Obituaries

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.

Saint Anthony's High School in South Huntington. Photo from Google Maps.

A student of St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington was killed in a car crash this weekend, according to school officials.

Anthony Pagano, senior at Saint Anthony’s High School. Photo from Facebook.

Brother Gary Cregan, principal of St. Anthony’s High School, announced that senior Anthony Pagano was involved in a serious car crash this weekend. Details of the accident were not immediately made available. Pagano played on the Friars’ varsity baseball team in spring 2017.

“Death is never easy, but the death of a young person is particularly heartbreaking and difficult to accept,” Cregan wrote in his message. “As Roman Catholics, we must rely on our faith to give us strength in the face of tragedy, and to help us understand why a young man on the verge of adulthood would be taken from us far too soon.”

The principal offered his condolences to the family, noting Pagano’s brother, Joseph, is a sophomore at St. Anthony’s.

Visitation hours will be held Feb. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.; and on Feb. 22, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at M.A. Connell Funeral Home located at 934 New York Ave. in Huntington. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Feb 23 at 9:30 a.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Church, 175 Wolf Hill Road in Melville. Interment will follow at Locust Valley Cemetery in Locust Valley.

Carolyn Droscoski. Photo from Theatre Three

A cherished member of Theatre Three, and by extension the Port Jefferson community, was lost this month.

Carolyn Droscoski, 61, of Port Jefferson Station died suddenly of an aneurysm, according to her close friend Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three. She was a lifelong resident of Port Jefferson Station and a graduate of Comsewogue High School.

“Anyone that you spoke to would say the same thing — it was just her voice, her vocals,” Koutrakos said of what she would remember most about her close friend, along with her beautiful smile. Koutrakos said she’d heard Droscoski described as having “leather lungs,” a tribute to her booming, powerful singing voice. “She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

“She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news.”

— Debbie Schwartz McGinley

Droscoski had 40-years-worth of history at Theatre Three. She performed in dozens of productions, including memorable performances as Rose in “Gypsy,” Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music,” Cass Elliot in “Dream a Little Dream,” and many incarnations of “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert,” according to Theatre Three’s website.

Times Beacon Record News Media reviewed her 2013 performance in “Barnaby Saves Christmas” as Mrs. Claus: “Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by Stephen Doone and Carolyn Droscoski, are in numerous scenes and steal the show. Every appearance on stage had the children sitting up straight and pointing. During a recent Saturday show, many children cried when the lights came up for intermission, thinking the show was over and wanting to see Santa just one more time. Doone and Droscoski also double as Andrew and Sarah, the nice Jewish couple who teach Barnaby and Franklynne all about Hanukkah, and switch roles effortlessly. The musical numbers are terrific and are accompanied on piano by Quattrock, who also wrote all of the music and lyrics. ‘Still with the Ribbon on Top,’ sung by Hughes, reveals Barnaby’s struggle to fit in; ‘Miracles,’ sung beautifully by Droscoski as Sarah, will touch your heart and ‘S.B. Dombulbury’ will have you tapping your feet.”

Droscoski traveled the country in an off-Broadway production of “Nunsense,” a show in which she played five different roles. She also performed and toured with her band, Everyday People, which performed countless shows in Port Jefferson. She even appeared in promotional materials for the snack Cracker Jack.

“The only thing I could say is I loved her, and she made me happy,” her longtime partner Charlie Cacioppo said. He added she often affectionately referred to him as “Bubba” or Charles Francis.

“She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

— Vivian Koutrakos

She had two sisters and four brothers, as well as many nieces and nephews, according to her sister Barbara Cassidy.

“The most important thing in her life was her family,” Cassidy said. “She was the biggest cheerleader for her many beloved nieces and nephews.”

Upon Theatre Three sharing the news of her passing on its Facebook page — a post that was shared and commented on more than 50 times — admirers of her talents and friends posted condolences and memories of the beloved performer.

“She was kind, fun, caring and always treated me like a regular person — not just a kid,” a poster named Debbie Schwartz McGinley wrote, adding Droscoski had played her mother in a 1980 production of “A Christmas Carol.” “She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news. All my love to her family, friends, and especially my old school T3 family!”

