Your Turn

Plastic presents a difficult but necessary to address challenge for the world's oceans. Photo courtesy of United States Coast Guard

By Herb Herman

There appears to be no end to plastic. We use it, live with it, discard it and we can never rid ourselves of the stuff. It comes as food wrappers, bottles, toys, containers of all kinds, and is so pervasive that plastic is very much an omnipresent part of our world. 

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) along with other legislators propose plastic legislation. Photo by David Luces

The numbers are staggering. More than 400 million tons of plastic are produced globally every year. And when we finish with plastic, we throw it out, try to recycle it, hide it in landfills, incinerate it, but, by far, most of the plastic debris we no longer have use for ends up in lakes, waterways and in the ocean. Some 80 percent of this litter comes from land sources, while 60-to-90 percent of beach litter is comprised of plastic. It is not encouraging to learn that Americans use approximately 100 billion single-use plastic bags annually, and around a trillion are used globally. The persistence of plastic waste is legendary, a plastic water bottle lasting 450 years. Much has been written of the plastic floating islands in the Pacific Ocean, and the apparently futile means to get rid of them. The National Geographic pleadingly offers us the “Planet or Plastic?” initiative, but the seemingly endless mass of plastic waste continues to grow like a cancer on the Earth.

If one were to carry out a literature search on plastic waste scientific publications the number of citations would exceed 450,000. The tangible impact of plastic waste is well documented. Most of the articles cited address the problem of plastic distribution around the world, from India to countries in the west, even the Antarctic, and at depths of 6,000 meters in the world’s oceans. Much research concentrates on sea animals and birds the world over, either through ingesting plastic particles or becoming tangled in plastic nets and fishing gear. Many of these plastics break down to fine, toxic particles leaving numerous bird species and sea animals with a high percentage of toxins in their guts. 

Crustaceans and fish are well known to consume plastic particles. Since we eat these animals, we also eat plastics. The long-term health consequences of plastic ingestion on sea creatures and humans are still unknown. Enormous quantities of micro-sized particles of plastics from personal hygiene products get deposited in water systems and also float around the world as airborne pollutants. There appears to be no end of plastics in various forms proliferating the earth. 

Of course, scientists are constantly seeking solutions. Landfills reach enormous proportions, with no guarantee that the waste plastics thus disposed of will remain where they are placed. Incineration is also used, sometimes to supply energy as a spin-off from the heat produced, but this approach leaves pollutants escaping into the environment. Of course, recycling appears to be the panacea for ridding ourselves of plastic. Unfortunately many plastic materials do not readily lend themselves to this gratifying solution, and recycling depends to a large measure on citizens acting responsibly, collecting candidate plastic products and properly disposing of them. Furthermore, those recyclable plastics that can be conveniently collected and segregated need to be sent to appropriate facilities for processing, and there are far too few of these plants. There will probably never be sufficient numbers of such facilities for the recycling of the vast quantities of plastics, which are continually produced.

Microplastic scooped from the surf off Kamilo Beach, Hawaii, where there seems to be more plastic than sand. Photo by Erica Cirino

What then to do? One can clearly appreciate the great need that exists and the challenges faced by planners and engineers who are tasked with dealing with this overwhelming problem. Academies of sciences and governments the world over have met and discussed this global problem. Some plastic-producing industries have pledged to carry out manufacturing measures and use materials that would ensure plastics can indeed by readily recycled. Governmental organizations have outlawed the use of plastics bags, and even paper straw bans have been introduced. The use of single-use plastic bottles has been vigorously discouraged. Non-governmental organizations have made the public aware of the seriousness of the problem. The list goes on, but millions of tons of plastics continue to be produced annually, and beachgoers continue to use plastic utensils and fail to discard them responsibly. 

It is imperative to formulate policies and mechanisms through which plastic litter can be controlled. For starters, the production of biodegradable, nontoxic plastics must be encouraged. A ban on single-use plastic bags should be incorporated in any waste-controlling legislation. Government research funds should be allocated for developing cost-effective chemical and mechanical recycling technologies, and perhaps most important is the education of the public on the matter of plastic’s effect on the marine ecosystem. The time has come to act to save the planet from this scourge of plastic.

