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Obituary

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George Francis Rice, Jr., Esq., a resident of Setauket for more than 40 years, passed away peacefully on Oct. 15 at the age of 75.

The son of the late George F. Rice, Sr. and Catherine M. Rice, George was preceded in death by his brother Thomas. He is survived by his loving wife, Pam, along with three daughters and their husbands – Erin and Craig Keanna of Guilford, CT; Kara and Jamie Proctor of Huntington, NY; and Darby and Dave Mingey of Pelham, NY. George was also a grandfather to eight grandchildren: Ainsley, Campbell, Caroline, Claire, Dylan, Peter, Theo and Will — all of whom affectionately referred to him as “Poppe.” Additionally, he is survived by his brother Bill Rice of Cambria, CA, and his sister, Joan Rice Cuomo, of Huntington, NY.

 Born in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, George later moved as a young boy with his family to Long Island. He was raised in the hamlet of Central Islip and attended bygone Seton Hall High School before venturing upstate to study at Niagara University. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from Niagara in 1966, he went on to earn his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1969.

Immediately upon graduation from Notre Dame’s Law School, George began serving as a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow in New York’s Westchester County. Those selected for this prestigious national fellowship are considered to be among the nation’s brightest recent law school graduates. After specific training in poverty law, these attorneys commit themselves to a year of social service by representing disadvantaged clients in communities across the nation who are in need of significant legal assistance.

Following his fellowship George was promptly offered the opportunity to join the Long Island-based law firm of Bennett, Kaye, Scholly in 1970. While continuing his focus on social impact law and counsel to underrepresented clients, he rapidly rose within the firm to be named a partner by his third year. George was soon recognized as an expert in trial law, real estate law and not-for-profit corporation law. As their legal team continued to grow and evolve, he helped craft a merger with another leading Long Island firm to form what would become Spellman, Rice, Schure & Polizzi. Out of their new Garden City office George continued his impressive legal career – one that would eventually span nearly five decades. Of particular note was George’s strategic counsel to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rockville Center. Because of his success on behalf this highly influential organization the Archdiocese soon requested George to serve as its Diocesan Attorney. Along with earning numerous industry awards, recognitions and distinctions, he was a frequent guest speaker and panelist at law conferences and seminars throughout the United States.

 On a personal level, George was an ardent believer in the service-to-others tenets of the Catholic Faith. Central to his beliefs and character was a deep dedication to creating positive social impact. This was vividly demonstrated by a lifetime focused on improving the lives of those in the communities where he resided and worked. Many of his peers marveled that, in addition to his impressive professional endeavors, he had a seemingly endless capacity to lead civic, philanthropic and community initiatives. 

While the totality of his decades of social service was expansive, he is especially remembered for several leadership positions that significantly enriched the lives of others. George was the Founding Chair and a longtime board member of the Catholic Health Services of Long Island, which grew to operate one of the region’s finest and largest health and human services agencies. A dedicated Trustee of the St. Charles Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, George also served as that healthcare facility’s Chairman of the Board from 2003 to 2006. Additionally, he was instrumental in launching Jefferson’s Ferry, Long Island’s first active lifestyle all-inclusive retirement community and served as their Chairman of the Board from 1997-2019.

 Although his career and community service were very impressive, George was best known to those close to him for the heartwarming love he had for his extended family and cherished friends. He was an eternally proud and passionate supporter of his three daughters throughout every phase of their lives. For 53 years George devoted himself to his wife and nurturing the beautiful bond that gave each of them a special companionship that was beyond description. And perhaps his life’s most treasured role came during his later years as he relished the pure joy of being “Poppe” to his grandkids.

 With the spirit of his Irish ancestry rooted deeply in his soul, George was an incredibly charming man who made friends far and wide. He traveled extensively throughout the country, often with his Pam by his side, for both professional purposes and personal enjoyment. Of all the places he traveled, no place made him happier than a sun-filled spot by the water’s edge. Among his favorite beach destinations were the shores of Fire Island, the picture-perfect seaside village of Ogunquit, located along Maine’s southern coast, and especially the beach cabanas of Setauket’s Old Field Club, a historic beach club tucked along the Long Island Sound where he was a longtime member.

