Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on March 29, 2020.
By Caurie Putnam
On Jan. 4, 2013, my first Our Towns West Extra column ran in the Democrat and Chronicle. It was about New Year’s resolutions and began by sharing those of my sons.
Brice, then 10, said his resolution was to get better at hockey and Brady, 6, said, “to paint more pictures so the world a prettier place.”
Over the past seven years, Brice has gotten better at hockey, Brady has painted many beautiful pictures and I have had the privilege of illuminating the goodness on the west side of Rochester.
It has been an absolute joy and honor to tell your stories. Counting this, my final, West Extra, I wrote 387 columns for you.
I was invited to your benefits, businesses, sporting events, animal rescues, theater productions and your kitchen tables. I laughed with you, cried with you and grew with you. It’s impossible to choose my favorite columns. However, there are a few themes I became partial to.
I loved writing about veterans on the west side, including Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch of Greece in 2019; heart transplant recipient Thomas Barbera of Hamlin in 2018; and Bruce Van Apeldoorn of Rochester, a retired master sergeant from the U.S. Marine Corps who ran his first marathon at age 67 in 2016.
Writing about young people doing special things was also a favorite, like Zach Adams of Kendall, Orleans County, an inspiring young man with Down syndrome who earned his Eagle Scout award in 2016, and Courtney Langelotti of Brockport, who organized an inclusive prom from teenagers on the west side in 2019.
Then, there were the many stories of light coming from tragedy, like Wheatland-Chili High School’s Drama Club dedicating its production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” to the memory of late teacher Jill Skivington Jackett in 2018 (an additional beautiful thing that came from this column was Miranda sharing it — and a note of encouragement to the
students — with his millions of followers on Twitter).
Writing this column also offered me the opportunity to represent the paper at many events on the west side. I emceed parades and dinners, spoke in classrooms and to your nonprofits, judged your competitions (ranging from BBQ cook-offs to dog Halloween costume contests). I will miss these fun interactions with you greatly; they were always a pleasure.
I want to thank the editors and copy editors I’ve had over the past seven years (Denise Young, Marilyn Ajavananda, Laura Nichols and Cynthia Benjamin). They are the professionals who made my work look good and pushed for the inclusion of community columns in the paper vs. budget cuts as long as they could. I am grateful to them all.
Thank you also to my East Extra “bookend” Missy Rosenberry for sharing the page with me with such professionalism and passion for many years.
Keep in touch with Caurie
I am still a freelance writer for the D& C and you will continue to see my byline on stories! Please visit me at facebook.com/BrockportBlog or email caur@hot mail.com or write to me at P.O. Box 639, Clarkson, NY 14430. As you’ve probably guessed, I am not ready to lay down my pen. I would have written this column forever! As painful as it is to say goodbye, I’d do it all over again for the chance to paint the picture “The west side is amazing,” 387 more times.