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Michael Dowling

Judith ‘Judi’ Betts. Photo courtesy Ronnie Ridolfi

Everything Judi Betts ever did, she did with persistence. Whether selling raffle tickets, hosting guests or persevering through the sharp bouts of orthopedic pain later in life, she did so with a tenacious, indefatigable spirit.

Those who knew her say a love of family, friends, community and country guided her. Like a high-speed locomotive, her wheels were always churning and churning away. Betts channeled her abundant energies and limitless altruism into the charitable causes that defined her life.

Now those wheels churn no longer. Betts died in her sleep Wednesday, Jan. 4, at the Sunrise of Holbrook assisted living center. In her passing, she leaves an enduring legacy of community service and an indelible mark upon the lives she touched.

A dynamic team

Judith “Judi” Betts was born on Sept. 8, 1941, to Dominick and Jessie Annibale. She, her brother Kenneth and her parents soon moved to Bellerose, Queens, in the early ‘50s. Her father’s untimely death in 1955 was a profound loss to the Annibale family, prompting Jessie to raise the two kids on her own.

In 1959, Judi graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, where she remained an active alumna and patron of the parish. She married in 1961, and then remarried in 1982 to Earle Betts, a World War II Navy veteran and board member at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson.

Judi’s cousin, Ronnie Ridolfi, described Earle as a “perfect gentleman.” The Betts couple settled in a historic home on High Street, the nexus for various social gatherings and benefit events. Together, they were a dynamic team, joint advocates for numerous charitable causes and local organizations. Following Earle’s death in 2002, Judi carried her husband’s torch, Ridolfi added.

With unparalleled compassion and enthusiasm, Betts thrust herself into the world of Port Jefferson with the goal of continual community advancement. “She liked representing her area,” said Mary Ann Ridolfi, Betts’ cousin by marriage. “And she liked helping people.”

Master fundraiser

Betts was renowned for her untiring support of the many charitable causes and organizations to which she was committed throughout her life. The four organizations encompassing her values and community aspirations were St. Mary’s High School, Mather Hospital, Port Jefferson Rotary Club and the Boy Scouts of America.

Michael Sceiford, a friend and fellow Rotarian, characterized Betts’ community involvement. “She immersed her life in these charitable causes,” he said. “Her personality was to never sit idle, to be out there trying to help the community through these different organizations that she was extremely passionate about.”

She also served on the Suffolk County Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Brian McAuliff, a past council president and longtime Scoutmaster, touched upon the intensity and conviction with which Betts pursued her fundraising obligations.

“If we had a meeting to do a fundraiser, everyone would take some notes, and a few days later, they would get to their tasks that they committed to,” he said. “Judi was on that task the very next minute. Being persistent about the cause, she was able to do some really great things.”

Jolie Powell, a friend and neighbor, said Betts excelled in fundraising. “She could sell tickets better than anyone I’ve met,” Powell said. “She loved the challenge, and she loved to hear that she was the one that sold more tickets than anyone.”

Interpreting this competitive impulse, Ronnie Ridolfi saw in Betts an earnest desire to effect positive change in the lives of others. “That was a drive that was in her, always to be more than the best,” he said. “By doing that with the fundraisers and the charitable contributions,” she had found her life’s task.


A doctor once told Betts that the word “persistence” represented her outlook on life. “She didn’t give up,” Mary Ann Ridolfi said. “She would always tell you to be involved, don’t sit around, get involved and know what’s going on around you.” 

Ronnie Ridolfi suggested this quality, along with her community-centric approach and relentless determination for service, were all innate qualities. “As a young lady, that was her calling,” he said. 

Powell viewed this quality as an inherent feature of Betts’ personality. “She was like a warrior,” she said. “That’s what made her who she was and as far as doing what she loved to do best, which was volunteering.”

Sceiford said Betts’ philanthropic enterprise was undiminished despite declining health later in life. Fighting through chronic pain, she continued to support these causes until the very end. In the face of health problems, “she continued to persevere and push on,” he said.

