Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Setauket was filled with merry and lights Dec. 9 as hundreds lined Route 25A to catch a glimpse of the Three Village Electric Holiday Parade.

More than 30 participants including schools, Scout troops, musket men, dancers, the Stony Brook University Marching Band and Wolfie, SBU’s mascot, marched along the route or rode in floats decorated with holiday lights. This year John Tsunis, owner of the Holiday Inn Express in Stony Brook, a partner at Tsunis Gasparis, LLP and chairman and CEO of Gold Coast Bank, served as grand marshal.

Residents wearing Santa hats and lighted headgear and necklaces added to the festive mood. At the end of the route, attendees gathered at East Setauket Pond Park near Shore Road for a tree lighting where Santa was on hand to greet children, and Fratelli’s Bagel Express served hot chocolate to help everyone warm up after a chilly night.

The Chabad at Stony Brook hosted its second annual menorah lighting, Chanukah on Main Street, at The Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn in Stony Brook Dec. 3.

Inn owners Marty and  Elyse Buchman were on hand to light the menorah after a speech by Rabbi Motti Grossbaum where he explained the  miracle of Chanukah. The more than 200 attendees were entertained with a fire juggling show by Keith Leaf after the lighting.

The event also included a chocolate coin “gelt drop” from a cherry picker truck, handmade menorahs by children and latkes and donuts.

The Chabad at Stony Brook is located at 821 Hawkins Ave. in Lake Grove. For more information or to learn about the new center at 360 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, visit or call 631-585-0521.

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Suffolk County high school golf champions Palmer Van Tuyl, Gavin Girard, Alex Korkuc, Andrew Petraco, Nick Stoecker, Mike Petraco and coach Bob Spira. Photo from Bob Spira

The Ward Melville High School golf team closed the season with a feeling that could probably be compared to a hole in one.

The team walked off the Rock Hill Golf Course in first place after the Suffolk County high school golf championships Oct. 31. In addition to the team win, senior Alexander Korkuc finished third in the individual tournament with a score of 154. The team will go on to the Long Island championship, and Korkuc qualified for the state tournament. Both will take place in the spring.

“I told them right from the beginning, ‘You guys have the talent.'”

— Bob Spira

Bob Spira, who has coached the team for some 12 years, said the golfers are looking forward to the Long Island championship. The last time the Patriots took the title was in 2016.

“This year we’re back on the map again, so it’s really nice to be back on top,” Spira said.

The coach said the six team members work well together, and he considers all top players. He said they worked hard this season and didn’t hesitate to keep practicing shots that they missed in a match, even if it meant hitting 200 balls.

“I told them right from the beginning, ‘You guys have the talent,’” the coach said. “‘It’s just putting in the time and just everything working out. Even the best golfers can have a bad round. So, don’t let it get in your head, keep moving forward.’”

Korkuc said he wouldn’t want any other coach than Spira.

“He’s a great coach,” he said. “He’s been there for me four years, and he’s always told me to keep working and it will eventually work out.”

Ward Melville junior, Palmer Van Tuyl, said he’s been playing with the team since eighth grade, and he has witnessed how the team and he have grown as players. A highlight for him this year was successfully shooting two rounds under par in matches.

“That was really big in my development to know I have the ability to have really good scores in addition to solid play all season long,” Van Tuyl said.

He said his teammates who, in addition to Korkuc and himself, include eighth-graders Gavin Girard and Nick Stoecker with eleventh-grader Andrew Petraco and ninth-grader Mike Petraco, are strong players. Van Tuyl said having skilled younger players is important for the future of team.

“To have that much depth that early is, I think, a big key to our strength.”

— Palmer Van Tuyl

“To have that much depth that early is, I think, a big key to our strength,” he said.

When it came to the team win after the Suffolk County championship and Korkuc’s qualification, Van Tuyl said it made him forget his disappointment coming in 11th place on the second day.

“The self-pity or the self-sadness was completely overshadowed by the great feeling I had for the team, and the happiness I had for my friend,” he said.

Korkuc and Van Tuyl said their teammates are like a second family. Korkuc, who hopes to take a year off from college to attend a golf academy next academic year, has advice for his fellow teammates.

“Keep working hard and everything will fall in place like it did for me,” he said.

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Bethel AME Church of Setauket received a $3,000 matching grant Dec. 4 to be used to restore The Eato House, which was once home to one of the church’s first pastors. Photo from Robert Lewis

Bethel AME Church of Setauket received an early Christmas present.

