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Obituary

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School board president William Connors is running unopposed for his seat on the board. File photo by Andrea Paldy

William F. Connors Jr., 77, of East Setauket passed away on July 21.

Bill Connors

He was born March 31, 1945, in Brooklyn and was the son of the late William and Ethel Connors. He spent the past 50 years married to the love of his life, Susan Connors (Edwards), and together they raised four children: Terence, Corinne Keane (Edward), Kristin Mangini (Ken) and their daughter Jessica Connors who predeceased Bill in December 2021.

One of Bill’s favorite roles was proud Papa to four adoring grandsons: Conor Mangini (17), Gavin Mangini (14), Caden Mangini (11) and Braeden Keane (7). 

Bill enjoyed a life filled with a very large extended family that spent significant time together and is extremely close knit. His family and loved ones were fortunate to always know how loved and adored they were as Bill “wore his heart on his sleeve” and never passed up the opportunity to let the people he loved know how much he cared about them.

Bill received a bachelor’s degree in history from Saint Anselm College, a Master of Education in counseling psychology from Springfield College, and a Master of Public Administration in management from Long Island University. He retired from Suffolk County Community College in 2011 after holding a variety of faculty and senior administrative positions spanning 44 years. These included associate vice president for academic affairs/college dean of faculty, executive dean/CEO of the Ammerman and Eastern campuses, associate vice president for student affairs, and dean of faculty at the Ammerman and Grant campuses. 

Always looking to contribute to his community, Bill was involved in numerous service activities. He served as a member/vice president of the board of trustees of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket between 1984-92. He was on the Three Village Central School District board of education for a total of 21 years. He served on the board between 1994-2006 and served as vice president between 1995-96 and president between 1996-2006. After a six-year hiatus, he was reelected to the board of education in 2012 and served through 2021. He served as vice president 2013-14 and president between 2014-20.

Bill was also a member of the Saints Philip and James R.C. Church in St. James since 1973. Over the years he has been involved in numerous aspects of parish life and has served as an Eucharistic minister, member of SSPJ school board, and was a member of the pre-baptismal preparation program which he conducted along with his wife.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. Calling hours were held Monday, July 25, and the funeral Mass was held at Saints Philip and James R.C. Church the next day. Interment was private. Visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that people consider making a donation to The Jessica Connors Memorial Scholarship as Bill was immensely proud of this scholarship created in his youngest daughter’s memory. This annual scholarship is awarded to a graduating Ward Melville High School student who has a connection to or has made contributions to students with learning differences or special needs. It would mean the world to him to know that friends and loved ones continued to support this effort to memorialize her in his name. Donations to the scholarship can be made by visiting gofundme.com/f/the-jessica-connors-memorial-scholarship or by mail to The Jessica Connors Memorial Scholarship c/o Corinne Keane, P.O. Box 750, East Setauket, NY 11733.

Connors remembered

In an email, Three Village Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon informed district residents of Connors’ passing. Scanlon described him as “a symbol of strength, dignity and reason for decades in Three Village. He epitomized the phrase ‘a gentleman and a scholar.’”

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich said in an email, “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend and colleague, Bill Connors. I served with Bill on the Three Village board of education for a number of years and grew to appreciate first and foremost his deep and abiding love for his family; his commitment to serve our community; and his wisdom and experience in the field of education. He was tremendously decent and compassionate, with a gentle temperament and a kind word for all, and I will miss him very much.”

Anthony Parlatore, a member of the Emma Clark library board of trustees for more than 30 years, said his tenure on the library board overlapped that of Connors for about a year or so.

“We were very close when he was on the board,” Parlatore said. “He was just a quality human being. He was very positive on the board, always maintained a smile and you can just tell he enjoyed being on the board.”

While the board has always functioned well, Parlatore said, Connors added to the high-quality operation, making “his presence known in a very quiet, dignified manner.”

“He listened to everybody politely, and he was a consummate gentleman, expressed his opinion and was never argumentative,” Parlatore said “All the qualities you’d expect. It was a pleasure serving with him.”

