Search

legacy of love - search results

If you're not happy with the results, please do another search

Peggy Loucks holds up photos of her late father, Allen Ulmer, and his creation, Micro-Face. Photo by Julianne Mosher

A character who ended up in the public domain is now being resurrected, given a new life. 

Photo from Peggy Loucks

Peggy Loucks, of Port Jefferson, received a call last month from a co-host with NPR’s “Planet Money” podcast — a show that tries to find creative and entertaining ways to make sense of big, complicated economical processes — asking for her blessing regarding her late father, a comic book artist.

One time, the podcast made a T-shirt, tracing the supply chain from the cotton source to the factory. It purchased and followed the travel of 100 barrels of crude oil from ground to gas, and even launched a satellite. 

In February, the podcast decided it wanted to purchase a superhero. 

Kenny Malone, a co-host with the show, said that “Planet Money” wanted to investigate the superhero entertainment economy. He was joined by fellow host Robert Smith.

“Superhero movies had become the highest grossing movies — the merchandising around superheroes was also incredibly large,” Malone said. “So, we wanted to understand this.”

Malone noticed that characters who were making tons of money were not new — they were all characters that were between 40 to even 70 years old — and they are part of the two major superhero conglomerates, Marvel Comics and DC Comics.

“We had this idea,” he said. “What if we tried to buy a superhero off one of those companies? What if we tried to buy one of their older characters that is just not very well known? And then we could try to figure out how to build a mini-superhero empire.”

In need of a hero

The three-part series, which aired on Feb. 12, 19 and 26, dove into the team’s attempt to buy a superhero off Marvel — originally asking to bid for Doorman, whose superpower is to turn into a door. He never had his own movie for obvious reasons. 

After several attempts to contact Marvel for interviews and to purchase the unhinged superhero, they declined and eventually stopped responding. 

“We think they declined for an interesting economic reason,” Malone said. “Even the silliest unknown character has the potential to become a $10 million, $100 million piece of intellectual property.”

In its first episode of the series, “We Buy a Superhero: Origins,” the duo mentioned “Guardians of the Galaxy” character Groot who was once deemed undesirable, but who is now a pop-culture icon. 

The guys behind “Planet Money” had to find a new tactic. They were on a mission. They began looking into copyright law and what happens to a creative entity when it gets moved to the public domain. 

“Every piece of copyright eventually falls out of copyright and gets put into the public domain where it is fair game for anybody to do something with,” Malone said.

Photo from Loucks

Part of it is to incentivize creativity, he added, where the creator can get exclusive rights to it, and make a profit. But the other part of it, is as a country when copyright law was established, was that if people hold onto that copyright forever, it could stifle creativity. 

“A second phase of creativity can be spawned, and people can do things with those characters, songs, books,” Malone said. “And much to our delight, we learned characters fall into the public domain. Superheroes will eventually fall into the public domain.”

Malone and Smith began delving into the world of public domain superheroes, going through hundreds upon hundreds of characters who once graced the pages of books. 

“We stumbled across this character that we could not believe was real,” he said. “We couldn’t believe it was not custom made for us.”

That character was from the golden age of superheroes, created in the 1940s featuring a mask and giant microphone upon his face as his power. His name was Micro-Face, who appeared in Clue Comics from Hillman publishing. 

A podcaster of the past

“This is basically like a 1940s podcaster, even though they didn’t know what a podcast was yet,” Malone said. “We loved it.”

Micro-Face was in the public domain — so he was fair game to do anything with — but the guys at “Planet Money” wanted to find out more about this lost superhero. That’s when they found out that the artist who created him, Allen Ulmer, had a daughter who was still alive and living right here in Port Jefferson. 

According to Loucks, Ulmer, who passed away in 1984 at age 64, was an artist back in the golden age of comic books. Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he studied at the Pennsylvania School of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, but always loved creating his own comic characters. 

“So, he moved to New York City and joined the art league there,” Loucks said. 

Ulmer began working for several different comic book companies, including Marvel, DC and Hillman. He took a break from drawing when he served in World War II, but then came back from the war and continued his artistry until the 1950s. 

But during that time, there was an attack on the superhero industry that no one could help save. Between the McCarthy era, plus the backlash among parents who blamed comic books for their children’s delinquency, comic books became censored and hundreds of artists and publishers lost their jobs. 

“My father was on that blacklist,” she said.

Photo from Peggy Loucks

Now 83, and a retired librarian from the Middle Country Public Library, Loucks was just 5 when her father initially created the superhero now getting a facelift.

“Micro-Face was one of his favorite characters [who] never had the chance to take off,” Loucks said. 

When Ulmer lost his job, he moved his family to Long Island where he was a founder of the Port Jefferson Arts Festival and a member of the Art League of Long Island of Dix Hills. He began focusing on fine art and educational film, never doing comics again.

For whatever reason, the publisher decided decades ago not to renew the copyright for Micro-Face, leaving the character to fall into the public domain. 

Malone and Smith knew they didn’t necessarily have to ask Loucks for her permission to use the character, but they felt it was right to talk to her, find out more about his creator and keep that legacy alive. 

“My father would have loved this,” Loucks said. “You know, who would have thought that after all these years? Here comes this character back into the public eye again.”

The future of Micro-Face

Malone said that now that the three-part series is completed — and available for streaming online now — they will continue working toward actually creating a comic book based on Micro-Face. 

Working alongside comic book industry leaders, the team plans on writing a book based on the grandson Tom Wood — the alter ego of Micro-Face originally drawn by Ulmer in the ’40s.

“This person is our new character and he works in radio like us,” Malone said. “So, this is going to allow us to write in some plot points about business and economics and have a little bit of learning … but this is fundamentally still a comic book and is inspired by the direct heritage to the character Peggy’s father created.”

