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Santa Claus

METRO photo

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dear Santa,

Dr. David Dunaief

I know this is a busy time of year for you. I’m sure it’s all you can do to field all the requests you’re receiving through email, Twitter, WhatsApp, and old-fashioned, handwritten letters. Still, I’d like to suggest that you can provide far more value by becoming a model for good health than you can with any wrapped package tucked under a tree.

Think about the example you’re setting for all those people whose faces light up when they imagine you shimmying down their chimneys. With your abnormally high BMI (body mass index), I know you can do better.

We already have an epidemic of overweight kids, leading to an ever-increasing number of type 2 diabetics at younger and younger ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2018, more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes. It complicates the issue that approximately two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight and/or obese. You can help change this.

Obesity has a much higher risk of shortening a person’s life span, not to mention affecting their quality of life. The most dangerous type of obesity is an increase in visceral adipose tissue, which means central belly fat. An easy way to tell if someone is too rotund is if a waistline, measured from the navel, is greater than or equal to 40 inches for a man, and is greater than or equal to 35 inches for a woman. The chances of diseases such as pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer and heart disease increase dramatically with this increased fat.

Santa, here is a chance for you to lead by example (and, maybe by summer, to fit into those skinny jeans you hide in the back of your closet). Think of the advantages to you of being slimmer and trimmer. Your joints wouldn’t ache with the winter cold, and you would have more energy. Plus, studies show that with a plant-based diet, focusing on fruits and vegetables, you can reverse atherosclerosis, clogging of the arteries.

The importance of a good diet not only helps you lose weight, but avoid strokes, heart attacks and peripheral vascular diseases, among other ailments. You don’t have to be vegetarian; you just have to increase your fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods significantly. With a simple change, like eating a handful of raw nuts a day, you can reduce your risk of heart disease significantly. Santa, future generations need you. Losing weight will also change your center of gravity, so your belly doesn’t pull you forward. This will make it easier for you to keep your balance on those steep, icy rooftops.

Exercise will help, as well. Maybe for the first continent or so, you might want to consider walking or jogging alongside the sleigh. As you exercise, you’ll start to tighten your abs and slowly see fat disappear from your midsection. Your fans everywhere leave you cookies and milk when you deliver presents. It’s a tough cycle to break, but break it you must. You — and your fans — need to see a healthier Santa.

You might let slip that the modern Santa enjoys fruits, especially berries, and veggies, with an emphasis on cruciferous veggies like broccoli florets dipped in hummus, which have substantial antioxidant qualities and can help reverse disease. And, of course, skip putting candy in the stockings. No one needs more sugar, and I’m sure that, over the long night, it’s hard to resist sneaking a piece, yourself.

As for your loyal fans, you could place fitness videos under the tree. You and your elves could make workout videos for those of us who need them, and we could follow along as you showed us “12 Days of Workouts with Santa and Friends.” Who knows, you might become the next Shaun T!

You could gift athletic equipment, such as baseball gloves, footballs and basketballs, instead of video games. Or wearable devices that track step counts and bike routes. Or stuff gift certificates for dance lessons into people’s stockings. These might influence the recipients to be more active. By doing all this, you might also have the kind of energy that will make it easier for you to steal a base or two during the North Pole Athletic League’s softball season. The elves don’t even bother holding you on base anymore, do they?

As you become more active, you’ll find that you have more energy all year round, not just on Christmas Eve. If you start soon, Santa, maybe by next year, you’ll find yourself parking the sleigh farther away and skipping from chimney to chimney.

The benefits of a healthier Santa will ripple across the world. Your reindeer won’t have to work so hard. You might fit extra presents in your sleigh. And Santa, you will be sending kids and adults the world over the right message about taking control of their health through nutrition and exercise. That’s the best gift you could give!

Wishing you good health in the coming year,

David.

P.S. If you have a little extra room in your sleigh, I’d love a new baseball glove.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.

Santa stopped by Stony Brook Dec. 6. Photo by Rita J. Egan

While the Ward Melville Heritage Organization had to hold its annual Christmas festival and tree lighting virtually this year Dec. 6, a few of the board members and their friends gathered on the Village Green at the Stony Brook Village Center, not just to see the festive lights, but also for an announcement.

Visitors to the Village Green take a photo in front of the lit spruce. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman, said the Village Green in the center would be renamed in honor of Jennie Melville, the mother of philanthropist Ward Melville, founder and planner of Stony Brook Village Center. Rugen said she was the one with the idea to change the then “kind of down-at-the-heels Schooner town” into what it is today, including the two-acre Village Green, even though she didn’t live to see it. 

