster Firemen’s Association through their donation page.  They are particularly asking people to do this in lieu of flowers for the funerals.

Finally, I have had a few question from people who would like to donate time or service rather than money. For that, I quote from the D&C’s Flavors of Rochester blog by Tracy Schumacher:

The Hampton Inn at 878 Hard Road in Webster will be hosting a number of receptions for visitors in town as well as any family members that may want to gather. They will be held 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to noon Saturday; 10 a.m. to noon Sunday; and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday. These dates and times came from a great Facebook Page called Prayer and Support for Webster Firefighters…The hotel welcomes volunteers to help serve, as well as donations of food or beverages. The phone number to call to volunteer and/or donate is (585) 671-2050.


Candlelight vigil brought together the family that is Webster

30 Dec

Click any photo to see a gallery with many more.

I have never loved Webster more than I did last night.

Despite near-blizzard conditions, an estimated 300 people gathered inside and outside Barry’s Old School Irish last night for a candlelight vigil to honor the firefighters who died and were injured in the terrible events of Christmas Eve.  Danny and Jessica Barry weren’t even planning to open their doors until 6:30, but when people started showing up before 6:00, there was no way they were going to make them stand out in the cold. By 6:30 there were so many people packed into the little pub that new arrivals were invited to go to the Garage Sale Store next door to stay warm. In the meantime, a small army of helpers prepared luminaries for the patio tables, and assembled wind-proof candles to hand out  to vigil participants.

The mood was somber, but the conversations were comforting as friends met up with friends and strangers jumped in to help with final preparations.  It was like…we were there for each other as much as we were there for the firefighters.

The vigil itself was wonderful. Judge Michael Barry and his son (and Barry’s Old School Irish owner) Danny Barry had some very beautiful comments. And when Fr. Bob Werth read the Firefighter’s Prayer, its final sentence pretty much brought everyone to tears :

And if according to your will
I have to lose my life
Please bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife.

But it was when the whole crowd sang “Amazing Grace,” led by Sarah King, that I pretty much lost it.

Last night was an moving testament to the incredible community that is Webster.  We are nothing less than a big extended family, and when one — or more — of those family members needs our help, we’re there in a heartbeat. I think my new friend Dave Gambino put it best. As he sat at Barry’s pub table last night, helping with candle preparation, he said, “We have an excellent community.”

Yup. That pretty much sums it up.

And, by the way, that generous Webster spirit did not end with the vigil. People hung around for many hours afterwards in Barry’s enjoying the companionship, live music, and free Wren Day snacks. And by the end of the evening, they had stuffed the tip jars placed throughout the pub with more than $500, to be donated to the West Webster Fire Department.

Even if you were not able to join us in person last night, if you have any connection with Webster, I am certain you were with us in spirit.   For that matter, it has become very clear that people all over the country — and the world — are thinking of us this week.

Click here to see a Facebook gallery of photos from the event. (And please email me your photos to add to my gallery.) You can also find coverage of the vigil on all the local news stations and newspapers.  Probably the best TV coverage is on Channel 10.  But you can also check these sites:

Channel 13

Channel 8

And a link to the article in the D&C

Good things DO happen

30 Dec

Today’s blog, which I’ve had in the works for several days now, takes on special significance given the tragic events of yesterday morning in Webster. It’s a reminder that good things really do happen in this world, and good people still inhabit it.

For starters, I want to bring you back to a blog I wrote earlier about how the Sandy Hook, Connecticut PTA has requested that people make snowflakes to decorate the school the students will be returning to after Christmas break.  Several days ago I posted a photo of the letter the PTA wrote requesting the snowflakes.

The response to that photo was overwhelming.  To date, that photo has been shared 145 times, which is very cool. But even cooler than that was hearing about some actual snowflake-making efforts.

Jen Sander, who works with 10- and 11-year-olds at Mary Cariola Children’s Center in Rochester, sent some photos of the snowflakes her kids made.