Malone said he does not know the exact release date of the comic book, but it is currently being worked on by the new Micro-Face team at “Planet Money.” Joining the podcasters are Alex Segura, co-president of Archie Comics and friend of Malone, Jerry Ordway, Peter Krause, Taylor Esposito and Ellie Wright — “all of who know what they’re doing when it comes to building a comic empire,” Malone said. 

He added that to continue with the “Planet Money” way of immersing themselves into the actual process, they will be updating listeners every step of the way. 

Peggy Loucks holds up photos of her late father, Allen Ulmer, and his creation, Micro-Face. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“We’re very excited about it,” Malone said. “You start these things, and you don’t know where they’re going to take you, but Peggy is just amazing and her father really was prolific. It makes me very sad to think that he clearly was very good and very creative, and the industry just was rocked in a way that knocked a lot of people out of it.”

While listeners and comic book lovers wait for the revival of Micro-Face, T-shirts are currently available on NPR’s website featuring Ulmer’s original design. Proceeds from the sales go back to the nonprofit National Public Radio to support radio shows and reporting.  

“Peggy told us that she was very excited about this,” Malone said. “Her father would have liked this project, so that made us very happy and made it make us feel good going forward with this.”

Stay tuned.

Photo from Mount Sinai Fire Department photographer, Elliot Perry

Jaime Baldassare, an active Mount Sinai community advocate, passed away last week after a battle with COVID-19. 

A retired Suffolk County corrections officer, Baldassare dedicated his life to volunteering in the Mount Sinai and surrounding communities. He served on the Mount Sinai School Board, was a past president of the North Shore Youth Council for a full decade, held the title of former vice president of the North Shore Colts and was ex-chief of the Mount Sinai Fire Department. 

Photo from Mount Sinai Fire Department photographer, Elliot Perry

“It’s difficult to sum up someone like him in a few sentences,” said Andrew Samour, assistant chief at the Mount Sinai Fire Department. “He will be missed.”

Samour said Baldassare was with the department for 26 years.

“He was a dedicated firefighter for this department,” he said. “He was a fun guy to hang around with and had a great sense of humor.”

Baldassare was previously the assistant chief at the department from 2009-2015, and most recently served as chief from 2016-2017. 

In 2017, he told TBR News Media that he loved helping other people.

“There’s nothing quite like when you pull someone out of a fire or out of a wrecked car and you find out the next day that they made it,” he said. “It’s a feeling you can’t describe. I love to do this. We train to be the best we can be so anytime a call comes in, we’re ready to do whatever it takes to help the people of Mount Sinai.”

When Baldassare wasn’t putting out fires, he was helping his wife with the Heritage Trust. Lori Baldassare founded Heritage Park nearly two decades ago, and he was right by her side. 

Victoria Hazan, president of Heritage Trust, said that he could be found joking and chatting with people visiting the center. 

“He surely will be missed, that’s for sure,” she said. “He was a great contributor to Heritage and truly well-loved by many people in the community.”

Baldassare was brought to Stony Brook University Hospital in December where he was diagnosed with the virus. 

He was just 62 years old when he died on Feb. 4. 

“He’s done so much for the community,” Hazan said. “Even though he was in the background, he was an asset to Heritage.”

From left: Legislator Sarah Anker, Heritage Trust Vice President Brad Feldman, Jaime Baldassare, Heritage Trust Treasurer Lori Baldassare, and Heritage Trust President Victoria Hazan. Photo from Leg. Anker’s office

On Sept. 10, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) joined the Heritage Trust Board of Directors to honor Baldassare for his dedication and service to the community. 

“I want to personally thank Jaime for all the years of service he has provided to our community,” Anker said. “Our community has been so positively impacted by Jaime. Among Jaime’s many contributions, he was instrumental to the creation and maintenance of our beloved Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.”

The North Shore Youth Council is mourning his loss, too. 

Robert Woods, executive director, said he will be greatly missed.

“Jaime Baldassare served diligently for many years on our board of directors. He always served with joy during his time as president and made great strides in helping youth and families cope in our communities,” he said. “His legacy helped shape our unique prevention model, which supports hundreds of youth today.

Baldassare is survived by his wife of almost 30 years Lori, and his three children, Katie, Jesse and Cody.

Members of the Sound Beach Fire Department, like Captain Greg Ferraro, give blood in memory of one of their own. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Almost five years after his death, an ex-captain of the Sound Beach Fire Department’s memory is still helping to save others. 

Jim Ford passed away on June 2016 after serving in the department for more than two decades. A beloved member of not only the department, but also within the Sound Beach community, Ford always was there to help. His wife, Nancy, still participates and volunteers with the auxiliary.

“Jim filled many shoes out of the office and in the office,” said Bill Rosasco, first assistant chief. “He loved it. He loved doing it. He loved being here at the firehouse.”

On top of his many roles, he founded and ran the department’s January blood drive, so it was only fitting to name it after him in 2018 — the first drive after his passing.

And on Saturday, Jan. 16, his memory was brought back at the firehouse at 152 Sound Beach Blvd., getting people together for something good. 

Ever since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, blood donations have been at an all-time low, according to the New York Blood Center. Schools, businesses and community centers halted blood drives early on, in fear of too many gatherings and the uneasiness of the virus. 

Sound Beach Fire Departmen’ts ex-captain, Jim Ford, who passed away nearly five years ago, is still making an impact at the fire house with an annual blood drive in his name. Photo from Stefanie Handshaw

The Sound Beach Fire Department usually hosts two blood drives in honor of their own. January is dedicated to Ford, while July memorializes Ex-Capt. John Drews Jr. But because of the pandemic, the July drive was canceled. 

The drive this past weekend was the first since the pandemic began.

