Obituaries

Howard Otto Wunderlich Jr. Photo courtesy Harry Katz
Prepared by Dawn Jerry & Harry Katz

Howard Otto Wunderlich Jr., of Port Jefferson Station, passed away on Jan. 6 from cardiac arrest at the age of 74. 

Howard was the beloved and eldest son of Adeline and Dr. Howard Wunderlich, a noted radiologist affiliated with Mather and St. Charles hospitals for many years. 

Howard was a cherished brother of Dawn Rose, Karen Adeline, Alan Martin and Karl Andrew. He joins his parents and younger brother, Paul Peter, in eternal rest. 

He was an adored uncle known as “Uncle Howie” to 10 nieces and nephews. Howard was also a beloved resident of the Echo Arms Adult Home in Port Jefferson Station where he served as president of the resident community council for over a decade. 

Howard graduated from Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson and Wagner College in Staten Island, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Following college, he moved to Italy, studied medicine and gained perfect fluency in the Italian language. 

He pursued various vocations and hobbies, and was a phenomenal chef and a lifelong intellectual with endless curiosity. Above all, he was kind and generous, and his mother always said that “he has a heart of gold.”  

In his retirement, he resided at Echo Arms and, while there, organized many events and worked toward the betterment of the residents for whom he continually advocated. Among his many contributions was organizing special events, such as ice cream socials, dinners and catered events. With the former administrator, Harry Katz, he brought in Mister Softee, which the residents looked forward to and enjoyed on hot summer days.  

He was a major contributing force to special fried chicken dinners and catered meals from various delis in the community. Also, he accompanied the administrator on trips to Uncle Giuseppe’s, where they picked specific items for dinner that Howard knew would delight the residents.  

Howard lobbied successfully for many upgrades at Echo Arms. Through the community council, he helped implement new air conditioning and heating units. During his tenure, universal free cable television became a reality for the residents. With input from residents, he successfully advocated for better outdoor lighting and security upgrades around the property. 

Howard was always available to the residents of Echo Arms, offering measured and sage advice when necessary. He had a knack for steering others on the right path when they needed redirecting and counsel. He was a true gentleman, respected by all, with a presence and manner that was universally loved.  

He was a fabulous oral historian who drew on his wealth of memories of Port Jefferson from the 1950s up to the present time. 

His presence is already sorely missed at Echo Arms. His family intends to hold a memorial for him this summer, complete with a catered event for the residents and staff of Echo Arms, which was Howard’s wish. 

His life, his kindness and his love will be remembered always.

Judith ‘Judi’ Betts. Photo courtesy Ronnie Ridolfi

Everything Judi Betts ever did, she did with persistence. Whether selling raffle tickets, hosting guests or persevering through the sharp bouts of orthopedic pain later in life, she did so with a tenacious, indefatigable spirit.

Those who knew her say a love of family, friends, community and country guided her. Like a high-speed locomotive, her wheels were always churning and churning away. Betts channeled her abundant energies and limitless altruism into the charitable causes that defined her life.

Now those wheels churn no longer. Betts died in her sleep Wednesday, Jan. 4, at the Sunrise of Holbrook assisted living center. In her passing, she leaves an enduring legacy of community service and an indelible mark upon the lives she touched.

A dynamic team

Judith “Judi” Betts was born on Sept. 8, 1941, to Dominick and Jessie Annibale. She, her brother Kenneth and her parents soon moved to Bellerose, Queens, in the early ‘50s. Her father’s untimely death in 1955 was a profound loss to the Annibale family, prompting Jessie to raise the two kids on her own.

In 1959, Judi graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, where she remained an active alumna and patron of the parish. She married in 1961, and then remarried in 1982 to Earle Betts, a World War II Navy veteran and board member at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson.

Judi’s cousin, Ronnie Ridolfi, described Earle as a “perfect gentleman.” The Betts couple settled in a historic home on High Street, the nexus for various social gatherings and benefit events. Together, they were a dynamic team, joint advocates for numerous charitable causes and local organizations. Following Earle’s death in 2002, Judi carried her husband’s torch, Ridolfi added.

