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Islanders In The News Web Page

Previous News Page

Lindsey Spiker - June 2017

    SUNY Plattsburgh has released the names of students who made the college’s dean's list for spring 2017. Congratulations to Lindsey Spiker, entering her senior year, majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. She has spent the last three summers working in the genetics laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, under the direction of Dr. Yvette Conley.
    To be eligible, undergraduate students must achieve a minimum 3.5 semester grade point average with at least 12 credit hours. Part-time, matriculated students are also eligible for the dean's list after accruing 12 credit hours consecutively and achieving a minimum 3.5 grade point average. These credits may be accumulated in more than one semester. Pass/fail credits do not count.

Brentyn Mendel - June 2017

   Twenty-five University at Buffalo students have been named WNY Prosperity Fellows for 2017-2018. The fellowships, which are made possible through support from the Prentice Family Foundation, are awarded to college and graduate students with an entrepreneurial drive who want to make a difference in Western New York. Island native Brentyn Mendel is one of these students.
    Mendel is an Honors College student pursuing a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering. He intends to pursue a master's in mechanical engineering with a focus in biomechanical devices. In order to improve his understanding of business practices, Mendel also intends to earn his MBA. He is an active member of the Grand Island Fire Company, and has been certified as an interior firefighter and an emergency medical technician. While volunteering in this capacity, Mendel was able to identify many deficiencies in the current pre-hospital care system that he believes could be improved. He aims to correct the deficiencies by starting his own company that will specifically address problems that first responders face on a daily basis in order to improve the care they provide.
    Each fellow is awarded $25,000 in scholarship and internship support for an academic year, based on their financial need. Including this year's gift, the Prentice Family Foundation has invested $4.3 million in the program at UB alone.

Corey McGowan - June 2017

Corey McGowan

   Island resident Corey McGowan of Corey McGowan Productions was recently named to the "30 Under 30" list for 2017. The sixth annual 30 Under 30 is sponsored by Business First and the University at Buffalo School of Management. Winners were chosen from more than 100 nominations by judges who were honored in recent years for their own accomplishments. The winners will be honored at a party and awards ceremony at 5:30 p.m., June 21 at The Tralf in Buffalo. Corey is a successful event planner, whose events include: Taste of Grand Island, Gus Macker, Taste of Lewiston, Taste of Niagara Falls, Concert for a Cure, among others. He is a Grand Island High School graduate and attended Buffalo State. Congratulations Corey!

Mark Jansen - June 2017

Mark Jansen (CBS Photo).

   The CBS reality show "Big Brother" will have Grand Island resident and personal trainer Mark Jansen as one of the houseguests this season. The two hour premiere will be shown on two consecutive evenings, June 28 & 29th. See Buffalo News story by Alan Pergament here.

Islanders on NBC's Spartan Challenge - June 2017

Left to right, The Mathletes: Trevor Bernard, Zoe Herrick, Kyle "Wooch" Graff, Ellen Lutnick and Chris Komin. (Photo by: Eli Joshua Adé/NBC).

    UB graduate Chris Komin and junior Ellen Lutnick recently took part in the NBC competition, "Spartan Challenge". The show airs Monday nights at 10:00 p.m., the first was June 12th. See Buffalo News story by Jay Tokasz, published Tuesday, June 13th.

Bill & Heather Stewart - June 2017

Bill & Heather Stewart.

Cake top was originally on Bill's parents cake 53 years ago.
Mary Stewart Photos.

   The Rev. Calvin VanderMey presided over the vow renewal of former Islander Bill Stewart and wife Heather on Saturday, June 3rd, at the Bible Fellowship Center. The event, held on their 10th wedding anniversary, gave many friends and relatives a chance to celebrate, as not many were able to attend the ceremony held in Georgia, where they live. A reception was held at Beaver Island Park after the ceremony.

Bridget Kennedy, Naval Academy Graduate - June 2017

Bridget Kennedy receives her diploma from Vice President Mike Pence.

    ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Bridget Kennedy of Grand Island, NY successfully completed four years of challenging academic, physical, and professional military training, graduating with Distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy, on May 26, 2017, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Honors Oceanography and a commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy. She will be stationed aboard the USS Carney in Rota, Spain. She is a graduate of Grand Island Senior High School.
   Kennedy graduated with an overall G.P.A. of 3.97 and was the recipient of the CAPT Charles C. Hendrix Award as the top graduate in the Oceanography Department. At the academy, Kennedy served as Battalion Administrative Chief, Company Adjutant, Company Training Corporal, and Company Platoon Sergeant. She was the recipient of the Looker Scholarship, which allowed her to study abroad in Sydney, Australia during the Fall of 2016. She also helped to organize the Joint Service Academies Military Atrocity Prevention Symposium, and was selected as the Naval Academy’s sole representative to travel to Poland to study the Holocaust as part of the Auschwitz Jewish Center’s American Service Academy Program. While at the Academy, Kennedy also had two journal articles published--one on the Holocaust and the other on Sexual Harassment and Assault in the Military. She was also a member of the Girls on the Run Team, and played intramural volleyball and soccer.
    Founded in 1845, the U.S. Naval Academy today is a prestigious four-year service academy that prepares midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically to be professional officers in the naval service. More than 4,400 men and women representing every state in the U.S. and several foreign countries make up the student body, known as the Brigade of Midshipmen. U.S. News and World Reports has recognized the Naval Academy as a top five undergraduate engineering school and a top 20 best liberal arts college. Midshipmen learn from military and civilian instructors and participate in intercollegiate varsity sports and extracurricular activities. The also study subjects such as leadership, ethics, small arms, drill, seamanship and navigation, tactics, naval engineering and weapons, and military law. Upon graduation, midshipmen earn a Bachelor of Science degree in a choice of 25 different subject majors and go on to serve at least five years of exciting and rewarding service as commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps.
    The Brigade of Midshipmen is comprised of approximately 4,400 students from every state in the union. Each year, approximately 1,200 young men and women are admitted to the Naval Academy's incoming class. The academy's more than 81,000 alumni include one president, 21 members of Congress, five governors, 73 Medal of Honor recipients, two Nobel Prize winners, 52 astronauts, and 4,000 admirals and generals.

Joann Vanderheite - May 2017


Two examples of gourd art.

    Islander Joann Vanderheite will once again be showing her contemporary gourd art at the 47th Annual 100 American Craftsmen Festival. The show is on Friday, June 2nd, Saturday, June 3rd and Sunday, June 4th at the Kenan Center, 433 Locust Street, Lockport, NY.
    Featuring fine contemporary craft art, along with live music, indoor cafe, specialty food vendors, emerging and first-time artisans in the Annex Marketplace, and the exhibit, "Three Generations of Burchfields: Works from the Schoene Collection," in the Kenan Gallery. (Sat & Sun only). For $1 off coupon good for 2 people, schedule, exhibiting artisans, and more, go to www.100americancraftsmen.org.

Dalton & Drew Pitts - May 2017

Dalton Pitts at graduation.

    Dalton Pitts recently graduated Cum Laude from Brockport College with a medal of achievement, Bachelor of Arts in Theatre with an Emphasis on Directing & Stage Management.
    Drew Pitts has been named to the Deans List at Niagara University for the third time. Drew is majoring in Computer Science and Forensics and has successfully been certified as a forensics examiner. Congratulations!

Winnie Zarbo - May 2017

Don Burns and Winnie Zarbo.

   Happy 96th birthday to Winifred R. "Winnie" Zarbo. On Thursday, May 11th, a celebration dinner was hosted by daughter Penny and son-in-law George Panepinto at Dick & Jenny's Restaurant for family and friends. Ultimate entertainer Don Burns delighted the group playing old time favorites on the piano.

