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Belle Terre

Photograph of an American tank during the Battle of the Bulge, above. File photo from Getty Images

“The same day I saw my first horror camp. It was near the town of Gotha [in Germany]. I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency. Up to that time I had known about it only generally or through secondary sources. I am certain, however, that I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.” — Supreme Allied Cmdr. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

At that moment almost 78 years ago, Hitler’s Third Reich was rapidly crumbling away.

This was in large part due to the massive strength of Eisenhower’s armies, which were determined to finish the war in Europe. With the end in sight, Allied soldiers entered German soil with the hope of receiving a speedy surrender. During this advance, American soldiers quickly noticed that the enemy had some notable similarities to their own countrymen. 

The German population was similar in size to the American middle class, and lived in heated homes surrounded by picturesque natural beauty from the German and Austrian landscapes. As Allied forces continued their eastward push, however, any feelings of closeness with the enemy quickly evaporated, as they had come to learn of Hitler’s “final solution.” American soldiers, many from neighborhoods along Long Island’s North Shore, had discovered and liberated the German death camps. 

For the men who witnessed this shocking brutality, these experiences would never be forgotten. Although hardened by the Battle of the Bulge and other combats against a fanatical resistance unwilling to surrender its losing cause, Americans were utterly unprepared for the scenes at these camps. Some had heard of the cruel treatment inflicted by the Nazis, but they were horrified after entering these camps. At once, the medics distributed food, water and medical treatment to save as many lives as they could. 

After visiting the Ohrdruf concentration camp on April 12, 1945, a sickened Eisenhower said, “We are told the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, we know what he is fighting against.” Renowned journalist and radio broadcaster Edward R. Murrow accompanied the American 6th Armored Division into the Buchenwald concentration camp. Laying witness to the atrocities, he reported, “I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I have reported what I saw, but only part of it. For most of it I have no words. … If I’ve offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I’m not in the least sorry. I was there.”  

“The inmates liberated by our forces were skeletons. … It was enough to make strong men weep — and some American officers did so unabashedly.”

— Robert Murphy

Diplomat Robert Murphy was also present to see the conditions of these camps. He recalled: “The inmates liberated by our forces were skeletons. … It was enough to make strong men weep — and some American officers did so unabashedly.” Many American soldiers were ordered to see these camps for themselves, as Eisenhower wished to prevent any future deniers of the Holocaust.

Two local heroes

Among these soldiers was the late John D’Aquila, resident of Belle Terre. A member of the 11th Armored Division, he served under Gen. George S. Patton’s famed Third Army. D’Aquila was a native of Middletown, Connecticut, who landed in France during the Battle of the Bulge. As a medic, he was ordered toward the strategic Belgian town of Bastogne which was surrounded by German forces. During one of the worst winters in recorded history, D’Aquila treated wounded soldiers as they turned back this German offensive. For his valiance and unceasing treatment of wounded servicemen, D’Aquila received a Purple Heart after being wounded during this battle.

Like many other soldiers at the end of this war, D’Aquila wondered if he would survive. On May 5, 1945, the 11th Armored Division entered the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. By the end of the war, those camps in Central Europe had considerably higher death rates as they were the last to be captured by Allied forces. D’Aquila remembered the inability of the local Austrian citizens to accept responsibility for the savagery committed there, despite the stench of death that hung in the air, the piles of bodies stacked up “like cordwood.”  

After the war, D’Aquila attended college and later earned a degree in law, where he defended the interests of insurance companies. Locally in Port Jefferson, he was on the board of directors of Theatre Three, and a play was later created by Jeffrey Sanzel, “From the Fires: Voices of the Holocaust.” Until his death, D’Aquila openly addressed his wartime experiences because he wanted to ensure that citizens, especially the youth, did not forget the severity of the Holocaust.

In 2008, D’Aquila described his experience of liberating Mauthausen during a Veterans Day program at Rocky Point High School. As though it had just occurred, D’Aquila spoke of his duty to medically care for the survivors of the concentration camp as they were finally being liberated. At another program at the high school, D’Aquila joined Werner Reich, who had survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Mauthausen, and was liberated by the 11th Armored Division.  

