Obituaries

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August LaRuffa

August J. LaRuffa Jr., a longtime community resident, died June 8. He was 87.

August was born March 26, 1932, in Brooklyn and was the son of Concetta and August LaRuffa.

He was an Air Force veteran of the Korean War but later became an engineer, since retired. He was known as a smart man, a master of the trade who worked on the Apollo moon mission. He also enjoyed doing crosswords.

Left to cherish his memory are his daughter Gina, son Dr. August LaRuffa, four grandchildren and many other family and friends.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home June 12. He was afforded full military honors at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Katherine Dzurney

Katherine Dzurney, a longtime community resident, died June 11. She was 98.

Katherine was born Oct. 12, 1920, in
Perryopolis, PA, and was the daughter of Eva and Michael Zehall.

Katherine was a homemaker, and she enjoyed knitting, sewing, growing a vegetable garden and cooking.

Left to cherish her memory are her son Ray, her grandchild and other family and friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband Stanley.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home June 13, and interment followed in the Calverton National Cemetery.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Frank Russo

Frank A. Russo, of Port Jefferson Station, died May 20. He was 59 years old.

Frank was born May 27, 1959, in Mineola and was the son of Marie and Frank P. Russo.

He was a 23-year veteran school teacher for the Three Village school district, and those that knew him said his qualities included a great spirit, kindness and generosity. Frank’s bright smile and natural warmth made his students, colleagues and friends always feel acknowledged and special. He dedicated his career to working with children and delighted in their successes and accomplishments. He was a bright light and his beautiful singing voice resonates in our memories and hearts. He left an indelible message of caring, joy and compassion, which will forever remain with us.

Left to cherish his memory are his parents Marie and Frank, brother Anthony (Susan) and  other family, friends, colleagues and students.

Services were held at St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church in Port Jefferson Station May 23, and interment followed at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Majael Gelston

Majael (Mickey) Gelston, of Port Jefferson Station, died May 21. She was 82.

Majael was born May 8, 1937, in Sand Springs, OK, and was the daughter of Florence and Allen Baker.

Majael was a retired executive secretary, and she enjoyed baking, gardening, knitting and sewing.

Left to cherish her memory are her husband Stephen; daughters Kathleen, Jacqueline, Stephanie and Denise; son Kevin; seven grandchildren and many other family and friends.

Services were held at the Bryant Funeral Home May 25, while committal services were held in private.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Edward Kettell

Edward E. Kettell, of East Setauket, died May 10. He was 90.

Edward was born Dec. 28, 1928, in Brooklyn and was the son of Janet and Joseph Kettell.

He was a retired captain in the New York City Fire Department, and people who knew him described him as family-oriented, hardworking, protective, smart and very generous. He loved the farm in Pennsylvania where the family would go to snowmobile, and he also enjoyed building and fixing computers.

Left to cherish his memory are daughter Janet, sons Edward and Robert, two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, brother Richard and many other family and friends.

He was preceded in death by his wife Marilyn and his brother Joseph.

Services were held at St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church in Port Jefferson Station May 29, while interment followed at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Diana Spetta

Diana Spetta, of Stony Brook, died June 15. She was 86.

Diana was born April 13, 1933, in Queens and was the daughter of Lillian and Paul Duttge.

Diana was a retired executive secretary for Stony Brook University, and she was a member of the community garden club. She also enjoyed the piano, traveling, gardening and being with family.

Left to cherish her memory are her sons Glenn and Robert, five grandchildren and other family and friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband Donald and brother Paul.

Services were held at the Bryant Funeral Home June 19, while committal services were held in private.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Mary Lewis

Mary Jane “Maisie” Lewis, of Port Jefferson, died June 14. She was 101.

Mary was born Sept. 27, 1917, in Northern Ireland and was the daughter of Sarah and Samuel Stevenson.

Mary was a retired bookkeeper, and she loved to read, garden and spend time with family.

Left to cherish her memory are her sons Michael and Harry, two grandchildren, three great- grandchildren and many other family and friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband  Harry.

Services were held at the First Presbyterian Church in Port Jefferson June 20. Interment followed in the Calverton National Cemetery.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Eleanor Kra

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This week’s column is dedicated to courage, the particular courage of one person. That person was one of my closest friends, and she died last week. Even though she suffered for five years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and we all knew that the end was coming, it is hard to imagine life without her.

And isn’t that the height of selfishness, to think of her death as my loss? What about her loss? Never again on Earth to hug and kiss her husband, her children and grandchildren, to cheer when they enjoy victories and to commiserate when things don’t work out as they had hoped. Never again to join friends for an evening at the opera. Never again to enjoy cooking delicious dinner for those lucky enough to be her guests. Never again to exchange insights about the political turmoil through which we are living. Never again to share a deep belly laugh. For her, it has ended.

We met as freshmen at college. She was impressive for her strongly held viewpoints during classroom discussions of world affairs, asserting that the Cold War was not just about two superpowers but also included a third bloc of underdeveloped and uncommitted nations. She was also delightfully funny, laughing at the incongruities of life. When we were both assigned dorm rooms on the same floor of the same dorm, I got to know that she was born in Poland in the Warsaw ghetto in 1941, hardly a choice time and place, that she had escaped from the ghetto with her mother and another woman and child thanks to her father’s resourcefulness, and that she had lived out World War II in Warsaw with false papers, both mothers being under extreme duress.

My friend went on to be elected editor in chief of the college newspaper, and she sometimes wrote about my actions as class president. We laughed about how it was a microcosm of the fourth estate, that is the public press, commenting on the executive branch. We served on the student council together and became close friends.

