Robert Van Zeyl. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

A Suffolk County Police Department lieutenant is the first department member to lose the fight against the coronavirus.

According to a Jan. 20 press release from the SCPD, the department is mourning the loss of active duty member Robert Van Zeyl who died from COVID-19  Jan. 20.

The death is the first of an active duty sworn member of the SCPD due to the COVID-19 virus, and Van Zeyl will be honored with a line of duty funeral, arrangements of which are pending.

“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of an exceptional member of our law enforcement family, Lieutenant Robert Van Zeyl,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Lt. Van Zeyl’s more than three decades of exemplary service are a testament to his commitment to public service, and even in the midst of a global pandemic, he was on the frontlines every day helping residents in need. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Van Zeyl family during this difficult time.”

Van Zeyl, who was 60, tested positive for COVID-19 Jan. 3 and was hospitalized a week later.

“COVID-19 has impacted law enforcement agencies throughout the country and it is with deep sadness that the Suffolk County Police Department has lost its first member of service who contracted coronavirus earlier this month,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart. “Lt. Van Zeyl served Suffolk County residents with distinction for nearly 36 years and his legacy will continue with the members of this department. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family.”

According to the press release, Van Zeyl joined the SCPD in February 1985 and served in the 5th Precinct upon graduation from the academy. Van Zeyl was promoted to Sergeant in 1994 and then Lieutenant in 2003. He served as the Commanding Officer of the Applicant Investigation Section and the Administrative Services Bureau before transferring to the 2nd Precinct in 2015 where he worked until his death.

“It is truly heartbreaking to lose a member of our department, doubly so personally given the fact that I have known Bob for my entire career,” said Suffolk County Police Chief of Department Stuart Cameron. “Thirty-six years ago, we were sworn in together and became Suffolk County Police officers; his entire adult life was dedicated to public safety. Bob’s passing exemplifies the multifaceted dangers that members of our department face every day to keep the residents of our county safe. Our department grieves his loss along with his family.”

During his more than three-decade career, Van Zeyl received more than a dozen recognitions for his contributions to the police department including two Cop of the Month honors and the Excellent Police Duty Award for amassing 12 or more self-initiated DWI arrests in a single year.

“Bob was a wonderful person, a dedicated member of our department, and a pleasure to know both personally and professionally,” said 2nd Precinct Commanding Officer Inspector William Scrima. “He was a person who genuinely enjoyed his work and was liked by people of all ranks who knew him and worked with him. He will be truly missed by this department and by the Second Precinct in particular.”

Van Zeyl is survived by his ex-wife Christine Zubrinic, his daughter Hailey and son Tyler, both 14.

“The Suffolk County Police Department has not only lost a great police officer, but we’ve lost a great boss, and more importantly, a great friend,” said Sergeant Jack Smithers, who worked with Van Zeyl in the 2nd Precinct. “He will be sorely missed by all.”

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Nora Theresa Laffey, a Port Jefferson resident, joined the company of angels and her husband Mike Dec. 26, passing away at home. She was 84.

Nora is survived by her five children: Michael, John, Kevin, Eileen and James. She is also survived by her 12 grandchildren: Brendan, Collin, Brianna, Sean, Kelly, Katie, Michael, Maureen, James, Ciaran, Megan and CJ.

Born in Ballieborough, County Cavan Ireland, Nov. 27, 1936, Nora was the oldest of eight siblings, including Sean, James, Patrick, Brendan, Austin, Bridie, Margaret Rose, and Helen Jean. Nora emigrated to the U.S. by boat in 1952 to work as a housekeeper. She completed her schooling at Hempstead High School and met her husband Michael at a dance held at the Irish American Hall in Mineola. They were both naturalized citizens with Mike serving the U.S. forces during the Korean war.

Nora’s positively and generosity touched the lives of so many people. Her Thanksgiving day dinners for over 35 years are legendary. Always tied to her family in Ireland, Nora’s annual trips to see her family and educate her children about Ireland were always a great source of pride and joy for her. Her warm smile and welcoming spirit will be missed by many who were always welcomed with a cup of tea at her home in either Lettergesh, Ireland or Port Jefferson.

We rejoice that Nora is now happy with Mike in heaven, her love and steadfast Christian faith was as committed as the Pope, and her life is an example of humility and kindness. She will be deeply missed by all.