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Stony Brook resident John Kominicki and his wife Marie on board a ferry in France. Photo from Marie Kominicki

By Warren Strugatch

In 2008, John L. Kominicki took the stage at a Melville event center and accepted the top honor a Long Island journalist can receive: the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Press Club of Long Island. Ten years earlier, Kominicki — many of us called him just that — had arrived as the new publisher and editor of the venerable Long Island Business News. Just one decade later he’d be gone, felled by cancer.

That night was prime Kominicki — adlibbing uproariously, tossing hair back from eyes, jousting with power brokers and musing about the future of journalism. Gently chiding his audience not to confuse technological advances with journalistic achievement, he evoked the spirit of Edward R. Murrow.

The latest computers, devices and means of electronic transmission — even the emergence of the internet — did not, he said, necessarily improve journalism.

“Readers, viewers and listeners expect — demand, actually — stuff that’s fast, stuff that’s splashy and stuff that’s free,” Kominicki said. “It will never end. The future is about change, however it plays out.”

“Our craft doesn’t change,” he asserted. “It is assuredly about excellence in reporting and writing and storytelling. It’s about how we inform and amaze and entertain. It’s always been about that.”

He paused, then: “Ultimately the change is no change at all.”

Flashing the slightest of smiles, he added, “Good luck with the change.”

The performance was vintage Kominicki — insightful and irreverent, articulate yet casual, a blend of media studies and rock ’n’ roll attitude.

“It is assuredly about excellence in reporting and writing and storytelling. It’s about how we inform and amaze and entertain.”

— John Kominicki

Now revered as a local journalistic icon, Kominicki had a background that was anything but conventional. Growing up in Keane, New Hampshire, he registered at Boston College as a theater major, and then dropped out and joined the U.S. Army. He served active duty not in a battlefield but as an editor of military community publications — a distinction he noted with his usual irony-laced good humor. He married a military newsroom co-worker, Marie. Next came a Hemingway-like stint as a foreign correspondent for Stars and Stripes military newspaper, where he covered among other events the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1992 he, Marie and their young daughter Anya repatriated.

Kominicki was hired as editor of a Fort Worth, Texas weekly. In 1995 Dolan Media Company hired him to helm their Oklahoma City business daily. Three years later he was transferred to Long Island. He bought a home in Stony Brook and became a Long Islander.

My introduction to Kominicki came in the spring of 1998 when he asked me to write a weekly front-page column for LIBN, as the paper is known.

“I’m going to turn this newspaper around,” he said. “Can you help me?”

It wasn’t an easy task. LIBN had fended off change for decades, deferring to advertisers and long-term subscribers and letting coverage languish. Kominicki immediately ended the favoritism to advertisers. He insisted reporters cover events and do interviews where possible in person. He demanded smart, lively writing. He edited out bias but encouraged writers to develop their own points of view.

Kominicki stayed on at LIBN until September 2013. He became a media entrepreneur, founding a website and business platform dedicated to fostering economic development. He did some occasional writing and fixed up the French farmhouse he and Marie had bought during his Stars and Stripes days as their retirement home. He was inducted into the Press Club of Long Island Journalism Hall of Fame in 2014.

We stayed in touch, sharing occasional early-morning cups of coffee at Starbucks. My wife Cindy and I cherish the memory of hosting them last summer over our backyard grill.

In April the Queens Courier newspaper chain bought the Long Island Press online publication. The publisher had heard about Kominicki and hired him to restore the Press as a monthly — almost exactly 20 years after his LIBN turnaround began. I was delighted and proud when Kominicki recruited me again to write a pair of columns. From his farmhouse in France, he edited my first four pieces then fell ill.

Kominicki showed a generation of Long Island journalists what it takes to practice genuine journalism. He demonstrated how to ask tough but fair questions, how to deflect editorial intrusions and how to deter editorial bias. Perhaps most importantly, he preserved the role of humor and decency in local journalism.

Our prayers go to Marie and Anya. John, you will long be remembered and are already sorely missed. If heaven has a newspaper, you’re editing it. May you rest in peace.

