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West Meadow Beach

Historian Bev Tyler recounts the story of the Fischetti dig. Right, An osprey watches the tour. Photo by Lloyd Newman

To celebrate the history of the West Meadow Beach peninsula and its well-known cottage, Historians Barbara Russell and Bev Tyler led a walking tour along Trustees Road on Saturday, July 16. Park Ranger Molly Hastings shared information about indigenous plants and animals. A small group started out, but it grew as more and more people gathered to listen and learn.

Ranger Molly Hastings shows a leaf sometimes called elephant’s ear
Ranger Molly Hastings shows a leaf sometimes called elephant’s ear

First stop on the tour was the Old Field farm, which has been a horse show arena since 1930. That was the year Ward Melville offered it as a substitute venue to replace one that was no longer available in Smithtown. Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell said that the farm became famous on the North Shore horse show circuit.

From the horse show grounds, Historian Bev Tyler pointed out the Fischetti excavation site on the far side of the creek. Named for the builder whose bulldozer uncovered Indian artifacts, it became the site of an archaeological dig in the 1980s that lasted two years. Tyler said the dig produced evidence of a manufacturing area used by Native Americans 13,000 years ago to create stone implements and tools. The manufacturing site sits 800 yards from the village that was discovered during a dig in 1955, led by New York State Archaeologist William Ritchie.

Russell provided an overview of West Meadow’s history. Despite the fact that access to the water and the peninsula was repeatedly reinforced in deeds, she said, it eventually fell into private hands. In 1908, the

Town of Brookhaven purchased the whole strip for use as a public beach. It was divided into 110 lots, and

the tour approaches the Ernst Marine Conservation Center to hear about its history and to fill water bottles with spring water from the aquifer behind the building.
the tour approaches the Ernst Marine Conservation Center to hear about its history and to fill water bottles with spring water from the aquifer behind the building.

eventually cottages were erected on the lots, which were leased as summer bungalows. In the middle was a group of lots that formed a beach association for use by Brookhaven Town residents. The cottages — except for five — were removed in 2005, after 75 years of negotiations, Russell said.

Another stop on the tour was the Dr. Erwin J. Ernst Marine Conservation Center. The structure that eventually housed the center, said Russell, was one of the “temporary” buildings at Setauket School, added to

accommodate high school students as the school population grew.

It was moved to the beach to house the program which had been taught out in the open by Ernst. Behind the center is the outlet of an aquifer that has been there for eons. The spring water is cool, even on a hot summer day.

Aunt Amy’s creek is the name of a natural curve in the lagoon’s water flow. Its shore was the site of a 1955 archaeological dig, financed by Ward Melville and conducted by Ritchie.

Barbara Russell talks about vegetation near the creek
Barbara Russell talks about vegetation near the creek

The dig unearthed the tools, weapons and kitchen implements of a village. All materials collected in that process may be found in the New York State Museum in Albany. When the Fischetti dig was undertaken, Melville’s wife agreed to finance it — but only if all the material found remained in the Three Village area.

The tour ended at the Gamecock Cottage, which Russell said was built as a hunting and fishing cabin by a man named William Shipman somewhere between 1873 and 1876. An avid sailor, he came from Brooklyn. The cottage has recently been raised up, and is being restored and structurally reinforced. Visitors were allowed to enter and view artifacts produced by the Fischetti dig, as well as historical photos and maps of the area.

New Mobi-Mats make sand easier to navigate for those with wheelchairs, other mobility devices

Deputy Parks Commissioner Rob Maag, Councilwoman Jane Bonner, Aisha Grundmann, Supervisor Ed Romaine Jason Soricelli, Program Supervisor for Wheelchair Programs, and Alex Grundmann, stand on a new Mobi-Mat at Cedar Beach West in Mount Sinai. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

By Rebecca Anzel

Brookhaven is laying the groundwork to make its beaches more accessible to residents.

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced new sand surfacing mats, called Mobi-Mats, at Cedar Beach West in Mount Sinai and West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook.

“The mats open up opportunities that didn’t exist before for people that, whatever the reason, the sand was not easy to navigate,” Bonner said. “So often times they wouldn’t go to the beach.”

