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Northport

The Northport varsity cheerleaders competed in two separate competitions in two different states this past weekend and came out with two bids to compete on the national stage.

On Saturday, Dec. 3, they boarded a pre-sunrise bus to the Universal Cheerleading Association’s Pocono Regionals held in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where they competed in two separate divisions — Game Day and Traditional. Cheer teams from all over the Northeast strutted their stuff, and Northport placed 3rd in the Game Day category and 9th in Traditional. 

Based on this performance, they earned bids to compete in both categories at the U.C.A. championship held in Walt Disney World in February 2023 — the first time an N.V.C team has ever accomplished this.

The travel-weary troupe  were back at it early Sunday morning in a Suffolk County competition and placed 4th in their first local competition of the season.  Host school Longwood came in first.

The team is made up of seniors Kate Sheahan, Hailey Trudwig, Hailey Smolcnop, Stephanie Downey, Bridget Caulfield, Maddie Cianelli, juniors Olivia Robert, Alexa Ehrlich, sophomores Allie Bartholomew, Alexa Garrison, Emily Nichols, Sophia Stern, Lorena Della Vecchia, Brooke Wenger, Lindsay Grabowski and eighth-grader Marley Caccamo. It is led by Coach Steph Walsh.

By Steven Zaitz

The Northport Youth Football & Cheerleading Club held its Season Kickoff Jamboree for Cheerleading and Football on Monday, July 18, serving host to over 500 players, coaches, cheerleaders and parents.

The NPYFC, led by Long Island football coaching legend Benjamin Carey, is open to 5–11-year-old kids and was held at Bellerose Elementary School in East Northport. Despite on-and-off lighting and thunderstorms throughout the day, the weather conditions improved just in time for football and cheer drills to proceed unencumbered.

Carey, who has led the organization for 10 years, gave an inspirational keynote address, emphasizing the importance of football and its role in character development and the spirit of teamwork in young boys and girls. He also introduced former NFL player Golden Ukonu, who spoke about how he worked hard from his time at North Babylon High School, Nassau Community College and LIU Post to finally making it the pros as an undrafted free agent with the Tennessee Titans.

NPYFC is a privately owned non-profit corporation. The program works with youth of all socioeconomic backgrounds and skill levels who demonstrate an interest in football and cheerleading. The organization focuses on training, support and guidance; providing the resources needed to develop skills including but not limited to physical, social and emotional growth for both individual and team success. The program aims to teach its members grit, competitiveness, responsibility, self-discipline, hard work and sportsmanship as they proceed on their journey from adolescence to young adulthood. The organization offers financial support and stipends for disadvantaged talented youth who would like to participate in the program.

Each age group will play 8-10 games in the fall, and it boasts some of the best coaches on Long Island, state-of-the-art equipment, and teaches best practice techniques for football safety. Any child from Northport-East Northport, Commack, Harborfields and Elwood school districts are eligible to participate.

Northport residents gathered along Main Street, Monday, May 30, to cheer on the veterans, volunteer firefighters, Scouts and more who marched from Laurel Avenue School to Northport Village Park. The parade, organized by the Northport American Legion Post 694, honored those who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. armed forces. 

After the parade, a wreath-laying ceremony was held at the park.

Doug Bilotti, back row behind mascot Mr. Marinara, recently opened Regalo Trattoria & Pizza Bar in Northport with the encouragement of his family. Photo by Miguel Garcia

By Chris Mellides

Nestled in a strip mall on Fort Salonga Road in Northport, Regalo Trattoria & Pizza Bar is a family run Italian restaurant owned by attorney and St. James resident Douglas Bilotti. 

Chef Miguel Garcia, left, and Bilotti, right, present a freshly baked pizza. Photo by Claudia Reed

In addition to being a restaurateur, Bilotti operates his own law firm and serves as a justice for the Village of Nissequogue. The one dream that seemed to elude him for years was pursuing a career in the culinary industry. In January, however, the self-proclaimed “home chef” finally made that dream a reality. 

“When I was in high school, I always wanted to be a chef,” Bilotti said. “I enjoyed making food and I thought about going to culinary school at the time. For some reason, I decided to go to college and go to law school, but I always enjoyed cooking and enjoyed food, and I have some good friends in the restaurant industry as well.”

With its relaxing atmosphere and homey decor, Bilotti strives to make Regalo a prime destination for Italian comfort food on Long Island. The eatery has an expansive menu and serves everything from pizza to hamburgers, wings and a popular chicken francese dish, which the enthused owner claims is the “biggest seller that comes out of the kitchen,” apart from the pizza, of course. 

