Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Deer rutting season means more of the animals running out on local roads. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Love is in the air, which can cause troubles on the roads.

It’s deer rutting season — the time of year they breed — which means the animals are prone to run out on local roadways, causing potential dangers for drivers. While it’s advisable to drive carefully and be vigilant at any time of day, especially near wooded areas, peak time for rutting occurs between dusk and dawn requiring extra caution during those hours, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Lori Ketcham, a rehabilitator with Middle Island-based Save the Animals Rescue Foundation, said the rutting season begins approximately in the middle of October and lasts until the end of November, sometimes longer. She said her main advice during the season is for motorists to drive carefully because the deer don’t think.

“The boys only have one thing on their mind,” Ketcham said. “They’re following the scent so they’re just running. They smell a girl down the street. They run, and they don’t care if there are roads in the way.”

She said if two bucks are fighting, something that would most likely happen in wooded areas and not near the road, to steer clear of them. She said it’s important when seeing a deer run across the street to remember there is a chance another one will follow, whether it’s a buck in heat or a fawn following its mother.

“They are a herd animal,” she said. “If one runs across the road, assume there are more coming.”

Ketcham said it’s important for drivers to keep their eyes not only on the road but the sides of the streets. She said sometimes deer are not hit by a car but run into the side of it, breaking their jaws or necks.

The rehabilitator said it’s important for drivers who hit a deer to check to see if they are dead or not, and not to approach or move an injured deer. Whenever a motorist hits an animal, even smaller ones like squirrels and raccoons, Ketcham advises people to call the police department, adding a person won’t get in trouble for hitting an animal with a car.

“Have someone come out and not have the animal out there suffering,” she said.

Drivers are also cautioned to slow down when approaching deer near a roadside, according to the DEC. While they may look inactive, they can quickly bolt in front of a car.

Stony Brook University Hospital. File photo

Most people only think about Lyme disease when taking a hike in a park, but for many doctors, the condition weighs heavily on their minds every day.

Dr. Benjamin Luft, director and principal investigator of Stony Brook WTC Wellness Program, is one of those doctors. He is currently working on two clinical studies examining the disease. One involves those who continue to present symptoms after being treated, and the other study involves Latinos on Long Island who work in the landscaping and agricultural fields.

In a recent phone interview, Luft said the clinical study involving Latinos is a straightforward one, where the aim is to help a population that has been underserved and understudied due to their work schedules. The other study is more involved.

After being bitten by a tick infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, many people with a bull’s eye rash or flulike symptoms may receive treatment and feel better; but there are those who will continue to suffer for a prolonged period, even years, with a variety of complaints like aches, pains and brain fogginess. Luft said at times there may be no clear signs of the disease in the body, but doctors may find evidence of it after thorough neuropsychological exams that can detect subtle abnormalities.

Dr. Benjamin Luft is one of the doctors at Stony Brook Medicine looking for answers when it comes to those who continue to suffer from Lyme disease after treatment. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

“This study is really geared toward diagnosing and to find ways to be able to monitor the disease,” Luft said, adding in the future his hope is to conduct studies testing new ways to treat Lyme disease.

The doctor said it’s essential to receive a diagnosis because if Lyme disease is left untreated, it can lead to joint swelling, arthritis, neuropathies, meningitis or cardiac problems.

When Stony Brook University recently began making a more significant investment in its imagining facilities, Luft said he saw a chance to find an answer for those with chronic symptoms.

“I thought this is the opportunity to see what is going on in the brain of these patients with using X-ray techniques and radiological techniques which may give us some insight,” he said.

He said with cutting-edge neuroimaging studies researchers can look for evidence of inflammation in the brain which may be a reaction to the infection.

“That would be an important thing to do because it may give us another target for therapy,” Luft said. “A lot of the therapy that we now use is really just geared toward the organism itself, but it’s not really geared toward the body’s reaction to the organism which may also have to be treated in order to alleviate some of these symptoms.”

