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Obituaries

Back to Basics in Rocky Point has been around for over four decades before its owner, Drew Henry Tyler, died earlier this year. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though he may have passed on, a local shop owner, one who helped pioneer the health foods market on Long Island, is still appearing to thank people passing by his small corner store.

Drew Henry Tyler, a resident of Shoreham Village and owner of Back to Basics in Rocky Point, passed away in June. Photo by Robert Gutowski

Back to Basics, a natural food store in Rocky Point, has been vacant for months. In its window a sign is posted: “Thanks for 43 Years.” The longtime owner of the shop, Drew Henry Tyler, 67, passed away June 8 after a battle with adrenal cancer. 

His wife of little under 28 years, Lee Frei, is a longtime resident of Shoreham village. She and her future husband originally met at the store. 

She got to know him as an honest and quiet man, but the kind of quiet that hides a unique intelligence. She said if he hadn’t passed, he would have likely still been there, manning the counter and talking to customers about anything from politics to music to yoga.

“There was so much to Drew,” she said. “He was calm and wise. I often thanked him for that.” 

Tyler grew up with his brother Rick on a chicken farm in Lake Ronkonkoma, back when the area was still mostly rural, and some of the main roads still remained dirt paths. Rick Tyler called that just your average life of “barefoot boys growing up in the woods.” 

The two were introduced to Provisions, a health food shop in Port Jefferson back in the  1970s, the brother said. Working there, the two formed a side business called Journey Foods, where the two would go into New York City, bringing back “tubs” of tofu, sprouts and other such items to sell to the still-small market of health food stores on the eastern side of Long Island, back when many wholesale distributors didn’t come out past Route 110. The brothers even got into the business of growing sprouts, which Rick said were “temperamental.” 

The two made connections with many of the health food retailers on the Island, but the brothers had a unique opportunity when the original owners of Back to Basics in Rocky Point were looking to sell.

Jane Alcorn, who now helps lead the effort to transform the Shoreham Tesla property into a museum and science incubator, started the store in 1976 with her husband and two friends. When a few years after opening, her business partners moved away, she and her husband decided to sell to the Tyler brothers, who had expressed interest in the place for a while. She thought of Drew as a “kind man — he was quiet and hardworking.”

“It was always a pleasure to go there and see how they had made some changes, but still kept the essence of the store — natural foods, and healthy and specialty products for the people of the surrounding area,” Alcorn said. “He obviously did a good job to have been in business so long. Back to Basics was one of the oldest stores in Rocky Point and, even now, I’m sure many people, like me, miss running in to pick up some special items that aren’t available anywhere nearby.”

The store was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Frei said and, after Drew passed, family came to help sell the remaining merchandise at cost.

Rick Tyler, who now lives in Pennsylvania, worked at the store for a little over a decade before moving on. As the health food market boomed, he said it got harder to compete, and they were “always fighting against the mass market and Trader Joe’s.” 

Still, despite any difficulty. Rick said his brother was the kind of man who would leave the counter to help a woman bring her purchases to the car. He was the kind of man who engendered trust, and when Rick came back to Long Island to help with closing down the shop, he and those manning the shop were greeted with a bevy of longtime customers who fondly remembered the store owner, some young enough to say they had been coming there for practically their entire lives.

“He was a very gentle, kind, smart, funny guy — he was very well liked,” Rick Tyler said of his brother.

Jan Tyler, the brothers’ mother, said the people who came to the store in those final days were coming in with both sympathy and expressions of sorrow.

“I think you couldn’t help but love Drew,” the mother said. “He tried to help everybody he could, he would drop everything and help a woman with bundles in the rain. On the whole everybody cared a great deal for him.”

Linda Stever, who worked for Drew at Back to Basics for several years, said the owner was inherently trusting of his customers and community. She wrote in a post to Tyler’s obituary that from the first day she worked for him, the man simply trusted people.

“I lived in Rocky Point for years, but I never felt such a sense of community until I worked with Drew at Back to Basics,” Stever wrote. “He was my boss, but I considered him and his wife Lee to be my friends as well. I’m thankful for knowing him.”

Tyler was well known in Shoreham village, especially as a man who was competitive on the tennis courts. Frei said he loved the “mechanics of moving,” of having motions done with expert grace. Family friend Laura Baisch wrote in a tribute to Drew that he was known for his “quiet laugh and look of complete satisfaction when he hit the perfect shot.”

Frei said he was in the village doubles finals one year, and residents would come to watch because he was so much fun on the courts. 

“His perspiration would make a heart-like mark on his shirt, and the crowd would chant, ‘I heart Drew,’” she said.

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Celerina Maureen Miguel Cristy, age 53, died April 15 this year of respiratory heart failure resulting from infection by COVID-19. She died at Richmond University Medical Center, Staten Island. Friends called her Rina.

Rina, who grew up in Port Jefferson Station, had a career that intersected with national events in politics and developing the economy, particularly by enhancing global financial security after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Rina Cristy. Go to the bottom of the article to see the date and time for an online memorial.