“It’s been used now for 80 years, much more so this year with COVID,” Rugen said. “People have been able to come down and have a ball game or a card game or a sunset, whatever their little hearts desired.”

The WMHO chairman said despite the Village Green being used more than usual this past year, visitors have been respectful of the grounds.

“The trustees and the staff of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization worked very hard to keep it beautiful, and you have cooperated very well,” he said.

Rugen said after seeing so many residents enjoying the green, the board of trustees decided to name it the Jennie Melville Village Green, and in the spring, they plan to install a plaque with the new name and some history about both Melville and the open space.

Also on hand was Chris Damianos, chairman of the board and CEO of Damianos Realty Group, one of the sponsors of the tree lighting, and his family. The Norway Spruce that was lit to commemorate the holiday season Sunday is dedicated to his mother Virginia, who passed away in 2009.

“She was a strong woman,” he said. “This tree has too grown strong, tall and resolute.”

He called it a symbol of hope.

“Another symbol of hope and joy is Santa,” he said, adding that the man in red was on his way.

To the delight of attendees, Santa, who had just spent a few hours speaking to local children via Zoom in a virtual event organized by WMHO, stopped by to help light the Stony Brook Village Center tree.

During the Zoom call with Santa, children were able to request holiday presents. A mailbox has also been set up in front of the Stony Brook Post Office to send him letters this season.

In past years, hundreds of residents would line up by the post office to have their children take photos with Santa as part of WMHO’s Holiday Festival, which the pandemic made impossible this year.

The past two years the festival also featured the Legends and Spies Puppets Procession led by a New Orleans-style brass band. The puppets paid homage to former notable Three Village residents such as Ward Melville and his wife, Dorothy.

This year WMHO continues its Holiday Tree Competition. Throughout the shopping center visitors will find decorated trees.

Ballots can be obtained from businesses throughout Stony Brook village, and shoppers can vote for their favorite tree until Dec. 21.

By Daniel Dunaief

Children may not be able to sit on Santa’s lap this holiday season, but they will have a chance to chat with him.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization has announced a Holiday Program for the Stony Brook Village Center to be held December 6, 2020. WMHO will be bringing Santa Claus direct from the North Pole live over Zoom. 45-minute free sessions will run at  2, 3 and 4 p.m.

Santa will speak to 100 children during each hour. Residents can sign up to share their holiday wish list through Eventbrite, which will have a description of how each session will run.

A special mailbox just for letters to Santa will be at the Stony Brook Post Office, 111 Main Street in Stony Brook starting on Dec. 6.

Parents and their children eager to connect with Santa can go to www.stonybrookvillage.com, which will have a link to the Eventbrite registration. Each child will have between one and two minutes with the bearded wonder.

“Our organization does distance learning for schools and we are excited to use our technology pieces to bring Santa Claus to the children,” said Gloria Rocchio, President of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization. “With this approach, we can make children happy and the families safe.”

Eventbrite is also providing a link for the public to make a suggested donation to the 25th annual Santa Fund, which provides people in need with clothing, food, essential items and gifts.

Guests can also place their holiday present requests with Santa in the Chat Box during their zoom session or mail it physically at the Santa Mail Box in front of the Stony Brook Post Office, which will also start receiving wish lists on Dec. 6.

After the Santa interactions on Zoom, residents can watch the Stony Brook Village Center Facebook Page which features a tree lighting on the Village Green at 5:30 pm.

To reserve a virtual spot to visit with Santa in the North Pole on Sunday, December 6th 2020 visit the WMHO’s Eventbrite page at http://wardmelvilleheritageorg.eventbrite.com

For further information, please call 631-751-2244.

Photos courtesy of WMHO

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro has announced the sale of personalized video messages from Santa, in lieu of the annual Holiday Light Spectacular featuring in-person visits with Santa at the Holtsville Ecology Site. All proceeds from the sale of the video, which costs $25, will go directly to the feeding and care of the more than 100 animals residing there.

Parents or loved ones can visit www.BrookhavenNY.gov/Holiday to complete a brief questionnaire about their child or children. In the spirit of Christmas magic, they will then receive a unique, personalized video message from Santa via email. Messages may include up to five children. The videos also include behind-the-scenes footage of Santa visiting with the animals who reside at the Holtsville Ecology Site year-round.

“While we are very disappointed that we are unable to host our Holiday Light Spectacular this year, we came up with an alternative that would still allow children to experience that special visit with Santa Claus in a very personal way,” said Sup. Losquadro.

A OneDrive link to your customized Santa video (MP4 file) will be sent to you via email as soon as production is complete. You will receive your video no later than Dec. 23. Please note, only a limited number of videos will be sold/produced; order early to insure you receive a message from Santa. For more information, please call 631-451-9276.