After graduation, when my husband and I were looking to settle somewhere in the New York area, it was she who I called from Wichita Falls in northern Texas to ask if Stony Brook, where her husband was a mathematics professor, was a good place to live. Little did I know that this one night she and her husband had decided uncharacteristically to retire early to bed, and with the one-hour time difference between Texas and the East Coast, I would wake them up with my question. But she waved me on. “It’s home,” she responded in her usual direct fashion, telling me all I needed to know. That is how we happened to move to the North Shore of Long Island.

After my husband died and my children all left for college, she stepped in with a surprising offer: How about joining them with an opera subscription? “Where?” I asked. “Why at the Metropolitan Opera, where else?” she smiled. “We would drive into NYC each time?” I responded disbelievingly. “Yes, and have dinner beforehand,” she said with a gleam in her eye. And that is how I discovered one of my great passions.

But before she died, here is her most important gift to us. She was the embodiment of courage. Even as the quality of her life deteriorated, she fought to maintain normalcy, for her sake and the sake of those around her. She went from a cane to a walker, accompanied by her husband, then to a wheelchair, then to a scooter wheelchair that she drove at breakneck speed down Broadway from their West End apartment to Lincoln Center for her subscription performances and more. And as her muscular ability to verbalize diminished, she used the internet and her computer keyboard to stay connected to the rest of us as long as she could control her hands.

Watching her struggle was a gut-wrenching anguish. It was also an inspiration. She was not going into that dark night easily. She fought for every inch of the life her parents had saved and she and her husband had made together, and in so doing she showed us not only how to die with valor but especially how to live life to the max.

Principal Robert Grable speaks at the 2019 high school graduation. Photo by Bob Savage

Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable passed July 19. He was 49.

Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable addresses the graduating class of 2015. Photo by Erika Karp

Grable joined the school district in 1998, teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grade before moving up to assistant middle school principal and in 2005 to middle school principal. He would become high school principal in 2010, during a reshuffling of staff where TBR News Media reported at that time he was there to help facilitate a “diversity of staff.”

In his earlier years, before he entered into education, Grable played Major League Baseball for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He can be found in the Suffolk sports hall of fame. He was a lifelong resident of Connetquot and father of three girls.

“The community, school district and its teachers, administrators and staff are devastated by his untimely loss,” the school district said in a statement.

But if his true calling was education, it showed, according to both those who worked with him and those students he guided.

Lynn Jordan, a Mount Sinai resident who had been on the board of education since 2007 until this year, said the high school is where he truly thrived.

“That was his building — that was where he belonged,” she said, only a few hours after learning of his passing.

The high school principal would be instrumental in several programs that saw the high school thrive, Jordan said, including a “collegial observation process” that had teachers sit in on other’s instructors classes, having them learn from each other. While the program met with some initial resistance, it soon became an important part of teachers mentoring each other, especially for those just coming into the district.

“Teachers are very funny about having other people in their classrooms while they’re teaching,” she said. “It grew tremendously, I think about every teacher was participating in the collegial rounds eventually.”

Scott Reh, the district’s athletic director, knew Grable for nearly 20 years, having been one of his closest comrades. He said the principal cared about the students like they were his own children.

“He had a vision — he was a presence in the high school,” Reh said. “If you look at the Mount Sinai high school, rob created that, he made it.”

Vincent Ammirato, who taught and coached alongside Grable, would later work under him as principal. He said he remembered joking, saying Grable once worked for him, and he was now his boss. Even with him moving up in the district, Ammirato said the principal never lost that personal connection to his students.

“The kids loved him, the parents loved him, the teachers loved him,” he said. “It’s very rare that you find that in education or any walk of live to be loved by so many people.”

Students who took spent years with the principal, both in the middle and high schools, would come to see him as more than just an administrator.

Daria Martorana, a Mount Sinai native who graduated in 2014, said she had travelled the road from middle to high school with Grable, adding he was magnanimous to her and the other students.

“To say Mr. Grable was a passionate and dedicated educator is an understatement,” she said. “He has always been the one who his students could go to for a laugh when we were down, guidance when we were lost, and help when we were confused… he would even escort us to class so we didn’t get in trouble for not having a late pass.”

To those who paid attention to his methods, Grable took a look at teaching like a coach would on the baseball field, seeing how each individual student has strengths that had to be pushed and nurtured. He was adamant that students just looking to coast through easy courses should challenge themselves.

“They mentored them all through the year, making sure they were really getting what they needed,” Jordan said. “He worked with kids, he tried to make the final outcome better.”

“That was his building — that was where he belonged.”

— Lynn Jordan

Grable spoke at the 2019 senior commencement ceremony just last month, June 28. Jordan said that, even though he had spent nearly 19 years in the district and could have moved up higher in administration, he considered the high school his home.

“Robert Grable was so much more than a principal,” said Gabriella Conceicao, a 2014 Mount Sinai graduate who would later become a teacher in the district. “There are few educators who take the time to get to know their students on a personal level and he was one of them. He built relationships that would last far beyond high school and he touched the lives of countless students and faculty members… I feel so lucky to have known him as a principal, friend, mentor, and coworker.”

Community reaction to the news on Facebook was swift in its condolences, with one resident calling him “one of the most compassionate educators Mount Sinai has ever had.”

The school district announced it would be closed at 3 p.m. Friday, July 19 until Monday July 22 in observance of Grable’s passing.

“There are no words to show the impact Mr. Grable has had on each and every one of his students,” Martorana said. “We are so lucky to have had him as a mentor and teacher but more importantly as a friend.”

*This post was updated July 19 with additional information and quotes.