Several people recounted one notable fundraising event organized at Betts’ historic home that raised $50,000 in 2021. The benefit brought together Mather Hospital and the Boy Scouts of America, Northwell Health president and CEO Michael Dowling, and various local officials.

McAuliff referred to the immense logistic challenges in bringing that event to fruition, especially given Betts’ health. “She was in a wheelchair, sometimes in and out of the hospital, and she still was able to pull off that amazing event,” he said. “It’s just a testament to her tenacity and persistence.”


Betts brought in several foreign exchange students, highlighting another aspect of her character. Two such students, Elizabeth of Venezuela and Wenzel of Germany, remained in close contact with her and visited until the end of her life.

Friends and family remember Betts as an eccentric, charismatic, vibrant individual, a connoisseur of wine and an active promoter of the East End-based Pindar and Duck Walk vineyards.

She was also a proud American patriot. The Ridolfis maintained that she passionately supported her brother Kenneth, a Vietnam War veteran. “She helped Kenny a great deal with the VA,” Ronnie said. “He became sick, and she got involved with the VA to help him with his benefits.”

McAuliff said Betts’ patriotic fervor expressed itself through her volunteer activities. “She was a very proud American, very proud of the country, and saw the Boy Scouts of America as something that represented what was best about America,” he said.

For Sceiford, Betts’ inviting personality drew others into her web. Through this, she developed lasting relationships throughout her life. “She took her friends in as her family,” he said. 

Through her example, he added that community members “can learn that they can truly make a difference in the community. … She did the work of what 25 other people maybe did. She made a huge impact to the community.”

McAuliff voiced a similar opinion. Reflecting upon Betts’ model of service, he added that her love for people and her selflessness would leave an abiding impression on those who remember her. 

“Everybody who knew her became a part of her family,” he said. “I think that she adopted the community and the community organizations as her children,” adding, “It’s a life of giving, a life of persistent giving.”

Betts was laid to rest Tuesday, Jan. 10, alongside Earle at Calverton National Cemetery, her procession escorted by Suffolk County Highway Patrol, the bagpipers performing a moving tribute to a life well lived. 

The four organizations to which Betts devoted her life were each represented at her visitation and funeral services. She will be greatly missed by family and friends.

Photo courtesy of Suffolk OTB

Suffolk County Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, along with county elected officials, Suffolk OTB President/CEO, Tony Pancella, and executives from Northwell Health, held an emergency aid press conference with Long Island Ukrainian leaders on March 22 at Jake’s 58 Casino Hotel in Islandia.  

Suffolk OTB, which operates the casino, made a $10,000 donation to the Northwell Health Ukraine Relief Fund to send vital medical supplies to hospitals in the embattled nation.  The check was accepted by Donna Moravick, Executive Director for South Shore University Hospital, on behalf of Northwell Health President and CEO, Michael Dowling.

Additional money will be raised throughout the month of April from Jake’s 58’s Donate Your Change for the Ukraine campaign. The program gives casino bettors the option to effortlessly donate excess change while cashing out winnings and funds at kiosks located throughout the casino. “At times like these, people always come together to help those most in need, and the patrons at OTB will undoubtedly do their part,” said McCaffrey.

Pancella hopes to double, or even triple, the initial $10,000 donation. “Our patrons are very generous, and we want to do all we can to help the Ukrainian people during this tragic invasion of their homeland,” he said.

Long Island volunteer firefighters were also on hand to announce a donation of flame-retardant gear to help Ukrainian first responders put out fires left in the wake of bombs and shelling.  The equipment was donated by the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund. “The Fire Service is a brotherhood that takes care of its own,” said Brian Farrell, the organization’s president.

The World Health Organization has verified at least 43 attacks on healthcare facilities in the Ukraine since the Russian invasion. More than 300 healthcare facilities are within the conflict zone and 600 others are within six miles of territory currently under siege. The funds raised at Jake’s 58 will pay for medical supplies that will be transported to Poland and eventually delivered to the front lines.  

