Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Man allegedly reached into a Burger King drive through to steal cash from the restaurant. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department
Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 2nd Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the man who allegedly stole cash from a Huntington Station restaurant earlier this month.

A man reached through the drive through window and allegedly stole cash from Burger King located at 837 New York Avenue  July 7 at approximately 11:40 p.m.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

A small bridge in Arthur H. Kunz County Park, above, allows residents to take advantage of its many trails. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A resolution passed in the Suffolk County Legislature will place the onus on contractors when a structure encroaches onto county parkland.

The resolution, titled A Local Law to Ensure the Protection of County Parkland, passed in the Legislature June 23 and will take effect immediately after it is signed by County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The legislation requires a contractor working on private property that abuts parkland must obtain a copy of the land survey of the private parcel from the homeowner. The legislation also requires that the private property owner must submit a written affirmation that there have been no changes to the property since the survey. An affidavit must be filled out stating the work being performed is within private property and neither encroaches on or physically disturbs the adjacent parkland. It’s required that the affirmation be signed by the contractor and notarized.

“As Suffolk residents, we all bear the responsibility of being stewards of our environment.”

— Susan Berland

Fines for violation of the law are $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for three or more.

The legislation was co-sponsored by county legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills), Samuel Gonzalez (D-Brentwood), Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon) and was first introduced at the beginning of 2020. The legislation was inspired after a case in Smithtown where homeowners built a gazebo partly made of brick that was situated on a small piece of land that is part of Arthur H. Kunz County Park. The owners also had placed a putting green next to the structure.

“Suffolk County has long been a leader in protecting open space and parkland,” Berland said in an email. “As Suffolk residents, we all bear the responsibility of being stewards of our environment.”

Berland added that many residents encroached on public lands during her time as Town of Huntington councilwoman, where the town took some legal actions.

“These actions come at significant cost to taxpayers and can be avoided by ensuring that all involved in construction at these homes are certain that property boundaries are being observed,” the legislator said. “Suffolk County has a record of spearheading initiatives to safeguard the environment, earning us a regional and national reputation for innovation on this front. This resolution serves to further bolster that reputation.”

We don’t want people building and taking advantage of land that we’ve spent a lot of money to preserve for the residents of Suffolk County.

— Kara Hahn

Hahn said it makes sense for contractors to take extra precautions when building near parkland. 

“If you’re a contractor, and you’re about to put down a fence, and the property next to you is 100 acres, you have to take a look and say, ‘Oh, what land is that,’” she said, adding it’s simple to determine what’s public parkland looking at online maps.

“It’s common sense,” the legislator said. “We don’t want people building and taking advantage of land that we’ve spent a lot of money to preserve for the residents of Suffolk County. We preserve it to prevent building on it.”

Hahn said the legislation will not only prevent intentional and unintentional encroachment but will also protect both the homeowners and contractors.

She said the protection of parkland is more important than ever as more residents search for outdoor activities during the pandemic.

“I think it’s abundantly clear how important [parklands] are to the health of our communities — our mental health, our physical health, community well-being — and it’s important to protect them in every way we can,” Hahn said.

Department chief Kevin Fitzpatrick presents a plaque to Hailee Hurtado July 6. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A 15-year-old’s heroic actions were recognized July 6 at Smithtown Fire Department’s main facility on Elm Avenue.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim talks about Hailee before he and councilmembers gave her and her sister Madison skateboards. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The fire department, elected officials and the Smithtown Children’s Foundation presented Hailee Hurtado with awards and presents for helping to save her entire family from a devastating house fire June 26. If her actions would have been delayed by a few minutes, the outcome could have ended in tragedy, according to the fire department’s public information officer Rick Torre.

“We can all agree today that Hailee’s quick instinct and fast actions define her today as a hero,” Torre said.

