In less than a year and a half, Nate Riexinger of Hamlin lost a good friend and the brother of a bandmate to suicide. It was too much for him to handle from afar.
“I wanted to do something about it,” said Riexinger, a 2019 graduate of Brockport High School and drummer for the band Element 36. “I wanted kids to know there are people who care. The skate community is a huge family and we wanted to link them in.”
Riexinger, along with Kyle Matthews, a longtime friend and a student at The College at Brockport, teamed up to organize the Skate to End Hate. The wellattended music and skateboarding event was held on Sept. 8 at the Sweden Town Park to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Western New York Area chapter.
“During the process of setting this up, the stepfather of a very good friend also took his life,” said Matthews, who also runs Infamous Street Co., a clothing brand. “It just showed the need for this event. Nate and I wanted to show everyone there are people in the community that won’t look away and will help.”
Among the vendors, music, food and raffles was a table staffed by volunteers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It was busy throughout the seven-hour event.
“We are seeing a huge range of people here from all ages and backgrounds,” said volunteer Donna Besler of Canandaigua. “Everyone from skaters who are here to support the cause, to people who have lost loved ones to suicide to a gentleman who was suicidal himself. We were ready and able to support him and give him resources.”
Volunteering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a personal mission for Besler, who lost her own son Brennan Tatem to suicide on Nov. 23, 2014. He was a 19-year-old sophomore at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
“He was an actor and athlete,” Besler said. “He was a handsome and brilliant young man on the outside, but on the inside he was struggling and we didn’t know the depth. Events like this are so important to break the stigma and allow kids to openly and freely talk about their inner challenges without people judging them.”
That accepting vibe was what Riexinger and Matthews were going for when they first conceived the Skate to End Hate in late May immediately following the death of Chase Marshall, 14, of Farmington. Chase’s brother Zachary is also a member of Element 36.
Riexinger and Matthews, who hope to make the Skate to End Hate an annual event, dedicated the inaugural event to the memories of Marshall and Hannah Testa, a friend and classmate of theirs at Brockport High School who died on December 15, 2017, at the age of 16. Both the Marshall and Testa families have shared publicly with media that their children died of suicide.
The most recent data from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention shows that in New York state, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 34.
The toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-8255. The 24/7 lifeline offers free and confidential support for people in distress, resources for the caller or loved one calling about them, and best practices for professionals. An online chat is also available at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.
Local chorale looking for NYC performers
In August 2017 I told you about the Amadeus Chorale Youth Singers being invited to perform at the 2017
Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. Darla Bair, of Sweden, the chorale’s founder and artistic director, reports she will bring a group of adult singers this December to open for the Rockettes. If you’re interested in performing or attending as an audience member (you must be 16 and up) visit travelwithdarla.com.
Contact Caurie at firstname.lastname@example.org with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/ BrockportBlog/.
This article was originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on September 8, 2019.
by Caurie Putnam
The Galley Restaurant in Spencerport isn’t quite wastin’ away in Margaritaville, but this summer has certainly been lean.
“This has been our worst August in the 14 years we’ve been open,” said owner Ross Gates, attributing the downturn of his Caribbean-themed eatery to the state Department of Transportation’s closure of the Union Street/Route 259 lift bridge over the Erie Canal. “The closing of the bridge is bad enough, but we never anticipated the fencing.”
A tall, chain link fence went up from Amity Street to the bridge when work began this July. The fence abuts (but does not block) the sidewalk in front of the Galley and several other businesses, including two I’ve featured in this column in the past: Splatters, a paint your pottery studio and McColley's, an Irish and other Isles pub.
Inside the fence, on the closed portion of South Union Street, equipment being used to replace the 116-year-old bridge’s undercarriage and mechanical and electrical systems is stored and staged. Having this equipment area helps limit the amount the amount of work-truck traffic on South Union Street, said Jordan Guerrein, NYSDOT Region 4 public information officer.
The DOT has placed several large, blue signs at key intersections in Spencerport and Ogden informing the public that the village businesses are still open. Gates also wants to remind the community the eateries, shops and attractions in the village of Spencerport are still open and could use the patronage.
Work on the bridge is expected to be over by the end of November 2020, Guerrein said.