Rina and her husband of 23 years, Sam Cristy, were parenting two teenage children at the time of her death. The Cristys have lived in Staten Island since 2004. Rina had lived or worked in Port Jefferson Station,  Boston,  metro Washington, D.C., Manhattan and Jersey City.

Born in November 1966 in Chicago, Rina was the first of her family born in the U.S. Her parents, Art and Gloria Miguel, immigrated from the Philippines, then met and married in America. Art was an engineer in aviation, and Gloria was a nurse. The Miguels moved to Port Jefferson Station, where they still live. The gregarious household grew to include Rina’s two younger brothers and two grandparents. Later, the Miguel home expanded again to incorporate Rina and Sam, and soon thereafter a grandson. Four generations gathered daily for breakfast.

Rina is a Comsewogue High School alumna. She attended Emerson College in Boston, graduating in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science in speech communications, advertising, and public relations. In 2000, she received her Master of Business Administration degree in computer information systems from Hofstra University, where she earned the prestigious Hofstra University MBA Fellowship.

Community service is an innate Miguel family hallmark. Rina’s grandfather was an educator and a decorated officer of U.S. and Philippine armies. Rina described her mother as the springboard to political engagement and developing a New Yorker ethos. Rina recalled co-piloting a plane with her father, Art. Such moments inspired her to imagine boundless agency, Rina said. Thus prepared, she moved from Boston to Washington, D.C., to start her career in 1988.

Rina served the Honorable U.S. Rep. George Hochbrueckner (1-NY), Eastern Long Island, administering finance and fundraising in his congressional campaigns. She joined the congressional staff and quickly advanced to senior legislative aide. Reflecting on Rina’s accomplishments, Hochbrueckner commented, “Rina’s diligent activities aided in the funding of the initial as well as the ongoing dredging of Shinnecock Inlet, thus preventing the loss of lives of the local commercial fishermen. She also assisted in the designation of Peconic Bay as a new member of the National Estuary Program, providing special environmental funding to this day.” Her collaboration also secured federal funds for Lyme disease mitigation and education.

Following her congressional work, Rina proceeded to the Defenders of Wildlife conservation society. As aide to the director, she served the executive board and contributed to the conservation of wild lands and restoration of wolf habitats.

The 1990s on Capitol Hill invigorated Rina’s optimism that she could make an enduring contribution in the nexus of public policy and business. The Calverton Enterprise Park is an example. Rina facilitated the legislative steps that converted the federal aviation site to ownership by the Town of Riverhead. This pivot from Cold War defense projects opened the way for emerging environmental health sciences. Calverton now stands primed to open temporary hospital services during the COVID pandemic.

Rina’s pivot to finance came via her Hofstra MBA. She was subsequently hired by the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan. There, she supported the U.S. Federal Reserve System’s function in regulating and examining regional and global banks. Her work protected deposits, assessed bank solvency, and engaged protections against money laundering and terrorist financing.

Starting in 2004, Rina developed her specialty as an executive in retail and wholesale banks developing data, personnel, and operations systems for transaction security and compliance with regulations and best practices.

She worked in the Staten Island offices of Independence Community Bank. She proceeded to Rabobank International and ultimately to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Manhattan, where she rose to Director & Group Manager of Compliance Operations before being assigned as Director of Compliance Department, Americas Division.

In the era following the 2001 terrorist attacks, bankers wrestled with costly and demanding federal laws for enhanced fiduciary obligations. Evaluating competition, profits, and best practices called for a newly specialized banker. Banks were tasked to ask clients prickly questions, slow deals, and (perhaps) defer legitimate loans until novel risk assessments were satisfied. The urgent world of finance strained to adopt these subjective analyses. As banks with problems incurred fines, compliance experts like Rina proved essential to keeping banks in good control.

Rina’s policy and bank experience fit this role. Her teams set out to divine regulatory expectations and move banks to comply. Foremost, she assured profit drivers that the evolving security measures were intrinsic to bank success. Rina was gratified to see her early interpretations as an auditor at the Fed gain adoption as trade standards years later.

One of Rina’s work colleagues, Risë Zaiser, bonded with Rina as mentor and friend. They shared triumphs in motherhood and careers. Zaiser tracked Rina’s moves in various banks and trade panels.

“When we first met her, she came in guns a-blazing, and we were talking about how we were going to get her a bat. But she didn’t need a bat. She was just able to convince, and they followed her direction,” Zaiser said.

Industry colleagues noted that Rina was an effective department director because of her genuine humanity, humor, and collaboration. Life in banking cubicles can be fraught, staid, and tedious. One boss recalled surprise, then gratitude in receiving an office hug.

“Smiles can tear down the tallest, thickest walls. The power of Rina’s smile was the selflessness behind it,” he said. “Rina was always positive and upbeat, addressing adversity with that smile. I challenge all of us to take what Rina has given us and pass it along.”

Rina was passionate about cultivating professional opportunities for women and developing diversity in business and civic leadership. Hofstra invited her to speak quarterly to business students, and she regularly trained interns. SMBC designated a scholarship in Rina’s name to enhance the Women’s Inclusion Network  professional development project. SMBC noted her continuous mentoring of students and professionals.