With unparalleled compassion and enthusiasm, Betts thrust herself into the world of Port Jefferson with the goal of continual community advancement. “She liked representing her area,” said Mary Ann Ridolfi, Betts’ cousin by marriage. “And she liked helping people.”

Master fundraiser

Betts was renowned for her untiring support of the many charitable causes and organizations to which she was committed throughout her life. The four organizations encompassing her values and community aspirations were St. Mary’s High School, Mather Hospital, Port Jefferson Rotary Club and the Boy Scouts of America.

Michael Sceiford, a friend and fellow Rotarian, characterized Betts’ community involvement. “She immersed her life in these charitable causes,” he said. “Her personality was to never sit idle, to be out there trying to help the community through these different organizations that she was extremely passionate about.”

She also served on the Suffolk County Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Brian McAuliff, a past council president and longtime Scoutmaster, touched upon the intensity and conviction with which Betts pursued her fundraising obligations.

“If we had a meeting to do a fundraiser, everyone would take some notes, and a few days later, they would get to their tasks that they committed to,” he said. “Judi was on that task the very next minute. Being persistent about the cause, she was able to do some really great things.”

Jolie Powell, a friend and neighbor, said Betts excelled in fundraising. “She could sell tickets better than anyone I’ve met,” Powell said. “She loved the challenge, and she loved to hear that she was the one that sold more tickets than anyone.”

Interpreting this competitive impulse, Ronnie Ridolfi saw in Betts an earnest desire to effect positive change in the lives of others. “That was a drive that was in her, always to be more than the best,” he said. “By doing that with the fundraisers and the charitable contributions,” she had found her life’s task.

Persistence

A doctor once told Betts that the word “persistence” represented her outlook on life. “She didn’t give up,” Mary Ann Ridolfi said. “She would always tell you to be involved, don’t sit around, get involved and know what’s going on around you.” 

Ronnie Ridolfi suggested this quality, along with her community-centric approach and relentless determination for service, were all innate qualities. “As a young lady, that was her calling,” he said. 

Powell viewed this quality as an inherent feature of Betts’ personality. “She was like a warrior,” she said. “That’s what made her who she was and as far as doing what she loved to do best, which was volunteering.”

Sceiford said Betts’ philanthropic enterprise was undiminished despite declining health later in life. Fighting through chronic pain, she continued to support these causes until the very end. In the face of health problems, “she continued to persevere and push on,” he said.

Several people recounted one notable fundraising event organized at Betts’ historic home that raised $50,000 in 2021. The benefit brought together Mather Hospital and the Boy Scouts of America, Northwell Health president and CEO Michael Dowling, and various local officials.

McAuliff referred to the immense logistic challenges in bringing that event to fruition, especially given Betts’ health. “She was in a wheelchair, sometimes in and out of the hospital, and she still was able to pull off that amazing event,” he said. “It’s just a testament to her tenacity and persistence.”

Legacy

Betts brought in several foreign exchange students, highlighting another aspect of her character. Two such students, Elizabeth of Venezuela and Wenzel of Germany, remained in close contact with her and visited until the end of her life.

Friends and family remember Betts as an eccentric, charismatic, vibrant individual, a connoisseur of wine and an active promoter of the East End-based Pindar and Duck Walk vineyards.

She was also a proud American patriot. The Ridolfis maintained that she passionately supported her brother Kenneth, a Vietnam War veteran. “She helped Kenny a great deal with the VA,” Ronnie said. “He became sick, and she got involved with the VA to help him with his benefits.”

McAuliff said Betts’ patriotic fervor expressed itself through her volunteer activities. “She was a very proud American, very proud of the country, and saw the Boy Scouts of America as something that represented what was best about America,” he said.

For Sceiford, Betts’ inviting personality drew others into her web. Through this, she developed lasting relationships throughout her life. “She took her friends in as her family,” he said. 

Through her example, he added that community members “can learn that they can truly make a difference in the community. … She did the work of what 25 other people maybe did. She made a huge impact to the community.”

McAuliff voiced a similar opinion. Reflecting upon Betts’ model of service, he added that her love for people and her selflessness would leave an abiding impression on those who remember her. 

“Everybody who knew her became a part of her family,” he said. “I think that she adopted the community and the community organizations as her children,” adding, “It’s a life of giving, a life of persistent giving.”

