Obituaries

Accident leads to two fundraising efforts, 25A study

Nico Signore with his mother Kim. Photo from Facebook

Just days after Miller Place teen and lacrosse superstar Nicolo Signore died riding his bike on Route 25A, friends, relatives and community members are doing all they can to help his grieving family.

A little after 5 p.m. on Feb. 23, Signore, 14, described as “a happy kid with a big heart” by those closest to him, was out doing what he loved to do — riding his bike with his friends — when he tried crossing northbound Miller Place Road at Route 25A. The last of his group of four friends to cross the street, Signore was struck by an SUV after the light turned green, suffering significant head trauma.

Nico Signore wore No. 20 as a goalkeeper for Miller Place’s lacrosse team. Photo from Pam Santo Speedling

He was immediately rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, sending a shock wave through not only his family and friends but the entire community.

“I have no words to offer that could ever make this time easier; my thoughts are with you.”

“We are absolutely heartbroken with the loss of Nico. We will never forget him and will pray for peace for his loving family. We love you.”

“Although we do not know your family, we are part of the Miller Place community family. We are so very sorry for your loss. Our prayers are with you all.”

These messages, accompanied by donations of $100, are just a small portion of the love and support seen on the GoFundMe page “Please support Nico Signore,” one of two fundraising campaigns set up in the aftermath of Signore’s death. The page was created by family friend Pam Santo Speedling Feb. 25, just one day after the accident, with the intention of helping the Signore family pay for funeral costs and ease the burden of Kim Signore, Nico’s mother, who will now be able to stay home from work and grieve without worrying about income.

Nico Signore with his brother Vincent Jr., father Vincent, mother Kim and sister Sophia. Photo from Pam Santo Speedling

Speedling, who has been best friends with Kim for more than 20 years since graduating nursing school together, said she’s long considered all three Signore children her own, and sprang into action, unbeknownst to Kim.

“I just felt completely helpless because Kim was so distraught she couldn’t even speak, and so I knew I had to do something that would help her,” Speedling said. “The last thing you want to worry about after burying your child is worrying about how you’re going to pay the bills. At this point in [Kim’s] life, she doted on Nico and everything she did revolved around him. This accident just took her life away, it’s devastating.”

When she presented the idea to family friend Denise Cagno, Cagno told her it was a great idea.

“It’s just amazing how many people are being so generous and supportive of this thing for the family at this time,” Cagno said. “It’s a great way to help a family in need, and it’s a big load off them.”

“My little brother was the most perfect, pure person I’ve ever come in contact with. He could walk into a room full of sadness and light it up like a Christmas tree.”

— Vincent Signore Jr.

The fundraiser hit its goal of $5,000 after just about a day, and within three days, the funds exceeded $27,076. So far, 370 people have donated, with individual contributions ranging from $15 to $300. The family has considered putting Signore in a burial vault, as they did with his grandparents, which costs $10,000.

Charles Butruch, Nico’s uncle, created another GoFundMe page, “The Nico Signore Scholarship Fund,” Feb. 27, on behalf of the Miller Place teen’s parents, who wish to preserve their son’s legacy through a scholarship fund that will recognize Miller Place seniors “who embody the same exemplary spirit, courage, determination, love of community and passion for living that Nico exhibited so naturally.” After just one day, the page has raised $3,200 of its $25,000 goal.

Kim Signore is also interested in having a bike path named in memory of Nico in recognition of one of his greatest passions. Coincidentally, Suffolk County is in the process of planning a bike path that would run from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River.

“My nephew was just an unbelievable person, had such a love for lacrosse — ‘proudly wore the No. 20 for the Miller Place Panthers as goalie’ —and bike riding, he loved life and always had a smile on his face,” Butruch said. “It’s a very sad time, but hopefully through the scholarship, since he never got a chance to go to college or do what he wanted to do in life, other kids can … and he can have a living legacy.”

Nico Signore proudly displays a lacrosse award. Photo from Pam Santo Speedling

Butruch recognized the support of local businesses, including Middle Island Pizza, which has been sending food every day to the Signore family, saying the outpouring of support has given Kim and Vincent, Nico’s father, “an unbelievable feeling” and has “taken them totally by surprise.”

“My sister says her heart is touched, she’s overwhelmed with all the love and support being provided from total strangers,” said Kelly Butruch, Kim’s sister. “They’re brought to tears by all of this, it’s beautiful.”

Nico’s older brother, Vincent Jr., 22, expressed his feelings in an email.

“My little brother was the most perfect, pure person I’ve ever come in contact with,” he wrote. “He could walk into a room full of sadness and light it up like a Christmas tree. People from all over are reaching out with support, love and amazing memories of Nico and it’s really helped put into perspective how many lives he has touched. I would like to personally thank all my close family and friends for being such an amazing support system right now.”

In response to Signore’s death, State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) wrote a letter to the commissioner of the Department of Transportation, requesting a pedestrian/bicycle safety study along the Route 25A corridor to prevent further injuries or deaths, writing that Nico’s accident was “the second tragic fatality of a young student crossing Route 25A in Miller Place in 18 months.”