Some of the snowflakes made by the children at Mary Cariola Children’s Center.

I also heard from my daughter Sara, who teaches second graders at Buffalo Public School #76, Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy. Her kids knew about what had happened, so Sara explained to them that the snowflakes would be used to decorate the new school the kids would go to so it wouldn’t be scary.  The kids really got into the project, and didn’t want to stop. “It’s probably a big school so we need to make more,” they told her.

Students at the Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy in Buffalo show off their snowflakes.

Next, remember last week, after the horrible events in Newtown, CT, when Ann Curry proposed that everyone do a random act of kindness in memory of everyone who lost their lives?  I actually learned about the challenge from my friend Jane Laskey, who noted in her email that “I know two people that had their coffee paid for, someone who received flowers on their car while in Wegmans’ parking lot, my kids are making more and more Christmas goodies and plan to hand them out, and a meal paid for.”

I encouraged others to let me know if they had received or gave a random act. I heard back from a few people. My friend Lyndsay Maier wrote,

I heard this morning from a co-worker that she went to Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru this morning and the person before her in line paid for her order… Apparently one person about 15 cars before started this chain reaction and they had about 20 cars that kept on the chain… Every car paying for the person after them… the people at Dunkin’ were impressed that it kept on for so long.

Others told me that they regularly try to do random acts, and encourage their children to do so as well. Kurt Johnson has even set up a Facebook page on which he encourages people to report their random acts of kindness. You can see it here.

Merry Christmas, my friends. Hug the ones who are close to you.

The reasons we love our Webster home – read all about them in this poem

30 Dec

If you have lived in the village of Webster for any length of time, you probably have heard about — or even met — Carol Klem. Chances are very good you have read one of her Village Focus columns, which are published on the Village of Webster website, and in the the Webster Herald.

Apparently, around this time of year, it has become a tradition for her to write an epic poem about the people and businesses in the village. I came across this year’s poem when I was reading the Webster Herald last week, and was duly impressed, and told her so in an email. When she wrote back, she lamented that since she writes for the Village, she couldn’t really include anything about the greater Town of Webster.

So I thought I could give it a try and fill in some of the blanks.   I suggest you read Carol’s column first, then see what I came up with:


Last night I tossed and turned in bed,
no visions of sugarplums in MY head.
Carol’s poem I’d just read.
(She does one every year.)

It really was a work of art,
which came directly from the heart,
‘bout the people and places that are a part
of this village we hold so dear.

A role model, Carol is to me.
The Webster village crier is she.
Just like her I want to be
when I grow up (if I do).

But this time she has gone too far.
She has really raised the bar
by adding to her repertoire
an epic poem so sweet and true.

But I will do my very best.
I’ll put my ‘puter to the test,
and till it’s done I will not rest
We’ll see how far it goes.

But unlike Carol, I must say
there absolutely is NO way,
I canNOT, to my great dismay,
name everyone I knows.

Carol has, luckily,
covered the village quite thoroughly.
So the only thing that’s left for me
is to “report” on the rest of the town.

Webster Village, we love you, true,
but there’s much more to our town than you.
There are businesses, people, festivals, too.
The best community, hands down.

Like all our parks (you know the ones),
for picnics, games and playground fun.
There’s even one where kids can run
beneath a spraying whale.

There’s Webster Park to barbecue,
Finn, Ridge and Kent and Empire, too.
There’s Sandbar with its sunset views,
and North Ponds with its biking trail.

The town’s natural beauty does not end there.
There are hiking trails just everywhere.
The Friends keep them in good repair
so we can all enjoy them.

Like Vosburg, Whiting, Gosnell, Finn.
Midnight, Ungar, and Arboretum,
Hojack (where the trains have been),
and Four Mile Creek (the new one).

Even driving can be fun
(If 104 is ever done),
but stay off Ridge Road, everyone
at lunch and dinner time.

Our schools do make us very proud.
By the marching band are people wowed.
School concerts always draw a crowd,
and the musicals are prime.

