Obituaries

Jack Schaedel with students through the years at Norwood Elementary School. Photo from Joanne Grzymala

Comsewogue School District is widely regarded as a haven for quality education and its community feel by those on the inside and outside. One of the people who played a role in fostering that reputation died Oct. 10, but his spirit won’t be vacating the schools’ walls, or broader community, any time soon.

Jack Schaedel, 78, was a teacher at Norwood Elementary School from 1969 to 1999, though his influence was not confined to his classroom. Schaedel ran the school’s store for years, conditioning the students to raise money to fund class trips or donate to worthy causes. Years of holiday gift sales and other fundraisers paid for trips to Washington, D.C., foreign countries and donations to UNICEF drives, thanks to Schaedel’s leadership.

Schaedel is honored during a chamber of commerce celebration. Photo from Joanne Grzymala

He also spent three decades as an active participant and board member on Port Jefferson Station’s chamber of commerce, on Theatre Three’s board of directors, served as the teachers union’s representative, and as a trustee on Comsewogue Public Library’s board from 1974 to 2000 — a time period that saw the public pillar grow exponentially in size.

Through all of his community involvement and duties as a teacher, the 1999 Port Times Record Man of the Year raised a family with his wife Anne of 58 years, and his family members speak as glowingly of him as his colleagues and students do.

“He was the most positive, happiest person you could meet,” said his daughter Joanne Grzymala, who went on to become a teacher herself. “Within minutes of meeting him he would already be cheering you on, inspiring something inside of you to feel good about yourself. His presence was felt the second he walked into a room. His enthusiasm for life was contagious.”

Comsewogue’s Joe Rella took over the role of Superintendent shortly after Schaedel retired, though the two maintained a relationship. The district’s head said Schaedel’s influence was felt long after he left.

Rella has led the way instituting a problem-based learning curriculum in the district, a method that closer resembles a college thesis format than the standardized teach-to-the-test model characterizing education in recent years. The curriculum is offered to all Comsewogue students this year following a small rollout last school year, which saw PBL students score higher in most cases on state tests than their peers learning in traditional classrooms.

“Long before problem-based learning was on the radar — I’m talking 25 years ago — Jack was doing [the same thing] with his fifth-grade class,” Rella said. “He was a master, he was like the Pied Piper. He got children excited about learning. While they were excited he snuck in the learning.”

In the 1999 Man of the Year feature written about him, then Norwood principal Andrew Cassidy praised Schaedel as a completely dedicated teacher, and board of education member Peter Cario called him singularly focused on the betterment of education.

During his years as a Comsewogue library trustee he worked closely with trustee Ed Wendol, who said as a pair their goal was to craft programs for residents of all age groups aimed at enjoyment and educating.

Jack Schaedel with students through the years at Norwood Elementary School. Photo from Joanne Grzymala

“I found him to be a true professional, really interested in educating, and making sure Comsewogue Public Library become the educational cultural and social center of our community. We felt that to be very important,” Wendol said.

Richard Lusak, the library’s first director who shepherded the facility through major expansion to the community hub it is today, called Schaedel a unifier on the board of trustees relentlessly dedicated to the Port Jeff Station area. “Jack worked very hard with us on all of our programs,” Lusak said. “He was a good man and a good trustee.”

Schaedel is survived by his wife Anne; sisters Cindy Davis and Dixie Schaedel; daughter Joanne Grzymala (Chris) and son Jack (Jackie); five grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

A December tribute is being planned in his honor, and those interested can email Joanne at setrlingjo61@yahoo.com for more information.

The family is also asking to consider donating to help in Theatre Three’s recovery from a devastating September flood at P.O. Box 512 Port Jefferson, New York 11777, attention Vivian Koutrakos.

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Charles B. Wang, right, stands with Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. after receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the school in 2015. Photo from Stony Brook University

Charles B. Wang, minority owner of the New York Islanders hockey team and founder of the software company CA Technologies, died Oct. 21 at the age of 74 in Oyster Bay, according to a statement from his attorney John McEntee of Farrell Fritz P.C. in Uniondale.

