Ellen Michelmore was the musical director at Theatre Three. File photo

Ellen Michelmore, who served as the Theatre Three musical director for more than 25 years, died early Friday morning, the theater said on its Facebook page. She was 63.

Since her start with a production of “Evita” in 1986, Michelmore worked with hundreds of actors and musicians at the theater in her hometown of Port Jefferson. Even through a few battles with leiomyosarcoma, a cancer that infects muscle tissue, Michelmore was known for her energy and for giving her all, and was named a Port Times Record Person of the Year in 2014.

Ellen Michelmore was the musical director at Theatre Three. File photo
Ellen Michelmore was the musical director at Theatre Three. File photo

“She is a craftsperson, an artist, a teacher and a mentor,” Theatre Three Executive Director Jeffrey Sanzel said at that time. He quoted composer Jerry Herman to describe her style: “‘Someone puts themselves last, so that you can come first.’ That is Ellen.”

People who knew her have called her generous, patient, kind, strong and remarkable. And she made a mean Bolognese sauce.

“I don’t think there was a single person who ever came across her who didn’t love her,” Sanzel said in a phone interview on Friday. “And I’m not one to use superlatives [but] she was an extraordinary human being, she was an artist, but just the depth of her love and compassion and sensitivity were unlike anyone we’ve ever had in this theater family, and her loss will be felt forever.”

As the lead of Theatre Three’s music department, Michelmore touched both audiences and staff.

Musician Michael Chiusano said people who worked with her respected and appreciated her honesty: “If your part is not prepared, she will tell you where you stand,” he said previously.

Ellen Michelmore as a young child. File photo
Ellen Michelmore as a young child. File photo

And Broadway actress and singer Amy Justman, who began working with Michelmore as a 10-year-old in 1989, said the music director was “kind and giving but tough.”

“I had never seen a woman like Ellen,” she said when Michelmore was named a Person of the Year. “She sent me on a path. … I have a lifelong connection to her and am so grateful for her.”

Michelmore played such a big role in the Theatre Three community that the theater honored her with a musical tribute in 2014, called “Ellen Michelmore: Notes From The Heart,” that featured singers, actors and musicians who had worked with her.

Michelmore is survived by her husband, Jeff Lange, who is also a musician. He has previously noted, “Ellen’s passion has been her job ever since she arrived at Theatre Three.”

Her presence is not something that will soon be forgotten at the theater. Sanzel said Friday, “In all that she’s been through in these last five years, her bravery was extraordinary and she never stopped loving all the people around her.”

Funeral arrangements had not yet been made early Friday afternoon.

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Edward McGuire first joined the Centerport Fire Department in 1976. Photo by Steve Silverman

Ex-Captain Edward McGuire of the Centerport Fire Department died on Feb. 2 at the age of 78.

McGuire first joined the department in 1976, serving first as lieutenant and then captain. He also served as an EMT and member of the Centerport Rescue Squad.

He was elected as fire commissioner in 1995 and served for five years.

The ex-captain grew up in Queens and worked summers as a lifeguard at Jones Beach. He also served in the U.S. Army at a Nike missile site in New Jersey.

After his tour ended, he attended Cooper Union, a prestigious college in New York City.

McGuire taught classes at a BOCES school but was an electrician by trade and started McGuire Electric in Centerport, which his son Edward McGuire now operates.

McGuire loved the outdoors, including activities like fishing and hunting.

He is survived by his wife, Dolores; his children, Edward, Joseph, Judy and Christopher; and his seven grandchildren.

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Late physical chemist remembered as founding member of Stony Brook University’s famed chemistry department

Francis Truesdale Bonner’s memorial service will be March 6 at the Bates House. Photo from Bonner family

Francis Truesdale Bonner died early in the morning of Monday, Feb. 15, at the age of 94.

A physical chemist, he spent most of his career as a professor at SUNY Stony Brook, before its name was changed to Stony Brook University. He was the founding chairman of Stony Brook’s distinguished Department of Chemistry.