The family also points to the red light cameras across county intersections as a concern and a possible contributing factor in the accident.

by -
0 3051
Erik Halvorsen in his last photo, taken during a Thanksgiving weekend vacation at Bear Mountain. Photo from Britt Halvorsen

Setauket arborist Erik Halvorsen, 45, died Monday, following a tragic accident while working on a tree in Avalon Park & Preserve in Stony Brook.

The owner of Norse Tree Service Inc. was approximately 50 feet up in a tree while attempting to cut it down at approximately 11:15 a.m., according to Suffolk County Police. The trunk splintered and trapped him against the tree. Halvorsen, who was wearing a safety harness, attempted to free himself and fell 20 feet. An employee was able to lower Halvorsen to the ground. He was transported via St. James Fire Department ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the death, although no foul play is suspected. This is standard procedure in workplace deaths, police said.

George Powers, former owner of the Hither Brook Nursery in St. James, recalled his customer’s work ethic and expertise.

“[Erik] was very good at what he did — he was not a cowboy,” Powers said in a phone interview. “He took all the precautions. And then this happened anyway.”

A woman who came to the door at the Avalon office on Harbor Road in Stony Brook declined to comment, but Avalon’s Leadership Program Director Katharine Griffiths issued a statement later Tuesday morning on behalf of her entire staff.

“Erik was a friend to many of us at the park,” Griffiths wrote in an email Tuesday. “We are heartbroken over this tragic accident. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and his many friends.”

Halvorsen did a great deal of work for The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in Stony Brook. President Gloria Rocchio expressed her horror at the accident and her admiration for the man.

“We worked with Erik for years in Stony Brook,” she said. “He was very sensitive. When we did work on the village green, he designed [the landscape]. It was like an art form, what he did. Everyone was very happy with the result. He was very passionate. All of us here at The Ward Melville Heritage Organization are devastated. He was a great man.”

“Erik was by far one of the hardest working men we knew. He was one of the good guys, a person who would lend a helping hand without a second thought.”

—Laura Brown

The folks at Sheep Pasture Tree & Nursery Supply Inc., friends and neighbors of Norse Tree Service on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson Station, said he was very easy to recommend.

“Erik was by far one of the hardest working men we knew,” Laura Brown said in an email. “He was one of the good guys, a person who would lend a helping hand without a second thought. We easily recommended him to our customers because we knew he would do a good job. When he came into our office, he was always happy, fun to talk with and a gentleman. We will miss the days of him walking into our office at 5:45 a.m. to use our fax machine. We will miss him as will so many in our community.”

Bob Koch of Koch Tree Services reflected on the impact the incident has had on the community.

“I want everybody to know that the tree community is a very tight-knit family,” Koch said in a phone interview. “A tragedy like this affects everyone in it. Our hearts go out to Erik’s family. He was a wonderful young man. We all feel it when something like this happens.”

Powers shared an anecdote about Halvorsen that spoke to his character.

“He and his wife were on vacation on some island,” Powers recalled. “He saw a dog tied up in a very bad way. So he let it loose. The next day the dog was again tied up. So he adopted the dog and brought it home. He had to go through a lot of paperwork and paid to have [the dog] flown home. But that dog loved him. You could see it. He was just a good person.”

Halvorsen leaves a wife, Britt, and three children, Liv, Leif and Lilli.

A celebration of Erik’s life has been scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Old Field Club in Setauket. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Gerda’s Animal Aid Inc., a rescue organization run by Britt Halvorsen’s mother, at P.O. Box 1352, West Townshend, VT 05359, or by calling 802-874-7213.

by -
0 1616
Three Village music teacher Virginia Rath Bidwell. Photo from Bryant Funeral Home

By David Gianopoulos

Virginia Rath was a music teacher in the Three Village area first at North Country Elementary School and then at Gelinas Junior High School in the 1960s and 1970s. I met her when I was in fifth grade. One day, at the end of class, she asked me to stay after. She said, “David, I’d like you to stay after. I’d like to talk to you.” I didn’t know if I was in trouble or not. I used to get in trouble quite a bit when I was a young kid. And she said, “I want to tell you something. I think you may have the best voice in this school. You have a gift and you’re talented, and you need to know that, and you need to work on it.”

Well, I had never heard once in my life that I was good at anything. See, I couldn’t read. And when I say I couldn’t read, I literally could hardly read at all. I had dyslexia. And back then, people didn’t know what dyslexia was. She looked me in the eyes and said, “You have a gift. You need to know that and you need to work on it.” Over the years after that she would stop into my class in sixth grade, knock on the door, and ask to work with me privately on singing. My teacher at that time was not too keen on letting me out of class because I was behind on everything. And I was. I was not a good student. I couldn’t read. But Mrs. Rath won that debate with my teacher and he reluctantly let me go and work with her. And what a lucky person I was because she gave me hope that there was something that I could do well. And do well at school. And excel.

Mrs. Rath stayed at North Country the next year while I and my classmates went off to junior high at Gelinas. But the following year she moved to Gelinas Junior High School and became the music teacher there. So I was lucky to have her for two more years. We did many classes together, but also she had me do solo performances with Janet Tramposh in the “Sound of Music.” When we were in sixth grade, she did the musical “Amal and the Night Visitors.” It’s an opera, along with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” — all these great songs — and she’d have the soprano section and the alto section and the tenors and the bass, and some of these songs were complicated. But she worked those kids like a taskmaster. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sixth-grade class sound more beautiful or professional. Her drive and commitment were incredible. Virginia Rath died Oct. 12, 2016. I am forever grateful for her guidance — and showing me that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and it wasn’t a train. It was my future. Over the years since then, I’ve gone into the profession as an actor, I’ve done many TV shows and movies, I’ve done many plays — Shakespeare in the Park — and one of the reasons that I believe I am where I am today is because of her. She watered the plant I was as a young boy and gave him hope. I am forever grateful.

