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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.

Virginia Antionette O’Dwyer Real Estate office in Stony Brook

Virginia Antionette O’Dwyer died at the age of 91 on Aug. 13.

Virginia Antionette O’Dwyer

She was the founder of Virginia A. O’Dwyer Real Estate, located across the street from the Stony Brook train station. Many in the Three Village area remember the company’s sign featuring the colonial pineapple logo, a symbol of hospitality and friendship.

The building still stands today, filled with several agents who worked with Virginia years after Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty acquired the business in 2014.

Virginia was married to William O’Dwyer and a mother of five when she returned to work in the 1960s, according to her son Michael O’Dwyer. He said his mother wanted to buy his father a boat, and her first job was with the real estate company L.C. Clarke in Stony Brook.

“She always had a love for real estate,” he said. “She found her niche.”

It was 1970 when she started her own company.

Michael O’Dwyer said when his mother applied for a loan, the bank asked where her husband was, and she said, “Excuse me.”

“She was one of the first women to get a loan solely in her name in Suffolk County,” he said.

Her son, who is also a real estate agent and was his mother’s business partner, said he learned a lot from her over the years.

“One thing I learned is that it’s not always the highest offer that gets the house,” he said. “It’s the best offer. There’s always a lot of terms and ways you can help your buyer to get their offer presented better.”

His mother worked until Daniel Gale Sotheby’s acquired the company. While she had received offers throughout the years, it wasn’t until Daniel Gale came along that she felt confident selling.

“She waited for the right company to come along,” he said, adding that she felt the company held similar values as her business.

The son said her agents were like family to her, and in all those years only two agents left — but returned to work for her. When she sold the company to Daniel Gale, he said she wanted to make the right decision for her agents.

The son said his mother always balanced a career with family.

“She in her own way thought that anyone could do anything if they put effort into it,” he said. “She was very dedicated, honest and fair with anyone she worked with.”

In addition to real estate, he said his mother loved antiques and collected religious art. She left the art collection to Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson, which she always felt was a worthwhile cause. Her son said in addition to collecting antiques and art, his mother also enjoyed traveling.

“She had a lot of energy,” he said. “She got energy from other people. I think she truly loved what she did. She loved her family, and she loved her business.”

Virginia and her husband were married for 58 years before his passing in 2008. She was born in Mineola on Dec. 14, 1930, to Rita “Dorita Court” Haeger, an opera singer.

“She was quite a character, so I think my mom got a lot of chutzpah from her,” Michael O’Dwyer said, adding his mother was very dedicated to his grandmother.

Virginia and her husband first lived in Westbury before moving to Nissequogue in 1963.  About 15 years ago, the couple moved to Stony Brook village and restored a 200-year-old home, according to her son.

She is survived by her children Maureen (James) Riley, William Jr. (Marguerite), Daniel (Bessie) and Michael. Son John preceded her in death. She also leaves behind 15 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

Friends may call at Marinello Funeral Home, 493 Middle Country Rd, Coram, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, from 2 to 7 p.m. The Funeral mass will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 17,  at 10:15 a.m. at Sts. Philip and James R. C. Church, St. James. Interment immediately to follow at Oak Hill Cemetery, Stony Brook.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Virginia’s memory be made to Hope House Ministries, Attention: Development Department, P.O. Box 358, Port Jefferson, NY 11777.

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Adler writes his famous “A+” on his grandson Andrew’s hand at the doctor’s retirement party. Photo from Christine Figuccio

For nearly half a century, Dr. Albert Adler worked as a pediatrician in Smithtown, most of those years in his office located downstairs from his home on Teapot Lane. After his passing on July 14, at 94, those who knew him are remembering him affectionately.

Dr. Albert Adler with his “A+” cake at his retirement party in December 2010. Photo from Christine Figuccio

Many in the town remember visiting him as a child and getting an “A+” written on their arms from the doctor, who often wore whimsical ties with characters such as Mickey Mouse.

“When they were 18 no one actually graduated out of his practice, they would just take a temporary leave until they could bring their next generation to him,” his son Jonathan Adler said.

The son added his father was a family man.  His house and office setup allowed the doctor to go home within seconds to eat dinner with his wife and children and help his three sons with homework and school projects.

Jonathan Adler said his father was in good health until a few months ago. The pediatrician moved to Sarasota, Florida, with his wife, Joan, a few years after his retirement in December 2010. Joan died in May 2018.