“I know a lot of people are steering around the village,” said Mike Shearing, of Spencerport, a regular at the Galley. “People see the sign on West Avenue that the bridge is out and turn around. If they do come into the village they see the fence and it’s a visual hindrance.”
Among the ways Shearing and his significant other are supporting local businesses during the bridge closure is by having dinner at the Galley every Friday night.
“This is just such a great family place with a great menu and no airs about it,” said Shearing, who loves everything on the menu from the meatless burgers to the fish fry. Gates, who grew up on the west side of Rochester, opened the Galley in Spencerport in 2005. He also operated a Brockport location on Market Street for several years, before deciding to focus just on one.
“This place is just fun,” Gates said. “We’ve copied Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. I wanted the Caribbean décor and feel. If you look at the menu you’ll see a lot of Margaritaville.”
Gates compliments the fun food — such as jerked chicken Alfredo pasta, crispy coconut shrimp, hush puppies and pressed Cuban sandwiches — with a game room on the second floor and lively entertainment.
Thursday nights feature music bingo, Friday nights have live music and Saturday nights, karaoke. There was a trivia night on Wednesdays, but Gates has temporarily halted that due to low turnout his attributes to the bridge work. Deb Kerwan, of Watkins Glen in Schuyler County, and a group of friends visited the Galley for the first time on a recent weekday for lunch.
They dined at an outside table with the bridge construction in clear view, but didn’t mind.
“The food was great,” Kerwan said, noting her enjoyment of the corn and shrimp bisque in particular. “You couldn’t ask for a nicer setting on the water either. We’re glad we found it.”
This article was originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on August 25, 2019.
by Caurie Putnam
On a winter’s day in 2016, Sue Savard opened a dust-covered trunk in a storage room of the village of Brockport’s Emily L. Knapp Museum of Local History and made a startling discovery.
“There were books, newspaper clippings, brushes and notebooks,” recalled Savard, director of volunteers at the museum. “But at the bottom, stacked one on top of another, were 105 oil paintings and 135 illustrations that were at least 100 years old.”
The art — an astonishing variety of landscapes, figure paintings and stills — was the work of Helen Mary Hastings, a Brockporter who lived from 1871 to 1953 and was best known locally for persuading her cousin James Seymour to bequeath his family home to the village for a library and the Knapp Museum.
Just like the stacks of paintings, though, Hastings had many layers. She was not only a relative of one of Brockport’s leading families, but also an accomplished artist with impressive training and a passion for women’s rights and architecture.
“You’ll find articles in all the old New York papers about the museum she started and her historic home restoration,” Savard said. “But few people knew she was an artist.”
Hastings studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art from 1898 to1904 under some of the leading artists of the day, including portraitist Cecilia Beaux and impressionist William Merritt Chase. She also studied at Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry with illustrator Howard Pyle. The paintings and illustrations in the trunk were all made while she was a student.
Also in Hastings’ trunk were her student notebooks and sketchbooks with direct quotes, criticisms and instructions from her teachers.
“We have something amazing here,” recalled artist, instructor and gallery owner Sarah Hart when Savard shared the contents of the trunk with her.
Not only was Hart impressed with the caliber of Hastings’ work, but realized immediately the value of her notebooks, especially with the words of Chase, who was considered an American Monet and established the institution that was the forebear of the Parsons School of Design “Her notebooks have one of a kind information that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world,” Hart said. “And Hastings’ collection shows the old fashion training of a portrait painter. This is a really significant find for people who love this type of art because it’s been washed over by a tidal wave of modernism, but it is making a comeback.”
It is unknown why Hastings saved her student work. At the time, artists typically destroyed their student pieces. Hastings even writes in a notebook that Chase said “not to keep their studies but to paint them out and use the canvas for a fresh start.”
Hart, who lives in Brockport, believes Hastings saved the work as a time capsule for the future and that this time capsule has the potential to attract art scholars and enthusiasts from around the world to the village.
In an effort to further preserve her words and works, Savard has spent the last three years painstakingly transcribing Hastings’ notebooks and self-publishing a book called “Helen Hastings’s Art In A Trunk.” The book, whose proceeds will help support the museum, is available locally at Lift Bridge Books in Brockport and on Amazon.
