Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

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Gordon Lightfoot performing in Interlochen, Michigan in 2009. Photo courtesy of Charles Backfish

By Rita J. Egan

WUSB’s Sunday Street Series at The Long Island Museum has a tradition of bringing artists together to celebrate musical legends. On March 24, they will be adding a bit of Canadian flair.

The series will present Long Island Celebrates Lightfoot — a celebration of the songs of Gordon Lightfoot, the renowned Canadian songwriter and singer who passed away on May 1, 2023 at the age of 84.

With a music catalog encompassing 20 studio and three live albums, more than a dozen musicians will perform hits such as “Early Morning Rain,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway,” “Ribbon of Darkness,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and some of his lesser-known tracks on March 24.

Producer Charles Backfish said Lightfoot had been recording and touring since the 1960s up until a year or so before he passed away. “I’m really excited about this one, because, first of all, he is a songwriter of major stature, and secondly, he’s someone from up north that I think needs to get a little bit more acknowledgement in the United States,” he said.

Backfish added that while the singer/songwriter is known to some degree in this country, people may not be familiar with the range of Lightfoot’s albums. One song, “Black Day in July,” is about the 1967 Detroit Riot. The single was banned from some U.S. radio stations because many thought it was too political.

Ray Lambiase, who will be performing during the show, said when he was younger, his friends would listen to groups such as The Beatles. He, however, was listening to artists such as country blues singer Missippi John Hurt and folk-blues duo Sunday Terry and Brownie McGhee. He learned how to play guitar listening to folk music, and Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” was one of the songs he would play early in his career.

“I’ve been playing ‘Early Morning Rain’ since I was 18, and that was over 50 years ago,” he said.

Lambiase will perform the song with other artists on March 24. He will also play “Did She Mention My Name” and “Sundown.” He added the shows allow singers and songwriters of every age an opportunity to collaborate.

“It’s just nice having everybody together, and you don’t often get that kind of a chance where everybody’s in the same room,” Lambiase said. “You get to catch up a little bit, and it generates such a warm feeling. It’s always a wonderful night and hopefully that somehow translates to what the audience is picking up.”

Among those multigenerational artists will be Andrew Fortier and his son and daughter, Cole and Andie. 

Andrew Fortier said it’s been interesting watching his children discover Lightfoot’s work. “They actually bring up stuff that I missed,” he said, adding both have eclectic tastes.

The singer, who has always been a fan of Lightfoot’s work, said digging into an artist’s music catalog for The Sunday Street Series is always a pleasant surprise.

“I’m 60 years old, so I grew up with Gordon Lightfoot in the 70s,” he said. “I’m a total fan, but you become more of a fan when you start backtracking and listening to cuts you’ve never heard before.”

Andrew’s son Cole said this will be the second Sunday Street show he has performed in. The musician said he’s enjoying studying Lightfoot’s music, describing the songs as fluid.

“What I’ve noticed about him particularly is his songs are very strophic, there’s not really any bridges, and they’re played through, which is kind of typical as a more traditional folk sound,” Cole said. “But, what’s interesting is just the long form vibes of these songs that go on and roam for a little while with these amazing lyrical narratives.”

Mary Lamont, who was raised in Canada, will also be among the performers at the Lightfoot event. The lead singer of the Mary Lamont Band said she was familiar with the singer/songwriter when she was younger but grew to appreciate his songwriting and singing more in later years.

The Sunday Street Series shows feature the artists performing two songs each. Lamont, whose husband Jim Marchese and bandmate Rich Lanahan will accompany her on acoustic guitars, said it can be challenging to narrow it down to two tracks when someone has such an extensive catalog. To choose, she listens to the artist’s albums until a song hits her. In this case, she chose two songs, “Cold on the Shoulder” and “Alberta Bound.” In the latter Lightfoot included references to Canada, including Toronto, which is about three hours from where Lamont grew up.

“That was the reason why I picked that song,” she said. “It had so many Canadian references.” She added she feels “every country has its own pride about people.” 

“I feel a certain pride and really a newfound respect for Gordon Lightfoot’s music, too,” Lamont said. “I have to thank Charlie for that.”

