By Heidi Sutton
Walt Whitman Birthplace Association State Historic Site in Huntington Station hosted a time capsule ceremony on Aug. 5 in honor of Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday. Conducted by the WWBA’s board of trustees and WWBA Executive Director Cynthia Shor, the historic event was attended by many public officials on state, county and town levels, members of the chambers of commerces, Walt Whitman personator Darrel Blaine Ford and members of the public. Guest speakers included Long Island Parks Regional Director George “Chip” Gorman, NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Town of Huntington Deputy Supervisor John McCarron.
The event also celebrated the life of William T. Walter, Ph.D. (1931-2020) who served on the WWBA Board of Trustees in 1980 and was Trustee President from 1980-1984 and again from 2010 to 2020. Described as “a visionary” at the ceremony, Walter was instrumental in the creation of the WWBA Interpretive Center which opened in 1999. He also served as the Chairman of the Town of Huntington Beautification Council for over 40 years. Walter’s widow, Sukey, her three sons and family were in attendance for the event. William R. Walter spoke fondly of his father and recited Whitman’s poem “From Montauk Point.”
The idea for the time capsule was initiated by WWBA Trustee Jo-Ann Raia in recognition of Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday in 2019. A committee consisting of Raia, Dr. Maria Basile and Mark Nuccio was formed and funds were obtained from the Town of Huntington’s Cultural Affairs Division with no additional cost to taxpayers. The COVID pandemic sidelined the event until now.
When buried in the near future, the 12” by 12” stainless steel time capsule will contain Whitman memorabilia including a mug and medallion, a boxed original Nathan Hale bicentennial coin from the Town of Huntington along with a photocopy of the original wax seal from the establishment of the Town of Huntington signed by Supervisor Ed Smyth, two coins honoring Long Island State Parks staff, a copy of the Suffolk Hotel Motel bill sponsored by Assemblyman Englebright, manuscripts commemorating the life of William T. Walter, written historic texts and books along with newspaper articles of the current times reflecting a significant economic, political, or social news event and a scroll containing all the names of the event’s attendees on acid-free paper. The time capsule itself has a shelf-life of 200 years.
“The historical materials that we have put into the time capsule tell the story of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association. It is a story of our success in bringing to life the voice and values of “The Good Gray Poet” for generations to come,” said Trustee President Jack Coulehan, MD.
A boulder donated by WWBA Trustee Steve Gittelman will be placed at the site with a commemorative plaque inscribed: “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.” — W.W., Song of Myself, Section 52. The time capsule will be opened during Walt Whitman’s 250th birthday celebration in 2069 and then every 50 years henceforth.
“It’s really an incredible cultural asset that we are here to support and to make sure Walt Whitman is remembered 50 years from now when this time capsule is opened. I don’t think anyone is going to forget Walt Whitman. He is one of the literary giants of Western civilization. He is America’s poet,” said Englebright.