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Bernadette Castro

As part of their 55+ Club series, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) and Burner Law Group will welcome Bernadette Castro to speak on her illustrious and diverse career at a Master Class on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Among her countless achievements, Castro was named commissioner of the New York Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation in 1995 by Gov. George Pataki (R) and her 12-year term included assisting in the protection of one million acres of parkland across the state.

Castro ran for the New York State Senate in 1994 winning 42 percent of the vote, and in 2002 Castro helped to bring the first U.S. Open Golf Championship ever played on a public golf course to Bethpage Black at Bethpage State Park. Currently, she serves on the 2019 PGA Championship Executive Committee, which will also be played at Bethpage Black. Castro was even a recording artist in the 1960s, appearing on the “Clay Cole Rock & Roll Show” singing one of her hits, “His Lips Get in the Way.”

Today she is the chairperson of Castro Properties, the commercial real estate company owned by her family. She is also still the spokesperson for Castro Convertibles, the very company she was the face of as a 4-year-old starring in the brand’s legendary television commercials from 1948 and beyond. Those appearances earned her the distinction of being the “most televised child in America.”

With seemingly limitless drive and energy, Castro, a Suffolk County resident, has won a multitude of awards and supports a number of organizations and charitable causes. She is on the Advisory Board of Volunteers for Wildlife, hosts “Tomorrow’s Hope,” for the Catholic Faith Network (formerly Telecare) and is very involved in raising funds for the INN (Interfaith Nutrition Network), the largest private social service agency of its kind on Long Island helping those challenged by hunger, homelessness and poverty.   

Castro is also an advisory board member of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. She graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in broadcast journalism and a master’s in educational administration. She became the first woman to receive the university’s School of Journalism Distinguished Alumnus and last month was inducted into the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communication Hall of Fame. Castro also holds an honorary doctor of law degree from St. Joseph’s College, an honorary doctor of law from Dowling College and an honorary doctor of humane letters from Daemon College.

Castro will offer a Basket of Life raffle at this event, which will include items such as her senate race bumper sticker, her 45 rpm record, Norman Vincent Peale’s book, “The Power of the Plus Factor,” which mentions her father, Bernard Castro, an Italian immigrant who never finished high school but went on to become very successful with the creation of Castro Convertibles. She is the proud mother of four children and eight grandchildren and says, “What really matters is what my children and grandchildren will remember about me. Hopefully, that I was kind and generous and helped not only people that I knew, but also those I would never meet.”

The program is free and will take place at WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook on Nov. 28 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served. To reserve your seat, call 631-689-5888.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization Educational & Cultural Center will host a series of programs for community members over 55. File photo

A cultural and educational organization and Stony Brook law practice are joining forces to teach community members over 55 and recognize them for their contributions to society.

In March, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and Burner Law Group, P.C., launched a program that incorporates virtual travel geared toward the 55 and older community. Attendees will get to explore different places by viewing a big screen while asking curators and experts questions in real time. Nancy Burner, who practices elder law and estate planning, said the first travel program held April 25 included a virtual tour of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Canada.

“Longevity studies show that by nurturing generative qualities and looking for intellectual stimulation and fulfillment, third-agers are helping themselves to live longer and healthier lives.”

— Nancy Burner

“Viewers were able to interact with the guide and experience an engaging adventure from their seat in Stony Brook Village,” Burner said. “Future programs will continue these virtual tours and will also showcase those community members in their third age who are continuing to live extraordinary and vibrant lives.”

Burner uses the term third age to describe the 55 plus generation and has given talks and written articles about the subject.

Gloria Rocchio, president of WMHO, said the programs at the Educational & Cultural Center will be called the 55 Plus Club. She added attendees have already given feedback on what they would like to see in the future. Upcoming events at the WMHO Educational & Cultural Center will include a cyber security workshop and master classes with special guests, according to Rocchio.

“The idea is to socialize and learn things that are important to [people],” she said.

Rocchio said the 55 plus segment of the population has a wealth of knowledge to offer, and Burner said many are hungry for enlightened experiences and eager to learn new things.

“These third age events held by the 55 Plus Club inspire individuals in the second act to pursue both meaning and purpose in their lives,” Burner said. “Longevity studies show that by nurturing generative qualities and looking for intellectual stimulation and fulfillment, third-agers are helping themselves to live longer and healthier lives.”

The next event, Virtual Travel to South Padre Island — Riders of the Stream at Sea Turtle Inc., will be held May 23. Guests will learn about the rescue and rehabilitation of injured sea turtles on South Padre Island, their release back into the wild, conservation efforts, nesting, hatchling releases and more.

The cost for the program is $15 per person and refreshments are served. Call 631-689-5888 for reservations and visit www.stonybrookvillage.com for details on all upcoming programs.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization Educational & Cultural Center is located at 97 Main St. in Stony Brook.

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