The nonslip, semi-rigid roll-up beach access mats, completely made from recycled polyester roll by New Jersey company Deschamps Mats Systems Inc., enable residents who are elderly or using wheelchairs, crutches, strollers or other mobility devices to more easily traverse sandy beaches. They are low maintenance — the tear-resistant, permeable structure allows sand to filter through — and are easily maintained by removing any excess sand buildup with a broom or leaf blower. Mobi-Mats have already been used at beaches in Nassau County, including Jones Beach, and by the Marine Corps for the past 20 years in vehicular beach landing operations.

Accomplishing this project was easy, Bonner said. She saw a picture of the Mobi-Mats online over the winter and showed it to Parks Commissioner Ed Morris, who ordered them. “Everything in government should be that simple,” she said.

Rocky Point resident Aisha Grundmann said the mats are “wonderful” and installing them was “a great idea.” Her son Alex, 11, uses a wheelchair and asks to go to Cedar Beach more frequently now that he knows the mats make it easier for him to navigate across the sand.

“Multiple people have asked Alex for a beach playdate now, where they otherwise maybe wouldn’t have,” she said. “I can’t think of a more accepting community.”

Alex, who is going into fifth grade, is a local advocate for greater mobility not just for wheelchairs, but for everyone. He influenced improvements to the playgrounds and restrooms at his school to make them more handicap-accessible.

“The feedback for this project has been some of the most positive feedback I’ve ever received since I’ve been in office,” Bonner said.

Cedar Beach West and West Meadow Beach are just the first of Brookhaven’s beaches to get the mats. According to a town spokesman, Brookhaven purchased three — and there are plans to expand the program.

“They will be placed at some point at all of our beaches to allow people with disabilities or physical limitations to also enjoy the beach — one of the great pastimes on Long Island,” Romaine said. “We think this has a large impact on people’s lives.”

He added that for wheelchair-bound Brookhaven residents, beaches also have “beach-ready” chairs with larger wheels available upon request from the lifeguards.

Mobi-Mats are available for use between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Park Ranger Molly Hastings with the new Little Free Library under the pavilion. Photo from Emma Clark Library

When you visit West Meadow Beach in Setauket this summer, be sure to “check out” a book from the Little Free Library, built by Emma Clark Library in partnership with the Town of Brookhaven and Park Ranger Molly Hastings. There’s no need for a library card or to return a book — this is a “take a book, leave a book” concept hosted by Emma Clark as part of an outreach service to the community.

Library staff and the public will be contributing books for the sole purpose of the Little Free Library (books are not owned by Emma Clark — please don’t return your library books here!). The Little Free Library will be maintained by teen volunteers for the months of July and August and will be located under the pavilion at the beach. There is no need to live in Three Village to share in this give and take project, as long as you are a visitor at West Meadow Beach. The Little Free Library will simply enhance the friendly and hospitable feel that already exists in Three Village.

The Little Free Library at West Meadow Beach is registered on www.littlefreelibrary.org and can be found on the site’s official map of all Little Free Libraries across the United States and 70 countries worldwide. For more information, call 631-941-4080.

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Aunt Amy’s Creek at West Meadow Creek, site of an early Native American village and an archaeological exploration by New York State Archaeologist William Ritchie. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

From Native American hunter-gatherers through Colonial times, West Meadow Beach, West Meadow Creek and the adjacent tidal wetlands were a valuable resource.

On Saturday, July 16, an historic walk will be conducted by Barbara Russell, historian, Town of Brookhaven, and Beverly Tyler, historian, Three Village Historical Society. The walk, along Trustees Road from the pavilion at West Meadow Beach to the Gamecock Cottage, is sponsored by the Town of Brookhaven and cosponsored by the Three Village Historical Society.

Come and explore the area that sustained Native Americans and provided needed materials for settlers from the Colonial period to the present day. The walk is free and open to the public. No pre-registration required, however be on time as the walk will commence at 10:30 a.m. sharp. An exhibit in the Gamecock Cottage at the end of the walk will include artifacts gathered from the West Meadow Creek area.

We don’t know all the details about life on Long Island before the Europeans came because the people living here did not leave us a written or photographic record of their lives.

