Tags Posts tagged with "Hauppauge"


Bella Noche, above, reads children’s books to children and families during the LGBT Network Families Day event on Feb. 12. Below, attendees. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

Bella Noche, a New York City and Long Island-based drag queen, walked up to the stage inside the LGBT Network at Hauppauge in her 4-inch stiletto heels carrying a stack of children’s books. She sat in her chair, while dozens of kids and their families watched in awe as a real-life mermaid read to them “The GayBCs.”

Bella Noche, above, reads children’s books to children and families during the LGBT Network Families Day event on Feb. 12. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Enamored by the queen — dressed in glitter, a purple wig and starfish accessories — the kids didn’t realize that Bella was in drag.

“The only question I usually get from them is, ‘Is your hair real?’” she said with a laugh. 

Bella is the Long Island chapter president of Drag Story Hour – a worldwide nonprofit that introduces storytellers using the art of drag to read books to children in libraries, schools and bookstores. 

According to Drag Story Hour’s mission statement, the organization “captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where everyone can be their authentic selves.”

Founded in San Francisco in 2015, Drag Story Hour has made its way internationally, having chapters across the U.S., as well as in the U.K., Japan, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. 

The self-proclaimed “mermaid of New York” said that traveling from Manhattan to eastern Long Island to read to kids is a great experience. Not only does it entertain, but it teaches kids about diversity and shows them they can be creative, too.

“We inspire creativity, we inspire uniqueness, we inspire kids to think outside the box,” she said. “At its core, it’s a pure organization — we can look at things differently, but just adding that different perspective is really important to instill in kids, especially today.”

But while the turnout is usually positive, Bella said she has hosted several story hours that caused large and hate-filled protests — some in Nassau County and some in Manhattan.

In December, while hosting a Drag Story Hour in Jackson Heights, Queens, members of the far-right group Proud Boys drew attention with their signs and Proud Boys-emblemed flags lining the sidewalk. 

According to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, protest visits from Proud Boys had averaged just one or two anti-LGBTQ protests per month for most of 2022. It picked up speed by the end of the year, with 13 anti-LGBTQ protests in December, more than in any other month last year. 

“It’s interesting that since last summer there’s just been a lot of hate from these people,” Bella said. “It’s mostly from them not understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing, spreading rumors and creating vicious lies.”

But Drag Story Hour has been criticized locally since before she became involved with the Long Island chapter of the group. In September 2018, people protested the Port Jefferson Free Library for hosting a drag queen who reads. At the time, the library promoted the event on its online calendar as “a program that raises awareness of gender diversity, promotes self-acceptance and builds empathy through an enjoyable literary experience.” At the event, several protesters stood outside the library holding signs and verbalizing their opposition to exposing children to the message promoted by the event.

“It’s insane to think about, but [the protesters] are here and they’re causing calamity,” Bella said. “But the other thing is that there has been such an amazing turn of support from that. So, I try to find the silver linings, and the support that we’ve gotten not just from our own community, but from other families and educators has been amazing.”

LGBT Families Day

Attendees leave reasons why the family day is so important to them. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Bella Noche’s Drag Story Hour was one part of the Hauppauge-based LGBT Network Families Day event on Sunday, Feb. 12.

There, hundreds of LGBTQ families were able to meet, mingle and enjoy a fun weekend in a safe, accepting space.

Robert Vitelli, LGBT Network’s COO, said this event was the nonprofit’s third year hosting, and it keeps getting bigger and better. 

“Families Day is all about celebrating families and all the different ways that LGBT people start and grow their families,” he said. “It’s a chance for LGBT people to come together and feel free.’

Vitelli said that even in 2023, LGBTQ families still face a lot of stigma, discrimination and harassment. But events like this can “allow them to take a breath of fresh air and connect with other families like their own.”

Tables with information for families looking to adopt, foster and seek legal advice were available for the grown-ups, while their kids got to enjoy an indoor bounce house, cotton candy, a s’mores station and games.

“We have been working hand in hand and organizing with families to create safer spaces — safer schools, safer and more inclusive libraries, and safer and more inclusive communities,” Vitelli said. “When people really want to come together and build community, here at the LGBT network, that’s what we’re all about, and it’s our pleasure to be able to bring an event like this to everyone here.”

FIle photo

Suffolk County Police Fourth Squad detectives are investigating a crash that killed a man in Hauppauge on July 7.

