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Susan Risoli

Marshall Irving poses with a clock that belonged to his grandfather. Photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

You don’t reach the age of 90 without learning a thing or two about living. For Setauket resident Marshall Irving, life is a bit like his favorite pastime of fixing antique clocks: value teamwork, be willing to listen and don’t forget to apply critical thinking when difficulties arise.

“Figure out what is going on and what you can do about it to make it better,” Irving said recently in an interview at his home. “And whether it’s a mechanical issue or something to do with people, bring an open mind about the problem you’re working on.”

Marshall Irving with his wife, Arline, recently celebrated his 90th birthday. Photo by Susan Risoli

Irving is an antiquarian horologist — someone who restores and maintains antique timekeeping devices. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization relies on his skills to keep its tower clock and landmark eagle in good running order. WMHO president, Gloria Rocchio, called Irving “one of the Three Village area treasures, just like the eagle.”

Irving has always been fascinated by the carved wooden eagle, which since 1941 has flapped its 10-foot wingspan from a vantage point atop the Stony Brook post office.

“The Stony Brook eagle is the only one we know of in the world,” Irving said.

He started working on the clock and the eagle 20 years ago.

“When I first got involved, the eagle was in such bad shape, it was shaking the building,” he recalled. “I put in a chain drive and a new gearbox to drive its wings.”

Back then he would climb up four flights of stairs to get to the big bird. “Then I made it, so we could work it out of a closet in the office by pushing buttons, rather than physically going up there,” he said.

“When I first got involved, the eagle was in such bad shape, it was shaking the building.”

— Marshall Irving

Irving was trained as a steamboat engineer at the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy. He and his wife, Arline, moved to the Three Villages when he went to work at the Dayton T. Brown company. He also served as a naval intelligence officer, which he said “was kind of fun.” The Irvings have four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren with a third great-grandchild on the way.

The Irvings’ home is filled with clocks, each playing a soft chorus of chimes that sound at different times with different notes. Hanging on the wall is “the first clock I got serious about fixing,” an 1860s Seth Thomas clock that was in Irving’s grandfather’s office at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The Mather House Museum in Port Jefferson has an antique clock collection that Irving restores and maintains. He runs a “clock school” there, where he teaches people how to restore antique clock mechanisms and finishes, and how to make the clocks look their best for public display. Irving said he teaches his students that patience and teamwork are essential to diagnosing and treating the problems of these delicate clocks.

“We have people come into our clock school and run out screaming because it doesn’t fit their mindset,” he said. “They don’t realize it takes years to learn these things.”

He added, “I’ve been doing this for 50 years, and there are still things I’m learning, every day.”

Irving said he will continue being an antiquarian horologist for his own pleasure and to spread the word about the beauty of aging clocks.

“I enjoy talking to people about it, because the ability to do this is starting to die out,” he said. “A sad thing for me is that we don’t teach children how to tell time anymore from an analog dial on a clock.”

Arline Goldstein and Natalie Weinstein together inside Studio 455 Art Gallery

By Susan Risoli

The St. James of the past was a gracious world, where locals were joined by artists and celebrities summering in the prosperous farming community. St. James of the present is a town marked by empty storefronts and limited opportunity for growth.

“St. James needs sprucing up,” said Eric Neitzel, owner of DeBarbieri Associates Real Estate agency and a member of Celebrate St. James. “If you look at Lake Avenue, it looks a little depressed.”

St. James residents at the summer concert series organized by Celebrate St. James.

Interior designer Natalie Weinstein helped form the nonprofit organization Celebrate St. James whose mission is to “develop community pride and involvement, and allow people to understand what we can have here.” She is owner of Uniquely Natalie, a high-end furniture consignment shop housed in the former location of the historic St. James Calderone Theater, and Studio 455 Art Gallery on Lake Avenue. 

Like Weinstein, many of the group’s members are lifelong St. James residents. They are proud of the town’s rich history. New York City mayor William J. Gaynor and his family lived at the Deepwells mansion, where notable figures such as Harry Houdini, Mae West and Madam C.J. Walker strolled through the parlor. 

“Our unique and special town has an auspicious history — but it has so much more,” reads a post on Celebrate St. James’ Facebook page. “It has spirit and pride and a desire to look back while looking forward. It has young and growing families, valued seniors, those who have been here for generations, and those who have just chosen to live and work in our wonderful hamlet because of who we are and what we stand for.” 

For their vision and determination to make St. James thrive once more, TBR News Media is honoring the members of Celebrate St. James as 2018 People of the Year. 

Since its formation in 2017, the group worked hard to create an 18-month calendar for 2018 featuring historic photos of the town and put together an outdoor concert series at the St. James Gazebo. 