Former Islanders Plan New Buffalo Festival - May 2017

    Former Island residents Mary Friona-Celani and husband Scott Celani are co-chairs of the first annual 'Totally Buffalo Festival' that will take place on Saturday, May 27th at Buffalo Riverworks.
   See Press Release...A brand new festival is launching on Memorial Day Weekend to celebrate all things Buffalo in one of the WNY's most historic locations. This Totally Buffalo Festival is all about Buffalo and everything that makes us love it - the food, the drinks, the music, the sports, the historical events, the art, the architecture and most importantly - the people. All of the food offered will be creations that originated in Buffalo, from beef on weck and wings to stuffed banana peppers and much more. The beer, wine, soft drinks: all Buffalo brands. The live music will feature 6 WNY-based bands playing genres with a rich history in Buffalo - rock, pop, r & b, Latin, country, jazz and blues.
   The Totally Buffalo Festival has the honor of showcasing 85 vendors offering stunning Buffalo-themed signs, shirts, towels, jewelry, photographs, paintings and more. The event also features a Kids Zone, Sports Zone and many other interactive and family-friendly activities. Portions of the proceeds will go to Special Spaces Buffalo and Carly's Club.
   "In Buffalo and WNY, we love our festivals. There seems to be one great festival after another during our warm months," says Mary Friona-Celani, founder of totallybuffalo.com and Festival Co-Chair along with her husband, Buffalo-based musician Scott Celani. "What makes the Totally Buffalo Festival unique is that it's about Buffalo and Buffalo only. And given the WNY region's current resurgence, the timing couldn't be better."
    The Totally Buffalo Festival runs from 12 Noon to 9:00pm on Saturday, May 27th. Admission is $5 at the door and kids 5 and under are admitted for free. Advance tickets are available at totallybuffalo.com . Buffalo Riverworks is located at 359 Ganson St. in Buffalo.

Emma Santorio - May 2017

   Emma Santorio, a 5th grade student at Kaegebein Elementary, recently represented New York State at the Regional Gymnastics Championships in Springfield, Massachusetts, last weekend. Emma placed fourth on balance beam with a 9.300, fourth on floor exercise with a 9.400 and fourth on vault with a 9.425. The New York State team took second place in the region.

Alexis and Grace Fredricks - April 2017

   Congratulations to freshmen Alexis and Grace Fredricks of Grand Island, swimming for Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils. They were part of the North East Conference Championship team. This is the third straight title for CCSU. Alexis also received NEC Rookie of the Meet honors.

Melissa Mroziak-Hartwick - April 2017

   Island resident and vet Dr. Melissa Mroziak-Hartwick was featured on a WIVB story on her advanced imaging equipment that can do CT scans for pets such as dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits, using 3D technoology. Dr. Mroziak-Hartwick's company Paws Advanced Imaging is the first to introduce this equipment in the Western New York area. See story.

Emma Santorio - April 2017

   Gleason's School of Gymnastics Level 7 Niagara Gymnastics team recently participated in the Level 7 State Gymnastics Meet, March 31-April 2 in Suffern, NY. The Level 7 team placed 2nd in the state at the competition. Emma Santorio, a 5th Grader at Kaegebein Elementary, placed 3rd on vault, 11th on uneven bars, 6th on balance beam, and 5th on floor exercise. Her overall score of 37.200 earned her 5th place in the All-Around in the Child C age division. Emma's excellent all around score earned her a spot at the Region 6 Regional Competition to be held April 22-23 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Ashli Dreher - April 2017

    Island resident and Lew-Port Special Ed teacher Ashli Dreher is to be inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. The first Buffalo Niagara teacher to be honored. Ashli was named New York State Teacher of the Year in 2014. See Buffalo News story by Thomas Prohaska.

Tom Long - March 2017

   Tom Long recently entered his beautiful 1932 Ford in the Buffalo Motorama Car Show. It was held the weekend of March 24-26 at the Buffalo Convention Center. Tom was awarded "Best Truck" in show and an "Outstanding" award from the WNY Shelby and Mustang Club. Congratulations Tom!!!

