On the North Fork and Shelter Island, we don’t have to wait for truly warm weather or notice the yellow signal flare of forsythia to tell us winter is a memory. We’ve witnessed spring on the wing with the arrival of the magnificent fish hawks, the ospreys, returning from their Florida and Caribbean winter quarters.
A smaller winged harbinger has come home, too. Piping plovers have been spotted, with their melodious, pennywhistle voices and mad dashes across beaches foraging for food, or skimming low across the water, shifting in formation.
Emily Dickinson was right: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul …” It’s not some abstract concept, or a metaphor, but true when we see robins strutting across lawns before stopping, chests out, to solemnly pose for us.
Rebirth and hope are essential, especially given events that have recently affected residents of Shelter Island and Southold. The brutality surrounding the death of the Rev. Canon Paul Wancura from injuries suffered during a home invasion and burglary in Silver Beach still shocks us. His funeral bell Monday in Setauket, at the parish he served for almost three decades, tolled for all of us.
And the recent discovery of the remains of Louise Pietrewicz, murdered 51 years ago, found buried in the basement of a Southold house, is a horrific reminder of a crime for which there was no arrest and which, by all appearances, was not a secret to some residents of our town.
For Louise, the rule of law failed. And, by failing her, it failed all of us.
The community will have an opportunity to attend a wake for Louise on Saturday, May 5, in Cutchogue. For Louise’s daughter and surviving sibling, it will be a sort of closure, a chance to say goodbye, even though so many questions about the case remain unanswered.
On Shelter Island, the investigation into the Rev. Wancura’s death (and a burglary directly across the street from his home) is now under the direction of the Homicide Division of the Suffolk County Police Department — the same detectives who, along with Southold Det. Sgt. John Sinning, found Louise’s remains, which showed she had been shot three times in the abdomen.
County detectives have assured the public that those involved in the Rev. Wancura’s death will be caught. It’s telling, however, that more than a month after the former pastor of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greenport was found, there seem to be no breaks in the case.
The coming of spring reminds us of the words of Martin Luther King Jr., shot dead 50 years ago this month, but always alive to people everywhere: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
As we watch the osprey soar high above us, or hear the piping plovers serenading the spring, we know those words are true.