Backfish and the performers hope the audience will leave the show with a deeper appreciation of Lightfoot’s music.

“They’re going to hear a lot of songs that they’re not familiar with, and for me, the best thing would be for them to walk away realizing what a career and what a lasting body of work Gordon Lightfoot really left us,” Lambiase said.

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Long Island Celebrates Lightfoot will take place in the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room at the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook on Sunday, March 24 at 5 p.m. and will feature local musicians Gene Casey, Caroline Doctorow, Mick Hargreaves, Ray Lambiase, Mary Lamont with Jim Marchese, Rich Lanahan, Russ Seeger, Hank Stone, Bob Westcott, and Andrew, Cole and Andie Fortier. 

Advance sale tickets are available at www.sundaystreet.org for $25 with tickets at the door, if available, for $30 (cash only).

By Rita J. Egan

The cold weather on Saturday, March 9, couldn’t keep St. James residents from the hamlet’s 40th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Former Suffolk County Deputy Executive Peter Scully, nicknamed the water czar for his work in improving the county’s water quality, headed up the parade as grand marshal. Scully, who lives in neighboring Stony Brook, grew up in St. James. Former County Executive Steve Bellone was on hand to cheer on Scully, holding a sign that read, “Suffolk is lucky to have Scully.”

Hundreds of attendees lined up along Lake Avenue to cheer on the elected officials, volunteer firefighters, Scouts and representatives from local organizations and businesses who marched along the street from Woodlawn Avenue to the Long Island Rail Road train station.

By Rita J. Egan

Bradlee and Marci Bing show the hands they’ve been dealt in the acting world in Theatre Three’s The Gin Game, and they are winning ones. The tragicomedy opened at the theater on Saturday, Jan. 13.

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by D.L. Coburn, Weller Martin (Bradlee Bing) and Fonsia Dorsey (Marci Bing) meet at the Bentley Nursing Home. As the only two residents with no family and friends coming to see them on visitors’ day, they find solace on the home’s unused sun porch. Weller invites Fonsia to play gin rummy with him. Even though it’s supposedly her first time playing, he quickly learns that luck is on her side.

Playing the game a few times over a couple of weeks, the two reveal their life stories. While a bond seems to form between the two, the figurative walls they have erected in life also appear. As the play progresses, the audience discovers how both play the cards they are dealt in gin rummy and in life.

The Gin Game opened in Los Angeles in 1976, and a little more than a year later it debuted on Broadway with husband and wife Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. In addition to being awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1978, Tandy won the Tony Award for her portrayal of Fonsia. After more than 500 performances on Broadway, Cronyn and Tandy toured with the production.

Revivals in the past have included E. G. Marshall, Maureen Stapleton, Charles Durning, Julie Harris, James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson. In 2003, PBS presented a televised version starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.

In Theatre Three’s production, Bradlee Bing convincingly delivers the belligerent and sarcastic Weller. His rage over losing game after game is frightening, especially when he curses or forcibly uses his cane. Yet, in the more humorous moments, he portrays the character with a bit of charm that makes you feel sorry for him.

Marci Bing is also convincing as the prim and proper Fonsia, who reveals more of her true nature as the two get to know each other. The actress seamlessly transitions from a sweet woman to one whose stories reveal that in her attempt to control her circumstances in life, she can become rigid and vindictive.

The actors easily deliver the humorous lines, and a short dance sequence demonstrates the chemistry between the two married actors. The real measure of their immense talents is seen during the play’s more serious and darker moments. It’s apparent that the actors realize the depth of the multi-layered piece as Bradlee Bing powerfully delivers the lines, “God gave you that card, didn’t he? Didn’t God give you that card?” Marci Bing strongly responds, “Yes, Weller, God gave me the card.”

The Bings, along with director Colleen Britt, have masterfully developed characters that many can relate to and all can learn from. Audience members should arrive at the show and settle in their seats a few minutes early for an extra touch added to the Theatre Three production, which enhances the theatrical experience.

Lending a subtle sense of just how run down the nursing home is, set director Randall Parsons has created a stage that is believable as a barely used back porch with a collection of books, crutches and other items.

