Movers and Shakers

Coach Ken Eriksen with members of Team USA softball team. Photo by Jade Hewitt from USA Softball

Coached by 1979 Ward Melville High School graduate Ken Eriksen, Team USA softball team ran out of walk-off magic in the gold medal game Tuesday.

After coming from behind to beat Australia, 2-1, and then Japan by the same score in the last two games before the final, Team USA couldn’t rally to beat Japan in the gold medal game, falling 2-0.

Coach Ken Eriksen during practice with Team USA. Photo by Jade Hewitt from USA Softball

Eriksen, who had a successful college baseball career, has extensive softball coaching and playing experience, including as the current head coach of the University of South Florida for over 24 years. He has had several roles with the national team over the years, including as an assistant on the 2004 Olympic team that won gold in Athens. He became head coach of Team USA in 2011.

Members of the local athletic community expressed their admiration for the coach and his involvement at the Olympic games.

“For one of our former student athletes to be coaching on the highest stage possible in the world is something we’re so proud of,” said Kevin Finnerty, athletic director of the Three Village Central School District. Eriksen’s role shows “that our students, through hard work, effort and time can” reach their goals.

Joseph Burger, who has been coaching softball at Ward Melville for seven years, appreciated the connection between Eriksen and the high school.

“When you have a Ward Melville graduate coaching the Olympic team, that sheds a great light on the sport and what we’re trying to do here,” Burger said. “This is very positive for the program.”

Burger appreciated how Team USA showed sportsmanship at the end of the loss, which, he said, reflects well on the coach.

Burger, who posted the Team USA softball schedule on the high school softball team’s Instagram page, said the games set a great example for his players.

The Olympians are “aggressive toward the ball,” he said.

Rising Ward Melville junior third baseman and team captain Alicea Pepitone watched the gold medal game.

“They played their hearts out this whole series in the Olympics,” said Pepitone, who would like to play in college. “They should be proud, even though it didn’t go down the way they wanted it to.”

Pepitone thought it was “awesome” that Coach Eriksen attended Ward Melville. She recalls watching softball in the Olympics in 2008.

“I want to be one of those girls on that field and wearing that jersey,” she said.

Reached by email before the final game, Eriksen responded to TBR’s questions from Tokyo.

TBR: Who were some of your softball mentors growing up in Setauket?

Eriksen: My coaching mentors from Long Island were Russ Cain at Gelinas Junior High School and Coach Everett Hart. They were both tremendous teachers. They both taught the game, and you would never know you were up by 10 or down by 10. They treated and respected the game as it should be … a teaching platform for life.

TBR: Have you emulated any of the coaching patterns you observed as a player?

Eriksen: Most definitely. It’s all about the players’ ability to be prepared for any situation and trust them to react to the situations.

TBR: What is the best advice you received as a player?

Eriksen: Trust your preparation. Less is more.

TBR: Do you use that advice with the players on USA softball? 

Eriksen: Every day.

TBR: Is the sport of softball any different than it was during the age of Jennie Finch?

Eriksen: It’s more competitive worldwide now than it was prior to 2008. You can see that by the competition in the last four World Championships and the 2021 games.

TBR: Does the sport require any different skill sets?

Eriksen: Absolutely as it does comparatively to baseball.

TBR: How is USA softball any different from softball in the rest of the world?

Eriksen: The expectations sometimes are unrealistic in respect of not thinking it’s a global game.

TBR: Does your team or does the program emphasize specific skills that differentiate it from softball in the rest of the world?

Eriksen: Not really. Everyone spends an inordinate amount of time trying to be flawless.

TBR: What is different about coaching and playing?

Eriksen: It was easier to play! Only had to worry about me!

TBR: Have you had to learn different skill sets as a coach than you had as a player?

Eriksen: Obviously when you are dealing as a manager in any organization there is a “human hierarchy of needs” that each player presents to you as a coach. When you have a unit that is together for years, you better understand the people first.

TBR: Was it challenging to coach and play softball without anyone in the stands?

Eriksen: Not really. When you are locked into the moment, all noise is irrelevant in the heads of elite athletes.

TBR: Was the team able to provide the energy and excitement that the crowd might normally offer in the context of a more typical softball game or season?

Eriksen: We bring it every day regardless. That happens when you wear U-S-A on the front of your jersey.

TBR: What’s next after the Olympics?