Stephan Tiarks was driving a 2011 Buick northbound on Wheeler Road when his vehicle collided with a 2016 Mazda sedan at the intersection with Motor Parkway. The Buick continued northbound and overturned into the parking lot of the BP gas station, located at 204 Wheeler Road

Tiarks, 58, of Saint James, was transported to South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore where he was pronounced dead.

The driver of the Mazda, Magda Ramotowska, 27, of Sayville, and a passenger in the Buick, Laura Donaghy, 61, of Saint James, were also transported to South Shore University Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks.

Detectives are asking anyone with information to call the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.

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Suffolk County Police Fourth Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a Riverhead man and injured four people in Hauppauge early this morning.

Daneris Garcia Marquez was driving a 2011 Ford Econoline westbound on Route 347 when her vehicle collided with a 2019 Toyota Camry traveling northbound on Brooksite Drive, driven by Abhishek Mukherjee, at 1:35 a.m.

Brendan Haverty, 26, the passenger in the Toyota, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. Mukherjee, 42, of Hicksville, and Marquez, 19, of Wyandanch, were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. Two males in the van, ages 18 and 25, were also transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

The vehicles were impounded for safety checks. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.

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Suffolk County Police Major Case Unit detectives are investigating a hit-and-run crash that killed a female pedestrian in Hauppauge last night.

A motor vehicle, believed to be a sedan, was traveling eastbound on Motor Parkway when it collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Moreland Road, left the roadway, and struck Cherokee Fletcher, 28, of Commack, standing on the sidewalk at approximately 10:15 p.m. The vehicle then fled the scene eastbound on Motor Parkway.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Police Fourth Squad detectives are investigating after a man fell from a hotel balcony and was seriously injured early this morning.

Alexander Keating was on the balcony of a room on the ninth floor at the Hyatt Regency Long Island, located at 1717 Motor Parkway, when he fell over the railing at approximately 12:45 a.m.

Keating, 24, of South Amboy, New Jersey, was taken via Central Islip Ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital where he is in critical condition.

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call Fourth Squad detectives at 631-854-8452.

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Hyatt Regency Long Island. Photo from Hyatt website

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the death of a Hauppauge hotel employee who died after falling from a window at the hotel Dec. 4.

David Lerner, an employee of the Hyatt Regency Long Island, located at 1717 Motor Parkway, was at work when he fell from an upper floor window to the ground at approximately 7:30 p.m., according to SCPD.

Lerner, 41, of Holbrook, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on the incident to call the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392.

Photographer Bolivar Arellano was on the scene when the World Trade Center’s south tower was imploding. Photo by Bolivar Arellano

My day on September 11, 2001, began like many others that Tuesday.

It was a beautiful morning as I drove to my job in Farmingdale, listening to the radio. I can’t remember what station was on, but I will never forget the DJs stopping the music, shocked that they just saw on TV a plane crash into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

The radio hosts thought it had to have been an accident.

But then I entered my office and headed toward my cubicle, and coming down the other side of the aisle was a co-worker saying another plane had hit the other tower. It was at that point we feared that our country had just undergone a terrorist attack.

We all began to call our family members and friends who lived or worked in the city, and we couldn’t get through. That day, our office was closed early. Like many, I was numb as I made the trek home, but I was fortunate I didn’t lose any loved ones. However, forever etched on my mind will be seeing the tragedy played out on the news and seeing people roaming Lower Manhattan hoping someone had seen their missing loved ones.

I have read countless stories about the people killed that day and watched documentaries of the day’s events and aftermath, but I have been affected most by the passing of two of my former classmates from the Hauppauge High School Class of 1986. John Tipping, a firefighter, was one of the first responders on the scene, and Joseph Perroncino was working for Cantor Fitzgerald as vice president of operations.

I was extremely shy in school, so I wasn’t a friend to either of them. Joseph was simply a familiar face in the halls of Hauppauge’s middle and high schools. As for John, he and I attended school together from fourth to 12th grade. He was one of the children of Forest Brook Elementary School, and he always had a boyish face and a twinkle in his eyes.

Despite the fact we never became friends, something is haunting about losing someone you went to school with for years. It’s hard to explain those feelings, but I can tell you I feel a great sense of unfairness. John and Joseph should have been at our 20th and 30th reunions talking about things such as their careers, significant others, children and other memorable events. When I think of Joseph and John is when I get the saddest and angriest.

After 9/11, I realized how much my life resembled a quilt, adorned with patches left behind by everyone I have ever met and interacted with at some level. My quilt has many holes, and my former classmates are among the tears in the fabric.