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By Tara HiggIns

Port Jefferson Village Justice

Patricia Maureen Higgins (maiden name Phillips), was born on May 6, 1931, in Jersey City, New Jersey, the first-born child to Brigid Dunne and John Francis Phillips. She was followed by her two brothers, Jack and Bob. Pat was the salutatorian of her eighth-grade class, second only to her life-long closest friend, Aunt Gebs. 

Photo from Kate Higgins

When she was 15, Pat met Joe Higgins on a bus on the way to a dance at the Polish Hall. Five years later they were married at St. Anne’s Church. Deeply devoted to their faith, they welcomed eight children into the world. They were an inseparable union for 70 years, navigating the highs and lows and challenges that life brings. 

Joe worked long hours while mom worked equally hard at home, raising eight kids, the oldest in college, the baby in diapers, and every age and stage in between. 

The family moved to Long Island 55 years ago. Pat insisted that they move back to New Jersey the next year, but that never happened. She would joke that she lived on Long Island for 20 years before she realized that she was on the wrong side of Route 25A. She wasn’t concerned with those sorts of pretentious things; she was a much earthier woman. She took her role as homemaker seriously — the glue that held the family together. She was organized, efficient and diligent in her duties. She had a loving and unique relationship with each of her children and grandchildren. 

Pat was an insightful woman who could assess a person’s character within minutes of meeting them. She had a kind, caring demeanor that made people divulge their problems and secrets. She was an avid reader — she read the newspaper cover to cover — and enjoyed suspense novels. 

And this lady, who never left the house without her hair perfectly coiffed and her lipstick on, enjoyed her children’s sports, and was never absent from a football game, track meet, swim meet or baseball game. 

This feminine lady understood stats and splits, knew a bad baton handoff from a good one, and comprehended the seemingly endless set of rules and exceptions to rules in the game of football. 

She enjoyed the Jets since the days of Joe Namath and the Yankees, and of course, her beloved Derek Jeter. Pat also had a penchant for war movies, cowboy movies and disco music. It wasn’t unusual to get in the car after Pat had been driving it and hear ABBA or Donna Summer blaring on the radio. 

Photo from Kate Higgins

Her house was always filled with the aroma of her delicious food. There was no takeout; Pat cooked every night and could give Julia Child a few suggestions on how to make gravy. Birthday cakes were homemade from scratch with Presto flour, never a box mix, that’s just not how it was done. If you missed dinner, your dinner was left on the counter in a pie plate with a piece of tinfoil on it and your name written in perfect Catholic school penmanship. 

The only time the house didn’t smell of Pat’s delicious cooking was when she was doing a load of white wash, in which case the smell of Clorox would simultaneously burn your eyes and nose. 

Pat and Joe were devout in their faith and active members of this parish since its inception. Now, she will be reunited with those that have left this earth before her including her parents, friends, her first son Paul, who only lived 36 hours, and of course, her dear son Bob, who was taken from this world far too early. 

Pat was the beloved mother of Nancy Sardinia and her husband Ted, Patricia Paddock and her husband Ken, Tara Higgins and her husband Peter Petracca, Kathleen Higgins and her husband Joseph Farley, Joseph and his wife Marybeth, John, Paul and his wife Kate, and the late Robert and his wife Ellen; cherished grandmother of Joseph and his wife Tara, Katherine, Matthew, Marty, Marybeth, P.J., Sean, Bobby, Brigid and her husband John, Siobhan, Fiona, Julia, Colette, Aeva; and great grandmother of Liam, Emerson, and Riley; and devoted sister of Jack Phillips and his wife Sheila and Bob Phillips and the late Barbara.   

Funeral mass and burial were on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at St. James R.C. Church in Setauket where she is now North of  Route 25A.

Donations can be made to Hope House Ministries and Three Village Meals on Wheels.

Editors note: The March 3 issue of the Port Times Record published the wrong name in this obituary. This is the correct version.