Eriksen: For me … getting away from the spotlight. Won’t be hard. I love the “game,” but it’s a game. It’s not my whole life. The old saying … “gone fishing.”

A former St. James resident, who is remembered for saving an 8-year-old plow horse from a slaughterhouse and turning him into a champion, died June 25 in Stanardsville, Virginia, at the age of 93.

Harry de Leyer’s work and the bond with the horse named Snowman was documented in the 2011 book “The Eighty-Dollar Champion” by Elizabeth Letts and the 2016 film “Harry & Snowman” where the skill and heart of both were celebrated.

The well-known tale of him and Snowman, who was also known as “The Cinderella Horse,” began in 1956 when he saved the animal from a slaughterhouse in Pennsylvania for $80. De Leyer was late for a horse auction, but when he saw one of the last horses he knew the animal had potential to train young riders at The Knox School in Nissequogue where he worked.

“I came to this country with nothing in my pocket. Then I met Snowman and he made my name in this country.”

— Harry de Leyer

The equestrian and horse trainer would go on to turn the worn-out workhorse into the winner of the United States Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year in 1958 and land the “triple crown” of show jumping in the same year. Snowman also made history in 1959 as the first horse to win the Open Jumper Championship two years in a row. In 1983, de Leyer went on to represent the United States at the World Championships.

“I came to this country with nothing in my pocket,” de Leyer said in the 2016 documentary film. “Then I met Snowman and he made my name in this country.”

In the documentary, de Leyer talks about the time he attempted to sell Snowman to a doctor who lived a few miles away. A couple of days later, Snowman showed up at de Leyer’s property. The horse trainer thought the doctor may have left a gate open, but the new owner said that Snowman had jumped the gate. A few days later, after the doctor heightened the gate, Snowman once again came back to de Leyer. It was then the trainer realized the horse’s jumping potential and bought him back.

De Leyer was born in 1927 in Sint-Oedenrode, Netherlands, according to his obituary from Moloney Funeral Home. He was the oldest of 13 children, and his family was part of the underground during World War II and helped many Jews escape the Nazis through the Netherlands. De Leyer and his first wife, Johanna, came to America after de Leyer’s family sent the dog tags of a deceased soldier that they never met home to his parents.

He and Johanna were sponsored by the soldier’s family when they arrived the United States. His first job in the country was working on his sponsor’s farm in North Carolina where his talents for training and jumping horses were recognized.

Soon after they arrived in America, the couple headed for Long Island and raised eight children in St. James. In the 1970s de Leyer and Johanna divorced. Later in life, he had a farm in East Hampton and then moved to Virginia. He also married again to his second wife, Joan.

While living in St. James, in addition to being the riding instructor at The Knox School, he also gave lessons at his St. James home, Hollandia Farms.

After his passing, The Knox School posted on its Facebook page.

“Mr. de Leyer came to Knox in 1954 and was a beloved trainer and member of the school community,” the post read. “His legacy lives on in the hearts of those who remember how Mr. de Leyer saved Snowman from slaughter and turned a gentle giant of a plow horse into a champion jumper.”

The post announced that a stall in the school’s historic equestrian center will be dedicated to the memory of Harry and Snowman in the future.

Jackie Bittner, owner of Hidden Lake Farm Riding School in Southold, attended The Knox School for four years and took riding lessons from de Leyer. She said she was fortunate to keep in touch with him through the years and considered him a best friend. As a trainer, Bittner said, de Leyer was strict.

“Rightfully so,” she said. “He really wanted you to do the right thing and to be a good rider. He tried to make everyone a good rider.”

She said sometimes she would doubt if she was able to do a trick on a horse.

“He asked you to do all kinds of things, and I say, ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ but you would do whatever he asked with the horse, because he was just the type of person that you wanted to please.”

Janis Lando remembers taking lessons from him at Hollandia Farm when she lived in Smithtown.

“I rode as an early teen and remembered flying over fences without hands on the reins,” she said. “He believed in the soft-mouth approach and more control with one’s legs. I also recall him slipping a quarter under the knee, and he expected you to hold it there as you rode.”

When Laurette Berry was 13 years old and her family first moved from Manhattan to Stony Brook, she said her father signed up her and her siblings for lessons with de Leyer after a neighbor recommended him.

“The very first lesson we were jumping,” she said. “We had never been on a horse before in our lives. With Harry, you either were a daredevil or he wasn’t interested.”

