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Gloria Rocchio

'Right and Left' by William Sidney Mount (1850)

By Tara Mae

Idyllic, intimate scenes of small town life and sublimely serene landscapes. Warmly illuminated faces, too often absent in American fine art, immortalized for generations. William Sidney Mount’s art both embraced and defied the standards of the 19th century. 

Through this prism, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) will present a special program titled “William Sidney Mount and Long Island’s Free People of Color” at the Brewster House (c. 1665) in Setauket on Saturday, Sept. 24.

The cover of Katherine Kirkpatrick and Vivian Nicholson-Mueller’s new book.

The talk by Katherine Kirkpatrick and Vivian Nicholson-Mueller, co-authors of The Art of William Sidney Mount: Long Island People of Color on Canvas, will explore the identities and lives of the 19th century Black, Native-Black and Black-White people who Mount portrayed in many of his works as well as their ties to the Three Village community. 

During the presentation’s two sessions, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 2:30 to 4 p.m., Kirkpatrick and Nicholson-Mueller will discuss researching and writing their book, which delves into some identities of Mount’s most notable subjects: people who are largely missing, erased, otherized, or caricatured in American art of the 1800s.

Each session will be followed by a Q&A segment, book signing, artwork presentation, and tour of the Brewster house. 

“[Kirkpatrick and Nicholson-Mueller] put forward research that makes you want to ask more questions and think about who these people were…What were their lives like? Who were the other people that lived here? What were their relationships like?” said WMHO’s President Gloria Rocchio.

The event will be held at the historic Brewster House in Setauket, which Mount painted in ‘Long Island Farmhouses’ (see cover photo)

Among the individuals that the book and presentations will highlight are Henry Brazier, the left-handed fiddler in Right and Left (a portrait that is a stark departure from the racist caricatures of Black fiddlers typical of the time); George Freeman, the lively musician in The Banjo Player; Robbin Mills, the attentive outside audience in The Power of Music; and, Rachel (who’s last name will be discussed at the presentation), the poised fisherwoman in Eel Spearing in Setauket. 

Mount’s portrayal of these people is noteworthy in its normalcy. Rather than racist caricatures, at the time a prevalent American representation of any nonwhite person, he painted people as they were: members of the local community. 

So it is arguably a bit jarring to learn that, despite what much of his art might imply, Mount was not a abolitionist, an incongruous revelation that Kirkpatrick and Nicholson-Mueller address in the book and will acknowledge in the talks.  

“Mount was a complex man,” Kirkpatrick said. Despite the multitudes he contained, Mount’s artistic aims appear simpler: inspired by historical paintings he admired, Mount painted what he knew. 

‘Long Island Farmhouses’ by William Sidney Mount (1862-63)

And, Mount knew Long Island, particularly the Brewster house, which is now owned by WMHO and was restored in 1968 to appear as it did in his painting Long Island Farmhouses which is now hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mount even parked his mobile studio on the Brewster property while painting other farmhouses.  

Beyond his appreciation for the landscape, Mount was also acquainted with the Brewster house’s inhabitants. George Freeman of The Banjo Player and Rachel, of Eel Spearing in Setauket, who may have been a Brewster, were just two residents that Mount painted, according to Kirkpatrick and Nicholson-Mueller. 

While some structures featured in his landscapes, like the Brewster House, have had both their facades and histories preserved, not much has been cohesively published about the people who populated his paintings, many of whom were friends, neighbors, and townspeople. 

‘The Power of Music’
by William Sidney Mount, 1847

Rocchio sees “Color and Canvas…” as a way of correcting the apparent information vacuum. “I am looking forward to seeing people’s reactions to learning more about who lived and worked in the Brewster House…Any time we can bring out new information about the properties that we own, we are incredibly interested in the projects,” Rocchio said. 

It was such a search for knowledge that first drew educator and genealogist Nicholson-Mueller to the project. While on a quest for genealogical discovery, she learned that she is probably a descendant of Mount, the Brewsters, and many of the people he captured on canvas, including Mills, of The Power of Music. 

Having already bonded over a shared loved of history after meeting at the home of a mutual friend, she teamed up with Kirkpatrick, a historical fiction and nonfiction author, who grew up in Stony Brook. 