 George was a dynamic man of great talent with an immense capacity to care for others. He was goodness, kindness, wisdom and wit rolled into the form of everybody’s ideal All-American neighbor. He was a true gentleman and wore the warmest smile of anyone along the avenue. The legacy George left here with us will remain enduring and impactful for many years to come. His days on this earth not only blessed those who knew him well, but they will continue to benefit so many who will never know his name. No doubt, George is the latest shining star in the Heavens above.

In recognition of the public health challenges that currently face our nation, George respectfully asked that no public services be held in his memory until safer times arrive. The Rice Family intends to hold a special memorial to honor George at a later date.  In lieu of flowers, the Rice family kindly asks that donations be made in his memory to The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the University of Notre Dame scholarship fund, Save-A-Pet USA, or to any community impact program that you feel would especially honor him.

From left: Carl Safina, Larry Swanson and Malcolm Bowman. Swanson who died Oct. 17, was renowned not only for his work at SBU, but also his kindly demeanor. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University’s Robert Lawrence “Larry” Swanson, associate dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, died Saturday at the age of 82, leaving behind a professional legacy that included awards for his stewardship of waterways and numerous personal connections.

Swanson was a chair of the SoMAS Boat Committee for years and loved being with the crew and out on the boat. He was known for his appreciation for snacks, particularly Oreos. Photo by Jason Schweitzer

Swanson, who had planned to retire next summer, was teaching waste management issues remotely this fall.

A fixture at Stony Brook since 1987, he led the Waste Reduction and Management Institute. The 6-foot, 2-inch Swanson, who was interim dean for SoMAS from 2016 to 2018, had joined Carl Safina, endowed research chair for Nature and Humanity and Malcolm Bowman, distinguished service professor SoMAS, on the New York State Ocean Acidification Task Force since 2018.

In an email, Safina described Swanson as a “gentleman” and a “kind and knowledgeable man who was a well-recognized leader.”

In 1979, Swanson came to the rescue for Bowman, his wife Waveney and their young family. The Bowmans had rented their Stony Brook house during the summer and planned to live in the United Kingdom. With their children, the Bowmans decided to return to New York, where they endured mosquitoes and yellowjacket stings while living in a tent.

Swanson offered the Bowmans his house as long as they took care of Swanson’s golden retriever while he and his family traveled.

He met his wife Dana Lamont at a party in Seattle, where the scientist rose to the rank of captain as a commissioned officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Swanson used to take long walks in Seattle. After the couple started dating, he told Lamont he must have walked by her house numerous times before they met, which Lamont likened to the song “On the Street Where You Live” from “My Fair Lady.”

Swanson and Lamont have two children, Larry and Michael.

Lamont recalled how Swanson spent considerable time at sea. Lamont said her husband was on a ship once and tried to teach college students reluctant to learn about celestial navigation because they had GPS.

“A week or two later, there was a fire on board, they lost all technology and [Swanson] said, ‘OK, you put the fire out. Now, take us to Hawaii,” Lamont said. They had to use celestial navigation.

Lamont said her late husband was “never afraid of anything, such as flying through the eye of a hurricane.”

Swanson testified in a Supreme Court case in 1985. Lamont said he “loved” the experience.

Described by people who worked with him as kind, caring, steady, reliable and humble, he was considered a role model as well as a leader.

SoMAS adjunct professor, Frank Roethel, recalled how he had major surgery in a Manhattan hospital. One afternoon, he woke to find Swanson in a chair next to his bed.

“I was shocked that he would travel just to spend a few moments with me, but that was him,” Roethel said by email.

Bonnie Stephens, who worked for Swanson for 22 years, appreciated how the man brought people together for lunch, where they discussed politics, shared jokes and offered personal stories.

A dog lover, Swanson also leaves behind their dog Lily, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, which was his favorite breed of dog.

Born in Baltimore, Swanson spent his childhood primarily in Maryland with his parents Hazel and Lawrence.

A 1960 graduate in civil engineering from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Swanson earned his doctorate in oceanography in 1971 from Oregon State University.

The funeral is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 26.

Tom Muratore passed away Sept. 8. File photo

Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), 75, died Tuesday, Sept. 8, leaving behind a career of public service both in police and in local government.

His passing was announced by Suffolk officials Tuesday afternoon.

“For the last 10 years, he served his constituents with passion and unwavering dedication,” said Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) in a statement. “Around the horseshoe, he was a quiet warrior. He chose his moments carefully, and when he spoke, people listened. During the COVID crisis, Tom was there for his constituents in every way – even if that meant putting himself at risk – because that is the kind of public servant he was.”

