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Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 10:45 am

Photos: Wonderland of Trees at HLOM, 2012

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Holland Land Office Museum

Friday was the gala opening of the annual Wonderland of Trees at the Holland Land Office Museum.

The event features trees decorated in themes selected by their sponsors, which are local businesses, government agencies and charities.

The Wonderland Of Trees will be open at HLOM through the holiday season.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Rollover car crash at West Main and River streets in the city

post by Billie Owens in batavia, accidents

A one-vehicle rollover accident, blocking traffic, unknown injuries, is reported in the City of Batavia at West Main and River streets. Mercy medics and city fire are responding.

UPDATE 5:27 p.m.: A woman in her 50s is being transported to UMMC. A car is on its roof and a flatbed tow is called.

UPDATE 5:45 p.m.: One person was a sign-off. The city assignment is back in service.

UPDATE 6:04 p.m.: Here's a statement made to Howard at the scene about what a witness saw:

Conor Wilkes: "I was riding right behind the car when it happened. I was behind the white Toyota and the (Ford) Ranger that was in front of her made an abrupt stop. I think she was trying to change lanes at the same time. But the Ranger stopped so suddenly that when she made the turn, the front side of her car clipped the back side of the Ranger.

"I think her front tire rolled up on the rear tire of the Ranger just right and flipped the car. The Toyota wasn’t speeding. It was just a (freak) accident. Normally it would be just a quick fender-bender and everybody’d be OK, But it just happened so quick.

"As soon as I saw it happen, I pulled to the side and called 9-1-1 and got those guys going pretty quick. I put my jacket on, I got out and looked around the car and looked to see how many passengers there were, how the car was. A couple of pedestrians helped out.

"I got the keys out of the vehicle and made sure it was secure. She seemed to be alright except she was upside down. And then we just waited for fire and EMS to come and extricate her. The woman in the Ranger was just flustered and the other woman in the Toyota just seemed concerned that she was now upside down."

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Field fire reported off Shepard Road, Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire

A field fire has been reported in the area of 9384 Shepard Road, Batavia.

Town of Batavia fire responding.

UPDATE 5:23 p.m.: The fire is out. Town of Batavia is back in service.


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Friday, November 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Rowell Mansion finding new life in the hands of couple with Hollywood and Batavia ties

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Rowell Mansion

There's a bit of myth and mystery surrounding the couple that lives at 71 Ellicott Ave., Batavia.

There's a rumor that it's "the couple who starred in L.A. Law."

Not true. Hiram Kasten has appeared in dozen of TV shows, mostly sitcoms -- and one episode of L.A. Law -- but never starred in any of them. His wife, Diana, an alumna of Alexander High School, had a theater career but spent most of the couple's 25 years in California working in information technology.

And there's the assumption that they're millionaires. 

Not true. Kasten said the couple has the same financial struggles as any other middle-class family. One reason Diana bought a house in Batavia was real estate is so much more affordable here.

"It was time for us to stop living like Bohemians," she said.

And a lot of people assume that the couple only lives in the Rowell Mansion in the summer.

Once true. True no more.

In August, Hiram and Diana Kasten loaded up a trailer and moved from Los Angeles to the closest thing to a hill in Batavia. They now plan to make Genesee County their base of operations while Hiram continues his acting career in New York City.

"I like Batavia a lot," Diana said. "It’s a nice place to come back to at this point in my life."

When Hiram met Diana more than two decades ago, he was an up-and-coming comic on the New York-New Jersey circuit and she was a young actress whose career path had finally brought her to NYC.

Back then, most of the professional comics knew each other, Hiram said. It was before cable TV and the proliferation of part-time and wannabe stand-ups. It meant something then, Hiram said, to be a comic and the girls were always around.

His act was old school. He grew up with the likes of Alan King.

"I grew up watching Ed Sullivan," Hiram said. "A comedian should dress better than the audience. If he’s a Jewish guy, he should be a tough Jewish guy. He shouldn’t be a momma’s boy. He should be tanned. He should wear cufflinks."