Kominicki died Dec. 5 at the age of 62.  A memorial is being planned for after the holidays.

Warren Strugatch is a journalist and consultant. He writes for The New York Times and Long Island Press, and is a partner with Inflection Point Associates in Stony Brook.

The Mingoias: Samantha, Gina, Denise and Sal. Photo from Gina Mingoia

By Kevin Redding

Throughout his life Salvatore Mingoia brought smiles, laughs and music to those around him. And even though he’s gone, the impact of Shoreham’s “Superman” will surely resonate forever.

The Suffolk County police officer, Beatles-loving musician, devoted family man and friend to all died Oct. 9 following a two-year battle with lymphoma at 56 in the company of friends and family at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Although Mingoia had been in a great deal of pain as a result of his cancer,
which was diagnosed in December 2015, he never once let it show or get him down, according to his family.

Sal Mingoia was a devoted family man to his daughters Samantha and Gina. Photo from Gina Mingoia

“He was the nicest guy in the world,” said his oldest daughter Samantha Mingoia, 25. “I want to be my dad when I grow up. He was so caring, giving and understanding. Anything he could do to help someone, he’d do it and he never looked for praise.”

His trademark  upbeatness and kind character prevailed even under the circumstances — when nurses asked how he was feeling on a particular day, Mingoia always responded with a chipper “I’m great! How are you?”

This, of course, was not at all surprising to those who knew him.

“He was a sweetheart of a man,” said Suffolk County Sgt. Arthur Hughes, Mingoia’s colleague for more than 30 years. “Everyone loves Sal. You can’t say anything bad about him.”

Gina Mingoia, 19, said her dad was always “so strong and hopeful right up until the end.” She regularly shared the stage with him as a two-piece band, serving as lead singer while he played guitar during gigs throughout the area. They played everything from country to classic rock, from covers to songs they wrote together

“It was comforting,” she said on rocking alongside her dad. “Now, if I ever have to sing the national anthem or anything and my dad isn’t with me, I’m going to get panicky. I need him. He’s like a safety blanket.”

Sal Mingoia, on right, was a musician from a young age. Photo from SCPD

His daughters said while they both saw Mingoia as the best dad ever and knew how beloved he was by peers and colleagues, it wasn’t until the wake that they grasped just how many lives he touched. During the first service alone, Samantha said nearly 800 people, maybe more, showed up creating a huge line that wrapped around O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Miller Place and stretched down the street. Even a friend of his from kindergarten, from North Carolina, came to pay his respects.

“They all said the same thing — that he treated them like they were the most important people to him,” Samantha Mingoia said. “He always made everyone feel so special.”

A graduate of Centereach High School, Mingoia, one of seven children, played football and competed in track and field while excelling in math and science. An avid musician from the moment he was able to hold a guitar, he played in numerous bands throughout his life, the first being a family band with his father and brothers.

“He was talented, handsome, nice, always good to people — he was just born special,” said his older sister Eydie Gangitano. “And I’ve got to tell you, I think Sal was my mother’s favorite, I really think he was. And we didn’t care, because he was all of our favorite.”

“He was talented, handsome, nice, always good to people — he was just born special.”

— Eydie Gangitano

Mike Pollice, a friend of Mingoia’s for more than 40 years, met him in school and said although they were on opposite ends of the spectrum — Mingoia being seemingly well-grounded while Pollice was a self-
proclaimed “troubled kid” — Mingoia saw past that, and initiated a conversation with him over music. The two had played in bands together ever since.

“He had a heart like nobody else,” Pollice said, who described Mingoia as the salt of the Earth. “I really would not be the man I am today if it weren’t for him. The path he led me down with music served me well and kept me out of a lot of bad things in my younger days. In school, he was the guy who stuck up for people getting picked on. He was a friend to everyone. A very rare kind of person.”

After high school, Mingoia wound up at the police academy even though being a cop wasn’t exactly what he had planned for himself. His childhood friend Kenny Kearns was a New York City police officer and planned to take the test to transition to Suffolk County and encouraged Mingoia to take it too. He ended up getting a better result than Kearns and decided give the occupation a try. He joined the police department in April 1987, spending his career in the 5th and 6th Precincts and was an active officer in the Crime Scene Section
when he died, an analytical field he much preferred over issuing traffic tickets.

