A few weeks ago, I received a surprise note from Lynne Leinenbach, a former area resident and continued Moseyin' reader, now living near Rochester. As I read through Lynne's comments, the memory of meeting her and her amazing family came flooding back.
In 1992, I had the great privilege of interviewing Lynne and her husband, Gaylord. With them, looking like a little princess, was their beautiful dark-haired daughter, Melissa, whom they had adopted from Romania. The inspiring story of how the determined couple had brought this lovely little 2 1/2-year-old child back home from half a world away was, and continues to be, one of the most memorable stories I've had the opportunity to share.
Lynne wrote to let me know Melissa, now 25, was graduating from Houghton College.
What an unexpected thrill it was to learn "the rest of the story" about Melissa.
Thanks to Lynne's note, I found myself going back through some of the pieces I've written over the years and reminiscing about the parade of fascinating folks I've met during my career as a wordsmith.
One person who stood out was that larger-than-life, long-time Findley Lake fire chief, George "Bus" Bradley.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Bus was a key player in the Findley Lake Volunteer Fire Department as well in the life of the village. In addition to his post with the fire department, Bus served many years as the Town of Mina Highway Superintendent.
At the time of his death, Bus had been the head of the fire department for over 40 years, longer than any other chief in New York State.
Two other Findley Lake treasures I wrote about were Les Hurlbut and Harry Dunlap.
Les served as a rural mail carrier for many years before retiring. A small, wiry man, he was proud of his American Indian heritage and had an extensive and impressive collection of Indian artifacts.
The piece I wrote about Harry Dunlap focused on the "big anchor," which now has a place of honor at the north end of the lake. The impressive hook originally hung in front of the Dunlap's North Road home. Harry, an old navy man, joked about carrying the anchor cross country from Lake Erie till he found an inland spot where no one knew what the anchor was for. He decided he was finally far enough from the sea to settle down.
Over the years, I've written about area residents of all ages, from then 6-year-old Philip Greenwald, dressed as a "Munchkin" for his role in "The Wizard of Oz," to Katie Bradley, who in her mid-80s was still pumping gas at the family's filling station on Main St.
Then there was Findley Lake Postmistress Wilda Resinger, who was so much more to those who came and went at the little post office. And Mary Cooper, the tireless Girl Scout leader responsible for the huge rummage sales that became annual fundraisers.
Not all my subjects were from the Village of Findley Lake. I also had the good fortune to tell the story of John Luensman of Mayville who had long served as Chautauqua County Planner. John stepped out of his county job to tell me about his private passion, raising and hybridizing lilies.
And it was a thrill to write about Jerry Hewes, a Mayville farmer who traveled back in time to serve as the captain of the magnificent Sea Lion, the 16th century merchant ship that proudly sailed the waters of Chautauqua Lake for a few brief years.
As I look back at all the interviews, all the feature stories, all the amazing and gifted folks I've met, I'm so grateful to Lynne Leinenbach for starting me on this journey of nostalgia.
And I'm especially thankful to discover the path that precious little girl, Melissa Leinenbach, has taken from a difficult Romanian childhood to a happy and fulfilling future as a graduate of Houghton College.