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Miller Place

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The William Miller House in Miller Place has seen a face-lift to its windows thanks to local support. Photo from Edna Giffen

By Edna Giffen

For those who live in or visit Miller Place, when driving through our elegant historic district, stop and take a look at the notable changes in our showcase home, the William Miller House located at 75 North Country Road in Miller Place.  The façade of the 1920 flagship home shines with bright, newly painted restored windows.

One of the windows before restoration. Photo from Edna Giffen

On Dec. 5, Jeremiah McGiff of antique restorers Wild Boar Restoration, with the assistance of his cousin Mike McGiff, began this carefully rendered, crucial project. The sash was removed and taken back to the original wood.  Thankfully, the windows were in relatively good condition and only needed minor repairs.  Frames were also taken back to bare wood and repaired as needed (which again proved to be minimal). The sills sustained the most severe damage. As part of this contract the doors on the east end of the house and the first-floor window on the east side of the house were also restored.  Old glass was used for the window panes except for one pane in the east room that was old and had some indecipherable writing on it. Copper was added above the windows and doors to prevent water from getting behind them. The window in the east door was left crooked as it had been found.

The William Miller House was first restored in the early 1980s shortly after the Miller Place Historical Society had purchased it. The windows were part of the restoration and at that time they needed few repairs, but time and the weather were not kind to the windows. The panes face the south, thereby receiving sunlight for much of any day of the year. Trees, which once occupied the front lawn and had protected the house, had all been removed due to disease by the late 1990s. Rain and snow continually contributed to the deterioration of the windows over time.

In 2020, the William Miller house will be 300 years old. The historical society has been working on repairs to ready the home for this momentous event. A new roof replaced the old one in early 2018. The windows had been chosen as the next major project to be tackled. Through the years the windows lost putty around the glass and panes would fall out and need to be replaced. None of the front windows could be opened because it was feared they would fall apart.  

Windows after restoration. Photo from Edna Giffen

Fundraising commenced, including sending out information to the communities of Miller Place and Mount Sinai. The first job to tackle was the six main front windows. However, the cost for the restoration of these six was considerable at $16,800. It would be necessary to do two windows at a time. Then one day, current historical society Treasurer Gerard Mannarino received a phone call from a family in Miller Place who wished to donate the total cost of restoring the six front windows. The members of the board were stunned, ecstatic, and relieved.  Work could now begin.  

Additional funds from two donors, Jack Soldano, of Comics for a Cause fame, and fundraisers sponsored by the historical society were available to restore the remaining front windows, the east side window and the doors on the east end.

The change has been truly dramatic. All the windows but one date from the 1720s, 1730s or 1750s.  

Thirteen windows remain to be restored, and fundraising is ongoing. We remain hopeful that these too will be brought to their original luster.

Meanwhile, we invite you to enjoy a freshened view of history. Come and see how a labor of love and generosity has placed a new lens and stunning façade on a shining landmark in our community.

Edna Giffen is a 12th-generation Mount Sinai resident. She is a local historian, archivist and current record keeper and recording secretary of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.

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Miller Place wrestling team after its win Feb. 2. Photo from Matt Kaszubski

The Miller Place Panthers wrestling team were at it again, cinching a League VI dual meet tournament Feb. 2 at Sayville High School for their third league win in four years.

Junior Alex Constantis. Photo from Matt Kaszubski

“We knew going into the league tournament the kids had a strong game,” head coach Matt Kaszubski said. “Even though our team was very young, we had been working for 12 months, and everyone put in effort.”

During the 2018-19 wrestling season Miller Place has gone 5-1 in league, only being beat by Rocky Point in a Dec. 12 matchup. The Eagles are currently at six wins and no losses in their league standings. Going into the tournament, the Miller Place wrestling coach knew Rocky Point would be a tough nut to crack. 

The Panthers got their revenge over the weekend as they scored a total of 253.5 points by the end of the tournament, barely edging out the Eagles at 241. Both teams scored 70 points or more than Islip, which placed third at a total of 171 points.

“It was amazing to watch, as Rocky Point is one of the best in the county,” Kaszubski said.

Miller Place suffered a few injuries on their road to the league tournament, including senior James Rado, who had knee surgery in December and was only cleared to wrestle a week before the tournament. 

