Community

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John Trodden, above, with previous grand marshals Gerry Creighton, Buster Toner and Mattie O’Reilly, at the grand marshal’s ball in November. Photo by Denise Creighton

By Mallika Mitra

The annual Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade will include a tribute to John Trodden, this year’s grand marshal.

Trodden, 67, was born in Copiague and moved to Kings Park with his family when he was 1 month old.

He was educated at St. Joseph’s elementary school, St. Anthony’s High School and Kings Park school of nursing.

He met his wife, Ellen, in Kings Park and moved to Pennsylvania where he began his career as an anesthetist but moved back to Kings Park where he and Ellen raised their five children, four of whom still live in Kings Park.

“I have traveled all over the world and I will never leave Kings Park,” Trodden said.

His mother, father, aunts, uncles and cousins, live in Ireland and he is very involved in the Irish community of Kings Park.

John Trodden photo from Cathy Cotter
John Trodden photo from Cathy Cotter

“American first, Irish always and Catholic forever,” said Trodden, a deacon at St. Joseph’s Church in Kings Park. “That’s my involvement in the Irish community.”

Receiving the most number of votes from the Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee, Trodden will be the fourth grand marshal on March 1 at noon, starting at the corner of Lou Avenue and Pulaski Road and continuing down Main Street.

“John Trodden is a beautiful person,” said Kevin Denis, president of the Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade and owner of Professors Diner on Indian Head Road.

He has known Trodden for 38 years and had the deacon renew his wedding vows.

This year the deacon was chosen because “he has done a lot of good for the people of Kings Park,” said Randy Shaw, a member of the committee parade who organizes all the bands.

Trodden has served in several administrative positions at the Kings Park, Pilgrim and Central Islip psychiatric centers and St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, which at the time was St. John’s hospital.

“He is very involved in the state hospital system on Long Island,” said Councilman Bob Creighton, one of the parade organizers. “He is a progressive and enthusiastic administrator.”

Trodden was an altar boy at the councilman’s wedding 54 years ago, Creighton said. They now see each other often because Creighton is active at the church where Trodden is a deacon.

“He is a very community-oriented fellow who comes from a great family and is really a nice, decent, good man,” Creighton said.

Trodden also did administrative counseling at the Diocese of Rockville Centre after being asked by the bishop for his help, he said. He is a chaplain for the Kings Park Fire Department and the Suffolk County Police Department, where he provides pastoral counseling.

Trodden said he has also served as a deacon for Teams of Our Lady, which strengthens and provides support groups for marriage. Trodden is a member of Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal benefits organization.

“I am honored,” Trodden said about being selected as this year’s grand marshal. “It is a tribute to my mother and father, a tribute to my wife, Ellen, a tribute to my children and to my grandchildren.”

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Photo by Mallika Mitra

By Mallika Mitra

As the clerk of the historic Setauket Post Office on Main Street greeted customers and conversed with each one, all the while stamping their packages, she said that not all residents know the post office is still open for business.

After a scare in the past few years that the small post office might close, customers who used the post office think that the old building next to the Mill Pond is no longer in business, said Stephanie Ungarino, the post office’s clerk who heads up the branch.

“People come in and say, ‘Oh, I thought this place was closed,’” she said.

The woman who now runs the historic post office worked as a clerk at the larger Setauket Post Office on Route 25A for 19 years before moving to the small Setauket branch.

Marty Donnelly was the postmaster of the Setauket branch until his retirement in February.

In April, Ungarino moved from the larger post office to the one on Main Street to fill in Donnelly’s position.

In July 2011, the United States Postal Service announced the historic post office was one of 3,700 across the country considered for closing because they were not providing enough revenue.

However, residents and elected officials rallied against the closing and spoke out and have been successful in keeping the post office open.

Although Ungarino has the same responsibilities at the historic Setauket branch as she did at the larger Setauket branch, she said it is different working at the smaller building.

“This is just a one-man show,” Ungarino said, and she likes it that way.

“I know them all,” she said about the residents who come into the small post office.

“I wish it was a little busier,” Ungarino said of her new workplace. “I like to keep busy.”

According to Ungarino, after all the talk about whether the small post office would be closed, some people who had previously used the historic Setauket Post Office began to go to the larger branch.

Because of the support the post office receives from Setauket residents, “this place is not going anywhere,” Ungarino said.