The public can view the find for the first time at a free exhibit of artwork by Helen Hastings from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, and from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Emily L. Knapp Museum of Local History, 49 State St., on the first floor, in the former mayor’s office, below the museum.
After the show, the work will all be available for viewing permanently in the newly named Helen Hastings’ Gallery within the museum.
Due to the age and delicate condition of the original works (most need extensive restoration), the show and gallery will feature replica canvas prints that have been reproduced by Greg Lawrence of Holley, Orleans County. Lawrence also assisted Savard with the book.
Contact Caurie at caurie@urgrad .rochester.edu with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @Caurie Putnam and on Facebook at facebook .com/BrockportBlog.
This article was originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on August 11, 2019.
by Caurie Putnam
Jennifer Oberlies isn’t bothered by some of the strange looks she gets when new customers pop into her store, JC’s Cards and Collectibles in Brockport.
“A lot of people are shocked when they realize I’m the owner,” Oberlies, 43, said. “I’ve been asked, ‘Is your dad here?’ or ‘Is the owner here?’ I don’t know any other female owners of sports cards shops and I don’t know a female that collects either.”
Oberlies, who lives in Spencerport and graduated from Spencerport High School, is no stranger to sports cards. She began collecting baseball cards at age 7 after her parents took her to a Rochester Red Wings game and she fell on love with the sport.
When she was 12 she was the only girl to attend a local baseball camp run by Bobby Bonner, who played for the Baltimore Orioles and Rochester Red Wings — her two favorite baseball teams. She won camp MVP.
Oberlies estimates she has about 100,000 cards (mostly baseball) in her personal collection, over 3,000 of which are her favorite retired player, Baltimore Oriole legend Cal Ripken Jr.
Interestingly enough, one of the most sought-after cards at JC’s Cards and Collectibles is her current favorite player: the Orioles’ Trey Mancini, who is the brother of a Brockport resident.
“People come in looking for Trey Mancini all the time because of the local connection and because he’s very popular,” Oberlies said. “Other popular cards at the moment are Mike Trout, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield.”
Her store buys, sells and trades individual rated and non-rated sports cards and blaster boxes of all types, including baseball, hockey, football and basketball. There is also some fan memorabilia and merchandise, like hats.
Michael Macartney of Brockport was one of about six customers who stopped into JC’s Cards and Collectibles when I was there for an hour on a recent Sunday. He was looking to add to his own, extensive baseball card collection.
“I was in the first day she opened,” said Macartney, who was wearing an Orioles shirt. “I love that the store’s in Brockport, that it’s small, has great pricing and that she’s very personable and knows what she’s talking about.”
Prior to JC’s Cards and Collectibles opening this summer, Macartney did most of his card shopping online from two trusted sellers, but he’s happy to have a sports card focused store on the west side again.
“In the late ’80s, early ’90s, there were probably 20 card stores within a 45-minute drive of Brockport. Now there’s not really any aside from here,” he said. “If you’re spending more than a couple of bucks on cards, you want to feel them and see them.
That’s why it’s so great to have a place to buy in person.”
Oberlies did have a sports card store on Culver Road for a year in 2003, but the market wasn’t right at the times, she said. What motivated her to try again was to get more youths involved in the hobby. The store is partially named after her 4-year-old nephew, Charlie, whom she has introduced to collecting.
“I wanted a shop for the kids so they have a place to go, where it’s OK to touch the cards and where they can open their packs and enjoy themselves,” Oberlies said. “This is for the kids.”
Contact Caurie at caurie@urgrad .rochester.edu with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @Caurie Putnam and on Facebook at facebook .com/BrockportBlog.
This article was originally printed in the Democrat and Chronicle on August 18, 2019.
by Caurie Putnam
When Ryker Pray, 6, of Brockport heard who was performing at the Monika Andrews Children’s Park in Brockport recently, he was raring to go.
“As soon as I told him ‘Your music teacher is going to be there doing a concert’ he was out the door,” said Megan Pray of Brockport, Ryker’s aunt. “He was so excited to see Mrs. Kuhn!”