Bonner was born in December 1921 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the youngest of seven children. His father, Walter Bonner, was head of chemistry at the University of Utah from 1914 until 1945. His mother, Grace Gaylord Bonner, had earlier been a teacher in Nebraska and maintained the household at a high cultural level, including the study of music and foreign languages.

The Bonner siblings studied at the University of Utah and went on to distinguished scientific careers at Cal Tech, Penn, UC San Diego, and other institutions.

Bonner took his undergraduate degree from Utah in 1942 and proceeded to Yale for doctoral work in chemistry, with Herbert Spencer Harned as his advisor. At that time, in the middle of the Second World War, highly trained scientists were in great demand. Accordingly, Bonner entered an accelerated program, taking a master’s in 1944 and a Ph.D. in 1945, with a dissertation on the thermodynamic properties of carbonic acid in aqueous solutions of sodium chloride.

In 1944, meanwhile, he found himself at Columbia University in the top-secret Manhattan Project, working on the development of metallic materials suitable for use as diffusion barriers for uranium hexafluoride and on the interaction of these materials with uranium hexafluoride itself and also with other corrosive gases.

Like many Manhattan Project scientists, he was generally aware of the project’s goal, but when the first atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima, he was surprised at the way the weapon had actually taken form. In the following period, Bonner had a leading role in the Association of Manhattan Project Scientists, concerned with maintaining this dangerous discovery within political and humanitarian bounds.

During those days in New York, Bonner met Evelyn Hershkowitz, a Hunter College graduate then working for the Manhattan Project. They married in January 1946 and moved to Oak Ridge Tennessee, where they both worked at Clinton Laboratory, soon renamed Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In 1947, they moved to Long Island, where Bonner took a position with the brand-new Brookhaven National Laboratory. This environment was entirely to his liking, but problems emerged with FBI demands for security clearances. Bonner himself came under no suspicion, but several colleagues, who afterward remained lifelong friends, fell afoul of the emerging McCarthyite agenda.

As these colleagues left Brookhaven, Bonner took a position as assistant professor at Brooklyn College. In 1956 he took up a Carnegie Fellowship at Harvard, and after that a consultancy with Arthur D. Little in Cambridge. Those days also saw the publication of his textbook, co-authored with Melba Phillips, “Principles of Physical Science.”

In late 1957, Bonner received an offer to join the brand-new State University College on Long Island, located in Oyster Bay but due to transfer soon to a site in Stony Brook donated by the philanthropist Ward Melville.

He accepted the offer and became the first chair of chemistry. He took a leading role in recruiting faculty in related areas, especially physics. His main focus, however, was on building a new chemistry department, and he recruited a youthful team that gained international recognition. In those days, academic talent and academic positions were both relatively abundant, and the State of New York contributed substantially to the project.

On the ground, however, quarrels emerged over the new institution’s direction and identity. Bonner took his part in those quarrels while maintaining his priority of building his department. His many new hires included Paul Lauterbur in 1963, who was then engaged in research on nuclear magnetic resonance, which resulted afterward in the universally-used technology of magnetic resonance imaging, for which Lauterbur received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2003.

With his family, Bonner spent the academic year 1964-65 with a National Science Foundation senior postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre d’Etudes Nucleaires in Saclay, France, near Paris. He then returned to the chairmanship at Stony Brook. When he stepped down in 1970, the department had grown from a handful of faculty and staff into one of the most important and productive units in the discipline, housed in a spacious, brand-new, state-of-the-art building.

Bonner returned to the laboratory, mentoring graduate students and authoring and co-authoring articles on nitrogen chemistry, including the small, toxic molecule nitric oxide, which has a role in mammalian physiology. His co-authors included the British scientists Geoffrey Stedman and Martin N. Hughes. From 1983 to 1986, he served as dean for international programs, developing programs for teaching and research, and traveling to Europe, East Asia, and Latin America. He then returned to full-time teaching and research until his retirement at the age of 70 in 1992.

