Category Archives: Family

Honoring Don Sylor

Sue Sylor infront of one of her favorite works of art. The framed photos are not for sale. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

By Jasmine Willis

DANSVILLE — It was a bittersweet tribute as the community gathered to honor the work of a former photographer and friend.

Don Sylor was a professional photographer who passed away on May 29, 2013. He spent over four decades doing what he loved most. In 1972, Sylor opened his own photography studio on Main Street. It was in the only vacant storefront at the time (now Dogwood Floral Company). It was there his vision came to life as he matted his own photos, and a few years later did custom framework.

Sue Sylor, Don’s wife approached Dansville ArtWorks about donating some of her late husband’s work to the art center.  It was decided that the work could go in the newly opened solo exhibit. Don Sylor Retrospective: Images of the Coast is a deep look into his work in Cape Cod. The solo exhibit runs from June 7 until Aug. 31. All matted, limited signed prints are $99 and all prints, limited edition are $60. All of the proceeds go to benefit Dansville ArtWorks.

There was a great turnout for the grand opening of the Don Sylor Retrospective on June 7. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

“I really appreciate doing this exhibit here,” Sue Sylor said. “He would love having his art in the Dansville ArtWorks. He grew up here, went to school here, and we raised both our kids here.”

Sylor said he did a lot of portraits, weddings, senior photos, passports, Foster Wheeler images, Instructor Publication, Retsof Salt Mines images,, and much more.

“I am glad to have his work be seen again,” she said. “The photos needed a better home than being stored in a box. I am glad they are in the gallery.”

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Another favorite is the blue canoe that caught Don’s eye as they walked on the shore. PHOTOS BY DON SYLOR

John Adamski has been a professional wildlife photographer for over four decades as well. He had a chance to know Sylor for a short amount of time.

“I had a chance to meet Don when I went to get some custom framing done. Don shared some of his work with me before and showed me a lot of it in the back room,” he said. “Whenever I needed some large prints matted or custom frames done, I would go to Don. He had a great style.”

There are many photos of boats, lighthouses, oceans, beaches, and landscapes available for purchase at the gallery. PHOTO BY DON SYLOR

Nicole Alioto, Dansville ArtWorks board president said it is fantastic to have Don Sylor’s work on display at the art center.

“It is fantastic to be able to have the fresh new space, and an honor to have Don Sylor’s work on display this summer. We are able to have the solo exhibits where we had our first gallery when we started,” she said. “Bernard Dick is our next solo artist that we will have in that space from September to November. We have a Holiday Craft Bazaar in November. It will become Santa Claus’ workshop for Winter in the Village.”

Sue Sylor mentioned how Cape Cod was a bit of a sanctuary for them. It had been their honeymoon, and a place they returned to several times throughout their lives. Don Sylor would be published in the Cape Cod Life Magazine many times. All of the work he did there was Freelance Photography. Most of the time it was whatever caught his eye. Don had a gift and he used it to enhance the way people saw the world around them. Several of his lighthouse photos were sold at galleries in Cape Cod.

A beautiful photo of a silent boat alone in the ocean. PHOTO BY DON SYLOR

The Sylor Family went back to the shores of Cape Cod in 2014, 2015, and 2016 to take in the memories of a life well lived. They plan to go back again in the near future.

For more information on upcoming events at Dansville ArtWorks visit http://www.dansvilleartworks.comFor more information on Bernard Dick visit

Old Fort Niagara: History of America

You are now entering Old Fort Niagara. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

By Jasmine Willis

YOUNGSTOWN — Along the banks of the Niagara River rests an important part of our American history that has withstood more than three centuries.

After two previous posts had failed to make it through the harsh brutality of war the French established Fort Niagara in 1726. It has forever been known as “The French Castle” for its impressive architecture.

The British gained control over the famous fort after a 19-day siege during the French and Indian War in 1759.

Afterwards, during the American Revolutionary War, the British were forced to give the fort to the United States in a treaty signed in 1796.

