Village Times Herald

By Rita J. Egan

Wet weather couldn’t stop Santa Claus from visiting Stony Brook Village Center as promised Dec. 3.

Santa’s appearance was part of the 44th annual Ward Melville Heritage Organization Holiday Festival. In addition to photos with the jolly elf, attendees spent the afternoon visiting with animals at the petting zoo and viewing the promenade of trees decked out for the holidays and the train display at W.L. Wiggs Opticians. Carolers also performed throughout the shopping center.

“Despite the weather, hundreds of people came out to see Santa arrive in Stony Brook on the antique fire engine for the 44th time,” said Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president. “What was added this year was a Grinch character to complement Santa, which the children loved. People noted the tree looked fuller than usual and was decorated beautifully. Hundreds tuned into the tree lighting in person and also remotely on our website.”

WMHO trustees and elected officials were on hand for the center’s tree lighting later in the day, followed by a private reception at the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame. Santa showed up once again, telling guests he was surprised that not one child asked for a Barbie doll. He added the popular gift request this year was a Taylor Swift-branded acoustic guitar.

From left to right: Department of Music Chair Christina (Tina) Dahl, Dr. Brian Margolis, Dr. Rachel Bergeson, scholarship recipient Owen Dodds and Katherine and Bob Bayer (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook Advancement)

By Christine McGrath/ Stony Brook News

When Drs. Rachel Bergeson and Brian Margolis became friends with new neighbors Katherine and Bob Bayer, they had no idea they would participate in a tradition spanning 40 years. Rachel and Brian began attending frequent in-house recitals in the Bayers’ home in St. James, where Stony Brook Department of Music graduate students put their talents on display. The Bayers’ special showcase of Stony Brook talent eventually inspired Drs. Bergeson and Margolis to recognize the impact their friends have had on generations of Stony Brook musicians by establishing an endowed scholarship in the Bayers’ name.

The Katherine and Bob Bayer Endowed Scholarship will now be available to graduate students in the Department of Music, with a focus on those studying piano or string instruments. With this scholarship, these close friends will add their impact to the generous way the Bayers have left their imprint on the Department of Music over the years through those recitals.

Rachel and Katherine have strong ties to Stony Brook: Rachel has spent 40 years working as director of the university’s Student Health Services, while Katherine graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a music degree. So, what led to this nearly lifelong connection, and how did this scholarship come to be?

Supporting Students Through Music Concerts

While Katherine studied at Juilliard’s Preparatory Division as a young child, it was not until many years later that she completed her undergraduate degree in music. After she earned her associate degree after high school, she and Bob got married and had a child. Katherine then began working office jobs and helping Bob with his business. Several years later, she decided that she would love to go back to school. “I enrolled in a part-time bachelor’s degree program in music at Stony Brook. It took me five years to graduate!” she said. Each semester, she was required to take lessons with graduate students. “I learned so much from them and how much pressure they were under to prepare for their recitals at the Staller Center,” she said. “They didn’t have many opportunities to prepare.”

Wanting to give back to the Stony Brook Department of Music after she graduated, Katherine asked Bob if he would be open to hosting concerts in their own home, and he was completely on board. “I wanted to give graduate students an opportunity to play through their programs prior to their recital — a sort of practice performance,” said Katherine.

The in-house recitals started small, with just a few neighbors, including Rachel and Brian, attending, and they have grown to about 30 attendees. The couple hosts up to 10 concerts a year, and at the beginning of the fall semester, Katherine will send a letter to Stony Brook’s music department inviting piano and string students to play. “Usually, within minutes, we get a bunch of bios from the musicians,” said Bob. They sort through the bios and choose students based on availability and the music they will play. Those who play piano can perform on the couple’s restored 1876 Steinway concert grand piano.

The Bayers' restored 1876 Steinway concert grand piano.
The Bayers’ restored 1876 Steinway concert grand piano. (Photo courtesy of Katherine and Bob Bayer)

An Invitation Leads to a Scholarship

Rachel said she and Brian have been attending concerts for years. “We are privileged to have been part of this unique audience at their home for such a long time,” she said. In fact, a discussion at one of these performances is what led them to create their scholarship. “We heard there was little funding for the music department and that they were losing interested students to other institutions that provided scholarships,” Rachel said. “We decided to name it after Bob and Katherine simply because of their generosity and spirit that’s always been out there.”

The Bayers were honored and thrilled for the support when they received the news. “We were shocked! It was so generous of them to do this to support graduate students,” said Katherine.