Community members hold up lanterns and sunflowers during a vigil to honor Aida Ramonez who passed away at age 11 on Jan. 5. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Port Jefferson community has come together to mourn the loss of one of their own, 11-year-old Aida Ramonez who died unexpectedly Jan. 5.

On Saturday, Jan. 15, several dozen people gathered on the lawn of the First Presbyterian Church in the village to pray and remember the vibrant, young girl who was taken far too soon.

“Aida was something else,” said her mother, Lolita. “She was extremely outgoing. She would stick up for her friends, was anti-bullying and absolutely loved animals and her life.”

The Port Jefferson middle schooler had moved with her family from Mastic Beach just three years prior to her death, but in the short amount of time she graced the village, she touched the lives of dozens of people — young and old.

Aida Ramonez enjoying live music at Port Jeff Brewery. Photo from Lolita Ramonez

During Saturday’s vigil, classmates of the sixth-grader held onto sunflowers, Aida’s favorite flower. Small white lanterns were lit, decorated with purple ribbons while prayers were said and “Amazing Grace” was sung. 

Nicole Jacobs said that Aida befriended her daughter in school after the Ramonez family moved to the district. The two girls would go trick-or-treating on Halloween together and visit the water park in the summer. 

“She was very wise for her age,” Jacobs said. “She was so compassionate. Very loving and free-spirited. She was such a good kid, finding the positive in any situation and who sought out the kids who didn’t always fit in.”

But along with being the girl who chose to be a friend to anyone and everyone, her true passion was animals, Lolita said. 

“We nicknamed her the chicken whisperer,” she laughed, fondly.

Lolita went on to remember how one of the family’s chickens fell ill. The chicken, who barely approached anyone else, trusted Aida and allowed her to feed its medicine. 

“She’d massage the chicken and say, ‘Don’t you give up on me!’” Lolita said. “She wanted to be a vet.”

The chicken survived and is thriving to this day. 

Aida also loved art — it was one of her favorite subjects in school along with science. 

“She was an incredible artist and was an excellent student,” Lolita said. “She even made it to the honor roll at the end of their marking period. She was so proud of that.”

Aida’s former fifth-grade teachers at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School, Laura Kelly and Paige Lohmann, said in a statement that Aida had “so many wonderful qualities and gifts that made her stand out.”

“Her love for her family, care for animals and loyalty to her friends were most important to her. At such a young age, Aida believed in using her voice to speak up for causes that she believed in. She had a keen sense of who she was and how she can make a difference in the world through her thoughtful words and caring actions. We will always remember Aida and her high hopes and dreams for life and the world around her,” the teachers said.

During Saturday’s event, Robert Neidig, assistant superintendent of Port Jefferson School District, remembered his student.

Sunflowers are given to Aida’s mother, Lolita, during the vigil. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Aida, although she was a quiet young girl, had such an intense focus of maturity about her,” he said. “She once wrote that one of the things that made her happiest was being kind to others. It is this endearing quality that helped brighten up the spaces that she inhabited and allowed her to have such an enormous impact on our entire community.”

Neidig went on to mention, that the outpouring support of the community standing together on that cold Saturday was a true testament of what Aida always preached — kindness.

Mayor Margot Garant said that although tragedy strikes, the vigil proves how Port Jefferson comes together in times of need.

“The ceremony was moving and shows that here in Port Jefferson when we lose a resident, young or old, our community is impacted as if it were our very own,” she said. “This is what we mean by ‘Port Jeff Proud,’ and ‘Port Jeff Strong.’”

Trustee Kathianne Snaden’s daughter is in Aida’s class and she said it breaks her heart to see the community lose someone so young and so vibrant.

“My heart and prayers are with the Ramonez family,” she said. “If there is any silver lining, it’s seeing the community as a whole come together to support and uplift Aida’s family, and showed we can help each other in a time of need. We are stronger together, and I hope that the outpouring of love that day brought some peace to her family. We are here for them.”