Viewing will be held at 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 31 at Moloney’s Funeral Home Port Jefferson Station. Church Services are to follow at 11 a.m. at Infant Jesus Church in Port Jefferson,  Followed by a burial at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

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Beatrice Jayne

Beatrice Jayne, 93, died Dec. 12.

She was a member of the Three Village community and a cornerstone of Stony Brook history.

Bea became involved with the Three Village Historical Society with the writing of the Arcadia publication “Images of America: Stony Brook” (2003). While gathering information and stories for the book, one of the committee members said there was a woman at the Three Village Garden Club Exchange that the society needed to get involved, because she knew everything.

Bea was a founding member of the Stony Brook Historical Society which existed at the time she joined the Three Village Historical Society’s local history meetings. She shared a wealth of knowledge and stories about the history of Stony Brook and its residents past and present. Bea was the family historian and had a collection of documents, photographs and stories handed down from relatives over the years. Having served as the clerk for the Stony Brook School District and the Three Village Central School District, after consolidation of the Stony Brook and Setauket School districts, Bea knew generations of students, their families and community members. The Jayne family was also active in the Stony Brook Fire Department, Brookhaven Bathing Association and other community organizations.

Bea was a great salesman at promoting local history. With membership in the Stony Brook Historical Society numbering just a few members, the organization disbanded joining with the Three Village Historical Society and funding the Stony Brook book. When the Stony Brook book was printed, she drove around town with a carton of books promoting and selling them out of the trunk of her car to any and all for the TVHS.

There was always a story or tale to tell. She was the person to call with any Stony Brook history questions no matter how obscure and if she didn’t know the answer she always followed up with phone calls to her other sources. She pushed that Stony Brook history be equally represented and that the complete history of Stony Brook should not be lost.

Born in the Village of the Branch in 1927, Bea’s family came to Stony Brook to live in 1939. Bea graduated from Port Jefferson High School. In 1946 she married Leslie Jayne. She leaves behind children Susan, Patricia, Deborah and Michael, her grandson Philip, and her brother Bruce and their families.

A memorial service is being planned for a future date.

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Howard Albert Scarrow died peacefully Dec. 3, surrounded by his loving family at his Setauket home.  He was 92.  Scarrow was a professor emeritus of Political Science at Stony Brook University. 

Howard Scarrow

Born and raised in Detroit, he was heavily influenced by his family’s membership in the city’s Central United Methodist Church. The church’s pastor, Henry Hitt Crane, was a seminal influence on young Scarrow.  Crane, a pacifist during World Wars I and II, instilled in Scarrow a lifelong respect for those with the courage of their principled convictions, even when those convictions did not align with his own.

Scarrow received his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Duke University.  He began his teaching career at Michigan State University, where he met Rowena Casad at a departmental softball game. They married six weeks later. 

Scarrow joined SBU in 1963 and was a central figure in the Political Science department from then until his retirement in 2004. His research began with a focus on politics in Canada and Australia, and broadened into inquiries on the methods of comparing political systems generally. Later he focused on American politics, particularly in New York State, about which he wrote his book “Parties, Elections and Representation in the State of New York.” In addition to his several books, he authored many scholarly articles. He was also a revered teacher of American and comparative politics at both introductory and advanced levels. As a mentor to generations of students, he combined warmth and generosity of spirit with insistence upon the highest academic standards.

Scarrow had significant involvement in many aspects of community life in the Three Villages.  He was an active member of the Setauket Presbyterian Church, where he anchored the choir’s bass section for more than 50 years.  He was a longtime member of the Three Village Tennis Club.  He ran community recycling drives in an era before bottle deposit laws and curbside recycling took hold.  He was active in the Three Village Civic Association, as well as myriad local political issues and campaigns. Perhaps his most consequential contribution to civic life was his role in the decades-long struggle to elect Brookhaven Town Board members via council districts, replacing the prior at-large system — a switch that led to the 2002 breakup of Brookhaven’s one-party rule, and a town government more representative of Brookhaven’s diversity. He also was one of the initial investors in The Village Times and contributed astute political columns to the newspaper.

