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Ward Melville Heritage Organization

WMHO to host 6th annual talent show contest

Attention Long Island students! Can you carry a tune? Or is a musical instrument your specialty? If so, get your audition DVD or YouTube video submitted now for Long Island’s Got Talent 2018, hosted by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO). Created by WMHO’s Youth Corps, the event gives Long Island students the opportunity to showcase their talents this spring.

The competition is open to students 10 to 17 years of age in Nassau or Suffolk County who must still be in high school at the time final awards are given in October of this year. Talent must be non-professional vocal or musical instrument performances. The entry deadline is April 6 and there is a $25 entry fee. Those who are contacted after submitting their audition will be asked to perform at the first round competition on Saturday, April 14 at 2 p.m. at WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main Street in the Stony Brook Village Center. Finalists chosen will also be given the opportunity to perform at WMHO’s Sunday Summer Concerts series in July and August.

For full details and Official Entry Form, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.stonybrookvillage.com/what-to-do-events/.

Olivia Newton-John
Celebrating the lives of Linda Ronstadt & Olivia Newton-John

By Ed Blair

Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England, and raised in Melbourne, Australia. Linda Ronstadt was born in Tucson, Arizona. “They were polar opposites in fashion style, song content and personality,” said Sal St. George, longtime creator of productions chronicling the lives of popular stars of the past and present. “And yet,” he continued, “Olivia and Linda had very similar beginnings and successes.”

Thus the reason that St. George has paired the two iconic songstresses in a Living History Production titled Tribute: Linda Ronstadt & Olivia Newton-John, a heartwarming holiday show that will run from Nov. 19 through Jan. 10 at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village.

“Country, pop, opera, rock, Broadway — they successfully conquered all music genres and became music legends,” he added. The celebration of the lives of the two internationally famous singers focuses on their incredible stories, and audiences will thrill once again to their classic songs.

The show’s motif will be familiar to St. George fans. “The program will follow the same format as in the past,” he explained, “except we have two of the most popular singers of the seventies as our stars. We are in the year 1978. Olivia is riding high with the success of ‘Grease.’ Linda is astounding New York audiences in ‘The Pirates of Penzance.’ Both shows will be discussed in the program, and, along with the songs of the stars, seventies’ fashions will be highlighted.”

Linda Ronstadt’s singing career was quite diversified. Beginning with her work as lead vocalist for the folk-rock group Stone Poneys in the mid-1960s (“Different Drum” scored high on the ratings charts), Ronstadt pursued country, alt-country, country rock, pop rock, Latin and classic jazz genres. Along the way, she put together the band that became the Eagles, won a dozen Grammy Awards and was christened the “Queen of Country Rock.”

By the mid-1970s, Ronstadt’s image became just as famous as her music. In 1976, she appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone and was also featured on a TIME magazine cover in 1977. She was the top-selling female vocalist of the 1970s and produced a succession of platinum albums on into the ’80s. Ronstadt’s popularity continued into the ’90s, and beyond.

In a 2011 interview with the Arizona Daily Star, Ronstadt announced her retirement and sadly, in August 2013, she revealed to AARP that she was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, saying “I can no longer sing at all.” In an April 2016 interview, Ronstadt is quoted as saying, “I can’t sing anymore. That’s that. I can still sing in my brain but I can’t sing. It’s just the way it is. If you’re going to have Parkinson’s you’d better have a sense of humor.”

Actress Emily Tafur, who portrays Ronstadt in the WMHO production, noted, “I feel challenged and appreciated and honored to be portraying one of the great music legends of our time.”

Olivia Newton-John was known in the UK and Australia for her performances on television and in clubs, but her fame grew further when she came to the United States. Her hit recording “I Honestly Love You” (1974 Record of the Year) garnered a Grammy Award, and more successful albums followed. Newton-John really rocketed to international stardom, however, for her role in the 1978 film “Grease,” in which she co-starred with John Travolta.

