Authors Posts by Julianne Mosher

Julianne Mosher

Julianne Mosher
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Julianne Mosher is editor of The Port Times Record, The Village Beacon Record and The Times of Middle Country. A resident of Port Jefferson, you can usually find her at a local coffee shop. Tips? Please send to [email protected]

Sandra Swenk today at her home in Port Jefferson. Photo by Julianne Mosher

This month marks 50 years since Sandra Swenk was sworn in as the Village of Port Jefferson’s first woman mayor. 

In July of 1971, the 34-year-old mother of two took office as the village’s third mayor. Now, five decades later, she has paved the way for other lady leaders — not only here where she calls home, but throughout Long Island. 

A lifelong resident, she was born at Mather Hospital in 1937 and grew up inside The Mather House Museum during the ’40s, as her family were caretakers. 

Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

“I had some good years there,” she said. “There were some things that are not there anymore, like a summer house, a beautiful old summer house that just kind of deteriorated years ago, but most of the property is fairly original today.”

After living there as a child, her family moved to various different homes surrounding Main Street — eventually settling with her husband John in a stunning historical home on Prospect Street in 1960.

“Port Jefferson is a great place to raise a child,” she said. “Because they can walk to school, and then we had downtown, and it wasn’t as busy as it is now.”

Swenk decided to become involved with Port Jeff’s politics early on, sitting on the board with her late husband to incorporate the village in 1963.

“We wanted to see the village incorporate and control its own destiny, so to speak,” she said. 

Always interested in keeping the quaint village beautiful, Swenk wanted to see street trees, plants planted and window boxes in the local storefronts. She and a group of volunteers helped make that possible. 

In 1971, Swenk decided to take the leap and run against the men of the village. In what she said was a low-key campaign, she said that she had a lot of support back then. Along with her son and daughter, she hand-delivered pamphlets around the village. 

“I was proud of her,” said her daughter Brenda. “She did a lot. There was a lot of family involvement. There were a lot of things that we all did together.”

Swenk ended up winning, serving three terms until she was beaten by Harold Sheprow in 1977.

“I was always interested in revitalization,” she said. 

According to Swenk, she wanted to keep the small-town atmosphere and have a recreational harbor. With the village known to be more industrial back then, she hoped to get rid of the gravel trucks and oil tanks that stayed near the water and the ferry. 

“I also wanted to have what’s called adaptive use, using the older buildings for present uses,” she said. “I was big on historic preservation, and still am a historical society member.”

Swenk said she used Cold Spring Harbor’s streets as a model. 

Above: Sandra Swenk on July 5, 1971 on the steps of Village Hall. Her daughter, Brenda, cheers her mother on in the lower right.
Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Another accomplishment she had during her tenure was working hand in hand with former state Sen. Leon Giuffreda (R) on a big safety issue that was happening around the village with its gravel trucks. 

She said trucks didn’t have covers and often times gravel would spill into the busy streets.  

“It was always a battle to get it cleaned up,” she said. “But today, if you see any kind of a truck, could be just a little truck or big truck or a gravel truck, they have to have covers — and now they do.”

Swenk said that from day one since she was elected, village board meetings were always busy. 

“There were more people who went to the public meetings, probably because I was a woman and they wanted to see how I was going to run them,” she said. “People just didn’t know whether a woman could handle a job like that.”

But she got the support she needed to win. 

“I think people realized I was genuinely concerned about the village. And its growth, and its business and its appearance,” she said. “That was very important to me and it still is.”

At first, she was the only woman in Village Hall, but during her second term, a woman trustee came in and gradually it grew from there. Since her run, Jeanne Garant served as mayor from 1999 to 2005, and her daughter Margot has just been elected to her seventh term.

Now, a half-century later, she still lives right off East Main Street and is still heavily involved with what’s going on around town. A member of the historical society, the First United Methodist Church and volunteer at The Mather House Museum, she keeps busy, but still reminisces about what life was like Down Port so many years ago.