Muratore was born Aug. 19, 1945 and graduated from Central Islip High School in 1963, according to his bio on the Legislature’s website. He has resided in Ronkonkoma with his wife Linda since 1970.

The 10-year legislator served the 4th District, which runs from the Brookhaven portions of Ronkonkoma through Centereach and Selden and as far north as portions of Port Jefferson Station. Before his start, Muratore was a Suffolk County police officer for close to 35 years. He would also become an instructor at the police academy and vice president for the county Police Benevolent Association, a position that he held for 18 years.

“In a changing world with new dangers threatening our families, Tom Muratore was a continuous, experienced protector of those he served,” Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman Jesse Garcia said in a statement. “He was a one-of-a-kind gentleman who made the world a better place for all of us and cannot be replaced.”

The Ronkonkoma resident was elected to the 4th District in November 2009. He served as vice chair for the Public Works, Transportation & Energy Committee, and also sat on the Environment, Parks & Agriculture as well as the Veterans & Consumer Affairs committees.

Brookhaven town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) got his start in public office under Muratore, becoming his chief of staff before deciding to run for office himself. 

LaValle said the longtime legislator “had a heart of gold,” who would always put himself out to help both his friends and staff, though the line was often blurred between the two.

“He loved representing his district, he loved his residents — he absolutely was a dynamic man and great leader and more importantly a great mentor and friend,” LaValle said.

In 2014, he sponsored a bill to establish an Energy Utility Oversight Task Force. Among his other accomplishments, he was instrumental in helping get a bill passed to secure a 23-acre parcel on Boyle Road in Selden later developed into a Town of Brookhaven ballfield, park and walking trail called the Selden Park Complex. He also cosponsored bills to penalize illegal dumping and helped pass laws to monitor drones in county parks and to provide parking for veterans at county facilities.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) ordered flags at county facilities lowered to half-mast in his honor.

“Tom was the utmost professional, someone who was never afraid to reach across the aisle, especially when it came to working together to protect families, our veterans and our quality of life,” Bellone said in a statement.

In the community, he was known as a supporter of the Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach. The legislator was also known for his desire to secure funds for sewering in the Selden and Centereach communities. In his last election in 2019, Muratore secured his seat by almost 19 percentage points higher than his nearest opponent.

Hobbs Farm vice president Ann Pellegrino said that Muratore was more than supportive to the community farm that grows fresh produce for a network of food pantries and food programs.

“Without him being in our corner, I don’t know if it would have gone as far as we did, in fact I know we would have never gone as far as we did,” Pellegrino said, trying to talk through holding back tears. “I don’t know if anybody can fill his shoes, his passing is a great loss to our community … the flag has never flown half-mast at the farm, but today it flew half-mast.”

This post was updated Sept. 9 to include quotes from Ann Pellegrino and Kevin LaValle.

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Gloria Rocchio, left, presents Ellen Rappaport, right, with a Volunteer of the Year award. Photo from WMHO

Submitted by Ward Melville Heritage Organization

On July 6, beloved resident of Head of the Harbor, educator and friend, Ellen Rappaport, died at the age of 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Ellen Rappaport, below first row, second from left, attended a check presentation at Stony Brook Cancer Center. Photo from WMHO

After graduating from Brooklyn College with a degree in biology in 1965 and a master’s degree in library science from Columbia University in 1967, Ellen went on to pursue a career as a science librarian. After her career as a science librarian for pharmaceutical companies, she became a certified library media specialist and educator in the Patchogue-Medford Union Free School District, where she worked for over 30 years.

She was devoted to her Stony Brook and Head of the Harbor community where she lived for more than 50 years. Ellen’s passion was connecting with people. This was evident through her frequent walks within the community and beyond.

“Our roadside chats were a fixture in my workday,” said Katharine Griffiths, executive director of Avalon Park & Preserve. “Ellen was truly a woman about town, almost always traveling by foot in the village. … Ellen was spry, spirited and dedicated to her causes. Everyone at Avalon sends our deepest sympathies to her family and loved ones.”

Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, also met with Ellen on her daily walks around Stony Brook Village Center.

“[She] loved to walk,” Rocchio said. “I met her on one of her walks which sometimes took her as far as Port Jefferson. After my first encounter, I looked forward to seeing her. I discovered her thirst for knowledge, which she would impart to others. She loved life … always looking forward, never back. Other people she met while walking felt the same way. Ellen had an infectious smile, and when she was going to tell a joke she would get a twinkle in her eye and you knew the punch line was coming. Always making others smile. She was a beautiful person inside and out.”