Virginia Rath Bidwell was buried at the Caroline Church in Setauket Tuesday, Oct. 18. I so wish I had been able to be there. What a gift she was. May she rest in peace.

[Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. Please visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.]

Honor Gracey Kopcienski 1932-2016. Photo from Kopcienski family

By Elizabeth Kopcienski Schwartz

Honor Gracey Kopcienski bestowed grace and kindness on every person she met throughout her 84 years. She left this world Sept. 17 at her Mount Sinai home with lifelong partner, Johnny (Alfred) Kopcienski by her side.

Honor was born July 2, 1932, to Ruth Jaynes Gracey, a much-loved Port Jefferson high school teacher, and Stuart Gracey, an internationally acclaimed singer and conductor. Honor and her sisters, Louise Hawley and Anne Hedstrom, attended the one-room schoolhouse on North Country Road in Mount Sinai. She and her childhood friend, Jane Carter, often reminisced about their wonderful early years freely roaming the woods and beaches of Miller Place.

“Honor and Johnny’s greatest gifts, and source of greatest pride, are their children, grandchildren and great-grandchild.”

— Elizabeth Kopcienski Schwartz 

Later, at Port Jefferson High School, Honor met Johnny. Their courting included a contest where they kissed all the way from Patchogue to Port Jefferson in the rumble seat of a Ford Model A. One particular Friday, after high school graduation and a semester at Mannes School of Music in New York, Honor went to Tinker National Bank and withdrew $89 from Johnny’s bank account. She had him drive her to Rose Jewelers in Patchogue where she informed him that he was buying her an engagement ring. They were wed May 25, 1952, and their love produced eight children, 24 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The values that defined Honor as a person are seen in her family: compassion, integrity and a love of music.

Honor’s devotion to music began early. At 12, she accompanied her father and his choruses. Early on she studied piano at a studio in the Old Field lighthouse. Later she participated in the Juilliard preparatory program. She was an accomplished pianist, organist and accompanist. Her passion led her to Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson where she and Johnny were wed, and where she served as parish organist for more than 50 years. Parishioners would often stand in the pews, marveling at her playing until the final note. Honor’s gift was an integral part of hundreds of weddings, funerals and masses. She and her musical partner and dear friend, Dolores Butera, were honored by The Port Times on behalf of Infant Jesus Choir as People of the Year for the Arts in 1991.

Honor taught and accompanied numerous children and performers, her own children and grandchildren included. She played for Manhasset Glee Club, Port Jefferson Choral Society, Southold Town Choral Society, Choral Society of Moriches, SUNY Stony Brook, and at master classes given by opera singer Eleanor Steber in her Belle Terre home. Later she was accompanist and mentor for the New Century Singers. Honor always maintained her own musical studies and in 2000 studied and passed the rigorous test to attain the prestigious Associateship of the American Guild of Organists.

Instead of retiring, Honor continued to play the organ at many local churches including Mount Sinai Congregational, Setauket’s Presbyterian with director Mark Orton, Port Jefferson’s First United Methodist and, most recently, St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach.

While busy raising children along with her musical career, Honor was also active in community service. She was instrumental in organizing Polish Fest at Infant Jesus Church, cooking kielbasa sausage side by side with Johnny; was active in supporting Port Jefferson Rotary charitable efforts including the Gift of Life; and was a contributing member of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.

When the new Infant Jesus Parish Center was built, Honor and Johnny donated a piano so that there would be music for all events there. They supported funding for a new piano for Earl L. Vandermeulen High School.

Honor and Johnny’s years of giving to the people and spirit of Infant Jesus Parish were recognized by the Diocese of Rockville Centre with the St. Agnes Medal of Service award. The couple were early advocates and strong supporters of Father Frank Pizzarelli in his efforts to minister to troubled youth in the community. The mission of Hope House Ministries matched Honor’s passion for personal, ongoing and daily commitment to the spirit of giving.

Honor and Johnny’s greatest gifts, and source of greatest pride, are their children, grandchildren and great-grandchild: Charlaine and Ira, Emma (Sean) and Abbie; Beth and Joseph, Kate (Dan), Caralyn (Johnny) and David; Mark and Rebecca, Andrew, Julia, Christian and Lauren; Therese and Clark, John (Shannon and baby Clark), Christen (Ryan), Mary Liz (Adam) and Luke; Ann Marie and Chip, Sergei and Daniel; John Paul and Martha, Jake and Mary Claire; Jennie and Peter, Gracey (Jamie), Peter and Annie; Matthew and Becky, Gregory, Benjamin, Margaret and Sam.

Their 24 grandchildren include five addressed as doctor, an Olympian, teachers, musicians, business people and enthusiastic students. Honor was proud of the legacy of hard work, service and compassion she instilled in her family. She will always be remembered by both her name and key trait: Honor.

