Movers and Shakers

Photo from Robbie Harte

For one North Shore singer, an injury and her 13-year-old daughter have led her on a path she has dreamed about for years.

Singer-songwriter Robbie Harte, above, won two awards at the 2022 International Singer-Songwriters Association awards ceremony. Photo from Robbie Harte

Growing up in Montreal, Canada, Robbie Harte wanted to become a singer-songwriter. However, her goal was put on hold when an accident 14 years ago caused a back and spine injury that left her in chronic pain and unable to sing.

“It affected every part of me,” Harte said.

She added the best way to describe the issue to people is to imagine throbbing tooth pain from the waist to the toes all day, where sitting, standing or lying down doesn’t relieve the pain. It was so overwhelming that it was difficult for her to take in the breaths she needed to hold notes.

The Canadian was already living in Suffolk County when the accident occurred. She had met her husband during a trip to Hawaii. She worked for an airline and planned to go to Paris to write. Last minute Harte said she felt she shouldn’t go to France and opted to go to Hawaii, a place she was familiar with from visiting a couple of times. One morning while sitting in a coffee shop, she saw him run by, and then he was inside the shop a little while later. He stopped by her table to talk to her while she was writing about a couple meeting 

In her song “Out of the Blue,” she recounts the meeting saying she “traded Paris in for paradise.”

They began a long-distance relationship, with the two traveling between Canada and Smithtown, where he lived at the time. Shortly after she moved to Suffolk County, they married. Soon after she became pregnant with her daughter, she was injured.

“It was such a happy time for us, then I was sidelined,” Harte said. “It wasn’t just that I was sidelined — I was sidelined and silenced.”

She added that she navigated sad times in the past by expressing herself through music. Harte said at first, she accepted this was the way it was, but she started realizing she wasn’t herself. 

After her daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was 7, Harte wanted to show her child that a medical diagnosis shouldn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams.

“She’s the driving force that I’m on this journey,” the singer said. “She is the reason I’m pursuing my dream. She’s the reason that I’m doing all of this.”

Harte said she was inspired to pursue her goals despite chronic pain to show her daughter, right, that obstacles shouldn’t get in the way of dreams. Photo from Robbie Harte

Harte remembered the day she and her husband told their daughter about the autism diagnosis. She said they explained that sometimes things may be more challenging for her than others, but she shouldn’t let it get in the way of living her dreams. Harte said that conversation catapulted her to start pursuing her own goals.

“Here I was sitting on the couch, curled up in a ball, not living my dream because I couldn’t do it anymore, and things were really hard for me,” she said. “I said, ‘You know, I can’t tell her that and not put action behind my words. I have to show her by example, by being the best possible role model I can.’ That was the moment that I really decided this is my dream.”

Harte decided to put everything into singing despite how difficult or uncomfortable it was at first. The singer, who taught herself to play guitar, released her first EP in 2020 and has been enjoying musical success with her country/pop songs ever since. She has won and been nominated for several awards. Recently, she won the Gold Songwriter of the Year award and Bronze Single of the Year award for “Outside My Window” from the International Singer-Songwriters Association.

A few weeks ago, Harte released the single “Reason to Rise.” She described the song as an “anthemic power ballad.” The single has received airplay all over the globe and has landed on Canadian, country and indie music charts.

The journey has taught Harte a lot about herself and her strengths, she said. Initially, she was afraid she would never be able to get on a stage because she uses a cane regularly. However, she decided she would hold on to whatever else she needed, whether it was a curtain or microphone stand.

“You can’t let any of these things stop you because they’re just details,” Harte said.

The wife and mother also had advice when it comes to balancing various responsibilities and demands that parents face when juggling their own and their children’s obligations. She said the key is not to let everything overwhelm a parent, and she feels it’s important to make time for oneself. Harte said it’s vital to have a release such as singing, a hobby or playing a sport.

“If you don’t have that, you can’t give to other people,” she said. “You need to be in a positive mindset, and you need to have a few minutes — even if it’s 15 minutes — to do something that you love, so that you’re grounded, so that you can give your best to the people around you.”

Harte said she hopes to use her platform “to uplift, inspire and empower people” and to encourage them to let nothing stop them from doing what they love.

“I want to remind people to go out there and pursue their dreams and do what they love, despite their age, their ability or their limitations.”

For more information, visit robbieharte.com.

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Myra Naseem, second from left, with her daughter Kaneez, left, granddaughter Giselle, second from right, and daughter Lyla. Photo from Lyla Gleason

As co-founder and co-owner of Elegant Eating in Smithtown, Myra Naseem is accustomed to special occasions. At the end of October, instead of being on the planning end of a party, it was her turn to be honored as friends and family celebrated her 80th birthday.

Myra Naseem at her 80th birthday party. Photo from Lyla Gleason

Naseem, who goes all out to decorate the interior of her house every year for Halloween, commemorated her milestone one night with family and friends at her home with a costume party. The next day she, her two daughters Lyla and Kaneez, granddaughter Giselle and female friends enjoyed a tea party at the Smithtown Historical Society’s Frank Brush Barn.

The historical society’s executive director Priya Kapoor is a friend of the octogenarian and was on hand for the festivities. She looks up to Naseem, she said, and described her as a mentor.

“She is my biggest cheerleader who supports me no matter what,” Kapoor said. “She is my person no matter where we are. I feel home when I am around her.”

Naseem’s daughter Lyla Gleason said she, her sister and daughter read 80 things about their mother they loved at the tea party. She said they were touched as many of her mother’s friends, impromptu, stood up and added to the list of things they appreciated about Naseem.

Gleason remembers when her grandmother turned 80 years and was already retired and living in Florida. At the time, she thought 80 was old, but looking at her mother, she doesn’t feel the same way. 

“She’s still in the prime of her life,” Gleason said.

With the pandemic’s negative effects on businesses, Naseem could have retired from her off-site catering business. She admitted she enjoyed some downtime during the shutdowns. However, she continues to run the business with partner Neil Schumer. She also attends events to ensure everything is set up to meet a client’s expectations.

Myra Naseem is the proud mother and grandmother of daughters Kaneez, back row, Lyla, left, and granddaughter Giselle, center. Photo from Lyla Gleaon

Naseem credited her successful partnership with Schumer to always coming to a solution even though they sometimes disagree on the best approach. He is like family to her. For Schumer, the feeling is mutual.

