Movers and Shakers

In October 2019, cousins Edmund Zarou and Alex Solounias, above, founded the business Night Light 3D last year. Photo from Edmund Zarou

Last year, two cousins took a sad occasion and turned it into a positive venture. Now the two want to share their light with others.

The pair created photorealistic nightlights like the one featuring Zarou’s father. Photo from Edmund Zarou

Edmund Zarou and Alex Solounias, part owners of the family business Zaro’s Cafe in Huntington Station, founded Night Light 3D in October 2019. The company takes customers’ photos and turns them into nightlights that project the image on a nearby surface.

Zarou said in an email that it all began after purchasing a 3D printer and making photorealistic nightlights with his dad Charlie’s image on them. His father passed away Dec. 26, 2016, after a bout with leukemia, and Zarou said it was a way to honor his dad that brought some comfort to his mother, sister and grandparents.

When friends heard about the nightlights the cousins created featuring Zarou’s father, they asked if more nightlights could be made with images of their loved ones. That’s when Zarou and Solounias decided to start Night Light 3D, extending their reach to people all across the country.

The success of the business is one that surprised Zarou at first.

“We have gotten nothing but positive feedback,” he said. “The amount of joy these nightlights bring is incredible.”

The pair now own five 3D printers to keep up with the demand. Earlier this year, Zarou used the printers to create face shields for local frontline workers who didn’t have enough on hand when the coronavirus infection first began to spike.

While customers can order nightlights with any type of photo on them, as the business grew, the cousins noticed that memorial nightlights were popular. One person told Zarou “that their loved one would continue to light up a room even though they’re gone.”

Zarou said he and Solounias decided to offer the nightlights for free for one month starting on the anniversary of his father’s passing, Dec. 26.

“Instead of us sitting here and mourning his passing, we’re going to honor his memory,” Zarou said.

Solounias said the goal is to help others, too.

“We really just hope to bring some comfort to someone in mourning,” he said.

He added that he hopes customers see that they care about their customers.

“We just want to lighten up some people’s nights with a picture of a loved one,” he said.

Both added that there is only one thing that they ask of those ordering a free memorial nightlight — to email a brief story of their loved one that will be posted on their social media.

“This is our way of keeping their memory alive,” Zarou said.

Starting Dec. 26 for one month, customers can order a free memorial nightlight. When visiting the website www.nightlight3d.com, customers can use the coupon coded “CHARLIE” at checkout. Shipping charges still apply.

Zarou said they are excited about making the memorial nightlights for everyone.

“We are grateful to be in the position to do this, and I know my father would want nothing more than for us to honor him this way — giving back,” he said.

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Owner Brian Baker cuts the ribbon at Bellport Brewing’s grand opening Dec. 3, while the Turners — John, Travis and Georgia — on the left look on. The event was attended by Brookhaven Town Councilmen Michael A. Loguercio Jr. and Dan Panico, County Legislator Rudy Sunderman, members of the Bellport Chamber of Commerce, family and friends. Photo from Leg. Sunderman’s office

People may be surprised when they hear that Setauket resident and environmentalist John Turner and his wife, Georgia, have entered the brewery business, but the new venture is all about family.

Georgia and John Turner, investors in the brewing company, and owner Brian Baker. Photo from Leg. Sunderman’s office

Turner said his son, Travis, 29, a few years ago began working with Brian Baker, who opened Bellport Brewing on Station Road in the South Shore village Dec. 3. The father said his son developed quite an interest in brewing beer while working with Baker and became an assistant brewer. When Baker thought about opening a brewery in Bellport, the Turners decided to become investors in the new business and support their son’s career dreams.

“Kind of the stars aligned right, and we decided for that reason and a few others, to take the plunge,” Turner said.

Baker, a former IT network administrator turned brewer, agreed that everything fell into place regarding going into business with the Turners, and the location that he spotted seven years ago finally became available. He credits his wife, Danielle, for being “absolutely amazing” during the process and is grateful for the Turners who he described “like a fairy godmother.” He said he couldn’t have done it by himself.

“I’m grateful for everything that everybody has ever put into this brewery to make me a success and to make this brewery a success,” he said.

Turner said the brewery is in an ideal spot as those walking around the village may pass by and drop in to check it out.

“We hope to get a lot of people just walking on the street during the summertime,” he said, adding he hopes walk-ins combined with social media will provide a good following.

Turner, who is the Town of Brookhaven’s open space program coordinator on a consulting basis, said he and Georgia hope in the future to become more than investors in the brewery, maybe even part owners. Leading up to the grand opening, he said his family enjoyed working with the Bakers in helping to get the building, the former Rooster’s Cafe, ready.

In the future, Baker said he would like to have an outdoor space and a food truck, maybe even cornhole and bocce ball games.

For now, Turner said he and his wife are learning a lot about beer making. From first boiling the water to opening the tap to pour it out, there are certain steps one must go through carefully that he compared to chemistry.

“If any one of those steps isn’t followed completely, you’re not going to turn out with the beer with the alcohol content, and the flavor and the character and body that you hope to have,” he said.

Baker agreed that creating a beer recipe is similar to a chef’s job.

“You need to know what the malts will do by themselves and how they work with others,” he said.