The doctor has studied Lyme disease for more than 30 years. When he arrived at SBU from Stanford University Hospital, he was involved in work with AIDs and age-related diseases, but he said at the university’s clinic in the 1980s many people complained of Lyme disease problems and there were no effective therapies at the time. Many of the first therapies and treatments used today were developed at SBU, he said, but there have always been people who haven’t responded well to those treatments.

“So that’s been something that’s been bothering me for many years as to why that is,” Luft said.

He said he will present initial data, which is promising, from the clinical imagining study at a conference in Barcelona, Spain, later this month and hopes to get more patients for the clinical study. Those who are interested can call 631-601-5615. Subjects must meet stringent criteria including not having any other disease, having serological evidence of Lyme disease and a clear history that they had the rash.

In addition to Luft’s studies, Dr. Christy Beneri, assistant professor of pediatrics at SBU, and her team are working on a pilot study to look at newer diagnostic tools to establish a better way to diagnose early Lyme disease.

“We also will be doing work on understanding tick epidemiology in our area and working with the local health department to understand potential new tick-borne pathogens,” Beneri said.

Stony Brook Lyme Disease Laboratory has been performing Lyme disease testing on clinical specimens since 1984. Both inpatients and outpatients can have a Lyme ELISA screening test and Western blots confirmatory test at Stony Brook Medicine. Almost 10,000 screenings were done in 2017 at the hospital, which has been actively working with state senators for funding for Lyme disease outreach and research, according to Beneri.

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Louise Wasilevitch turns 107 Oct.29. Photo from Alice Anderson

One Stony Brook resident has more than a century to celebrate at the end of the month.

Louise Wasilevitch in a photo taken circa 1914. Photo from Alice Anderson

While she may not be the oldest resident in the Three Village area, Louise Wasilevitch has more life experience than most. On Oct. 29, she will celebrate her 107th birthday.

Wasilevitch said to enjoy a long life one should have a lot of interests — advice she has followed. In her lifetime, she has belonged to many clubs, made textiles with a floor loom, golfed, sang with a church choir, played the violin, led a Girl Scout troop, painted and enjoyed handcrafts.

Before her husband Julius passed in 1995, the couple traveled around the world to places like Japan, England and Scotland. Now, she enjoys visiting family and friends, watching golf, listening to classical music, rooting for the New York Yankees and traveling to New Hampshire on vacation with her daughter and son-in-law — Alice and Chuck Anderson.

She moved to Stony Brook in 2009 to live with her daughter and son-in-law, after living for nine years in East Northport and decades in Greenlawn, according to her daughter. Born in New Jersey in 1911, Alice Anderson said her mother, who grew up in Brooklyn, spent three years in Russia as a young girl when her father traveled back to the country to live with family due to health concerns and financial difficulties. Anderson said it’s interesting to hear the stories of living on a farm in Russia in the early 1920s when her mother would sleep in an alcove dug out of a chimney over the fireplace to stay warm.

She also worked during a time when many companies didn’t accept married women working. Wasilevitch was employed with an insurance firm called London & Lancashire on Wall Street, but when it was discovered she was married, she was asked to leave, according to her daughter.

With all the interesting things she has experienced in life, Wasilevitch said she finds the internet the most impressive thing she has seen. Her daughter said she loves that they can look up information whenever they have a question and write to relatives in Czechoslovakia.

Anderson, who is 78, said she always admired her mother’s knack with people.

“She just inspires me — I’ve always told her that — by just the kind of person she is,” Anderson said. “She likes everybody. She looks for the best in everybody and is always ready to help, whether it’s advice or money. She just loves everyone in the family, and I can’t think of anybody that she ever met that she hates.”

Anderson said when it comes to her mother’s upcoming birthday get-together, even her own friends want to be part of it, and Wasilevitch said it’s nice to feel wanted.

“I just like people,” Wasilevitch said. “I never met anybody I didn’t like. I really haven’t.”