“He didn’t like ruining people’s days, he liked making people’s days,” Kearns said of his friend. “If Sal pulled you over, and you had a good excuse and were sorry, that was good enough for him.”

Sal Mingoiaa Suffolk County police officer, working in the Crime Scene Section when he died. Photo from SCPD

Kearns often visited with Mingoia at Mount Sinai Hospital when he was sick, and was present when he passed away.

“The last time I was in that hospital with Sal was 30 years ago when he donated blood to my father who was undergoing cancer-related surgery,” he said. “He’s been a constant in my life. Someone I could always count on. He was the true definition of a best friend.”

Those who knew him best say, despite how dedicated he was to his job on the force or as a friend, his greatest passion in life was being a husband to Denise, whom he married in 1990, and father to his two daughters. Not only did Mingoia never miss a day of work in his life, he never missed a family dinner or birthday party either.

“He was Superman,” Gina Mingoia said of her dad. “He always had his day full, but made room for everyone.”

She often thinks of goofy moments now when she thinks about her dad. Like when they were rehearsing a song and she struggled to remember an entire verse.

“He put his guitar down and rolled around on the floor, then stood back up and grabbed his guitar again,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Why did you do that?’ and he said, ‘So you would never forget that line again.’”

For Samantha Mingoia, she said she’ll simply miss sitting around the house with her father.

“Every night we all ate dinner as a family and then just never left the table,” she said. “We’d sit there until 9 p.m. talking about the day, philosophies about life, politics, anything. The house is definitely quiet and empty now.”

Bob de Zafra, fourth from left, seen here April 21 during a dedication of additional land to Patriots Hollow State Forest, was committed to preserving open spaces and maintaining the historical integrity of the Three Village area. File photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

When he passed Oct. 10 at age 85 from complications following knee replacement surgery, civic leader Bob de Zafra left behind a legacy in the Three Village area that will be remembered for decades.

The professor and scientist

A resident of Setauket for more than 50 years, de Zafra was a former president of what is now known as the Three Village Civic Association and Three Village Historical Society, as well as a co-founder of the Three Village Community Trust. His love for the area began when he moved from Connecticut to start his career in Stony Brook University’s physics department as a professor, according to Linwood Lee, a research professor at SBU.

“He helped establish experimental physics in our physics department, which was very heavily theoretical at the time, and he was really a leader in doing that,” Lee said.

He added that de Zafra conducted research in atmospheric physics, which led to him studying the Earth’s ozone layer. During trips to the South Pole and McMurdo Sound in Antarctica, de Zafra and his SBU colleagues discovered in 1986 that chlorofluorocarbon, a type of hydrocarbon, was a cause for the expansion of the ozone hole. In honor of his revolutionary climate-change work there, an Antarctic rock ridge now bears his last name.

The civic leader

Bob de Zafra at a recent civic association meeting. File photo

In the 2002 Men and Women of the Year issue of The Village Times Herald, in which he was named Man of the Year in Civics as a “steadfast preservationist,” the professor emeritus said he saw his hometown in Connecticut “ruined” by development.

“I was sure that wherever I lived, I was going to do my best to make sure that sort of destruction didn’t happen,” he said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said de Zafra accomplished his goal. When Englebright was running for county legislator 35 years ago, he said the Setauket resident approached him and told him there was a need to protect Detmer Farm, across from the Setauket Post Office on Route 25A. The property was eventually saved from development.

“It was the centerpiece of good planning,” Englebright said. “If we won the effort to protect that open space it would mean that we had protected an important part of the watershed of Setauket Harbor and the viewshed of everyone who visits our community, or we would have taken a step toward becoming something like Queens.”

The assemblyman said the importance of saving the Detmer Farm property was only the first of countless lessons he learned from de Zafra. Englebright said a traffic island once existed at North County Road and Ridgeway Avenue adjacent to Gallery North, and with de Zafra’s encouragement, he secured the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department to cover the road with truckloads of soil.