** This post was updated July 22 with additional quotes

Michael McDermott

A popular Kings Park middle school gym teacher Michael McDermott died tragically on Sunday, July 14, at age 37. He was jogging on the shoulder of the southbound lane of Lake Avenue in St. James, north of Oak Street, when he was struck and killed by a southbound car at 12:21 p.m. 

The driver, Keith Clancy, age 32 of Mattituck, fled the scene in a Nissan sedan and was located and arrested about 30 minutes later, according to police reports, near exit 69 on the Long Island Expressway heading east with a smashed windshield. He was charge with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. 

End of the 2019 season Kings Park JV Baseball game

McDermott served as physical education teacher and coach for 14 years at the William T. Rogers Middle School, where he touched many lives with his enthusiasm, kindness and wonderful sense of humor.

“He was a dedicated JV baseball and middle school boys soccer coach, who inspired those around him,” said Superintendent Timothy Eagen in a prepared statement on behalf of the Kings Park school district. “Our hearts are broken after the tremendous loss of this truly dedicated educator, professional, husband and father. Our thoughts are with the McDermott family at this time.”

Students gathered in the dugout at the school’s baseball field on Monday afternoon for an impromptu tribute that grew that evening into a candlelight vigil, where students, teachers, counselors and the community joined in to mourn the loss. 

John Mueller, age 15, a ninth-grade pitcher for 2019 Kings Park JV baseball team said he will always remember Coach McDermott and wants to be like him.

“Coach made me the person I am today,” John said. “He knows right from wrong, and what is good. He was a great coach, gym teacher and person.”

Community members Camille Cardoza and Barbara Mueller, mother of John admired the coach’s positive attitude and the values he instilled such as family first, school second, then baseball. 

Students inscribe tribute to Coach McDermott in dugout.

Memorial services were held Wednesday July 17 at the Branch Funeral Home. A funeral Mass was due to be held Thursday, July 18, at 10 a.m. at Sts. Philip & James R.C. in St. James. 

McDermott is survived by wife Lorraine, and three children Leila, Ryan and Sienna.

 

Photos from Branch Funeral Home, Barbara Mueller, Camille Cardoza and Patrick Moser

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Eleanor Kra

Eleanor Kra, 77, died at Mount Sinai West hospital in Manhattan of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease, July 9. In the last weeks of her life, she was surrounded by her devoted husband, children, grandchildren, her sister and countless friends.

Eleanor was born in the Warsaw Ghetto Oct.1, 1941, and was smuggled out of the ghetto by her mother early the following year. Eleanor, her mother, Rochelle, and her best friend Mary Shidlovski survived the Holocaust in Warsaw while living on false papers, and Eleanor did not know she was Jewish until after the war had ended.

She moved with her family from Poland to Germany, eventually arriving in the United States in 1949. Eleanor graduated from William H. Taft High School in New York in 1958 and from Barnard College at Columbia University in New York June 5, 1962.

At Barnard she met the love of her life, Irwin Kra, and they were wed Dec. 23, 1961. Irwin and Eleanor were married for over 57 years and lived happily in New York and Boston before settling on Long Island in 1968, where they resided for the next 46 years. In 2014 they returned to New York City.

Eleanor received a master’s degree in American history from Stony Brook University in 1971 and later was employed at the same university. For many years, she worked in the health sciences, and she retired as the assistant dean at the School of Health Technology and Management in 2008.

Eleanor devoted much time and energy to volunteer activities, even more so after she retired. She served as chair of the Center for Human Justice and Social Understanding featuring the Holocaust Collection at Suffolk County Community College. She was also a fierce activist and champion of a variety of Jewish and social justice causes, recently commenting that if you weren’t angry you weren’t paying enough attention.

Eleanor’s first language was Polish, but before and after the war, her family spoke Yiddish. She had a lifelong love for the language and was active with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Learning in Manhattan. A Yiddish language interview of her about her life can be found online at the Yiddish Language Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project.

Eleanor loved laughter, food, wine, music, friends and family. She was a warm and devoted mother, wife and friend and hosted numerous wayward guests and visitors every year on Thanksgiving, Pesach and any other holiday where someone needed a temporary home and a delicious meal. Eleanor was an accomplished cook and invitations to her table were always welcome, both for the food and for the conversation. She was always ready with a quick joke or a sharp retort, as circumstances warranted.

Eleanor adored the opera and held season subscriptions first to the New York City Opera and then to the Metropolitan Opera. She also loved travel and adventure, returning repeatedly to Israel, along with visits to dozens of other countries.

Eleanor enjoyed her final years surrounded by friends and family, enjoying all that New York had to offer. She is survived by her husband, Irwin; her sister, Rosely; her children Douglas, Bryna and Gabriel; their spouses Lisa, Brian and Julie; and her eight beloved grandchildren Stephanie, Danielle, Jacob, Elie, Calla, Jonas, Jasper and Nola.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her honor to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (www.hias.org), American Jewish World Service (www.ajws.org) or www.ALS.org.

Arlene Pearce

Arlene A. Pearce, of Port Jefferson, died July 5, 2019.  

She was the beloved wife of W. Donald Pearce; devoted mother of Donald G. Pearce (Janine), Debbie Grimaldi (Pat) and Cindy Parry (Bill); the cherished nana of Donald C., Michael, Patrick, Stephanie, Danielle, Matthew and Katelyn; the loving sister of Carol Wickel (Joe); and dear sister in law of Peggy Butscher.  

The family will received friends July 7 at the O.B. Davis Funeral Homes in Port Jefferson Station, while a Mass of Christian Burial took place July 7 at the Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson followed by a private cremation.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations in memory of Arlene be made to: Hope House Ministries – The Ministry for Hope Inc. 501 (c) (3) E.I.N. 11-2667800 d.b.a. Hope House Ministries 1 High St. / P.O. Box 358 Port Jefferson, NY 11777

Donald Kane

Donald John Kane, of Wilmington NC, formerly of Mount Sinai passed away July 8 at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in North Carolina. He was 87.