Over the years Ellen frequently collaborated with the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s education department. Her dedication to education shined when she would don authentic 18th-century clothing at the WMHO’s historic properties for students and visitors. She guided WMHO’s Youth Corps in planning its annual Santa Fund, a program that raises money to purchase presents for local families in need, foster children and women in recovery from substance abuse. She volunteered every year.

The Stony Brook Cancer Center remarked that, “[We] lost a pillar of the community when Ellen Rappaport passed away. … She will be fondly remembered for her smile and willingness to tackle any assignment to support the success of the Walk for Beauty fundraiser. … She was a shining example of passion, energy and creativity and she will be deeply missed.”

Ellen Rappaport, middle, would don costumes for WMHO educational tours. Photo from WMHO

Ellen was always looking for ways to connect members of the community with one another. In her efforts to do this, she reached out to the St. James Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center. Through her creative thinking, she suggested that the Center have their patients create artwork to sell at their Fall Festival to raise funds for Walk for Beauty. The patients “have been so proud to create and donate their works and be an important part of Walk for Beauty’s fundraising efforts year after year,” said Maureen Ingram one of the directors from the center.

Danielle Snyder, director of therapeutic recreation echoed her sentiments, “[Her] contagious smile, enthusiasm and joy for life … Her love, energy and the pep in her step lit up our hearts and every space we were blessed to share with her.”

For over 15 years Ellen served on the board of Walk for Beauty — an annual walk that raises funds for breast cancer research at Stony Brook University. Suffolk Country Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she will remember her as “an incredibly kind and passionate person. Her altruistic nature was evident for all to see … her big smile and her kind words of encouragement … Ellen’s absence will be felt throughout the community.”

Another member of the Walk for Beauty board, Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said that, “She was always brimming with ideas on how to make the walk even better and tried to include different community groups in the work. Ellen was a kind and warm person who always had a smile and a positive word to share.”

Ellen projected only positivity and thoughtfulness to the people around her — she had an innate gift that made you understand that you were important, and that you had something of equal importance to offer to the world.

She is survived by her daughter Stacey Rappaport and son-in-law Craig Solomon of Ridgewood, New Jersey; her son Hartley Rappaport of Long Beach, California; her grandchildren Eli and Audrey; her sister Lois; her brother-in-law Michael; her sister Myra and her other brother-in-law, also named Michael. Ellen remained devoted to her late husband Stephen until her last day.

Ellen asked that donations in her memory be made to the Ward Melville Heritage Organization and the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education in New York City, organizations to which she devoted many hours and through which she shared her love of history, reading and educating young people.

For more information about the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, call 631-751-2244 or send an email to [email protected] More information about donating to the Children’s Book Committee Fund at Bank Street College of Education can be found by calling 212-875-4540 or emailing [email protected]

Ellen also requested donations in her memory to Sanctuary for Families, New York’s leading service provider to victims of gender-related violence, and Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, her daughter’s congregation, which always welcomed Ellen with open arms. Sanctuary for Families can be reached at 212-349-6009 or [email protected] For more information about donating to Barnert Temple call 201-848-1800 or email [email protected]

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By The Rositzke Family and Rita J. Egan

Longtime community member Ernest T. Rositzke, died April 30. He was 94.

He is survived by his wife, Ruth, of 73 years who continues to reside at Jefferson’s Ferry.

Before their move there, they were longtime residents of Stony Brook. For 60 years, Ernie was a proud, active member of the Stony Brook Fire Department. Having served as chief and commissioner, he was most honored when he received their Fireman of the Year award in 2018. The family was told that the award wasn’t given out easily and some years they don’t give it out at all.

He also enjoyed spending time at the Stony Brook Yacht Club where he served a term as commodore. He was involved with the American Legion and for 22 years, worked with and delivered for Three Village Meals on Wheels. His most famous volunteer role, however, was that of the “real Santa” in and around the area including Stony Brook Village Green and Stony Brook University Hospital.

He was born in 1926, attended Andrew Jackson High School and served with the Marines during WWII. Ernie worked for the New York Telephone Company and the Town of Brookhaven.

