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Obituary

Dr. Edmunde Stewart had a passion for riding horses. Photo Courtesy of the Steart family

By Vicky Stewart

Dr. Edmunde Andrew Cameron Stewart, 80, died Dec. 6 in St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, surrounded by the love of his family. Stewart had been fighting pneumonia. For the past several years, after being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his lungs were compromised.

The Stewart family is most known for living on Old Field Road for many years, where he and his wife, Norma, raised their three children. Stewart was an orthopedic surgeon working at St. Charles Hospital and Mather Hospital, serving as the chief of orthopedics at Mather, for many years, and as a past president of the medical staff at both St. Charles and Mather. He had a private practice on Elm Street in Port Jefferson.

Stewart was also an exceptional equestrian and had a passion for foxhunting. He was the master of the Smithtown Hunt Club and a president of the Smithtown Hunt Horse Show. He is remembered affectionately by fellow foxhunters as “Doc” as he would often help injured riders, during a foxhunt. For many years, he moderated the hunt breakfast, to benefit the museums at Stony Brook. He also served three terms as a trustee for the Village of Old Field.

Although medicine and horses were his passions, his greatest love was his family. Right until the end, with family by his side, he was letting them know how much he loved them.

His legacy will live on through his loving family, who adored him. He leaves behind his wife of 56 years, Norma; his son Greg; daughters Victoria and Gillian; and son-in-law Juan. He was a loving grandpa to his four grandchildren, Olivia, Cameron, Benjamin and Emilia, all who affectionately called him “Deda.”

Stewart was a native of Dundee, Scotland. He was predeceased by his father Andrew Stewart, mother Winifred Byrd Lennox and sister Winifred Lennox Govan.

Stewart entered St. Andrew’s University Medical School in Scotland at the age of 17. Upon graduation in 1961, he did two specialty residences in Scotland: internal medicine and orthopedics. In 1962-63, he taught anatomy at St. Andrew’s University. He came to the United States in 1963 and served his residency in orthopedics at Nassau Hospital, Meadowbrook Hospital and here at St. Charles. He became a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in 1971, and the following year he received his fellow of American College of Surgeons. He also served in the Army Reserve, as a reserve commissioned officer  for the United States Army.

The doctor was a man of many talents. His children remember him playing the trumpet and the piano. Prior to entering medical school, he had spent many years on the stage, as a member of the Dundee Repertory Theatre, with starring roles in productions of “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations,” to name a few. At the same time, although busy on the stage and with his studies, Stewart managed to find some time to participate in one of his favorite sports. For two years, he was the junior champion of the West End Lawn Tennis Club, a prominent private tennis club in his native Dundee.

While at St. Andrews, Stewart was a member of the university’s fencing team, touring England, Ireland and Scotland and in the process obtaining his “full blue” for the university.

He was laid to rest Dec. 10 at the Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket, on a beautiful sunny day, with a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace,” in the distance.

“Every man dies, not every man lives” is a quote he was fond of, by William Wallace, a freedom fighter from Scotland near the end of the 13th century. This quote is a great testament to the fact that Stewart truly lived and lived with passion, until the very end. His fighting spirit and love for life will live on in all who knew him.

Jack Schaedel with students through the years at Norwood Elementary School. Photo from Joanne Grzymala

Comsewogue School District is widely regarded as a haven for quality education and its community feel by those on the inside and outside. One of the people who played a role in fostering that reputation died Oct. 10, but his spirit won’t be vacating the schools’ walls, or broader community, any time soon.

Jack Schaedel, 78, was a teacher at Norwood Elementary School from 1969 to 1999, though his influence was not confined to his classroom. Schaedel ran the school’s store for years, conditioning the students to raise money to fund class trips or donate to worthy causes. Years of holiday gift sales and other fundraisers paid for trips to Washington, D.C., foreign countries and donations to UNICEF drives, thanks to Schaedel’s leadership.

Schaedel is honored during a chamber of commerce celebration. Photo from Joanne Grzymala

He also spent three decades as an active participant and board member on Port Jefferson Station’s chamber of commerce, on Theatre Three’s board of directors, served as the teachers union’s representative, and as a trustee on Comsewogue Public Library’s board from 1974 to 2000 — a time period that saw the public pillar grow exponentially in size.