Herb Herman is a distinguished professor emeritus from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University.

This goose was found with netting on its face in Setauket on Nov. 9. Photo by Raina Angelier

By Patrice Domeischel

What could have been a plastic trash catastrophe for a Canada goose instead resulted in a happy ending, thanks to the efforts of Anita Jo Lago and Rob Trezza.  

Rob Trezza caught the goose on Lake Street. Photo by Anita Jo Lago

Birders on a Four Harbors Audubon Society walk at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket on Nov. 9 encountered the goose in distress, actively attempting to free itself of plastic netting that had encircled its head and body. The goose managed to remove some netting but was unable to disentangle itself from the remainder encircling its neck and face. 

Lago, a park volunteer at Frank Melville, and Trezza, park security, were called in to assess the situation, and promptly went to work. The goose was captured, relieved of the netting and released. 

“We really did get it when necessary,” commented Lago. “Its flight was hindered as it was getting away from a cygnet going after it. It took flight but landed happenstance. It landed on the road, Lake Street, because flight was compromised due to the netting holding its jaw and head. When Rob got closer, he saw the goose desperately trying to free itself by banging its head, many times, on the ground. So we got there in time.”

A disaster averted, the goose was able to fly off, a bit stressed and tired from its efforts, but in good condition. 

All too often birds and animals suffer the consequences created by our use of single-use plastic. Wildlife can become entangled in discarded plastic, wire or string resulting in injury or death. Even plastic that is responsibly disposed of finds its way into our waters and litters our beaches. Be proactive, protect wildlife and the environment, and reduce or eliminate altogether your use of single-use plastic.

Patrice Domeischel is a member of the Four Harbors Audubon Society.

A roaring good time was had by all!

By Martina Matkovic

 Entering the door of the Bates House in Setauket on Oct. 20th was like stepping back in time to the year 1929 and the era affectionately referred to as “The Roaring Twenties.”  Before  you could pass through the door, however, you had to say the secret password,  a nod to the  prohibition  laws and “speakeasys” that marked the time.  “Iris sent me” was chosen for its reference to the club’s official flower.

The occasion  celebrated the 90th birthday of The Three Village Garden Club whose first meeting was documented  by member  Arlene Oliver as she assiduously  combed through a treasure trove of  archival material of the past 90 years.   An “ahah” moment came with  the  discovery of  the minutes of the very  first meeting!

An octet of string musicians from Ward Melville High School  offered a selection of lovely classical repertoire as  guests “whet their whistles” with a signature cocktail  called  “Buck’s Fizz” and  enjoyed passed  hors d’oeuvres  as they made their way to  a display of historic memorabilia and a printed   timeline  of  the club’s 90  year history,  complimented by events taking place simultaneously in the world.

Large, potted  palms, reminiscent of the times,  decorated the area and guests were able  to pose for a photo in front of a large, wall-sized, authentic 1920’s  mural of couples socializing  outside of a  speakeasy. 

A veritable fashion parade of various styles of  dress of  the  period was on display as women guests appeared in  low-waisted dresses,  Cloche style hats,  feathered headpieces, strappy shoes, elbow-length gloves and pearls, pearls and more pearls.

As guests took their seats at beautifully set tables, each with a color-coordinated centerpiece of flowers designed  by Pat Bany,  and Elegant Eating   catering a  variety  of light fare.   Remarks were delivered by Kathy  Walczak,  chairperson of the event;  current president, Karin Ryon,  highlighting  important events in the club’s history; and newly elected president of  Federated Garden Clubs of New York State,  our own Vikki Bellias.  

While dessert of  “Al Capone” cake was being served, guests enjoyed musical entertainment  by  The Algorhythms, a  barbershop quartet who sang  popular tunes of the day, followed by a  demonstration of  signature dances  by  Arthur Murray Dance Centers.

The celebration was a fine tribute to the members of a venerable organization who  have served the community well in a variety of ways for  ninety  years. Carry on 3VGC!!

