By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette — Sometimes I wonder why I still do this job.
And then, a day comes along like Friday.
Earlier in the week, I fielded a call from a guy named Jim Fadel. He politely asked if the paper would be interested in covering an event he was holding. It was, he explained, a combined effort of the LaSalle High School classes of 1941 to 1945. They were holding the tribute luncheon they’ve held every year for 19 years now in honor of their veteran classmates who died while serving in either World War II or the Korean War.
Obviously, I couldn’t refuse.
As one of the younger reporters in the office said it was an opportunity at a “Greatest Generation” moment, referring to the term coined by former television news anchor Tom Brokaw in describing the generation of Americans who grew up during the Great Depression and helped keep things together both home and abroad during World War II.
Indeed it was.
I, like Brokaw, hold that generation in particularly high esteem. It was my grandmother’s generation after all and she was one of the greatest people I’ve ever known. Not a day goes by when I don’t wish more of us were more like her these days.
Fadel and his classmates from the early 1940s share a lot in common with my grandmother — pride in country, understanding of sacrifice, appreciation for those who have gone before and recognition of the true blessings in life.
They wanted a story and they got one (I hope it lived up to their expectations).
If they call again next year and I still have anything to say about it, the Gazette will be there again.
It’s the least we can do for them as far as I’m concerned.
On the opposite side of the reporting spectrum, a few hours later Friday I found myself standing face to face with Wayne Newton.
“Mr. Las Vegas” himself gave me a few minutes of his time, answering a couple of questions about what he thought about Niagara Falls these days.
After the interview was over, he shook my hand and wished me well.
I’m not like one of the fans I interviewed Friday — self-proclaimed “Wayniac” Sandi Kaugas — but it was kind of cool nonetheless.
Everyone knows “Danke Schoen” and personally I give Newton high marks for his work in the comedy classic “Vegas Vacation.” Besides, he’s one of those larger-than-life characters.
His bit on Old Falls Street was a bit corny to say the least, but I’m certain nothing like it would have happened downtown in the darker days before they built the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel and razed the Wintergarden. When I got here in the late 1990s, the old convention center was playing host to card shows and monster truck-a-thons.
It may be a far cry from hosting Elvis at the old Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center, but there’s some semblance of progress in there it seems.
Beyond Newton was the feeling on the strip itself.
As I walked back to the newspaper’s office, I couldn’t help but notice the people inside TGI Fridays having a good time. A little further up I saw a collection of what looked like college kids hanging out in Starbucks.
The Christmas lights on the trees and the glow from the casino across the way made me feel like I’ve always wanted to feel more often in downtown Niagara Falls — like there’s some life, and hope.
From veterans to veteran performers to a cheerful feel downtown.
Not a bad day on the job in Niagara Falls.
Not bad at all really.Contact City Editor Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.