Wasilevitch will have two big celebrations before the end of the year. In addition to her upcoming birthday party, her grandchildren, Heather, Jennifer and Emily will be home to spend Christmas with her along with their grandmother’s eight great-grandchildren.

File photo

Suffolk County Police Department 6th squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a motorcyclist in Centereach Oct. 12.

George Kellerman, 58, of Centereach, was riding a 2003 Harley-Davidson motorcycle northbound on Horseblock Road when his motorcycle collided with a southbound 2004 Toyota that made an illegal U-turn on Horseblock Road at approximately 11 a.m.

Kellerman was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the Toyota, Jose Diaz Benitez, and his 2-year-old son, who was in a car seat in the vehicle, were not injured.

Diaz Benitez, 39, of Centereach, was issued tickets for Unlicensed Operator and Improper U-Turn.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this crash to call the 6th squad at 631-854-8652.

The pond near Se-Port Delicatessen, in a photo from last year, will benefit from a $1 million state grant. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Setauket Harbor and its surrounding area will be a bit cleaner due to a grant secured by a state senator.

“Long Islanders are fortunate to have access to natural resources like the Setauket Harbor and we must continually fight to preserve them.”

— Sen. John Flanagan

Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant from the state for the Town of Brookhaven in 2016 to be used to improve water quality in Setauket Harbor, which will also help clean out the pond slightly west of Se-Port Delicatessen on Route 25A and fix the dock on Shore Road. While the grant was secured two years ago, the contract period began Oct. 1.

“Long Islanders are fortunate to have access to natural resources like the Setauket Harbor and we must continually fight to preserve them,” Flanagan said in a statement. “That is why projects like this are so important, and it is my pleasure to work with the Setauket Harbor Task Force as well as the Town of Brookhaven to ensure that this beautiful natural resource is protected.  These fragile ecosystems are so critical to every facet of life for the people who live, work and play in our region, and it is imperative that we continually join together to make sure they are available to future generations of Long Islanders.”

Veronica King, the town’s stormwater manager, explained how the money would be put to use.

“The project has three distinct components — repair the failing bulkhead at the Shore Road park, remove sediment from the retention pond at [East] Setauket Pond Park, and implement stormwater improvements to mitigate stormwater inputs into the harbor,” she said.

King said the work will take approximately three years to complete and a professional engineering firm will be hired to assist with design, permitting and construction.

“If we don’t fix the pond, we’re just kind of spitting into the wind in terms of all the other stuff we do.”

— George Hoffman

Members of Setauket Harbor Task Force, an organization created with the goal to improve water quality in the harbor, have been consulting with the town about the project, according to task force co-founder George Hoffman.

He said the largest source of pathogens in the harbor are most likely from stormwater from the pond.

“If we don’t fix the pond, we’re just kind of spitting into the wind in terms of all the other stuff we do,” he said.

Hoffman said the pond near the delicatessen serves as an inlet to Setauket Harbor, and stormwater from Route 25A — from around the fire station northeast to the water — washes into it. Hoffman said the pond’s old, faulty water treatment structure is allowing sediment to build up and currently stormwater is going straight into the harbor. He said sediment can include sand that’s been put down on the roads in the winter, items that fall off trucks and cars and pet waste.

“The town has a strong commitment to protecting our natural environment.”

— Veronica King

Hoffman said the goal is to dredge the pond and remove 10 feet of sediment. He said the reconstruction of the stormwater inputs would enable the sediment to go into a catch basin that’s specifically designed to capture it. The sediment will settle and then only water would go into the harbor.

King said the town will contribute $500,000 worth of capital funds, bringing the total allocation to the project to $1.5 million.

“The town has a strong commitment to protecting our natural environment,” she said. “It makes it so much easier when we have the community’s support for projects such as the Setauket Harbor project.”