Through all of his community involvement and duties as a teacher, the 1999 Port Times Record Man of the Year raised a family with his wife Anne of 58 years, and his family members speak as glowingly of him as his colleagues and students do.

“He was the most positive, happiest person you could meet,” said his daughter Joanne Grzymala, who went on to become a teacher herself. “Within minutes of meeting him he would already be cheering you on, inspiring something inside of you to feel good about yourself. His presence was felt the second he walked into a room. His enthusiasm for life was contagious.”

Comsewogue’s Joe Rella took over the role of Superintendent shortly after Schaedel retired, though the two maintained a relationship. The district’s head said Schaedel’s influence was felt long after he left.

Rella has led the way instituting a problem-based learning curriculum in the district, a method that closer resembles a college thesis format than the standardized teach-to-the-test model characterizing education in recent years. The curriculum is offered to all Comsewogue students this year following a small rollout last school year, which saw PBL students score higher in most cases on state tests than their peers learning in traditional classrooms.

“Long before problem-based learning was on the radar — I’m talking 25 years ago — Jack was doing [the same thing] with his fifth-grade class,” Rella said. “He was a master, he was like the Pied Piper. He got children excited about learning. While they were excited he snuck in the learning.”

In the 1999 Man of the Year feature written about him, then Norwood principal Andrew Cassidy praised Schaedel as a completely dedicated teacher, and board of education member Peter Cario called him singularly focused on the betterment of education.

During his years as a Comsewogue library trustee he worked closely with trustee Ed Wendol, who said as a pair their goal was to craft programs for residents of all age groups aimed at enjoyment and educating.

Jack Schaedel with students through the years at Norwood Elementary School. Photo from Joanne Grzymala

“I found him to be a true professional, really interested in educating, and making sure Comsewogue Public Library become the educational cultural and social center of our community. We felt that to be very important,” Wendol said.

Richard Lusak, the library’s first director who shepherded the facility through major expansion to the community hub it is today, called Schaedel a unifier on the board of trustees relentlessly dedicated to the Port Jeff Station area. “Jack worked very hard with us on all of our programs,” Lusak said. “He was a good man and a good trustee.”

Schaedel is survived by his wife Anne; sisters Cindy Davis and Dixie Schaedel; daughter Joanne Grzymala (Chris) and son Jack (Jackie); five grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

A December tribute is being planned in his honor, and those interested can email Joanne at setrlingjo61@yahoo.com for more information.

The family is also asking to consider donating to help in Theatre Three’s recovery from a devastating September flood at P.O. Box 512 Port Jefferson, New York 11777, attention Vivian Koutrakos.

Jill Nees-Russell during a debate for village board. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson is a tight-knit community with a small-town feel, which is probably at the top of the list of reasons why people love it. A byproduct of that fact is that when a community member is lost, the impact reverberates quickly and intensely. When the person is also widely beloved, the reverberations can feel seismic.

“She was the epitome of beauty, inside and out, loved by all who had the pleasure of knowing her and she touched us all with her grace, her smile, her spirit and her optimism and pure joy for life.”

— Margot Garant

That’s what Port Jefferson Village is going through right now with the loss of Jill Nees-Russell. The village’s longtime public relations representative and general Swiss Army knife died June 18. She left behind her husband Fred and kids Henry and Lily.

Jill was as kind and generous of a person as I’ve ever met. Two years ago this week, I was promoted at TBR News Media to the editor of The Port Times Record. My predecessor, Elana Glowatz, had covered Port Jeff for nearly a decade, establishing relationships and getting a feel for the ins and outs of the community to a degree that left me feeling overwhelmed and intimidated to say the least. How could I possibly maintain the
connections she’d taken painstaking hours, days, weeks and years to craft — let alone forming new ones on top of that?

I wasn’t on the job for more than a day or two before I was alerted that I had a call from Jill.