Events scheduled for 2019 include a springtime silent film festival and an Art Walk slated for May 5, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For three weeks, more than 20 local artists will partner with St. James businesses along Lake Avenue to showcase their work, according to Arline Goldstein, a St. James resident and Celebrate St. James member. It is currently in the process of reaching out to visual artists, sculptors, photographers, potters, weavers, performing artists and others interested in participating in the event. 

Weinstein said Celebrate St. James has also applied for a grant to create a historic walking tour enhanced by kiosks that people could access via an app on their phones. 

Arline Goldstein and Natalie Weinstein. Photo by Kyle Barr

Celebrate St. James is continuing its work to create a Lake Avenue arts district that would stretch from the St. James firehouse on Route 25A to Woodlawn Avenue. The group first presented this idea to Town of Smithtown officials at their May 8 board meeting. 

“It’s in my heart for artists to show their work, and for others to see that work,” Goldstein told TBR News Media in May. “The project is the culmination of all my ideas about art.” 

Neitzel explained that the district could become a reality when the street is outfitted with a sewer system. In the new year, the first piece of the plan will move forward, with dry sewer mains scheduled to be installed on Lake Avenue. The town’s streets and sidewalks will also be redone. 

“Right now, development is hindered,” Neitzel said. “Eventually the commercial community, and an arts community surrounding it, will be piped into the sewers.” 

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R), the town board and its planning department have said they will help in any way they can. Smithtown officials and St. James community members, including representatives of Celebrate St. James, have been having regular meetings to plan out steps toward downtown revitalization, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. 

Weinstein and the organization’s hard work and persistence has not gone unnoticed by their neighbors. 

“Natalie is a phenomenal woman that’s done a tremendous amount for our town,” Tom Donohue, of St. James, said. She’s always looking for the future; she had a ton of energy.”

Goldstein also oversees a committee composed of residents, business owners, architects and representatives of the Town of Smithtown planning department. Goldstein said they are looking at various issues, including off-street parking and signage. 

“Right now signs are haphazard and not attractive,” she said. 

Goldstein said Celebrate St. James is strategizing ways to strengthen the relationship between the town and creative people. One goal is to have artists and musicians living and working in St. James, “to bring art from the studios right out into the community.”

“We can and will save this town through the arts,” Weinstein said. 

The members of Celebrate St. James are all volunteers. Together, they have embraced the challenge of navigating complex matters of zoning and funding, if it means restoring St. James to its former glory. 

“We have a big love for St. James,” Neitzel said, “It’s a wonderful town.” 

The cast performs the finale. Photo by Brian Hoerger

By Susan Risoli

There’s no reason why Theatre Three’s musical version of “Saturday Night Fever” can’t stand on its own, despite starting life as a famous film that defined an era. Audiences who grew up knowing John Travolta as Tony Manero should have open minds, right? Even when the opening night crowd includes one theater patron reenacting the “he hits my hair” scene … and a lady reminiscing about falling off her platform shoes … and a couple boogie-ing down the aisle to take their seats.

Above, the cast performs “Stayin’ Alive.’ Photo by Brian Hoerger

Fortunately for all, those memories didn’t get in the way during the show’s opening performance last Saturday night. The cast, crew and musicians of this version of “Saturday Night Fever” make it their own. We realize there will be subtlety at work here when the performance begins and we are told it’s July 1977, a sweltering summer when even Con Ed can’t take the heat. Then, when the cast takes the stage, they manage to look wilted and pent-up at the same time.

There is a sweetness in the characters as this cast brings them to life, and that’s a good thing. Nobody would dare say John Travolta, Donna Pescow and their colleagues weren’t great in the movie. But they looked older, wiser, already cynical and too tough to convey the fear behind their bravado. Under the direction of Jeffrey Sanzel, the Brooklyn residents on Theatre Three’s stage convince us that these people are kids, still in adolescence or barely out of it. They don’t know which way to turn — they’re lost and mixed-up. When the cast sings, “Life going nowhere, somebody help me,” we want to.

Bobby Peterson as Tony Manero delivers the physicality the role demands. This Tony can strut! But beyond Tony’s frustration, Peterson shows us his confusion, and that serves the story well. Maybe the neighborhood isn’t really the center of the universe? Maybe women can do things reserved for men, and vice versa? Peterson lets us hear the wheels turning in Tony’s head.

Bobby Peterson as Tony Manero and Rachel Greenblatt as Stephanie Romano. Photo by Brian Hoerger

When Tony meets his match in local-girl-made-good Stephanie Mangano, Rachel Greenblatt brings a different shading to the role. Stephanie’s upward mobility seems less grasping here, her ambition less brittle. She’s more like a real person, biting off more than she can chew and dealing with it. Greenblatt too brings the physicality her character needs, and with it a simplicity and economy of movement. With cool confidence, she ties a pretty scarf around her waist, and instantly her sweaty dance clothes become a chic ensemble. We understand why Tony chases her.