‘The Banjo Player’ by William Sidney Mount (1856)

“The research was a gift to myself; and it is Vivian’s and my gift to the people of the Three Villages, St. James and Smithtown. The details we put together will broaden people’s perspectives and knowledge of familiar places,” Kirkpatrick said. 

Each woman already had connections to the WMHO and were looking to work on a project together. Kirkpatrick is the author of Redcoats and Petticoats, a children’s book told through a young boy’s perspective about the British occupation of Long Island during the American Revolution and the Culper Spy Ring. Research and other projects have put her in contact with the WMHO over the years. 

Nicholson-Mueller has worked as a volunteer docent for the WMHO at the Thompson House, another historic property it owns. She has also conducted research on the Brewsters and Thompsons.

So, history is both a personal interest and professional passion for Kirkpatrick and Nicholson-Mueller. “Color on Canvas…” is a continuation of their efforts to make the past come alive for modern audiences by broadening the palette of people’s understanding.  

“I am hoping that people learn about Mount as an individual; about the lives and history of the people of color who lived in Brookhaven during this period and have heretofore been neglected or ignored,” Nicholson-Mueller said. 

Tickets to “William Sidney Mount and Long Island’s Free People of Color” at the Brewster House are $8 per person; space is limited and anyone interested in attending must register in advance by calling 631-751-2244. 

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There will two additional local events to celebrate the book launch of The Art of William Sidney Mount: Long Island People of Color on Canvas: 

On Sunday, October 2nd, the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A; Stony Brook, will host an Author’s Talk on Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. It will include a presentation by Kirkpatrick and Nicholson-Mueller as well as a book signing, banjo and fiddle music, refreshments and a gallery tour, where The Banjo Player and Right and Left will be on display. Fee is price of admission. Visit wwwl.longislandmuseum.org.

On Monday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m., the Three Village Historical Society will host a Zoom lecture with the authors. The event is free for TVHS members, with a $5 suggested donation for nonmembers. Registration is through www.tvhs.org/lecture-series. For more information, call 631-751-3730.

It was something to crow about! On July 1, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) announced the completion of the rooster weathervane atop the flagpole on the Stony Brook Village Green by Budco Enterprises Inc. and Olivia and Harlan Fischer.

During a storm in June 2021, the rooster on the weathervane fell to the ground and shattered. The rooster is an original piece of Stony Brook Village’s rehabilitation by Ward Melville in 1941. 

Buddy Simmons, President of Budco Enterprises Inc., restored the weathervane and personally attempted to reconstruct the original rooster, but was not able to because too many pieces were missing. He then donated a replica of the rooster.  

Alex Simmons, Vice President, Budco Enterprises Inc. detached the directional arrows, ground them down and painted them, as well as enhanced the rooster by painting it with true colors. Olivia and Harlan Fischer sponsored  the removal and reinstallation of the new rooster, completed by Poletec, which was no easy feat. 

The original weathervane was custom built by Ward Melville and was there for 81 years. Hopefully this one will be perched for at least another 81 years. 

To learn more about the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, call 631-751-2244.

Photo from WMHO

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) hosted its second Long Island Sound Connections Summit in the first week of June. This virtual, hands-on collaborative learning program connects students across Long Island Sound and allows them to conduct their own experiments to better understand the water systems in their environment.

Long Island Sound Connections is the first program to connect both shores with students from New York and Connecticut – With virtual class check-ins, “summits” where students present their findings, and an ongoing collection of data and that information’s analysis. The Long Island Sound Connections program was designed to help students learn about the Long Island Sound and to inspire them to protect their environment. The program is offered via distance learning from the WMHO’s Erwin J. Ernst Marine Conservation Center (EMCC), students have front row seats to one of the most pristine natural resources in the Northern Hemisphere.

WMHO collaborated with University of Stony Brook Professor Jeffrey Levinton of the Ecology and Evolution Department to develop a system of data collection parameters for monitoring West Meadow Creek’s water quality and species counts. Professor Levinton will continue to support WMHO in developing this multipronged project that seeks to educate the public while providing data representing the creek’s health over time to the public and researchers.