She reached out to introduce herself and invite me to join her for breakfast and coffee that week at Local’s Café. Somehow she must have sensed my head spinning a few miles down Route 25A at our Setauket office, and was immediately looking to offer a helping hand. She sat with me for more than an hour sharing names, contacts, future programs and events — and even insisted that I try the avocado toast she had ordered. I returned to work from that meeting with a fresh outlook on my new position. I felt like a skydiver who had just been gifted a parachute. Throughout the time that our career paths intersected, I always knew I could count on her for support, be it photos from an event I wasn’t able to attend or suggestions for who might be best suited to answer my questions.

Jill’s time in Port Jeff was so far-reaching that there are likely people who never met her that were still impacted by her talents and dedication. She was one of the driving forces behind so many of the most popular events the village has to offer, putting in hours of work to make the Charles Dickens Festival and Heritage Weekend seminal occasions.

Jill Nees-Russell during a past Charles Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson. Photo from PJV

Testimonials about her impact on people who did know her have flooded social media in the days since her passing.

“We here in the Village of Port Jefferson were so very lucky to have worked with her, loved her and spent these last 10 years with her,” Mayor Margot Garant wrote in a heartfelt Facebook post. “Jill loved life and her family so much. She was the epitome of beauty, inside and out, loved by all who had the pleasure of knowing her and she touched us all with her grace, her smile, her spirit and her optimism and pure joy for life. I will miss her more than words can ever express and I know I speak for so, so many when I say we were so truly blessed to love her and have her call Port Jefferson her home.”

Many took to a Facebook group comprised of village residents past and present to also bid Jill farewell.

“Jill Nees-Russell loved our village and bled purple,” Brenda Eimers Batter wrote. “She will absolutely be missed.”

“It’s people like her that make our village the beautiful community it is and the community it will always be,” Steven Muñoz said. “She will never be forgotten. Her passion and love for Port Jeff will live on forever.”

Rest in peace Jill, and thank you for your unwavering kindness. The way you treated people should be an example to all.

Stony Brook ophthalmologist and Port Jeff resident Aaron Wigdor. Photo from the Wigdor family

“The eye is like a camera,” was the ophthalmologist’s favorite expression.

Aaron Wigdor, an eye doctor with a practice in Stony Brook who lived in Port Jefferson since the 1960s, died in April at 82. He was among those who led the charge for Port Jefferson Village to purchase Harbor Hills Country Club from the late 1960s through the ’70s, an asset the municipality still owns today, and was the first men’s tennis singles champion at the club. He is survived by his son Douglas; daughter Caren Skutch; daughter-in-law Catherine; son-in-law, William; and four grandchildren, Jacob, Simon, Julia and Carly.

Wigdor was born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey. He attended Princeton University as an undergraduate and went on to medical school at New York University. He served in the United States Army Medical Corps in Texas at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. He was also President Lyndon Johnson’s on-call ophthalmologist for a time.

“The eye is like a camera.”

— Aaron Wigdor

In 1968, he and his late wife Ellen moved from Texas to Port Jefferson, where the couple remained until relocating to Florida in 2016, reluctantly, according to his son.

“He really did love Port Jefferson,” his son said.

Both of his parents played a part in organizing the senior prom at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, which was a long-standing tradition in Port Jeff, for parents of the senior class to help pick a secret theme unveiled only on prom night and organize the over-the-top event.

Wigdor had many close friends in Port Jefferson, and as a young man enjoyed spending time out from of Darling’s Stationery, where many from the community would gather in what probably would resemble a social media chat group today.

“You would never know he was a gossip,” his daughter said. “After my mother passed away, he got very sad. As a couple, they had a lot of friends in Port Jefferson. They were always going out. They were really pillars in the community.”

Skutch described her father’s sense of humor and intellect as “acerbic,” a trait she said she loved. She said he enjoyed reading the dictionary as a hobby, and it was a favorite response of his to instruct his kids to “go read the dictionary” when they complained of being bored.

They were always going out. They were really pillars in the community.”

— Caren Skutch

“He was just an all-around good dad,” she said, adding that as a grandfather Wigdor taught her kids how to swim and play ball.

Wigdor’s son said he hoped people who knew him would remember how caring and dedicated he was as a doctor at his practice on Nesconset Highway, which he established in 1969.

“In this day and age when people go to see their doctor and are rushed in and out, I know that my father and his practice spent time with patients in caring for them and I believe his patients really respected that,” he said.