Charles B. Wang. Photo from CA Technologies

Wang was born in Shanghai, China, Aug. 19, 1944, and moved to the United States with his family when he was 8 years old. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School and graduated from Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics.

Wang donated $52 million to Stony Brook University, which led to the opening of the Charles B. Wang Center, in 2002, an Asian and Asian-American cultural center. At the time, it was the largest individual donation in State University of New York history, according to SBU’s website.

“I am deeply saddened to have learned about the passing of Charles Wang and extend my deepest sympathies to his family on behalf of myself and Stony Brook University,” SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in a statement. “Charles’ legacy will live on at Stony Brook University in the iconic and vibrant Charles B. Wang Center, opened in 2002 as an international hub bringing Asians and Americans into a common space, a marketplace of cultural awakenings and ideas for the 21st century.”

Stanley said in the statement the center offers a respite for students.

“It is a proverbial bridge between cultures, and a welcome home to all students of every nationality, every race and religion,” he said. “It is a monument to his vision and will continue to be for generations to come. The world needs more like Charles Wang.”

In 2015, Wang received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the university. During his acceptance speech he stated his beliefs in four points: “1. You can make a difference; 2. Integrity and loyalty are only words until tested; 3. Love life to the fullest; and 4. Have fun.”

In 1976, Wang co-founded Computer Associates International, now known as CA Technologies, serving as chairman and chief executive officer, according to his attorney.

“I am deeply saddened to have learned about the passing of Charles Wang and extend my deepest sympathies to his family on behalf of myself and Stony Brook University.”

— Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

In 2000 Wang was asked to purchase the Islanders, for which he remained majority owner until 2016 when he sold his majority stake. The entrepreneur had only attended one hockey game in life before ownership, and the new role led to him creating Project Hope, an international program in China to develop education through ice hockey.

Another philanthropic venture of Wang’s was Smile Train, of which he was the founding member in 1999 and chairman of the board. The nonprofit provides free surgery to children in developing countries who have cleft lip and palate.

“Charles was the driving force behind Smile Train and the reason why so many deserving children continue to receive the care they so desperately need,” Smile Train posted on its website. “His unwavering passion, commitment and dedication to children with clefts was unmatched. Our Smile Train family will miss him beyond words, yet we take comfort in knowing his legacy will live on forever in the smiles of the faces of the children we help and in the hearts of everyone who was fortunate enough to know him.”

In 1998, Wang endowed the Charles B. Wang International Foundation, and, in 2001, he established the New York Islanders Children’s Foundation, dedicated to supporting children and youth organizations, according to McEntee’s statement.

Wang was also chairman of the board of NeuLion, a digital video technology company, from 2008 to 2016 and is the author of “TechnoVision: The Executive’s Survival Guide to Understanding and Managing Information Technology” and “Wok Like a Man,” a cookbook of his favorite Chinese food recipes.

Wang leaves behind his wife Nancy Li; children Kimberly (Chris), Jasmine and Cameron; grandchildren, Charles, Kingsley and Kendall; mother, Mary; brothers Anthony (Lulu) and Francis (Laura), and his nieces and nephew. He was preceded in death by his father, Kenneth. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Smile Train or the New York Islanders Children’s Foundation.

 

Ex-Chief John Evans, a 62-year member of the Setauket Fire Department, died July 28 and was buried with honors in the St. James R.C. Church Cemetery in Setauket Aug. 2. Firematic Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home Aug. 1.

Evans was born Oct. 31, 1934, in Mather Hospital. He graduated Port Jefferson High School in 1952. His studies in college were followed with a position with Suffolk County as a civil engineer. He retired after 36 years in 1991.

He married Betty in 1957 and recently celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary. They have three children, Sharon Pifko, Tim Evans and Kathy Mays. He is also survived by his two grandchildren Hailey and Sean Mays and a sister Sandra Kratina of Miller Place.