The brewer added Long Island was once one of the best locations to get hops from.

“The soil is everything for the hops environment,” he said. “When you have great soil and great farmers you get great hops and malt.”

Turner said the family has enjoyed helping Baker to shape the flavor and character of the business as well as speaking with potential customers to see what they like.

“It’s exciting but there’s also some trepidation because obviously the brewery opened up in the middle of a pandemic,” Turner said.

Despite the challenges the pandemic has created for businesses, Baker said both families are grateful for what they have today, even though they don’t know what tomorrow may bring. At the same time, they are aware of the current business climate and public health crisis.

“Today we have a brewery,” he said. “Today we have our health. Today we have our family. You know, let’s focus on that and not so much of what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

Rena Sylvester along with dozens of volunteers prepare and deliver meals to Suffolk County veterans. Photo from Rena Sylvester

Helping veterans is something one Stony Brook resident does all year long.

Volunteer Michelle Hahn and her daughters deliver to veterans in their neighborhood. Photo from Michelle Hahn

Rena Sylvester, 55, has been cooking and preparing meals in her home for local veterans since earlier this year, and the volunteer effort has become known as Cooking for Long Island Veterans. Sylvester said she recently filed for CFLIV to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which should be finalized this month.

For Sylvester, building a nonprofit organization that helps vets through providing meals came naturally. She said she’s always had a soft spot for veterans and is proud of those in her family tree, which include a grandfather who was in the Spanish-American War, and a great-great-grandfather who fought for the North in the Civil War. She said she remembers bringing her great-great-grandfather’s photo into school in seventh grade and has a steamer trunk from a great uncle who fought in World War I.

She first started cooking for Marine Corps League Detachment #247 in Bay Shore while she was a home economics teacher in the East Islip school district. After her retirement from teaching a couple of years ago, she said she continued to cook for the group and other veterans organizations.

Earlier in the year, a few vets reached out to Sylvester to see if she knew what happened to a woman who started a GoFundMe page to deliver meals to veterans. Sylvester contacted the woman, who told her she was unable to keep up. That’s when Sylvester rose to the occasion and started cooking in her own kitchen.

What started as cooking for a few vets has turned into delivering meals to more than 50 throughout Suffolk County. Through Sylvester’s previous connections with vets and veterans organizations, many reached out to her during the pandemic and the number of vets receiving meals increased. Currently, CFLIV has a waiting list.

“We are totally experiencing growing pains,” she said.

Rena Sylvester delivers meals to a veteran. Photo from Rena Sylvester

Fortunately, she said the number of volunteers who make up Cooking for Long Island Veterans has grown from a few to around 40, many of whom live in the Three Village area or Islip. Sylvester said it’s not only cooks she needs. Those who have offered to drive have also been a big help. She is now looking for people who can create a website, make copies and do some light housekeeping. Also, with a garage renovation underway to create cooking space, the organization can use help with lighting fixtures, electric hot water heaters, flooring and shelving.

Sylvester said every bit helps. She has a few volunteers who commit to a certain amount of time each month or a set amount of money. She said one volunteer is at her home every Thursday without fail and every month she can count on one local couple to spend $100 on CFLIV. There is also one volunteer who comes from Manhasset once a month to pick up food from Sylvester and then deliver to homes west of Stony Brook.

Some volunteers even get their families involved like Michelle Hahn. She and her two daughters, Anna, 7, and Gabriella, 5, have been delivering food to vets near her Stony Brook home for about a year.

“My girls love the idea of helping those who keep us safe and free,” Hahn said.

The mother said there are several senior veterans in her neighborhood, and when she and her family discovered Sylvester and volunteers were preparing and delivering meals to them, they wanted to get involved.

“We donate time when we can by cooking meals, making deliveries, recruiting volunteers or helping Rena in her busy house,” she said.

Sylvester said one way she increased the number of volunteers was reaching out to Three Village Wine Fairies, a Facebook group where people deliver wine to strangers after hearing about it from Bobby Hebert who owns Hamlet Wines & Liquors in East Setauket. She realized if they were willing to spend money on and deliver wine to strangers, maybe they would be open to helping out veterans. She reached out to the members and was right, gaining a few more volunteers.

Vets receive three each of breakfast, lunch and dinner per visit, according to Sylvester, sometimes more but never less. Each veteran receives the names and contact information of those who cooked the meals and delivered them to give the ex-servicemembers the opportunity to thank them. Sylvester said the ‘thank yous’ are important to let the volunteers know they are appreciated.

Hahn said she appreciated the calls of appreciation.

“I once had a senior vet call me and say, ‘My own family doesn’t help me out the way you all do,’” she said. “[It] melted my heart.”

In addition to volunteers, CFLIV accepts financial donations, gift cards and food donations from restaurants and supermarkets. Sylvester said she’s received help from businesses such as Panico’s Community Market in Smithtown, Rolling Pin in East Setauket, Rocco’s Pizza in St. James and others.

“We aren’t looking for anyone to give us 80 meals a week or anything,” she said. “We’re looking for a little help.”

Rena Sylvester, right, picks up donations from Panico’s Community Market in Smithtown. Photo from Rena Sylvester

On Nov. 10, Bliss restaurant in East Setauket held a fundraiser event for the organization. For every to-go dinner, the restaurant gave CFLIV 25% of the sale.

