This story appeared in the December 26, 2017 edition of the Cortland Standard. To become a subscriber, email us, or call us at (607) 756-5665. Back issues available by request.
Brandon West wants to reestablish his home in his hometown. Courtney Stark wants to find balance. Martial artist David Boyer has balance, but wants to show others how to use it to stay safe.
And Bob “Bobcat” Bonagura wants to be a rock star with a folk instrument.
New year, new goals. It’s a hallmark of the last days of 2017.
For West, 2018 will be about reestablishing his life and family.
West bought The Pizza Shop on Main Street in McGraw with his wife, Melissa, both of whom are McGraw natives, and reopened it in April. It was his way to settle down in the area where he grew up.
The shop was where West got his pizza when he attended McGraw schools before graduating in 2002, back when it was named the McGraw Pizzeria and subsequently went through a number of ownership and name changes.
West and his wife lived in Rochester for eight years, operating a restaurant and having five kids before moving back to McGraw to be closer to their families.
“I don’t want to miss out on family events,” West said.
West hopes to reestablish the shop as the go-to pizza place in McGraw by having consistent hours making sure delivery is available every day.
The Wests, now renting a home in Homer, are looking to buy a house in McGraw.
Stark’s roles in life include mother, student and nurse. She’s looking to find a perfect balance.
The 28-year-old Cortland resident is a registered nurse at Cortland Regional Medical Center, a junior nursing student at SUNY Plattsburgh, and mother of a 2-year-old daughter, Addison Burke. Stark hopes to become a nurse practitioner and getting her bachelor’s degree is a stepping stone in that direction.
“I love helping and taking care of people,” Stark said.
Stark wants to perform all of those tasks well, but wants to do so in a healthy manner and set aside some time for herself.
To do so, Stark speaks with an adviser at Plattsburgh to learn time management. She is not sure how many hours a week will end up going toward her daughter, education and hospital duties, but she is determined to find that balance.
“Balance is the key,” Stark said.
Discipline off the mat, too
Boyer is a martial artist, which requires balance. But now he wants to use that to show other people how to stay safe.
Boyer runs Disorderly Conduct Management, a mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu jitsu studio in McGraw with about 24 students. He sees the studio as a way to get kids off the street, away from trouble and drugs. It is his way of giving back to the village he grew up in.
Brian Bermudez accepts a plea in October following a deadly 2016 fire in Homer. Bermudez started the fire when he was making methamphetamine.
Boyer has seen the news reports about meth and the number of drug overdoses in Cortland County.
“Every time I see an ambulance go by, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, another overdose,’” Boyer said.
Boyer plans to continue his mission by teaching his students discipline.
He says jiu jitsu teaches problem solving, as when martial artists are thrown onto the mat, they must figure their way out of the situation.
“You use it not just on the mat, but in life, too,” Boyer said.
The message through music
Bonagura may never make the mandolin he plays an object of rock-star adulation, but he can use it to teach.
The Main Street Farms farmer known as “Bobcat” educates people about the food they eat and how food can be used. And he likes to do that by writing songs.
“I get people to think where food comes from,” Bonagura said.
Bonagura plans to write more songs and post educational and cooking videos online. He may make some music videos about where food comes from.
“That can be used later on,” Bonagura said.
And he wants his folk band, the Local Farmer’s Union, for which Bonagura plays mandolin, to be a bigger name.