Niagara Gazette

December 21, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Checking the list on Grand Island

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Santa, wherever you are — Frankly, old friend, we can’t think of a thing we need you to stuff down our chimney, so consider this a letter of recommendation for folks who’ve done us right.

Island Presbyterian Church. Not wanting to contract the bug that was bugging our family downstate, we wound up alone at Thanksgiving for the first time in 54 years. We’d written a bit about Isle Pres’ community dinner and decided to follow our own advice.

Bring only yourselves, they had said, but Polly fixed up that corn casserole that you prefer to cookies and milk, and we spent three delicious hours with folks we hadn’t seen for years, and others we feel certain we’ll see again. Google “fellowship” on the North Pole Internet and you’ll see that dinner. Seven turkeys fed the multitude.

We help serve such a meal bi-monthly on the Mainland, but going as clients provided a whole different perspective.

There wasn’t even a collection plate. A co-ordinator suggested we help support the local Neighbors Foundation. But please, Santa, whatever you can do for Island Pres. Thanks.

Next on the “nice” list, Larry Austin, editor of our weekly. While it may seem strange to pat “the competition” on the back, Larry just so reminds Doug of himself 50 years ago, except that Doug never took pictures as well as does Larry, and never had to deal with government. He’s unobtrusive, polite and non-political. Doesn’t matter where you leave his gift, Santa, he’s everywhere.

Mike Manuszewski and staff at Island Prescription. We probably abuse the privilege, but this is like having another doctor, that’s how much advice he’s provided without a prescription, even at his busiest. Refills for everyone there, even the interns who couldn’t have a better mentor. Professionalism, like other stuff, flows from the top.

Fahim and friends at Island Ship Center, who seem to drop every project to help us with trivial reprints. Only you, Santa, exceed their delivery skills.

Tops Markets. Years ago, when Polly sent Doug up here, she’d better have a big reward ready when he returned. Something has changed the whole culture here. Almost everybody, from the managers to the industrious cart-retriever, seems willing to at least try to help. Doug’s favorite moment: In mid-July, watching a young woman not even sufficiently clad for the beach, while the cashier, in the all-encompassing garb of the Middle East, processed her without a twitch of the burka. Oh, yes, Santa, we did recently check out 21 items in the 15-and-under line. We’d have done the same for you.

And ... Kathy, anyone who gives her a ride in the rain, Carlo the beauty baron, both people who recently returned Doug’s wallet, Phyllis Lange just for being there, Dana the traveling cat-clipper, the two joyfully noisy little girls next door who make us feel younger, critics with the conviction to sign their names and Old Soldier Herm Roberts, as good a neighbor as this world as ever known.

Come visit. Bring whatever.

Email Polly and Doug at

Polly and Doug E-mail