Christine Reardon said her parents, Frank and Eleanor, who live in Stony Brook have received meals from the volunteers. She called the service “a godsend.”

“It is just amazing to know that an abundance of food arrives weekly at their doorstep,” Reardon said. “Mom and dad, who is a Korean War vet, are both in failing health and to have this for my parents is appreciated beyond words.”

Richard Ehrlich, an 89-year-old Korean War vet who lives in Stony Brook, said he enjoys the meals. When he heard the organization could use more funds, he said he decided to donate what he could once a month.

“It helps me from running around a lot and shopping,” he said.

Sylvester said they are open to helping veterans who may not need financial assistance, but who may have physical limitations or are hesitant to shop during the pandemic. They are asked for a donation of whatever they could afford toward the cause.

“We are here to serve the needy veterans,” she said. “If a veteran is physically needy — but not financially — we need their financial support to keep running. Without financial support we will not be able to keep up with the demand.”

Those who are interested in volunteering for Cooking for Long Island Veterans or donating, can email Sylvester at [email protected]

Harlan Fischer, above, stands by two of several pieces of artwork displayed in his Setauket office. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Setauket recently welcomed a new financial services office to the area, but the company’s president is no stranger to the Three Village community.

Fischer along with his Branch Financial Services associates Stephanie Gress and Kristen Domiano. Photo from Branch Financial Services

Harlan Fischer, president of Branch Financial Services, recently moved his offices from Smithtown to Setauket. His business, which was located on Route 111 for 25 years, and before that, for 21 years in Hauppauge, has now found a home at 21 Bennetts Road.

The Head of the Harbor resident and his wife of almost 47 years, Olivia, are known for their involvement in the art community across the North Shore, and both are familiar names at The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. For the past three years, the couple has sponsored a monthly concert series at the music venue and museum, which is currently closed due to the coronavirus.

Loft founder Tom Manuel said the Fischers were its first donors. The musician still remembers the day in 2015 when he was in Stony Brook village performing to raise money for the renovation of the venue’s future home. He said a man with a dog walked up to him and they began talking about jazz. The man turned out to be Fischer.

“I was just thinking, ‘Wow, how interesting that there’s this guy that kind of digs what we’re trying to do,’” Manuel said. “Little did I know he’d already read about us, and he came there on purpose. I just thought he was passing by.”

He said Fischer gave him an envelope with a check inside, but Manuel didn’t open it until he was home, thinking it was maybe worth $50. Later he opened the envelope and found the check was for $1,000.

“My eyes were as big as saucers,” he said.

The Jazz Loft founder said that with Fischer’s interest in jazz and the couple’s love of art, the venue is a perfect match for them.

“They’re doing it because it’s a passion,” he said. “It’s not just that they’re looking for a place to make a tax-deductible donation.”

Fischer and his wife’s philanthropy goes beyond The Jazz Loft. While the financial adviser spends the day discussing finances with clients — people from all over Long Island as well as 26 states — his interests lie elsewhere when the workday has ended. Both he and Olivia through the decades have developed a shared love of art.

Fischer said, for him, it began after a 1988 car accident when he was hit by a drunk driver. He realized he could have been killed, and up until that point his life was mostly about work.

“All of a sudden it got me in touch with my mortality,” he said.

“All of a sudden it got me in touch with my mortality.”

— Harlan Fischer

He was talking to his physical therapist who told him about the Rotary club. Not only did he join the organization, but he also went on to become the president of Smithtown Rotary from 1997to 98. Through the Rotary he became involved in various community projects, but when a friend told him how the Smithtown Township Arts Council was looking for a board member, that’s when he found one of his true passions. Fischer told his friend he knew nothing about art, but it turned out the board was looking for a businessperson like him. Fischer decided to join and a year later became its president.

During his five-year tenure, he said he learned a lot about art, thanks to Norma Cohen, who was director of the council back then. He and his wife began collecting artwork, especially contemporary studio art glass pieces that fill the couple’s Head of the Harbor home.

Olivia Fischer said the couple’s interest in art grew together and the two began raising money for various organizations, including hosting fundraisers in their home.

Through the years, the Fischers have been members of many art organizations as well as sponsored many events. Among their philanthropic activities have been being members of The Long Island Museum’s Directors Advisory Circle and sponsoring the East End Arts Music Masters Mentorship Program for high schoolers. The financial adviser is also a former board president of the Art League of Long Island, and in 2000, he was named The Times of Smithtown Man of the Year in Business.

In addition to their work in the world of the arts, the Fischers have rescued dogs and are in the process of adopting their 11th one. In late 2018, the Town of Smithtown recognized them for their $7,600 donation which enabled the Smithtown Animal Shelter to build a dog park that bears their name, the Olivia and Harlan Fischer Recreational and Development Park. The Fischers have also backed Little Shelter Animal Rescue’s annual Pet-A-Palooza in Huntington.

Fischer, who is in his early 70s, said he feels 10 years younger and has no plans to retire, especially in his new office that features some of his art collection. He added that he’s fortunate to work with good people too, which helps with leading a busy life.

“I can’t ask for more than that,” he said.