Martina Matkovic is a member of  The Three Village Garden Club which welcomes new members. For more information, call 631-689-8484

All photos by Lynette Zappulla

 

Sharon Richmond poses with her son Vincent D'Antoni in Battery Park on Mother’s Day 2016. “One day society will look back at this time period and think what a terrible atrocity we allowed to happen to our most vulnerable children,“ Richmond said. Photo by Sharon Richmond

I am educator, an advocate and most importantly a parent who lost her only child to the disease of addiction. Unfortunately, I know I am not alone. The truth is: I stand with more than 72,000 other parents who grieve the loss of their child to an overdose. 

When I speak publicly about addiction issues and look out at people, I see a small piece of me. When I look at your child, I see the beautiful potential of what could have been my child. If only mental health and the disease of addiction had the same basic human right to health care as other illnesses. I hope that by sharing my son’s story, I can create a future where all people are treated equally, no matter their ability or disability. 

My son Vincent was sensitive, kind, funny and insightful. He was popular, played almost every sport, and his teachers always said he brought conversations to the next level and stood up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. I will always stand tall and be proud of the person my son was. 

The one thing that most people never knew was that, no matter how hard he tried, Vincent still battled with serious mental health issues: ADHD, trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), anxiety and low self-esteem, which eventually led to a deep depression. Even though Vincent had a family that absolutely adored him and everyone he met thought he was handsome, smart and funny, Vincent … never saw himself that way. Children need to be taught how to communicate and be given a variety of strategies to cope in today’s world. We have to work together. It needs to be at the family, school and community level. 

Vincent started smoking marijuana in high school. Toward the end of my son’s life, he shared that “pot” had been his gateway drug to stronger drugs. After high school, he was hanging around with a different crowd. During college, his “A” grades started to falter. Then, he lost his job. Something wasn’t right. I searched his room and found what I feared most: Oxycodone had become Vincent’s drug of choice. We had heated discussions that oxycodone was extremely dangerous and addictive. He would show me research that denied it. As we all know, powerful companies can find ways around the law and can state just about anything they want and get away with it. 

The oxycodone amplified my son’s anxiety and depression. He began to isolate himself. He could hardly get himself to go to work or even out of the house. Vincent tried to self-detox and get drug free on his own, failing several times. 

Finally, Vincent agreed his addiction was out of his control. I had so much hope he was going to get the treatment he desperately needed. Over the course of just one year, prior to my son passing away, he would get denied by the insurance company over four times! 

The insurance company stated he didn’t fit “medical necessity.” First, he had supportive parents. Second, he was motivated to get better. By the third denial, I filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office. They were able to get my son 14 days. 14 days … is such a short time to physically and emotionally overcome addiction, and certainly not enough time for Vincent. My son came out and soon relapsed. This time to heroin. 

After battling with the insurance company for months, they finally approved my son. Regrettably, unbeknownst to us, insurance companies are allowed to back-deny services within 30 days of approval. After detox and 14 days, my son was back-denied, stating he had no other mental health illnesses, was highly motivated to get better, and had a supportive family. He was crying that he needed more time. He was extremely anxious and severely depressed. They placed Vincent on anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication, even though my son was denied treatment due to not having any mental health illnesses. 

My son was trying to get better. He went to out-patient almost every day, met weekly with his counselor, and attended meetings at night. 

In the next few weeks, Vincent stayed drug free … he was beginning to be himself again. However, without getting the services he desperately needed and deserved, my son relapsed and bought drugs unknowingly laced with the deadly drug fentanyl. My son Vincent had no chance. I lost my shiny star, my beautiful son, Vincent on Sept. 13, 2017. Last month would have been his 28th birthday. 

Vincent’s battle is one like too many others. In his honor, I advocate for change. He had so many barriers making it so difficult to get the help he needed: whether it be getting denied Suboxone for detox, incorrect information to determine appropriate services, or getting the Vivitrol shot to help prevent relapse. No one should ever have to fight so hard for the basic human right to health care. 

Insurance companies need to be held accountable. They need to cross reference information for accuracy prior to denying inpatient treatment. They need to comply with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. Federal law states that anyone with a mental health illness or the disease of addiction should get the same basic human rights to healthcare as those who have regular medical conditions. 

I couldn’t imagine if my son or anyone’s child had a regular health disease such as diabetes, a heart condition or cancer that they would get denied the medical care they needed, if they had a supportive family and were motivated to get better.