The town will also need to get approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation before removing the sediment, which is standard DEC procedure as at times it may contain toxins. King said it shouldn’t be a problem as the town recently did a grain size analysis and found a high percentage of coarse sand material, and she doesn’t expect any surprises as far as chemical compounds.

Hoffman said he looks forward to the improvements as many people attending the Route 25A Visioning meetings in 2017 pointed to the area around the harbor as having potential.

“We see it as the first phase,” he said. “I think we have some plans to make it the centerpiece of downtown East Setauket.”

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Three Village students once again have a youth cheerleading program to participate in. Photo from 3VPJ Hawks Cheerleading

Things are getting cheerier in the Three Village school district.

Those attending Ward Melville High School’s homecoming may have noticed several little ones with shirts reading “future cheerleader.” After a 10-year absence, youth cheerleaders are returning to the community after the recent merging of the Three Village Wildcats and Port Jefferson Royals youth football program — now called the 3VPJ Hawks.

Members of the 3VPJ Hawks youth cheerleading program learn stunts from Ward Melville High School cheerleaders. Photo from Trish Gallery

While Port Jefferson still had its youth cheering program, the Three Village Wildcats cheer team ended a decade ago. In May, the Hawks board voted unanimously to bring back the program with Three Village students after Ellie DePaul, the organization’s new director of cheerleading, made a motion to initiate one. In June, recruiting began for boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 11 who were interested.

“The program, I feel, is really going to benefit the high school at the end of the day because you’re not having cheerleaders coming to seventh-grade tryouts without having any cheer background,” DePaul said.

Trish Gallery’s 11-year-old daughter Julia is one of the Hawks, and the mother said she agreed the team is helpful to a budding cheerleader. She said her daughter and fellow cheerleaders have been learning various skills, how to stay healthy and work together as a team. She said she noticed her daughter is gaining confidence.

“She’s learning skills like the stunts,” Gallery said. “That’s something you really don’t learn anywhere else. Those stunts are giving her a lot of confidence.”

DePaul said Ward Melville High School varsity cheerleaders Sydney Crichton, Bri Wilson and Nicolette DePaul, her daughter, who once were Three Village Wildcats cheerleaders, jumped at the chance to help out with the more than 60 girls ranging from ages 4 to 11 who make up three cheer teams. DePaul said the members have also been working with the Setauket-based Shine Dance Studios to enhance their dance moves and Silver Stars Gymnastics in East Setauket where the team practices tumbling on the mats — a skill she said is vital for cheering in later years.

Wilson, 17, a senior who has been a member of Ward Melville’s varsity cheerleading team for three years, said she’s been cheering for the school district since junior high school and, up until third grade, was part of the Wildcats cheer youth program along with Crichton and Nicolette DePaul. The three were interested in bringing the youth program back because they knew how valuable it was, including gaining them an advantage when trying out for school cheer.

“Getting to share my love with these little girls and to think, ‘Wow, in a few years from now they’re going to be like us is insane.'”

— Bri Wilson

“We knew what we were supposed to do on the sidelines,” Wilson said. “How to get the crowd pumped. Even though we were little, we knew what we were doing.”

She said she loves helping out with the younger children and hopes to be on a college cheer team next year and a coach in the future.

“Getting to share my love with these little girls and to think, ‘Wow, in a few years from now they’re going to be like us is insane,’” she said.

Gallery said her daughter loves working with the Ward Melville students.

“She really looks up to the varsity cheerleaders,” the mother said. “She just feels so special when they share their talent with her, and they take her under their wings.”

Wilson said cheering is important because it creates a positive environment and brings a “game to life.”

“It has such a different feel with the crowd getting involved and being excited,” Wilson said. “We start screaming for the team and so do the parents and anyone in the crowd which definitely helps the team.”

Ellie DePaul said she thinks cheerleaders are an essential part of the school community.

“I really think it’s an intricate part of school spirit — community spirit — having the girls cheer on the athletes just really boosts the spirit of the community,” DePaul said.

For more information about the 3VPJ Hawks, visit www.3vwildcats.com.