“That enthusiasm and willingness to take on things widened her scope,” Zaiser noted. In the Women’s Inclusion Network, Rina was a “tireless devotee,” and she answered a call to be a co-president. “We all voted for her. It was great to work with her. I’m really going to miss her joyfulness.”

Rina was a devoted member of Brighton Heights Reformed Church in St. George. She joined the denomination as a long-time member of the Reformed Church of America at Stony Brook, previously known as Christ Community Church.

Staten Islanders knew Rina as a passionate supporter of families at Dance Dance Dance, Ltd., where her daughter thrived as a student. Many knew Rina through her masterful knitting, which she shared lovingly with cancer patients, premature babies and many friends.

She loved ballroom dancing with Sam. She engaged her kids’ every pursuit with verve, including raising a rescue pitbull. From Rina, her children learned faith in God, the enduring affection of family, and how to cook from scratch.

When Rina contracted COVID, the disease was daily killing 2,000 in the U.S., 8,000 people worldwide. To her family, she endures in death as a true a love and steadfast guide. Quarantined, short of breath, and resolute, she typed her gratitude to the world: “Be kind to each other.”

Rina is survived by her husband, Sam; their children, Alex and Amelia, of Staten Island; parents, Art and Gloria Miguel; brother Arturo Miguel, his wife Kim, and nephew Gabriel; and brother Fernando Miguel, his wife Kim, and nephews Colin, Elias, and Reece.

A family memorial service will be recorded and broadcast on YouTube at 3p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21. Matthew Funeral Home, Staten Island, arranged the cremation. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to ameliorate effects of the pandemic.

The funeral home and Rina’s Facebook page will post updates about observances, including congregational observances in future months at Brighton Heights Reformed Church, Staten Island. To view the memorial, use these links:

Main link: https://youtu.be/7jQKsQzd1r4

Backup link: https://youtu.be/UHYVv2152-c

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Frederick Conrad Hoffmann III, of Port Jefferson Station, passed away Nov. 6 peacefully surrounded by his loving family. He was 84.

Fred was born in Jamaica, NY on Feb. 1, 1936 to Frederick Conrad Jr. and Clara (Borden) Hoffmann. He graduated from Andrew Jackson High School in 1953, from Adelphi University in 1962, and earned a Master’s in Administration at Stony Brook University In 1977. Fred was the captain of his high school and college track teams. 

Fred was a veteran of the Army National Guard from 1959 to 1964. He married the former Diane Kuhn in 1960 and was married for 60 wonderful years. Fred had a rewarding 26-year career as a physical education teacher and coach at Comsewogue High School, where he retired in 1991. Fred thoroughly enjoyed teaching and coaching many sports over the years, including track, winter track, cross country, soccer, golf and bowling. 

Throughout his life, Fred enjoyed traveling the country with his wife. His hobbies included fishing, golfing, bowling, cooking, watching sports, Jeopardy, politics, singing, giving nicknames and spending time with his children and grandchildren. Fred was known for his vast knowledge of many subjects, especially sports and sports statistics, much like a sports encyclopedia. Fred touched many lives with his wise advice, was known for his quick wit and sense of humor, and brought joy to all who met him.

Fred is survived by his loving wife, Diane, of 60 years. They were a wonderful example of what love is, often saying the secret to their long marriage was making each other laugh. Fred is survived by his siblings, Maland Hoffmann and his wife Barbara Ellen Weinkauf and her husband Steven and Garry Hoffmann and his wife Lynn; and numerous nieces and nephews. Fred and Diane had four children which he is survived by, including Frederick Conrad Hoffmann IV and his wife Lynda, and their children, Frederick Conrad V and his wife Kristie, Douglas and his wife Samantha, Logan, Trystan, and Brandon, of Port Jefferson, Matthew Hoffmann, of Royalton, VT and son Quinn, of Jacksonville, Fla; Peter Hoffmann, of Port Jefferson Station and Christine (Hoffmann) Joy and her husband David, and their children, Ellen, Amy, and Nicholas, of Buckeystown, MD. Fred adored his grandchildren, and all nine will miss their loving grandpa. Fred was recently blessed with a great grandson, Steele Thomas, and was able to meet him earlier this month. 

Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, the family has decided to hold a virtual memorial gathering. Please join the family on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, at 7 p.m. for a virtual memorial gathering. For more information, and to RSVP to attend the service please go to: 

 https://www.virtualmemorialgatherings.com/memorial-services/frederick-conrad-hoffmann-iii

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Dr. Mark Cherches

Dr. Mark L. Cherches, of Port Jefferson, died Sept. 18. He was 85.

Dr. Mark Cherches

The well-known area dentist was born Sept. 22, 1934 in the Bronx. After graduating from New York University College of Dentistry in 1959, he served in the U.S. Army as a captain and was stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

He moved to Rocky Point in 1962, and then moved to Port Jefferson in 1969.

Dr. Cherches practiced dentistry in both Rocky Point and Port Jefferson for 55 years. He was fiercely devoted to his patients and provided dental education programs to both the Rocky Point and Port Jefferson school districts. 