Honor’s final days were blessed to end in peace, comfort and love through the assistance of the staff at Good Shepherd Hospice. Her family prefers that memorial donations be sent to Good Shepherd Hospice or the giver’s local hospice organization.

Arrangements were entrusted to Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. Please visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guestbook.

Elizabeth Kopcienski Schwartz is the daughter of Honor Gracey Kopcienski.

by -
0 3840

"Ride for Becca" foundation created to help promising equestrians

22-year-old equestrian Rebecca Weissbard died suddenly when her horse fell on her during a jumping competition. Photo from the Weissbard family

Gold Medal-winning, 22-year-old equestrian Rebecca Weissbard died Aug. 31 in Saugerties, New York, when her horse accidentally fell on her during a jumping competition.

Her father Eric and her mother Lynne plan to honor their daughter’s memory by establishing a nonprofit for talented riders to help them fulfill their dreams, he said in a telephone interview. Acknowledging the fact that it is an expensive sport, their goal is to provide financial help to working-class kids who show potential and share Rebecca’s passion for horses.

Becca, as she was known, died instantly.  “It was quick,” her father said. “[The paramedics] tried their best, but nothing could be done.”

She was participating in one of the largest horse shows in the country, called HITS-on-the-Hudson. Becca and her mother were in upstate New York, and her father was home on the North Shore, serving a shift as an EMT with the Stony Brook Fire Department.

 Rebecca Weissbard with her father, Eric. Photo from the Weissbard family
Rebecca Weissbard with her father, Eric. Photo from the Weissbard family

“She was such a dignified and well-put-together young woman,” Eric Weissbard said. “She wanted to be the best — to do it properly. She lived her passion and her dream. She worked hard and excelled. It is only fitting that we help other kids pursue their dreams.”

Her grandmother, Rochelle Weissbard, remembered Becca being around horses practically from birth.

“Rebecca was on a horse when she was a few months old — on her mother’s back; on her father’s back,” Rochelle said. “When she was two Lynne went back to training riders at Smoke Run [Farm] in Stony Brook and she took Becca with her. Right from the beginning she was a natural — and fearless.”

Raised in Stony Brook, Becca attended William Sidney Mount Elementary School through sixth grade. Her parents established Sundance Stables in Medford in 2003 but soon outgrew their rented barn and relocated the stable to Manorville.

“Rebecca was the welcoming, cheerful pied piper of the kids,” her grandmother said. “Wherever she was there was love and there was joy — and silliness — but when she was ready to ride, she’d take care of business. And she did. When focused, there was no one better. She rode to win.”

The grandparents have long supported the quadrennial Maccabiah Games held in Israel that bring together Olympic-caliber Jewish athletes from around the world. Traditionally held the year following the Summer Olympic Games, they are sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee and the World Federation of Sports.

As she became more and more proficient at the sport, Becca’s grandfather, Richard Weissbard, realized there were no equestrian events at the games. He contacted the director to ask why. That was about five years ago. The director said he’d get back to him.

The next Maccabiah Games — in 2013 — included equestrian events. Becca trained with Olympic equestrians Neal and Elisa Shapiro at Hay Fever Farm in Robbinsville, New Jersey, for several years. Neal Shapiro was the coach of the American Equestrian Team, which had 38 athletes. Becca won the first gold medal awarded in individual competition, which also helped the team earn silver overall.

The team members had to compete riding Israeli horses because the expense of bringing their own horses was too great. That was problematic for Becca considering, as her grandparents described seemingly in tandem, the horse she ended up with was “defective.” They said it actually went lame the day before the competition.

Very upset, Becca called her mother to find out what to do.

“She wanted to be the best — to do it properly. She lived her passion and her dream. She worked hard and excelled.”

—Eric Weissbard

“You march in there and you tell them you don’t care where they get a horse — just get one!” According to the grandparents, Becca practiced with a reserve horse for about two hours before winning the competition.

“She flew with him,” Richard Weissbard said; “…because she’s been around horses all her life,” her grandmother added. “We were so proud.”

At the games in Israel the then 19-year-old made connections that provided her with European opportunities.

“Wanting to go where the best horses are she chose to go to Holland,” her father said.

Becca worked at a horse stable in Holland for eight months. Her father said she learned a lot about top-tier horses and established a relationship with one particularly difficult horse. She made riding him look easy.

Labor laws for foreign workers dictated a return to the U.S., but a year later she returned to the Dutch farm for another three months. She’d fly back and forth as an escort for horses.

“In those 22 years she crammed in an awful lot of stuff,” her grandmother said. “But most of all she was a wonderful daughter, a great granddaughter, a terrific niece, and everyone who knew her loved her. Wherever there was excitement, there she was. Never a dull moment. She brought laughter and cheer and happiness and joy to everyone. She will be sorely missed.”

The Weissbards are setting up a foundation called Ride for Becca. “It will be a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the goal of helping kids who have potential to get to the next level,” said Eric Weissbard. “We want to find kids who are good and get them good training and get the horse good veterinary care.” They plan to keep Becca’s spirit and passion alive by helping others.

