Monthly Archives: December 2015

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Photo of Cody Lee Miller from SCPD

Update: Police reported on the evening of Dec. 30 that Cody Lee Miller had been located and was unharmed.

A Northport man’s family has not seen him since the day before Christmas Eve and is looking for the public’s help to find him.

The Suffolk County Police Department said on Wednesday that the family last saw 24-year-old Cody Lee Miller at his house at 8 a.m. on Dec. 23 with a black, oversized backpack.

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Photo of Cody Lee Miller from SCPD

According to the family’s Facebook page “Help find Cody,” the young man left abruptly. “No argument before he left, nothing of that nature.” It’s possible he has a toiletries and a change of clothes with him, the page said, but he didn’t bring a sleeping bag or any technological items with him.

“He did not mention any part of leaving to any friends/family member,” the page said. “We have no explanations for his leaving, are unable to track him, and need your help to find him.”

The family reported him missing last week.

Miller is white, 6 feet 1 inch tall and about 145 pounds, according to the SCPD. He has dark blonde hair and hazel eyes, and was last seen in blue jeans, a black hoodie and black sneakers.

Police said the family believes he could still be on Long Island but might have gone into New York City.

Anyone with information about the young man’s whereabouts is asked to dial 911 or to call detectives from the SCPD’s 4th Squad, who are investigating the missing person case, at 631-854-8452.

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Principal Tom Meehan is all smiles with returning students on the first day of school last year. File photo

Tom Meehan is the kind of principal who would give a child the clothes off his back — literally.

When he saw an Edna Louise Spear Elementary School student was not wearing a jacket, the Port Jefferson principal took off the one he had on and gave it to the boy to wear home.

“He understands that it’s about the kids — that they’re the priority,” school board President Kathleen Brennan said, adding that Meehan goes “above the call of duty to make sure kids get what they need.”

For his dedication to Port Jefferson’s kids and the greater community, Tom Meehan is a Times Beacon Record Newspapers Person of the Year.

Meehan was hired for the 2011-12 school year, originally on an interim basis. District officials expected to hire a permanent elementary principal, but soon found the best choice was right under their noses.

Tony Butera, a longtime kindergarten teacher at Edna Louise Spear, has worked under a bunch of principals in his time there, but said Meehan has “a nice sense of what Port Jeff is supposed to be about.”

Principal Tom Meehan studies marine life with students at West Beach in Port Jefferson. File photo
Principal Tom Meehan studies marine life with students at West Beach in Port Jefferson. File photo

“He just sees it as, these are his kids,” Butera said.

Early on in Meehan’s time in Port Jefferson, there was an issue with one of the bus routes and it was running late. Brennan said the principal “got on the bus, rode the bus around the route and reassured the parents at every stop about why they were late and what happened.”

That leadership instinct is not something that can be taught, Brennan said.

“Tom has … what I call ‘horse sense’ about what school administration is about.”

One initiative Meehan started in the elementary school is a safety patrol for the fifth-graders to teach them responsibility. Among their activities, they help with dismissal, making sure younger kids get onto the school buses.

School board member Ellen Boehm, a former district employee, said it gives the kids a sense that “what they did was important.” And for the less outgoing kids, she added, “He built them up during their time as a safety leader.”

Meehan, a longtime volunteer for the Port Jefferson Fire Department, was also responsible for starting the tradition of elementary school kids singing at the fire department’s annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony. Brennan said the experience is significant for the kids who attend, and they’ve been able to see Meehan in uniform a few times.

It’s “important to see adults have other roles in the community,” she said.

Christian Neubert has worked alongside Meehan both in the school district, where he is a music teacher, and as a volunteer for the Port Jefferson Fire Department. He said the 9/11 ceremony is not the only way Meehan bridges the school and the department — he also gets firefighters involved in the school’s evacuation drills, and some high school kids now in the junior firefighter program had Meehan as a principal and look up to him at the firehouse.

Tom Meehan participates in the Royal Educational Foundation’s fun run through Port Jefferson Village, and receives an award for his contributions to the community. File photo
Tom Meehan participates in the Royal Educational Foundation’s fun run through Port Jefferson Village, and receives an award for his contributions to the community. File photo

Neubert, a lieutenant, noted Meehan is still qualified to fight fires inside buildings, despite being older than most guys who do that, since the physical requirements are high.