Longtime Port Jeff residents Anita and Arthur Spencer, who knew the Wigdors, traveled to Puerto Rico and Atlantic City among other destinations regularly together.

Anita Spencer called Wigdor a very sociable guy who had many friends and talked to many people during his days in Port Jeff.

“He was very friendly,” she said. Anita Spencer said the two couples avidly followed the Kentucky Derby and the other triple-crown horse races, though Wigdor was also a huge fan of the New York Knicks. “He had loads of friends. He was very concerned about what was going on in the village, being part of the village.”

Saint Anthony's High School in South Huntington. Photo from Google Maps.

A student of St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington was killed in a car crash this weekend, according to school officials.

Anthony Pagano, senior at Saint Anthony’s High School. Photo from Facebook.

Brother Gary Cregan, principal of St. Anthony’s High School, announced that senior Anthony Pagano was involved in a serious car crash this weekend. Details of the accident were not immediately made available. Pagano played on the Friars’ varsity baseball team in spring 2017.

“Death is never easy, but the death of a young person is particularly heartbreaking and difficult to accept,” Cregan wrote in his message. “As Roman Catholics, we must rely on our faith to give us strength in the face of tragedy, and to help us understand why a young man on the verge of adulthood would be taken from us far too soon.”

The principal offered his condolences to the family, noting Pagano’s brother, Joseph, is a sophomore at St. Anthony’s.

Visitation hours will be held Feb. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.; and on Feb. 22, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at M.A. Connell Funeral Home located at 934 New York Ave. in Huntington. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Feb 23 at 9:30 a.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Church, 175 Wolf Hill Road in Melville. Interment will follow at Locust Valley Cemetery in Locust Valley.

Günther Lützen. Photo from Lisa Viscovich

By Fred Lützen

Günther Lützen, former Long Island delicatessen owner and entrepreneur, of Plano, Texas, formerly of East Northport and Coram, died peacefully Jan. 27 at the age of 85.

Günther is survived by his wife Ingrid Lützen of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and their five children and ten grandchildren: Harold Lützen of Taylor, Michigan and his wife Jennifer and their children Sabrina and Thomas; Fred Lützen of Manlius, New York and his wife Nicole and their children Frederick and Riley; Lisa Viscovich of Glen Cove and her husband Gregory and their children Calvin and Emery; Linda Francis of Cutchogue and her children Julia and Samuel and her husband Donald; Stefanie Summers of Celina, Texas and her husband Daniel and their children Günther and Tanner; and by his brother Volkert Lützen of the City of Wyk, Island of Föhr, Germany; and his sister, Christa Storm, of Kayhude, Germany. He is preceded in death by his father Friedrich Christian Lützen, his mother Christina Dorothena [Freiberg], his brother Friedrich [“Freddy” or “Fiete”] Lützen and his brother Werner Lützen.

Günther was born May 21, 1932, in Wyk on the Island of Föhr, Germany. He has always loved flowers, plants and vegetation, so as a teenager in Germany he studied botany and received a certification in botany at the age of 19.

He moved to the United States in 1951. He then began his German delicatessen career and his American Dream. After working relentlessly toward his goals, he became a delicatessen and business owner within a few years, and then married Ingrid by the late 1960s, and they started a family together. Günther and Ingrid worked hard in the delicatessen business for years and raised five very proud children.

One of his longer tenures was owning the Se-Port Delicatessen in East Setauket, which he owned for two separate stints through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  The Village Times published an article in the 1980s about Günther and his hard work ethic that focused on his success with the Se-Port deli, and the devotion and discipline required of him to operate such a business so successfully. Günther and the  deli received a “4 Pickle Rating” award (out of a possible four) from the paper, which was the only “4” rating amongst all of the local North Shore delis that were reviewed. He still had the award with him in Texas when he passed away.

Günther and Ingrid are examples of how hard work pays off. Günther truly lived the America Dream, and his family is extremely proud of his accomplishments. Günther was a man of integrity, a gentleman, and a kind, loving, and devoted father and grandfather. Opa will be missed.