And then there’s Annette, played by Beth Whitford. As with all the actors, the youthful innocence of her interpretation of Annette makes the character more compelling. If anyone is trapped by the labels society slaps on you, it’s Annette. Nice girl? Whore? Young woman who makes her own rules? She doesn’t even know that other people don’t have the right to define her. We don’t know if she’ll end up victim or victor, but Whitford has us debating it long after the curtain comes down.

Surprisingly, this production is funny. Yes, the film had its comedic moments, but everything else was so heavy we didn’t laugh long. Here the comedy is part of the character’s daily lives. Tony and his friends are kids, after all, and sometimes kids act goofy. Also displaying skillful comedic timing are Jeff Pangburn as Frank Sr., Debbie D’Amore as Tony’s mother, and Steven Incarnato as Father Frank Jr. And do you have to be Italian to appreciate the show’s amusing cultural references? No, but it’s a sly treat if you are.

Bobby Peterson as Tony Manero. Photo by Brian Hoerger

And oh, the dancing, the costumes and the sets! Somehow we believe that the stage is a cavernous disco. When the full cast dances, it’s great fun to watch them. Remember that couple who take on Tony and Stephanie in the big dance contest? Their Latin dance routine is performed by Nicole Bianco and Alex Esquivel. Wow, just wow—control, passion and flow—something to see. Kudos to choreographer Whitney Stone, costume and wig designer Ronald Green III and scenic designer Randall Parsons for a job well done.

With musical direction by Jeffrey Hoffman, all of the songs are wonderful. Some are the classic 1970s tunes we already know from the Bee Gees — “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “Jive Talking,” “You Should Be Dancing,” and “How Deep is Your Love” — sung here as part of the developing story. The actors do a good job of bringing fresh meaning to old friends. There are new songs too, and they work well.

Sometimes the characters in Theatre Three’s “Saturday Night Fever” are content. Sometimes they explode. Sometimes they don’t know what comes next, and neither do we. But they are well worth hanging out with.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present ‘Saturday Night Fever’ through June 24. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. Children under 5 are not permitted. Contains adult subject matter and language. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Rachel Greenblatt and Bobby Peterson in a scene from 'Saturday Night Fever.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Susan Risoli

Theatre Three’s upcoming musical production of “Saturday Night Fever” has all the irresistible energy of the 1977 film, while it turns up the story and character development. Actor Bobby Peterson of Hampton Bays will tackle the role of Tony Manero, a Brooklyn kid who knows we should be dancin’ — and reaching for a dream. Sitting in the theater’s intimate Griswold’s Café during off-hours, 29-year-old Peterson talked about the show and its lasting appeal.

Why should people come to this show?

This production has so much to offer. It has dance. It’s going to be fun and uplifting. It has enticing and entertaining characters. And people will witness a very beautiful story. In the movie, I think, the story gets lost.

Bobby Peterson will star in Theatre Three’s upcoming musical, ‘Saturday Night Fever.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

How does this version handle the differences between ‘Saturday Night Fever’ as a movie versus the musical?

How do people deal with it when they read the Lord of The Rings books, versus when they see the movies? A book can do things differently than what a movie can do or what a stage play can do. I just try to look at a story that I’m trying to convey. The first thing I look for is, is this version complete, and continuous, and succinct? Does it have well-written dialogue? Does it have good compositions? A lot of that comes from Jeff [Sanzel, Theatre Three executive artistic director], as the director of the show. As an actor and performer, my job is to convey a director’s vision and an author’s vision, to the best of my ability. I think all actors should be humble in that concept. You’re here to act as an instrument to convey the thoughts and concepts of another person, as best you can. I try to put my own work in technique, in the type of voice and the different inflections I’m going to use, in the dancing and singing.

Is it intimidating to play a role that people are so familiar with?

It is an iconic role. I want to put my own spin on it, but I think a lot of people are going to come to the musical having their own ideas about what John Travolta brought to this role. When I talk to people about it, they talk about the impact of Travolta on the dance floor.

What’s the most fun thing for you, about being in the show?

This is one of those classic triple-threat roles and it’s a challenge to me because every step of the way, there is every facet of what musical theatre is. There’s a lot of dancing. And the script is 130 pages long. It’s a huge memory challenge because there are so many little moments that weave in and out of the dancing. The cast is amazing too. I must say, everyone who Jeff has cast is really great for their roles.

What’s the least fun thing?

Probably the drive here from [home in] Hampton Bays!

Tony Manero has so much swagger. How do you convey the vulnerable part of his personality?