“It was one of the first restorations that rolled back the development wave, and it was Bob that said this should be accomplished,” Englebright said.

The assemblyman said he was impressed by how de Zafra, who was instrumental in the preservation of Forsythe Meadow in Stony Brook, used his own resources to buy older houses in the area and renovate them including his own home. With the woodlands behind his property, he bought the land parcel by parcel to protect the trees; the land includes a meadow of flowers. Most recently the civic leader bought the historic Timothy Smith House, recognized as the first town hall in Brookhaven, to renovate it.

“The model of what he did with his own personal resources to enhance our community is a heroic profile,” Englebright said. “He did it quietly without fanfare but in my mind he is a civic hero of the first order. He lived what he preached and was absolutely genuine.”

Bob de Zafra in his Stony Brook University office in 1976. File photo

Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly C. Tyler and de Zafra met in 1974 when the Three Village Bicentennial Committee formed. Tyler said de Zafra was responsible for the greening of 25A by having 222 trees planted along the road from the Stony Brook train station to East Setauket, and he was instrumental in convincing local shopping centers to use unified signs.

In The Village Times Dec. 30, 1976, de Zafra was named Man of the Year for his greening efforts. The professor said during his commute to SBU he became frustrated with what he felt was the destruction of Route 25A. While he was part of the civic association, the organization had other priorities at the time, so he saw the forming of the bicentennial committee as an opportunity to beautify the road. Through letter writing and fundraising, de Zafra raised more than $13,000 for the planting.

“You only get a chance to do something like this once every 100 years,” he said during the 1976 interview. “I’m glad I grabbed hold of mine when it came my way.”

The success of the project and many others of de Zafra’s didn’t surprise Tyler.

“Bob was very well organized and relentless,” Tyler said. “He just took on a project and was a bear about it. He just kept at it no matter what the problem was until he got a successful conclusion. He was very good at talking to people and getting them to see his point of view without overwhelming them.”

Herb Mones, a former president of the Three Village Civic Association, met de Zafra 25 years ago through the organization and praised his friend for working with builders and local elected officials to curb development and maintain the historical and architectural integrity of the area. Mones said right up until de Zafra passed, he attended any event that was for the benefit of Three Village residents. Mones said his friend felt a responsibility to make the area a better place to live in.

“The thing that always impressed me is that Bob had a tremendous amount of energy and interest in preserving, protecting and enhancing the community in every way possible,” Mones said.

Current Three Village Civic Association President Jonathan Kornreich, who considers de Zafra a friend and mentor, echoed Mones’ sentiments.

“I can’t think of three people together who could fill his shoes, so great was the depth of his energy, passion and knowledge,” Kornreich said.

Local author John Broven also met de Zafra through the civic association and said the former president’s accomplishments were admirable as he fought random development rigorously, unknown to most residents.

“If Bob had been born in England, like his wife Julia, he would assuredly have been granted a knighthood for being such a dedicated community gatekeeper, let alone his incredible scientific achievements,” Broven said.

Bob de Zafra, second from right, with Norma and Walter Watson and his wife Julia at a Three Village HIstorical Society event. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Cynthia Barnes, co-founder of the Three Village Community Trust with de Zafra, said he knew a great deal of municipality and zoning code laws and was a skillful researcher. His contributions were vitally important to the trust’s mission of preserving local properties, which included moving the Rubber Factory Houses to the trust’s Bruce House headquarters.

“He was able to grasp the whole picture yet delve into the details to see where the trouble lay, and point to the areas of weakness to try to strengthen them,” Barnes said.

“He certainly brought us a long way toward [preserving],” Barnes said. “Because I think everything we saved, with the help of our elected officials as well, he was definitely a motivating force.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said de Zafra worked with her and her team on various issues and initiatives over the last few years. Most recently he was part of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A.

“Bob’s untimely passing is just before the acceptance of the 25A community visioning document later this month,” Cartright said. “Bob cared so deeply for community land use issues and for this project, and we would like to find a way to honor and recognize Bob’s massive body of work and contributions during the process and in the future.”