Bonner and Evelyn had three children, Michael, born in 1952, now of Michigan; Alisa, born in 1955, who died in 1974; and Rachel, born in 1957, now of Israel. Evelyn died in 1990.

As Bonner entered retirement soon afterward, he continued to do consulting work, but devoted himself mainly to nonscientific pursuits, especially music. He had played the violin since his Utah childhood, and had taken up the viola in his early 40s. He played in a variety of venues and groups, and in this way he met Jane Carlberg, a violinist from Andover, Connecticut. The two married in 1994 and remained together in the waterside house in Setauket that Bonner had owned since 1972.

Bonner enjoyed hiking and bicycling and had a deep love of nature. His many friends appreciated his sense of humor, which remained with him right to the end. He spent the last six months of his life at Sunrise Senior Living, East Setauket, and died peacefully of pneumonia at Stony Brook Hospital.

A memorial service will be held at noon on Sunday, March 6, at the Bates House in Setauket.

Dick Solo photo from Naomi Solo

Richard Solo, known as Dick or Doc to those he loved, died on Nov. 27 at age 79, after a four-year struggle with cancer.

Solo was the beloved husband of Nomi for 56 years; father of David, Julie and Michael (Susan); and brother of Marge Seltzer.

Friends remember Solo walking around in nature, Stony Brook University, his beloved Port Jefferson or other parts of the world, camera in hand, ready to photograph, in his special way, the world around him. He loved his family, students, nature, the Red Sox and a good bowl of  chili.

Solo had a joyous and productive and giving life. From his early days in Brookline High in Massachusetts to his years earning a bachelor’s at MIT and his Ph.D in chemistry from Berkeley, he was involved with student life, sports, and music.

When he moved to Port Jefferson in 1970, he became involved in the village and was an integral part in the development and building of the Village Center.

Solo came to the SBU on its opening day in August 1962, after a research stint at Aerospace in Los Angeles. Since that time, he had dedicated his heart and soul to it, beginning as an assistant chemistry professor. He set up a first-rate lab, but his main love was the student body. For 10 years, he taught chemistry classes of 110 to 150 students, including an introductory seminar on science and ethics before it was fashionable. The blend of teaching and research was a source of excitement, fun and satisfaction, and he was a first-rate teacher and communicator.

He became an integral part of student affairs, getting involved in counseling and helping to create an orientation course for incoming freshmen, ultimately developing an orientation program that was lauded throughout the state. He affected the lives of thousands of students, leading to his role as director of new student orientation, one of the first contacts an incoming student had with the university after admission. To the end, students who went through the program visited and corresponded with Solo and have used it as an example of how it made them grow as individuals.

Any student or faculty member who worked with Solo’s orientation program would agree that the spirit of genuine empathy is what made all the difference in the effectiveness of the program. Solo, along with his carefully chosen administrative assistants, molded freshmen and transfer orientations each year to the changing needs of incoming students. The process went beyond just registering for classes — there were social activities and workshops that included food, films, sports and a family-like spirit. His goal was to reach the attendees, to make a difference in their lives by caring about and understanding them.

His service to the SBU community spans half a century, during which Solo served on and chaired numerous committees and boards, including the University Senate, the first Student Affairs Affirmative Action Committee, the presidential search that chose Jack Marburger, the president’s advisory board on the disabled, and the Faculty Student Association. He was the unofficial photographer of Stony Brook history in the making.

Solo cared about every facet of the campus and students, attending many athletic events each season. After he semi-retired, he went back to teaching chemistry and did student advising at both summer and winter orientation programs.

Rabbi Joseph Topek from the university described Solo as a pioneer. He introduced many new ideas that have become university tradition — it was Solo who first thought of the Roth Pond Regatta.

A memorial visitation will be held on Wednesday at Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket, from 4 to 8 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Good Shepherd Hospice or to the Staller Center for the Arts via the Stony Brook Foundation.

