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Wreaths Across America comes to Genesee County to honor veterans

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Several years of volunteer time, energy and collaboration will come together next month for a wreath-laying ceremony at Western New York National Cemetery in Corfu.

The cemetery was officially opened in December 2020, and now for the first time, it will play host to a Wreaths Across America ceremony featuring Keynote Speaker and Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia, the laying of wreaths for at least 700 fallen soldiers, and an Honor Guard, Public Affairs Chairman Patrick Welch said.

“This is the first year, and we feel we’re doing fairly well,” he said to The Batavian on behalf of the cemetery’s council. “We’re at 530 wreaths purchased … from everywhere in Western New York. We’re looking to sell around another 200 by the close of business on Monday.”

Yes, the clock is ticking to buy a wreath for a veteran’s grave. The deadline for orders is Monday, Nov. 29. People have the option to lay the wreath themselves during the event or someone else will take care of it. This link ensures that wreaths purchased are designated for Western New York: www.wreathsacrossAmerica.org/NY0368P

The Western New York National Cemetery Council, classified as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit,  will receive $5 from each wreath purchased. Proceeds will go toward necessary items not provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration due to a lack of resources or legal restrictions, Welch said.

He gave two examples of such necessary purchases. The VA provided a construction trailer to house Honor Guardsmen in between funeral services. Only thing was that it was empty, so the Council had to buy furniture, a refrigerator and/or coffee pot so the Honor Guard could keep warm and relax for a while before heading out again. Another need was for some type of vehicle to transport the guardsmen — who are typically 60 to 80 years old — around the cemetery to designated gravesites.

“So we had to go out and raise money to get golf carts so that we can transport the honor guard around the cemetery through the services,” Welch said. “Those are just a couple of examples.”

Wreaths are $15 apiece. If more wreaths are purchased than needed, the credit will go toward a purchase for next year’s ceremony and burials, he said. The ceremony is open to the public, and Welch recommends that visitors show up early, as seating is limited. Visitors may want to bring a lawn chair to ensure seating for the event.

There is to be a multi-phase development of the cemetery, which will include a columbarium to house cremations on-site. That project and other additions are set to begin in 2022, said Welch, a retired U.S. Marine from Amherst. Although he has been working on this effort for several years, it isn't about him, he said. 

“It’s about the cemetery and those that served this country,” he said. 

Wreaths Across America started as a simple gesture of thanks, organizers said in a news release. The effort has grown into a national movement of dedicated volunteers and communities coming together to "not only remember the nation’s fallen and honor their service but to teach the next generation about the sacrifices made for us to live freely," it stated. This year, there will be more than 2,500 participating locations placing wreaths on National Wreaths Across America Day – Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 – with more than two million volunteers coming together.

“We are forever grateful for the thousands of supporters who dedicate their time and effort to fulfilling our mission on a local level,” said Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America. “These individuals and their communities know the value of remembering the fallen, honoring those who currently serve, and teaching the next generation about the sacrifices made for our freedom every day, and without their continued support, Wreaths Across America would not exist.”  

In May 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration purchased 132-acres in Corfu for $625,000, and acquired two additional parcels of land in 2018. Western New York National Cemetery is a 269-acre Department of Veteran Affairs national cemetery located at 1254 Indian Falls Rd. and Route 77, Corfu.

The council sought permission to include an Avenue of Flags and was granted permission as only one of three cemeteries to have one. The flags hold special significance as having been draped over veterans' caskets and donated for this purpose. 

According to the WNY cemetery website, it serves the needs of more than 98,000 veterans, spouses, and eligible children within a 75-mile radius of Batavia. For more information about the cemetery, go to:  https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/WesternNewYork.asp#hi

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Top photo: The Avenue of Flags, Honor Guard and entrance at Western New York National Cemetery in Corfu. Photos submitted by Patrick Welch

jfbeck_99_272012 Nov 26, 2021, 12:00am

Vehicle rolls over retaining wall in Corfu

By Howard Owens
Sep 5, 2021, 4:42am

A vehicle has reportedly gone over a retaining wall at Crosby's, 47 Alleghany Road, Corfu.

A caller reports one person in the passenger seat. Unknown injuries.

