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Rock

Asharoken Village beach. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers rescued five men after their boat struck a rock and began taking on water in the Long Island Sound Sept. 9.

Francisco Aguilar and four friends were on a fishing trip in a 20-foot Pro Line runabout when the boat struck a submerged rock, damaging the engine’s lower unit and breaching the hull, causing the vessel to take on water.

Alerted by a 911 call, Marine Bureau officers responded aboard Marine Bravo. Marine Delta, the U.S. Coast Guard, Huntington Harbormaster, Asharoken Police Department and a SCPD helicopter also were dispatched. Asharoken police spotted the disabled vessel from shore and guided Marine Bravo to the location.

Arriving about seven minutes after being dispatched, Marine Bureau officers Charles Marchiselli and Erik Johnson took Aguilar, 34, and the four other men, Walter Sanchez, 19; and brothers Banos Villalobos, 25; Jose Villalobos, 29; and Elmer Villalobos, 22, aboard the police boat. The Marine Bureau crew began efforts to keep the men’s boat from sinking, securing the vessel to the police boat and setting up a dewatering pump. Once the vessel was stabilized and in tow, the five men, all from Brentwood, were transported to Soundview Ramp in Northport.

Conditions at the time of the rescue were northwest winds of 15 knots and 3 to 4 foot seas. There were no injuries and all of the men refused medical attention. Aguilar was issued two summonses for violations of the New York State Navigation Laws.

The Suffolk Police Marine Bureau reminds boaters to check the marine weather forecast before boating, make sure that properly-sized life jackets are available for all passengers, and to check that all legally-required safety equipment is carried aboard, serviceable and accessible.

A rock, that sits in front of a home in Rocky Point and is believed to be a boulder deposited from glaciers thousands of years ago, is part of a Suffolk County spending controversy. Photo by Erin Dueñas

By Erin Dueñas

The massive boulder that sits in front of the boarded-up house at 30 Sam’s Path in Rocky Point looms large in the childhood memories of Annie Donnelly, who grew up there. When she was 8 years old, the rock was the place to be in the neighborhood — the place local kids would gather for use as a clubhouse or a fort or even just to climb. Years later, teens would find the rock made a great place for a first kiss or a first swig of beer.

“It was the focal point for so many of us,” said Donnelly, who is now retired and living in Florida. “It was the go-to place for many of our first times in those days.”

The rock, which measures 50 feet long and 35 feet high, was even the site for Donnelly’s wedding reception in 1971.

The home which the rock sits in front of, at 30 Sams Path, was purchased last year for $107,000. Photo by Erin Dueñas
The home which the rock sits in front of, at 30 Sams Path, was purchased last year for $107,000. Photo by Erin Dueñas

“There was a dance floor built by my dad behind the rock and we decorated it with flowers from around town,” she said. “It was an enchanted wedding.”

With her fond memories, it comes as no surprise that Donnelly supports efforts spearheaded by Suffolk County legislator Sarah Anker to acquire the property and turn it into a “pocket park.” Donnelly recalled that her father never minded when kids played on the rock, even though it sat on his front lawn. “Any kid could use it,” she said. “We knew it belonged to the town and everyone in it.”

According to Anker, efforts to acquire the property where the rock sits began after campaigning in the area last year, and listening to neighbors who weren’t concerned with the rock, but more with the dilapidated, empty house behind it.

“Neighbors asked about doing something with the zombie home,” Anker said. “Revitalizing the property was the main objective of the initiative.”

Anker pointed out that she never submitted legislation for the county to purchase the property with tax dollars like it’s been reported — stressing that public funds would not be used to purchase it. She said she is in talks with several not-for-profit organizations including the Nature Conservancy and the Peconic Land Trust, who may have an interest in helping to purchase the property for public use. The house was purchased though, last year, for $107,000, and the current owner has signaled that he could be willing to sell.

While some like Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Smithtown) says it’s “preposterous” and “embarrassing” to buy a rock, community members and historical leaders view the piece of property differently.

“Rocky Point is very proud of this rock,” said Rocky Point Historical Society President Natalie Aurucci Stiefel. “It’s a natural wonder and the town takes pride in it.”

“Neighbors asked about doing something with the zombie home. Revitalizing the property was the main objective of the initiative.”

—Sarah Anker

She said that the rock is likely how Rocky Point got its name. Local legend contends that it was once a spot frequented by Native Americans in the area, lending it its nickname, Indian Rock. Stiefel said that like many of the rocks on the North Shore, the boulder was deposited from glaciers thousands of years ago.

Anker said that there are many benefits to revitalizing the spot, which as it stands now, depreciates the value of the entire community. She noted the historical and natural value of the rock, as well as value of remediating the blighted area.

“There’s also the educational value,” she said. “I imagine a child looking at that boulder from thousands of years ago in awe.”

Dot Farrell, of Sound Beach, said she passes the rock frequently and considers herself sensitive to the historical significance it plays in the town. But she has reservations about what the acquisition of the property could mean for the town.

“Pocket parks become drug hangouts,” she said. “We don’t need another one.”

She also questioned where the money would come from to maintain the property, even if the initial purchase was made without tax dollars.

“It’s going to need ongoing upkeep and there are so many other things to spend money on,” she said. “I prefer my town didn’t take on anymore obligations that they don’t need. I want my town to be as fiscally savvy as I try to be.”

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Singer/songwriter to take fans down a road of memories

John Denver tribute artist Ted Vigil. Photo by Heather Bunker

By Rita J. Egan

On Feb. 13, music lovers will be traveling country roads, and not-so country roads, to Theatre Three in Port Jefferson when the venue presents Ted Vigil: A Tribute to John Denver.