In addition to his wife, Ruth, he will be lovingly remembered by his children, Christine DeAngelo (Lou), Ernest T. Rositzke, Jr. (Lynn) and Karen Fink (David). He is also survived by four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren as well as his sister, Jackie Schecher of Springfield Centre. Ernie was preceeded in death by his half-brother, Arthur Rohrlack.

Walter Hazlitt said he knew Rositzke for more than 60 years through the fire department. The two had a common bond not only as fellow volunteer firefighters but also as veterans and members of the yacht club. He described him as a generous person.

“He’s going to be sorely missed,” he said. “You can’t extol him too much. He was an exception to the rule.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) remembered his work as Santa.

“Most of my life my contact with Ernie was exclusively through the Stony Brook Fire Department with the most memorable interactions being him as Santa Claus at the member family Christmas parties,” she said. “Ernie was happy — jolly even. He was patient and kind with the children, spending what felt like hours listening to each child rattle off their wish lists or screaming in his ear because they were too young and too afraid. Posing for multiple photos with infants, toddlers, little kids, big kids teenagers, college students, families. It wasn’t just his white beard that was genuine —he was the real deal. He truly cared and wanted to make each and every child happy. Volunteer firefighter through-and-through, in the end, it was his mission to help. On a call, he would help protect our community. At Christmas, he would help each and every family have fun and bring a little hope and joy to the season.”

Diane Melidosian, a board member for Three Village Meals on Wheels, said, “His quiet demeanor and wonderful sense of humor will be missed.”

Liz Bongiorno, a TBR News Media sales rep, remembered meeting Rositzke when she worked for an indoor playground. The owner had asked him if he could play Santa.  Bongiorno started talking to him and found out he not only lived in the neighborhood where she grew up, but was also friends with her grandfather. He started telling her about her grandfather, who she had never met and called him a gentle giant.

“It was the best Christmas gift that I ever received in my life,” Bongiorno said.

Whenever she would see Rositzke at chamber meetings, she always told him that no one had ever given her a better gift.

Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, said she knew Rositzke for more than 35 years when he worked in the Town of Brookhaven’s highway department and in his role as the “real Santa.”

“He started to grow his beard in August, and changed into the real Santa on the first Sunday in December every year,” she said. “He would sit for four hours at the Stony Brook Post Office, listening attentively to each child’s wishes. The line to see him started over one hour ahead of his arrival.”

Rocchio said one year when WMHO decided to add another Santa, Rositzke thought it may confuse the children. They never had two Santas after that.

“He heard so many sad stories, and it bothered him that he could not fulfill their wishes,” Rocchio said. “So WMHO created the Santa Fund. Each year we still raise funds for clothing and toys for those in need. Initially, he told us which homes to go to. Many people would say, ‘I saw him when I was a child and now I am bringing my children.’ We never thought he would stop, because Santa is immortal, but he did. However, his spirit of kindness will always live on in the people that he touched.”

Arrangements were entrusted to Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. A celebration of his life will be held in the future.

Donations in his honor can be made to: Three Village Meals on Wheels, P.O. Box 853, Stony Brook, NY  11790.

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Joan Boyd

Joan H. Boyd, of Wilmington, North Carolina, died Jan. 22 at Liberty Commons Nursing Center. She was 90.

She was born in West Haven, Connecticut, on March 15, 1929, and was the daughter of the late Walter Charles Hoffmann and Janet Blenner Hoffmann.

She was a member of First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington. She was a volunteer with The Literacy Council, The Red Cross and at First Presbyterian. Boyd loved to cook, having been the author of four cookbooks, knitting hats for preemies, sailing, reading and swimming. She loved volunteering at The New Hanover County Library. 

She is survived by her husband, James Boyd of Wilmington, North Carolina; three children, daughter, Janice (Peter Purcell) of Milford, Connecticut, son, James (Denise) of Port Jefferson and daughter, Jocelyn (David Pinson) of Wilmington, North Carolina; nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren; and one brother, Charles Hoffmann of Thomasville, North Carolina.

A memorial service was held Jan. 26 at First Presbyterian Church
in Wilmington. 

Memorials may be made to The American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37839, Boone, IA
50037-0839.

Condolences may be shared at www.andrewsmortuary.com.

Joan Schiemel

Joan Marie Schiemel, of Stony Brook, died Nov. 13. She was 83.

Schiemel was born June 19, 1936, the daughter of Florence and Frank Schiemel. She was a local resident for the past 20 years, and formerly of Huntington Station.  