In a Jan. 11 interview with TBR News Media, the Bings said they hoped audience members would leave the theater thinking about aging, not only about how difficult it can be for some but also how wallowing in the past doesn’t do anyone any good. The two successfully drive that point home on stage as Weller and Fonsia.

Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson, presents The Gin Game through Feb. 3. Tickets are $40 for adults, $32 for seniors 65 and over and students and $25 for children. Wednesday matinees are $25. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Bradlee and Marci Bing will star in Theatre Three's 'The Gin Game' from Jan. 13 to Feb. 3. Photo by Steve Ayle / Showbizshots.com
Theatre Three actors run through lines and card game

By Rita J. Egan

A husband and wife are about to take on a 90-minute game of gin rummy in front of a live audience.

Theatre Three veterans Bradlee and Marci Bing, who have been married for nearly 40 years, will star in the Port Jefferson theater’s production of The Gin Game. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play opens Saturday, Jan. 13.

Bradlee Bing, as Weller Martin, and Marci Bing, as Fonsia Dorsey, will transform from a happily married couple to two nursing home residents who strike up an acquaintance over a game of gin rummy.

Through the decades, on stage and television, the characters have been portrayed by iconic actors, such as husband and wife Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones, and Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.

Bradlee and Marci Bing will star in Theatre Three’s ‘The Gin Game’ from Jan. 13 to Feb. 3.
Photo by Steven Uihlein/Theatre Three

The production is not the first time the Bings have acted together as they starred in the theater’s production of Past Tense in 1986.

In a recent interview with the couple, Bradlee Bing described The Gin Game as multi-layered and intricate, where the characters need each other. “But they have so many personal obstacles that they personally have to overcome that they can’t really connect,” he said.

The actors said it’s not difficult playing people meeting for the first time as they understand they are the characters while on stage. However, they said their relationship helps.

“We have natural chemistry,” said Bradlee. “So, we can connect with each other in a way that is comfortable. Even though there are many uncomfortable moments in the play, we’re those characters, and we’re not ourselves.”

The actors said their personalities are opposite of Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey.

“He’s patient and kind, and I’m the one who curses and gets fired up,” said Marci.

Bradlee added, “It’s the exact opposite of who we are, but we can laugh about it because we kind of changed roles that we have in real life.”

It’s because of Theatre Three that the two met. Bradlee Bing has been with the company since 1970, guiding the actors from a traveling troop who once performed in storefronts, libraries and church basements to its permanent stage in Port Jefferson. The couple met when Marci joined the acting troop, going on to become part of the theater’s 1979 inaugural theater season as one of six contracted summer company members.

Marci also worked in the theater’s office and assisted her now husband on many projects. When Bradlee was battling cancer and going through a divorce, he needed someone to talk to and asked Marci to go for coffee as he knew she had gone through a divorce years before. They struck up a friendship but still weren’t thinking about romance. However, one night, some theater members went out for drinks and dancing after a show. Someone suggested Bradlee dance with Marci. As he danced with her, he said to himself, “Wait a minute. It’s exactly how you see it in movies. Wow, I never knew that was around.”

While the two said they never argue, the characters they play in The Gin Game do. The Bings added they have plenty of time to master the tense interactions between Weller and Fonsia.

Marci, who is the only one of the pair who has played gin rummy before, said, “It’s a two-character, so it’s an intense amount of practicing of just all the lines. But what’s even more intricate is you have to play the game while you’re thinking of the lines and remembering all the segments. So, our advantage is we live together. It’s 10 o’clock. ‘You want to run scene to see how we’re doing?’”

While Bradlee saw the play performed before at Theatre Three when he was the artistic director, to prepare, the couple have not watched videos of other productions or the 2003 PBS movie, where Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore took on the roles.

“I have to make my own character so I don’t want to watch someone else doing it,” Marci said, adding it was different when she played movie star Betty Davis in Me and Jezebel,  where she had to master the icon’s physicalities.

“We bring our own personal experiences that will help us connect with the character and that is much more honest than trying to imitate anyone,” Bradlee said.

Colleen Britt is directing Theatre Three’s The Gin Game. Bradlee said Britt expresses “tremendous energy” and has helped in the development of the characters. 