Dr. Cherches was a past recipient of TBR News Media’s Person of the Year award for Health and Medicine and received the Theodore Roosevelt Award from St. Charles Hospital for his extraordinary commitment and volunteerism to the hospital.

For decades, he donated his time as director of the dental residency program at St. Charles Hospital and as a supervising dentist at the Cleft Palate Clinic at St. Charles. He was also on staff at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, now called Mather Hospital.

He was an active member of the Port Jefferson Lions Club for over 55 years and was an active member of the North Shore Jewish Center since 1962. He was an avid skier, golfer, tennis player, bicyclist, photographer, boater and fisherman. He had a lifelong passion for learning.  Later in life, he volunteered his time to the Long Island Veterans Home in Stony Brook.

Cherches was preceded in death by his wife, Shirley. He is survived by his son, Gary (Kate); his son, Eric (Barbara); and by his two beloved granddaughters, Joanna and Carly. He is also survived by his beloved sister, Helen Weissman; and by many loving nieces and nephews.

Arrangements were entrusted to Beth Shalom Memorial Chapels in Smithtown, and internment took place at Washington Memorial Park. Donations in Dr. Cherches’ memory can be made to North Shore Jewish Center or to the Dental Clinic at St. Charles Hospital.

The Mount Sinai Fire Department held a ceremony for Wilson two days after his death. Photo from Mount Sinai Fire Department Facebook

Walter Wilson, a chief at the Mount Sinai Fire Department and longtime firefighter, passed away April 27. He was 80 and had just recently celebrated his birthday before
his passing.

Walter Wilson. Photo by Kevin Redding

Wilson joined the Mount Sinai Fire Department eight years ago, and when he passed away, he was the captain of the fire police Company 4. The 1st Mount Sinai Assistant Chief Randy Nelson said after joining, Wilson quickly became a “staple of leadership within the department, whether it was senior members or new members who were only serving a couple months or years.”

On his birthday, despite his ailments, Wilson stood in his yard as both the fire department and a steady stream of cars from the community rolled by his house to celebrate him turning 80.

In a previous article from 2017 in the Village Beacon Record, Walter Wilson, then 77, was described as a former utilities manager at Stony Brook University and volunteer who came out of retirement to join the firehouse after serving the Yaphank Fire Department for 26 years. There he had served as an officer in the ranks and commissioner of the Yaphank Fire District. He told the reporter at the time of the article that once a fireman, always a fireman.

“I had taken about a 10-year break [between Yaphank and Mount Sinai] and retired, but every time a siren went off in the neighborhood, my wife would say to me, ‘you’re like a dog on a porch, getting ready to go chase cars,’” said Wilson. “But it’s great. I got back in, and I love it.”

The Mount Sinai Fire Department held a ceremony April 29 for the fallen captain, with fire trucks rolling out in front of the firehouse on Mount Sinai-Coram Rd underneath a giant American flag and onto North Country road.

“Your kind heart and dedication to the fire department and the community will never be forgotten,” the fire department wrote on Facebook. “May you Rest In Peace Wally we will take it from here.” 

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Bob Strong, right, with his grandchildren Brittany and RJ. Photo from Robyn Strong

Former Port Jefferson mayor and longtime active member of the Port Jeff community Bob Strong passed March 15 after complications from lung cancer. He was 83 and died in the community he knew and loved.

Robert Strong with his two children, Robyn and Robert Jr. Photo from Robyn Strong

Strong was mayor for four years from 1995 to 1999, having been a trustee for four years prior to that. Though his stint as village head was relatively short, Strong would have long and lasting impacts on the village, namely his early help incorporating the easternmost part of the village, his creation of the Business Improvement District and him buying the property that would eventually become Harborfront Park. 

Strong was born June 16, 1936, in New York City, the son of Joseph A. and Pauline R. (Manger) Strong. He would attend SUNY Oswego and graduate in 1958. He was a member of the Beta Tau Epsilon fraternity, where he would meet his wife of nearly 50 years, Evelyn Ann (Repasky) Strong. They would have two children, Robyn and Robert Jr.

People who knew them said the two were inseparable, and it was very rare to see one without the other standing by their side. Evelyn passed away in June 2006. 

Robyn Strong said her father was very gregarious, always there for local parties or events.

The couple moved to the Port Jefferson in 1968, where the family quickly ingratiated itself into the community. Though the area was not yet in the Village of Port Jefferson, Strong quickly became known as a leading voice for incorporation. 

About 90 acres on the eastern end of the village was, until the late 1970s, still not a part of the village. Advocates for integration looked to change that. Unlike the village’s original incorporation in 1963, which was formed out of a desire for home rule, this new incorporation came together through a desire for united identity, according to Larry Britt, a former trustee of 11 years who worked alongside Strong once he later became mayor. 

“There was the same school district — all their kids went to school with our kids — and it was a big section of the village that was left out,” he said.