Students performed their own experiments and led their own research on the topics of water salinization, acidity and quality, and human impact on the environment. Students also compared and contrasted their two environments (suburban and urban), and presented it to their partner class. The research collected from both sides of the Long Island Sound has been entered in WHMO’s software. Each season additional data will be added to it to create a map to assist researchers of all ages to understand the similarities and differences and track changes over time.

The second “Summit” of classes in this program was between Michelle Millers’ 6th Grade Science Class from Middle Country School District in Selden, New York, and Victoria Soltis and Angelica Lawrence’s 6th Grade Science from Edison Elementary School in Bridgeport, who worked in collaboration with Mill River Wetland Committee. With grants provided by the Fullwood Foundation, the Frey Family Foundation and Webster Bank, this program was offered to participating classes free of charge. All costs associated with the program were sponsored by these organizations.

Pictured from left are Megan Frey, Frey Family Foundation; Max Frey; Deborah Boudreau, Education Director, WMHO; Gloria Rocchio, President, WMHO; New York State Senator Mario R. Mattera, 2nd Senate District; Dr. Richard Rugen, Chairman, WMHO; Kathleen Mich, Trustee, WMHO. Not shown, Nicole Sarno, Business Manager, Webster Bank and Dr. Robert Parker, The Fullwood Foundation.

For more information about the WMHO, on the Long Island Sound Connection program, other historic, environmental and scientific programs that the WMHO offers, please call 631-751-2244 or visit wmho.org.

 

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Excitement abounds in Stony Brook Village!

On June 21, the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) held a press conference in which they announced that they are joining forces by signing a long-term lease to house the LIMEHOF’s first physical facility at the WMHO’s Educational and Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village Center.

This perfect melding brings together two organizations built on highlighting cultural as well as educational elements. The WMHO is rooted in the contributions of Ward Melville to the educational landscape of the Three Village Area. Its Educational and Cultural Center, an impressive white colonial-style building, opened its doors in 2002, offering interactive programs and events, exhibits, and theatrical productions.

The Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, a non-profit organization founded in 2004, recognizes, honors and preserves Long Island’s musical heritage. The organization’s educational initiatives include annual scholarships, a concert series, speaker series, and its Hall of Fame with such inductees as Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Eddie Money, Connie Stevens, Clive Davis and Neil Sedaka. The organization recently expanded its mission to recognize all forms of the arts including, but not limited to, comedy, film, television and theater. 

Now that LIMEHOF has joined forces with WMHO, their ambitious collaboration intends to create a physical facility in the Educational and Cultural Center space that will showcase Long Island’s rich and diverse musical and entertainment history. Plans are for exhibits, a permanent “Hall of Fame,” a library, classrooms for educational programs and master classes, and a theater.

Dr. Richard Rugen, chair of board to WMHO said, “We are looking forward to a long partnership with LIMEHOF. Our trustees feel this is a perfect fit with the other not-for-profits located in Stony Brook Village, namely, The Long Island Museum, The Jazz Loft and The Reboli Center.”

“With all the other attributes in Stony Brook Village, such as restaurants, shops, parks, Discovery Boat, kayaks, historic buildings and hotel, this is a perfect addition. The multi-purpose building was constructed to hold exhibits, performances, classes and is wired for distance learning. When I heard that LIMEHOF was looking for a permanent home, I called Ernie Canadeo and the rest is history.” said Gloria D. Rocchio, President of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

The festivities were kicked off by the LIHOF 2022 inductees, the band Barnaby Bye, featuring the Alessi brothers, Billy and Bobby, and Mike Ricciardella, treating the audience to a rendition of their song Sea Birds.

Hosting duties went to the LIMEHOF Chairman, Ernie Canadeo, who proudly stated, “I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say there is no place in the country and even in the world that has produced as many extraordinary musical composers or entertainers than Long Island. We have inducted over 100 from every musical genre. Today we are thrilled to announce that we have expanded our mission and our name to include major figures in comedy, film, television and the arts in addition to music. This beautiful building will become the home to honor, respect and preserve LI’s diverse musical and entertainment history and its future.” 

He continued, “In addition to a permanent Hall of Fame that will honor all our inductees, we will have 2 changing exhibitions a year. The first will be called LI’s Legendary Club Scene 1960s, 70s and 80s. It will be a tribute to clubs and bands who played on Long Island and created the unbelievable club scene that no one who lives here will ever forget. We expect to draw people from all over with nostalgia for those wonderful days. We are planning a grand opening in November 2022.”