Along with the vigil, a Meal Train was created for the family the day her death was announced, Jan. 6. 

Jacobs, who helped create the link, said that within two hours of it being posted, the first four weeks were booked with different types of meals to be dropped off at the Ramonez home. The Meal Train was then extended an extra two weeks, and booked in only one hour.

“People have been reaching out every day asking how they can help,” Jacobs said. “More than 40 gift cards were left on my front porch to be given to the family.”

Lolita said she and her family are overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness and knows that Aida would be “flattered beyond belief.”

A selfie in front of Aida’s favorite place — the beach. Photo from Lolita Ramonez

“Aida was a free spirit who loved the ocean,” she said. “She was not afraid of death or any of life’s phases.”

One of Aida’s favorite songs was “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.” She loved fishing, anime and gymnastics. 

“She was an adrenaline junkie,” Lolita said. 

Her mother added that Aida’s remains have been cremated and her ashes will be thrown into the ocean in Puerto Rico — one of the places she loved to visit, along with Ecuador. 

“She would like her friends and loved ones to remember her with joy, especially when they go to her happy place, the beach,” she said. “She will be with them always in spirit and would love for everyone to stay positive and accomplish their goals.” 

Aida is survived by her mother Lolita, father Juan and older brother Grayson, as well as everyone near and far who’s lives she touched.

To continue helping the Ramonez family following this loss, Nicole Jacobs is collecting gift cards to be regularly delivered to them. Community members who would like to send their condolences can email [email protected] for more information. 

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Al Meyer passed away suddenly, at age 82. He was a wonderful, caring husband and father.

Al Meyer

Born in 1939 in Mineola, Al grew up in Rockville Centre and Stony Brook. He attended Stony Brook Boys School and stayed one year at Hobart before enlisting in the Navy for four years. He served on several destroyers, known as the “greyhounds” of the fleet. Al’s chosen field was navigation, having attained the grade of Quartermaster 2 prior to his honorable discharge from the military. He also served on the USS William V. Pratt.

In 1963, Al went to work with RH Macy, where he started first as a salesman. He moved up into the upper-management training program and held positions in both the flagship store in Manhattan and in branch stores. Al left the company after nine years to form his own marine supply company, The Suffolk Boat Locker in Centereach.

Realizing that self-employment was not for him, Al returned to department store management, starting with A&S in 1981, where he remained until their parent company bought Macy’s. He was also store manager of the Furniture Clearance Center when he took to early retirement in 1997.

Al was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, was active in the United States Power Squadrons for 31 years, belonged to the Three Village Historical Society and acted as treasurer of the Franklin Melville Memorial Foundation, a 25-acre private park and sanctuary.

A member of the Caroline Episcopal Church in Setauket, Al served as Lay Eucharistic Minister, Brotherhood of St. Andrew director, church warden, and received the Bishop’s Medal for Distinguished Service in the Diocese of Long Island. After relocating to Leland, North Carolina, in 2011, Al served as Verger at St. John’s Episcopal Church and was also a volunteer at the Bellamy Mansion.

Al is survived by his wife of 55 years, Bonnie Meyer; his two daughters Tracy Meyer and Jessica Booth (Brett); grandchildren Griffin Meyer, Amelia, Jackson, Olivia Booth and Alex Gailor,; his brothers Walter Meyer and John Hershey (Jeri); and his nephews Sean and Kevin. Al is predeceased by both his parents Walter and Sylvia Meyer.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 11 a.m. at The Church of the Good Shepherd, located at 515 Queen Street, Wilmington, North Carolina.

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Bill Leonard and the sea were a perfect fit and inseparable. He was born on Dec. 21, 1928 and spent his early childhood on Gnarled Hollow Road (first house on the left) in East Setauket, New York. The Leonard home was just a stone’s throw from Setauket Harbor and just around the corner from the Rolston’s grocery store, where his father was manager.  Setauket Harbor was Bill’s “playground” and he’d tell you the marshy area behind his house “produced the finest muck in the world.”

