Movers and Shakers

Three Village Historical Society’s new president Jeff Schnee, right, with his wife, Jeri-Ann, center, and son Dan. Photo from Jeff Schnee

As a new year began and the Three Village Historical Society looked toward the future, a new board was sworn in, including new president Jeff Schnee.

Photo from Three Village Historical Society

Previously co-vice president of the society, Schnee takes over the position that Stephen Healy has held for the past five years.

The new society president said he grew up in Queens, and when he arrived in the Three Village area to attend Stony Brook University in the mid-1970s, he never looked back. After graduating, he lived by the historical society headquarters on Main Street in Setauket for eight years and now resides in Old Field.

A few years ago, Schnee said when he joined the society’s board, it wasn’t necessarily a love for history that brought him to become a member of the historical society but a desire to help the community, something that he has aimed to do since his college days when he helped to start SBU’s dorm patrol walk service and to bring a student cafe to the university’s Gershwin building.

“I was always interested in community service,” he said. “I think it’s something everyone should do.”

The Dominick-Crawford Barn also drew him to the society. The pre-Civil War barn once sat across the street from his home in Old Field. Due to lack of upkeep and exposure to the elements, it was in poor condition.

When the historical society approached the Old Field board of trustees about moving the barn to the field adjoining its headquarters, Schnee said it was the right move. With talks going on about the barn, he decided to join the historical society six years ago.

As for the future of the barn, which will be repaired and used for a museum and education center, the new president said he’s excited. When the weather gets warmer, there will be a groundbreaking and work will begin with plans for an archives center on the second floor. The hope is that the barn will be completed within the year, Schnee said.

With an archives space, residents will be able to come to the barn and work with the archives, and the museum will provide opportunities for school trips.

“What we try to do is to make the local community aware of the history here,” he said.

TVHS is also aiming to begin the digitalization of its archives to make them more accessible to the public. For two months this spring, a group will come in and archive the society’s painting collection, according to Schnee. Then a plan will be developed to figure out what platform to use to digitize all of the archives, a process which can take a few years.

Schnee makes it clear to everyone that he’s not an expert on local history but feels he brings a lot to the table due to his education and career background that covers the fields of technology, finances, IT and business.

“I’m not a historian, history was never my thing,” he said. “I’m an operations guy.”

Throughout his career, Schnee has worked with human resources professionals and facility departments which have enhanced his skill set.

“I’m a new tool in the toolbox for the Three Village Historical Society,” he said.

“I’m not a historian, history was never my thing. I’m an operations guy.”

— Jeff Schnee

Since he became co-vice president two years ago, the historical society has had to face the challenges that arrived with COVID-19. The society couldn’t hold events at the height of the pandemic and wasn’t able to recruit new board members. The society members turned to Zoom to conduct meetings as well as for lectures and educational programs.

Technology also came in handy as staff members switched to working from home instead of the office, Schnee said, with the society switching from relying on a server and to using a cloud-based product.

With COVID-19 mandates being lifted, the organization is looking to get back into action. Last summer and fall, the society was able to host its farmers and artisans market. Schnee said as the society began to recruit new board members once again, they looked for people with experience in archiving, human resources and grant writing.

Another new goal is to work with other local organizations, he said, such as museums and other art and historical organizations.

“We shall be working together, because a patron who comes to the Three Village Historical Society — they’re interested in educating themselves — and it could either be the Culper Spy Ring or it could be for the Chicken Hill exhibit, to talk about a community that existed here in the past, or as simple as to find out the history of their home,” he said, adding that the society has the archives to help people learn about their home or street where they live.

“So, once they finish our tours, they’re going to go and look somewhere else and half the time they ask us for what else is in the area to do?”

He said relationships can be cultivated during the society’s annual Candlelight House Tour and the farmers market. This year the Reboli Center for Art & History was a stop for the tour and where participants were able to pick up their event tickets. The feedback from the center was that many people told them they didn’t realize the center existed. He said the historical society working with Gallery North on events has also been beneficial.