Scarrow had a passionate interest in classical music, stemming from his lifelong participation in choral singing.  He was a frequent, enthusiastic audience member at the Staller Center at SBU, and at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival, where he volunteered for more than 30 years while in residence at the family’s summer home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Rowena; his son James and daughter-in-law Tracy, of Washington, D.C.; daughter Jean, of Newton, Massachusetts; his brother, David Scarrow and wife Janet of Kalamazoo, Michigan; his grandchildren, Christopher, Spencer, Emily and Jackson; and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be planned at a later date.  Contributions in his memory can be made to the Brennan Center for Justice, the Setauket Presbyterian Church music fund, the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University, or the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival.

Back to Basics in Rocky Point has been around for over four decades before its owner, Drew Henry Tyler, died earlier this year. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though he may have passed on, a local shop owner, one who helped pioneer the health foods market on Long Island, is still appearing to thank people passing by his small corner store.

Drew Henry Tyler, a resident of Shoreham Village and owner of Back to Basics in Rocky Point, passed away in June. Photo by Robert Gutowski

Back to Basics, a natural food store in Rocky Point, has been vacant for months. In its window a sign is posted: “Thanks for 43 Years.” The longtime owner of the shop, Drew Henry Tyler, 67, passed away June 8 after a battle with adrenal cancer. 

His wife of little under 28 years, Lee Frei, is a longtime resident of Shoreham village. She and her future husband originally met at the store. 

She got to know him as an honest and quiet man, but the kind of quiet that hides a unique intelligence. She said if he hadn’t passed, he would have likely still been there, manning the counter and talking to customers about anything from politics to music to yoga.

“There was so much to Drew,” she said. “He was calm and wise. I often thanked him for that.” 

Tyler grew up with his brother Rick on a chicken farm in Lake Ronkonkoma, back when the area was still mostly rural, and some of the main roads still remained dirt paths. Rick Tyler called that just your average life of “barefoot boys growing up in the woods.” 

The two were introduced to Provisions, a health food shop in Port Jefferson back in the  1970s, the brother said. Working there, the two formed a side business called Journey Foods, where the two would go into New York City, bringing back “tubs” of tofu, sprouts and other such items to sell to the still-small market of health food stores on the eastern side of Long Island, back when many wholesale distributors didn’t come out past Route 110. The brothers even got into the business of growing sprouts, which Rick said were “temperamental.” 

The two made connections with many of the health food retailers on the Island, but the brothers had a unique opportunity when the original owners of Back to Basics in Rocky Point were looking to sell.

Jane Alcorn, who now helps lead the effort to transform the Shoreham Tesla property into a museum and science incubator, started the store in 1976 with her husband and two friends. When a few years after opening, her business partners moved away, she and her husband decided to sell to the Tyler brothers, who had expressed interest in the place for a while. She thought of Drew as a “kind man — he was quiet and hardworking.”

“It was always a pleasure to go there and see how they had made some changes, but still kept the essence of the store — natural foods, and healthy and specialty products for the people of the surrounding area,” Alcorn said. “He obviously did a good job to have been in business so long. Back to Basics was one of the oldest stores in Rocky Point and, even now, I’m sure many people, like me, miss running in to pick up some special items that aren’t available anywhere nearby.”

The store was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Frei said and, after Drew passed, family came to help sell the remaining merchandise at cost.

Rick Tyler, who now lives in Pennsylvania, worked at the store for a little over a decade before moving on. As the health food market boomed, he said it got harder to compete, and they were “always fighting against the mass market and Trader Joe’s.” 

Still, despite any difficulty. Rick said his brother was the kind of man who would leave the counter to help a woman bring her purchases to the car. He was the kind of man who engendered trust, and when Rick came back to Long Island to help with closing down the shop, he and those manning the shop were greeted with a bevy of longtime customers who fondly remembered the store owner, some young enough to say they had been coming there for practically their entire lives.

“He was a very gentle, kind, smart, funny guy — he was very well liked,” Rick Tyler said of his brother.

Jan Tyler, the brothers’ mother, said the people who came to the store in those final days were coming in with both sympathy and expressions of sorrow.

“I think you couldn’t help but love Drew,” the mother said. “He tried to help everybody he could, he would drop everything and help a woman with bundles in the rain. On the whole everybody cared a great deal for him.”