As a testament to his fitness, Meehan can be seen walking to school every morning, Neubert said, and students and teachers can sometimes catch a glimpse of him walking the school halls “in his suit and hiking boots.”

That’s not the only place they can see him. He’s at his students’ sports games and all around the village. During the Charles Dickens Festival earlier this month, Superintendent Ken Bossert said, he watched his students perform and then roasted marshmallows with them.

“He is just everywhere at all times,” Bossert said. “All the kids know him and love him.”

Well, almost everywhere: “Mr. Meehan is rarely in his office,” Neubert said, because he frequently drops into classrooms around the school.

Meehan has joined Neubert’s class a few times to share musical facts he knows, which the kids loved.

“In their minds, Mr. Meehan knows everything,” Neubert said.

That goes for sports too. A physical education teacher was once absent and a swimming class at the end of the day needed a qualified teacher or it would have been canceled. Meehan, a certified lifeguard, didn’t want to disappoint the kids, Bossert said, so he went home to get his swimsuit and taught the class.

Bossert said he was the “first principal that they ever saw in the water.”

According to a letter the superintendent wrote, nominating Meehan as a Person of the Year, “He was dry and back in his dress suit in time for dismissal.”

Tom Meehan, far right, poses with singers from the elementary school at the fire department’s annual 9/11 memorial ceremony in September. File photo
Tom Meehan, far right, poses with singers from the elementary school at the fire department’s annual 9/11 memorial ceremony in September. File photo

Meehan has helped kids on an individual basis as well. Bossert described a time when Meehan pulled some strings with the Long Island Rail Road on behalf of a special needs student who had “a fascination with trains,” and the child was able to conduct a train between the Port Jefferson to Stony Brook stations. He also brings gifts to kids during the holidays when he knows their families can’t afford them.

Those close to him said he knows every child’s name and if one needs extra attention, Butera said, “he’ll find ways throughout the day of stopping by” to check on that student.

But his subtle approach to offering that extra attention puts the kids at ease, Boehm said. She described it as, “Hey, I’m here, and we’ll take care of this together.”

Around the hallways, Meehan is also known for his sense of humor, cracking jokes with kids and dressing up as Mario for Halloween, making him more approachable.

“He has such a great rapport” with all the parents, the staff and the kids, and everyone in the community knows who he is, said Sean Leister, the assistant superintendent for business. Usually that kind of reverence comes with someone who’s been in his position for 20 years, Leister said, but Meehan’s attained it in five.

Even so, he doesn’t take credit for most of what he does.

“He’s not the kind of guy that likes any limelight or fanfare,” Boehm said. “He would never make a big deal about what he was doing.”

Ed Mikell shows off a clean bus stop in Commack just as his Seven Cents Club launched earlier this year. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Kevin Redding

Along Crooked Hill Road in Commack, garbage bags are piled up and filled with everything from fast-food wrappers to plastic cups and glass bottles. Tires, hubcaps, license plates and various construction materials are leaned up against a wooden post.

Only an hour or two prior, all these items were littered over the roads, sidewalks and grass. However, thanks to 73-year-old retired Commack resident Ed Mikell, the founder of the Seven Cents Club of Commack — a volunteer group of young people and retirees alike — the community can enjoy something scarcely seen when traveling through any town: cleanliness.

For all of his work cleaning up Commack, Mikell was named a 2015 Times Beacon Record Newspapers Person of the Year.

It all started when Mikell was cleaning a bus stop, where he discovered seven cents on the ground.

“My father [is] super energetic,” said Ed’s daughter and cleanup volunteer Jennifer Mikell. “He’s been retired for eight years and in his retirement he’s really done a lot to help others, whether it’s helping people balance their finances and figure out their own retirement, or helping out a local charity group that he works at a couple days a week.”

The Seven Cents Club sports its name on a spiffy garbage can in town. File photo by Alex Petroski
The Seven Cents Club sports its name on a spiffy garbage can in town. File photo by Alex Petroski

She explained that her father was frustrated that so many areas in his town had become so uncared for and unclean for so long.

“He wants to make the difference that nobody else is making.”

On Sept. 21, 2014, Mikell first took it upon himself to clean up an “unofficial” bus stop on Crooked Hill Road simply because he didn’t want people to have to stand in garbage. He went home, equipped himself with pails and some tools and went to work.