After graduating from college with a performing arts degree, Kasten developed his stand-up routine, but he said he always had a quick mind and could ad lib if he needed to get a crowd's attention.

Kasten first met Jerry Seinfeld at a comedy club in New Jersey. It was a tough crowd, he said. Kasten was jeered and heckled, but he held his ground.

Seinfeld got up and just delivered his lines in his casual, soft-spoken way.

"I was doing like Milton Berle," Hiram said. "I would do anything, drop my pants, anything to get their attention, and then Jerry goes on. This was 1979. ... slowly the crowd quiets down. They’re turning to listen to him. He’s not raising his voice. They lower their voices. He had a self assurance. People say he took a little Scientology courses. I never asked him, but I’ve never known a more fascinating mind. I mean, I’ve seen it up close.

"So he got off stage," Hiram added, "and he says, he comes off and he says to me, that will be my second of five Johnnys."

Seinfeld was already planning his conquest of the Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson).

Both Hiram and Diana had made it to 30 without getting married before they met and found they made a good match.

"I came from a small city and he came from a big city, but our values were very much the same," Diana said. "He had a great family, all of these cousins who lived in the Bronx, and I had a lot of cousins that I grew up with on both sides of my family. We both valued family, and I don't just mean immediate family, but extended family."

Hiram said he and his wife don't always agree on everything, but they agree on the big things, the important things.

"It's funny, but marriage is obviously not a barrel of laughs," Hiram said. "The word 'fun' isn’t in the contract. Read at the contract. People are divorcing. We’re not having fun any more, they say. That’s not in the contract. It’s two souls. The rabbis said, it’s two souls that become one."

After they were married, Diana told Hiram that if he wanted a career in TV, he needed to move to Los Angeles.

"If I hadn’t gotten married I would have stayed in the exact same rent-control apartment in the Bronx, descended into alcoholism and an early death," Hiram said.

It didn't take long for Hiram to establish himself in Hollywood. Over the next 25 years, he appeared in more than 30 different television shows, including Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Saved by the Bell, Without a Trace and, yes, L.A. Law.

Hiram got one shot at co-starring in a sitcom. A pilot was produced, but CBS turned it down.

There's a blueprint for sitcom success in Hollywood, Hiram said, and he just never bothered to follow it.

Before Carson retired, it was all about appearing on the Tonight Show, and if Johnny liked you, he would call you over to his desk.

If that happened, the next morning your agent's phone would be ringing and offers for starring roles in new sitcoms would come rolling in.

Drew Carey, Hiram said, struggled for years, then put on the horn-rimmed glasses, the thin tie and the white shirt and did the Tonight Show. Johnny loved the act and Carey's career was made.

"I don’t live with any regrets," Hiram said. "I knew exactly what they were doing. It’s an art. It’s the creative arts. It’s like I’m Jackson Pollack and this guy’s doing still lifes. I like ad-lib comedy. I like the Shecky Greenes and the Don Rickles. We have an act, but we play off of that. I’ve never done the same show twice."

A sitcom star used to make $2 million an episode (those days are over, Hiram said, disrupted by webisodes and reality TV), and the Kastens would have had it made if Hiram had gotten just one starring role under his belt.

But even so, he said, some of the residual checks he gets can be quite handsome (and some miniscule -- he carries around in his wallet a residual check for one cent).

Asked for a single key memory from his time in Hollywood, Hiram said it was getting to know Jerry Lewis a bit. He demurred when asked if Lewis was a friend. He just said, "he knew my name."

"Once I wrote him a note," Hiram said, "and he called me. I was in my kitchen in Los Angeles. 'Hello, Hiram, it’s Jerry Lewis.' You know, he has that voice, and I saw him at 9-years-old in the moves. That was big thrill. I could barely speak. I thought, 'Oh, I wish my mother was alive so I could call her up and tell her, 'Jerry Lewis just called me.' "

As Hollywood shifted away from paying actors and creating reality show celebrities instead, and as Hiram turned 50, he started to think it was time for a change.