Previously, the restaurant went by the name La Casa Pizza, until Bilotti purchased the business at the start of this year. He kept the old kitchen staff and in part credits the success of Regalo to their expert knowledge and dedication.

A big part of what also makes Regalo special, according to Bilotti, are those family members he employs. Working alongside him are his sister Claudia Reed, his daughters Isabella and Christina, niece Laura Burns and his nephew Jimmy Burns. 

Reed said that she’s thrilled that her brother is pursuing one of his oldest dreams and she couldn’t be more supportive. 

“I am so happy for him,” she said. “It’s not often that we get to do something we dreamed about when we were younger — life gets in the way.”  

“We set out on a path, we get married, have children and we don’t have the time or financial security to do something our younger selves would have wanted to do,” she added. “I love that my brother is getting to fulfill a dream that he once had, and I love that I get to be part of it.” 

Reed is responsible for overseeing the operations of the staff. She moderates group texts for the delivery drivers and for the counter and also works the register, sweeps and buses tables. “I help where I’m needed,” she said. 

Bilotti’s nephew Jimmy Burns, left, and the owner share a table. Displayed on the wall behind them are photos of Bilotti’s grandparents when they were children.

Reed’s son, Jimmy Burns, is proving to be a vital employee with aspirations of becoming a business partner with his uncle one day.

The young restaurant employee graduated with an associate’s degree from Suffolk County Community College and said he doesn’t have plans to return to school. Instead, he sees himself becoming more immersed in the operation of his uncle’s restaurant.

“It means a lot to me,” Burns said “I like having the responsibility for the restaurant. I like that my uncle trusts me, I like that I know I’m doing something important for my family.”

“The highlights are that I have fun with my co-workers,” he added. “We laugh a lot. There are times when it’s busy, but there are also times when it doesn’t feel like work, and I like that.” 

Bilotti, when asked how he balances being a restaurateur, attorney and a village judge, admitted there have been a lot of late nights spent keeping up with everything and that it’s been a challenge to maintain his legal work while also ensuring that Regalo continues to thrive.

“Some days I do my legal work from the restaurant,” he said. “I take calls here, I bring my computer here every morning and get to work. So, it’s been working out and it’s been working out well. I have additional work and weekend time is always there as well to get some stuff done.”

Through continued hard work and a large emphasis on the support he receives from his family and the community his restaurant serves, Bilotti is confident that his business will continue to flourish. 

“It’s beyond Italian food, it’s everything,” Bilotti said. “It’s comfort food. It’s what people like, and it’s what people enjoy. It’s high quality and it’s affordable. We just want to be part of the community and have people feel that we’re part of the community and serve the community the best that we can, really.”

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Bernard Paley’s obituary originally appeared in the Jan. 6, 2022, editions of The Smithtown News and The Observer in Northport. It is republished with permission from The Smithtown News.

Bernard Paley

Bernard “Bernie” Paley, 92, the long-time publisher of The Smithtown News died after a brief illness Jan. 1 at the home he loved and lived in for over 60 years.

During his 66-year award-winning journalism career, Paley was entrenched in the community, active in many service organizations and once a candidate for public office.

“Bernie was an extraordinary man,” said David Ambro, editor of The Smithtown News and The Observer and also Paley’s son-in-law. “His approach to local journalism was always to promote a sense of community, which is what he loved most about Smithtown.”

“His passion was the newsroom,” Ambro said. “He was a fair, concise news reporter and a smart, studious, and forward-thinking editorial and column writer. Outside of the office he was a kind and caring family man, a loving husband, who delighted in spending time with his children and grandchildren. We loved him dearly and he will be sorely missed.”

A hard worker throughout his life, he also made sure to make time outside the office ‘working hard’ at the things he loved. An avid skier who spent winters in Vermont and was still on the slopes at age 86, Paley enjoyed playing golf, his weekly tennis games, spending summers on Fire Island and traveling the world.

One of Paley’s notable attributes, to which his friends and family can attest, was his love of telling stories, but “his greatest attribute was his personal contact with people,” Ambro said. His subject matters ranged from his days playing hooky from school to playing basketball on the streets of New York City. He would recount stories from the trenches of local politics, his travels, including a month-long trip to communist Russia, and Smithtown Rotary Club lore.

“He had a vast institutional knowledge of Smithtown government and politics that spanned more than half a century and he loved sharing those stories. He could be funny at times, serious at others, and what was remarkable was his ability to remember the names of the characters involved, some dating back to the 1950s. I could listen to him for hours,” Ambro said.

Paley was the last remaining charter member of the Rotary Club of Smithtown, an organization that was such an important part of his life. A past president of the club, many life-long friends were made through his involvement in Rotary and he still looked forward to attending weekly club meetings.