The son said his father loved life and being a pediatrician. The doctor was also a fan of the Knicks, baseball and hockey. He believed strongly in education and traveled a good deal in his life.

Born in Brooklyn on Jan. 19, 1928, the pediatrician grew up in an apartment in Brownsville that included his immediate and extended family, including aunts, uncles and cousins. His parents owned a dress factory in Babylon.

Jonathan Adler said his father would tell his children, “We didn’t know whether a penny was round or square.”

Adler’s older sister ensured her brother got a good education when he was younger, according to his son. Before heading to college, Adler enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in China and Japan. After his time in the service, he took a few science classes at Brooklyn College. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do careerwise, and a friend suggested that he become a doctor.

Adler was accepted to Duke University, but to save his family money he decided to study overseas in Switzerland. The medical school in Europe cost $50 a semester.

After he and his wife married in 1959, Adler began practicing as a pediatrician two years later in a home-and-office combination on Route 111 in Smithtown. His wife, a former teacher who left work to care for her children, helped manage his office. The doctor built the Teapot Lane house and office in 1967.

His son said his parents belonged to Temple Beth Sholom locally, and his father set up a facility for the intellectually disabled youth and their families in the Smithtown area.

Jonathan Adler remembered his father as a good diagnostician, too. 

Dr. Albert Adler, right, and his wife, Joan. Photo from Christine Figuccio

“When other pediatricians really couldn’t figure it out, my father was able to figure out the problem,” he said.

He said when his father began practicing medicine, there weren’t as many specialty practitioners as there are now. Sometimes, Adler would have to set bones for simple fractures and even conduct plastic surgery. He was also the last doctor in the area to make house calls. His son said when the doctor first moved to Smithtown, a few families would pay him with vegetables, fruits or cow’s milk for house visits.

Jonathan Adler said one day, an employee at The Cheesecake Factory approached his father to tell him he had saved her arm. As a child, she came down with a bone infection. At the hospital, the orthopedic surgeon wanted to amputate her arm. Adler took a needle and stuck it into the bone, and pus squirted out all over the hospital room. The decision stopped the infection that nowadays could be easily treated with antibiotics, and her arm was saved.

When Adler retired in December 2010, his wife rented the Elks Lodge in Smithtown to celebrate. Jonathan Adler said thousands of people lined up in bad weather to wish his father well.

“His favorite thing to say was, ‘Look, if you love what you do for work, you never work. I feel like I’ve never really worked. I just enjoyed every second of my practice,’” the son said. 

Adler leaves behind his sons Jonathan (Andrea), Mitchell and Roger; grandchildren Andrew, Ellis, Michael, Eli, Abigail and Sawyer; and great-granddaughter Emma.

Like a family  

Former employees of Adler’s said he made them feel like family. Margaret Higgins, Maureen Rogers, Christine Figuccio and Lisa Agosta all worked with him for several years before he retired.

Agosta said during her 13 years working for him, she found him to be “a great pediatrician, and he touched so many lives with his loving care.”

She said the staff was called the “Adler girls,” and the employees had “wonderful memories with him and Mrs. Adler.”

Agosta said besides taking care of his young patients, he was there for the parents, too. He would give mothers and fathers advice and guidance, Agosta said, “with whatever they were going through — he didn’t just care about the children — he cared about the family as a whole.”

Higgins experienced this firsthand, before she worked with him as a registered nurse for more than 22 years, when he cared for her four sons. When her 18-month-old son was sick, if Adler needed to get an expert opinion, she said, “He would always go to the ends of the earth to get the right person for you.”

Margaret Higgins, Lisa Agosta, Maureen Rogers and Christine Figuccio worked for Dr. Adler for several years before his retirement. Photo from Christine Figuccio

When her son’s intestines were about to perforate, and he needed major surgery at Smithtown General Hospital, Adler helped her find the right surgeon. She said the pediatrician made sure the surgeon knew he could call him at any time of the night. 

Rogers, who worked for him a little less than 20 years, said when her daughter-in-law’s nephew was sick, and it wasn’t known if he would survive, with Adler calling in the right people, they saved his life.

 “He never stopped looking for some way,” she said.

Figuccio also worked for the doctor for approximately 20 years until he retired.

“He was just a loving, caring man,” she said. “No other words to describe him. He really put his whole heart and soul into every child and family member, took the time needed and gave them all the attention that they would need.”

