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Port Jefferson Station

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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.

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File photo by Kyle Barr

The Sustainable Libraries Initiative recently recognized the Comsewogue Public Library as a leader in sustainability through its award-winning Sustainable Libraries Certification Program.

This initiative guides libraries through a step-by-step process to infuse triple bottom line sustainable decision-making into their library’s policies and actions. 

Through Comsewogue’s participation in the program, they have strengthened their existing community partnerships and expanded into new collaborations. The library staff are keenly aware of the needs of their community, although not always able to directly meet them. 

Forging partnerships with other agencies allows Comsewogue Public Library to leverage this insight and align their services to involve partnering community organizations to ensure that their community’s current and emerging needs are met. The ability to bring agencies and resources together highlights Comsewogue Public Library’s prominent role in establishing and maintaining a thriving and resilient community. 

The Sustainable Libraries Certification designation demonstrates to their community that decision making based on the triple bottom line principles can have lasting and tangible benefits.

“Everything we do now is looked at differently,” said Comsewogue Director Debbie Engelhardt. “Purchases, procedures, policies are put through the Triple Bottom Line lens. We want to be Environmentally Sound, Socially Equitable and Economically Feasible in our decision making.” 

As the library administration and staff worked through the rigorous benchmarking process, they reduced their greenhouse gas consumption through the installation of LED lighting fixtures, new HVAC units, a white roof and an EnergyStar-rated water heater. 

Shredding and recycling events open to the community diverted 3720 gallons of paper and 1349 pounds of eWaste from the landfill. Energy and water savings information was broadcasted to the staff and community, with a representative from PSEG, the community’s energy provider, offering information and energy savings tips to library users. 

Additionally, they collaborated with the Town of Brookhaven to provide a receptacle for the community to continue to recycle glass after household pickup was discontinued. 

To promote empathy and respect for all members of their diverse community, cultural competency training was offered to the staff and the library’s program offerings included several engaging programs that celebrate the variety of multi-cultural heritages of those they serve. 

The library set clear objectives in a new Collection Development Policy that sets out to promote literacy and inclusivity, encourage freedom of expression, and support their community’s interests. They have worked to expand their residents’ access to government services by hosting senior advocates, job fairs, and “Claim Your Unclaimed Funds” program. 

Reflecting on the certification program, Children’s & Teen Librarian Debbie Bush said, “I believe our community better understands how we operate and sees our library as a sustainable leader in the community.” 

International impact 

Comsewogue Public Library is among the first libraries to participate in the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program, the first of its kind in the world. This benchmarking program was developed to assist libraries of all kinds – public, academic, and individual school librarians — to create opportunities to make better choices on behalf of the local and global community. 

The program has been recognized by the International Federation of Library Associations at their 2019 World Congress in Athens, Greece, becoming the first program in the United States to be honored through their “Green Libraries” Award. 

Comprehensive approach 

With categories of actions focusing on each of the three pillars of triple bottom line sustainability such as Energy, Indoor Spaces, Social Cohesion and Resilience Planning, this comprehensive process leads a library toward institutional change that shifts the rationale for every decision to consider the local and global impacts. 

Through this program, libraries work with their communities to listen and learn, allowing local needs to be identified and addressed. Strengthening the relationship between the library and the community they serve builds resilience through stronger connections with many organizations and increased access to information. 

The path to certification through the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program is designed to be flexible for libraries of different types, sizes, and budgets and guided by the communities they serve. Each library that completes the program will select the benchmarks that best fit the needs of their library and community, resulting in a uniquely sustainable organization. 

The Sustainable Libraries Initiative is expanding to enroll libraries throughout the United States, with nearly 50 libraries currently enrolled in the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program. Comsewogue Public Library is the ninth library to be certified through this program.

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Katy Dornick and her student. Photo from Andrew Harris

Comsewogue Special Education teacher Katy Dornick has been working in the district for 12 years, and is a proud graduate of the district, too.

Since her first day working with children with special needs she felt at home. 

“Growing up with a sister with special needs I felt that I can relate to the families and be passionate to help their child succeed,” Dornick said. “I take pride in what I do, and I can relate to each family on a personal level.” 