His mother’s scolding’s were not enough to keep him from trudging around in that muck and coming home looking and smelling like a “swamp monster.”The family, now including a four-year-old brother, Edwin, moved to South Street in Port Jefferson village when Bill was 15 years old. One more Leonard boy (Francis) was born there, and Bill became a much admired and dearly loved big brother.  

He spent his teenage years cultivating life-long friendships, “having way too much fun,” and dreaming of the day he’d join the armed forces. At 17, he enlisted in the Army and at 20 he joined the Navy.

Bill and his duffel bag traveled the world. He was part of the occupational force in Korea while in the Army and served as an Engineman aboard four Naval ships in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and a PT boat in Vietnam. He achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer before his retirement in 1973. 

During his 22 years in the Navy, he was a Frogman with the Underwater Demolition Team (UDTs).  These teams were the predecessors of the Navy’s current Seal Teams. It was very dangerous work.     

Bill and his wife, Shirley, were both in their late 40s when they married. Shirley was an Army veteran (a WAC from 1950-53) and a beloved primary school teacher. Their marriage was one of deep mutual respect, adoration and a love everlasting.  

Shirley once wrote to a friend “Bill is quiet and unassuming. Little by little, I am finding out more and more. He is not a braggart. If there were a catastrophe, I would put my life in his hands. He would protect me.”  

Bill described their relationship this way: “It was just so comfortable —  like slipping on your favorite sweater.”  

Shirley (Bill’s “Punkin”) passed away in 2017.  

Bill’s health began to decline in 2020. By March of that year, after a short hospital stay, he was thoughtlessly and indefinitely placed in a nursing home as COVID-19 raged out of control.  

Thanks to the unyielding efforts of his family, Bill was able to return home and spend the last year and a half of his life in the cozy little house he shared with Shirley on High Street in Port Jefferson village.  Even as the end grew near, Bill never failed to lift the spirits of those around him. He was courageous, a guiding light, and an inspiration to all.  

He will be remembered for his kindness, generosity, good humor, optimism, honesty and his unrivaled quick wit. He will be missed but never forgotten by his adoring family and a multitude of friends who so enjoyed his company.

Bill was placed in hospice care at Stony Brook’s Veteran’s Home on July 29 and passed away ever so peacefully on Aug. 15.  He asked that no formal service be held in his honor.  He wished to be buried at sea as that was where his spirit longed to be.  

The Rev. Gregory Leonard and many members of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Setauket held a very special place in Bill’s heart — a proclamation and certificate they presented to him in 2008 for his commitment and support was a prized possession.  

Contributions to the church in Bill’s memory may be made to:  Bethel A.M.E Church, 33 Christian Avenue, P.O. Box 2117, Setauket, New York 11733.

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Gloria Agnes Giannola, of Port Jefferson, died on Oct. 19, 2021. She was 88.  

Born in Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn, NY on July 15, 1933 to Michael and Domenica (Sunday) Postiglione.

Gloria Agnes Giannola

Gloria attended Grover Cleveland High School, 1951, where she was a member of the Arista National Honor Society. She then attended Queens College and received a Bachelor of Arts in 1955, a year before “open enrollment” was instituted. Gloria worked for New York Life Insurance Company.

Gloria moved to Port Jefferson in 1966, to enroll her children Maria and Jack at the elementary school — specifically for Edna Louis Spear’s teaching methods. Gloria devoted her life to her family and home. She taught Confraternity of Christian Doctrine at Infant Jesus School as well as acting as troop leader for the Girls Scouts of Port Jefferson. 

She was also an excellent cook, with neighbors coming over especially for her eggplant dishes. Gloria was strong, funny, wise in advice and kind. She was well loved by many and lived a full life with her roots in Port Jefferson.

Affectionately known as “Mama G” and “Nonna,” she is survived by her children Maria and Jack, her beloved granddaughter Nicolina, grandsons Tyler and Rocco, and by many loving nieces and nephews.