It was in the early morning hours of June 26 when Hailee thought she smelled smoke in her Stuyvesant Lane home. Her first response was to wake up her father, Jonathan Hurtado, who discovered there was a fire in the garage. As the father evacuated his wife, Evelyn, and younger daughter, Madison, Hailee ran downstairs for her grandmother. After getting his wife and younger daughter to safety, Jonathan Hurtado returned inside the house where he found Hailee downstairs assisting her grandmother who uses a cane.

When the family was all safe outside, the garage became engulfed in flames and the fire had spread up the exterior to the upper level. Despite the fire department responding in minutes, the home was left uninhabitable with the total destruction of all keepsakes, clothing and electronics.

Torre said while firefighters are trained and participate in drills, Hailee didn’t have that luxury.

“In the early morning hours of June 26, the skills of the classroom or drills didn’t come into play for Hailee Hurtado,” he said. “It was instinct.”

Department chief Kevin Fitzpatrick presented Hailee with a plaque, and she received accolades and certificates for her valor from Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).

Hailee Hurtado, left, holds the plaque she received from the Smithtown Fire Department as Congressman Lee Zeldin (R) congratulates her on her bravery July 6. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Zeldin congratulated Hailee on her bravery and counted her among the town’s finest as several of the department’s firefighters were on hand for the event.

“It really says a lot about what Hailee did when you have hometown heroes calling you a hero,” he said.

John Kennedy said his office has internships and then handed Hailee his business card and said she was welcomed to call at any time if she were interested in interning in his office.

Wehrheim joked that Hailee asked her parents if she really had to attend, he said, “Now you know why you had to come.”

“The Hurtado family have lost their home, their memories and their keepsakes, but they still have each other thanks to Hailee doing the impossible,” Wehrheim said. “It’s a privilege to honor her today.”

After his speech, Wehrheim and councilmembers gave Hailee and her sister skateboards. Mario Mattera, who is running for State Senate in November and is the business agent for Local Plumbers Union 200, presented four bicycles for the whole family.

Christine Fitzgerald, co-founder of the Smithtown Children’s Foundation, said an iPhone 11 was on the way for Hailee. The foundation has provided relief for the family after the fire and neighbors have started a GoFundMe page to help.

While Hailee was too shy to speak, her father Jonathan Hurtado said the tragedy has been surreal, and he thanked his neighbors and the community, especially the firefighters for their quick response.

“It was apparent in that moment I didn’t know what to do with myself and my family,” he said.

The father said the family appreciated the help they have received and neighbors reaching out to check up on them.

“It was truly a blessing to see how everybody pitched in,” he said.

People wishing to help the Hurtados can visit GoFundMe.com and search Help the Hurtado Family.

Kimberly Liao

With a 104.46 weighted grade point average, Kimberly Liao shares the honor of Commack High School academic leader with Louis Viglietta.

Liao will be attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology later this year with a combined biology and chemistry major.  Her father,  Xiangmin Liao, is a chemist, so she said going into that field was always in the back of her mind. Her mother, Xia Zhou, works in the public health sector.

Through the student’s years in the Commack School District, she has been involved in the Regeneron Science Talent Search and was named one of its top 300 scholars for 2020. She also has been class president from her sophomore year through senior year and was a member of the
tennis team.

In 2015, while in eighth grade, she won the Suffolk County girls tennis title and became an all-state qualifier, and repeated the feat a year later.

She said sometimes balancing schoolwork with other activities can be stressful.

“But, I think that all-around prioritizing and knowing when to take a break and when to step back and what needs to be done in that moment of time helps,” she said.

While she was born in Kansas and lived in Minnesota when she was younger, Liao said she has spent all her school years in the Commack district. She attended Indian Hollow Primary School and Burr Intermediate before attending Commack High. Among her favorite classes, she said, was chemistry and she enjoyed conducting science research and being hands-on in biology.

She said while the state mandate requiring schools to close due to the coronavirus was difficult to get used to, she found the workload to be less and tried her best to find things to do to fill her free time. She would go to the tennis courts with her mother, catch up on sleep, and cook and bake a lot.