Using an abandoned shopping cart that had been turned sideways so people at the bus stop could sit down, Mikell filled up his pail four times, threw the garbage in the shopping cart, and wheeled it across the street to toss in a dumpster.

After making the bus stop pristine, Mikell reached out to the supervisor of Smithtown along with other Suffolk County representatives for some help, as he had become driven to clean up his neighborhood. A year later, Mikell has rallied together a small group of determined volunteers and has partnered with Suffolk County’s Adopt-A-Highway Program to secure cleanups on Crooked Hill Road up to its intersection with Commack Road.

The unofficial bus stop now has a white bench and a brown garbage can marked “7 Cents Club of Commack” placed alongside it.

“This is something that I thought would be a nice thing to do for the community,” Mikell said. “I’m just doing my part, [and] doing what I can as opposed to not doing something. I’m not marching and championing causes and all that stuff, but this is something I could put my hands around, and maybe make a difference. Abraham Lincoln once said ‘I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives …’ and that’s on the letterhead for the Seven Cents Club.”

The place in which Mikell lives has not ignored his efforts. Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), who was among those first contacted by Mikell, sees him as “the epitome of a good citizen.”

Ed Mikell overlooks one of his first sites as part of the Seven Cents Club. File photo by Alex Petroski
Ed Mikell overlooks one of his first sites as part of the Seven Cents Club. File photo by Alex Petroski

“He takes a bad situation and makes it better,” Kennedy said. “Instead of sitting around doing nothing in retirement, this man created something. He called the county to get the garbage picked up, he dealt with the town and he did everything that was needed. Who wants to live in ‘pigginess?’ I don’t think he had any other reason for doing it, other than to make something better. We’ll never stop people from littering, [but] truthfully, the difference between last week and the end of what was done this week is noticeable. Really noticeable.”

With volunteers from Dix Hills, Centereach and Hauppauge, there are hopes that this group will inspire more towns to have their own Ed Mikell and Seven Cents Club, but it won’t be easy.

“That’s a big undertaking,” said Ed Feinberg, a Commack resident and club volunteer. “That would require a lot of time and effort. If I’ve walked away from this with one piece of knowledge it’s that it’s not easy, working your way through the red tape of county government and getting corroboration and information, but Ed’s done it. He’s done it very well.”

Heather Buggee and a young boy paint a mural. Photo from Buggee

The way someone handles the loss of a loved one can speak volumes about their perseverance and character. Heather Buggee has used her personal loss as inspiration to brighten the lives of others.

Splashes of Hope, the nonprofit organization she established in 1996, provides murals for medical and social service facilities to create welcoming environments that facilitate healing. For her efforts to uplift her neighbors, Heather Buggee is a Times Beacon Record Newspapers Person of the Year.

Buggee said in a phone interview that the loss of her friend Will Harvey in 1989 was what drove her to start painting scenes on the ceiling tiles of Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Westchester County — where she also created her first mural. Harvey was an artist too, and the projects she took up following his death served as therapy for Buggee.

Donna Spolar and Darlene Rastelli from the Carol Baldwin Breast Care Center of Stony Brook and Splashes of Hope artist Sarah Baecher stand in front of a mural. Photo from Heather Buggee
Donna Spolar and Darlene Rastelli from the Carol Baldwin Breast Care Center of Stony Brook and Splashes of Hope artist Sarah Baecher stand in front of a mural. Photo from Heather Buggee

“While staying with her friend, she realized how sterile and uninspiring the environment was and would talk about how they would brighten up the space and let artwork become a part of the healing process,” Phil Rugile, the Splashes of Hope board president and director of LaunchPad Huntington, said.

According to Buggee, what started out as a few volunteer projects on the weekends with friends turned into a nonprofit organization with the mission of turning hospital environments from “clinical to colorful.”

“After her friend died, she dedicated herself to creating artwork for hospitals, mostly children’s and then veterans as well, working with staff to understand the therapeutic nature of art in ERs and critical care units,” Rugile said. “That dedication to the mission has resulted in her creating inspirational environments both locally and internationally. Heather has built a small and effective organization that achieves maximum results for minimal personal gain.”