Evans joined the Setauket Fire Department when he was 18 years old and was chief of the department from 1964 through 1965. He was also an assistant chief for six years prior. After serving 61 years, 11 months and 4 days, he became a Life member of SFD, and in his final years, he was a member of the Fire Police.

In his years of active firefighting, Evans shared his great knowledge of hydraulics and pumping with many of the younger firefighters as they learned all the nuances of the department pumpers. He will be missed.

Dr. Leo Dvorken, former Setauket resident, founder of Selden pediatric group, dies at 86

Dr. Leo Dvorken reading to his grandchildren Jakob and Katrina in an undated photo.

Years after he retired from his Suffolk County practice, a pediatrician and former Setauket resident is being remembered fondly by those who knew him.

Dr. Leo Dvorken, the founder of what is now known as Kids Care Pediatric Medicine P.C. in Selden, died July 21 at the age of 86. At a funeral service July 24, Rabbi Stephen Karol and Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky addressed the mourners who filled Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook and read eulogies from Dvorken’s family members filled with anecdotes and praise. His former practice partners were also on hand to pay tribute to a man they considered a valuable colleague and close friend.

In a eulogy written by his daughter Rachel, she described being in the presence of her father as a gift, calling him gentle, kind and possessing a joie de vivre, a French phrase meaning a joy for life.

“Whether it was pancakes at the diner, lobster fest at Bay Road East [Strong’s Neck], midnight boat rides, rainy day hikes, ski trips, sing-alongs in the car, watching our kids’ games or concerts or just hanging out — it was always fun,” she wrote in the eulogy. “I just loved being with my father.”

Dvorken, who loved to fish, on his boat in Port Jefferson Harbor.

While Dvorken spent his final years in New Jersey, Temple Isaiah was the appropriate place for his funeral service. His daughter wrote that her father, who was committed to Judaism and loved Israel, cared deeply about Temple Isaiah. When the temple couldn’t obtain a mortgage to construct the building in the late 1960s, Dvorken was one of 13 members who personally guaranteed the mortgage, according to his daughter.

Born Oct. 19, 1931, he was the third child of Harry and May. Leo’s first brother, Simon, died before he was born, and his brother Henry was a few years older than him. When Leo was a child, he excelled in oration, chess, singing, art, Boy Scouts and chemistry. He loved to play football, basketball and baseball. Later in life, he became interested in tennis, skiing, music and fishing.

He first attended Haverford College in Pennsylvania but then left the school to pursue an advanced degree in chemistry from New York University after being inspired by a conversation with a medical school professor at the college. Dvorken was 27 when he decided to go to medical school, but many of the New York area colleges thought he was too old, so he applied to and was accepted to a prestigious school in Geneva, Switzerland. He first had to take courses in French since all the classes were in that language.

Before he traveled to Switzerland, he met his wife, Doris, a Columbia University undergraduate. The two, who recently celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary, met at a party in the Bronx, according to his wife’s eulogy. The first time she met him his wife said she knew she would marry him.

“From the minute I met him and talked to him, I felt like I didn’t need to ever talk to another person again,” his wife wrote. “It was like we were in a room alone, even though we were surrounded by others.”

After studying in Switzerland, Dvorken spent his residency in a Jewish hospital in Brooklyn. In 1969 he moved out to Setauket and opened the pediatric group in Selden. His friends that he met during his residency, Dr. Arie Aloni and Dr. Boris Lustik, soon joined the practice and bought homes in Setauket, too.

“It was the best decision of my life,” Lustik said.

Aloni and Lustik, who are both retired from the practice, in phone interviews described Dvorken as a wonderful person and physician, and the doctors formed a strong bond.

“Our practice was unique in a sense that not only were we colleagues, but we were also friends who became an extended family,” Aloni said. “So much so that my kids call him Uncle Leo.”

Lustik described Dvorken as an astute physician who was gentle with his patients, while Aloni said the doctor didn’t have a bad bone in his body.

“He was the glue of our practice,” Aloni said.

