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Obituary

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Gordon F. Davis, 94, of Port Jefferson, NY passed away on June 29, 2021. 

Born Aug. 10, 1926 he was predeceased by his parents, Raymond and Gladys, brother Roger, twin sister Katherine, first wife Rose Marie, second wife Helen Marie and sons Michael, Kenneth and Timothy. He is survived by his loving son Daniel, Daniel’s wife Estine and granddaughter Shannon, daughter of the late Michael Davis. 

Photo from family

After graduating from the Port Jefferson School District, he enlisted in the United States Navy at age 17, going on to serve in Okinawa, Japan. After his resignation from the Navy, he received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri. 

Upon learning of his father’s failing health, he and his family returned to Port Jefferson, where he purchased the Long Island Heating Oil company — later named Long Island Comfort Corporation — and formed his own mechanical engineering company. 

While living in Port Jefferson, he served on the Port Jefferson School Board, Village and County Library Boards, Mather Hospital Board and was president of both the Port Jefferson Rotary Club and the Empire State Petroleum Association.  

A licensed pilot, his favorite pastime was flying across the country in his single engine aircraft, which led him and first wife Rose Marie to begin vacationing in, and ultimately retiring to, Fort Myers, FL where they lived until her death in 2001. After his remarriage to Helen, they divided their time between Fort Myers and Dublin, GA and permanently moved to Dublin to be closer to her family in 2017.   

Gordon was a lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church worshipping at the First Presbyterian Church of Port Jefferson and then the Cypress Lake Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers.  

A private graveside service will be held at a later date at the family plot at Sea View Cemetery in Mount Sinai, NY. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to the First Presbyterian Church of Port Jefferson, PO Box 397, Main and South Streets, Port Jefferson, NY 11777.

Photo from Melyssa Cornell

Longtime Belle Terre resident Joanne Wright Cornell passed away on May 16 at 80 years old. 

Born on Jan. 31, 1941, in Staten Island, she leaves behind a vibrant legacy in the Port Jefferson community after decades of service.

Starting off as a model in Manhattan and working on Wall Street with stock and bond traders, she moved to Long Island in the early 1970s where she entered the world of real estate. 

“Her emotional intelligence was incredible,” said her daughter, Melyssa Cornell.

Joanne formed a lifelong friendship and business partnership with Eileen Petsco, together forming Cornell/Petsco Real Estate. The duo started their firm in a modest small office space, eventually growing into a larger building on East Main Street that lasted almost four decades. 

“Joanne was a perfect partner,” Petsco said. “In 37 years, we never had a serious argument. She was a tireless worker and a valued friend.” 

Their friendship lasted long after their firm shutdown. 

Photo from Melyssa Cornell

“A few years ago, we were kidding around about what epitaph we wanted on our gravestones,” Petsco added. “We settled on this for Joanne: ‘My candle burns at both ends, it shall not last the night, but oh my friends and oh my foe, how brilliant was the light.’ The world will be a dimmer place without Joanne to light the path. She will be deeply missed.” 

While building up her real estate business, Joanne was also a single mother who worked hard to create a successful life and business, and gave back to her community in a multitude of ways.

“The early 1970s wasn’t the easiest time for a woman to launch a business,” Melyssa said, “But she and Eileen did an incredible job creating an extremely successful company.”

Joanne was vice president and then president of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, and president of the Belle Terre Community Association. She supported a multitude of the area’s charities and civic functions.  

Along with her other hats, Joanne was a founding member of the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, and chaired the ladies day golf outings at the country club for many years.  

She immersed herself in community pride chairing the Fourth of July committee and was known as the Easter Bunny and Mrs. Claus for years in the parades.  

“She made the community a better place because of the professional and civic leadership she demonstrated over the years,” Melyssa said. “Her legacy is extraordinary — she lived life to the fullest with an incredible zest for life, a mischievous twinkle in her eye and her dancing shoes on. She was always the life of the party, the first on the dance floor and the last one off — life to her was not a dress rehearsal.”

Melyssa added that her mother should be remembered for her strength, fierce loyalty, honesty and that she welcomed all. She was a true friend to everyone — and still had so many lifelong friendships going back to elementary school.