Ryker and about 50 other youngsters attended the pop-up concert at the park on Aug. 9. The rock star was Sara Kuhn, the music teacher at the Ginther Elementary School in Brockport.
By now, most people are aware of the pop-up trend; eateries, artists and retailers temporarily and unexpectedly setting up shop in a unique location. But, Kuhn surprised the community by offering a pop-up teacher experience to help get kids ready and excited for back to school.
“This idea has always been in the back of my head as a way to help with the transition for the new kindergartners,” said Kuhn, who received an enthusiastic green-light for the concert by her building principal Debra Waye. “Because of the unique way Brockport schools are set up, I teach every kindergartner. I’m a face they all know or will know and I wanted them to have a positive experience with me before school even started.”
Kuhn put a few posts on her teacher Twitter page and some Brockport parenting Facebook pages to advertise the concert, but said she never expected such a huge turnout. Every parking place was full and wagons and bikes lined the sidewalk.
Tommy Brice, of Brockport, brought his first-grader and 3-year-old twins to the concert after his wife saw a post on Facebook. They danced and sang along with Kuhn as she played various instruments and introduced the group to items they’ll see in her classroom, like an owl puppet and cleanup basket.
“Our oldest already had Mrs. Kuhn as a kindergartner, but it was nice for her to interact with her again before school starts,” Brice said. “It was nice for the kids to get out and enjoy the good weather, the music and other kids.”
Kuhn, who grew up in Massena in St. Lawrence County and graduated from Nazareth College with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, is celebrating her 20th year as a music teacher.
She began her career in the Rochester City School District and has taught at Brockport since 2006. Most of her career was with middle school students, but three years ago she moved to the Ginther School, which is for kids from universal pre-kindergarten to first grade.
“A lot of people didn’t understand why I wanted to move to the younger grades,” said Kuhn, lives in the district with her husband Daniel and their three children, ages 14, 10 and 6. “I believe it’s really important to be where children start; to give them a foundation and help start their love for music now.”
Kuhn draws inspiration from the teaching method of Zoltán Kodály, the late Hungarian composer and educationalist who extolled teaching music to children early and the importance of elementary music teachers in the community.
Among her favorite Kodály quotes: “It is far more important who the elementary music teacher is in a small town than who the director of an opera house is because if the opera house director is not good, he will be dismissed in a year, but a poor music teacher in a small town can kill off the love of music for 30 years from 30 classes of children. This is an enormous responsibility.”
A responsibility Kuhn clearly takes to heart.
Contact Caurie at caurie@urgrad .rochester.edu with news from west-side towns. She’s on Facebook at facebook .com/BrockportBlog.
article originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle's West Extra column on August 8, 2019.
by Caurie Putnam
A unique, new business in Sweden has horses to thank for its existence.
“This all started because of the horses,” said LaChelle Vick, an owner of 14 horses, who opened Embroider Barn, in December 2018. “When you show horses at A-rated shows, everything from the stall curtain to your jacket back is embroidered with your farm’s name and the horse’s name.”
Vick started showing horses at age 16 and for years would bring her embroidery machine to events to make last minute items and custom requests for other horse owners. Her work became so popular she bought a $10,000 embroidery machine, but it became so much work to lug around to shows that she decided to open her own brickand- mortar embroidery business.
“When we were putting the sign up for Embroider Barn I got really emotional because I am living a dream,” said Vick, who also credits her unique first name as an impetus for getting involved in embroidery. “My name is so unique that I could never find anything pre-made with my name on it; so I made it.”
Her business goes beyond embroidery, though. She also creates T-shirts, decals, personalized gifts, bottle art, decorative items for the home, wedding items (centerpieces, table runners, window panes, etc.) and much more.
When I stopped by the store at 4878 South Lake Road, in the Sweden Plaza, Vick was creating a custom quilt for a client that was made of denim squares from 40 to 50 pairs of jeans the client’s husband had worn over the years. Some of the squares were embroidered with dates that were important to the family, like anniversaries and birthdays.
“I love being able to talk to someone about a unique gift for their husband or for their daughter’s wedding, coming up with an idea together and then creating a one-of-akind gift,” said Vick, who grew up in Greece and graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School.
