Column: Independence and remembrance

07/07/2011 7:35 AM |

The Independence Day holiday weekend was, once again, a great opportunity to savor the multiple feast that is the North Fork in 2011. This is a great place to live and visit, and we were constantly reminded of that fact as we ranged from Sound to Bay and points in between.

It also was a time to pay respects to two departed individuals who touched many lives here and, in the case of sculptor Robert Berks, afar.

On Saturday, I had an opportunity to pay tribute to Berks at the opening of the summer show at the sculpture garden behind Brecknock Hall in Greenport. His memory was being honored because he was a founding member of one of the event’s sponsors, the East End Arts Council, and because of the impact his own life’s work had on the arts in America.

No Berks sculpture yet graces Brecknock’s garden, but that could change in the future if Berks’ widow, Tod, again shows the sort of generosity she demonstrated Saturday when she donated a smaller version of Berks’ celebrated bust of Albert Einstein for the event’s silent auction.

The new sculpture show itself — featuring a controversial (and wonderfully whimsical) piece by Jack Dowd titled “Camo Sumo” — is a don’t miss. Just pull in the parking lot behind Brecknock Hall and check out the adjoining bucolic sculpture garden. (Note: to see a detail of “Camo Sumo,” go to The Suffolk Times’ website and type Camo Sumo in the search box.)

Two days earlier, on Thursday, a previous commitment prevented me from attending a ceremony at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport honoring late Greenport resident Sal Prato, who headed the original fundraising drive to build the hospital’s emergency dock. I was allowed to submit a written statement, and this is what I said about renaming the dock in his honor:

“No one is more deserving… than Sal Prato. He was, of course, the inspiration for the emergency dock plan, and the driving force behind the fund-raising effort that made it a reality. If Sal was anything in his life, he was a First Class Schmoozer. He would and could approach anyone on the subject of just about anything, which made raising money to build the dock that much more doable.

And, as I recall, he had no reservations about asking [dock builder] John Costello & Co. for a deep discount.” Also speaking at the event Thursday was Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who said something quite obvious yet profound: that the dock serves as a bridge between “that wonderful bay and this magnificent hospital.”

On Monday night, at the tail end of the holiday weekend, we found ourselves at the first (free!) Monday night concert of the summer at Mitchell Park in Greenport. (Having first visited the Mitchell Park marina for drinks with friends from Connecticut who were visiting Greenport on their boat.) It was a sublime scene, what with the very danceable offerings of the Santana tribute band Abraxas, the new moon rising over the carousel and, finally, the fire department’s fireworks show across town at the Polo Grounds.

And that’s when it hit me: the realization that in keeping with this weekend of paying our respects to the dearly departed, sooner or later some sort of permanent public acknowledgement of former Greenport mayor David Kapell’s seminal role in the revitalization of the park in particular, and the downtown business district in general, needs to be made in advance of his demise. (Not to worry, Dave is as healthy and as feisty as ever, I’m told.)

I don’t necessarily advocate renaming it Kapell Park, but you get the idea. In my opinion, none of this — including the visionary international design competition that helped create the new and improved park and marina — would have transpired without David Kapell at the helm.

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