Arrangements for a private family service were entrusted to the Branch Funeral Home in Miller Place.

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Retired Mount Sinai school nurse Lynn Freitag Jordan’s love for her community didn’t come to an end with her passing. Lynn passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 3, 2021 at the age of 80.

Lynn Jordan

Lynn married the love of her life, G. Douglas Jordan, on Sept. 16, 1961 after receiving special permission from Bellevue School of Nursing at New York University. She then completed her nursing degree in 1962. 

She and Doug initially made their home in Port Jefferson Station, where their daughter Phyllis was born. In 1975 they moved to Mount Sinai, welcoming daughters Katherine and Elizabeth into their lives. 

Lynn was a consummate community volunteer who worked tirelessly throughout her life to make the lives of the young people in her community better. She served on local PTSA, Suffolk County Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, was a founding member of the Mount Sinai Friends of the Arts, and later served on the Mount Sinai School Board. 

It is through her three daughters, her granddaughter, Emily, her sister Cynthia Freitag, and all those whose lives she impacted over decades of service to her community that she will live on. 

Visitations will be at the Branch Funeral Home, located at 551 NY-25A in Miller Place, NY 11764 on Monday, Nov. 15 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Services will begin at 7 p.m. 

In lieu of flowers, Lynn’s family would like to ask for donations to be made to Hope House Ministries. Donations can be made online at hhm.org/donate-online.

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Malka Zajc

Malka Zajc passed peacefully in her home in Brooklyn on Oct. 10, 2021. She was 101 — a Holocaust survivor, originally from Poland.  

She survived four concentrations camps, including Auschwitz and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. 

Liberated by the Swedish Red Cross, she lived in Sweden for five years, then emigrated to the lower East side of Manhattan.  

Moving to Brooklyn, she carved out a life for herself, working, dancing and crafting. 

She is survived by her daughter, Lily and three grandchildren, Adam, Evan and Ilana Heckler —formerly of Setauket. 

The funeral was held on Oct. 12 at Sherman’s Memorial Chapel in Brooklyn. 

Interment followed at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont.

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Frederick H. Yack

Frederick Harold Yack, born Oct. 27, 1941 in Manhattan to Harold and Constance Yack, brother of Charles (deceased), Patricia (deceased), Connie (Canino) and JoAnn (wife) died on Oct. 11, 2021.

Fred is survived by his wife of 57 years, Gloria, sons Frederick Paul, Christopher Charles, daughter-in-law Diedre (Martin) and grandchildren Kevin, Elizabeth, Chloe and Hannah.

A broker on the New York Stock exchange for over three decades, Fred was an Army Military Police and a member of the FDNY in his younger years.

His retirement in 2003 led to almost two decades of gardening, baking, fishing and spending time with his family.  

Fred’s life can be summed up with a deep dedication to his family, country and community. 

In lieu of flowers, Fred’s grandchildren have set up a GoFundMe to create a garden in his memory. 

Those interested in donating can visit gofundme.com/f/rtwu4-memorial-garden?qid=24665b4a383e31af3cd140e355efac9f.

Frederick J. Gumbus “Pop”, 97 years old of Port Jefferson, died May 9.

He was born May 5, 1924, in Stony Brook, the son of Anetah and Joseph Gumbus.

Fred served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-1945 and was stationed in Okinawa. He was a tail gunner who flew a B24 bomber. Fred was a retired machinist – Mill Right for LILCO.  Fred was a 73-year member of the Port Jefferson Fire Department, where he was an ex-captain and honorary chief of Hook and Ladder Company 1.

Left to cherish his memory are his daughters Betty and Carol; his sons Fred Jr, John, Henry and Frank; 12 grandchildren; 25 great grandchildren; and many other family and friends.

His parents along with his wife, Geneva, who was his high school sweetheart, preceded him in death. His son Joseph passed away shortly after.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home May 16. He was afforded full military honors at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson.

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