Success and enjoyment in life are something he believes people find when they feel passionate about what they are doing. He also believes in good timing, which has become a common theme in his life not only with finding ways to give back but also in his career life.

After spending four years in the Air Force and almost a year in Vietnam, he wound up in retail despite having an engineering degree from Northeastern University. He was running the Levitz Furniture & Showroom in Farmingdale when he told someone he no longer wanted to be in retail, and it was recommended he consider the financial field.

“Timing is everything in life,” he said. “Just being at the right place at the right time and saying the right thing. You make a right turn instead of a left turn, your whole life can be different.”

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Hope Kinney, second from right, during her induction into the Rotary of Stony Brook in 2017. Photo from Rotary

Despite the pandemic, it’s been a busy year for one East Setauket resident.

Hope Kinney took over the reins as president of the Rotary Club of Stony Brook July 1. Many in the area know her as branch manager at Investors Bank, formerly Gold Coast Bank, at its Setauket location on Route 25A.

Hope Kinney collecting donations for The Salvation Army last year. Photo from Hope Kinney

Kinney said she was nominated president at the Rotary’s holiday party, and so far 2020 has been an interesting one for the club. Members have been going about business differently due to the ongoing pandemic with Zoom meetings, and most recently, holding a socially distanced lunch. Rotary members have been working on ways to keep up with their fundraising efforts after having to cancel events such as their annual spring pancake breakfast at the Setauket Fire Department’s main station.

The new Rotary president said next month the group will host a virtual online fundraiser for the Port Jefferson-based nonprofit Give Kids Hope, which provides food and clothing for local residents in need. The Rotary is also working on an idea for an online fundraiser in November and is looking for another nonprofit to help.

“It’s challenging to try to raise money in a way that we would normally do,” Kinney said, adding that members have been trying to be creative.

She said they are also working on possible socially distanced activities for the near future such as a lunch with Tri-Spy Tours of Setauket and a clambake in September.

The Rotary president said the members are working with Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) to come up with more ideas to get involved in the community and with the Stony Brook University Rotaract Club. Earlier this year, Hahn nominated Kinney for Suffolk County Woman of Distinction in the 5th Legislative District.

In the nomination letter, Hahn listed Kinney’s contributions to the community. In addition to the Rotary Club, the legislator cited the East Setauket resident’s involvement in the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, the Walk for Beauty committee, the Three Village Industry Advisory Board, the Three Village Kiwanis Club and the Long Island Museum.

“Ms. Kinney has dedicated her time, efforts and influence toward encouraging local businesses to thrive while also volunteering on many local boards serving as both a member and leader and lending her voice and expertise to making community events happen,” Hahn wrote.

In the letter, the legislator listed Kinney’s accomplishments such as her working on the career fair at Ward Melville High School with the 3V industry advisory board, and helping on the Three Village Electric Holiday Parade with the Kiwanis Club, among others.

“She is an inspiration to us all, dedicating so much of her time and energy into making our hometown a better place,” Hahn wrote. “With only 24 hours a day, Ms. Kinney has donated hundreds of hours to community service and continues to give to her community each day in any way she can.”

“She is an inspiration to us all dedicating so much of her time and energy into making our hometown a better place.”

— Kara Hahn

In 2020, Kinney also became a member of the Three Village Community Trust board, and in addition to her volunteer work, she has been busier than ever at the bank. Gold Coast merged with Investors, and the staff has been helping local business owners acquire the recent Paycheck Protection Program loans.

She said dealing with the PPP loans was a huge undertaking, but everyone who applied at the bank got the loan.

“It was a relief to help the community, that was my goal,” she said. “I felt an obligation. I need to make sure everyone gets this loan which is going to be forgiven for most people. It was challenging. It was long days and weekends, but for everybody we accomplished what we set out to do.”

She said Investors Bank recently held an online concert fundraiser where Investors donated $25 for every employee who viewed it and $10 for every family member. Kinney said one of the benefactors of the fundraiser was St. James R.C. Church, raising $3,000 for a stove for their soup kitchen. The bank recently also donated $100,000 to Stony Brook University Hospital and hopes to be able to make a check presentation soon. Kinney said she feels lucky to be part of a business that helps her local community.

Kinney started her banking career at Capital One in 2004. When the bank had layoffs in 2018, she was recruited by John Tsunis, Gold Coast’s founder, as branch manager. Tsunis described her as an extrovert with a good personality.

“She’s very interested in working with the community,” Tsunis said. “That’s a big positive as far as I’m concerned.”

Kinney juggles her career and volunteerism with spending time with her family, which includes her husband, Joseph, and three children Justin, Michael and Rachel. To handle all her responsibilities, she said she tries to stay organized and not get overwhelmed.

“I take it day by day,” Kinney said. “I put it on the calendar, and I’m able to look at the calendar and then I go day by day … I guess that’s the secret — work with each day.”

Baseball cards feating Lawrence Rocks and baseball player Paul DeJong; DeJong and Burton Rocks and DeJong

By Leah Chiappino

Three Village’s Lawrence Rocks and his son Burton Rocks have both made history in the world of baseball.