Canadeo then introduced the world-renowned visual designer, Kevin O’Callaghan, who will oversee all things creative.

“I love this community. I am thankful for this opportunity; it is really amazing,” said O’Callaghan. “For this first exhibition, we want to focus on the people, because the people of Long Island are what made so much of this happen. The club scene, the music scene — it all started here. We want to get the stories, the stories behind the musicians and the shows and what people saw and experienced and what it felt like to be in Speaks and what it felt like to be in Hammerheads and what it felt like to see Twisted Sister. It’s amazing; Billy Joel, in his early days, just playing a piano, no band behind him. We want to hear those stories, so we’re reaching out to the public looking for stories, memorabilia. I don’t think there is anything too small that wouldn’t be important in here. We’re going to have a theater upstairs; we’re going to have a library upstairs. It’s going to be educational. I just can’t wait. I’m unbelievably excited!”

It is of special interest to note that the space where the Educational and Cultural Center is located was once the site of the famed Dogwood Hollow built by businessman and philanthropist Ward Melville. It was a 2,000+ seat outdoor amphitheater that hosted greats such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Liberace and more between 1955 and 1970. 

In deference to this space, Canadeo said, “It was one of the most significant theatres on Long Island and it was right here where this building was built. So, you talk about karma and us being meant to be here; it’s really unbelievable. And if you look at the history, it was one of the first places that had no regard for racial issues. You look back and a lot of the artists here spanned everyone and it’s really a significant space. We are proud that our building is in this space.”

The crowd was treated to a tour of the upstairs space that will house the Hall of Fame, exhibits and a small theater. The official ribbon-cutting and public opening of the completed space is scheduled to take place this coming November. For more information and to see artist renderings of the exhibits, visit www.limehof.org.

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Chelsea Gomez, left, is a former employee who says Pentimento's owner has properly taken care of the septic system at the restaurant. Photo by Kimberly Brown

Residents who have banded together to save Pentimento Restaurant in Stony Brook Village Center, before taking to the village streets Sunday to protest, started a Facebook page and petition earlier this month.

The petition on Change.org, started by Patricia Kirchner, has received almost 3,300 signatures as of Aug. 18. It states that the restaurant has been refused a lease renewal by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

Eagle Realty Holdings is the owner of the Stony Brook Village Center storefronts, which selects tenants, collects rent and maintains the shopping center property. Net proceeds are distributed to WMHO. According to Gloria Rocchio, president of Eagle Realty Holdings and WMHO, the realty company pays more than $725,000 in real estate taxes a year.

Rocchio added the WMHO board of trustees are non-salaried volunteers.

On the Save Pentimento Facebook page, which has more than 400 followers, the administrators have requested that, in addition to members calling and emailing WMHO’s office and Rocchio, they also contact trustees and have listed the board members’ phone numbers and email addresses.

In a phone interview Aug. 16, Rocchio said she believes many community members are acting on misinformation.

“They don’t have all the facts,” she said. “They only have one side of the story.”

Rocchio added that it’s not standard protocol to discuss where a tenant stands as far as a lease, rent or any other interactions between the landlord and business. 

Earlier this month, Pentimento owner Dennis Young told TBR News Media that last year he was required to request an extension of the lease, which expires at the end of September. He said while trying to keep the restaurant afloat during the pandemic, renewing slipped his mind.

While Young is thinking about retiring in the near future, he said friends were interested in buying the business and keeping Pentimento as it is.

Rocchio said in addition to not providing notice of an interest to renew the lease last year, the tenant failed “to comply with the requirement to maintain the septic system” which is described in the lease. She added the new owners that were recommended by Young were interviewed as well as other candidates.

Young said he has maintained the property during his 27 years of ownership.

Restaurant manager Lisa Cusumano in a phone interview said she and Young have not been part of any of the planning of the petition or the rally and have been too busy running the business to keep up with the comments on the Save Pentimento Facebook page.

“The community is taking it in their own hands, and it has a life of its own,” she said.

In an Aug. 6 post to the Pentimento Restaurant Facebook page, residents were asked to remember that the business isn’t a separate entity but is part of Stony Brook Village Center. Patrons were encouraged to support all the businesses in the shopping center.