“You were sitting on the horse’s back, but he was in full control of them. He was such a good trainer, and the horses just did whatever he wanted them to do.”

— Laurette Berry

After a few lessons, their father decided to go to another trainer as he was afraid his children would get hurt, but Berry remembers how in control de Leyer was of his horses during the short time she trained with him.

“He was like the ringleader in a circus where the animals just went,” she said. “You were sitting on the horse’s back, but he was in full control of them. He was such a good trainer, and the horses just did whatever he wanted them to do.”

A few years later, Berry became involved in the Smithtown Hunt Club where she encountered de Leyer once again. The club would conduct hunts all over Suffolk County from St. James, Old Field and even in the Hamptons. She remembered one time during a hunt being in the water in Head of the Harbor and seeing pieces of ice. She said de Leyer forged ahead as he did in other hunts as he wasn’t afraid of anything.

Barbara Clarke, of Bridgehampton, also was involved in the foxhunts with de Leyer in the ’70s.

“He was always enthusiastic and brought a lot of riders with him,” she said. “He loved it. He loved nothing better than following a pack of hounds through the woods.”

Clarke remembered de Leyer from when her sister-in-law Janice attended The Knox School, and Clarke would go to some of the horse shows to see the students compete, including at Madison Square Garden. She said he always made sure the girls were safe on the horses and described him as the “Pied Piper.”

De Leyer is predeceased by Johanna and Joan and his sons Joseph, Harry Jr. and William de Leyer. He is survived by his children Harriet de Leyer, Martin and Debbie de Leyer, Andre and Christine de Leyer, John and Maria de Leyer and AnnMarie de Leyer as well as his grandchildren Charissa, Cassandra, Johnathon, Kyle, Jason, Travis, Dylan, Michaela, Andre, Johanna, Emma, Philip, Heather, Jeffery and Shane; great-grandchildren Brayden and Addison and great-great-grandchild William Harry.

Tara Salay at her studio in Setauket. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Tara Salay is a big believer in the natural healing aspects of yoga.

Tara Salay at her studio in Setauket. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The former physical therapist turned yoga instructor specializes in teaching yoga to those with chronic pain and pelvic health issues. Recently, she opened a business in Setauket.

The St. James resident said working as a physical therapist for five years she regularly advised patients with chronic pain and pelvic issues to take yoga classes. Unfortunately, many patients couldn’t find a class that helped them. Before the pandemic, she began to think about opening a yoga studio that would cater to these individuals, but as businesses had to shut their doors due to state mandates, Salay took to the virtual classroom to introduce her business.

“It was the push that I needed in a way because I had all the plans before, and then I was, like, I have the time now let me just do it,” she said.

With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, Salay eventually was able to rent a space part-time and then a month ago began renting full-time and opened up her studio in the Port Jefferson Chiropractic building on Route 25A near Washington Street. Right now, she doesn’t have a name for the studio and operates under her name. Her goal is “to bring awareness of how yoga can help people who are dealing with chronic conditions.”

Chronic pain and pelvic issues are common. Salay said issues in the pelvic area range from problems for both women and men with the bladder, actual pain in the pelvis, sexual dysfunction or even bowel issues. She added some people will go to physical therapy with pelvic pain and will feel better, but then will face a stressful situation and the issues will return.

“That’s why yoga is really great for it, because it works on the mind-body connection and teaches them how to relax those muscles so they’re not tensing up every time that they’re stressed out,” she said.

“My teacher training was just so transformational for me personally that I just wanted to transition. I just want to dedicate myself to doing yoga. I’ll use my knowledge as a PT but this is what I’m doing now.”

— Tara Salay

The instructor said yoga is more than different poses but also about breathwork and meditation, and many are hesitant because they think they can’t handle the poses, which sometimes look difficult.

“We can make it work for your body,” Salay said. “There’s more to yoga that I think people aren’t aware of, and they think that you have to have a certain body type or be flexible or be able to get into these crazy positions to do yoga, and that’s definitely not true at all.”

With her physical therapy experience, she said she has a deep understanding of the body, and she can guide her clients to help keep them safe. Salay has been practicing yoga for more than 10 years, and when she decided she wanted to open a yoga studio took the classes to become a teacher. Originally, she thought she would incorporate her yoga training into her physical therapy, but the reverse happened.