Although she received another Grammy in 1981 for her hit, “Let’s Get Physical,” Newton-John’s musical career waned somewhat in the 1980s. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and underwent a partial mastectomy. She has since donated portions of the proceeds of her appearances to cancer research and has recorded songs she designed to provide hope and courage to cancer patients and their families. Continuing her advocacy, Newton-John organized a charity walk along the Great Wall of China with other cancer survivors to raise funds to build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne. During the past year, the singer learned that the cancer had returned, and she is currently undergoing treatment.

Cierra Ervin, who portrays Olivia Newton-John, offered these comments: “This is a daunting and exciting experience! To portray such an identifiable entertainer has been a dream come true. We think audiences will have a wonderful holiday experience at the show.”

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, located at 97P Main St. in Stony Brook Village will present Tribute: Linda Ronstadt and Olivia Newton-John on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m., and on Sundays at 12:30 p.m. on the following dates: Nov. 19, 25, 26, 29 and 30; Dec. 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 17, 20 and 21; and Jan. 3, 4, 6, 7 and 10.

Partially sponsored by the Roosevelt Investment Group, admission is $48 adults, $45 seniors and children under 15 and $40 groups of 20 or more. Performances are followed by a luncheon, tea and dessert. Reservations must be made in advance by calling 631-689-5888. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.

This post was updated Nov. 17 to correct pricing for seniors and children.

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The Ward Melville Heritage Organization presented its 27th annual Halloween festival at the Stony Brook Village Center Oct. 31. Children were able to trick or treat from shop to shop, enjoy pumpkin painting, games and crafts.

OUR REVOLUTIONARY STORY The weather cooperated as the community came out in droves for the 3rd annual Culper Spy Day on Sept. 16. Ticket holders were able to visit 15 locations in the Three Village and Port Jefferson area and learned how people lived during the Revolutionary War with blacksmithing and colonial cooking demonstrations, and about the infamous Culper Spy Ring which originated from Setauket. Historic churches and the oldest home in Brookhaven, the Brewster House, opened their doors to tours on this rare occasion.

All photos by Greg Catalano

The 265-year-old Arthur House, located on the corner of New York Avenue and Main Street, has historic ties to Long Island’s Culper Spy Ring. Photo by Kevin Redding

A neglected, pre-Revolutionary War house on the corner of New York Avenue and Main Street in Smithtown and other historically significant structures in the area could help boost the town’s future, according to a Smithtown historian.

Smithtown scholar Corey Victoria Geske urged for Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) and town council members to draft a resolution to start a Town Hall National Register Historic District in the downtown area at the Aug. 8 town board meeting, which, according to her, would serve to benefit the region’s economy. 

She asked the resolution be expedited by the Town Planning Department in cooperation with the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities as well as the community.

The proposed historic district, which Geske first proposed to the board about eight months ago, would center on the town hall building — built in 1912 by St. James architect Lawrence Smith Butler — and include the 106-year-old Trinity AME Church on New York Avenue, the 105-year-old Byzantine Catholic Church of the Resurrection on Juniper Avenue and the 265-year-old Arthur House.

The Arthur House is located at the corner of New York Avenue and Main Street in Smithtown. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Arthur House is the only Revolutionary War-era house on the Route 25A Spy Trail, Geske said, and currently sits on the grounds of the Smithtown Central School District. It’s a property she has pushed in the past to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Geske informed the board that the house, built in 1752, was once inhabited by Mary Woodhull Arthur, the daughter of Abraham Woodhull — better known as Samuel Culper Sr. — George Washington’s chief operative during the famous spy ring. The intelligence he provided helped win the American Revolution.

Her recent call for the historic district coincided with the July 27 bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) designating the Washington Spy Ring National Historic Trail. The trail runs through towns and villages in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, including Smithtown along Route 25A.

“Let Smithtown lead the way in a big way by capitalizing on its own special history and world-class architecture added to the heritage now being recognized at the state and national levels for all towns along the Route 25A Washington Spy Trail from Great Neck to Port Jefferson,” Geske said at the board meeting. “The Washington Spy Trail wouldn’t exist if not for the father of Mary Woodhull Arthur of Smithtown, a true daughter of the American Revolution.”