“After 40 years we are best friends, we are family,” he said. “We have a bond that can’t be broken. With Myra, her heart is to make everyone happy. She always says the positive. I couldn’t ask for a better partner, better friend, better family.”

Kaneez Naseem said she admires that her mother continues working and attending social events outside of her job.

“I’m glad that she’s where she is in life right now,” she said.

Kaneez Naseem recognized her mother could have fully retired when the pandemic hit, but she said it’s hard to imagine her not working. The daughter added she loves when people tell her how much they enjoyed the parties her mother has catered.

“She puts such care into every party as if it was for me or Lyla,” Kaneez Naseem said. “She’ll always want to make it like home and perfect.”

Myra Naseem said when she was younger, she had no idea that people would hire someone to cook for a party.

“I didn’t even know there was an industry called catering,” she said. “It was just a fluke.” 

The former home economics teacher and Schumer started the business in her Smithtown home. The venture started after Naseem prepared a few menu items for her older daughter Lyla’s bat mitzvah. The caterer she used, who Schumer worked for, asked her to work for them. She did for a while, and when it was Kaneez’s turn to have her bat mitzvah, the business owner couldn’t have it at his place, so Myra Naseem catered it herself.

People from her temple started asking her to cater their parties, she said. Naseem began catering on a regular basis while still teaching for the first six years she ran the business.

“I liked it right from the beginning,” she said. “I think it’s very intuitive. It was almost like a very easy segue. Whether you’re running a classroom or you’re running a party, everybody gets a task and everybody’s doing their thing.”

In 1987, after her youngest graduated from Hauppauge High School, Naseem and Schumer opened their first storefront in Stony Brook, and the business officially became Elegant Eating Ltd. As the business grew, they moved to its current location on the Smithtown Bypass.

With both girls away at college, she said it was easier to juggle teaching and catering. By the time she retired from teaching in the 1990s, she had already been working in the New York State education system for 30 years, with 24 of those years being spent in the Central Islip school district.

A graduate of SUNY Oneonta and New York University, where she obtained her master’s, Naseem said she grew up during a time when young women were made to feel they could only become a secretary, nurse or teacher.

Myra Naseem with Elegant Eating partner Neil Schumer. Photo from Lyla Gleason

“I think that today the young girls have a very different footing,” she said, adding the best advice for the younger generation is to remember you have to start at the bottom and work your way up.

“You need to see the foundation before you can be at the top of it,” she said.

Naseem’s parents were business owners, too. Born and raised on Long Island, her family moved to Patchogue when she was 5. Her parents owned a dress store in the village and decided to sell it and moved to Smithtown when she was 18. They opened a new dress store on Main Street, where Horizons Counseling and Education Center is located today. When her brother died at the age of 25 after an automobile accident, her mother wanted to leave New York, and her parents moved to Florida. At the time, Naseem was divorcing her husband, and with her daughters only 2 and 3 years old, she moved into her parents’ Smithtown home.

Kaneez Naseem said growing up, she didn’t realize what a positive role model her mother was.

“I don’t know that I appreciated it as a child, but I certainly do now, when I look at her and the way she lived her life,” she said.

The daughter said she realized how courageous her mother was to divorce when she was so young. She said if her mother ever struggled, she never showed it.

“It was us three girls,” Kaneez Naseem said. “It was me, Mommy and Lyla. That was normal to me.”

Gleason agreed, and as she looks back, she too has a deeper appreciation for all her mother did and achieved. When she was younger, she said, she thought what her mother did was normal, but over the years she has come to realize she made some bold moves.

She described her mother as a pioneer who was liberated and empowered.

“Women weren’t supposed to be empowered in those days,” she said. “It was unusual to see a woman take charge and start a career and do all these things without a husband.” 

Gleason added her mother taught her daughters that a woman could do things in life with the support of family and friends and didn’t necessarily have to have a romantic partner. She said it has made her and her sister the independent women they are today, and Gleason is now teaching her daughter the same.

“Your life is not all about being in a marriage or partnership,” she said. “Your friends and family can be just as important and supportive as a traditional husband.”

Looking back at life, Myra Naseem said while there were tough times both personal and in her career, she said it was important to stay positive and always realize how fortunate she is. She compares herself to the Weeble toys that are built to wobble but not fall down.

“I always come right side up no matter what happens to me,” she said. “Whether I have a terrible experience or something gets broken or I’m sick or I have to make a big decision and maybe don’t make the best decision, I always come up straight. I always come up headfirst.”

A monarch butterfly rests on Theresa Germaine’s finger before taking flight. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A Stony Brook resident is doing her part to help the ecosystem, one monarch butterfly at a time.

The monarch before leaving its enclosure. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Theresa Germaine knew she had to keep busy when the pandemic shut down practically everything in 2020. Pre-COVID-19, the now 83-year-old traveled frequently, and when she wasn’t making trips, Germaine split her time between New York City and Stony Brook, where she shares a house with her sister.

When everything shut down, the retired educator decided Long Island was the best place to be. Shortly after, she decided to grow milkweed, a flowering perennial plant, in her garden and encourage the growth of the monarch butterfly population. Not only did she attract the butterflies with the milkweed — the only place they will lay their eggs on — she also took their eggs and nurtured them.

“There are so many negative things going on in the world that you have to find some way to make yourself feel good about something,” Germaine said.

The butterflies, distinguished by their orange and black coloring with white spots, have recently been added to The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. The environmental network considers the monarchs an endangered species, even though the U.S. itself has not yet added the pollinators to its endangered-species list.

a caterpillar feeding. Photo from Theresa Germaine

When the pandemic shutdowns struck, Germaine read about the monarch butterflies and how to attract and raise them. This year marked the third year of her garden and, once again, she has been busy looking for the tiny eggs, about the size of a pin, under the milkweed leaves where the butterflies lay them. She then brings them inside her home where she puts the eggs and leaves in a container.

After the eggs hatch, they emerge as caterpillars and are very small. Germaine puts them in mesh butterfly tents bought online along with pieces of milkweed from her garden in tubes to feed them. She has a few of the enclosures to handle each stage, from the caterpillar — larva stage — to pupa, where they form a chrysalis around themselves, and then the emergence of the butterfly. 

Germaine said once the monarch butterfly appears, it climbs up the side of the cage and needs time for its wings to dry. Once the monarch begins fluttering around the enclosure, she knows it’s time to release them outside. She brings the enclosure outside and allows the creatures to leave at their will.

