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Earl L. Vandermeulen High School

Superintendent Jessica Schmettan. File photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson Middle School and Earl L. Vandermeulen High School had to go fully remote this week, after parents begged the district to allow their children back in four days a week. 

Up until recently, the district had students come to the high school and middle school twice a week. Parents, concerned about how the lack of in-person learning would have on their children, began asking why the district would not add more days. 

Jae Hartzell, a parent in the district, said she was one of a dozen who voiced their concerns. 

“We really worked, and fought, and emailed, and studied, and provided stats, and really researched to make sure we were fighting for the right and safe thing to do,” she said. 

And their wishes were granted at the latest board of education meeting on Jan. 8, when the board agreed on a vote to let middle and high schoolers back in four days a week. 

But just two days later, on Sunday, Jan. 10, the district sent out a notification that the four days will not happen, and instead, those two groups would have to go remote. 

The notice said that as of that day, there were 26 staff members, including teachers and teaching assistants, who are subject to quarantine due to COVID-19, for a variety of reasons related to their own health, in-school and out of school exposures, and positive family members. 

It continued that after careful examination of the school’s schedules and their available substitute coverage, they determined they do not have the staff to cover the middle and high schools this week. That being said, grades 6-12 will go remote Jan. 12 through Jan. 15, with no change to the Monday, Jan. 11 schedule as this is an asynchronous remote day in the district’s hybrid schedule.

The notice did not affect the elementary school, which will still be open for in-person learning, and staff coverage for the district’s 8:1:1 special education students have not been affected, as the in-person class schedules for these students remains the same.

“As a parent, you see your child go from super happy and over the moon to be able to go back to school, and then flattened a bit with that disappointment,” Hartzell said. “We all have to understand this is very complex and complicated and we don’t have the information, but it’s disheartening.”

Port Jefferson School District Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said the district understands this is difficult news to hear after the highly anticipated return to four days per week of in-person instruction.

“This determination is only for the remainder of this week and we expect to begin this next phase of our reopening plan on Tuesday, Jan. 19 – as long as circumstances permit – when we look forward to having all of our students back in our classrooms,” she said.

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Port Jefferson middle and high schools will be closing Nov. 12 after a middle school student tested positive for COVID-19. Photo by Elana Glowatz

*Update* The Port Jefferson School District announced it was reopening the middle and high schools for Friday, Nov. 13 for in-person learning. 

“Since the positive case had not been in school since last week, we were fortunate that students and staff were not exposed and did not have to quarantine,” the district said in a message on its website. “As the holidays approach, please remain vigilant with social distancing, proper hand hygiene and masks. These mitigation strategies will keep our schools open for our students.”

The Port Jefferson School District is closing its middle and high schools for Thursday, Nov. 12 and going full remote for both buildings after officials announced a middle school student tested positive for COVID-19.

The district said in a notice to parents Wednesday that since the Suffolk County Department of health is closed due to Veterans Day, and the district is unable to yet talk to officials about starting contact tracing.

All staff and students will be doing remote work, and only a few clerical, custodial and administrators will be reporting into the buildings.

“Although the student has not been in school this week, we would like official information regarding exposures from the Department of Health,” the district said in its message.

This post will be updated when more information becomes available.

District to Grant Police Access to Security Cameras

Port Jeff constables will now be taking patrols at both the Port Jefferson high/middle school building as well as the elementary school. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a move toward increased school security and a continuing push to bridge the gap between school district and village, the Port Jefferson School District has moved to allow Port Jeff code enforcement vehicles to do patrols on school properties. In addition, the district has moved to join other municipalities and schools in giving Suffolk police access to school cameras at its Real Time Crime Center.

Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said the district has been working with the village for the past several months, emphasizing the desire for increased security. Since the two entities are separate municipalities, the change required an intermunicipal agreement signed by both parties.

The code officers will conduct patrol routes in their vehicles periodically throughout the school day and during after school activities at all district building parking lots, Schmettan said. They are not necessarily meant to get out of their vehicles or to go inside the buildings and are mostly there as a deterrent. 

“It’s an additional presence to have marked cars on property,” Schmettan said. “That presence really helps during and after school.”

Trustee Kathianne Snaden has been working with the district to form this partnership. She said she has seen this need since when she was campaigning and taking a ride along with code enforcement, seeing that officers were not allowed on school property even if they saw there might be something illicit happening at the football fields or the bleachers in front of the high school.

Such an agreement had been proposed before, the trustee said, but had been swallowed up long before she entered office.

With the IMA signed, Snaden said there are more eyes where they need to be.

“There is a stronger visual presence on the campuses,” she said.

The superintendent said such work begets more cooperative action between the two Port Jeff municipalities.

“It’s very exciting to have support from the village, for us all to be on the same page,” Schmettan said.

The district has also moved to allow Suffolk police to have access to the district’s cameras at its Real Time Crime Center during emergencies. Such access has to be initiated by either the superintendent or her designee, most likely a deputy superintendent. That agreement was passed by the school board in December, the superintendent said, though police said they have not received the memorandum of understanding from the village.

Though board members and members of the schools security committee had original doubts of the program, citing privacy issues, Schmettan said the district has written the contract to be tailored and only be used during a major emergency, such as a school shooter. 

Police said they currently have 28 MOUs from other districts. Once police receive the agreement, the only time between when cameras are hooked up to the police is the technical details between both school and police IT departments, and the time it takes to make a secure connection.

The Village of Port Jefferson hooked its own cameras to the crime center in May of last year. While some feared a “big brother” watching people constantly, police and village officials say it’s impossible for one person to look at every single feed at once, and the cameras are only accessed in cases of an emergency.

“It helps save lives,” Snaden said.

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High school senior Mattea Rabeno presents a donation of $365 to Larry Hohler of Hope Children’s Fund. Photo from PJSD

On Thursday, Jan. 23, Larry Hohler and Ed Hyshiver, Hope Children’s Fund board members, shared their efforts with members of the Port Jeff high school’s Interact Club to support AIDS-affected street children at the Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Home in Meru, Kenya. 

Port Jefferson high schools Interact Club joined with members of the Hope Children’s Fund for a presentation. Photo from PJSD

Opened in 2005 at the height of the AIDS pandemic in East Africa, the orphanage now cares for 89 young people. Half of that number attend primary school, which is free in Kenya, while others attend secondary schools or trade schools, and several attend Kenyan universities. 

Well over half of the income generated to support the home goes to pay tuition fees. A focus of the presentation was the story of Doreen Gatwiri, who was rescued from the streets in 2005 when the children’s home opened its doors. Abandoned by her mother, she was 9 years old and suffering from malnutrition. Rehabilitated at the home, Doreen excelled in her studies and years later was able to qualify for entrance into the premed program at Jomo Kenyatta University near Nairobi. Last September, Gatwiri received her medical degree and plans to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, a specialty very much needed in her country. Hyshiver told of his relationship with Kelvin Koome, a young man who was also taken off the streets when the home opened. He met Koome on a visit to Kenya in 2007, became his mentor, and helped to pay for his education. Koome now works in Meru as a physician’s assistant. 

The students hosted a movie screening at the elementary school and raised money for the fund. After the presentation, Interact Club Co-President Mattea Rabeno presented a check for $365 to Hohler. The donation will be used to pay the school fees of a child at Hope Children’s Home in Meru. 

“This is something that our club hopes to continue supporting in the future through various fundraising activities,” said club adviser Deirdre Filippi.

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Left, new HS Principal Eric Haruthunian; right, new pre-K-8 Assistant Principal Amy Laverty. Photo from PJSD Facebook

The Port Jefferson School District announced new faces will be standing by the doors of school buildings come September as other district personnel move up through the ranks.

Eric Haruthunian was named principal at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, while Amy Laverty has been named pre-K-8 assistant principal.

Before joining the Port Jefferson School District, Haruthunian most recently served as the assistant principal at John F. Kennedy High School in the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, where he served since 2015. Prior to that position, he served as supervisor of discipline at Wantagh High School. His professional background also includes eight years of teaching experience in mathematics at the middle and high school level in the Freeport School District.

Port Jefferson High School Principal Christine Austen. File photo

The new high school principal earned a master’s of science degree in educational leadership from the College of New Rochelle and a master’s of science in elementary education from LIU Post. He holds a bachelor’s of arts in secondary math education, also from LIU Post, and permanent certification as a school administrator/supervisor, school district administrator and in 7-12 mathematics.

Haruthunian comes in to replace now Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Christine Austen, the previous principal, after a several-month search for a replacement.

Laverty joins Port Jeff from the Northport-East Northport School District, where she served a dual role as the summer reading program principal and the instructional curriculum coordinator. Before that, she was a classroom teacher at various elementary levels in the district’s Ocean Avenue Elementary School.

She earned a master’s of arts in liberal studies from Stony Brook University and a bachelor’s of arts in child study and students with disabilities from St. Joseph’s College. She holds initial certification in school building leadership and professional certifications in early childhood/childhood and students with disabilities. She also received an educational leadership advanced certificate from LIU Post.

In her new role, Laverty will work with Port Jefferson Middle School Principal Robert Neidig and Edna Louise Spear Elementary School Principal Thomas Meehan.

“The educational experiences of both Mr. Haruthunian and Ms. Laverty will help us continue to guide our students in the stimulating learning environment of our schools,” said incoming Superintendent Jessica Schmettan on a post to the district’s Facebook page. She will be replacing current Superintendent Paul Casciano come the end of October. 

“We look forward to their professional commitment to our students, staff and entire school community,” she added.

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Port Jefferson’s Royals fought hard at the at the Bob Armstrong Memorial Cup multi-school wrestling tournament held at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Dec. 15.

Port Jeff’s Rick D’Elia, at 120 pounds, took top spot on the podium in for the Royals wrestling team

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‘Love, Gilda’ will be screened on Sept. 17 at Theatre Three

By Heidi Sutton

Fresh off its special summer screening of the blockbuster documentary “RBG” to a sold-out crowd at Theatre Three, the award-winning Port Jefferson Documentary Series kicks off its fall 2018 season on Monday, Sept. 17. Seven notable and acclaimed documentary films will be showcased, exploring everything from science fairs, ovarian cancer, poaching, disco, baseball and more.

‘Love Gilda’

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs, the first six films will be screened at Theatre Three while the final documentary will be presented in Earl L. Vandermeulen High School’s auditorium. Both venues are located in the Village of Port Jefferson. Each screening will be followed by a Q-&-A session with guest speakers.

The documentaries are chosen by a seven-member film board, affectionately known as “the film ladies,” who each choose one film to present to the audience. This fall’s picks were selected after the members attended screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival, DOC NYC and the Hamptons Film Festival.

The board members,  including co-directors Lyn Boland, Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg along with Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein, along with volunteers Suzanne Velasquez, Elaine Friedman and Denise Livrieri, are celebrating the festival’s 13th year this month.

Lyn Boland is excited about sharing this new crop of films with audiences this season. “It’s a very interesting lineup,” she mused during a recent phone interview.

According to Boland, one of the more touching films this fall is “Love, Gilda,” an intimate portrait of the comedian, writer and actress Gilda Radner using personal recordings and journal entries along with interviews of her friends and family, including her husband, Gene Wilder. Radner died in 1989 from ovarian cancer at the age of 42. “For me, it was a revelation about who she was because … a lot of comedians have a dark side … but she was seemingly funny and charming and loved by everyone in her family and friend circle from the time she was a little girl,” explained Boland. “[Radner] was very endearing, very bright, very creative — it is a tragic story that she died so young.”

A scene from ‘When Lambs Become Lions’

Another film that will tug at the heart strings, especially for animal lovers, is “When Lambs Become Lions,” which documents the lives of a poacher and a park ranger in Kenya over the course of three years. “I’m very anxious to ask the director how he got this kind of cooperation. It’s just remarkable to see this story from both sides and it has a very intriguing ending,” said Boland.

The co-director’s personal favorite is the highly acclaimed “Roll Red Roll” where amateur blogger Alex Goddard uncovers evidence on social media about the sexual assault of an intoxicated teenage girl by football players at a preseason party in Steubenville, Ohio, in 2012. 

“The real crux of the story is that this blogger found these pictures online because the team was tweeting them and if it hadn’t been for her having the courage to follow up on it, this would’ve gone completely under the radar. It wasn’t reported to the police — just bragged about online,” explained Boland. “It’s one of those tales of personal courage and points out that small town ‘football team is everything’ way of thinking. It’s very well done and very suspenseful and winning a lot of awards.”

A scene from ‘Science Fair’

Perhaps the documentary that has received the most buzz in the news lately is “Science Fair,” which shadows nine teenagers working to win top honors at the acclaimed International Science and Engineering Fair. According to Boland, this is one of those films the entire family can enjoy. “It’s really one of those great stories of terrific talented kids doing their best and the different things that come into play when you are a teenager” no matter how smart you are.

For Boland, being a part of this committee for the last 13 years has been a true labor of love and one she is very proud of. It has also been the perfect outlet to share her love of documentaries to the community. “I really feel that documentaries are a very powerful way of communicating. When you finish watching a really good documentary, you sit there and say “Oh my god, what if I hadn’t seen this? What if I didn’t know? Because in 90 minutes you get a very well fleshed out description of a situation and it’s something that we all need to know more about.” The co-director encourages everyone to stay after the screenings for the Q&A, which can get quite lively.

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday night from Sept. 17 to Oct. 22 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson and at Earl Vandermeulen High School, 350 Old Post Road, Port Jefferson on Oct. 29. Tickets, sold at the door, are $8 per person. (No credit cards please.) If you would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5200. For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule:

The fall season will kick off with “Love, Gilda” at Theatre Three on Sept. 17. Lisa D’Apolito’s exuberant and moving documentary portrait of Gilda Radner looks back and reflects on the comedian’s life and career. Weaving together recently discovered audiotapes, interviews with her friends, rare home movies and diaries read by modern-day comedians, the film offers a unique window into the honest and whimsical world of a beloved performer whose greatest role was sharing her story. Presented in collaboration with the Long Island Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the event will be moderated by Tom Needham, host of “Sounds of Film” on Stony Brook University’s WUSB. Guest speakers will include producer Bronwyn Berry and executive producer Carolyn Hepburn.

■ “When Lambs Become Lions” heads to Theatre Three on Sept. 24. Exploring the violative African poaching trade, the film profiles an ivory dealer from Kenya and his cousin, a wildlife ranger who is tasked with hunting down poachers. Who are these hunters who will risk death, arrest and the moral outrage of the world? Guest speaker, director Jon Kasbe, followed the film’s subjects over a three-year period, gaining an extraordinary level of access and trust as he became part of their everyday lives.

The season continues on Oct. 1 at Theatre Three with “Roll Red Roll,” which examines the cover up of the infamous 2012 rape of a teenage girl by the star players of a Steubenville, Ohio, football team. As amateur crime blogger Alex Goddard uncovers disturbing evidence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, questions arise around the collusion of teen and adult bystanders. The film documents the case in such a powerful fashion that your feelings of outrage will persist long after the movie is over. Guest speaker will be director Nancy Schwartzman.

■ “Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel,” to be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 8, is a stirring story of sports, patriotism and personal growth which charts the underdog journey of Israel’s national baseball team competing for the first time in the World Baseball Classic. Director Daniel A. Miller will be the guest speaker. The film is sponsored by The Preserve at Indian Hills and Temple Isaiah. Enjoy a donut from Duck Donuts and take part in a raffle to win a Long Island Ducks gift basket.

A scene from ‘Skid Row Marathon’

The series continues at Theatre Three with “Skid Row Marathon” on Oct. 15. The inspiring and uplifting documentary follows Superior Judge Craig Mitchell over a period of four years as he starts a running club on L.A.’s infamous Skid Row. If club members stay clean, off the streets and out of jail, the judge will take them around the world to run marathons. The runners fight the pull of addiction and homelessness at every turn. Not everyone crosses the finish line yet second chances do exist.  Sponsored by The Law office of Michael S. Ross PC, guest speakers will include director Mark Hayes and producer Gabrielle Hayes.

■ “Studio 54” will be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 22. Studio 54 was the epicenter of ‘70s hedonism — a place that not only redefined the nightclub but also came to symbolize an entire era. Located at West 54th Street, a then-seedy part of town, the nightclub was the brainchild of Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, two college buddy entrepreneurs from Brooklyn who, over the course of 33 months, became the kings of New York — and then lost it all due to greed. Now, 39 years after the velvet rope was first slung across the club’s hallowed threshold, we hear the whole unvarnished story for the first time, with a treasure trove of rare footage and celebrity interviews, the real story behind the greatest club of all time. Guest speakers include Myra Scheer, executive assistant to Rubell and Schrager; Marc Benecke, doorman; Gerard Renny, VIP doorman; Scottie Taylor, bartender; and Chuck Garelick, head of security.

The series concludes on a high note with “Science Fair” at Earl Vandermuelen High School on Oct. 29. Directed by Christina Costantini and Darren Foster, “Science Fair” won the first ever Festival Favorite Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, beating out 123 other films. The film follows nine students and one mentor from around the globe as they navigate rivalries, setbacks and hormones, on their journey to compete against 1,700 students from 75 countries at the Intel Science Fair. Though all are participating for the love of science, we also learn there are underlying influences motivating them to pursue their dreams. With guest speaker Dr. Marnie Kula, director InStar Science Research/Science Chair at Ward Melville High School, Three Village school district.

The Port Jefferson community came out to bid farewell to the Class of 2018 at Earl L. Vandermeulen’s 123rd commencement ceremony June 22. The graduating class of 89 was honored by the hundreds who attended and district administration and staff in traditional fashion for Port Jeff, with personal achievements and future post-graduation plans read aloud prior to the distribution of diplomas.

A ribbon cutting kicks off last year's event. Photo by Alex Petroski

Spring has sprung and that means it’s time for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce’s annual Health & Wellness Fest. Celebrating its ninth year, the event returns to the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, 350 Old Post Road, Port Jefferson on Saturday, April 28 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  

Sample healthy snacks at the event.
Photo by Alex Petroski

Visitors to the free event will enjoy healthy food samples at a food court sponsored by St. Charles Hospital. Their new executive chef Thomas Mulzoff along with dietitians, nutritionists and staff will be on hand to assist hungry attendees and answer questions about healthy eating and diet. A nutritional menu will be offered with a variety of breakfast and lunch items including delicious multigrain breakfast parfaits, strawberry oat bars, tacos two ways (turkey carnitas and freekeh), white bean guacamole and chocolate hummus.So bring you appetite and enjoy great tasting food that is healthy for you!

The selection of health professionals and organizations is extensive, and information will be given out about supporting healthy lifestyles. Members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office will be on hand to speak about their sponsored Yellow Dot Program, a free service designed to help first responders provide life-saving medical attention during that first “golden hour” after a crash or other emergency. A yellow dot in the driver’s-side rear window of your vehicle will alert first responders that vital medical information is stored in the glove compartment. In addition there will be representatives from alternative residential communities, health practitioners and low-cost health insurance plans and programs.   

There will be lots of free giveaways at the event.
Photo by Alex Petroski

Attendees also will have the benefit of many free giveaways and screenings that are so important for good health including blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) screening, glucose, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, otoscopy for cerumen (earwax), hearing, cholesterol, balance and fall prevention and posture.

If this was not enough, there will be many activities to engage in! If you like yoga why not join yoga master Diane McDonald, a life transition coach and yoga teacher, in a short mini-yoga class that will introduce you to the therapeutic benefits of physical, mental and spiritual practices.

How about visiting with licensed, registered and board-certified art therapists? Art therapy allows older adults to be creative and allows them to be reached in a way that promotes a unique form of mental health treatment. And let’s not forget man’s best friend. Learn about healthy food for your pets including Natural Hounds, which offers human-grade wet food, preportioned, nourishing dog treats tailored to your dog’s individual needs.   

New this year

Stop by the Port Jefferson Free Library table for some fun! Photo by Alex Petroski

What’s friendly, furry and can be in the room with grieving families? A trained service dog that specializes in grief therapy. Owned by Peter Moloney of Moloney Funeral Homes, Koda, a 2½-year-old black Lab Weimaraner mix, comes to the funeral home where people pet him and he shows affection to those who want it. He is the first grief therapy dog on Long Island. Come meet Koda at the Health & Wellness Fest.

A special tai chi demonstration will take place at 11:30 a.m., performed by the Authentic Shaolin Kung Fu School of Holtsville. See how these internal Chinese martial arts can be practiced for both their defense training and their health benefits through the forces of yin and yang. After the demonstration attendees will be asked to join in! 

Other activities will include pilates demonstrations by Port Jefferson Pilates located in Port Jefferson Village. Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century and has shown that regular sessions can help muscle conditioning in healthy adults, when compared to doing no exercise.

Don’t forget to stop by the Port Jefferson Free Library table for free giveaways, puzzle solving, coloring for all ages and brain games! Solve a riddle and win a puzzle, while supplies last. Island Christian Church members will have face painting and balloon time with additional children’s activities as well.

Family Fun Run

The Health & Wellness Fest has partnered with the Royal Educational Foundation of Port Jefferson, which will be celebrating its fifth annual Power of One Family Fun Run on April 28 as well. 

The event is designed to encourage physical activity and is intended to celebrate the positive influence we can have on one another within our families and community. Whether you wish to walk or run, the 2-mile course is open to all ages.

Christian Neubert, a Port Jefferson Schools music teacher, volunteer fireman and Port Jefferson Library trustee will be honored with the Power of One Award for his significant positive impact on the village and school community. The proceeds of this fundraiser will be used to enhance the quality of education in the Port Jefferson School District. 

The run begins at 8 a.m. at the Port Jefferson Village Center, at 101A East Broadway, continues through the streets of Port Jefferson Village, and ends at the high school where runners are welcome to visit the health fest. 

You may register by downloading the registration form at www.pjref.com (click on the Power of One Fun Run tab). You may also register the day of the run between 7:30 and 8 a.m. at the Village Center. Advanced registrants need to check in no later than 8:15 a.m.  

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The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce’s 9th annual Health & Wellness Fest has something for the entire family. Mark your calendar now. When you finish attending the fest, visit the downtown business community for its first Port Jefferson Sidewalk Sale Days event from 1 to 5 p.m. Shop at over 20 different retailers throughout the heart of the village. If you are lucky you might win one of the two door prizes that will be raffled off at the fest, each having $250 worth of gift certificates to our local merchants in support of the Port Jefferson Retailers Association. 

For more information, please visit www.portjeffhealth.com.

Randall Woodard, 97, reflects on meeting Roosevelt, a life and roots in the village, military service

Then 12-year-old Randall Woodard, Gilbert Kinner and New York Gov. Franklin Roosevelt in Port Jeff in 1932. Photo from Warren Woodard

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in one case, a picture is worth almost 100 years of history.

On Dec. 8, 1941, 76 years ago to the day, then president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, delivered his “day which will live in infamy” speech during a joint session of Congress in response to Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Dec. 7. The address served as the precursor to the U.S. finally joining World War II and taking up the fight against the Axis powers. He went on to serve as president until his death in 1945, preventing him from completing his fourth term in office, a feat in itself, as no other American president has served more than two terms.

In the summer of 1932 just before his first presidential campaign, Roosevelt, an avid sailor, made a recreational stop in Port Jefferson Harbor.

Woodard and son Warren during a recent trip to Washington, D.C. Photo from Warren Woodard

At the time, Roosevelt was the governor of New York and the Democratic Party nominee for the general presidential election that fall. He defeated incumbent President Herbert Hoover to win the highest office in the land in November 1932. During the visit, Roosevelt took a photo aboard a sailboat with two youngsters from Port Jeff, one of whom is still alive residing in the village.

Randall Woodard was born Sept. 3, 1920, in his home on Prospect Street. His family has deep roots in Port Jefferson, though his ancestors can be traced back even further to Southold in 1664.

“I wasn’t there that day,” Woodard quipped during a November visit to the Times Beacon Record News Media office in Setauket, accompanied by his youngest son, Warren, and Richard Olson, a longtime Port Jefferson School District history teacher who has since retired.

Woodard’s father Grover was the school district manager in Port Jeff, and actually hired Earl L. Vandermeulen, who the high school was eventually named after. His wife Barbara worked in the elementary school under Edna Louise Spear, the eventual namesake of the same school. Though he said he didn’t meet any other presidents in his life, Woodard met Albert Einstein once, and his grandmother heard Abraham Lincoln give a speech in New York. Woodard went on to have two sons and a daughter, who were all raised in Port Jeff in a house on the corner of High Street and Myrtle Avenue.

The photo of Woodard, his childhood friend Gilbert Kinner and the soon-to-be president of the United States is a cherished possession of the Woodard family. Warren joked there’s a framed copy hanging in every room of his house.

Woodard said on the day he met Roosevelt that he and Kinner were sailing his family’s 12-foot mahogany vessel around Port Jefferson Harbor on a warm summer morning in June or July.

At about 10 a.m., two or three seaplanes landed in the harbor and taxied over to the beach near the east end of the waterfront near the famous Bayles Dock. Woodard, who was 12 years old at the time, said he and Kinner noticed a large crowd gathering near the dock, so they decided to sail over and see what the commotion was all about.

“I think I could take you.”

— Randall Woodard

They approached the black yawl sailing craft tied to the dock with a man wearing a white sun hat seated in the cockpit. Woodard said he still remembers noticing the metal braces on Roosevelt’s legs and a pack of cigarettes on the seat next to him.

“The whole waterfront of Port Jeff was people,” Woodard said. Roosevelt was waiting for his four sons, who were running late, to arrive to begin a vacation cruise.

The Democratic National Convention had just selected him as the party’s nominee for the presidential election that fall, and it was too early to begin campaigning. While he waited for his sons to arrive, Roosevelt and the reporters milling in the vicinity suggested the candidate should be in a photo with the two boys. Woodard and Kinner boarded, and “Vote for Roosevelt” hats were placed on their heads to wear in the photo. Woodard recalled that Kinner took the hat off, tossed it in the cockpit and calmly said, “My father is a Republican.”

Woodard said there was an even more memorable interaction from the meeting when Roosevelt asked him, “How does the boat sail?” Young Randall responded, “I think I could take you.”

He referred to the then-governor’s vessel as “badly designed,” with a laugh during the interview. He said eventually Roosevelt and the others took off sailing in the Long Island Sound. Woodard and his friend tried to keep up with Roosevelt for as long as they could until the soon-to-be president was out of sight.

“We kids went to the movies for a week straight just to see ourselves on the Pathé News movies,” Woodard wrote in a 2004 account of the day.

Woodard and his son Warren shared a story about seeing by chance a clip of 12-year-old Randall dancing on Roosevelt’s boat in a documentary about past presidents decades later. Warren said they purchased multiple copies of the documentary on DVD.

“We kids went to the movies for a week straight just to see ourselves on the Pathé News movies.”

— Randall Woodard

Woodard’s life and interests would intersect with Roosevelt’s in other ways later in life. His daughter Tracy was diagnosed with polio in 1949, which also famously afflicted Roosevelt. Woodard’s affinity for boating only grew after 1932, and he eventually went on to serve in the U.S. Navy, where Roosevelt had previously served as the assistant secretary prior to his years as governor.

The Woodards owned several sailboats and fishing boats through the years. In 1936, Randall and his older brothers, twins Martin and Merwin, finished tied for first among 2,000 other competitors worldwide for the Snipe Class International championship. Through the years he often competed in races and experienced more-than-modest levels of success.

After graduating from Port Jefferson High School in 1938, Woodard attended The Citadel military college in South Carolina.

“The war was on the horizon in Europe and a military college made sense at that time,” he wrote in 2004. He joked he and a high school friend went to Citadel because their grades were not good enough to attend the U.S. Naval or Coast Guard academies.

“I was not a hero,” Woodard said. “If we didn’t have a Marine Corps we’d still be over there. I was in enough tight spots to know.”

After graduating from The Citadel with a degree in civil engineering, he became a Seabee officer in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions. The Seabees, as they were called — a play on “CB” for Construction Battalion — were deployed to Pearl Harbor in the aftermath of the Japanese attack to reconstruct damaged bulkheads, dredge the ocean floor to allow ships passage and assemble barges and causeways in preparation for an amphibious attack, according to Woodard. During his training prior to deployment while stationed in Rhode Island, Woodard was aboard the world’s largest sea tow, which was an experimental floating airfield slated for assembly in Alaska. The airfield was not needed, and broken-up pieces were used during the Normandy Invasion on D-Day.

“The war was on the horizon in Europe and a military college made sense at that time.”

— Randall Woodard

He was part of a mission headed to a series of islands in the Pacific near Japan in May 1944, weeks before the beaches were stormed in Normandy. Nine days after D-Day, aboard a craft carrying four barges Woodard was responsible for overseeing, the U.S. Marine Corps invaded Saipan, a Japanese-held island. Woodard and the Seabees contributed to the mission by using the barges to unload ammunition, gasoline and other supplies.

One day a Japanese Zero aircraft flew low and attacked his flat steel barge with little options in the way of hiding places. He said he pulled out his handgun and fired two rounds at the aircraft, which eventually went down.

“I probably missed, but the plane crashed into the side of a freighter,” he wrote in 2004. He said his barges survived for five weeks until the island was secure. After the victory over Japan, he spent six months at Navy Department Bureau of Yards and Docks in Washington, D.C., where he met Barbara Brown, whom he later married. Woodard said he remained in the Navy reserves for about 15 years.

When he returned home, Woodard worked for years as a civil engineer. In the 1950s he was the resident engineer overseeing a series of contracts to construct the Northern State and Sunken Meadow parkways, and said he was responsible for the construction of all of the parkway overpasses in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

This post was updated Dec. 8 to correct the date of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 speech.