Justice Peter Graham has served Port Jefferson for more than 30 years. Photo by Talia Amorosano

After more than 30 years, Justice Peter Graham left his mark on Port Jefferson.

The village judge, who died on Tuesday afternoon, will be remembered for his personality and for his service to the court — but his path to that position was a little out of order.

Born on July 4, 1930, to Pedro and Helen Graham, the Brooklyn-born Peter Graham didn’t always know he would study law. He entered seminary at age 14 and stayed for four years before he realized that it wasn’t for him. Known for his sense of humor, the justice freely described his decision as being guided by his aversion to “the two Cs”: chastity and celibacy.

He hung up his cassock and went to college, studying biology and chemistry before heading to law school.

In an interview in July, Graham said he took a detour before reaching the courtroom, serving in the U.S. Army.

“When I finished law school, I felt that I owed my country two years of my life,” Graham said.

It was in the service that he got his first hands-on law experience, as he was appointed the district attorney of his battalion and was tasked with prosecuting murder, assault and rape cases.

Graham rose from those humble beginnings to eventually become a village justice in 1983. He was most recently re-elected in June.

“All I do is try to be fair to the people,” he said earlier this year. He described his experience living in Port Jefferson and serving as a village justice as “a pleasure.”

Mayor Margot Garant, who knew Graham since she was a child, called him a “dear friend.”

“It’d be really fair to say that [he] was just an integral part of everyone’s life here in the village,” she said.

The mayor referred to the justice’s personality as “friendly, personable, jovial.”

“He will be absolutely irreplaceable,” Garant said. “There’s not going to be one person … that will ever be able to step into his shoes.”

Graham had the respect of both residents and the people who worked with him.

“He’s awesome. I’ve actually worked for eight judges and he is one of my top,” Village Court Clerk Christine Wood said in an interview in July. “He’s the most caring gentleman, and I don’t say that about many people. He’s got a heart of gold.”

Graham is survived by his loving Mary Ellen Mulligan; children Kim (Jim) Sloane and Patrick Mulligan; beloved grandchildren Jimmy, Patrick, Sean and Shannon; dear sister Maureen and brother Robert (Millie) Graham; along with Phyllis Graham and children Peter, Paul, Mary Jane and Christopher, and Mary Jane’s daughter Nina. He is also survived by other grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

“He was a magnificent grandfather,” Mulligan said on Wednesday. “You couldn’t have a better human being, a better man.”

A memorial celebration will be held at the Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket on Friday, from 6 to 10 p.m. A funeral Mass will take place the next morning, at Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson at 9 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Stony Brook Cancer Center and to the loving nurses and aides of 19 North.

Mario Buonpane pays respects at a 9/11 memorial ceremony at Heckscher Park last year. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Mario C. Buonpane, Jr., a staunch local veterans’ activist, avid golfer and a family man, died on Monday after losing a vicious battle with prostate cancer. He was 83.

Buonpane, best known for his work with Huntington Town’s veterans — having served as a charter member and chairman of the Huntington Town Veterans Advisory Board and a past commander of the Northport American Legion Post 694 — is credited with spearheading the rehab of the Northport Veteran Administration Medical Center’s golf course, which brought golfers to the grounds and proceeds to the hospital, according to his son Mark Vincent (Buonpane).

Mario Buonpane speaks at last year’s town remembrance of 9/11. File photo by Rohma Abbas
Mario Buonpane speaks at last year’s town remembrance of 9/11. File photo by Rohma Abbas

“That’s his legacy,” Vincent said. “That will remain and serve the community for years and years to come.”

He received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army and he joined the town’s veterans advisory board as a charter member in 1987. He became chairman in 1993, and since its inception, the group enhanced Veterans Plaza at Huntington Town Hall with the completion of a number of memorials honoring veterans of all wars fought by the U.S.

“Our Veterans Plaza is one of the finest on Long Island and we still have plans to improve it,” he wrote in a list of his accomplishments.

