Obituaries for the Week of 11/21

Obituaries for the Week of 11/21

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MaryAnn Nilsen

MaryAnn Nilsen, of Terryville, passed away peacefully in her sleep on the morning of Oct. 29, after an ongoing illness. She was 87.

She was born in Brooklyn to Francis and Margaret O’Sullivan. When she was 18, she met the love of her life, Richard Francis Nilsen, through a blind date. Shortly after their meeting, Richie was drafted by the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was sent overseas. MaryAnn found a job in New York City working for Columbia Gas Pipeline Company as a statistical typist during the war. 

When Richie returned, they rekindled their relationship but soon afterward MaryAnn was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was sent to Homer Folks Tuberculosis Hospital in Oneonta. Richie visited her every week, not missing a single visit over 54 weeks. He proposed to her while she was still at the hospital. After recovering from a new but radical surgery, MaryAnn returned to Brooklyn where she married Richie and they embarked on a 63-year journey and a wonderful marriage. 

Richie and MaryAnn eventually moved to Terryville where they added three more children to their already growing family. She devoted her life to raising her family and participating in the church, initially Infant Jesus Church and then Saint Gerard Majella as founding members. She enjoyed drawing and painting and being with family and her grandchildren. She planned many Fourth of July barbecues over the years, which she cherished as it helped bring her family together. 

MaryAnn leaves behind six married children, Joseph and Denise Nilsen of Livermore, California; Michael and Diana Nilsen of Brooklyn; Francis and Sheryl Nilsen of Sound Beach; Kathleen and Jim Rieger of Garden City; Thomas and Gina Nilsen of Auburn; Rich and Marta Nilsen of Tarpon Springs, Florida; her brother Peter O’Sullivan; 17 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. 

A wake was held Monday, Nov. 4, at Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket, followed by a funeral Mass Tuesday morning, Nov. 5, at Saint Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach. Her final resting place is next to her husband Richie at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.

Dr. William Colden

Dr. William W. Colden died peacefully Oct. 10 with family by his side. He was a respected and dedicated pediatrician for over 40 years. 

He was born and grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn College before serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He was deployed to Germany where he spent his tour of duty as a public health inspector.

Following military service, he attended medical school in Lausanne, Switzerland, before completing his pediatric residency training at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn. At the start of his residency, he met and married his wife Barbara (née Rosendorf). They celebrated their 56th anniversary in July. 

Coinciding with the completion of his training and the birth of two children, Barbara and Bill moved to Setauket to start a medical practice as well as a new life in the suburbs. Their family became complete with the addition of two more wonderful children. 

Life was good, with many fabulous friends and colleagues who were like family. Holidays, trips and the good and bad times were shared. Friends and fellow pediatricians were an important part of his life. The practice that was started in Setauket was moved to Port Jefferson. He was on the medical staff of St. Charles Hospital and John T. Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson and worked at the Stony Brook University Medical Center in Stony Brook. He practiced for more than 40 years and was dedicated to his patients and their families. 

Colden was a collector and a naturalist. As a child, it was coins and stamps. When he was older, he amassed an extensive scallop shell collection. He then became interested in shore bird and duck decoys and had a large, beautiful and varied collection. He was a long-standing member of the Long Island Decoy Collectors Association and enjoyed the exchange of information and camaraderie.

He adored his family. Being a parent to four was not always easy, but he taught, loved and encouraged. He instilled a desire for knowledge and education, as well as a sound work ethic. He was very proud of the adults his children had become. 

He was a loving, loyal, kind and protective husband, father and friend. We all know life is a roller coaster of ups and downs, sick and good health and good times and not so good times. Life has never been dull. Illness did not define the man. In spite of the many serious health issues he had for many years, life had been good. He tried his best and his hardest and did live a rich, full, happy, loving and caring life. 

Colden was the beloved husband of Barbara; the devoted father of Spencer (Lana), Garrett, Daryl (Kristin Tallman) and Carena Lowenthal (Roger); the loving grandfather of Olivia, Sofia, Laurel and Noah; the adored brother of Sheila (Irving) Troob; and was a caring uncle, cousin, colleague and friend.

Funeral services were held at the North Shore Jewish Center where a touching and beautiful service was conducted by Rabbi Aaron Benson.

Thomas James Pentony

Thomas James Pentony, a Korean War Marine veteran who lived for decades in Korea and Southeast Asia, died on Oct. 30 at the VA Medical Center in Northport. Mr. Pentony, who was also awarded a Bronze Star for Valor in Vietnam and received numerous other medals and commendations, had lived in Levittown since leaving Korea for the last time two years ago. He was 87 years old. 

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mr. Pentony joined the Marines in October 1950, just months after a North Korean attack had launched the Korean War and saw brutal combat during his three-year enlistment. British journalist Max Hastings, in his 1987 history “The Korean War,” writes that Sgt. Pentony, then an artillery forward observer with the 5th Marines, “had found boot camp untroublesome after the rigors of a Catholic upbringing in New Jersey, ‘where the nuns taught you that you would die as a martyr if you went fighting communism.’”

After six years in civilian life, Pentony rejoined the Marines in 1959, eventually serving a total of 26 years. His military training included 47 weeks of Thai language in 1962, which he used when serving as an adviser to Royal Thai military forces. He also studied Vietnamese for 47 weeks in 1969 and served two combat tours in Vietnam as an intelligence officer, receiving a battlefield commission there. While serving in the military, Pentony earned a bachelor’s degree from Chaminade University in Honolulu, and also completed coursework for a master’s degree there. 