As for sharing local history, Schnee is excited about a new app called Tapestry. With a $125,000 grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, the historical society will be working with a company to develop an augmented reality experience and will be only one of five museums to have AR added to one of its exhibits. Preliminary work has been done, and the hope is that the TVHS will be able to launch it in early spring.

Visitors will be able to use their smartphones at the Spies! exhibit at the society’s headquarters to download the app and then point at different pictures and artifacts which will bring up additional educational content.

“When you finish the tour, you will then take your smartphone, and it’ll guide you throughout the community to a few historically significant sites of the Culper Spy Ring, and then you hold the phone up, point at some different landmarks, and you’ll see how things were in the past.”

Schnee said when he attended Stony Brook University, he didn’t realize the rich history of the area.

“Honestly, I didn’t know the George Washington spies were in Setauket,” he said. “I didn’t know about Chicken Hill. I didn’t know that existed.”

With the appreciation of local history he’s developed over the years — even though he said he can only give the 5 cent tour — he’s ready for the future of TVHS.


Above, Three Village Historical Society’s new president Jeff Schnee, right, with his wife, Jeri-Ann, center, and son Dan. Below, Schnee at Culper Spy Day last September.  Photo from Jeff Schnee

Jefferson's Ferry

Part one of three

Over its 20 years in existence, Jefferson’s Ferry has been home to a significant number of accomplished and creative older adults who have been groundbreakers, innovators, educators and artists. All were original thinkers with a desire to do something that hadn’t been done before, and many of these residents wrote books about their work, which can be found in the Jefferson’s Ferry library collection.

Gerhart Friedlander

Gerhart Friedlander and Barbara Strongin: scientist and activist   

Gerhart Friedlander and his wife, Barbara Strongin, were among the first residents of Jefferson’s Ferry when it opened in 2001. He was a nuclear chemist who emigrated to the United States in 1936 from Munich, Germany, when the Nazis forbade Jews from attending university. Friedlander studied at the University of California, Berkeley, receiving his doctorate in 1942. After gaining American citizenship in 1943, he was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico. He later worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory for more than 30 years, conducting groundbreaking research on how high-energy particles trigger nuclear reactions. Friedlander also co-authored the textbook “Nuclear and Radiochemistry,” considered a classic in its field, with Manhattan Project colleague Joseph W. Kennedy. The book has been translated into 18 languages, and over the years, was updated twice with other co-authors. He received honorary degrees from many universities and countries and was an active elected member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Friedlander died in 2009 at the age of 93. 

Barbara Strongin

Strongin has spent her adult life dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls on Long Island. She met her husband when he was the chair of the board and she was the chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Suffolk County. They both received the Family Planning Advocates of New York State award. One of three founding members of the Women’s Fund of Long Island, Strongin was also an adviser and contributor to the Herstory Writers Workshop. She has co-authored curricula and articles on the Jewish perspective of human sexuality and has been honored by the New York Civil Liberties Union (Suffolk County Chapter) and Family Planning Advocates of New York State. Also, she won in 2011 the Good Neighbor award from The Village Times Herald.

Strongin and Friedlander jointly received the Allard K. Lowenstein Memorial Award from the American Jewish Congress, Long Island Chapter, and were recognized by Newsday as “Long Islanders of the Century: Everyday Heroes.” 

Strongin continues to reside in her independent living cottage at Jefferson’s Ferry. 

Joyce Edward: author, advocate, activist

Joyce Edward enjoyed a long career as a respected and influential social worker psychoanalyst, teacher, writer and activist. The co-editor and co-author of several books showing the value of psychoanalytic theory in social work practice as well as in the analytic consulting room, she also authored a book on her own, “The Sibling Relationship.”

Joyce Edward

Edward holds a Master of Social Work from Case Western Reserve University and earned post-master’s certificates in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

“Therapists seek to help a patient understand what’s in their way, what’s keeping them from a congenial marriage, for example, or from exploring career options,” she said. “A therapist is a partner in the work. We do not tell you what to do but help identify what may be blocking you and what you can do for yourself to move past these obstacles.”