Americans have learned many lessons since that day. I have always hoped we could keep them forever. It shouldn’t have taken such tragedies to make us realize how fortunate we are to be Americans and to make us look around at everything we have and at everyone in our lives and realize how lucky we are, but that’s what happened that day. On the 20th anniversary of that tragic day, my hope is that we will forge ahead stronger, smarter and with more gratitude in our hearts and guarantee that those who passed away on September 11 didn’t die in vain.

Rita J. Egan is the editor of The Village Times Herald, The Times of Smithtown and The Times of Huntington, Northport & East Northport.

The 9/11 memorial in Hauppauge. File photo by Rita J. Egan

“One of the worst days in American history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.” — Former President George W. Bush

These were the patriotic thoughts of this president who reflected on the heroic services that were demonstrated by Americans during and after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. 

While it has been 20 years since our nation was attacked by the sting of terrorism, Americans have not forgotten this tragic moment. On the North Shore — about 80 miles from Manhattan at its easterly point — there are many memorials that honor the local residents who were killed, the dedication of the rescue workers and the War on Terror veterans who defended this nation at home and abroad for the last two decades.

There has been a tremendous amount of support from the local municipalities, state and local governments, along with school districts to never forget 9/11. People do not have to look far to notice the different types of memorials, landmarks and resting places that represent those harrowing moments and the sacrifices that were made to help others and defend this country. 

Calverton National Cemetery

Driving northwest on Route 25A, it is possible to quickly see the reminders of sacrifice within the Calverton National Cemetery. This sacred ground is one of the largest military burial grounds in America and driving through its roads, there are flags that have been placed for veterans of all conflicts — especially the most recent during the War on Terror. 

One of the most visited sites there is that of Patchogue resident Lt. Michael P. Murphy who was killed in 2005 in Afghanistan, where under intense enemy fire he tried to call in support to rescue his outnumbered four-man SEAL team. 

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, local residents can also see his name gracing the front of Patchogue-Medford High School, the post office in Patchogue, the Navy SEAL Museum that is near completion in West Sayville, and a memorial created for him on the east side of Lake Ronkonkoma, where he was a lifeguard.

Shoreham-Wading River—Rocky Point—Sound Beach—Mount Sinai

West of Calverton, at the main entrance of Shoreham-Wading River High School, you will notice a baseball field located between the road and the Kerry P. Hein Army Reserve Center. 

One of this field’s former players, Kevin Williams, was killed on 9/11, where he was a bond salesman for Sandler O’Neill, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. This 24-year-old young man was a talented athlete who was recognized with MVP honors on the baseball, golf and basketball teams for the high school. 

A foundation has been created in the name of Williams, an avid New York Yankees fan, that has helped provide financial support to baseball and softball players unable to afford attending sports camps. 

Not far from Shoreham, driving westward, motorists will notice the strength, size and beauty of the Rocky Point Fire Department 9/11 memorial. This structure is located on Route 25A, on the west side of the firehouse.

Immediately, people will notice the impressive steel piece that is standing tall in the middle of a fountain, surrounded by a walkway with bricks that have special written messages. In the background, there are names of the people killed during these attacks and plaques that have been created to recognize the services of the rescue workers and all of those people lost.  

Heading west into Rocky Point’s downtown business district, VFW Post 6249 has a 9/11 tribute with steel from lower Manhattan. Less than a half mile away, on Broadway and Route 25A, the Joseph P. Dwyer statue proudly stands high overlooking the activity of the busy corner.  

This veteran’s square remembers the service of PFC Dwyer, who enlisted into the Army directly after this nation was attacked and fought in Iraq. He struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and this statue supports all veterans who have dealt with these hard psychological and physical conditions. 

A short distance away, the Sound Beach Fire Department also created a special structure on its grounds through a neighborhood feeling of remembrance toward all of those people lost.

Heading west toward Mount Sinai, it is easy to observe a wonderful sense of pride through the Heritage Park by its display of American flags. On the Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Memorial Day, residents see these national and state colors, and this always presents a great deal of patriotism for the people utilizing this park.

Coram—Port Jefferson—St. James 

More south on County Road 83 and North Ocean Avenue, visitors of all ages enjoy the Diamond in the Pines Park in Coram. There, people have the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial Learning Site. This site honors all of the citizens lost from the townships of Brookhaven and Riverhead, the rescue workers and War on Terror veterans.  

For 10 years, the site has helped reflect on this assault on America through the major bronze plaques with historical information, black granite pictures, benches, and statues of a bronze eagle and a rescue dog that helped search for survivors of the attack at the World Trade Center.