Jessica Louise Melgar - March 2017

    Jessica Louise Melgar graduated from her Medical Assistant program achieving the Dean's List for the 2016 Fall Semester at Erie Community College. Employed at Mash Urgent Care, Jessica is currently pursuing an EMT certification. Jessica graduated from Grand Island High School in 2013. She is the daughter of proud mother Eileen Melgar and sister of Dave Melgar, a 2005 Grand Island High School.

Peter T. Xanthos - March 2017

   Long-time Grand Island resident Peter T. Xanthos, 91 was featured in the Buffalo News "Saluting Our War Heros" feature on Sunday, March 12th. See story by Lou Michel here.

Anna Czarples, Esq. - March 2017

   Anna Czarples, Esq. has been selected as a "Top 10 Personal Injury Attorney Under 40" by the National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys (NAOPIA) for the year 2017. Attorney Czarples is a 2001 graduate of Grand Island Senior High School. Her parents are Helen and James Czapla of Grand Island. NAOPIA's selection criteria is rigorous and their Board of Governors selects the final top ten in each state. Attorney Czarples has been practicing personal injury and medical malpractice law in Corning since 2009 and she is a partner at her firm Welch, Donlon & Czarples PLLC.

Lindsey Spiker and Marisa Atkinson - March 2017

   PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (March 10, 2017) - SUNY Plattsburgh has released the names of students who made the college's dean's list for fall 2016. To be eligible, undergraduate students must achieve a minimum 3.5 semester grade point average with at least 12 credit hours. Part-time, matriculated students are also eligible for the dean's list after accruing 12 credit hours consecutively and achieving a minimum 3.5 grade point average. Grand Island residents are Lindsey Spiker - a junior majoring in Biology and Marisa Atkinson.

Michael W. Rayhill - March 2017

    History buff, Michael W. Rayhill, 24 was featured in a story in the New York Times on March 7, 2017. See "Life on Colonnade Row: The Hidden History Behind the Columns" written by Alex Vadukul.

Alley Cutting - March 2017

   KENNESAW, Ga. - Kennesaw State freshman Alley Cutting was honored for her dominant performance during the Dr. Bobbie Bailey Memorial Tournament this past weekend by being named ASUN Conference Softball Pitcher of the Week, the conference announced on Monday (Mar. 5). It marks the first time in her career that she has been honored. See story.

Rachael Ruszkowski - March 2017

    Niagara University senior Rachael Ruszkowski recently published a novel that draws from her experiences coping with the death of a loved one and the bond with her sisters. See story in the NU NEWS written by Michael Freedman.

Elena G. Mendel - March 2017

    Elena G. Mendel has been promoted to Assistant Controller of National Fuel's regulated companies, including National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation, National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation and Empire Pipeline, Inc. Mendel was hired at National Fuel in 1994 as a financial accountant after six years at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Throughout her time at National Fuel, she has held various management positions in the audit, accounting and benefits services areas, including at Seneca Resources Corporation - the Company's exploration and production segment. In 2012, she was promoted to Chief Auditor with oversight of the Audit Department. Mendel holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting from the University at Buffalo and is a Certified Public Accountant. She resides on Grand Island, N.Y.

Kim Kalman-Rhonda Diehl - March 2017

From left: Kim Kalman & Rhonda Diehl.

   Runners Kim Kalman and Rhonda Diehl heard about a young girl with a chronic condition from Mary Friona-Celani, who writes the blog "TotallyBuffalo". Nine year-old Ella Wintinger of Orchard Park has been collecting race medals, to give to sick children at Nationwide Children's Hospital. The ladies are donating medals and Rhonda has planned two runs on March 18th and 22nd on Grand Island, "The Brave Run". All medals from the walk/race will be donated to Ella. See story and race details here. Nice job ladies!

Dulak Family - February 2017

    An Island couple was featured in a Buffalo News story about the Erie County foster parent program on February 5th. Brandy and Drew Dulak have adopted two foster kids and are in the process of adopting a third. They have two other children, a biological child and a private adoption child. See their heartwarming story here.