Linda Stever, who worked for Drew at Back to Basics for several years, said the owner was inherently trusting of his customers and community. She wrote in a post to Tyler’s obituary that from the first day she worked for him, the man simply trusted people.

“I lived in Rocky Point for years, but I never felt such a sense of community until I worked with Drew at Back to Basics,” Stever wrote. “He was my boss, but I considered him and his wife Lee to be my friends as well. I’m thankful for knowing him.”

Tyler was well known in Shoreham village, especially as a man who was competitive on the tennis courts. Frei said he loved the “mechanics of moving,” of having motions done with expert grace. Family friend Laura Baisch wrote in a tribute to Drew that he was known for his “quiet laugh and look of complete satisfaction when he hit the perfect shot.”

Frei said he was in the village doubles finals one year, and residents would come to watch because he was so much fun on the courts. 

“His perspiration would make a heart-like mark on his shirt, and the crowd would chant, ‘I heart Drew,’” she said.

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Celerina Maureen Miguel Cristy, age 53, died April 15 this year of respiratory heart failure resulting from infection by COVID-19. She died at Richmond University Medical Center, Staten Island. Friends called her Rina.

Rina, who grew up in Port Jefferson Station, had a career that intersected with national events in politics and developing the economy, particularly by enhancing global financial security after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Rina Cristy. Go to the bottom of the article to see the date and time for an online memorial.

Rina and her husband of 23 years, Sam Cristy, were parenting two teenage children at the time of her death. The Cristys have lived in Staten Island since 2004. Rina had lived or worked in Port Jefferson Station,  Boston,  metro Washington, D.C., Manhattan and Jersey City.

Born in November 1966 in Chicago, Rina was the first of her family born in the U.S. Her parents, Art and Gloria Miguel, immigrated from the Philippines, then met and married in America. Art was an engineer in aviation, and Gloria was a nurse. The Miguels moved to Port Jefferson Station, where they still live. The gregarious household grew to include Rina’s two younger brothers and two grandparents. Later, the Miguel home expanded again to incorporate Rina and Sam, and soon thereafter a grandson. Four generations gathered daily for breakfast.

Rina is a Comsewogue High School alumna. She attended Emerson College in Boston, graduating in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science in speech communications, advertising, and public relations. In 2000, she received her Master of Business Administration degree in computer information systems from Hofstra University, where she earned the prestigious Hofstra University MBA Fellowship.

Community service is an innate Miguel family hallmark. Rina’s grandfather was an educator and a decorated officer of U.S. and Philippine armies. Rina described her mother as the springboard to political engagement and developing a New Yorker ethos. Rina recalled co-piloting a plane with her father, Art. Such moments inspired her to imagine boundless agency, Rina said. Thus prepared, she moved from Boston to Washington, D.C., to start her career in 1988.

Rina served the Honorable U.S. Rep. George Hochbrueckner (1-NY), Eastern Long Island, administering finance and fundraising in his congressional campaigns. She joined the congressional staff and quickly advanced to senior legislative aide. Reflecting on Rina’s accomplishments, Hochbrueckner commented, “Rina’s diligent activities aided in the funding of the initial as well as the ongoing dredging of Shinnecock Inlet, thus preventing the loss of lives of the local commercial fishermen. She also assisted in the designation of Peconic Bay as a new member of the National Estuary Program, providing special environmental funding to this day.” Her collaboration also secured federal funds for Lyme disease mitigation and education.

Following her congressional work, Rina proceeded to the Defenders of Wildlife conservation society. As aide to the director, she served the executive board and contributed to the conservation of wild lands and restoration of wolf habitats.

The 1990s on Capitol Hill invigorated Rina’s optimism that she could make an enduring contribution in the nexus of public policy and business. The Calverton Enterprise Park is an example. Rina facilitated the legislative steps that converted the federal aviation site to ownership by the Town of Riverhead. This pivot from Cold War defense projects opened the way for emerging environmental health sciences. Calverton now stands primed to open temporary hospital services during the COVID pandemic.

Rina’s pivot to finance came via her Hofstra MBA. She was subsequently hired by the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan. There, she supported the U.S. Federal Reserve System’s function in regulating and examining regional and global banks. Her work protected deposits, assessed bank solvency, and engaged protections against money laundering and terrorist financing.