“There’s no question that it’s changed,” she said. “When I was growing up here, we had all the necessary services in the village — we had a laundromat which we don’t have anymore, but for years had a hardware store, a dress shop, a drugstore. So, some of those needs have been lost along the way.”

Swenk wishes there was a grocery store for village residents to shop at. “I would love to have a grocery back here,” she said. “We’re really lacking that.”

She said she has been unhappy to see the development over the last decade, building upward with the continuous lack of parking — something that was an issue even during her tenure. 

By Julianne Mosher

After more than a year of being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts finally opened its doors and did so with a bang on Saturday, June 10 with its showing of the two-time Tony Award-winning hit musical Green Day’s American Idiot.

The rock opera, comprised mostly of songs from Green Day’s critically acclaimed 2004 album of the same name as well as several songs from its follow-up release, 21st Century Breakdown, is set in present time and centers around three friends; Johnny, Will and Tunny. The three dream of leaving their stifling, suburban lifestyle and plan to leave and head to the big city. 

In the nine-minute-long narrative, “Jesus of Suburbia,” the three are ready to board the bus, as Will’s girlfriend, Heather, tells him she is pregnant, so he stays. Johnny and Tunny head off, singing along to Green Day’s hit, “Holiday.”

The city is exciting, but eventually the duo realizes it’s not it’s all cracked up to be. Tunny quickly gives up on life in the fast lane, joins the military and is shipped off to war. Johnny turns to drugs and finds a part of himself that he grows to dislike, has a relationship and experiences lost love. Will, at home, drowns his sorrows in alcohol and marijuana. The audience sees Johnny’s addiction to heroin grow, with the help of St. Jimmy, his manifestation of a rebellious drug-dealing alter ego. 

At SPAC’s Saturday viewing, Mike Visconti’s St. Jimmy was full of energy and angst. The whole cast, in their best 90s punk-styled costumes, had the best chemistry as they head-banged the night away.

Standout performances were by Andrew Murano (Johnny) for his passion and depth of a character who was just trying to find his place in the world. Robbie Torres’s voice and range in “Before the Lobotomy” moved the audience nearly to tears. 

All of the cast members had individual talents that were spotted from the seats like Samantha Rosario’s range in “Extraordinary Girl” that could have been heard on Broadway.

For theater lovers who are fans of “Rent” or “Hair,” “American Idiot” is the lovechild of the two. 

The show contains content that might not be suitable for everyone, including adult language, themes and situations depicting sexual activity and simulated drug use, but its message is clear — life might not always turn out the way we think it will, and sometimes going home is perfectly okay when a plan doesn’t pan out. 

Don’t be an idiot — go see this groundbreaking musical.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown presents Green Day’s American Idiot on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through July 31. Tickets are $45 per person, $40 for seniors 55+ and members. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Famed scientist, inventor and entrepreneur Nikola Tesla would have been 165 this year, and the best way to celebrate his life and legacy was to party at his old lab in Shoreham. 

On Saturday, July 10, hundreds of people gathered at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe for the Tesla Birthday Expo and Birthday Night Show.

The events featured a number of educational exhibits including many of the local STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — exhibits, robotic clubs, Tesla coils, Tesla car showcase, amateur radio, battlebots, Maker Space trailer, local artisans and an interactive STEAM bus from New York Institute of Technology. The daytime event was coupled with a lively nighttime celebration featuring the band ArcAttack.

“What an amazing day to celebrate one of this world’s most acclaimed scientist and inventor,” said county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai). “Thanks to the many TSCW volunteers, local and international community support, and the many partnerships with government, Nikola Tesla’s legacy will continue to inspire and encourage our future scientists.”

The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, located in Shoreham, is Nikola Tesla’s last remaining laboratory. Known as a man before his time, he was deemed a genius while researching alternating current systems. He believed that energy didn’t have to be a rich man’s luxury. Energy could be available to all and powered naturally. He thought he could power the whole Northeastern seaboard from Niagara Falls. 

An inventor with hundreds of patents, he was involved in the invention of the radio, remote control and more.