“My teacher training was just so transformational for me personally that I just wanted to transition,” Salay said. “I just want to dedicate myself to doing yoga. I’ll use my knowledge as a PT but this is what I’m doing now.”

In addition to opening a yoga business, the 30-year-old is planning her wedding to her fiancé, Scott, later this year. She said to balance everything she has some help with planning the wedding that she is keeping on the small side, and she meditates every morning to center herself for the day and stay positive. For those trying to open a new business while juggling life’s responsibilities, she has advice.

“Take one step at a time and have a set schedule and try your best not to overwhelm yourself,” she said. “I was trying to do two blogs a week. I had to do one a week. It was setting my priorities on where I really needed to spend my time and making that clear.”

Currently, Salay offers private lessons or classes for small groups by appointment only. She said, as her clientele grows, she would like to offer set classes targeted toward certain conditions such as pelvic pain or osteoporosis.

The studio is located at 416 Main St., Setauket. Classes are still available online for those who may not be comfortable practicing in public just yet or may not live nearby. For more information, visit her website: drtarasalay.com.

Above, David Seyfert, center, with students Sydney Steuernagel, left, and Louisa Tait at Chelsea Market in New York City. Photo from David Seyfert

Sometimes teaching and learning transcend the classroom.

A student learns the route from the Manhattan-bound 7 train to the Downtown 6 in Grand Central Terminal during the morning rush hour. Photo from David Seyfert

When the visually impaired learn to travel — whether to go to work, cross a street to get to a restaurant or take an airplane for a trip — it happens when tackling everyday situations step by step with an educator. One of those teachers is Stony Brook resident David Seyfert, who recently retired from the South Country Central School District after 32 years as a visual teacher and orientation and mobility instructor.

For more than 20 of those years, besides working for South Country based in East Patchogue, he was contracted out to several school districts in the county, including Three Village, Port Jefferson and others. He said over the years he has helped students from Eastport-South Manor to Amityville on the South Shore and Miller Place to Northport on the North Shore. Despite his retirement, he continues to work with a few students.

Seyfert, who is typical sighted, said he only knows about five or six instructors on Long Island like him. Describing it as a rewarding career, he said he hopes to see more people follow the same career path.

“It’s an incredibly interesting and challenging field in which to work,” he said.

In order to qualify for his profession, after obtaining his bachelor’s degree in English from The King’s College in the city, Seyfert continued his studies by achieving a master’s in special education from Adelphi University and a master’s in orientation and mobility from Boston College. In Boston, he lived in the Perkins School for the Blind. The school is where teacher Anne Sullivan once worked with Helen Keller.

Seyfert’s students can be anyone who is legally blind to someone who has 20/20 vision but doesn’t have a visual field greater than 20 degrees, known as tunnel vision. He compared the orientation and mobility lessons to backward teaching.

“Instead of kids coming to my classroom, I come to them,” he said.

When working with Seyfert, students learn how to do things such as cross the street and travel by bus and train in their area, and when they are older, he brings them into the city to learn how to ride the subway system. Seyfert said, for example, he has taken students on the 6 train down to Chinatown and up to 86th Street, and the M86 bus from 86th Street to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“I’ll take them up to The Cloisters [in Washington Heights] and the Bronx Zoo all by train and subway,” he said. “We’ll go around, we’ll switch to Grand Central Station to take the New Haven line out to Bridgeport and take the ferry across [to Port Jefferson].”

When it comes to the subway system, Seyfert said he teaches students what to listen for and which way the stairs will be at certain stops. Once a person goes up the stairs, he instructs them to listen for the turnstiles. He said there are also posts with braille on them to prompt those who are visually impaired as to where to go.

“I always remember him saying that every mistake was a learning opportunity.”

— Megan Kelly

Seyfert will also teach tips while walking in the city such as figuring out what direction the sun is depending on what cheek a person feels it on. The educator has taken students on the AirTrain to the airport, too. A friend of his who is a traveler’s aide gives the teenagers a tour of the airport.

One of his students had an internship in the city when he was a junior in college. Seyfert said he had a knack regarding the subway systems and how they connected to Penn Station, something his parents couldn’t imagine when he first started the mobility training.

“He became completely independent traveling around New York City, so it’s really neat to see where the kids go,” Seyfert said.

The teacher said learning how to navigate not just streets and buses in their hometowns but also the city gives the students options in the future as far as their careers go.

He said while many of his students have decided to visit and work in the city, others have chosen not to go there again.