“Joanne Cornell was a professional, a dedicated member of her community, a warm, welcoming and generous friend and a gracious hostess on all occasions,” said Denise Adler, one of Joanne’s closest friends. “She believed in making life more joyful for all those she touched.”

Melyssa said that her mother “knew how to make a moment last and always believed that the best of times is now. … She did what she said she would do — always.”

She is remembered by TBR News Media publisher, Leah Dunaief for her sense of community and service. 

Photo from Melyssa Cornell

“Joanne had a great sense of fun even as she was very good at her job,” she said. “I enjoyed working with her on the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, where she gave many hours on behalf of helping the business community and the village. She and Eileen Petsco were a dynamic duo, personifying successful business executives at a time when not many women were in business. They were the founders of Cornell/Petsco Real Estate, and their race horse weather vane was a frequently seen icon.”

Joanne leaves behind her daughter Melyssa, and a grandson, Ryan Cornell Thorpe, 17, who both live in Virginia. She is survived by her sisters Leslie Ellerbrook and Judy Repage, both of New Jersey.

“We found fun and laughter in every adventure,” Melyssa said. “We loved Broadway, and, to her, life was a cabaret. My mom made every moment special. When I was super young, and she was working hard to make it in real estate, we didn’t have much money, but we would always sit down and have dinner by candlelight — usually Chunky soup. She didn’t wait for the special moments to happen — she created them.”               

A Celebration of Life will be held in honor of Joanne at The Country House in Stony Brook on June 30 from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. 

“A life so beautiful deserves a special celebration and we welcome anyone who would like to come and share in the memories, the love and the laughter of her life that was lived to the fullest with us,” Melyssa said.

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Stock photo

Elisabeth Kaalund Russell died peacefully on March 31, 2021, in her home on Merritt Island, Florida. She succumbed to cancer after a hard-fought battle. 

A loving mother and grandmother, she lived a full life and will be greatly missed.

Photo from Tina Myers

Born in 1941 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Elisabeth shared many memories growing-up as the youngest of five siblings in a country recovering from a world war. 

As a young woman she decided to immigrate to New York as an Au Pair. Soon after, she met her first husband, Charles Helenius. They eventually settled down in Baldwin and had two children, Peter and Tina.

Many years later, including a couple of years living in Copenhagen, she moved to Port Jefferson with her children. 

She had a second daughter, Ingrid, and in 1987 found her favorite home on Puritan Path.

As a young mother, Elisabeth went to college to become a registered nurse. She started her career at Hillcrest Hospital in Queens in the labor and delivery department. 

Over the years she worked at Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, Brookhaven Hospital in Patchogue, North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, Stony Brook Hospital and then ended her career at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson. 

Liz met Dr. Frank Russell in the operating room, and they became lifetime companions outside of the hospital. 

One of her proudest moments was being the attending nurse in the first surgery performed at Stony Brook Hospital.

After a few years of retirement in Vermont, Elisabeth found her “paradise” in Florida. She loved the warmth and sun there. 

As usual, she found a local Danish group to socialize with and maintain Danish traditions. 

Liz enjoyed working in her yard and swimming in her pool during the day and knitting at night.

Her joyous spirit and endless energy will continue to inspire everyone she knew and loved. 

She will be remembered when her loved ones are reading, painting, knitting, cleaning and entertaining.

Liz always set a beautiful table and made everyone feel special. She is survived by her son and daughter in-law, Peter Helenius and Margaret Luckey of Mastic Beach, daughter and son-in-law, Tina and David Myers, of  Beaverton, Oregon; daughter and son-in-law; Ingrid and Larry Pike, of East Middlebury, Vermont. 

She is also survived by her brother and sister in-law, Karl and Lis Kaalund; brother and sister in-law Per and Marianne Kaalund; sister and brother in-law Inger and Gordon Campbell. 

In addition, Elisabeth has seven grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews in the United States, Canada, Denmark and Australia.

In lieu of flowers please make donations to the American Diabetes Association

Obituary from Tina Myers 

Miriam with great-grandaughter, Ella. Photo from Jeff Remz

Miriam (Groman) Remz, a long-time resident of Belle Terre and former business manager of the Port Jefferson school district, passed away from COVID-19 on Feb. 21 at the age of 94 in Brookline, Mass.

