James M. Sittnick
October 19, 1948 - May 29, 2021
Jim's life story will be shared during his visitation, Friday, June 4th, 6-9 PM at the funeral home, 1411 Vintage Lane (Between 390 & Long Pond Rd.). His service will be celebrated, Sunday, June 6th, 3PM at the Acorn Shelter in Durand Eastman Park. Internment will be private. In lieu of flowers donation's may be sent to National Kidney Foundation, 1344 University Ave., Suite 270, Rochester, NY 14607 in Jim's memory.
Jim was born in Buffalo, NY on October 19th, 1948. Jim was a husband, father, brother, and son. He was the youngest of 4 kids - Kay, 11 years older, Bobby, 10 years older, and John, 7 years older. His parents were Dorothy & William Sittnick. He was adventurous, outgoing, and entertaining, as well as unique, quirky, affable, and curious. He was very uninhibited in striking up a conversation with total strangers, sharing many long tales, bursting out in song, and making new friends wherever he went. While not a huge sports fan, he carried modest fandom of the Rochester Red Wings, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns, and the Niagara Purple Eagles. Jim most enjoyed camping with his family at Allegheny State Park, attending / listening to folk concerts, evaluating the quality of knives, and finding bargains.
As the youngest Sittnick kid, he enjoyed pestering his older siblings, including waking them with rolling marbles on the heater grates. In high school, Jim sold newspaper subscriptions. For selling the most subscriptions in a contest, Jim won a trip to Italy. His Bishop Fallon High school teacher, Father MacGee jokingly wrote that he hoped Jim might be shown some of the "non-tourist" sights, but that if he got lost in the catacombs to alert him fast so he wouldn't have to worry about having him next year! Jim also spent his summers driving a Mr. Softee Ice Cream Truck, after needing to convince his dad that it could be a profitable endeavor. Jim's father passed away in June of 1967, while his mother passed away in 1984.
Jim went to Niagara University and studied Tourism and Travel. During his college days he co-founded the Niagara University Coffee House with his friend Frank. He enjoyed playing with fellow musicians and sharing his love of folk music. That love of folk music never ended, continuing to be a substantial presence in his life. His favorites were Pete Seeger, as well as Peter, Paul, and Mary. He frequently traveled around the local area on his motorcycle with his guitar strapped to his back, especially to visit his sister, Kay, and brother-in-law, Dick. You never knew when he would burst out in song! In college, Jim was also able to become part of a foreign exchange student program, enabling him to study abroad in Peru. He enjoyed learning from his host family, meeting the people, seeing the local landmarks, and experiencing the culture. Traveling, meeting new people, & experiencing culture were also a constant presence in his life.
As a conscientious objector, Jim moved to Rochester, NY to work at Rochester General. His co-workers immediately knew they had to match him up with another co-worker, and Jim ended up meeting Norma, who was working as a floor secretary at the time. They chatted at the time clock before Jim realized he didn't have his keys and had to go back in - some things never change!! Their first date involved a car whose door didn't shut! - again, some things never change! However, it was meant to be, and on Memorial Day weekend of 1972, Jim proposed to Norma at his brother John's house. Jim went home to tell his mom he was acquiring a Messerschmid - not the famous World War II plane, but Norma as his wife. Jim's lucky streak then continued as he won a Ford Pinto in a supermarket grocery store contest. Jim and Norma got married August 26th, 1972 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester and had photos taken at the Rose Garden, and they honeymooned in Niagara Falls, Quebec, and Toronto. After the honeymoon, Norma returned to school to finish college and Jim went on to become a surgical technician at RGH. Around their 1 year anniversary, Jim sold the Ford Pinto and they hitchhiked for 7 weeks throughout Europe, starting in Amsterdam and continuing to Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, and back to Amsterdam before returning.
Jim and Norma then moved to Ohio where they lived in a log-cabin in Chardon. Jim started a knife-sharpening business with his brother John called J.J. Cutlery. He began with an old truck, sharpening on the spot at local butcher shops and restaurants between Cleveland, Youngstown, and Erie, PA. Jim and Norma later bought a house in Saybrook, Ohio, moving the business to a large garage & sharpening knives in-house. He eventually bought the other half of the company from his brother. Alongside the sharpening business, Jim also sold knives and helium balloons at local area flea markets, most notably Mesopotamia. He formed several friendships with other vendors, often spending as much time chatting with friends as he did selling his own items.