Liao also finished research for a scientific paper that was recently edited, and she hopes it will be published in ACS Omega, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

As she looks back at high school, she said she is grateful for her teachers, especially club advisers Holly Bellisari and Michael Jeziorski, research teacher Jeanette Collette and chemistry teacher Stephanie O’Brien.

As far as Liao’s future, she said she’s not 100 percent set on a career path yet, but it’s something she looks forward to discovering as she’s thinking of possibly working in some way in the health devices field.

While she’s at college, she said she’ll miss spending time with her family, and her dad said he wants to come up to watch all her tennis matches. She’ll also miss Commack.

“I’ll miss having this great community that I’ve grown to love and has supported me during this journey,” she said. “That will be very hard to let go.”

This year she was part of the prom planning committee. She said that during the first two weeks of quarantine it was hard to grasp that milestone events would be canceled,
but overall she was more troubled by the smaller everyday events than the bigger milestones.

“I was more upset about the little things like seeing my teachers every day, gossiping with my friends,” she said.

When it comes to advice for younger Commack students, which includes her brother Edward, she said it’s important to
find something that they enjoy and really pursue it.

“Take some chances, because you never know what’s going to happen,” she said.

Louis Viglietta

As the school year ended, Louis Viglietta was named one of Commack High School’s academic leaders along with Kimberly Liao. Viglietta capped off the year with a 105.34 weighted grade point average.

Viglietta is preparing to attend Princeton University at the end of the summer and will major in chemical and biological engineering. Once he attends college, he said he will miss the Commack community.

“I’m excited, but there will actually be things I will miss about Commack,” he said, adding that he and his friends have already discussed how they will visit each other.

The academic leader said that at a young age his father, Peter, a software engineer, taught him chemistry, and he continued to focus on the subject in high school. He said his interest in biology developed over the years watching his mother, Anna Marie, battling a mild case of cerebral palsy.

He was 4 years old when he moved to Commack from Wantagh and attended Rolling Hills Primary School and Sawmill Intermediate before starting high school. Viglietta said he has appreciated his education in the district and was lucky to have supportive teachers, including his math teachers and chemistry teacher Stephanie O’Brien.

In addition to his studies, during his time in Commack, Viglietta was involved in the Simons Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University, performed as principal flute player with the ICA Wind Ensemble, was treasurer for the class executive board and Science Honor Society and president of the Quizbowl club. During his high school career, he won second place in the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision contest and is a Rensselaer Medal scholarship winner.

Viglietta said he enjoyed being on the class board as treasurer, dealing with financial decisions, organizing big events and the senior gift, as well as working with the advisers and his classmates. He added that he also gained a lot of positive experience as president of the Quizbowl, a competition team he joined in ninth grade.

Viglietta said the Simons Research Program provided great experience in the biochemical and bioresearch fields, allowing him to work in a Stony Brook Medicine lab and research pathways that cause some of the side effects of chemotherapy, and hear from some of the faculty members about their research.

Regarding this year’s school shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Viglietta said he found the online learning experience interesting but manageable. With prom canceled and graduation tentatively scheduled for August, Viglietta said he was able to adjust, but all of his friends are dealing with it differently. 

“When I started to think about it, it was the little things that won’t get rescheduled — the goodbyes to teachers and friends, the yearbook signings — all those smaller events that don’t have a setting to take place anymore,” he said.

For his fellow students, he said his best advice is to keep at it and persevere even when times are tough.

“Even though this class had the year chopped off a bit, there still have been great milestones and things to look forward to,” he said. “Just keep looking ahead, and you’ll get through it.”

William Sun

East Setuket’s William Sun ended the school year on a high note.

Sun is Ward Melville High School’s valedictorian with a 105.01 weighted average. The valedictorian is planning on attending Brown University in Rhode Island to major in computer science.

Sun attended Nassakeag Elementary School and then W.S. Mount Elementary for the district’s intellectually gifted classes. Before Ward Mellville, he studied at P.J. Gelinas Middle School. While he has lived in the Three Village area all his life, his father, Yan Sun, a doctor, and his mother, Hong Tan, a nurse, are originally from China and moved here in the 1990s and now run a doctor’s office.