Residents of the Three Village Central School District rooted the Patriots on to a homecoming win against Walt Whitman High School Oct. 6.

The Patriots varsity football team beat the Walt Whitman High School Wildcats 32-10. Ward Melville now ranks 5-0 in the league, which is the first time since 1974.

Before the big game, students and families enjoyed a parade and carnival where attendees participated in games, crafts and listened to live music.

The Patriots will travel to William Floyd Oct. 13 and Longwood High School Oct. 20. Their next home game is Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m.

Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. delivers his ninth state of the university address Oct. 3. Photo from Stony Brook University

As Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. looks confidently to the future, the school’s budget deficit is still at the forefront of his mind.

On Oct. 3, Stanley delivered his ninth state of the university address on the Staller Center’s main stage to an auditorium full of faculty, staff, students and elected officials. During the speech, which lasted about an hour, the university president touched on several topics including enrollment growth, Stony Brook Medicine’s future and financial woes and successes — like the university’s positive economic impact on Long Island.

When it comes to tackling the budget deficit, Stanley did not specify the exact amount but said there is more work that needs to be done to lessen the financial shortfall. He said a hiring freeze still holds for 2018-19 because nothing has changed externally as the university has not received an increase of state support since 2010. He said fee increases and enrollment growth has helped alleviate some of the financial burdens, and the university is actively communicating with the state to seek an increase in allocations.

Stanley touted SBU’s presence as a driver for the local economy, citing about $7.2 billion generated from the hospital’s research; people hired and contracted; start-up companies involved with SBU’s incubator; and purchases of students and faculty in the area, the president said.

“We always take these things with a little grain of salt, but I think it’s an important thing that we need to talk about because again the state puts a significant investment into Stony Brook University,” he said. “We appreciate the investment we get from the state, but it’s really nice to talk about the return on that investment from the state.”

The university also saw positive results from The Campaign for Stony Brook fundraising efforts, which raised $630.7 million. He said many people ask him why money can’t be taken from those funds to help with the school’s budget deficit.

“Ninety-eight percent of that money raised is directly allocated to specific goals that our donors have on campus,” he said, adding the funds are usually put toward scholarships, endowed professorship, research projects or a specific campus building.

Stanley said the four-year graduation rate for the class entering in 2014 has reached 62 percent, which signifies a 17-point jump from a 45 percent graduation rate for the class entering in 2007. Among the factors he credited for the success is the Finish in 4 Grants Program. Initiated in spring 2015, the program assists students in good standing who are about to complete their studies but are confronted with personal circumstances that prevent it.

“We want to continue to build on this momentum, but it’s going to be important that we work very hard and continue to find the resources to support this very important program,” he said.

Stanley said a significant part of the university’s budget, $2.28 billion, is for Stony Brook Medicine.

“We are the destination, I believe, for quality care on Long Island,” he said. “We’re the only provider of a level one trauma center for Long Island. We have the only children’s hospital in Suffolk County.”

In the next few months, Stony Brook University Hospital will be opening the Medical and Research Translation building with a state-of-the-art cancer center, Stony Brook Children’s and Hospital Pavilion, and the Phillips Family Cancer Center in Southampton.

Setauket United Methodist Church circa. 1909. Mechanics Hall, which was once used as a parsonage, is to the right. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

Members of a Three Village church are recalling its history with a significant milestone around the corner.

The Setauket United Methodist Church, located on the northeast corner of Route 25A and Main Street and known locally as the “light on the hill,” will be celebrating its 175th anniversary Oct. 14 with a special service.

Setauket United Methodist Church as it looked today. Photo from Setauket United Methodist Church

Congregants originally gathered in a schoolhouse in 1835 not far from its present location, according to church documents. The Methodist Society of Setauket was formed by Alfred Darling, Peter Darling, Charles Darling, William Cargill and Richard Terrell after attending a revival in Port Jefferson in 1843.