Reich was a 17-year-old young man who weighed only 64 pounds at the time of his liberation. In this condition, he was not expected to survive. At RPHS, he looked at the audience and vividly stated that if it had not been for Americans like D’Aquila, then he would have surely perished from starvation. Although from different backgrounds, both men were inextricably tied to one another through their shared experience of “man’s inhumanity to man.” For years, Reich has spoken to high schools across the North Shore to ensure that good people do not stand by when innocent people suffer from such atrocities. 

Even though World War II ended long ago, the world now watches history repeat itself through the images of fighting in the Ukraine. Americans are again learning of the massive losses of Ukrainian civilians suspected of being killed by Russian forces. People such as D’Aquila and Reich made it their mission in life to alert people that history will repeat itself if good people do nothing. We must learn from the examples of the past, we must always act, protect and preserve the rights and freedoms of people everywhere.  

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

The Port Jefferson Country Club at the edge. Photo from Village of Port Jefferson

It’s been a long and harrowing timeline of events for local officials and residents who use East Beach and the surrounding country club.

For years now, the village has been preparing for this moment, where the tennis courts and Port Jefferson Country Club have seemingly moved to the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach thanks to climate change and the ever-increasing erosion.

To the naked eye, one can see a gazebo in photos hanging by a thread. The tennis courts will be next. Eventually, if nothing is done, the club could potentially collapse into the harbor and have devastating impacts on the local environment. Over the course of several months, Mayor Margot Garant, village administrator Joe Palumbo and the village trustees have been anticipating this moment where something needs to be done now.

“We lost so much material,” Garant said. “The deck is approximately 30 feet from the bluff line … the gazebo isn’t there anymore. We’re getting very, very close to the bluff.”

Because the tennis courts are so close to the edge now, tennis at the country club had to be canceled for this season.

A view of the eroding bluff. Photo from Village of Port Jefferson

The backstory

In February, a representative from CGI Engineering, Varoujan Hagopian, presented to the board what could happen with three different options on the table: build a wall at the bottom of the bluff; renovate the building and surrounding areas upland; or do nothing at all.

Hagopian said that many clients he works with on the Eastern Seaboard are experiencing the same, or similar issues. “If you do nothing, this kind of erosion will continue,” he said. “I estimate the building will be totally damaged or gone in three to five years. I’m not trying to scare you, but these are realistic calculations.”

Hagopian added that although the building might be gone, that means it will impact the road and East Beach as a whole. The erosion won’t stop at the club.

Two weeks later at the March 3 work session, the board listened in to Garant’s presentation on the bluff, where she gave a detailed history of just how much East Beach has been through over the last decade.

The restoration project began in 2010, with engineering group GEI working on several projects that included the sea wall restoration, the west end wall extension, a ramp installation, a large jetty project and sand dredging, which was finally completed in 2021.

Garant said that the village and its surrounding beaches have seen devastating effects of different storms throughout the years, including Irene, Sandy and more recently, Isaiah back in September.

Aerial shot of Port Jefferson Country Club. Photo from Village of Port Jefferson

Finding funding

Meanwhile, Palumbo has been working with the DEC and with FEMA applications to try to get some federal funding — a feat that takes a lot of time and a lot of patience.

The East Beach Bluff Stabilization Phase I project’s DEC permit was originally filed in 2016, finally being awarded in June 2021, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval being obtained in September.

The DEC approved plans call for 454 linear feet of steel wall and rock revetment with tiebacks to stabilize the lower bluff and bolstering the “groin” to prevent further erosion into the roadway, according to a February presentation.

A significant expense of the entire project is the replanting of the entire flank of the hill which includes core logs, erosion control blankets, wood terracing, soil anchors and tens of thousands of native plants, including woody plants, beach and switch grasses.

The comprehensive project and detailed drawings were put out for competitive bidding. Twelve bids came in ranging from $4.8 million to $6.2 million. Funding the project will require a bond initiative, which will have an impact of increasing the typical household tax bill by approximately $147 per annum over the 15-year term if no other sources of funding are available or if no other budgetary changes are made.

The final awarded bid for the lower wall project ended up being $4.3 million. But when it comes to federal funding, the village is competing with other locations which have had their share of issues with Mother Nature.

“We were denied the application for the reimbursement of the bluff, they claimed, in short, that it was an existing condition,” Palumbo said. 

“We’re appealing that because we know it’s a preexisting condition and it’s going to be a condition that will continue to occur if our measures aren’t taken to the bluff.” 

The village has recently enlisted the assistance of Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who is offering his full support to the appeal to FEMA and helping to seek other funding sources. 