After many years of waiting to teach the students most in need within the district, she finally got a chance to move up to the high school and teach that special class. 

“This is by far the most difficult class to teach,” said fellow teacher Andrew Harris. “It involves a lot of time, energy, and people management to run the class-and that is before you ever set foot inside the classroom and start teaching.”

He added that in this role, there is a lot of paperwork and medical knowledge required by the teacher. 

“It takes someone with a very strong background and work ethic to make it all work,” he said. 

“Not only that, but the students are the happiest I’ve ever seen them with Katy at the helm.”

During the summer, Dornick could be seen rearranging the areas the children would be working in. 

Katy Dornick and her student. Photo from Andrew Harris

“Classroom management is perhaps one of the most important things to have in place so that everything runs smoothly and is safe,” she said. “Some of my students have critical medical needs,  this is a priority, and I wanted the educational set-up to be perfect.”

When school was back in session, a new “sensory room” was created. A perfect place to bring a child — especially children with autism — it’s a place to help calm an anxious student. 

One student said it was his favorite place in the school.

Recently Dornicik, along with her class took over the responsibility of food collection for our high school. They donate all the food to the district pantry.

She has also guided her students to plan and create personal letters to be included when the district sent out care packages to veterans who have graduated from Comsewogue High School. One Marine in California was so excited to receive his gift from her class because he also had her as a teacher several years ago.

She has always been active in the local community including the fire department and a coach for sports teams. 

“Katy. Dornick is truly one of a kind,” said Principal Mike Mosca. “What she has done for the students in her class and the Comsewogue Life Skills program is nothing short of exceptional. Visiting her class and her students is certainly one of the highlights of my day.”

Dornick said it’s an honor to teach her classes.

“All I can say is I feel honored to be given this opportunity to teach this class,” she said. “I truly feel like the luckiest person in the room. There is a line in a song by Jordan Davis that stands true for me in this class: ‘Do what you love and call it work.’ There is not a day that goes by when I do not leave this class without a smile on my face. These kids are simply amazing, and they continue to make me proud on a daily basis.”

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File photo by Kyle Barr

Comsewogue Public Library has recently been awarded a 2021 Four Star Library rating by Library Journal. 

Now in its 14th year, the LJ Index of Public Library Service scores libraries across the U.S. by measuring circulation of physical and electronic materials, library visits, program attendance, public computer usage, Wi-Fi sessions and electronic information retrievals. 

Based on these scores, the libraries are given a rating of from three to five stars. 

“We’re excited to share with the communities we serve that their public library has been recognized for excellence by Library Journal, a leading national publication in our field,” said Comsewogue Director Debbie Englehardt. “Comsewogue Public Library’s staff continually delivers collections and services the public needs and wants, and goes beyond, regularly delighting members of all ages with new, innovative offerings. We’ll keep doing just that in 2022!”

Comsewogue Public Library was also designated a Star Library in 2016. 

“If you’re not a Comsewogue Public Library member yet, we encourage you to join so that you can enjoy all we have to offer,” said Head of Adult Services, Lori Holtz. “For your convenience, you can now apply for a CPL card online at cplib.org/join.”

Library Journal’s 2021 scores and ratings are based on fiscal year 2019 data from the Public Library Survey of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Due to the inherent delay in data collection and analysis, the scores reflect pre-pandemic times. 

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Photo by Andrew Harris

By Kylie Schlosser and Andrew Harris

Tuesday Dec. 14 at Comsewogue High School was a very special evening indeed. It was well orchestrated in more ways than one.

Dr. Rella’s son, Richie, spoke about how he was grateful that Comsewogue (where he spent most of his time) ‘shared’ his dad with the family. Photo by Andrew Harris

When Superintendent Jennifer Quinn spoke, she said that Dr. Rella always said that during any celebrations, it was the musicians who were called upon first. Sure enough, musicians and singers from all the schools serenaded everyone that evening.

The dedication of the auditorium could not have been any more fitting, as it was on an evening surrounded by family, friends and love, of course, all to honor the man who started out as a part-time piano player at a church.