An actor can only be as good as the writer. I feel very supported by the writers, and by the piece itself. It has set up and designed scenes for the actors to convey deeper parts, and different sides, of the characters. This rendition has a scene where after Tony wins a dance contest, he has a whole two pages speaking to Stephanie about how it’s not right that he won, because there’s a couple who danced better than him. That’s his epiphany.

Will the audience have fun?

Yes, there’s plenty of that. When numbers like “Stayin’ Alive” and “Disco Inferno” come on, it is full-cast dancing. The choreographer Whitney Stone has done an amazing job making use of the space that we have. She’s designed her choreography very well. And she’s included some of those dance moves that people are going to want to see.

How did you prepare for this role?

For a role this size, I’ll really micromanage myself. I get home as early as I can, and spend the whole next day focusing on making sure that I’ll be good for the next show. Sometimes after rehearsals, I’ll go to the gym because it is a physically taxing role. There’s a lot of lifts with partners. There’s a strong incentive to really muscle-build, to make sure one is strong enough and fit enough to perform. Mentally, I’m always thinking about the script. I’m always reading through lines in my head. And I grew up as a pianist, so I play the accompaniments myself and sing along with them.

Promotional materials for this production say that it features Tony as ‘humble paint store clerk by day, dance king by night.’ Do you think everyone has that duality inside of them?

No, I don’t. Sometimes what people yearn for is a simple life. I don’t think it’s necessarily everybody’s struggle. I don’t think it can be, for the same reason that there can’t be too many cooks in the kitchen. Sometimes we need people to be comfortable in what they do and what they are, to bring balance to everything.

In the sequel to the film, Tony finds success as a professional dancer. But not everyone can succeed so completely, or on that level. Should we still try?

People can find contentment that they did try. But never trying can eat away at your soul forever. If people feel a calling within them, they’re going to be much better off doing something about that.

What else would you like our readers to know about this show?

I’m very excited for people to come and see it, and then to see what their reaction will be. I don’t think people are going to get completely what they’re expecting and I’m very excited to see how people are going to handle that and how they’re going to react.

“Saturday Night Fever” will run from May 20 through June 24 on the Main Stage at Theatre Three, 412 E. Main St., Port Jefferson. Tickets for adults $35; seniors and students $28; children ages 5 to 12 $20. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.theatrethree.com or call 631-928-9100.

Above, a 1927 Ford Motel T greets visitors at the entrance of the exhibit. Photo by Julie Diamond

By Susan Risoli

Prohibition made the 1920s roar. Long Island was the center of all the glamour and danger of that whirlwind time, as we now know from Midnight Rum, a new exhibit on display through Sept. 4 at The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook.

“Being on a coast and having so many inlets, Long Island was a natural” for running illegal alcohol, said LIM Executive Director Neil Watson. Proximity to New York City was another factor. The exhibit, which Watson described as “unusually stimulating and rich,” reveals the daring and ingenuity of people making the most of an era that lasted from 1920 to 1933. “When alcohol was banned, it flourished,” he said, “but it flourished in a different way.”

Above, a still used by Roy Edwin Thompson of Roosevelt in the 1920s and ’30s. Photo by Julie Diamond

A massive car built for adventure greets the visitor to the gallery. Was this 1927 Ford Model T touring car one of the vehicles involved in illegal activity? We don’t know for sure. But memories and newspaper accounts reveal that similar Model Ts were the car of choice for smuggling booze. The one in the LIM show is a black chariot with a black leather interior. The running board alone could hold a small gang, and the button-tufted back seat looks made for shenanigans.

Assistant curator Jonathan Olly said he originally wanted to find a rum runner boat to display. He found someone willing to loan one for the exhibit. But the motorboat was just a foot too wide to fit into the gallery. “It was a disappointment,” he recalled.

After contacting multiple car collecting clubs and individuals, “some of whom are very elderly,” Olly turned up the Model T in the exhibit. The owner was willing to drive it out to Stony Brook from Bayside, Queens — no easy journey, given the distance and the car’s top speed of 40ish miles per hour. “We lucked out,” Olly said.

A vignette depicting the Suffrage movement. Photo by Julie Diamond

Olly and his colleagues found the perfect accompaniment to the car: vintage wooden crates just like those that would have been used to store liquor, “from a guy who sells reconditioned Jeep parts out in Riverhead.” The idea came from a 1924 newspaper article that described a Model T, found in a shed by authorities, with 13 cases of liquor hidden in it.

Midnight Rum is a feast of details. Some are luxurious, some are practical, but no less fascinating. A vignette of objects portraying a speakeasy includes a hand-beaded dress and a beautiful cut-glass bowl for punch (spiked, of course). A still based in somebody’s kitchen occupies another vignette, complete with beautifully preserved stove and the tubs and pots needed to cook up some home brew. Over in the corner, tacked up on the kitchen wall, is another LIM find: actual old recipes, written in carefully cursive penmanship. But this is not your grandmother’s coffee cake recipe. “Place in tub as is, stems and grapes,” says the instructions.