Students perform an in-house recital at the home of Katherine and Bob Bayer.
Students perform an in-house recital at the home of Katherine and Bob Bayer. (Photo courtesy of Katherine and Bob Bayer)

True Music Appreciation

Both couples’ love of music runs beyond the concerts at the Bayers’ home. They often enjoy shows together at the Staller Center. Bob has loved seeing the Emerson String Quartet perform over the years, while some of Katherine’s favorite memories are seeing the recitals of the students who performed in their home. Rachel said she and her husband enjoy the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra shows. “Brian and I grew up with classical music. My mother was an organist, and I sang in the Messiah choir in college,” said Rachel. “Music has always been something that I’ve enjoyed.”

Both couples met the first scholarship recipient, Owen Dodds, who is working on getting his doctorate in music, earlier this year. “Owen is just delightful,” said Rachel. After receiving the scholarship, he performed his recital in the Bayers’ home — on the restored 1876 Steinway piano. “We were very impressed with him,” said Katherine. “He gave a beautiful performance.”

Owen, who not only performs classical music but also composes it, said the scholarship is helping to pay for his tuition. “I’m incredibly grateful for the support from Rachel and Brian,” he said. “It really makes it possible for me to do what I’m doing.” He added that he can’t wait to perform again at the Bayers’ home. “It was such a wonderful experience, and I hope to keep playing there even after I graduate.”

From left to right: Department of Music Chair Christina (Tina) Dahl, Dr. Brian Margolis, Dr. Rachel Bergeson, scholarship recipient Owen Dodds and Katherine and Bob Bayer
From left to right: Department of Music Chair Christina (Tina) Dahl, Dr. Brian Margolis, Dr. Rachel Bergeson, scholarship recipient Owen Dodds and Katherine and Bob Bayer (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook Advancement)

Inspiring Music

The Stony Brook Department of Music is able to attract talented students due to its extraordinary faculty, including Gilbert Kalish, leading professor of piano and head of performance activities, and Department of Music Chair Christina (Tina) Dahl. “Our graduate students go on to have successful music careers — we’ve had quite a few students win a Fulbright,” Tina said. “Stony Brook has a great history of placing music students in good academic jobs. Some graduates joined music faculties at Indiana University, Manhattan School of Music and Yale.”

Tina is grateful to have performed at the Bayers’ home herself as a music student, saying, “We recruit some of the most talented artists to Stony Brook because of student scholarships. Scholarship support not only allows the students to pursue their musical aspirations but also allows the music department to continue growing into a thriving musical community.”

Once students start studying music, being around other musicians is important. “Stony Brook is great because Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) students are all around you,” Owen said. “Being in the music community is so important to growing personally and professionally. We inspire each other.”

Rachel said she and Brian truly believe in the importance of music and the arts in the community. The couple is already considering supporting another scholarship or a Staller Center award in the future.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We have friends who live close to us who are pregnant. Okay, that sounds weird, right? She’s pregnant, and he looks sheepish, like he’s not sure what’s coming.

That’s not entirely fair. He was socially awkward before he brought his small package of genetic material to the pregnancy party. Why would anyone imagine he would be any different in the months before he makes a head first dive down the rabbit hole into the wonders and challenges of parenthood?

Now, if their families are anything like others I’ve known, they are bound to have a wide range of pre and post delivery discussions.

“Are you going to name the baby after my side of the family?”

“Make sure you put sugar, spice and everything nice in the crib or the baby will become colicky like your Aunt Michelle. She was one of the most miserable babies we’ve ever seen and that’s because her mother forgot about the sugar and spice under the crib.”

One of the most fascinating and sometimes confounding parts of the baby discussion, which can extend well into the years that follow, is the family credit for various traits.

To wit, “He’s incredibly serious and focused just like his Uncle Oswald. That Oswald was a man with a purpose from the time he was born, just like your little baby Joey.”

Or maybe, “Morgan has the same broad smile, laugh or sense of humor as her Aunt Carol.”

Each family can dig in, sharing ways that the developing child has characteristics they are convinced come from one side of the family, often from the speaker who has a proprietary interest in propagating the enduring myth of a family heritage.

Such talk suggests somehow that heredity is much more important than environment. The credit can go beyond physical characteristics such as long eyelashes, rounded shoulders, or sparkling eyes: they can include artistic talent, an ability to relate to other people, or a proficiency for languages.

That somehow seems un-American. After all, we the people generally believe that hard work can help people become proficient in any area, developing the kind of talent that differentiates them in their field and allowing them to control their destiny.