However, the British managed to capture the fort once again in 1813 during the War of 1812. Once again, the United States were able to get control of the fort in 1815 at the end of the war.

After this last conflict it became a place to train soldiers from the Civil War to Korean War. Today, the U.S. Coast Guard represents the only military still present on the site.

Old Fort Niagara was restored between 1926 and 1934. It is operated today by the Old Fort Niagara Association, Inc., a not-for-profit organization, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Admission fees, Museum Shop sales, grants, and donations provide support for the operation of the site. Membership in the Old Fort Niagara Association is open to all.

Our tour guide Toby is explaining to us about the importance of the different cannons used in battle. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

When you think of all the battles and conflicts that took place on the grounds of this fort it makes you appreciate military history even more.


The last time I was at Old Fort Niagara it was back in the late 1980s, and there was not much to be seen. It was not nearly as advanced as it is nowadays. It was a breathtaking sight to be there more than 30 years later to see what the association has done with this historic gem now.


My mother, Lisa Yvette and I went back and saw a museum and gift shop had been established in a magnificent building across the parking lot from the Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse.

The Historic Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse. It is a beacon in the storm. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Within the museum we were able to see the story of the fort unfold with photos, uniforms, documents, and items dug up from the ground by archeologists. Also, there was the original Old Fort Niagara Flag that had been taken by the British long ago. It had been hidden away in Scotland since the early 1990s. Now it is finally back where it belongs at Old Fort Niagara.

The Original Old Fort Niagara Flag had been captured by the British. It was later taken to Scotland. We got it back in the early 1990s. It was restored and now sits behind glass in the museum. It is 25 feet tall, and has 15 stripes and 15 stars. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

They also show you a 15-minute video talking about the rich history of the fort, and the importance of what you are about to witness as you walk around the grounds.

Once we were out and about to take in the sights of the gorgeous fort and all the history that she had to offer our guide (Toby) gave us a quick story about her.

It was at that moment we realized that a lot had changed in 30 years. This was not going to be the same experience we had three decades ago. We saw that the towers, powder room, and the castle itself had been furnished with items that took us back in time.

The French Castle is the oldest building still standing at the fort. It has withstood every battle for 300 years. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

As I walked through the castle, I saw a chapel, officers’ headquarters, military kitchen, trading post, and so much more. We were able to see the castle come to life. We could hear the echoes of times long ago. We could feel the souls of those who had come and gone from within those walls.

The Jesuit Chapel is across the hall from the trade post. It was a lovely sight. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

On a decent day you can clearly see Fort George across the river and the shores of Canada in the distance. This beautiful view can best be seen on the third floor of the towers and where the cannons rest.

Across the way is Fort George. This a view from the cannons. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

We noticed a couple reenactors were giving demonstrations outside on the grounds. One had the British uniform and the other was wearing the French uniform.

This is our renactor who spent most of his life doing this kind of work. Photos by Jasmine Willis.

The French reenactor said he had been doing this his whole life, and for the last eight years he had taken it on as a profession. His sister mended the uniforms and his parents got the family tradition started long ago.

He was very passionate about what it means to bring history alive, and about what it means to wear the uniforms and be the part of a soldier. He talked about the epic battles they would get to reenact with hundreds of them out on the grounds right after Fourth of July.

A view from the third floor of the towers. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

The last thing we did before we ended our adventure at Old Fort Niagara was pay our respects at the cemetery. This is the final resting place for those who fought and died for our freedom from the American Revolutionary War to WWII. The thing that touched my heart the most was the decorated tomb of the unknown soldiers who rest there.

Here is a decorated tomb for the unknown officers and enlisted men who lost their lives in battle here. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

There is passion and heart that still rests on the shores of the Niagara River. If you wish to take part in the rich history take time to visit Old Fort Niagara. For more information including hours, ticket prices, and events go to


Sgt. Devin Snyder: A Legacy to Remember


By Jasmine Willis
WAYLAND — The sound of bagpipes offered a bittersweet reminder of a brave young woman who laid down her life for country and freedom.

