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Bryant Funeral Home

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Daisy, the mommy mallard protects her ducklings in a flowerpot at Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket. Photo from Bryant Funeral Home

By Carole Ganzenmuller

At Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket, we work hard caring for families. This past May we were not caring for a family but for a beautiful female mallard duck that became part of the Bryant family.

The duck family takes off for new adventures. Photo from Bryant Funeral Home

One morning in May, the staff came in the back door, where there is a large flowerpot and noticed a hole had been dug in the dirt; but we did not give it a second thought. The next day we noticed a duck sitting in the pot. She blended in so well with flowers that we hardly noticed her. She was there for a few days. Then one day she stood up and lo and behold there was one egg in this hole she had made a nest. Then there were three eggs, then finally six eggs. We were excited and yet nervous for the mommy mallard; we named her “Daisy.”

We did our research and read not to touch or move the eggs, what mallard ducks eat and how long before the eggs would hatch. Daisy loved the fruit and seeds we fed her; but she was always cautious if people came too close. To try to keep her protected we put a sign near the pot so families, florists and delivery companies would try to be considerate and not startle her and they would not be startled. Anyone who saw her became so invested in her: “Oh, she is still here?”

In addition, our families would all ask about Daisy. We even took the time to make a little homemade pond just in case Daisy and her soon-to-be ducklings needed a close water spot to make home.

Bryant Funeral Home is happy to say exactly 30 days after Daisy deposited her eggs, all six little ducklings were born. We were happy yet sad when Daisy and her sweet six little ducklings hopped out of the pot and went off for their new adventures as a family. We at Bryant Funeral Home were so proud to be part of the whole experience with such a happy ending.

Carole Ganzenmuller is a funeral assistant with Bryant Funeral Home.

Grace Mehl, far right, at the Association of the United States Navy Dining in 2019.

By Daniel Dunaief

Grace Mehl had made it onto her first navy ship, passing through a fiercely competitive process in which the U.S. Navy only had openings for two out of 60 women. 

Her first boss, who was a warrant officer, made his feelings about her presence on the ship known. “I don’t believe women belong on a ship,” he told Mehl in 1980. “I don’t believe they belong in the navy. If you do your job, we’ll get along fine.”

Grace Mehl with a junior officer on the Gunston Hall. Photo from John Harrington

That conversation, however, was among the only ones Mehl, who grew up and now lives in Smithtown, had with people about whether her gender could affect her ability to serve. At the same time, members of the navy sometimes grumbled about the expanding role of women in the armed forces.

“I heard a lot of gruff from older guys talking about having women in the navy,” said Troy Wussow, an enlisted man who served aboard the USS Shenandoah with Mehl after the ship was christened in 1983. “The old salt saw it as problematic.”

Mehl often won over others with her professionalism, talent, and willingness to work.

When he met Mehl, Wussow and others were building an office that they wouldn’t complete by a deadline because supplies hadn’t arrived. When he presented the situation to Mehl, she told them to get lunch. While the others ate, Mehl redesigned the building with the supplies on hand. Wussow was grateful for her solution, which enabled him and the rest of the crew to execute their orders.

“She solved the problem for us, which was an extraordinary beginning,” Wussow said.

Indeed, Mehl also impressed her superiors, rising through the ranks to become one of the first five women to command a navy combatant ship. For 14 years of Mehl’s career, women only joined navy combat ships when they volunteered. In 1994, however, the navy started assigning women to ships the way they had men. The executive officer sent some of those frustrated female navy crew to see Mehl.

“When they walked into my state room and looked at me, they just stopped” being upset, Mehl said. They couldn’t tell Mehl how unfair it was when she had been living that life.

“After they got there, they started to learn that it wasn’t so bad and it was just another job,” she said, “although you were floating around while you were doing it.”

Commanding respect

A graduate of SUNY Binghamton, Mehl, who grew up on a chicken farm, had a desire to get a job that makes a difference and to see the world. Her sister Jane and her college roommate had also joined the military, so she already had examples of women who had gone into the service.