The son, a sports agent and attorney, negotiated a record-breaking $26 million contract for St. Louis Cardinals’ shortstop Paul DeJong in 2018.  Soon after, his father, a world-renowned chemist and a professor emeritus at Long Island University in Brookville, worked with DeJong, who was a biochemistry major at Illinois State University, experimenting on the best temperature to throw a baseball. They found due to its elasticity, 75 degrees is the best.

Last year, Topps card company issued official cards for both father and son as part of their Allen and Ginter series, making it the first time in the company’s history that a scientist appeared on the back of a card.

This year, as part of their Topps of the Class Program, the company is partnering with various hobby shops issuing a free baseball card, featuring the Rocks to any child that shows their  report card. Three different cards will be included in the program, each highlighting a different subject.

One card features Lawrence Rocks and DeJong in lab coats, but the senior Rocks isn’t stopping his mission to promote education there. At 86, he is working on producing a TV show for children about science with DeYoung and has launched the hashtag, #WeatherStationMoon, a grassroots initiative he created and debuted to MLB network radio July 20 last year. This is to advocate for the U.S. to have an unmanned weather station on the moon to accurately measure climate change, something he says will have a heavy impact on baseball and sports analytics.

“I don’t want to be political,” he said. “I want to be scientific. I want kids to think. All you need to understand science is imagination and curiosity. We want kids to make their own experiments like Benjamin Franklin did when he discovered electricity.”

Another card has Burton Rocks and DeJong, with the caption “DeJong Rocks Reading” to promote literacy.

Burton Rocks said  the mission of the initiative is to have kids idolize education same way some
idolize sports.

“With the salaries so high in baseball today, I wanted to make kids think scientists are cool, teachers are cool and people around them are cool,” he said. “We want athletes to appreciate those that educated them.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, DeJong had original planned to visit local hospitals during spring training to gift children cards. Instead, he participated in Topps 2020 virtual tour via social media.

The plan was something that is personal to Burton Rocks. Growing up, he suffered from life-threatening asthma that proved to be stubborn and difficult to cure, causing many code-blue scares.

“Being a kid 40 years ago, the world was so different in approaching anyone with a disability,” he said. “As a kid, one of the earliest things I remember was doctors telling my father if he could invent something, they would use it. The research wasn’t there and there was no cure for what I had. It was uncharted territory.”

Lawrence Rocks, who was influential in creating the U.S. Department of Energy and received his doctorate from Vienna University of Technology, worked with his son’s pediatrician on figuring how drugs interact to  create the best possible result, before deciding that a specific combination of low-dose, long-term antibiotics, worked the best. The father said it was one of the worst cases the doctors had ever seen.

Burton Rocks, who now resides in Manhattan, said he is shocked when he comes to the area to visit his parents by the strides the community has made in medicine and embracing those with disabilities.

“When you look at the Ronald McDonald House at Stony Brook, it’s unbelievable to see,” he said. “When I was growing up, you had to go to St. Charles because they were the only ones that were even equipped to deal with kids, let alone open a children’s hospital or resources for their families.”

He recalled moments from when he was as young as 3 or 4, having to spend a night alone in the hospital when parents were not allowed to stay. However, his mother, Marlene, who quit her job as a Spanish teacher in New York City to care for him, protested and became a makeshift nurse, administering his IVs and medications.

Describing growing up in the area as “extremely trying,” the younger Rocks said he was badly bullied in school for his disability.

“It was a lot of painful memories,” he said. “I’ve tried myself to block out most of my life after kindergarten until high school, because if I didn’t, I would have to remember some of the most horrific things. Can you imagine somebody beating a kid down on the ground, and taking their inhaler away during an asthma attack and getting away with it today? To me it was relentless and happened repeatedly. The joke was hiding my inhaler during recess.”

He recalled another incident of a teacher being annoyed by him wheezing during an asthma attack, and then forcing him to sit by an open window as punishment, making it significantly worse.

“Despite all that I try to have a sense of humor and bring the positivity of my parents with me,” he said.

Burton Rocks said he never let those obstacles hold him back, graduating from Stony Brook University Phi Beta Kappa in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in history and Hofstra University School of Law in 1997 with a juris doctor. In Law School, he went on scouting missions with Clyde King, a special advisor to George Steinbrenner and a friend of his father. He subsequently co-wrote books with King and former baseball player Paul O’Neill, before he founded the C.L. Rocks Corporation, his sports agency.

Mark Daniels

Despite a recent setback, mornings still look bright for one East Setauket resident.

A familiar voice on Long Island radio for more than 30 years, Mark Daniels was notified he was being let go as co-host of WALK/97.5FM’s “Mark and Jamie Mornings” right before Thanksgiving. 

But with the start of a new year, the radio host embarked on a new adventure Jan. 2, launching the podcast, “Breakfast with Mark Daniels,” right from his East Setauket home.

Daniels said the 10-minute installments will be Long Island focused and told in a storytelling format. Subjects will range from pizza to the railroad.

“I always try to relate something to Long Islanders that Long Islanders call their own, and I think keeping it that way and keeping it local provides that relatability that folks in Nassau and Suffolk have to one another and to living here,” Daniels said.

A recent podcast featured the radio host’s recent adventure into the city on a day when the Ronkonkoma Branch railroad line was undergoing construction. He said he and his family headed to the Babylon station, “but so did the rest of the planet east of Babylon.” Fortunately, they were able to get a parking spot.