In 1901 Tesla acquired the Wardenclyffe property in Shoreham to test his theories of being able to wirelessly transmit electrical messages, funded by J.P. Morgan. A huge 187-foot tower was designed and constructed for the purpose.

In 1903 creditors confiscated his heavier equipment, and in 1917 the tower was demolished. The concrete feet used to hold the structure can still be seen on the property today. 

Tesla was eventually cut off, causing him to lose control of the site. The property became a film processing company in the early ’30s, where harsh chemicals were dumped into the ground. The contaminated property was sold again and became shuttered in 1987. 

A decades-long cleanup ensued, and the property was put back up for sale. 

The community — locally, nationally and even internationally — came together to fundraise to eventually buy the property in 2013, preserve it and make it a real historic site. 

According to Doug Borge, chief operating officer at TSCW, “At our annual Tesla Birthday events, we not only celebrate Nikola Tesla’s contributions, but also his living legacy that we each build upon through science and innovation.”

The mission of Tesla’s last remaining lab is to develop the site into a transformative global science center that embraces his bold spirit of invention, provides innovative learning experiences, fosters the advancement of new technologies and preserves his legacy in the Tesla Museum.

The group imagines a world where people appreciate Tesla’s contributions, are inspired by his scientific audacity and engage in the future betterment of humanity.

“Today is a perfect example of where we are as an organization,” Borge said. “We’re a community hub for people that love science technology, that are associated with Nikola Tesla and to be a resource for people to leverage, learn and become their own version of Tesla.”

In general, technology and interactivity at this year’s Tesla Birthday Expo were more engaging and popular than ever, he added. New and expanded STEAM exhibits allowed attendees to get hands-on with Tesla inventions and technology. 

ArcAttack made their first visit to Wardenclyffe and took things to a whole new level with a performance at the night shows featuring Tesla coils, rock music and lightning-producing electric instruments. Volunteers in the audience were “zapped” in a Faraday cage, including TSCW’s executive director Marc Alessi.

“We weren’t sure what to expect in terms of attendance at this year’s Tesla Birthday events, due to the pandemic,” Borge said. “Fortunately, we had a great turnout at both the daytime Tesla Birthday Expo and night show.”

Borge added that “the expo is interesting because you can see the crowds clustering around specific exhibits and interacting with enthusiasm.”  

Some fan favorites were the 3D scan that showed the interior of Tesla’s laboratory as it looks today, the robotics and maker space area, along with the go-carts and robots zipping around. 

“This is such an exciting event for the community to learn about important advances in technology,” said attorney and advocate Laura Ahearn, of Port Jefferson. “I’m really excited about getting to meet community members that come here, and some of the high school students that have built from scratch robotic devices better than anything … when I was in high school, I wish I would have had the opportunities that these young students have because it’s going to help them in their future.”

Borge said within the next few weeks, demolition of the dilapidated, noncontributing factory building suffocating Tesla’s laboratory will begin. Additionally, they plan to break ground on its visitor center that will allow them to pilot exhibits and engage and educate more visitors at Wardenclyffe. 

“These are important next steps in the development of TSCW and a moment that many of our global supporters have been looking forward to since TSCW’s record-breaking crowdfund in 2012, which raised $1.4 million in six weeks from 33,000 donors in 108 countries,” he said. “These funds, along with a matching grant from New York State and contributions from supporters like the Musk Foundation, enabled us to purchase Wardenclyffe in 2013. Fast forward to 2021, and TSCW is now positioned to start renovations after raising $10.2 million and acquiring the necessary plans and permits. It’s important to note that we still need to raise another $9.8 million to finish developing the site.”

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) also made an appearance.

“It’s just really exciting to encourage interest in science and to recognize the history here on Long Island,” she said. “It has such an important impact in so many ways.”

The center will be hosting more events this summer, including the Sound of Science concert on Aug. 28 in collaboration with another nonprofit, Rites of Spring Festival, that will offer a unique immersive musical experience by electronic musicians and contemporary composers.  

Sept. 23 is TSCW’s Third Annual Gala fundraiser for an evening of virtual entertainment, auctions and tech surprises. 