Palumbo added that he has been in talks with decision makers with FEMA weekly, and has been scouring to find other types of funding that could help offset the cost.

“This is probably one of the most expensive projects any municipality on Long Island has ever had to deal with,” Garant said. “This is a severe erosion issue and it’s not going away. We might lose a lot more than we already have lost if we don’t act quickly.” 

For more information, including the plans to stabilize and restore the bluff, visit the website portjeff.com/eastbeachbluff. 

Stan Loucks, a lover of the outdoors, kayaking in the Adirondacks. Photo from Ron Carlson

Port Jefferson Village trustee Stan Loucks puts his all into everything he does. 

A resident of Belle Terre for more than 40 years, he has been involved with different aspects of the village for nearly a quarter of a century. 

Retired after decades in education as the athletic director of the Plainview-Old Bethpage school district, he has now devoted his life now to serving his community in the village as liaison to the country club and village recreation. 

But along with his constant community service, he also took on the role as trustee six years ago and was reelected this past summer for another term.

“I’m proud of my accomplishments up at the country club,” he told TBR News Media in May as he began campaigning. “I introduced the bond to build a new maintenance facility up at the country club, we put in a new irrigation system, we created a new fitness center, renovated the locker rooms, increased our membership twofold. Over the years, I just want to continue to improve. I’ve got ideas about going forward with pickleball up at the country club and many more ideas to come down the road.”

With the country club, he has been on the tennis board, the board of governors, as well as on the management advisory committee.

Stan Loucks with other village officials at the Fourth of July parade this year. Photo from Peggy Loucks

Longtime friend and former employee Ron Carlson said that Loucks’ service to the village covers over two decades. 

“His service began as a volunteer for the country club management advisory committee,” he said. “He initially served as greens chairman, and several years later was appointed president of the CCMAC.”

Carlson added that after 12 years as a volunteer, he decided to further his commitment to the village, run for trustee, was elected and became appointed as deputy mayor. 

In his role as trustee, he is responsible for overseeing the operations of both the recreation department and the country club, including management of all programs, beaches, parks and the operation of the Village Center. 

As country club liaison, he oversaw the construction of the new maintenance facility, renovations to the golf pro shop and snack bar, fitness center, card room, golf scoreboard and patio area.

Carlson said that during those builds, he would not give commands — he’d be in the trenches with the contractors doing work. 

“It’s not something he takes lightly,” Carlson said. “Nobody has ever gotten involved like he does.”

He added that over the past 20 years, Loucks “has given thousands of hours to the benefit of all village residents. He is well liked and respected by all who know him and is a true leader and gentleman.”

Carlson, who has worked in the village for 50 years, said that he has “never witnessed a trustee more involved and more personally engaged in projects involving the village.”

“He dives right in and does it himself,” he added. “He gets involved personally.”

Mayor Margot Garant, who named him deputy mayor last term, said that he’s personable and an advocate for his community. 

“You cannot help but like him,” she said. “He’s a perfect fit for public service.”

Peggy Loucks, his wife, said that since he worked so long in education, he always loved kids and sports — which eventually led him to become involved with the village’s recreation department and its activities. 

“When he’s elected or asked to do something, he’s extremely dedicated,” she said. “He’s a really hard worker.”

Stan Loucks during the Village Cup Regatta this summer. Photo from Peggy Loucks

She joked that although he’s been retired, he works so much for his community that she still barely sees him. 

“He cannot sit still,” she said with a laugh. “You just can’t stop him from working.”

Peggy Loucks thinks that to him, getting involved is not just a job — it’s a passion that he lives for. 

“He feels that people should be giving back to the community,” she said. “We love it here, and he’d give you the shirt off his back.”

Carlson agreed.

“Recognition of his 20-plus years of outstanding community service is long overdue,” he said. 

Photo by Gerard Romano

SILVER BELLS

Gerard Romano of Port Jefferson Station was out with his camera on Dec. 17 ‘looking for something appropriate for the season’ when he spied these pretty bells adorning the door of the Belle Terre Village Hall and took the perfect shot. Happy Holidays!

Send your Photo of the Week to [email protected]

Photo from Dani Adler

Dani Adler, originally of Port Jefferson, is always up for a challenge. 

Earlier this summer, NewBeauty Magazine sent out a notice looking for women to compete in its Fab Over 40 competition. The winner will receive a two-page spread in the magazine, $40,000 cash and a spa trip.