She also noted The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and North Shore Promotion Alliance were granted funds from the state to install signs along the trail in May.

The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities has listed the Arthur House as endangered for more than 10 years. Photo by Kevin Redding

Geske said registering the Arthur House would be beneficial to the town as it could bring about possible grants from the state for the restoration and stabilization of old properties and promote more tourism in that area.

“The Arthur House was on the SPLIA’s endangered list over 10 years ago and it’s a building that’s been proposed for demolition,” she said. “These are the buildings that have been cast off in the past. [But] they actually could become the cornerstone for revitalizing downtown Smithtown. The history can actually bring to life a new future for downtown, it would be amazing.”

Sarah Kautz, director of preservation for SPLIA, said she hopes the town will involve its vast history into the downtown revitalization efforts. The town’s comprehensive revitalization plans came to the conclusion its historic buildings were an important component, according to Kautz, but did not provide concrete plans to address them.

“The town has never really incorporated preservation in a systematic way that would bring it into the wider plan for revitalization,” Kautz said. “The Arthur House is important because it’s an early property and is part of Smithtown’s really interesting early history going back into the 18th century. We would love to see a real clear approach for how those historic properties are going to fit into the revitalization and there’s a great potential for them to do so.”

The town board is in the process of evaluating Geske’s proposal, according to Councilman Tom McCarthy (R).

“We’ve asked the planning department to see how feasible it is … we’ll have to look at the pluses and minuses, do due diligence, but it could be a benefit to the township as a whole,” McCarthy said. “We have so much history [and] it’s very important to preserve it but now we have to look at everything surrounding it. We don’t want to shoot from the hip.”

Above, Beverly C. Tyler, Lindsey Steward and Donna Smith stand next to the Samuel H. West Blacksmith Shop on the grounds of The Long Island Museum, which will be open for blacksmith demonstrations on Culper Spy Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Organizations team up for island-wide event

On Saturday, Sept. 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., The Long Island Museum and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization in Stony Brook and the Three Village Historical Society and Tri-Spy Tours in Setauket will host a day of spy-related tours and activities for the third annual Culper Spy Day, named for the Culper Spy Ring founded by Benjamin Tallmadge, George Washington’s chief intelligence officer during the Revolutionary War.

The Three Village area, which includes Stony Brook, Setauket and Old Field, is full of hidden intrigue and stories of how America’s first spy ring came together secretly to provide General George Washington the information he needed to turn the tide of the American Revolution.

The 3rd New York Regiment demonstrates musket firing on the Village Green in Setauket at last year’s event.

This year’s event has expanded to include other areas that played key roles in the Culper Spy Ring. Fans of the AMC hit series “Turn,” which has completed its final season, are familiar with Hollywood’s version of the Long Island-based spy group. On Sept. 16 visitors can learn what really happened while enjoying tours, Colonial cooking demonstrations, reenactments and many more family-friendly activities in the Three Villages and across Long Island.

The Long Island Museum will host a lecture at 2 p.m. with John Staudt, adjunct assistant professor of history at Hofstra University. Staudt will present “The Terrible Force of War: Eastern Long Island in the American Revolution.” In addition, blacksmith demonstrations will be ongoing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a special display of Revolutionary War artifacts will be on display.

Among other Culper Spy Day activities, the Three Village Historical Society hosts an interactive Culper SPIES! exhibit and a book signing with award-winning novelist and nonfiction author Selene Castrovilla. Visitors will also enjoy invisible ink demonstrations and Anna Strong’s famed clothesline, used for sending signals to Culper spies working off Long Island’s shores.