Later on he would become a music teacher, principal and eventually the superintendent of Comsewogue. 

Board member Rob Destefano spoke about him with a unique perspective both as board member and as a former student at Comsewogue.

“I am so proud that we are honoring his legacy with his name on this auditorium,” he said. “This is the classroom where he influenced the lives and education of so many of us.  Going through some old papers this past week, I found the program from one of those early, magical moments. This is the program from the 1996 Spring Concert. Some will recall, about how Dr. and Mrs. Rella danced in the aisles as we played ‘Sing! Sing! Sing!’  Classic Louis Prima / Benny Goodman swing music. Magic was happening!”

Charlotte Johnson, choral director, and her Tapestry Singers sang some lovely and fitting songs that evening.

Johnson said, “If you listen to the words of the song, [A Million Dreams], you can imagine Dr. Rella speaking them. He always felt that making this district the best it could be was not impossible … We just need to  put our thoughts and dreams into action, develop a plan and then have the courage to see it through.”

Destefano summarized it best. 

“If we remember the lessons we have been taught here, the time will soon come again, when Comsewogue will dance in the aisles of this auditorium. There is room for all of us. And I hope you will get out of your seats and join us!”

The district believes he, along with his wife, Jackie, would dance to the song that his beloved Tapestry sang that evening: 

“Every night I lie in bed

The brightest colors fill my head

A million dreams are keeping me awake

I think of what the world could be

A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take

Oh, a million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

However big, however small

Let me be part of it all

Share your dreams with me

You may be right, you may be wrong

But say that you’ll bring me along

To the world you see

To the world I close my eyes to see

I close my eyes to see.”

— “A Million Dreams” 

Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Ziv Zaifman

Kylie Schlosser is a 9th grade student at Comsewogue High School. Andrew Harris is a teacher in the district. 

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic President Sal Pitti protests a potential cell tower along Canal Road in 2019. File photo by Kyle Barr

If there’s a man around town, then that man’s more than likely to be Sal Pitti.

Whether he’s rolling up in his car to check on any reported problems, meeting with developers planning to build up in the Port Jeff Station area, running civic gatherings or attending town meetings focused on residential issues, it’s not hard to find the shaved head and thick, salt and pepper beard as the marked signs of his presence. 

Pitti has been vice president and now president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association over the past several years, and in that time has become a staple of community activism for the two hamlets. The retired ex-NYPD officer can be seen throughout the community, driving around with his current VP and friend Ed Garboski, as they check in on any supposed disturbances and the sites of any ongoing development.

Garboski said he was first introduced to Pitti through Joe Rella, the beloved former superintendent of the Comsewogue School District. Pitti was involved with the school’s Drug Prevention Coalition, and Rella asked Garboski to get involved. After talking for a good while, the two decided they should merge the coalition with the civic, and Pitti became an integral part of the PJS/T organization.

Since then, he’s become a major member of multiple committees, including Brookhaven Town’s Quality of Life Task Force and Suffolk County’s drug task force, for which Garboski said Pitti was instrumental in working with Suffolk County Police Department officials to close down several known drug houses in the community.

“He’s not going to give you lip service, and if there’s a problem he’s going to go after it,” the current civic VP said. “He’s committed to this community, whether that’s drugs or working on the homelessness issue. He’s got a lot of empathy for them. It’s not, ‘Let’s just get rid of them,’ it’s, ‘Let’s find out how we can help them.

Charlie McAteer, the civic’s corresponding secretary and previous Person of the Year recipient, has known Pitti for close to a decade. McAteer first interacted with Pitti through his stewardship of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail, when he was helping to clean up the trail and the parking lot on Route 112 that marks a trail end. Over the years, both Pitti’s and Garboski’s activism drew McAteer into the civic more and more.

Sal Pitti with other members of the PJS/Terryville Civic discuss ideas for the Terryville Road community garden. File photo by Kyle Barr

McAteer said Pitti was instrumental in multiple recent community projects, including the revitalization of the community garden on Route 112, keeping on top of the Lawrence Aviation property with the Suffolk County Landbank, and more recently working with Brookhaven Town to secure the historical Terryville Union Hall under civic stewardship after the local historical society folded in 2019. McAteer said they are now talking with the town about renovating the property to bring it back to its original 1800s-era look.