Other vignettes tell the story of the strong connection between the drive to make alcohol illegal and the fight for women’s suffrage. Equally compelling are the artifacts and objects that reveal how women, growing in political savvy and connections, helped lead the movement that ultimately repealed Prohibition.

Midnight Rum is a multimedia exhibit. The sounds of oral histories, projected on a screen, draw the viewer in. A short film on the perils of drink is entertaining, while it explains the thinking and emotions that led to Prohibition in the first place. The film’s string- and woodwind-filled score might be familiar to anyone who remembers the Little Rascals or Bugs Bunny.

A speakeasy vignette. Photo by Julie Diamond

Olly said although Long Island played a key role in what he called “a very extreme moment in American culture, when alcohol suddenly became illegal,” there were challenges in putting the exhibit together. “Everyone has some sort of anecdote about Prohibition,” he said, but often anecdotes are … well … only anecdotal. Finding all the objects needed to tell the story properly was a complex task, he said, and consequently “a lot of the objects are borrowed. It’s not a story we could tell without a number of lenders.”

Olly and his colleagues found parallels between the Prohibition era and today’s America. There was economic inequity, with poor people being affected more directly by the alcohol ban than their wealthy counterparts who could afford to stockpile liquor or frequent fancy speakeasies.

Many of the alcohol brewers of the time, in the New York metropolitan area, were German-American. And saloons were important places for Italian and German immigrants to gather, to find out about work and socialize in what Olly called “a public drinking culture.”

“There was some anti-immigrant sentiment, a nativism,” he said. “There were issues of citizenship — who should have access to resources and who shouldn’t.”

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will present in the Visitors Center through Sept. 4. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m. Regular admission is $10, $7 for seniors and $5 for students ages 6 to 17. Children under 6 and museum members are admitted free. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

‘Sinking Feeling’ by Margaret Minardi. Image from STAC

By Susan Risoli

‘One Nation Under Surveillance,’ fiberglass and epoxy, by Anthony Freda. Photo from STAC

When the everyday state of things starts to look different, what happens then? Who defines what’s “real” and what isn’t? Visitors to the Connecting Art to Life exhibit, which opens this Saturday at the Mills Pond House Gallery in St. James, may find themselves asking these questions.

And that’s just fine with Smithtown Township Arts Council Executive Director Allison Cruz, who said in a recent interview she hopes the exhibit, which features the work of artists Margaret Minardi and Anthony Freda, will start a conversation about the meeting of life and art.

This is the first time Cruz invited only two artists to be part of a Mills Pond show. She was moved by the determination of these two to keep on expressing themselves through their individual projects. “Anthony and Margaret teach and have families,” Cruz said. “Yet they both said to me, ‘It doesn’t matter how busy I am. I have to make art.’”

Cruz came up with the show’s title Connecting Art to Life, inspired by the ways Freda and Minardi take isolated aspects of daily living and translate that into something to which people can respond. It’s a process similar to the purpose of an art space, she said. “I think people are intimidated by the thought of going to an art gallery,” Cruz explained, “but really it’s a place to get information about what’s going on in your world right now.” Take it all in, “then do with it what you will.”

Margaret Minardi

Artist Margaret Minardi


Margaret Minardi’s world changed through her desire to become pregnant. She adopted two children after a personal journey that resulted in an infertility diagnosis. Her series of pieces in the Mills Pond House Gallery show were inspired by Minardi becoming a mother.

The works were rendered in colored pencil some years ago, after she discovered she could no longer use oil paint because she’d become allergic to it. She turned the potential setback into a mission to continue with colored pencil, “even though I didn’t know if I could erase, or blend color over color. Hour after hour I practiced.” These days, her media include collage and acrylic paint, she said.

Growing up in Trinidad left Minardi with lasting memories of “the specific color of water in the Caribbean.” Her pieces on exhibit at the Mills Pond House are done in aquamarine blue, and many of the figures “are in fishtanks, or some water situation.” The work juxtaposes realism with expressionism, presenting a story through many layers. The artist invites her viewers to interpret what’s going on beneath the surface of her pieces.

Minardi is about to retire after 30 years of teaching drawing and painting in the Northport-East Northport school district. “I’ve been so lucky,” she said. “I get to be around art from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep.” She doesn’t always know what a project is going to turn into and is sometimes surprised by the result, she said, “but it’s just important that I keep my pencil on the paper at all times. If you keep your hand moving, it becomes something important that comes from deep within.”