She agreed with his son that Adler was the best diagnostic doctor around. She said one day he was examining a patient when he turned and saw a lump on the mother’s neck. He advised her to get it checked. Two days later, she was having her thyroid removed due to cancer.

She remembered another patient had strep throat and all the family members kept getting it. Adler asked if they had a dog, and they brought it in after hours. The doctor did a throat culture on the pet, and it turned out the dog had strep, too.

A+ patients

Maria Talbot and her sister were patients of Dr. Adler from birth until they turned 18.

“He was such a kind and compassionate man,” Talbot said.

She always looked forward to getting a lollipop and a hug from the doctor at the end of every visit. One day he forgot, and a nurse offered Talbot a lollipop, and she began to cry. Even though he was in another exam room seeing a patient, the pediatrician came to see what the problem was, and once he discovered what happened, he gave her a big hug.

“At such a young age, I remember feeling such a sense of comfort about him,” she said. “You could tell he truly loved the children he cared for.”

Nancy Irvolino said she remembered one visit when her brother needed a shot. He began running around the room, saying to his mother, “Tell him I take pills.”

“He calmed my brother down and at the end gave him a lollipop,” she said, adding she started going to the doctor when she was 2, and at 54, he’s still the best doctor she ever had.

Joe Cusumano said as a child asthmatic, he would constantly come down with bronchitis. The doctor realized it was allergies triggering the asthma and started Cusumano on allergy shots. Since he was 15, Cusumano hasn’t had an asthma attack.

His parents took him, his sister and his brother to the doctor since they were born.

“You knew you were going to a man who cared and knew what he was doing,” he said. “I am grateful for him to this day.”

This writer was also a patient of Adler’s from the age of 9 to 20, as there were several years I needed allergy shots.

He was the first person who said I looked like a celebrity. He would always call me a young Katharine Hepburn. When I first met him in 1977, I was familiar with who the actress was, but only knew what she looked like as an older woman. So, I was a bit taken aback. One day I saw the movie “Stage Door” where a young Hepburn starred with Ginger Rogers and Lucille Ball. I realized I didn’t mind looking like Hepburn, and every time I see a movie with her, I remember the doctor who made a skinny, awkward girl feel like a movie star.

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School board president William Connors is running unopposed for his seat on the board. File photo by Andrea Paldy

William F. Connors Jr., 77, of East Setauket passed away on July 21.

Bill Connors

He was born March 31, 1945, in Brooklyn and was the son of the late William and Ethel Connors. He spent the past 50 years married to the love of his life, Susan Connors (Edwards), and together they raised four children: Terence, Corinne Keane (Edward), Kristin Mangini (Ken) and their daughter Jessica Connors who predeceased Bill in December 2021.

One of Bill’s favorite roles was proud Papa to four adoring grandsons: Conor Mangini (17), Gavin Mangini (14), Caden Mangini (11) and Braeden Keane (7). 

Bill enjoyed a life filled with a very large extended family that spent significant time together and is extremely close knit. His family and loved ones were fortunate to always know how loved and adored they were as Bill “wore his heart on his sleeve” and never passed up the opportunity to let the people he loved know how much he cared about them.

Bill received a bachelor’s degree in history from Saint Anselm College, a Master of Education in counseling psychology from Springfield College, and a Master of Public Administration in management from Long Island University. He retired from Suffolk County Community College in 2011 after holding a variety of faculty and senior administrative positions spanning 44 years. These included associate vice president for academic affairs/college dean of faculty, executive dean/CEO of the Ammerman and Eastern campuses, associate vice president for student affairs, and dean of faculty at the Ammerman and Grant campuses. 

Always looking to contribute to his community, Bill was involved in numerous service activities. He served as a member/vice president of the board of trustees of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket between 1984-92. He was on the Three Village Central School District board of education for a total of 21 years. He served on the board between 1994-2006 and served as vice president between 1995-96 and president between 1996-2006. After a six-year hiatus, he was reelected to the board of education in 2012 and served through 2021. He served as vice president 2013-14 and president between 2014-20.