Pitti “is really utilizing his retirement time to help the community,” McAteer said. “Having been a New York City police officer, now retired, he has such a repertoire. He puts people at ease, that way they can talk to him. And he will then be able to then convey any problems they have to the powers that be.” 

Frank Gibbons, a longtime civic member and all-around expert about the area’s traffic history and issues, said Pitti is always willing to help anyone in the community.

“If anybody needs his time for anything, then he’s there,” Gibbons said. “You don’t have to ask him twice. Hell, most of the time you don’t have to ask him, he’s asking us, saying ‘Hey, will you come join us?’ Whether it’s cleaning up around the chamber of commerce train car, or cleaning up all the walking paths over to Stony Brook.”

Others who have known Pitti for a shorter time than Garboski and McAteer said his drive to see good work done is striking.

Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), who is finishing up his first year as Brookhaven Town councilmember, said he has worked closely with Pitti ever since he came into office. 

“Soon after I took office, I met with Sal and the board of the civic and we had a frank discussion about the community’s needs, wishes, challenges and opportunities,” Kornreich said over email. “I found Sal’s insight and level of connectedness to his community to be very inspiring. For no reason other than the betterment of his community, Sal has worked hard for many years, investing time, money and energy. One can’t help but be inspired to support his efforts.” 

Andrew Harris, a special-needs teacher at Comsewogue High School and the school liaison with the civic, said Pitti and the other civic leaders are honestly concerned that their community remains a nice place to live, for all its residents.

“He’s a big dude, he’s an ex-cop, he looks like a pretty tough guy, you know?” said Harris, who is also a previous Person of the Year recipient. “But really, he’s the kindest, nicest guy you’d ever want to meet, personalitywise. The bottom line is he just volunteers his time for others.”

Indu Kaur, right, with her sister Kiran Wadhwa at SāGhar in Port Jefferson. File photo by Julianne Mosher

Soft spoken and modest, Indu Kaur has been quietly helping out her community, all while managing and operating three local businesses — two of which opened in the midst of a global pandemic. 

Kaur, owner of SāGhar in Port Jefferson, also works alongside her family with their two other establishments — The Curry Club in Setauket and the newly renovated The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station. 

A resident of Setauket, her sister Kiran Wadhwa said that while she lives a few minutes out of the village or station, Port Jefferson is her second home. 

“She just wants to always lend a helping hand,” Wadhwa said. “Her goal is to make the community better.” 

Indu Kaur with blueprints of her new restaurant after purchasing The Harbor Grill. File photo by Kyle Barr

Joan Nickeson, community liaison to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said that Kaur is a member of several different boards and groups that all service Port Jefferson and its surrounding areas. 

“She is a model of entrepreneurship,” she said. “I am thoroughly impressed by her talent, grace and forward-thinking perspective.” 

Nickeson added that along with being a PJSTCC member, she is part of the Port Jefferson Chamber and the Three Village Chamber of Commerce. Kaur is also secretary of the Cumsewogue Historical Society, and owner of the historic Baylis-Randall house, next to The Meadow Club.

“She is looking to refurbish it and establish space for photos and archives of local history of, not just The Meadow Club, but the Baylis-Randall house, historic Port Jefferson Station and Terryville,” she said. 

While working full time at SāGhar in the village, dishing out delicious Indian and American cuisine and cocktails to locals and visitors alike, Wadhwa said that Kaur also does finances for The Meadow Club and handles all of its operations. 

“She burns the candle at both ends to improve her restaurant and catering hall,” Nickeson added. 

This past June, Kaur and Wadhwa hosted the Port Jefferson high school’s prom at The Meadow Club, as well as Port Jefferson Chamber’s Health and Wellness Fest in October — two opportunities that brought both sides of Port Jefferson together. 

And all of these things were implemented over the last year and a half — while dealing with and overcoming the coronavirus.