Edward attended Antioch College in Ohio, attracted by its then unusual work study program. With the intention of becoming an advertising copywriter, Edward was placed in a salesclerk position at Macy’s as part of her work experience. She was uncomfortable in the post and quickly realigned her course, gravitating toward social work after helping Southerners who were recruited to come to work in a bomber plant up North find housing during World War II. At home she was exposed to acts of kindness, generosity and caring for those less fortunate.

“My aunt, who was a social worker during the Depression, would say of the people she helped, ‘They are just people like us.’ At Antioch, there was an emphasis on helping others. For example, as students we helped integrate a barbershop and the local movie theater.”

Edward did not intend being a practicing analyst. Balancing motherhood and career, she first volunteered at a newly founded small private school for emotionally disturbed children. As the school grew, so did her role.

“It was a major and central working part of my life for 13 years and exposed me to psychoanalytic training,” she said. “As the social worker on the clinical team, I wanted more than a handmaiden role. I questioned the prevailing theory at the time that the cause of autism in children was ‘refrigerator parents’ who were cold and did not connect with their children. I saw the ‘coldness,’ when it was observed, as frequently being the result of living with an autistic child, whose needs are tremendous and time consuming. I realized that I had to get more training to gain prestige and acceptance of my ideas, so I enrolled in an analytic training course of study.”

Upon publishing an article on her thoughts and observations, Edward was asked to write a book on the subject. She wrote “Separation-Individuation” collaboratively with two colleagues, with each contributor writing several chapters. The book was well received and provided the basis for greater discussion and ideas about the developmental process that led to subsequent studies, articles and books.

After 13 years at the school, Edward took a position in the Freeport Public Schools in a program funded by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty.” When the funding for this program ceased, she opened a small private practice and continued with this until she retired. During these years she also taught in the schools of social work at Adelphi University, Hunter College and Smith College as well as in two analytic training programs.

With the introduction of managed care into the mental health system, Edward and her colleagues founded the National Coalition of Mental Health Professionals & Consumers. The organization sought to restore privacy and to return to the clinician treating a patient their decision-making role.

Edward has lived in an independent living apartment at Jefferson’s Ferry for more than 14 years. Over that time, she has served on the residents council and the health committee, the social activities committee, the education committee as well as others. Through Stony Brook University’s OLLI program, she enjoys courses via Zoom, which currently include a political discussion newsroom, a music course with essayist David Bouchier and a class on the work of Leonard Bernstein.

An avid reader, she participates in book club discussions, one at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library and the other at Jefferson’s Ferry. Recent reads include “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell, “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith and works by Edith Wharton, George Eliot, George Packer and Anne Applebaum.

According to Edward, the best thing about Jefferson’s Ferry is the people, the residents and the staff — there are many interesting, knowledgeable and accomplished people. “More importantly is the understanding and support that we offer each other,” she said. “The residents have an appreciation of each other gained through our ages and experiences and have come to recognize what’s important in life.”

Linda Kolakowski is vice president of Residential Life at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket.

Sal Ferro, Huntington councilman-elect, during a recent visit to TBR News Media. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A CEO of a company known for remodeling homes is ready to make some improvements in the Town of Huntington.

“I focused on my accomplishments. I focused on my track record and focused on what I wanted to do rather than pulling people down.”

— Sal Ferro

This campaign season Sal Ferro, CEO of Alure Home Improvements, ran for office for the first time on the Republican and Conservative lines. Two seats were up on the Huntington Town Board when current councilmen Ed Smyth (R) and Mark Cuthbertson (D) decided to run for other offices, town supervisor and county legislator, respectively. Smyth was successful, Cuthbertson was not.

Ferro said he thought about running for office before this year.

“I thought about it in the past, and I always guessed the timing wasn’t right,” he said. “And, I think everything fell into place this time, that this was my time to do so.”