“We wanted to still run this blood drive,” said Chief Darran Handshaw. “Even though we shut the department down for all the other meetings, we still wanted to do this because we know how important it is.”

Handshaw said that everyone on the board wanted to make sure the January drive went on, despite the department shutdown. 

“This is an emergency,” he added. “We need to get blood out there.”

He said that to make this month’s blood drive work, they took precautions including temperature monitoring, social distancing and a fogger machine that can decontaminate the room before the event and after. 

But the drive wouldn’t be happening without Ford’s spirit. 

“This would be something that Captain Ford would be here helping out with, even during [the pandemic],” Handshaw said. “It’s an honorable effort for an honorable man, so we’re going to do something honorable that serves the community for him and his death.”

Saturday’s event had more than 20 appointments, a dozen walk-ins and 31 pints of blood were collected, according to Margaret DeTurris, president of the department. Each pint of blood can help up to three people — so these 31 pints will impact 93 lives. 

“Jim was a great example  of wisdom and honor,” Handshaw said. “In my eyes, that inspired a lot of us to behave well and do the right thing for the community. He’s missed every day.” 

The Sound Beach Fire Department is actively seeking volunteers to serve as firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The department provides free training for those positions. To join contact the chief’s office at 631-744-2294.

By Melissa Arnold

For decades, Carmela Kolman labored over canvas and paper to capture the world through her eyes. Painting was her greatest passion, and coupled with great talent, it carried her work to galleries across the United States.

But it wasn’t always easy. Kolman also had Marfan syndrome, a rare connective tissue disorder that can affect the entire body. In daily life, she struggled with her eyesight, and ultimately died from complications of the condition in 2018. She was 57.

In recognition of Kolman’s extensive career and her contributions to the local art community on Long Island, Gallery North in Setauket is hosting a retrospective exhibition titled Visions. The solo exhibit features 17 pieces that reflect much of Kolman’s career, from her early days as a student to the final years of her life.

Painting was Kolman’s first love from an early age, even though she was blind in one eye and her vision was severely impaired in the other. In an artist statement from Aug. 2016, she wrote: “I painted constantly, with my face pressed close to the canvas. I would have to really look and study things to make them out … I could not recognize something more than three feet from me ­­— Blue eyes? I didn’t even know what blue eyes were … My vision was blurry, and I painted what I saw.”

Despite her difficulties, Kolman pressed on. She received a bachelor’s degree in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), then attended Yale for a master’s degree in painting. Her cloudy painting style earned her high praise, even as she dealt with constant self-criticism and frustration.

It was during her time at RISD that Kolman met John Rizzo, who attended nearby Brown University. The pair wouldn’t get acquainted until much later at a party hosted by a mutual friend in Chicago, but Rizzo called the experience a work of fate. They married in 1989.

“I’m a professor and economist with zero artistic talent,” joked Rizzo, who shared 28 years of marriage with Kolman. “We were an unlikely couple, for sure. I think our friends were surprised at how we took an interest in one another. But she was an incredibly tender-hearted person, very open and empathetic.”

At 22, Kolman had cataract surgery, catapulting her vision from a cloudy haze to an overwhelming perfection she didn’t know how to process. She stopped painting for several years, only starting again while recovering from a cardiac incident. From then on, she sought to integrate the impressionistic blur of her early work with the realism that came along after her eye surgery.

Gallery North’s Executive Director Ned Puchner didn’t have the chance to meet Kolman, but worked closely with Rizzo to choose work that reflected every season of her life and artistic style.

“These paintings capture something about reality that goes deeper than what we see,” Puchner said. “[Carmela] was influenced by the impressionists and the Fauvists, and would focus on singular objects over and over again in an almost meditative way. I’m really impressed by the attention to detail. Her work is breathtaking.”

Rizzo noted that Kolman preferred still life portraits, especially of fruit and flowers. Today, one of the rooms in his Port Jefferson home has rose-themed decor, with her rose paintings hung all around.

“She liked to play with different kinds of light, shading and shadow, and still life allowed her to control those elements carefully,” he explained. “It’s hard to choose a favorite painting, but I love all of the rose portraits. How many people can say their wife left beautiful oil paintings to remember her by? They help me to feel close to her.”

After her death, Gallery North approached Rizzo with an idea: Why not establish a fellowship in Carmela’s name, allowing other artists the time to create while sharing their expertise with others?

The Carmela Kolman Fellowship in Fine Art program will award one artist per year 10 weeks of studio time at the gallery. In addition to pursuing their artistic practice, the fellows will also teach workshops, help to organize community programming, or assist with classes as needed. The first fellow, Meagan Flaherty, will exhibit her work in 2021.

Carmela Kolman: Visions will be on view at Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket from Oct. 8 to Nov. 8. Admission is free. The gallery is currently open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. A virtual reception will be held via Zoom on Oct. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org.

Images courtesy of Gallery North

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has called on residents to donate PPE for health care workers and first responders. File photo by Kyle Barr
As the number of people infected and hospitalized by the coronavirus Covid-19 rises, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is asking the community to donate personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of first responders and health care workers.

“We are launching a supply drive for personal protective equipment,” Bellone said on a conference call with reporters. “This is an opportunity for all of us to come together to support the men and women who are on the front lines to keep us safe to contain the spread of the virus.”

Bellone is seeking N95 masks, ear loop masks, gloves, and gowns from individuals or businesses. As Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) order to shut down barber shops, nail salons and other personal care services takes effect, some of the businesses may have equipment that could save the lives of those people who are helping others afflicted with the virus.

“We are going to be making a direct appeal to those industries,” Bellone said. “We will be doing direct outreach to them so we can ask them to support this effort.”

Starting on Monday, individuals and businesses can bring the supplies from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank, located at 102 East Avenue.