Archaeological excavations have given us most of the details of how people lived in this area as early as 5,000 years ago. One of the most famous sites in New York State was a nearby shell midden named The Stony Brook Site, excavated by State Archaeologist William Ritchie in 1955.

From archaeological digs by Ritchie and others, we know that, between 5,000 and 3,000 years ago, the native people were hunters and gatherers, dependent upon hunting local animals and gathering plants, stones, and clay for food, shelter, tools, clothes, and medicines.

The Fischetti Site, a prehistoric Indian site for manufacturing tools and spear points, was discovered during a cultural resource investigation of a proposed residential development in November 1980. Salvage excavations continued through October 1981.

The site, on the east side of West Meadow Creek, opposite the horse show grounds, was occupied by Algonquin Indians about 3,000 years ago. We know they used this location then because of the type of arrow and spear points and blades recovered. The major activity here, on the edge of Stony Brook creek, was making stone tools. We know this by the large quantities of stone flakes and roughed-out stones.

The almost total absence of food remains at the site shows that this was not the location of a village. However, a village site, The Stony Brook Site, did exist about 800 yards to the south, along what is now known as Aunt Amy’s Creek, during the same time period.

For thousands of years the Indians used natural resources, wood, stone, and animals, to make their housing, tools, and clothing. About 3,000 years ago, their way of life changed with the introduction of three things: pottery, the bow and arrow, and horticulture (farming). Like the earlier Indians, the Woodland Indians continued to rely on natural resources.

The artifacts taken from The Fischetti Site are part of the collection of the Three Village Historical Society. Artifacts from the Ritchie site are a part of the collection of the New York State Museum.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

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David Smith receives a medal for his finish in the inaugural Hercules on the Harbor 10K. Photo from Kara Hahn

David Smith will be remembered as a Stony Brook staple whose avid passion for action was as inspiring as it was endearing, close friends said this week.

Smith drowned while swimming in the waters he loved off West Meadow Beach on Aug. 28 despite the attempts of many to save him, witnesses said. He was 79.

A professor emeritus at Stony Brook University’s Department of Computer Science, Smith had noticeably appeared to be having difficulty while swimming near Aunt Amy’s Creek in East Setauket, spurring several onlookers to attempt to come to his rescue. Warren Smith, a resident who was at the scene, said there were many who helped in one way or another, but the professor emeritus did not survive.

“He was a well-known nature lover and often swam, ran and hiked,” Warren Smith said in an email. “The night of the day he died, owls came, and they hooted all night long.”

Smith received his doctorate from University of Wisconsin, Madison. He came to Stony Brook in 1966 and established the computer science department in 1970, the university said, adding that he will be remembered as “a staunch supporter of the department and an innovator in computer science.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) remembered Smith as a jack of all trades who was active in the greater North Shore community well beyond the university, participating in the Gallery North Wet Paint Festival and working as an advocate for Forsythe Meadow forest.

“He was an extraordinary individual, academic, artist, athlete, advocate, volunteer and overall great guy,” Hahn said.

Louise Harrison, of the Peconic-based Conservation & Natural Areas Planning and former co-chair of the Coalition for the Future of Stony Brook Village, said Smith had recently taken up swimming as a substitute for running, since his knees were bothering him.

“Dave was with the coalition from the beginning and never missed a steering committee meeting or an opportunity to go to town planning board or legislative hearings in support of our cause,” Harrison said. “He volunteered to be our process server, a critically important role, for our original Article 78 against the planning board. This was an unfamiliar task and yet Dave was willing to give it a go and he made sure our petition was properly served within a very limited time period.”

Harrison said Smith never missed a coalition event and joined the group this July at the official opening of Forsythe Meadow County Park/Nora Bredes Preserve’s walking trail at 52 Hollow Road in Stony Brook: “I am especially thankful Dave was able to attend that event because he was our strongest and most vocal advocate for restored access to the forest, which he once had enjoyed from the village center during his daily runs.”

Moving forward, Harrison said she was considering ways her group could properly remember Smith, which may include dedicating a trail or portion of the trail at Forsythe Meadow in his honor.