When it comes to all her embroidery and other arts, she is self-taught; her grandmother taught her how to sew when she was a teenager and from there she learned through hands-on experiences. She would like to offer such teaching experiences at the store.
“My goal is to offer classes on a monthly basis
on things like rag quilts, card and candle making, painting glasses, and things like that,” Vick said. “There are so many things I want to do and teach others. Crafting is so much fun, but many people are intimidated to try.”
Mariana Soto, of Rochester, is a customer of Vicks who met her through the horse-showing world. She’s thrilled she has her own store now.
“Most of the time you see people who specialize in one thing, like embroidery only,” Soto said. “But she’s DYI (do it yourself) for everything; she’s so talented.”
To learn more about Embroider Barn call (585) 391-3018 or visit on Facebook at Embroider Barn.
Pick of the week
The 25 th Brockport Arts Festival will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 11, on Main Street and several side streets in the village of Brockport. In addition to juried artisans along Main Street, there will be food vendors, non-profit exhibitors, live entertainment, a wine garden, vintage car cruise-in, Duck Derby and more. For a full schedule, go to brockportartsfestival .com.
Contact Caurie at email@example.com .edu with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @Caurie Putnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/ BrockportBlog/.
This article originally ran in the July 28, 2019 edition of the Democrat and Chronicle.
by Caurie Putnam
When Dean Smith, 51, joined the Barnard Fire Department’s Explorer post as a teen in 1984, he had no idea he’d someday teach fire safety in the schools he attended.
“When I was in high school and you would have told me I’d be involved in fire safety I probably would have laughed at you,” said Dean, who graduated from Greece Olympia High School. “I would have said, ‘Just give me a hose.’ ”
Smith, who has been Barnard’s fire and life safety educator since 2001, was recently named the 2019 Fire Safety Educator of the Year by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York. The award is given each year to an individual who has shown a strong dedication to fire safety and education within their community.
“He’s a very humble guy,” said Marsha Holland, of Westfield, Chautauqua County, chair of the Fire Prevention & Life Safety Committee for FASNY. “When I met him at the awards ceremony he said he felt as though he already won just in being nominated by his fire department.”
The committee was impressed by the volume of fire education Smith provides each year to Greece residents (ranging in age from pre-school to senior citizens), his dynamic and interactive lesson plans for classroom visits in the Greece Central School District and many excellent letters of recommendation, including from teachers at the schools he visits, Holland said.
Though Smith, who was also a professional firefighter with the Ridge Road Fire District for nearly three decades, can’t pinpoint why he decided to also volunteer as a fire educator, he’s happy he did.
“Firefighters working in education, prevention and code enforcement are fighting fires before they start,” said Smith, a lifelong Greece resident. “You are touching people in a positive way, empowering them and saving lives.”
Smith points to one story close to his heart to illustrate this. In the early 2000s he made a presentation in a small, special education classroom at English Village Elementary School. He wasn’t sure how much the students absorbed, but a few months later he was contacted by the family of one.
“There had been a fire at the family’s home and this student did what he had learned,” Smith said. “His grandmother said that during the fire he was calm, knew what to do and said, ‘Get on your hands and knees.’ I learned an important lesson that day that in fire safety you don’t always know who you’re impacting.”
Smith, who is also a graduate of Monroe Community College and Empire State College, retired in 2016 from the Ridge Road Fire District following a diagnosis with multiple sclerosis in 2012. But, he’s busier than ever running fire presentation programs, visiting classrooms (where he’s affectionately known as Firefighter Dean) and providing community outreach and education on important topics like car-seat safety.
“Multiple sclerosis has impacted my life significantly and changed the way I do things, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing the things I love or helping others.”
Contact Caurie at caurie@urgrad .rochester.edu with news from west-side towns.
Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle's "West Extra" Column on July 14, 2019.
Woman who gave to community now needs help
by Caurie Putnam
When Lois Reddick was the manager of Jordan Health Link, a drug and alcohol treatment program, in the early 2000s, it wasn’t uncommon for her to come home from a 14-hour shift and find her front porch in Chili teeming with bags of clothes.