Her father John Albert Mehl had also been in the Army Air Corps during World War II. A tail gunner, the Mehl patriarch had been stationed in England and France and had been on 65 missions. Her sister was an Army nurse.

Despite the army family connection, Mehl entered the navy because she didn’t want her sister to have the ability to boss her around.

“The army wasn’t big enough for both of us,” Mehl said.

Wussow suggested that Mehl had an effective approach with those under her command and with superior officers. Officers either commanded or demanded respect, Wussow suggested. Mehl was in the former category, listening to problems, working with people to solve them, and following and enforcing rules.

Dave Gellene, who was her executive officer when she was the commanding officer of the Gunston Hall, appreciated her naval skills. “She was able to maneuver the ship the best I’ve seen,” he said.

Gellene, who served on active duty in the Navy for 23 years and has been a government civilian for the navy for 15 years, said Mehl maneuvered the ship expertly through all kinds of weather and in densely populated areas where other boats were nearby.

Her ability to control the ship “gained the crew’s confidence,” Gellene said. Even early in Mehl’s tenure as commanding officer, Gellene could tell that the spirit of the ship improved dramatically the day after she took command.

The Bronze Star

Grace Mehl addressing the new Chief Petty Officers on the Flight Deck of the Gunston Hall during 1999 deployment. Photo from John Harrington

The navy awarded Mehl the Bronze Star for her work in 1999, when the armed forces provided support during the humanitarian crisis in the former Yugoslavia.

“I was very proud of the people on the ship,” Mehl said. “I got to wear the Bronze star, but I didn’t earn it: my crew earned it.”

Gellene recalled that the marines who were disembarking for the peacekeeping mission had to get ready each day, only to learn that the mission encountered additional delays.

Mehl, whom Gellene said kept everyone informed of orders and important information, had agreed to play bagpipe music on the day the mission would occur which was “very motivating.”

Mehl and the crew of the Gunston Hall also provided critical assistance in 1999, when an earlier enormous earthquake rocked Turkey, killing over 17,000 people.   With Mehl at the helm, the ship tied up at a dock and the crew put up tents for displaced residents.

“The crew would have stayed forever if they could,” Gellene said. “Under her leadership, she kept everyone motivated and focused.”

In a less stressful but important moment for the ship, Gellene also recalled how the Gunston Hall was stationed in North Carolina during the Super Bowl in 1999. Before the widespread use and availability of cell phones, the ship had to face a particular direction to get a good satellite feed to watch the game. Mehl stayed at the helm, keeping the ship at the right angle so the crew could watch the Broncos defeat the Falcons in Super Bowl 33.

“You could imagine the morale boost,” Gellene said.

Grace Mehl speaks at a Memorial Day service at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Bald Hill in Farmingville. Photo by Ron Pacchiana

Current contributions

Mehl has established numerous connections to the Long Island community. Having given talks to students in elementary and high schools, she said people know her as “the Navy lady.”

She volunteers with Vietnam Veterans of America, is on the Board of Directors of the United Veterans Beacon House, and serves on Veterans Court.

Mehl also earned a certification as Eastern Apicultural Society Master Beekeeper and is the Education Director of the Long Island Beekeepers club.

Looking back on her service, Mehl believes she did something important during her two decades in the navy.

“I feel like I opened a door for women to be able to follow in the path that I broke for them,” she said. “I feel that we have come a long way in the military.

This column is generously sponsored by Bryant Funeral Home, 411 Old Town Road, East Setauket


Show Thankfulness by Feeding Those in Need

Bryant Funeral Home, located at 411 Old Town Road, E. Setauket hosts a Thanksgiving Food Drive through Nov. 23. Please drop off nonperishable food at the funeral home from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Every five items you bring in will earn you a chance to win one of three raffle prizes. All food collected will be donated to the Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry located at the St. James R.C. Church in Setauket. For further information, please call 631-473-0082.

Updated on Nov. 8.


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Robert May

Robert Graham May of Rocky Point died April 8 in Florida. He was 85.