The tournament brought forward eight Miller Place finalists and two champions. Juniors Alex Constantis and Kyle Klein Jr. both took home the league champion title. 

Junior Kyle Klein Jr. Photo from Matt Kaszubski

Klein, in particular, celebrated his 100th career victory in January. The junior also showed his skill during the league tournament when he scored a reversal in the final seconds in his match against Sayville which he won 6-5. 

With this victory, Miller Place is qualified to send 15 wrestlers to the Suffolk D1 Championships at Suffolk Community College Brentwood Feb. 9-10. Kaszubski said those young men on the team are already at peak performance, and all they have to do now is mentally prepare.

“There’s not much training left to do — their cardio is great, and they are just a strong, technical team,” the wrestling coach said. “If everybody wrestles to their best, we could have some top wrestlers in the county.” 

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By Bill Landon

The Miller Place Panthers boys basketball team scored first and never looked back, out-distancing visiting Sayville 59-52 Feb. 1. Senior forward Thomas Nealis led the way for the Panthers, topping the scoring chart with eight field goals and a pair of free throws for a total 18 points along with 16 rebounds and five assists. Junior Thomas Cirrito followed with three from the line and six 2-pointers for a total of 15 while junior Timothy Hirdt came up from behind banking 12.

With the win Miller Place improves to 12-2 in League V and 15-3 overall with one games remaining before postseason play begins. The Panthers retook the court Feb. 4 against Westhampton, which they won 71-50. The team is back home Feb. 7 where they’ll host Mount Sinai for their Senior Recognition Game. Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m.

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More than 400 people crowded onto the Shoreham-Wading River High School soccer field Dec. 15 to race in the first annual Andrew’s Run, but one family especially that crossed the finish line did so to cheers and applause that resounded all across the North Shore community.

John McMorris, the father of 12-year-old Boy Scout Andrew McMorris who died in October, walked and ran with his son’s framed photograph clenched in his hand. As he and Andrew’s mother, Alisa, strolled over the finish line that morning, John stuck up his hands in triumph, knowing it would go to support his son’s memory.

“This is how the community comes together,” he said. “The community is the only way we’ve been able to heal — to continue to heal.”

Andrew, who was a seventh-grader at Albert G. Prodell Middle School in Shoreham, died Oct. 1 after an alleged drunk driver struck him and four of his fellow Scouts in Boy Scout Troop 161 while they were walking along the shoulder of David Terry Road in Manorville during a hike. The McMorris family said
Andrew was going to do his first practice for the middle school cross country team that same day, but his life was ended before he could fulfill that ambition. 

The run was brought together through the efforts of 16-year-old Miller Place High School student Danelle Rose, who helped prepare everything from the race’s route across the fields at SWR High School to coordinating with the school and the Strong Island Running Club professional time takers, who donated their services for free to the run.

All the funds are going to support Boy Scout Troop 161 in their effort to build a new 3,200 square foot Adirondack cabin at Baiting Hollow Scout Camp in Wading River, which will be named McMorris Lodge in honor of Andrew. The run raised over $8,000 for the lodge.

Several members of local Boy Scouts, including those from Troop 161 and Troop 204 from Miller Place, ran in the race, some in their full Boy Scout uniforms. While weather forecasts called for rain that Saturday morning, Troop 161 Scoutmaster Matthew Yakaboski said it was a sign that good things may still come from tragedy.

“I think Andrew was shining down on us today,” Yakaboski said.

Robert Nasta from My Creperie prepares to leave for New York City and donate to the Homeless. Photo by Kyle Barr

It may be the season for lights, for holiday cheer and for family, but for many people across the North Shore, it’s also the time for giving to those who may not have the capability or money to participate in the holidays.

“My main hope is other people catch on, not necessarily the donating, but the dropping off, the doing,” said Robert Nasta, the co-owner of My Creperie in Wading River. “It’s one thing to think it, but it’s another thing to do it.”

Stacy Davidson holds the donation box for Holiday Magic. Photo by Kyle Barr

Below are some of the people and organizations in the area that have made it their mission to make others’ holidays a little brighter. While no one person could possibly support all at once, all those listed said they would appreciate support of any kind.