The Seventh Annual Sgt. Devin Snyder Ride to Remember was held at the Wayland American Legion on June 1. The Sgt. Devin A. Snyder Memorial Foundation donated $17,500 total to three different causes. First, the Livingston County Mounted Patrol Unit received $5,000 going towards a new training arena being built in Mount Morris. Second, the K.I.A. Memorial Roadmarch received $2,500 to help with their veterans’ outreach. Third, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department received $10,000 to help with K-9 Unit.

Mounted Patrol Commander John Morgan and Livingston County Sheriff Thomas Dougherty at the Sgt. Devin Snyder Ride to Remember. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Sgt. Snyder was killed-in-action on June 4, 2011 in Afghanistan. Ever since that tragic day her family and friends have worked hard to keep her memory alive. This ride honors her legacy in every way.

Dineen Snyder, Devin’s mother, said it is always a bittersweet day for the family.

“This event always helps us. We want to get her name out there as many times as possible. She was important to us and was the sweetest person. My son, Damien surprised us today by being here,” she said. “He and his wife, Angel came all the way from Washington.”

Damien Snyder, Military Intelligence officer is stationed in Washington with his wife, Angel, Military Police officer, and two sons, Devin and Teaghan. He was closest to his big sister, Devin and followed her into the military.

“We met a couple months in Colorado after Devin was killed-in-action. We decided to get together after being stationed in Georgia. I know all about Devin’s story, and how much she means to Damien,” Angel Snyder said. “I feel like Devin has always been a part of my life. Whenever Baby Devin is sad, we will put him next to a photo of his Aunt Devin, and he will start smiling.”

Damien Snyder said his parents Ed and Dineen Snyder have warmed up to the idea of having a grandson named after their daughter.

“Growing up I was very close to Devin. I knew when I had a child, I wanted to name them after my sister. It was my wife’s idea to name our first child after Devin. We didn’t know if we were going to have anymore,” he said. “It is great to be here today for this. I am glad I was able to make it back home.”

WWII US Navy Cpt. Charles Bernard McAllister joins the Faces of the Fallen. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

There are three new Faces of the Fallen this year; WWII US Navy Cpt. Charles Bernard McAllister of Hornell, Vietnam War Sp4 Russell C. Mann of Cohocton, and Civil War Pvt. Edwin “Edmund” Ackley of Springwater.

“It is a wonderful event that we love doing every year. It brings out all the community support. There is always a lot of work that goes into it. The Wayland-Cohocton school helps out a lot. The softball, soccer, and track teams help out every year. We always have a lot of teachers and staff help out,” Post Commander Kevin Mark said. “We have three new Faces of the Fallen this year. We are working on getting a lot more. These ones had family come out just for this. The Mann and McAllister families were here. This is for people in the local areas that have died in combat. We find their stories, photos, awards and medals for the Faces of the Fallen.”

Livingston County Sheriff Thomas Dougherty said he was honored to be part of the memorial event today to honor a fallen hero.

“They invited us down here to be part of this event. We are honored to be here. When we are done here, we will be loading the horses up and taking them back to Geneseo. We are going to be in the Nunda Parade as well,” he said. “They told us they would donate money to the Mounted Patrol, so we wanted to bring the horses down to show them.”

John Morgan, Mounted Patrol Unit Commander said these donations go to help with things they wouldn’t normally be able to get.

“We are working on getting a new arena built in Mount Morris. The county bought a new plot for K-9 training, range, and horse training,” he said. “We hope to get started on that new arena in the summer. There will be a section used for horse training, where we do a lot of sensory training with them. We own our own horses and keep them at our farms. We have been using Hemlock Fairgrounds for training, and they have been really great to work with.”

SGM Jason Jaskula started K.I.A Memorial Roadmarch to honor a Battle Buddy named Staff Sgt. Christopher Dill who was killed-in-action on April 4, 2005 in Iraq. On Nov. 23, 2012 Jaskula held the first K.I.A. Memorial Roadmarch for his fallen friend. He walked a 22K carrying 60 pounds of Memorial Rocks. It took him three hours and 20 minutes. He raised $4,000.