He was also the chairman of the legion’s Veterans Affairs Golf and Tournament Committee, through which he helped negotiate a contract to take over the golf course in 1996. When the group took over, the course hadn’t been mowed in five years, the greens were diseased and there were no facilities, according to Buonpane. Since then, the course touts a clubhouse with a deck, new fairways and more.

Buonpane was instrumental in getting the Northport American Legion’s Boys State and Girls State programs up and running. The programs select girls and boys off to participate in a model governments to teach them how they work, and under Buonpane’s leadership, the number of candidates the legion has sponsored has grown, from one in 1982 to about 20. The program, “teaches you how to be a good citizen,” Vincent said.

Aside from his many community contributions, Buonpane was, at heart, a family man, The father and husband, who worked for Grumman as an electrical engineer and designed electrical harnesses on the lunar module always had time for sports with the kids, Vincent said.

“He taught us great values, he taught us how to earn things the honest way, play by the rules, tell the truth and have great integrity,” Vincent said.

On his work at Grumman, Vincent said, “he contributed to the greatest journey humans had ever done.”

Buonpane’s dedication and never-give-up attitude was his trademark, the son said. He took up running in his 50s and could only run a few laps around the track but ultimately trained until he completed the New York City Marathon. He still went to the gym, even with stage 4 cancer.

“He was tough,” Vincent said. “He was a trooper.”

Others in the Huntington Town community were touched by Buonpane’s contributions, too. Supervisor Frank Petrone issued a statement on Buonpane’s death.

“He worked tirelessly to support efforts ensuring that we all remember, honor and respect our veterans and that veterans got the services and benefits they earned by serving our country,” he said. “We will miss his presence as the master of ceremonies at our wreath ceremonies and other veterans’ events.”

Joe Sledge, communications director at the Northport VA, also spoke highly of Buonpane’s contributions. Sledge said he had known Buonpane since he first started working the VA 23 years ago.

“It was he who sponsored my entry into the American Legion over 14 years ago,” he said. “He made many significant contributions to Northport VA Medical Center through his time, talent, and countless generous acts.  All who knew him would agree that Mario was a thoughtful, hard-working man whose life’s mission was to brighten the lives of others, especially hospitalized veterans. He will be sorely missed.”

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David Smith receives a medal for his finish in the inaugural Hercules on the Harbor 10K. Photo from Kara Hahn

David Smith will be remembered as a Stony Brook staple whose avid passion for action was as inspiring as it was endearing, close friends said this week.

Smith drowned while swimming in the waters he loved off West Meadow Beach on Aug. 28 despite the attempts of many to save him, witnesses said. He was 79.

A professor emeritus at Stony Brook University’s Department of Computer Science, Smith had noticeably appeared to be having difficulty while swimming near Aunt Amy’s Creek in East Setauket, spurring several onlookers to attempt to come to his rescue. Warren Smith, a resident who was at the scene, said there were many who helped in one way or another, but the professor emeritus did not survive.

“He was a well-known nature lover and often swam, ran and hiked,” Warren Smith said in an email. “The night of the day he died, owls came, and they hooted all night long.”

Smith received his doctorate from University of Wisconsin, Madison. He came to Stony Brook in 1966 and established the computer science department in 1970, the university said, adding that he will be remembered as “a staunch supporter of the department and an innovator in computer science.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) remembered Smith as a jack of all trades who was active in the greater North Shore community well beyond the university, participating in the Gallery North Wet Paint Festival and working as an advocate for Forsythe Meadow forest.

“He was an extraordinary individual, academic, artist, athlete, advocate, volunteer and overall great guy,” Hahn said.

Louise Harrison, of the Peconic-based Conservation & Natural Areas Planning and former co-chair of the Coalition for the Future of Stony Brook Village, said Smith had recently taken up swimming as a substitute for running, since his knees were bothering him.