May was born Sept. 23, 1933, in Brockton, Massachusetts, and was the son of the late William Richard and the late Mary (Graham) May. He served in the Army from 1956 to 1958 and was later employed by the Syosset Central School District as a teacher. 

May is survived by his beloved wife, Rose Heyman (Savasta) May; loving daughter Elizabeth May-McGrath of Bowdin, Maine; three loving sons Robert Graham May Jr. of Parksville, Arthur George May of Brooklyn, New, and Charles Andrew May of Hampstead, New Hampshire; and his six cherished grandchildren. 

He was preceded in death by his brother William Richard May Jr. of Georgia.  

Celebration of the Mass of Christian burial was held April 13 at St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point with burial following at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coral.

Faith Erbacher

Faith Erbacher of Rocky Point died April 5. She was 74.  

Erbacher was born Jan. 23, 1945, in Brooklyn, and was the daughter of the late Gus and the late Florence (Hazel) Sigelakis. She was the owner operator of the Children’s Garden Day Care in Medford.  

She is survived by her daughter Elizabeth (Richard) Mondello of Sound Beach; sisters Anne Gemellaro of Eastport and Daphne Sigelakis of North Blenheim; and her grandson Noah Mondello of Sound Beach.  

She was preceded in death by her husband Edwin Erbacher and brothers Thomas Sigelakis and Gus Sigelakis Jr.  

A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated April 9 at St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point with burial following at Calverton National Cemetery. An online guest book is available at www.rockypointfuneralhome.com.

Keith DeVeau

Keith DeVeau, a lifelong resident of Port Jefferson, died April 8 in Mather Hospital, the same hospital he was born in just 70 years ago. 

DeVeau is survived by his wife of 41 years, Susan; his children Kathryn Lieu and Matthew DeVeau; grandson Charles Lieu and his sister Barbara Slingerland. 

The family said they will miss his voice over holiday meals, over the phone during long rides home, and every day when news is shared and plans are made. 

They said they will miss him when they see a NASCAR race, a muscle car and especially red Corvettes, his laugh when watching old British comedy and when reminiscing with his many cousins over childhood antics. 

They said they will miss his stories of boating, fishing, traveling and his history lessons about old Port Jeff and his family’s ties to early Long Island. They will miss asking for his advice, opinion and knowledge; the moments when a past friend would walk up to him and start chatting about when he worked at USAir or Lilco or security at Port Jeff High School. And they will miss him whenever they hear the phrase, “Mr. Mom” and recall the years he spent home when Matt and Katie were young. He loved and was loved and will always be remembered.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. Visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Carolyn R. Cuneo

Carolyn R. Cuneo of East Northport died on May 1 at the age of 89. She was the beloved wife of Victor N. Cuneo Jr.; loving mother of Linda Scoggins (James), Victor Cuneo (Suzanne) and Michael Cuneo (Deborah); dear grandmother of Tracey Michael (Chad), Lindsay Masella (Michael),  C.J. and Victoria Cuneo  and Ashley, Casey and Michael Cuneo;  cherished great-grandmother of Shane and Tyler Masella and Aiden and Jarret Michael. A memorial  prayer service was held at Nolan Funeral Home in Northport May 4.

Edward D. Kavanagh

Edward D. Kavanagh of Northport died on April 29 at the age of 81. He was the beloved husband of the late Virginia;  loving father of Tara; and dear brother of Mary Margaret Kavanagh. He was a proud New York City police officer of Emergency Service Unit 1. 

A funeral Mass was celebrated May 4 at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport. Ed was  laid to rest with his wife at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in New Castle, Maine, a place that they visited yearly and loved. Arrangements were entrusted to Nolan Funeral Home of Northport.

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Barbara Ann Koziuk, 57, of Lake Ronkonkoma, died on March 4. She was born on Dec. 30, 1957, in Rockville Centre, the daughter of John and Elsie Doyle.

Barbara was a bridal consultant at Bridal Suite. She enjoyed dancing, cooking and spending time with her family.