When other practices refused to take patients on Medicaid, Aloni said Dvorken ensured the practice was open to everyone whether they could afford medical care or not. When a 7-year-old asked him for an interview once, Dvorken answered his questions and showed him around the office. The doctor became a mentor to the boy who later went on to become a pediatric oncologist, according to Aloni.

Lustik remembered Dvorken’s love of music and going to see the New York Philharmonic with him, while Aloni and the doctor would play tennis a few times a week at the Three Village Tennis Club until they retired.

Tennis continued to be a passion in Dvorken’s life. Aloni said the two would talk on the phone during big tennis tournaments discussing strategies and critiquing the players. On Dvorken’s last day, they were on the phone chatting about Wimbledon, he said.

In a eulogy written by Dvorken’s grandson Fran Rosenberg, he summed up the gifts his grandfather left with him and others.

“My grandfather taught me through example how to be a man who produces, loves and serves his family, serves the community, follows his heart, lives his passions and respects everybody — no matter where they come from,” Rosenberg said.

Dvorken is survived by his wife Doris; son Gregory; daughter Rachel; son-in-law Harry Rosenberg; and four grandchildren, Fran, Zach, Katrina and Jakob Rosenberg.

Bryan Steuer. Photo from the Steuer family

Bryan Steuer will be remembered by his friends and family as someone who could hold the world together and yet be exceedingly humble. The Rocky Point native passed away on May 18 at the age of 34.

“Bryan lived by two simple things: Do the right thing and be there for people,” said Bryan’s sister Lisa Steuer, a former employee in TBR News Media’s editorial department. “When someone passes away you’re inclined to talk good about them, but when you’re talking about Bryan it’s really true.”

Bryan Steuer, standing, with siblings Joe and Lisa Steuer. Photo from the Steuer family

Her brother was laid to rest at the end of May, and in August family and friends of Bryan are planning to host a fundraiser to establish a college fund for his 4-month-old daughter. “We just want to make sure she is taken care of, because that is what Bryan would have done,” said Kevin Cain, a family friend and co-owner of Lithology Brewing Co. in Farmingdale. “If Bryan was here and things were opposite he would have done the same thing for my family.”

Bryan’s passing came as a shock to the very core of the family, according to his sister. Her brother’s death came only a month after he attended her wedding in the role of man of honor along with their brother, Joe.

Joe Steuer, the youngest of the Steuer siblings, said his older brother was the guy who walked him through everything, from getting married to buying a house. “Bryan was basically our leader,” Joe said. “He was everything I looked up to be.”

As a kid Bryan was both intelligent and athletic, his family said. He played basketball, soccer and baseball at Rocky Point High School before graduating fourth in his class in 2002. Steuer graduated from the University of Delaware and went to work as a chemical engineer for ExxonMobil. He worked hard and was promoted section head of numerous departments while at the same time helping to create two patents with the company. ExxonMobil eventually transferred him to Texas where he lived with his daughter and his wife until he died suddenly from an unknown ailment.

“He had a really big heart, and for a guy as smart as he was, he was a really caring person — he always checked in on you and made sure you were okay,” Bryan’s uncle and Rocky Point resident Dave Steuer said. “My family, we’re just shattered now. He was really kind of the glue that held us all together.”

Lisa remembered her brother in terms most brothers likely hope their sister would — as her protector. He helped her find her classroom as she walked off the bus at Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School. Years later, in college, she would text him using American Online Messenger and talk with him nearly every night as he helped her learn how to make new friends and get over the stress of school.

“Bryan was somebody unique in this world, and he didn’t have to tell people the good he was doing — he just did the right thing.”

— Lisa Steuer

“In this sort of age, we’re living in a time where you go on the internet, and it asks you ‘what’s on your mind,’ we’re so inclined to tout ourselves,” Lisa said. “Bryan was somebody unique in this world, and he didn’t have to tell people the good he was doing — he just did the right thing.”

Bryan Steuer is survived by his wife Maritza, daughter Alejandra, brother Joe, sister Lisa, and his parents, John and Kathy.