Above, living historian Diane Fish will give a Colonial cooking demonstration at the Brewster House during the event. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Ward Melville Heritage Organization will host Colonial cooking demonstrations and tours of historic structures that served as home bases for several spy ring members. Stony Brook University’s Special Collections department will display original letters written to Benjamin Tallmadge from George Washington, and the 3rd New York Regiment will demonstrate musket firing and marching drills on Setauket’s Village Green. The Country House Restaurant will offer a spy-themed lunch and the Ketcham Inn of the Moriches will host a guided tour and dinner at the home of noted spy Benjamin Havens.

Organizations participating in the Culper Spy Day event include The Long Island Museum, the Three Village Historical Society, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Tri-Spy Tours, Stony Brook University Special Collections, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, Frank Melville Memorial Park, Three Village Community Trust, Caroline Church of Brookhaven, Setauket Presbyterian Church, Incorporated Village of Port Jefferson (Drowned Meadow Cottage), History Close at Hand, the Country House Restaurant, Times Beacon Record News Media, Raynham Hall, the Smithtown Historical Society, Discover Long Island, Ketcham Inn of the Moriches, and Sagtikos Manor in Bay Shore.

Tickets, which are available at www.tvhs.org, are $25 for adults and $5 for children ages 6 to 12. Children under the age of 6 and veterans will receive free admission. Tickets may be picked up at the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket from Sept. 11 to 15. At that time, visitors will receive a bracelet and a copy of the Culper Spy Day map with all event listings. Tickets are good for admission to participating organizations for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16 and 17. Additional fees may apply for meals. For a full list of Culper Spy Day activities please visit www.culperspyday.com.

Exhibit showcases the brilliance of the Serbian American inventor

By Kevin Redding

Asked in 1927 about not getting the proper recognition for inventing radio among other uncredited scientific achievements, Nikola Tesla said, “Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments … the present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.”

Ninety years later, not only is the truth out about the greatness of the Serbian American inventor — whose long list of contributions to modern science includes the alternating current motor, the electric motor, wireless communication, X-rays, the remote control, and, yes, radio — his work is utilized everywhere we go.

And now it is celebrated every day in Stony Brook Village for the rest of the summer. Residents far and wide are invited to explore the radical genius of Tesla in a new exhibit at Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center titled Nikola Tesla: Past, Present, Future. Visitors can immerse themselves in the life and inventions of the man who electrified history, powered the present and continues to shape the future.

On view through Sept. 4, the exhibit was designed by board members within the nonprofit Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, where Tesla’s last remaining laboratory stands and features a litany of displays such as an operating replica of the famous Tesla coil, augmented reality technology and a signed Tesla Roadster off the Tesla Motors assembly line.

Buzzing sounds of electricity, dramatic music and compelling narration of Tesla’s life pervade throughout the large room, where kids, teens, adults and seniors have enjoyed since July 8 interactive kiosks, screens showing in-depth documentaries, biographical banners, models and more.

“There’s a real desire on the public’s part to learn more about him because he’s an unsung American and international scientific hero,” said David Madigan, the Tesla Science Center board member who was tasked with bringing the exhibit to life. “He’s also the name that most people don’t know, and yet he’s one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century. It’s very important that the public supports it.”

Back in March, Ward Melville Heritage Organization President Gloria Rocchio approached Madigan and other members of the Tesla board and asked them to take up the exhibit space for the summer as a way to give the nonprofit visibility and promote their cause. (The Tesla Science Center is in the process of raising funds to open its doors to the public next year.)

Board Director Marc Alessi and Madigan took on the challenge, seeing the exhibit as a mini version of what will ultimately be their expansive Visitor’s Center, which will serve as the site’s main focus until the museum is in operation — the group needs a minimum amount of $20 million to open it.

“We made a decision as an organization that this would force us to put together an exhibit and start collecting the necessary materials; we’re going to need to put items into our building when we open next year so why not get started now?” Alessi said during a recent tour. “I think people are getting a bit of a taste of what this will be and this is just one pillar of what the Tesla Science Center will eventually be.”

But filling the exhibit room was no easy feat, as the two would learn. “It was a huge and heavy lift for us because I wasn’t aware of what we might have on hand in storage,” Alessi said. “I knew we had some donations, but did we really have enough material for an exhibit this size? At the time, we didn’t.”