Jean Brand, the program director for the Adult Day Health Care program at the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook, sent a thank you note to Buggee after the hospital received an installation in November.

Splashes of Hope staff members pose. Photo from Heather Buggee
Splashes of Hope staff members pose. Photo from Heather Buggee

“The positive reaction of our veterans and staff to the new murals is overwhelming,” the note sent to Buggee said. “The colorful and lively iconic scenes of Long Island landmarks bring the program room to life, evoking warm memories for our veterans. The fireworks mural evokes patriotic pride, and of course all the American flags skillfully placed on each mural remind us of the precious freedom our veterans fought to protect.”

Buggee said reactions like those from the patients at the Long Island State Veterans Home are what she most looks forward to.

“My favorite part of the ‘splash’ journey, besides the creative process, is hearing the results of each splash and the purpose being served by each piece,” Buggee said.

In November, Splashes of Hope received the Humanitarian Award from the Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities Inc. for “continuing to bring smiles to the faces of patients, students, staff and visitors at medical and social service facilities by creating art that transforms spaces, enriches environments and facilitates healing,” according to a press release from the ACLD.

Buggee graduated from the Connecticut Institute of Art in 1995 and then studied fresco paintings and interior design at Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy. She now lives in Huntington with her husband, Jimmy, her daughter, Sarah, and her three dogs named Roxy, Eve and Oliver. She refers to Huntington as “the greatest town in the whole wide world.”

But her efforts to bring smiles to her neighbors’ faces reach way beyond town lines.

To donate to Splashes of Hope or to get involved, visit www.splashesofhope.org.

Kevin Foley watches a basketball game from the sidelines. Photo from Kerry Swanson

Just keep shooting.

That’s what Kevin Foley used to tell the players on the Suffolk County Community College women’s basketball team. And encouraging them to never give up wasn’t just a message for between the paint — it went for when they were off the court as well. Even his retirement as the women’s basketball head coach earlier in 2015 didn’t stop Foley from continuing to support his players — he returned to SCCC as the institution’s athletic director that same year.

That is why Kevin Foley is a 2015 Times Beacon Record Newspapers Person of the Year.

Vice President of Student Affairs Christopher Adams said Foley has worked at the college nearly 37 years as a professor and member of the school’s athletic department. While Adams described Foley as dedicated and passionate, he said it’s his overall approach to life that resonates with him.

“He’s very big on success in the classroom and the athletic fields.”

Adams said Foley instilled important life lessons into all of his players: You’ll be successful if you’re a “good sport” who follows the rules.

Foley was like a father figure for some of his players in his 19 years of coaching, those close to him said. Former SCCC student and basketball player Colleen Quinn said she remembers Foley differently from other coaches she had when growing up. As a high school student, Quinn said she always felt like she wasn’t doing well on the basketball court.

“I only really had a few coaches to compare him to, and those coaches were similar [to one another],” Quinn said. “Now that I’m an adult and I can look at how [Foley] handled [coaching] and how he managed his team … you’ve got to kill yourself to prove anything to him [because] he already sees what your potential is and he’ll nurture it.”

Quinn played for Foley when she attended the college in 1997, graduating from SCCC two years later. Quinn, of Middle Island, was a senior in high school when Foley approached her after watching her play a game at the college.

Kevin Foley has his team huddle around him for a mid-game discussion. Photo from Kerry Swanson
Kevin Foley has his team huddle around him for a mid-game discussion. Photo from Kerry Swanson

She didn’t plan on playing basketball at the college level before Foley spoke to her. But Foley helped her, and many students just like her.

SCCC’s Athletics and Intramurals Coordinator Kerry Swanson met Foley 20 years ago when she was one of his players. Swanson attended the college in the early to mid-1990s.

She admitted that she was unsure of what she was doing with her life and Foley helped steer her in the right direction. According to Swanson, Foley has a knack for helping those who are lost find their way, regardless of who they are or his relationship with them.

“He tries to connect with people on some level. If he can go out of his way for someone, he just goes out of his way,” Swanson said about the current athletic director.

Adams said Foley also put the college on the map, as many SCCC sports teams have improved under his leadership. He’s also earned several awards on multiple occasions, including the NATYCAA Cup, otherwise known as the Pepsi Cup; the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup; the Mickey Crowley Metropolitan Officials Sportsmanship award; and the Joe DeBonis Sportsmanship Award. The college received this regional award 12 times in the past two decades.