Miriam was born on Dec. 15, 1926 in Czestochowa, Poland, the only child of Israel and Gertrude Groman. She moved with her parents to Brussels, Belgium at the age of 2, where she lived until emigrating to New York on March 1, 1938, avoiding the terrible fate that awaited most of the remaining Jews in Europe.

Miriam considered that date her second birthday, special to her because it represented the beginning of her new life in the United States.

Miriam graduated from City College of New York in 1946 with a degree in business administration and accounting. She then worked in a New York City accounting firm where she met Louis (Leo) Remz. 

Miriam and Leo Remz. Photo from Jeff Remz

After he popped the question and was told “I’ll get back to you,” (she said “yes” a week later), the two were later married on Feb. 17, 1948 in the Bronx.

They moved to Port Jefferson in 1949 where Louis worked with his brother, Morris, at M. Remz (later Louis Remz Supply), a feed and grain business —which eventually added bakery ingredients, as well — located next to the Port Jefferson train depot. 

Having moved to Cliff Road, Belle Terre where they built a house, Miriam took time off from work to raise a family of three boys. The Remzes were among the founding families of the North Shore Jewish Center, then in East Setauket. 

Miriam would later become president of the Sisterhood and a member of the Board of Trustees of the synagogue.

Miriam returned to work in 1963, spending her career with the Port Jefferson school district. She worked first as an account clerk and later became the business manager, a position she held until she retired in 1991.

Miriam was a world traveler — visiting more than 150 countries and all 50 states (North Dakota was the last that she visited — not to mention all U.S. territories. 

Her final major international trip was in August 2016 at the age of 89 for the wedding of her granddaughter in Tel Aviv, Israel. 

Miriam had a keen sense of adventure, enjoying interactions with people from other countries and cultures and enjoyed learning history. But sometimes her love of travel got the better of her judgment. 

On one occasion, already well into her 80s, she visited eastern Turkey at a time when the Syrian civil war had spilled into that region, very close to where she had planned to visit. When asked by her children why she would go there, she said she had already been to western Turkey three times, so she had to see the rest of Turkey.

After her husband Leo passed away in 1994, Miriam continued traveling at an even more frenetic pace, doing about six trips around the world each year.

In addition to her travels, Miriam was passionate about many things in life, including education, her family, Israel and the Jewish people, theater and the arts. 

A formal photo of Miriam Remz. Photo from Jeff Remz

She often went on trips to New York for theatre and dance with friends and sometimes meeting up with her grandchildren. She always enjoyed a good time, dancing, celebrating and socializing with family and friends, and making new acquaintances. 

Miriam wanted to pass that on to her family and made sure her children and grandchildren would have every opportunity that she could provide, whether in supporting their educational endeavors or taking her grandchildren on special trips abroad upon them becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah including London, Paris, Italy and Brazil/Uruguay/Argentina.

She moved from Belle Terre to Brookline in 2014 to be near two of her sons, Jeff and Sandy. She continued her love of lifetime learning by attending lectures about politics, current events, history, literature, art and Judaism and reading history and biographies. 

Almost exactly two years before she passed away, she attended a Dolly Parton tribute concert by Berklee College of Music students in Boston.

Miriam is survived by her three sons, Harvey (Mary Jane) Remz of Huntington, Conn.; Sandy (Arlene) Remz of Newton Centre, Mass. and Jeff (Judy) Remz of Newton Centre, Mass., six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 

Burial took place at Washington Memorial Park in Coram. 

Obituary from Jeff Remz

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Patsy Vassallo during his military days. Photo from the Vassallo family

By Rich Acritelli

Rocky Point High School lost a special employee that held a special place within the staff and student body on March 21.  

Patsy Vassallo, of Miller Place, considered his moments within the hallways of this school to be amongst the most gratifying of his life. At 83 years old, Vassallo wore a big smile, where he engaged the young men and women of this school, and he spoke to all the staff members as a calming presence. 

Each day, Vassallo was pleased to go to work, where he embraced being a part of the RPHS community. As COVID-19 surely has that tested the roles of administrators, teachers and students, Vassallo was always a warm presence to lighten our atmosphere. 

Photo from the Vassallo family

Originally from Bayside, Queens, he started working at the young age of seven, where he learned how to repair footwear in a shoemaker shop. At 17, Vassallo enlisted into the New York Army National Guard where he proudly served in the military for eight years. 