The actors said while the play contains a lot of humor, it also includes a message about growing old and how some may feel that life is passing them by. The acting duo hopes that audience members will leave The Gin Game thinking about aging and possibly having a more positive attitude toward getting older. Marci added that, for some, getting old can be devastating. 

“It’s sad because you can’t do as much as you want to do,” she said.

Her advice is to “be current.”

“Don’t wallow in what didn’t happen,” she said. “Be glad that you’re still here.”

Bradlee said, often, it can be difficult for people as they look back at their lives, ambitions and goals.

“You reach a point where you realize that there’s no more time to achieve those kinds of goals,” he said. “So, if you live in the past, and see where you are, it’s going to be unfortunate. It’s a good example in the play that you need to move forward.”

Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson, presents The Gin Game from Jan. 13 to Feb. 3. Tickets are $40 for adults, $32 for seniors 65 and over and students and $25 for children. Wednesday matinees are $25. For more information, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Carole Trottere speaks at a press conference on May 9 to mark National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day. Photo from Kara’s Hahn’s office

By Rita J. Egan

Carole Trottere exemplifies turning personal tragedy into a mission to create positive change.

Following the loss of her son, Alex Sutton, to a heroin-fentanyl overdose in 2018, the Old Field resident became a dedicated advocate for raising awareness about the risks of fentanyl while ensuring victims are remembered.

Former Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) described Trottere as a woman with a unique perspective shaped by her son’s passing and her career as a public relations professional. The ex-legislator remembered the mother coming to her before a December 2022 press conference held in front of Hahn’s former office. The press conference, organized with the help of Trottere and in conjunction with Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, addressed the increase of drug use during the holiday season.

“Carole said we have to remember that this is a moment of risk for families and people who are struggling with addiction,” Hahn said. “They’re sad because of the friends they’ve lost and their own depression, and it’s a real hard time for families who have lost loved ones because there’s an empty seat at the table.”

Trottere also worked with Hahn to organize a press conference at the Suffolk County Legislature building in Hauppauge May 9 to mark National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day. The event featured purple rocks decorated with photos of those lost to accidental overdoses.

Earlier this year, Trottere also approached Hahn about placing Narcan, an opioid overdose reversal medication, in county facilities, which led to a bill co-sponsored by Hahn and Legislator Tom Donnelly (D-Deer Park). The resolution requires Narcan kits to be stored near external defibrillators in all county facilities. When interviewed about the bill for TBR News Media, Trottere said, “If you save one life, it’s sparing the parents the horrible grief that I go through and giving someone a second chance to try to get into recovery.” In April the bill was approved by the county Legislature.

In October 2022, Trottere hosted an event at her son’s favorite pizza place, Station Pizza in Stony Brook, in conjunction with the Suffolk County Police Department’s Behavioral Health Unit to commemorate what would have been her son’s 35th birthday. In addition to attendees receiving free pizza, police trained them in the use of Narcan. After nearly 50 people stopped by in 2022, Trottere hosted the event once again this year.

Working with families

Last year at the Drug Enforcement Administration National Family Summit on Fentanyl in Washington, D.C., and also at the December 2022 press conference, Trottere met Claudia Friszell and Lori Carbonaro. Friszell lost her son Marc Lewis in 2000 when he was 18, and Carbonaro’s son Nick died when he was 22 in 2014. Both women lost their sons to drug overdoses. They are active with LICADD and Gabriel’s Giving Tree, the grassroots organization founded by Paulette Phillippe in honor of her grandson Gabriel Phillippe.

The mothers said they quickly bonded with Trottere. Carbonaro calls her “a powerhouse with heart,” and Friszell said she holds Trottere in high regard as they both aim to turn their grief into positive actions.

“My son died 23 years ago, and we all try to take our experience and use it so that nobody else has to go through what we went through,” Friszell said.

This past summer, Trottere spearheaded the purple rock project at local farmers markets, where people who had lost family members to drug overdoses decorated the rocks with photos of their loved ones. The project was in conjunction with SCPD Narcan training. Friszell and Carbonaro, who have helped at the farmers markets, said it’s vital to show the victims’ faces and initiate conversations with all families.

