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Stony Brook

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Louise Wasilevitch turns 107 Oct.29. Photo from Alice Anderson

One Stony Brook resident has more than a century to celebrate at the end of the month.

Louise Wasilevitch in a photo taken circa 1914. Photo from Alice Anderson

While she may not be the oldest resident in the Three Village area, Louise Wasilevitch has more life experience than most. On Oct. 29, she will celebrate her 107th birthday.

Wasilevitch said to enjoy a long life one should have a lot of interests — advice she has followed. In her lifetime, she has belonged to many clubs, made textiles with a floor loom, golfed, sang with a church choir, played the violin, led a Girl Scout troop, painted and enjoyed handcrafts.

Before her husband Julius passed in 1995, the couple traveled around the world to places like Japan, England and Scotland. Now, she enjoys visiting family and friends, watching golf, listening to classical music, rooting for the New York Yankees and traveling to New Hampshire on vacation with her daughter and son-in-law — Alice and Chuck Anderson.

She moved to Stony Brook in 2009 to live with her daughter and son-in-law, after living for nine years in East Northport and decades in Greenlawn, according to her daughter. Born in New Jersey in 1911, Alice Anderson said her mother, who grew up in Brooklyn, spent three years in Russia as a young girl when her father traveled back to the country to live with family due to health concerns and financial difficulties. Anderson said it’s interesting to hear the stories of living on a farm in Russia in the early 1920s when her mother would sleep in an alcove dug out of a chimney over the fireplace to stay warm.

She also worked during a time when many companies didn’t accept married women working. Wasilevitch was employed with an insurance firm called London & Lancashire on Wall Street, but when it was discovered she was married, she was asked to leave, according to her daughter.

With all the interesting things she has experienced in life, Wasilevitch said she finds the internet the most impressive thing she has seen. Her daughter said she loves that they can look up information whenever they have a question and write to relatives in Czechoslovakia.

Anderson, who is 78, said she always admired her mother’s knack with people.

“She just inspires me — I’ve always told her that — by just the kind of person she is,” Anderson said. “She likes everybody. She looks for the best in everybody and is always ready to help, whether it’s advice or money. She just loves everyone in the family, and I can’t think of anybody that she ever met that she hates.”

Anderson said when it comes to her mother’s upcoming birthday get-together, even her own friends want to be part of it, and Wasilevitch said it’s nice to feel wanted.

“I just like people,” Wasilevitch said. “I never met anybody I didn’t like. I really haven’t.”

Wasilevitch will have two big celebrations before the end of the year. In addition to her upcoming birthday party, her grandchildren, Heather, Jennifer and Emily will be home to spend Christmas with her along with their grandmother’s eight great-grandchildren.

Setauket Elementary School students were ready for the first day of classes, Sept. 5. 2017. File photo by Rita J. Egan

It’s back to school time, and we want to help you commemorate the occasion. If your child attends one of the following school districts and you’d like to submit a photo of their first day of school attire, them boarding or arriving home on the school bus, or waiting at the bus stop, we may publish it in the Sept. 6 issues of Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Just include their name, district and a photo credit, and send them by 12 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5 with the subject line “Back to school,” and then be sure to check Thursday’s paper.

Email The Village Times Herald and The Times of Middle Country editor Rita J. Egan at rita@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Three Village School District
  • Middle Country School District

Email The Times of Huntington & Northports and The Times of Smithtown editor Sara-Megan Walsh at sara@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Huntington School District
  • Northport-East Northport School District
  • Harborfields School District
  • Elwood School District
  • Smithtown School District
  • Commack School District
  • Kings Park School District

Email The Port Times Record and The Village Beacon Record editor Alex Petroski at alex@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Port Jefferson School District
  • Comsewogue School District
  • Miller Place School District
  • Mount Sinai School District
  • Shoreham-Wading River School District
  • Rocky Point School District

Happy back to school!

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.”

File photo

Two Suffolk County police canine section officers rescued a man who attempted to commit suicide in Stony Brook April 30.

Sixth Precinct officers responded to a call April 30 at approximately 10:15 p.m. from a man who was concerned that his friend intended to commit suicide in a wooded area near Seabrook Court.