The youngest of eight sons, Donald was born in Brooklyn Jan. 27, 1932, to Henry Vincent Kane and Anna Donahue Kane.

Don was a career Marine serving his country all over the world as a Comms Chief. He was a veteran of both the Korean War and the Vietnam War and was a Purple Heart recipient. He retired from the Marine Corps after 22 and a half years of faithful service in 1971. He held true to the Marine Corps motto Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful), attending the Drill Instructor reunion and Marine Corps Ball every year with his wife Robin. Upon retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps, Don pursued a career with the U.S. Post Office in Mount Sinai York, where he retired after a 20-year commitment in 1994.

Don’s zest for life was contagious, and he was always the life of the party. He was known as “Uncle Don” in Mount Sinai, and as “The Godfather” of his neighborhood. Don was happiest tending his garden and spending time with his family and friends. Don was renowned for his storytelling. Family said his big heart encompassed everyone he met, and he always made you feel loved, no matter what.

In addition to his wife Robin, he is survived by his four daughters, Donna (Jonathan) Seely of Murfreesboro, TN, Dorine (Joe) Gallo of Wildwood, MO, Gloria (Jonathan) Deitsch of Marysville, MI, and Kasey (Bryan) Scanlon of Hubert, NC; daughter in law Nina Kane of San Antonio, TX; twelve grandchildren, Aimee Seely Hull, Christopher Sauer Seely, Stephanie Kane, Joseph Gallo, Elisa Gallo, Jordyn Deitsch, Taylor Deitsch, Jack Donald Deitsch, Bradyn Deitsch, Kaydince Scanlon, Brody Scanlon, Karter Scanlon; and his great grandchild, Kate Hull.

Don was preceded in death by his son, Timothy J. Kane of San Antonio, TX.

Family and friends are invited to a viewing on July 28 from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at the O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Port Jefferson Station. A Celebration of Life and funeral service will be held July 29 at 10 a.m. at the same funeral home.

Don will be laid to rest at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks people to support his fellow Marines with contributions to the Semper Fi Fund at:

The Semper Fi Fund

825 College Blvd. Suite 102, PMB 609

Oceanside, CA 92057

 

Joan Aird Kremens

Joan Aird Kremens, 81, died June 7.

Born Feb. 11, 1938, in Maspeth, Joan was the second of two daughters to Mary and Joseph Aird. She spent her childhood in Maspeth and summers in Oakdale, where she excelled as a champion swimmer and runner.

In 1956 Joan married her high school sweetheart Chester Kremens and moved to Bay Shore. They were married for 63 years and had three sons. In 1964 she and Chester started a construction supply company, which came to be known as Sure-Set Fasteners Inc. The company grew from their deep commitment to customer service and their willingness to go above and beyond for their clients. It remains a thriving family business to this day.

The family of five were avid boaters, boating on Long Island Sound, around Shelter Island and in the Bahamas, where they vacationed.

Joan had a keen mind and was an avid reader, delving into history, medical science, current events and anything else that caught her eye. She stayed engaged politically and was a committed Democrat.

In their retirement, Joan and Chet bought an RV. After spending a few years crisscrossing the country, the couple settled into winters in Miami and became solid members of an RV community there.

Joan was a doting grandmother to seven grandchildren April, Stephen, Chris, Paul, Riley, Charlie and Annabelle; and four great-grandchildren Olivia and Ayrdrie van Bemmelen, and Penelope and Parker Kremens. In addition to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she is survived by her loving husband and her children Chester Jr. (Val), Russell (Karen) and Jim (Laura) as well as her sister Marion Aird and her nieces Jeanine Lobell and Adrienne Amundsen.

A memorial service will be held Aug. 31 from 1 to 5 p.m. in Port Jefferson. In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to Emily’s List. Funeral arrangements were entrusted to St. James Funeral Home.

Elizabeth M. Fitzpatrick

Elizabeth M. “Betty” Fitzpatrick of Nesconset passed away June 14 at the age of 86. Born in Manhattan, she was the beloved wife of Philip, and devoted mother of Ann, Philip and Paul. Services were held at Moloney’s Lake Funeral Home and Cremation Center, Lake Ronkonkoma. A funeral Mass was held at Holy Cross R. C. Church in Nesconset with interment at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.

Dorothy Marie Miller

Dorothy Marie Miller of Hauppauge passed away June 26 at age 78. Born in Islip, she was the beloved wife of the late Myron, devoted mother of Myron and the late Pamela. Services were held at Moloney’s Hauppauge Funeral Home, Hauppauge with a private cremation at Nassau Suffolk Crematory, Lake Ronkonkoma.

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Louise Wasilevitch

Louise Wasilevitch died June 12. She was 107. For nine years she lived with her daughter and son-in-law, Alice and Charles Anderson of Stony Brook. She also traveled to their home in New Hampshire, where the whole family often gathered. 

Born in New Jersey in 1911 as Louise Zaitz, she led a full life, marrying Julius Wasilevitch in 1937, with whom she had two daughters, Susan Bergman (deceased) and Alice. She worked as a secretary on Wall Street, but was let go when she married. Later, her husband started an engineering firm, Euclid Equipment Inc., and she headed the office. Business allowed them to travel around the world together.

She sang in her younger days, at social clubs and in the First Presbyterian Church choir in Greenlawn, where she lived for most of her married life. Julius died in 1995.