The New York Landmarks Conservancy, which is dedicated to preserving, revitalizing and reusing New York’s architecturally significant buildings, presented checks to the recipients of its 2018 Sacred Sites Grants Dec. 4 at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church of Northport. Representatives from five Long Island churches were on hand, including the Rev. Gregory Leonard and trustees of Bethel AME, which received a matching grant of $3,000 for the renovation of the former parsonage known as the Eato House.

“The 1917 Eato House is culturally significant to the area’s African American and Native American communities and a contributing building to the Bethel-Christian Avenue-Laurel Hill Historic District,” said Peg Breen, president of the conservancy. “The Landmarks Conservancy is pleased to be able to help with a conditions assessment of the house that will guide needed repairs. Bethel AME is important to Setauket’s history and reaches about 1,000 people a year by providing space to community organizations, the local fire department and the annual Setauket Pow Wow.”

Leonard said he was thankful for the grant, and in February or March the church hopes to start a fundraising campaign to raise additional funds.

“We’re overjoyed with it, and we know it’s a long journey to get the house totally back on its feet,” the reverend said. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

Robert Lewis, president of Higher Ground Inter-Cultural and Heritage Association, a nonprofit historical group working with the church to restore the former parsonage, was also in attendance for the check presentation.

“Anyone with the experience of starting a building restoration project knows the endeavor is significantly more than just filling out applications for grants,” Lewis said. “The cost in terms of years, sweat and toil is not in dollars. After seven years of work, Higher Ground and Bethel AME Church are delighted to be the recipients of the New York Landmarks Conservancy grant. The grant represents the start of a building restoration project that will reveal the history of the Eato House, and the life of two remarkable people, Mary Baker-Eato and Rev. David Eato.”

In 2017, the Eato House was added to the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities List of Endangered Historic Places. Bethel AME historian, Carlton “Hub” Edwards, said in a previous interview with TBR News Media, the house was once home to the Rev. David Eato, one of the church’s first pastors, and his wife Mary Baker, a freed slave. Baker moved to the North after being freed from slavery and settled in Port Washington where she was an organist at a church. It was there that she met Eato and, after marrying, the couple moved to Setauket, and the reverend became one of the first ministers of Setauket’s Bethel AME in the early 1900s. Mary took on the role of superintendent of the Sunday school and held the position until the late 1930s. Edwards said the members of the Eato family owned the house until the church purchased it a few years ago.

The rain stopped long enough Dec. 2 to allow visitors to Stony Brook Village Center to enjoy The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s 39th Holiday Festival.

The festival marked the second year of the Legends and Spies Puppets Procession led by Tom Manuel, president and founder of The Jazz Loft, and a New Orleans-style brass band. The procession puppets pay homage to former notable Three Village residents. This year, two new puppets featuring the likeness of Anna Smith Strong, a member of the Culper Spy Ring, and William Sidney Mount, a famed American genre painter, were added to the parade.

Santa arrived at 2 p.m. to greet visitors and holiday train displays could be viewed at Wiggs Opticians holiday windows and at the WHMHO Educational & Cultural Center.

The event also included the annual tree lighting and the Promenade of Trees competition, where families and community members decorated some 60 holiday trees, which will stay on display through Jan. 2. The public can vote on the winner, who will receive a $150 Stony Brook Village Center gift certificate, usable in all shops and restaurants.



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Tri-Spy Tours owner Margo Arceri with two young volunteers Culper Spy Day 2018. Photo from Margo Arceri

Her business activities may be associated with warmer temperatures, but a Strong’s Neck resident is keeping busy even in the colder weather.

Margo Arceri is known in the Three Village area for creating Culper Spy Day, an annual event in September, and Tri-Spy Tours, which takes participants to local historical sites. While the excursions include participants walking, biking, kayaking and paddle boarding — activities many may associate with summer — Arceri said the business keeps her busy year round. This year she was booked for private tours up until Thanksgiving, and she will be sponsoring the screening of TBR News Media’s “One Life to Give” at The Setauket Neighborhood House Monday, Dec. 10, which will be hosted by the Three Village Historical Society, something she said she’s looking forward to.

“I love the storyline, and the Times Beacon has been an incredible partner with Culper Spy Day,” she said. “In general, it’s kind of my way of giving back and also supporting something near and dear to my heart.”