Betts was laid to rest Tuesday, Jan. 10, alongside Earle at Calverton National Cemetery, her procession escorted by Suffolk County Highway Patrol, the bagpipers performing a moving tribute to a life well lived. 

The four organizations to which Betts devoted her life were each represented at her visitation and funeral services. She will be greatly missed by family and friends.

Above, Theresa Whelan. Photo courtesy Chambers of the Honorable Thomas F. Whelan

Theresa Whelan, of Wading River, a longtime Suffolk County judge who served for more than 10 years in family court and most recently as the county’s Surrogate’s Court judge, died Monday, Dec. 26, after a courageous battle with cancer. She was 60.

Theresa Whelan always knew she wanted to be in public service. As a young attorney fresh out of Albany Law School, she began her legal career in 1988 as a Suffolk County assistant county attorney. She entered the court system in 1990 as a senior law clerk to Supreme Court Judge Eli Wagner, in Nassau County. She went on to work as a principal law clerk in Suffolk County for Supreme Court Judge Mary M. Werner and, later, Supreme Court Judge William B. Rebolini. During her 17 years in the supreme court, she worked in nearly every part, including civil litigation, guardianship, tax certiorari and condemnation cases, as well as matrimonial matters.

She eventually took the bench herself in 2008 after she was elected to serve as a judge in Suffolk County Family Court. There, she heard primarily child abuse and neglect cases and presided over Family Treatment Court, where she worked to safely reunite families. Whelan became Suffolk County’s Surrogate in 2019, presiding over proceedings involving wills, trusts and estates as well as guardianship matters. She retired in the summer of 2022, marking 32 years within the New York State court system.

Known for her commitment to improving court practices to better serve the needs of the public, Whelan mobilized several initiatives that helped families and children and that expanded access to justice for all court users. She was appointed Supervising Judge of the Suffolk County Family Court in 2016, and one of the many reforms she spearheaded was providing remote access to temporary orders of protection, allowing individuals to petition the court from a hospital, a police precinct or a shelter. She was a catalyst of the FOCUS (Family Overcoming Crisis through Unified Services) initiative, a program that expedites access to services that address the trauma and developmental needs of children and parents in the court system. 

She also served as lead judge of the Suffolk County Child Welfare Court Improvement Project, part of a statewide initiative to address court practices in cases where the court has removed children from their parents’ care. In 2016, Chief Administrative Judge Larry Marks appointed her to the Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee. In 2018, former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore appointed her to the New York State Commission on Parental Representation, which is tasked with holding public hearings and reporting on the status and quality of lawyers representing parents in child welfare cases. Since 2016, Theresa Whelan had been the chair of Suffolk County’s Attorneys for Children Advisory Committee, which is responsible for considering the qualifications of new applicants to the Attorneys for Children panel as well as reviewing the recertification applications for existing lawyers. 

An active member of the Suffolk County Bar Association, Whelan was co-chair of the Family Court Committee from 2013 to 2016 and lectured for the association’s law academy and other legal organizations. As a member of the Attorney for Child Task Force, she and the other members received the Suffolk County Bar Association’s President’s Award in 2016 for their work. She was also a member and past president of the Suffolk County Women’s Bar Association.

In March of 2022, in recognition of her leadership and commitment to improving the lives of children and families, Whelan was honored at a Women’s History Month celebration, “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” presented by Suffolk County District Administrative Judge Andrew A. Crecca and the Suffolk County Women in the Courts Committee. In June, Whelan was awarded the Marilyn R. Menge Award at the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York 2022 Convention.

Prior to beginning her legal career, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Master of Science degree in Policy Analysis and Public Management from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Her devotion to her family was boundless. She and her husband, Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Thomas F. Whelan, recently celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary. Together they raised two children, Joseph and Erin. Whelan was a proud grandmother to Erin’s one-year-old daughter, Andrea.

In her spare time, Whelan enjoyed the outdoors. She could often be found hiking, kayaking or spending time at the beach. She ran in several half marathons in recent years.

She continued her dedication to the public good even after her cancer diagnosis, volunteering to participate in clinical trials, despite the risks, in hopes of helping find a cure. Her family, friends and former colleagues remember her as someone who braved challenges with grace and compassion. She will be dearly missed by all who knew her. 