Stacy Davidson, the owner of Pattern Finders & Stacy’s Finds on East Main Street in Port Jefferson, is working with a number of businesses in the area to gather toys and clothes for the Hauppauge-based nonprofit Holiday Magic, which collects toys for homeless and underprivileged children all across Long Island.

Davidson said often these underprivileged or homeless children, beyond any other gift, only ask for a house.

“It’s very common, very common,” she said.

Davidson, along with Amazing Olive and Sea Creations near Main Street have set up a collection box for Holiday Magic, while Captain’s Lady Salon on Main Street has set up a donation box for Toys for Tots, a national program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Those who donate any new toys or clothing are also entered into a free raffle for a gift certificate applicable to all those participating stores. While Holiday Magic picks up the toys Dec. 12, participating stores said they will continue to accept gifts to be delivered directly to the toy drive.

Other places around Port Jeff have set up donation boxes, including the Visitors Center with a Toys for Tots donation box and the ice cream shop Sundaes in Port Jefferson Station, which has set up a donation box for Holiday Magic.

All across the North Shore both groups and individuals have made it their mission to help those in unfortunate circumstances, and the need never gets any smaller. Nasta spends his one day off a week giving out donated blankets, hats, gloves, socks, jackets as well as sandwiches and water to the homeless in New York City. He is accepting donations every day but Tuesday and said the clothing needs to be in decent, wearable condition and should be sent or dropped off at his business located at 2 Sound Road in Wading River.

“At the end of the day we’re all cut from the same wood,” the creperie owner said.

Kim Marino, a Miller Place resident and admin of the Facebook group North Shore (& beyond) Mamas & Daddies working as Angels, has been active since 2017 helping support families in need with food and other items, and this Christmas season she, along with Miller Place Boy Scout Troop 204 have helped close to 20 families. Marino is looking to get Christmas presents for the family of a single mother, who has two kids with special needs and lives with the family’s grandparents. Those who wish to assist Marino or donate can request to join the Facebook page or email Marino at Zakgm@optonline.net.

Miller Place resident Rhonda Klch is helping to host the ninth annual Holiday Dreams event that raises funds and accepts donations to bring presents for an average of 250 needy families a year, the majority of which live in the Town of Brookhaven. The nonprofit Equity First Foundation, which runs Holiday Dreams, is hosting its pick-up party Dec. 22 at Recipe 7 in Miller Place from 9 to 11 a.m. Klch said the event already has 400 people preregistered, but those interested can still register online at www.holidaydreamsli.com or call 631-714-4822, ext. 102, to get a full list of items needed and for the official drop off locations. 

“At the end of the day we’re all cut from the same wood,”

—Robert Nasta

Some Long Island nonprofits are in dire need of donations this holiday season. The Bellport-based nonprofit Lighthouse Mission hosts mobile food outreaches all throughout Long Island, including Wednesdays at 12 p.m. in Rocky Point in the Knights of Columbus parking lot at 683 Route 25A and midday on Thursdays at the Port Jefferson Station Commuter Parking Lot at the corner of Hallock Road and Route 112.

Chloe Willoughby, the office manager for Lighthouse Mission, said the group’s need goes up considerably at the end of the year. In November the group supplied about 9,750 people with food, but she expects that number to rise past 10,000 in December.

Lighthouse Mission is in desperate need of both toys and clothes to give to underprivileged children. The group projects the need to provide toys to 1,500 kids, but only currently have around 450. They are especially in need of new, unopened toys, and toys for teenagers, whom she said often feel left out of these sorts of drives. In terms of clothing, they would need jackets and boots, which can either be new or used. If one wishes to donate to Lighthouse Mission you can call 631- 758-7584 or visit the main location at 1543 Montauk Highway in Bellport.

Red ribbons adorned businesses, homes and other public areas in Shoreham to honor Andrew McMorris, a 12-year-old Boy Scout from Troop 161 who was killed by an allegedly drunk driver Sept. 30. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a continuing show of support for a fallen youth in the North Shore community, Shoreham-Wading River High School will play host to the first annual Andrew’s Run Dec. 15 at 9 a.m. to support a local Boy Scout troop after its tragic loss. 

“Andrew was going to do his first run for the cross country team in Shoreham before the tragedy,” said Matthew Yakaboski, the scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 161. The troop experienced the tragic loss of 12-year-old member Andrew McMorris from an alleged drunk driving incident in October. “This is a significant run,” Yakaboski added. “He just started his cross country career. He enjoyed running and just wanted to be part of the team.”