Sun said attending Three Village through the years he has been surrounded by brilliant peers.

“There are so many smart people in this community,” he said.

During his high school career, he has been a member of the Ward Melville High School Varsity Science Olympiad Team and was also the president of the school’s math team and computer science club. He qualified for the International Science and Engineering Fair and won a silver medal at the Long Island math research competition. The valedictorian played piano and violin in the school’s ensembles and was named an All-State pianist, qualified as an All-State alternative for violin and toured in Spain and eastern Europe in eighth- and 10th-grade, respectively, through the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. In 2020, he was named a National Merit Scholarship winner.

Among his activities and achievements, being the director, creator and manager of Piano for Patients has been one of his favorites. He and other student-musicians would play piano in the Stony Brook University Hospital lobby and over time other musicians became involved performing with other instruments. He’s hoping before he attends college and hands over his responsibilities to a younger student that the group can do one more performance in the summer, since they haven’t been able to perform during the pandemic. Recently, he and his piano teacher Daniel Fogel have organized an online concert as an alternative way to do community service through playing piano.

In addition to Piano for Patients, he volunteered at the hospital helping out with whatever needed to be done to lighten the load for workers, whether it was moving things around, making beds or cleaning floors.

He said choosing computer science came about since he’s been involved in programming since sixth- and seventh-grade, and he also took courses at Stony Brook University where he was involved in programming as well as researching different ways to find data.

“In the future, computer science is going to have a large impact and so I want to be a part of that,” he said, adding he thinks about working at places such as Google in the future.

He said among the teachers in the Three Village school district who had an influence on him was former Gelinas teacher Gary Vorwald, who was both his earth science teacher and the head of Science Olympiad in the school. The valedictorian remembers how the teacher would stay late at school to help students.

“It was the first time that I saw passion for science, he really made me want to join the Science Olympiad,” he said.

As the school was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sun said he kept himself busy with computer science projects and learning Mandarin.

As he leaves Ward Melville behind, he said he’s impressed with the younger students.

“This is really a tumultuous time but we’ve seen some amazing things, especially from the grades that are coming up,” he said. “People are really pushing for what they believe in. What I would say is fight for what you believe in, because with what’s going on now, people are really fighting for justice and such amazing things.”

Matthew Fiorella

Ward Melville’s salutatorian capped off the school year with a 104.85 weighted grade point average.

With the school year behind him, Matthew Fiorella is ready to head to the University of California, Los Angeles and major in engineering. He said when it came to choosing colleges it was down to the California school and the University of Michigan. He decided he would have better intern and job opportunities through UCLA. Plus, he said he liked California after visiting there a couple of times.

Originally living in Arizona and Ohio when he was younger, Fiorella moved to the Three Village Central School District for second grade. He started at Setauket Elementary School and then entered the Intellectually Gifted Program at Mount Elementary School in fourth grade. He continued his studies at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School.

During his high school career, Fiorella has kept busy both in and outside of school. He was the president of the Junior Model UN, a member of the National and Spanish honor societies and was named a National Merit Finalist. The salutatorian was also a member of the school’s band. He played first alto saxophone and was president of the wind ensemble. He also completed an internship at the biotechnology startup Vascular Simulations Inc.

As far as sports, he worked as a coach for the Three Village Youth Basketball organization and took part in the Sports Arena Basketball team.

He said balancing extracurriculars with schoolwork can be challenging.

“It’s trying not to waste time and not to procrastinate, which is difficult because it’s something that I think is natural to a lot of people,” he said. “I think being involved in a lot of things and moving around a lot helps me stay disciplined.”

Fiorella has been inspired by his father, Dr. David Fiorella, who works at Stony Brook University Hospital, and his mother, Andrea Fiorella, a former physical therapist. Besides his parents, Fiorella said his cousin David Lawrence has been an influence in his life.

Lawrence is an electrical engineer, which Fiorella found interesting because there are creative elements to that field, and he had the opportunity to tour his cousin’s workplace when he was younger.