Starting in 2004, Rina developed her specialty as an executive in retail and wholesale banks developing data, personnel, and operations systems for transaction security and compliance with regulations and best practices.

She worked in the Staten Island offices of Independence Community Bank. She proceeded to Rabobank International and ultimately to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Manhattan, where she rose to Director & Group Manager of Compliance Operations before being assigned as Director of Compliance Department, Americas Division.

In the era following the 2001 terrorist attacks, bankers wrestled with costly and demanding federal laws for enhanced fiduciary obligations. Evaluating competition, profits, and best practices called for a newly specialized banker. Banks were tasked to ask clients prickly questions, slow deals, and (perhaps) defer legitimate loans until novel risk assessments were satisfied. The urgent world of finance strained to adopt these subjective analyses. As banks with problems incurred fines, compliance experts like Rina proved essential to keeping banks in good control.

Rina’s policy and bank experience fit this role. Her teams set out to divine regulatory expectations and move banks to comply. Foremost, she assured profit drivers that the evolving security measures were intrinsic to bank success. Rina was gratified to see her early interpretations as an auditor at the Fed gain adoption as trade standards years later.

One of Rina’s work colleagues, Risë Zaiser, bonded with Rina as mentor and friend. They shared triumphs in motherhood and careers. Zaiser tracked Rina’s moves in various banks and trade panels.

“When we first met her, she came in guns a-blazing, and we were talking about how we were going to get her a bat. But she didn’t need a bat. She was just able to convince, and they followed her direction,” Zaiser said.

Industry colleagues noted that Rina was an effective department director because of her genuine humanity, humor, and collaboration. Life in banking cubicles can be fraught, staid, and tedious. One boss recalled surprise, then gratitude in receiving an office hug.

“Smiles can tear down the tallest, thickest walls. The power of Rina’s smile was the selflessness behind it,” he said. “Rina was always positive and upbeat, addressing adversity with that smile. I challenge all of us to take what Rina has given us and pass it along.”

Rina was passionate about cultivating professional opportunities for women and developing diversity in business and civic leadership. Hofstra invited her to speak quarterly to business students, and she regularly trained interns. SMBC designated a scholarship in Rina’s name to enhance the Women’s Inclusion Network  professional development project. SMBC noted her continuous mentoring of students and professionals.

“That enthusiasm and willingness to take on things widened her scope,” Zaiser noted. In the Women’s Inclusion Network, Rina was a “tireless devotee,” and she answered a call to be a co-president. “We all voted for her. It was great to work with her. I’m really going to miss her joyfulness.”

Rina was a devoted member of Brighton Heights Reformed Church in St. George. She joined the denomination as a long-time member of the Reformed Church of America at Stony Brook, previously known as Christ Community Church.

Staten Islanders knew Rina as a passionate supporter of families at Dance Dance Dance, Ltd., where her daughter thrived as a student. Many knew Rina through her masterful knitting, which she shared lovingly with cancer patients, premature babies and many friends.

She loved ballroom dancing with Sam. She engaged her kids’ every pursuit with verve, including raising a rescue pitbull. From Rina, her children learned faith in God, the enduring affection of family, and how to cook from scratch.

When Rina contracted COVID, the disease was daily killing 2,000 in the U.S., 8,000 people worldwide. To her family, she endures in death as a true a love and steadfast guide. Quarantined, short of breath, and resolute, she typed her gratitude to the world: “Be kind to each other.”

Rina is survived by her husband, Sam; their children, Alex and Amelia, of Staten Island; parents, Art and Gloria Miguel; brother Arturo Miguel, his wife Kim, and nephew Gabriel; and brother Fernando Miguel, his wife Kim, and nephews Colin, Elias, and Reece.

A family memorial service will be recorded and broadcast on YouTube at 3p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21. Matthew Funeral Home, Staten Island, arranged the cremation. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to ameliorate effects of the pandemic.

The funeral home and Rina’s Facebook page will post updates about observances, including congregational observances in future months at Brighton Heights Reformed Church, Staten Island. To view the memorial, use these links:

Main link:

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Frederick Conrad Hoffmann III, of Port Jefferson Station, passed away Nov. 6 peacefully surrounded by his loving family. He was 84.