“I’ve always kind of been a Girl Scout type of person,” Germaine said. “I was a Girl Scout when I was young, and I always had an interest in nature.”

A butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. Photo from Theresa Germaine

While she nurtured a dozen of the pollinators in 2020, last year she released 41 and this year so far, 45. She said she estimates that approximately 10 more butterflies will emerge before the summer ends.

Over the last couple of years, Germaine has purchased more milkweed plants, and the perennials have become more robust over time.

A native of the Bronx, she taught in Manhattan for nearly 30 years, and was an assistant principal for two years in the borough. She retired in 1995, and she said she never chose to get married or have children. Germaine said while many her age may be busy with grandchildren; she was keeping herself busy with her travels and entertainment. The raising of the monarchs has been a welcomed activity.

“As you get older, it’s very important that you have a purpose in life,” she said.

Her hope is that everyone will grow a little milkweed in their garden to help the monarchs. She said while it’s not the most attractive plant, even a small garden with the flower in a corner of one’s property can make a difference. While the eggs have a better chance of surviving inside — more than 80% — just having milkweed can increase the monarch butterfly anywhere between 3% to 10%, Germaine said based on her research.

“If everybody did their part, we would see more butterflies,” she said. “And who does not love to see a butterfly?”

County legislator discusses major initiatives coming out of her office

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) is working on several projects, from bike trails to erosion education programs and more. Photo courtesy Anker’s office

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) is at the forefront of several initiatives at the county level. In an exclusive interview with Anker, she opened up about her positions on public campaign finance, the North Shore Rail Trail, coastal erosion and more.

For those who do not know you, can you describe your background?

My background is that I’m a mother of three children and have been a Mount Sinai resident for 25 years. I’ve lived in Middle Island and in Coram, and I’m very familiar with this area and my legislative district. I worked at different ad agencies, did some independent contracting work and at some of the local shops in Patchogue. Then I took off for a handful of years to raise my kids. 

When my youngest was born, the New York State Health Department put out a cancer map showing that our area had a high frequency of cancer, particularly breast cancer, and my grandmother had just passed away from breast cancer. I decided to start a non-for-profit, the Community Health and Environment Coalition, around 2003. And this was basically to advocate to the state to come and do an investigation, tell us what we need to know, why we had these numbers and where these numbers were coming from. 

Eventually, they came back to the community and did testing, but unfortunately, they left more questions than answers. We continue to investigate and try to understand the causes of cancer.

I got a job working as the chief of staff for [Councilwoman] Connie Kepert [D-Middle Island] at the Town of Brookhaven. She pulled me in and then they got a $4.5 million grant for solar programs. Working with Connie, we started the programs and then I was promoted to be in charge of creating an energy department at the Town of Brookhaven. I left that position to run for this position.

I ran for office and have been elected seven times. I’m term limited, so I can’t run anymore. I’m a Democrat but fairly conservative — moderate and in the middle. I find the common denominator and I focus on that. I don’t go too far left or too far right, and I’m here to represent my constituents and to kind of settle the storm when there are issues out there. My top priority is public safety and the safety of my residents. I did that for my kids and my family. I do that now for my constituents.

How did your most recent project, the North Shore Rail Trail, come to fruition?

That one was very challenging. I had to overcome some major obstacles and challenges along the way. 

The three main challenges were getting the county exec on board. The former one was not supportive; the current one, Steve Bellone [D], supported it. I also had to get the energy folks from LIPA on board. I had worked a lot with them while running the energy program at the Town of Brookhaven and we had a good professional relationship. 

That worked because they were open to the idea of LIPA having this as a wonderful public relations project. The third one was getting the community on board. The ability to see this through stemmed from the fact that there had been fatalities related to people attempting to ride their bikes, jog or run along our local highways. Because all of those concerns and challenges were in place, it was time to move forward.

Hopefully, and I stress this, people need to use common sense and they need to take responsibility for their safety when they cross the intersections. But this provides a safe place for people to be able to recreate. 

Can you discuss the work you are doing related to coastal erosion?

Erosion is a huge issue. I was meeting constituents and I was on Culross Drive in Rocky Point and as I walked up to a house, I noticed that their neighbor’s house had fallen off the cliff — literally, it was down the cliff. This was 10 or 11 years ago.

I found that a lot of constituents in my area are part of beach associations. Miller Place, Sound Beach, Rocky Point — these are private beach communities, so they don’t qualify for federal funding. I’m using the resources we do have to educate them on certain seagrasses, different brick structures, just give them ideas to try to address it. 

Unfortunately, if one addresses it and this person doesn’t and this person doesn’t, then it creates issues for the people that do. So I’m trying to see if we can get everyone on board to address the erosion issue. We’ll do what we can.

Public campaign finance has been an ongoing dispute between the county executive and the Legislature. Can you elaborate on your stance regarding the public campaign finance program that was repealed last week?

I support funding campaign finance reform. I support it. It’s a program that was started last year. We put money into it and it’s a shame that we couldn’t try it out. We do pilot programs all the time and I would have hoped that they could have at least done that. 

It was a project that the former presiding officer, Rob Calarco [D-Patchogue], had advocated for. He worked for a long time on it. I respect him and the amount of effort that he put into that. I would have preferred to at least give it a shot and see where it was going.

If it wasn’t doing well or there were some issues or problems with it, we could have always changed it. I voted to have another way to finance campaigns. Any large organization that has a lot of money can create very, very challenging campaigns for any individual — and I’ve been there personally. 

What is it about the communities that you represent that makes them so distinctive and unique?

I think that we have a lot of folks who understand how important it is to take an active role in their community. We have a lot of folks that participate in projects and events and activities that continue to inspire the people around them. Like the butterfly effect or a ripple in a stream, it just keeps going and I see that in my community.

Right now, in this complicated political climate, we need to understand that we all have something in common and we can all be part of addressing issues and accomplishing our goals by working together collaboratively. I’ve seen that and I do that, and I think that — whether it’s unique to us or not — it’s something that’s important that is happening in our district. 

We get what we put into our community. And right now, the people that have contributed to and who have improved our community, I’m really honored and privileged to work with those folks. 

Whether it’s Bobby Woods with the North Shore Youth Council or Bea Ruberto from the Sound Beach Civic Association, you really see who the true heroes are within your community when you work with them. And I feel very honored to have the ability to be part of what they are trying to create, which is a place that we can call home.