Once the 501(c)3 is established, tax-deductible contributions made out to Ride for Becca may be sent to Sundance Stables, 37 North St., Manorville, NY 11939.

by -
0 1208
Mom first met her great-great-grandson Aiman on July 13, 2016. Photo by Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Growing up in Setauket, I learned a great deal from my father by his example, but encouragement and support came from Mom. My sister Ann, my brother Guy and I were taught that we were not only a family but a part of a community that extended from our relatives and neighbors across the street to our relatives and friends everywhere.

We lived with my Grandma Edith Tyler until I was 12 and then we moved into the house down the street where my father’s half sister Carrie had lived with her two aunts, Annie and Corinne, until their deaths. Soon after we moved, my Grandma Tyler moved in and lived with us until her death in 1963. A few years later my grandmother Margaret Carlton (Nana) moved from her home in Port Jefferson to our home and lived with us until her death in 1980.

During all this time, these transitions seemed very normal to me. Mom never said a cross word that I was ever aware of, nor any indication that it was the least bit difficult for her sharing a kitchen and dealing with a strong-willed mother-in-law and an equally strong-willed mother. I always loved and appreciated my grandmothers. They were, like Mom, independent women who had run households of their own.

Grandma and my grandfather Tyler owned and ran a boarding house (now Setauket Neighborhood House) until they sold it in 1918 to Eversley Childs. After my grandfather died in 1926, Grandma took the job of Setauket’s postmaster, and then as librarian at Emma Clark Memorial Library.

Grandma Carlton, Nana to us kids, had married Guy Carlton in 1909 in Alna, Maine, and the couple immediately moved to Port Jefferson where my grandfather Carlton, Pup-Pup to us kids, worked building the original Belle Terre Club. A master carpenter and cabinet maker, Pup-Pup built his house in Port Jefferson, overlooking the harbor, and my grandmother insisted that they have indoor plumbing. This was in 1909, when outhouses were the norm.

One summer (1948) I went to work with my grandfather in Crystal Brook. He was building a full bar in the basement of one of the houses. It was a beautiful piece of furniture with cabinets behind the bar in the game room of the summer cottages, and he told me, “Don’t tell your grandmother, she wouldn’t approve.” My grandfather was a tough man, but my grandmother was the strength of the family.

Mom took all of this in stride. She also believed in letting go and letting her kids explore and discover the world. When I was about 8, I was allowed to cross Main Street in Setauket on my own and take my 4-year-old sister and 3-year-old brother with me to Mrs. Celia Hawkins’ farm. We loved going across to the farm with cows, pigs, geese and a few chickens running through the house. We grew up on the buttermilk and candy corn Celia provided for us every day.

On a number of occasions, I unsuccessfully tried to milk the cows. I could never get the hang of it, but Celia let us churn the butter until our arms gave out and we collapsed on the porch. We also enjoyed mornings when we could help collect the eggs, learning quickly how to avoid having our hands pecked by the chickens.

Mom and Dad also took us on vacations to historic and natural sites from Williamsburg, Virginia, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Niagara Falls and the Reversing Falls Rapids in St. John, New Brunswick.

Dad drove and Mom made up games for us to play in the car, usually looking for things outside as we drove. I didn’t realize it at the time, but although Dad was the tour guide and historian, it was Mom who put the fun into the trips with details about interesting signs, structures and people along the route.

“One in; one out. Life goes on and we have a plethora of memories and stories to keep in our hearts.”

— Beverly Tyler

As adults, we took Mom on a few trips, including one to Maine for the burial service of my Aunt Etta, who died when she was 105. Going through one town, Mom suddenly burst out laughing. She pointed out a Chinese restaurant named Mi Sen Gui, and exclaimed, “That’s my son, guy.”

Mom sang a number of years with the Greg Smith singers, even traveling with them to Europe. She played bridge with a group of friends and enjoyed the Setauket Library book study group, even traveling with members of the club to London.

Mom and Dad were members of the Old Field Point Power Squadron and Mom completed every advanced grade course, including celestial navigation. I remember that after completing that last tough course, her warm, aromatic chocolate chip cookies reappeared after a few years absence. Mom was also an excellent cook whose pie crusts have no equal and my wife will attest to that.

Mom enjoyed golf, bowling, boating, car trips and other outdoor activities with my father until his death in a terrible auto accident in 1975. Mom married her second husband Lewis Davis in 1978 and together they enjoyed golf, bowling, trips to Florida and trips all over the world, making a few lasting friends in Australia and other countries as well as closer to home. I especially got to know and appreciate Mom as a friend as well as a mom after Lew died in 2008, in his 94th year.

By the time Lew died, Mom had developed paralysis due to an inherited condition that strikes different people in our family at all different ages and with varied intensities. By the last few years of her life, Mom struggled with special shoes and braces on both legs. I hardly ever heard her complain or let her paralysis slow her down. By this year she was almost completely wheelchair-bound but was still able, with assistance, to move short distances, including in and out of vehicles.

Mom has always been able to take a problem, evaluate it, and after a day, make a decision that is best for everyone around her as well as for herself. Mom always wanted her colonial era home and property to be preserved. Working through state legislator Steven Englebright, this has been accomplished and the property will now go to the Three Village Community Trust.

Mom never lost her sense of humor. Recently, her companion Elizabeth was rubbing some lotion, with a pleasing but distinctive aroma, on her feet. Mom turned and looked very seriously at Elizabeth and said, “Will this clash with my perfume?”