A post-cremation visitation and memorial service is scheduled for Feb. 17 at O.B. Davis Funeral Home, 4839 Nesconset Hwy., Port Jefferson Station. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m., and the ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m. followed by additional visitation ending at 3:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Children’s Cancer & Blood Foundation. The family would like to thank The Legacy at Willow Bend in Plano and their caregivers, the Vitas hospice caregivers and the caregivers at The Bristal at East Northport assisted living for their efforts and dedication.

Carolyn Droscoski. Photo from Theatre Three

A cherished member of Theatre Three, and by extension the Port Jefferson community, was lost this month.

Carolyn Droscoski, 61, of Port Jefferson Station died suddenly of an aneurysm, according to her close friend Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three. She was a lifelong resident of Port Jefferson Station and a graduate of Comsewogue High School.

“Anyone that you spoke to would say the same thing — it was just her voice, her vocals,” Koutrakos said of what she would remember most about her close friend, along with her beautiful smile. Koutrakos said she’d heard Droscoski described as having “leather lungs,” a tribute to her booming, powerful singing voice. “She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

“She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news.”

— Debbie Schwartz McGinley

Droscoski had 40-years-worth of history at Theatre Three. She performed in dozens of productions, including memorable performances as Rose in “Gypsy,” Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music,” Cass Elliot in “Dream a Little Dream,” and many incarnations of “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert,” according to Theatre Three’s website.

Times Beacon Record News Media reviewed her 2013 performance in “Barnaby Saves Christmas” as Mrs. Claus: “Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by Stephen Doone and Carolyn Droscoski, are in numerous scenes and steal the show. Every appearance on stage had the children sitting up straight and pointing. During a recent Saturday show, many children cried when the lights came up for intermission, thinking the show was over and wanting to see Santa just one more time. Doone and Droscoski also double as Andrew and Sarah, the nice Jewish couple who teach Barnaby and Franklynne all about Hanukkah, and switch roles effortlessly. The musical numbers are terrific and are accompanied on piano by Quattrock, who also wrote all of the music and lyrics. ‘Still with the Ribbon on Top,’ sung by Hughes, reveals Barnaby’s struggle to fit in; ‘Miracles,’ sung beautifully by Droscoski as Sarah, will touch your heart and ‘S.B. Dombulbury’ will have you tapping your feet.”

Droscoski traveled the country in an off-Broadway production of “Nunsense,” a show in which she played five different roles. She also performed and toured with her band, Everyday People, which performed countless shows in Port Jefferson. She even appeared in promotional materials for the snack Cracker Jack.

“The only thing I could say is I loved her, and she made me happy,” her longtime partner Charlie Cacioppo said. He added she often affectionately referred to him as “Bubba” or Charles Francis.

“She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

— Vivian Koutrakos

She had two sisters and four brothers, as well as many nieces and nephews, according to her sister Barbara Cassidy.

“The most important thing in her life was her family,” Cassidy said. “She was the biggest cheerleader for her many beloved nieces and nephews.”

Upon Theatre Three sharing the news of her passing on its Facebook page — a post that was shared and commented on more than 50 times — admirers of her talents and friends posted condolences and memories of the beloved performer.

“She was kind, fun, caring and always treated me like a regular person — not just a kid,” a poster named Debbie Schwartz McGinley wrote, adding Droscoski had played her mother in a 1980 production of “A Christmas Carol.” “She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news. All my love to her family, friends, and especially my old school T3 family!”

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Then 12-year-old Randall Woodard, Gilbert Kinner and New York Gov. Franklin Roosevelt in Port Jeff in 1932. Photo from Warren Woodard

By Alex Petroski

Randall E. Woodard died Dec. 25, Christmas morning, at 8:10 a.m. He had pneumonia for two weeks and died at the hospital in Riverhead. He was 97 years old.

Woodard sat for an interview with TBR News Media in December to share a story about the time he met former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Port Jefferson in 1932 and was photographed at just 11 years old on a sailboat in Port Jefferson Harbor with the soon-to-be president. Woodard gave other biographical details about his life.

He was born Sept 3, 1920, at 104 Prospect St. in Port Jefferson opposite the First Baptist Church, where later he would become the bell ringer.