Nico VI, above, is being trained by volunteer Andrea Spencer, of Stony Brook, to one day assist people with disabilities. Photo from Canine Companions

By Amanda Olsen

There can be little doubt that Andrea Spencer is a dog person.

Nico with volunteer trainer Andrea Spencer. Photo from Canine Companions

The Stony Brook resident has rescued Labradors since 2011, fostering and training them while they were waiting for their forever homes. She also co-chairs the DogFest Long Island fundraiser at Marjorie R. Post Community Park in Massapequa and is currently raising a puppy, Nico VI, for Canine Companions.

This is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1975 that provides highly trained assistance dogs to people with disabilities free of charge. Puppy raisers provide specially bred puppies a safe home, take them to obedience classes, serve them a healthy diet, provide socialization opportunities and give them lots of love. Each hour spent caring for a Canine Companions puppy is vital to its development as a future service dog. 

Spencer’s puppy-raising journey began with a rescued yellow Lab named Ruby, who came from Louisiana to live with Spencer and her family. She remembers her fondly.

“She was really my heart dog,” Spencer said. “She was really the dog that brought me into all of my volunteer work.” 

Around 2017, a friend first mentioned Canine Companions as a possible service opportunity, and the organization kept entering Spencer’s life. She attended a couple of puppy matriculation ceremonies, a kind of graduation where the dogs move on from living with their raisers to formal training at the Canine Companions center. It was a turning point for Spencer.

“The graduation was an inspirational, beautiful, wonderful thing,” she said. “It was basically just life changing for me as far as working with Canine Companions.”

After a long, happy life, Ruby passed from lung cancer in August 2020. Spencer credits this loss as the catalyst for her puppy raising.

“And once we kind of settled from that storm, my husband said, ‘We’ve always thought in the back of our heads, you’d like to do something more for Canine Companions. Why don’t we raise a puppy in Ruby’s honor?’ I said, ‘You know what, that’s such a great idea.’”

The family began the process, first with the application in January 2021, then an extensive interview in March of that year. Once that part of the process was over, and they were approved, all that was left to do was wait. 

That September, Nico arrived in New York, and the Spencers were now raising a future service dog for Canine Companions. 

Nico is a Lab/golden retriever cross, which is a special mix Canine Companions breeds for its service dog program. This mix is both personable and very trainable. Spencer said that there are many things Nico picks up on without training, and when she does train him, he learns quickly. 

“With the Spencer family’s love and guidance, Nico is on his way to becoming a Canine Companions service dog, and will someday be matched with an adult, child or veteran with a disability free of charge,” said John Bentzinger, Canine Companions regional public relations and marketing coordinator, in an email. “Nico is being taught basic commands and socialization skills and, in another seven to 10 months, he’ll be returned to Canine Companions where he’ll work for six months with our professional instructors learning over 40 advanced commands that are useful to a person with disabilities. Nico will learn how to open and close doors, turn lights on and off, and pick up dropped items to name just a few.”

One of the biggest challenges is training the puppies to control their excitement. 

“They’re really bred to love people and be with people and be with everybody,” Spencer said. “So that actually provides a little bit of a challenge as a puppy raiser because they really want to go see everybody and they get excited. So, we work on having good manners in public.”

Being in public and being well socialized is critical to the service dog’s success. The dog has to be comfortable in multiple locations on a variety of surfaces. “We want him to be completely focused in these locations, not just in the home where he is the majority of the time,” Spencer said. 

Some commands are specific to his training as a service dog.

“They’re taught to bark a sequence of three, four or five times, and then quiet is paired with that because they don’t want the barking for 20 minutes,” she said. “They just want you barking to kind of alert someone.”

There is a huge network of support for people who decide to raise puppies for Canine Companions. Not only are there informal connections with other volunteers, but the national nonprofit provides each raiser with a mentor called a “puppy pal.”

“It’s a mentoring program with a raiser who’s raised at least three dogs,” Spencer said. “They hook you up with that person and throughout their puppyhood, you can call them or email them or text them.”

Of course, the No. 1 thing Spencer gets asked is how she will feel when Nico leaves her care and goes on to formal training.

“The Lab rescue was like my training or my internship,” she said. “I would have fosters in my house anywhere from one week to two months, and then they would go on to their adoptive homes. And believe me, it wasn’t easy, but you see that you’re helping. I think having a resident dog in the house helps. I look at this not like Nico’s my pet, but he’s my job. You have to have the right mindset for it.”

She also credits her son, Jared, who has Autism, for helping to forge a connection with Nico’s future recipient.

“I think having a child who is disabled and seeing that this organization serves that community has made that connection for me.” 

For Spencer, the decision to raise again is a given.

“I will definitely raise again, because it’s just such a wonderful experience,” she said. “I think as you subsequently raise, even though it’s different, you have all of the basic knowledge, the training tools, the understanding of what they need to learn. Of course, you’re going to have different obstacles with each puppy, because puppies are like humans, they’re all different. But yes, I definitely think we’ll raise again.”

Her advice for people considering raising is straightforward.

“I think if you’re considering raising you have to have a certain mindset, that you’re raising this puppy not for you but for to help somebody,” she said. “You definitely need to have the entire family on board, because it does become a family affair. You’re going to have challenges, but you’re going to also have great successes. There is a very strong network of support right here on Long Island. And really, we’ve become a family. We call it the Canine Companion family. And it’s something that is so rewarding on so many levels. And you know, hopefully more people will join in and take part in this because without the puppy raising there are no dogs.”

Dr. Jennifer Englebright, center, with her father Steve Englebright, left, and her husband, Charles Regulinski.

Working toward an English degree, most students would never expect to become a dentist.

Jennifer Englebright was the honored speaker during Stony Brook University’s English Department Convocation Ceremony in May. Photo from Stony Brook University

However, that’s exactly what happened to Dr. Jennifer Englebright, the speaker at the 2022 English Department Convocation at Stony Brook University. A dentist at Port Jefferson Dental Group, Englebright, who graduated from SBU in 2005, told attendees that she considered her “English degree to be of utmost importance in my career.”

“It prepared me in ways I could never have imagined, and its value has become an inherent part of my work,” she said.

The Setauket resident continued in her speech that her English degree helped with the human side of dentistry by giving her “the power and expression of language.”