Bill was also a member of the Saints Philip and James R.C. Church in St. James since 1973. Over the years he has been involved in numerous aspects of parish life and has served as an Eucharistic minister, member of SSPJ school board, and was a member of the pre-baptismal preparation program which he conducted along with his wife.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. Calling hours were held Monday, July 25, and the funeral Mass was held at Saints Philip and James R.C. Church the next day. Interment was private. Visit to sign the online guest book.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that people consider making a donation to The Jessica Connors Memorial Scholarship as Bill was immensely proud of this scholarship created in his youngest daughter’s memory. This annual scholarship is awarded to a graduating Ward Melville High School student who has a connection to or has made contributions to students with learning differences or special needs. It would mean the world to him to know that friends and loved ones continued to support this effort to memorialize her in his name. Donations to the scholarship can be made by visiting or by mail to The Jessica Connors Memorial Scholarship c/o Corinne Keane, P.O. Box 750, East Setauket, NY 11733.

Connors remembered

In an email, Three Village Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon informed district residents of Connors’ passing. Scanlon described him as “a symbol of strength, dignity and reason for decades in Three Village. He epitomized the phrase ‘a gentleman and a scholar.’”

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich said in an email, “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend and colleague, Bill Connors. I served with Bill on the Three Village board of education for a number of years and grew to appreciate first and foremost his deep and abiding love for his family; his commitment to serve our community; and his wisdom and experience in the field of education. He was tremendously decent and compassionate, with a gentle temperament and a kind word for all, and I will miss him very much.”

Anthony Parlatore, a member of the Emma Clark library board of trustees for more than 30 years, said his tenure on the library board overlapped that of Connors for about a year or so.

“We were very close when he was on the board,” Parlatore said. “He was just a quality human being. He was very positive on the board, always maintained a smile and you can just tell he enjoyed being on the board.”

While the board has always functioned well, Parlatore said, Connors added to the high-quality operation, making “his presence known in a very quiet, dignified manner.”

“He listened to everybody politely, and he was a consummate gentleman, expressed his opinion and was never argumentative,” Parlatore said “All the qualities you’d expect. It was a pleasure serving with him.”

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Screen shot from the "Faces of War" video

By James B. Teese

A leader in all aspects of his life, James Edward Dowling, called ‘Red’ by those close to him, lived a life worthy of countless honors and adjectives, inspiring fellow veterans, citizens and officials along the way. He helped save a world from tyranny and helped build a better community.

James Dowling and his wife, Dorothy, in a family photo.

Red Dowling passed away last week at the age of 99 — a husband, father, grandfather, WWII veteran and prisoner of war, community leader, public servant, and — as many have declared in similar terms — a good man with a heart of gold.

From drafted teenager to hero

Dowling played football and ran track for Smithtown High School before being drafted in 1943. He became a bombardier/navigator for the 703rd Squadron, 445th Bomb Group in the 8th Army Air Corps, where his flight leader was the famous actor Jimmy Stewart.

He went on to earn the rank of 2nd lieutenant and fly several missions. On the fateful day of September 27, 1944, during his 11th mission on a bombing run over Kassel, Germany, his plane was shot down and he was taken as a prisoner of war. He survived to return home as a decorated WWII veteran. His tale is featured in the “Faces of War” video series. Further, he has an entire chapter written about him in Tom Brokaw’s book — “The Greatest Generation.”

“We lost one of the greatest individuals in Smithtown history,” said Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, a Vietnam veteran. “[He] left his mark on the world in ways that will echo throughout future generations in the most prolific of ways. His stories from the battlefield have been etched in books and TV interviews, so that we will never forget the definition and true meaning of a hero.”

“As a veteran of the Vietnam War,” said veterans’ advocate Kevin O’Hare, of Kings Park, “I looked up to Jim Dowling as a true war hero who served in WWll. Here is a man who not only served his country, but also was a POW. It was my honor to be part of the veteran video for the Town of Smithtown this past November and to be interviewed alongside my hero.”

When POW Lt. Dowling returned home, simply settling down to enjoy life was not good enough. Keeping a promise, he made before going to war, he married his high school sweetheart, Dorothy, fathered eight children and continued to be the shining example of service and sacrifice for his own burgeoning family, and also the children of the community.

He started the St. James Little League for kids in the neighborhood and served in the capacity of president for nearly two decades.

To provide for his family, on his return home, he began a construction business and started Red’s Seafood. He delivered clams all over the tri-state area including Fulton Fish Market in downtown Manhattan.

James Dowling, left, with state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick on Memorial Day in 2019. Photo by James Teese

Serving Smithtown

His service to Smithtown continued when he was elected as Smithtown Highway Superintendent, running the department for nearly four decades from 1960 to 1998. By operating the office with military efficiency, he successfully created 250 miles of permanent roads. In addition, he altered the way the municipality dealt with snowstorms by making the department’s response more proactive. In doing so, he helped set the precedent of a system that is implemented nationwide to this day.