The person

On top of his accomplishments, those who knew him praised de Zafra as a modest man.

“He wouldn’t want to be called ‘doctor,’ he wanted to be called Bob,” Mones said. “He never referenced his degree, his status within his field, his experiences that he had. He never used that as criteria in determining what he had to say or what he was doing. It was always based upon on the merits of the case.”

Englebright said de Zafra will be remembered by many as a man of action.

“He was the leading voice for protecting the essence of this place,” the assemblyman said. “It wasn’t just his voice, it was his action as well.”

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who worked closely with de Zafra while she was president of the civic association, summed up how his family and friends were feeling the day of his funeral Oct. 17.

“The loss of Bob de Zafra leaves a hole in our collective heart,” she said. “He played a vital role in so many organizations as a watchdog for our community. Meticulous, passionate, diligent, generous, persistent and charming in his own way — he will be missed.”

A scholarship has been launched to honor the memory of Northport resident Scott Martella who died in 2016. File photo

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Smithtown family is hoping to honor the life of their son by providing others with an educational opportunity to follow in his footsteps.

Stacy and Stephen Martella announced the creation of the Scott Martella Memorial Scholarship Fund in partnership with The United Way of Long Island in memory of their son, who was killed a year ago.

Scott Martella was a Smithtown student who worked with local politicians. File photo

Scott Martella, a Smithtown native and Northport resident, died in a three-car crash on the Long Island Expressway Aug. 21, 2016.

“Scott believed in the awesome power of public service,” his parents said in a statement. “We hope to keep his legacy alive by giving future leaders the same chance Scott had in pursuing a college education.”

The memorial fund aims to provide scholarships to low-income students who will be attending college and whose studies may include international or public relations.

In conjunction with the scholarship fund, Smithtown Central School District announced it will be creating a series of service learning projects for students that will run from October 2017 to May 2018. This will be done in partnership with the United Veterans Beacon House, a nonprofit partner agency of United Way, to work together on a host of activities such as painting, planting a garden, landscaping and more.

Scott Martella, who was 29 when he died, is widely remembered for his career in public service and his involvement in New York State government and politics. Martella got started when, at age 22, he became the youngest board of education member elected in Smithtown school district’s history in 2009.

From 2011 to 2015, Martella  served as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Suffolk County representative before being promoted to Long Island regional representative. In June 2015, he started working as the director of communications for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

“Scott believed in the awesome power of public service. We hope to keep his legacy alive by giving future leaders the same chance Scott had in pursuing a college education.”

— Stacy and Stephen Martella

“Scott was clearly one of the most engaging people that I’ve come across in government,” Bellone said in an interview. “Beyond the fact that he was smart, talented and hardworking, he had that something extra special that he was able to make that connection with people.”

In addition to the scholarship fund, Martella’s parents and Bellone hosted a Back-to-School Drive this month to provide supplies for underprivileged students. They said their goal was to prepare 5,000 backpacks for homeless or at-risk children.

“One of the last major events [Scott] did before he died was put together this Back-to-School Drive with Long Island Coalition for the Homeless,” Bellone said. “It’s obviously sad to think that he’s gone, but this was also a way to carry on his legacy of public service, a very appropriate way to carry on his legacy of public service.”

Charitable contributions to The Scott Martella Memorial Scholarship Fund can be made online at www.scottmartella.com or www.unitedwayli.org/ScottMartellaMemorialScholarshipFund.

All donations made by check should be written out to include The Scott Martella Memorial Scholarship Fund on the envelope as well as the memo section. Checks should be made payable to United Way of Long Island, 819 Grand Blvd., Deer Park, NY 11729.

Ellen Barcel. File photo by Elana Glowatz

South Setauket resident, local gardening columnist and former Arts & Lifestyles editor Ellen Barcel, 72, died after a battle with cancer July 16.

Her friend Judy Hallock said the writer and editor died peacefully in her home and was happy to spend her last days with her dog Teddy Bear, cat Daisy and friends.