“Although women-owned businesses are somewhat rare in the restaurant/hospitality industry, Indu Kaur has managed to open two unique properties during a pandemic — The Meadow Club and SāGhar,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “She is a role model for women aspiring to be restaurateurs. She has a can-do, work-hard attitude that she attributes to her immigrant family.”

Kaur previously told TBR News Media that after a fire devastated The Meadow Club in 2018, she and her family spent more than two years repairing it and turning it into the picture-perfect venue it is today.

But in the midst of rebuilding and construction, the pandemic hit — also as Kaur signed the deal on taking over the former Harbor Grill (Schafer’s) in the village. 

“Two years ago, we thought we were done,” Kaur said last November, just as The Meadow Club was starting to unveil. “But now we’re excited to bring our gem back to Suffolk County.”

Indu Kaur, left, with her family. Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

Hahn added that Kaur “had the courage and perseverance to rebuild The Meadow Club and reopen it bigger and better in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Incredibly, she also simultaneously opened SāGhar, a new restaurant in Port Jefferson Village with rooftop dining. It was this open-air rooftop that helped her stay open throughout the pandemic.”

An empathetic business owner, Hahn said that Kaur would always put the needs of her customers first — even as she struggled herself throughout the troubles of maintaining her establishments during a trying time. 

“Even though she was incredibly busy with two businesses, she never forgot the hardship of her employees and the brides and grooms who were displaced by the fire, and did her best to help them find new jobs and wedding venues,” Hahn said. “Indu is an unstoppable force and a tremendous asset to our community.”

And on top of all that, Kaur would personally drive meals — more than $30,000 worth of food — to first responders throughout the pandemic to make sure they had nice hot meals and to say “thanks.”

Kaur still stays philanthropic, donating meals and food to homeless shelters and families that lost their jobs due to the pandemic. 

And she’s a great neighbor, Port Jefferson Village trustee Rebecca Kassay said. 

As of late, Kaur has taken it upon herself to create welcome bags for residents moving into the newly opened apartment buildings in town. 

“These lovely gift bags full of local vouchers, coupons, gift cards and information about the Port Jefferson business community help to tie new residents into our vibrant community,” Kassay said. “Indu so often weaves people together in the most beautiful ways, and we are endlessly grateful for her thoughtful and inclusive efforts.”

Kassay added that Kaur is a “gift to this community.”

“Between the glowing positivity she emanates, her incredible organizational skills and her generous spirit, it is no wonder that her business and community efforts find deserved success,” the village trustee said. 

Kaur’s sister agreed. 

“She always gives 100% — whether it’s for her friends, family, businesses or community,” Wadhwa said. “There is no one else I can see being any more deserving of this nomination for Person of the Year than Indu.”

Below, Linda Parlante presents Abel Fernandez with a certificate congratulating him on his nomination of Person of the Year at Mount Sinai High School, Dec. 23. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Think of all the little things that make or break your day. 

Were you greeted by a kind man when you came to work that day? Did someone tell you a joke that made you laugh while you whiled away the hours stuck at a desk? Did somebody help you move those boxes when you threw out your back earlier that week? Did somebody help you change your car tire after you got a flat when coming out of the parking lot? 

Abel Fernandez, lead custodian at Mount Sinai High School, is the man who makes people’s days, constantly, day after day, month after month, school year after school year. He’s a man who proves that small acts of kindness add up to a mountain of giving, and that is why Fernandez is named a TBR News Media Person of the Year for 2021.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Linda Parlante, the district secretary to the facilities director, said Fernandez “spends countless hours making sure his building is safe for the students.” Even as a custodian, he makes his love for the school and community known through every action he takes, whether it’s by attending many of the school functions, including being the first to volunteer during the annual Battle of the Educators faculty basketball game, rolling out the red carpet during prom, or always being there to purchase a cupcake or cookie at school bake sales. 

Scott Reh, the district director of buildings and grounds, said all the students know him for constantly being there for them.

“The kids love him,” Reh said. “He’s a fixture in the school and in students’ daily routines. The kids see him, and he interacts with them in a positive manner. He’s a role model.”