Nissequogue Village Mayor Richard Smith was a longtime friend of Paley. They first met on the Smithtown campaign trail when Smith’s father was involved in Democratic Party politics in the 1960s and Paley was a local journalist covering local campaigns. They solidified their relationship in 2006 when Smith joined the Smithtown Rotary Club, now serving as its president.

“He was highly intelligent, kind, and with a very sharp sense of humor,” Smith said about Paley. “The thing that always impressed me about Bernie though, was that as successful as he was and as smart as he was, he was just a very humble guy. I think that’s what people found most attractive about him. He never put on airs. He just was the most decent person and friendly to all. He was just a very kind man.”

After learning about Paley’s death, Smith said he spoke with many Rotary Club members about him and he will be deeply missed. “He was an imminently likable guy and he had that very rare combination — very intelligent and humorous, but very humble. We are all poorer today because he is gone,” Smith concluded.

Another Smithtown Rotarian and dear friend, Glenn Williams, said he first met Paley as a young man when his father, Bud Williams, and Paley played tennis together. He recalled sitting at the bar at Old Street Pub in Smithtown one afternoon when Paley, who ate lunch there almost every workday, came into the restaurant. Williams invited Paley to join him for lunch but he didn’t like sitting at the bar to eat. Instead, Paley preferred the backroom of the restaurant where he always ate at the same four-top table.

They became fast friends and Williams said that table at Old Street Pub was frequented by local officials, business people and area folks who would share stories with Paley over lunch.

“Guys would come in there and chew the fat for an hour or two, and sometimes he and I would stay way too long,” Williams said. “His friendship always meant so much to me. He was a great guy and he was a mentor to me in a few ways about life.”

“I loved the stories he would share and he was a great listener. His sense of humor, of course, was unsurpassed. It is a big loss for me and I am going to really miss him,” Williams said. “I loved him and I really valued him. Everybody I talk to agrees it is such a big loss.”

Paley was a past president of the Smithtown Township Arts Council (STAC) and personally guaranteed financing for the arts organization to ensure it would continue to serve the community when it was on the brink of closing down. Paley also served as a member of the Smithtown Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors in the 1960s, was active in the New York Press Association where he served as president for two terms, and was appointed a member of the New York State Judicial Nominating Committee by Gov. Hugh Carey. Paley also served on the New York State Free Press Trial Committee for many years.

In 1969, Paley was the Democratic candidate for Smithtown Town Supervisor. He ran against Republican candidate Paul Fitzpatrick for a seat left open when Smithtown Supervisor John V.N. Klein was elected county executive. Although Paley was endorsed by a dissident faction of Republicans from Kings Park who were upset with the ‘bossism’ in the Smithtown GOP, Fitzpatrick won in a year when Republicans swept town races in Smithtown. A testament to his strong ethical character, Paley invited Fitzpatrick to write his own endorsement, which he ran side by side along his own.

Perhaps ahead of his time, one of the key campaign issues on Paley’s platform was to update the town’s comprehensive master plan, which had not been done in more than a decade since first enacted in 1957. More than half a century later, the town is just nearing completion of a master plan update.

Paley was born on Nov. 23, 1929, in the Bronx to Max and Anna Paley. He grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, and was a graduate of Brooklyn College. There, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and more significantly met his wife, Suzanne, who he married in 1951. Mr. and Mrs. Paley headed to the suburbs where they purchased their first home in Kings Park.

While his wife had secured a teaching position in the Kings Park School District, Paley’s love of sports led him to the two local newspapers in town, The Smithtown News and The Smithtown Messenger, where he hoped perhaps he could get a job as a sports reporter. The Smithtown News publisher Robert James Malone, who had just finished up his term as Smithtown Supervisor, hired him on the spot (The Smithtown Messenger offered him a position the next day.) In 1955, Paley became the managing editor of The Smithtown News and vice president of The North Shore News Group with The Smithtown News as its flagship publication. In the 1970s, Paley purchased The Observer newspaper in Northport and in 1990 the newspaper chain began publishing The Huntington News under Paley’s leadership.

In his early days at The News, Paley worked as a general assignment reporter writing about politics, crime, human interest and feature stories in Smithtown and Suffolk County. And he had a passion for high school sports, even managing to find time to cover a big game or sporting event. In 1964 he was named Outstanding Young Editor of the Year by the International Society of Weekly Newspapers headquartered in Ireland and Illinois.