“Communication is vital in helping to alleviate the stress and anxiety so many patients feel,” she said. “Uncertainty often drives fear, but by methodically explaining exactly what the procedure is, in such a way that the patient can really understand it, helps temper that fear.”

Andrew Newman, professor and chair of the English Department at Stony Brook University, said it was the first in-person convocation since 2019, and Englebright was well received by students and faculty.

“While some of our outstanding graduates go on to careers in education, law or business, Dr. Englebright demonstrates that English is also great preparation for health care providers,” Newman said. “I think she would agree that she’s a better dentist for having studied Virginia Woolf with Professor Celia Marshik.”

Englebright said in a phone interview that many people don’t realize how versatile an English degree is.

“I found my English classes to be more inspiring for my career in medicine than science classes,” she said.

She agreed that reading the works of Woolf was a major influence in her life. Her senior honors thesis was about the author.

“She was all for women’s rights and women in higher education, trying to push and drive women forward to make their own money in their own careers,” Englebright said.

She also has been inspired by the poet William Carlos Williams who was also a doctor.

“I found writers like that to be actually more inspiring to go into medicine than just pure science,” Englebright said.

In addition to majoring in English at SBU, Englebright took several science courses. She was considering different career paths while attending college and ultimately was drawn to health care, especially dentistry. She volunteered at the college’s dental school and then worked with a local dentist.

After Stony Brook, she attended The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and graduated in 2009. She went on to do her residency at St. Charles Hospital. For the last 10 years, she has practiced at Port Jefferson Dental Group.

Englebright said science runs in her blood. Her father is state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), a geologist by profession who still works at SBU occasionally. Her mother June is a retired earth science teacher.

Jennifer Englebright said both her parents encouraged her to follow her passions in life and never steered her toward any one career.

“I had complete autonomy to explore whatever I wanted to do in life, and both of my parents gave me that platform to be able to do that,” she said.

When in third grade, she, her mother and sister moved to Wading River after her parents divorced, she said. After returning from Pennsylvania and living out east and in Melville, she decided to move back to Setauket. In 2020, Englebright married Charles Regulinski, Setauket Fire Department assistant chief. 

“I really wanted to come back to my roots,” she said. “I wanted to be in the Three Village area. I just love this area.”

Recently, Englebright, like many health care professionals, had to navigate her career through the pandemic.

At the beginning, dentist offices could function only during emergencies. Once doors opened to all patients, she said it was tough because there was no vaccine or any treatment for COVID-19. However, she said they didn’t have to change procedures majorly because they are always prepared to fight infections.

“We’re a very strict discipline, medicine, especially dentistry,” she said. “We’re very strict with infection control.”

She said, at first, people were hesitant to go back to the dentist, but ultimately the office rebounded as many were overdue for routine care or bad situations worsened as some people didn’t immediately attend to dental problems such as a broken tooth.

During her speech at the convocation ceremony, Englebright said she hoped she inspired the graduates to feel that they didn’t need to be “typecast to a role,” because they have an English degree.

“You don’t have to go into this expected role as a teacher or a lawyer, this traditional route,” she said. “You can really go into whatever you want, because you have the foundation to succeed in any field.”

Doug Bilotti, back row behind mascot Mr. Marinara, recently opened Regalo Trattoria & Pizza Bar in Northport with the encouragement of his family. Photo by Miguel Garcia

By Chris Mellides

Nestled in a strip mall on Fort Salonga Road in Northport, Regalo Trattoria & Pizza Bar is a family run Italian restaurant owned by attorney and St. James resident Douglas Bilotti. 

Chef Miguel Garcia, left, and Bilotti, right, present a freshly baked pizza. Photo by Claudia Reed

In addition to being a restaurateur, Bilotti operates his own law firm and serves as a justice for the Village of Nissequogue. The one dream that seemed to elude him for years was pursuing a career in the culinary industry. In January, however, the self-proclaimed “home chef” finally made that dream a reality. 

“When I was in high school, I always wanted to be a chef,” Bilotti said. “I enjoyed making food and I thought about going to culinary school at the time. For some reason, I decided to go to college and go to law school, but I always enjoyed cooking and enjoyed food, and I have some good friends in the restaurant industry as well.”

With its relaxing atmosphere and homey decor, Bilotti strives to make Regalo a prime destination for Italian comfort food on Long Island. The eatery has an expansive menu and serves everything from pizza to hamburgers, wings and a popular chicken francese dish, which the enthused owner claims is the “biggest seller that comes out of the kitchen,” apart from the pizza, of course. 

Previously, the restaurant went by the name La Casa Pizza, until Bilotti purchased the business at the start of this year. He kept the old kitchen staff and in part credits the success of Regalo to their expert knowledge and dedication.

A big part of what also makes Regalo special, according to Bilotti, are those family members he employs. Working alongside him are his sister Claudia Reed, his daughters Isabella and Christina, niece Laura Burns and his nephew Jimmy Burns. 

Reed said that she’s thrilled that her brother is pursuing one of his oldest dreams and she couldn’t be more supportive. 

“I am so happy for him,” she said. “It’s not often that we get to do something we dreamed about when we were younger — life gets in the way.”  

“We set out on a path, we get married, have children and we don’t have the time or financial security to do something our younger selves would have wanted to do,” she added. “I love that my brother is getting to fulfill a dream that he once had, and I love that I get to be part of it.” 

Reed is responsible for overseeing the operations of the staff. She moderates group texts for the delivery drivers and for the counter and also works the register, sweeps and buses tables. “I help where I’m needed,” she said. 

Bilotti’s nephew Jimmy Burns, left, and the owner share a table. Displayed on the wall behind them are photos of Bilotti’s grandparents when they were children.

Reed’s son, Jimmy Burns, is proving to be a vital employee with aspirations of becoming a business partner with his uncle one day.

The young restaurant employee graduated with an associate’s degree from Suffolk County Community College and said he doesn’t have plans to return to school. Instead, he sees himself becoming more immersed in the operation of his uncle’s restaurant.

“It means a lot to me,” Burns said “I like having the responsibility for the restaurant. I like that my uncle trusts me, I like that I know I’m doing something important for my family.”

“The highlights are that I have fun with my co-workers,” he added. “We laugh a lot. There are times when it’s busy, but there are also times when it doesn’t feel like work, and I like that.” 