The businessman ran on the same lines along with running mate David Bennardo. Ferro said the two want the same things for the town. Bennardo also happens to be his two older children’s former principal.

On election night, Ferro gathered with other area Republicans at the American Legion Huntington Post 360 in Halesite to hear the voting results. He said after all the hard work of campaigning it was a satisfying night.

“It was especially gratifying for me, because I ran my race and didn’t do some traditional things that have been done in the past in campaigning,” the councilman-elect said. “I ran a very clean race. I focused on my accomplishments. I focused on my track record and focused on what I wanted to do rather than pulling people down.”

Ferro said he and Bennardo were proud that the race was a civil one. During a debate at the TBR News Media offices, Ferro and Bennardo along with their opponents, Democrats Jennifer Hebert and Joseph Schramm, demonstrated that civility. Ferro said the first call to congratulate him was from Schramm and later Hebert also called him.

“That just kind of shows you the tone of the race, which was ‘we’re all going to work hard, and we’re all going to do the best we can to win the race, because we all feel that we’re the best candidate, but we’re going to do so on our own accomplishments,’” he said.

Ferro said when he takes office in January he would like to start working on making things more efficient in the town’s building department.

“That’s something that I made a campaign promise, that I would work on the building department,” he said. “I know that’s something that’s not going to happen overnight, but I’d like to bring some ideas to the building department, and I’d like to bring some efficiency to the department.”

“It’s one of those things where you have to balance, put in time in both jobs, and it requires a lot of work. It’s something I knew going in.”

— Sal Ferro

As for the particulars, Ferro said he’ll know that once he gets into office and meets the people involved in the department. Besides drawing from his personal business experience, the councilman-elect said he will look at other towns that have had success.

“One thing I said was I like to use some best practices from other towns,” he added. “We don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel. There are things that are working elsewhere, that have happened elsewhere and didn’t take a long time to turn some other towns around quickly.”

The businessman, who also heads up the nonprofit Ferro Foundation which helps Long Islanders in need, plans on continuing as CEO of Allure, he said, and will be able to balance his work responsibilities due to his company’s “excellent team.” He added that he has never been one to sit on the sidelines.

“It’s one of those things where you have to balance, put in time in both jobs, and it requires a lot of work,” he said. “It’s something I knew going in.”

Julia McNeill, left, ran in this year’s New York City Marathon to raise money for The Marfan Foundation. Her sister Caroline, right, was diagnosed with the condition Marfan syndrome as a child.

Among the 30,000 or so runners crossing the finishing line of the New York City Marathon Nov. 7 was Smithtown resident Julia McNeill, who was running not only for herself but her sister Caroline. The 26-year-old said in a phone interview before the event that her goal was to not only complete the race, but also to raise awareness about Marfan syndrome and raise funds for The Marfan Foundation. The genetic condition is one that affects her sister.

Julia McNeill during the 2021 New York City Marathon on Nov. 6. Photo from McNeill

McNeill took part in the race, her first marathon, with a team of eight others, which included members from all over the country and one from Amsterdam. Each of the team members has a loved one who has Marfan or other related genetic aortic and vascular conditions. Caroline McNeill, 23, was 3 years old when she was diagnosed with the genetic condition. Marfan affects Caroline’s body’s connective tissue and has resulted in lifelong cardiac concerns.

Julia McNeill said even though this past Sunday was her first marathon, she has always been athletic and played softball for Hauppauge High School and in college.

“I always liked running,” she said. “It was always on my bucket list to run the marathon, and I figured why not do it for a good cause, raise awareness and educate people about it and just reach as many people as I can.”

Before the race, McNeill, who is a Stony Brook University Hospital nurse, said she surpassed her fundraising goal of $3,000 and credits her family for the fundraising support. As of Nov. 10, she had raised more than $6,200, and the fundraising page is still open for donations on the Marfan Foundation website.