Bellone expressed appreciation that Cuomo said this morning that Long Island would receive 500,000 masks, but indicated that the need in the coming weeks and months would likely exceed that supply.

“We need to do more,” Bellone said.

Starting on Monday, the Suffolk County Police Department, meanwhile, will require residents to report all non-emergency incidents online or by phone. These include harassing communications, lost property, criminal mischief and vandalism, minor traffic incidents, identity theft, among other non emergency reports.

“The last thing we can afford to do is take the people on the front lines off the battlefield,” Bellone said.

Bellone praised the efforts of schools to provide grab and go meals for students. He thanked Island Harvest and Long Island Cares for their ongoing efforts to meet this growing need.

The number of infected residents has climbed to 662. That includes 55 people who are receiving treatment in the hospital, with 14 of those in Intensive Care Units.

The virus has killed two additional residents. A woman in her 80’s passed away at Huntington Hospital, while another woman in her late 80’s died at Peconic Landing. A total of nine residents have died from the pandemic.

Officials expect the number of infected individuals will continue to climb, especially after the Stony Brook University Hospital mobile testing site started administering tests this week. At this point, the mobile unit has tested over 1,500 people.

Suffolk County Chief of Police Stuart Cameron reiterated the necessity of keeping up social distancing to contain the spread of the virus. He suggested that people aware of someone violating restrictions should call 631-852-COPS. He is aware of 26 such reports, with only one instance of a violation when officers arrived. Officers will attempt to seek compliance first.

“My experience, talking to younger folks, is that they don’t seem to be concerned about this because of reports that they won’t be seriously ill,” Cameron said on the call. “They need to be told that they can affect someone who is vulnerable and that [the person who gets the virus] could die.”

Cameron suggested that officers would start engaging in non-traditional law enforcement roles to protect the public amid this ongoing crisis.

Cuomo, meanwhile, urged seniors to follow Matilda’s law, which is named for his mother. This law provides protection for New Yorkers who are 70 and older and for people with compromised immune systems and those with underlying illnesses. He urged that group to remain indoors unless they are exercising on their own outside, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, not to visit houses with multiple people, wear a mask when others are near, ask others to wear masks in their presence, maintain social distancing of six feet and avoid public transportation when possible.

Model Jean Patchett wears a Hulitar gown in 1952 for fashion magazine Vogue. Photo by Francesco Scavullo.

By Melissa Arnold

Before Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors became icons in the fashion world and a fixture of department stores everywhere, there was designer Philip Hulitar.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Hulitar was designing distinctively tailored and elegantly decorated cocktail dresses that were worn by the likes of Jane Fonda, Rosemary Clooney and Patty Duke. In 1949, a journalist wrote of him, “The star of a gifted designer has risen recently on the fashion horizon.”

Hulitar developed a passionate following on Long Island, where he lived and gave generously in support of his local community. So it was only fitting to host the first exhibit dedicated exclusively to his work and legacy at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Titled Gracefully Chic: The Fashions of Philip Hulitar, the show opens in the museum’s Art Museum on the hill on July 27 and runs through Oct. 20.

Curated by LIM’s Deputy Director and Director of Collections & Interpretation Chief Joshua Ruff, the exhibit has been years in the making, beginning with a single dress. The yellow silk chiffon gown with a green sash and floral accents was purchased at Henri Bendel in New York circa 1955 and was worn by Carolyn Fell of Nissequogue during her teen years. It was donated to the Long Island Museum in 1998. 

Ruff has included the dress in a few other exhibits over the years and always wanted to know more about the man who designed it. 

“This exhibit is unique in its dedication to a single designer. He’s never truly gotten his due in a museum project before, especially on this scale,” he said. “There are a lot of museums that have one or two Hulitar pieces in their collections, but to have the opportunity to gather so many pieces in one room is really special.”

Born in 1905 to a Hungarian diplomat and an Italian noble, Hulitar immigrated to the United States during the Great Depression. For 18 years, he worked as chief designer for the Bergdorf Goodman department store before launching his own brand in 1949.

Philip Hulitar dress, Museum of the City of New York

“Philip Hulitar’s work really evokes mid-20th century America. He was tremendously successful during that specific time in history,” Ruff said. “All major cities carried his label, from large department stores to small boutiques. In postwar society, parties and social events were hugely popular, so having several elegant dresses was a priority. Hulitar’s pieces were accessible to people in middle and upper middle class who needed fine evening wear at prices they could afford.”

Hulitar gained a reputation for his creative use of different materials, complex and elegant textures, and mixing synthetics with traditional fabrics like silk and satin. While he liked to employ a variety of cuts and silhouettes, Ruff said that Hulitar was very conscious of how a particular look would fit each person. 

“At his core, Hulitar was about making the feminine form even more beautiful,” Ruff said.

Gracefully Chic will include original drawings from Hulitar, along with apparel and dresses borrowed from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and a variety of other public and private sources. 

In all, the exhibit will display 45 garments and more than 100 objects and images. 

The Long Island Museum also benefits directly from the generosity of the Hulitar family. In 2016, the museum received a large monetary donation from the Hulitar Family Foundation, and the museum has since named its textile collection after them. The Mary and Philip Hulitar Textile Collection houses more than 10,000 objects, from a 1790s wedding dress to a pair of Jordache jeans.

Visitors to the exhibit will also have the unique opportunity to visit the “interactive dressing room,” an area designed to resemble an early 1960s department store. There, they can try on a Hulitar replica in various sizes. Velcro panels make it easy for the dress to fit over regular clothes, and visitors are encouraged to take pictures and show off their style. 

Those looking to explore fashion at a deeper level will want to join the Long Island Museum on Sept. 26, when they host Behind the Runway. This special dinner will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the museum and will feature guest speaker Madelyn Shaw, textile curator at the Smithsonian American History Museum. Shaw will speak on the development of American fashion in Hulitar’s era.