Participants on a Tri-Spy tour visit Abraham Woodhull’s grave. Photo from Margo Arceri

During December, January and February, Arceri said she thinks about new ideas for the next year. Recently, she was inspired to apply for a grant for a trolley to use for tours after members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Children of the American Revolution traveled from Connecticut to Long Island, and Arceri conducted a tour for them on a Coach USA bus.

She is also hoping to extend Culper Spy Day to a weekend and would love to coordinate a bus trip into New York City where ticket holders can visit the Fraunces Tavern Museum and go on a Revolutionary War-era walking tour in the downtown area with Patriot Tours, she said.

For Arceri, the winter months are ideal for researching in places like Fort Ticonderoga, West Point, Boston, Williamsburg and Philadelphia. She said there is always new information to discover.

“Somebody will ask me something on my tour, and like a good detective, I’ll have to find out the answer,” she said.

Arceri said Brookhaven Town historian Barbara Russell once wrote, “Lucky is the child who listens to a story from an elder and cherishes it for years.” It’s a quote she always starts her tours with because she said she is that child.

The Tri-Spy Tours owner said her love for history began while growing up in Strong’s Neck where she would listen to the stories of Kate Wheeler Strong, a descendant of Culper Spy Ring member Anna Smith Strong who was known for using her clothesline to send coded messages to her fellow spies.

Arceri initially volunteered giving walking tours with the Three Village Historical Society and served on its board three times through the years in roles such as vice president and recording secretary. Arceri said she is always grateful for former society president Steven Hintze, who helped her launch Tri-Spy Tours, and current historical society president Steve Healy for helping her take the business to the next level.

“He has been incredibly supportive, and he’s always listening to my ideas and giving me his feedback and his ideas,” she said. “They’ve just been incredible partners.”

“Somebody will ask me something on my tour, and like a good detective, I’ll have to find out the answer.”

— Margo Arceri

She also credits everyone at the historical society for always being helpful, and archivist Karen Martin, historian Bev Tyler as well as Russell for assisting her with research.

Healy said the admiration is mutual, as Arceri is always looking for new ideas and seeking to expand. He said he would love to see the historical society grow, and he credits Arceri with helping it do that.

“She has the vision to look at the bigger picture, and how we can tie things together,” Healy said.

Arceri said during her tours she intertwines Culper Spy history with fun facts about philanthropists such as the Melville family and Eversley Childs, because she said she feels that it’s important to point out that so many structures in the area are preserved because of someone’s generosity.

“I always like to stress on the tour from the natives, that people arrive here, and they fall in love,” Arceri said. “The early settlers did, the Melvilles did, and I try to make sure that anybody who comes on our tour falls in love a little bit with Setauket.”

Students will now be enrolled in the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. Photo from Stony Brook University

The day before Thanksgiving, Stony Brook University showed its gratefulness for the employees of an East Setauket hedge fund firm.

On Nov. 21, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., SBU’s president, announced that Stony Brook University School of Medicine has been renamed the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. The programmatic name change honors employees of East Setauket-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies who have donated to SBU through the decades, according to the university. Jim Simons, former SBU math department chair and co-founder of Renaissance Technologies, and his wife, Marilyn, kicked off the donations more than 35 years ago. Since then, more than $500 million has been donated by 111 Renaissance families, according to a press release from SBU.

“By sharing their talents, their time and their philanthropic giving over the years, 111 current and former employees of Renaissance, almost all of whom did not graduate from Stony Brook University, have committed to Stony Brook’s success and have given generously of their time and treasure to advance the mission of New York’s premier public institution of higher education,” Stanley said in a statement. “It is fitting that we name the academic program that has a tremendous impact on so many in recognition of this generosity and vision as the Renaissance School of Medicine.”

Marilyn Simons commended the Renaissance employees for their generosity in a statement.

“Stony Brook University is an important institution in the Long Island community and it’s certainly had a significant impact on Jim’s and my life,” she said. “Support from Renaissance, particularly for the university’s work in the sciences, medical research and the delivery of health care services, has enhanced the university’s medical services to the Long Island community.”

The name change has faced some opposition in the past few months from residents of the surrounding communities, including members of the North Country Peace Group, a local activist group. Members Myrna Gordon and Bill McNulty attended a Stony Brook Council meeting in December 2017. The council, which serves as an advisory board to the campus and SBU’s president and senior officers, gave Gordon, McNulty and another community member the opportunity to discuss their reasons for opposing the name change, according to Gordon. She said eight months ago, the activist group also submitted a petition with 800 signatures protesting the name change to SUNY trustees and Carl McCall, chairman of the board of trustees.