Madigan quickly got on the horn with everyone he knew would want to contribute to a Tesla-centric space, which, luckily for him, ended up being a lot of impassioned people. In two months, the exhibit bursted with life.

Banners were brought in from the Tesla Science Foundation in Philadelphia and Belgrade, Serbia, and a Rocky Point artisan named Rob Arnold built a replica of Tesla’s teleautomaton — the first ever remote-controlled boat that Tesla premiered at Madison Square Garden’s Electrical Exhibition in 1898. Local filmmaker Joseph Sikorski, who made the documentaries “Fragments from Olympus: The Vision of Nikola Tesla” and “Tower to the People” about the history and preservation of Wardenclyffe, set up the exhibit’s kiosks and even donated his model of Tesla’s laboratory used in many of his films.

Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costumes & Prop Rental in Port Jefferson submitted Tesla-period wardrobe to be displayed; neon sculptor Clayton Orehek created a spectacular portrait of Tesla as well as a coil-inspired design of the inventor’s signature; and Richard Matthias of Hot Springs, Arkansas, built and donated a Jacob’s ladder display and the replica of the Tesla coil — which visitors are able to charge with the help of neon glass tubes.

Next to the Tesla Roadster in the corner of the room sits a 3D hands-on exhibit brought in by the National Museum of Mathematics in New York City that allows people to manipulate the magnetic field on which the Tesla induction motor is based.

“We found it all very inspiring,” Madigan said of the support. “Everywhere we go with this, it’s not us, it’s Nikola Tesla that is fascinating to people. We wanted to put together an illustrative exhibit that would help educate the public as to exactly who this man was and how he contributed to society, and continues to. You can’t talk about Tesla in the past without talking about the future.”

Madigan demonstrated in the exhibit what’s called the Nikola Tesla augmented reality app, designed by Brian Yetzer of Philadelphia, that superimposes a 3D animation of a Tesla-related image over something in the room with a quick scan of a phone. Upon scanning over a banner, a film of Tesla played on the phone screen.

Bill Pagels and Sue Ann Wilkinson of Salt Lake City, Utah, made sure to go to the exhibit during a recent vacation to the area. Both of them waved neon glass tubes and watched in amazement as the Tesla coil erupted with electricity. “We know [Tesla’s] a towering giant,” Pagels said. “But we didn’t know the extent to which his inventions resulted in something we would be carrying around in our pockets, or the range of technology he invented. It’s fascinating to understand the depth of his impact on humanity and, frankly, that he was such a humanitarian. It’s really quite amazing.”

Looking around the active room, Alessi said, “For us, it’s remarkable that this was pulled together the way it was over the course of a few months and we’re grateful Ward Melville gave us this opportunity. Having them help us with this first exhibit is remarkable and we’re seeing the benefit, we’re seeing local profile raised as a result.”

From left, Laura Huang-Ernst, WMHO trustee; Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president; son Leif Halvorsen; Dr. Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman; daughter Lilli Halvorsen; Councilwoman Valerie Cartright; Emilia Retzlaff; wife Britt Halvorsen; and daughter Liv Halvorsen. Photo from WMHO

Family and friends of Erik Halvorsen, along with Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Ward Melville Heritage Organization trustees, came together on the Stony Brook Village Green recently to celebrate his life. Erik was the former owner of Norse Tree and passed away tragically last November. Jeff Owen, of Owen Brothers Landscaping, donated a dogwood tree in his memory, and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization donated a boulder from the historic Mount House with an engraved bronze plaque.

The area selected for the placement of the tree and plaque (next to the Jennie Melville Gardens) was chosen not only for its beauty and peacefulness but because of Halvorsen’s help with revitalizing that area and the entire Village Green. Three Village residents made donations toward the project and their generosity exceeded the original cost. That balance was given to Erik’s widow, Britt Halvorsen. There are only three other plaques on the Village Green. One is dedicated to Jennie Melville and the other two to Ward and Dorothy Melville.