Harold Sheprow, a former Port Jefferson mayor from 1977 to 1985 and again from 1987 to 1991, soon became fast friends, especially because of their shared advocacy to see the village extended out to Crystal Brook Hollow Road. Strong would spend his efforts knocking on doors, advertising for integration and discussing the prospect in meetings. 

Robert Strong was a mayor for 4 years, but had a lasting impact. Photo from Robyn Strong

“It was a big benefit to Port Jefferson,” Sheprow said. 

The village’s longest serving mayor of 12 years would appoint Strong to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Working up from trustee to deputy mayor to mayor, Strong would work on several major projects, two of which are most felt by village residents today, namely purchasing the land near the harbor that would later become Harborfront Park and the creation of the BID.

Back in time, what is now parkland was filled with oil terminals, with the last owned by Mobil, which merged with Exxon in 1999 to become ExxonMobil. Sheprow said he had worked on that project for years, but Strong was the man to finally get it done, having gained financial help from New York State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). Sheprow said the agreement also forced Mobil to clean up any contamination in the ground, which would help set the stage for what came next. 

Britt, who as trustee worked alongside Strong on the project, said the actions he and the board took involved participation from both local government and residents.

“It was a big focus of what we did,” he said. “I think the fact we had great resident participation was a big part of why it went through.”

The mayor to take up the job after Strong was Jeanne Garant, who would help transform the area into the rolling passive park residents and visitors enjoy today.

Caroline Savino, a former village clerk who would work under five separate mayors, said Strong and other past mayors were looking for ways to have the businesses themselves chip in for the betterment of other village storefronts. 

Britt said the creation of the BID has done much for the village, especially as seen in its current incarnation. Lately, BID members have been working with the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce to get meals from restaurants to hospital workers.

“Who could have looked into the future and see what it is today?” Britt said.

Otherwise, those who worked for Strong in an official capacity knew he could be just as kind in and out of the office.

“Bob was a real gentleman easy to work for — really dedicated to the village,” Savino said. 

Not only did she work for him, but she and Strong were also neighbors, where she said they had originally become friends. Despite him becoming mayor, she said it wasn’t hard to work for him, as he was always so courteous. Even after she retired and moved to North Carolina, Strong wouldn’t hesitate to call her and catch up on things.

Strong was also described as religious, having been a principal of the Infant Jesus R.C. Church religious school for two years. Sheprow said Strong never missed a Mass.

When not traipsing around the village, Strong was a middle school social studies educator in the South Country Central School District. He joined the district in 1958 and remained a teacher until 1966 when he became an assistant principal at the middle school. He became chairman of the social studies department, a position he held from 1972 until 1991. Strong was also a student council adviser

Robert Strong was a mayor for 4 years, but had a lasting impact. Photo from Robyn Strong15

Steve Willner, a fellow teacher in the South Country school district knew Strong well, having worked with him for eight years, becoming friends with him in much the same way others have, thanks to his personable attitude.

“He was really highly regarded in the school by both students and faculty members as [someone who was as] professional and personable as possible,” Willner said. 

Friends who knew Strong all mentioned his love of history, both world and U.S., and his ability to talk about current events. Britt remembered having plenty of discussions on politics and world issues.

When one was friends with Strong, they knew it well. Willner said he would invite the man to his son’s wedding and daughter’s bar mitzvah. Even when Willner moved to Florida after retirement, Strong and he would still keep in touch, communicating together up until the time of his death.

When Strong’s wife Evelyn passed in 2006, friends said the former mayor took it hard. 

“He and his wife were very joined together at the hip and never went anywhere without each other,” said Sheprow. “They were very much attached to each other — he never got over when she passed.”

Still people who knew him talked of how he would continue to call them or meet up, whether they were in the area or lived several states away. Robyn said her father and mother were both heavy travelers, having visited all 50 states and all continents, save Asia and Africa.

Robyn said her father was diagnosed with lung cancer 14 months before his death in March, but that he “was a fighter to the very end.” 

Because of the ongoing crisis, the family will not be holding any services at this point, though they are currently developing plans for a memorial in early summer.

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Panagiotis Koridis

Panagiotis “Pete” Koridis, of St. James, died Jan. 24. He was 93. 

He was the beloved husband of the late Anna Dorothy.

In addition, he was the cherished father of Chris (Thomas) Cantone-Stadier and Nicholas (Catherine) Koridis; the loving grandfather of Nichole Cantone, Melissa Simpson, Carissa Siry, Melina Pascual, Nicholas A. Koridis, Gregory John Koridis; great-grandfather of Calvin, Kaia, Kevin, Kayla, Elena, Madison, Roce Astor; dear brother of Irene, Helen, Maritsa, Eleftheria and the late Monia; and  he is also survived by many other family members and friends.

Religious services were held at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson. Interment followed at Washington Memorial Park Cemetery in Mount Sinai.                     

Arrangements were entrusted to the care of Branch Funeral Home of Miller Place. An online guest book is available at www.branchfh.com.

Alan Cerny

Alan R. Cerny, of North Palm Beach, Florida, and formerly of Port Jefferson Station, died Feb. 6. 

He was a proud 50-year member of the Terryville Fire Department and was an ex-chief and ex-commissioner.  