“My dad lived such a wonderful life,” said daughter Jennifer Paley Ambro. “In addition to running award-winning newspapers for decades, he and my mom made sure to create wonderful memories for our entire family … whether it was in Vermont, camping in Montauk, or traveling across country in a camper, he knew how to make the most of life. He never missed a beat. It was his dedication to this community that drew me back to Smithtown to join him in running the newspapers. His stories of sitting around the round table in the back of Howard Johnson’s having lunch with local politicians and business people, early morning breakfasts at Florence’s Hilltop Diner with local law enforcement, to always running into someone he knew at Old Street Pub, instilled in me the importance of local journalism and its critical role in a community.”

At 92, Paley would still come into the office just about every day.

“He’d come in with an egg sandwich, coffee, and his newspapers and we would sit and talk about anything and everything. He was just a wonderful dad who gave us a wonderful life and I will miss having him by my side,” Jennifer Paley Ambro said.

Daughter Elizabeth Paley echoed similar sentiments about her father. “I have so many happy memories of my dad. He taught me how to skim a rock at Short Beach, chaperoned Smithtown Elementary field trips when I was little, and gave my high school friends part-time jobs inserting newspapers so we could all work together at The News,” Paley said. “Later in life, after my mom died, he and I would take monthly day trips to Robert Moses and Captree State Park, even in the middle of winter and he was over 90 years old. He always had an adventurous spirit! Most importantly though, my dad taught me to find purpose in serving others, and that family is everything.”

Paley also relished his role as a grandfather.

“My grandfather lived his life to the fullest,” said granddaughter Anna Jewell of Concord, Massachusetts. “Whether it was traveling to Vermont, Fire Island, or to Massachusetts for my high school grandparent’s days, he always made sure to spend his time doing the things he loved with the people he loved. But regardless of all his experiences, when I asked him recently what his favorite trip was, he didn’t hesitate to say his honeymoon.”

The Paleys moved to their home in Smithtown with their daughters in 1966 where Paley lived until his death. He was predeceased by his devoted wife, Suzanne, who died in 2016. Paley is survived by his daughter Elizabeth Paley and her daughters Lily and Anna Jewell; daughter Jennifer Paley Ambro and husband David Ambro, and their children Brady and Sophie Ambro; granddaughter Morgan Ambro and great-grandson Joshua Simmons.

Donations in memory of Bernard Paley can be made to the Rotary Club of Smithtown Charitable Fund, P.O. Box 501, Smithtown, New York, 11787. The family will also be setting up two yearly scholarships in Paley’s memory through the Rotary Club of Smithtown and the New York Press Association. A celebration of Paley’s life will be held at a future date.

Susan Eckert with Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta helping to collect food for a drive. Photo from Demetria Mudar

By Donna Deedy

Susan Eckert is one of those unsung heroes who works behind the scenes to improve the quality of life for others here on Long Island’s North Shore. 

The Northport native began her public relations career at the Long Island Lighting Company during the turbulent era that saw the rise and fall of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. 

After new management eliminated the entire department in the early 1980s, according to former LILCO PR associate Demetria Mudar, Eckert moved on to forge her own unique, decades-long personal legacy in community service. Along the way, she has gained the admiration of others. 

“People like her,” Mudar said. “She’s a lovely person and her character, combined with her work ethic, stand out.”

Eckert touches the lives of others through her full-time positions, most notably as a legislative aide in Suffolk County and as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations. 

She works for county Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), who said that hiring her was among his best decisions as a lawmaker. He has nicknamed her “Radar” after the “M*A*S*H” character because she’s finely tuned in to her surroundings.

Susan Eckert. Photo from Demetria Mudar

“Susan knows what I’m thinking, what is right and what to do next before anything even happens,” Trotta said. “She is a godsend and the backbone of my office.” 

On the job, Eckert organizes senior information fairs as well as winter coat and food drives for the local pantry at St. Joseph’s Church in Kings Park. 

She also researches and promotes many important proposals, such as Trotta’s life-saving 911 bill in 2014. 

That law mandated that hotels and businesses provide telephone systems with direct access to emergency operators without the need for dialing a prompt to connect with an external phone line. It was created in response to a tragic incident where a child tried unsuccessfully to call for help for his mother in a hotel room. 

If you have ever dropped off excess prescription drugs at any county police department, you can thank Eckert. She coordinated the first medicine disposal program on Long Island back in 2011 when she was an aide for Trotta’s predecessor, Legislator Lynne Nowick (R-Smithtown). 

The effort aimed to protect the area’s drinking water supply, while preventing drug misuse or abuse. The initiative ultimately expanded and became a model for a state policy that eliminates the need to flush pills down the toilet. 