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Kathy O’Sullivan, the Rev. Pete Jansson, Sandra Swenk and Ken Brady wave at the Biddle Fountain's dedication. Photo by Bob Savage

By Mallika Mitra & Elana Glowatz

Through hard work and dedication, pieces of Port Jefferson’s history that were lost or crumbling have been restored, preserving tales of the village’s past for future generations.

The historic First Baptist Church building that was once languishing has been renovated and a landmark fountain that disappeared from its front lawn at East Main Street and Prospect Street has been returned.

For their efforts in keeping village history alive while beautifying the area, the Island Christian Church, led by the Rev. Pete Jansson, as well as community volunteers Kathy O’Sullivan, Ken Brady and Sandra Swenk, are some of our People of the Year.

The Biddle Fountain, donated by famous village resident John Biddle in 1898, was once a gathering place in the village, a focal point of parades and other events. Unfortunately, a couple of decades later it became difficult to maintain and when Brookhaven Town removed it to widen the intersection at East Main and Prospect streets, it was lost to history. But our People of the Year stepped in, bringing in a replica of the fountain that sits in front of the church building, now the home of Island Christian Church, as it did before, many years ago.

After the fountain was put in place, Laura Schnier, a member of the church who was on the committee for the Biddle Fountain project, added plants.

The new Biddle Fountain stands in front of the Island Christian Church. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The new Biddle Fountain stands in front of the Island Christian Church. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Each volunteer played a vital role in bringing the fountain replica to the village.

According to Jansson, Brady, the village historian, brought all of the knowledge about the original fountain, put out a search for the lost landmark and then searched for a replica of the old fountain.

The Rev. Joe Garofalo of the Island Christian Church, which also has locations in Northport and Holtsville, said Brady has “a wealth of information.”

Port Jefferson Village’s digital photo archive, which Brady set up and includes numerous historical images, proved helpful during the Biddle Fountain project, Brady said.

The historian, in turn, said Swenk, a former village mayor, was helpful in reaching out to people for fundraising.

“Sandra has really great ideas,” Jansson agreed. “She put tremendous effort into connecting with people in the neighborhood and soliciting money.”

According to O’Sullivan, Swenk has always been involved in the beautification of the village and keeping the historical aspect of the town alive.

“Sandra is very concerned about the town,” Schnier said.

For her part, O’Sullivan “was the driving force in the whole project” and stayed with it through several setbacks, such as early trouble with fundraising, Brady said.

“She is a good leader,” the historian said. “She brings out the best in people.”

O’Sullivan has watched the church transform over the years, since her father was a minister at the First Baptist Church of Port Jefferson from 1978 to 1980. The struggling church had its last service on July 4, 2010, before it was renovated and became the Island Christian Church.

“It was such a small church with no money at all,” O’Sullivan said. “It was extraordinarily wonderful to see how they rebuilt the church.”

She said in a previous interview that though she is not a member of Island Christian Church, after she saw the building’s renovation and the good it did for the village, she decided to return the favor by lending her help to the fountain project.

Jansson, who began leading the Port Jefferson congregation once the Island Christian Church opened, said, “We wanted to restore it back to what it used to look like in the 1850s.”

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Dennis Sullivan is a Man of the Year for selfless work

Dennis Sullivan blows a bugle at the 2011 Veterans Day Ceremony at the Centereach VFW post. File photo by Brittany Wait

By Mallika Mitra

As state surgeon of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in New York, Dennis Sullivan works hard to ensure that his fellow veterans are cared for.

Sullivan is also the quartermaster and financial officer of VFW Post 4927 in Centereach, which he joined in 1984. According to Richard Autorina, chaplain of the VFW post, Sullivan continuously displays “caring, compassion and commitment toward veterans.”

Sullivan visits Veterans Affairs hospitals and outpatient clinics to assist veterans with personal problems, and raises money to help veterans in emergency situations, Autorina said.

“Dennis was a great comfort to me as a parent,” when her son was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army, Councilwoman Kathleen Walsh said. According to Walsh, when her son returned, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury. Walsh said Sullivan helped her understand her son’s PTSD.

Sullivan mentored many young men coming back from having been deployed, Walsh said. When Sullivan visits veterans at VA hospitals, he also helps them fill out their forms and speed up their VA claims.

“Anything I can do for the veterans,” Sullivan said of his visits to VA hospitals.

For spending his time caring and advocating for veterans, Dennis Sullivan is a Man of the Year.