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Wacky Chad, the stunt comedian, gets some air in the company of West Meadow Beach visitors at last Wednesday’s Jewish festival. Photo by Peter DiLauro

By Carin M. Smilk

It was a real scorcher, according to those who attended the sixth annual Jewish Summer Festival, referring to Wednesday’s, July 29, event at West Meadow Beach in East Setauket in the midst of a heat wave that marked a week of 90-degree weather.

But it also turned out to be the largest turnout yet, with more than 500 people attending of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations.

The festival was sponsored by the Chabad Jewish Center of Stony Brook, which serves the Jewish community on Suffolk’s North Shore from Smithtown to Port Jefferson, and is co-directed by Rabbi Motti and Chaya Grossbaum. On tap was live music in the form of the high-energy Jewish rock band Yellow Red Sky; family entertainment, including a moon bounce, face painting and the award-winning stunt comedian Wacky Chad; and a kosher barbecue with all the trimmings, as well as cotton candy and Italian ices for the kids and grown-ups, too.

“There was something for every generation to appreciate,” said Jodi Casciano of Port Jefferson. “It was an evening full of warmth and connectedness — very good for the soul. The kids all had a blast, and the live music was phenomenal.”

The feeling of connectivity was alive throughout the event. In fact, the band dedicated a song in tribute to the four young women who were killed last month in a tragic limousine crash in Cutchogue: Smithtown’s Brittney Schulman, 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24, as well as Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park, and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack.

One of the more colorful notes of the three-hour festival occurred when the beach balls were distributed as an event giveaway. They were donated by Gayle Stock of Setauket, owner of TakeStock Inc., who declared the evening “fabulous” and is already planning to return next year.

Marty Gerber, a retiree from St. James, has been involved with Chabad for about a year and went to the festival for the first time. He said he was surprised by the size of the crowd, noting that “the tent area was overflowing.”

There were rows of chairs arranged under the shade of the tent, he described, and some even brought their own to position on the beach. The food was tasty, Gerber said.

“It’s a very good place for kids to have fun, and for the parents to relax and socialize,” Gerber said.

And that was the whole point.

“The goal is simply to bring the community together in unity for an upbeat Jewish experience,” said Rabbi Grossbaum. “It was a ‘feel good’ time for everyone there. A special shout-out goes to the main corporate sponsors, without whom it would not be possible.”

They included Jefferson’s Ferry, the Suffolk Center for Speech, Fairy LiceMothers, 3 Village Wellness, Nguyen Plastic Surgery, Gourmet Glatt, Gurwin Jewish and the Times Beacon Record Newspapers.

The event ended around 8 p.m., with the seasonal sky bringing its own sort of closure: a spectacular sunset over the beach.

A horseshoe crab no more than 4 years old. Photo by Erika Karp

The Brookhaven Town Board has officially backed Supervisor Ed Romaine’s push for a horseshoe crab harvesting ban at town parks and properties.

At a meeting on July 16, councilmembers unanimously supported a resolution that requests the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation close North and South Shore parks and underwater lands to horseshoe crab harvesting and recommends strategies to reduce the harvesting. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) also spoke at the meeting and threw in his support for the effort, as it would help protect the crab population — which, according to some reports, has decreased.

“I support this resolution and encourage its passage and compliment the very fact that it has been initiated,” said Englebright, who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp
State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp

In May, Romaine announced he would seek a horseshoe crab harvesting ban for areas within 500 feet of town-owned waterfront properties. Fishermen often use horseshoe crabs for bait, but the crabs are also used for medicinal purposes, as their blue blood, which is worth an estimated $15,000 a quart, is used in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries to detect bacterial contamination in drugs and supplies.

Advocates for the ban have said the crabs, whose species is 450 million years old, play a vital role in the ecosystem, as birds like the red knot eat the crabs’ eggs.

Local parks covered within the town’s request include Port Jefferson Harbor; the western boundary of the Mount Sinai inlet; underwater lands and town-owned shoreline of Setauket Harbor; and Shoreham Beach.

The DEC already has bans in place at Mount Sinai Harbor and West Meadow Beach.

In addition, the town asked the DEC to consider mandating fishers to use bait bags and/or artificial bait; banning the harvesting of horseshoe crab females; and establishing full harvest bans several days before and after full moons in May and June — the crabs’ nesting season.