Theresa Whelan is survived by her husband, Justice Thomas F. Whelan; son, Joseph Whelan; daughter, Erin, her husband, Alex Meyers, and their daughter, Andrea; mother, Joan Bryant, and her husband John Bauer; brothers, Jack Bryant and Christopher Bryant; sisters, Vaughn Bogucki and Victoria Yule; together with many nieces and nephews.

Photo courtesy John Proios

Prepared by John Proios

William “Bill” Proios died peacefully at age 71 from cancer at Good Shepherd Hospice Center in Port Jefferson on Friday, Nov. 11. 

Bill spent his final days surrounded by family and friends. Born in Detroit, Michigan, July 16, 1951, to Panayiotis and Angeline Proios, he lived most of his life in Port Jefferson. He won the high school’s first New York State wrestling championship in 1969 during his senior year. He was also president of his senior class. 

While studying at Stony Brook University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in American history, he co-authored the book “Port Jefferson: Story of a Village.” 

Bill was a good friend, a kind and wonderful husband, father, grandfather, son-in-law, brother-in-law and uncle. He was a loving man who shared his faith in God and his love of life with all who encountered him. 

He will be remembered by the many stories he shared about his travels across the United States and Europe, and his work as a painting contractor in New York. He will be missed by all who knew him. 

Bill is survived by his wife, Nancy Macnab Proios, son John, his wife Kelly, son Alex, and three grandsons, Ira, Bill and Muhammad. 

May the Good Lord carry his soul forever, and may he rest in peace.

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Stock photo

Walter Charles Hazlitt, of Stony Brook, passed away on Nov. 27. He would have celebrated his 97th birthday on Dec. 2.

Born in Brooklyn, Walter was a World War II veteran, who served in the Marines from 1944-46. He was also a retired Brookhaven Town Republican Committee chairman. According to a statement from the Suffolk County Republican Committee, Walter was a former Suffolk County legislator in the 5th District “and helped advance the industry-recognized services provided by the Suffolk County Water Authority.”

Walter served 62 years with Stony Brook Fire Department. A former chief, he was an active commissioner serving since 1999.

Nicholas Simonsen, 3rd assistant chief, described Walter as “a man for the community,” and said everybody with the fire department will miss him.

“He was definitely a patriarch of the department,” Simonsen said. “He set the example for many, and he was overall a great man — he really was.”

In 2016, he was honored by U.S. Congress “for service to his country and community,” and also received the Brookhaven Community Leadership Award. He was on the board of Suffolk County Community College for many years. 

Walter was the beloved husband of Elizabeth, who predeceased him in 2020. The two were married for 67 years and first met at Stony Brook Yacht Club, where Walter was a member for 75 years.

His sister Marcella and brother Arthur also predeceased him. He leaves behind his children Walter Hazlitt and Elizabeth Emerson and four grandchildren. 

Arrangements were entrusted to Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket. Visitation will be held at the funeral home on Saturday, Dec. 3, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 4, from 2 to 5 p.m. A firematic service will be held at 8 p.m. on Dec. 3 at the funeral home, and Stony Brook Yacht Club will hold a service on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2:30 p.m. A funeral Mass will take place at St. James R.C. Church in Setauket on Monday, Dec. 5, at 10:45 a.m. Burial to follow in the churchyard cemetery.

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Lynn Reilly

Lynn H. Reilly, of Smithtown, passed away in September 2022 at the age of 70. 

Lynn was a retired schoolteacher, beloved wife and dedicated mother.

Lynn’s life revolved around her family, students and many friends. Her cozy, creative, book-lined classrooms inspired the zest for learning in hundreds of students over the decades.

A life-long “Islander”, she grew up in Kings Park, lived in Smithtown with her family and taught for over 40 years in the Long Island Public School system. Education was her passion.

Graduating in the top five of her class in King Park High School, Lynn was the first in her family to attend college and worked full time to pay her own way.

Lynn’s master’s thesis on “Education of the Gifted and Talented” was the springboard for directing the nascent West Islip Gifted and Talented Program.