She was a member of the Air Force Association and a member of the Choir at the Setauket Presbyterian Church. She enjoyed reading, math and automobiles, especially her Corvette. She worked as an aerospace engineer and mathematician at Fairchild Republic and later at Northrop Grumman. She was a member of the team that designed the A-10 Aircraft. She graduated from Concordia College and Queens College and after she received a master’s degree from C.W. Post.   

She is survived by her brother Ray; nieces Robin and Julia; and nephews Andrew and Robert.

She was preceded in death by her parents and brother, Robert.

Services were held at the Bryant Funeral Home on Nov. 20. Interment was at the Northport Rural 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 Make-A-Wish Foundation in her memory would be appreciated.

Richard A. DeBree

Richard A. DeBree, 73, a longtime Stony Brook resident, died unexpectedly Dec. 9.

Rich was born and raised in New Jersey. He earned his degree in business administration from Monmouth University. He began his career with Humble, Esq., was drafted into the Army and served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970. Upon completion of his service, he rejoined the then Exxon Corporation where he would work in various sales, marketing and management roles for the next 38 years.

Rich had been a Little League coach and was a member of the Mill Pond Fishing Club and enjoyed fishing, golfing, traveling and gardening. During the last few years, he planted large sunflowers each spring for all to enjoy as they walked or passed by into Stony Brook Village. He advocated community service as a volunteer at his church food pantry each week and assisted with plantings at his church, historic gardens of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

He is survived by his loving wife, Barbara; brother, Paul; sons Mike (Angie) and Justin (Brittany); stepdaughter, Kathleen (Scott); and five grandchildren Tristan, Sebastian, Legend, Jack and Kate. 

Rose M. Boccia

Rose M. Boccia, of Northport, died Jan. 2.

Beloved wife of the late Fred, she was also the loving mother of Fred (Elaine), Anthony (Lisa) and Joseph (Kristine); cherished grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of six.

Funeral arrangements were entrusted to Nolan Funeral Home. A funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Philip Neri R.C. Church and interment followed at St. Philip Neri Cemetery in East Northport. 

Donations to the VNS Hospice of Suffolk, 505 Main St., Northport, NY 11768 in her memory, would be appreciated.

William J. Cicio

William J. Cicio, of Northport and formerly of  Setauket, died Jan. 23 at 89 years of age. 

He was the loving husband of the late Helen,  beloved father of Laura (Kevin) Cicio-Healion and William (Cristina) Cicio. He was also the cherished grandfather of Jessica (Chris) DiNapoli, Cammi Healion, James Healion, the late William Cicio, Alyssa Cicio and Ryan Cicio; and dear great-grandfather of Aiden, Landon and Haileigh.

Visitation was held at Nolan Funeral Home, Northport, with full U.S. Marine Corps military honors. Cremation was private.

In lieu of flowers, donations in William’s memory may be made to VNS Hospice of Suffolk, 505 Main St., Northport, NY 11768.

Kenneth J. Naughton

Kenneth J. Naughton, of Smithtown and formerly of Northport, died suddenly Dec. 30, at 60 years of age.

Ken was a graduate of Northport High School, class of 1977, and Georgia Southern, class of 1986. He was an avid baseball player and fan and a true outdoorsman.

He was the beloved husband of In-Sun (Mina) and loving father of James. He was also the dear son of the late James and the late Grace Naughton; beloved brother of Kathleen (Robert) Donovan and Leanne (Jeffrey) Cole; and caring uncle of Zachary, Christopher and Jack. 

A graveside service was held Jan. 7 at Trinity Cemetery, Rainbow Lane, Amityville.

Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania is also where Kobe Bryant went to school. Photo from Google Maps

By Benji Dunaief

People sometimes ask, “Where did you grow up?”

I grew up in Lower Merion, an unassuming quiet suburb about 20-30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I attended the local public schools, including Lower Merion High School, or just “LM” for short. Most would probably agree that LM is an above average public school, but they’d also probably agree that it’s not particularly extraordinary, except for one reason. Kobe Bryant went to Lower Merion High School.

Benji Dunaief

My freshman year coincided with the opening of LM’s brand new school building. The old building had been there for over 100 years, and the district had decided to start anew. On my first tour of the new school when I was still an eighth grader, one feature stood out to me above the rest – the soon-to-be-named Kobe Bryant Gymnasium. The gym, paid for in part by a substantial donation from Kobe, was to be a testament to the storied history of Lower Merion sports over the century since the school’s founding.