“It was always very interesting to me, and it was really cool to see the more imaginative side of engineering, and it’s kind of what got me interested in it,” he said.

However, with a recent curiosity in history and politics during high school, he said he may even consider studying law in graduate school one day.

“I like engineering, but I don’t feel like I have had the chance to really validate that interest because most of the courses you take in school don’t reflect engineering until you get into college,” he said.

With senior year behind him, and a possible in-person graduation in July, the salutatorian said he and others never imagined the possibility that they might not have a prom or graduation.

“It’s hard because you really don’t know what you’re missing because you haven’t experienced it or something else like it,” he said. “I feel like it’s a very singular experience.”

For those students he leaves behind at Ward Melville High School, he said his advice would be not to stress so much about the day-to-day things and focus more on enjoying everything.

“This year has really shown there’s so much you really can’t plan for,” he said. “Even just in the way college decisions come out, you really realize that things aren’t the way you expected them to be. You just kind of have to accept it.”

Michael Bernstein on the Stony Brook University campus. Photo from Stony Brook University

As the 2019-2020 school year comes to a close, Stony Brook University’s recent interim president is returning to familiar territory.

Michael Bernstein will remain at SBU, even though his last day as interim president was June 30. On July 1 he returned to his former position as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. Last August, Bernstein took on the role of interim president after the departure of former president, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

Bernstein said he decided to stay after a request from new university president, Maurie McInnis, who was appointed in March, and added that a search for his replacement may take up to a year. He plans to move to California in the future.

“I’m in a position, I think, to help Maurie as she transitions in as the new president,” he said. “Obviously, we’re very much challenged with planning through this COVID emergency and figuring out how we’re going to manage the fall semester, not to mention the whole academic year.”

While the pandemic got in the way of working on some SBU goals such as strategic revisioning, strengthening a few of the business practices and revitalization of the computer system, he’s confident that McInnis, with whom he has been in constant contact since her appointment, will be prepared to take on the challenges once the 2020 fall semester can begin.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which required colleges and universities to switch to online learning and hold events virtually since March, Bernstein said he enjoyed his time as interim president overall.

“I was surrounded by a superb senior leadership team,” he said. “We were getting a lot done in terms of managing university affairs.”

Bernstein said he realized the importance of taking precautions early on once the number of COVID-19 cases started rising in the U.S.

“My sense was that we were in the midst of an emerging crisis that was going to accelerate pretty quickly and pretty dramatically,” he said. “We made a decision to shut down and start canceling major campus events pretty quickly.”

He said that the campus nearly closed earlier than it did but the school had to wait for directions from the State University of New York administration to coordinate with the broader school network. Bernstein said the last major event at the campus was the 2020 gala held at the Staller Center March 7.

“I had said at that point that we will have no more major campus events, and we were a little early when we made that decision,” he said.

While he received some pushback, he’s glad he made the decision.

“I think within a couple of weeks people were circling back to me saying, ‘That was the right decision, thank you for making it as quickly as you did.’ I think it became clear to people that we had to shut everything down.”

He added that shortly after the university cut back on public events, students were asked to head home, and spring break was extended to two weeks so the university could prepare for online learning.

He said at the last in-person university council meeting, it was realized they were all in the midst of a critical moment in their careers and that everyone would be defined by what decisions were made. While he said it was a challenging time, he remained positive.

“There’s the old saying, ‘Calm seas and blue skies do not make good sea captains,’” he said. “You’re not in a leadership position to work when things are calm. When things are calm and fine, you don’t need leaders.”

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Korean War veteran Sal Scarlato in his mini-museum in his basement. Photo by Dave Paone

By Dave Paone

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. While many of the soldiers who fought in it are still alive today, the conflict has been dubbed “The Forgotten War,” because for some reason the media — and the populace in general — tend to give their attention to World War II and Vietnam, making Korea their redheaded stepchild.

Scarlato, left, with a South Korean counterpart. Photo from Scarlato

Sal Scarlato, of Hauppauge, has been working to change that.