Canoe journeys up the Nissequogue River, museum trips, Math Olympiads and structured classroom projects emphasizing imagination and task completion, shaped the desire to succeed for scores of future successful business people, professionals, a county district attorney and a Hollywood actor or two. Lynn instilled the strong educational values of preparation in her only child and supported her path to Harvard University and Harvard Business School.

Lynn was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 10. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Tackling Type 1 Diabetes for 60 years, Lynn was the exemplar of perseverance, optimism and sheer “Viking Will.”

Lynn is survived by her husband and best friend for half a century, Patrick, her daughter Leif-Ann Tuohey, son-in-law Vince Tuohey and grandchildren Seamus and Clementine.

Lynn will forever live on in their hearts and memories. A Celebration of Life was held at the local American Legion in Kings Park on Nov.12. 

— Photo from Reilly’s family

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Harry T. Dawkins

Harry T. Dawkins

Harry Thomas Dawkins, of Setauket, passed away peacefully at the age of 77 on Nov. 9.

Born on July 17, 1945, he was the son of Mary and Bertram Dawkins. Harry is survived by his wife, Kathleen Dawkins; his son Jonathan Dawkins; his stepchildren Daphne Fitzpatrick and their partner Johanna Phelps and Rachel Weissmann and her husband John Owen; and step-grandchildren Elias Owen, Oona Owen, Fitz Phelps and August Phelps.

He is also survived by his twin sister Margaret, sister Lillian, and brother Bertram (also known as Bud). He was the beloved uncle to Bonnie Dawkins, Peter Dawkins and Nancy Dawkins-Pisani.

Harry was a veteran of the Vietnam War serving in the Navy’s Special Services Group with the Patrol Boat Rivers from 1963 to 1967. He received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. After his Honorable Discharge, he returned home to Long Island and continued his career on the water ever since.

A man of many talents and known for his ability to make friends with anybody, he is well known for his time with the Captree Boat Basin as the captain of the Yankee III and the Port Jefferson Ferry and Marina. Whether it was working the docks or spending time with his many close friends, it would not be taking liberties to say, “Harry Dawkins was the mayor of Port Jeff.” 

Visitation will be held at Bryant Funeral Home, 411 Old Town Road, East Setauket  on Nov. 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. with a service on Nov. 21 at 10:30 a.m. followed by internment at Calverton National Cemetery 

— Photo from Dawkins’ family

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Edward McGrain

Edward William McGrain, age 92, of Stony Brook, passed away on Monday, Nov. 7. He was preceded in death by his mother, Catherine McGrain.

As a child, Edward grew up as an orphan in 13 different homes. He joined the U.S. Army and served our country for four years in the Korean War.

Working during the day and going to school at night, he went on to complete his bachelor’s degree from Fordham University in New York. He was employed as a probation officer in Suffolk County where he was well liked as he served his community until his retirement.

In his younger years, Edward really enjoyed playing baseball. He was also a fan of watching or playing golf and tennis.  As a father, he was active in coaching and supporting his two sons in all their endeavors. Edward was meticulous in making daily entries in a diary for 30 years, logging meals, the weather and other important events of the day.  He was an avid reader of history with Thomas Jefferson being among his biggest heroes. Edward also enjoyed listening to classical music.  

Left to cherish his memory are his sons, Charles Joseph McGrain and Matthew McGrain (Dawn); granddaughters, Cassidy Rae McGrain and Hailey Madeline McGrain Reeves (Peyton); sister, Elizabeth “Betty” Green; and his former wife, Carol McGrain.

The family received friends on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at Nelsen Funeral Home in Ashland, Virginia. A private burial followed at Quantico National Cemetery.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.NelsenAshland.com for the McGrain family.

— Photo from McGrain’s family

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Booth busy at work in a 1980 photo. File photo by Maxine Hicks

The New Yorker cartoonist and former Stony Brook resident George Booth died on Nov. 1 at his home in Brooklyn. He was 96. The cartoonist died a few days after his wife, Dione, who passed away on Oct. 26.

George Booth drew some cartoons for Frank Melville Memorial Park, including the one above. Image from Kerri Glynn

According to his obituary in The New York Times, the cause of his death was complications of dementia.

Booth was known for his cartoons that featured various quirky characters depicted as cats, dogs, mechanics, cave dwellers and churchgoers in the weekly magazine over 50 years. The magazine’s unofficial mascot was a bull terrier that appeared in several of his cartoons. 