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By The Rositzke Family and Rita J. Egan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Despite the cold winds, students, business owners and elected officials took to East Setauket’s streets Dec. 15 to participate in the annual Three Village Electric Holiday Parade.

Floats and banners were decorated with holiday lights to brighten up the holiday season.

This year’s grand marshal was Michael Ardolino, a longtime past sponsor of the parade, of Realty Connect USA.

Along the route, spectators could be found bundled up and sporting lights themselves to show some holiday spirit. After the parade, Santa greeted visitors at the East Setauket Pond Park, and hot chocolate and cookies were served.

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The Ward Melville Heritage Organization welcomed hundreds for its 40th Holiday Festival in Stony Brook Village Center Dec. 8.

The event kicked off with the arrival of Santa in a Stony Brook Fire Department truck and the Legends and Spies puppets procession led by Tom Manuel, president and founder of The Jazz Loft, and a New Orleans brass band.

The parade featured 14-foot puppets representing local historical figures such as philanthropists Ward and Dorothy Melville, Culper spies Caleb Brewster, Benjamin Tallmadge and Anna Smith Strong, shipbuilder Capt. Jonas Smith and American genre painter William Sidney Mount.

There was music from community school bands plus a petting zoo, holiday train display, carolers and decorated holiday windows at Wiggs Opticians.

According to Santa, based on children’s requests, Pokémon items and the Barbie DreamHouse are making comebacks. Other gift wishes included train sets, toy trucks, iPhones, drones and Xboxes. Dolls were the biggest request as well as puppies, which Santa checks with mommies and daddies first since they are a big responsibility.

Three children requested for their brothers to come back from the military and one 5-year-old boy asked for peace and love.

 

Santa Claus took time off from his vacation to visit pediatric patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital July 29.

Decked out in shorts and flip flops topped off with his signature jacket and hat, Santa stopped by the children’s rooms at the hospital delivering gifts with the help of correction officers from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

For the second year in a row, Correction Officer Peter Lambert organized a toy collection to help Santa with his visit. The officer was impacted by the passing of Ryan Zinna, a child who suffered from medulloblastoma, and the toy drive was conducted in Ryan’s honor.

Patients and their siblings were excited to see Santa, and he didn’t forget the parents as those on hand received Starbucks gift cards.

Santa sat down and talked with each of the patients. Avery, 9, from Florida, who became sick while on vacation, said she would give a bigger toy she received from him to another child since she would be traveling on a plane the next day. Macklin, 11, from Wading River, was painting a model toy when Santa entered his room and told him how he wanted to be an engineer when he grows up. And 12-year-old Brady, from Aquebogue, told Santa he would be both the cops and robbers when he plays with his new toy.

We, the taxpayers of Suffolk County, believe that as a whole we’ve been pretty good in 2018. Many of us have been busy working long hours, sometimes in multiple jobs, to make ends meet and provide for our families given the high cost of living on the Island. Suffolk police report violent crime and hate crimes are down — we’ve been doing our best to behave. 

This holiday season we’re asking you, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), to double, no, triple check the list we know you’ve been diligently drafting up in Albany as to who’s been naughty or nice. We understand that you have nearly 20 million residents to look out for, but we have a holiday wish list we’d like you to consider before announcing your budget for the 2020 fiscal year: 

● Increase state aid to our public schools. School taxes make up the largest portion of our property tax bills. President Donald Trump’s (R) Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is about to hit this April, which limits homeowners to a $10,000 deduction of their state and local property, income and sales taxes. By increasing school funding, it will hopefully help keep future school budget increases low. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. File photo by Erika Karp

● Consider proposals to reconfigure Long Island Power
Authority. Long Islanders pay among the highest rates in the Northeast for their electricity; and any reorganizational measures or changes that could bring relief would bring financial relief. 

● In the alternative, push through legislation that would
allow municipalities and school districts who lose a tax base from utilities, such as LIPA, to access reserved state funds to
offset the impact on Suffolk taxpayers. 

● Provide more state funding and grants for alternative
energy. Our environment is sensitive from being on an island, and increasing our renewable energy resources would help
ensure clean water to drink, safe land to live on and, hopefully, lower costs of producing electricity. 

● Lay out state funding for sewers on Long Island. Many of our downtown areas are hurting financially, as business districts are struggling to consider growth without sewers. In addition, providing grants to help homeowners with the costs of transitioning from old-fashioned cesspools to modern systems should improve the area’s water quality.