In 1979, Martin was born, followed by Elizabeth in 1982, and Sean in 1984. Jim and Norma still continued to enjoy traveling around the US & Canada, even across the country to the San Diego Zoo. Jim enjoyed taking his own family trips to Allegheny State Park (just like he used to as a kid), especially being a father and creating memories with his kids. Most weekends were spent at the ballfield, where he would cheer on the kids on the diamond, as well as take a big part in running the concession stands. Jim and Norma opened their family to three exchange students, welcoming Asa (Sweden), Kay (Germany), and Rudy (Indonesia). The family enjoyed learning about new cultures and new foods. To continue on a related path, Jim and Norma decided to become foster parents, and help less fortunate children. Over 14 fosters, many already siblings themselves, became part of the Sittnick family, including Joanna, sisters Heather & Fayzer, sisters Andrea, Angela, & Alicia, and sisters Tina & Tracy. Social media has amazingly enabled reconnection with many of them. Pets including fish, turtles, a bunny Peppers, cats Whiskers, Susan, Clyde, Smoke, and dogs Cinders, Punky, Arrow (his favorite), Mugsy, Sherman, Sadie, and Snowball further showed his caring nature, concluding with his love for Cody & Roscoe.
During this time in Ohio, Jim would sell the knife sharpening business and work at Stewart Lodge. Stewart Lodge was a live-in residence for 54 men with developmental disabilities. Jim started as an aide and soon became the activities director. Jim truly enjoyed this job, taking the men to bowling, zoos, museums, swimming, concerts, dinners, and sporting events, including his kid's ballgames, where they would sit along the side and cheer as if it was MLB. He enjoyed the relationships he formed with these men, as well as his co-workers. He enjoyed creating opportunities for those residents to experience new things and advocated on their behalf.
In 1996, Jim, Norma, Beth and Sean moved to Sherman, NY, while Marty stayed back in Ohio to finish high school. Sherman is a small town with no stoplights, many Amish, and even more cows. The lure of running a restaurant called the Cozy Nook brought Jim to Sherman. With an accepted bid on the restaurant, a house was purchased. However, the restaurant plan fell through, forcing Jim to find other work, but this would be the new home base for 15 years. During this time in Sherman, Jim had many different jobs. He drove for the Blue Bird Bus company. He traveled all over the US including New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Branson, MO. He enjoyed seeing the sights and exploring many areas of our country. He then drove locally from Fredonia to Niagara Falls NY, including primarily continual runs to the casino and the Fredonia "college bus" route, which he enjoyed immensely. He had fun laughing and singing with the kids during their late nights out. Jim then worked for Gray Line Tours selling tour packages for the Niagara Falls area. After leaving Gray Line, he enjoyed meeting local people while driving the Chautauqua Area Rural Transit bus, including many Amish residents. He enjoyed forming relationships with his regular riders and driving through the county. He then started driving for Nelson truck company and would deliver furniture throughout the Great Lakes Region. He enjoyed making his own schedule and seeing different parts of the tri-state area.
After leaving the company, he started his own country general store. He was very proud of Busti-Gridel market, named after the town of Busti where the shop was located and "Gridel," a combination of Grider & Delevan streets in Buffalo where he grew up. He enjoyed making pizza & wings and scooping many ice-cream cones. He enjoyed imparting wisdom, stories, ethics, & loving conversation with the local seasonal workers, but mostly interacting with the regulars who visited his store and developing those relationships. When the store closed, Jim began working as an aide at The Resource Center - another home for people with developmental disabilities.
In 2012, a fire started in the rear of the Sherman house in the early hours of the morning. Jim and Norma were asleep, and woke up to the smoke and heat. The fire was noticed by some Amish gentlemen nearby, who started the rescue that would be completed via ladder by the Stanley Hose Fire Company. They were driven by ambulance to Erie, PA, but then had to be life-flighted via helicopter to UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh. Instead of returning to Sherman, Jim and Norma moved temporarily to Jamestown, NY to get back on their feet literally and figuratively, and then back to the Rochester, NY area, especially to be near family (Norma's primarily). It was at this time that Jim retired. In October of 2012, they moved into their new home in Charlotte. He struck an immediate connection with the neighbors Diane & Kathy and enjoyed their meetings across the fence.