“Jim Dowling will be remembered as one of Smithtown’s greatest citizens,” said state Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, who served on the Town Council when Dowling led the highway department.

“Upon his return, he ran for highway superintendent and developed a snow-removal team that was the best in New York State and run with military precision … he was a mentor to me during my years in Town Hall, and I owe him a great debt of gratitude for all the help and guidance he gave me,” Fitzpatrick said.

“As parks director, I worked closely together with Jim,” Wehrheim added. “He was always a gentleman and a consummate professional. He built many of the roads and infrastructure we use each day.”

Family legacy

Dowling is now reunited with his high school sweetheart, the late Dorothy (Owen) Dowling, with whom he became an adored ‘Pop’ of 25 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

He will be remembered as a loving father to James Dowling Jr., Douglas and Jeanne Dowling, Jeffrey and Aniela Dowling, Janet and Brett Weingarten, Jean Dowling, Elizabeth and Robert Elderkin, Gregory and Donna Dowling, and William and Christine Dowling.

He will be further remembered as an avid golfer and “one heck of a Gin Rummy player.”  He was a member of St. George’s Golf and Country Club for over 50 years.

As the family noted, “Jim Dowling lived an amazing life and loved every minute of it. He will be
greatly missed.”

“Most of all, Jim was a good man with a heart of gold,” Wehrheim said. “His memory and legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of all who were blessed to know him.”

“Jim Dowling was, truly, a great human being,” added Fitzpatrick.

So agrees a grateful township and nation. RIP Red Dowling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues and friends honor Maria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Robert Reuter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trevor Verga, of Kings Park, was reported missing March 20. Photo from SCPD

Nearly a month after a Kings Park man was reported missing by a family member, his body was found off Piper Lane in Head of the Harbor on April 9.

Dr. Trevor Verga, 45, last spoke to a family member on the phone on March 20 at approximately 1 a.m., according to the Suffolk County Police Department, and was reported missing around 2:15 p.m. that day.

Verga’s 2019 Dodge Ram was found in the parking lot of 500 East Long Beach Road, Nissequogue, and video surveillance from the parking lot showed a man matching Verga’s description exiting the vehicle at approximately 2:30 a.m. on March 20.

According to SCPD, Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the cause of death, which is believed to be noncriminal. 

A graduate of Northport High School, Verga attended American University and received his medical degree from New York University Grossman School of Medicine, according to his obituary on the Branch Funeral Homes website. He joined North Suffolk Cardiology, a location of Stony Brook internists, in 2010 and also served as a clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook University. 

According to Stony Brook Medicine officials, he was the first doctor on Long Island to perform the LARIAT left atrial appendage suture exclusion procedure for atrial fibrillation.

Stony Brook Medicine officials released a statement after news of Verga’s death.

“Dr. Trevor Verga was a beloved Stony Brook Medicine Community Medical Group physician known for his compassion and commitment to his patients and community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Verga’s family, friends, colleagues and patients. To support our community, Stony Brook Medicine has shared with our staff a wide range of counseling services available to help them during this difficult time.”

Verga was also a cardiologist at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson since 2010, according to St. Charles Hospital officials. He was a member of the hospital’s medical board since 2015 and president of the board since 2021. Officials described him as “an esteemed colleague who will be sorely missed.”

“We are deeply saddened to hear of Dr. Trevor Verga’s passing and offer our sincere condolences to his family during this difficult time,” officials said in a statement.

For Dr. Trevor Verga’s full obituary, see

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Kings Park High School. Photo by Rita J. Egan
Karen Lessler

On April 5, Kings Park Central School District Superintendent of Schools Timothy Eagen notified students, parents and guardians that earlier in the day the district was informed of the passing of Karen Lessler, Kings Park High School’s principal.

“This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns and questions for our entire school, especially our students,” he wrote in a letter posted to the district’s website.

The high school made its Crisis Intervention Team available to students, parents and school personnel Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We are tremendously saddened by the loss to our school community and will make every effort to help you and your child as needed” Eagen wrote.

According to her obituary on the St. James Funeral Home website, Lessler passed away on April 4  after a battle with pancreatic cancer, just a few days after her 65th birthday.

She recently retired as the board of education president in the Middle Country Central School District.

“She was a dynamic leader and friend to all,” according to a post on the district’s website.