Little did he know in December of 2004, his wife was putting in an offer on the Rowell Mansion. She didn't tell him about her plans to buy the property from Terry Platt until it was almost a done deal.

"She made me a martini and said, 'We now own real estate,' " Hiram said.

It would be quaint to imagine a young Diana Kisiel going past the Rowell Mansion and saying quietly to herself, "someday I'm going to live here."

Nothing, she said, could be further from the truth. Her dream house was on Creek Road, around the corner from her parents. Her aunt lived there and she would have bought it in the early 2000s if it hadn't been sold first to a local minister.

Unlike many middle-class couples, the Kastens never took regular family vacations -- no weekends in Mexico, holidays in Aspen or trips to the Grand Canyon. Instead, when they had time off, they came to Batavia.

Hiram said they flew into Buffalo from Los Angeles at least two or three times a year.

Diana's father, Henry Kisiel, founded Pinnacle Manufacturing Company, Inc., in the 1970s for his wife, Lois Quartley Kisiel, and his three children, and today, his children share responsibility for the company. Diana is secretary, her brother, Kim, is president and brother, Kevin, is vice president. Many of Diana's extended family remain in Genesee County.

Lois Kisiel passed away two years ago.

On one trip home to see family, Diana learned that the Rowell Mansion was up for sale. With her dream home on Creek Road recently sold, she started to think about the Rowell as a possible vacation home. On the next trip, the house was still for sale, so the Kasten family took a look inside, but more as a sightseeing adventure than real estate consideration.

Diana decided that if it were still for sale when she returned in October, she would make an offer. It was, she did, and after some negotiating she learned she would close on the house Dec. 29.

That Christmas she announced the purchase to her family during a dinner at Sunny's Restaurant. Nobody, she said, believed her at first.

The Rowell Mansion was built in 1920 by E.N. Rowell, who opened a box making company in Batavia in 1888. Rowell is best known for killing the lover of his first wife in their home on Bank Street in 1893.

After shooting the naked man, Rowell told a neighbor, "I found this man in my house and I shot him. He had seduced my wife. I caught him in the act."

Rowell was charged with manslaughter and a jury found him not guilty. The case was a national sensation at the time.

The E.N. Rowell Box Factory grew into one of Batavia's largest industries and after Rowell's death in 1929, May Emke Rowell, his second wife, ran the business and lived in the mansion until her death in 1972. Their children had no interest in Batavia or the business, sold it, and the new owners closed it in 1980.

The Rowell Mansion passed through a few owners, at one point falling into a good deal of disrepair, until Diana Kasten acquired it in 2004.

She understands the home is a historical landmark, she said, and wants to see it restored to his former glory. While the exterior needs some masonry work, so far her efforts have been focused on the interior.

She's redone the electrical, removed or moved book cases that weren't original, repaired plaster and molding damage, and refurbished fixtures.

"This is all work that nobody sees so people think you're not doing anything, but that's where you're sinking the bulk of what you're doing," she said.

As part of her restoration goals, Diana is hoping there may be people in the area who have old photos of the house. She has had a particularly hard time -- she's search the library, county history office and Holland Land Office Museum -- finding pictures of the house when there was a wrought-iron fence in the front yard. She wants to restore it.

One of the "most exquisite" features of the interior, DIana said, is the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese tile flooring in nearly every room. The tiles are pressurized, not baked, and have a matte rather than glossy finish. Each room is accented with a different tile color.

"Over the years people really ruined it," she said. "They didn’t take care of it."

One former owner drilled holes through the tile in the foyer, she said.

Kasten hired an expert from Buffalo to clean it and lightly sand it to bring back the original look. She also has replacement tiles Rowell left in the basement.

"We've got three rooms done," Diana said. "It's terribly expensive, but the tile is really lovely."

Meanwhile, Hiram is working on getting work in New York City. If not for Superstorm Sandy, Hiram would have been in the city signing contracts with a new agent and new manager.