Such strong genetic links, while providing an appealing way to connect to ancestors and to those who aren’t around to smile and play with their descendants, is akin, if you’ll pardon the pun, to linking someone’s last name to their profession.

“Oh, the Jones family? Sure, they all became teachers. The Berringtons went into the clothing business, while the Shimmers all became dentists. They all have such gifted dental hands.”

Such blanket statements about where someone’s exceptionalism originated also throws the other sides of the family into the shadows, as if their only role were to ensure the ongoing survival of the dominant and more important family tree.

Family trees, however, like the trees that people decorate around this time of year, have bilateral symmetry, with people decorating each side in popcorn, cranberries and/or holiday lights.

Rarely does anyone do a deep dive into the other side of a family, learning whether the Jones family had faster legs, a quicker wit, better grades or a stronger work ethic.

Then again, the point of these claims isn’t to be scientific, thorough or even fair. It’s a way to connect the children of today with those who came before. Even if people don’t believe in reincarnation, focus on genes, or contemplate the enduring qualities of any family culture, they might feel tremendous joy and comfort hoping that this person’s unwritten life includes future chapters that reflect a familial past that need not be exclusive to one branch, one side or one person.

Story weaving may help give a developing life context and meaning. Ideally, those attributes and connections may remind the family and this new person about the kind of strong and accomplished roots that can help him or her develop into the kind of person he or she chooses to be, which would be a win for everyone.

Bridal Shower, Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This past weekend we traveled to Boston for a remarkable bridal shower. While I have been to many bridal showers before, this one was in honor of my first grandchild’s fiancee. Life is made up of firsts, of course, and we enjoy each of them in a special way. So up to Massachusetts we went for a new adventure.

I thought about my oldest grandson on the drive north. I still keenly remember the thrill of becoming a grandmother, of witnessing the beginning of the next generation. How lucky we grandparents are to reach that moment. I cherish a particular memory of having this adorable toddler running toward me as he entered the room, arms out for a hug, yelling “Grandma! Grandma!” on his arrival with his parents for a visit. Yes, I really was a grandma, I marveled then to myself, before scooping him up in my arms for a proper welcome. 

After all, it’s a rarefied club one can aspire to but one is powerless to join on one’s own.

And that little person, grown up now to a handsome man who gives bear hugs, is extending the family with a new chapter, and I was going to celebrate with his soon-to-be wife.

It’s a phenomenon, this marriage bit, when you think about it. Two people meet, they fall in love, decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together, and the next thing you know, a small army of strangers rush to hug you and welcome you to the family. That’s what happens at a bridal shower, even as the avowed purpose is to help the newly weds set up their home with small gifts. 

In addition, though, the two sides of the family get a chance to meet before the wedding, check each other out under joyful circumstances, then, no longer strangers, look forward to seeing each other at the nuptials. Maybe it’s not an accident that the shower is a women’s only affair. We have been known as the more critical of the sexes. If we have met and enjoyed the prospective extension of the family, the wedding will most likely go smoothly. Or so history might suggest.

Speaking of history, where did the idea of a bridal shower come from? 

Here are two stories. The first dates back to 16th century Holland, where gifts were given to the bride to prepare her for her new life as a married woman if either she was too poor to buy them herself or her father didn’t approve of the marriage and wouldn’t provide a dowry. One such instance involved a father who wanted his daughter to marry a wealthy pig farmer, but she insisted on marrying a miller, who was from a lower class. The girl’s friends then supplied gifts to help her start a home.

The second story is from the Victorian Era. Ladies in those days would gather to wish the bride well, bringing small gifts like notes and home goods. These would be put in an open parasol, and they would “shower” them over her.

Today the bride’s friends and female relatives gather to wish the new bride well and help prepare the home, and that is exactly what happened in the lovely club setting on the water that we attended. My grand daughter-in-law’s shower was organized by her friend since early childhood. The day was bright and sunny on the outside, and so was the mood inside. We met some of her friends, her immediate family, her aunts and cousins, and enjoyed a delicious brunch together. We traded stories of how some of the women had found their husbands, where they now lived, how many children they had, what sort of work they did, in short the usual conversations when strangers first meet. The hit of the day was the clever 1 1/2 year-old son of the hostess who roamed among us and tried to put his sneaker on my foot. Gifts were opened by the bride, pictures were taken, and then slowly we dispersed, promising to see each other at the wedding, now an extended family.

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Suffolk District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney announced on Dec. 6 that Douglas Valente, 57, of Florida, formerly the principal attorney at the Valente Law Group based in Stony Brook, pleaded guilty to three counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, after stealing over $800,000 from three of his former clients by taking their money from his escrow account.