Spending most of her life as a model and actress, Adler, currently of Miller Place, got involved with the competition on a whim and now she’s asking for your help to win. 

“I’m trying to get every vote I can,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a close call, and I don’t want to take any chances.”

Photo from Dani Adler

The former Miss Belle Terre has had quite the career; she competed in beauty pageants across the state, was an extra on “Baywatch” and modeled most of her adult life. After leaving Port Jeff to pursue a life in Manhattan, she eventually landed in California for seven years where she began working in event planning. While hanging among the stars, she had a stint working on the Queen Mary and alongside celebrities like Danny Aiello, John Travolta and Sonny Bono.

When she came back to New York for a what was meant to be a quick visit, she ended up staying because she fell in love and decided to start up her own company, Red Carpet Parties, 10 years ago.

But because of COVID-19, that industry was rocked. She was unable to plan for events when things were constantly being cancelled. 

“When I saw the competition on Facebook, I was just looking for something new to do,” she said. “I’ve never done anything like this online — I’ve done competitions before, and I’ve done well — but I’ve never done an internet competition … so I said, ‘What the heck,’ and went for it.”

As of Wednesday, Sept. 1, she was number two in her group. On Thursday, Sept. 2 voting closes, and if she makes it to the number one spot, she will be brought to the next round of competitions. 

She said that the contest includes dozens of women of all different ages. They were separated into several different groups, and as of this week, the winners of each group will go head-to-head for the final prize to be announced at the end of the month.

“I’m just moving along, trying to get those votes up,” she said. “It’s like pulling teeth, and I’m glad I’m not running for mayor because I don’t know what I do!” she joked.

But she likes the challenge and has always stepped out of her comfort zone for new things. 

“I’ve always jumped onto every opportunity,” she said. “You never know what doors are going to open up at any age. I tell people it doesn’t matter what age you are. Just go for it — you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Every day, people can vote for Adler to help her get closer to the prize. She said with the $40,000 prize, she’d donate a chunk of it to animal rescue.  

“My mother always taught me charity — the moment you get something you give it to somebody else first,” she said. “That’s what I want to do right now.”

A lover of butterflies, she’d also put the funds towards her Monarch Way Station to help keep the monarch population going. 

While voting for her group’s finalists ends Thursday, those who would like to support Adler’s competition can vote online at votefab40.com/2021/dani-adler.

Susan Lobacz, Joanne Wright and Kim Olenick at the new Port Jefferson Plant Cutting Swap Station inside the library. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Sharing is caring.

Recently, the Suwassett Garden Club partnered up with the Port Jefferson Free Library to bring the community together with plants. 

“What we’re doing is we are encouraging the community to swap plant cuttings,” said Susan Lobacz, co-president. “We’re asking people to bring them in, and then take a new one home.”

Inside the library, a small table stands with mason jars filled with leaves and roots. Plastic cups are on the bottom shelf, so people who want to plant something different at home can bring a piece of it back with them. 

The fun and different idea comes with the hope that new members could potentially join.

“We’re hoping that with this collaboration, we’ll be able to encourage people to become part of this Suwassett Garden Club,” said co-president Kim Olenick. “So, there’ll be applications right next to the plants.”

The Suwassett Garden Club is a small local club, started in the 1940s, that serves Port Jefferson, Belle Terre and the surrounding communities. Known for their annual fundraisers, Antiques and Garden Weekend — with the historical society — and wreath makings for holidays and the Port Jefferson Dickens Festival, things were different over the last year. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Lobacz said that pre-pandemic, the club would host field trips and hands-on gardening tips. They have sponsored fashion shows, luncheons and participate in an annual “garden therapy” program with veterans at the Stony Brook Veterans Association.   

Alternate years, the garden club plants a tree in either Port Jefferson or Belle Terre and on Arbor Day this year, they planted a new one by the basketball courts near Rocketship Park. 

On top of all that, the Suwassett Garden Club also sponsors a high school scholarship and maintains the flower garden at the Mather Museum. They are currently supporting a new children’s garden that is being pursued by the village. 

Meetings are usually the first Wednesday of the month at 11 a.m. in the Belle Terre Community Center. Due to COVID, meetings have been held via Zoom.

Past co-president Joanne Wright said she joined the club years ago because it sounded different. 