Later in the year, Wardenclyffe will host a Halloween event on Oct. 30, and their annual holiday lighting on Dec. 3. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Everything is planted and growing in nicely at the new Port Jefferson Community Garden. 

Located on Beach Street, dozens of local volunteers helped create and institute the home for homegrown veggies and other plants that were planted in 16 raised metal beds.

And now, after a lot of dirt, sweat and elbow grease, eggplants, heads of lettuce and different flowers are starting to sprout up.

Trustee Rebecca Kassay, who planted the seed for this pilot project earlier in the year, said that it’s going to be more than just your typical garden. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“To build the physical infrastructure of a community garden is one thing, but from early in the planning process, the committee agreed that dynamic educational programming for both the Beach Street gardeners and the community at large was essential to our mission,” she said. “When we gather to open our minds and learn together, we benefit both as individuals and as a community.”

This Monday, on July 19, Port Jefferson Village Community Garden is hosting its very first program, “Best Practices for Organic Vegetable Gardening” at 6 p.m. 

A representative from Cornell Cooperative Extension will be discussing tips and techniques to get the most out of your organic vegetable garden and will be held on the garden grounds.

“Whether you’re a novice or a pro, eight years old or 88 years old, come down and learn something at this Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County program, sponsored by the Port Jefferson Free Library,” she said. “We ask that attendees bring their own chair if they wish to sit during the presentation.”

The program is free for Port Jefferson residents and non-residents. For anyone so inclined to contribute, there will be a jar to collect donations for the community garden to fund future programs and garden projects.

“This is the first of many programs on offer from the Garden to help locals —Port Jeff residents and beyond — make the most of their personal and shared green space,” she said. “I’ve been gardening since I could walk, but especially because it’s Cornell Cooperative Extension program, I’m sure that I’ll learn something new on Monday.”

Susan Lobacz, Joanne Wright and Kim Olenick at the new Port Jefferson Plant Cutting Swap Station inside the library. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Sharing is caring.

Recently, the Suwassett Garden Club partnered up with the Port Jefferson Free Library to bring the community together with plants. 

“What we’re doing is we are encouraging the community to swap plant cuttings,” said Susan Lobacz, co-president. “We’re asking people to bring them in, and then take a new one home.”

Inside the library, a small table stands with mason jars filled with leaves and roots. Plastic cups are on the bottom shelf, so people who want to plant something different at home can bring a piece of it back with them. 

The fun and different idea comes with the hope that new members could potentially join.

“We’re hoping that with this collaboration, we’ll be able to encourage people to become part of this Suwassett Garden Club,” said co-president Kim Olenick. “So, there’ll be applications right next to the plants.”

The Suwassett Garden Club is a small local club, started in the 1940s, that serves Port Jefferson, Belle Terre and the surrounding communities. Known for their annual fundraisers, Antiques and Garden Weekend — with the historical society — and wreath makings for holidays and the Port Jefferson Dickens Festival, things were different over the last year. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Lobacz said that pre-pandemic, the club would host field trips and hands-on gardening tips. They have sponsored fashion shows, luncheons and participate in an annual “garden therapy” program with veterans at the Stony Brook Veterans Association.   

Alternate years, the garden club plants a tree in either Port Jefferson or Belle Terre and on Arbor Day this year, they planted a new one by the basketball courts near Rocketship Park. 

On top of all that, the Suwassett Garden Club also sponsors a high school scholarship and maintains the flower garden at the Mather Museum. They are currently supporting a new children’s garden that is being pursued by the village. 

Meetings are usually the first Wednesday of the month at 11 a.m. in the Belle Terre Community Center. Due to COVID, meetings have been held via Zoom.

Past co-president Joanne Wright said she joined the club years ago because it sounded different. 

“I had recently retired and wanted to meet new people,” she said. “Even though I was local, I didn’t know a lot of people and it was a good way to meet new people.”

Other perks are learning new things with different workshops. 

People who are interested in joining can pick up a plant at the library, or email [email protected]

Photo by Julianne Mosher

It’s time to bring your own glass to Port Jefferson village. 