On June 25, 1950, when Scarlato was 17, North Korean soldiers crossed the 38th parallel (the line separating North and South Korea) and the Korean War began. Three days later the first U.S. ground-combat troops arrived in Korea by order of President Harry S. Truman.

Scarlato had known of a few boys from his neighborhood in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn who were killed in combat early on in the war. This didn’t stop Scarlato and 16 of his pals from enlisting in the Marines after they turned 18.

“I was very gung-ho,” he said. “I was very anxious to be a Marine.”

Scarlato went from Parris Island, South Carolina, to Camp Pendleton, California, and then to Kobe, Japan. The next stop was Korea.

PFC Scarlato landed at Inchon April 10, 1952. He was 19 and in the infantry.

In the four months of training and traveling since he enlisted, Scarlato didn’t really understand the gravity of what was coming.

It wasn’t until he was on the landing barge, with his full pack of gear, seasick, heading for the shore, when the commanding officer yelled, “Land of departure, lock and load!” that he knew he was in a war.

Some guys on the landing barge actually soiled themselves they were so scared.

Scarlato spent his first three nights in Korea on a base with bombed-out buildings and then was sent to the front line.

“All of a sudden we got hit with small-arm fire and mortar fire,” he said. “So, we jumped out of the trucks, and we ran right for the rice paddies because that’s all the coverage you had.”

Scarlato found himself face-down in a pile of human waste, which was used as fertilizer.

“We were firing like crazy,” he said. “I had the runs, I urinated, I was crying,” he said. “A couple of guys got hit.”

One night Scarlato had outpost duty along the 38th parallel.

“That night the CCF [Chinese Communist Forces] really gave us a welcome,” he said. “When they came, I didn’t fire my weapon right away. I froze. So, the guy next to me — actually he was my squad leader — hit me in the helmet. He said, ‘You better start firing that weapon.’

“A couple of minutes later, he got hit in the belly. He fell right on top of me. And when the corpsman came, he said, ‘Give me your hand.’”

To help stop the bleeding, Scarlato applied pressure to the squad leader’s liver, which was protruding from his body. Right then and there the squad leader died.

“I cried like a baby,” Scarlato said.

It was at this moment he truly understood what he had volunteered for. He didn’t sleep for three days.

“After this I was very bitter,” Scarlato said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ And my officers always said, ‘You’ll find out. You’ll find out eventually what you’re doing here.’”

The war raged on. Scarlato witnessed countless casualties and then in July of 1952, he became one.

Once again, Scarlato’s unit came under attack by the CCF. With his peripheral vision, he could see an enemy combatant toss a hand grenade at him and the two other nearby Marines. The grenade exploded, killing one of them and wounding Scarlato and the third Marine. Scarlato rolled down a hill and suffered leg, neck and hand wounds and a concussion.

A corpsman gave him a shot of morphine, and with the help of two South Koreans, sent him via jeep to an aid station. (There was no MASH unit in the area.) From there he was flown via chopper with another patient to a hospital ship.

Scarlato recuperated from his wounds, although to this day he still has shrapnel in his neck, which sets off alarms at airports on occasion.

He thought this was his ticket home, but the Marines still needed him. He did receive a Purple Heart out of the experience, though.

Being sent back to his unit made Scarlato bitter.

“I hated everybody,” he said, even spitting on his South Korean allies when one came close. Prior, he was ready to make the Marines his career, but now he even hated the institution that he once loved so much.

However, soon after this, Scarlato discovered the officers were correct and he did indeed find out why he was there.

On patrol one day, Scarlato and his unit came upon a small village where several civilians had been killed, execution style.

“There were three little children,” he said. “Two little girls — they were full of blood — but they were not dead. There was a little boy, maybe five, six years old … he had his hand blown off.”

Scarlato immediately picked the boy up, who wrapped his arms tightly around Scarlato’s neck, strangling him. Scarlato picked up the child’s severed hand and put it in his pocket.