Allyson Nemeth & Jessica Flash - February 2017

   Island residents, 14 year-old Allyson Nemeth and Jessica Flash invite you to their 4th Annual Pasta Sauce-Off on Saturday, March 4th at the LaSalle Yacht Club. Last year the dynamic duo raised over $5,000 for Carly's Club and they would like to do it again! They are looking for participants to make a pasta suace, items to be donated for the basket raffle, volunteers to work the event and lots of attendees to taste and judge from 3:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. See flyer for complete details.

Sarah Chamberlain - February 2017

   Fredonia College President Virginia Horvath recently announced that Sarah Rose Chamberlain will be the recipient of the 2017 Lanford Presidential Prize from the Oscar and Esther Lanford Endowment of the Fredonia College Foundation. The award will be presented at Commencement on May 13, 2017. The award, generously created and endowed by the late President Emeritus Oscar E. Lanford and Mrs. Lanford, recognizes a member of the graduating class who has exhibited balanced achievement and exemplifies Fredonia's ideals.
    Sarah Chamberlain, from Grand Island, New York, is completing a major in Applied Mathematics: Physics. Her leadership and campus and community activities are extensive:
President, Engineering and Physics Society
Vice President, Math Club
Tutor, Learning Center
Instructor, Aerobic Center
Participant, Fredonia Fall Sweep
Participant, Mini Maker Faire
Member, Honor Society
Member, Golden Key International Honour Society
Member, Sigma Pi Sigma
Member, Pi Mu Epsilon
   Sarah has received many honors and awards, including the Presidential Math and Science Scholarship and the Robert E. Maytum Scholarship. She attended several undergraduate conferences in physics as well as the Student Creativity Exposition promoting research she completed with Dr. Justin Conroy and Dr. Erica Simoson. After graduation, Sarah plans to go into a Biophysics or Medical Physics Ph.D. program. Congratulations to the Lanford Presidential Prize recipient, Sarah Rose Chamberlain.

From Grand Island to Mogadishu, the new president of Somalia - February 2017

    Former Island resident Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is the Somalia President-elect, see Buffalo News story by Jane Kwiatkowski Radlich, published Tuesday, February 21, 2017.

Ben Shaw - February 2017

   Ben Shaw has been named to the D'Youville College Deans List for the Fall 2016 semester. To qualify for the honor, they must have maintained a quality point average of 3.40 or above for the previous semester. This indicates superior academic performance and becomes a permanent part of the student's college record. Ben is a Physical Therapy major. Congratulations Ben!

Diane Tetkowski Pokorski - February 2017

Diane Pokarski shown with brother Neil Tetkowski and artwork.

   Diane Tetkowski Pokorski, who grew up and attended Gand Island Schools, a member of the second graduating class of the high school, is exhibiting her drawings and other artwork at the Clarence Presbyterian Church, 9675 Main Street, Clarence on Friday, March 3rd from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and on Saturday, March 4 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Her newly developed skills have surpassed expectations. Diane's many friends remember her severe limits since she suffered a brain aneurysm sixteen years ago. Her detailed fine line drawings are available as notecards. Her work has been accepted in this upcoming "You Gotta Have Art" Festival.

Zito-Hattersley Wedding - February 2017

    Nikki Ann Zito and Michael Jason Hattersley exchanged wedding vows on September 24, 2016 at Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph Church, Niagara Falls, NY (formally St. Joseph's Church). Father Louis Klein performed the ceremony. The reception was held in The Garden Pavilion at Kloc's Grove in West Seneca, NY. The bride is the daughter of Joseph and Cheryl Zito of Grand Island, NY. Her husband is the son of John and Jacqueline Hattersley of Skaneateles, NY. Allison Moulin was the Maid of Honor. Bridesmaids were Angela Szafran (Miller), Crissy Morrison, Jen Plesa (Lingenfelter), and Stacy Chesnick (Sister of the Groom). Amorai Netravali was the Flower Girl. Best Man was Wilhelm Mitchell. Groomsmen were John Mowbray, Dan Ozminkowski, Justin Seefeldt, and Erik Zito (Brother of the Bride). Lucas Seefeldt was the Ring Bearer. Nikki is a Special Education Teacher at Sweet Home Middle School and is pursuing her degree in Administration. Michael is working as a Data Monitor at Valuecentric. The couple is currently living in Williamsville and has planned their honeymoon for later this year.