Fred was born in Jamaica, NY on Feb. 1, 1936 to Frederick Conrad Jr. and Clara (Borden) Hoffmann. He graduated from Andrew Jackson High School in 1953, from Adelphi University in 1962, and earned a Master’s in Administration at Stony Brook University In 1977. Fred was the captain of his high school and college track teams. 

Fred was a veteran of the Army National Guard from 1959 to 1964. He married the former Diane Kuhn in 1960 and was married for 60 wonderful years. Fred had a rewarding 26-year career as a physical education teacher and coach at Comsewogue High School, where he retired in 1991. Fred thoroughly enjoyed teaching and coaching many sports over the years, including track, winter track, cross country, soccer, golf and bowling. 

Throughout his life, Fred enjoyed traveling the country with his wife. His hobbies included fishing, golfing, bowling, cooking, watching sports, Jeopardy, politics, singing, giving nicknames and spending time with his children and grandchildren. Fred was known for his vast knowledge of many subjects, especially sports and sports statistics, much like a sports encyclopedia. Fred touched many lives with his wise advice, was known for his quick wit and sense of humor, and brought joy to all who met him.

Fred is survived by his loving wife, Diane, of 60 years. They were a wonderful example of what love is, often saying the secret to their long marriage was making each other laugh. Fred is survived by his siblings, Maland Hoffmann and his wife Barbara Ellen Weinkauf and her husband Steven and Garry Hoffmann and his wife Lynn; and numerous nieces and nephews. Fred and Diane had four children which he is survived by, including Frederick Conrad Hoffmann IV and his wife Lynda, and their children, Frederick Conrad V and his wife Kristie, Douglas and his wife Samantha, Logan, Trystan, and Brandon, of Port Jefferson, Matthew Hoffmann, of Royalton, VT and son Quinn, of Jacksonville, Fla; Peter Hoffmann, of Port Jefferson Station and Christine (Hoffmann) Joy and her husband David, and their children, Ellen, Amy, and Nicholas, of Buckeystown, MD. Fred adored his grandchildren, and all nine will miss their loving grandpa. Fred was recently blessed with a great grandson, Steele Thomas, and was able to meet him earlier this month. 

Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, the family has decided to hold a virtual memorial gathering. Please join the family on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, at 7 p.m. for a virtual memorial gathering. For more information, and to RSVP to attend the service please go to:

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George Francis Rice, Jr., Esq., a resident of Setauket for more than 40 years, passed away peacefully on Oct. 15 at the age of 75.

The son of the late George F. Rice, Sr. and Catherine M. Rice, George was preceded in death by his brother Thomas. He is survived by his loving wife, Pam, along with three daughters and their husbands – Erin and Craig Keanna of Guilford, CT; Kara and Jamie Proctor of Huntington, NY; and Darby and Dave Mingey of Pelham, NY. George was also a grandfather to eight grandchildren: Ainsley, Campbell, Caroline, Claire, Dylan, Peter, Theo and Will — all of whom affectionately referred to him as “Poppe.” Additionally, he is survived by his brother Bill Rice of Cambria, CA, and his sister, Joan Rice Cuomo, of Huntington, NY.

 Born in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, George later moved as a young boy with his family to Long Island. He was raised in the hamlet of Central Islip and attended bygone Seton Hall High School before venturing upstate to study at Niagara University. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from Niagara in 1966, he went on to earn his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1969.

Immediately upon graduation from Notre Dame’s Law School, George began serving as a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow in New York’s Westchester County. Those selected for this prestigious national fellowship are considered to be among the nation’s brightest recent law school graduates. After specific training in poverty law, these attorneys commit themselves to a year of social service by representing disadvantaged clients in communities across the nation who are in need of significant legal assistance.

Following his fellowship George was promptly offered the opportunity to join the Long Island-based law firm of Bennett, Kaye, Scholly in 1970. While continuing his focus on social impact law and counsel to underrepresented clients, he rapidly rose within the firm to be named a partner by his third year. George was soon recognized as an expert in trial law, real estate law and not-for-profit corporation law. As their legal team continued to grow and evolve, he helped craft a merger with another leading Long Island firm to form what would become Spellman, Rice, Schure & Polizzi. Out of their new Garden City office George continued his impressive legal career – one that would eventually span nearly five decades. Of particular note was George’s strategic counsel to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rockville Center. Because of his success on behalf this highly influential organization the Archdiocese soon requested George to serve as its Diocesan Attorney. Along with earning numerous industry awards, recognitions and distinctions, he was a frequent guest speaker and panelist at law conferences and seminars throughout the United States.

