Thursday, February 18, 2010

Delaney: The Valley to Bellingham, area native reaches out

We have a joke around the office that there is a Utica-area connection to nearly everything that happens in the world. I would not have been surprised if one of Tiger Woods' mistresses attended a local high school.

I should've believed in such strong coincidences by now.

Fourteen months into my O-D tenure I had shoulder surgery in Maryland. The physical therapist who walked into my room the day after the operation was from Oriskany. Small world, right.

The world got even smaller for me last week during the world's biggest sporting event. While covering luge last week in Whistler, I logged into my e-mail and found a message from Ron Buchinski, Herkimer High School class of 1970.

"My wife and I were born and raised near Utica and now live just south of Vancouver. If you need anything give us a call," Buchinski wrote.

Who says people there aren't nice people in the world?

Buchinski's wife is Patricia Nestle Buchinski, Ilion class of '71. The Buchinskis live in Bellingham, Washington about 10 minutes south of the Canadian border, 90 miles north of Seattle and 40 miles from Vancouver.

They saw a story on Whistler on the Observer-Dispatch web site and wanted me to know they were there.

"I had some friends out here years ago, and a friend of a friend had car trouble or something," Buchinski told me Wednesday evening. "I'm glad we could help."

The Buchinski's business is helping people. Ron is a the director of the Lighthouse Mission in Bellingham where Pat runs the women's program. He was the executive director of a Lincoln, Neb. rescue mission for a decade before moving to Bellingham six years ago.

"There was no reason to leave other than to make a difference out here," said Buchinski in our phone call. "It's a beautiful area."

The Buchinskis have three daughters, Melissa, 35, Michelle, 32 and Mary, 28, who live in Lincoln and Denver. They also have eight grandchildren.

The northwest is also very different from Central New York, a region Buchinski considers to be blue collar. The cost of living in the northwest is higher, and especially to buy property. But Seattle and Vancouver offer diversity and are "international places."

With high tech industries such as Microsoft and Adobe software nearby, the region is more white collar. Sort of.

"Out here nobody wears white collars," Buchinski joked. "You don't see a difference in quality of work. It's more of laid-back lifestyle. It was an adjustment for me. Nobody wears a suit and tie."

Pat Buchinski just returned from a trip to CNY a few weeks. Ron's father, Walt, and Pat's father, also Walt, both live in Herkimer.

Ron has not been back in a couple of years, but he's planning on a trip this summer for his 40th high school reunion. He's not completely cut off from New York in the northwest. He gets to Seattle a couple of times a year for Yankees games.

"I wore a Yankees hat to a game and I heard about it," he said of Seattle fans.

There is something he's missing. "Utica has the best Italian food," Buchinski said.

"I can't wait."

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