One of the 26 signs along the Route 25A corridor from Port Jefferson To Great Neck, which now designate Route 25A as the Washington Spy Trail. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

George Washington and the Long Island Culper Spy Ring continue to make history on the North Shore.

A press conference was held May 18 on the lawn of the Brewster House in East Setauket after the installation of 26 signs along the Route 25A corridor from Port Jefferson To Great Neck, which now designate Route 25A as the Washington Spy Trail. One of the signs, unveiled at the end of the event, is located in front of the Brewster property.

A press conference was held May 18 on the lawn of the Brewster House in East Setauket after the installation of 26 signs along the Route 25A corridor from Port Jefferson To Great Neck, which now designate Route 25A as the Washington Spy Trail. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The installation of signage and the designation comes after almost two decades of work on the part of the North Shore Promotional Alliance. The state road was chosen because President George Washington once traveled it to thank the patriots for helping him win the Revolutionary War, and it was also a route that spy Austin Roe used to pick up and deliver secret messages to military officer and spy Benjamin Tallmadge in Connecticut.

Gloria Rocchio, President of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and North Shore Promotional Alliance, said that during the days of the Culper Spy Ring in the 1700s the Brewster House was one of only a few homes, and at the time of the American Revolution, the area was occupied by 300 British troops.

“Our community was divided between Loyalist and Patriots who supported the revolution in secret,” she said. “This history is the very history of America. Our efforts over the past 17 years have been to shine a light on our American Revolution and to encourage people to visit those important sites on the North Shore where history was made — the George Washington Spy Trail, Route 25A.

In addition to thanking her fellow members of the NSPA and others for their work, Rochhio acknowledged State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) for introducing a legislative resolution in both the New York State Senate and Assembly that recognizes the dedication of the trail as well as the service of the spy ring members. On the same day, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) were presenting a similar resolution in congress.

Flanagan thanked those who gave up their free time to dedicate themselves to the project. The senator said he and the other local legislatures who were on hand for the event are proud of their towns.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and Supervisor Ed Romaine present a proclamation to President of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Gloria Rocchio, making May 18 North Shore Promotion Alliance Day in Brookhaven. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“We brag about the places that we come from,” he said. “We like telling people about these types of things.”

Flanagan said he hopes that residents, as well as those who travel to the area will take advantage of the educational experiences the signs call out along the way.

When Englebright stepped up to the podium, he asked State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) to join him and said he appreciated the partnership with his neighboring assemblyman as well as Flanagan when it came to the legislative resolution that recognizes the area’s historical significance.

“This is a special place,” Englebright said. “Patriots lived here. People put their lives on the line as the first espionage ring for service to our nation.”

Englebright echoed Rocchio’s sentiments of the importance of the signs that pay tribute to the area’s history.

“The memorialization of that through this signage that Gloria referred to, is a chance for us to celebrate that reality, that wonderful beginning of our nation, the role that we played in it,” the assemblyman said. “It’s also important to give a sense of place and sense of context for this and future generations.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) presented a proclamation to Rocchio, which made May 18 North Shore Promotion Alliance Day in Brookhaven. Romaine also reflected on the historical importance of the day.

Local politicians following the enveiling of the Washington Spy Trail sign along 25A. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“Today we remember our history,” he said. “Today we remember ordinary people, living ordinary lives, who were called upon to do extraordinary things.”

John Tsunis, Chairman and CEO of Gold Coast Bank and owner of Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, introduced Harry Janson, Sr., who was wounded in Vietnam and received the Purple Heart, a medal that originated from Washington’s Badge of Military Merit. Janson, who is on the board of the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, said he believed the members of the Culper Spy Ring — Tallmadge, Roe, Robert Townsend, Abraham Woodhull, Caleb Brewster and Anna Smith Strong — were worthy of the award as well.

“The difference is the example of their bravery,” Janson said. “They performed their bravery in covert, and they took their secrets to their graves.”