Officers were unable to immediately locate the subject and requested assistance from canine section officers Christopher Fezza and Michael Cassidy. Cassidy and his canine partner Thor located the man in a tree with a noose around his neck. Fezza climbed the victim’s ladder, which was next to the tree, and when the man started to hang himself, the officer pressed him against the ladder. Cassidy gave a knife to Fezza who cut the rope and lowered the man to the ground as 6th Precinct officers assisted.

The victim was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for evaluation.

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Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating a murder-suicide that occurred at a Stony Brook home.

Sixth Precinct officers were called to Pembrook Drive after a family member of the residents called 911 to report the discovery of two deceased adults at the location.

Following an investigation, it was determined Raymond Foster, 79, shot his wife, Sandra, 78, and then shot himself, according to Suffolk County police. The two were pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

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Tom Manuel, left, owner of The Jazz Loft, and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, third from right, along with local musicians look forward to the Swing into Spring! jazz festival to take place in Stony Brook village March 27 to 31. Photo from Kara Hahn's office

Mother nature may disagree, but the calendar shows spring has arrived, and Stony Brook village is planning to help Long Islanders celebrate.

Swing into Spring!, a jazz festival scheduled for March 27-31, is where Long Islanders can enjoy the music at village restaurants. Tom Manuel, owner of The Jazz Loft, where some of the concerts will be held, said the lineup of talent ranges from solo artists to two 17-piece big bands. He said a variety of styles and genres of jazz will be presented, including traditional, bebop, folk and emerging fusion. The festival was made possible by a county grant secured by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

“It’s just exciting to think about spring and getting out,” Hahn said.

The legislator obtained the grant in the fall when there was extra money for cultural arts in the county’s hotel and motel tax fund. She said the cultural arts category of the fund is to enable ways to spur economic development through the arts. The project was included in the adopted 2018 Suffolk County operating budget.

“I had wanted to help The Jazz Loft and Stony Brook village,” Hahn said. “I’ve been trying to think of ways from an economic development perspective of using grant money that could help the businesses in the community.”

“The idea was to showcase musicians from varied points of the Island from both Suffolk and Nassau County.”

— Tom Manuel

Manuel said he was excited about the news of the grant, and after a few phone calls and a meeting with Hahn, presented the legislator with the idea of the five-day festival featuring jazz musicians from all over the Island.

“The idea was to showcase musicians from varied points of the Island from both Suffolk and Nassau County, and also to offer an educational component which will be our Wednesday workshop on jazz improvisation,” the venue owner said, adding the workshop would be followed by a jam session for all musicians of all ages and abilities.

Manuel said the festival will include performances by guitarist Steve Salerno, trombone player Ray Anderson, accordion player Rich Dimino, the Eddie Balsamo Quartet and more. In addition to appearing at The Jazz Loft and The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, the musicians will play at Pentimento, Sweet Mama’s Family Restaurant, Lakeside Emotions Wine & Spirits and Three Village Inn.

Hahn hopes once jazz lovers visit Stony Brook for the festival, they’ll want to come back in the future to the shops and restaurants, and more Long Islanders will become familiar with The Jazz Loft and Manuel.

“I grew up in Stony Brook village so seeing what Tommy was able to do with The Jazz Loft — I know it’s been good for the village,” Hahn said.

Gloria Rocchio, president of WMHO, said she enjoys working with Manuel on projects and believes the festival will be good for the village.

“We do things with Tom all the time, and this is just another extension of how we collaborative so well together,” Rocchio said.

The WMHO president said on the night of March 28, barring no weather setbacks, there will be plenty of different things for visitors to do and see.

“People can actually stroll from one location to the other,” she said.

Manuel considers Stony Brook village a hidden gem, and said he believes collaborations like this festival bring out the best of what the area can offer.

“I hope that this event introduces people to our town that will not only enjoy it, but will come back again and again to experience all we have to offer,” Manuel said. “I am thrilled that Legislator Hahn has reached out to collaborate with The Jazz Loft, and that we can bring live jazz into so many of our restaurants and businesses.”

For more information on Swing into Spring!, visit www.thejazzloft.org or www.stonybrookvillage.com.

A home on Stony Brook Road was condemned after the Town of Brookhaven found the homeowner had the garage and basement illegally converted into apartments that housed Stony Brook University students. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) had a warning for unscrupulous landlords who illegally turn residential homes into rooming houses.