● Set aside more money to repave and reconfigure our heavily traveled state roadways, such as Route 25 and 25A. Driving along these congested roadways brings several perils, including large potholes, inadequate street lighting and sections that flood in heavy rainstorms. Funds could be used to re-engineer troublesome spots that repeatedly cause accidents and repave sections that are in disrepair. 

In addition, we understand that you have plenty of elves, your fellow elected officials, who can help enact changes and allocate funds to help make the rest of our holiday wishes come true: 

● Start construction on the Rails to Trails project from Wading River through Mount Sinai. The project is much anticipated, but some funding and consideration must be made for neighboring property owners who want privacy of their homes and yards. 

Sure, we have quite the holiday wish list this year. But we hope you can see the gifts we’re asking for will benefit all.

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dear Santa,

Dr. David Dunaief

This time of year, people around the world are no doubt sending you lists of things they want through emails, blogs, tweets and old-fashioned letters. In the spirit of giving, I’d like to offer you some advice.

Let’s face it: You aren’t exactly the model of good health. Think about the example you’re setting for all those people whose faces light up when they imagine you shimmying down their chimneys. You have what I’d describe as an abnormally high BMI (body mass index). Since you are a role model to millions, this sends the wrong message.

We already have an epidemic of overweight kids, leading to an ever increasing number of type 2 diabetics at younger and younger ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2015, more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes. It complicates the issue that approximately two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight and/or obese. This is just one of many reasons we need you as a shining beacon of health.

Obesity has a much higher risk of shortening a person’s life span, not to mention quality of life and self-image. The most dangerous type of obesity is an increase in visceral adipose tissue, which means central belly fat. An easy way to tell if someone is too rotund is if a waistline, measured from the navel, is greater than or equal to 40 inches for a man, and is greater than or equal to 35 inches for a woman. The chances of diseases such as pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer and heart disease increase dramatically with this increased fat.

Santa, here is a chance for you to lead by example (and, maybe by summer, to fit into those skinny jeans you hide in the back of your closet). Think of the advantages to you of being slimmer and trimmer. Your joints wouldn’t ache with the winter cold, and you would have more energy. Plus, studies show that with a plant-based diet, focusing on fruits and vegetables, you can reverse atherosclerosis, clogging of the arteries.

The importance of a good diet not only helps you lose weight, but avoid strokes, heart attacks and peripheral vascular diseases, among other ailments. But you don’t have to be vegetarian; you just have to increase your fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods significantly. With a simple change, like eating a handful of raw nuts a day, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by half. Santa, future generations need you. Losing weight will also change your center of gravity, so your belly doesn’t pull you forward. This will make it easier for you to keep your balance on those steep, icy rooftops.

Exercise will help, as well. Maybe for the first continent or so, you might want to consider walking or jogging alongside the sleigh. As you exercise, you’ll start to tighten your abs and slowly see fat disappear from your midsection. Your fans everywhere leave you cookies and milk when you deliver presents. It’s a tough cycle to break, but break it you must. You — and your fans — need to see a healthier Santa. 

You might let slip that the modern Santa enjoys fruits, especially berries, and veggies, with an emphasis on cruciferous veggies like broccoli florets dipped in humus, which have substantial antioxidant qualities and can help reverse disease. And, of course, skip putting candy in the stockings. No one needs more sugar, and I’m sure that, over the long night, it’s hard to resist sneaking a piece, yourself.

As for your loyal fans, you could place fitness videos under the tree. In fact, you and your elves could make workout videos for those of us who need them, and we could follow along as you showed us “12 Days of Workouts with Santa and Friends.” Who knows, you might become a modern version of Jane Fonda or Richard Simmons or even the next Shaun T!

How about giving athletic equipment, such as baseball gloves, footballs and basketballs, instead of video games? You could even give wearable devices that track step counts and bike routes or stuff gift certificates for dance lessons into people’s stockings. These might influence the recipients to be more active.

By doing all this, you might also have the kind of energy that will make it easier for you to steal a base or two in this season’s North Pole Athletic League’s Softball Team. The elves don’t even bother holding you on base anymore, do they?

As you become more active, you’ll find that you have more energy all year round, not just on Christmas Eve. If you start soon, Santa, maybe by next year, you’ll find yourself parking the sleigh farther away and skipping from chimney to chimney.

The benefits of a healthier Santa will ripple across the world. Think about something much closer to home, even your reindeer won’t have to work so hard. You might also fit extra presents in your sleigh. And Santa, you will be sending kids and adults the world over the right message about taking control of their health through nutrition and exercise. That’s the best gift you could give!

Wishing you good health in the new year,

David

P.S. I could really use some new baseballs, if you have a little extra room in your sleigh.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician. 

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