The VFW state surgeon is also the chairperson of Recycled Rides, a program that provides veterans with cars. According to Chris Senior, the owner of Crestwood Auto Body, insurance companies donate to the program cars that have been in accidents, stolen or were company cars. Then, auto body shops donate time and labor to fix the cars, companies donate car parts to assist in fixing the cars and Sullivan coordinates getting the cars to veterans.

“He is a selfless man,” Senior said of Sullivan. “He is always looking to help someone less fortunate than him.”

Ed Kizenberger, the executive director of Long Island Auto Body Repairmen’s Association, met Sullivan through the VFW when he was looking for a way to donate rides to those in need.

“He was very enthusiastic about helping,” Kizenberger said. “He is one of those people who is always happy to donate his time and resources to help others.”

Sullivan is also a member of the Veterans Review Board of the Long Island Home Builders Care Development Corp. A not-for-profit, the organization uses donations of land and dollars to build new homes for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Autorina, the organization has given away two homes and will be giving away five more in December to Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and their families. In June, Sullivan was on the panel of six VFW commanders who chose Marine Sgt. Ryan Donnelly to receive a new home.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) met Sullivan 11 years ago when Bishop was first elected to Congress. They worked together when Sullivan asked Bishop for funding to renovate the kitchen of the Centereach VFW building.

Now Sullivan is on Bishop’s Veterans Advisory Board, which reviews issues important to veterans. According to Krystyna Baumgartner, Bishop’s new communications director, the board is especially interested in legislation that deals with appropriations and protecting both active duty service members and veterans. The board advised the congressman on the REVAMP Act, which would create a grant program for veterans organizations, such as the VFW, to receive up to $250,000 to renovate their halls, Baumgartner said.

Because Sullivan is so active in VFW affairs across the state — traveling throughout the state to help veterans — the two have worked on similar projects and events, said Bishop, who described himself as lucky to be able to call Sullivan a friend.

This year, state Sen. John Flanagan inducted Sullivan into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame. Sullivan was honored for his service to the United States during the Vietnam War and his continued commitment to his fellow veterans since the end of his service.

According to Autorina, after Hurricane Sandy, Sullivan visited VFW posts on Long Island and spoke to veterans who were victims of the hurricane. He raised and distributed $148,000 to more than 350 veterans and ladies auxiliary members, Autorina said.

“Dennis is just a phone call away of anyone in need,” Autorina said. “If he can’t help them, he will go out of his way to find the right person for each situation.”

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Arthur Giove Jr.’s house at 65 Elm Ave. in Coram lights up every year for a good cause. Photo by Mallika Mitra

By Mallika Mitra

For the sixth year, 65 Elm Ave. in Coram exhibits holiday spirit with the help of more than 70,000 LED lights, handmade decorations and music.

In the past, Arthur Giove Jr. decorated his house with just a few lights and simple decorations. But years ago, he began researching online about how to create a show on his front lawn with bright lights, yard inflations and elaborate decorations.

The light show can now be seen every night from Thanksgiving to New Years between 5 and 11 pm.

Giove has made about 90 percent of the decorations on his lawn by himself. A computer in his garage is setup with a FM transmitter, which allows people to hear the music on 107.3 FM coordinated with the light show, as well as through speakers in front of the house. The light show is around half an hour long and includes 13 holiday songs.

“It’s not just a big cluttered mess,” Giove said. “It’s all coordinated.”

At the front of the house sits a donation box, collecting money from visitors for the Suffolk County Make-A-Wish Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Giove has been collecting donations during the holidays for the past five years. This year, he introduced a new donation box.

“Every year I add, I take stuff down and replace it,” he said.

He estimated he has collected about $40,000 over the years for the charities.

Other changes to this year’s show include the addition of 6-foot snowflakes, two 8-foot spiral trees and elves that pop out of their boxes.

“I don’t even have to tell people what’s new,” Giove said. “They’ve been coming every year, so they know.”

Giove works on the light show all year with the help of his wife and children. He begins by making the lights and decorations in February, March and April. Then, he spends the spring and summer choreographing the show. In October, Giove begins decorating. He has spent upward of $15,000 on creating the winter wonderland.

As the holidays get closer, Elm Avenue welcomes a line of cars, filled with people wanting to see Giove’s show.

“Sometimes you can’t even get down the block,” he said. “Some people stay for two minutes and some stay for two hours.”

The neighbors don’t mind having such a popular light show on their street.