“Over more than two years, this defendant used his attorney escrow account as his own personal slush fund when he took money belonging to his clients and used it for personal and business expenses,” said District Attorney Tierney. “No one is above the law, and my office will continue to prosecute attorneys and other professionals who choose to steal from their clients.”

According to court documents and the defendant’s admissions during his guilty plea allocution, from April 14, 2020, to May 31, 2020, Valente stole proceeds from the sale of an elderly client’s home in the amount $181,201. Valente represented the elderly victim during the sale of her home and the proceeds of the sale were put into Valente’s escrow account. Valente was required to send half of the proceeds to his client and the other half was to be sent to her matrimonial attorney to be held in escrow until her divorce was finalized.

Although Valente did send half of the proceeds to his client, he failed to send the remaining half of the proceeds to the attorney representing her in the matrimonial proceedings. As a result, when his client’s divorce was finalized, she was unable to obtain the remaining proceeds from the sale of her home.

In addition, from September 28, 2020, through October 13, 2020, Valente stole $248,027 from Guaranteed Rate Inc., a mortgage lender. Valente was the attorney and settlement agent for Guaranteed Rate Inc. in a refinance transaction. Guaranteed Rate Inc. wired money to Valente’s escrow account to be dispersed in the transaction. The defendant was supposed to send a portion of the proceeds of the refinanced mortgage to the prior mortgage company to pay off the existing mortgage, but he did not. Because of this, Guaranteed Rate Inc. had to pay off the existing mortgage in the amount of $248,027.

Between May 14, 2021, through September 30, 2022, Valente stole almost $400,000 from a client who had sold a home due to a pending divorce proceeding. Valente represented the client in the sale of the home, and he was to hold the proceeds of the sale in his escrow account to be dispersed when the divorce was finalized. Instead, Valente used the funds for business and personal expenses.

On May 18, 2022, the New York Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District disbarred Valente, making him ineligible to practice law in New York State.

On December 6, 2023, Valente pleaded guilty before Supreme Court Justice, the Honorable Richard Ambro, to three counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Class C felonies. Valente is due back in court on December 11, 2023, and he is being represented by William Keahon, Esq.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Donna M. Planty of the Financial Crimes Bureau, with investigative assistance from Deputy Sheriff Investigator Yvonne Decaro, and Detective Investigator Vincent Neefus of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Save the date! The Three Village Holiday Electric Parade returns to Setauket on Sunday, Dec. 10 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Presented by the Rotary Club of Stony Brook, the procession will begin at the Setauket Elementary School on Main Street and march down Route 25A to Setauket Pond Park. Holiday floats will light up the night with a spectacular display of dazzling lights along with bands,  clubs, businesses and of of course Santa! For more information, visit

Veterinarian Steven Templeton, of Animal Health & Wellness in Setauket, pets his two rescue dogs Penny and Emmy. Penny, the black dog, recently passed away. Photo by Stephanie Templeton

Long Island veterinarians are scratching their heads, unsure of whether reports of a new and as yet poorly-defined respiratory illness in dogs is a new threat or whether the ongoing talk is something of a shaggy dog tale.

“No one knows what it is,” said Steven Templeton, a veterinarian at Animal Health & Wellness in Setauket. “Nobody seems to have a clue. Some suggested it was a weird new bacteria, while others suggested it was viral.”

As of now, a potential respiratory infection, which hasn’t been well-defined and differs in its origin depending on whom you ask, could be contributing to making some dogs in other parts of the country sicker than they might otherwise be from the usual assortment of canine maladies that strike at this time of year.

Templeton has seen an increase in respiratory cases in his practice, although none of the cases has become severe.

Some of the illnesses he’s treated are coming from dogs that have no known exposure to other dogs, which “makes you wonder if they’re not catching it from dogs, and if they’re catching it from people,” Templeton added. “It could be a variant of the flu or COVID.”

When Templeton graduated from veterinary school in 1989, he said the conventional wisdom was that dogs didn’t give people viruses and vice versa. Now, he said, that’s turned around, and humans and their best friends can and do share illnesses.

With conflicting reports that this illness could be viral or bacterial, the infection could be a grab bag description for more than one health threat, Templeton said.

As of now, this mysterious dog illness has reportedly affected dogs in 14 states.

At Animal Emergency Services in Middle Country Road in Selden, veterinarian Melody Ribeiro has had one pneumonia case in a dog, which was straightforward in its treatment. 

The dog recovered.

Advice for dog owners

Dog owners have been asking about reports of this infection.