“The community outpouring has been overwhelming and it’s touching, but we don’t want people to go against the village center because that’s our home, and they’re all our neighbors — those businesses are just like us,” Cusumano said.

Not only have Young and her been overwhelmed by the community’s response via social media and the Aug. 15 rally, they said customers come in every day asking why they are closing.

“There isn’t a customer that does not walk in our restaurant every day and says, ‘What is going on, why is this happening?’” Cusumano said.

According to Rocchio, no final decision has been made as far as a future tenant.

Photo from The Jazz Loft

By Heidi Sutton

The T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park in Stony Brook suffered extensive wind damage during Tropical Storm Isaias on Aug. 4. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Last Thursday, Nov. 12, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) hosted a New Beginnings Virtual Party fundraiser to benefit the restoration and maintenance of a very special place — the T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park aka the Stony Brook Duck Pond. Located along Main Street in Stony Brook Village adjacent to the Grist Mill, the charming park has been enjoyed by countless families over the years.

This past summer Tropical Storm Isaias ripped through the park and uprooted over a dozen trees. There was also major damage to the park’s Braille engraved handrails, the borders maintaining the gardens and the walkways along the pond.

The 90 minute live Zoom event was hosted by Richard Wiese, President of The Explorer’s Club in NYC and host of PBS’s Born to Explore and co-host of Weekends with Yankee.

News 12 reporter Elisa DiStefano

Now living in Connecticut, Wiese grew up in Head of the Harbor and has always had a special connection to the park. “I just have so many fond memories of the Mill Pond. The more I travel around the world, the more I see how special and unique the Stony Brook area is. I can actually say that the Village of Stony Brook may be even prettier than it was in the 1960s when I first became familiar with it,” he said.

The fun evening included an appearance by award-winning reporter and News 12 host of Road Trip Close to Home, Elisa DiStefano; and host of Fox Nation: Celebrate America and five-time New York Times bestselling author, including George Washington’s Secret Six, Brian Kilmeade. The event also featured performances by Tom Manuel and The Jazz Loft’s Equity Brass Band; America’s Got Talent finalist, Sal “the Voice” Valentinetti; and comedian Rich Walker.

Comedian Rich Walker

DiStefano, who grew up in Hauppauge, visited the park right after the storm and covered the story for News 12. “Stony Brook Village I grew up going to as a treat … Because of the extensive damage [from the storm] it looked like a war zone that day but meeting Gloria Rocchio [President of the WMHO] and her team and seeing their positivity, there was no doubt in my mind that they would do everything they could to restore the area to what it was before,” she said.

Kilmeade, who hosted the evening’s interactive history challenge, “A History Mystery,” lauded Rocchio and the WMHO for keeping the past and Ward Melville’s vision alive. “You can go to [Stony Brook Village] and you really think you’ve gone back 200 years … during the holidays it looks like a movie set. I believe that’s what Ward Melville wanted. He wanted everyone to remember what it was like. While we move forward with progress we can still go back in time.”

Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti

The virtual party was the perfect instrument to introduce the WMHO’s New Beginnings online auction to raise money for this wonderful cause. Available through Dec. 16, it features items starting at $50 and covers everything from travel, fashion, art, antiques, food and wine, health and wellness and unique experiences. Generously donated auction items include a private four-person fishing charter, a family portrait session, a military tank ride, dinner for 4 aboard a superyacht, pizza every month for a year, a golf outing for four, an exclusive champagne toast and drinks for six at the Explorer’s Club with Richard Wiese, a trip to Barbados and much, much more.

The New Beginnings Online Auction is as easy as eBay with free registration to bid on the auction items. You will be notified if someone outbids you and you can bid again and again. The successful bidder’s card will not be charged until the last day of the auction — at midnight on Dec. 16, giving guests plenty of time to compete for a good cause.

100% of the funds generated from this event will support the restoration and maintenance of the T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park.

To register for the New Beginnings Online Auction, please visit wmho.org/the-ward-melville-heritage-organization/virtualbenefit/. For more information, please call 631-751-2244.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Gloria Rocchio, Kara Hahn, Michael Ardolino, Charlie Lefkowitz and Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright at the Three Village Chamber of Commerce awards dinner. Photo from Three Village Chamber of Commerce

At its recent awards dinner, the Three Village Chamber of Commerce honored a familiar face in the community and the real estate world.