Before unveiling the Washington Spy Trail sign in front of the Brewster House, Janson had the same wish as others who worked on the installation of the signage.

“We hope that many of you drive the trail and learn about these brave men and women, and what they did for our country,” Janson said.

Additional Washington Spy Trail signs include ones located on the westbound side of Route 25A at West Broadway in Port Jefferson, by the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, before the Smithtown Bull in Smithtown and at Lawrence Hill Road in Huntington Station.

Debbie Reynolds in a scene from 'Singin' In the Rain'

By Ed Blair

Debbie Reynolds during the filming of ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown‘ in 1964

She was the quintessential “girl next door” — sweet, wholesome and unassuming. She was pretty and perky, had a dazzling smile and looked great in a cute summer dress. In short, she was the ideal, all-American girl every guy wanted to take home to meet his parents.

For many, Debbie Reynolds fit the classic romantic fantasy perfectly, whether she was dancing as an 18-year-old with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952), rollicking in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” (1964), for which she received an Oscar nomination, or crooning her chart-topping 1957 hit “Tammy.”

Reynolds’ daughter, Carrie Fisher, earned her star as another type of princess in her iconic role in the “Star Wars” series. Their relationship, and their coinciding deaths, were headline material that generated wide media attention, and the sometimes contentious interactions between mother and daughter will be a featured in “The Debbie Reynolds Story,” a musical theater tribute being presented at The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center from May 6 to June 15.

Debbie Reynolds with her daughter Carrie Fisher

The center has hosted a number of shows orchestrated by St. George Productions, which has brought to life the biographies of stars such as Bob Hope, Patti Page, Mickey Rooney and, most recently, Mary Martin and Dinah Shore. As in the past, presentations will be followed by a luncheon catered by Fratelli’s Italian Eatery and includes tea and dessert.

In a format familiar to audiences who continue to enjoy his live musical theater tributes, director/writer/producer Sal St. George’s latest offering details the life of Debbie Reynolds and her on-again-off-again relationship with her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

Setting the show’s time line, St. George explained, “The year is 1977. Debbie has recently completed ‘Irene’ on Broadway, as well her one-woman show, and is touring with ‘Annie Get Your Gun.’” Reynolds had received a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her role in “Irene,” and teenager Carrie Fisher had appeared on stage with her early during the musical’s run. “Carrie, now 20, is still in England promoting ‘Star Wars,’” St. George continued. “Although she is not [portrayed] in our show, Carrie’s relationship with her mother will be a major topic of discussion.”

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in a scene from the 1977 ‘Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope’

Indeed, that relationship has been scrutinized and commented upon in the media since the deaths of the two stars became headline stories in December of 2016. Reynolds’ kaleidoscopic career and rags-to-riches road to stardom contrasted sharply with Fisher’s experiences.

Paris Pryor, the actress who portrays Reynolds in The WMHO production, paid tribute to the late star’s achievements, pointing out that, “Although her death is still fresh in our minds, I hope our presentation will be a positive reflection on her rich legacy.”

St. George noted that Lucille Ball, Jimmy Stewart and Rosemary Clooney lived in the same neighborhood as Reynolds, and his production features actress Jordyn Morgan, who portrays Clooney. “It is an honor,” said Morgan, “to be re-creating the life of such a remarkable musical artist. Our production is a salute to two of Hollywood’s greatest icons.”

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, located at 97P Main St. in Stony Brook Village will present “The Debbie Reynolds Story” on May 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 17, 18, 20, 21, 24 (sold out), 25 and 31; June 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14 and 15. Performances are at 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. on Sundays). Admission is $48 adults; seniors (60 and over) and children under 15, $45; and groups of 20 or more $40. Advance reservations are required by calling 631-689-5888.

Created by Ward Melville in 1939 as The Ward Melville Community Fund, The WMHO is a not-for-profit organization founded to maintain and enhance historical and sensitive environmental properties and to develop and foster community enrichment through cultural and educational experiences. To learn more about The WMHO, call 631-751-2244 or visit the website at www.wmho.org.