The garments were donations for a clothing closet Reddick started at Rochester’s Jordan Health — not part of her job description, but one of the many extra things the registered nurse did to help her clients.
“Lois is the most caring, considerate, loving person I have ever met,” said Marie Stein, a friend and former co-worker of Reddick’s. “She will go the distance for anyone.”
Now, Stein, of Gates, is hoping the community will go the distance for Reddick, 73, who is on dialysis and in need of a kidney transplant due to complications from diabetes.
Reddick and her husband, Franklin, moved to Tallahassee, Florida, in 2016 after she retired, but she considers Rochester home and hopes to get her transplant done at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital, where she was a nurse from 1970 to 1984.
“When I found out how sick Lois was, I cried a lot,” Stein said. “She’s a wonderful person who has helped thousands of people. I’m hoping somebody in the community who knew her will step forward.”
Stein started a Facebook group to find a living donor willing and eligible to donate one of their two healthy kidneys to her friend.
According to United Network for Organ Sharing, about 6,000 living donations (mostly kidneys) take place in the United States each year and one in four of these donors aren’t biologically related to the recipient. UR Medicine has a living donor kidney and liver transplant program.
“Although no one has stepped forward so far as a live donor, we’re hopeful,” Reddick said. “I’m hanging in there, but I’m in need. I’m proud and happy I gave a lot to the Rochester community; now I hope someone will reciprocate with me.”
Reddick, a daughter of sharecroppers, was born in Alabama and moved to Kendall, Orleans County, at age 12 when her family settled there. She graduated fromJohn Marshall High School, Monroe Community College and Roberts Wesleyan College.
In addition to Jordan and Strong, Reddick worked as a nurse and/or credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor at the former Park Ridge Hospital, Community Care of Rochester and Action for a Better Community.
The mom of one and grandmother of three, has also written children’s books, founded
the nonprofit Women Helping Women with her three sisters and was an active member of Aenon Baptist Church when she lived in the Rochester area.
If you’re interested in donating a kidney to Reddick, please email Stein at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Facebook group for Reddick is called Donate a Kidney facebook.com/groups/320976101890893/ More information on UR Medicine’s living donor transplant program is available at (585) 275-5875 or urmc.rochester .edu/transplant/live-donor.aspx.
Pick of the week
Brockport Summer Serenades 2019 Concert Series continues with a free performance by the Brockport Big Band at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at the Brockport Welcome Center, 11 Water St. For a full series schedule, visit brockportny.org.
Contact Caurie at email@example.com with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/WestExtra .
Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle - West Extra column - July 21, 2019.
by Caurie Putnam
Art has been appearing in unusual places in Brockport the past few weeks: doorsteps of pizzerias, sidewalks on Main Street and flowerpots in front of the movie theatre.
“The reaction has been a lot of chatter and some welcomed confusion, ‘What is this?’ ‘Why is this happening?’ ‘This is so cool,’ ” said Mya Pennington, 25, the artist behind the project. “Someone even told me, ‘Thank you for choosing our community to do this.’ ” Selecting Brockport to launch Starfly Immersive — an immersive art and storytelling project — was a natural choice for Pennington, who is a 2012 graduate of Brockport High School and an alumna of the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
She likes that Brockport is a college town with an open mind and has many young families with children eager to embrace art in all its forms.
“Immersive art is any kind of art form that breaks boundaries between the audience and performer and where the audience member can act as the main character within the story line,” Pennington said. “It’s really important to me with my immersive art to get kids involved; I want them to feel inspired to participate.”
Pennington recently completed an internship in Los Angeles with Disney Parks Live Entertainment Internship Project, where she worked on the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge project.
She is living in Brockport until at least January 2020 as she completes her master’s degree in business design and arts leadership from Savannah College of Art and Design. The creation and implementation of Starfly Immersive is part of her graduate thesis and a personal and professional passion.
Growing up in Brockport, Pennington was well-known for her prowess as a percussionist. Now, she is bringing the arts to her hometown via less familiar, but equally important, means.
“When I played music it made people happy,” said Pennington, who performed in the 2017 Rochester Fringe. “I want people to feel happy and that’s what I’m doing with immersive art. It’s almost an art form in itself when it spreads.”