For many decades, he held manufacturing engineering positions and was an entrepreneur that owned and operated machine, coffee and shoe businesses. Vassallo was a proponent of education and in his 60s, he taught college level courses as a lecturer of architectural design through the application of software.  

Always armed with a “can-do” attitude, Vassallo lived an extremely productive life. This was seen at 77 years old, where he provided customer service at a local hardware store. And when he was not working or spending time with his family, Vassallo was a drummer with his brother Charles who played the saxophone in a wedding band during the 1970s and 80s.  

Always known for his energy, athletically, Vassallo was also an avid golfer. One thing was for certain, Vassallo through his many interests was able to speak to every type of person that crossed his path, especially those individuals that were fortunate to see him at his most recent job. 

Vassallo’s greatest achievement was his family. He cherished his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He preached the necessity that “family always comes first,” and as the senior patriarch, Vassallo always exclaimed, “I love you to the moon and back.” 

In a brief matter of months, Vassallo had a reassuring presence that was welcomed by the staff of Rocky Point High School.  Principal John Hart believed that “At the age of 83, Pat quickly became a well-loved member of the High School community and was often referred to as a true gentleman. He proudly arrived early each day, exchanged pleasant conversations with our staff, was detail-oriented, and most importantly respectful and friendly to all those in this building.”   

Hart’s secretary, Sheila Grodotzke observed the positive qualities of Vassallo as “loving his job and his reliability in seriously taking his responsibilities. He showed and expressed such fierce pride in his family.”

“I will remember how he beamed with such passion and humbleness when he introduced me to his two grandchildren who attend our high school,” she added. “I truly miss him and never will forget him. May he rest in peace.”

Within these hard times for the Vassallo Family, RPHS wanted to thank these residents for the unique opportunity that our students and staff had in knowing this good man. While his loss has been on hard on his family, they were immensely proud of his many achievements. 

Thank you for the daily devotion and affection that Mr. Patsy Vassallo provided to all those that he befriended in this North Shore district. 

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Photo from Jeff Cobb

A longtime Port Jefferson Station resident, who loved and valued her community, is going to be missed.

Nancy J. Cobb was born in the Bronx to parents Joseph and Elsie Pandolfo. She then moved to Suffolk County, where for 55 years she lived in the same house in Port Jefferson Station, keeping busy with many different roles.

“She was very active in the local community,” said her son Jeff who now lives in Florida. “I have received tons of letters and cards since she passed — I knew that she impacted lives, but I didn’t understand how many people she touched.”

Cobb said his mother, who passed away at age 82 on Dec. 10, 2020, was “a bundle of energy.”

While he and his brother, Ken now of East Setauket, were growing up, he said that she decided to go back to school to become a teacher. 

Cobb started at Suffolk County Community College, while raising two sons, and then earned a teaching certificate and master’s degree at Stony Brook University.

“She’s definitely my hero,” he said. “She raised two young boys and had to figure out how to make a living. She established a career in the process, and wound up having a great life.”

Cobb took a job teaching both second and third grades at Clinton Avenue Elementary in the Comsewogue School District, and when school wasn’t in session, she’d host foreign exchange students in her home.

“She hosted young women from all over the world; Italy, Spain and Japan,” he said. “She maintained relationships with those girls up until the end. She was active in all their lives, and even went to visit them.”

He added that “they would call her their second mom.”

Cobb was also an avid member of the Christ Church Episcopal on Barnham Avenue, where she also taught Sunday school for many years.

On top of being an educator, Cobb loved playing tennis. For 30 years, she would play on the courts at the Port Jefferson Country Club.

She supported the local arts, often volunteering with Theatre Three and with the Comsewogue Library. She also was a member of the Port Jefferson Station Civic Association.

“She put a lot into those 82 years than most people do in half their lives,” her son said, adding that she loved to travel, she loved her house, her backyard and tending to her garden. “She had a tremendous number of friends.”

But there were five things she loved more than anything — her grandchildren; Alaina, Joseph, KJ, Kasey and Cody.

“She loved her family, she loved spending time with them and loved hearing about what they all do,” he said. “She was a lot of fun to be around. We always just had a lot of fun.”

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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]