Times of Middle Country

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The late summer extreme heat wave likely contributed to the death of an 11-year-old girl in Coram Aug. 28.

Suffolk County Police Homicide detectives are investigating the death of the girl who was found unresponsive in a vehicle on Kathleen Crescent in Coram Tuesday at about 3:45 p.m., police said.

The girl’s mother had been running errands with the 11-year-old and two other children, according to police. After returning home, the girl’s mother went inside believing all of the children were out of the car. Sometime later, the mother could not locate the 11-year-old girl and checked inside of the car where she found the girl. The mother carried her inside the house and called 911.

The girl’s mother began CPR. Police arrived in less than two minutes. Police and rescue personnel from Coram Rescue continued CPR and transported the girl to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

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Jamie Ortega, a former lacrosse player at Middle Country, playing for University of North Carolina this spring. Photo from University of North Carolina

By Desirée Keegan

University of North Carolina standout Jamie Ortega wanted to live up to the hype after being named Inside Lacrosse’s No. 1-ranked freshman attacker, and she did just that with a record-breaking first season with a Tar Heels team that reached the NCAA semifinals.

Jamie Ortega’s
2018 headshot for the
University of North Carolina. Photo from University of North Carolina

The Centereach native was tabbed National Rookie of the Year as well by the lacrosse-centric publication, and Freshman of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, navigating her way to be the top goal-scorer on a deep North Carolina offense. She shot 57.4 percent for 70 goals and added 16 assists while starting in all 18 games, scoring multiple goals in each of the Tar Heels’ final 14 contests, including 12 in a three-game span in the NCAA tournament. Her 86 points broke UNC’s single-season record while she led all ACC rookies and ranked fourth overall in the conference. Her 70 goals also broke a 2008 record (50) for most goals scored by a freshman in a season, ranked second overall in the ACC and tied for 11th in Division I.

“She’s a tremendous talent,” 23-year North Carolina head coach Jenny Levy said. “[Myself and my coaching staff] have done this for a long time, and when you see ‘It’, you see it. She really has multiple weapons — she can dodge, feed and play off-ball — and she’s done that for a long time. She’s had the most tremendous freshman year we’ve ever had.”

Levy, who is considered among the best coaches in women’s lacrosse history, ranking third in NCAA Division I history in career wins and is a two-time national champion and a two-time National Coach of the Year, said she challenged Ortega to perform at a high level after UNC graduated a huge class of seniors. She said she hadn’t put that type of pressure on a freshman in a long time, and said she thought Ortega responded.

“I wasn’t really expecting being ranked the top recruit in the nation, and it did make me nervous because I felt like I had to live up to that expectation, but it also made me want to work harder, because I wanted to prove I was the No. 1 lacrosse recruit in the nation,” said Ortega, who was also named to the Inside Lacrosse ILWomen All-Rookie Team and All-America third team. “Being named the Rookie of the Year means a lot to me because it showed that through college — which is really hard, because it’s not like high school, everyone’s good — I can still stand out.”

She credited her teammates, like Marie McCool, a decorated player in her own right, for pushing her to become better, and giving her opportunities to succeed.

McCool said Ortega proved she was a force all her own, especially after the freshman recorded her 15th goal of the conference tournament, which broke a North Carolina record set by attacker Molly Hendrick the season prior.

“I don’t let things get to me. I feel I can push through adversities and the challenges defenders face me with.”

— Jamie Ortega

“Jamie Ortega is a special player,” McCool told The Daily Tar Heel. “She’s only a freshman and the confidence that she plays with — you don’t see it often with freshmen.”

Ortega played her best lacrosse the second half of the season. She scored a career-high seven goals and closed out a 10-0 first-half run in a 20-10 win against Duke University April 21. The performance was one goal shy of the UNC single-game record set in 2002.

Ortega grew accustomed to the spotlight in high school, having experienced facing double-teams throughout her six years on her Middle Country high school team, which she led to its first Suffolk County title and state championship game in 2017. Even a switch from midfield to attack couldn’t slow her down this season.

“It just comes so natural to her, playing the game how it is supposed to be played,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “Jamie did an awesome job on defense and offense for us. She definitely led the team in that aspect.”