Charlie Lefkowitz, chamber president, and Ardolino with his Member of the Year award. Photo from Three Village Chamber of Commerce

The chamber’s Member of the Year award was given to Michael Ardolino, founder and owner of Team Ardolino/Realty Connect USA. The award is given to members who “go above and beyond to support the chamber and its mission,” according to a press release from the TVCC.

“The Three Village Chamber of Commerce and the community are truly appreciative for everything that Michael continues to do to make Stony Brook, Setauket and Old Field a great place to live and work,” the chamber said in the release.

Ardolino, who lives in Setauket with his wife, said he was surprised and honored to receive the award.

“Being in the chamber as long as I have, enjoying everything I’ve been doing with the chamber for many years, to get that award was really special,” he said.

Ardolino said he remembers when he decided to join the chamber more than 20 years ago and was interviewed by Harold Pryor. The organization’s first president asked him why he should be accepted.

“I remember sitting down and saying, ‘Well, because I’m going to help you make it better than you have already started it to be,’” he said.

Through the years, Ardolino has served as the chamber’s president, president emeritus and is currently assisting secretary. He is the chair of the chamber Special Events Committee, a member of its Program and Membership Committee and the cofounder and current chair of the 3V Chamber Family BBQ. The event has been held for 20 years but this year was canceled due to the pandemic.

He is also the founder of the Three Village Electric Holiday Parade and sits on the boards of Gallery North and The Jazz Loft. For the last couple of years, he has been the co-chair of Three Village Industry Advisory Board, which works with the school district to provide job opportunities for Ward Melville High School students. Recently, he has been serving on the Town of Brookhaven Small Business Recovery Task Force.

“Being in the chamber as long as I have, enjoying everything I’ve been doing with the chamber for many years, to get that award was really special.”

— Michael Ardolino

During the pandemic, Ardolino organized a sign campaign with other local chamber businesses which raised funds to feed workers on the frontlines. The real estate agent said he appreciates his time with the chamber.

“The chamber is one of the strongest foundations of the Three Village area,” he said. “It’s a very special place we live, and the Three Village chamber here all these years helped it grow and be what it is today.”

On the same night that Ardolino won the Member of the Year award, Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, was presented with The Roy Dragotta Award, named after a past president.

“Rocchio exemplified the characteristics that Roy embodied,” the chamber press release read. “These include an outstanding commitment to and participation in the chamber, working tirelessly to recruit business and doing whatever she could support or advocate for local businesses.”

Rocchio said, like Ardolino, she was surprised to hear she was an award winner. She was proud to work with the chamber board members who she said are passionate when it comes to helping the business community.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) won The Harold Pryor Award for her “commitment to the Three Village community through faithful service,” according to the press release.

“I was incredibly humbled and honored to be presented with The Harold Pryor Award by the Three Village Chamber of Commerce,” Hahn said in an email. “Growing up in this community, and now raising my own family here, it is a true privilege to be able to support and serve its residents.”

Hahn also congratulated Ardolino and Rocchio for their awards and thanked the chamber “for all of the work that they have been doing to support our local businesses.”

Roberta Fabiano
Food, fashion and fun to support a wonderful cause

By Melissa Arnold

Sometimes, you just need to go out and have a good time. Why not do it for a good cause?

On Tuesday, Feb. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. the Ward Melville Heritage Organization will host its second annual A ‘Taste’ of Stony Brook Village … Ladies Night Out! fundraiser. The special event was created to boost WMHO’s long-standing support of breast cancer research at Stony Brook Medicine.

This year, the evening will be moved to the Three Village Inn, 150 Main St., Stony Brook to better accommodate the expected crowd, said WMHO president Gloria Rocchio. “The response was tremendous and enthusiastic last year when we had our first event at the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center. There were almost too many people,” Rocchio joked. “The Three Village Inn will allow us to provide an even better experience.”

Mark Daniels

Nearly 25 shops and restaurants situated around the picturesque Stony Brook Village Center have signed up to participate in the event, which will include plenty of food and wine tastings, giveaways, basket raffles, a fashion show, live entertainment and much more.