She was also a Girl Scout leader, a part of the Greenlawn Beach and Swim Club and a member of two senior clubs. In addition to playing violin, she enjoyed many crafts, including counted cross stitch, which she did even after she was 100. 

Louise is survived by her daughter Alice Anderson and her husband; three granddaughters, Heather Anderson and her friend Steve Kennedy of North Carolina, Jennifer Irwin and her husband Tobin of Evergreen, Colorado,  and Emily Rietzel and her husband Robert of Coventry, Rhode Island; and eight great-grandchildren. She is missed by her loving family.

Services were held June 17 at A. L. Jacobsen Funeral Home in Huntington Station, followed by cremation.

Michael R. Campbell

Michael Roy Campbell of Northport died on June 27. He was 71. He was a retired business teacher, golf coach and work study coordinator at Northport High School and served in the United States Army, 101st Airborne, during the Vietnam War.

Michael is survived by his wife, Colleen; children Michael William, William Roy, Colleen Jill, Bonnie Michelle and Kathleen Mary; and his granddaughter Violet Aurora. Funeral services were held at Nolan Funeral Home in Northport on July 1 followed by interment, with U.S. Army Military Honors, at Calverton National Cemetery.

Diva Cherbavaz

Diva Cherbavaz, of Ridge, died May 4. She was age 94.

Diva was born April 3, 1925 in Pirano, Italy, and was the daughter of the late William and the late Carmela (Gladi) Contento.  

She was predeceased by her husband, Duilio Cherbavaz, and her son, Dennis Cherbavaz.  

She is survived by three loving daughters, Dorothy Cherbavaz-Tigliapietra, Diana Cherbavaz and Joy Ellen DiGiorgio and  two cherished grandsons, Ambrose DiGiorgio and Isidore DiGiorgio.  

Family and friends gathered at the funeral home on May 10 for closing prayers. Burial followed in St. Michael’s Cemetery in East Elmhurst. An online guest book is available at www.rockypointfuneralhome.com.

Donald Lowe

Donald Edward Lowe, of Frederick, Maryland, formerly of Ridge, died May 7. He was 76.

Donald was born Feb. 4, 1943 in Teaneck, New Jersey, and was the son of the late August and the late Ruth (Speiser) Lowe.  

He was a proud army veteran serving during the Vietnam war and was later an administrator in the Sayville school district. 

He is survived by two loving daughters, Jessica C. Smith of Frederick, Maryland and Jennifer A. Elia of Glen Allen, Virginia; one brother, August H. Lowe of Virginia and five cherished grandchildren.  

Private burial with military honors was held May 13 at Calverton National Cemetery.  

All arrangements were entrusted to the Rocky Point Funeral Home. An online guest book is available at www.rockypointfuneralhome.com.

Albert Reichle

Albert “AJ” Joseph Reichle, of Rocky Point, died May 15. He was 24.

AJ was born in Stony Brook and was the son of Albert J. and Lorraine (Timpone) Reichle.  

He was employed by YAI in Farmingdale as a counselor.  

He is survived by his beloved parents, Albert J. and Lorraine (Timpone) Reichle; his loving sister, Ava Reichle; his cherished grandparents Albert and Joan Reichle of Rocky Point and his grandmother Laura Timpone of Ronkonkoma.

A celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial was offered May 20 at St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church with a burial following in Washington Memorial Park in Mount Sinai. An online guest book is available at www.rockypointfuneralhome.com. 

Diane Cummings

Diane V. Cummings, of Ridge, died May 19. She was 73.

Diane was born Feb. 7, 1946 in Brooklyn. She was the daughter of the late Gerard and the late Katherine (Krewer) Rice.

She was employed by Kings Park State Hospital as a therapy aid. 

She is survived by her husband, Richard J. Cummings; two daughters, Kelly Crean of Saint James and Shannon Cummings of Ridge; two sons, Michael Cummings of Shoreham and Sean Cummings of Setauket; three sisters, Kathy Christie of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Janet Doyle of Lake Panamoka and Suzanne Romaine of Coram; three brothers, Greg Rice of Toms River, New Jersey, Thomas Rice of Mount Sinai and Jerry Rice of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.  

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point with a burial following at Calverton National Cemetery. Funeral arrangements were entrusted to the Rocky Point Funeral Home.  An online guest book is available at www.rockypointfuneralhome.com.

Ryan Delena

Ryan J. Delena, of Ridge, died May 21. He was 33.

Ryan was born Jan. 23, 1986 in Smithtown. 

He is survived by his father William Delena and his mother Debra (Mohr) Delena. In addition, he was the cherished father of Scarlette Rose Delena and the loving brother of Heather Franco. Delena was privately cremated. 

All arrangements were entrusted to the Rocky Point Funeral Home.  An online guest book can be found at www.rockypointfuneralhome.com.

Linda Ladensack

Linda Ladensack, of East Islip, died May 22. She was 65.

Linda was born Feb. 21, 1954 in the Bronx. She was the daughter of the late Robert and the late Mary (Gydosh) Ladensack. She was employed by the West Islip School District as a teacher.  

She is survived by two loving sisters, Donna Stiene of Arizona and Karen Ladensack of New York.  

Burial was held in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram May 30.   

All arrangements were entrusted to the Rocky Point Funeral Home.  An online guest book can be found at www.rockypointfuneralhome.com.  

Martha Martocci

Martha Martocci, of Ridge, died May 22. She was 90.

Martha was born July 9, 1928 in the Bronx and was the daughter of the late Ladislaw and the late Agnes (Fritch) Patterson.  

She was employed by Northport School District as a clerk.  

She is survived by one daughter, Mary (Joseph) Taussi of Arizona; two sons, Peter (Renee) Martocci of Sayville and Robert (Kathy) Martocci of Ridge and her  three cherished grandchildren and five great- grandchildren.  

Celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial was held May 28 at St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point with burial following at Calverton National Cemetery.  

All arrangements were entrusted to the Rocky Point Funeral Home. An online guest book is available at www.rockypointfuneralhome.com.   

Albano Melo

Albano Melo, of Miller Place, died June 30. He was 92.

He was the beloved husband of Maria Natalia Melo; the devoted father of Joseph (Aeyung) Melo, Isabel (Kenneth) Melo-Kay and Julia (Frank) Melo-Orlik; the loving grandfather of Andrew, William and Briana (Brian) and is survived by many other family members and friends.

Funeral mass was celebrated at St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach and interment followed at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram. Arrangements were entrusted to the Branch Funeral Home of Miller Place and Vigliante family. An online guest book is available at www.branchfh.com.

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Dieter Lund

Dieter Lund, of Port Jefferson, died May 10. He was 79.

He was born Oct. 24, 1939 in Germany, and was the son of Jenny and Albert Lund.

Dieter was the owner of Seven Seas Construction in Port Jefferson and was a member of L.I. Antique Power Association, Fohrer & Amrumer (German Club), Cold Spring Power Museum and Rough and Tumble Engineers Museum. He enjoyed skiing, fishing, traveling, machinery and especially family.

Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Amy; daughter, Jenny; son, Thomas; sister, Christa; brother, Helmut; along with many other family and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home May 18, and interment followed at St. Ann’s Episcopal Cemetery in Sayville.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Kenneth Larsen

Kenneth T. Larsen Sr., a longtime community resident, died April 9. He was 89.

He was born Nov. 26, 1929 in Hicksville, and was the son of Adina and Oscar Larsen.

Larsen was a retired roofer for Larsen Roofing Company and was a member of the Stony Brook Yacht Club and Sons of Norway. He enjoyed boating, fishing and spending time with family.

Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Mildred; sons, Kenneth Jr., John and Jeffrey; two grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; along with many other family and friends

He was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers Conrad and Lawrence.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home April 12. Interment followed at the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Barbara Barkley

Barbara R. Barkley, of East Setauket, died April 12. She was 80.

She was born Nov. 29, 1939 in Bokoshe, Oklahoma, and was the daughter of Neoma and Haden Barkley.

Barkley was a retired financial underwriter, and she enjoyed old and mystery movies.

Left to cherish her memory is her daughter, Analisa; son, Guy; four grandchildren; and the rest of her family and friends.

Services were held at the Bryant Funeral Home April 15. Entombment followed in the Pinelawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Farmingdale.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Contributions in her memory can be made to Good Shepherd Hospice in Port Jefferson.

Florence Caramihas

Florence Caramihas, a longtime community resident, died April 4. She was 96.

She was born Feb. 17, 1923 in Brockton, Massachusetts, and was the daughter of Kaleroe and John Pechilis.

Caramihas worked at Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts, during and after WWII, and after that worked at her father’s store in Brockton until she married her husband Andrew on Nov. 16, 1952. 

Left to cherish her memory is her daughter, Candace (Donald) Foust; son, John; grandson, Andrew Foust; and her other family and friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband Andrew and son Thomas.

Services were held at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson April 9. Interment followed in the Seaview Cemetery in Mount Sinai.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Thelma Hall

Thelma Hall, of Setauket, died May 7. She was 85.

She was born June 11, 1933, in Medford, Massachusetts, and was the daughter of Gladys and Stanley Whitman Sr.

Hall was a retired nurse at Stony Brook University Hospital and a member of the Caroline Church. She enjoyed singing and gardening and spending time with her grandchildren.

Left to cherish her memory are her husband, William; daughters, Susan, Carol and Joan; son, Edward; 11 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Services were held at the Caroline Church May 14. Committal services were held in private.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket.

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Peter Sammarco

By Christine Zammarco

It started with a hoarse voice that seemed like part of a lingering cold that wouldn’t go away. Then one morning, Peter Sammarco, then 48-years-old, was shaving when he coughed up blood and right away knew something was wrong. After meeting with the doctors, Sammarco was diagnosed; it was throat cancer. Yet, rather than being concerned about what lay ahead, the Plainview history teacher, Rocky Point resident, father and husband met the challenge head on.

Peter Sammarco

“I was pretty hopeful,” he recalled at the age of 81, and speaking by projecting air through his diaphragm.

He was more upset about retiring from his job than he was about losing his voice or even the risk of dying, but Sammarco is from tough stock and from a generation which knew how to work hard and how to fight. He was born in 1930 during the Great Depression. He remembers the absence of his older brothers away serving in the military as he grew up. His Father, Petero, was a tailor and able to trade making suits in exchange for doctor and dentist visits or other services for the family.

As a boy, Sammarco would go to the tailor shop during his lunch breaks in grammar school and enjoyed conversations with two part time Jewish men who worked there — one of whom would become his mentor. The worker would give him history lessons and talk about Hitler and what life was like in Germany, where he immigrated from.

Between the knowledge Sammarco picked up from the workers and the letters he received from his brothers stationed overseas in different parts of the world, he was always learning about current events going on in the world. His teacher would often ask the young man, “how’d you know that?” The teacher even asked him to report current events to the class.

When his brother, Bob, whom Sammarco hadn’t seen in five years, came back from serving in the military, one of the first things he did was grab his younger brother by his collar and take him to St. Ann’s Academy school to enroll. It was an all-boys private school with a cost of $12 a month, which was a lot of money back then, but Bob and his father paid for it. Sammarco was always an above average student with good grades across the board. He graduated in 1948 and planned to go into the military, but again Bob had other plans for him, and took him to Queens College to enroll. He was only the second person in the whole neighborhood to go to college.