 On a personal level, George was an ardent believer in the service-to-others tenets of the Catholic Faith. Central to his beliefs and character was a deep dedication to creating positive social impact. This was vividly demonstrated by a lifetime focused on improving the lives of those in the communities where he resided and worked. Many of his peers marveled that, in addition to his impressive professional endeavors, he had a seemingly endless capacity to lead civic, philanthropic and community initiatives. 

While the totality of his decades of social service was expansive, he is especially remembered for several leadership positions that significantly enriched the lives of others. George was the Founding Chair and a longtime board member of the Catholic Health Services of Long Island, which grew to operate one of the region’s finest and largest health and human services agencies. A dedicated Trustee of the St. Charles Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, George also served as that healthcare facility’s Chairman of the Board from 2003 to 2006. Additionally, he was instrumental in launching Jefferson’s Ferry, Long Island’s first active lifestyle all-inclusive retirement community and served as their Chairman of the Board from 1997-2019.

 Although his career and community service were very impressive, George was best known to those close to him for the heartwarming love he had for his extended family and cherished friends. He was an eternally proud and passionate supporter of his three daughters throughout every phase of their lives. For 53 years George devoted himself to his wife and nurturing the beautiful bond that gave each of them a special companionship that was beyond description. And perhaps his life’s most treasured role came during his later years as he relished the pure joy of being “Poppe” to his grandkids.

 With the spirit of his Irish ancestry rooted deeply in his soul, George was an incredibly charming man who made friends far and wide. He traveled extensively throughout the country, often with his Pam by his side, for both professional purposes and personal enjoyment. Of all the places he traveled, no place made him happier than a sun-filled spot by the water’s edge. Among his favorite beach destinations were the shores of Fire Island, the picture-perfect seaside village of Ogunquit, located along Maine’s southern coast, and especially the beach cabanas of Setauket’s Old Field Club, a historic beach club tucked along the Long Island Sound where he was a longtime member.

 George was a dynamic man of great talent with an immense capacity to care for others. He was goodness, kindness, wisdom and wit rolled into the form of everybody’s ideal All-American neighbor. He was a true gentleman and wore the warmest smile of anyone along the avenue. The legacy George left here with us will remain enduring and impactful for many years to come. His days on this earth not only blessed those who knew him well, but they will continue to benefit so many who will never know his name. No doubt, George is the latest shining star in the Heavens above.

In recognition of the public health challenges that currently face our nation, George respectfully asked that no public services be held in his memory until safer times arrive. The Rice Family intends to hold a special memorial to honor George at a later date.  In lieu of flowers, the Rice family kindly asks that donations be made in his memory to The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the University of Notre Dame scholarship fund, Save-A-Pet USA, or to any community impact program that you feel would especially honor him.

From left: Carl Safina, Larry Swanson and Malcolm Bowman. Swanson who died Oct. 17, was renowned not only for his work at SBU, but also his kindly demeanor. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University’s Robert Lawrence “Larry” Swanson, associate dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, died Saturday at the age of 82, leaving behind a professional legacy that included awards for his stewardship of waterways and numerous personal connections.

Swanson was a chair of the SoMAS Boat Committee for years and loved being with the crew and out on the boat. He was known for his appreciation for snacks, particularly Oreos. Photo by Jason Schweitzer

Swanson, who had planned to retire next summer, was teaching waste management issues remotely this fall.

A fixture at Stony Brook since 1987, he led the Waste Reduction and Management Institute. The 6-foot, 2-inch Swanson, who was interim dean for SoMAS from 2016 to 2018, had joined Carl Safina, endowed research chair for Nature and Humanity and Malcolm Bowman, distinguished service professor SoMAS, on the New York State Ocean Acidification Task Force since 2018.

In an email, Safina described Swanson as a “gentleman” and a “kind and knowledgeable man who was a well-recognized leader.”

