by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
Another year has passed us by and now a new one is here. We know one of the easiest things to break is a resolution we make and, silently, somehow, forget about it and, snap, it's broken and forgotten. Here is a resolution you should make and keep forever: "Take an elderly person fishing."
In life, a lot of things crop up on us that we just can't accomplish to our satisfaction. You know, and I know how we put things off until it is too late or things just don't turn out right.
A longtime friend of mine I am very proud of - Dave Paonessa, a retired Niagara Falls firefighter - retired because of a serious firefighting injury, told me a story of something that happened to him not so long ago. And I saw how badly he felt about something he couldn't accomplish recently. I felt sad for him because a similar incident happened to me some years ago, so I could feel what he was feeling. A few weeks later, I met up with Paonessa again. I told him his story had been on my mind since he told me about it and I asked him if I could relay it to my readers. Without hesitation, he said "Yes, by all means, maybe it will motivate others into doing what I didn't do."
Paonessa told me he reads the stories I write for the Sentinel, and that he wanted to take an elderly fishing like I preach a lot about at the end of my stories. He had a invited good friend and fellow retired Niagara Falls firefighter, Dan Thomas to go on a little local fishing excursion for a couple of hours with him. Thomas, 90 years young, was asked, "Hey how would you like to go fishing with me?" Thomas answered, "Oh, I'd love to go fishing, I used to do a lot of that a few years back."
He said he was itching to go and Paonessa was itching to get him out. Paonessa made several attempts to get his elderly friend out fishing, but they just couldn't get together because of interruptions with doctor's appointments, or Thomas "just wasn't feeling up to it" when asked.
Then one day Paonessa got word that his future fishing buddy and much-respected friend couldn't answer the bell. His time ran out. Thomas was one of Paonessa's mentors in his time with the fire department.
When Paonessa told me about his buddy and how he wanted to get him out so badly he got pretty well choked up, relating how his friend passed so suddenly and he couldn't fulfill his deed. He did not realize I was soaking his entire story in, and in no way did I think at that time to write about it. But it preyed on my mind for quite sometime, so I had to share his story with others.
When writing his story, another popped into my head that happened five years ago when another of Paonessa's friends - who happened to be a good friend of mine - passed away. He was probably not as tight as Paonessa and him, but close.
Paonessa used to fish and hunt with Teddy Sklarski, who years ago ran Ted's Motors in Niagara Falls. Sklarski was a mechanic all his life, working part of it for the local Hudson dealership. Some of you will say "What? Hudson?" Yes, I'm going back a long way. The Falls Hudson dealer disappeared when Hudson Motor Company merged with American Motors, maker of the famous Nash-Rambler cars on or around 1957. I know the dates because I started working for Kane Motors, the Nash-Rambler dealer in Niagara Falls in 1958.
Sklarski then opened his own business in the south end of the city, next to where Lammert's Cadillac dealership was. I'm quite sure and, correct me if I'm wrong, it was called then, First Street in Niagara Falls. Most of you won't remember that either. The only one that I know, and that would know for sure, would be Don Glynn - friend and special interest writer for a local paper.
Paonessa went on raving about his friend Sklarski (1922-2008) after he passed. About how much Sklarski and him had bonded, and how much they both enjoyed their fishing and hunting trips together along with other friends. They often traveled to the northern lakes in Ontario.
On the Outdoors Niagara Website, there is a special tribute page dedicated to Sklarski (www.outdoorsniagara.com/teddy_sklarski.htm) complete with a picture collage that Paonessa made, and an email that I received from his son, Larry. The email was so interesting, perfectly written, and sincere. I put it up on the Outdoors Niagara webpage so those that visit could get a feeling for what kind of man Sklarski was. It is there complete.
Here is some of the email in part:
"Since this is my first Father's Day without my dad and we always celebrated his birthday on the same day, it was a comfort to read someone else's experiences with him. There were also times we'd go fishing with his father and I remember catching a huge northern (pike) and also being caught in a wicked storm. I did go deer hunting with my dad for a few years but gave up feeling it wasn't worth freezing at 5 a.m. to see a couple of chipmunks. ..."
Larry went on, and said he searched the web for his father's name. "And to my surprise I found your article in tribute to my dad." He added, "And many thanks to David Paonessa for the pictures and memories he shared with us."
I'm certain all of us at one time or another put things off to the point a good deed couldn't be accomplished for one reason or another. So take that kid fishing or get him involved with outside recreation, show them the outdoors. And think about it: It will be cheaper to take that kid fishing than to hire lawyers or bail him/her out of jail doing street crimes or oddball cyberspace stuff.
If you wait, it might be too late.
I wonder if it would be feasible to organize a small group of volunteer fishermen and maybe we could go out and organize a day or two where we could get some elderly out for a few hours together. Maybe include the families. Another maybe is, make it a community event, and "maybe" organize at our volunteer firehalls or a firehall for an organization, and kick off point. Certainly, something like this doesn't necessarily have to involve boats, but just shore fishing someplace. For many seniors, getting in and out of a boat is tough, or even bumpy rides, and weather.
First, we would all have to go fishing for seniors, find them, get them interested, and call it "A Fishing with Seniors" day. Think about it, spring is only a short time away.
Happy New Year! Fill in the blank: "I resolve, in 2014, I'm going to _____."
"So Smart" sez: "If work interferes with fishing, and all your sick days are used up, call in dead."