She originally planned to run in the more-than-26 miles marathon in 2020, but it was canceled due to COVID-19. McNeill said she was training last year and then stopped running for a while and just continued working out regularly at a local gym. Once the summer hit this year, she started training hardcore again for the marathon. She soon found she could run 21 miles, even though it was difficult at first.

“It’s nothing like a game of softball,” she said. “A softball game lasts, what, an hour and a half?”

Training included running four days a week, and one of the days was for long-distance running. She said at first those long-distance runs were less than 21 miles. In the beginning of training, McNeill could complete six miles, then each week the distance would increase. She hit her peak four weeks before the big day.

Sibling bond

McNeill said she was only 6 years old when her sister was diagnosed so she doesn’t remember much, but the elder sister said she recalls being checked out by a cardiologist as the whole family needed to be evaluated to see if they also had the genetic condition.

‘It was always on my bucket list to run the marathon, and I figured why not do it for a good cause, raise awareness and educate people about it and just reach as many people as I can.’

— Julia McNeill

Like others with Marfan, the odds are her sister may need open heart surgery one day. Caroline McNeill, who is more than 6-feet tall and thin, which are symptoms of the condition, said throughout her life people have always been curious about her build and asked questions such as, “Do you play basketball?” or “Why are you so tall?”

The younger sister said while Marfan affects her, she doesn’t see her life being that much different than others.

“I see it as I have Marfan syndrome, but I’m able to excel in all these other areas as a result,” she said. “You know, other kids don’t play sports, not because they have conditions or heart conditions. It’s just that they don’t like sports, it’s not something they excel at.”

She added when she was younger she found interests outside of sports, and she belonged to the art club in high school and loved going to concerts with friends and supporting her sister at games.

“It’s not anything that’s going to impede you or restrict you in any way, but it’s just going to create new, and sometimes even better, opportunities,” she said.

Caroline McNeill, who is currently studying to become a speech pathologist, added she’s not sure what her life would be like now if she didn’t have Marfan and believes it played a role in her choosing a career in the speech field.

“I don’t think I would be as empathetic toward other people, because I know how I want to be treated, and I want to make sure that other people are treated the same way,” she said.

Julia McNeill describes her sister as “the most intelligent, kind-hearted, down-to-earth person” she knows. McNeill added her sister also has had the strength to overcome any obstacle she met and is her role model.

“She goes above and beyond in everything, and the least I can do is train for four months and do something, just make more awareness and everything for her condition,” she said.

The admiration is mutual. Caroline McNeill said that Julia has always been her protector, and she couldn’t ask for a better sister or sibling relationship.

“I feel like that’s a common theme of us both being like, ‘Oh, you’re my inspiration,’ ‘But no, you’re mine,’” she said.

Caroline McNeill said she was proud of her sister and knew she would complete the marathon based on her athletic abilities.

“She’s a born-and-bred athlete, and the fact that she wanted to do it and run for The Marfan Foundation just made it that much more special,” Caroline McNeill said.

Julia McNeill after running the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6. Photo from McNeill

The big day

In an email after the marathon, Julia McNeill said she completed the race in 4 hours, 53 minutes, 23 seconds. She made it just under her goal of 5 hours. Cheering her on were her sister, parents, grandmother and boyfriend, who met her four times along the route to refill her water pouch and help her refuel with bananas.

She said running through the city was like nothing she has experienced before.

“The energy from every single person was like no other,” McNeill said. “Every single block you would turn, there would be people lined up shoulder to shoulder just screaming at the top of their lungs cheering you along even if it was mile 1 or mile 26.”

She said many people along the way would hand out tissues for chilly or runny noses, and even offered bananas and orange slices.

“I just felt so much support from thousands of total strangers,” she said. “It was without a doubt the greatest experience of my life.”