Over 200 loved ones die from an overdose every single day. We don’t have the luxury of time. In order to create any meaningful change, we need you to be a part of making a difference in our community. Your voice needs to be heard. It is so powerful and very important. If you truly want to see change … Reach out to your local and state representatives, ask them what their action plan is, and hold them accountable. Let them know how important it is for you and your children to have a future where everyone has the same right to get the care they need to be healthy. 

It is my hope that by sharing my son’s story, I can raise awareness, encourage the importance of communication, education and most importantly equality for basic human right to healthcare. 

Sharon Richmond lives in Northport and is part of the Town of Huntington’s Opioid Task Force. She is also a member of the Northport-East Northport Drug and Alcohol Task Force. She works closely with F.I.S.T (Families In Support of Treatment), LICADD (Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), FCA (Family and Children’s Association),  the North Shore CASA (Coalition Against Substance Abuse) and Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force. She is a teacher at North Shore Schools in Nassau County.

Two fiddler crabs battle it out at West Meadow Beach last year. Photo by Jay Gao

By John L. Turner

If you visit just about any salt marsh fringing Long Island’s interdigitated coastline, you’ll experience the fiddlers — they simply can’t be avoided. And while you won’t hear fiddle music, despite the fact there are many hundreds if not thousands of fiddler’s ceaselessly “rosining up their bows,” you will certainly be entertained and amused by male fiddler crabs waving their unusually large claws back and forth like a convention of fiddle players at a folk music festival.  

This prominent and highly distinctive abnormally large claw possessed by the male fiddler crab, which can weigh half as much as the rest of its body, isn’t used as a defense against predators. Rather, it’s used in combat with rival males and for attracting a mate; male crabs possessing larger claws generally having more success (yes, for this species size appears to matter!).  

A male fiddler crab. Photo by Jay Gao

As a female crab walks by a courting male, he vigorously waves the claw back and forth in an attempt to interest her in mating (this behavior also explains their other name — the calling crab). If his display proves successful, she follows him back to his burrow to take a closer look. If she accepts him, the male grabs material to seal the burrow and within it mates with her. He will later emerge, resealing the burrow within which she is incubating the eggs. In a week or two she’ll emerge to release her eggs, generally timing release to coincide with a high tide. They hatch and the larvae float in the water column before eventually settling out; this dispersal helps to maintain genetic diversity among crab populations.   

Three species of fiddler crabs inhabit Long Island’s coastal environments: the mud fiddler (Minuca pugnax) appears to be the most common, followed by the sand fiddler (Leptuca pugilator) with the red-jointed or brackish-water fiddler (Minuca minax) being the least common. They segregate habitat as their names suggest — mud fiddlers found in the mud-rich, organic areas of salt marshes, sand fiddlers utilizing sandy areas, and the red-jointed fiddlers occurring in areas where waters are more brackish, containing lower salt content. They can be a bit of a challenge to identify but with some practice it can be done. 

Worldwide, 105 species of fiddler crabs are currently recognized. They are found along the coastlines of every continent, thus having a global distribution, specifically occurring along the coastlines of southern Asia, Africa (especially the east coast), northern Australia, both coasts of Central America, South America and the southern half of North America. They are distributed within a band of about 40 degrees north and south of the equator; our fiddler populations are among the farthest from the equator, being able to occur this far north due to the provisioning warmth of the Gulf Stream current. The colder waters bathing the coast of Europe preclude their presence there. 

Fiddler crabs at Flax Pond. Photo by John Turner

One of my favorite places to observe fiddler crabs in the Three Village area is Flax Pond, the wonderful natural area owned by New York State (hence you!) located in Old Field, in the northwestern corner of Brookhaven Town. A newly reconstructed boardwalk bisects the marsh, passing over a tidal marsh and stream. About 100 yards north of its beginning the boardwalk offers an ideal vantage point to view these intertidal crabs feeding below in the salt marsh, the boardwalk itself effectively serving as a blind.  

If you time the tides right (low tide or falling tide is best), many hundreds of fiddlers will dot the marsh surface — many courting, waving their big claw to and fro while many more take advantage of the exposed mud to feed. If you stroll along one edge of the boardwalk where the crabs can see you, the marsh will appear in motion from the action of countless crabs moving away from you. Other local productive sites include West Meadow Creek and Stony Brook Harbor.  