“Don’t do it,” Romaine said. “We’re coming for you.”

One landlord found that Sept. 8 statement to be true March 9 when the Town of Brookhaven Law Department condemned a house at 1423 Stony Brook Road in Stony Brook, where eight people were sharing the home, according to a press release from the Town of Brookhaven. Seven of the residents were found to be students of Stony Brook University. The landlord of the ranch-style house that had been unlawfully converted to include living space in the garage and basement was not named by the town.

“This was one of the worst cases of illegal student housing that we have seen in the Stony Brook area,” Romaine said in a statement. “Off-campus housing that is not in compliance with town building and fire codes threatens the health and safety of the students who reside there and the neighbors who live nearby.”

Romaine attributed the discovery of the violations to the town’s law department and the vigilance of neighbors who contacted the town. He urged students and their families to ensure their housing compiles with town code.

At the Stony Brook Road home, the town found bedroom doors equipped with key locks, and some rooms containing refrigerators and microwaves. In addition to the illegal basement and garage apartments, with two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom in each, the basement had a coin-operated washer and dryer.

The law department issued the property owner several housing code violations, including no smoke detectors, no carbon monoxide detectors, no rental permit and illegal use as a rooming house. The owner’s school tax assessment relief property tax exemption was revoked, and both the Suffolk County District Attorney and New York State Attorney General’s offices have been notified for prosecution.

Bruce Sander, president of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, said the organization reported the house to the town, calling the members the “eyes and ears of this community.”

“We are glad that this landlord will get the fines, etc. that he or she deserves, and I hope they shut this house down permanently and sell it to a family,” Sander said. “This type of landlord does not belong in any community when they openly violate the laws and put the students at risk as well as destroy property values of the surrounding neighborhoods.”

SBU offered dorm rooms on campus to the displaced students. In the last five years, the university has been working collaboratively with the Town of Brookhaven, the Suffolk County Police Department and local community groups to address safety concerns for students living in off-campus housing, according to a statement from SBU spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow.

Before the house was condemned March 9, the town notified university administration, and a coordinated effort was conducted by the school’s government and community relations, campus residences, dean of students’ office and commuter student services and off-campus living to find rooms for the students, according to Sheprow.

At the Sept. 8 press conference, Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the president of SBU and senior vice president for government and community relations, said the school takes great steps to ensure students’ safety. Among measures the university has undertaken since March 2013 are prohibiting advertisements of off-campus rentals on SBU’s website, unless the landlord can provide a Brookhaven Town rental permit, and prohibiting posting on campus bulletin boards. The university also holds tenants’ rights workshops to help students understand what to look for when renting.

In 2013, Romaine launched a mobile phone app, available on Apple iPhones and Android mobile devices, to help fight illegal off-campus housing in the town. To download the free mobile app, visit www.brookhavenny.gov from a mobile device.

Residents can also call 631-451-TOWN (8696) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to report housing violations. For more information or to access the town’s code book, go to www.brookhavenny.gov.

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‘The Slave’s Grave,’ oil on panel, by Shepard Alonzo Mount. Image from The Long Island Museum

By Beverly C. Tyler

William Sidney Mount, Setauket and Stony Brook’s famous genre artist, was a keen observer of nature and human nature, and he enjoyed traveling around Long Island, especially his native villages of Stony Brook and Setauket. In 1853, Mount wrote to his friend Chauncey Marvin Cady  about walking through a former slave burial ground on the family farm and noticing a beautifully carved gravestone. It is believed the graveyard is located behind the Hawkins-Mount house at Stony Brook Road and Route 25A.

“(I) was so much struck with the sublimity and originality of one of the monuments to a distinguished fiddler, and as my late Uncle Micah Hawkins wrote the epitaph and placed the stone to the old Negro’s memory, and as you are an advocate for musical genius, I felt it my duty to send you a copy. I have sat by Anthony when I was a child, to hear him play his jigs and hornpipes. He was a master in that way, and acted well his part. Yours, very truly Wm. S. Mount.”

