By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
When you’re a 5-foot-10-inch girl growing up in a small town, you play sports.
And when you play sports, you get aches and pains.
And when you get aches and pains, you go see a chiropractor.
“I went to a chiropractor in high school and was always very intrigued,“ said Tupper, 27, a native of Russell, a valley town near Canton and Potsdam in the northern Adirondacks, population 1,856.
Tupper was one of 36 people in her Edwards-Knox Central School graduating class in 2005 before she came to the University at Buffalo. She moved downtown when she transferred into the D’Youville College chiropractic program.
Since then, both her sisters, and her parents, have followed her from Russell to Western New York – and became droplets among a trickle of new Western New York residents that have begun to level off the region’s decades-long drop in U.S. Census numbers.
“We’re a Buffalo family now,” Tupper said earlier this week, a few minutes before she gave her mom, Jennifer, an adjustment in the Novelli Wellness Center. Tupper started to rent space in the chiropractic office a few weeks ago, after graduating from D’Youville with a doctor of chiropractic last year, then spending several recent months in India.
What might Western New Yorkers find interesting – maybe even deplorable – about Russell?
“Growing up where I did, with hockey, everybody always rooted for Ottawa,” Tupper said. “I was always on the fence for that. Strangely, everybody was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Nothing ever stuck with me. When I came to Buffalo, I was like, ‘I love the Sabres, I love the Bills.’”
Sister Kelsey, 24, was the first fellow Tupper to join “Liz” in Western New York, about six years ago. She graduates Saturday from UB with a master’s degree in education and hopes to land a job in the region.
Sister Ashley moved to WNY to learn how to become a pastry chef. She was part of the first graduating class of the Niagara County Community College Culinary Institute, and did much of her training during a part-time gig at Fairy Cakes in Buffalo; she now works at the Hyatt hotel in Cologne, Germany.
“She is serving every celebrity you can imagine,” Liz Tupper said. “She literally texts us every day” about A list celebrities we can’t mention here because Ashley must abide by confidentiality work rules.
“She is 20 years old, living her dream,” her oldest sister said. “She wants to work in Europe over five years and then move back. She can’t be away from us. We’re a close family.”
About a year ago, Tupper’s parents – Eric, a former worker at the shuttered GM Massena plant, and Jennifer – moved from their ¾-acre swath in Russell to a house in the Elmwood Village. Eric works at GM Powertrain in Tonawanda; Jennifer as a property manager for Kibler Senior Housing, also in Tonawanda. Their oldest daughter held the same property management job while in chiropractic school.
Mom and dad have had their moments when it comes to city life, and had to laugh when one of their city neighbors exclaimed that they must have needed a “sitting lawn mower” to cut the grass back in Russell.
“We had acres upon acres of trees and yard and woods and river,” said Jennifer Tupper,a native of the Russell area. “Now we live on Bird Avenue. We have a neighbor eight feet on one side of us and a neighbor eight feet on the other side of us.”
Tupper’s parents are having trouble selling their home in Russell. “It’s a beautiful place up there,” her mother said, “but there’s no work.”
When they can afford it, the parents plan to move into the Western New York suburbs, though they don’t relish the idea of the traffic they’ll face when they want to visit their city-dwelling daughters.
“I don’t know where we’ll end up,” Jennifer Tupper said. “We want someplace where there’s a yard. We’re used to spending Friday and Saturday night out at the fire pit.”
Family life for Tuppers in Buffalo revolves around food.
“Being that I grew up in an area that was so rural,” Liz Tupper said, “we did not have restaurants, so we’re not used to going out. Literally, you want pizza, you have to make sauce, pizza dough and hope you have cheese. You make it yourself. There’s no pizza places. We still don’t go out much.
“We like to cook. We cook together. We love barbecuing and can’t wait for the warm weather.”
As is the case for many Buffalo natives and transplants alike, the Tuppers are big Wegmans fans. When friends and extended family from the North Country come for a visit, one of the first things they ask, Jennifer Tupper said, is, “Can we go there for an hour?”
The family also likes to shop at the Lexington Food Co-Op and gather at the boutiques and drinking holes on the Elmwood strip.
“We had a debate when we all got here on who makes the best pizza,” Liz Tupper said. “Whoever said they wanted a pizza night, if we didn’t cook, they brought the pizza, and we all liked different places. It’s been decided if we meet at my parents’ house, which we usually do, it’s Just Pizza. I was a Zetti’s fan but Zetti’s isn’t downtown anymore.”
One of the things mom relishes about Buffalo is the way her chiropractor daughter helped improve the range of movement in her right arm with help from the “Graston technique.”
Jennifer Tupper insisted that should couldn’t raise her right arm because of the pain in her shoulder.
Liz Tupper suspected otherwise, and used a Graston tool – which looks like a large, handleless butter knife – to knead out “muscle knots” on her mother's neck and near her right elbow, a condition she suspect arose from a repetitive motion problem because her mother spends lots of time seated, typing on a computer keyboard.
“The body is all connected,” the new chiropractor said, to which her mother, who now can raise her arm above well above her shoulder responded, with a smile, “For the first time, she got to tell me, ‘Shut up.’”
“I used this in India on almost every patient,” Liz Tupper said of her patients in New Delhi, some of whom traveled several hours – each way – to get a rare chiropractic treatment in the world’s most populous country.
After many recent weeks in India, Liz Tupper is glad to be “home.” And her mother is glad to be with her.
“The biggest thing for us,” said mom, “is that we’re such a tight family. That’s the best thing about being here, because we’re all together.”