Her senior year she tallied 98 goals and 45 assists and finished as New York state’s all-time leader in points with 588 (402 goals and 186 assists). She was also a five-year varsity starter and two-time all-county pick on Centereach High School’s soccer team.

Jamie Ortega reverses in front of the cage during a 2017 Middle Country lacrosse game. Photo by Bill Landon

“I’m a pretty confident person,” Ortega said. “I think that’s really important for other players to have. I don’t let things get to me. I feel I can push through adversities and the challenges defenders face me with.”

Through all her triumphs she also had some unique experiences as a Tar Heel, like when she faced her older sister Nikki, an attack for the University of Notre Dame. The sisters scored unassisted and back-to-back for the first goals for each of their teams in UNC’s come-from-behind win.

“It was stressful, because you want them both to win,” their mother Susan said, laughing. “I’m so proud of them, and one thing with Jamie is she’s always trying to get better and her hard work really paid off. Jamie is the most humble kid you’re ever going to meet. She doesn’t talk about herself, she doesn’t watch herself, and I think that makes it even more impressive to me because she’s all about the game and playing, and playing with her team, and having fun doing it.”

Jamie Ortega also had the chance to play minutes from her home when Stony Brook University hosted the NCAA playoffs for North Carolina, which made its 10th appearance in the NCAA tournament semifinals, including seven in the last 10 years. She had four goals and one assist in the team’s final appearance of 2018 against James Madison University, earning All-NCAA Tournament Team honors.

If that all wasn’t enough, Ortega is giving back to a sport that’s given so much to her.

She worked a camp called Top of the Class at Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts with her assistant coach Phil Barnes, who runs it with Harvard University head coach Devon Wills. Many Ivy League schools and coaches were there, along with six of her UNC teammates. She said working with the freshman to junior players felt natural.

“I didn’t feel like I was coaching — it felt like I was just hanging out with some lacrosse girls,” Ortega said. “This is definitely something I never expected, because I’m not one to brag, but being an idol to others really motivated you more. Lacrosse means everything to me, and to be able to play, and to still play at this level, making memories with my teammates, trying to succeed with them and giving back to others has been a privilege.”

Girl Scout Lauren Reitano, second from right, before installing monofilament recycling receptacles at West Meadow Beach with environmental educator, Nicole Pocchiare; Robyn Reitano and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

A local Girl Scout’s project has been a golden opportunity to help make one beach a little bit cleaner and safer.

Lauren Reitano, a Girl Scout with Troop 2547 in Centereach, installed two monofilament recycling receptacles at West Meadow Beach Aug. 7 for her Gold Award project. The award is the highest a Girl Scout can achieve, and the project challenges high school students to identify and solve a community problem.

Lauren Reitano with one of the receptacles installed at West Meadow Beach. Photo from Lauren Reitano

Reitano, 16, said she knew her undertaking would involve West Meadow Beach. She said she visits the Town of Brookhaven beach frequently and notices people leaving fishing lines behind. She decided to install the durable plastic receptacles made of polyvinyl chloride pipes at the town beach to provide a place for fishers to properly discard their fishing lines.

“A beach cleanup is great, but that’s not going to last,” the soon-to-be senior at Centereach High School said.

Reitano said the receptacles, which are located at the beginning of the nature path when entering from the parking lot, look like candy canes, and fishers can place lines in the top part of it. Every other week she will go to the beach to empty them, and in the future she can pass the project down to a younger Scout.

The Girl Scout said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) stopped by the beach while she was installing them and chatted with her about the project.

“Installing the monofilament receptacles is doing a great service to the environment and protecting the wildlife in and around the water,” Romaine said in a statement. “Fishing line is one of the most frequent and hazardous forms of marine debris, and I thank Lauren for helping to prevent more plastics from getting into our waterways.”

To begin her project, Reitano sat with Brookhaven environmental educator Nicole Pocchiare who walked her through all the steps of the project, which involved working with the town to get approval for placement of the containers. Reitano said while the process with the town took a few months, the actual construction and installing of the receptacles was about a half-hour each. On Aug. 7, she spent approximately two hours at the beach with her mother and Pocchiare finding the ideal spots and measuring for proper placement.