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KMR gets donation from the Sgt. Devin A. Snyder Memorial Foundation. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Money raised from the Sgt. Devin A. Snyder Memorial Foundation will go to help with the KMR Gold Star Mother’s Pantry and local community veterans’ groups in need.

Steuben County Sheriff Jim Allard talked about the K-9 Unit. Specifically, he talked about K-9 Devin and K-9 Twiggy.

“This year we had some hard truths to face with K-9 Devin. We found out Devin had contracted a nerve disease in his spin, and we had to retire him. Poor Deputy (Tom) Nybeck had felt like he lost a partner. You don’t understand what it is like when you have a K-9 riding in back with you. It is a bond you can not describe. We went and saw the folks from the foundation when we knew K-9 Devin would no longer be able to continue. They immediately jumped up to get us another K-9,” he said. “They went up to Rochester with Sgt. (Shawn) Shutt and Deputy Nybeck and picked out Twiggy. Twiggy is now halfway through his certification process.”

K-9 Twiggy with Sgt. Shawn Shutt at the event. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS
Dineen Snyder offers photo to Deputy Tom Nybeck for K-9 Devin. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Allard offered some kind words about K-9 Devin and all the ways he touched the department. He loved fast food, the art of escape, and getting into shenanigans.

Crystal City Pipes and Drums out of Corning played the Bagpipes for The Seventh Annual Sgt. Devin Snyder Ride to Remember. The ride went on with great success at noon with the American Flag held high over N. Main Street.



The Snyder Family: Dineen, Ed, Damien, Baby Devin, Angel, Baby Teaghan, Natasha, Baby Korey, and Kinsley. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS


A Memorial Day Tradition

By Jasmine Willis

Once the journey started there was no telling where it would end.

That is how we have always done things when it comes to our family adventures. It is about the journey, stories, and paths we take along the way. It is about discovering a piece of something we lost in the rubble of our past.

Normally I venture out for my traditional Memorial Day adventure alone. I visit my grandfather, PFC Donald M. Willis’ graveside. I often leave him beautiful flowers and a flag to tell him how much he is loved and missed. It is how I honor a soldier who fought in WWII. He is my soldier.

This year was different. This year we had three generations on the adventure. I had my mother, Lisa Yvette and my grandmother, Verna Jean on the journey with me. We had a much more meaningful result this way.

This is where our story begins…

Cemeteries hold the remains of those we have lost and loved along the way. They are the keepers of a life well lived. They have echoes of the mourners, evidence of the caretakers, and sadly neglect of time. Often you will see ancestors’ stones crumble to dust, and the names will fade until you are the only one left to recall the story of a faceless stone.

That is why I am lucky to have brought two genealogists along for the ride as we had to visit three cemeteries. We went to Woodlawn in Wellsville, Fulmer Valley in Independence, and Until the Day Dawn in Angelica.
First, we went to Woodlawn Cemetery for my grandfather, Pfc. Donald M. Willis and my great-grandparents, Martin B. Willis and Ernestine A. Willis.
It is here I left my grandpa, who has always been the reason for my passion to keep veterans’ stories alive, a Primrose, heart marker, and American Flag marker.

I spend several moments there telling him how much he still means to me.
Afterwards, we soldiered on to the bending roads of Hallsport, past the weary old homes, and up the tired green hills of Independence, to the quiet Fulmer Valley Cemetery.

It is here that my grandmother shares the story she holds close to her heart. The story of the Adams’ and the Church’s who rest among the big green trees that offer it shelter.

Verna Jean points to a small stone with a lamb etched into it so carefully, “That’s my baby, and your uncle Jamie.” James Bruce was a day old when he died, and he has a small stone placed next to his grandparents. This is where my grandmother, Verna Jean plans to make her final resting place. She wants to be buried with her baby boy.

Ina and Raymond Church are right next to Baby James. On the other side of Baby James is my great-aunt Christine Edwards, Verna Jean’s little sister who died in 1995. Little James Bruce is surrounded by family in his little plot sheltered by trees.