The fiddler’s burrow, as much as 2 feet long, is critical to a crab’s survival. Here it finds protection from predators and shelter from the high tides which twice daily inundate the burrow (they’re safe in their plugged, air-filled chamber). Even if water enters, they can survive since fiddler crabs have both gills allowing them to breathe in water and a primitive lung which allows them to breathe when feeding in the air on the marsh surface. Studies document their burrow is the “hub of the wheel” from which they never move too far. 

One study, by an Australian researcher, documented that crabs tend to orient themselves to their burrow, not by facing it or having their back to it, but rather sideways with one half of their set of four legs facing the burrow in the event they have to rapidly scurry sideways to gain protection from a predator.   

If you pay closer attention to the crabs’ enlarged claws, you’ll notice that they’re about evenly split between left-handed and right-handed individuals, with some populations having slightly more of one or the other. If the large claw is lost to a predator or in battle, the smaller claw enlarges to become the “fiddler” claw while the regenerated claw remains small, becoming the feeding claw.     

Watching crabs feed is fun; the females with two normal size claws feed more efficiently than do the males who can utilize but one claw, since the larger one is useless as a feeding tool. Recently, I watched several females feeding and they brought food to their mouths about once a second for minutes on end. Fiddlers feed on decaying vegetation, bacteria, algae and other organic matter found in the sand or mud, efficiently sifting out with their mouthparts the sand particles which they cast aside in the form of little balls or pellets.     

A Yellow-crowned Night Heron snacks on a fiddler crab. Photo by Luke Ormand

Their distinctive stalked eyes provide an alien, other-world look to the species. They have compound eyes, like dragonflies, with up to 9,000 eye facets that can see into the ultraviolet range of the light spectrum! Being on stalks allows them to have slightly elevated, panoramic vision of the marsh around them, a good thing since they face numerous predators that frequent tidal wetlands. The visual sensors on top of their eyes enable them to see motion from overhead, a key adaptation since they are subject to predation by birds. 

Speaking of birds, several species routinely eat fiddlers. American bittern and clapper rails feed on them as do a variety of wading birds such as white and glossy ibis and American egret; yellow-crowned night herons, whose diet is largely restricted to crabs, especially focus on fiddler crabs. Diamondback terrapins eat them as do river otters. 

 Being a key part of the estuarine or coastal food chain is one of the important ecological benefits fiddlers provide; they also play a key role in recycling marsh nutrients through their feeding activities. Their burrows, which collectively can number in the many thousands in a large marsh, help to oxygenate the soil, helping marsh plants to grow such as cordgrass and salt hay. Their presence is also a “bio-indicator” — a general indication of a salt marsh’s high ecological health, generally occurring in tidal wetlands free of pollution and contamination.

Why not make their acquaintance before they retreat deeply into muddy burrows for their long winter slumber?

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

Vivian-Viloria-Fisher. File photo by Kyle Barr

By Vivian Viloria-Fisher

I thought I had taken all the right steps to protect myself against tick borne diseases; avoided going onto tall grassy areas without gloves, long white pants and white socks, and I sprayed legs — and shoes — and arms with repellents. All that notwithstanding, I did find more than one tick on me this summer. Again, I followed the prescribed steps and collected the vermin, saved it and saw my doctor, who prescribed a prophylactic dose of doxycycline. After the requisite weeks, I had blood work done which showed no sign of disease.

So, when I was flying home from a visit with our two sons in California and was not able to eat my salad at my layover stop, I was surprised but not concerned. I’d had a very busy week enjoying time with my kids and grandson. I felt very achy but chalked that up to the long drive from Marc’s home in Sebastopol to Dan and Megan’s home in Thousand Oaks. That’s more than 400 miles.

I was very tired the next morning but pushed myself to get up and get ready for the funeral that caused me to shorten my trip. During the Mass, I swung from hot to shivering cold and began to feel lightheaded. I turned to my husband, Stu, and told him that I felt as if my head was exploding in a white flash before my eyes. He helped me to my feet, and we made our way out of the church, quickly hugging my cousins as we passed. We bought a thermometer at a drugstore across the street from the church. It read 103 degrees.