“Installing the monofilament receptacles is doing a great service to the environment and protecting the wildlife in and around the water.”

— Ed Romaine

As they were completing the installation, Reitano said a bicyclist thanked them and told her he witnessed people handling discarded lines and hooks getting cut by the hooks.

“It’s dangerous for people and animals as well because when it gets in the water, it can strangle them,” Reitano said.

Her mother, Robyn, who is a co-leader with Troop 2547, said she was proud of her daughter, who is usually quiet, being persistent enough to get the job done by going through the proper channels with the town for approval and waiting for a response.

“It makes me feel good as a life lesson
because she was able to really see it through,” the mother said.

Lauren Reitano said Girl Scouts should choose something they are interested in when looking to earn a Gold Award because the project can take some time.

“If you really don’t have an interest in what you’re doing, then it’s going to drag on,” she said. “If you have an interest in the topic — like I have an interest in the beach and the environment — it’s going to be super fun.”

Suffolk County police allege that a man caught on camera in a 7-Eleven in Selden hit a pedestrian and fled the scene. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 6th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the driver of a vehicle that struck a pedestrian and fled the scene in Selden this month.

Police allege a man driving a black Dodge Ram 1500 hit a pedestrian and fled the scene. Photo from the Suffolk County Police Department

A man was driving a pickup truck when his vehicle struck a pedestrian in the parking lot of 7-Eleven, located at 1316 Middle Country Road, on August 4 at approximately 4:20 a.m. The victim, who lost a tooth as a result of the incident, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was treated for lacerations and a broken foot. The vehicle was described a black Dodge Ram 1500 with black rims and a yellow New York State license plate.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-8477, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Carin M. Smilk

The overcast skies may have kept some people away July 25, but even a little drizzle didn’t dampen the spirits of attendees at the ninth annual Jewish Summer Festival sponsored by Chabad of Stony Brook at West Meadow beach.

The evening included a kosher barbecue, concert with Israeli singer Yoel Sharabi and entertainment for all. A lively game of “Simon Says” with Steve Max kept adults as occupied as the kids.

The festival may be the last summer gathering before Chabad finishes the construction of a new state-of-the-art building on Nicolls Road in Stony Brook. A 13,000-square-foot facility will open in the coming months.

“It’s an exciting time for the Jewish community in central Suffolk County,” said Rabbi Motti Grossbaum. “We will be able to offer more Jewish classes, programs and events for all age groups, fostering increased Jewish opportunities, services and celebrations for all.”

For more information about Chabad at Stony Brook or to hear about available dedication opportunities in the new center at 360 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, visit www.chabadSB.com or call 631-585-0521 x101.

When it came to this year’s annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the Centereach Pool Complex, Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) decided to do something different. On July 21, the 2018 version of the event was transformed into the Hoops for Military Heroes.

“We always try to do something to highlight veterans and try to bring them together with other community members,” LaValle said.

Farmingville Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Post 400, Tordik-Diedrich-Duffield VFW Post 4927 and AMVETS Post 48 are all in the councilman’s district, and he said he thought the basketball tournament would be a good way for the veterans and young people in the area to interact.

This year’s event attracted more than 60 students in seventh to 12th grade and approximately a dozen veterans, according to LaValle. Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro (R) donated funds for the beverages and snacks, and members of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials refereed the games for free. All funds raised will be donated to local veterans’ organizations.

The councilman said the event was successful, and he already has ideas for next year, including assigning a veteran as captain to each team.

“I would definitely love to continue this tradition,” LaValle said.

Police are searching for a couple who stole groceries in Centereach. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 6th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate two people who stole merchandise from a Centereach store.

A man and woman allegedly stole steak and shrimp from Stop & Shop, 260 Pond Path,  July 20 at approximately 6:30 p.m. The stolen merchandise has a combined value of approximately $300, according to police.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS (8477), texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

Jim Ward, MCPL librarian, Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, library director, county Legislator Tom Muratore and Kevin MacLeod, DeLorean owner, in front of one of the cars used in the movie 'Back to the Future.' Photo from Middle Country Public Library

The Middle Country Public Library will go ‘Back to the Future’ in style Tuesday, July 24 as part of its Under the Stars program. The library will host one of the original DeLorean time machines used on the set of the 1985 hit film. Kevin MacLeod, who owns and maintains the DeLorean, will greet attendees as the character Doc Brown from the movie and share original blueprints and other special items used in the movie.

