Niagara Gazette

May 4, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Expressing our condolences

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Readers – We’ve been spending way too much time in mortuaries recently, and sending out condolences. Larry Felser last weekend, then Andy Watkinson, neither particularly young, but both with a lot more to give.

Larry Felser. Doug always liked to joke that Larry Felser stole his job. Both applied at the Buffalo Evening News sports department at the same time. Larry got the job, Doug got hired, too, assigned to a task he knew nothing about. Actually, they’d recruited Larry pretty hard, from the Courier-Express. Ahhh, if only our professional sports teams could spot talent that well ...

While Larry was a sports department superstar, he was sincerely kind to Doug, who was shuffling papers on the night shift. We talked a lot about plays and books. He was a man of wide horizons. He could have done anything. Sports was fortunate for his having chosen that field.

He didn’t like baseball a lot, truth to tell, but the Bisons at the time were playing home games in Niagara Falls and Larry dutifully followed them. When the team moved, Larry gave Doug all his leftover bridge tokens.

The Courier’s Jim Baker, now retired in Boston, fiercely fought Larry for inside football. Competition was brutal and woe betide the poor doofus who got “scooped.” Yet such was Larry’s grace that Jim said on the phone the other day that he was “a wonderful man, and I miss him so much that I can hardly believe we’re having this conversation.”

Us, too. Godspeed. We’ve still got one of the tokens.

Andy Watkinson, gentle genius of finance, we knew mostly through Sharon Onevelo Watkinson of the Niagara University theater program. We visited a few times out of town and Doug remembers Andy enduring one of Doug’s rehearsals, the chore made bearable by the fact that Sharon was in the show, too, playing a role that could actually have been Andy himself.

Within recent memory Sharon has bid farewell to her husband, her father and to NU’s Brother Augustine, her lifelong mentor and associate. Faith and family were sustaining her at the chapel Monday but it has been a hard time. Prayers and soft words are in order.

We take comfort in realizing that our funeral frequency results partially from associating with people in so many different fields. Count our blessings, even as we bid them farewell.

On lighter notes, our grandson Doug, a budding highway engineer, picked up his Masters at Pitt last weekend; the Rotary’s annual Paper Shred rips off from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today near the Key Bank at Grand Island Boulevard and Whitehaven, and the night after Doug portrayed a priest in a play at Canisius College, one of the region’s finest Catholic girls schools announced it was closing its doors. Coincidence? You decide.

Come visit. We’re still here.

Polly and Doug E-mail