“I graduated Sunday, and the Monday after I graduated [the next day] I was sworn into the military,” said Sammarco.

He was in charge of communications in Korea for 17 months. The highlight of his time in Korea was helping the local orphaned children who had no food, clothes, or even underwear. He used his leadership to get the troops stationed there to build an orphanage. He went from tent to tent collecting money. Three days later, a truckload of clothes arrived.

“That was one of the best times of my life because they knew I was responsible for it,” said Sammarco.

The children were amazed by how fast the buildings went up, and Sammarco felt good to leave something of himself behind.

“I came home from Korea in 1954 on military discharge and I said, what am I going to do now?” Sammarco recalled.

Bob guided him and told him about a job at an insurance company. He did very well financially, but working sales wasn’t for him.

“I loved teaching. I always loved teaching,” said Sammarco.

He went back to college at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus. He was only there a week when he was called to the office.

Peter Sammarco

“I asked, ‘was there a problem with my check?’ And they said, ‘no’ and offered me a job teaching,” Sammarco recalled. “I said, “but I’ve only been going to school here a week.” The new job was at an all-girls school, namely William Maxwell Commercial High School in Brooklyn.

He went in for the interview not knowing much about the position. Amazingly, they hired him on the spot.

“They didn’t ask me any questions, they said, here you go, room 401.”

He was in a class with 52 female students where Sammarco taught history for three years, but eventually it came time to settle down in the suburbs, and the commute to the city became too much. A friend helped him get a job at Plainview High School teaching history. He was there for 19 years. He spent his free time teaching at a Jewish community center and homeschooling sick children at a mental institution.

“The parents said he was such a wonder to their kids,” said his wife, Janet Sammarco.

One year, the journalist Geraldo Rivera ran a feature story about wanting to raise money for schools with special needs. Sammarco decided to throw a carnival at the high school and get his senior students involved. They raised $9,000 dollars.

“Some parents in Plainview say it was the best thing that ever happened to Plainview… that all the kids did something good,” said Sammarco.

But it was not just one single event that stands out to him. “The whole experience was rewarding,” he said. “Seeing kids grow. I had the same kids for a year so I could see the difference between when they started and the end. Plainview had really good students. Oh, they were bright. It was a good feeling, if you don’t get that feeling. Don’t teach.”

Sammarco still remembers receiving the news of his cancer and how the idea of having to resign pained him, as he would no longer be able to teach without a voice. The students all walked him out to his car on that last day.

“All the girls were crying,” Sammarco recalled. “That was a bad day, let me tell you… I loved teaching… that was very sad. I drive out of the parking lot and they were all waving.”

He had surgery shortly after, and the whole school waited for news. Someone made an announcement on the loud speaker, saying “Mr. Sammarco made it through the surgery, he is okay.”

They could have taken only one vocal cord and left him with a voice, because the tumor was only on one vocal cord, but it was large and if even meniscal traces were on the second one the cancer would have spread further. The operation saved his life. With speech therapy he started with a method using burping up air, one he learned to laugh about. His more recent pattern of projecting air became more natural, allowing him to verbally communicate.

“People would be scared and feel bad if they couldn’t understand what he was saying,“ said Janet Sammarco. “I think we were closer. He needed me more than ever before.”

It also brought the community together and showed him how many people cared. People came to him and prayed for him.

“Losing my voice didn’t affect the quality of my life. I can’t complain about my life. I was good to my country, I helped people grow, I’m very positive about my life,” said Sammarco.

The radiation from chemotherapy led to blood and kidney cancer years later. He believed the water he drank while in Korea that had been contaminated with gasoline also contributed. Drinking that water and smoking socially are his only regrets in life, but he says he wouldn’t have changed anything.

“Did I appreciated what I had? Not really. I do now. We take things for granted… after the third cancer I was like, O.K God, I get it,” He laughed lightheartedly with a big warm smirk.

Still a young man after the surgery, Sammarco still needed to work. Sammarco went on to be the groundskeeper at his local church, St. Anthony of Padua R.C Church in Rocky Point after resigning from teaching.

Sammarco passed away June 24. He was 88, and is survived by his wife of 60 years, Janet; his children, Peter and Jennifer; two granddaughters, Jennifer and Christine; two great-grandsons, Connor and Bryce; and his only surviving brother, Richard.

He was preceded in death by his son Robert.

“I enjoyed the 19 years working at the church and planting trees… it wasn’t that bad,” Sammarco said. “The trees will outlive me, and people will look at them and remember me driving around on the tractor.”

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Charles Petrie

Charles McKenna Petrie of Ridge died June 13. He was 81.

He was the beloved husband of Marie Gallo-Petrie; cherished father of Daniel Petrie, Heather (John) DeTommaso, Maura (Peter) Cavassa and Meaghan (Donald) Lang; and he was loving grandfather of 14.

He is survived by many other family members and friends.

Funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Mark’s R.C. Church following a private cremation.

Arrangements were entrusted to the care of Branch Funeral Home of Miller Place. An online guest book is available at www.branchfh.com.

Peter Sammarco

Peter Sammarco, a Rocky Point resident and longtime educator at Plainview-Old Bethpage High School, passed away June 24. He was 88. 

Born during the Great Depression, he was a young member of the Greatest Generation. He was one of five brothers, whose ages spanned 25 years apart from youngest to oldest, to serve in the military during wartime. Sammarco was a veteran of the Korean War while his older three brothers, Joseph, Robert and Daniel, served in WWII, and Richard served in Vietnam.