“I think people love to see fashion exhibitions, especially with such an interest in retro fashion today,” Ruff said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for people out here on Long Island to come and see these pieces in their backyard, without having to go to New York City.”

Gracefully Chic will be on view at the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook from July 27 through Aug. 25. Regular museum hours are Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students 6 to 17 and college students with ID. Children under 6 are admitted for free. For further information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

Principal Robert Grable speaks at the 2019 high school graduation. Photo by Bob Savage

Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable passed July 19. He was 49.

Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable addresses the graduating class of 2015. Photo by Erika Karp

Grable joined the school district in 1998, teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grade before moving up to assistant middle school principal and in 2005 to middle school principal. He would become high school principal in 2010, during a reshuffling of staff where TBR News Media reported at that time he was there to help facilitate a “diversity of staff.”

In his earlier years, before he entered into education, Grable played Major League Baseball for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He can be found in the Suffolk sports hall of fame. He was a lifelong resident of Connetquot and father of three girls.

“The community, school district and its teachers, administrators and staff are devastated by his untimely loss,” the school district said in a statement.

But if his true calling was education, it showed, according to both those who worked with him and those students he guided.

Lynn Jordan, a Mount Sinai resident who had been on the board of education since 2007 until this year, said the high school is where he truly thrived.

“That was his building — that was where he belonged,” she said, only a few hours after learning of his passing.

The high school principal would be instrumental in several programs that saw the high school thrive, Jordan said, including a “collegial observation process” that had teachers sit in on other’s instructors classes, having them learn from each other. While the program met with some initial resistance, it soon became an important part of teachers mentoring each other, especially for those just coming into the district.

“Teachers are very funny about having other people in their classrooms while they’re teaching,” she said. “It grew tremendously, I think about every teacher was participating in the collegial rounds eventually.”

Scott Reh, the district’s athletic director, knew Grable for nearly 20 years, having been one of his closest comrades. He said the principal cared about the students like they were his own children.

“He had a vision — he was a presence in the high school,” Reh said. “If you look at the Mount Sinai high school, rob created that, he made it.”

Vincent Ammirato, who taught and coached alongside Grable, would later work under him as principal. He said he remembered joking, saying Grable once worked for him, and he was now his boss. Even with him moving up in the district, Ammirato said the principal never lost that personal connection to his students.

“The kids loved him, the parents loved him, the teachers loved him,” he said. “It’s very rare that you find that in education or any walk of live to be loved by so many people.”

Students who took spent years with the principal, both in the middle and high schools, would come to see him as more than just an administrator.

Daria Martorana, a Mount Sinai native who graduated in 2014, said she had travelled the road from middle to high school with Grable, adding he was magnanimous to her and the other students.

“To say Mr. Grable was a passionate and dedicated educator is an understatement,” she said. “He has always been the one who his students could go to for a laugh when we were down, guidance when we were lost, and help when we were confused… he would even escort us to class so we didn’t get in trouble for not having a late pass.”

To those who paid attention to his methods, Grable took a look at teaching like a coach would on the baseball field, seeing how each individual student has strengths that had to be pushed and nurtured. He was adamant that students just looking to coast through easy courses should challenge themselves.

“They mentored them all through the year, making sure they were really getting what they needed,” Jordan said. “He worked with kids, he tried to make the final outcome better.”

“That was his building — that was where he belonged.”

— Lynn Jordan

Grable spoke at the 2019 senior commencement ceremony just last month, June 28. Jordan said that, even though he had spent nearly 19 years in the district and could have moved up higher in administration, he considered the high school his home.

“Robert Grable was so much more than a principal,” said Gabriella Conceicao, a 2014 Mount Sinai graduate who would later become a teacher in the district. “There are few educators who take the time to get to know their students on a personal level and he was one of them. He built relationships that would last far beyond high school and he touched the lives of countless students and faculty members… I feel so lucky to have known him as a principal, friend, mentor, and coworker.”

Community reaction to the news on Facebook was swift in its condolences, with one resident calling him “one of the most compassionate educators Mount Sinai has ever had.”

The school district announced it would be closed at 3 p.m. Friday, July 19 until Monday July 22 in observance of Grable’s passing.

“There are no words to show the impact Mr. Grable has had on each and every one of his students,” Martorana said. “We are so lucky to have had him as a mentor and teacher but more importantly as a friend.”

*This post was updated July 19 with additional information and quotes.

** This post was updated July 22 with additional quotes

Teacher Brooke Bonomi holds a prize a student won during a halftime Simon Says game at the Feb. 8 Basketball game fundraiser. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Rich Acritelli

“America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.”

Brooke Bonomi, right, during his run from Montreal, Canada, to Hudson, New York. Photo from Rich Acritelli

These words of service, which were spoken  by the late President George H.W. Bush, are the lifelong giving code of Brooke R. Bonomi. He is a social studies teacher, coach and adviser who after 33 years in education will be retiring from Rocky Point High School. This distinguished educator has devoted his entire life to carrying out local and national tasks toward the betterment of his own home community and that of this North Shore school district.

Bonomi’s story began many years ago as a native of Woodside, Queens, who had moved to Syosset when he was 8 years old. This 57-year-old teacher vividly recalled a happy home life that saw his father work as a New York City firefighter and his mom was a housewife who cared for their three children. With a big smile, Bonomi laughs at his memories of playing endless hours of manhunt, competing through soccer and lacrosse and running many miles through the hills of eastern Nassau County and western Suffolk County. Running was a strong fit for Bonomi, who excelled at this sport in college and later ran the Montauk and Long Island marathons.