The idea of a podcast came about when some friends suggested he reinvent himself. In the future, Daniels said he hopes to build a big enough base to attract advertisers.

“It’s evolving every day,” he said.

An East Setauket resident for 21 years, Daniels and his wife Marianne have three children, Mark, Brian and Allison, who have grown up in the Three Village school district.

The radio host originally commuted to Patchogue for his on-air duties for WALK, and then after Connecticut-based Connoisseur Media purchased the station, he traveled to their Farmingdale studios.

While the commute may have been longer for Daniels once the studio was moved to Farmingdale, it was a job he always enjoyed.

“It is a lot of fun to be on the air and to talk to your co-host about topics, and the immediate listener response is just incredible,” he said. “It’s just so much fun. It was like a playdate every time I was on the air. I’m trying to keep that going on the podcast.”

He said among his favorite memories is collecting donations for the food bank Long Island Cares, where listeners would often contribute so much there was no room to store the contributions at the station. He also loves appearing in The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Walk for Beauty in October. He said the community’s response to such causes is overwhelming.

“To me, that’s what radio is really about,” the broadcaster said. “It’s about people. When you put out a call to attend and support, people show up, and people show up in large numbers.”

While Daniels said he is not at liberty to comment on his exit from WALK/FM, he added he wasn’t surprised when he heard at the end of the year that WALK would broadcast the same morning show as Star 99.9, “The Anna & Raven Show,” which is broadcast from Connecticut. 

“It’s a business decision and that’s what they chose to do, and that’s what I have to live with, and I have to pick up and move on,” he said.

This week Connoisseur Media also announced Daniels’ most recent co-host, Jamie Morris, will now head K-JOY’s morning show.

Daniels said he couldn’t believe the amount of support he received on social media after the news of his dismissal was announced, and he admitted it gave him goose bumps.

“I really only think of myself as just a guy that goes in, does a job and has a lot of fun with it and enjoys it, and then I’m home,” he said.

The radio host said his podcasts can be found every weekday on the “Breakfast with Mark Daniels” Facebook and Instagram pages, Spotify, Apple podcast and Buzzsprout.com.

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Many battling the autoimmune disease APS type 1 and their families, above, are shown attending a symposium at Stony Brook University in 2017 organized by Dave and Sherri Seyfert of Stony Brook. Photo from the Seyferts

By Leah Chiappino

After a house fire this summer, one Stony Brook family learned a valuable lesson.

“People come first, things a distant second,” Dave Seyfert said.

Firefighters respond to a fire at the Seyferts’ home in July. Photos from the Seyferts

He and his wife Sherri are two of the founders of the APS Type 1 Foundation, which aims to make physicians more aware of the rare disorder. APS type 1 is a rare autoimmune disease that affects one in two million people in the United States.

The couple arrived home one day to the house fire shortly after the foundation’s third symposium in National Harbor, Maryland, in July. The family is currently renting a house and is hoping to return to their own home in a few months.

The Seyferts said that their spirits were not diminished by the tragedy, in which everyone, including the family dog, was safe, because they are pleased with the research and outcome of the symposium. When discussing how well they were coping, Dave Seyfert said, “APS puts things in perspective. When you have a child that’s sick your whole world stops. Nothing else is important — it doesn’t matter what you look like or if you’ve slept.”

He added in a follow-up email, “Sherri and I also share a deep faith in God which again helps put things in perspective.”

As reported by TBR News Media in 2017, the Seyferts’ son, Matthew, was diagnosed with autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type 1, known as APS-1, in 2006. The condition causes vitamin D, which provides calcium to the bones and muscles, to have a difficult time metabolizing. While symptoms can include bone mass problems, cramping and an irregular heartbeat, all patients are plagued with Addison’s disease, hyperthyroidism and candidiasis.

According to Dave Seyfert, APS-1 is unique among other genetic disorders because there is only one gene mutation, so researchers think there is a link to discovering cures for other autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes.

The symposiums are meant to be a haven for APS-1 research, as well as a meetup for families and patients to build a community of support.

“There are a lot of families going through a rare diagnosis, and you feel like you are all by yourself,” Dave Seyfert said. “We want to share with other families that it’s amazing what we achieved [in terms of research] by working together.”

“We want to keep going until we find every APS patient.”

— Sherri Seyfert

The foundation, whose mission involves research, education and raising awareness, became a 501(c)(3) in 2014. That was eight years since the Seyferts had started hosting basket raffles. Also, Todd and Heather Talarico of New Jersey, the former being the current foundation president, organized their first golf outing in 2006 that raised approximately $35,000 for the National Organization for Rare Disorders, known as NORD, which was used to grant research. According to Sherri Seyfert the foundation recently funded its seventh research grant for $100,000 through NORD, which takes the organization’s grant funding to more than $500,000.

Two board members, Robin Finch and Jennifer Orange, both of whom have a child with APS-1, joined in 2016, after the foundation held its first symposium, which was located in Toronto in 2015.

“Researchers from all over the world came and spoke on APS type 1,” Sherri Seyfert said. “It was the first time this community of patients and families were able to come together and met each other.”

A second symposium in 2017 was hosted personally by the Seyferts at Stony Brook University.