To contribute to Julia McNeill’s fundraising efforts, visit the website The money raised goes to The Marfan Foundation’s mission to advance research, raise public awareness and serve as a resource for Marfan syndrome, VEDS, Loeys-Dietz syndrome and other genetic
aortic conditions

Above, Mallory Braun, right, plans to open a new bookstore in Huntington Village, and is being mentored by former Book Revue owner Richard Klein, left. Braun was a manager at Book Revue, above, before it closed. Photo of Braun and Klein by E. Beth Thomas

A couple of months after the Book Revue in Huntington village closed its doors for the last time, a former store manager is ready to start a new chapter.

She has already began acquiring books, below, for the new store. Photo from Mallory Brown

Mallory Braun, of Stony Brook, launched a Kickstarter campaign Nov. 1 to raise funds for a new bookstore in the village in the spirit of Book Revue. Her goal is to raise $250,000 in 45 days on the crowdfunding platform, and she plans to call the business The Next Chapter.

Opening her own business is something that the 28-year-old started thinking about seriously after the Book Revue’s owner, Richard Klein, announced the store was closing this summer.

“It was never something that was on the front burner, but it’s been something that I have had interest in for quite some time,” she said.

Braun said she enjoyed working at the Book Revue and learned a lot when she was employed there. For less than a year she was a bookseller, before going on to be manager, a position she held for more than five years. After a while, Braun said she specialized in used and rare books

She said the plan is to open a store within walking distance of the former Book Revue storefront. Right now she has a store in mind and if her fundraising attempts are successful, she believes she’ll have the funds necessary to open the store in that location. If not, she has two other locations she has considered as a backup.

Klein has been helping her through the process.

“He’s advising me on all business matters,” Braun said. “He’s using his connections from 44 years in the business to help me, and he’s generally being there in a support role.”

The Book Revue, like many businesses in the state, had to close temporarily during the height of the pandemic. It was closed to customers for about three months, but the business tried to be innovative, she said, in order to survive.

“We still sold books every day that we were shut down,” Braun said. “We were selling books on Instagram, on social media, and we were selling books by cracking the door open.”

She added that customers would call and pay by credit card and then would pick up orders curbside.

“You have to be flexible, and you have to be able to change with the times,” Braun said. “And that was what I was thinking then and that’s what I’m thinking now.”

Right now, she is juggling a few jobs. In addition to preparing to open a new business, she babysits for a family in Roslyn and also works for an online business called J & J Lubrano Music Antiquarians, a rare book online business in Syosset.

Through the years Braun, who holds degrees in journalism and Italian studies, has learned about the importance of juggling responsibilities, which she says require discipline and good time management.

“I have to be pretty disciplined, but I’m lucky because I have a lot of people who are really looking out for me and are willing to be flexible,” she said.

Braun said she learned a lot from Klein and her experience has taught her “to find people whose opinions you trust and also to keep your own counsel.”

Klein said he told Braun that opening a business is something one has to really want, and he feels she does, adding he wouldn’t be providing moral support if he didn’t think so. He said it’s important for a person to have tenacity and determination when opening a business.

“You don’t let anything stop you, and you don’t let obstacles bother you,” he said. “You just keep going. And you will face all kinds of difficulties and defeats along the way, but if you just keep getting up and keep working at it, that’s more than half the battle. First, you decide to act, and then the rest is tenacity.”

Klein said Braun is energetic, smart and determined, and “she has a lot of good ideas.”

He also feels The Next Chapter will continue the legacy of Book Revue.

“When she gets this off the ground, I think it’s going to be a place that people are going to enjoy coming to,” Klein said.

Braun said the new bookstore will deal in used, remaindered, rare and collectible books as well as vinyl records. Slowly but surely, she has been acquiring books and records that people have been donating or selling to her.

The number of new books will be limited, at first but her plan is to increase the selection over time.

The budding entrepreneur said she also plans to have workshops, classes, author readings and book signings “to reincarnate the spirit of Book Revue.”

She said she believes the new store will add some character to the village.

“I think people will be pleasantly surprised when they come to a new space and look around,” she said.

To donate, visit As of Nov. 3, more than $50,000 has been donated from over 420 backers. If the goal of raising $250,000 is not met in 45 days, all funds will be returned to donors.

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:

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.’”