Ribeiro suggested people who are planning to travel check out the facility where they are bringing their pet to make sure they know how the dogs are handled.

Vets also recommended asking kennels or other boarding facilities if they isolate dogs who are coughing or might be contagious.

Templeton, who finds someone who can care for his dogs at home when he travels, added that minimizing group dog contact at this point might also help.

Similar to the advice health care providers who work with people offered during COVID, veterinarians suggested that dog owners should take special precautions with beloved pets who might be in vulnerable categories or who have underlying medical conditions.

Dogs who are particularly young or old, have conditions that weaken their immune system, have poor organ function or are not fully immunocompetent should stay away from gatherings where they might contract viral or bacterial infections.

“We say the same thing for animals that we say for humans for COVID,” said Templeton. “If they have underlying issues, stay away from public [gatherings]. They could be asking for trouble.”

Other dog challenges

Apart from the threat of one or a combination of infections, veterinarians also suggested that dogs continue to struggle with the carry-over from a pandemic that kept many of their human friends home for extended periods of time.

Dogs “feed off the emotions of their owners,” said Templeton. Owners who are stressed or who are angrier than normal can bring tension into their homes that can make their dogs act out.

Dog owners are increasingly asking veterinarians for drugs to help their dogs cope with anxiety or emotional problems.

“The drug approach is minimally effective,” Templeton said. He urged people to get their dogs training and to work with their pets to minimize their distress.

“Anxious owners have anxious dogs,” added Ribeiro.

Holiday risks

During the holidays, dogs can also get into foods they shouldn’t eat, which can lead to pancreatitis, Ribeiro said.

With the legalization of pot, dogs are also consuming products that have tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

The accidental consumption of THC has occurred over the last few years, with dogs coming in who need medical attention, Ribeiro said. Veterinarians urged people to be cautious about where they store their gummies or other products that might prove an irresistible attraction to their dogs.

Participants from last year's concert. Photo from Daniel Kerr/All Souls Church

Historic All Souls Church, 61 Main Street, Stony Brook invites the community to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas as it joins with eleven other faith communities to present its annual Lessons and Carols Christmas concert on Saturday, December 9 at 6 p.m.  

Heidi Schneider will be the featured soloist this year.

The free concert will feature Stony Brook University soprano Heidi Schneider and tell the story of the Nativity in scripture and song.  Heidi’s solos will include “Ave Maria,” “Silent Night,” and “Away in the Manger.” 

Local guitarist Bill Clark and his Brave Trio will also perform “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Hallelujah,” and “What Child Is This?”All attending will be invited to sing “Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels” as All Souls organist Dan Kinney plays the church’s 1855 Tracker Organ.

The readings will be done by clergy and lay people from The Stony Brook School, Caroline Church, Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, Messiah Lutheran Church, St. Gerard Majella RC Church, Stony Brook Community Church, the Three Village Church, Religious Society of Friends in St. James, the Little Church of Smithtown Landing, St. James RC Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook.

There will be a 15-minute intermission and refreshments will be served. All Souls Church collects food each week to feed the hungry at the St Gerard Majella’s food pantry. Please bring a can of food to donate (“Lend a hand, bring a can”). 

Please call 631-655-7798 for more information.

Photo courtesy the Matkovic Family

Prepared by the Matkovic Family

Martina Matkovic was born in White Plains in 1943 while her father was serving in World War II.  When he returned, the family moved to Ossining, New York, where she spent the rest of her childhood.

She graduated from Ossining High School in 1959 and later from White Plains Hospital School of Nursing. She met her husband, Chris, at a mixer in 1964. They moved to Boston in 1965, where she began her career as an orthopedic scrub nurse at the Lahey Clinic.

In 1968, they married in Westchester. They moved to New York City in 1970, where Chris attended medical school, and their first child was born. From 1974-79, they lived in Pittsburgh, where their second child was born. They moved to Stony Brook in 1979, where they had resided ever since.

Martina had a passion for choral music and was an active member of the Long Island Symphonic Choral Association since 1980, where she served as vice president for many years. She loved tending to her garden and belonged to the Three Village Garden Club. She was active in various charitable endeavors organized by the Setauket Presbyterian Church.

Most recently, she volunteered at the local soup kitchen and with Meals on Wheels. She enjoyed her many friends, book clubs and traveling (including bicycle excursions).

There was nothing she loved and enjoyed more than spending time with her four beautiful grandchildren. She is survived by her husband, Chris; her children, Chris and Mara; her sister, Carolyn; and her grandchildren, Max, Molly, Hunter and Henry.