He also celebrated his 400th career win earlier in 2015, along with several other awards for his work as a professor.

In honor of Foley and all his achievements on and off the court, SCCC will rename the basketball court on the school’s Ammerman Campus in Selden after him.

As a senior attending Seton Hall High School in 1965, Foley averaged 30 points per game. He also received a basketball scholarship to attend Seton Hall University, where he served as the team’s captain from 1968-69. In 1994, he was inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame.

“He is someone that could have gone anywhere to coach big-time athletics,” Adams said. “He’s been at the college for almost 37 years. That speaks to his dedication and it speaks to his love for our college and for the students.”

Josephine Lunde poses with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine during a back-to-school drive. File photo

Josephine Lunde never gives up.

More than a decade ago, Lunde started volunteering with the Town of Brookhaven’s annual Toy Drive. Her need to help Brookhaven residents landed her a full-time position at Brookhaven’s Youth Bureau two years ago, and because of her ongoing efforts to helping others, she has been named one of the 2015 Times Beacon Record Newspapers’ People of the Year.

“She was full time anyway,” said Maria Polack, a secretary to the tax assessor. “She does the work of, like, five men — for real.”

Polack met Lunde 15 years ago when Lunde started volunteering at the Town of Brookhaven. When it comes to helping others, Lunde’s work ethic is second to none. On many occasions, Lunde stayed up all hours of the night into the early morning to work on her many fundraising events. Lunde doesn’t only help organize Brookhaven’s Toy Drive, which helps about 7,000 children around the holidays, she also organizes a variety of events, including food drives, school supply drives, clothing drives, volunteer programs for senior citizens and the prom dress program, to name a few.

Lunde has led the prom program for around three years, according to Diana Weir, commissioner of Brookhaven’s Housing and Human Services department. The event allows girls from families in need to select prom attire, from dresses to purses, shoes and more. Schools allow their students to attend the event by appointment. Lunde started staying after hours to accommodate students and their families who couldn’t get a dress during the program’s daytime hours. Weir said Lunde’s dedication and desire to spend as much time as possible makes the Medford resident more special.

“She will never complain,” Weir said. “She never says boo.”

Josephine Lunde poses with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo from Brookhaven Town
Josephine Lunde poses with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo from Brookhaven Town

While every child who registers for the prom dress program gets special attention, Polack remembers Lunde going above and beyond for one high school student who thought she was too overweight to attend her prom. Lunde didn’t only get her a dress, she organized for the student to get her nails and hair done.

“The determination in Josie is bigger than both of us when she makes up her mind that she’s going to help somebody,” Polack said.

Brookhaven Town Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro (R) said Lunde is one who focuses her attention on those in need in the community, especially those who don’t always want to ask for help.

“A lot of those folks that she works with are people who are very proud, and who might not otherwise seek assistance. These things have gotten really expensive,” Losquadro said about Lunde and buying gifts around the holidays.

Lunde’s son Mike said his mother has always been one to help others but, almost to a fault.

“She doesn’t think of herself,” the son said.

When Mike was a child, his mother was a den mother for his Boy Scout troop, and took on other responsibilities when her kids were getting older.

Regardless of her accomplishments, Lunde likes to stay in the background. But whether she’s in the forefront at an event or working behind the scenes, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the Town is happy to have her.

“Someone like her really adds to what it means to be a part of a town,” Romaine said. “She’s the heart of Brookhaven because she takes the heart of all the problems and tries to make them better. … We should have more people like her in this world. If we did, it’d be a much better place.”

A view of the plans for the new emergency department. Photo from Huntington Hospital

Huntington Hospital has more than just its age to celebrate.

Because it has been serving the community for 99 years, working to fulfill its mission of providing high-quality health care to Long Islanders, the institution and its staff have been named Times Beacon Record Newspapers People of the Year.

Huntington Hospital has grown since its establishment in 1916.

“It has really transformed from being a community hospital to a community hospital that functions more like a university hospital,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Grosso said.

Grosso has worked there for 31 years. He said the hospital doesn’t simply treat patients but also helps educate medical students and residents alike, preparing them for any medical complications that may occur inside or outside hospital walls.