The board has grown to its current six members and, in addition, they have quarterly conference calls with physicians from all over the world so they can collaborate.

Dave Seyfert said he is pleased with the outreach of the foundation. He said Todd Talarico was on the TV show “Mystery Diagnosis,” and a grandmother watching realized her granddaughter suffered from the disease. An American serviceman stationed in Italy was in the hospital with his son and, upon doing research, came across the foundation’s website and realized his son had APS-1. Patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital were diagnosed upon a doctor reading a research article on APS-1 written by physicians all over the world, who connected at past symposiums and were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The article was funded by the foundation.

Furthermore, NORD has granted the foundation funding for a comprehensive study of APS-1, logging patients and their symptoms. While 95 percent of the condition is treatable, experts estimate that a thousand patients are living
undiagnosed.

“We want to keep going until we find every APS patient,” Sherri Seyfert said. “People pass away from not knowing, and so many struggle with so many health issues and organ damages for years because they are not diagnosed quickly enough.”

Finch, a California-based attorney who was assisted by Todd Talarico in getting her daughter diagnosed, is the foundation’s recording secretary and feels as though she owes a lot to the Seyferts.

“The passion and the time and energy they gave to the symposium at Stony Brook was just invaluable,” Finch said. “They’re both just the kind people who try so much to make Matthew and other kids’ lives better. Dave, in particular, feels so deeply about things, and his commitment to my family and the disease’s community is so incredible. They’re the heart and soul of this group.”

Orange, the foundation’s vice president, added praise for the Seyferts.

“The Seyferts are community builders and have a great way of bringing people together and getting people to realize what a community can do,” she said.

Photo from Ray Anderson

By Leah Chiappino

Setauket resident and jazz musician, Ray Anderson, is celebrating a career that has been nothing but noteworthy. And at a performance at The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook Oct. 25, music lovers will get a taste of his talent and be able to witness the launch of his archives there.

Photo by Erika Kapin

The trombonist, 67, first picked up his instrument at the age of 8, after having been inspired partly by his theologian father’s jazz records that predominantly featured the famous trumpet player, Louis Armstrong. The sound of Anderson’s chosen instrument was something that he found appealing, especially since, he said, the musicians playing trombone sounded like they were having fun.

He studied music at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools with future trombone legends such as George Lewis and was taught by Frank Tirro, the future dean of the Yale School of Music.

Anderson attended three different universities, three different times, before eventually receiving a bachelor’s degree from Empire State College in Saratoga Springs in 2010.

“I’m self-educated in a lot of ways,” he said. “Performing became my education.”

He moved to Los Angeles in 1971 to attend the California Institute of the Arts, only to find the campus was not yet open. He wound up living with Stanley Crouch, a black writer and jazz critic, frequently known for his controversial views amongst the African American community on his disillusionment with the Black Power movement.

While attending college in Minnesota and Los Angeles, he played in R&B bands and joined funk and Latin bands while living in San Francisco. While Anderson looks back with great fondness on his days where he became “moderately successful” working odd jobs and playing music in San Francisco, he said he felt the urge to discover the New York music scene, so he moved to Manhattan in 1973.

“I was 20 years old and had no real roots anywhere,” he said. “I figured I would move to New York and see what happened.”

He performed with clarinetist and saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre and drummer Barry Altschul while playing with composer and saxophonist Anthony Braxton’s quartet for three years. He has since performed in a variety of his own bands, such as the Pocket Brass Band and Lapis Lazuli band.

Anderson recently returned from a European tour with BassDrumBone, a band named after its bass, drums, trombone players. He started the group in 1977 with his friends bassist Mark Helias and drummer Gerry Hemingway. It has been running ever since.

“I’ve learned so much from both of them,” he said. “They’re my age so it’s not a traditional teacher-student type of thing, but they’re both really, really wise.”

His first feature album was blues guitarist Luther Allison’s “Night Life,” before recording for Gramavision, as well as European record label Enja and others.

“I didn’t have a career where I worked as a member of a more established senior band, so I learned a lot from my contemporaries,” he said.

Anderson said he recently recorded a solo trombone piece based off of a solo performance he did in France and is currently in the process of sending it to record companies.

“That’s been a longtime dream,” he said.

Anderson describes his style as “witty” and “challenging,” and he acknowledges and respects the players who have come before him

Yet, having composed more than 100 pieces, Anderson has learned to take a lighthearted approach to music with songs titled “If I Ever Had a Home It Was a Slide Trombone,” and “Raven-a-Ning,” the latter piece being composed for his son, Raven, and a play on the classic “Rhythm-a-Ning” by Thelonious Monk.

While his calm and joyous approach to life is evident in conversation, he had to overcome tragedy when his wife, lyricist and poet, Jackie Raven, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and passed away in 2002.

“I had two young motherless kids and my life as a touring musician had to stop,” he said.

Photo by Ssirus Pakzad

Anderson was the artist in residence at Stony Brook University for six months in 2001, and in 2003 was appointed director of jazz studies, a title he has held ever since.

“It enabled me to stay home, pay the bills and care for my kids who were 11 and 15 when she died,” he said. “I’m sure you can appreciate why I’m boundlessly grateful to this community for all it has given me over these many years.”