Hiram said he owes it to Diana to make a go of it on the East Coast. She's meant so much to his life and career.

Diana said she has a lot of confidence in her husband.

"You don’t make a living in this business and last and preserve in this business for 40 years unless you’re talented," Diana said. "He’s extremely talented. It's amazing how he can stand on stage make people laugh by just saying what comes into this head."

Black and white film photo of the Rowell Mansion by Howard Owens, October 2011.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Batavia doctor speaks on celiac disease and gluten intolerance

post by Billie Owens in announcements, batavia, Jeffrey Goldstein, UMMC

Gastroenterologist, Jeffrey Goldstein, MD, will discuss and answer questions related to celiac disease and gluten intolerance at a free community health talk sponsored by United Memorial Medical Center from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 27.

This event will be held in the Healthy Living Classroom in Cary Hall, 211 E. Main St., Batavia.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the gluten protein, commonly found in wheat products. As many as two million Americans, or one in 133 people, are estimated to be affected by the illness.

Dr. Goldstein has been a member of the United Memorial medical staff for nearly two years. He is board certified in gastroenterology and opened a private practice in Batavia on Nov. 12, which is located at 229 Summit St., suite 8.

To reserve a seat for this community health talk, please call Healthy Living at 344-5331.

Event Date and Time

November 27, 2012 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Friday, November 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Grand Jury Report: Convicted sex offender accused of not registering change of Internet access

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Darien, Grand Jury, Le Roy, pembroke

The Grand Jury of Genesee County has issued the following indictments:

Kevin C. Johnson is indicted on a count of failure to register change of Internet access. Johnson, a convicted sex offender, is accused of not notifying authorities within 10 calendar days of a change in Internet access accounts.

James D. Ferguson is indicated on counts of DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and aggravated unlicensed operation. Ferguson is accused of driving drunk May 28 in Pembroke while having a revoked license due to a prior conviction in Buffalo in 2011 of driving while ability impaired.

Xzavier A. Davis is indicted on felony counts of DWI, driving with a BAC of .18 or greater and aggravated unlicensed operation. Davis is accused of driving drunk May 13 in the Town of Darien. Davis has a prior DWI conviction in the Town of Cambria in 2012.

Shawn A. Johnson Jr., is indicted on four counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument, 1st. Johnson is accused of possessing forged $20 bills in the Town of Darien.

Robert L. Hizer is indicted on counts of felony DWI, aggravated felony DWI and robbery, 3rd. Hizer is accused of driving drunk June 23 in the Town of Le Roy while children under age 15 were in the vehicle. He is accused of, on that same date, stealing $138 and a pack of cigarettes from the Wilson Farms store at 13 Lake St., Le Roy.

Laszlo Szabo is indicted on counts of felony DWI and driving with a BAC of .18 or greater. Szabo is accused of driving drunk Sept. 23 in the Town of Le Roy. Szabo has a prior DWI conviction from 2005 in the Town of Greece.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm

City PD hires new animal control and parking enforcement officer

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD

Drivers who illegally park in handicapped spaces, be warned: James Sheflin is on the job.

Sheflin started three weeks ago with Batavia PD as the city's new parking enforcement and dog control officer.

The part-time position was vacant for a few months before Sheflin's hire.

The 22-year-old Sheflin is from Le Roy, the son of a former Le Roy Fire Department chief, and is a part-time dispatcher for the Sheriff's Office.

Chief Shawn Heubusch said among the things he likes about Sheflin is that he will take on the job enthusiastically, but not over zealously.

Parking enforcement downtown is important, Heubusch said, but parking 30 minutes in a 15-minute zone is not the same as parking in a handicapped spot.

And Sheflin said that illegal parking in handicapped spots is one of his personal pet peeves.

"To me I think it’s just complete laziness when somebody who is not handicapped parks in one," Sheflin said. "That’s not acceptable to me. Those spots are there for a reason and you need a permit for a reason."

The job is a uniformed, civilian position in the department. Parking enforcement officers are responsible for patrolling the entire city limits and enforcing all parking regulations.