Patients go to the hospital for anything from minor health issues to robotic surgical procedures.

The latter treatment could involve, for example, a hysterectomy with a single incision that leads to minimal scaring, less pain, low blood loss and a faster recovery.

The SkyHealth team poses for a photo on the hospital’s new helipad established this past summer. Photo from Huntington Hospital
The SkyHealth team poses for a photo on the hospital’s new helipad established this past summer. Photo from Huntington Hospital

According to Executive Director Dr. Gerard Brogan, those complex procedures have “won the highest praise based on quality and clinical outcomes.”

In addition to that praise, the hospital has received several awards for its techniques, including one from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association for stroke care, accreditations from the Commission on Cancer and the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence award from the American College of Radiology.

Its nursing staff has been recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and Huntington Hospital was the first to receive such a designation three consecutive times.

“What makes Huntington so unique is its commitment to … provide the highest quality care possible anywhere, and to do it with the greatest caring,” Brogan said. “It’s not just enough to give great quality care. It also has to be quality caring.”

According to Grosso, prominent Huntington resident Cornelia Prime, who was already in her 70s, spearheaded the push to establish a hospital in the early 1900s. At the time, the closest facility was in Mineola. Prime wanted the local hospital to be a high-quality medical facility that would cater to the area’s growing population. In December 1914, she purchased the five-acre property on Park Avenue where the hospital still stands. She established the Huntington Hospital two years later.

The hospital joined the North Shore-LIJ Health System in 1994. Connecting with other facilities expanded the resources available to medical staff and patients.

It isn’t done growing. It’s expanding in 2016 to include a new emergency department to replace its current one and accommodate a recent increase in patients — the entire facility serves 50,000 patients annually.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said he is proud to be a part of the institution for the past 20 years, starting as a resident in training and now as the chief of otolaryngology.

“Huntington Hospital has placed such an emphasis on serving the community and providing support,” he said in a phone interview. “They offer superior medical care and continue to update based on the needs of the community.”

Grosso said the institution is unique because of its deep roots with Huntington.

“The hospital continues to build and expand to meet the needs of the community,” Grosso said. “[It] has an unusual real relationship with the community and one of the reasons … is because it’s been there for 100 years and … there isn’t [another] hospital next door.”

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Ed DiNunzio skydives for a Gift of Life fundraiser. Photo from Debbie Engelhardt

Jumping out of a plane, mentoring younger people and planting flowers are all in a day’s work for Ed DiNunzio.

He’s officially the head of membership for the Port Jefferson Rotary but he has worn many more hats during his years with the service organization, filling in wherever he can to make his community a better place to live.

For selflessly dedicating his endless energy to serving his neighbors, DiNunzio is a Times Beacon Record Newspapers Person of the Year.

One of DiNunzio’s biggest roles is in the Gift of Life program, which started in Suffolk County 40 years ago — but has expanded through Rotary International — and provides lifesaving heart procedures to children around the globe. The Person of the Year has been involved since the beginning, Port Jefferson Rotary member Debbie Engelhardt said, using his skills as a lawyer to help it get organized and off the ground.

Suffolk Rotary clubs have most recently raised funds and brought a 4-year-old girl to Long Island from Kosovo, for a surgery to repair a nickel-sized hole in her heart called an atrial septal defect. Gift of Life also works to provide medical staff in other countries with equipment and training to perform such procedures, so children will not have to travel so far for treatment in the future.

Ed DiNunzio digs deep to beautify a camp for kids with disabilities. File photo by Dennis Brennan
Ed DiNunzio digs deep to beautify a camp for kids with disabilities. File photo by Dennis Brennan

DiNunzio has gone to extremes for the program. He once raised money for Gift of Life by skydiving.

“That was a great thing that he did personally,” fellow Rotarian Dennis Brennan said, noting the physical risk involved in jumping out of a plane for charity. “That was a large sacrifice on his part to do that.”

Each jumper in that fundraising effort was supposed to bring in $1,500 but DiNunzio collected $2,150 for Gift of Life.

“He’s true blue,” said Engelhardt, who is also the director of the Comsewogue Public Library.

“He’s got more energy than basically anybody I know.”

Skydiving isn’t the only way DiNunzio brings in funding for Rotary. Engelhardt said the club holds an annual raffle fundraiser in which each member is expected to sell at least 25 tickets, but “without fail, Ed sells over 200 every year.”