Those latter recommendations were not included in the original resolution, but were added after weeks of discussion on the issue.

Local baymen have said their livelihoods would be jeopardized by any further restrictions, and the seamen remained opposed to the resolution last Thursday. Many also disagreed with officials that the crab population was decreasing.

“If you were with us you would know the quantities are there,” Florence Sharkey, president of the Brookhaven Baymen’s Association, said at the meeting.

Sharkey added that alternative baits have been tried, but don’t work.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp

Despite the testimony, the Town Board moved forward with resolution, which had been tabled for nearly two months. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) called the decision a difficult one.

During public comment, Englebright invited the fishers to speak before his committee, as the state is wrestling with the issue as well.

The assemblyman introduced legislation in March that would impose a moratorium on harvesting horseshoe crabs and their eggs until 2021. While the bill wasn’t voted on in the last legislative session, a different bill, which outlines similar recommendations to the DEC regarding crab conservation and management, was approved.

Englebright said the law would be revisited in two years. He said he hoped the DEC would get better data on the crabs in the future as well.

While the state continues to grapple with the issue, Englebright noted the town’s requested ban is different, as it pertains to parkland.

“This is a park and public expectation is different than [at] the general shoreline,” he said. “A park is usually a place that animals have the opportunity to have refuge.”

Stony Brook University grad student coordinator of the 2015 Diamondback Terrapin study Martana Edeas has her hands full. Photo from Nancy Grant

It’s hot. It’s muddy. It’s dirty. But it’s exciting work, if you like that sort of thing.

That was how Nancy Grant of the Friends of Flax Pond chose to describe her group’s latest initiative this summer tracking Diamondback Terrapin turtles at West Meadow Beach. And while they may move slowly, the Friends have been acting quickly to spot the four-legged reptiles at the height of their nesting season and working to preserve their species.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize we actually have turtles here,” Grant said of the program, which has been in operation annually since 2004. “You think you have to go someplace exotic to observes them, but you don’t.”

From the third week of June through the entire month of July, the Friends of Flax Pond has set out to conduct its annual six-week search for evidence of nesting turtles, documenting the population numbers and behaviors of what Grant called an important keystone species. The group meets every Sunday at West Meadow Beach at the park ranger sign at 9:30 a.m. and is accepting volunteers on an ongoing basis.

The Friends of Flax Pond have been keeping a vigilant eye on the shorelines of West Meadow Beach and Flax Pond with hopes of spotting the exotic creatures, as Grant referred to them as a vital way of keeping a finger on the pulse of the North Shore’s environment.

“They determine the health of the area,” she said. “It’s important to protect them because their numbers have gone down. They used to be over at Flax Pond, but we haven’t seen any there since 2009, with the exception of one recently.”

The Friends have spotted on average between nine and 10 nests a year, depending on the number of volunteers, Grant said. Once they find the nest, volunteers dig around it, put a cage over it and hold it in with tent stakes to keep predators away.

They’ll even go as far as using cayenne pepper to deter animals from some nests, but Grant admitted the nearby threats like foxes and birds were becoming privy to their methods and becoming less deterred by them.

From an educational standpoint, the group has also been working to launch its own Flax Pond Summer Research Institute this summer. For a $100 fee, the Friends is offering up an internship program at the Flax Pond Lab and salt marsh as well as West Meadow Beach that links up with academic marine scientists to gather data to document changes in the marshes there. This year, the group said it planned on documenting the status of species prior to a possible dredging of the Flax Pond inlet — a 146-acre tidal wetland on the North Shore — which the Friends has been adamantly advocating for.

Earlier this year, Old Field Mayor Michael Levine and the board of trustees called on legislators from the county, state and town levels to join with Stony Brook University and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to see the pond dredged and protect the fin and shellfish populations known to once thrive there.

“If you don’t have a marsh there, you have nothing between you and those major waves,” Grant said. “It protects real estate. As much as having a dock is nice, it won’t matter if you don’t have those plants there.”
The application deadline for the institute is July 13 and an application can be found at flaxpondfriends.org.