Gordon said in a phone interview the protesters object to some of the ways Renaissance makes its money, including investing in private prison systems. They also took exception to the financial contributions to the campaign of President Donald Trump (R) and alt-right groups by former co-CEO Robert Mercer, who has since stepped down.

Despite the opposition to the new program name, Gordon said she and other NCPG members are proponents of the university and many of them attend educational, cultural and sporting events at the campus on a regular basis.

Charlie Ziegler, director of operations of the Holiday Inn Express-Stony Brook, Denean Marie Lane, manager of the Holiday Inn Express, and presenters Laura Dooling, Shantae Rodriguez, and Anthony Zenkus from the Blue Campaign. Photo from the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook

A Stony Brook hotel is doing its part to help stop sex trafficking on Long Island.

“They’re the ones walking the halls all day long so if they see something out of place, they can let us know.”

— Charlie Ziegler

The Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook says it is the first hotel on Long Island to offer an employee seminar on how to spot victims of human trafficking. John Tsunis, the hotel’s owner, invited representatives from Long Island Against Trafficking, a nonprofit dedicated to creating awareness about trafficking, and Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk, which assists survivors of violence, to conduct the hour-long seminar earlier this month for all of their housekeeping and management staff.

Charlie Ziegler, director of operations at Holiday Inn Express, said while the hotel has never encountered a problem, Tsunis and its management felt the information would be invaluable to employees.

“They’re the ones walking the halls all day long so if they see something out of place, they can let us know,” Ziegler said, adding calling the authorities would be the next step.

Sue Lingenfelter, a board member of Long Island Against Trafficking, presented the idea to Tsunis at a networking event back in September, and he quickly said “yes” to the nonprofit coming in to make a presentation.

The goal of the seminar is to train staff members on how to identify victims of human sex trafficking, according to Lingenfelter, where a person is forced against their will to engage in sexual activity, and what to do if they suspect it — a crime she said that occurs often in hotels.

Both Lingenfelter and her fellow board member Shantae Rodriguez said there are a number of red flags to look out for that include: a person allowing someone else to do the talking for them; a hotel guest refusing housekeeping services but ordering more towels and linens than average; a distressed young woman with an older man; or a group of women with one man.

“You can be in the hallway, notice there was a man inside and he came out and saw another man go in, come out.”

— Sue Lingenfelter

LIAT members said sometimes a hotel guest may not want to give a full name, register a vehicle, or will ask for a room toward the back of the hotel which makes it easier for multiple people to come and go. Lingenfelter added seeing a lot of people coming and going from one hotel room is a red flag.

“You can be in the hallway, notice there was a man inside and he came out and saw another man go in, come out,” she said. “These are the signs [employees] can potentially notice. Every employee in the hotel would have a different view of things that could show that this person is being trafficked.”

Rodriguez said if someone gets a chance to talk to a suspected victim, they may find out the person doesn’t know what day it is or what town they are in due to being moved from one location to another constantly by the trafficker.

Both board members and Ziegler felt the seminar was well received and Rodriquez said many employees asked questions.

“The fact that they’re asking questions shows that they’re engaging, and it did turn some wheels, or maybe there is something they’re looking out for,” she said.

Lingenfelter and Rodriguez said they are hoping to bring the seminar to more hotels on Long Island.

“The more education, the more seminars, the more training a hotel is willing to receive, the more that they’re able to say they’re taking a stand against this injustice and being a part of the healing of ending trafficking in this particular area,” Rodriguez said.

Ziegler said if new employees are added to the Holiday Inn Express staff or it is felt a refresher is needed, they would definitely schedule another seminar, and he said he recommends it for all hotels.

“Even if you feel you don’t have this issue going on at all, for every hotel I would absolutely do a seminar,” he said. “It only takes an hour out of everyone’s time. If it can save one victim anywhere it’s worth it.”

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Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County police 6th Precinct crime section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the man who allegedly stole liquor from a Selden store last month.

A man allegedly stole a bottle of Don Julio 1942 Tequila from Ace Liquors, located at 359 Independence Plaza, Nov. 13 at approximately 6:30 p.m. The tequila was valued at approximately $150.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

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Thomas Matthew Miloscia’s father Joe, above, drops Bright Spot bags off at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola. Photo from Michelle Milano

A few years after succumbing to cancer, a young Poquott resident’s acts of kindness still inspire those he touched in his lifetime and beyond.