This program is free and open to the public. Bring lawn chairs and meet in the library parking lot. Showtime is 8 p.m. Support for MCPL Under the Stars is sponsored by Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma).

For information about upcoming MCPL Under the Stars events, call 631-585-9393, or go online at www.mcplibrary.org.

Concerned residents fill a room at the Hilton Garden Inn Stony Brook to hear about the discovery of a cancer cluster on Long Island. Photo by Anthony Frasca

By Anthony Frasca

Brad Hutton, the deputy commissioner of the New York State Office of Public Health, delivered sobering news to a standing-room-only crowd at the Hilton Garden Inn Stony Brook July 17.

At a public hearing, Hutton told concerned residents that the New York State Cancer Registry had identified three local communities with significantly elevated cancer rates for four common cancers. The affected communities include Centereach, Farmingville and Selden.

“Two of my son’s friends have cancer. One has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and one has a sarcoma.”

— Cindy Faicco

The four cancer types that were discovered to be well above the state average include lung, bladder, thyroid and leukemia. The cancer registry statistics disclosed that the rates of these cancers above the state averages were: thyroid, 43 percent; bladder, 50 percent; lung, 56 percent; and leukemia, 64 percent.

Concerned Centereach residents Cindy and Dennis Faicco had questions about how the state would handle such a discovery.

“I want to know how much they are going to reveal,” Dennis Faicco said. “I’m curious if this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Two of my son’s friends have cancer,” Cindy Faicco said. “One has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and one has a sarcoma.” She also said that there were other children in the area who had developed cancers.

The cancer registry has had gold-level certification since 1998, according to Hutton. New York State laws mandate cancer reporting, and this contributes to the accumulation of data; and with statistical analysis, it allows the state to identify areas of concern throughout the state.

Currently there are four areas throughout New York State that are being investigated for cancer clusters. Staten Island is being investigated because it has the highest incidence of cancer rates of the five New York City boroughs. East Buffalo and western Cheektowaga in Erie County are being studied for a high incidence of six forms of cancer, and Warren County has the highest incidence rate for all forms of cancer.

In addition to educating the audience about various causes and types of cancer, Hutton outlined a detailed plan for the upcoming state investigation.

“Simply living in a highlighted area does not mean a person is more likely to get cancer,” Hutton said, referencing a map of the three Long Island communities.

“Simply living in a highlighted area does not mean a person is more likely to get cancer.”

— Brad Hutton

The timetable for the upcoming investigation included identifying study areas, releasing cancer mapping, getting input from community members and finalizing study questions. Hutton outlined a one-year timetable to complete the investigations and recommendations, and results will be shared with the community at another public hearing by the end of 2018.

A number of residents shared personal stories of cancer and expressed concern about numerous potential sources of contamination, especially drinking water. Hutton assured the audience that the Office of Public Health would be responsive to the community’s input and would explore the issue in depth. He said that the community input would be helpful in focusing the state investigation.

Contaminated drinking water, radiation from towers, nitrates, emerging chemicals and pesticides, radium, high-tension wires and industrialization of the entire island were all highlighted issues identified by audience members in a question and answer session.

“We can’t be drinking radium,” one resident said. “That’s an emergency as far as I’m concerned.”

Ken from Centereach was concerned about high-tension utility wires and petroleum pipes feeding holding tanks. He said he had been diagnosed with a rare intestinal cancer and that his 32-year-old daughter developed a rare sarcoma.

“Here we sit with a zebra and a unicorn-type cancer,” he said. “Do you look at those in your studies?”

Joseph from Babylon told of developing a rare bladder cancer and implicated overchlorination of the water supply in addition to overindustrialization.

“As far as I’m concerned this island is done,” he said. “I can’t wait to move off this island. There is something very horribly wrong here. You can stop everything you’re doing right now, and this island will be done for a hundred years.”

The Faiccos were curious why there was little mention of childhood cancers, yet they were hopeful.

“He didn’t have any answers but we’re going to come back and hope he has some in December,” Cindy Faicco said.

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