“Dave was with the coalition from the beginning and never missed a steering committee meeting or an opportunity to go to town planning board or legislative hearings in support of our cause,” Harrison said. “He volunteered to be our process server, a critically important role, for our original Article 78 against the planning board. This was an unfamiliar task and yet Dave was willing to give it a go and he made sure our petition was properly served within a very limited time period.”

Harrison said Smith never missed a coalition event and joined the group this July at the official opening of Forsythe Meadow County Park/Nora Bredes Preserve’s walking trail at 52 Hollow Road in Stony Brook: “I am especially thankful Dave was able to attend that event because he was our strongest and most vocal advocate for restored access to the forest, which he once had enjoyed from the village center during his daily runs.”

Moving forward, Harrison said she was considering ways her group could properly remember Smith, which may include dedicating a trail or portion of the trail at Forsythe Meadow in his honor.

Family, friends will remember Dr. William T. Konczynin as community staple who proudly served residents

William T. Konczynin. Photo from the Konczynin family

William T. Konczynin, a physician who served Long Island residents for 29 years at both St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson and other major community facilities, died unexpectedly on June 3. He was 63.

Konczynin is survived by his wife Barbara, his children William Jr. and Allyson, and his daughter-in-law Meghan. He was also an uncle to seven.

“He was totally, totally devoted to the children and to me. He was the best of the best,” said his wife. “He always loved to host parties at our house, and was happiest with company around.”

Born in 1952 in New York City, Konczynin graduated from Chaminade High School on Long Island in 1970 and then obtained a bachelor of science degree in biology from Georgetown University in 1976. Following his undergraduate degree, Konczynin went to medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico. After graduating in 1980, Konczynin returned to the United States and completed his residency in general surgery at The Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

In 1985, after finishing his residency, he worked at a family practice in Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in Patchogue. Eventually he accepted a position at St. Charles, where he was appointed director of the emergency department and, later, director of the alcohol substance and abuse program there.

“It was a natural progression for him to remain involved with the patients in the hospital after they were brought into the O.R. for overdoses,” Barbara Konczynin explained, of how her husband got involved with the substance abuse program.

At St. Charles, Konczynin was also the director of the department of family medicine and the president of the medical staff.

Outside the hospital, Konczynin was the chief physician at the Three Village school district and a hockey coach for his son, William Jr. He enjoyed boating, golfing, tennis and gardening.

Konczynin’s memorial mass was held at St. James Church, where he had served as an usher along with his two children, and his wake, at O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Port Jefferson Station, was attended by more than 2,000 people, his family said.

James O’Connor, chief administrative officer and vice president of St. Charles Hospital, said in a statement that Konczynin will be remembered as an extremely talented and thoughtful physician, but also as a warm and caring friend, and a wonderful colleague who gave freely of his time, advice and expertise.

Olness remembered as brilliant scientist, education advocate

John Olness with his wife Margaret. Photo from Richard Olness

He did what he loved, and was loved for it.

John William Olness, a nuclear physicist and a Long Island resident since 1961, died on Feb. 15 at the age of 85.

Olness is survived by his wife Margaret, their sons Robert, Richard, Frederick and Christopher and their daughter Kristin.

“He was a creative parent,” son Richard said in a phone interview. “I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”

Olness was born in 1929, in Saskatchewan, Canada, while his father was teaching at a junior college. The family returned to their farm in northern Minnesota when John was young, and that is where he grew up.

Olness received a doctorate in nuclear physics from Duke University in 1957 where he met Margaret. He moved to Long Island from Dayton, Ohio, in 1961, then he began his career at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1963 where he stayed until his retirement in 2000 after 37 years of service. John and Margaret married in 1958 and moved to Stony Brook in 1968.

John Olness poses for a photo with his family and family friends. Photo from Richard Olness
John Olness poses for a photo with his family and family friends. Photo from Richard Olness

“He got to do what he wanted,” Margaret said in a phone interview. “He was one of the lucky people who loved what he did for a living. You can’t beat that.”