While living in Three Village, Booth and his work was featured in The Village Times and The Village Times Herald. In 1980, he was named the paper’s Man of the Year in Media.

According to the 1980 article, the former Stony Brook resident lived in a house that once belonged to a sea captain. In the interview, he said fellow residents “let me put them in my cartoons.” However, he didn’t divulge any names.

He also received inspiration from his wife.

“Dione has been an education to me on the subject of plants, minuets and pussycats,” he said.

In The Village Times article, he said he and his two brothers grew up in Missouri, where his father trained him as a printer’s devil, an apprentice in a printing establishment. His mother was a cartoonist and musician, and she served as inspiration for his character Mrs. Ritterhouse.

In the 1980 article, he said he developed an interest in auto mechanics while living in Cold Spring Harbor. He had a Model A that always had issues.

“In order to keep it running I had to live at Bohaty’s garage in Centerport,” he said.

Among his favorite artists were Fred Lasswell, who created the “Snuffy Smith” comic strip, and portrait artist Thomas Hart Benton.

When asked which one of his cartoons he would put in a time capsule, he said “Ip Gissa Gul,” which means “ape gets a girl.”

a recent photo of George Booth taken for the documentary ‘Drawing Life.’ Photo rom Nathan Fitch/Drawing Life LLC.

He was born in Cainsville, Missouri, on June 28, 1926, according to The New York Times obituary and grew up on a farm near Fairfax, Missouri. His parents were teachers.

Booth was drafted in 1944 and joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Eventually he became a cartoonist for the Marine magazine Leatherneck. He attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., and the School of Visual Arts in New York City, on the G.I. Bill. After moving to New York in 1952, he sold art to publications such as Collier’s, Look and The Saturday Evening Post. The cartoonist and his wife married in 1958.

Booth sold his first cartoon to The New Yorker in 1969. He also illustrated children’s books, including “Wacky Wednesday” by Dr. Seuss (as Theo LeSieg) and “Here, George!” by Sandra Boynton. His art career also led him to advertising campaigns, greeting cards and animation. 

In recognition of his work, Booth won the Gag Cartoon Award by the National Cartoonists Society in 1993, and the society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. He was an honorary member of Colgate University’s Class of 1939 and was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Stony Brook University in 2003,. He is the subject of “Drawing Life,” part of The New Yorker Documentary series.

Local reflections

Jeffrey Levinton, of Stony Brook, said he and his wife, Joan Miyazaki, were the Booths’ neighbors. He described George Booth as a kind man. The cartoonist would invite Levinton’s son Nathan when he was younger to his Stony Brook studio to see his cartoons.

Levinton added George Booth loved to tell stories and jokes.

“They often had punchlines I did not understand, but George would laugh out loud after telling them,” Levinton wrote.

He remembers one of The New Yorker covers Booth showed them.

“Dracula and a cat at the dinner table – cat with a bowl of milk and Dracula with a bowl of blood,” he said. “George also had a truly amazing pair of drawings of a carnival ride, built in his backyard — you could see the steeple of the church on Christian Avenue. The ride was physically impossible, but George had an explosion diagram of all the impossible parts of a ride where a guy zoomed about the yard and landed in a couch. This masterpiece is apparently lost.”

Levinton remembered a story that Dione Booth told him about her husband that he feels reveals the cartoonist’s character best.

“They met and George asked her out,” he said. “He told her to wear a formal dress and he appeared at her door, also dressed formally. He took her out on a very expensive night in Manhattan, night clubs and the rest. Then she didn’t hear from him for a month, and he called again, making the same invitation, same night on the town. And again. She thought, ‘Wow, I have met a rich guy.’ But he was only inviting her after selling a cartoon, blowing the whole fee on a night out. As Dione said, ‘I thought he was rich but eccentric, and I learned that he was only eccentric.’”

A recent photo of George and Dione Booth taken for the documentary ‘Drawing Life.’ Above image from Kerri Glynn; inset photo by Maxine Hicks; photo below from Nathan Fitch/Drawing Life LLC.