Woodard and his family owned several sailboats and fishing boats through the years. In 1936, Randall and his older brothers, twins Martin and Merwin, finished tied for first among 2,000 other competitors worldwide for the Snipe Class International championship. Through the decades he often competed in races and experienced more-than-modest levels of success.

After graduating from Port Jefferson High School in 1938, Woodard attended The Citadel military college in South Carolina.

Randall Woodard and his wife Barbara aboard the family sailboat. Photo from Warren Woodard

He graduated from The Citadel with a degree in civil engineering, and then went on to serve as a Seabee officer — a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion. The Seabees, as they were called — a play on “CB” for Construction Battalion — were deployed to Pearl Harbor in the aftermath of the Japanese attack to reconstruct damaged bulkheads, dredge the ocean floor to allow ships passage and assemble barges and causeways in preparation for an amphibious attack, according to Woodard. During his training prior to deployment while stationed in Rhode Island, Woodard was aboard the world’s largest sea tow, which was an experimental floating airfield slated for assembly in Alaska. The airfield was ultimately not needed, and broken-up pieces were used during the Normandy Invasion on D-Day.

He was part of a mission that headed to a series of islands in the Pacific near Japan in May 1944, weeks before the beaches were stormed in Normandy. Nine days after D-Day, aboard a craft carrying four barges, Woodard was responsible for overseeing the U.S. Marine Corps invading Saipan, a Japanese-held island. Woodard and the Seabees contributed to the mission by using the barges to unload ammunition, gasoline and other supplies.

After the victory over Japan, he spent six months at Navy Department Bureau of Yards and Docks in Washington D.C., where he met Barbara Brown, whom he later married. Woodard was in the Navy reserves for about 15 years.

When he returned home, Woodard worked for years as a civil engineer. In the 1950s he was the resident engineer overseeing a series of contracts to construct the Northern State and Sunken Meadow parkways, and said he was responsible for the construction of all of the parkway overpasses in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

He is survived by his wife Barbara Woodard, of Port Jefferson; daughter Tracy Woodard Wyncoop of Lebanon, New Hampshire; sons Terry Randall Woodard of Port Jeff and Warren Woodard of Calverton; his grandsons Eric Randall Michaels and David Randall Woodard; and three great grandchildren.

The Woodard family has decided to have a service in the spring or summer at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jeff. The date and time will be announced in the near future. Services will be entrusted to Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket.

The Mingoias: Samantha, Gina, Denise and Sal. Photo from Gina Mingoia

By Kevin Redding

Throughout his life Salvatore Mingoia brought smiles, laughs and music to those around him. And even though he’s gone, the impact of Shoreham’s “Superman” will surely resonate forever.

The Suffolk County police officer, Beatles-loving musician, devoted family man and friend to all died Oct. 9 following a two-year battle with lymphoma at 56 in the company of friends and family at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Although Mingoia had been in a great deal of pain as a result of his cancer,
which was diagnosed in December 2015, he never once let it show or get him down, according to his family.

Sal Mingoia was a devoted family man to his daughters Samantha and Gina. Photo from Gina Mingoia

“He was the nicest guy in the world,” said his oldest daughter Samantha Mingoia, 25. “I want to be my dad when I grow up. He was so caring, giving and understanding. Anything he could do to help someone, he’d do it and he never looked for praise.”

His trademark  upbeatness and kind character prevailed even under the circumstances — when nurses asked how he was feeling on a particular day, Mingoia always responded with a chipper “I’m great! How are you?”

This, of course, was not at all surprising to those who knew him.

“He was a sweetheart of a man,” said Suffolk County Sgt. Arthur Hughes, Mingoia’s colleague for more than 30 years. “Everyone loves Sal. You can’t say anything bad about him.”

Gina Mingoia, 19, said her dad was always “so strong and hopeful right up until the end.” She regularly shared the stage with him as a two-piece band, serving as lead singer while he played guitar during gigs throughout the area. They played everything from country to classic rock, from covers to songs they wrote together

“It was comforting,” she said on rocking alongside her dad. “Now, if I ever have to sing the national anthem or anything and my dad isn’t with me, I’m going to get panicky. I need him. He’s like a safety blanket.”