“You have to meet the families where they’re at to get them armed with what they need as it could be in their family,” Carbonaro said.

She added, “If someone sees the purple rock and a child asks what it’s about and a parent can tell them, that’s one more person that knows, hopefully, what not to get into or how to save someone.”

Friszell said it’s important to remember the victims were human beings.

“These were your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, your fellow students,” Friszell added. “They were people. They’re not just statistics, and it affects the whole family. That’s what really drew us to Carole because she had the same mindset.”

Carbonaro said Trottere wants to take her anger about her son’s death and use it to be part of a solution.

“With all the horrors going on, and what we’ve gone through and beyond and in other parts of the world, there is a lot of humanity still left, and we really need to share it — people like Carole,” Carbonaro said.

Trottere’s work destigmatizes the disease and raises awareness, which potentially could prevent future deaths, Hahn said.

“She’s taking this tragedy — and with being an effective communicator — to educate and bring awareness to the issue,” Hahn added. “I think it’s important. The fact of having lost her own son, she’s really able to understand the impact of the disease, and the humanity and the potential lost in the lives that were lost. There was so much potential in each person lost.”

For Carole Trottere’s important work in the field of drug addiction awareness, TBR News Media names her a Person of the Year for 2023.

Lisa Davidson Photo courtesy Davidson

By Rita J. Egan

Many people search for a lifetime for a place where they feel a sense of belonging. A few years ago, Lisa Davidson found her place as well as a calling when she moved to the Village of Head of the Harbor.

Earlier this year, Davidson ran unsuccessfully for village trustee. The former southern California and New York City resident said her love for the area inspired her decision to run. The wife, mother and grandmother, who traveled extensively for her career with former jobs at the Los Angeles Times, Fox News and National Geographic Society, said that Stony Brook Harbor, the village’s “tree-lined streets, and the views from Cordwood Park rival them all” in a Jan. 26 interview with The Times of Smithtown. The trustee-hopeful explained her run came down to preserving the rustic charm of Head of the Harbor.

The bid for trustee followed her leading residents to rally against a proposed private 186-foot dock in Nissequogue in 2022, which, if approved, would have sat right next to Cordwood Park, overlooking Stony Brook Harbor. While working to block the dock’s construction, she began to learn about her fellow residents’ concerns.

Judy Ogden, a village trustee, said she wished more people would get as involved as Davidson. She added the advocate has “an enormous impact in the community.”

“Because of her appreciation for the beauty and natural resources of the village — clearly an environmentalist who cares about nature — she immediately became involved in the Joint Coastal Commission for the Village of Head of the Harbor, then started a Stop the Docks movement to protect Stony Brook Harbor, and this year, was a key organizer responsible for reinvigorating and restarting the Harbor Day celebration.”

Ogden added, “In the few years that she has been a resident, she has done more than many who have lived here their whole lives. She has become an advocate, a steward, protecting the natural resources.”

Joint Village Coastal Management Commission

Leighton Coleman III, appointed historian for the villages of Head of the Harbor and Nissequogue, said moving so close to the harbor, Davidson was “stunned by the beauty of the area,” and she recognized the need for her to be a steward of the water. 

“She became immediately focused on preserving and appreciating the beauty of the area,” he said.

Coleman credited Head of the Harbor Mayor Douglas Dahlgard for having the foresight to appoint Davidson to the Joint Village Coastal Management Commission shortly after she moved to the village. The historian said due to being selected, she learned more about the harbor and how docks and development affect bodies of water.

At the Aug. 27, 2022, rally to block the dock proposed near Cordwood Park, Davidson said she recused herself from the commission on the matter of private docks.

“After seeing the numerous petitions we get for private docks, I realized that this beautiful bay is in grave danger if we as a community do not come together and take action now before it is too late,” she said.

Happy Harbor Day

As chair of Happy Harbor Day, which was held in September to raise awareness about Stony Brook Harbor, Davidson worked alongside her fellow members of the Friends of Stony Brook Harbor, Nissequogue officials and the Town of Smithtown. The event was first organized by the late Larry Swanson, associate dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, and had not been held in 15 years.

Nissequogue Mayor Richard Smith said when he brought the idea of reviving the event to the coastal commission, the members liked the idea — and Davidson loved it.

