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Wake for Judge Dillon offers warm memories to veteran reporter

BY TONY FARINA

As I was moving slowly through the very long line at the wake for Kevin Dillon on Sunday at the Cannan Funeral Home, a gentleman who at one point was across from me held out his hand as if holding a microphone, and smiled at me as if to say maybe it was time to describe the event that marked the passing of the former district attorney and judge.

The gentleman was federal Judge William Skretny, one of the many of the who’s who in local government, politics, and the judiciary who were on hand to pay respects to Kevin Dillon, many of them, like Kevin, who I had covered during my many years as an investigative reporter marked by my tight grip on my microphone.

It was like a walk back in time for me, an occasion where I was suddenly in the midst of many of the people who I had spent most of my life covering as a reporter with the late Courier-Express and local television Ch.’s 2 and 7.

I could never mention all of them who were there Sunday to mark the passing of a beloved local figure, but it was certainly a special moment for me in many ways as I looked at the familiar—and older—faces that I sort of grew up with as a young reporter.

Let me name a few of the old crowd who were there to pay their respects to Judge Dillon. Let me start with the tallest, former Buffalo Mayor Tony Masiello and his longtime good friend, prominent defense attorney Terry Connors. Other faces that jumped out in the long line were Len Lenihan, now the Erie County Democratic election commissioner and former party chairman, and another former Democratic chairman, Jim Sorrentino. And there was Eugene Pigott who I had covered when he was Erie County attorney back in the 1980s and who is now a state Court of Appeals judge. In line with Judge Pigott was Court of Claims Judge Russell Buscaglia, an old friend from way back who traveled with Kevin Dillon and I along with three others back in the 1980s on a memorable golf trip to Florida (Kevin was my partner).

Others that come to mind of my era who were there Sunday were County Judge Sheila DiTullio, City Court Judge James McLeod, Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo, Buffalo News political reporter Bob McCarthy, and new Federal Court Judge Larry Vilardo who I covered when he was a young and up and coming attorney with Terry Connors. Of course, the always affable and long serving State Supreme Court Justice Penny Wolfgang was there and many, many more too numerous to mention and I’m sorry I can’t recall everyone who was there on that snowy Sunday in Orchard Park.

I’ve now reached the age where in many circles—probably most—I fit into the elderly category, but on Sunday I was taken back to my youth chasing around the streets of Buffalo looking for a story and seeing many of the people who I had the pleasure of getting to know during those years and who are still around, like me, hoping to stick around a while longer but pausing, as on Sunday, to remember one of us who has passed on. Tragically, many of us in that senior category spend the first part of most days checking the obits in the Buffalo News to see who has taken the last step.

Fortunately, at least for me, I’m still here and still writing a bit for several weekly newspapers, an opportunity to continue doing what I’ve done just about my whole life and hoping to do it a little while longer.

I just couldn’t let Sunday’s solemn occasion go by without recognizing the good side of it, the chance to see all those familiar faces again in the same place, and to exchange greetings even if my hand still hurts from the vice-like handshake I got from former Erie County DA Ed Cosgrove who still looks in great shape even though he’s older than me.

So that’s it, a trip down memory lane for an old reporter who still enjoys trying to keep people informed, something I hope to be doing right to the end. I think it was the late defense attorney John Condon who said he hoped to be practicing right until the end, and I feel the same way about being a reporter. Meanwhile, my respects to the entire Dillon family and I hope that charming and talented legal figure from the old days is able to rest in peace at last after his long and courageous struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He will be missed.

This article originally appeared in The Niagara Falls Reporter.

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