“We have a moral obligation to help ease the suffering of the Ukrainian people. This generous donation will help address the immediate needs of individuals, families, and communities by providing medical assistance on the front lines. I want to thank Jake’s 58 for their contribution to the Northwell Health Ukraine Relief Fund,” said Dowling.

“Thank you to Northwell Health and Jake’s 58 for their efforts to help the people of Ukraine by funding and facilitating the delivery of critical medical supplies,” said Legislator Al Krupski, whose office has been active in collecting provisions for the St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Riverhead. “I also want to thank the members of our firefighter community for donating gear to help firefighters and first responders in Ukraine.  Despite the dreadfulness of this war, it is heartening to see communities and institutions from across Long Island come together to help a country and a people in desperate need.”

“I commend Michael Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell, and Tony Pancella, OTB President and CEO, for creating this team effort to provide essential medical supplies to Ukraine. I believe the patrons at Jake’s 58 will be generous and compassionate in supporting this endeavor,” said Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta.

“The situation currently unfolding in Ukraine is horrifying to say the least,” said Suffolk County Legislature Minority Leader Jason Richberg. “We need to do anything and everything we can to support the innocent people being affected and displaced every day. Thank you to Northwell Health and Jake’s 58 for your leadership and efforts in raising funds for much-needed medical supplies that I have no doubt will have an impact and help support countless individuals and families in Ukraine.”

Legislator Nick Caracappa said, “It is inspirational to see how our community, in both the public and private sectors, are working together to assist the people of Ukraine. This besieged nation needs our support, and I was pleased to attend the press conference. I applaud Jake’s 58, Northwell Health, and all who coordinated this fundraising effort.”

Legislator Dominick Thorne stated, “It is my honor and privilege to stand with the people of the Ukraine. Their bravery in the face of reprehensible attacks is inspirational.”

On Sunday, March 13, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, Division IV, hosted its 88th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Huntington.

Despite the frigid cold of Sunday afternoon, dozens of pipe and drum bands, dance groups, first responders and community organizations marched north along Route 110 from Huntington Station to the Church of St. Patrick near Huntington Village.

The parade was an in-person event, the first held since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020. Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, was the grand marshal of this year’s parade.

The parade marked a turning point for Huntington. According to John Broderick, president of AOH, Division IV, the parade was halted for nearly two years due COVID restrictions that limited in-person gatherings. As Long Island begins to open, this parade signals a return to normal.

For our full interview with Dowling, visit One-on-one with Huntington’s parade marshal Dowling.

Michael Dowling is the 2022 grand marshal for the Huntington St. Patrick's Day Parade. Photo from Northwell Health

Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, recently spoke with The Times of Huntington & Northport about being named grand marshal of the 2022 Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will take place Sunday, March 13.

Michael Dowling is the 2022 grand marshal for the Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Photo from Northwell Health

Q: Before we get into the details of this year’s parade, could you discuss your own background? How did you get to where you are today?

I was born in Ireland, and I left when I was young. Then I went to England to work in the steel factories. My dream was always to go to college, but we didn’t have the means to pay for it, so I had to figure out how to get the resources. When I came to the United States, I was 18 years old. 

I came by myself, and I worked on the West Side of Manhattan on the docks for a number of years. The first three years I would spend half the year working in New York and in the second half of the year, I would go back to Ireland and go to college — I was fortunate enough to get into college in Ireland. Of course, I had no money, so that’s the reason I had to continue working. 

After I graduated from college in Ireland, I came back to New York and continued working on the boats for a period longer. Then I worked in construction and in plumbing and other manual labor jobs that I did not mind doing at all. Then I went to Fordham University to get my masters. 

I went, obviously, part-time because I was working all the time. I graduated from Fordham University and after I graduated, I was fortunate enough for them to ask me to come back and teach a course. I taught a number of courses at Fordham. Eventually they asked me to come on full-time as a faculty member at Fordham University, at the Graduate School of Social Service at Lincoln Center. I eventually became the assistant dean of the graduate school, having an administrative role and a faculty role.