Fernandez also serves as the Spanish language interpreter for the district, and even there he goes above and beyond. He’s been known to go to students parents’ homes alongside high school principal, Peter Pramataris, to communicate with them directly about what’s happening in a student’s life or how they can participate in district elections. Reh said that Fernandez has a way about him that “when he [talks to students and parents], it’s in a manner in which they feel comfortable. He’s a soothing presence.”

Nothing takes away Fernandez’s attention from his school work, not even recent personal tragedy. After his brother was involved in a severe car accident, Parlante said the lead custodian has been attending to his brother’s needs, driving him back and forth from the hospital, as well as managing his brother’s barbershop. Even with all this extra work, Mount Sinai school officials said Fernandez has never missed a beat in the district, and that he still comes to work wanting to give 100% of his care to the student body and school grounds.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“He has been the first on scene for accidents on district property as well as the first in line when an issue arises that needs security,” Parlante said. “If anyone in the building ever needs anything, whether it be boxes moved, a car jumped, a tire changed or help at their house, he is always available and never says ‘no.’ He has created lifelong friends from his work here and everyone would agree that Abel would give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it.”

Pramataris has known Fernandez for well over a decade, having especially come to rely on him since he moved up from middle school principal to high school after the untimely passing of former principal Rob Grable in 2019. Pramataris said Grable had elevated Fernandez to the head custodian position “just because he also saw the potential in him.”

Fernandez is in charge of four custodians at the high school, and the principal said he always leads by example and “he’s always the first one to climb the ladder and do whatever needs to be done.” 

What gives Fernandez his can-do attitude? Pramataris said it’s likely his familial bonds that, growing up, taught him the value of hard work. His mother, Angela, is a custodian for the Comsewogue School District.

“His personality is just pleasant, and as someone who’s been knocked down a few times, he could have probably given up, but it’s the last thing that he’ll do,” Pramataris said. “He’s just the type of guy that you want to help and support, and he does the same for you.”

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Mrs. Claus (Jennifer Quinn) with board members present gift bags prepared by students Ashley Doxey and Alysaa Morturano to military families. Photo from Andrew Harris

By Andrew Harris 

On Saturday, Dec. 11, at the Holiday Club Fair at Comsewogue High School, the district honored their graduates who are currently serving as active military personnel. 

“We hoped that some could actually be here but realized that they get very little time off and many are serving all over the world,” Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Quinn said. “So, we invited their families to receive the care packages.”

Santa Claus (Joseph Coniglione) with Mrs. Claus (Jennifer Quinn). Photo from Andrew Harris

One mother, whose sons Paul and Sean Piotrowski (2015) are serving in the U.S. Marines, said that “receiving the gift cards and handwritten notes for each of them was wonderful.”

The idea was inspired by students Alyssa Morturano and Ashley Doxey, who followed up by collecting cards at events and doing various fundraisers.

The wife and children of Michelle Flaherty’s son Billy (2004) attended because he is currently in the Army as a helicopter crew chief. The mother said that he is getting deployed to the Middle East this coming May. 

“I am so proud of my son and all the Comsewogue alumni who are serving in our armed forces,” Flaherty said. “It means so much to the families to have the support of the Comsewogue community — once a warrior, always a warrior.”

Joseph Coniglione, assistant superintendent of schools, was thrilled the event was able to happen.

“To have the proud parents of those who have made the decision to serve our country there, and to be able to share their pride was a tremendous experience for me and this community,” he said. “We are all so proud of all our students, especially those who made this commitment.”

Andrew Harris is a teacher in the Comsewogue School District. 

To help maintain social distancing, but still with the holiday spirit, the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce hosted their second drive-thru Santa visit and letter drop off on Saturday, Dec. 4.

President Jennifer Dzvonar said that for decades, the chamber has hosted Santa at the Port Jefferson Station Train Car. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 they opted for a drive-thru visit, instead. 

During the free event, kids were able to unroll their car windows, say hello to the man in red — who waited in his sleigh— and then pull their cars to a mailbox where they drooped letters to the North Pole. 

“Last year everyone raved about the drive-thru, and everyone seems to enjoy it,” Dzvonar said. 

Raffle tickets were also sold to help the chamber’s flag fund.

— All photos by Julianne Mosher