Sal Mingoia, on right, was a musician from a young age. Photo from SCPD

His daughters said while they both saw Mingoia as the best dad ever and knew how beloved he was by peers and colleagues, it wasn’t until the wake that they grasped just how many lives he touched. During the first service alone, Samantha said nearly 800 people, maybe more, showed up creating a huge line that wrapped around O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Miller Place and stretched down the street. Even a friend of his from kindergarten, from North Carolina, came to pay his respects.

“They all said the same thing — that he treated them like they were the most important people to him,” Samantha Mingoia said. “He always made everyone feel so special.”

A graduate of Centereach High School, Mingoia, one of seven children, played football and competed in track and field while excelling in math and science. An avid musician from the moment he was able to hold a guitar, he played in numerous bands throughout his life, the first being a family band with his father and brothers.

“He was talented, handsome, nice, always good to people — he was just born special,” said his older sister Eydie Gangitano. “And I’ve got to tell you, I think Sal was my mother’s favorite, I really think he was. And we didn’t care, because he was all of our favorite.”

“He was talented, handsome, nice, always good to people — he was just born special.”

— Eydie Gangitano

Mike Pollice, a friend of Mingoia’s for more than 40 years, met him in school and said although they were on opposite ends of the spectrum — Mingoia being seemingly well-grounded while Pollice was a self-
proclaimed “troubled kid” — Mingoia saw past that, and initiated a conversation with him over music. The two had played in bands together ever since.

“He had a heart like nobody else,” Pollice said, who described Mingoia as the salt of the Earth. “I really would not be the man I am today if it weren’t for him. The path he led me down with music served me well and kept me out of a lot of bad things in my younger days. In school, he was the guy who stuck up for people getting picked on. He was a friend to everyone. A very rare kind of person.”

After high school, Mingoia wound up at the police academy even though being a cop wasn’t exactly what he had planned for himself. His childhood friend Kenny Kearns was a New York City police officer and planned to take the test to transition to Suffolk County and encouraged Mingoia to take it too. He ended up getting a better result than Kearns and decided give the occupation a try. He joined the police department in April 1987, spending his career in the 5th and 6th Precincts and was an active officer in the Crime Scene Section
when he died, an analytical field he much preferred over issuing traffic tickets.

“He didn’t like ruining people’s days, he liked making people’s days,” Kearns said of his friend. “If Sal pulled you over, and you had a good excuse and were sorry, that was good enough for him.”

Sal Mingoiaa Suffolk County police officer, working in the Crime Scene Section when he died. Photo from SCPD

Kearns often visited with Mingoia at Mount Sinai Hospital when he was sick, and was present when he passed away.

“The last time I was in that hospital with Sal was 30 years ago when he donated blood to my father who was undergoing cancer-related surgery,” he said. “He’s been a constant in my life. Someone I could always count on. He was the true definition of a best friend.”

Those who knew him best say, despite how dedicated he was to his job on the force or as a friend, his greatest passion in life was being a husband to Denise, whom he married in 1990, and father to his two daughters. Not only did Mingoia never miss a day of work in his life, he never missed a family dinner or birthday party either.

“He was Superman,” Gina Mingoia said of her dad. “He always had his day full, but made room for everyone.”

She often thinks of goofy moments now when she thinks about her dad. Like when they were rehearsing a song and she struggled to remember an entire verse.

“He put his guitar down and rolled around on the floor, then stood back up and grabbed his guitar again,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Why did you do that?’ and he said, ‘So you would never forget that line again.’”

For Samantha Mingoia, she said she’ll simply miss sitting around the house with her father.

“Every night we all ate dinner as a family and then just never left the table,” she said. “We’d sit there until 9 p.m. talking about the day, philosophies about life, politics, anything. The house is definitely quiet and empty now.”

Ellen Barcel. File photo by Elana Glowatz

South Setauket resident, local gardening columnist and former Arts & Lifestyles editor Ellen Barcel, 72, died after a battle with cancer July 16.

Her friend Judy Hallock said the writer and editor died peacefully in her home and was happy to spend her last days with her dog Teddy Bear, cat Daisy and friends.