The evening will also feature appearances from special guests. 

Radio personality Mark Daniels, most recently heard on the air at WALK 97.5, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. “WMHO has always done such a wonderful job working for their community,” said the East Setauket resident, who has worked many of their past fundraising events. “It’s an honor for me to be a part of this event, and it’s personally fulfilling to see everyone come together for a great cause.”

Renowned singer and guitarist Roberta Fabiano will also make an appearance. An alumna of Berklee College of Music and self-proclaimed child of rock and roll, Fabiano has appeared on numerous television shows and performed for high-profile audiences, among them five U.S. presidents and the queen of England. 

“I really enjoy doing performances for charity — in the past I’ve played for the Red Cross and the American Heart Association, and I play regularly now at the Long Island State Veterans Home,” said Fabiano, who lives in Stony Brook. “I was there last year when Gloria Rocchio presented the check to Stony Brook for breast cancer research, and I’m so proud to call this community my home.” 

Fabiano can’t say yet what she’ll be playing for the event because she plans her sets intuitively, relying on a crowd’s energy and feedback, but she’s known for playing everything from Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac and even Lady Gaga.

WMHO’s commitment to supporting the search for a cure began with Long Island native and mother of seven Carol Martineau Baldwin, whose sons include actors Alec, Stephen, Billy and Daniel Baldwin.

According to Stony Brook Medicine, Carol lost her husband to lung cancer in 1983. A few years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she now lives in Syracuse, the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center at Stony Brook Medicine is named in her honor.

“Carol approached us 26 years ago with the hope of starting a charity run to benefit breast cancer research,” Rocchio said. “We’ve had one every year since, and have raised $1.5 million for the cause.”

By using these funds as seed money, Stony Brook has received more than $8 million in additional grant money, Rocchio added.

“Each year we get together with the head of the cancer center and meet the researchers who have benefited from our work to hear what they’ve been able to do,” she said. “We are truly making strides and it’s gratifying to be a part of that effort. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a cure for breast cancer came from Stony Brook?”

Participating shops and restaurants include Chico’s, Madison’s Niche, Mint, Blue Salon and Spa, Wiggs Opticians, Village Florist & Events, Roseland School of Dance, The Crushed Olive, Chocolate Works, Village Coffee Market, Premiere Pastry, The Country House, Crazy Beans, Mirabelle at Three Village Inn, Pentimento, Sweet Mamas, Ariti Kaziris Designs, Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn, Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, Watersedge Dental, Stony Brook Harbor Kayak & Paddleboard Rentals and the WMHO Heritage Gift Shop. 

Admission for the evening is $35 per person. Reservations are required and can be made via PayPal at www.stonybrookvillage.com/tsbv/ or by calling 631-689-5888. 

The Gardiner foundation awards the Order of the Ancient and Honorable Huntington Militia a grant to collaborate with the Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay to present demonstrations on colonial crafts and trades. Photo from Raynham Hall l Museum

Since 1639, the Gardiner family and their descendants have owned a 5-square-mile island in the Atlantic Ocean nestled between Long Island’s North Fork and South Fork. The property, known as Gardiner’s Island, was obtained from King Charles I of England as part of a royal grant. Today, that legacy is benefiting all of Long Island, thanks to Robert David Lion Gardiner, the island’s 16th Lord of the Manor, who died in 2004.

In 1987, Gardiner established the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation to support the study of American history. Each year, the foundation awards $5 million in grants to Long Island and New York nonprofits focused on preserving history. Look around at preserved pieces of history all across Long Island and in New York City, and you will likely find the foundation often behind the scenes offering support.

Thanks to the Gardiner Foundation, the new interactive software display highlights the displays in the First Order Fresnel Lens Building that is alongside the Fire Island Lighthouse. Photo from Gardiner Foundation website

The foundation helped reinvigorate the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site in West Hills, for instance, in preparation for this year’s 200th birthday year celebration.

And as the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City prepared for its 50th anniversary of the Apollo mission this past July, Gardiner helped fund programs and space travel exhibits. It’s considered a substantial addition to the museum and Long Island’s contribution to the space program.