Anna Martinez - February 2017

   MIDLAND, Mich.- Anna Martinez of Grand Island, New York, was named to the Northwood University Dean's list for the fall 2016 semester. "We are proud to recognize the academic accomplishments of the students on the Dean's List this past semester," said Keith Pretty, President and CEO of Northwood University. "We commend their hard work and dedication to their futures."Students on the Dean's List are those who have achieved a cumulative grade point average between 3.25 and 3.84 in a semester, and who have no incomplete or ungraded courses. Martinez is a freshman at Northwood.

Ashley Giambra - February 2017

    Jay and Carol Giambra are pleased to announce that Ashley Giambra, in her first year Fall semester 2016, enrolled in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program at Daemen College, has proudly been named to the Dean's list.

Justina Potenzo - January 2017

   2007 Grand Island High School Graduate Joins Chelus, Herdzik, Speyer & Monte, P.C.
   Buffalo, NY, January 25, 2017...Chelus, Herdzik, Speyer & Monte, P.C., today announces that Justina Potenzo has joined the firm as an associate attorney. She will be working with the other members of the firm in handling the firm's litigation files as well as other general practice matters. In addition to working with the firm at its downtown office at the Main Court Building, 438 Main Street, Tenth Floor, at Lafayette Square, Ms. Potenzo will also be practicing at the firm's branch office at 2448 Union Road in Cheektowaga.
   A current resident of Tonawanda, New York, Ms. Potenzo graduated magna cum laude from both the State University of Buffalo Law School and Buffalo State College. She earned her juris doctor in 2016 after completing her Bachelor of Science degree in Social Studies Education in 2011. She also taught at Buffalo Public School 66 before attending law school. Ms. Potenzo now joins with the other associates of Chelus, Herdzik, Speyer & Monte, P.C. in serving the legal needs of the Western New York Community.
   Chelus, Herdzik, Speyer & Monte, P.C. is a full service Law Firm practicing in the areas of civil litigation, real estate, corporate and business law, estate and estate planning, criminal defense, and matrimonial law. The Firm is headquartered at the Main Court Building, 438 Main Street, Tenth Floor, at Lafayette Square in Buffalo, with a branch office at 2448 Union Road in Cheektowaga, New York.

Stacey Watt - January 2017

   The Grand Island Challenge - Complete a room with care for the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital. Residents of Grand Island are invited to make a donation.
   It isn't every day a community can build a brand new Children's Hospital. In fact, there are only 43 stand-alone Children's Hospitals in the country and Western New York is set to open its state-of-the-art facility on the Buffalo/Niagara Medical Campus some 125 years after the original Hospital opened at its current location on Bryant Street. This is an event of historic proportions for Western New York. If ever there was a time to step out and make a difference, this is the moment. By lending our support, we will be making a promise to children of this community that there will always be a place to go when they need medical care - today and for generations to come. It's an important example I want to set for my children.
   That's why I'm inviting all of my fellow Grand Islanders to join me in this Challenge. The $270 million John R. Oishei Children's Hospital will open in November 2017. The project has already received $48.9 million in philanthropic support with gifts from local businesses, organizations, foundations, medical practices and the community at large - an amazing feat in and of itself. And, now we're in the home stretch with just $1 million needed to reach our $50 million goal. And my hometown community of Grand Island can help get us to the finish line. If everyone donated just $1, we could reach our $25,000 goal in one day!
   And, when children and families come to the Oishei Children's Hospital, they'll know the Grand Island community provided a very special and spacious room designed specifically for their care and comfort. It will be a lasting symbol of the generosity and support of our Grand Island community. I won't stop here, though. I'm challenging every community across Western New York to Complete a Room with Care. Give us a call today and be part of history in the making! Contact: Stacey Watt, MD, 716-878-7938 or Susan Spanitz, Children's Hospital Foundation, 816-881-8230. See poster. Donation Link.