On the other side of the cemetery is the Adams. Simon Burrill Adams, my great-great-great grandfather who died in 1919 had built a homestead on a hilltop that would withstand the test of time. More on that later. Along with him are his family buried next to him. Sally, wife, and children; William, Herbert, Cora, and Addie Geneva. Addie Geneva married William Henry Church and are my great- great grandparents. They are parents of my great grandfather Raymond Church.

The next cemetery would bring us to the sleepy town of Angelica were much of my family can be found.

Until the Day Dawn Cemetery holds my warriors from the Civil War Era. My mother, Lisa Yvette had to break this part down for me since at first, I was very confused.

We had several roots dig deep into the soil of this resting place that had raged against the dying of the light.

It starts with three brothers; George B. Willis, Araunah Frances Willis, and Daniel Willis who all fought in the Civil War. Araunah and Daniel fought in Virginia. George B. was part of the only Calvary Unit who held back the south from getting into Gettysburg. They all fought bravely and were brothers to my great-great grandpa Martin Grover Willis. They were all sons of Araunah Shaw Willis who is said to have fought in War of 1812 and helped provide horses for the Civil War. A proud father he must’ve been to have his boys fight the good fight and come home to share stories of victory.

Col.6th Cal. Araunah Phippen, an ancestral cousin, son of Lydia Willis Phippen.
He fought in the Civil War with such perseverance that runs fluid in our bloodline. He had three horses shot out from under him in the heat of battle, and never gave up the fight. Once he came home, he was Sheriff of Angelica.
Col. 86th Regt. Simpson Travis, brother-in-law to Araunah Phippen, fought the heated battle in the Civil War only to come home and be a judge.
Several other members of our family line rest in this cemetery and have many stories to tell of a life well lived. However, these are the ones that provide me with the inspiration I needed most.

Now before this journey can end, we must take you back to the Adams Homestead. In the lush green valley, there is an old house that has withstood the test of time. It was built in the 1800s by my great-great-great grandfather Simon Burrill Adams for his growing family. He was a simple potato farmer who lived off his land and raised his sons and daughters the way he knew how. He was a gentle man with an open heart for those who called him a neighbor and a friend.
Simon and his sweetheart, Sally raised three sons; Anson Abyram, William, Herbert, and two daughters Cora and Addie on this land.

He would make his own maple syrup and tend to the animals in the barn as the children did various chores keeping the homestead busy with life.
Upon his death in 1919 his son, Herbert and daughter-in-law, Margaret, took over the farm. It regained its busy hum of chores and farm life as life soaked in the sweet sounds around the home a father built.

My grandma, Verna Jean, loved her great uncle Herbert and told us stories as we walked around the echoes of what remains.

It was last owned by my grandma’s cousin Bill Church who passed away recently. Now the future of the Adams Homestead is going to be in the hands of The Amish. We hope they will respect the history of the family homestead, and not do too much change to its old bones.

There are in fact four family homesteads still standing, and yet none are in the family anymore. The Adams Homestead, Church Homestead, Sherwood Homestead, and Vossler Homestead are perched at the locations of family ties now owned by strangers. However, grandma told me the Church Homestead is still part of the Bill Church estate, but who knows the future of this family home.

The Church Homestead is a true gem indeed since it once belonged to William H Church and Addie Geneva Adams. My great grandparents Ina and Raymond Church were married and lived there having their first four children; Lytle, Clair, Muriel, and Lenna. Once they moved to a 50-acre farm down the road they had Hilda, Verna Jean, and Christine. This was the quiet life of a farm community in those days.

In the old days you would pass down your homestead to your son or daughter, and it would live on for several generations. Those wooden boards would hold true for children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so on. It was not just a home for those in the time, but a home for the ages. Once those children grew, they would move down the road to build homesteads of their own to create legacies that would last like their fathers.

This is how it was and how it came to be that three generations found themselves on a Memorial Day adventure through the bending and quiet roads of towns long forgotten.