The 107-year old Huntington Lighthouse was preserved and restored with a $145,000 matching grant from the foundation. The Whaling Museum & Education Center at Cold Spring Harbor has the foundation to thank for its climate-controlled storage rooms for its collections.

Big or small, the foundation has been a wonderful resource for nonprofits. Since the foundation aims to preserve Long Island heritage and encourages collaboration, it is possible to find many success stories.

In Setauket, some may have noticed the sagging 1887 carriage shed at the Caroline Church has been replaced. The foundation over the last few years has helped fund its stabilization and replacement.

St. James is currently undergoing a revitalization, and the foundation helped fund the Celebrate St. James organization in staging a musical comedy about the entertainment history of the community.

This month, the foundation awarded its 2019 grants. Recipients include the Order of the Ancient and Honorable Huntington Militia which presented Dec. 14 a demonstration at Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay of handmade colonial crafts and trades. The presentation included a free exhibition with artisans who showed how to do silver and black smithing, weaving, horn and leather work and basket weaving.

Harriet Gerard Clark, executive director of Raynham Hall Museum, is one of many people from organizations that recognize the distinct value of Gardiner.

“I would say that the Gardiner foundation is profoundly changing the way we understand history on Long Island, not only by providing very much needed brick-and-mortar funding, but also by proactively encouraging and incentivizing new ways of networking and collaborating among institutions concerned with historic scholarship, so that we Long Islanders can gain a truer understanding of our own identity,” she said.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which owns historic properties in Stony Brook and Setauket, has also benefited from the Gardiner’s work. The foundation most recently sponsored a live historically-themed play entitled “Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War.” The production highlights the previously unsung female heroes of George Washington’s spy ring.

The Gardiner foundation is comprised of a five-member board, plus an executive director. Kathryn Curran bears that title and deserves special recognition.

“Kathryn is a terrific lady, she is very creative and brings people together.”

– Gloria Rocchio

WMHO president, Gloria Rocchio, is very grateful to the foundation and recognizes Curran’s unique qualities.

“Kathryn is a terrific lady,” Rocchio said. “She is very creative and brings people together.”

One of the conditions of WMHO’s grant was to talk to other historical societies.

“We are making new connections because of that effort,” Rocchio added. “That was all because of Kathy.”

The Smithtown, Northport, Port Jefferson, Miller Place-Mount Sinai and many other Long Island historical societies have grown or become better established because of the Gardiner foundation.

The organization also announced this month that it will fund a Long Island Radio & Television Historical Society documentary that will explore the development of wireless technology on Long Island, featuring the Telefunken wireless station in West Sayville and an international spy ring in the lead-up to World War I. The project also highlights the work of Nikola Tesla of Shoreham and Guglielmo Marconi of Babylon.

The foundation seeks to support 501(c)(3) organizations that demonstrate strong and organized internal capacity, effectiveness, financial and human resources as well as the intellectual capacity to successfully manage the project. Newly formed historical entities are welcomed to apply for a grant.

At a time when historical preservationists report a decline in financial resources, the foundation’s support becomes more and more noteworthy.

For high school students interested in studying history, the foundation also offers a generous undergraduate scholarship worth $40,000.

The Gardiner’s grant portfolio and scholarship information can be viewed on its website at www.rdlgfoundation.org, which gives an in-depth overview of its preservation efforts.

Pictured from left, Chris Graf, Michael Bernstein and Gloria Rocchio (holding original sketch of Memorial Rock) and Judy Greiman

In 1946 Ward Melville designated a plot of land on Main Street, right beyond the Stony Brook Village Center, to honor veterans of foreign wars.  

Michael Bernstein, Interim President, Stony Brook University; Judy Greiman, senior VP, government and community relations/chief deputy to the president at Stony Brook University; Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization; and Chris Graf, owner of Stonegate Landscape recently met at the site to review the results of recent efforts to refurbish the area in preparation for Veterans Day.

 The area has been renovated several times over the years and recently needed additional work.  Graf stepped up to take care of this project, gratis, installing another boulder and new plantings, updating the area to the state it was in when first created in 1946. WMHO, along with Stony Brook University, partnered together and paid for an additional plaque as well as a bluestone marker.

Photos from WMHO

*This article has been updated to reflect Michael Bernstein’s new title.