But it’s not just about the money — between attending to his family in Mount Sinai and his law practice in Port Jefferson, DiNunzio also gives his time.

He is heavily involved in the Rotary Youth Exchange program, through which students study abroad and stay with a host family. According to Engelhardt, DiNunzio has lent a hand on an organizational level for the Northeastern region for many years and has opened his home to exchange students from other areas.

Between those kids and others from the Northeast who had life-changing experiences overseas through the program, DiNunzio has made an impact on the lives of numerous young people. Engelhardt explained that a lot of them are now grown adults living all over the world, but whenever they are in the area they look up DiNunzio.

She said Rotary is about using your life to make the world a better place, and DiNunzio does that.

Ed DiNunzio, kneeling, gets painting in downtown Port Jefferson. Photo from Debbie Engelhardt
Ed DiNunzio, kneeling, gets painting in downtown Port Jefferson. Photo from Debbie Engelhardt

“Everybody’s part of something bigger,” Engelhardt said. “He’s not a child, but he’d be our poster child.”

Brennan described DiNunzio’s meticulous nature, which is obvious when the volunteer manages one of the Rotary’s bank accounts.

“He watches it like a hawk,” Brennan said.

And he is meticulous about his physical fitness too. Brennan said DiNunzio brings an important strength to the Rotary: The club uses a heavy wooden sign when it collects food for donation, and “we depend on Ed” to bring it to the collections because he’s the only one who can lift it on his own.

Once at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, a Center Moriches camp for kids with disabilities where the Rotary does cleanups and beautification, a group was planting perennials by a flagpole but the ground was hard, making digging difficult.

“Old Ed, he just kept going at it,” Brennan said. “He never quit.”

Brennan refers to the Person of the Year as “Mr. Rotary” because he has his hand in every program and gives his all.

“When he gets involved with something … he puts his whole self into it and the results are easy to see,” he said. “He’s a very caring person and I think that he’s demonstrated that.”

Lina Obeid is constantly working to improve her team of dedicated researchers with the hopes of curing complicated diseases. File photo

They have a sense of urgency that motivates those around them to push for better results. In fighting against diseases that kill millions of people every year, they are doing what they’ve done from the time they left their home country of Lebanon until they arrived at Stony Brook three years ago: They are supporting their colleagues, recruiting top talent from around the world and encouraging their staff to train and encourage the next generation of researchers.

Yusuf Hannun, the director of the Cancer Center at Stony Brook, and Lina Obeid, the dean for research, continue to build a deep and talented team, adding researchers focused on curing diseases while also developing the next generation of Stony Brook scientists. The Port Times Record recognizes Hannun and Obeid as People of the Year for their day-to-day leadership, their discoveries in their labs, and their focus on the future of science at Stony Brook.

“In terms of what they are building at Stony Brook, their vision is to grow that Cancer Center into a NCI-designated Cancer Center,” said Gerard Blobe, a professor and research director at the Division of Medical Oncology at Duke University Medical Center who earned his Ph.D. in Hannun’s lab more than 20 years ago. They want to make it a “force in clinical care and research and training. They have a mission up there and I have no doubt that they’ll accomplish it.”

Yusuf Hannun is constantly working to improve his team of dedicated researchers with the hopes of curing complicated diseases. File photo
Yusuf Hannun is constantly working to improve his team of dedicated researchers with the hopes of curing complicated diseases. File photo

Blobe said the National Cancer Institute designation is just the “icing on the cake” that enables the center to seek funding for some projects. What’s more important, he said, is “what they will accomplish by getting that prize,” in building and developing Stony Brook’s research abilities.

Scientists in the same field as Hannun were quick to praise his achievements and innovation.

Discoveries by Hannun about sphingolipids, which are molecules that are involved in a range of roles, including cell division, differentiation and cell death, provided key insights.

Hannun “pushed the field into the modern age,” said Tony Futerman, the Joseph Meyerhoff professorial chair of biochemistry at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. “He’s been innovative for 30 years in the field.”

In her lab, Obeid, who is the dean for research and a professor at the Stony Brook School of Medicine, is exploring the role of enzymes that control molecules involved in cell growth and others that play a role in cell death or differentiation.