Lisa Harris — owner of several village dining spots including Torte Jeff Pie Co., East Main & Main donuts, Prohibition Kitchen and the new taco shack at East Beach — has just opened up her newest endeavor, BYOG Wine Bar. 

“I haven’t seen anything like this on Long Island yet,” she said.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

The idea, Harris said, is for customers to bring their own glass and taste from 20 different wines she and her team handpicked. 

“The reason that it’s bring your own glass is because we can’t have a dishwasher here,” she said. Glasses are available, but if a customer brings their own there’s a discount. 

In the space, five machines hold four different bottles of wine. Customers redeem their credit cards for a wine card, which allows them to taste, sample or grab a full glass of any of the 20 wines. 

“We did a pretty extensive research to come up with 20 of what we think are the best wines that are a blend of very affordable, up to a little bit more exclusive,” she said. “They are bottles that you would never normally be able to taste by the glass unless you purchase the bottle, so this system allows you to do that.”

But it isn’t just wine — charcuterie boxes are available to snack on, as well as desserts, like their donut fondue. 

BYOG Wine Bar is now in the spot where Harris’ donut shop originally was at 250 E. Main St. 

“The synergy between the pie shop and the donut shop during COVID made the most sense to cut back on staffing and be able to incorporate the two businesses together,” she said.  

Photo by Julianne Mosher

After combining the two earlier this year, she thought about what could go in her new empty space. 

“I thought because of the limitations, there aren’t a lot of businesses that can run in this type of space,” she said. 

While visiting South Carolina, she found a place with a similar experience.

“We fell in love with it,” she said. 

While Prohibition Kitchen also has a collection local of wines, Harris said BYOG will have a different variety. 

“It’s more about the smaller batch lines that you won’t necessarily see in national distribution,” she said. “They’re more exclusive and unique.”

Compared to other spots throughout the village, she said the new wine bar is just a different setting for wine drinkers.

“I think this is a different type of experience,” Harris said. “This is an experience that you can share with friends when it comes to your tastes, purchase something you really enjoy, and also chat about the wine.”

Photo from PJST civic

Following the June 17 stabbing of 39-year-old Benjamin Flores-Mendez — who was found dead in Port Jefferson Station on the Greenway Trail — the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association called an emergency meeting this week to demand answers on a variety of issues from local representatives.

On Tuesday, July 6, nearly 150 people attended the meeting at Comsewogue High School. Suffolk County Police Department 6th Precinct officers joined elected officials from town, county and state offices to listen to topics such as the Lawrence Aviation space, homelessness, gangs and drug abuse which were brought up by concerned residents.

While the stabbing sparked the meeting, SCPD officials were unable to give details or answer questions surrounding the death, as it’s still an ongoing investigation. 

But that didn’t stop Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), and town Councilman Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) from joining the panel. State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) could not attend, but a representative joined in his place. 

“I’m going to tell you that myself and my colleagues from the Town Board are upset, disturbed by what we see is a growing problem in various communities in the Town of Brookhaven,” Romaine said. “And that is homelessness.”

According to residents, they have seen homeless people set up tents near the vacant and decrepit Lawrence Aviation buildings located adjacent to the Greenway on the Port Jefferson Station section. 

Kornreich added that those who are homeless aren’t necessarily in that plight because of a financial issue — oftentimes it revolves around mental health problems or drug abuse. 

“I think that what we need to try to do is to find a way, a compassionate way, to get these people the services that they need, that maybe they’re reluctant to take,” he said, adding it might require a greater investment in services from county agencies. 

Englebright, who spearheaded the creation of the trail years ago, said the Lawrence Aviation project has been an issue for years and requires coordination from all levels of government. 

“We’re in a moment of turmoil, not only locally but nationally,” he said. “We’re coming off of one of the worst years in the last 100 years because of the COVID infection that has ravaged our communities, and everybody is on edge — that includes disadvantaged individuals, and those who have ill intent. So, we have our work cut out for us.”

During the community forum, questions of hiking trails being linked to crime came up.