“She was instrumental in making it the success it was,” Smith said, “She was a tremendous help.”

Coleman said he wasn’t surprised that the event drew approximately 300 people despite rainy and chilly weather. He described Davidson as a natural leader and problem solver who is energetic, committed and able to engage people.

“She has built a very good constituency of concerned neighbors and residents of both villages about the ecological concerns for these two coastal communities,” Coleman said.

Beyond the harbor 

In addition to her volunteer work with the Joint Village Coastal Management Commission and Friends of Stony Brook Harbor, during her short time on Long Island, Davidson has been a Suffolk County polling inspector and an Island Harvest food bank volunteer. This year, she also joined village residents in vocalizing their concerns about the proposed construction of a church along Route 25A, citing the potential of increased traffic and its close proximity to residents’ properties.

Coleman credited Davidson with waking up people to “the threats that are coming along to the village through overdevelopment and a proliferation of docks.”

“Sometimes you need a newcomer to say, ‘Look, I’ve been around the world. I’ve been traveling, I’ve done this, I’ve done that. You don’t realize how beautiful you have it here, and this needs to be saved,’” he said.

Smith called her a “tremendous asset to this community.”

“She has a great passion for our community — our greater St. James, Nissequogue, Head of the Harbor community,” the mayor said. “Her heart is so much in the right place.”

For her advocacy and dedicated work on behalf of her village communities, Lisa Davidson is named as a TBR News Media 2023 Person of the Year.

By Rita J. Egan

Wet weather couldn’t stop Santa Claus from visiting Stony Brook Village Center as promised Dec. 3.

Santa’s appearance was part of the 44th annual Ward Melville Heritage Organization Holiday Festival. In addition to photos with the jolly elf, attendees spent the afternoon visiting with animals at the petting zoo and viewing the promenade of trees decked out for the holidays and the train display at W.L. Wiggs Opticians. Carolers also performed throughout the shopping center.

“Despite the weather, hundreds of people came out to see Santa arrive in Stony Brook on the antique fire engine for the 44th time,” said Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president. “What was added this year was a Grinch character to complement Santa, which the children loved. People noted the tree looked fuller than usual and was decorated beautifully. Hundreds tuned into the tree lighting in person and also remotely on our website.”

WMHO trustees and elected officials were on hand for the center’s tree lighting later in the day, followed by a private reception at the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame. Santa showed up once again, telling guests he was surprised that not one child asked for a Barbie doll. He added the popular gift request this year was a Taylor Swift-branded acoustic guitar.

By Rita J. Egan

PJ Cinemas patrons catching a screening of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Trolls Band Together, Wish, The Holdovers, Napoleon, or The Marvels for the Thanksgiving weekend are in for a pleasant surprise. Just in time for the holiday movie season, the decades-long Port Jefferson Station staple has been made over for the comfort of its customers.

After two months of remodeling and temporarily closing its doors to the public, owner Phil Solomon said he opened the PJ Cinemas doors once again in October. In addition to its seven auditoriums — two downstairs and five upstairs —  being painted and getting new carpeting and aisle lights, the movie theater now has new seats that Solomon described as “delicious.”

Initially, the theater had 1,050 seats that the owner called “wonderful seats back in 1994.” Now, the venue has approximately 650 chairs in total, and while that means less regarding occupancy, the new seats have other benefits.

“By doing that, we have put in fewer but larger and more comfortable seats that rock,” he said. “There’s space in such a way that when somebody at the end of the row wants to get out, the people in the row do not have to stand up. You can just walk right by them. The seats are comfortable and supportive.”

Two months may be a long time for a business to close its doors, but Solomon has dealt with closings before as he was among the business owners who survived the mandatory COVID-19 shutdowns in New York. The period marked another time for change for the theater as the owner had new air filters and up-to-date HVAC ductwork units installed to purify the air before theaters were able to reopen in October 2020. 

Despite fewer locally privately-owned movie theaters in the area and many of those businesses struggling, Solomon said it’s important to continue upgrading PJ Cinemas and making the venue more comfortable.

“We’re hoping to keep the industry alive,” he said.