The Bryan Steuer Memorial Fundraiser will take place at Lithology Brewing Co., 211-A Main Street, Farmingdale on Aug. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. There is a $25 suggested donation at the door, and the event will feature happy hour specials at the bar and free food. The Steuer siblings, Joe and Lisa, will be guest bartending, and any tips they earn will go toward the fund as well.

For more information or if you wish to donate, email bryansteuermemorial@gmail.com or search Bryan Steuer Memorial Fundraiser on Facebook.

Randall, Merwin and Marten Woodard will be laid to rest in Port Jefferson July 14. Photo from the Woodard family

By Alex Petroski

Three Port Jefferson natives and U.S. Navy veterans from World War II will be laid to rest in Port Jeff next week, and their families have extended an invitation to the community to share memories.

The Woodard boys — Randall, Merwin and Marten — will be buried at the Randall family plot at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson July 14 at 11:30am.

They were raised in Port Jefferson by loving parents, Madeline and Grover Woodard, and they will be honored by all three families.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket.

Jill Nees-Russell during a debate for village board. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson is a tight-knit community with a small-town feel, which is probably at the top of the list of reasons why people love it. A byproduct of that fact is that when a community member is lost, the impact reverberates quickly and intensely. When the person is also widely beloved, the reverberations can feel seismic.

“She was the epitome of beauty, inside and out, loved by all who had the pleasure of knowing her and she touched us all with her grace, her smile, her spirit and her optimism and pure joy for life.”

— Margot Garant

That’s what Port Jefferson Village is going through right now with the loss of Jill Nees-Russell. The village’s longtime public relations representative and general Swiss Army knife died June 18. She left behind her husband Fred and kids Henry and Lily.

Jill was as kind and generous of a person as I’ve ever met. Two years ago this week, I was promoted at TBR News Media to the editor of The Port Times Record. My predecessor, Elana Glowatz, had covered Port Jeff for nearly a decade, establishing relationships and getting a feel for the ins and outs of the community to a degree that left me feeling overwhelmed and intimidated to say the least. How could I possibly maintain the
connections she’d taken painstaking hours, days, weeks and years to craft — let alone forming new ones on top of that?

I wasn’t on the job for more than a day or two before I was alerted that I had a call from Jill.

She reached out to introduce herself and invite me to join her for breakfast and coffee that week at Local’s Café. Somehow she must have sensed my head spinning a few miles down Route 25A at our Setauket office, and was immediately looking to offer a helping hand. She sat with me for more than an hour sharing names, contacts, future programs and events — and even insisted that I try the avocado toast she had ordered. I returned to work from that meeting with a fresh outlook on my new position. I felt like a skydiver who had just been gifted a parachute. Throughout the time that our career paths intersected, I always knew I could count on her for support, be it photos from an event I wasn’t able to attend or suggestions for who might be best suited to answer my questions.

Jill’s time in Port Jeff was so far-reaching that there are likely people who never met her that were still impacted by her talents and dedication. She was one of the driving forces behind so many of the most popular events the village has to offer, putting in hours of work to make the Charles Dickens Festival and Heritage Weekend seminal occasions.

Jill Nees-Russell during a past Charles Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson. Photo from PJV

Testimonials about her impact on people who did know her have flooded social media in the days since her passing.

“We here in the Village of Port Jefferson were so very lucky to have worked with her, loved her and spent these last 10 years with her,” Mayor Margot Garant wrote in a heartfelt Facebook post. “Jill loved life and her family so much. She was the epitome of beauty, inside and out, loved by all who had the pleasure of knowing her and she touched us all with her grace, her smile, her spirit and her optimism and pure joy for life. I will miss her more than words can ever express and I know I speak for so, so many when I say we were so truly blessed to love her and have her call Port Jefferson her home.”

Many took to a Facebook group comprised of village residents past and present to also bid Jill farewell.

“Jill Nees-Russell loved our village and bled purple,” Brenda Eimers Batter wrote. “She will absolutely be missed.”