“The simple answer is no, there is no correlation, no cause and effect,” Englebright said. “Trails such as this are open space, and so they become targets to the opportunists.”

On the town level, Kornreich assured that meetings like this — between residents and local government — are what allows things to change. 

“We’re all here because we have to renew our commitment to work together at all levels of government to face challenges like the ones we have in Port Jefferson Station,” he said. 

The 6th Precinct commanding officer, Inspector Patrick Reilly, gave an update on crime statistics. In wake of the stabbing, new cameras were placed at the entrances and along the Greenway Trail. Reilly said more patrol officers have been out during the daytime and evening, as well as overnight. Plainclothes officers and the SCPD gang unit are on-site, as well. 

The stabbing that happened last month was the only one in 2021 and 2020, Reilly said. Robberies are down this year, as well as a 100% decrease in aggravated assault. 

“Overall, total violent crime is down 11.1%, total property crime is down 4.8%,” he said. “So, obviously, there are problems that still need to be addressed, and we will continue to do that.”

The next normally scheduled civic meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 20, at 7 p.m. at the Comsewogue Public Library. 

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Photo by Julianne Mosher

Shortly after the festivities of the Port Jefferson Fire Department Independence Day Parade, residents and visitors gathered near the front steps of Village Hall to watch the swearing in of Team Unity on July 5.

Village clerk Barbara Sakovich kicked off the oath of office by thanking the fire department for hosting the event. 

“Thank you to the Port Jefferson Fire Department for always putting on a fabulous parade and incredible display of patriotism,” she said. “And of course, we thank them for their service to the Village of Port Jefferson by keeping all of us safe.”

Sakovich welcomed the three incumbents and their families to the podium, thanking them for their work “for a common good.”

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Trustee Stanley Loucks was the first up. 

“Stan works tirelessly every day and is the perfectly liaison to the recreation department, as he has a passion for all things recreation, as well as to the Port Jefferson Country Club, which is our treasure here in the village,” Sakovich said. “He works around the clock for us, and he is always the first to volunteer to get the job done.”

Loucks thanked his wife, Peggy, for all of her support, and the community for allowing him to do this all again.

“It’s great to be back up here,” he said. “I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to continue to make this village better than it is now — that’s our goal. We have a lot of unfinished business to do, and I thank you again for allowing me to come back and stand here … and then after I stand here, go back to work.”

Trustee Kathianne Snaden won her second term last month due to her close work with the school district, parking committee, BID and as the commissioner of public safety. 

“She listens closely to our residents and works to bridge communication and cooperation within our community,” Sakovich said. 

With her husband and three daughters by her side, she was filled with gratitude to be standing at the podium.

“Thank you for the opportunity to be up here again and to serve all of you,” she said. “I often get asked, why do you do this thankless job? And to me it’s not thankless. This is the thanks. And this is why I do it — because of all of you. So, thank you for having me here yet again to serve you for two more years. It’s my honor and my pleasure.”

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Sakovich concluded the ceremony with Mayor Margot Garant, who now begins her seventh term. 

“I tell her all the time that she runs a small country,” she said. 

Emotionally taking the oath alongside her father and mother, former Mayor Jeanne Garant, she addressed the crowd with a smile.

Garant said she is now the longest running village mayor, officially surpassing former Mayor Harold Sheprow — who served 12 terms and sat in the crowd — while thanking her supporters for allowing her to do this once again.

“We’re family. We stick together. We work hard, and we support one another,” she said. “I want to thank my core supporters, many of who are lifelong friends, who’ve worked hard to support this administration, and who value, respect, and appreciate the work we do.”

Garant added she couldn’t do this without her team. 

“We are here to work for you to protect and preserve our quality of life,” she said. “And when making a decision, we will always do our best to make sure that decisions bring us closer together in unity, and make us a stronger community.”

Photo by Julianne Mosher

With restrictions finally lifted, people from across Suffolk County — and even Connecticut — were able to finally celebrate the Fourth of July with a favorite traadition.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department Independence Day Parade was cancelled, along with most other events, last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this year, things seemed back to normal with hundreds of people gathered on the sidewalks of Port Jefferson village, decked in their most patriotic wear, to celebrate America’s birthday. 