As a capable student-athlete, Bonomi was also the senior class president for Syosset High School. Always armed with a big smile and a unique personality, he created a contest among the student body titled “Why I Want to Go to the Prom with Brooke Bonomi.” As he mentioned this memory, Bonomi laughed and explained some of his fellow peers perceived this event as being pathetic, while he always saw it as a genius way to garner support for a school function. During his senior year, Bonomi was a three-sport athlete who was recruited by Johns Hopkins, University at Albany and Boston University to play soccer. To make life economically easier for his father, Bonomi received an appointment to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.  

In 1980, this native of Syosset entered the service where he planned to earn a military education with the chance of playing soccer. While he made it through basic training and conducted sea operation on the Eagle, this military institution was not a good choice for Bonomi. Although he liked being in uniform and the camaraderie of the military, he struggled with his grades and the rigidness of this school, and he was honorably discharged after his first year. In 1981, Bonomi returned home and made plans to enter SUNY Oneonta, where he later majored in political science and speech communication.  

It was at this school that Bonomi flourished with his own independence and creativity. Always a fan of music and performances, he and his friends established the Wondering Winter Wonder Men. This group sang two Christmas songs for a $1 to provide holiday cheer to the students while raising money for charity. Bonomi was also the captain of the cross-country team where he distinguished himself. With his friends, he ran the grueling length from Oneonta to Fire Island and from Montreal, Canada, to Hudson, New York, which was located just south of Albany. During these exhausting journey’s, he traveled a long way on foot and when he needed to rest, Bonomi slept on the lawns of people’s houses. With his witty sense of humor, he was also the disc jockey for the university radio station, worked at a local restaurant, was a resident’s assistant within the student dorms and delivered furniture. This was a golden time for Bonomi as he played sports, ran, worked various jobs and established his own sense of free will he would later use as an educator. Always an avid reader and analyst of history and political science, Bonomi appreciated both his liberal and conservative professors who allowed him to freely present his own views on these subjects. While Bonomi is a free spirit that is often pulled in many directions, he has an agile mind which has allowed him to fully express knowledgeable beliefs on many historical and political topics of discussion.

Brooke Bonomi, left, during a Live Like Susie event. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Once he graduated college in 1985, Bonomi believed that he was going to enter the Peace Corps. It was not until he went home to Syosset that a local neighbor and New York City social studies teacher expressed to Bonomi that he should enter education. Again, Bonomi went back to Oneonta and was enrolled in the education program to enter a field that would become his life’s work. Bonomi learned that there were positions opening up at Longwood Central School District. When he was looking at a map to locate Middle Island, he noticed that Rocky Point was not too far from this district. This Nassau County man learned of Rocky Point through a shirt that his friend wore about this town and school.

In 1986, Bonomi walked into the main office of the Rocky Point High School and ran into longtime teacher, administrator and coach, Michael P. Bowler. This former assistant principal was leaving teaching as a social studies teacher and entering administration. Bowler was the first person that Bonomi met in this entire district and he recollected, “It was in a way serendipitous that Brooke walked into the office that day because we needed to hire a teacher to replace me. I spoke to Brooke for quite some time and I could see that he was full of positive energy and enthusiasm and grounded in a deeply rooted value system … I just had a feeling that he would make a great addition to our school and community. The rest is history.”

Unlike the urban areas of Syosset, Bonomi enjoyed the rural feeling of Rocky Point, dominated as it was by the beauty of the conservation preserve located behind the high school. Bonomi was always known for his enthusiasm, but he was a little hesitant to be involved in different activities. Dan Galvin, the principal of the high school, wanted him to start coaching. At first, Bonomi refused to do so, as he wanted to allocate enough time toward lesson planning for the rigors of his new assignment as a seventh-grade American history teacher. He was originally at the crossroads of the high school, as he was one of the youngest employees to be hired at a time when there were few jobs in this market. Right away he showcased his unique teaching strategies, showing numerous film clips tied to his teaching content, writing songs like “Born an Iroquois,” and even teaching about the brutal cold weather that Continental soldiers had to endure at Valley Forge by standing in a bucket of ice.

As he became more comfortable with his instructional routines, Bonomi coached junior high lacrosse. Since 1986, Bowler and Bonomi have had a tight bond that saw them mold students through education and athletics. As a athlete, Bonomi coached girls junior high, junior varsity and varsity soccer. He ran with his players and personified a can-do attitude through times of both victory and defeat. At a low point during one game, the parents of his own players were openly criticizing their soccer abilities. As the girls were competing, he walked over to the parents and told them to lay off their own kids, as they were doing their best, during a difficult time. This action cemented a trademark of loyalty that Bonomi always presented to his students and athletes that he instructed.  

In 1988, Bonomi brought his musical talents to the students of Rocky Point through his well-known organization of the Singing Santas. This group originally presented musical holiday spirit to the nursing homes, soup kitchens and local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts. Three years later, Galvin expressed to Bonomi that while he was doing an outstanding job outside of the school, there were parents who wanted him to sing for the student body. This began the legacy of a club that spanned from 1988 to 2016. He started the process of creating Christmas skits, playing song parodies that resembled the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, the Blues Brothers, Bon Jovi, Green Day and Dave Mathews. Bonomi took many artistic chances over the years that ended up making this club into a dynamic legacy.  

This success did not happen overnight, but through the combined determination of himself, the students and staff. Over several decades, Bonomi always promoted colorful skits, the Artic Horns and choirs of students who sang and danced to songs written by Bonomi. Social studies teacher Chris Nentwich was a key member of the Singing Santas who could be counted on to perform any type of acting role. He portrayed Jack Nicholas as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup from the film “A Few Good Men.” This satire was written by Scott Lindsay and the main part of “Colonel Ketchup” was acted by Nentwich, with support from Anthony Nobre, Sherin Shanahan and Andrew Aschettino. Through the colorful words of Lyndsay, he created a unique mini-play that saw the drama of “A Few Good Men,” with the humor of “My Cousin Vinny” through a comedic court room performance that saw Santa Claus put on trial. These were the traits of the Bonomi creed that saw both teachers and students working together to bring an unusual notion come to life. These performances gained the approval of a cheering auditorium. 