John Denver tribute artist Ted Vigil. Photo by Heather Bunker
John Denver tribute artist Ted Vigil. Photo by Heather Bunker

For the last few years, Ted Vigil has been touring the country with the tribute show and providing the late singer’s fans a night of musical memories. When Douglas Quattrock, the theater’s group sales coordinator and director of development and marketing, and Vivian Koutrakos, managing director, found out the singer was interested in performing on Long Island, they watched a video of him and were extremely impressed.

Quattrock said that Vigil not only physically resembles the late singer but also perfectly captures how Denver would sing and perform right down to every intonation. “I was blown away because I grew up with his music,” he said.

Preferring rock music when he was younger, creating a John Denver tribute show wasn’t always the musical road Vigil was on. However, he couldn’t escape many noticing the resemblance to Denver, who died in a plane crash in 1997. He was only 53.

“I get it every day. I get it at the grocery store. I get it when I’m jogging with my ski hat on. It’s the first thing that my mother-in-law said when I met her 30 years ago: ‘You kind of look like John Denver’,” Vigil said in a recent phone interview. 

When he began performing as a teenager in Olympia, Washington, Vigil would sing and play drums with local rock bands. The entertainer said the resemblance to Denver wasn’t as obvious when he was younger. He admitted he used to have big ’80s hair — “permed and ratted up. I definitely had a different look going on,” he said.

Vigil said that while his style of music was different from Denver’s, he was familiar with the singer’s songs because his mother would play the musician’s 8-tracks in her car.

While Vigil always enjoyed performing, after he got married and had children he took a break from the stage and worked as a truck driver. Through the years, his music style also changed. “As I got older I kind of started moving away from the harder rock and started listening to other stuff,” he said.

Once his children were older, Vigil started performing again, and the Denver look-alike found his musical style meshing with the legend’s more and more.

‘It’s the first thing that my mother-in-law said when I met her 30 years ago: You kind of look like John Denver.’ — Ted Vigil

In 2006 he, along with thousands of contestants from 28 states, New Zealand, Australia and Canada entered the Talent Quest 2006 contest in Laughlin, Nevada. He arrived at the contest prepared to participate in the rock/pop category where he sang the Led Zeppelin song,“Rock and Roll,” and the Guns N’ Roses hit, “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” When he arrived, someone suggested he also enter the country category.

While he didn’t win in rock/pop, he walked away with first place in the country category singing Denver’s “Annie’s Song” and “Rocky Mountain High.” While he was in Nevada, many commented on how he resembled the late singer, and after that he entered and won the KOMO TV 4’s Northwest Afternoon Celebrity Look-Alike Contest.

At his appearance at Talent Quest, he caught the attention of a pilot and sound engineer that both had worked with Denver, and they encouraged him to do a tribute show. His first one was in 2006, and by 2009, he was touring all over the states.

In 2010 Steve Weisberg, a former lead guitar player with Denver, began to perform on stage with Vigil. The singer said while touring for four years with Weisberg, who passed away in 2015, he learned a lot about Denver, and during downtime on the road, the guitar player would share with him how the late singer would approach songs.

“He was fun to play with and people loved him. He told stories and jokes on stage about his experience working with John. I really miss Steve,” the singer said.

Vigil admitted that even though he knew a few guitar chords, he needed to learn more for the tribute show, because Denver was an accomplished guitar player. Once he learned the songs on the instrument, he said he was blown away by the technicality.

“It was really a challenge for me to learn these songs on the guitar. I didn’t realize how great a guitar player John was. Also, how difficult it was to sing in a more quiet tone, and you have that voice control, you have the long extended notes, and with all the bravado and all that, it’s really beautiful. John used his voice like an instrument. He was just a really technical singer,” Vigil said. 

John Denver tribute artist Ted Vigil. Photo by Heather Bunker
John Denver tribute artist Ted Vigil. Photo by Heather Bunker

The singer, who also is a songwriter, released an album in 2010 with his own and Denver’s songs. Currently, he is working on his next CD with all original tunes. He said performing Denver’s songs has affected his performances overall. “John has definitely influenced me a lot as far as style and just being a more rounded singer, instead of screaming rock ‘n roll stuff,” he said.

Vigil, who had the opportunity to play at Denver’s Windstar Foundation in Aspen before it dissolved, is looking forward to the intimate setting of Theatre Three. The singer, who has performed both solo and with a seven-piece band, said he’ll be bringing his solo show to the theater. While he enjoys performing with a band, he feels in some settings the audience can hear the lyrics better when there are less instruments, which he finds fitting for Denver’s music. “I think John’s music really was emotional, and it really hits the heart,” the singer said. 

Vigil said he will perform at Theatre Three many of the songs that music lovers remember of Denver’s including “Rocky Mountain High,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Annie’s Song” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” He also enjoys performing “Grandma’s Feather Bed,” “Like a Sad Song” and “Poems, Prayers and Promises,” which weren’t played on the radio as much as the legend’s other songs.

“My favorite songs are some of the side B record songs where they didn’t get a lot of airplay but they are just beautiful songs,” he said.

The singer will also perform a couple of his own pieces, including “Sing My Songs,” which he wrote as a tribute to Denver and other popular singers who have passed away.

Vigil is grateful to be touring and meeting so many interesting people and sharing their memories of Denver. He believes music is an important part of life. “It’s such a wonderful thing — music. It really helps people I think emotionally and spiritually and mentally to cope with life because life is hard,” he said.

Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson, will present Ted Vigil: A Tribute to John Denver on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person. For more information, visit www.theatrethree.com or call 631-928-9100.

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