The gravestone of Anthony Clapp, now preserved in the collection of The Long Island Museum. Image from The Long Island Museum

William Sidney was not the only Mount who appreciated the gravestones in the “former slave burial ground.” In The Long Island Museum collection is an unsigned painting attributed to his brother Shepard Alonzo Mount that features two gravestones standing as silent sentinels in an otherwise bucolic scene — one the gravestone of Anthony Hannibal Clapp.

Kate Strong, a Long Island historian, and great-great-granddaughter of Anna Smith Strong, wrote in the May 1954 issue of the Long Island Forum, “Though William S. Mount … was a little boy when Tony died, he never forgot the Negro and kept the fiddle (engraved on his gravestone) fresh painted as long as he lived. … There it stood until a few years ago when it was removed for safekeeping.”

The epitaph on the tombstone for Clapp was composed by Micah Hawkins, uncle of William Sidney and composer of “The Saw-Mill, or a Yankee Trick,” America’s first performed operetta. The stone was carved by Phineas Hill, a stone carver from Huntington. The edited copy from The Long Island Museum Art Collection reads: “Entirely tone less; honor and shame from no condition rise — Act well thy part, there all the honor lies. Anthony Hannibal Clapp.

Born at Horseneck, Connecticut, 14 July 1749 — Came to Setauket in 1779 — Here sojourning until he died 12, Oct. 1816. … Upon the violin, few play’d as Toney play’d, his artless music was a language universal, and its effect most irresistible! Ay, and was he not of Setauket’s Dancing-steps-a physiognomist, indeed he was. Nor old nor young, of either sex, stood on the floor to jig it, but he knew the gait. Peculiar to their hobby, and unasked, plac’d best foot foremost for them, by his fiddle. This emblamatic lachrymatory, and cenotaph’s the grateful tribute of a few who know his worth.”

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

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Darrel Blaine Ford will be the featured poet at the Second Saturdays poetry series at All Souls Church in Stony Brook Feb. 10. Photo from All Souls Church

By Daniel Kerr

The Second Saturdays poetry series will be returning to All Souls Church, 61 Main St., Stony Brook, on February 10 at 11 a.m. Suffolk County Poet Laureate Gladys Henderson will host the readings. The featured poet will be Darrel Blaine Ford, a Walt Whitman devotee for more than 75 years. He will read poems from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” including “Song of Myself.”

Ford was born on Long Island in 1930, where Whitman had been born more than a hundred years before. Similar to Long Island’s most famous poet, Ford has long white hair, a snowy beard and stands over 6 feet tall. He has often said that he and Walt Whitman have much in common.

“I’m a happy guy, and I think Whitman was, too,” Ford said. “There are people who stress his loneliness, and that was certainly a component of his life, but I think he was a glass half full rather than a glass half empty sort of guy. I wish I were as creative as he was, but I think I have the capacity to appreciate creativity, and I know he did, too.”

The poet has been impersonating Whitman since 1987, often visiting schools and libraries on Long Island dressed as the “The Good Gray Poet” — complete with a carpetbag and a cane with his face carved on it.

“I had no great desire to be more than what I am, and that is just somebody who is available when you need a Whitman,” Ford said.

An open reading will follow the intermission, and all are welcome to read their own work or that of another. Please bring a can of food to donate to help feed the hungry in our area. For more information, call 631-655-7798.

The Reboli Center for Art and History is located in Stony Brook at the former site of the Capital One Bank. File photo

It’s much more than a place to go to appreciate the work of late artist and painter Joe Reboli.

Located at the former site of Capital One Bank across the street from where Reboli grew up in Stony Brook, the Reboli Center for Art and History, which opened a little more than a year ago, blends a collection of art from the prolific painter with works by other local artists, rotated every three months.

Housed in an A-frame white building with blue awnings, the center has showcased the work of artists including Ken Davies, who was Reboli’s teacher and mentor.

Reboli was born and raised on Main Street, not far from where his name is memorialized.

He and his family had a long history in the area. His grandfather ran a business across the street from where the center now stands, and decades later his aunt worked in the same building when it was a bank.

He died in 2004 at age 58 after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Since his death, his wife Lois Reboli had been attending makeshift meetings at coffee and kitchen tables across Three Village with a squad self-identified as The Rebolians, working to make sure Joe Reboli’s story lived on.