“John worked with many of the visiting scientists who came to BNL to use the facilities, including Sir Denys Wilkinson (Oxford University), D. Allan Bromley (Yale and, later, science adviser to President George H.W. Bush) and future Space Shuttle astronaut Joseph Allen,” son Robert said of his father’s time at BNL, in an email.

Margaret identified her husband’s passions as physics first and music second.

In his leisure time Olness was a Little League baseball coach; and a founding member and trombone player with the Memories of Swing, a big band that performed around Long Island. He also served as a vice president of the Three Village school board in 1975-76. Kristin said that his desire to be on the school board was in large part to fight for the budgets of the music, sports and arts programs that are seemingly always the first to go when money gets thin.

Olness loved baseball, tennis and basketball, and often spent hours on the phone discussing the Detroit Tigers baseball team with his father, who lived in Michigan. He also played football in high school and college, Margaret said.

Olness was a supportive father and husband, according to Margaret. Their children have gone on to enjoy rewarding careers in wide-ranging walks of life, thanks in no small part to that parental support.

Frederick is a professor and physics department chair at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas; Robert is a major in the Army Reserve, awaiting his next deployment; Kristin has just finished a year on Broadway in “Cabaret,” and was also a member of the cast in the show’s 1998 revival; Richard is an actuary for the Department of Defense; and Christopher is a professional trombonist on Broadway currently playing in “On the Town,” the hit musical comedy.

“Dad put emphasis on education, and he and Mom supported us in exploring the arts and recreational sports,” Richard said in an email. “And in the later years, he encouraged us each to find a career we would enjoy.”

A memorial service will be held for John Olness on Thursday, July 2, at Setauket Presbyterian Church.

Michael Cosel fought hard for people with disabilities, will be remembered as model of advocacy, generosity

By Alex Petroski

Michael Cosel is remembered as a staunch advocate for the community. File photo
Michael Cosel is remembered as a staunch advocate for the community. File photo

The North Shore’s own Michael Cosel will always be remembered as a relentless advocate for people with disabilities, according to those who knew him.

Cosel, a resident of Setauket for 44 years, died this week. He was 69 years old.

Cosel dedicated much of his life to improving the lives of others, his wife Ronne said.

“It forces me to reflect on those things and makes me realize just how deep and enduring his effect was on people and the community,” she said.

The couple was married for 48 years.

It is difficult to quantify just how many lives her husband touched, she said.

“He had a big heart and a generous spirit,” Ronne Cosel said. “We had a lot for ourselves so he had enough to share.”

In addition to his wife, Michael Cosel is survived by a daughter, Paige, and a son, Andrew. His mother, Claire, will turn 90 on Friday.

He leaves behind the Michael & Ronne Cosel Foundation, which was established in 2007 to fight for the rights of people with disabilities. The Cosels’ son Andrew, 43, has cerebral palsy.

Cosel was a coordinator for the Suffolk County Special Olympics. Because of those efforts, Andrew was the first student to attend Ward Melville High School with a service dog in the mid-1980s. Cosel also helped to set up a vocational program for students with disabilities to help them find work after high school. Andrew works at Stony Brook University Hospital today.

“We were a very big thorn in Three Village school district’s side,” Ronne said with a chuckle.

The North Shore native was also instrumental in helping to spark efforts to put in a pedestrian and bike path linking Port Jefferson to Wading River as well as the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail, which eventually secured $2 million under a federal grant to finance the project linking the communities.

Cosel’s efforts in the community did not in any way impact his dedication to his family.

Daughter Paige mentioned Cosel’s humor and generosity as the traits that she would remember most.

“As a father and a grandfather he was playful and generous,” she said.

Ronne Cosel had similar memories of the family man.

“He always had time to have dinner with us,” she said.

Along with his advocacy efforts, Cosel was a custom builder of single-family homes. In his spare time he liked to travel, scuba dive, sail and ski. His wife said she shared nearly 400 dives with her late husband over the years.

“I would have probably stayed home,” she said. “He was an adventurer.”