“I had recently retired and wanted to meet new people,” she said. “Even though I was local, I didn’t know a lot of people and it was a good way to meet new people.”

Other perks are learning new things with different workshops. 

People who are interested in joining can pick up a plant at the library, or email [email protected]

Stock photo by Kyle Barr

Belle Terre residents came out Tuesday to vote on two trustee positions, where Richard Harris beat incumbent Dr. Caroline Engelhardt.

According to village clerk Joanne Raso, 225 ballots were cast on June 15. Harris, along with incumbent Dr. Richard Musto, on the Citizens Party platform, took the two titles home: Harris with 136 votes and Musto with 159; Engelhardt received 112 votes

Musto has been a resident of Belle Terre for over 30 years. Now ready for his third term, he previously told TBR News Media he brings 70-plus years of life experience to the table. “I have a strong interest in the village,” he said. “I want to keep it going — I enjoy living here.”

Harris had said he previously never wanted to work in politics, but saw that change was needed in Belle Terre. He said he plans on using his 20 years of professional experience to make the village better.

“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the village where I live,” he said. 

After moving to Belle Terre with his wife seven years ago, “We could not think of a better place to raise our family,” he said. He is the father of two school-age boys.

Photo from Richard Harris

Harris said he  has served as counsel to town and village boards, planning and zoning boards, conservation boards, public safety commissions, code enforcement and emergency management departments and agencies conducting internal affairs. Currently, he serves as Port Jefferson deputy village attorney and Belle Terre special prosecutor. 

Since moving to Belle Terre, he has served on the traffic safety committee, where he recommended traffic calming measures on Cliff Road, helped build a second kayak rack at Knapp Beach and served on the recently reconvened marina committee. 

After the announcement of his win, Harris said he is honored that his neighbors in Belle Terre elected him as their trustee.

“The role of a trustee in a small village is to ensure that quality of life issues are constantly monitored and addressed efficiently,” he said. “With this in mind, and as I promised during my candidacy, I will be getting to work immediately with the rest of the board to address traffic safety issues, environmental concerns and beach improvements, as well as other pending matters.”

Harris wanted to thank everyone who gave him the chance to continue contributing to the village.

“I’d also like to publicly acknowledge and thank Dr. Caroline Engelhardt for her service to the community, both as a trustee and, even more importantly, as a doctor on the frontlines,” he said. “Her contributions and concern for all of us cannot be overstated.”

Stock photo by Kyle Barr

On Tuesday, June 15, Village of Belle Terre residents can vote in the election for two trustee positions. 

This year’s candidates are incumbent Richard Musto on the Citizens Party ballot, with newcomer Richard Harris. Incumbent Caroline Engelhardt is on the Residents Party ballot.

Musto has been a resident of Belle Terre for over 30 years. Running for his third term, Musto said he brings 70-plus years of life experience to the table. 

“I have a strong interest in the village,” he said. “I want to keep it going — I enjoy living here.”

Before his retirement, he spent two years of service in the Navy, with one year of sea duty and a second year at the Naval Air Station in San Diego, with a rank of lieutenant commander.  

After his residency at Downstate Medical Center, he joined a urology group in Port Jefferson in 1977 and remained there until 2014. 

Since then, he has been president of the medical staff at St. Charles Hospital and Peconic Bay Medical Center. Musto has been chief of urology at Mather Hospital, and a member of the board of trustees at Peconic Bay Medical Center for the last 15 years.

Richard Harris is running for his first term as trustee and said he can bring 20 years of professional experience. 

“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the village where I live,” he said. 

After moving to Belle Terre with his wife seven years ago, “We could not think of a better place to raise our family,” he said. He is the father of two school-aged boys.

Photo from Richard Harris

Harris said he  has served as counsel to town and village boards, planning and zoning boards, conservation boards, public safety commissions, code enforcement and emergency management departments and agencies conducting internal affairs. Currently, he serves as Port Jefferson deputy village attorney and Belle Terre special prosecutor. 

Since moving to Belle Terre, he has served on the traffic safety committee, where he recommended traffic calming measures on Cliff Road, helped build a second kayak rack at Knapp Beach and served on the recently reconvened Marina Committee. If elected, he has a list of goals he plans to accomplish.

“I know how to make government work for all residents,” he said. “I will use my expertise and my municipal and law enforcement contacts to improve traffic safety in the village, to address erosion and water runoff issues, add amenities to our village beaches, and examine options to fund and build a village marina.”