A month after moving into their new home, they hosted their first Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was one of Jim's favorite holidays. He enjoyed being in the kitchen, making apple pies, and making Ann's special pork dressing. While it is a smaller house, it was amazing how many people could squeeze into the living room for Thanksgiving dinner! Jim also really enjoyed being back with family, and especially cooking for Sunday dinners with his sisters-in-law and mother-in-law. These weekly dinners were a long-standing tradition with the Messerschmid family. Whether within or outside of these regular gatherings, he also especially loved trying new recipes, cooking new foods, and discussing the variety of cooking methods, something he especially bonded on with his daughter-in-law, Meghan. Potatoes were always a specialty - Pierogi were a love, Corned Beef and Cabbage was a holiday staple, and experimenting with different Tilapia dishes was a favorite, along with his regular chilis and stir frys.
Jim enjoyed traveling with Norma, from very early in the relationship. They went back a few times to Europe, and their favorite trip before their kids was a trip to the Virgin Islands. Later, their trip to Indonesia was also exceptional and notable, for Rudy's wedding in Jakarta and a trip to Bali, a gift from Rudy's parents. Jim and Norma also enjoyed taking various cruises throughout the years; from the east coast up to Nova Scotia and many routes around the Caribbean islands. Camping trips and/or trips with the VW vans were a staple in the younger Ohio days, and visiting the kids in Denver, Minneapolis, and the Ballston Spa / Saratoga area when they were older and moved away were always on the itinerary. Jim greatly enjoyed taking the train east to spend time with his granddaughters, Emma and Norah. Jim was thrilled to share Olcott Beach Carousel Park with his granddaughter Emma. They enjoyed getting pressed pennies and riding the carousel together. Emma and her Poppa enjoyed the Via & Niagara Falls aquariums, the Seneca Park Zoo, the Strong Museum, and riding rides at Sea Breeze and Darien Lake. Emma and Norah loved collecting sunflowers at Wickham Farms with their Poppa. However, his favorite thing to do was to sing to them!
Jim enjoyed his church communities. While he was raised Catholic, he later gravitated to the humanity-centered Unitarian Universalist Church. He was a member of the East Shore Unitarian Universalist congregation in Mentor, OH. When the Sittnick family moved to Sherman, NY, Jim became a member of the Erie UU church. After moving to Rochester, he then became a member at First Universalist in Rochester. Church to Jim has always meant community and he has developed some long-standing and very meaningful friendships in each of these church communities. While in different areas, one thing is the same: coffee hour! Jim loved to provide food for the congregation to eat while they chatted. Jim was often the last to leave because he greatly enjoyed listening to stories and telling his own.
Jim was a thrifter, bargain hunter, garbage picker, treasure hunter, and garage sale shopper. He loved finding deals and firmly believed in the idea that one man's trash is another man's treasure. This trait was firmly imparted onto his family - LOL! He would often try to sell his finds on eBay as a way to earn money in retirement. His passion and expertise in knives appeared again as he became the digital store owner Swiss Army Knife Guy. Swiss Army knives were a love of his, and one of the things he sold at flea markets early in his life. Sharpening, repairing and polishing was a constant hobby. I am sure many of you have an engraved pen with the info!
Jim's presence was not only felt in person but in the digital/social media worlds as well. Jim made many friends that he never had a chance to meet in real life. He loved playing Words with Friends and maintained many relationships through ongoing scrabble games. He absolutely loved genealogy, and tracked down many Sittnicks, also creating the Sittnick Family Facebook group which connected Sittnicks worldwide. This was such a monumental thrill for him, and it helped establish, re-connect, and maintain many family relationships.
Jim underwent several major procedures including open heart surgery in 2015 and a kidney transplant in 2019. Jim received Sean's kidney during a kidney donor transplant. Both of these surgeries allowed Jim to gain many years with his family and friends. While he suffered from some chronic sciatica, in the past year Jim started to have significant back pain that led to cortisone shots in January, and the eventual need for a lumbar laminectomy. After several episodes requiring ambulatory transport in March and April, Jim went into Strong Memorial Hospital at the end of April, and a lumbar laminectomy was performed on May 4th. Sadly, Jim contracted bacterial meningitis which traveled up his spine. Alongside other complications, he was never able to recover, and he passed away on Mar 29th, heading over the "rainbow bridge."
In the coming days, weeks, and years, we will continue to share stories, sing songs, and connect with many of you as we hold our memories of James close to our hearts.