Hallock said Barcel retired from teaching social studies in the Patchogue-Medford Union Free School District in 1996 and was an avid follower of gardening, quilting, having afternoon tea with friends and playing the dominoes game Mexican Train. Barcel was involved for decades, even serving on the board of trustees for a period, with the Southold Indian Museum, which is dedicated to the study and education surrounding archaeology and natural history. She was a Master Gardener through Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Hallock said Barcel was an only child and moved to Long Island with her family in her late teen years and attended Stony Brook University. While Barcel leaves behind no husband or children, Hallock said the former TBR employee “grew a family around her” with her friends.

“She earned it by being who she was,” Hallock said. “She was always a great friend.”

Hallock remembers Barcel as always being there for others and providing a shoulder to cry on and will always remember her smile, good nature, kindness and enthusiasm.

Barcel began as a freelance writer for Times Beacon Record Newspapers after retiring from teaching, and July 15, 1999, became the editor of the Arts & Lifestyles section.

Jane O’Sullivan, a former editor of a few TBR Newspapers, said she remembers Barcel’s love for animals and gardening.

“She was interested in so many things,” O’Sullivan said. “I can’t think of anything that bored her.”

Both O’Sullivan and Marie Murtagh, former executive editor of TBR Newspapers, remember Barcel as always being fun to work with during the years they worked together in the office.

“She used to say she loved her job because there were so many good things going on,” Murtagh said.

Murtagh said the A&L editor always did a great job in gathering information about local events.

“She was somebody who enjoyed all the things that Long Island had to offer and other people finding out about them and enjoying them as well,” she said.

This year Barcel received an honorable mention from the New York Press Association in the Best Special Section/Niche Publications category for her freelance work on the 40th anniversary supplement for TBR Newspapers. “Stiff competition is the only reason this pub did not place,” judges wrote. “Beautifully done.”

Donations in Barcel’s memory can be made to the Southold Indian Museum, 1080 Main Bayview Road, Southold, NY 11971.


With heavy hearts, the staff of Times Beacon Record News Media say goodbye to a beloved colleague.

Leah Dunaief, publisher

“Ellen Barcel was a totally professional journalist and a pleasure to work with,” Dunaief said. “She was a fine writer, committed to her work and to the community. Her world was made more beautiful by the flowers she loved and surrounded herself with, and she tended her responsibilities with the same care that she gave her garden. Ellen was a loyal and gentle friend, and we will miss her greatly.”

Johness Kuisel, general manager

“She was a beautiful and talented writer who composed her column in her head after reviewing pictures she had taken, and the words just flowed,” Kuisel said. “Her Times Beacon Record family will miss her talent and good nature.”

File photo by Ellen Barcel

Heidi Sutton, editor of Arts & Lifestyles

“I met Ellen in June of 2013 when I started working for the paper,” Sutton said. “I had read her gardening column for years and was a big fan. When she decided to retire from the paper as the Arts & Lifestyles editor in 2013, I had big shoes to fill. She continued to write her gardening column and freelance but most of all became a good friend. Ellen often spoke of spending time in her garden. That’s how I’ll remember her — walking through her garden admiring the flowers, gently scolding her dog Teddy for eating all the tomatoes and smiling.”

Kathryn Mandracchia, advertising director

“I absolutely loved working with her,” Mandracchia said. “She was kind, always smiling, and a joy to be around. I am saddened by her loss, and I will miss sharing pet and plant stories with her.”

Ellen Segal, director of classified advertising

“Ellen Barcel was a smart and very sweet lady,” Segal said. “When I first came to TBR Newspapers, editorial was on the main floor near my new office, and I was impressed by her work ethic and her community knowledge. She reached out and welcomed me and, of course, we both exclaimed we didn’t know too many people with the name we both shared, Ellen, derived from the same Greek root — which means light, torch or bright.”

Meg Malangone, office coordinator

“Ellen was a beautiful, sweet individual, inside and out,” Malangone said. “Once you got to know her, you were graced with a wonderful, sometimes sassy personality. She loved her gardening and her pets. She bloomed wherever she was planted. Ellen was sunshine, and those who knew and loved her, were warmed by her smile and the light she brought to others’ lives.”

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