As a liaison, Eckert has been involved with Suffolk County Department of Health Services programs, the Suffolk Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel, the county Communities of Solutions, Smithtown Youth and Community Alliance, Commack Coalition of Caring for substance abuse and the Northport school district Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force. She also served as chair of the county’s Women’s Advisory Commission in 2011 and was a member from 2008-14. 

Determined to raise awareness of the abilities of the disabled, Eckert took a job in public relations for United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Suffolk, where she received national recognition for composing the group’s publications. 

Eckert’s omnipresence in Suffolk County is matched only by her standing in her hometown.

She currently serves as president of the Friends of the Northport-East Northport Public Library, a volunteer position she has held since 2013. Library staff member Janet Naideau said Eckert has enhanced the library experience for the entire patron community by organizing a full range of special events. For members of Long Island Horticultural Society, Eckert has planned garden tours locally and abroad to Northumberland, England. The legislative aide mainly focuses on health and literacy projects. But her interests extend into the arts. She created Art in the Alcove in the county Legislature building in Hauppauge to showcase the work of local sculptors. For years, Eckert was a member of the Northport Historical Society exhibits committee. 

She is also a volunteer for the Reboli Center for Art and History in Stony Brook, where she writes press releases and composes profiles to highlight the talents of Long Island’s artists.

“I have known Susan for more than 20 years,” Lois Reboli, the center’s president, said. “I think the world of her.” Eckert, she said, is remarkably generous, caring, brilliant and a skilled fundraiser. “She never asks for a thing in return,” Reboli added. “And is so deserving of this honor.” 

During this season of giving, Susan Eckert shows us how giving back results in a rewarding way of life.

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Despite trailing, 10-4, in the opening set on Nov. 4, the Northport Tigers dropped the hammer and swept visiting Lindenhurst in three sets 25-19, 25-15 and 25-20 to advance to the final round of the boys volleyball Division I Suffolk title game.

Zack Zdrojeski set the tone for the Tigers with 17 kills and three service aces. Aidan Flinn killed six as did Brendon Fenlon and John Dwyer. Will Fitzpatrick notched 30 assists, and libero Joe Haubrich had 25 digs. 

Northport faces Smithtown West Nov. 9 at Longwood High School. 

Game time is scheduled 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door. 

Stock photo

Suffolk County Police arrested two women who allegedly stole more than $43,000 from their employer during a nine-month period ending in August.

Elana Sofia and Sandra Bonilla, while employed at Goodwill Industries, located at 1900 Jericho Turnpike, East Northport, allegedly stole money from the company’s bank deposits from November 2020 until August 2021, according to Suffolk County Police.

Following an investigation by 2nd Squad detectives, Sofia was arrested on Oct. 4 and Bonilla was arrested on Oct. 5.

Sofia, 29, of Port Jefferson, and Bonilla, 33, of Brentwood, were charged with Grand Larceny 3rd Degree. Sofia was arraigned on Oct. 5 and Bonilla is scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 6 at First District Court in Central Islip.

A criminal charge is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Updated Oct. 8 to correct the omission of “alleged” in the print version. We regret the mistake. 

Northport midfielder Ricky Corbett with a header at home against Newfield Sept 14. Bill Landon photo

The Newfield Wolverines looked for that first win of this early season in a League II road game against the Northport Tigers when senior co-captain Oscar Moreno broke the ice to put the Wolverines out front 1-0 with 10 minutes remaining in the opening half. 

Northport senior midfielder Justin Besosa made it a new game midway through the second half to even the score. Both teams unable to break the tie finished the game in a draw. 

Newfield senior goal keep Carter Rothwell had twelve saves in net where Northport’s goalie Tommy Pace stopped five.

Newfield at 0-1-1 will retake the field in a home game against Bay Shore Sept 17. Northport also at 0-1-1, 2-1-1 overall, will face Walt Whitman in a road game Sept 18. Game times are 5:15 p.m. and 8 a.m., respectively.

After a COVID-shortened fall season four months ago, Northport hosted the Rocky Point Eagles in what should be a full slate of games for the upcoming campaign. It was a non-league season opener which pitted the Tigers, a Divison I powerhouse, who finished the regular season last (year) at 12-1, against the Division II Eagles who finished the previous regular season at 10-2.

The Eagles struggled to stay upfield where Northport slowly closed the door for a 4-0 shutout. Northport junior Sydney Wotzak scored twice along with Hailey Roethel and Olivia McKenna with a goal apiece.

Rocky Point goalie’s Molly Luchsinger had seven saves on the day, and Maddie Zarzycki stopped six. The Eagles are back in action Sept. 1 where they host Pierson Bridgehampton at 4:30 p.m. with Northport facing Walt Whitman the following day at home with a 4 p.m. start.