In 1978, by then a major, Pentony returned to Korea and served four years with the UN Command Military Armistice Commission’s Tunnel Neutralization Team, detecting tunnels North Koreans were digging under the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. In 1982, he retired from the Marine Corps as a major, but continued to live in Seoul as a businessman. 

During these years in Korea, Pentony joined the Seoul Hash House Harriers, which members describe as “a drinking club with a running problem.” At the weekly “Hash” gatherings, he quickly became known as “Kimchi Marine.” Acclaimed for his salty and razor-sharp humor, and his fondness for reciting ribald rhymes by Rudyard Kipling to the assembled, he was named Hash Grand Master in 1982-83. He later served for several years as an Emeritus Master, and each week’s event in Seoul still closes with a rousing and irreverent Marine anthem, which is Pentony’s legacy. Bonds of friendship formed in the Hash lasted for decades, and in Kimchi Marine’s last weeks well wishes flowed in from fellow Hashers all around the world. 

In 1993, Pentony and his wife, Eun-sook “Silver” Suh-Pentony, relocated from Seoul to Phuket, Thailand, where they lived for four years, managing a resort condo complex. Then, returning to the U.S., they lived briefly in Pennsylvania before settling in Phoenix for four years while Silver attended the Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management and worked with Calance Inc. 

In 2002, Pentony and Silver returned to Korea, living for nine years on Cheju Island, then five more years back in Seoul. In August 2017, they left Korea once more, moving to Levittown. 

On March 26, 1953, Pentony was with the 3/5th behind Vegas, when the Chinese overran the American ‘Combat Outposts,’ and the Marines went in to retake the position. Pentony watched, appalled, as the Americans fought their way up the hill under punishing Chinese fire: “I used to think officers were smart. Now I felt: ‘This is stupid. Do they have any plan?’” They just seemed to think: “The Marines will take that hill, frontal assault, that’s it.”  

On the afternoon of March 27, Pentony’s senior gunner officer, a major, was so appalled by the spectacle of infantry still struggling forward, having lost all their own officers, that he received special permission to go forward and lead them himself. His radio operator returned two days later with the dead major’s pistol and watch. 

The March battles for Carson, Reno and Vegas cost the Marine Corps 116 men killed out of a total of over a thousand casualties and inspired some of the most remarkable feats of American courage to come out of the Korean War. Pentony found that his own mood, his attitude to the war, vacillated greatly from day to day: “It was like indigestion: some days you felt very brave, nothing bothered you, sounds at night didn’t worry you. Then on other days, for no special reason you were scary, jumpy — the smallest thing bothered you.” 

The entire book is available free online, in a PDF, at this URL: 

Pentony is survived by his wife, Silver, and a son Thomas Pentony of Levittown, Pennsylvania. He was predeceased by a daughter Deborah Madden and a son Mark. 

A Catholic Mass was celebrated Nov. 9 at St. John Vianney Church in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. Interment followed at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mitchell I. Steinberg 

Mitchell I. Steinberg of East Northport, formerly of Hewlett, died Nov. 8 at 65 years of age. He was the beloved husband of Ellen; loving father of Michael and Trish; cherished son of the late Hyman and the late Ida; dear brother of Paula Anker and her late husband Jeffrey; fond son-in-law of Geraldine Nagle and the late Cornelius; fond brother-in-law of Michael and Susan Nagle, Mary and Robert Giacopino, Neal and Jynel Nagle and Peter and Janine Nagle. He was also loved by his many nieces and nephews. Steinberg worked for J.P. Morgan Chase for 35 years. Visitation was held Nov. 2 at Nolan Funeral Home in Northport. Funeral Mass was celebrated Nov. 3 at St. Philip Neri Church, Northport.

Brian John Olson 

Brian John Olson “Pops” of Northport passed peacefully Nov. 1 at age 74 with his family by his side. He was the beloved husband of Debbie; a loving father of Glenn Olson and Alexis Walsh, her husband (Chris) and cherished Pops to Camden; dear brother to Dana Olson, Linda Glynn and the late Ogden Olson and his wife Warreen; treasured brother-in-law of Jim and Debbie Hall and David and Julie Hall. Olson was the proprietor of Marrone’s Service Station in Huntington Station for over 30 years with longtime friend Rich Grudens. Memorial visitation was held Nov. 6 at Nolan Funeral Home in Northport with a special Air Force Honors tribute. In Pops’ memory, any donations to the Visiting Nurse Service & Hospice of Suffolk Inc at 505 Main St. Northport, NY 11768 are sincerely appreciated.

John C. Byers 

John C. Byers of Northport died suddenly on Oct. 31. He was the loving husband of Allison Strong Byers; beloved father of John C. Jr. and his wife Elizabeth, Jeffrey M., Jillian A. Matusz and her husband Phil, and the late James W. Byers; cherished grandfather of Bella A. Byers, dear brother of Bonnie and the late William Byers. Visitation was held Nov. 6 at Nolan Funeral Home in Northport. Funeral services were held Nov.7 at the funeral home with Rev. Bette Sohm presiding. Interment followed at Northport Rural Cemetery. In John’s memory donations to Harry Chapin Food Bank would be sincerely appreciated to: Long island Cares, the Harry Chapin Food Bank,10 Davids Drive (Harry Chapin Way), Hauppauge, NY 11788-2039 or visit