Mom was always able to set herself a goal and stick to it. Elizabeth said that Mom is the only person she knows who could eat one dark chocolate candy kiss and put the bag of candy back in the refrigerator.

Mom’s concern even extended to our parish priest. A week ago we all feared the end of her life was near, but we didn’t know she knew. I told her that our rector, Canon Visconti, was on the way to see her and she whispered to me, “Does he know the situation?” That’s Mom, always one step ahead of the rest of us.

Mom died Thursday, Aug. 25, in her 102nd year, just a few hours after her fourth great-great-grandchild was born in Tennessee. Mom is survived by sons Beverly (Barbara) and Guy, daughter Ann Taylor (Frank), two stepdaughters Sukie Crandall (Steve) and Nancy Rosenberg, seven grandchildren, one step-granddaughter, 21 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

One in; one out. Life goes on and we have a plethora of memories and stories to keep in our hearts.

The funeral will be Friday, Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. at the Caroline Church, 1 Dyke Rd., Setauket. There will be a wake at Bryant Funeral Home, 411 Old Town Rd. in Setauket Sept. 8 from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m.

Beverly Tyler is a lifelong resident of Setauket, Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from Three Village Historical Society.

Scott Martella served on the Smithtown Board of Education in 2009. File photo

By Victoria Espinoza

Northport resident and Communications Director for Suffolk County, Scott Martella, died over the weekend as a result of a three-car crash on the Long Island Expressway in Manorville.

Colleagues remembered the 29-year-old man as a devoted public servant with a continuing desire to make his community better.

Martella, 29, had worked for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) since last June, after working as an aide for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office.

Bellone said he remembers his communications director as a leader who was always willing to help others.

“Scott Martella dedicated his all too brief life to public service and to helping others,” he said in a statement. “The hundreds of people Scott has worked with over the years and the thousands of people whose lives he has positively impacted would describe him as nothing short of an amazing person.”

“Long Island is a better place today because of his service and dedication to the community.”
— Andrew Cuomo

Bellone said he asked Martella to join his team because of his intelligence and love of community.

“I will miss Scott’s smile, his advice, his laugh, his sense of humor, his dedication and his drive,” he said.

Cuomo shared a similar sentiment regarding the Northport resident.

“Scott was a dedicated, beloved public servant who worked day in and day out to improve the lives of his fellow New Yorkers,” he said about Martella’s time working as an aide for New York. “Scott was always full of big ideas to help solve the toughest challenges of the day, and he was deeply respected for his strong work ethic, candor and fighting spirit. Long Island is a better place today because of his service and dedication to the community.”

Martella had a history of serving his community far earlier than working for Cuomo’s office. He was elected in 2009 as the youngest board member, at 22, for the Smithtown Central School District, and even served as vice president.

Theresa Knox served on the board with Martella in 2009, and said it was clear even then how successful he would be in life. She said despite his age, he was able to take his job very seriously — without taking himself too seriously.

“He could recently remember what it was like to be a student, so he understood just how these decisions would affect them,” she said. “He was always interested in learning, and he cared about the district so much. He was young, but he was really well suited [for being a member of the board].”

Scott Martella served as communications director for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo from Facebook
Scott Martella served as communications director for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo from Facebook

Knox said despite his maturity, there were still moments when he served where she saw him as another one of her kids — adding he was actually younger than her two oldest children.

“There were times when I could hear my own kids saying what he was saying,” she said. “But he was so mature, and you could tell he was going to have a fine career ahead of him.”

She said when he got the offer to work for Cuomo’s office, he saw it as an opportunity to be a clear advocate for the Smithtown community.

“He understood that this job was more than sitting behind a desk,” Knox said.

The Northport resident was named one of the winners of the 30 Under 30 Young Professionals award by the Huntington Chamber of Commerce in 2012.

In an Instagram post, the chamber said he was a “dedicated leader in various roles.”

Martella was driving a 2014 Honda with his fiancée Shelbi Thurau, 29, another Northport resident, when they were hit by a gray Subaru Outback while traveling west on the LIE towards Exit 68 at about 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21.

Carmelo Pinales, the driver of the Subaru, lost control of the vehicle, which crossed over the grassy median, went airborne and struck two vehicles, according to police. He was driving with Winnifer Garcia, 21, of Hempstead, his sister Patricia Pinales, his 10-year-old son Cristopher Pinales, and his sister’s 3-year-old daughter.

Aside from Martella’s car, Pinales also hit a BMW. Inside, were driver Marvin Tenzer, 73, and his three passengers, Sandra Tenzer, 69; Helen Adelson, 69; and Isidore Adelson, 81.

Pinales was pronounced dead at the scene, along with his sister and Martella. Thurau, Garcia and the Tenzers were transported to local hospitals and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Cristopher Pinales was pronounced dead at Stony Brook University Hospital after succumbing to his injuries later that day, police said, as well as Adelson. His wife Helen Adelson was pronounced dead on Monday at Stony Brook University Hospital.