Futerman said Hannun and Obeid have been instrumental in the careers of many other scientists, developing talented and dedicated researchers who have also made significant contributions.

“They are excellent mentors of younger people,” he said. “There’s a whole school of former post docs who went on to get independent positions. This speaks to their mentorship. … They push young people into leadership positions.”

Those who have worked for Obeid and Hannun in the past suggested that they offered the kind of guidance, discipline and approach that was applicable in and outside the lab.

“Part of [Hannun’s] success is he’s very good at planning,” said Supriya Jayadev, who was a graduate student in Hannun’s lab at Duke and is now the executive director of Clallam Mosaic in Port Angeles, Washington. “He plans out an experiment such that it works the first time.”

Corinne Linardic, Hannun’s first graduate student, said, “I remember him saying, ‘It’s important not to look where the light is, but to try to look into the dark and turn the light on. … I thought that was very brave.”

Linardic, who is now an associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine, also said she felt fortunate to work with Obeid.

“It was extraordinary to have a female mentor as well,” Linardic said.

While they have come a long way from the beginning of their careers and their family, Hannun and Obeid have kept a consistent focus on the potential clinical benefits of their research.

“They get the translational aspects,” Futerman said. “When [Hannun] moved to Stony Brook to head the Cancer Center, that was one of the aims for his move, to be in a position where he can apply basic science to translational research.”

Futerman said Hannun and Obeid deserve recognition in the Long Island and scientific communities.

“They are considered leaders,” Futerman said. “They contribute a lot to the academic community.”

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Miles Borden is a major contributor to local history. File photo

By Miguel Bustamante

It isn’t easy to be more of a principal community participant in Kings Park than Miles Borden — even local history wouldn’t be quite the same without him, seeing as he literally wrote the book on it.

“Miles and Charlie [Reichert] are very similar,” said Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). “They’re both very low-key, but they both [pull a lot of weight] and are able to get things done in the community.” Talking specifically of Borden, Trotta added, “He’s very well respected, just a great guy.”

Miles Borden is a major contributor to local history. File photo
Miles Borden is a major contributor to local history. File photo

Six generations of the Borden clan have called Kings Park their home, dating as far back as the 19th century, even boasting the founding of the Lucien Memorial United Methodist Church. Borden has, himself, dedicated his personal and professional life to the community he loves.

A graduate of Kings Park High School, Class of 1945, Borden, 88, continued his academic career by attaining collegiate degrees from Hofstra University, NYU and Oswego State where, in 1949, his mile relay team set a record time.

For his knowledge and efforts, Borden has been named a 2015 Times Beacon Record Newspapers Person of the Year.

Back in Long Island, Borden enjoyed a 34-year career in public education as a schoolteacher then, ultimately, as interim superintendent at the Amityville school district. Throughout his tenure as an educator, Borden found time to volunteer at the Kings Park Fire Department, an endeavor that lasted over 60 years, and ultimately he became president of the department.

Borden is also a consummate historian and a major contributor to local history. “He was afraid that the history of Kings Park was going to get washed away with the rain,” said his brother Noel Borden. “Everyone he talked to didn’t know a whole lot about the town because no one had taken the time to write anything about it.” This fear prompted Miles Borden to author five history books:

• “History of the Kings Park Fire Department”;

• “The First One Hundred Years (1892-1992): Lucien Memorial United Methodist Church”;

• “History of Kings Park in Words and Pictures”;

• “History of Our School District Community: Fort Salonga, Kings Park, San Remo”;

• “First One Hundred Years, Fire and Emergency Services: History of the Kings Park Fire Department and the Kings Park Fire District.”

“He’s made Kings Park history come alive,” said Gail Hessel, a member of Smithtown Historical Society. “People didn’t really think about Kings Park having a history. And he’s even inspired me to write a book. [Miles] is the kind of person that, if I was working on a book, he would encourage me by saying, ‘Good job.’”

Along with his involvement with the fire department, Borden has served on several other local boards, including Suffolk County Parks and Kings Park Heritage Museum, where he is one of the founding members.

Now Borden is looking to enjoy his post-retirement years with wife Leona. He has remained a consummate runner and even talks to the community’s youth of the importance of staying fit and active.

But don’t be surprised if you still see him hitting the pavement for an early morning jog.

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