Since she launched Starfly Immersive in Brockport (which she refers to as Starlandia on social media), she and a small group of volunteers have created colorful chalk pathways on Main Street and hid over 350 brightly colored balls with the hashtag #StarflyImmersive throughout the village.
They are preparing for their third interactive art installation that will launch the week of July 21. Pennington — who goes by the stage name Tapper Mae for her Starfly Immersive work — wanted to keep the installation a surprise, but hinted it will have a scavenger hunt vibe.
“Right now we are teaching people how to participate without being intrusive or intimidating,” said Pennington, who preferred not to be photographed for this piece because she sees herself as one of the many star flies — not the star — of this story. “We really just want people to join the story too.”
Daniel Sidore, 11, of Clarkson joined the story last week. He was in the village of Brockport with his older brothers when he began spying the colorful Starfly Immersive balls hidden in plain sight.
“I didn’t know what they were at first and why they were there,” Sidore said, “Then I realized they were there just to make people happy.”
He collected about 40 balls that he filled the front seat of his mom’s car with as a practical joke, adding her to the evolving, community story too.
Contact Caurie at caurie@urgrad .rochester.edu with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/ WestExtra .
Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle - March 24, 2019
by Caurie Putnam
From July 16 to 24, thousands of veterans, dignitaries and history buffs are expected to gather in Alameda, California, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 recovery.
Among them will be Tom Hetherington of Hamlin, who served on board the aircraft carrier USS Hornet CVS12 when astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins splash downed in front of him (in person) and the eyes of the world (on television) on July 24, 1969.
The astronauts, who landed in the Pacific Ocean, 812 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii, had just completed the world’s first successful lunar landing mission.
“I can’t believe it has been 50 years,” said Hetherington, who also participated in the Apollo 12 recovery. “It was such a significant time in American history.”
Altogether, Hetherington served eight years in the US Navy, 3 1 / years of which were on the Hornet. He did two tours off the coast of Vietnam from 1967 to 1969 while the ship provided pilot rescues, coastal surveillance, anti-submarine warfare and Seal team insertions and extractions.
Hetherington was also involved in a special operation against North Korea in April 1969 following the deaths of 31 service members after their naval observation plane was shot down in international air space.
The Hornet CVS 12 was originally named the USS Kearsarge, but renamed the Hornet after the historic USS Hornet CV-8, which launched the Doolittle raid and was lost in October 1942. It’s most widely known for its recovery operation of the Apollo 11 crew and Hetherington, with his front-row seat to history, has amazing stories to share.
“When I first had visual contact the white and orange chutes popped out and you saw them going down into the ocean,” Hetherington said. “They came out of their capsule and onto the raft. There was applauding when they came on. We had to stay back a certain distance because NASA was worried about moon bugs.”
The Apollo 11 crew was immediately placed into a mobile quarantine capsule with a large window. Journalists, the ship’s crew and dignitaries, including President Richard Nixon and Adm. John Sidney McCain Jr. watched the incredible scene unfold.
“We knew the eyes of the world were on us,” Hetherington said. “The astronauts were waving to us and very excited, I hung upside down from a catwalk with my Kodak camera taking pictures.”
As the massive ship headed to Pearl Harbor, a broomstick was hung from the mast to signify the splashdown mission was a “clean sweep” (successful mission).
The Hornet CVS 12 was decommissioned in 1970. Hetherington’s name is listed inside as a plank member — someone who helped purchase the ship. It’s now at Alameda Naval Base where it’s a national and state landmark open for tours, Scouting events, weddings and more.
After Hetherington left the Navy he worked as an engineer at Kodak for 24 years, earning a master’s degree from Roberts Wesleyan College. He also served with the U.S. Army National Guard and as a volunteer firefighter and EMT in Hamlin and Churchville for many years. Currently he’s a bus driver with the Brockport Central School District and active with Rochester’s Chapter 20 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
“I’m pretty excited to get back with the CVS 12 guys and my Vietnam veteran buddies,” said Hetherington, about the upcoming, eight-day-long Splashdown 50 Celebration at and around the ship. “It’s going to be big.”
To learn more about the Splashdown 50 Celebration, visit uss-hornet.org.