She is survived by her children, Christina (Steven) Erland, Nicole (Kevin) Winn, and Martin Koziuk Jr.; granddaughter, Ava Winn; brother, Michael (Phyllis) Doyle; and many other family members and friends.

Services were held at St. Joseph R.C. Church in Ronkonkoma and interment followed in Lake Ronkonkoma Cemetery.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. An online guest book is available at www.bryantfh.com.

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Fay Lobianco, 82, of Port Jefferson Station, died on March 5. She was born on Aug. 14, 1932, in the Bronx, daughter of Anthony and Angie Martone.

Fay was a retired secretary at Einstein hospital in the Bronx. She enjoyed cooking — her specialties were rice balls and eggplant parmigiana.

She is survived by her daughters, Elaine (John) Fulfree and Michele, three grandchildren and many other family members and friends.

She was preceded in death by her brother, Anthony, and sister, Anna.

Arrangements were entrusted to Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket, where services were held. Committal services were private.

Her family requests contributions in her name to the American Cancer Society, PO Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718.

An online guest book is available at www.bryantfh.com.

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Ryan Joseph Zinna, of Port Jefferson Station, a beautiful and brave boy, left this world on Feb. 23 after a courageous battle with cancer. In his brief nine years, he touched many lives with his kindness and intrepid spirit. He will be remembered for his love of family and friends, his sense of adventure and his corny jokes.

Ryan was named an official member of the FDNY, and was a fan of the New York Islanders, New York Giants and New York Yankees. He was a master Lego builder and enjoyed video games, especially Minecraft, Skylanders and Mario Kart. He loved the outdoors, hiking, sports cars, animals and honesty.

Ryan was predeceased by his grandpa, Francis “Papa” Wood. He is survived by his parents, Darren and Sharon Zinna; younger brother, Kyle; dog, Sparky; grandparents, Richard and Karen Zinna and Grammy and “Papa Pete” McCormick; and aunts and uncles, Scott and Gina Zinna, Theresa and Lee Sherwood, Jean and Jim Cassidy, Francis J. Wood Jr., Jim and Lynda Wood, and Lorraine Wood. In addition, he is survived by his cousins, Meredith and Victoria Sherwood, Daniel, Shannon and Kelly Cassidy, Jessi Wood, Lea Brady, and Steven and Emily Zinna.

Arrangements were entrusted to Bryant Funeral Home in Setauket. Services were held at St. Gerard Majella Church and interment followed in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.

If you would like to honor Ryan’s memory with a donation, his family requests contributions to healingforlife.us or www.makingheadway.org.

An online guest book is available at www.bryantfh.com.

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Jean Ciapi, 75, a longtime community resident, died on Feb. 13. She was born on Jan. 8, 1940, in Brooklyn, the daughter of William and Elizabeth.

Jean was a retired stockbroker, who loved cats and collected teapots.

She is survived by her children, Laura, Chris and Charlie; and many other family members and friends.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket, where services were held.

Interment followed in the Calverton National Cemetery.

An online guest book is available at www.bryantfh.com.

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Daniel J. Monaghan, 74, of Selden, died on March 2. He was born on Nov. 26, 1940, in Manhattan, the son of Thomas and Sarah Monaghan.

Daniel was a truck driver for Amerford Air Cargo; and a member of Ancient Order of Hibernians, Knights of Columbus 4402 and Teamsters Local 295. He was proud to be an American and proud of his Irish decent. He loved Irish music and watching the New York Giants and New York Yankees and St. Anthony’s Friars. He was a straight shooter and a very funny man who will be missed by many.

He was the beloved husband of Kathleen; loving father of Kathleen, Eileen, Maureen, Colleen and Tom; and cherished grandfather of 15. He will be missed by all of them, as well as many other family members and friends.

Services were held at St. Patrick’s R.C. Church in Smithtown and interment followed at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne.

Arrangements were entrusted to Bryant Funeral Home in Setauket. An online guest book is available at www.bryantfh.com.