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T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park

The Stony Brook Post Office is one of the stops on the Stony Brook Village Audio Experience. Photo courtesy of Sean Mills

Stony Brook Village has announced that the Stony Brook Village Audio Experience is now available and can be enjoyed on your own time and at your own pace! The experience is free to the public and will allow all visitors of Stony Brook Village to immerse themselves in the quirky history and stories of the lifestyle center and some of its surrounding properties. The audio experience is obtained by scanning QR codes throughout the village and is also available at audio.stonybrookvillage.com.

Currently, the experience has ten stops, and covers the history and the stories from the Three Village Inn’s original residents to the entire development of Stony Brook Village Center. It is recommended that participants of the experience begin at the Three Village Inn. Additional stories about the Country House (c.1710), the Stony Brook Grist Mill (c.1751) — including the first vineyard on Long Island, and T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park will be added soon.

To learn more about events and activities in Stony Brook Village Center, visit stonybrookvillage.com.

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Local elected officials join WMHO chairman and president, Richard Rugen and Gloria Rocchio and the Minuses' daughter Cynthia Ann Murphy at the ribbon cutting. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A near hurricane couldn’t keep T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park from being a focal point of Stony Brook village.

Photo by Rita J. Egan

After Tropical Storm Isaias ripped through Long Island in August of 2020, the park, which runs adjacent to Avalon Nature Preserve, needed several repairs. The storm knocked down more than a dozen trees and destroyed the park’s braille engraved handrails, the borders maintaining the park’s gardens, the walkways along the pond and more.

At a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 18, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization presented the first phase of rehabilitation, which included new pathways and memorial stones. The second phase will include the repairing of the braille handrails and sensory gardens on the north side of the 1-acre park by Harbor Road.

At the dedication, Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman and a retired chiropractor, remembered Minuse who was one of his first patients. Minuse was the right-hand man of philanthropist Ward Melville when the village was being built and in the early days of Stony Brook Community Fund, which is now known as WMHO. Rugen described Minuse as “a straight-arrow guy.”

He also remembered Minuse’s wife, Elinore, who he described as having perfect posture and with a crown of white hair. He added she was a lady who was equally comfortable arguing a bill with the local garbage carter and could have high tea with the queen.

He said he believed the Minuses would be pleased with the renovated park: “In my heart, I know if they had the capacity to look down on us today, they would both be happy and proud to see the rededication of the T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park in his honor.”

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Rugen added that WMHO was grateful for the residents and businesses that contributed to the fundraiser to restore the park, which was originally dedicated to Minuse Dec. 6, 1981.

Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president, said soon after she and her husband moved to Stony Brook, more than 40 years ago, Minuse announced he was retiring, and she interviewed for his job. She was one out of six or seven interviewees. Rocchio added that the board voted unanimously to hire her. Minuse stayed on as a consultant for a year and to help guide Rocchio through the various responsibilities of running the organization.

“I’ll never forget that man,” she said.

Rocchio added that recently WMHO staff began scanning documents, which will soon be on the organization’s website, and have learned more about Minuse.

Joining the WMHO trustees for the ribbon-cutting ceremony were state Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James), state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Head of the Harbor Mayor Douglas Dahlgard and Cynthia Ann Murphy, the Minuses’ daughter, and her family.

Photo from The Jazz Loft

By Heidi Sutton

The T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park in Stony Brook suffered extensive wind damage during Tropical Storm Isaias on Aug. 4. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Last Thursday, Nov. 12, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) hosted a New Beginnings Virtual Party fundraiser to benefit the restoration and maintenance of a very special place — the T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park aka the Stony Brook Duck Pond. Located along Main Street in Stony Brook Village adjacent to the Grist Mill, the charming park has been enjoyed by countless families over the years.

This past summer Tropical Storm Isaias ripped through the park and uprooted over a dozen trees. There was also major damage to the park’s Braille engraved handrails, the borders maintaining the gardens and the walkways along the pond.

The 90 minute live Zoom event was hosted by Richard Wiese, President of The Explorer’s Club in NYC and host of PBS’s Born to Explore and co-host of Weekends with Yankee.

News 12 reporter Elisa DiStefano

Now living in Connecticut, Wiese grew up in Head of the Harbor and has always had a special connection to the park. “I just have so many fond memories of the Mill Pond. The more I travel around the world, the more I see how special and unique the Stony Brook area is. I can actually say that the Village of Stony Brook may be even prettier than it was in the 1960s when I first became familiar with it,” he said.

The fun evening included an appearance by award-winning reporter and News 12 host of Road Trip Close to Home, Elisa DiStefano; and host of Fox Nation: Celebrate America and five-time New York Times bestselling author, including George Washington’s Secret Six, Brian Kilmeade. The event also featured performances by Tom Manuel and The Jazz Loft’s Equity Brass Band; America’s Got Talent finalist, Sal “the Voice” Valentinetti; and comedian Rich Walker.

Comedian Rich Walker

DiStefano, who grew up in Hauppauge, visited the park right after the storm and covered the story for News 12. “Stony Brook Village I grew up going to as a treat … Because of the extensive damage [from the storm] it looked like a war zone that day but meeting Gloria Rocchio [President of the WMHO] and her team and seeing their positivity, there was no doubt in my mind that they would do everything they could to restore the area to what it was before,” she said.

Kilmeade, who hosted the evening’s interactive history challenge, “A History Mystery,” lauded Rocchio and the WMHO for keeping the past and Ward Melville’s vision alive. “You can go to [Stony Brook Village] and you really think you’ve gone back 200 years … during the holidays it looks like a movie set. I believe that’s what Ward Melville wanted. He wanted everyone to remember what it was like. While we move forward with progress we can still go back in time.”

Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti

The virtual party was the perfect instrument to introduce the WMHO’s New Beginnings online auction to raise money for this wonderful cause. Available through Dec. 16, it features items starting at $50 and covers everything from travel, fashion, art, antiques, food and wine, health and wellness and unique experiences. Generously donated auction items include a private four-person fishing charter, a family portrait session, a military tank ride, dinner for 4 aboard a superyacht, pizza every month for a year, a golf outing for four, an exclusive champagne toast and drinks for six at the Explorer’s Club with Richard Wiese, a trip to Barbados and much, much more.

The New Beginnings Online Auction is as easy as eBay with free registration to bid on the auction items. You will be notified if someone outbids you and you can bid again and again. The successful bidder’s card will not be charged until the last day of the auction — at midnight on Dec. 16, giving guests plenty of time to compete for a good cause.

100% of the funds generated from this event will support the restoration and maintenance of the T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park.

To register for the New Beginnings Online Auction, please visit wmho.org/the-ward-melville-heritage-organization/virtualbenefit/. For more information, please call 631-751-2244.