“At least you know how to do it,” he said. “If it’s not your thing, that’s fine, but you’re not doing it because you don’t know how to do it or you’re afraid.”

Barbara O’Rourk worked with Seyfert when she was a secretary to the director of student support services in the Port Jefferson School District.

“He was one of the most incredible people that I’ve met, what he did was close to amazing, and his attitude, his patience, just how he dealt with them and dealt with the parents, was just amazing,” she said.

O’Rourk also remembers him as an effective advocate for his students.

“If they needed services, he would go to a meeting and support what he felt they needed, and people listened to him because he would never lose his temper or be arrogant,” she said.

Barbara Kelly, of East Setauket, whose daughter Megan started working with Seyfert when she was attending Three Village’s Nassakeag Elementary School, said not only does he advocate for his students, but he also teaches them to do so for themselves.

When her daughter and her husband, who is also blind, had difficulty crossing a busy intersection in Farmingdale, Seyfert told Megan Kelly to write to the New York State Department of Transportation. Eventually, a “no right turn on red” sign was installed at the intersection.

“Dave really encouraged that,” Barbara Kelly said.

Seyfert is still in touch with Megan who is now 35 years old. He even traveled to her college twice to help her work with navigating the school and attended her wedding. He has since helped her with walking the streets of Farmingdale, navigating her new home and using a cane again when she was between seeing-eye dogs.

Megan Kelly, who works for Helen Keller Services teaching technology skills to adults who are blind, said she had many great learning experiences in the city with Seyfert.

“I learned to explore, and he always made learning fun, something I always hope to do for my students,” she said. “I always remember him saying that every mistake was a learning opportunity.”

Barbara Kelly described Seyfert as dedicated and that her daughter has great mobility because of him.

“He was always there to do mobility for her, so he gave my daughter her wonderful life,” she said.

Former Setauket Fire District commissioner Jay Gardiner recently received a proclamation for his service from Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

When Jay Gardiner decided last year not to run for reelection for fire commissioner in the Setauket Fire District, the former chairman of the board put the cap on decades of fire rescue experience.

Jay Gardiner, second from left, celebrates the grand opening of the district’s main firehouse in 2019 with former Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Fire Chief Paul Rodier and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo by Bob O’Rourk

The longtime member of the Setauket Fire Department, who completed 30 years of volunteer service at the end of 2019, said he and his wife, Diane, are planning to move to Florida at the end of the year. While the soon-to-be 70-year-old is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and playing golf, he said he will still run his business Gardiner Plastics from a home office. The former commissioner said if he didn’t do some kind of work, he would be bored.

“I’ve been a workaholic most of my life,” he said.

When Gardiner joined the fire department in 1989, he already had 20 years of community service under his belt. Originally from Fresh Meadows, he served as an EMT in Queens with several volunteer ambulance crews.

“I’m a city boy, but I moved here in ’86,” he said. “It still makes me an old-timer, but that’s late compared to a lot of people that I know.”

Through the decades, in addition to volunteering with the department, he was an EMS lieutenant for the last 12 years. He was also an associate professor of Emergency Medical Care at Suffolk County Community College for 20 years, and he taught instructor-level courses for Suffolk EMS. At St. Francis Hospital, he was on the training faculty where he taught advance life support courses to its medical staff.

The South Setauket resident was appointed as commissioner in May of 2015 to fill the remainder of the term previously held by Thomas Gallagher. Later that year, Gardiner was elected to a five-year term as commissioner, and during his last three years on the board, he served as chairman.

When Gardiner first ran for fire commissioner in 2015, he said he felt his business background would come in handy. The former commissioner holds an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business and has served on several organizational boards in the plastic industry.

When it comes to the board of fire commissioners and the departments in the district, Gardiner sees it as a team effort, and he’s proud of what the district has accomplished over the last few years.

“You can’t get the fire truck or the ambulance to the scene with one person,” he said. “It takes a group of people. It takes an officer. It takes a crew. It takes a driver. And if you don’t have all those working together, you don’t have an efficient department or an efficient board. The board has to work together, we have to be a team, and we’ve been very fortunate.”

“The board has to work together, we have to be a team, and we’ve been very fortunate.”

— Jay Gardiner

Some of the accomplishments Gardiner listed include the renovation of the main firehouse on Route 25A, the purchase of four new fire engines and updated equipment such as radios and air packs to modernize the emergency system. He also counts the addition of a few career firefighters during the day to the department as an accomplishment of the board.