This was Friday, the beginning of a week of fevers rising and falling, no ability to eat, muscle aches, headaches, earache and fatigue. My search for answers included three visits to doctors’ offices and finally, on Thursday, Mather Hospital Emergency Department in Port Jefferson where Dr. Hirsch did not dismiss it as just a virus. I told him I thought I had meningitis. He shook his head and said, “I suspect Lyme.”

My father had meningitis when I was 5 years old. He had continued to work although he was sick with mumps, and the infection spread. I remember the grown ups’ conversations about the tube driven into his head to relieve pressure. That left me with a very vivid but equally inaccurate image of what he endured. I wished something could relieve what I knew was going on in my head.

Stu and I had just watched “Jeopardy!” on Friday evening, and my right eye hurt so much that I decided to go to bed, since I couldn’t read or watch TV. I looked in the mirror as I brought the toothbrush to my mouth and saw that only half my mouth was opening. Off we went to Mather ED.

Within a day it was determined from the spinal fluid that the Lyme disease did cause the meningitis — and the palsy that froze the right side of my face.

I refer to tick borne diseases as the Black Plague of our county. These diseases are not to be taken lightly either by the public who don’t believe it will happen to them or by health providers who don’t consider the possibility of Lyme as often as they should. One can be bitten and walk away free of any infection or one can be bitten, feel safe because blood work shows no infection and find oneself close to death. I was very lucky to have had excellent medical care, both in the hospital and at home. I was discharged with a midline for a 28-day course of intravenous antibiotics and a service that provided a nurse who came to our home once a week and instructed my devoted husband on how to administer the medication when she wasn’t there.

Nobody drilled a hole in my head. Instead, my family, my friends and my community surrounded me with love, care and prayers. I am so grateful.

Vivian Viloria-Fisher and her husband live in East Setauket. She is a former county legislator in the 5th District, and is now chair of the Jefferson’s Ferry board of directors.

Chris Pendergast celebrates his 70th birthday in April at 89 North Music Venue in Patchogue with family and friends. Photo by Elliot Perry

By Chris Pendergast

On a cold rainy Columbus Day, my life forever changed. Nothing would be the same. The life I knew ended. My wife, children and I embarked on a new road, one less traveled by. That has made all the difference.

During the Columbus Day weekend of 1993, I was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Most people now know it is an incurable and uniformly fatal disease. Average life expectancy still hovers near the two or three-year mark. Lucky ones can live longer. A rare few survive longer than 10 years.

Remarkably, l am entering my 27th year with my unwanted road companion. I am here today due in large part to my loving wife, Christine, and our wonderful kids, Melissa and Buddy. They keep me well cared for and motivated. They have, literally, gone the extra mile for me. My grandson Patrick is the most effective medicine I take. My son-in-law Rich and step-grandson Ryan round out my terrific family.

I am blessed with caring, competent and compassionate caregivers, Tiana, Amanda, Marquita and Lena. They are in the trenches every day and night battling right beside and fighting the good fight with me. I am fortunate to have an outstanding mental health therapist, Dr. Melnekoff. He has kept me balanced, focused and headed in the right direction. My life is extended through the phenomenal care provided by my incredible respiratory therapist, Monty Rivera from Millennium. I receive expert medical treatment at the ALSA Clinic, which bears my name at Stony Brook University Hospital. Marvelous friends surround me and help with so many things to make our life easier. My ALS Ride for Life charity has countless volunteers led by staffers Maureen and Marilyn. Because of all their collective work, we have raised more than $8.5 million.

Along the road with ALS, I witnessed amazing things and met incredible people. I was able to participate in wonderful experiences which otherwise would not have happened.

Do I wish I never got ALS? Honestly, I am not sure. I am certain that at some point in almost everyone’s life, a fatal disease will arise. The timing and circumstances vary but the ending does not. I have no corner on the market — everyone will get a turn. My turn came earlier than expected and became more public.

It has been a great life so far. I wonder what new adventures and joys lie around the bend. Besides the joys to come, there are also the challenges and corresponding sorrows. However, I have faith and optimism that everyone one in my life will collectively help me triumph.