Bilotti, when asked how he balances being a restaurateur, attorney and a village judge, admitted there have been a lot of late nights spent keeping up with everything and that it’s been a challenge to maintain his legal work while also ensuring that Regalo continues to thrive.

“Some days I do my legal work from the restaurant,” he said. “I take calls here, I bring my computer here every morning and get to work. So, it’s been working out and it’s been working out well. I have additional work and weekend time is always there as well to get some stuff done.”

Through continued hard work and a large emphasis on the support he receives from his family and the community his restaurant serves, Bilotti is confident that his business will continue to flourish. 

“It’s beyond Italian food, it’s everything,” Bilotti said. “It’s comfort food. It’s what people like, and it’s what people enjoy. It’s high quality and it’s affordable. We just want to be part of the community and have people feel that we’re part of the community and serve the community the best that we can, really.”

Maria Hoffman, above center, receives a proclamation from the Town of Brookhaven from Supervisor Ed Romaine, left, and Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich at the Three Village Community Trust gala last year. Below, Maria spending time on the water. Photo by Patricia Paladines

The Three Village community is mourning the passing of Maria Hoffman, who was chief of staff to New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright for nearly three decades.

Maria Hoffman enjoys some time on the water. Photo from George Hoffman

According to her husband, George Hoffman, the Setauket resident died April 29 of metastatic breast cancer, which she bravely battled on and off since being first diagnosed in 2010.

Maria and George married in 2009 in Frank Melville Memorial Park. It was the second marriage for both. “When Maria and I married, I moved to Setauket from the South Shore,” he said. “She was Assemblyman Englebright’s chief of staff and had an extensive network of friends and colleagues. She loved the Three Village community and was involved with every aspect of it. I always tell people that she gave me an express ticket to the front of the line with all of the leaders of the Three Village community.” 

In a November 2019 Village Times Herald article, Maria shared advice for a successful relationship: “We also make time for things that are important, whether it’s walking or in the summertime boating — being on a sailboat. We make time to balance all the busyness.”

Born on Oct. 14, 1958, Maria was a 40-year resident of the Three Village community. A graduate of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, where she received a Human Ecology degree, Maria was familiar with busyness. In addition to being Englebright’s chief of staff, she was also an avid photographer of landscapes and wildlife, a writer, beekeeper, birder, sailor, naturalist, a co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force and a lover of wolves, whales, elephants and bees.

She was an illustrator of field guides on seashores, wetlands and woodlands. In a collaborative effort with Stony Brook University’s Museum of Long Island Natural Sciences, her illustrations can be seen in “A Field Guide to Long Island’s Woodlands,” “A Field Guide to Long Island’s Freshwater Wetlands” and “A Field Guide to Long Island’s Seashore.”

Maria was also a wonderful, helpful friend and frequent contributor to The Village Times Herald. Whenever a reporter was unavailable to cover a local event that she attended, she would always be willing to send in her own photos. Her nature photography also appeared in the Arts & Lifestyle section of TBR News Media papers.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, left, and Maria Hoffman, center. Photo by Patricia Paladines

Colleagues and friends honor Maria

Englebright and Maria’s working relationship goes back to when he was director of the Museum of Long Island Natural Sciences in the 1960s. He secured a state grant to develop a water resources curriculum for Long Island schools, he said, and Maria interviewed for a position to help develop the curriculum. Englebright said she was a standout due to her photography, illustrating and writing skills. Once the project was completed Maria continued to work with the museum and Englebright. For the museum, she illustrated public education pamphlets, booklets and newsletters and also would write.

“I had the great, good fortune of being able to hire her, and I was able to retain her,” he said. “She was extraordinarily productive in public service in the preelected office capacity, too.”

Maria continued to work with Englebright when he became county legislator and then assemblyman, and he said even though she wasn’t originally from the Three Village area she made a point to learn about the community when he was running for legislator.

“She began to realize what a wonderful part of Long Island we live in, and she really enjoyed learning about the legislative reach of the office, and it opened a new vista of capability of serving,” he said.

Englebright added that Maria’s skills were based “on how she cared for everyone she met.” He said he will miss how genuine she was, and that many related to her which enhanced everything his office was involved in.

“It’s not possible to replace her,” he said. “Certainly, we can continue to do the work that she invested so much of her life into, as long as we remember and honor the work that she has done.” 

Laurie Vetere, chair of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, described Maria as “an integral and founding member” of the task force, along with George.

“She loved taking pictures of the harbor and its marine life and waterfowl which were compiled into our annual calendar that we gave as a thank-you to our donors,” she said. “Her photography was stunning. She also loved going out on the water at daybreak to do the water testing that we do for Save the Sound, and she would spend hours the night before calibrating the scientific equipment that we utilized. She was one of our most ardent volunteers and she was an activist who lived her life trying to protect the environment both locally and around the world.”

In November, Three Village Community Trust honored Maria at its annual Fall Fundraising Gala at the Old Field Club. TVCT recognized her contributions as an artist, photographer and naturalist, and called her “everybody’s best friend.”

TVCT president Herb Mones said Maria touched countless people during her lifetime

“It was heartwarming to see so many people come together on that evening to honor Maria,” Mones said of the gala. “It was a who’s who of elected officials, community leaders, friends and neighbors that praised Maria as a unique figure in guiding, directing and helping in ‘all things Three Villages.’ Maria never wanted the spotlight on herself — but, thankfully on that night, Maria lit up the room. She was involved in everything and anything that touched our community — historical preservation, open space protection, environmental issues. There was no issue too large or small that Maria wasn’t part of — and always with a smile on her face. Her involvement was done with a quiet style and grace, and while her voice was soft and light — her influence was great. Anyone who enjoys West Meadow Beach, the Greenway, the cultural, historical and art institutions in the area — they all need to give thanks to Maria’s legacy.”

Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich also commented on Maria’s influence on the community. 

“She was a beautiful and gentle person, humble and kind and wise and funny, and her life touched so many in the community who were lucky enough to know her,” he said. “She gathered beauty through her eyes and through the lens of her camera, and shared kindness and compassion to everyone she met. Although she has taken her last breath in this world, her warmth remains. Goodbye, Maria — you are loved, and you will be missed.”

Patricia Paladines, naturalist and environmentalist, said sometimes, while Maria was waiting for treatment at Sloan Kettering, she would text her photos of fish swimming around the waiting room fish tank. Paladines described her as “a beautiful sprite, friend to all.”