He was the beloved husband of Jane; the devoted father of Alan (Lisa), Peggy Gironda (Mike), David (Kathy), Leah Abela (Joe) and John (Connie); the cherished grandfather of nine and great-grandfather of one; the loving brother of Linda Commander, Sharon Ogden and Robin Sico (Louie).  

A memorial Mass was celebrated Feb. 22 at St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church in Port Jefferson Station. Interment of cremated remains followed in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram. 

Constance Reimer

Constance Marie Reimer, a longtime community resident, died Jan. 15. She was 87.

She was born Jan. 21, 1932, in Queens, and was the daughter of Dorothy and John Elderd.

“Connie” was a retired payroll manager for NY Telephone. She was also a member of a senior club, enjoyed painting, drawing, knitting, playing Bingo and spending time with her family.

Left to cherish her memory is her daughter, Karen; son, Donald; grandchildren, Michelle and Erik; great-grandchildren, Christopher and Hailey; brother, George; along with many other family and friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Donald.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home Jan. 24, and interment followed at the Calverton National Cemetery.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Contributions made to the North Shore Animal League, Good Shepherd Hospice or Save-A-Pet in her memory would be appreciated.

Eugenie Corolla

Eugenie Corolla, of Port Jefferson Station, died Jan. 11. She was 80.

She was born July 24, 1939, in Brooklyn and was the daughter of Nancy and Gerard Pacella.

“Genie” was a retired high school monitor. People called her a great cook, particularly her chicken cutlets and brownies. She also enjoyed gardening, spending time with the grandkids and enjoyed family gatherings.

Left to cherish her memory is her husband, Charles; daughter, Nanette; sons, Robert and Andrew; six grandchildren; along with many other family and friends.

Services were held at the Port Jefferson Infant Jesus R.C. Church, Jan. 18, while interment followed at the Pinelawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Farmingdale.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Ann ‘Nancy’ Scalzo

Ann “Nancy” Scalzo of Commack passed away on Feb. 3 at the age of 61. She was the loving wife of Bill; beloved mother of Billy and Chris; and dear sister of the late James and his wife Gail Gitzinger. A funeral Mass was celebrated at Christ the King R.C. Church in Commack on Feb. 7 with interment at Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale. Donations in Nancy’s memory to Little Shelter, 33 Warner Road, Huntington, NY, 11743, or North Shore Animal League, 25 Davis Ave., Port Washington, NY, 11050, would be appreciated.

 

Carmella Coschignano

Carmella “Candy” Coschignano of Huntington Station died on Feb. 5. She was 93. Carmella was the loving mother of Patricia (Steven) Woerner-Redelick, Theresa (Edward) Collins and Donna Samuells; beloved grandmother of Edward (Ashley) Collins, Katherine Collins, William (Jennifer) Woerner, Krista (Ryan) Mooney and Robert Collins; dear great-grandmother of Elliot, Jake and Aiden; and the fond sister of the late Teresa Petrone, the late Frank Lepera and the late Virginia Elkins. She was also loved by her nieces and nephews. A funeral Mass was celebrated at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, Centerport with interment at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Huntington. Donations may be made at www.ProudRescuers.org in Candy’s memory.

Edith Heinicke

Edith Heinicke of East Northport died on Feb. 9, at the age of 89. She was the beloved wife of the late Otto; loving mother of Sheryl (Michael) Weisner, Kathryn (the Late Peter) Llewellyn, Donna (Edward) Huttunen, Jeanne (Robert “Beefy”) Varese and Eric Heinicke (partner Christine Snow); cherished grandmother of Diana, Abigail, Julia, Samuel, Paul, Kate, Greggory, David, Nicholas, Allison and Rachel; dear great-grandmother of Raelynn, Kai and Segen; fond sister-in-law of Kathy Bandini; sister of Bruce Bandini and the late Gene Bandini. 

Edith was the president of the Larkfield Community Garden Club and parliamentarian of the Dix Hills Garden Club. Interment was at Northport Rural Cemetery. Donations in Edith’s memory may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or Paralyzed Veterans of America, Donation Processing Center, P.O. Box 758589 Topeka, KS 66675-8589.

Christopher G. Post

Christopher G. Post of Northport died on Feb. 9 at the age of 56. He was the loving son of Renée and the late Robert; beloved father of Natalie and Christa; cherished fiancé of Gina; and dear brother of Edward (Margaret), Richard Post and Robert Post. Cremation was private.

 

 

Angela Jean Richards

Angela J. Richards of Northport died on Feb. 17 at the age of 72. She was the beloved wife of Ronald; loving mother of Christina Semple (Jack) and Ronald II (Carrie); cherished grandmother of Amelia, Abigail, Remo and Luna; and dear sister of Corinna Jurs and the late Lawrence Basso. Cremation was private.

 

 

Carol Kuskowski

Carol Ann Kuskowski, of Tower Lakes, Illinois, formerly of East Northport, passed away peacefully on Feb. 18 at the age of 85. She was born on Nov. 30, 1934, on Long Island, to the late Edwin and Madeleine Carbery. On Dec. 28, 1957, Carol married Len in Farmingdale and they celebrated 48 years of marriage until his passing in 2006.