Solomon, who has owned the theater since 1982, is also optimistic about the future now that the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA actor union strikes are over.

The theater owner said he sees the grandchildren of original customers coming to his theater now, and he owes his success to keeping ticket prices low. The movie theater charges $10 for adults and $7.50 for senior citizens and children. Screenings before 6 p.m. are $7.50 for all customers.

“What we do is we keep it so that movies are still accessible to the ordinary movie going public,” he said. “So, you don’t need a large sum of money for a family or a couple to go to the movies and get some popcorn.”

PJ Cinemas is located in the Port Plaza shopping center at 1068 Route 112, Port Jefferson Station. For more information, please call 631-928-FILM or visit www.mypjcinemas.com.

Eric Waxman, Jr. honored as the Veteran of the Game at the September 24th, 2023 NY Yankees Game in the Bronx. Pictured with Eric is his grandson, U.S. Army Major Eric Waxman IV.

By Rita J. Egan

This year, receiving special recognition for his military service came earlier than Nov. 11 for one local veteran. The New York Yankees honored Eric Waxman Jr., of East Setauket, during their Veteran of the Game ceremony on Sept. 24. The occasion coincided with his 96th birthday.

The Korean War veteran has been a fan of the Yankees since 1934. He said his first baseball game was with his dad, and on Sept. 24, he was escorted on the field by his grandson Army Major Eric Waxman IV.

Waxman is a familiar face in the community due to his past and current community service with St. James R.C. Church, the Knights of Columbus and the Three Village Historical Society.

Active duty

U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Eric Waxman, Jr.

While studying at Fordham University, he was enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. He had served in the Army earlier, from 1945 to 1946, which qualified him to be advanced in the ROTC program. After completing his training, he was called to active duty in the U. S. Army in September 1951.

During the war, the then New Hyde Park resident was stationed in Germany and was part of the Cold War force. The era marked a time filled with tension between the former Soviet Union and the United States.

“They told us we were the only army that was between the communist Russians and the North Sea,” he said.

Waxman served as a 1st Lieutenant with the 14th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Armored Division as a forward observer. In the case of combat, he said, it would mean that he would stand at the shoulder of an infantry lieutenant at the front line or a soldier in a tank. His job would be to adjust the fire on the target.

“It was a little bit frightening to know that you were adjusting artillery fire on a simulated target but it was live ammunition,” he said. “That was exciting and I’d say exhilarating to be adjusting real live ammunition.”

Between his earlier service and his time spent in Germany, he served a total of 39 months. He was placed in a reserve unit in September of 1953 for a short time and soon after was retired from the military.

Life and service after the Army

After serving in the military, Waxman entered the education field. For most of his career, he was a high school principal. His first stint in the position was in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, for 10 years. He would then go on to be principal at Harborfields High School for three years and William Floyd School District for eight. When he retired from being a principal, he was an assistant dean at Touro Law School for 14 years.

He and his wife, Anne, moved to the Three Village area 46 years ago and raised seven children. Today, their family has grown to include 34 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren, with three more on the way.

Through the decades, Waxman has balanced community service with career and family. He was involved in the Three Village Historical Society for 20 years, serving on the board for seven of those years and helping out with the society’s various tours.

His love for history began when he taught the subject in a junior high school before becoming a principal.

“I have a deep appreciation for the importance of the study of the past,” he said.

During his time with the historical society, he said he enjoyed discussing Colonial and Revolutionary times with those who attended events such as the society’s Spirits Tour and Village Green Walking Tours.

Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly C. Tyler said Waxman always made himself available to help at society events.

“He was one of those people who we could really rely on to always be there,” Tyler said.

The historian said when leading tours, Waxman had a knack for covering what was needed for participants to understand. At the same time, he knew to avoid getting too complex about the history.

“He’s very knowledgeable, and he has an incredible depth of information,” Tyler said. “People enjoy listening to him.”

While Waxman no longer volunteers for the historical society events, he remains an active member of St. James church’s parish and its Knights of Columbus.

Father Robert Kuznik has been with the church for more than two years and said getting to know Waxman “has been a highlight.”

“He’s a humble but a constant presence,” Kuznik said. “You know that if something is happening in our faith community, he is there.”

Kuznik said Waxman is part of several groups in the parish that provide help to the community in addition to his involvement in the Knights of Columbus, where he participates in the food and blood drives. He also works with fellow parishioners to help organizations such as the Life Center of Long Island, which helps pregnant women in need and young women with children.

“Mr. Waxman is a man of great wisdom,” he said. “He brings his experience and knowledge together and uses them well. It is such a great privilege, such a blessing to be so often in the presence of this wonderful man.”

Kuznik said Waxman frequently reads the Scriptures during Sunday Mass and other services, and he also comes once a month to help and pray at a Mass for young people with disabilities.

“At heart, he is an educator, an incredible communicator,” the priest said. “Listening to him making an announcement in his booming voice, his style, repetition, you know instantly that whoever was in there will walk out well informed.” 

Reflecting on his military service

Waxman said he feels there is a lot to gain from serving in the military.

“Learning to discipline yourself and to be task-oriented is helpful no matter what you do with your life, and you get the training that you need to learn the importance of discipline and obedience in the basic training of the armed forces,” he said.

At the same time, he is concerned for service members, especially his grandson Eric, who has been deployed to Afghanistan three times.

“We’re so proud that he’s going to serve,” Waxman said. “I think that’s the main thing, finding men and women who are willing to serve their country in time of need.”

Waxman described war as “the last resort to solve a disagreement.”

“I’m proud to be an American and to have had the opportunity to serve,” he said.”I hope that we’re able to make our way in the world as a nation, and I hope that we live in more peaceful times in the future.”

Annual holiday event celebrates shipyards and shorelines

By Rita J. Egan

With the holidays approaching, the Three Village Historical Society is preparing to light the way with a touch of history and seasonal decor.

The historical society will host its Candlelight House Tour on Friday, Dec. 1, and Saturday, Dec. 2. The event, titled Shipyards and Shorelines, will feature homes near the shores of Setauket Harbor, according to event co-chairs Patty Yantz and Patty Cain. Rounding out the house tour will be the Caroline Church of Setauket. The church celebrated its 300th anniversary this year.

Most of the four homes are on Shore Road, an area known as the Dyers Neck Historic District.

“There will be beautiful homes decorated in seasonal décor by our talented decorators,” Cain said.

The annual event allows visitors to visit the homes to see the designers’ work. 

“All of our events, no matter how glamorous, they are all rooted in education,” said Mari Irizarry, TVHS director. “The Candlelight House Tour, now in its 44th year, is our biggest fundraiser, with all proceeds going directly towards our operating costs. We welcome over 1,000 guests and over 100 volunteers to appreciate historic architecture of the Three Village community and learn about the people that helped build our community.”

Irizarry said the chosen homes are revealed to attendees when they pick up a booklet before their tour begins. This year’s choices include a mixture of historic homes and houses recognized for their aesthetic beauty.

“There is one grand house, down a hidden path behind gates that is ‘shore’ to be the belle of the ball,” Irizarry said.

As early as 1662, the area was once the center of shipbuilding. In the 19th century, the industry became a major commercial activity. According to Yantz and Cain, the tour will focus on shipbuilding, local architecture, oystering and whaling.

Irizarry added the 439-ton whaling ship Daisy was among the inspirations. The ship was built in 1871-72 at Nehemiah Hand’s shipyard, which was located along Shore Road in East Setauket.

According to Yantz, during the event, the society board members will share photos and documents from TVHS archives and little-known local history trivia.

In addition to the house tours, the historical society will host a reception Friday night at The Old Field Club from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and a breakfast Saturday at the club from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for additional fees. The breakfast and tour package allows attendees to visit the homes an hour before they are officially opened.

TVHS members presale begins today, Thursday, Nov. 2 and runs until Nov. 5. Tickets will be available for non-members starting Nov 6. The Friday, Dec. 1 tour runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets for members are $75 and non-members $90. Friday night’s tour and reception package ticket is $145 for members and $175 for non-members. Saturday’s tour is $55 for members and $70 for nonmembers. Saturday’s tour and breakfast combo is $90 and $120.

For more information, visit www.tvhs.org/candlelight-house-tour.