Anthony Freda

‘Solution’ by Anthony Freda

Anthony Freda’s 28 pieces in the Mills Pond House Gallery show are collage, his own paintings on found surfaces, limited edition prints and sculpture. As a Mount Sinai resident who grew up in Port Jefferson, he wanted to connect with a local art community and said this show seemed a good way to do it. Freda, an editorial illustrator and adjunct faculty member for the Fashion Institute of Technology, said throughout his career “I try to be honest and think about how I can best represent that with my art.”

Freda is drawn to themes of war and peace, freedom, civil liberties and encroachments upon them. “Things that impact society as a whole and impact me personally are things I want to comment on,” he said. Bombs, birds, pinup girls, reassuring American ephemera repurposed with contemporary social commentary, all can be found in his work. Humor infuses many of his pieces.

News about current events can be “provocative and emotional,” Freda said, and he’s trying to bring it all together and process it. “We’re all bombarded with memes, and disparate ideas, and news,” he said, so people will bring their own ideas when they see his work. Though some people avoid the news, saying it overwhelms them, Freda’s commentary continues. “Sometimes the truth is not popular,” he said. “Sometimes my work is not popular, but that’s almost irrelevant.” For him, it’s about defining the era he lives in, “in the way I want to define it, while trying to be honest and objective.”

The Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Mills Pond House Gallery, 660 Route 25A, St. James will present Connecting Art to Life from April 22 through May 13. There will be an opening reception April 22 from 2 to 4 p.m. The reception and exhibit are free and open to the public. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.stacarts.org.

Kate Calone checks out an end table at the organization’s warehouse in Port Jefferson Station. File photo by Susan Risoli

Furniture is a necessity. It allows a family to sit at a table and eat together. It gives children a place to do homework. It provides the opportunity to open one’s home to guests. It’s essential for a good night’s sleep.

People transitioning from homelessness, domestic violence shelters, military service or displacement following a disaster need more than just a roof over their heads.

Inspired by a youth mission trip to a furniture bank just outside Washington, D.C., Kate Calone wondered if such a service would fly on Long Island. For some, this might have been a daunting task, but Calone set about researching and planning. She organized a feasibility committee and piloted the group to take off.

The Open Door Exchange is rounding out its second year of operations, having served more than 300 Long Island families and individuals in need. Referred by social service agencies and nonprofits, people can “shop” with dignity, by appointment at the organization’s rented Port Jefferson Station warehouse, which is configured to resemble a furniture store. All pieces are free of charge.

For her compassion, determination and leadership in helping Long Islanders in need, Calone is one of Times Beacon Record News Media’s People of the Year for 2016.

A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, Calone spent six years as an attorney before entering the Princeton Theological Seminary. When she and her husband Dave, who ran against Anna Throne-Holst in the 2016 Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District and Suffolk County judge, returned to Long Island to raise their three children, Calone worked at the First Presbyterian Church in Northport before joining the Setauket Presbyterian Church as associate pastor, to work with the Youth Group.

Residents walked on the Greenway Trail to raise funds and awareness for Open Door Exchange. File photo by Susan Risoli

When she returned from D.C., she told retired Setauket businessman and church member Tom Kavazanjian her idea and asked if he’d be interested in helping. Having great respect for Calone and her worthwhile cause, he said yes.

“Kate’s leadership is unique,” he said. “She leads with a quiet confidence and is one of the most unassuming and selfless people I know. Everything she does, she does with such grace.”

With a lot of planning — and the help of a group of dedicated volunteers — Open Door Exchange was launched in January 2015, recounted Stony Brook resident and retired school teacher Diane Melidosian, who was also an early recruit.

“This was no easy undertaking,” she said. “Since there is no cost to the recipient, all costs associated with this program are handled through fundraising, grant writing and contributions.”

There were lots of logistics to be worked out and the committee used A Wider Circle, the furniture bank in the outskirts of D.C., as a model.

East Setauket resident Bonnie Schultz said being a part of the creation of Open Door Exchange energized her.

“I’d never been part of a startup,” she said. “It’s exciting. And [the organization] has grown by leaps and bounds. The amount of furniture that goes in and out of [the warehouse] is incredible.”

She said even some clients come back to volunteer.

Another member of the exploratory committee, Stony Brook therapist Linda Obernauer, said the youngsters who traveled on the mission played an important part in advancing the idea of a Long Island furniture bank.

“Kate got more interested as the kids got into it,” she said, adding that Calone has served as a role model to many of them. “People who are ‘of the fiber’ do the right thing. Kate doesn’t have to have accolades, she helps people because that’s who she is.”

The first section of the greenway opens in 2009. Charlie McAteer (red shirt) watches as Herb Mones and Steve Englebright (holding scissors) cut the ribbon. Photo from Nick Koridis

By Susan Risoli

What could have been a highway nobody wanted became a nature trail everyone loves. The nearly-3.5-mile Setauket to Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail is maintained by hometown people, with a little help from members of local and state governments.