“We were the first one on Long Island to actually call them career firefighters,” Gardiner said. “Nobody wanted to take that jump. It’s not an indictment on the volunteers.”

While it was a tough decision, he said the commissioners have a responsibility to the community. 

“Your job is a fiduciary responsibility to take care of that community, and 30 years ago, there were loads of people who lived in the community during the day, they could respond to the alarms,” he said. “The demographic has totally changed.”

With his departure from the board of commissioners, one of his teammates for decades, John Wastiewiz, took over as chairman of the board. Wastiewiz said he has known Gardiner since before the latter joined the fire department, when his wife worked for Gardiner Plastics. Wastiewiz described the former commissioner as the ultimate professional, and said he considered Gardiner the go-to guy, especially when it came to questions about EMS.

“Everything he’s done, whether it’s paramedic or fire commissioner, he’s always strived to be the best and constantly improving his skills and education, and he’s just a very good guy in general.” Wastiewiz said.

Gardiner said when it comes to being a volunteer firefighter he misses responding
to scenes.

“My wife always looks at me and she goes, ‘You miss it, don’t you?’” he said. “I say, ‘Yup,’ but everything has its time.”

When he moves to Florida, he said he will also miss the Three Village area, where his children grew up and went through the Three Village school district. He said he will especially miss the sense of local history and the area near Emma Clark library and the Frank Melville Memorial Park.

“We’ve always loved living in this area,” he said. “It has good restaurants and good people. The civics and the chamber of commerce do a lot of work to try to build up the area.”

However, while Gardiner and his wife may be moving, he said they will be back to visit as their four children, three daughters-in-law and three grandchildren live on Long Island.

When asked if he had some advice to share with his fellow Setauket firefighters, Gardiner said it’s important to remember the constant commitment to the community. 

“Never get complacent,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement. It gives you the motivation to push forward. You don’t want to say, ‘I’m done.’”

Priya Kapoor-Lasky recently started up a business where she sets up meditation rooms. Photo from Kapoor-Lasky

Visitors to Smithtown Historical Society events are used to seeing the smiling face of Executive Director Priya Kapoor-Lasky, so the fact that she practices meditation regularly comes as no surprise.

Now Kapoor-Lasky is starting up a new business where she is setting up meditation rooms or corners for customers, when she’s not working at the historical society.

She’s always had a separate room of her own, she said, until recently when she got married and her son moved back in with her. She added that her daughter also lives with her.

The solution, she said, was setting up a meditation corner in her bedroom because she felt like something was missing without a space dedicated to the practice.

“It looked so pretty in the room that everybody kept saying that ‘you have a natural talent for this, you should do this,’” she said. “And that’s when I said, ‘OK, you know what, that does sound like a good idea.’”

It’s something that she’s done all her life for family and friends and even helping in her temple.

Kapoor-Lasky said having the space is a reminder that the practice is an important one. She said the goal of meditation is to enjoy it so much that when you’re doing it nothing else comes to mind. She added that it’s a difficult goal to achieve, even though there are benefits while trying to do so.

“What happens is the process itself is so soothing that most of your issues, most of your problems, get solved during the process, or you just feel peaceful when you’re sitting there,” she said. “It’s like your very warm and cozy area where you’re just sitting, and you feel safe.”

Kapoor-Lasky, who grew up in India and is Hindu, said her parents were religious when she was growing up and still are. They would teach her if she needed to deal with something to take a few minutes to meditate.

“That became my go-to thing,” she said. “I teach the same thing to my kids now.’

Meditation spaces are also important for offices, she said, especially after many have been working from home for a year. Kapoor-Lasky added that a designated space provides employees a way to step away from their desk to recharge or rest their eyes after looking at a computer screen for hours.

“You need some unconventional things which were not there before,” she said.

For more information, email [email protected] or call 917-310-8742.

Ray Manzoni Photo from ALS Ride for Life

The ALS Ride for Life board of directors unanimously appointed Ray Manzoni as president of the organization.

Manzoni, of Miller Place and proprietor of Manzoni Real Estate located in Mount Sinai, replaces Chris Pendergast, a beloved community member and founder of the nonprofit, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in October after a 28-year-long battle.

But Manzoni said Pendergast’s legacy will live on, and he’ll be there to help see the organization through.