I was at Fordham when Gov. Mario Cuomo got elected. His administration reached out to me to ask if I was interested in taking a job in government. I had not been involved in politics, I did not know the governor, but I am a risk-taker and I like new challenges, so I said yes.

I ended up taking on a job in Albany and relatively quickly moved up the ranks. I eventually became the Director of Health, [Education] and Human Services of the State of New York. I was also the deputy secretary to the governor and his chief adviser on health and human services. I did that for 12 years.

 I left Albany and then I was fortunate again. North Shore University Hospital reached out to me and asked if I was willing to join. North Shore, back at that point, was at the beginning stages of building a health care system. Subsequent to my arriving, we expanded through mergers with other hospitals. A couple of years later we merged with LIJ. Five years after I arrived at North Shore I became president and CEO. I’ve been president and CEO for 20 years.

I’ve done manual labor; I’ve been in academia; I’ve been in government; I’ve been in the insurance industry; and I’ve been on the provider side. That’s a very quick snapshot of my career.

Q: When did you first get involved with the Ancient Order of Hibernians? When were you selected as grand marshal of this year’s parade in Huntington?

I’ve been involved off and on over the years with the Hibernians in New York City. Three years ago, the Huntington Hibernians reached out to me asking if I wanted to participate in the St. Patty’s Day Parade. I agreed.

Then, of course, COVID hit and that changed everything, and it delayed everything. Fortunately, now with elements of COVID decreasing big time, hopefully we’ll have a good day this Sunday.

The Hibernians do great work — long history, great legacy, great humanitarian organization and good people. They do terrific work around the Huntington area, so I’m very, very proud to be a part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and to be working with the Hibernians.

Q: Given that you were on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, what does this year’s event mean for you?

Well, we’re evolving into some normality now. You go through an issue like COVID and it’s a learning experience. Every so often, during various periods of time, you go through a difficulty like this. When you’re going through them, you just deal with it. Now it looks like it’s receding big time, but we’ve got to be vigilant. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be an uptick or some other kind of variant, but this is an opportunity for people to get back to normal. We can get together in-person and socialize and communicate together in-person, which is very important. 

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade next week in Huntington is their first parade since COVID began. The outbreak of COVID in the Long Island area happened right after the most recent parade held by the Hibernians in Huntington. We have had no in-person parades since 2020 and now, two years later, it’s a wonderful reawakening. 

Maybe it is a celebratory thing that we are on the exit ramps of COVID, and we can get together. It’s a positive sign. It shows that there is some optimism and positivity. I’m hoping that the weather is nice, but even if it isn’t we are still going to have a great time. It’s the beginning of a new chapter. 

Q:  Is there anything else that you would like to say to the local readers?

I would say that Huntington is a wonderful place. We should sit back and remind ourselves about how fortunate we all are. We live in the United States, we live in a beautiful place: Huntington and its surrounding areas. We are able to assemble freely and be together for some time. 

This is an opportunity to celebrate the United States, to celebrate how fortunate we all are, to celebrate the liberties and the freedoms that we hold, especially given what we see happening around the world right now. 

It’s a celebration of immigration, a celebration of immigrants, a celebration of our diversity and, of course, it’s a celebration of our Irish heritage, our history and the contributions that the Irish and so many others have made in the building of the United States. 

It’s an opportunity to be thankful. This is a celebratory, joyous occasion and I look forward to it.

Long Island Jewish Medical Center nurse Sandra Lindsay’s historic first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will now be part of National Museum of American History Collections

When Northwell Health nurse manager Sandra Lindsay received the first injection of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine last December, the nation tuned in to watch a turning point in the pandemic. That milestone moment turned out to be historic. Northwell today announced that the items used as part of the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine in the United States have been donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where they will join the museum’s medical collection.