Scarlato bandaged the end of the boy’s arm and a corpsman arrived. They both tried to pry the child from Scarlato’s neck, but he wouldn’t let go. He screamed in pain the entire time.

The two soldiers flagged down a medical jeep and they drove to a nearby orphanage that had a medical staff.

The nurses were able to pry the child from Scarlato and placed him on a table. Scarlato and the corpsman turned and walked out, having done all they could.

While he was in the jeep, Scarlato remembered he still had the child’s hand in his pocket. He stepped back inside only to find the boy had died.

This was the defining moment for Scarlato. Out of all the death and carnage he saw, this was the worst. Now he knew the reason he was there was “to save these people’s lives. Before that, I didn’t understand.”

In 1985, the Korean War Veterans Association was chartered in Troy, New York, as a national veterans group. In 2010, Scarlato became president of the Central Long Island chapter. It’s through the KWVA that he works to preserve the memory of those who served in the war.

Part of his success in this endeavor is the $400,000 Korean War veterans’ monuments in Hauppauge, paid for by the County of Suffolk, and dedicated in 1991.

Additionally, Scarlato and his chapter raised $70,000 in donations to go toward the national monument in Washington, D.C.

Over the years, Scarlato has curated what he calls a “mini-museum” in his basement. On display are artifacts from his time in the service, including his Purple Heart, his .45 holster and his rain poncho.

At 87, Scarlato is still sharp as a tack and keeps up with the news, including the current US-North Korean relations. He feels President Donald Trump (R) is “in the ballpark” when it comes to dealing with North Korea and what he’s doing should have been done by previous presidents long ago.

“Trump has more ‘testicoli,’ if you know what I mean,” Scarlato said.

Engaged couples such as Kim Mangels and Alex Yatron, from Huntington, have had to postpone their weddings due to COVID-19. Photo from Mangels

Part one of two

It’s not unusual to find a flow of wedding invitations following spring’s arrival. This year, however, COVID-19 has put a damper on celebrating love as engaged couples continue to postpone their big days.

A Bride’s Story

Huntington’s Kim Mangels, 30, said she and her fiancé Alex Yatron, 29, were set to tie the knot July 12, a date they chose in March of 2019.

Then the mandatory shutdowns due to the pandemic began. Mangels said fortunately they were able to move their ceremony and reception to July 11, 2021. When the pandemic first hit the U.S., the bride-to-be said they didn’t think it would last so long and affect their wedding date.

“We never imagined that it would end up being what it is now, that it’s changing everything, even life, for quite a while,” she said.

In the middle of April, she said they reached out to their venue, Crescent Beach Club in Bayville. They were optimistic at the time about weddings taking place in July. Two weeks later, the venue told her if they would prefer to postpone, they had to let them know by May 15. Mangels said that’s when they decided to change the date and weren’t up charged for the change.

She said it was easier for her and her fiancé since they were still in the middle of planning, and her dress wasn’t altered yet, so it would have been difficult to finalize aspects outside of the venue. As they look toward a new wedding date, Mangels said she and Yatron are pleased that they have more time to plan.

“We’re excited to celebrate after how crazy this whole year has been and to be able to see everyone we love in one place,” she said.

The Bates House decorated for a wedding. Photo from The Bates House

Empty Venue … for Now

Lise Hintze, manager of The Bates House in Setauket, located in Frank Melville Memorial Park, said she worked with many couples who not only had to postpone due to the pandemic but also some who were unable to continue planning their weddings with various vendors. One was a bride, she said, who found out a couple of months ago that her dress wouldn’t be ready for a July wedding even if it could be held. As of now, all weddings that were scheduled for 2020 at The Bates House have been pushed to 2021.

“The loss was tremendous for the park,” Hintze said.

The venue manager said a place like The Bates House has more pieces for the couple to take care of including caterers and decorators.

“There are so many more players in the circle with you so it’s hard,” she said. “It’s really hard.”