“I’m just glad that we’re back to some sort of normalcy,” said Todd Stumpf, department chief. “We’re glad to see the public back together to help celebrate the country’s birth.”

Vintage cars drove down the road, waving American flags out of their windows as excited kids and their families waved from the sidewalk. Children ran to their parents who marched in uniform when they spotted them from the sidelines. Dancers waved red, white, and blue pom poms whiles pipes and drums played their sounds. Even the Batmobile made an appearance. 

Although the parade included Port Jeff and Terryville, members from South Shore, eastern, and western Suffolk County departments joined together to march along Main Street on July 5. 

Since the Fourth of July was on a Sunday this year, the fire department decided to host the parade a day later, on Monday, to respect the local churches throughout the village. 

“From our end it ran really smooth,” said Steve Erland, third assistant chief. “It’s just so nice to bring it back to the community.”

Kathy McLeod retired back in 2013, but she still kept a tradition of mailing her former students a keepsake when it was their turn to graduate. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Kathy MacLeod taught in the Miller Place School District for 36 years. 

Mostly a fourth-grade teacher, she created years ago a project that would eventually become a tradition for her students and their families. 

“The students had to write a letter to themselves that I would save and mail to them when they were ready to graduate from high school,” she said. “And they were just adorable.”

MacLeod would have the students write to their future selves about their families, hobbies, what they learned in school and what they thought they’d be doing as a senior.

Ariel’s self portrait.

“Sometimes, they were very funny, like, I’ll be driving a Lamborghini or, you know, I’ll be playing Major League Baseball,” she said. “And some would be more realistic, saying that I’ll be driving a car or working at McDonald’s.”

The first batch of letters had to wait eight years to eventually be mailed out, with a reminder of the graduating year when they were to be dispatched. 

And the majority of the time, MacLeod said, the students forgot the assignment from their elementary school days. 

The Miller Place High School graduating class of 2021 was different, though, as this was MacLeod’s last batch of letters. 

In 2013, she decided to retire, but retirement didn’t mean stopping from sending out the last eight batches of letters her students wrote. Over the last eight years, she sent the envelopes back to them with copies of what the children wrote to themselves. 

Sadly, this was her last group to graduate.

“The parents love it,” she said. “They’re very emotional when their kids are getting ready to graduate, and it’s like a voice from the past.”

MacLeod is so devoted, she always finds a way to get the letter into the right hands — one former student she had to track down in Arizona, and the girl was thrilled. 

“Teaching there was the best job I could have had in the best school,” MacLeod said. “It really was a wonderful place to work.”

Along with the letter and the self-portraits she encouraged them to draw, MacLeod attaches a photo from the students’ fourth-grade class picture. The kids look different now. 

“I remember them like it was yesterday,” she said. “It’s so funny seeing them grown up.”

Of the class that has just graduated, the students recently received their letters that their previous teacher mailed out. 

Andrew’s self portrait.

Andrew Bova, 17, said the blast from the past was very different than what he previously remembered. 

“I wrote to myself that I’d be a professional Islander player,” he said. “Now I’m going to Emerson College for musical theater.”

Bova said it was a blast from the past and reading what he thought of his life when he was 8 years old was nostalgic. 

He said can’t thank her enough for this fun memory. 

“She’s by far my favorite teacher,” he said. “I really appreciate her.”

Ariel Martin, another student, said that her 8-year-old self thought she would have pink streaks in her hair and would be going to Harvard after high school.

She decided instead to Chapman University in California for film production. 

“I just want to give her a big ‘thank-you’ for holding onto these and sending them out to all of us,” she said. “To this day, she’s my favorite teacher.”

MacLeod said it’s bittersweet that she won’t have to head to the post office with a large envelope in 2022. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“I just wanted to remind them how proud I am of them, how creative and fun the class was,” she said. “But this class in particular, they were such a creative, loving bunch. It wasn’t an easy last year and a half, and I just think they came through with flying colors.”