“Everybody loves it,” said Lynn Sarppraicone, who lives two blocks away from Giove’s house. “We come here every year.”

“Facebook has been a tremendous help,” Giove said about making his show known. The Facebook page, titled “Elm Avenue Dancing Light Show,” has received more than 1,700 likes.

Drive over to 65 Elm Ave. in Coram on Friday, Dec. 13, at 7 pm to see Santa, elf on the shelf and Dave the minion during the light show.

A Jefferson’s Ferry resident and a staff member share a hug. Photo by Mallika Mitra

By Mallika Mitra

Sudden music, dancing and hugs surprised residents of Jefferson’s Ferry retirement community on Dec. 12, when staff members participated in a flash mob with “Hug Me Maybe,” a parody of singer Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”

Nearly 200 residents laughed and clapped along to the music while Jefferson’s Ferry management, waitstaff and elder care personnel performed a choreographed dance and made their way through the audience hugging residents.

It was the second flash mob — a sudden convergence of people, usually for a surprise performance — set to “Hug Me Maybe” that the residents have seen, the first one being in January as Jefferson’s Ferry CEO Karen Brannen started conducting a study entitled “Embraceable You.” The goal of the study, which was run by Hauppauge-based Corporate Performance Consultants and Brannen herself, was to see whether contact would enhance the lives of residents.

According to Brannen, about 200 residents participated in the study, which consisted of three surveys: one in January, before the interpersonal hugging program called “Hug Me” began, one during the program and one in April, after the program was completed.

The program period kicked off with a flash mob, followed by games and activities throughout that first week. If residents hugged staff or each other, they would receive tokens, which were later drawn for prizes. Residents could also hug staff members at hugging booths located throughout the complex and receive small prizes, such as candy and beads.

“The day we announced what we were doing, a resident came up to me afterward with tears in her eyes and said, ‘My husband died a year ago and this is exactly what I needed. I need a hug,’” Brannen said. “It all just meant so much to her.”

Although “Embraceable You” was not a clinical study, Brannen said it showed that interpersonal touch has a positive effect on the moods of residents. The questions concerning depression on the surveys given to residents were more positive after the original “Hug Me” program concluded in April.

Now the “Hug Me” program has started up again, and this time it’s here to stay.

“We want to make [hugging] part of our culture,” Brannen said. “Between staff and residents, we have very positive relationships. The culture is one that they accept a program like this.”

A waitress in Jefferson’s Ferry’s dining hall choreographed last Thursday’s dance, performed close to the holidays.

“The holidays are a very hard time for people who have lost family,” Brannen said. She added that many residents have lost loved ones and don’t have the opportunity for interpersonal touching.

The flash mob’s routine, which was taught to the staff in one week by three members of the dining room staff who had been in the original performance in January, yielded a positive response.

“The spontaneity is just wonderful,” said Nancy Darling, who has been a resident for more than four years.

Chuck Darling added, “The kids in the dining room and staff are fantastic.”

According to Brannen, for the “Embraceable You” study, residents and staff of Jefferson’s Ferry were taught how to appropriately hug each other.

As a result, “residents were getting closer,” she said.

According to Faith Littlefield, who will have been a resident for three years in March, residents were given literature about how physical contact is healthy.

“It really is good for you,” Littlefield said. “Karen, our CEO, is the best hugger.”

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Town acquires remainder of notable property

A ticket to a race at the Gentlemen’s Driving Park in Terryville on July 4, 1892. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Long Island’s last harness horse racing track is a step closer to being preserved, after the Brookhaven Town Board voted last week to spend $1.18 million from its land acquisition fund to purchase almost 6 acres of land at the site in Terryville.

Once the town closes on that property, it will own the entirety of the 11-acre plot off Canal Road at Morgan Avenue, less than half a mile east of Route 347.

The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is now an overgrown path in the woods, but during the Victorian Era it was a place where bettors gathered as men raced the half-mile loop counterclockwise behind their horses in carts called sulkies. The track, which was part of a circuit of harness racing tracks in the Northeast, was adjacent to the Comsewogue stables, which were owned by well-known area horse trainer Robert L. Davis and are now the Davis Professional Park.

Now that the town is acquiring the rest of the site, Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith said in a phone interview last Thursday that he would like to partner with the parks department to clear the track and he would like to “develop programs and events that are appropriate for the site to educate” visitors. He gave examples of placing signs around the track detailing its history so that people may learn while walking around it, and holding an annual fair with vintage sulkies re-enacting the horse races from the late 1800s or participating in a carriage parade.

Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, who was a driving force behind the site’s acquisition, said last Thursday that preserving the track is important from an environmental standpoint as well — maintaining open space helps replenish the underground aquifer from where the area gets its drinking water.

Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld and Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith on a recent trip to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park in Terryville. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld and Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith on a recent trip to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park in Terryville. Photo by Elana Glowatz

In addition to working with the historical society to preserve the track, the councilman said he would like to see a stewardship agreement with the Woodcrest Estates apartments, which abut the property. Fiore-Rosenfeld said the senior residents could use the track, “a relatively tranquil place,” to go for walks without having to go into the street.

Smith discovered the Gentlemen’s Driving Park a few years ago using Google Earth. He said in a previous interview that he had heard rumors of a racing track in the area, and while looking at the aerial view of Terryville he saw a faint oval shape in the woods off Canal Road. The next day he was walking on the 25-foot-wide path in the woods.

The track is mostly whole — a Long Island Power Authority right-of-way cuts into its southwestern curve.

The historical society president reached out to Fiore-Rosenfeld and the two have since worked together to preserve the site.

“This was not some backwoods, good ol’ boy, local kind of thing. This was a big deal for its time,” Smith said last winter, as the town was still working to acquire the rest of the property. He called it the NASCAR of its day and said, “This was an era when the horse was king. The horse was everything to everyone,” including transportation, sport and work.

The historian has uncovered a few artifacts, including a pair of Victorian-era field glasses near the finish line on the track’s west side. They were broken, likely after being dropped and trampled. Smith also has a ticket from a July 4, 1892.

Ironically, the rise of the automobile likely caused the track’s demise, but cars also helped preserve the track so it could be discovered today. According to Smith, local kids raced jalopies at least through the mid-1950s, which prevented the track from becoming completely overgrown. Those kids left signs of their activities — around the track there are rusty frames of wrecked cars.

“Maybe we should keep one there as a monument,” Smith said last Thursday, with a laugh. “In a strange way we owe a lot to those kids.”

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Hugh Campbell in his plane, The Swoose. Photo from the veteran

One served in the Naval Air Force in the Pacific, a second on the ground in Europe and another in its skies, but all three put their lives on the line during World War II to protect their country. Several decades later, the Rotary Club of Port Jefferson honored the three village residents for their service at their meeting Tuesday for Veterans Day, to show them that their sacrifices would not be forgotten.

From left, Hugh Campbell, Fred Gumbus and Walter Baldelli a few years ago on an Honor Flight, in which veterans are brought on a free trip to Washington, D.C. Photo from Fred Gumbus
From left, Hugh Campbell, Fred Gumbus and Walter Baldelli a few years ago on an Honor Flight, in which veterans are brought on a free trip to Washington, D.C. Photo from Fred Gumbus

The three men, Walter Baldelli, Hugh Campbell and Fred Gumbus, are all still active in their community, as they are three of the longest-serving members of the Port Jefferson Fire Department.

Baldelli, 95, was a tech sergeant in the Army’s 29th Infantry Division. He recalled in a phone interview “the one that damn near got me”: He was standing guard in a city in Belgium and the Germans sent bombs over “every night so we couldn’t sleep.” When one came close one night, he ran for cover on one side of a church, and the bomb went off on the other side.

“I lost my hat, my coat went over my head; I dropped my rifle.”

When Baldelli walked around the building, “there was a mess of dead people.” He said that was the closest he came to being really hurt.

Fred Gumbus, bottom row, second from right, was a tail gunner in the Naval Air Force. Photo from the veteran
Fred Gumbus, bottom row, second from right, was a tail gunner in the Naval Air Force. Photo from the veteran

The tech sergeant also spent time during the war in Iceland, England, France — in Paris, he walked underneath the Eiffel Tower — and Germany. His last stop before returning stateside was Frankfurt.

Baldelli said, “It was quite an experience,” and when he finally arrived home one day at 3 am, he woke up his parents and “we started drinking wine till daybreak.”

Campbell also served in Europe, as a tech sergeant in the Army’s Ninth Air Force from 1942 to 1945. The 89-year-old former flight engineer said he remembers most of it like it was yesterday, and there was one point when he was going into battle every day.

“After a while, you begin to wonder, how many times can I do this, you know?” he said. There were “people shooting at you every darn day with everything they got.”