A key figure in the Bonomi story is fellow social studies teacher James McCormack. This educator never turned down any type of request by Bonomi for this Christmas production. His favorite part of the Singing Santas was the “Benny Hill” chase scene between Santa Claus and the Grinch. Like that of Nentwich, McCormack was a main figure during these shows and he fully believed that, “There were a million moving pieces and a lot that could have gone wrong, but that old Bonomi magic kicked in and it all worked flawlessly,” McCormack recalled. “That is what Singing Santa’s was — a symphony of controlled chaos with Brooke as the maestro. It was always a joyous experience.”

At the final show for the Singing Santas in 2016, the school was filled with students and their family members that had traveled near and far to thank Bonomi for the countless hours that he spent presenting this enormous pageant. Next to Bonomi was the musical talents of Michael Conlon, a guidance counselor who had been a member of several bands since his youth in Sayville. While Bonomi showed his genius through being an off the cuff individual, Conlon personified a balance in music to personally sing songs. They immediately connected, and Conlon stated, “The memories that I have of the Singing Santas experience will forever bring a smile to my face as it did so many students over the last twenty-five years to perform in many different venues.”  

Joseph A. Cognitore, the commander of Post 6249 Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars, always requested the help of the Santas to play for their annual holiday party. Cognitore was always amazed at the role of the students and he expressed that “Bonomi was a constant fixture to bring smiles to all of the people, especially the children that watched these shows. Over the years, he never hesitated to help veterans that were struggling at home or were serving overseas in combat areas.”

Another activity and immense pride for the school that Bonomi led over the last several years was the Be a Nicer Neighbor Club. This organization was originally established from a lesson on the Progressive Era, which Bonomi taught on the need for people to be respectful to each other. Bonomi credited Galvin for promoting the charter beliefs of this group and Principal Bill Caulfied for making it into a reality by formerly making it into a yearly club. 

In the early morning hours, Bonomi and the students cooked breakfast for the staff members, they made food for the homeless and school bus drivers. During the colder months, his students organized food and clothing drives and in the spring they conducted car washes. He helped build two 9/11 memorials placed in front of the school to remember the four lost graduates from Rocky Point. Just recently, he presided over Live Like Susie event to recall the positive joy of Susie Facini and to honor those current students that presented her values of kindness and devotion to the school. For many years, he ran the Senior Citizen Prom for the older residents of the North Shore. Bonomi had the students dress up as waiters, they played music and even ran the Pete Rose casino. He has taken students numerous times to Broadway shows and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in New York City.

There has been countless whiffle ball games, square dances, chess matches, after-school films and meetings where he presented his most recent plans to aid society and the nation. Always next to him were staff members where Bonomi is seen exhibiting a dynamic sense of camaraderie. He showcased this through efforts to help the misfortunate in Hubner’s Homeless Helpers. Social worker Jennifer Zaffino has been at pivotal friend at Bonomi’s side for years to promote these social and economic programs. Zaffino, with a immense smile, wanted to thank Bonomi for the “many beautiful, behind-the-scene stories of what comes of most of the fundraised money.” The money is allocated to an account for students in need and has been utilized to help adolescents who experience financial hardship.  “This is a small, but perfect example of how impactful Brooke’s ‘work’ has been for our students and their families,” she said.

And the culmination of his many projects was supremely demonstrated this past winter through the Wounded Warrior Basketball Game. The expertise that Bonomi showed was a colossal effort in creating four teams of players comprised of administrators, teachers, aides, security guards and groundskeepers. It was a student-centered game, as they were the coaches who made draft picks and trades through commentated announcements by Athletic Director Charlie Delargey. This event completely packed the gym, had a massive raffle, Simon Says for the children, shirts that were thrown to crowd and left many people wondering how Bonomi was able to make this event into a massive success. Bowler has watched these ongoing achievements by Bonomi and he stressed that this teacher “has always taught the students around him the value and the importance of reaching out and helping others through community service, and he did it in a way that made it fun for them.”

But while Bonomi has had the support of teachers, staff members and students, none of these vital programs would have been made possible without the loving support of his family. He credits the confidence that he received from the loving support of his wife, Eileen, who has stood by him during every activity. She has been the constant source of encouragement and the main cog of the family to completely guide this household. Bonomi, who is immensely busy, is always known to have stated, “that while it is important to help others, your greatest impact will be on your own children.” As a proud and devoted man to his family, he has utter happiness when looking at his children who are all now young adults.  

Bonomi with his family. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Currently, his son Colin graduated from Scranton University and is employed at a finance firm. His older boy Ryan excelled at his studies at Providence University and now is enrolled in law school where he is working with the Justice Department in Boston, Massachusetts. Lauren, his youngest child, is studying to be a physician’s assistant at Villanova University. Ever the sports fan, Bonomi watches Villanova’s basketball games and likes going to the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. He loved traveling to Woodloch Pines Resort in Pennsylvania and accompanying his wife and children to see the Zac Brown Band at Citi Field. With his family, Brooke has been supportive of his church, where he has organized youth groups, sang at holiday events and sold Christmas trees. While Bonomi brushes aside any personal acknowledgments that praise his talents as a teacher, he has been recognized several times as an educator of the year through different organizations and his church and home town has publicly thanked him for being such a selfless individual. 