This version correctly spells the first name of Carmelo Pinales’ 10-year-old son.

by -
0 1154

Sandy Pearlman lived in Setauket, graduated from Stony Brook University

Sandy Pearlman. Photo from Ronni Hoffman

By Susan Risoli

Who wouldn’t want more cowbell? Samuel “Sandy” Pearlman — who may or may not have inspired the classic “Saturday Night Live” skit about the song “Don’t Fear the Reaper” — had a fever for living the creative life. The former Setauket resident, Stony Brook University alumnus, and celebrated record producer-lyricist-executive, died last week in California at 72. His friends remember a man whose imagination raced ahead while urging everyone else to keep up.

“He was a philosopher-king,” said Norm Prusslin, an SBU professor who first met him on campus in 1969, when Pearlman was managing a local band he called Soft White Underbelly. In this bunch of guys he met at his father’s pharmacy in Smithtown, Pearlman found musicianship that could turn his stories and poems into records. He loved to write about astrology, architecture, mythical figures and all manner of futuristic things, Prusslin recalled.

Blue Öyster Cult recorded “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in 1976. The song, written not by Pearlman, but by the band’s lead guitarist Donald Roeser a.k.a. Buck Dharma, was a track on the “Agents of Fortune” album recorded at New York City’s Record Plant. Pearlman co-produced the album. So … was he in fact the record producer parodied by Christopher Walken in the SNL skit?

Bassist Joe Bouchard said it’s possible.

“Sandy had that look, yeah,” he said, with a chuckle, of the leather jacket and dark glasses worn indoors.

“He was always very happy in the studio — excited to get the band to do their best.”
— Joe Bouchard

More important was Pearlman’s success at pushing artists to go just a bit further.

“He usually said he wanted more energy during recording,” Bouchard said. “He was always very happy in the studio — excited to get the band to do their best.”

Pearlman worked with other artists, producing the Clash’s breakthrough 1978 release “Give ‘Em Enough Rope.” He also produced the Dictators — a punk band many consider to be a sonic link between the Stooges and the MC5, and bands like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols — and he managed Black Sabbath.

Pearlman lived on and off in a house on Main Street in Setauket, a few doors down from the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. Prusslin said he had been hired to teach philosophy at SBU, but plans were curtailed by the cerebral hemorrhage Pearlman suffered in December of last year.

Longtime friends Robert Duncan, and his wife Roni Hoffman, saw Pearlman often. Duncan said Pearlman was especially proud of “Imaginos,” a project started as a poem and turned into a song circle album.

Although Blue Öyster Cult played on it, “Sandy always referred to it as his ‘solo record,’” Duncan said. “I think he would say that was his crowning achievement, when that record came out.”

Pearlman was always “the smartest guy in the room,” Bouchard said. “He knew that if you just do a pop song, it’ll be gone in a year. If you do a song with a little more depth to it, it’ll have some staying power.”

“Just looking at her calendar would make your head spin,” Jennifer Paley Ambro said of her late mother, Suzanne Paley.

Paley died on July 18, at the age of 86, after a year-long battle with cancer. She was married to The Smithtown News publisher Bernard Paley for 65 years and was very active within the Smithtown community.

Sue-Paley-2w
Suzanne Paley was a resident of Smithtown for more than 20 years. Photo from Jennifer Paley Ambro.

According to Dave Ambro, son-in-law to Paley and editor of the Smithtown News and The Observer, she was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx by parents Annette and Giuseppe Piazza, both immigrants from Italy, along with her late brother and sister, Frank and Josephine.

Paley was the first member of her family to receive a college diploma, graduating cum laude from Brooklyn College in 1950, where she met her husband. She then worked as a teacher in New York City public schools for five years.

“She could never have imagined the life she would live,” Ambro said of her mother. “She grew up in a tenement sharing a bed with her brother and sister, and sharing a hall bathroom with her neighbors. She was so grateful for her life, which she truly cherished.”

The couple married in 1951 and moved to Kings Park where she taught elementary school at the district for five years. Paley left the school to raise her two daughters, Jennifer and Elizabeth, then settled with her family in Smithtown. Later she worked as a teacher at Western Suffolk BOCES before retiring in 1985 and helping out at The Smithtown News as a proofreader and doing rewrite work.

“She and my father moved out to the suburbs with virtually nothing but my mom’s teaching job and together built a life filled with world travel, including month-long trips to Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Portugal, Ireland and through the United States,” Ambro said.

Paley’s daughter Elizabeth echoed the same sentiments about her mother’s zest for life.

“My mom lived such a meaningful and passionate life,” she said. “Whether it was having us all up to Vermont to go skiing, dragging us all out to Montauk to go camping or inscribing a special book for every birthday, her greatest joy was spending time with her family.”

Ambro said her mother loved spending her winters in Vermont, where she skied daily well into her 80s, and her summers on Fire Island and the Berkshires, where she loved to go to the Tanglewood Music Festival.

“She never turned away from what she believed or the people whom she loved and respected.”

—Bernard Paley

Paley enjoyed many passions including bridge, and was an active member of the Smithtown Bridge Studio.

She enjoyed the theater and museums — she was a season ticket holder at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — though she also supported smaller theater companies throughout Manhattan. Paley was a past president of the League of Women Voters of Smithtown.

Paley’s husband said she loved running into old students and parents around town.

“She never turned away from what she believed or the people whom she loved and respected,” her husband said. “She still had friends she kept in touch with from the second grade.”

Donations in memory of Paley can be made to the New York Philharmonic Education Fund, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023; or to the Smithtown Historical Society, 239 E. Main St., Smithtown, NY 11787. Arrangements were entrusted to the care of Branch Funeral Home of Smithtown and the Vigliante family.