Hugh Campbell served in the Army’s Ninth Air Force. Photo from the veteran
Hugh Campbell served in the Army’s Ninth Air Force. Photo from the veteran

Campbell also shared that one day after a raid, so many men had been lost that he was sent out on a second raid in the afternoon. The commanding officer had said, “I hate to send you out again but we don’t have anyone else,” Campbell said.

He described the feeling of not knowing if he was alive or dead.

“Everybody you had breakfast with before you went wasn’t there, they’re gone.”

One interesting experience that Campbell had came after the war, when a longtime friend asked if he remembered any of his 44 missions against the Germans. Campbell told the story of a small city where a bridge went diagonally across the Rhine — which was unusual — and “they wanted to bomb and take the bridge out to cripple the German supply system.” He was about 19 years old at the time.

The friend replied that it was his village, that he had been there on the ground with his brother when it happened and saw the whole thing. The man recalled seeing big yellow triangles on the rudders of the bomber representing the insignia of Campbell’s group.

Campbell said his friend would not have known about the triangles unless he had, indeed, been there: “Here is a guy that was an enemy and now he and I are friends.”

Fred Gumbus was a tail gunner in the Naval Air Force. Photo from the veteran
Fred Gumbus was a tail gunner in the Naval Air Force. Photo from the veteran

Gumbus was an aviation ordnanceman in the Naval Air Force from 1943 to 1946, with Patrol Bomber Squadron VPB-118. The 89-year-old former tail gunner, who goes by “Pop” in the PJFD because he is the most senior Gumbus in the department, served on the Pacific front.

While returning from one mission, Gumbus said, he called the pilot from the tail to warn that there were five Japanese fighters following theirs and another American plane. Though Gumbus’ plane made it out of the skirmish, the Japanese had taken out one of their engines and another one was in flames. He said they put out the fire but were losing altitude, and had to get rid of any weight they could. He tossed out toolboxes, parachutes and the insides of the guns.

The pilot released a bomb bay tank, but it tipped and got caught, and was hanging partly out of the bottom of the plane. Gumbus said he had to get rid of it, because if the plane were to land like that, the gas tank would have scraped the ground and exploded.

“Here I am trying to kick this thing” out of the plane, he said, and he was hanging over the plane’s open bottom above the Sea of Japan without a rope or harness.

Eventually the tank was loosened and fell out — and the plane, though sputtering, landed safely on Okinawa.

When he found out the Rotary was planning to honor him, Gumbus said, he thought, “Well that’s wonderful … because lots of times you’re forgotten.”

A modest Campbell said about being honored for his service, “I guess I appreciate it and it never occurred to me that anyone would ever say anything about it.”

Bailey brought comfort to personnel in Afghanistan

Bailey’s journey isn’t over yet, but she has found her home again after reuniting with Staff Sgt. Kevin Brady at the Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center in Port Jefferson Station on July 4.

Fireworks popped in the distance as the Anatolian shepherd mix whined, wagged her tail and moved frantically around Brady, whom she had not seen in a couple of months.

The National Guardsman and his unit took in Bailey in the fall, when she was about eight weeks old. The dog had previously been tagging along with the Afghani army and the American unit quickly became attached to her. Brady, who recently finished his second tour, said she provided comfort to soldiers who were away from their kids, families and pets.

When the unit went back stateside, “Just leaving her there just didn’t seem right.”

That’s where the Guardians of Rescue came in. Dori Scofield, the group’s vice president as well as Save-A-Pet’s founder, said Brady contacted her three months ago about bringing Bailey to the United States. Guardians of Rescue, which rescues and finds homes for animals in need, raised $5,000 in nine days to help the soldier and “his battle buddy Bailey.”

Guardians of Rescue president Robert Misseri said Afghanistan can be a hostile environment for a dog, and when some people find a dog U.S. soldiers have left behind, they will kill it.

For all military personnel do for their country, “the least we can do is help them get their war buddy home,” Scofield said.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Brady is reunited with Bailey the dog, above, on Independence Day. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Staff Sgt. Kevin Brady is reunited with Bailey the dog, above, on Independence Day. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Nowzad, an organization that rescues dogs in Afghanistan, brought the dog to Kabul for her vaccinations and to get her spayed, she said. Bailey, who is now about 11 months old, made a stop at a kennel in Dubai before being shipped to John F. Kennedy International Airport. Scofield picked her up there on July 2.