To paraphrase Gehrig’s farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, as he did, I also say, “Look at these grand people. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his life just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

Chris Pendergast, 70, is a former Northport teacher, who lives in Miller Place. He is the founder of ALS Ride for Life, the Stony Brook University-based nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about ALS, funding research and providing patient services.

Thomas Cassidy with his father Hugh

By Thomas Cassidy

New York State government should not cut funding for America’s heroes residing at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University. The veterans home has, and does, provide first-class health services for veterans and their spouses who receive rehabilitation and long-term care in their time of need. Providing topnotch nursing home care for our veterans, many of whom put their own lives on the line to keep us safe, is a patriotic action that truly expresses “thank you for your service.”

At the age of 17 my father, Hugh “Joe” Cassidy, enlisted in the United States Coast Guard to serve his country during World War II. Before he reached his 19th birthday he participated in five shore invasions with the Marines and Army as frogman. 

He was frequently shot at while he stood on coral reefs in the Philippine Islands acting as a human buoy to help keep the landing boats from crashing into reefs and sinking. He was almost thrown overboard when his ship, the USS Cavalier, was torpedoed in the still of a Pacific Ocean night. But my Dad always said he was not a hero. His heroes were all the soldiers and sailors who put their lives in harm’s way, were wounded or died in battle.  

When the LISVH first opened, he again served his fellow veterans for many years as a volunteer. He visited the nursing home almost every day because it was his way of supporting his “band of brothers and sisters.” When my Dad fractured his hip at age 83, many doctors at the hospital thought he would never walk again. 

It took a year of rehabilitation with the skilled and compassionate staff at the veterans home, but my Dad walked out of the nursing home and spent the last year of his life with my mother in their own home.

In the 74 years since the end of World War II, military men and women have been on the front line of battles in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other locations around the world. Sadly, the physical, emotional and psychological wounds never heal for many of the warriors who fulfill their oath to protect America. I learned that firsthand more than 20 years ago when my father had emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix.

I visited him the morning after his operation. He was laying his bed shivering and shaking uncontrollably. He whispered he had the worst nightmare ever. He was back in a foxhole in the Philippines, guns were blasting and bombs were dropping all around him. Then he looked at his fellow combat veteran in the bed next to him and said, “Sal got me through it. Thank God he was here for me.”

Today we might say that my father had post-traumatic stress disorder or a flashback. But whatever you call it, his fellow veteran pulled him through just like the veterans do for each other every day at the Long Island State Veterans Home. 

New York State is facing a budget crunch, that much is true. But exempting the state veterans’ nursing homes from the budget cuts would be a meaningful way for New Yorkers to say “thank you for your service.”

First ‘Market Day’ Fair the Old Field Clubhouse, Sept. 1929. Photo courtesy of Three Village Garden Club

By Arlene Oliver

When the Three Village Garden Club decided they wanted to present a history of the club for their 90th Anniversary Celebration, they started a scavenger hunt that unearthed priceless treasures. The members searched their attics and basements and turned to older friends and members. They found original minutes from the start of the club, as well as ancient photographs and newspaper articles from the 1920s,1930s, and beyond.

These sources told the story of a group of women who had just gotten the right to vote in 1920, and were now ready to take the bit in their teeth and tackle the problems they confronted in their community.

They were a diverse group of women. Some were used to wealth and privilege and social status. But many were ordinary village women, who cajoled their husbands into plowing up a vegetable plots and replacing them with flower gardens. They all took great pride in using their voices to tackle the issues of the day.

Some of these issues involved community beautification, such as planting flowers and trees in public spaces and removing unsightly billboards that proliferated on roads in an early advertising fever.

But they were also concerned with the plight of  the unemployed  during the  Depression, the  institution of garbage  removal and making safe public water available to  the community.  During World War 11, they engaged in War Relief efforts, grew Victory Gardens and manned the Lighthouse to watch for German planes.

After the war, the club focused on spreading the love and knowledge of gardening. They worked on wildlife conservation, environmental issues, and supporting students interested in these areas through scholarships to college and environmental camps.

As the years rolled on, the TVGC partnered with many other non-profit groups such as the Guide Dog Foundation, the Veterans Home, and Kings Park Hospital. Through their World Gardening Program, they supported indigenous people in the Amazon and helped provide safe drinking water through organizations in Africa and the U.S.