East Setauket architect Robert Reuter considered George Booth a treasured friend and worked in the same Stony Brook building with the cartoonist where they both had studios.

“It was sometimes just hilarious because I would be working on the other side of the wall, and all of a sudden there would be a bellow of laughter where he had drawn something or written something or whatever that just cracked him up so much,” Reuter said. 

He would often get a peek at some of The New Yorker cartoons, and Booth gave Reuter’s son, Jordan, drawing lessons “from the time he could hold the pencil.”

The architect said the cartoonist was a generous man, creating illustrations for Frank Melville Memorial Park and other organizations and people.

Reuter said over the years Booth used BIC and similar pens because he liked the “blobby ink.” Often he would draw a few versions of a character and then choose one to put into the cartoon by copying and pasting. He also was known for using Wite-Out.

Reuter said Dione was a brilliant gardener. “There was a time when her abilities as a decorator and designer, especially in landscapes, was highly revered.”

Nancy Bueti-Randall, of Stony Brook, met the couple in the 1980s when she lived in Brooklyn and was running a studio sale in St. James, and they both bought a piece of jewelry each from her. She reconnected with them when she moved to Three Village nearly 30 years ago.

“They were such an integral part of the community,” she said.

Bueti-Randall and Dione Booth belonged to the Creative Women’s Group. At each meeting, women would talk about their careers and creative pursuits.

Dione was a delightful, kind and loving person who was extremely supportive of her husband’s work and devoted to him, Bueti-Randall said. She added George consulted with his wife often.

She remembered Dione’s gardening, too, and said she made “flower arrangements that would knock your socks off.”

Bueti-Randall was also fortunate to see George Booth’s drawings in progress, and she said he always had a full workload.

“George was the most humble person,” she said. “You would never guess this man was at the top of his field.”

Bueti-Randall said Booth would go to 7-Eleven in the morning, and sit in his car for about an hour and observe people.

“He loved all kinds of people, and he was just an observer of life,” she said. “That’s what he brought to his cartoons. That was part of his work, just to sit there and observe and try to see something that was funny to him or ironic.”

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization president, Gloria Rocchio, and her husband, Richard, knew Booth and his wife. Rocchio said the cartoonist would read children stories and children’s books at the Educational & Cultural Center during WMHO’s Hot Cocoa Series.

“Richard and I admired him,” she said. “He had a very interesting life. He and his wife lived in Stony Brook for a very long time, and they wanted to be very unassuming. To many people George was a world-renowned cartoonist, and rightly so, but to many of us in Stony Brook he was just our friend George.”

George and Dione Booth leave behind their daughter Sarah, who lives in Brooklyn.

Allison Russo-Elling/FDNY

Funeral services have been made for a nearly 30-year member of the Huntington Community First Aid Squad, Allison Russo-Elling.

Russo-Elling, in addition to her volunteer work in Huntington, was a lieutenant with the New York City Fire Department and a 24-year veteran of the FDNY. She was also a 9/11 first responder.

The lieutenant was attacked and stabbed multiple times while walking in Astoria, Queens, while on duty at FDNY’s EMS Station on Sept. 29. She was brought to Mount Sinai Queens Hospital where she succumbed to her injuries.

She was appointed to the FDNY as an EMT in 1998, according to the FDNY, and promoted to paramedic in 2002. She became a lieutenant in 2016.

Russo, a longtime Town of Huntington resident, joined the Huntington Community First Aid Squad in November 1992, according to the HCFAS Facebook page. She was also a day captain for 13 years. It was during her time with the first aid squad that she became an EMT.

THE HCFAS posted on its Facebook page that she was “loved by so many at HCFAS. She will be dearly missed by everyone, but her legacy will live within our hearts forever.”

In addition to her work within the Huntington community, she was a 24-year veteran of the FDNY, joining as an EMT in 1998.

Russo’s wake will be held at Commack Abbey Funeral Home in Commack on Monday, Oct. 3, and Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A service will be held Oct. 5 at the Tilles Center for Performing Arts in Brookville at 11 a.m. Cremation will be private.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to EMS FDNY Help Fund, P.O. Box 604362, Bayside, NY 11360-4362. Or, Little Shelter Animal Rescue and Adoption Center, 33 Warner Road, Huntington, NY 11743.