Caroline Engelhardt has lived in her home in Belle Terre for the last 23 years. After from New York College of Osteopathic Medical School in 1988, she did her first two years of residency in anesthesiology at Beth Israel Medical Center/Mt. Sinai in New York City, followed by a third year at the University Medical Center of Pittsburgh and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. After residency, she became a partner with Long Island Anesthesia Physicians in Port Jefferson and has been a senior partner for over 25 years serving patients at St. Charles Hospital, Mather Hospital, Peconic Bay Medical Center and Mercy Hospital. 

Engelhardt has served on several boards and volunteered with Doctors Without Borders. She is a teaching faculty member at Northwell/Hofstra Medical School.

Engelhardt did not respond to TBR News prior to press time. 

Residents can vote for two of these three candidates from 12 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Community Center in Belle Terre. 

Photo from Melyssa Cornell

Longtime Belle Terre resident Joanne Wright Cornell passed away on May 16 at 80 years old. 

Born on Jan. 31, 1941, in Staten Island, she leaves behind a vibrant legacy in the Port Jefferson community after decades of service.

Starting off as a model in Manhattan and working on Wall Street with stock and bond traders, she moved to Long Island in the early 1970s where she entered the world of real estate. 

“Her emotional intelligence was incredible,” said her daughter, Melyssa Cornell.

Joanne formed a lifelong friendship and business partnership with Eileen Petsco, together forming Cornell/Petsco Real Estate. The duo started their firm in a modest small office space, eventually growing into a larger building on East Main Street that lasted almost four decades. 

“Joanne was a perfect partner,” Petsco said. “In 37 years, we never had a serious argument. She was a tireless worker and a valued friend.” 

Their friendship lasted long after their firm shutdown. 

Photo from Melyssa Cornell

“A few years ago, we were kidding around about what epitaph we wanted on our gravestones,” Petsco added. “We settled on this for Joanne: ‘My candle burns at both ends, it shall not last the night, but oh my friends and oh my foe, how brilliant was the light.’ The world will be a dimmer place without Joanne to light the path. She will be deeply missed.” 

While building up her real estate business, Joanne was also a single mother who worked hard to create a successful life and business, and gave back to her community in a multitude of ways.

“The early 1970s wasn’t the easiest time for a woman to launch a business,” Melyssa said, “But she and Eileen did an incredible job creating an extremely successful company.”

Joanne was vice president and then president of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, and president of the Belle Terre Community Association. She supported a multitude of the area’s charities and civic functions.  

Along with her other hats, Joanne was a founding member of the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, and chaired the ladies day golf outings at the country club for many years.  

She immersed herself in community pride chairing the Fourth of July committee and was known as the Easter Bunny and Mrs. Claus for years in the parades.  

“She made the community a better place because of the professional and civic leadership she demonstrated over the years,” Melyssa said. “Her legacy is extraordinary — she lived life to the fullest with an incredible zest for life, a mischievous twinkle in her eye and her dancing shoes on. She was always the life of the party, the first on the dance floor and the last one off — life to her was not a dress rehearsal.”

Melyssa added that her mother should be remembered for her strength, fierce loyalty, honesty and that she welcomed all. She was a true friend to everyone — and still had so many lifelong friendships going back to elementary school.

“Joanne Cornell was a professional, a dedicated member of her community, a warm, welcoming and generous friend and a gracious hostess on all occasions,” said Denise Adler, one of Joanne’s closest friends. “She believed in making life more joyful for all those she touched.”

Melyssa said that her mother “knew how to make a moment last and always believed that the best of times is now. … She did what she said she would do — always.”

She is remembered by TBR News Media publisher, Leah Dunaief for her sense of community and service. 

Photo from Melyssa Cornell

“Joanne had a great sense of fun even as she was very good at her job,” she said. “I enjoyed working with her on the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, where she gave many hours on behalf of helping the business community and the village. She and Eileen Petsco were a dynamic duo, personifying successful business executives at a time when not many women were in business. They were the founders of Cornell/Petsco Real Estate, and their race horse weather vane was a frequently seen icon.”

Joanne leaves behind her daughter Melyssa, and a grandson, Ryan Cornell Thorpe, 17, who both live in Virginia. She is survived by her sisters Leslie Ellerbrook and Judy Repage, both of New Jersey.