An open house the Town does host,
a summer party with fireworks,
the Fiesta at St. Rita’s Church,
and Community Arts Day.

At the Aquatic Center you can take a swim.
With ice skates at the arena you’ll skim,
and at the library a good book begin,
while the kids enjoy a puppet play.

You can take a class at the Rec,
buy fruit at Obbie’s Farm Market,
see a movie (like 3-D Shrek!),
then go next door to knock some pins.

Want to get something good to eat?
Webster’s offerings can’t be beat.
Like Bill Gray’s, Hedge’s, Charlie’s, T’s,
then an Abbott’s ice cream for some grins.

And at the head of this great town,
Supervisor Nesbitt can be found,
And the talented staff he keeps around
To keep things running well.

They keep our streets clear when it snows,
their free mulch helps our flowers grow.
They keep sewers clear and police our roads.
(Yes, and tax us for it all…)

Now, I’ve only just begun to list
the great things in Webster that exist.
Many people and places I have missed
in this overly long poem.

But I think that I have proved my case
that Webster is a special place.
I’m glad it’s become MY home base.
(Or, as I call it, “home”).

Merry Christmas from Webster Thomas High School

22 Dec

The approach of the holiday season (and a week off!) is a giddy time at every school, but Webster Thomas always seems to find unusually entertaining ways to celebrate.

All day yesterday, carolers and musicians brought Christmas cheer to Webster Thomas students and staff. The day started with a performance by the Brass Choir, led by Paul Van Horn. During the day, Thomas Bertrand’s chemistry students strolled into classrooms, singing Chemistry Carols, and the Select Choir, led by Brenda Nitsch, performed carols in the front hall as students were leaving for the day.

I didn’t get film from the Brass Choir performance, but below are a few photos our principal, Glenn Widor, snapped.  After that is a YouTube video featuring the Select Choir, followed by two versions of “Deck the Lab With Rubber Tubing.”  Enjoy.

Paul Van Horn directed the Brass Choir


Click on the photo to see a video of the Select Choir and the Chemistry Carolers.

Lighting up the holidays — and the night sky

20 Dec

Well, we’re finally supposed to get some measurable snow this weekend, so I thought today might be a good day to post my Exceptional Christmas Lights blog.

I did, indeed, go out several days ago in search of awesome outdoor light displays — particularly in search of a few especially nice displays that my readers suggested.  Well, to be more specific, the TWO displays that my readers suggested. (That’s not counting the one my friend Edna in Fairport wants me to go see out there.  “YOU HAVE TO GO TO BEAUMONT!” she wrote. Even wrote it on my Christmas card.) No, the two local displays that readers wrote to me about were on Klem Road just east of Route 250, and on Yorktown Drive just off of Plank Road.

This house is just east of Rt. 250 on Klem Road. I love the frog.

Now, the one on Klem is nice. But nothing can compare to the display that lights up the sky — literally — on Yorktown every year.  I chatted briefly to the homeowner when I was there, who told me that every year he tries to add a new element. This year it was the 6-foot-tall dancing, singing, motion-activated Santa at the end of the driveway. He also installed reflectors on the neighboring lawns to reduce damage from the constant traffic. The display is so well known that it has become a regular stop on senior citizen bus tours;  the owner told me that ten vans came through the night before.

Here are a few photos of individual portions of the display.  But the photos don’t really do it justice, so I also took video. CLICK HERE to see the video.   His back yard is almost as impressive, but I didn’t get any photos of that. If you want to see this one for yourself, Yorktown runs between Plank Road and Creek Street, but the house is closer to the Plank Road end. Just look for the glow.

Click on either of the photos to get a closer look, or click on the link above to see a video.

And I just had to include these photos from our own little village. The lights aren’t nearly as impressive, but I love the snowflakes and the twinkly lights in the trees, and the garland of lights wrapped around the gazebo. Simple and classic, and pure Webster.