Of course, that history is heavily punctuated by Bryant’s own legacy. The perimeter of the gym is plastered with murals of Kobe in LM jerseys, his name is scrawled in massive cursive over the entrance and a glass case housing memorabilia from Kobe’s LM career is located just outside the gym. A very well-vacuumed LM embroidered rug was placed at the foot of the case, and my friends and I used to joke that its real purpose was for students to pay respects by bowing down to the “Kobe shrine.”

A few months into my freshman year, LM planned a gym dedication ceremony for the ages. The ceremony was scheduled to coincide with a matchup between the Lakers and the Sixers in Philly, so that Kobe would already be in town. The black-tie event featured a performance from popular local rapper Chiddy Bang, and a myriad of celebrities were in attendance, including several members of the Philadelphia Phillies who showed up to support Kobe, and nearly the entire Lakers team came too. Tickets for students and community members were in the hundreds of dollars.

I’m not going to lie, when I first saw everything, I thought it was way over the top. I thought he was just another celebrity personality in the middle of a big publicity stunt. But then I heard the stories from old teachers who had taught him way back when. Stories about how friendly and eager he was to learn — he still kept in touch with his English teacher. Stories from former classmates and students who had seen him in the halls — always smiling and laughing — or had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him — he always made time to talk with alumn. Then I joined the basketball team, the Aces, (to film games and create video highlights and definitely NOT to play) and saw how he still guided and influenced that team 18 years after he took his last fadeaway in the maroon and white. He aided the team both physically, by gifting crates upon crates of his branded warm-up attire, jackets, and sneakers (even creating special “Aces Edition” Kobe’s), and spiritually, by frequently tweeting to support the Aces and inviting them to his basketball camps. His relationship with head coach Gregg Downer remained strong, and the two frequently talked. Kobe called Downer the most influential coach in his entire career. Studying Downer’s gritty, give-everything-you-got coaching philosophy, it’s not hard to see that helping to shape the scrappy and relentless style of play Kobe became famous for.

Most high schools have notable alumni. For example, Cheltenham High School, which is just on the other side of town, has an insane number of famous alumni, including Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, 15-time Grammy Award winner Michael Brecker, and rapper Lil Dicky. But you would probably not have first associated those people with Cheltenham. When I’m out somewhere wearing Lower Merion apparel, whether in Europe, Canada, Chicago or Los Angeles, people will recognize the name, and it’s usually followed by a “huh, Kobe.”

Kobe Bryant isn’t just an alum of Lower Merion. Kobe Bryant took an active role in shaping the culture and the ideals of Lower Merion and he simultaneously allowed himself to become shaped by it, to the point where there was hardly a way to separate one from the other. Kobe Bryant made Lower Merion his own.

When people ask me “Where did you grow up?” I say, “Lower Merion, I went to Kobe Bryant’s high school.”

Benji Dunaief is director of TBR News Media produced films “One Life to Give” and its sequel, “Traitor: A Culper Spy Story.”

Paul Greenberg. Photo from Miller Place Fire District

One of the Miller Place Fire Department’s longest serving captains, Paul Greenberg, died Jan. 22. He was 78.

Greenberg was born July 4, 1941 in Manhattan to the late Sidney and Ida Greenberg. 

Paul Greenberg. Photo from Miller Place Fire District

Greenberg has been captain for 10 years, according to Commissioner Larry Fischer, and has been with Miller Place fire for around three decades. In addition to his service with the department, he also had a 37 year career with the Civil Service Department of Suffolk County, according to his obituary from O.B. Davis Funeral Home. In his free time, it was said he enjoyed building model boats.

Miller Place Fire Chief Rick Batchelder said he had known Greenberg since 2004, saying that he “has always been involved in department functions.” 

“He was always a great guy, and he always approached me with questions that needed answers,” the chief said.

He had especially been involved with the Miller Place Fire Police. Lieutenant Tom Van De Kieft served with him for several decades in the fire police section, adding that Greenberg was active as one of the ambulance drivers.

“He was good with all the members,” Van De Keift said. “He was very active as a leader — well liked.”