“We found fun and laughter in every adventure,” Melyssa said. “We loved Broadway, and, to her, life was a cabaret. My mom made every moment special. When I was super young, and she was working hard to make it in real estate, we didn’t have much money, but we would always sit down and have dinner by candlelight — usually Chunky soup. She didn’t wait for the special moments to happen — she created them.”               

A Celebration of Life will be held in honor of Joanne at The Country House in Stony Brook on June 30 from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. 

“A life so beautiful deserves a special celebration and we welcome anyone who would like to come and share in the memories, the love and the laughter of her life that was lived to the fullest with us,” Melyssa said.

Miriam with great-grandaughter, Ella. Photo from Jeff Remz

Miriam (Groman) Remz, a long-time resident of Belle Terre and former business manager of the Port Jefferson school district, passed away from COVID-19 on Feb. 21 at the age of 94 in Brookline, Mass.

Miriam was born on Dec. 15, 1926 in Czestochowa, Poland, the only child of Israel and Gertrude Groman. She moved with her parents to Brussels, Belgium at the age of 2, where she lived until emigrating to New York on March 1, 1938, avoiding the terrible fate that awaited most of the remaining Jews in Europe.

Miriam considered that date her second birthday, special to her because it represented the beginning of her new life in the United States.

Miriam graduated from City College of New York in 1946 with a degree in business administration and accounting. She then worked in a New York City accounting firm where she met Louis (Leo) Remz. 

Miriam and Leo Remz. Photo from Jeff Remz

After he popped the question and was told “I’ll get back to you,” (she said “yes” a week later), the two were later married on Feb. 17, 1948 in the Bronx.

They moved to Port Jefferson in 1949 where Louis worked with his brother, Morris, at M. Remz (later Louis Remz Supply), a feed and grain business —which eventually added bakery ingredients, as well — located next to the Port Jefferson train depot. 

Having moved to Cliff Road, Belle Terre where they built a house, Miriam took time off from work to raise a family of three boys. The Remzes were among the founding families of the North Shore Jewish Center, then in East Setauket. 

Miriam would later become president of the Sisterhood and a member of the Board of Trustees of the synagogue.

Miriam returned to work in 1963, spending her career with the Port Jefferson school district. She worked first as an account clerk and later became the business manager, a position she held until she retired in 1991.

Miriam was a world traveler — visiting more than 150 countries and all 50 states (North Dakota was the last that she visited — not to mention all U.S. territories. 

Her final major international trip was in August 2016 at the age of 89 for the wedding of her granddaughter in Tel Aviv, Israel. 

Miriam had a keen sense of adventure, enjoying interactions with people from other countries and cultures and enjoyed learning history. But sometimes her love of travel got the better of her judgment. 

On one occasion, already well into her 80s, she visited eastern Turkey at a time when the Syrian civil war had spilled into that region, very close to where she had planned to visit. When asked by her children why she would go there, she said she had already been to western Turkey three times, so she had to see the rest of Turkey.

After her husband Leo passed away in 1994, Miriam continued traveling at an even more frenetic pace, doing about six trips around the world each year.

In addition to her travels, Miriam was passionate about many things in life, including education, her family, Israel and the Jewish people, theater and the arts. 

A formal photo of Miriam Remz. Photo from Jeff Remz

She often went on trips to New York for theatre and dance with friends and sometimes meeting up with her grandchildren. She always enjoyed a good time, dancing, celebrating and socializing with family and friends, and making new acquaintances. 

Miriam wanted to pass that on to her family and made sure her children and grandchildren would have every opportunity that she could provide, whether in supporting their educational endeavors or taking her grandchildren on special trips abroad upon them becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah including London, Paris, Italy and Brazil/Uruguay/Argentina.

She moved from Belle Terre to Brookline in 2014 to be near two of her sons, Jeff and Sandy. She continued her love of lifetime learning by attending lectures about politics, current events, history, literature, art and Judaism and reading history and biographies. 

Almost exactly two years before she passed away, she attended a Dolly Parton tribute concert by Berklee College of Music students in Boston.

Miriam is survived by her three sons, Harvey (Mary Jane) Remz of Huntington, Conn.; Sandy (Arlene) Remz of Newton Centre, Mass. and Jeff (Judy) Remz of Newton Centre, Mass., six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 

Burial took place at Washington Memorial Park in Coram. 

Obituary from Jeff Remz