Thomas and Christine Miloscia. Photo from Michelle Milano

Thomas Matthew Miloscia died Oct. 15, 2015, a few days before his 19th birthday. In March 2016, family friends Michelle and Gregory Milano were inspired to create the Thomas Matthew Miloscia Foundation.

“He was really some special kind of kid,” said Michelle Milano, the foundation’s president. “I have four of my own children, but Thomas felt like one of my children, too. He was the sweetest boy. He would always hold open the door. He would give you a kiss, hello or goodbye. If you came home with groceries, he would run right out and help you bring in the groceries.”

When Milano approached Miloscia’s mother, Christine, about starting the nonprofit, the mother said she was honored.

“My son was a tremendous person,” Miloscia said. “He was always about others. He was so selfless.”

During his senior year at Chaminade High School, a private Catholic school in Mineola, Miloscia experienced pain in his hip, which at first was thought to be an injury from running track. Doctors later diagnosed him with a cancer similar to Ewing’s sarcoma. At first, Miloscia was able to attend school, go on the senior trip to Disney World, attend his prom and graduation, according to Milano, but a few months after graduating in 2015 his condition worsened.

His mother said it’s been difficult for her husband, Joe, and their five children, ranging in age from 14 to 24, since her son’s passing, but they try their best to participate in the foundation’s activities.

“It’s such a good feeling to see all those people who truly care about others and just really want to help,” Christine Miloscia said.

“He was always about others. He was so selfless.”

— Christine Miloscia

The foundation immediately set up a scholarship fund to aid future Chaminade students. The board members’ goal is to raise $300,000 for perpetuity, and they have already collected $30,000 toward it. Chaminade has awarded two scholarships in Miloscia’s name, according to Brother Thomas Cleary, the high school’s president.

Cleary said he remembers Thomas Miloscia always having a smile on his face and never feeling sorry for himself. He said the school was happy to work with the foundation and family to create the scholarship fund.

“The best thing about it is not only assisting other families to send their sons here, but it keeps Thomas’ name very current and very much alive in this school,” he said.

Michelle Milano said the foundation didn’t have a clearly defined mission at first, but recently the board members have narrowed their goal to helping cancer patients between the ages of 15 to 39. There is no other organization on Long Island that helps this age group specifically, according to Milano. People in the age group have lower survival rates than pediatric and older patients and are referred to as AYA, which means adolescent and young adults, according to Dr. Laura Hogan of Stony Brook Medicine.

Thomas Matthew Miloscia

“AYA cancer patients are often late to care, late to diagnosis, less likely to enroll in clinical trials and have delayed start of cancer therapy,” Hogan said, which leads to the lower survival rates.

Hogan said acts of kindness could be a big boost to AYA patients. The doctor said many services are geared toward younger children or older adults, but not AYA patients who may be in college or living with parents or have young children, and have different needs than younger or older patients.

“At Stony Brook, we are building our dedicated AYA services to help meet their needs better and our collaboration with the Thomas Matthew Miloscia Foundation is helping us meet these needs,” she said.

In addition to the Chaminade scholarship fund, the foundation offers six programs. The group assembles welcome bags that they have given to Stony Brook Medicine and NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola. The reusable bags are filled with items like travel pillow blanket combos, socks, notebooks, pens, essential oils, bottled water and inspirational messages. Milano said the bags are imprinted with the logo Bright Spot, which was inspired by a message Miloscia recorded about Patient AirLift Services, of Farmingdale, which provides free air transportation for individuals requiring medical treatment, where he called the organization a “bright spot.”

“We try to carry on that bright spot,” Milano said.

The organization also offers grants to cancer patients up to $1,000 to offset costs such as travel, gas, deductibles and copays. It sponsors summer camp attendance every year for 10 children at Camp Kesem at Stony Brook University for patients or their family members; hands out Thanksgiving cards; and during the holiday season runs an adopt-a-family drive where foundation members will buy items on a family’s holiday list for a total of $1,000 per family. In the past, its gift-in-kind program has allowed the board members to present Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park with Xbox gaming consoles and they hope to do something similar for Stony Brook Medicine in the near future.

When it comes to the foundation’s work, Milano thinks Miloscia would be thrilled.

“This is exactly the kind of thing he would be doing,” she said.

His mother agrees. “He was like the closest thing to Jesus — he really was — he was like a saint,” she said. “So, he would love this, helping others, doing nice things, and helping people during a hard time  — just lift up their spirits a little bit.”

For more information about the Thomas Matthew Miloscia Foundation, visit The organization has also set up a link for anyone interested in donating on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 27.