Anderson reports that both his kids are doing well and he got remarried last year, to Suzy Goodspeed.

The musician said his many years as a full-time performer make him the perfect candidate to mentor emerging musicians.

“I’m a performer first and teacher second,” he said. “I know what music feels like when you’re actually doing it.”

Anderson said his life as a performer doesn’t dismay his love for teaching.

“It’s so rewarding to be able to pass something on that’s useful,” he said. “It’s really tied in with the whole idea of trying to pay it forward because so many people gave me so much [mentorship].”

All of the courses he teaches revolve around performing. In the graduate program, he plays with students in a band and requires them to write their own music.

“We go through the process of editing and revising, and trying to find out what works and what doesn’t,” he said.

Tom Manuel, The Jazz Loft’s president and founder, praised Anderson’s impact in the jazz field.

“I think what makes Ray so important to jazz is not just that he’s amazingly talented in the world of jazz, but he has been recognized as one of those incredibly and creative inventive voices that is creating something that is new, which is hard to do,” he said.

Anderson will be performing at The Jazz Loft, where he serves as vice president, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. with his Pocket Brass Band, consisting of just trumpet, trombone, sousaphone and drums.

“I’ve played a lot of big gigs, and it’s really exciting to be in an audience of thousands of people, but playing in a small place like The Jazz Loft is often better because of the intimacy between the audience and the band,” he said.

Friday’s performance will be preceded by the launch of the Ray Anderson Archives exhibit with a reception at the venue at 6 p.m.

More than 100 family members and friends showed up at Citi Field to hear Jordan Amato sing the national anthem. Photo from the Amato family.

For one high school senior, the school year has started on the right note.

Jordan Amato’s view of Citi Field on the day she sang the national anthem at the ballpark. Photo from the Amato family

South Setauket resident Jordan Amato, 17, performed the national anthem at Citi Field Sept. 8. While it was the second time she sang at the stadium — the first was the summer of 2018 — this time around she had a special guest with her.

In addition to the more than 100 friends and family members in attendance was Ryan Starace, who was the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Long Island chapter’s Boy of the Year in 2019. Amato and her family invited Ryan and his family to join them at the game after she helped to raise $36,000 for the nonprofit in the 2018-19 school year. Amato was the co-president of the multigenerational fundraising team 3vforacure in raising funds for the LLS Students of the Year campaign.

Sara Lipsky, executive director of the Long Island chapter of LLS, said Amato went above and beyond aiding the nonprofit’s mission of finding cures and supporting patients and their families.

“Raising $36,000 is a feat in itself,” Lipsky said. “Add school and extracurricular activities make it even more remarkable. Now, she continues to carry that passion forward by creating a very special day for a very special boy.”

Amato said even though she usually doesn’t suffer from performance anxiety, the second time around singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Citi Field was nerve-racking. It wasn’t just because of the throng of people hearing her sing, but because there were problems with the sound system, and she only heard the reverb while singing.

“It was kind of terrifying,” she said.

Her father, Steve Amato, thought she did a wonderful job.

“Not because she is my daughter, but she truly has a great voice and her rendition of the national anthem is excellent,” he said.

Overall the Citi Field experiences have been surreal for the family. Her mother, Jacque Amato, said the family has attended many games at the stadium, but it was a different experience walking up from the underground area to the field.

The opportunity to sing at the stadium came about when Amato sang at her grandmother’s funeral Mass. The husband of one of her father’s cousins works at Citi Field, and after hearing her sing he suggested she send in an audition tape.

The singer’s mother said her daughter sang a cappella that day in the church.

Jordan Amato, middle back row, and her family on the big day when she sang the national anthem at the Mets ballpark. Photo from the Amato family

“When Jordan got up there to sing, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” the mother said.

The singer’s father said to prepare for singing the national anthem at a venue like Citi Field, in addition to her singing lessons, his daughter sang at a Stony Brook University game, entered the Long Island Ducks Anthem Idol — where she won — and The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Long Island’s Got Talent. She also won a talent contest where the prize was singing a solo at Carnegie Hall.

Her parents said singing is something that came naturally to her, and when she was in fifth grade, they were surprised when she told them she was going to be singing in a talent show with one of her friends. Before that, they had never even heard her even hum.

Jordan Amato said one day she noticed she could sing well and figured, why not try it?

“I was pretty shy as a kid, so it was kind of unusual for me to be comfortable with singing in front of people, but I found it more comfortable than talking in front of people,” she said.

Last year in addition to balancing her fundraising efforts and singing, the now senior had a 102 unweighted average. Her mother said it’s no surprise she has accomplished so much.

“She has laser focus,” the mother said. “When she wants something, she just puts everything in the basket, and she’s just 100 miles an hour in one direction. She’s very goal oriented. She’s the most organized kid I ever met.”

Jordan Amato is hoping for another successful academic year, and while she’s planning to study singing in college, she said she will most likely go to medical school to become an ear, nose and throat doctor specializing in throat surgeries after shadowing her friends’ parents who are laryngologists last summer. She said the profession is interesting not only due to the doctor helping to heal patients but also training singers to regain their singing voices.

When it comes to trying out something new, Amato had advice for young people.

“Try it out,” she said. “If it doesn’t fit you, it’s not for you.”