Leaving this park and going north into the village of Port Jefferson, people enjoy the beauty of its harbor, its stores, and they see traffic enter via ferry from Connecticut. Through the activity of this bustling area, there is a large bronze eagle that is placed on a high granite platform.  

Perched high, citizens from two different states brought together by the ferry are able to walk by this memorial that helps recognize the lost people of Long Island and the New England state. Driving near the water through Setauket, Stony Brook and into St. James, there is a major 7-ton memorial that highlights a “bowtie section” of steel from the World Trade Center.  

Due to the type of steel on display, there are few memorials that capture the spirit of the St. James Fire Department 9/11 site.


Traveling south down Lake Avenue toward Gibbs Pond Road and Lake Ronkonkoma, the 9/11 Responders Remembered Memorial Park in Nesconset is located at 316 Smithtown Blvd. This is a vastly different place of remembrance, as it is continually updated with the names of fallen rescue workers who have died since the attacks 20 years ago. 

Taking Townline Road west into Hauppauge toward Veterans Highway and Route 347, you will end up at the Suffolk County government buildings. 

Directly across from Blydenburgh Park in Smithtown, is a major 9/11 memorial created by the county. This memorial has 179 pieces of glass etched with the 178 names of the Suffolk County residents killed on September 11, with one extra panel to honor the volunteers who built the memorial.

As commuters head west to reach the Northern State Parkway, they drive by a major structure that was created to recognize all of those citizens from Huntington to Montauk killed on 9/11 by terrorism. It is just one of many such monuments created by our local townships, fire departments, parks and schools.  

Even after 20 years, our society has not forgotten about the beautiful day that turned out to be one of the most tragic moments in our history.  

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

A new website dedicated to addiction and mental health resources has been unveiled to provide residents with easy-to-access services for those who are struggling. 

On Thursday, July 22, Suffolk County legislator and chairwoman of the county Legislature Health Committee, Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), joined county Department of Health Services Commissioner Gregson Pigott, county Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services Director Cari Faith Besserman, together with members of the county Department of Information Technology and the county Addiction Prevention and Support Advisory Panel outside the William H. Rogers Building in Hauppauge to announce the launch of the website suffolkstopaddiction.org.

The webpage was created by Resolution No. 34-2021, introduced by Anker and unanimously passed earlier this year. 

The legislation directed the county Department of Information Technology and the Department of Health to collaborate to create a comprehensive webpage dedicated to addiction, mental health, substance use disorder prevention and rehabilitation services. The webpage features sections that include important emergency numbers, substance use disorder and mental health information and resources, and a list of treatment providers compiled by the county Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“I want to thank the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, the Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services and the Department of Information Technology for their tireless work they put into creating this webpage,” Anker said. “With the concerning rise in addiction and mental health issues after a challenging year, our hope is that this webpage will help increase the accessibility of the possibly life-saving resources that are available through the Suffolk County Health Department and improve our ability to reach those who are in need of help in our county.”

Anker sponsored the resolution in response to the growing opioid and substance abuse epidemic in the county and across the U.S. 

During an October public hearing, Victoria Sunseri, a Suffolk County constituent in the medical field, noted that it was difficult for providers to locate mental health and/or addiction resources for their patients. The panel members echoed the importance of providers being able to connect a person to treatment options and for residents to find important information in a user-friendly way. In response, Anker facilitated the creation of the webpage singularly dedicated to addiction and mental health resources and services.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have received a surge in calls from individuals seeking mental health resources from crisis intervention to addiction rehabilitation,” Sunseri said. “This mental health hub will serve to empower individuals by reducing the time and frustration they might experience while seeking help appropriate to their needs and by streamlining reception of services through increasing the salience of who does what, where and how.”

This comes just days after the county Legislature convened July 12 to consider and vote on certificates of necessity concerning settlements with several defendants in the county’s pending opioid litigation. These certificates were approved promptly after legislators met in executive session to discuss details related to the litigation.

On Feb. 3, 2015, county legislator and current presiding officer, Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), introduced legislation to establish a six-member committee to determine the viability of legal action against drug manufacturers and ascertain Suffolk’s costs due to the over-prescription of opioids. 

Following this study, Calarco spearheaded the resolution that authorized the special counsel to commence legal action(s) against all responsible parties. The law firm of Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC was retained, on a contingency basis, to represent the County of Suffolk in this complex litigation. 

Suffolk County was one of the first three counties in the United States to act against opioid manufacturers in 2015. The counties of Orange and Santa Clara in California and the city of Chicago took similar action in that same period. These settlement dollars will be used in accordance with any requirements outlined in relation to such settlement and, in all likelihood, will be put toward educational programming, treatment and other related efforts to remedy the impacts of this crisis. 