Corfu Fire and Mercy EMS responding.

UPDATE 4:43 a.m.: A first responder reports no injuries.

UPDATE 4:45 a.m.: The person who was in the car has run off.  He's a white male with dark pants, checkered shirt, wearing a hat.  He's heading eastbound on Main Street.

UPDATE 4:51 a.m.: A deputy reports being with a subject. The subject is apparently the person who ran.  Corfu Fire is back in service.

UPDATE 4:54 a.m.: There is a warrant for the subject out of Montgomery County.

Law and Order: Luke Bryan concert goer allegedly found with baggies of drugs hanging from his socks

By Howard Owens
Aug 16, 2021, 9:34am

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Bryan Fitts

Bryan Lewis Fitts, 32, of Chestnut Ridge, Gasport, is charged with criminal possession of narcotics with intent to sell and two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. Fitts was allegedly found in possession of a sufficient amount of narcotics and controlled substances to suggest he intended to sell the illicit drugs after being ejected from the Luke Bryan concert at Darien Lake at 9:23 p.m., Saturday.  Deputy Jeremy McClellan reportedly spotted baggies of drugs hanging out of his socks.  He was arraigned in Town of Pembroke Court and released.

Aaron J. McFollins, 42, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with assault 3rd. At 1:18 a.m., June 4, McFollins is accused of throwing a chair at a woman causing an injury.  He was arraigned in City Court and released on his own recognizance.

Aaron J. McFollins, 42, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with grand larceny 4th, identity left 3rd, and petit larceny. McFollins is accused of taking and using another person's credit card.  McFollins was arraigned in City Court and released on his own recognizance. 

Larry Kennedy, 43, of Eastbrooke Lane, Greece, is charged with felony DWI, unlicensed operation, driving outside restrictions, driving without an ignition interlock device, and aggravated unlicensed operation. Kennedy was arrested by Batavia PD following an investigation into a suspicious condition at an undisclosed location on Aug. 8. He was released on his own recognizance.

Matthew Oppel, 34, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with driving while impaired by drugs, driving while using a portable electronic device, running a red light, and failure to keep right. Oppel on July 31 for an alleged incident at 7:37 p.m., March 20. Oppel was reportedly involved in a property damage accident on Main Street, Batavia. Following an investigation, Oppel was accused of driving while under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident.  He was issued an appearance ticket.

Laura R. Mroz, 32, of Chandler Avenue, Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Mroz is accused of pushing another person on Aug. 7 at an undisclosed location.  Morz was issued an appearance ticket.

John K. Hobbs, 33, of Clinton Street Road, Batavia, is charged with menacing 3rd.  Hobbs allegedly threatened a woman and put her in fear of physical injury during an incident reported at 6 a.m., Aug. 13.  Hobbs was released on his own recognizance.

William G. Horner, 70, of Batavia, is charged with assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon, and Wendy L. Henry, 36, of Batavia, is charged with assault 2nd/injuring victim 65 or older.  Horner and Henry were arrested by State Police in connection with an incident reported at 8:39 a.m., Aug. 11, in the Town of Batavia. No further information was released. Horner was ordered held in jail and Henry was released on her own recognizance.

Jessica R. Parker-Sharkey, 28, of Rochester, is charged with criminal impersonation, criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th, and driving with a suspended registration. Parker-Sharkey was arrested by a trooper in connection with an incident at 3:20 p.m., Aug. 12.  No further information was released.  She was released on an appearance ticket.

Tyler J. Gasiorek, 27, of Cheektowaga, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Gasiorek was stopped at 3:47 p.m., Saturday, in Bergen by a state trooper. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Patrick J. Reiner, 49, of Corfu, is charged with felony DWI and felony driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Reiner was stopped by a trooper at 12:01, Sunday, in the Town of Pembroke. He was released on an appearance ticket.

David B. Kenjockety, 44, of Lockport, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Kenjockety was stopped by a trooper at 8:50 p.m., Aug. 13, in the Town of Darien. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Deborah M. Kreienberg, 62, of Pittsford, is charged with felony DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Kreienberg was stopped by a trooper at 2:19 p.m., Aug. 13, in the Town of Bergen. She was released on an appearance ticket.

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