Carol will be deeply missed by her five children, Barbara (Bill) Cordts of East Northport, Janet (David) Blake of Tower Lakes, Leonard J. Jr. (Anne) Kuskowski of Chesapeake, Virginia, Mary (Tony) Magro of Tower Lakes and John Kuskowski of Deer Park; grandchildren, Billy (Stef), Brian (Jamie), James and Tommy Cordts, Jacqueline, Steven and Alexander Blake, Caroline, Olivia, and Leo Kuskowski, and A.J., Julie and Gina Magro; great-grandchildren, Logan and Brody, Blake and Taylor; her brother, Bill Carbery; and by many nieces and nephews.

In addition to her husband and parents, she was preceded in death by her siblings, Edwin (Lois) Carbery, Joan (George) Dery and Eileen Carbery. A funeral Mass was celebrated on Feb. 24 at St. Anthony of Padua Church, East Northport. Burial followed at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

Superintendent Joe Rella a his last graduation ceremony, 2019. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr and Monica Gleberman

Dr. Joe Rella, the beloved former Comsewogue superintendent who spent just over 25 years in the district, passed away Feb. 21, with Moloney Funeral Homes and the district confirming his death late Friday night. He was 69.

Community members flocked to social media to share their thoughts and memories about their superintendent affectionately known around the district as just “Rella.”

Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella with students who participated in Joe’s Day of Service. Photo from CSD

“So much of what I learned about community was through his unceasing example of what it meant to serve the place you call home,” said Kevin LaCherra, who graduated in 2009. “To bring people in, to find out what they need, to fight like hell to get it and then to pass the torch.”

Rella entered the district as a part-time music teacher, making only $28,000 in salary. He would move on to become a full-time music teacher, then the high school principal and finally, superintendent of schools, which was his final position, held for nine years.

In an interview with TBR News Media before his retirement and final graduation ceremony in 2019, Rella had likened the act of running a school district to music, all based in a learning process for both the students and for him.

“Because one thing you learn, there is no such thing as a mistake, it’s a springboard to your next part of the piece,” he said.

The district planned to decorate school buildings with blue-and-gold ribbons come Monday and make counselors available for students who may need it, current Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said Saturday. The district was closed Wednesday, Feb. 26 to allow teachers and students to attend his funeral.

Quinn had worked with Rella for 13 years. In a phone interview Saturday, the current superintendent had nothing but great things to say about her predecessor and mentor. If anything, she said Rella “did not want people to remember him sadly. He wanted them to smile and laugh. He just loved everybody.” 

Rella’s wife, Jackie, passed in 2016 following a struggle with breast cancer. The superintendent himself had been diagnosed with stage 4 bile duct cancer in 2017. Despite his sickness, he would stay on in the top position for another two years. 

Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella congratulates a member of the class of 2016 during graduation June 23, 2016. File photo by Bob Savage

It was that dedication, even in the face of sickness and loss, that built up so much trust between him and the community over the years. Quinn said he was humble, always the one to take the blame if plans didn’t work out, but he was always ready to heap praise on others.

“He made everyone important,” she said. “He never shied away from a tough problem and tried to make everything better — he always did.”

Others in the district said Rella’s example pushed them to do more and to do better. Andrew Harris, a special education teacher in the high school, created Joe’s Day of Service in 2018. Named after the then-superintendent, the program asked students to do volunteer work around the school and the greater community. Students have traveled all the way to the Calverton Cemetery in both 2018 and 2019 to clean graves and plant flags.

Harris said there are hundreds of examples of Rella’s kindness, such as driving over an hour to take care of a teacher’s mother who was suffering from cancer.

“In many ways, just like they call the middle of our country the ‘flyover states,’ Port Jefferson Station used to be like a ‘drive-through town’ — people were on their way to another town as the destination,” Harris said. “That all changed with Dr. Rella’s leadership. No matter where you went, and especially as a teacher, when you say you are from Comsewogue and Port Jefferson Station, people know where you came from and the legacy. It makes us all proud to say it.”

The school board accepted Rella retirement in November 2018. He had said in previous interviews his diagnosis did not factor into his decision to retire, and it had been his and his wife’s intent to make that year his last.

“Joe and Jackie were the face of Comsewogue for many years,” said John Swenning, school board president. “Their dedication and support to our administrators, teacher, staff, parents and most importantly our students is nothing short of legendary. Dr. Rella is the Italian grandfather that every kid deserves to have. He will be missed dearly.”

School board trustee Rob DeStefano had known Rella since his sophomore year in Comsewogue high, when the to-be super had joined the district as the new music teacher. DeStefano would be elected to the board coinciding with Rella’s appointment as head of schools. One memory that cemented the famed superintendent in his mind, according to a previous column he wrote for TBR after Rella’s announced retirement, was during a jazz band concert he and his wife got up on stage and started to dance the Charleston.