He was the husband of Tasha Greenberg (née Hewett), who is the secretary for the fire department; the father of Glenn (Anna) Greenberg and the late Diana Hewett-Ridgewell; the adoring grandfather of Michael Greenberg and his fiancée Tiana Rooney and Brian Greenberg; the brother of Marty (Jo Ann) Greenberg; the uncle of Mark Greenberg and great uncle of Tyler and Caleb Greenberg; and brother-in-law of Charles Hewett and his partner Charles Olbricht.

A memorial visitation for Greenberg will be held Sunday, Jan. 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at O.B. Davis Funeral Homes, 1001 Route 25A, Miller Place, NY 11764.

 

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Josephine Geronimo Johannes, formerly of Port Jefferson, passed away Jan. 11 surrounded by family, and friends in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was 94.

Johannes was born Aug. 7, 1925 and grew up in Jamaica, Queens in the loving, extended-family home of her parents, Madeline and Raphael Geronimo, along with her four sisters, one brother and their families.

She graduated from John Adams High School in Queens. After attending Secretarial School, she worked in Manhattan until her marriage to Ronald P. Johannes in 1948. Jo and Ron raised five children while living in Levittown, Port Jefferson and later Naples, FL.

Jo was an active member of the St. Charles Hospital Auxiliary Volunteers in Port Jefferson and a Librarian’s Assistant at Earl L Vandermuellen High School. Johannes retired from The Collier County Public Library in Florida, and she quickly began volunteering again at consignment shops and St. Williams Church.

She enjoyed beaching, dancing, playing tennis, bowling, tea parties, reading, Beanie Baby collecting, traveling, and playing cards. Some of her all-time favorite groups she was a part of were The Gourmet Dinner Group, the Platinum Girls Dance group, and Martini Card Club.

Johannes is survived by her five children, Diane (Tim), Lauren Johannes-Mihalek, Sandra Ellis (Emory), Debra Novak (Tom) and Glenn Johannes (Cindy). In addition, Grandma Jo adored her eleven grandchildren and their spouses, Tim, Emory, Ben, Rebecca, Ryan, Aleah, Keith, Michaela, Alex, John, Michael, Nolan, Dylan, Tyler, Eryn.

Family and friends are welcome at Hodges Funeral Home at Naples Memorial Gardens, 525 111th Ave N, Naples, FL on Sunday, Jan. 26, from 2 to 4 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be 10 am on Monday, Jan. 27 at St. Williams Catholic Church, 601 Seagate Dr, Naples. She will be laid to rest at Naples Memorial Gardens immediately following.

Memorial donations may be made to Conservancy of Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org or Friends of the Library of Collier County Inc, www.collier-friends.org

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When, last autumn in Rhinebeck, New York, Lorraine Barbra Lindner exited this earth, little did she know what a stir she would cause locally in her beloved home of some 40 years.

Lorraine Barbra Lindner

She was 92. She was my mother, and all her life she served the poor.

She taught me that and she taught me how. She also instructed me about the niceties of giving gifts, her favorite activity. For this, she always kept a calendar, besmirched with the daily jottings of people for whom she cared — always sending them presents for their every occasion. She did this faithfully and methodically. In fact, never did a day pass that she did not give someone something.

And, guess what she left behind for me? Her only silver crucifix ring! Now I display it handsomely upon that left-hand pinky finger where she also used to wear it. In truth, it is my only connection to her, this little silver memento, and I shall always cherish it.

Moreover, I still mourn her and her cause, which was to give gifts to what seemed to be all the living world.

Despite her practice of generosity, she lived in a world of her own — always thinking about the little guy, while indulging her fantasy of Christian hope and charity to all. She did this one blessed person at a time, as I also want to say and do. For mom was a great neighbor to have; everyone who visited her home in Port Jefferson village was treated with utmost courtesy and welcome. 

But all of this is ended now that she has greeted eternity. Therefore, as her son, I now praise this 5 foot 2, blue-eyed Irishwoman and solemnly swear it has been a distinct privilege to have shared your friendship and expert care. 

For caring would be the best thing you would do. So, I reached out at your Infant Jesus funeral Mass of Christian burial, touching your casket with both my hands. Now I bid you a fond goodbye — even as you, gift giver, say so long to friends and family, knowing as we all do how very true it is that — just as you taught us all during your long life. And we shall all meet you again upon our own lives’ end. 

But for now, it will have to be goodbye, gift giver, my friend. See you in
heaven, Mom. 

George Lindner is a Port Jefferson Station resident.