According to a Calarco press release following the July 12 special meeting, settlements were approved with Rite Aid of New York $1.5 million; CVS $3.5 million plus the additional amount of $500,000 if certain settlements are reached with other defendants; Walmart $3,062,500; Walgreens $5 million; Johnson & Johnson a sum between $8.4 million and $19.8 million over 10 years “to be used for restitution and abatement and agreeing not to manufacture, sell or promote opioids going forward”; and between approximately $10.4 million and $19.6 million over nine years from the Purdue/Sackler family. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“When we began to experience this crisis, it quickly became apparent that our constituents were being overprescribed opioids, and this negligence is what led to the widespread addiction in our community,” Calarco said. “Pharmacies had a responsibility to track the distribution of these medications carefully. Their failure to do so furthered the impact of this crisis by allowing individuals to pharmacy shop to obtain more of these powerful drugs. The pharmaceutical companies and their affiliates knew that they were pushing a highly addictive drug that was unsafe for long-term use. Yet, they proceeded anyway, all in the name of turning a profit.”

He added that while these settlements cannot repair the damage done or bring back those who we lost to the grips of this epidemic, it has already made a substantial impact. Doctors are now prescribing medication differently, and two of the major manufacturers of these dangerous medications will cease production for good. 

“With this settlement, we are going to have substantial resources that we’re going to be able to put into this epidemic that’s been plaguing our county for so long, and to be able to make sure that our residents had the ability to get connected to treatment services to prevention services,” Calarco said at last Thursday’s press conference. “There are windows of time, where you have clarity, and you recognize that you need help. … We need to make sure that we have the resources there for you at those windows, so you can take advantage of that help. That’s what this resource guide is about — it’s about making sure that you know where to go.”

On Saturday, June 12, elected officials from Suffolk and Nassau counties, along with union leaders, paid respect to local transportation workers who lost their lives to COVID-19.

Family members and friends of the 21 public transportation workers who succumbed to the virus were on hand for a dedication of a memorial garden to their loved ones on the east side of the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge.

The garden features a stone with all of the workers’ names and five American white dogwood trees donated by the Bridgehampton High School’s Future Farmers of America under the direction of Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz.

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), who chairs the Legislature’s transportation working group, led the event.

The committee initiated the idea to salute the workers with the memorial. Fleming said with families not being able to properly mourn during the pandemic due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was important to take time out to remember the workers.

She said the concept of essential workers evolved over the past 15 months, from frontline workers such as police officers, firefighters and health professionals to educators, grocery store workers and more.

“Our public transportation workers ensured that each of these essential employees got to his or her workplace,” Fleming said. “Our bus drivers, and our train operators and our transportation workers literally kept our society moving and our economy afloat. We owe them a debt of gratitude that we cannot fully express.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) thanked labor leaders for working with the county during a difficult time.

“You have done so much to lead, to represent these essential workers and to work with us,” he said. It was “in an environment in which none of us had a playbook on how to deal with this, how to handle this.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D) said the families do not grieve alone.

“When people come and see these beautiful trees they’re going to ask questions, are going to want to know what happened here — why is this here?” she said. “People will know about your loved one’s sacrifice, and we’ll know about their lives. The fact that they were out there when so many other people were afraid, getting the doctors and nurses, getting the grocery store workers, getting home care workers to where they had to go. It was selfless work.”

Among the speakers were the Rev. Shaju Devassy, associate pastor of Church of St. Barnabas the Apostle in Bellmore; the Rev. Charles Coverdale, pastor of First Baptist Church of Riverhead; Debra Hagan, Transport Workers Union Local 252 president; Daniel Kane Jr., Teamsters Local 202 president; Anthony Simon, SMART Transportation Division general chairman; and Bill DeCarlo, national vice president/legislative director of Transportation Communications Union/IAM.

The Hauppauge High School Chamber Choir sang “A Parting Blessing” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Lt. Sean Murtha of the Suffolk County Police Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums played “Amazing Grace.”

Hagan said the workers left their homes every day knowing the risks they were taking, trying their best to protect themselves with masks, hand sanitizer and keeping their distance from others.

“They made that sacrifice, because the communities needed them to get on those buses and do their job,” she said. “It’s so important that we never forget that every morning they got up, and they left their home, kissed their loved ones goodbye. And unfortunately for many, sacrificed the ultimate sacrifice of contracting COVID and leaving us on this Earth. We’re not going to forget. Each and every one of your family members holds a very special part in our hearts. Their co-workers are never going to forget the camaraderie.”