Niagara Gazette

May 10, 2014

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Paul Malecki made winter a bit more bearable

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Mourners — Our Mother’s Day joys are muted this week. We have bid farewell to a man our lives depended on during winter months, although we never met face to face.

The register shows we sent our last check to Paul Malecki Jan. 4. The invoice had come with an apologetic note; he was ill and would transfer the task of plowing our driveway to a friend and colleague. We couldn’t imagine that the end would come so quickly, a month short of 74.

During many a stormy night we would hear the scrape, sense the light, mumble “Paul’s here” and go back to sleep. He was phenomenally dependable. He wasn’t going to take any more “clients,” but he was doing several driveways nearby and so accepted us as a favor. “And if you ever need an extra, like maybe you have to leave early in the morning, just tell me,” he said once over the phone.

He never charged enough, we thought, and when he upped it a dollar as gasoline prices rose, we asked him “Why not three?” Said his loving widow Marcy through the hubbub of a legion of friends at Wednesday’s wake, “That was Paul, all over. He just loved to plow.”

He’d been an ironworker and a union president in Niagara Falls; plowing was sort of a hobby, but he pursued it with a passion, a model of dedication to us all. Our winter comforter has moved on to the eternal spring. Godspeed.

BLOOMERS – The American Legion’s traditional Mother’s Day hanging-basket sale winds up today at 2121 Grand Island Blvd. This is the fundraiser that the late Shorty Vanthoff would promote by calling every single Island resident as a reminder. We miss the calls but won’t miss the sale, which actually got under way yesterday. They’ve got lots.

SATISFIED CUSTOMERS – That was our first experience with BW’s Smokin Barrel’s barbecue, which catered last Saturday’s dinner at St. Timothy’s Lutheran. Hope it’s not our last. The chicken-rib combo was absolutely scrumptious, but we could have used, maybe, another dollop of slaw.

CHURCHILL UPS – Racetrack fates favored Polly last Saturday. When her favorite jockey, Mike Smith (we had a dog named Mike for 15 glorious years), lost his Kentucky Derby ride to a scratch, Doug proposed to throw a few bucks at a horse he was riding earlier at Churchill Downs, No. 11 in the ninth race.

But when Doug stepped away from the OTB window on Military Road and checked his ticket, he realized he had the wrong horse, No. 9. OTB doesn’t take back tickets. Doug sighed, returned to the window, and put another $6 on No. 9.

The two horses, 9 and 11, ran 1-2, the winner paying more than $25. If only we’d played the exacta, too, but why be greedy? Wonder if there’s a wrong horse in the Preakness.

Saddle up and come visit.

Polly and DougE-mail