The race is coming together through the efforts of 16-year-old Miller Place student Danelle Rose, who is taking her passion for running and using it to support her neighboring communities.

“I, like many people, was extremely heartbroken by this tragedy,” Rose said. “I really wanted to help them heal the best that I could.”

Andrew, who was a seventh-grader at Albert G. Prodell Middle School in Shoreham, died Oct. 1 after an alleged drunk driver struck him and four of his fellow Scouts in Boy Scout Troop 161 while they were walking along the shoulder of David Terry Road in Manorville during a hike. Only days after the tragedy, community members from Riverhead to Miller Place came out in strong support of the family and troop, posting red ribbons on mailboxes, street signs and outside shops. The McMorris family was adamant that any monetary donations should go to Troop 161, the Shoreham-Wading River School District’s Wildcat Helpers of the Arts and Music and the nonprofit advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

All proceeds from the Dec. 15 run are slated to go toward the construction of a 3,200 square foot Adirondack cabin at Baiting Hollow Scout Camp in Wading River, which will be named McMorris Lodge in honor of Andrew. 

“[Troop 161] is beginning to recover from the event, but the McMorris family still has a long, long road ahead,” Yakaboski said. “Whatever we can do to show the community is behind them is tremendous.”

Rose, who is a member of both the Miller Place High School’s varsity track and cross country teams, said she knew the family through John McMorris, Andrew’s father, who is a guidance counselor in her school district.

“I wanted to help these three communities; Miller Place because Mr. McMorris works there, Shoreham because that’s where Andrew lived and Riverhead because that’s where the troop members were from, too.” 

The 2.5-mile run/walk will start at the high school baseball field, then take participants down the lower lacrosse fields, back up around the upper soccer fields then enter into the trails briefly before exiting out onto the upper soccer fields again before coming back to the finish line.

Jackie Rose, Danelle’s mother, said she is proud of her daughter’s efforts, adding, “She’s just a well-rounded excellent student, and she does what she needs to do.” 

There is a $10 entry fee to sign up, but donations are also accepted. Sign-ups start on the day, Dec. 15, at 8 a.m., but people can register before the race at runsignup.com/race/ny/
shoreham/andrewsrun until Dec. 13.

*This post was amended to restructure Jackie Rose’ biography

Miller Place traveled to Warrior nation and outscored Comsewogue, 72-52, in a nonleague matchup Dec. 10.

Miller Place junior Thomas Cirrito led his team in scoring with eight field goals, eight free throws and two triples for 30 points; Thomas Nealis, the lone senior on the squad, banked 16 along with 14 rebounds; and junior Timothy Hirdt netted 12, rebounding 12.

Atop the scoring chart for Comsewogue were Mike McGuire and Liam Gray with 13 points apiece. Both teams opened league play Dec. 12 where the Panthers hosted Wyandanch and Comsewogue took on visiting Centereach, but results were not available by press time.

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Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano and board of education President Johanna Testa look over captial projects for the coming summer. Photo by Kyle Barr

Miller Place school district officials are looking to perform some lasting modifications to some of their schools’ infrastructure, as discussed at the Nov. 14 board of education meeting.

Summer 2019 will bring new ceiling lighting to the Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School, a new 6,000-gallon fuel oil tank for the high school, replacing the existing 15,000-gallon tank, as well as replacing asbestos-ridden floor tiles existing in several classrooms at the high school.

The entire project will cost $500,000, with $400,000 coming from the district’s capital funds, according to officials. Another $100,000 will come from state funds secured by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Rocky Point-based architect Michael Guido, the district’s retained architect, told the Miller Place school board that with the inclusion of gas service lines recently installed in the school it no longer has need of such a large tank, thus the scale down.

Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said the existing floor tiles containing asbestos were installed back when the high school was built, and they exist in several classrooms throughout the building. While she said they don’t pose any harm to students currently, they will be removed during the summer when there are no students in the classrooms.

“It’s not a dangerous situation at all, but while we’re doing work in the building we’re going to go in and replace some floor tiles,” she said.

The new lighting at  Laddie A. Decker will include new ceiling structural support and new, brighter LED lighting.