Charles McAteer of Friends of the Greenway helps with a clean up. File photo by Alex Petroski

The volunteer organization Friends of the Greenway, and civic groups that support its work, are Times Beacon Record News Media’s People of the Year for the attention paid to a place enjoyed by many.

Community activism for the trail started in the 1980s, with a task force formed by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). The group wanted to stop the proposed construction of a four-lane Route 25A bypass highway, on New York State Department of Transportation land stretching from East Setauket to Port Jefferson Station. Englebright secured $2.1 million in state funds for design and construction of a greenway. The first section of the trail opened in 2009, and the project was completed with $5 million in federal transportation funds obtained by U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton).

Friends of the Greenway, a group affiliated with the Three Village Community Trust, grew out of the concern of those who wanted to watch over and improve the trail. Chairman Charlie McAteer said that through the friends’ trail stewardship program, people can “adopt” a section of the greenway. By taking ownership, volunteers agree to walk the path, removing litter and debris.

Stewards prune and mow vegetation, and supervise cleanups in their section. Any problems the trail stewards can’t resolve on their own — a fallen tree or broken lights — are referred to the community trust, to the Town of Brookhaven or to the DOT.

“Ultimately, government can only do so much,” McAteer said. “You always need people looking after things and helping maintain. You need those eyes and ears.”

Englebright said that just as the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station greenway connects communities, the Friends of the Greenway is the group that works to bring people together and engages them.

“Through scheduled cleanups and community programing, the Friends of the Greenway work step-by-step to encourage a culture of caring and connection that results in making the greenway a better place,” he said. “The friends should also be applauded for bringing local Scout troops into the mix, through volunteer days and being a prime location for Eagle Scout community service projects.”

Herb Mones, a member of the Three Village Community Trust’s board, said at first, some didn’t understand what a greenway could bring to their lives.

“There are many greenways around the country, but not many in Suffolk County,” he said, adding he feels that once the trail became a reality people embraced it. “A lot of people use it every single day because now they can see, feel and touch it.”

Trail steward Susan Colatosti keeps a close eye on the trail from her own property bordering the greenway. If she sees a sign knocked down or garbage cans overflowing, she reports the issue. When she sees litter clutter on the landscape while walking, she picks it up. Colatosti and other volunteers planted daffodils along the trail.

Eagle Scout Nick Brigantino (in uniform), from Boy Scout Troop 229 in Selden, leads an effort to install a bat house. Photo by Nick Koridis

“The trail has preserved this open space for posterity,” Colatosti said. “It’s a wonderful way for people to walk safely and see their neighbors.”

Boy Scout unit commissioner Nick Koridis spreads the word to local Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops, who have held car washes to raise funds to buy recycled plastic lumber for benches along the trail, and have donated labor to install the benches. Other projects have included installing mile markers, birdhouses, bat houses and street crossing signs. Younger kids clean up the trail with their parents.

“It’s all for the community,” Koridis said. “For the Scouts themselves, taking care of the greenway lets them have fun outdoors while learning the skills of working together.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) also has been involved with the trail since its beginning.

The greenway is “sustained by the labor of devoted volunteers, and because of their care the trail binds the hearts of two communities,” Hahn said. “The partnership of government and community has become the foundation of a recreational space that not only unites these hamlets to one another, but also to all people from across Long Island.”

Setauket Harbor Day is an annual event on the North Shore. Photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

The Setauket Harbor Task Force will host its second annual Harbor Day for the community, on Saturday, June 18, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The free event will take place on Shore Road, at the Setauket Harbor dock and beach. This year’s theme is “celebrate the magic of the natural harbor.”

Task Force trustee George Hoffman said the all-volunteer, not-for-profit group works for cleaner water in the harbor. The organization grew out of shared concerns that the area was starting to degrade, Hoffman said, and because local people thought “it looked like the harbor was struggling.”

There will be free boat rides every half-hour as part of the event, Hoffman said. Visitors will be invited to experience touch tanks full of clams, hermit crabs and snails.

There will be kayak exhibits, talks about shoreline vegetation and marine animals and lessons on how to render the local environment with watercolors. Live music and food will be on hand.

The past year has been a busy one for the Setauket Harbor Task Force, Hoffman said, and now “we’ve become the go-to group for information about the water quality and marine environment in Setauket.” Members speak at meetings of local civic organizations, “telling people things they can do to keep the harbor clean.” The Task Force has been working with Brookhaven Town to reduce stormwater runoff from surrounding roads into the harbor, he said.