In a May 2021 TBR News Media article, Lessler said she lived in the Middle Country school district for almost 40 years, leaving Northport to settle with her family in Centereach. She has two adult sons with children of their own. 

File photo/TBR News Media

By Warren Strugatch  

Twenty years ago almost to the day, I met Lee Koppelman, widely regarded as Long Island’s planning czar. Koppelman at the time was well into his four-decade run at the Long Island Regional Planning Board. I was two years into my own tenure as Long Island business columnist at The New York Times. I came to cover the planning board’s April 2002 meeting simply because Lee had gotten both Nassau and Suffolk county executives — Tom Suozzi and Robert Gaffney at the time — to share a podium.

Warren Strugatch was a business columnist for The New York Times when he first met Lee Koppelman

Koppelman told me: “If the two county executives are really going to work together, it augurs well not just for good governance but for good planning. It raises the possibility that we will be able to tear down the imaginary Berlin Wall that divides the Island at Route 110.”

The potential breakthrough never happened. I didn’t think Koppelman thought it would. The interview comment however was classic Koppelman: insightful, erudite, flinty, yet optimistic.

Long-time Setauket resident Lee Edward Koppelman died March 21, two months shy of his 95th birthday. Up until recently, he was still going to work, teaching Public Policy classes at Stony Brook University, after a lifetime of public service.

Koppelman made his name in planning by advocating open space preservation, water quality protection, coastal zone management, and other efforts to balance quality of life with sustainable economic growth, affordable housing, and other quality of life goals. He also mentored three generations of planners, who continue his legacy.

Koppelman’s resume featured long stints as Suffolk County planning director, Regional Planning Board executive director, and director of Stony Brook University’s Center for Regional Policy Studies.

In Suffolk, he bolstered low-density development patterns, strategically expanded roadways, preserved open spaces and protected water supplies. His advocacy helped Suffolk maintain its rural nature even as Nassau grew more congested. Recognizing the need for well-planned development, he helped launch the Hauppauge Industrial Park, Ronkonkoma’s industrial center, and the county court complex in Central Islip.

He also helped extend the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway eastward into the Hamptons, continuing the infrastructure expansion initiated by Robert Moses, variously a mentor, ally, and sharp-elbowed opponent. Later in life, Koppelman enjoyed referencing a letter from Moses which opened: “Dear Knucklehead.”  

Koppelman’s non-salaried regional planning board role was mostly advisory. He was however compensated for numerous studies. He also labored over and drafted four master plans for Long Island, producing enough volumes to line several bookshelves. His 1970 plan alone comprised 60 volumes. Even he laughed at the implausibility of reading them all.

Koppelman is the author or co-author of more than 20 books, including Urban Planning and Design Criteria (Van Nostran Reinhold, 1982), a widely used grad school text. Many of his grad students and protegees have gone on to influential careers themselves.

Over the years, I interviewed Koppelman many times. Lee always made time available, briefed me on the issues, and occasionally needled me with a smile. He displayed an impeccable command of facts. Decades after a discussion he could recite the evidence cited by both sides.

Lee Koppelman was born May 19, 1927, in Manhattan. Raised in Astoria by parents who owned small floral wholesale businesses, Lee joined the Navy in 1945. He returned to start a landscape architecture business; earned an undergrad degree in electrical engineering from City College (1950) and a master’s from Pratt (1964); and a Ph.D. in public administration from New York University (1970).

Lee entered urban planning during the late 1950s when, as president of the Hauppauge Civic Association, he devised a plan that sought to balance economic Lee with sustainable land use management principles. Soon thereafter, Suffolk County executive John V. Klein hired him as director of the Suffolk County Planning Department, where he stayed from 1960 through 1988.  He was named executive director of what was then the Nassau-Suffolk County Regional Planning Board in 1965, making him effectively the region’s planning czar — even if precious little regional planning took place.

Also in 1965, Koppelman joined Stony Brook University as adjunct professor in the marine sciences department. He was named director of the university’s Center for Regional Policy Studies in 1988 and taught classes until September of last year.

Last year, I called Lee seeking his signature on a petition opposing the Gyrodyne company’s development plans for Flowerfield in St. James. My old friend voiced strong opposition to the project but couldn’t sign the petition. I told him I understood. His last words to me were: “Warren, you were always on the side of the angels.”

  Lee Edward Koppelman, may you rest in peace.

 Warren Strugatch is a journalist, consultant, and civic advocate in Stony Brook.