They first purchased what was known as the Baptist Meeting House on the corner, and in 1869 members who were employed in the local shipbuilding industry began building the current church when it was agreed that a bigger building was needed. The congregants sold the old church in 1869 and moved the building across Route 25A. The new building was dedicated Oct. 12, 1870.

Dennis Hutchinson was baptized in the church in 1939 and has been a member all his life. Through the years, he said he has seen the congregation, which currently includes approximately 500 members according to Rev. Steven Kim, grow due to developing surrounding communities and at times shrink.

Hutchinson said he remembers many renovations through the decades, including a new steeple that cost $16,000 in the late ’70s. At a horse show organized by philanthropist Ward Melville, Isaac Lyness, a member of the church, attended the event and was able to meet Melville and tell him about the steeple and the church’s historic significance in Setauket. Melville gave $4,000 to help pay for the new steeple.

“That was quite a generous gift at the time,” Hutchinson said.

Through the decades, church members held various fundraisers including fairs and bake sales, and Hutchinson said local residents always remember how the church would sell clam chowder in the spring. He said one year they made 600 quarts of chowder.

Cecelia Lundquist said during the last 10 years the church members have redecorated the sanctuary and installed a handicapped elevator. Lundquist and her husband, Bob, have been members since 1967 when they moved back to Long Island after her husband was briefly transferred to Virginia. A lawyer they knew from their church in Brooklyn told them about Setauket and suggested they join the church.

“We became members of the Setauket United Methodist Church more than 50 years ago,” Lundquist said. “It has been the center of our lives, both spiritually and socially.”

Barbara Thomas has been a member of the church since she attended as a child, and she remembers when the children would meet under the sanctuary for a brief service in the basement hall named after Samuel Gurney, a missionary with family in the area. The service would be followed by classes.

The original steeple of the 1870 church building is being painted by Ray Tyle, who was a local photographer and artist known for his aerial photographs commonly taken from the tops of flagpoles and other tall structures. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

“I remember long velvet drapes that divided the classrooms,” Thomas said. “The drapes were hung from wire which ran from the walls to the columns that braced the church.”

Thomas said the church bought Mechanics Hall, a building near Main Street that was converted into a parsonage for the pastor, and when the Sunday school and church membership  grew during World War II, to accommodate the growing congregation, an addition was built to connect what then became the former parsonage. It was named after Carl J. Norton, who once produced Christmas pageants for the church. With the addition, the church now had two offices, and the former parsonage was named after early members of the church, the VanBrunt family.

“I am still a part of this wonderful little church and sometimes I witness the return of former members,” Thomas said. “I remember with fondness the men and women who have come to guide us through the years as pastors, and I remember the many sisters and brothers who have graced the church and been a loving family to me.”

There have been approximately 75 pastors through the decades. Rev. Kim has led the congregation since 2016 and said he is looking forward to the anniversary.

“I hope people would rediscover the significance of the great spiritual heritage that has run through Setauket Methodist Church upon our 175th Anniversary,” Kim said.

Hutchinson will speak on the day of the service. He said he let Kim know he has a lot to share.

“In my little talk that I’m going to give on that Sunday, I have so many things [to share] but I should try to get them home by dark,” Hutchinson said.

The anniversary service will be held Oct. 14 at 10 a.m. at the church located at 160 Main St., East Setauket. The service will include sharing memories, guest preachers, a luncheon and a
performance by musicians from The Jazz Loft. For more information about Setauket United Methodist Church and the anniversary service, visit www.setauketumc.org or call 631-941-4167.

The Setauket Harbor Task Force hosted Setauket Harbor Day Sept. 29 at the Brookhaven town dock and beach located on Shore Road in East Setauket. The mission of the Setauket Harbor Task Force is to work toward clean water and healthy harbors.

At the free event, attendees had the opportunity to explore the harbor with kayak lessons, take round-the-harbor boat trips, participate in hands-on harborside activities, take maritime history tours and more.

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