“It’s people like her that make our village the beautiful community it is and the community it will always be,” Steven Muñoz said. “She will never be forgotten. Her passion and love for Port Jeff will live on forever.”

Rest in peace Jill, and thank you for your unwavering kindness. The way you treated people should be an example to all.

Stony Brook ophthalmologist and Port Jeff resident Aaron Wigdor. Photo from the Wigdor family

“The eye is like a camera,” was the ophthalmologist’s favorite expression.

Aaron Wigdor, an eye doctor with a practice in Stony Brook who lived in Port Jefferson since the 1960s, died in April at 82. He was among those who led the charge for Port Jefferson Village to purchase Harbor Hills Country Club from the late 1960s through the ’70s, an asset the municipality still owns today, and was the first men’s tennis singles champion at the club. He is survived by his son Douglas; daughter Caren Skutch; daughter-in-law Catherine; son-in-law, William; and four grandchildren, Jacob, Simon, Julia and Carly.

Wigdor was born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey. He attended Princeton University as an undergraduate and went on to medical school at New York University. He served in the United States Army Medical Corps in Texas at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. He was also President Lyndon Johnson’s on-call ophthalmologist for a time.

“The eye is like a camera.”

— Aaron Wigdor

In 1968, he and his late wife Ellen moved from Texas to Port Jefferson, where the couple remained until relocating to Florida in 2016, reluctantly, according to his son.

“He really did love Port Jefferson,” his son said.

Both of his parents played a part in organizing the senior prom at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, which was a long-standing tradition in Port Jeff, for parents of the senior class to help pick a secret theme unveiled only on prom night and organize the over-the-top event.

Wigdor had many close friends in Port Jefferson, and as a young man enjoyed spending time out from of Darling’s Stationery, where many from the community would gather in what probably would resemble a social media chat group today.

“You would never know he was a gossip,” his daughter said. “After my mother passed away, he got very sad. As a couple, they had a lot of friends in Port Jefferson. They were always going out. They were really pillars in the community.”

Skutch described her father’s sense of humor and intellect as “acerbic,” a trait she said she loved. She said he enjoyed reading the dictionary as a hobby, and it was a favorite response of his to instruct his kids to “go read the dictionary” when they complained of being bored.

They were always going out. They were really pillars in the community.”

— Caren Skutch

“He was just an all-around good dad,” she said, adding that as a grandfather Wigdor taught her kids how to swim and play ball.

Wigdor’s son said he hoped people who knew him would remember how caring and dedicated he was as a doctor at his practice on Nesconset Highway, which he established in 1969.

“In this day and age when people go to see their doctor and are rushed in and out, I know that my father and his practice spent time with patients in caring for them and I believe his patients really respected that,” he said.

Longtime Port Jeff residents Anita and Arthur Spencer, who knew the Wigdors, traveled to Puerto Rico and Atlantic City among other destinations regularly together.

Anita Spencer called Wigdor a very sociable guy who had many friends and talked to many people during his days in Port Jeff.

“He was very friendly,” she said. Anita Spencer said the two couples avidly followed the Kentucky Derby and the other triple-crown horse races, though Wigdor was also a huge fan of the New York Knicks. “He had loads of friends. He was very concerned about what was going on in the village, being part of the village.”

Victim of Shelter Island home invasion laid to rest in Setauket

Mourners fill the small cemetery of Caroline Church of Brookhaven to lay to rest the Rev. Canon Paul Wancura. The church’s former rector was left tied up in his Shelter Island home after a burglary in March and died April 16 due to his injuries. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Caroline Church of Brookhaven was filled to capacity with mourners saying their last goodbyes to the Rev. Canon Paul Wancura April 24.

The Rev. Canon Paul Wancura visited Caroline Church for his 85th birthday in 2015. Photo from Caroline Church of Brookhaven

The Caroline Church of Brookhaven was filled to capacity with mourners saying their last goodbyes to the Rev. Canon Paul Wancura April 24.