Quotes and information with permission of The Smithtown News.

Thomas Scully, second from left, and his family out fishing on a boat. Photo from Despina Scully

By Desirée Keegan

Thomas Scully’s life can be summed up by the lyrics of one of his favorite songs, “The Man,” by Aloe Blacc:

I played my cards and I didn’t fold. Well it ain’t that hard when you got soul (this is my world). Somewhere I heard that life is a test. I been through the worst but I still give my best.
God made my mold different from the rest. Then he broke that mold so I know I’m blessed (this is my world).

Thomas, 12, of Miller Place, died on July 7 after a long battle with anaplastic ependymoma, a form of brain cancer. Although he grew increasingly sick over the last few years, Thomas was said to always have a smile on his face, a terrific sense of humor and was always concerned about others.

Thomas Scully and his cat Snowflake. Photo from Despina Scully
Thomas Scully and his cat Snowflake. Photo from Despina Scully

Thomas was so full of life that, even while battling a lung infection the day before he passed, his mother Despina said she put music on, and he was dancing in his bed.

“All the nurses and doctors came running and they were amazed that he was doing that,” she said. “They’d never seen anything like it before, and that was Thomas. He never stopped fighting. He just loved being here. He was strong, resilient and hardheaded, and wasn’t letting anything hold him back. He loved life.”

He also cared deeply for others, and even while fighting his own battles he was more concerned about how others were feeling.

“He always was advising people, talking to people, and here while he’s going through this he was making people happy, always wanting to make people laugh and cracking jokes and doing magic tricks with his friends,” his grandmother Helen Vidal said. “He’s just an incredible, incredible little boy. He was so sweet. He was always so polite, always trying to please everybody, always very in tune with people and always advising people to take care of themselves.”

In his short time, Thomas also made sure to soak in every second of life.

His aunt Joelle Manzo, of Miller Place, sister of Thomas’ father James, said that while the family was vacationing in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., they were boogie boarding prior to a storm. As the waves rolled in and everyone came out of the water, Thomas continued to drift along, taking it all in, Manzo said.

“He wasn’t going to let anything go by without taking it in,” she said. “And I think we should all live like that. We forget to. We take things for granted. We all think that we have time, but we don’t. The talks that Thomas and I had have blown my mind. He was so wise beyond his years.”

Thomas shared many hobbies with his friend Robby Fitton, who he met in 2012 in at North Country Road Middle School.

Thomas eats dinner at Wasabi, his favorite restaurant, with best friend Robby Fitton, at left. Photo from Concetta Fitton
Thomas eats dinner at Wasabi, his favorite restaurant, with best friend Robby Fitton, at left. Photo from Concetta Fitton

“Back before he got very sick we played outside a lot,” Robby said. “He loved baseball. He also loved playing video games, riding around in his golf cart, playing the card game Crazy Eights and going to Wasabi, his favorite restaurant, I felt really bad for him that he had to go through that all and it was upsetting to see him like that because he’s my age and had a very serious sickness.”

But he was there for his friend, and the two continued to get together at least once or twice a week. Once Thomas found himself in the hospital, Robby visited him there, too.

“It was tough seeing him with IVs hanging out of his arms and all the treatments he had to go through, but he always stayed positive,” Robby said. “I thought of him as one of my best friends because if something happened to me he would always call or text me to check and see if I was OK. We’d always be there for each other, that was a big thing with our friendship. He was special in his own way. I miss him.”

Thomas also had a lot of strength, and his mother called his battle “one heck of a ride.”

“He kept us going,” Despina Scully said. “He was our strength. I’m so unbelievably proud and feel so unbelievably blessed to be his mother and to have gotten the time that I had with him. I feel so lucky to be his mom.”

Thomas gives a thumbs-up in his fight against childhood cancer T-shirt. Photo from Despina Scully
Thomas gives a thumbs-up in his fight against childhood cancer T-shirt. Photo from Despina Scully

Those who knew Thomas described him as very humble. His mother said that if you told him you brought him a leaf because you were thinking of him, it’d mean the world to him.

He was also outspoken.

While watching other children with cancer on television, he would ask his mother, “Why can’t I also be on television?” When his mother asked, “What would you say if you were on TV?” his response was to tell everyone, “Hello, world. You need to be kind to each other, embrace and love each other.”

Scully is trying not to let that message go.

“He was never negative — he would always see the good,” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to hold onto. I’m getting caught up in being upset that he’s gone and that he’s not coming back and how things happened, and I’m trying not to do that because I can’t get him back. He’s gone. I’m just trying to hold onto all those things that he was trying to tell me while he was here and I was just too busy worry about what medicines and what treatments and where he’s going to go and how we’re going to beat his cancer, and I wasn’t there, like I should have been. I wasn’t hearing him. And now I hear him, and I don’t want to let that go.”

Thomas is survived by his parents James and Despina Scully; his brother James Jr.; his sister Jillian; his grandparents Emerson and Helen Vidal, and James Scully, husband of the late Jean Scully. Religious service was celebrated at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson. Interment followed at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson. Arrangements entrusted to the care of Branch Funeral Home of Miller Place.

Social

9,204FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,118FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe