Tags Posts tagged with "East Setuaket"

East Setuaket

by -
0 169
Mary Ellen Niciu. Photo courtesy Legacy.com

Prepared by Christine Mackowiak

Mary Ellen Niciu, 83, of East Setauket passed away March 3 at Sunrise Senior Living in East Setauket where she had been in residence in the Memory Care facility since 2019. 

She was born July 10, 1940, in Brooklyn, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Maraia. She married William T. Niciu on July 5, 1964. 

Ellen graduated from SUNY Center on Long Island at Oyster Bay, in 1962 with a bachelor of arts in history. Upon her marriage to Bill, Ellen devoted her life to the care and upbringing of her family. She spent much of her time supporting her two daughters’ extracurricular interests, highlighted in particular by her volunteer time with The Clarkettes of Port Jefferson. 

In the latter portion of her life, Ellen worked for the NYS Department of Labor where her focus was assisting others with obtaining employment. Ellen also volunteered with The Guide Dog Foundation, raising several guide dog puppies. 

She was a dedicated daughter and aunt and adored her many cats. Her three grandchildren, Chris, Nicole and Jessica, were the pride of her life, and she reveled in all of their successes. She was predeceased by her husband of 56 years and beloved sister Rosanne Maraia. She is survived by her two daughters, Christine Mackowiak of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, and Elizabeth Niciu of Columbia, South Carolina; her three grandchildren and her brother Michael Maraia.

 A celebration of the liturgy of Christian burial was held on March 11 at St. James R.C. Church in East Setauket and interment followed at St. James R.C. cemetery. In lieu of flowers donations would be appreciated in her memory to Good Shepherd Hospice at www.catholichealthli.org.

by -
0 497
Bob Wattecamps, Dean Hacohen and Diane Wattcamps by the Connecticut bench discovered at West Meadow Beach. Photo from Diane Wattecamps

An East Setauket couple’s walk along the beach led to a memorial bench returned to its rightful place — in Connecticut.

A bench from Connecticut was found on West Meadow Beach. Photo from Diane Wattecamps

After 50 years living in the Three Village area and countless walks along West Meadow Beach, Diane and Bob Wattecamps know the landscape like the backs of their hands.

While walking on the beach one day at the end of January, the couple embarked on an unexpected adventure. Diane Wattecamps pointed out a bench to her husband that caught her eye the day before on a windy day. It was a large bench made from teakwood lodged at the beach’s pavilion. The couple stopped to examine the piece covered with sand and seaweed. First, they found a bronze memorial plaque hanging from a screw on the bench.

“Bob just put his hand on the plaque, and it just came off in his hand,” said the wife. “He said, ‘Wow, this thing was just literally hanging on.’”

After closer inspection, the Wattecamps found another plaque in the sand and realized they belonged to a couple named Nahum and Judy Hacohen. They knew that not only did this bench not belong on their favorite beach, but it was also something special.

Diane Wattecamps said after reading the plaques, she could picture the couple sitting by the water somewhere, enjoying the view. One plaque dedicated to Nahum Hacohen read, “What a view.” Judy Hacohen’s plaque is inscribed with “I’ve said that since 1936.”

After she and her husband found the plaques, the Three Village resident said she took out her cellphone to search for the names, and she found the wife’s obituary immediately. It turned out she was an 81-year resident of Bell Island in Norwalk, Connecticut. The couple then decided to load the heavy bench into their truck.

“I have to find where it belongs,” Diane Wattecamps said to her husband.

A former TBR News Media employee for 30 years, the wife said she got home and started to read the obituary carefully. She found the children’s names and searched for them on the internet. One had a landline listed, Lee Hacohen.

“I guess it’s the curiosity in my personality that I couldn’t leave it,” she said.

She called and left a message for the Hacohens’ son. He returned the call within five minutes and was surprised to hear from her.

It turned out the bench had been missing since November from Bell Island located across the Long Island Sound. It was believed the bench traveled more than 17 nautical miles after a nor’easter.

Lee Hacohen asked if Diane Wattecamps could stay on the phone while he contacted his brother Dean who still lived on Bell Island.

After talking to them, Dean Hacohen said he would come the next day, even though the couple were happy to drive it to Connecticut, but Dean wanted to get the bench back as soon as possible and said his neighbor could come to help.

In the meantime, family members sent Bob and Diane Wattecamps photos of the Bell Island couple. They also shared pictures of the grandchildren sitting on the bench, including Dean Hacohen’s daughter and son-in-law on their wedding day.

Nahum’s and Judy’s plaques. Photo from Dean Hacohen

Dean Hacohen said a neighbor had initially noticed that the bench, one of three at a neighborhood park at a spot called Rocky Point, was missing at the end of last year. At first, they thought maybe someone had taken it. While it’s heavy, two people can pick it up. Then a neighbor pointed out that there were nor’easters back in November. Since the benches are unsecured and people move them around the neighborhood park, Hacohen said it was assumed the bench was probably left by the water and washed away in a storm. The hope was that it would turn up along a neighboring Connecticut beach, and he posted on the Nextdoor app to see if anyone found it, but no one had.

When Diane Wattecamps called, he said he never “imagined in my wildest dreams” that it would be found on Long Island.

Before they received the call, the Hacohens were researching online how much a bench would cost to replace the original one.

“I kept putting it off and hoping that maybe some miracle would happen, but I really didn’t think it would,” Dean Hacohen said, adding he wasn’t sure how the bench made it in one piece, especially with boats on the water.

He and his neighbor took the ferry to Port Jefferson and drove straight to Diane and Bob’s home. When they got there, the bench was in the portico with a sign, “USS Hacohen.”

“It was a glorious moment,” he said. “It really was.”

He added some might say it’s just a bench. “On the other hand, it was kind of a memorial, a tombstone, something in the way people go to the cemetery and sit with their loved ones,” he said.

Often, Hacohen said, when family members come to visit from California, they will go to the park to sit on the beach shortly after arriving.

“They go out to the park, sit on the bench, look out at the water, ground themselves,” he said. “I don’t know, somehow sitting there is very grounding.”

The bench was initially dedicated to his father in 2009. “What a view,” was one of his favorite expressions when he came down to the park and took in the sight of nearly 360 degrees of water and islands. Dean Hacohen said his mother enjoyed sitting on the bench after her husband’s passing. He said both inscriptions capture the father’s and mother’s personalities.

Hacohen said when he inspected the bench upon seeing it, he was surprised that it was only a little “banged up.”

Dean Hacohen said his parents loved cruises, and his father was in the passenger cruise ship business in the 1960s, so it wasn’t a surprise the bench took them on one more trip on the water together.

“The two of them together must have been on that bench heading for Long Island,” Hacohen said.

Since the reunion, the story has caught the attention of News12 and NBC Channel 4 — with videos online — and The Norwalk Hour newspaper. Diane Wattecamps was surprised by all the attention even though she found connecting with the Hacohens heartwarming. She and her husband, Wattecamps said, plan to keep in touch with the family.

Hacohen called Diane Wattecamps “a real detective.”

“You’ve got to be born with that gene to want to use it,” he said. “Most people would have just walked by the bench and said, ‘Oh, It’s an old bench that washed up.’”

by -
0 113
Three Village Dads hold up a check for $15,000 that was given to the Veterans of Foreign War Post 3054 in East Setauket. Photo from Three Village Dads

When it comes to raising money, members of one Facebook parent group have been busy this year.

Just a few months after donating $12,000 to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, the fathers who make up the Three Village Dads Facebook group presented a check Sept. 16 for $15,000 to Veterans of Foreign War Post 3054 in East Setauket. The group raised the funds during an Aug. 23 golf outing at Rock Hill Golf and Country Club in Manorville where 95 people participated. Among the golfers were six post members who were invited to join the online group and play some golf as well.

Group administrator David Tracy, of Stony Brook, said the VFW post came in a close second to the children’s hospital earlier this year when administrators asked members what nonprofit they should raise money for. Tracy said the fathers were able to collect $15,000 for the post by charging for golf and offering raffles including a 50/50. They also approached businesses to ask if they would like to sponsor golf tee signs and meals on the day of the event.

“Because we had such a great turnout and a good reputation from back in May with the children’s hospital, we essentially had the same returning businesses and then a few extras,” Tracy said.

Post Commander Jay Veronko said the $15,000 came at a good time. The post recently installed a fire alarm system which cost $14,000. The members have been busy renovating the building, and after Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) reached out to local unions, sheet metal workers reworked the kitchen’s vent system as a project for their trainees. In addition to the kitchen renovations, the back steps were recently redone. Masonry union members, who have donated their time and tiles, will work on the bathrooms. The post members also are hoping to replace their windows, which aren’t energy efficient.

Veronko said by renovating the post, the hope is that it can be used as a community meeting center. Three Village Dads has planned to gather there once a month, and the Titanium Twirlers — a group of baton twirlers — just held their initial meeting at the post.

“It’s part of the mission of trying to get back out in the community,”

– Jay Veronko

Tracy said the post is the perfect place to meet. In addition to a few Facebook group members belonging to the post, since they recently formed the Three Village Dads foundation to streamline the fundraising process, they are required to meet monthly. In addition to discussing future fundraising projects, he said the group hopes to talk about local issues and how they can add their voices to concerns in the community. He said the meeting space would provide members, who may be hesitant to post on a social media, a chance to discuss issues.

“It’s nice to be able to pool together the thoughts and the ideas of everybody, and put these major concerns front and center,” Tracy said. “These meetings will make that an even more viable place to sound off.”

Veronko said the post will hold an Oktoberfest event on their grounds, 8 Jones St., East Setauket, Oct. 12 from 2 to 7 p.m. On that day VFW members will present the Three Village Dads with a plaque.

“The event really is more or less a thank you to the Three Village Dads for doing what they’ve done for us,” Veronko said.

The day will include the Chris and Ronnie Polka Band from Staten Island performing, food from Pumpernickels Restaurant in Northport, steinholding, German trivia contests and a 50/50 raffle.

In addition to the group page, Three Village Dads now have a public page, www.facebook.com/threevillagedads, to inform those outside of the group of their latest activities as well as share some fatherly tips.


Landmark status is granted to The Jazz Loft building in Stony Brook. File photo

The following is an edited Town of Brookhaven public comment presentation made Sept. 1.

Good evening, Mr. Supervisor and town board members.

My name is John Broven, author of three books on American music history. I am privileged to live in a historic district of East Setauket, part of the beautiful Three Village area. My late father-in-law, Clark Galehouse, founded Golden Crest Records out of Huntington Station in 1956 and released many jazz albums among others — I think you know where I’m coming from.

I fully endorse the recommendation of Town Historian Barbara Russell and the Historic District Advisory Committee to accord The Jazz Loft building at 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook, landmark status. I would like to read my historical notes in support of my position.

The Jazz Loft building, in fact, consists of two historic structures: The Stone Jug and the 1921 firehouse. The building accommodated the first museum in Stony Brook, founded in 1935 by real estate broker and insurance agent O.C. (Cap) Lempfert, a keen hunter and taxidermist. At first, the museum was located in the home of Arthur Rayner where Saturday nature talks for children became a weekly event; naturalist Robert Cushman Murphy, of R.C. Murphy Jr. High School, led some of the nature walks.

Originally called the Suffolk County Museum of Natural History, it became known as the Little Museum in the Jug after it was moved to the Stone Jug storage building — a former tavern and social center of the village — with the backing of Mr. and Mrs. Ward Melville. The museum was formally incorporated as the Suffolk Museum in 1939.

You may be amused by a quote from a history of the Museums at Stony Brook, a later name before it became today’s prestigious The Long Island Museum: “The move was no small task since by that time the collection include a 400-pound loggerhead turtle, an eagle with a 6-foot wingspread, a trumpeter swan, and hundreds of small collection items.”

I am aware that Mr. Lempfert’s granddaughters, Mary and Jane L’Hommedieu, who both now live on the West Coast, are delighted at the town’s potential recognition of their grandfather’s museum building — and thus his pioneering work. Jane tells me he also made and exhibited duck decoys, collected Native American artifacts from his property for the museum and even constructed a wigwam. A major achievement of the museum to this day was to collect and show the fabulous paintings of William Sidney Mount.

It is wonderful that the building has come alive this year after careful restoration as The Jazz Loft incorporating a museum — how appropriate! — live jazz and education facilities. What Tom Manuel, a talented jazz musician, educator and historian, his board and The Ward Melville Heritage Organization have done to date is very impressive, not only for the Three Village area but also for Long Island tourism — and jazz itself. I know Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) attended the opening. By granting The Jazz Loft building landmark status, in effect the town will be protecting and preserving our past, present and future heritage. I trust the town board will support its Historic District Advisory Committee because I consider all the historical and cultural boxes have been ticked.

The result: A unanimous vote in favor.

John Broven is a member of the editorial staff of this newspaper. He gives thanks to Joshua Ruff, director of collections and interpretation of The Long Island Museum, for providing historical detail by way of “The Carriage Museum” (1987) publication.