Neighbors gather to help Aidan Donnelly, a 13-year-old student from Centereach, complete his Eagle Scout Service Project in Stony Brook. Photo from Elizabeth Flagler

A Long Island Scout stepped up for Stony Brook’s osprey population.

Neighbors and members of PSEG Long Island helped Aidan Donnelly, a 13-year-old honor student at Dawnwood Middle school in Centereach, complete his Eagle Scout Service Project on Saturday May 9 soon after the boy approached the utility company about installing an osprey nesting pole out of harm’s way at West Meadow Beach.

In order to achieve the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts, scouts must earn at least 21 merit badges and complete an extensive service project that the scout plans, organizes, leads and manages.

Donnelly organized the meetings with PSEG Long Island and the Town of Brookhaven, then planned and led his fellow scouts from Troop 362 in the construction of an osprey nest platform, adding to his current total of 48 merit badges.

Louise Brett explains a painting of a ship called the Enchantress. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Louise Brett often paints and draws scenes from the past — a horse walking through the Belle Terre gate, ships in Port Jefferson Harbor, a buggy on East Main Street and the cottages at West Meadow Beach.

The area “is changing so fast,” she said. “I wanted to show everyone what it looked like when I was here.”

Louise Brett does drawings of the area in the past, including this one of a horse walking through the Belle Terre gate. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Louise Brett does drawings of the area in the past, including this one of a horse walking through the Belle Terre gate. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Some of Brett’s works are on display in Edna Louise Spear Elementary School, in the same room the Board of Education uses for its meetings. At the last session, the district presented Brett, who attended the high school but did not graduate, with a certificate of recognition and she received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Brett said in an interview at her home that the acknowledgement was exciting.

It isn’t the first time her work has been displayed — her paintings of a Victorian Port Jefferson appeared on the covers of the Charles Dickens Festival guides for 2006 and 2007. Under sunset skies, she included characters found in both Dickens novels and the village.

Brett, 83, was born in Old Field and moved to Port Jefferson 10 years later. She said she has always been able to draw well, but didn’t always have the resources — including pencils and paper. When she was growing up during the Great Depression, if she saw her teacher throw away a piece of chalk, she would take it home and — with her twin sister, Gussie — draw on the sides of their piano.

Louise Brett, above, paints almost every day. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Louise Brett, above, paints almost every day. Photo by Elana Glowatz

She got some help when she was in her teens while working as a soda jerk, operating the soda fountain at a local shop. On paper bags in the shop, “I would sketch anybody that walked in,” she said. The owner bought her a paint set and she took art lessons in Mount Sinai. At the Board of Education meeting, while presenting the certificate of recognition, elementary school principal Tom Meehan said Brett would walk to the lessons with her brushes in her boots.

While she was learning, she got in trouble with her mother for keeping dead birds under her bed to draw. “I had to know what they looked like,” Brett explained.

Years later, she still paints almost every day, even with her cats, Bonnie and Clyde, wandering around the room that holds her easel and past works. She said art is an outlet for her. When her husband of 54 years, Nicholas, had health problems a few years ago, she painted the Roe House using descriptions in letters former village historian Rob Sisler collected. Brett used details such as the fact that the Roes owned two oxen and carts — which led her to paint a barn with a thatched roof — to determine how to illustrate the scene. “You have to use your imagination,” she said.

Louise Brett's first oil painting was of the house next door to her childhood Port Jefferson home.
Louise Brett’s first oil painting was of the house next door to her childhood Port Jefferson home.

Brett signs all her paintings “Lou Gnia,” for her maiden name Gniazdowski. Her father, who died when she was 3 years old, came to the United States from Poland just before World War I. Brett once took a trip to her family’s village in Stare Miasto, in Poland’s Leżajsk County, a few hours southeast of Warsaw. The village name means “old city,” and she took photographs of various scenes to paint once she got home. In her Reeves Road house she has a “Polish room,” in which there are paintings of houses, cattle drinking from the San River and wagons with rubber wheels, like those on cars.

Paintings also line the walls of the rest of her home, including depictions of ships and beaches and a mural of grazing horses on the far side of the living room.

The artist said painting calms her, to the point where she can forget she is in the middle of cooking dinner. “I just go into a different world,” she said. “I love to paint. It’s just like a sickness.”