Rella speaks out against standardized testing in 2015. File photo

Despite the loss, the Rella name lives on in the district, particularly in the high school courtyard, full of sunflowers, named Jackie’s Garden after his late wife. As the superintendent participated in his final high school graduation ceremony last year on June 26, students rolled out a new plaque, naming the high school auditorium the Dr. Joseph V. Rella Performing Arts Center.

His funeral, held Wednesday, Feb. 26, at St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church in Port Jefferson Station, drew huge crowds of family as well as school officials and community members.

Those same Community members and school officials gathered outside the high school Wednesday morning before the funeral. At just after 10 a.m., a hearse bearing Rella and a procession drove around the circle outside the high school, his final visit to the institution residents say he cared so deeply about. Members of both the Port Jefferson and Terryville fire departments hung a giant flag above the ground for the hearse to drive under. Residents and students held blue and yellow signs, all thanking the superintendent for his life of work and service. 

Quinn said they will be working out the details for a larger memorial sometime in the near future.

“He embodied the Comsewogue culture — pushed it and all of us forward,” said 2019 graduate Josh Fiorentino. “To say I know how he wanted to be remembered would be a lie. However, I and many others will remember him as a Warrior. The truest of them all.”

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Linda Gould Dwyer

Linda Gould Dwyer, of East Setauket, died Jan. 1. She was 71.

She was born Jan. 27, 1948, in Port Jefferson and was the daughter of Evelyn and James Gould.

Dwyer was an administrator for Ann Gordon speech pathology in Stony Brook, and in her free time she enjoyed drawing and singing. She was also considered a spiritual woman.

Left to cherish her memory are her son, Thomas; sisters, Joanne and Cari; along with other family and friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Kerry, and her parents.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home, Jan. 7 with the Rev. Barbara Rispoli officiating. Interment followed in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Stony Brook.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Contributions made to the North Shore Animal League in memory of her would be appreciated.

James Autino

James Autino, of Hauppauge, died Jan. 19. He was 63.

He was born Dec. 9, 1956, in Brooklyn, and was the son of Gloria and Vincent Autino.

James was an office administrator for IBM, and in his free time he loved carpentry, guitars, baseball and spending time with his family.

Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Patricia; along with Jim’s children and grandchildren: Christine Varvaro (Jason) and grandson Liam; Diana; Jimmy (Megan), granddaughters Andi and Natalie; Dan (Courtney) and grandsons Thomas, Ryan and Danny; Jim’s stepchildren: Brian, Trisha (Mike) (Mikie and Dominic); Kevin (Danielle) (daughter Kaydence); along with many other family and friends.

Services were held at Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson Jan. 23. Committal services were held in private.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Lenore Prizzi

Lenore Prizzi, of Setauket, died Jan. 4. She was 83.

She was born June 15, 1936, in Setauket, and was the daughter of Anna and Luciano Ardizzone.

Lenore was a homemaker.

Left to cherish her memory are her husband, Gasper; daughter, Deborah; son, Jack (Judy); grandchildren, Jackie (Nicholas), Leanne (Frederick) and Louis; along with many other family and friends.

Services were held at the Bryant Funeral Home Jan. 9. Interment followed in the Calverton National Cemetery.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Contributions made to the St. Jude’s Children Hospital in memory of her would be appreciated.

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Anson Seaman

Anson B. Seaman, of East Setauket, died Dec. 19. He was 77.

He was born Nov. 23, 1942, in Mineola, and was the son of Euphemia and Anson Seaman.

Anson “Bruce” was a retired sales manager for Reserve Supply Lumber Company. He was also a member of St. George’s Golf Club.

Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Lana; daughters Melissa and Dorothy; son, Ronald; three grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; sister, Lorna; brother, Kevin; along with many other family and friends.

Services were held at St. James R.C. Church Dec. 27. Committal services followed at the St. James Churchyard Cemetery.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Ilse Bayer

Ilse Bayer, of Kings Park, died Dec. 16. She was 100.

She was born May 3, 1919, in Germany, the daughter of Helen and Max Stein.

Ilse was a retired industrial engineer and she enjoyed gardening and spending time with family.

She is survived by her sons, Juergen (Carol) and Dirk (Juanite); five grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren, along with many other family and friends.

She was preceded in death by husband, Walter, and son, Lutz.

Services were held at the Bryant Funeral Home, Dec. 21. Interment was at the Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Ruth Levy

Ruth Shelby Levy (Borak), of Stony Brook, passed away Dec. 12. She was 82. 

She was the beloved wife of the late Earl S. Levy and daughter of the late Mollie (Rosenblum) and Henry Borak. 

In addition, she was the loving mother of Jennie Ossentjuk (Eric), Melissa Knott (Rich) and Adam Levy (Yelena); the cherished grandmother of Jessica, Brian, Erinn, Benjamin, Max, Allie, Elana and Alexa; and great-grandmother of Valerie.    

The family gathered at Bryant Funeral Home Dec. 16 with a religious service at 10:30 a.m. with Rabbi Ronnie Kehati officiating. Interment followed at Calverton National Cemetery.   

Donations to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration at https://www.theaftd.org/ in her memory would be appreciated.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.