Hoffman said the Task Force applied in May, together with the town, for a $35,000 federal grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue the harbor cleanup. The funds would also be used to make the water and its shoreline more accessible for recreational use. Hoffman said word will come in August as to whether or not the grant application is approved. “We know the town is strapped for resources,” Hoffman said. “So we try to come up with some resources, by partnering with them on grants.” The Task Force works closely with Brookhaven Town, Hoffman said, and “[Town] Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright are partners with us.”

The Task Force plans to work with the town, Hoffman said, to unclog Setauket Pond, the body of water next to the Se-Port Deli on Route 25A, so that the pond can do a better job of straining pollutants out of stormwater runoff. “That drainage basin is so important to the health of the harbor,” he said. “The town of Brookhaven will dredge the pond and clean it, so that it can catch heavy metals and prevent them from going into the harbor.” And when invasive vegetation and dead brush is cleared from the pond, it will help make the harbor more visible to passers-by, Hoffman said.

In the past year, the Setauket Harbor Task Force was registered as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, and was appointed to the Long Island Sound Study, an environmental research and restoration collaboration between the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the states of New York and Connecticut and concerned citizens.

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Clean lines and an open feel – many home reno clients want those concepts to be expressed in their daily living. Photo courtesy of Setauket Kitchen & Bath

By Susan Risoli

Spring brings a feeling that all is fresh and new. For many homeowners, this is the season for freshening up their living spaces, with a renovation project or a new interior design. This spring some trends are emerging in the ways people want to enjoy their homes.

Denis Lynch, owner of Setauket Kitchen and Bath in Setauket, finds that clients expect to use color differently than in years past. Paul Rosen, owner of Paul A. Rosen Interior Design in Commack, agreed. Lynch said today’s kitchen designs often include “a little splash of color,” expressed in the color of the cabinets or in the color of the hood over the stove. Or the client might ask to make the kitchen island a different color from the rest of the room, “or maybe use color in an accent piece on a far wall.”

But the colors are “nothing too bold,” Lynch said. “People are going for muted colors now.” Rosen said that when it comes to kitchen cabinets, his clients have been leaning toward “light color wood, with glazes.” When it comes to wall paint colors, mushroom, taupe and very light shades of purple are popular now, Rosen noted. So is gray. “Don’t look at gray as being dark,” he advised. “Using multiple shades of gray, that’s very handsome.”

Many homeowners are paring down and embracing an uncluttered way of life, and their home design choices may reflect that. “If anything is trending, it’s that people are going a little bit more contemporary,” Rosen said. “They want very clean, straight, simple lines.” Lynch said he finds the same preference for a simple, clean look is making itself known when clients come in to discuss a new kitchen or bathroom. One way that is evident is “instead of frosted shower doors or shower curtains, they want clear glass doors,” he said. “It also makes the room seem bigger.”

There are also trends in the materials used in home renovation and decorating. An industrial feel, with stainless steel elements throughout the home, is growing in popularity, Rosen said. For the latest looks in countertops and vanities, “quartz has come a long way,” Lynch said. The material is actually a composite of ground natural quartz mixed with polymer resin, via a manufacturing process. “It used to look very fake, like plastic,” Lynch said. “Now it looks more like natural stone, even though it is a man-made product.”

Setauket Kitchen and Bath has been using mostly porcelain flooring, Lynch said, and what is “very popular now” is porcelain tile that resembles wood flooring.

Wallpaper is making a strong comeback, Rosen said. He thinks it’s because “wallpaper stays clean forever. And you can get patterns today that are just phenomenal.” Choosing wallpaper instead of paint, he said,” is a good way to get a nice, dramatic look.”

Some aspects of putting a home together are classic, regardless of trends. Rosen said some types of furniture — such as sectionals — will always be in vogue if the room can accommodate it. As for fabrics, he has found that cottons and linens never go out of style.

Another thing that doesn’t change is the way design professionals interact with their clients. Some people have strong ideas about their home projects. Others need more guidance. Lynch recalled one customer who came into his showroom with “an old glass soap dispenser and asked us to design a bathroom that would coordinate with it.” But other clients aren’t sure what they want. “As a full-service construction company and design center, we take the project from design to completion,” Lynch said. “We have designers on staff, who will talk them through the project.”

Something for interior design clients to remember is that “you have to bond with your decorator, like you’re going on a date with somebody,” Rosen said. He starts the relationship off on the right foot by interviewing a client, to find out what appeals to them about their home and what they would like to change. Decorators can keep the relationship harmonious, he advised, by understanding that each client has a budget to work with. “Nobody ever says to their decorator, ‘Here’s my checkbook. Spend all the money you want,’” Rosen said. “You have to be frank and honest about how much things are going to cost.”

Part of what his clients are paying for is that “I am the insurance package that helps you not to make a mistake” in home décor, Rosen said. Thanks to their specialized knowledge and skills, “Decorators can mix different patterns very cleverly, like putting a plaid and a stripe together.”