Guido said the bids for all projects will go out from Jan. 3 through 16, and they anticipate awarding the bid Jan. 23. The work for all buildings will be done during the upcoming summer, and district officials said they would work to make sure construction does not impede summer programs.

If one asked Miller Place native and opera singer Chris Remkus what makes opera so appealing, he would say a production is more than just a costume and set, that it’s the combination of epic story and deep-throated, passionate voices that transcend the mundane of the normal world.

“I think what’s so thrilling about opera is you have these pieces in the repertoire which are just complete works of art,” the 29-year-old Remkus said. “They tell a complete story that is both musically thrilling but also sincere and authentic in its intentions.”

Remkus has long worked to perfect his voice as a tenor, and while he has loved choir and musicals, it is opera that has captured the young man’s imagination.

Chris Remkus, a tenor opera singer who graduated from Miller Place High School in 2009, is set to star in a production of ‘Candide’ at the New England Conservatory Oct. 23 and 24. Photo from Remkus

“You’re using the full range of your voice, and you’re using the full dynamic of your acting capability to create a story and create a character that is thrilling to witness and participate in,” he said.

Now Remkus is cast in the title role of Candide for the New England Conservatory’s two-night production of the late Leonard Bernstein’s English-speaking operetta “Candide.” The opera is being put on in celebration of what would have been the famous composer’s 100th birthday.

Remkus was born to the stage at a very young age when his father, Joseph Remkus, a retired chemistry teacher from Sagamore Middle School in Sachem who also acted as director for the schools theater program, would bring his children, Chris and his sister Lauren, to the school’s auditorium to watch while his students rehearsed. Eventually his kids became part of the performance.

“He seemed to like it — being on stage,” Remkus’ father said. “We did ‘Damn Yankees,’ ‘Good News,’ ‘Bye, Bye Birdy,’ and more. My music director from junior high said he had a really good voice — even back then she could hear him really clear.”

Candide is based off of the 18th-century philosopher Voltaire’s notorious 1759 satire “Candide, ou l’Optimisme,” which follows the story of Candide as he journeys across Europe while testing the very concept of overriding optimism, and that people must make sense of a world that often displays such barbarity.

“It was just a role that speaks to me — it captures the satire and comedy in the role, and it also has a deep undertone to the story,” Remkus said. “We can just see how crazy the world can be and how terrible things can happen, and were left trying to make sense of this seemingly meaningless world.”

It’s a role that Remkus’ father said his son has worked so long and so hard for. As a young man the opera singer was always involved in theater and music throughout his high school career. First, he played saxophone in the traditional high school band, big band and jazz band. Over time his classmates and friends kept telling him he had a great voice, and that he should join choir as well. In his senior year he was picked to be one of only 12 young people for the New York All-State select choir and was also the only person on the North Shore of Long Island to be selected for All-Eastern choir.

After he graduated from Miller Place in 2009 Remkus left for Hofstra University to get his bachelor’s degree in music. He took time off to develop his voice even more, taking classes at the Manhattan School of Music before heading upstate to get his master’s in music from the Bard Conservatory of Music. In 2017 the tenor headed to Boston to participate in the New England Conservatory’s pre-professional program, specifically looking to get a graduate diploma in voice. Remkus said he expects to finally end his schooling by early 2019.

Beyond Candide, the young opera singer said he wishes to one day make it to Europe to perform in the opera scene there. The life of an opera singer is much less sedentary than some might assume, Remkus said. Often opera singers are employed for the length of one or two years before having to move on to another opera hall and another company. Despite the anticipated traveling, he said he is excited to see the world.

“We’re always bouncing around exploring new avenues and new pieces which keeps it really exciting and refreshing,” Remkus said.

Remkus’ father, who will be taking the trek to Boston to watch his son perform Candide Oct. 23 and 24, said he could not be any happier for his son.

“Being a theater person myself I couldn’t be any more proud of him,” he said.

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By Bill Landon

The Miller Place Panthers girls volleyball team defeated the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats Oct. 11 at home three sets to two, though everyone involved was a winner that day. The game was part of the annual Dig Pink initiative held during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October in which the teams partner with the Sideout Foundation to to raise money to benefit the North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping families with someone battling the disease.

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