Northwell donated materials documenting the first doses, which took place on December 14, 2020, at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center, as well as objects related to vaccine distribution and efforts to encourage the vaccination of frontline health care staff. The donation includes the now empty Pfizer-BioNTech vial that contained the first doses of approved vaccine administered in the U.S., Ms. Lindsay’s original vaccination record card along with her scrubs worn at the event and employee identification badge. Ms. Lindsay, director of critical care services at the hard-hit hospital, was the first person known to receive the vaccine. 

“December 14 was a historic moment for all: the day the very first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in the United States,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health. “It was our first real sign of hope after so many dark months in the fight against the global pandemic. Northwell was prepared to put shots in arms as soon as the vaccine arrived, not to make history but to protect our frontline workers battling COVID-19 as quickly as possible. But when Sandra Lindsay rolled up her sleeve, we weren’t just showing our team members the safety and efficacy of this groundbreaking vaccine – we were telling the world that our country was beginning a new fight back to normalcy. It was an extraordinary moment, and I thank the Smithsonian for preserving this important milestone.”

As New York State’s largest health system, no provider handled more COVID-positive patients and LIJ stood at the epicenter of the first surge in March and April. Ms. Lindsay was one of thousands of frontline workers who heroically soldiered on and saved countless lives despite personal fears and an unending caseload.

“Having lived through the devastation and suffering created by the virus, I knew I wanted to be part of the solution to put an end to COVID-19,” said Ms. Lindsay. “I hope that when people visit the museum and see all these items that they stop to honor the lives of people who did not make it and remember the loved ones they left behind. I hope it will inspire some discussion and education for future generations.”

In April 2020, the museum formed a rapid-response collecting task force to address the COVID-19 pandemic and document the scientific and medical events as well as the effects and responses in the areas of business, work, politics and culture. Due to health and safety protocols, the museum is only able to bring in a limited number of artifacts into the building. Additional artifacts related to the pandemic will be brought in and processed when the museum returns to full operation.

The Northwell acquisition includes additional vials from doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines administered at Northwell, as well as the supplies needed to prepare, inject and track the vaccinations, such as diluent, syringes and vaccination-record cards. Northwell also donated shipping materials that document the enormous effort required to support vaccine distribution and preserve vaccine potency, such as a specialized vaccine “shipper” that monitors and maintains temperature.

“The urgent need for effective vaccines in the U.S. was met with unprecedented speed and emergency review and approval,” saidAnthea M. Hartig, Ph.D, the museum’s Elizabeth MacMillan Director. “These now historic artifacts document not only this remarkable scientific progress but represent the hope offered to millions living through the cascading crises brought forth by COVID-19.”

Northwell’s donation joins the museum’s medicine and science collections that represent nearly all aspects of health and medical practice. Highlights include a penicillin mold from Alexander Fleming’s experiments, Jonas Salk’s original polio vaccine, early genetically engineered drugs and an 1890s drugstore. The museum is working on a signature 3,500-square-foot exhibition, “In Sickness and in Health,” that will explore efforts to contain, control and cure illnesses over the centuries, thereby shaping the nation’s history. The exhibition will feature artifacts from 19th-century vaccination tools and diagnostic instruments to cardiac implants, imaging technologies and objects from the global smallpox eradication campaign and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the museum’s resources related to vaccines and the role of antibodies is a website, “The Antibody Initiative,” and a March 2 virtual program with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci was presented with the museum’s signature honor, the Great Americans medal, and donated his personal 3D model of the SARS-CoV-2 virion to help represent his pandemic work in the national collections. The program featuring a conversation with Smithsonian Regent David M. Rubenstein can be accessed at https://greatamericans.si.edu.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. All Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.  For more information, visithttp://americanhistory.si.edu.

The museum’s staff also canvassed the nation, asking what it should collect to document this pandemic. The public can continue to make suggestions at [email protected] and share their Stories of 2020 at a site that will serve as a digital time capsule for future generations. The portal, open through April, will accept stories in English or Spanish and photos or short video.

Photos courtesy of Northwell Health