“[The center is] hopefully a gift back to the community my husband loved so much,” said Reboli, a former art teacher.

The Reboli Center is named in honer of late Stony Brook artist Joe Reboli. File photo

He was on the board of the Three Village Community Trust and Gallery North. When asked by his wife why he attended those gatherings, she said he told her he loved the community and wanted to support it in some way.

“I didn’t really understand it at that point,” she said. “I did after he got sick, and I just really wanted to give something to the community so they would remember Joe.”

As part of the center’s cultural contributions, free talks are given with local artists, and, after a successful musical debut, the center may be the site of future concerts.

Donna Crinnian, a photographer whose pictures of egrets were featured at the center in the fall, called the center a great addition to the community.

“Everybody in the community likes having it there,” she said. “They get a really nice crowd coming in for the speakers.”

Besides Reboli, the idea for the studio gallery came together with the help of Colleen Hanson, who worked as executive director of Gallery North from January 2000 until her retirement in September 2010. She worked alongside Lois Reboli after Joe passed and also helped launch the first Reboli Wet Paint Festival weekend at Gallery North in 2005.  Hanson also worked with B.J. Intini, a former Gallery North assistant and executive director who is the president of the Farmingville Historical Society.

“I made a vow that we would do something for [Reboli],” Hanson said. “If we were to find a space, it had to be in Three Village and it had to have a Joe-like feeling. Now, I pinch myself and think, ‘This is so cool.’ We love this community. We want it to be even better and richer for everybody, and I see this as a beautiful upbeat place where people want to be.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is credited with helping to make the purchase a reality, Reboli said. He helped the three, self-dubbed the “tres amigas” create a not-for-profit called the Friends of Joseph Reboli, with a mission of collecting, preserving and exhibiting artwork and artifacts related to Joe Reboli. The group filed for federal 501(c)(3) status in 2012.

Reboli had been looking for a suitable place to share her late husband’s work with the public and had been demoralized by a few false starts when she wondered if she would be able to find the right spot.

“If we were to find a space, it had to be in Three Village and it had to have a Joe-like feeling. Now, I pinch myself and think, ‘This is so cool.’”

— Colleen Hanson

It wasn’t until March 2015 when Hanson said she heard of Capital One in Stony Brook potentially leaving the historic landmarked building at a price tag of $1.8 million. Englebright spearheaded securing a $1.3 million state grant that went toward the purchase of the building, and two anonymous $150,000 donations turned the dream into a reality.

“He went to bat to help us get as much funding as we could,” Reboli said of the lawmaker. “He was remarkable.”

She signed the contract Sept. 25, 2015 — her late husband’s 70th birthday.

“It’s everything I hoped for and more,” Englebright said of the center. “I have heard from dozens of people and they are absolutely thrilled that this is a new part of the cultural dimension in our community.”

Englebright said the late artist’s paintings open up a wide range of conversations about the interaction between nature and development. One of his favorites is of three gas pumps in front of a coastal scene on the North Shore.

“He put this scene together that clearly to me is an expression of concern regarding the impact of overdevelopment, on a way of life, and on the beauty of Long Island,”
Englebright said.

In its first full year of operation, the center, which is free for guests, has hosted a range of crowds and events. In May, it welcomed a visit from the Commack High School Art Honor Society. In late October, world-renowned cellist Colin Carr, who has appeared with the Royal Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Montreal Symphony and is teaching at Stony Brook, performed at a benefit concert.

He said the way the sound worked its way through the building was an unexpected
surprise.

“When I went in there and played the cello briefly as a trial run, it was immediately apparent that this was perfect for the cello,” Carr said. “It’s always exciting to walk into a new place, whether it’s a room or concert hall or even a church, to sit down and start playing and feel that there’s an immediate rapport between me, the instrument and the space.”

Carr is the one who suggested that the center would be a “wonderful place for a small music series.”

Reboli said she is thrilled with the direction the center is taking and suggested the showcase is far beyond what she had imagined when she first discussed highlighting her late husband’s artwork.

On a Friday in late November, the building hit a high-water mark with about 180 guests in attendance, Reboli said.

“I would have been happy with a wall somewhere,” Reboli said. “This has morphed into something that would have been unimaginable before. Never did we expect to have a place like this. This is a miracle.”

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