Photo by Robert Reuter

She said she had texted Maria after the TVCT gala: “Thank you for all you have preserved in this community because you were sensitive to its beauty and historical importance. Sleep well dear friend knowing you are loved and appreciated by so many.” 

“I repeat now, ‘Sleep well dear friend knowing you are loved and appreciated by so many.’” 

Paladines’ husband, Carl Safina, author and environmentalist, also remembered Maria fondly.

“In the forty-plus years that I knew Maria, she was always devoted to helping other people do their best work in the world,” he said. “She never wanted the credit that was due her. But a lot of good work by many people would not have been as good if Maria hadn’t laid the foundation and built the frame.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn remembered Maria for her community as well as worldly contributions.

“In spirit, Maria was a photographer, who intently focused on capturing the essence of a moment while ensuring her presence wasn’t a distraction from it,” she said. “In life, Maria was a humble leader who embraced the approach she used behind the camera throughout her professional career to serve her neighbors and improve our community. Maria’s compassion for all creatures from the bees, which she tended, to the advocacy for the protection of elephants and elimination of big game hunting in Africa. She approached all things with a quiet tenacity and gentle hand. Maria will leave a legacy of friendship and generosity that will be cherished by all those whose lives she touched.”

An outdoor gathering for Maria’s friends and colleagues is being planned for Saturday, May 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Three Village Community Trust grounds at The Bruce House, 148 Main St., Setauket. Attendees are welcome to share their stories about Maria.

Photograph of an American tank during the Battle of the Bulge, above. File photo from Getty Images

“The same day I saw my first horror camp. It was near the town of Gotha [in Germany]. I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency. Up to that time I had known about it only generally or through secondary sources. I am certain, however, that I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.” — Supreme Allied Cmdr. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

At that moment almost 78 years ago, Hitler’s Third Reich was rapidly crumbling away.

This was in large part due to the massive strength of Eisenhower’s armies, which were determined to finish the war in Europe. With the end in sight, Allied soldiers entered German soil with the hope of receiving a speedy surrender. During this advance, American soldiers quickly noticed that the enemy had some notable similarities to their own countrymen. 

The German population was similar in size to the American middle class, and lived in heated homes surrounded by picturesque natural beauty from the German and Austrian landscapes. As Allied forces continued their eastward push, however, any feelings of closeness with the enemy quickly evaporated, as they had come to learn of Hitler’s “final solution.” American soldiers, many from neighborhoods along Long Island’s North Shore, had discovered and liberated the German death camps. 

For the men who witnessed this shocking brutality, these experiences would never be forgotten. Although hardened by the Battle of the Bulge and other combats against a fanatical resistance unwilling to surrender its losing cause, Americans were utterly unprepared for the scenes at these camps. Some had heard of the cruel treatment inflicted by the Nazis, but they were horrified after entering these camps. At once, the medics distributed food, water and medical treatment to save as many lives as they could. 

After visiting the Ohrdruf concentration camp on April 12, 1945, a sickened Eisenhower said, “We are told the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, we know what he is fighting against.” Renowned journalist and radio broadcaster Edward R. Murrow accompanied the American 6th Armored Division into the Buchenwald concentration camp. Laying witness to the atrocities, he reported, “I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I have reported what I saw, but only part of it. For most of it I have no words. … If I’ve offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I’m not in the least sorry. I was there.”  

“The inmates liberated by our forces were skeletons. … It was enough to make strong men weep — and some American officers did so unabashedly.”

— Robert Murphy

Diplomat Robert Murphy was also present to see the conditions of these camps. He recalled: “The inmates liberated by our forces were skeletons. … It was enough to make strong men weep — and some American officers did so unabashedly.” Many American soldiers were ordered to see these camps for themselves, as Eisenhower wished to prevent any future deniers of the Holocaust.

Two local heroes

Among these soldiers was the late John D’Aquila, resident of Belle Terre. A member of the 11th Armored Division, he served under Gen. George S. Patton’s famed Third Army. D’Aquila was a native of Middletown, Connecticut, who landed in France during the Battle of the Bulge. As a medic, he was ordered toward the strategic Belgian town of Bastogne which was surrounded by German forces. During one of the worst winters in recorded history, D’Aquila treated wounded soldiers as they turned back this German offensive. For his valiance and unceasing treatment of wounded servicemen, D’Aquila received a Purple Heart after being wounded during this battle.

Like many other soldiers at the end of this war, D’Aquila wondered if he would survive. On May 5, 1945, the 11th Armored Division entered the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. By the end of the war, those camps in Central Europe had considerably higher death rates as they were the last to be captured by Allied forces. D’Aquila remembered the inability of the local Austrian citizens to accept responsibility for the savagery committed there, despite the stench of death that hung in the air, the piles of bodies stacked up “like cordwood.”  

After the war, D’Aquila attended college and later earned a degree in law, where he defended the interests of insurance companies. Locally in Port Jefferson, he was on the board of directors of Theatre Three, and a play was later created by Jeffrey Sanzel, “From the Fires: Voices of the Holocaust.” Until his death, D’Aquila openly addressed his wartime experiences because he wanted to ensure that citizens, especially the youth, did not forget the severity of the Holocaust.

In 2008, D’Aquila described his experience of liberating Mauthausen during a Veterans Day program at Rocky Point High School. As though it had just occurred, D’Aquila spoke of his duty to medically care for the survivors of the concentration camp as they were finally being liberated. At another program at the high school, D’Aquila joined Werner Reich, who had survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Mauthausen, and was liberated by the 11th Armored Division.  

Reich was a 17-year-old young man who weighed only 64 pounds at the time of his liberation. In this condition, he was not expected to survive. At RPHS, he looked at the audience and vividly stated that if it had not been for Americans like D’Aquila, then he would have surely perished from starvation. Although from different backgrounds, both men were inextricably tied to one another through their shared experience of “man’s inhumanity to man.” For years, Reich has spoken to high schools across the North Shore to ensure that good people do not stand by when innocent people suffer from such atrocities. 

Even though World War II ended long ago, the world now watches history repeat itself through the images of fighting in the Ukraine. Americans are again learning of the massive losses of Ukrainian civilians suspected of being killed by Russian forces. People such as D’Aquila and Reich made it their mission in life to alert people that history will repeat itself if good people do nothing. We must learn from the examples of the past, we must always act, protect and preserve the rights and freedoms of people everywhere.  