“I walked into the cargo area and heard ‘Woof woof.’”

Scofield said Brady had been in constant contact with her and when she told him the dog was having a bath, he texted back, “She went from peasant to princess.”

Bailey waited at Save-A-Pet for a couple of days for her soldier to pick her up and take her with him on a road trip back to his home in Sacramento, Calif., where Brady has two sons.

The staff sergeant, who is still on active duty, is also a deputy sheriff in nearby Placer County.

Scofield said Bailey “loves everybody, but she’s looking for him.”

When Scofield brought Bailey outside to where Brady was waiting on the afternoon of July 4, she ran to her whistling friend and whined as he laughed and petted her.

“She got a lot bigger,” Brady said.

Bailey may have been unsure when she first went outside to be reunited with her buddy, Scofield said, but when Brady whistled to her, “you saw the light bulb go off in her head.”

New dog park will be off Boyle Road

Irene Rabinowitz with her dog, Sydney, at the site of the future dog park in Selden. Photo by Erika Karp

Soon Middle Country dogs and their owners won’t have to travel far for puppy play dates or a walk in the park, as plans for a local dog park are moving forward.

The park, which will be located on a property off Boyle Road, just north of Independence Plaza in Selden and across from Washington Heights Street, could be completed by the end of this year, according to Councilwoman Kathy Walsh (I-Centereach).

Irene Rabinowitz, a Selden resident and the former owner of Barks-n-Bubbles Boutique on Middle Country Road in Centereach, has been a driving force behind the project. In 2011, Rabinowitz created Central Suffolk Paws, a local affiliate of Long Island Dog Owners Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to parkland for dogs and their owners.

“You go into this wooded property right off of Boyle Road [and] it’s just so relaxing and peaceful,” Rabinowitz said in a phone interview about the planned site for the dog park.

Walsh said in a phone interview there is money available in this year’s town budget to create a small gravel parking lot and to install fencing for the park, but she was unsure of the project’s total cost. The park will take up about four acres on the northern side of the 10-acre wooded property. Paths that already exist throughout that section will remain for dogs and their owners to roam freely.

Rabinowitz, who owns four dogs including an 11-year-old Australian shepherd named Sydney who needs to stay active, said she has always wondered why there were no dog parks in the central Suffolk area. Last October, Rabinowitz and Sydney completed a 70-mile walk from Centereach to Montauk to raise money and awareness for Central Suffolk Paws and the Arthritis Foundation, Long Island Chapter.

“It is a matter of socialization,” Rabinowitz said about the need for dog parks. “[Sydney] wants to be out there with other dogs and people.”

Brookhaven Town has a few parks for dogs already, including the town’s Middle Island Dog Park, one in Mud Creek County Park in Patchogue and another at the county’s Robinson Duck Farm in Brookhaven hamlet. There are also other dog parks throughout Suffolk County, including the Blydenburgh Dog Park in Hauppauge and East Northport Dog Park in East Northport.

All of these are 20 to 30 minutes away from this community so that’s why we need one here,” said Kevin McCormack, the former executive director of the Middle Country Coalition for Smart Growth, a nonprofit organization working to develop and revitalize the Middle Country community.

McCormack said the idea to create a dog park in Middle Country goes back to when the group was putting together the Middle Country Sustainable Community Plan. In the 2008 community plan, which listed the community’s assets and needs, a dog park was listed as an item the community expressed “significant interest” in.

For the last three months, McCormack said residents involved with the initiative have really tried to move forward with it. A car-wash fundraiser was held recently, and Rabinowitz said she wants to continue to raise funds and hold monthly car washes over the summer. Another fundraiser will be held at the Middle Country Beer Garden in July. Rabinowitz said Central Suffolk Paws is also looking for sponsors for the dog park, with the hope of purchasing things like benches for the park and developing it further.

McCormack said residents could also volunteer to help out, especially on Saturday, May 18, when the Town of Brookhaven will hold its sixth annual Great Brookhaven Clean Up at various locations throughout the town, including the soon-to-be dog park’s location. The property sometimes attracts unwanted visitors, who leave behind alcohol bottles and other trash.

“Volunteers are more than welcome,” McCormack said. “The more we can get [the property] clean, the less we have to rely on the town.”

For updates on the park’s progress or to find out more information, residents can visit the Central Suffolk Paws Facebook group or email cspaws@gmail.com.