Peter graduated from Queens College in 1953 and worked as a high school social studies and economics teacher at Plainview-Old Bethpage High School for 19 years. He also spent 20 years beautifying St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point.

Peter loved American history, in particular, studying the Civil War. He also loved gardening, reading and doing New York Times crossword puzzles.   

Sammarco is survived by his wife of 60 years, Janet; his children, Peter and Jennifer; two granddaughters, Jennifer and Christine; two great-grandsons, Connor and Bryce; and his only surviving brother, Richard.  

He was preceded in death by his son Robert. 

A wake was held Wednesday, June 26 at O.B. Davis funeral home in Miller Place. A funeral is to be held at St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point at 9:30 a.m., Thursday, June 27.

Robert Smith

Robert J. Smith of Belle Terre and the founder of Buttercup’s Dairy Store in Port Jefferson Station, passed away peacefully June 21 with his family by his side. He
was 87.

Smith was born in Brooklyn and was raised in Queens. He moved to Long Island as a young man where he met the farmer’s daughter from Buttercup Farms and fell in love. They were married July 8, 1951

Together they continued the dairy farm and milk business. 

They founded Buttercup’s Dairy Store together in 1971 as a drive thru dairy and converted an old cow barn in 1975 to make the first walk-in store. Throughout the years countless family members, friends and neighbors kept the business running through the present day. Lines of present and former employees and customers visited the funeral home to pay respects.

He was the loving father of Linda, Robert Jr., Sharon and Richard; the grandfather of 12; and great-grandfather of 10.  

Services were held June 25 at Washington Memorial Park. Grandchildren from across the country flew in to pay their respects.

Funeral arrangements were entrusted to Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket.

Lauro Alcala

Lauro Macinas Alcala of Port Jefferson Station passed June 1. He was 88.

He was the beloved husband of Lourdes Alcala; cherished father of Eduvie (Ramon) Noblejas, Ceceila (James) Komosinski, and Neil (Tine) Alcala; loving grandfather of Olivia, Angelique, Gianna, Jonah and Zachaeus and is survived by many other family members and friends.

Funeral Mass was celebrated at Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson with interment following at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jeff.

Arrangements were entrusted to the care of Branch Funeral Home of Miller Place and the Vigliante family. An online guest book is available at www.branchfh.com.

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Paul Edmund Keyes

Paul Edmund Keyes of East Northport died on June 1 at the age of 61. He was the loving brother of Marguerite “Peggy” Capobianco, Ann Brusca (the late Salvatore), John, Thomas (Amy) and Kathy Pileggi (Charles). A funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday June 28 at 11 a.m. at St. Philip Neri Church in Northport followed by burial of his ashes at Northport Rural Cemetery.

Audrey J. Blackman

Audrey J. Blackman of Huntington Station died on June 2 at 82 years of age. She was a proud registered nurse for many years; loving wife of the late William R.; beloved mother of William (Yael) Jr., Susan (Murray) Walters and Jill; cherished grandmother of Jenna, Cassidy, Fletcher, Catie, Taylor and Kyra. Visiting hours were held at Nolan Funeral Home, 5 Laurel Ave, Northport. A funeral service was held June 7 at Trinity Episcopal Church, Northport. Cremation was private.

Todd A. Hunter

Todd A. Hunter of East Northport died on June 8 at age 52. He was caring father of Abigail; loving son of Barbara Oestel (George) and Glenn Hunter Sr. (Kathy); beloved brother of Glenn Hunter Jr. (Cheryl); devoted uncle of Tori, Kate and Madelyn; dear nephew of George Dunn III (Sandra), Robert Dunn (Doreen), Kevin Dunn, Alex Hunter III (Jeanne), Jeff Hunter (Seaneen) and the late April Hunter. He is also survived by his step-brother John and his step-sister Kim. Visiting hours were held June 10 at Nolan Funeral Home. Funeral service was held June 11 with interment following at Northport Rural Cemetery.

Richard F. Siebach

Richard F. Siebach, longtime resident of Northport, died on June 4 at 87 years of age. He was the beloved husband of the late Cameron “Camy”; loving father of Robin, Richard Jr, Tracy Kazic and special daughter Sherylan Mathews; cherished grandfather of Chelsea, Marley Jade, Brianna, the late Rick III, Danica, Alexis, Alexander, Haley and Whitney; and dear great-grandfather of Rikki. 

Rick served his country with the U.S. Navy from 1949 to 1955. He belonged to the Northport Fire Department Hook & Ladder Co. from 1969 to 2006. During his tenure with the fire department, he served as captain for the rescue squad from 1976 to 1978 and also as captain of the fire police from 2002 to 2004. Rick also belonged to the Northport Yacht Club for many years and was a past commander of the Northport Yacht Club Power Squadron. Memorial was on June 15 at Nolan Funeral Home with Firematic services.

Charles J. Eder

Charles J. Eder of East Northport died on June 6. He was the beloved husband for 75 years of Helen; loving father of Charles (Tracey) and Helen (John) Johnson; cherished grandfather of Lauren (Josh Kovner) Betz-Kovner, Jimmy (Christen) Betz, Charles (Eliza) Betz, Gerald, Charles and Patricia. A memorial was held June 15 at Nolan Funeral Home. Donations to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, www.stjude.org, in his memory, would be appreciated.

Ryan Walsh

Ryan M. Walsh died May 29 at the age of 30. He was the beloved son of Michael and Debbie; cherished brother of Eric (Julianne) and David (Jeanette). Visiting services were held June 3 at Nolan Funeral Home in Northport. Family and friends gathered at the funeral home June 4 for a funeral service led by Msgr. Steven R. Camp. Burial followed at Northport Rural Cemetery.