Hintze said while at first couples who had events scheduled for later in the year tried to take it day by day, many began to postpone their receptions as they feared a second wave of the coronavirus may come in the fall. Couples have told her how they don’t want to put older guests at risk of catching the virus or didn’t want to put guests in the uncomfortable position of making the decision themselves as to whether to attend or not.

Hintze said she has done her best to give couples various options, including getting married in a smaller, socially distanced ceremony outside, even though the venue itself cannot be used. She said some couples are still getting married on the day they originally chose and postponing the big party, while others are delaying both ceremony and reception.

The Bates House, which typically holds a wedding every weekend from the beginning of May to the end of October, is completely booked for 2021 as it already had weddings scheduled and then filled the open dates with postponed 2020 nuptials. Hintze said she left everyone on the calendar for 2020 though in case the state expands the parameters for large gatherings and couples decide they still want to have their parties on their original date.

“We’re excited to celebrate after how crazy this whole year has been and to be able to see everyone we love in one place.”

Kim Mangels

Florists’ Dilemmas

During the pandemic, planning floral arrangements and bouquets has been one part of the wedding puzzle that is difficult for couples to complete as many florists have been forced to close their doors.

Amanda Hagquist-LaMariana from Village Florist & Events in Stony Brook village said that sometimes flowers are one of the last things couples consider. In addition to cancellations due to the pandemic, being unable to plan in recent months has also slowed down businesses as many couples haven’t been able to tour their wedding venue or shop for dresses and tuxedos, among other things.

“A lot of things are usually in place before they come to meet with me,” she said.

During the shutdowns, Hagquist-LaMariana would send couples a questionnaire to fill out to get a feel for what they were looking for and spoke with them via phone and Zoom. She has been able to give a few estimates based on those conversations, but it’s a process that she said isn’t as organic as meeting in person where she and customers could look over photos, especially of events the florist has supplied flowers for in the past, to ensure everyone is on the same page.

“There are so many facets of the design that we do,” she said.

With Long Island entering Phase 3 of reopening, the florist said she looks forward to meeting with customers again. The cancellations that have occurred over the past few months have been a big financial blow to the business.

She said that during the first week of the shutdowns the florist had three weddings scheduled. At that point, the flowers and greenery, many of which are shipped internationally, were already purchased and could not be returned. While the events will still take place in the future, the florist will not charge the couples any additional fees.

“That was quite a loss,” she said. “It could have been worse timing, but it wasn’t great timing.”

To make the best of a bad situation, Hagquist-LaMariana, whose last wedding was March 7, used Facebook Live to sell the unused flowers in order to make up some of the costs.

“Our heads have been turning with the different ways that people have been managing to do things.”

Brian McCarthy

Brian McCarthy, James Cress Florist owner, said both the Smithtown and Port Jefferson Station locations that employ 40 full-time employees were required to shut down during the pandemic. Like the Stony Brook florist, he also has to order flowers from places out-of-state such as California, Holland and South America. McCarthy said as things began to unfold, some vendors worked with them, and they were able to cancel a few orders last minute.

“The growers have been dealing with us for decades,” he said. “They were very kind to us.”

McCarthy said there will be days in 2021 when they will need the help of drivers from at least one of their nine sister stores in other states to help with deliveries, because of the additional help, they haven’t had to turn anyone away who has rescheduled for 2021.

He said the biggest challenge is witnessing brides and grooms not having any definite answers. During the closure, shop manager Liz Guido helped couples plan future events by keeping in touch with all of them, and virtual wedding appointments are still available for initial consultations.

McCarthy said while they have had couples postpone until next year, they have also heard of couples that reduced the number of people at their ceremonies so they could still take place on the planned date.

“Our heads have been turning with the different ways that people have been managing to do things,” he said.

With seeing extremely scaled-down weddings and Sweet 16 parties, McCarthy said he thinks people are going to continue finding creative ways to have their special events.

“One thing about New Yorkers is they are as optimistic and creative as any place in the country,” he said. “They really are, and they’re determined to make sure that all these events that were planned are going to take place whatever time they can.”