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

Founder Daniel Gale, above, and his assistant Miss Jean Wallice — the future Mrs. Kent Gale — in front of the Daniel Gale Huntington office, circa 1940. Photo from Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty

Not many companies make it to 100 years in business, but Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty did just that this year.

Below, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty’s President and CEO Patricia Petersen poses in front of the Cold Spring office around 1990. Photo from Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty

Daniel Gale founded the company on Feb. 9, 1922, and chose Main Street in Huntington for his real estate and insurance agency. When he picked the spot, the founder was encouraged by the fact that the town was a stop on one of the Long Island Rail Road lines. A century later, the company remains family owned. Through the decades the founder’s son Kent, until his passing in 2014, grandson Stan, and Kent Gale’s protégé current chairperson and president Patricia Petersen have continued to head up the company along with CEO Deirdre O’Connell.

History

In a recent phone interview, Petersen and O’Connell discussed the company’s history. Over the hundred years, Daniel Gale has grown from a business with one office to 30 locations not only on Suffolk County’s North Shore but across the Island. In 2014, the brokerage company opened offices in Queens and this year Brooklyn.

Petersen said she believes one of the company’s assets is that it has been family owned. She learned the benefits of this early on when she started in real estate in 1975 in the Cold Spring Harbor location, which was the company’s second office. Petersen said as a mother, she was hoping to work part-time but quickly found out it was difficult to become a successful real estate agent with limited hours. She said Jean Gale, the wife of the founder’s son Kent, would help get her children off the nursery school bus, give them lunch and then get them to day care.

“Somehow we cobbled it together and made it work,” Petersen said. “It’s kind of how we run the company. Whatever the agents need, Deidre and I figure out a way to provide it.”

Petersen went from agent to office sales manager, company general manager and relocation director through the years. She credits Kent Gale with recognizing she had potential. In the early ’90s, she began buying the company with Kent’s son Stan Gale and became president and CEO.

Kent Gale, son of founder Daniel Gale. Photo from Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty

In turn, one of the talents Petersen recognized was O’Connell. The latter said her career in real estate began with another company in 1991. She opened her own office in Manhasset and her second one in Cutchogue. Daniel Gale then bought her offices, and she became part of the company in 2007. O’Connell helped the brokerage expand to the North Fork. She went on to become a regional manager then general manager of the company, and became CEO four years ago.

Both said they appreciate the history of Daniel Gale. As the centennial celebrations began, Petersen said, it was a reminder of everything the company had been through since its founding. The ups and downs of the current pandemic, she added, can be likened to founder Daniel Gale’s early days.

“Daniel Gale went through the Depression and went through the [second] World War,” she said.  “In fact, he started the company right after the first World War, and then he had to go through the second World War. We have had our own challenging times over the years, but certainly that’s not new to us. We’ve always been able to not just survive but thrive in really any kind of market.”

O’Connell said she believes the company thriving goes back to its foundation. 

“Certainly, in times of crisis we use that as an opportunity to assess the crisis and to utilize that and to come out of it as a growth opportunity, because after every crisis comes opportunity,” she said. “We’ve always been able to seize those moments.”

As for the pandemic, O’Connell said the company realized the importance of pivoting early on during the shutdowns by going virtual. Within a month, she said, Daniel Gale had an open house with 150 homes virtually showcased.

“Yes, everyone could do it eventually, but we seized the moment to once again help our agents help their customers and clients in providing them the service and marketing of the moment,” O’Connell said.

Petersen and O’Connell also recognize the importance of marketing in the real estate field. An early marketing tactic of founder Daniel Gale in the 1920s, Petersen said, was buying a tract of land along with two investors. One lot had a miniature model house buried in the ground. Petersen said whoever bought the plot would win a house built for them. She added that the person turned out to be a builder, so he was given two more lots instead of having a house built for him and the win spearheaded his own business in the area.

Pat Petersen and Deirdre O’Connell. Photo from Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty

Sotheby’s International

Another milestone in Daniel Gale’s history was when the company became affiliated with Sotheby’s in the 1970s. The auction house needed an outlet for its clientele. After Sotheby’s International Realty was created, Daniel Gale became affiliated with it on Long Island and went on to become its No. 1 affiliate in the world.

O’Connell called the move a game-changer which allows Daniel Gale agents to bring their properties around the world but still have representation on Long Island.

“Larger firms that are represented, even here on Long Island, their decisions during hard times aren’t made here locally,” she said. “They’re made maybe in New York City or across the country somewhere. We live and we work, we do everything with our people first in mind.”

She gave the example that during the Great Recession of the 2000s, while big corporations laid off people, “Pat Petersen put personal money into the company to make sure that we didn’t have to cut our people.”

Keeping employees in place is something the company was able to do during the pandemic, too.

“We kept everyone on the payroll because we could make that decision,” O’Connell said.

The present and future

Later this year, Daniel Gale plans to open a new office in Huntington located cata-cornered where the original 1922 building was on Main Street. The company also recently launched the Daniel Gale Foundation to enable the company, which has donated tens of thousands in the past, to make a bigger impact.

O’Connell said Daniel Gale offices have always been involved with their communities “through a wide range of community service initiatives and donations.” With the new foundation, offices will choose a few events each year to work on with the whole company.

“The Daniel Gale Foundation will enable us to make an even greater impact with our giving by consolidating our giving efforts across the Island from Brooklyn to Shelter Island and make them even more impactful,” O’Connell said. “The foundation is about more than giving dollars, it is having the Daniel Gale family roll up their sleeves, put on their sneakers or pick up their shovels to work in our communities as a team.” 

The two said it’s important to be proud of the past but it’s also essential to keep an eye on the future. Currently, like other realty companies, Daniel Gale is keeping up with the current seller’s market. O’Connell said while inventory is low, sales are high.

“We get 10 houses on the market, or an office has five houses on the market in a weekend, and they’re all gone by Monday,” O’Connell said, adding she believes the market will normalize in the near future.

Petersen added the importance of pricing correctly in any market.

“Part of our job is to be good counselors,” she said.

As they look toward the future, Petersen and O’Connell said the ways of communicating continue to change with social media platforms, but the key is to maintain high quality just like they do in ads and online.

“You have to be true to yourself, and I’m very proud of what we’ve done in the last 100 years,” Petersen said. “Not that I had much to do with the first 50, but I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished and what is still yet to accomplish.”