Hallock said Barcel retired from teaching social studies in the Patchogue-Medford Union Free School District in 1996 and was an avid follower of gardening, quilting, having afternoon tea with friends and playing the dominoes game Mexican Train. Barcel was involved for decades, even serving on the board of trustees for a period, with the Southold Indian Museum, which is dedicated to the study and education surrounding archaeology and natural history. She was a Master Gardener through Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Hallock said Barcel was an only child and moved to Long Island with her family in her late teen years and attended Stony Brook University. While Barcel leaves behind no husband or children, Hallock said the former TBR employee “grew a family around her” with her friends.

“She earned it by being who she was,” Hallock said. “She was always a great friend.”

Hallock remembers Barcel as always being there for others and providing a shoulder to cry on and will always remember her smile, good nature, kindness and enthusiasm.

Barcel began as a freelance writer for Times Beacon Record Newspapers after retiring from teaching, and July 15, 1999, became the editor of the Arts & Lifestyles section.

Jane O’Sullivan, a former editor of a few TBR Newspapers, said she remembers Barcel’s love for animals and gardening.

“She was interested in so many things,” O’Sullivan said. “I can’t think of anything that bored her.”

Both O’Sullivan and Marie Murtagh, former executive editor of TBR Newspapers, remember Barcel as always being fun to work with during the years they worked together in the office.

“She used to say she loved her job because there were so many good things going on,” Murtagh said.

Murtagh said the A&L editor always did a great job in gathering information about local events.

“She was somebody who enjoyed all the things that Long Island had to offer and other people finding out about them and enjoying them as well,” she said.

This year Barcel received an honorable mention from the New York Press Association in the Best Special Section/Niche Publications category for her freelance work on the 40th anniversary supplement for TBR Newspapers. “Stiff competition is the only reason this pub did not place,” judges wrote. “Beautifully done.”

Donations in Barcel’s memory can be made to the Southold Indian Museum, 1080 Main Bayview Road, Southold, NY 11971.


With heavy hearts, the staff of Times Beacon Record News Media say goodbye to a beloved colleague.

Leah Dunaief, publisher

“Ellen Barcel was a totally professional journalist and a pleasure to work with,” Dunaief said. “She was a fine writer, committed to her work and to the community. Her world was made more beautiful by the flowers she loved and surrounded herself with, and she tended her responsibilities with the same care that she gave her garden. Ellen was a loyal and gentle friend, and we will miss her greatly.”

Johness Kuisel, general manager

“She was a beautiful and talented writer who composed her column in her head after reviewing pictures she had taken, and the words just flowed,” Kuisel said. “Her Times Beacon Record family will miss her talent and good nature.”

File photo by Ellen Barcel

Heidi Sutton, editor of Arts & Lifestyles

“I met Ellen in June of 2013 when I started working for the paper,” Sutton said. “I had read her gardening column for years and was a big fan. When she decided to retire from the paper as the Arts & Lifestyles editor in 2013, I had big shoes to fill. She continued to write her gardening column and freelance but most of all became a good friend. Ellen often spoke of spending time in her garden. That’s how I’ll remember her — walking through her garden admiring the flowers, gently scolding her dog Teddy for eating all the tomatoes and smiling.”

Kathryn Mandracchia, advertising director

“I absolutely loved working with her,” Mandracchia said. “She was kind, always smiling, and a joy to be around. I am saddened by her loss, and I will miss sharing pet and plant stories with her.”

Ellen Segal, director of classified advertising

“Ellen Barcel was a smart and very sweet lady,” Segal said. “When I first came to TBR Newspapers, editorial was on the main floor near my new office, and I was impressed by her work ethic and her community knowledge. She reached out and welcomed me and, of course, we both exclaimed we didn’t know too many people with the name we both shared, Ellen, derived from the same Greek root — which means light, torch or bright.”

Meg Malangone, office coordinator

“Ellen was a beautiful, sweet individual, inside and out,” Malangone said. “Once you got to know her, you were graced with a wonderful, sometimes sassy personality. She loved her gardening and her pets. She bloomed wherever she was planted. Ellen was sunshine, and those who knew and loved her, were warmed by her smile and the light she brought to others’ lives.”

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