As it has not yet hit many of us how hard the loss of Bonomi will be for the high school in September, it will be noticeable not to hear his keys jingling, the sight of him giving out raffle tickets for his Friday raffle and his contagious laughter. One thing is for certain, that many of the senior staff members will have to do more to ensure that the traditions that this educator created over the last several decades are continued from one year to the next for the students of Rocky Point High School.

Well, Bonomi will not be in the school for this upcoming year, but his presence will always be felt by the many lives of the staff and students that he has touched since 1986. You can believe that Bonomi will continue to stay active with his family and will continue doing all that he can do on a daily basis to help his fellow citizens in every possible way. Thank you to Brooke R. Bonomi for making the North Shore into a better place.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

Richard Anderson shows art skills to elementary student. Photo by David Luces

“They give me so much life — so much energy,” Richard Anderson, an Edna Louise Spear Elementary School art teacher said of his students. “It is so much fun.”

Anderson, who has been a fixture at the elementary school for the past 34 years, will retire at the end of the school year. He will be leaving behind a lasting impact on his current and former students over the years. 

Richard Anderson shows the artwork of one of the students. Photo by David Luces

“It has gone by so quickly, but I’ve had a blast teaching something I love,” he said, reflecting on his career. “I’ve been a part of the school community for so long and that’s coming to an end. I’ve been getting all these letters from the kids and it’s really nice but it’s sad at the same time. But it tells me that I have done a good job.”

Anderson’s love for art began when he was young. He fondly remembers a trip to The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan when he was 7 years old and laying eyes on the work of famed artist Chuck Close. 

“My art teacher took me down to The Museum of Modern Art, and they had huge airbrush paintings of Chuck Close and some of his friends,” he said. “At 7 I was like, ‘I want to be an artist just like him.’”

This began a lifelong passion for the Port Jeff art teacher. From there, he would go on to State University College at Buffalo to get his art degree. During that time, he started experimenting with chainsaw wood carvings. He mentioned one of his inspirations was Wendell Castle, a renowned art furniture artist.  

“I had experience with a chainsaw working in the woods, cutting down trees with my father,” he said. 

Anderson would compete in wood carving competitions in upstate New York and found success, winning some events. He said the wood carving scene has really grown over the years and has gotten more refined from carving bears and eagles into more complex designs, such as his rendition of a mermaid carved in wood. 

The elementary art teacher said he enjoys wood carving because it is challenging and pushes his personal abilities further. Anderson hopes to continue to do wood carvings for the village’s harvest festival as well as coming back to the school to do wood carvings for the students. 

Meghan McCarthy, a fellow art teacher at the elementary school, has worked with Anderson for the past two years and says he sets a great example. 

“He’s has been an excellent mentor,” she said. “He’s taught me to approach elementary art as a fine-arts program. He sets the bar high and it shows in the kids’ artwork and shows what they are capable of doing.”

“He laid down a solid foundation for me.”

— Meghan McCarthy

McCarthy said she really lucked out having someone like Rich who has immense amount of experience teaching. 

“He laid down a solid foundation for me,” she said. 

Anderson admits it will be hard for him to retire, but he is looking forward to spending more time with family, getting back into his artistic furniture business and enjoying motorcycling and hunting. 

“I’ve been really blessed to have had a great career and leave a good impact,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to work with some former students of mine and be able to teach some of my former students’ children.”

The Wading River resident said the students motivate him to push himself and in turn he pushes them. 

“It works together, these kids have so much ability and we need to support them,” he said. “I have been given his great gift and it has meant so much to me.”

Celebrated chef Michael Maroni died unexpectedly at age 57 Friday, March 8, while swimming in an indoor pool. One week later, his namesake restaurant in Northport resumed operations to the rhythm of the rock ’n’ roll music that he loved. 

Jose Vasquez of Maroni Cuisine. Photo by Donna Deedy

“Maroni’s is open,” said wife Maria Maroni. “Not only our doors but our hearts. Mike always said, ‘Maroni’s is not just business … it’s a beating heart.’ That’s what everyone feels when they come through these doors, not only amazing food and service … but love. Not only will that continue, but that heart will beat stronger and better than ever to make Mike proud. The beat goes on … come and see for yourself. If I can do it … so can you. Love wins.” 

Operations will continue with the same six chefs that have been cooking in the kitchen since Maroni Cuisine was established in 2001. The dining room and kitchen staff, Maria said, are committed to carrying on the legacy. 

The spot gained renown for both its menu-less, gourmet tasting meals and its hotpots of meatballs, prepared from the 110-year-old family recipe of Michael’s grandmother. The meatballs are served in cherry red enamel crockpots that are available for take out in a variety of sizes. 

The novel idea of serving fine cuisine alongside good home cooking became a quick success, Maria said, when she and her husband opened the restaurant near the harbor 19 years ago. 

Just a few wooden tables are arranged in the dimly lit dining hall. Candlesticks decorate the tabletops, while rock ’n’ roll memorabilia hangs on the wall.

The couple married in 1995 and from 1997 to 2003 they owned and operated Mirepoix, a popular upscale French-American restaurant located in Glen Head, before opening a second restaurant.

Somehow they have connected with the Northport community in a special way.

The couple’s photo is on display in the restaurant’s dining room. Photo by Donna Deedy

“Yes, the meatballs are good, but it’s really not just about the meatballs,” said Emily Climo, who prepares floral arrangements for the restaurant. “It’s about the love.” 

Lindsay Ostrander is co-owner of The Wine Cellar on Main in Northport. Her establishment offers patrons the cooking of other village restaurants, including Maroni Cuisine. She said that Maria’s eulogy for her husband was a moving, powerful and life-changing experience for her.

“I’m not sure if there’s a greater message,” Ostrander said. “Love wins.”

The original version of the story that appeared in the March 21 edition of the Times of Huntington Northport & East Northport incorrectly had the date of Maroni’s death. We apologize for the error.