Wancura, a former rector of the church, died of injuries sustained during a home invasion on Shelter Island last month. The local town police discovered the injured 87-year-old March 19 when they responded to a call to check on the welfare of the reverend, according to a statement from the Suffolk County Police Department. The officers found the residence was burglarized and jewelry was stolen. Wancura was transported by helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital, but died April 16 after a 29-day battle to recover from his injuries.

Wancura arrived at Caroline Church as rector in 1974 and served for 26 years.

Former vestry member Michael Russell said the reverend married him and his wife, Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell, in 1978. He said Wancura was the reason many began bringing their families to the Episcopal church due to his vibrancy, intellect and wit.

“There was just something about him,” Russell said. “You’d love talking to him, and you’d love being with him. So not only was he our rector, but he was a friend to a lot of us.”

Russell said he and many other church members kept in touch with Wancura after he left the church. He became the interim rector for 10 years at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greenport and then spent seven months at Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Central Islip.

“You’d love talking to him, and you’d love being with him. So not only was he our rector, but he was a friend to a lot of us.”

— Michael Russell

Before his tenure with Caroline Church, Wancura worked for IBM and served in the military. When he returned from Europe serving in counterintelligence, he received his Master of Divinity from The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church and served as rector of his first parish in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He was also appointed the archdeacon of Suffolk County before becoming rector of Caroline Church, according to his obituary.

Visiting Wancura at the hospital after the attack, Russell said the reverend seemed to be on the road to recovery and returning to his usual sharp, witty self. He and others were shocked to hear of his death and are still coming to terms with the attack.

During the funeral Mass, the Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, said a friend suggested he pray through the anguish he felt after hearing the news of Wancura’s death.

“Every one of us has been horrified by what has happened,” Provenzano said. “We have each in our own way expressed disbelief that such a thing could happen to one whom we have known, whom we have loved.”

After the Mass, Wancura was buried in the churchyard next to his wife, Helen.

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A U.S. Air Force carry team transfers the remains of Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, of Commack, March 18 at Dover Air Force Base. Photo from U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Matt Davis

It’s a solemn week for Commack and Huntington town residents as they mourn a man who made the ultimate sacrifice for the love of his country.

The funeral services for Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, of Commack, one of the seven U.S. airmen killed when a a HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in Iraq March 15, have been scheduled.

The wake will be held at Commack Fire Department headquarters March 29 and 30, with visitation on both days from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. The funeral service will be held March 31 at 11 a.m at St. Joseph’s Church, located at 59 Church St. in Kings Park.

Christopher Raguso. Photo from Commack Fire Department’s Facebook

Raguso served with the Commack Fire Department as lieutenant of Company 4, located off Kings Park Road. He had joined as a volunteer in 2000, according to Commack Fire Commissioner Pat Fazio, and previously served as captain of Company 2 on Elwood Road.

“He was a devoted father, devoted husband, devoted family man and a true patriot to our company,” Fazio said. “It’s unfortunate the timing and passing of his death while serving his country and fighting for the freedoms we all enjoy.”

Raguso was posthumously bestowed the rank of honorary fire chief with a unanimous vote of the Commack Fire Department’s membership March 16. He was well known in the firehouse, playing an “integral role” in training new members, according to Fazio.

“It’s not for any other reason other than he would have achieved the rank of chief, no doubt,” the commissioner said. “It was an aspiration he had — it was well known and something he would have achieved.”

Raguso was also a 13-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, where he was currently serving as a lieutenant assigned to Battalion 50 in Queens. On six different occasions, he was cited for bravery and life-saving actions as an individual and part of a unit.

“Lt. Raguso and Fire Marshal [Christopher] Zanetis bravely wore two uniforms in their extraordinary lives of service — as New York City firefighters and as members of the United States Armed Forces,” said FDNY Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches; Capt. Christopher Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City; and Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs, of Port Jefferson Station, were the others from the rescue wing involved in the fatal crash, according to the United State Department of Defense.

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