When ALS Ride for Life was incorporated back in 1997, Manzoni stood alongside Pendergast — a man he became good friends with. 

“We had been friends for years before he was diagnosed. Then he sucked me in and here I am 28 years later,” he laughed. “I knew him well. I knew his mind. He taught me well.”

While Pendergast was still alive and spreading awareness on ALS (often referred to as Lou Gehrig disease), the new president served on the board of directors, eventually — and currently — as board chairman. 

“Chris was a nationally known leader in the world of ALS,” Manzoni said. “I was proud to be his friend. I look forward to continuing his mission and that of our organization toward providing patient services, awareness and supporting research so that a cure can one day be found.”

ALS Ride for Life started when Pendergast embarked on a ride with his electric scooter from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to Washington, D.C., 22 years ago to raise awareness about the disease and raise funds for research. After a few years, the ride was contained to New York state — from Riverhead to the Bronx — where participants stop by schools along the way that take part in the organization’s presentations throughout the school year. 

Pendergast, a Miller Place resident and former Northport elementary teacher, had lived with the disease for 28 years. When doctors diagnosed him, they thought he only had a few years to live. He lived to be 71.

Pendergast became an icon and symbol for the North Shore for never giving up. 

Even as he lost the ability to speak and had to communicate with an eye-to-speech device, his determination never seemed to relent. Just this year, Pendergast, alongside his wife Christine, released the book “Blink Spoken Here: Tales from a Journey to Within” about his life since his diagnosis in 1993.

The ALS Ride for Life organization has raised over $10 million for advocacy and research. Their yearly Ride for Life trips were later accompanied by visits to close to 90 school districts on Long Island.

“His story still resonates,” Manzoni said. “ALS is not gone.”

The new president is looking forward to keeping Pendergast’s legacy alive. 

“We fortunately have this great team,” he said. “We held it all together and are refining in these COVID times.”

Known to visit schools and give presentations on the disease, the group had to change shape to get their word out, while adhering to coronavirus guidelines. But he is asking people to continue supporting their local nonprofits. 

“The kids want this, administrators want this,” he said.

Marc Greene

By Kimberly Brown

Long Island Music’s Hall of Fame announced Marc Greene as its newest 2020 Educator of Note.

Working for several decades in teaching and supervising music education, the LIMHOF explained how Greene has shown exemplary work and passion throughout his career. 

“It is so very exciting and humbling to be recognized as the 2020 Long Island Music Hall of Fame Educator of Note,” Greene said. “So many of the previous honorees are esteemed music education colleagues and mentors, providing very large footsteps in which to follow and broad shoulders upon which to stand.”

After teaching for a dozen years at middle school and high school levels in upstate, New York, Greene took a job at Newfield High School, where he became the director of choral and theater activities. 

Four years later, he was approached by Cecil Ramsey, former Middle Country Superintendent of Schools, who urged him to become state certified as an educational administer. 

Taking on his new role, he implemented a long-term plan to enhance the Arts Education experience for Middle Country students.

In 10 years, some of the programs he established on Long Island were a string orchestra program — that enrolls over 1,100 students annually — specialized kindergarten music instruction, and a music curriculum that would feature the development of social guitar, keyboard and drumming performance skills for middle and elementary school children. 

After serving his tenure at Middle County, Greene then continued to serve as a chairperson for the Suffolk New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education Honors Chorus.

He also served NYSSMA as an assistant to the Zone 14 Suffolk County representative, as a member of the statewide Curriculum Committee, and as an All-State Voice and Vocal Jazz and Choral adjudicator. 

“Upon my retirement from the public sector in 2013, I immediately joined the faculty of the Ithaca College School of Music, serving as a supervisor of student teachers on Long Island and in the New York metropolitan area,” Greene said. 

While continuing to work with the school districts of Long Island in a multitude of ways, Greene also manages a small voice instruction studio and provides vocal performance, as well as piano accompaniment.

“Long Island truly is a great place to make music, to teach music, and to surround oneself with a cadre of people who truly understand the power of music to embellish the lives of children and adults alike.”

And for all he did for students, not only in Middle Country, but across New York State, the honor came unquestioned.

“The Long Island Music Hall of Fame is very excited to honor such an accomplished and respected educator,” said LIMHOF Education Committee Chairman Tom Needham. “He is one of a small group of music educators who have had such a long-lasting and significant impact on so many music students all over Long Island.”

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.

by -
0 315
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.”