Authors Posts by Donna Deedy

Donna Deedy

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A musketball found in Fort Salonga. Photo from Lamar Institute

Archaeologists from the Lamar Institute began a month-long search April 15 for local artifacts from the Revolutionary War. Their investigation covers three known battlefields in Fort Salonga, Setauket and Lloyd’s Neck and has so far turned up a musket ball.

Daniel Elliott, an archeologist from the Lamar Institute, uses ground-penetrating radar to see under the earth at Fort Slongo. Photo Lamar Institute

“All three battlefields are poorly understood in history,” said Daniel Elliott, president of the Lamar Institute. “This project seeks to locate and delineate the three battlefields and to interpret their findings, advancing our understanding of Long Island’s important role in the American Revolution.”

Their “dig” includes extensive research with ground-penetrating radar, systematic controlled metal detection survey, small excavations of key targets, laser transit mapping, drone-assisted aerial videography, laboratory analysis and public presentations.

The work is funded by a $60,000 grant from the National Park Services’ American Battlefield Protection Program and a $5,200 contribution from the Lamar Institute.

Local historian David M. Griffin, author of “Lost British Forts of Long Island,” is a major project collaborator.

The Lamar Institute is a nonprofit organization established in 1982 with the mission to conduct archaeological research and advance public archaeological education.

Barbara Russell, Town of Brookhaven historian, was involved in coordinating access to the Setauket site.

“This is quite exciting to have respected and qualified researchers from the Lamar Institute in and around our [Setauket] Green.”

The research team will be exploring the Lloyd Neck’s Fort Franklin April 29.

The public can see the resulting interpretations when completed by September 2020 on the Lamar Institute’s website at www.thelamarinstitute.org.

Richard Dormer served the people of Suffolk County for for 38 years. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

By Donna Deedy

Former Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer died at age 79 Sunday, April 21 after a three-year battle with cancer. 

Dormer, an Irish immigrant, became a police officer in 1963 and was among the first 800 officers in the department’s history. He climbed the department’s ranks and retired after 30 years of service as chief. Dormer was then appointed in 2004 Suffolk County Police Commissioner and served in that post until he retired in 2011. 

“Commissioner Dormer dedicated his life to public service, and he should be remembered for his commitment to public safety,” said current Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart. “I extend my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time to his family, including his children, two of whom are continuing his legacy as members of the Suffolk County Police Department, and to the men and women in the department who are mourning his loss.”

While serving as commissioner, Dormer oversaw the department’s anti-gang policies and was involved in investigating a string of unsolved homicides, after the dismembered bodies of 10 people were found in bushes near Gilgo Beach. In 2006, Dormer implemented a novel approach to disposing of its confiscated gun arsenal: the department shredded the firearms it collected.  

“They’re going to go in a shredder and never harm another person in Suffolk County again,” he said after highlighting the new policy as a cost saving measure at a press conference. The department’s old system required transporting twice a year its seized weapons to a foundry in Pennsylvania, where the firearms were melted down. 

“During the tenure of former Commissioner Dormer, our department made great advances, including the creation of our Homeland Security Bureau, attaining New York State accreditation and incorporating modern concepts to respond to active shooter incidents,” said Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron.   

Dormer is survived by his wife, Barbara; daughters Kathleen Brady and Bridget Dormer; sons Michael, John and Richard Dormer; eight grandchildren; and siblings Frankie, Bridget and Maura. 

Visitations will be held at Nolan Funeral Home, at 5 Laurel Ave., Northport, Thursday and Friday, April 25 and 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Mass is Saturday, April 27 at 9:15 a.m., at St. Philip Neri Church, 344 Main St., Northport.  In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to www.giving.mountsinai.org.  

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By Donna Deedy

It was a life well-lived. A first-generation American, the child of Italian immigrants, born during the Great Depression and dedicated to public service.

“At the end of the day, I’ve done something for people. And that’s the guiding principle of my life,” said former Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio in a 2015 interview with The Times of Smithtown. 

“At the end of the day, I’ve done something for people. And that’s the guiding principle of my life.”

— Patrick Vecchio

Patrick Vecchio died Sunday, April 7, at age 88. For a record 40 years — nearly half of his lifetime — he held the Town of Smithtown’s highest office. During his tenure, seven different U.S. presidents held office, while the residents of Smithtown re-elected the same man to represent them again and again for 13 terms.

Roughly half of his years in office, he served as a Democrat, the other half a Republican. Today, people in both parties recognize his distinct leadership qualities. In fact, his portrait hangs in the Town of Smithtown Town Hall, and the building itself bears his name. The gesture, announced while Vecchio was still in office during a March 3, 2015 board meeting, surprised Vecchio and left him humbled and teary-eyed.

During the 2015 town hall dedication ceremony, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) made a point to say that Vecchio had served Smithtown the right way. At the same event, New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) was equally complimentary.

“He’s cheap, and he wears it like a badge of honor,” he said. “He never forgot, never forgets and never will forget where the money is coming from.”

Vecchio was legendary for his fiscal restraint. Town Historian Brad Harris said with a laugh that it’s more apt to call him “tight.” But Vecchio’s 40-year Smithtown legacy is rich and storied on a range of topics from open government policies to environmental conservation.

Under his leadership, Smithtown earned national recognition for many environmental and clean energy projects. The town pioneered a development rights program that enabled — at no cost to taxpayers — the preservation of important land such as the historic Harned Saw Mill site in Commack and the Saam wetlands at the headwaters of the Nissequoque River. Thanks to Vecchio, Smithtown was the first community in the nation to voluntarily convert its diesel-powered fleet of refuse trucks to run on compressed natural gas, which saved money and reduced noise and
air pollution.

“I’ve been here for 35 years; the Town of Smithtown never had a better friend than Pat Vecchio.”

— Russell Barnett

Smithtown was also an early adopter of wind generators and solar panels. Under Vecchio, the state awarded Smithtown in 2016 a $250,000 clean energy grant. Thanks to that award, solar electric projects are still underway at Smithtown Landing Country Club and town hall.

“I’ve been here for 35 years; the Town of Smithtown never had a better friend than Pat Vecchio,” said Russell Barnett, the Smithtown environmental protection director.

The community regarded Vecchio as a man with conviction. And people, whether they agreed with his position or not, said that they respected his opinion.

“He’s a feisty guy … ready to take on an issue or political opponent,” said Harris, after the town hall dedication ceremony. “He does battle for the people of Smithtown.”

People consistently note the leader’s commitment to the local community.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that he recognized Vecchio as a true public servant. “In his historic time in office, he always did what he thought was best for residents … that was always at the forefront of his every decision,” he said.

December 12, 2017 was Vecchio’s last board meeting as Smithtown supervisor. The occasion drew a crowd that filled the board room and trailed through the hallways and down staircases. People bid farewell and thanked the supervisor for implementing his vision on their behalf. Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) noted during the tribute that Vecchio was leaving Smithtown with a budgetary surplus rather than debt.

“This town is in such good financial shape, it is all because of you,” Trotta said. “You should be a model for every other town in the nation, the state and certainly the county.”

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