Part of the dog control officer's job is to ensure dogs in the city are licensed and to protect animals from inhumane treatment. The dog control officer enforces state, county and city ordinances.

Sheflin said he's a dog lover and isn't concerned about dealing with vicious dogs and wants to protect animals against mistreatment.

His ultimate goal is to become a police officer, ideally in the City of Batavia.

"It's good to get my foot in the door and prove to Chief Heubusch I can be a good employee," Sheflin said. "I figured if I come here, do a good job, it looks good on the resume, at least.”

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 8:24 am

City's season yard waste collection continues until Dec. 8

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

Press release:

The seasonal Yard Waste Station hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.  The Yard Waste Station will be closed for Thanksgiving on Thursday, Nov. 22. The seasonal hours will resume on Friday, Nov. 23. The station will remain open through Dec. 8, weather permitting.

Residents are encouraged to bring yard waste debris to the Yard Waste Station.

Curbside leaf pickup will continue as weather permits or through Wednesday, Nov. 21.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 8:20 am

Don Carroll wins MVP Health Care 'Game Changer' award

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Don Carroll

Press release:

As part of MVP Health Care’s fall brand campaign, MVP asked the community “Who Inspires You?” and received more than 150 nominations and 40,000 votes in its quest to find the Ultimate Game Changer.

The contest — which was looking for people who make a significant difference in their communities by making them better, healthier places to live — concluded with an event on Saturday, Nov. 10, honoring the top 10 finalists and naming the Ultimate Game Changer.

Donald Carroll, of Batavia, NY, is the grand prize winner in the Ultimate Game Changer contest. Don, who is battling inoperable cancer of the stomach and esophagus, was not able to travel to Clifton Park for the event, but was there in spirit.

Don, who was orphaned at the age of 5, said that the kindness of family, friends and strangers deeply moved him as a child and young adult. It motivated him to “pay it forward” by sending local kids to summer camp, raising money to buy underprivileged kids toys and clothing at Christmas and funding college scholarships at Genesee Community College.

“I strongly believe all of us become who we are because of life experiences and the way we react to those experiences,” Don said in a statement read by a friend at the event. “We can pick up the ball and run with it, or we can fumble our way through life. I chose to run.”

Don and his former sixth-grade teacher, Jerry Foster, who nominated him, have each won $1,000. Jerry plans to donate his prize money to the cancer support fund established to help Don with his medical and other financial obligations.

“I nominated Don because I’ve had the opportunity to see him grow from a quiet, shy sixth-grader to a humble, compassionate man,” said Jerry, who taught Don at Oakfield-Alabama Central School in Oakfield, NY. “I know of no one who believes more in ‘paying it forward’ than Don. I have always believed in Santa. His nickname is Don.”

“All of the game changer finalists are examples of the kinds of everyday heroes MVP wanted to celebrate,” said Denise Gonick, MVP’s president of Operations. “Don’s story, especially, is wonderfully inspiring. Despite all the hardship in his life and, now, his illness, Don has never stopped giving back and paying it forward. It’s a reminder that wherever you are, whoever you are, you can make a difference.”

The Ultimate Game Changer Contest invited kids age 13 and older and adults in New York and Vermont to nominate someone they felt is making a significant contribution to their local community.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 7:54 am

Law and Order: Man accused of breaking the bones of another man's face

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

Timothy E. R. Backes, 31, of Summit Street, Batavia, is charged with assault, 3rd. Backes is accused of hitting another man in the face, fracturing facial bones. The incident was originally reported at 2:30 a.m., Oct. 21, to Batavia PD. Investigation revealed the alleged incident occurred at an address on West Main Street Road, Town of Batavia.

Emily R. Diamond, 34, of Lyndonville, is charged with petit larceny. Diamond is accused of stealing from Kmart. The alleged incident was reported to State Police at 4:05 p.m., Wednesday. Diamond was held in jail, no bail amount, if any, released. No further details released.

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