In 1979, Swanson came to the rescue for Bowman, his wife Waveney and their young family. The Bowmans had rented their Stony Brook house during the summer and planned to live in the United Kingdom. With their children, the Bowmans decided to return to New York, where they endured mosquitoes and yellowjacket stings while living in a tent.

Swanson offered the Bowmans his house as long as they took care of Swanson’s golden retriever while he and his family traveled.

He met his wife Dana Lamont at a party in Seattle, where the scientist rose to the rank of captain as a commissioned officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Swanson used to take long walks in Seattle. After the couple started dating, he told Lamont he must have walked by her house numerous times before they met, which Lamont likened to the song “On the Street Where You Live” from “My Fair Lady.”

Swanson and Lamont have two children, Larry and Michael.

Lamont recalled how Swanson spent considerable time at sea. Lamont said her husband was on a ship once and tried to teach college students reluctant to learn about celestial navigation because they had GPS.

“A week or two later, there was a fire on board, they lost all technology and [Swanson] said, ‘OK, you put the fire out. Now, take us to Hawaii,” Lamont said. They had to use celestial navigation.

Lamont said her late husband was “never afraid of anything, such as flying through the eye of a hurricane.”

Swanson testified in a Supreme Court case in 1985. Lamont said he “loved” the experience.

Described by people who worked with him as kind, caring, steady, reliable and humble, he was considered a role model as well as a leader.

SoMAS adjunct professor, Frank Roethel, recalled how he had major surgery in a Manhattan hospital. One afternoon, he woke to find Swanson in a chair next to his bed.

“I was shocked that he would travel just to spend a few moments with me, but that was him,” Roethel said by email.

Bonnie Stephens, who worked for Swanson for 22 years, appreciated how the man brought people together for lunch, where they discussed politics, shared jokes and offered personal stories.

A dog lover, Swanson also leaves behind their dog Lily, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, which was his favorite breed of dog.

Born in Baltimore, Swanson spent his childhood primarily in Maryland with his parents Hazel and Lawrence.

A 1960 graduate in civil engineering from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Swanson earned his doctorate in oceanography in 1971 from Oregon State University.

The funeral is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 26.

Local residents cheered on Chris Pendergast as an old pickup truck brought him to his final resting place on his last ride. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Chris Pendergast, a Miller Place resident and founder of ALS Ride for Life, died Oct. 14. He survived 28 years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis when most only live for five. In that time, he created an organization that has raised millions for ALS research and awareness.

He was renowned in the community for his annual rides, originally from Yankee Stadium to Washington D.C. and later from Riverhead to the Bronx to help fundraise for his organization.

Local residents say Chris touched the lives of everyone he met. Photo by Julianne Mosher

When Pendergast’s funeral Mass ended around 11:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19, police escorted a line of Pendergast’s loved ones and his casket down Route 25A to Washington Memorial Park Cemetery in Mount Sinai, something friends and family designated “his last ride.”

People who had been touched by the late ALS activist lined the street cheering him on and saying their last goodbye. 

Some people knew Pendergast for decades, some knew him for only a year. But nonetheless, even in a short amount of time he made his mark. Several lined up on Route 25A in Miller Place to pay their respects.

“He’d be touched to see everyone here,” Miller Place local Patricia Poggio said. “He was also humble, but he would be really touched.”

Nancy Murray, another Miller Place resident, agreed, saying Pendergast was “a warrior” for ALS and for her friend who was also diagnosed with the disease. 

“What a wonderful man,” Murray said. “What an amazing, wonderful man.”

Jack Soldano, a 16-year-old Miller Place student, holds his own fundraiser, Comics for a Cause, to also help raise funds for ALS Ride for Life after being moved by Chris’ story. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Jack Soldano, a 16-year-old Miller Place student, said he met Pendergast in one of the Ride for Life founder’s visits to his school. Soldano had created a fundraiser, Comics for a Cause, in 2017 to help support ALS Ride for Life after being moved by Pendergast’s story. His fundraiser also supported the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.

“I’ve had my nose in a comic book since I was little,” he said. “So I know a superhero when I see one.”

Kathy Sweeney, who knew Pendergast through St. Louis De Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach, agreed that he made his mark. 

“He encouraged people all over the world,” she said. “God left him on this Earth for all these years to help people. He was such a role model.”