Through its membership in the Federated Garden Clubs of New York State, the TVGC is part of a larger community of dedicated gardeners in New York State. FGCNYS is very effective in promoting knowledge of gardening, horticulture and environmental awareness. The Three Village Garden Club is proud to have been cited by this parent group for its outstanding work toward these goals.

In 2019, our club is still made up of enthusiastic and hardworking members who are engaged in changing the world for the better, while quietly cultivating their own  gardens.

The spirit of the roaring twenties will come alive on Sunday, Oct. 20 when The Three Village Garden Club invites the community to its 90th anniversary celebration, “Welcome to 1929,” at The Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket from 3 to 6 p.m. Guests will enjoy entertainment by musicians from Ward Melville High School; The Algorhythms, a barbershop quartet; and a dance demonstration by Arthur Murray Dance Centers.

Highlights from the club’s 90-year history will be enlarged on panels that will parallel global events and Elegant Eating will cater a  wide variety of  delicious gourmet food and dessert served with wine and non-alcoholic beverages. A roaring twenties theme will be highlighted by details in the decorations and guests are encouraged to dress in 1920s attire.

The cost of the event is $50 per person and reservations and payment must be made in advance by calling  631-751-2743 or 631-689-7186.

Arlene Oliver is a history enthusiast and member of the Three Village Garden Club.

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The Rocky Point High School History Honors Society stand with Joe Cognitore along with a plaque commemorating the flag that now flies over the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Just recently, Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point spoke to the Rocky Point High School History Honors Society. He addressed the tragic attacks of 9/11, 18 years ago and an uncovered part of ground zero that was presented to this North Shore area.  

Cognitore recalled a past beautiful fall day, the afternoon of Oct. 4, when the Rocky Point school district held a major patriotic and remembrance ceremony only weeks after the terror attacks. It was the goal of this school district to remember and honor all of those national and local people that were impacted by these attacks. As Americans watched the rescue and recovery efforts in the city, they were reminded of a new war that was waged against the Taliban and al-Qaida some 19 days after Manhattan was hit by supporters of terrorism.  Those days saw a tremendous burden weighing on the minds of citizens, and this program presented a united front to support all of our Americans at home and abroad.

Local residents filled the bleachers of Rocky Point High School and in front of them was a Town of Brookhaven concert mobile. The VFW post marched in the colors and presented our flag to a crowd that was overcome with the memory of the four graduates that were killed from these attacks. The sounds of “God Bless America,” the armed forces music and “America the Beautiful” were played to the crowd. Veterans were invited to stand to represent different branches of the armed services that were all on alert during the earliest moments of the War on Terror. There were all of the local, state and federal government representatives, World War II veterans, and Boy Scouts that were all present on this day to present a dynamic unity.

This camaraderie resembled the same feelings that Americans felt when the Japanese  attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.  Flags were flown all over the nation and people stuck bumper stickers on their cars in support of the residents of New York City. People wrapped yellow ribbons around trees for those soldiers who going to be deployed. Cognitore and the other organizers of that event decided on a unique angle to demonstrate patriotism. Calverton-based Sky Dive Long Island planned to make a jump over the skies of this school with a large flag that would be seen well above the heads of the people. Only a few weeks before this jump, it was discovered under the debris of Lower Manhattan. It was originally flown outside of the World Trade Center and it was located by a volunteer recovery worker.

The plane took off from Calverton with jumpers Curt Kellinger, a Port Authority police officer and Ray Maynard. The crew made a memorable landing with a tattered yet historic flag that landed on the Rocky Point football field. Once the flag made it to the ground, it was presented to a representative of the Port Authority and brought back to the city. That year, it was flown over Yankee Stadium during the World Series, at Super Bowl XXXVI and at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Even as this flag was scarred from the attacks of 9/11, it showed the resilience of our country to quickly rebound and rebuild.  The flag that once was displayed at Post 6249 has a permanent home at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Today, millions of people have visited this well-known museum and they can see a flag that has strong roots of patriotism and remembrance to this North Shore community.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

The Rocky Point High School History Honors Society contributed to this story.