01/04/15 8:30am
01/04/2015 8:30 AM
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard boat into the Mattituck Inlet on the morning Ciro Stellges' body was found in the water. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro, file)

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard boat into the Mattituck Inlet on the morning Ciro Stellges’ body was found in the water. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro, file)

There is a common misconception among the public that the media enjoys reporting bad news.

That’s simply not true. I’ve seen a certain look on enough reporters’ faces when they’re asked to call a loved one for an interview after a tragedy to know it’s never easy.

I saw that look too many times in 2014.  (more…)

09/27/14 10:00am
09/27/2014 10:00 AM
Howard Meinke (Credit: Meinke family courtesy)

Howard Meinke (Credit: Meinke family courtesy)

The voice on the other end of the phone spoke in a deliberate manner, demanding to be heard.

“My understaaaanding is that you are the person I now need to speeeaaaak to regarding letters to the editor,” he said slowly.

It took just that one introductory sentence for me to realize that Howard Meinke would be writing me frequently, as he had my predecessors at Times/Review, and that he would command my attention.  (more…)

07/12/14 8:00am
07/12/2014 8:00 AM
Marco and Ann Marie Borghese purchased their Cutchogue vineyard in 1999. (Credit: Jane Starwood, file)

Marco and Ann Marie Borghese purchased their Cutchogue vineyard in 1999. (Credit: Jane Starwood, file)

The untimely and tragic deaths of Ann Marie and Marco Borghese have me thinking about the passage of time, particularly insofar as the North Fork’s grape-growing/wine industry is concerned. To the best of my knowledge, the Borgheses were the first second-generation owners/winemakers/industry boosters to pass from the scene, which is an indicator, after a fashion, of just how long this industry has been around hereabouts. Their recent deaths have also caused me to reflect on the list of others who passed before them, which, again, is a reflection that a lot of years have gone by since Louisa and Alex Hargrave planted their first grapes here in the early 1970s. But first, a word about the Borgheses.  (more…)

06/30/14 10:00am
06/30/2014 10:00 AM
Father Patrick McNamara, the 'new priest in town' at The Church of the Redeemer in Mattituck. (Credit: Courtesy Photo)

Father Patrick McNamara, the ‘new priest in town’ at The Church of the Redeemer in Mattituck. (Credit: Courtesy Photo)

I remember that September day well — a day that will live in infamy (for me, at least). I had just pulled in to the parking lot of my dentist’s office when I received a call from the vicar of our church, Father Nils Blatz. He wanted to visit with me that afternoon. Surprised and curious, my first thought was for his well-being. He assured me he was fine, but still …  (more…)

08/10/13 10:00am
08/10/2013 10:00 AM

The first time I wrote an obituary was Feb. 27, 2012. It was for my mother-in-law, who had died the day before. She was a wonderful person whose life was cut short by a terrible disease. It was the hardest piece I’ve ever written.

My husband’s family designated me as the writer at the funeral home, mostly because I worked at the local paper. I had never written anything using Associated Press style, and was a distraught family member. Did I include how much she loved her husband? Did I include how much she loved her sons and her grandsons? Do I mention how much she loved all of us — even those who came by luck and not by blood?


Each time I read the obituary, I cried. I cried when I called my coworker. I kept saying, “We thought we had more time.”

This was about a year before it became my job to write obituaries for this newspaper. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Closer,” you’ve heard Jude Law’s character discuss his job as an obituary writer, stoically, in a British accent, and then discuss the euphemisms they use to reflect alternative lifestyles.

When people find out I write obituaries, they ask me if it’s depressing. I usually tell them I balance it out with weddings and births, but that’s not true. I see many, many more obituaries than I do weddings or births, thanks to social media.

But I don’t really find obituaries depressing. They’ve taught me some important lessons about my own life, and given me some healthy advice, which I will now pass along.

Write your own obituary now

I have met with best friends, life partners and grieving family members. Some know every intimate details about the life of the person they’re telling me about. Some don’t know much at all. Each of us has a different part of our life story.

For me, my parents have the beginning piece; my husband, family and friends can fill in; and my children and, hopefully grandchildren, will have the later chapters.

Each person would tell a very different story. Nobody will tell my story the way I want it. They’ll all be grieving. They’ll be trying to remember the meals I made, the hugs I gave them and the way I made them laugh. They don’t need a stranger asking them what my mother’s maiden name was.

If I write it now, they can celebrate, remember, cry and fill in the new details. I’ll update it from time to time, put it in a place where everyone can find it, and won’t have to worry about anyone spelling Catrow with a K.

Live a life worth writing about

I’ve written and read about people who sailed around the world, served in wars, taught children to read or took care of their grandchildren.

Whatever you do, do it with passion and love. Don’t care if anyone else thinks you’re crazy. If you love to write, start a blog. If you love music, play it loudly. If you love car racing, get on the track. You are more than the desk you sit behind or the children you birthed. Live passionately, at least a little bit, every day. Love what you do and who you are.

Have empathy for the grieving

Everyone grieves differently. When I talk to a woman who can’t find her purse because her son just died, I listen. When I speak with a woman who is angry with the coroner’s office, I listen. Sometimes, I get off the phone, I take a deep breath, wipe my eyes and move on to the next obituary. I have to.

My heart breaks for these people, and their loss. Each one of the living has a story and a connection, the same way each obituary tells a story.

Live each day as if it’s your last

I’ve written obituaries for infants, teenagers, people my age, people in their 90s. Each day is a gift, and the next one may not be there. However you live, live life as though it may not be there the next day.

Take time to hug your children and tell them you love them. Don’t hold grudges with family or friends. Hug your parents, even when they drive you crazy. Someday, they won’t be here.

After I hang up the phone with families, I hope that I have helped each person in a small way. I’m just a tiny piece of the puzzle, but I’m really lucky to learn about so many different lives and people.

We all have stories, and I’m privileged to tell them.

Ms. Huber is an editorial assistant with Times/Review Newsgroup. She can be reached at [email protected] or 631-298-3200, ext. 250.

08/01/13 6:00am
08/01/2013 6:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | More and more tourists are flocking to the North Fork each summer.

So, the North Fork has been discovered … again! Every three or four years, it seems The Other Times (TOT) does a piece on the “Un-Hampton,” noting how quaint and quiet and unlike the glitzy Hamptons it is up here on the pastoral north side. They (TOT) did it again recently in an article written by Robin Finn, who describes the North Fork as “a wallflower and an underdog by comparison” to Long Island’s other fork.

I used to have a friendly debate with my Orient neighbor, Joel Lauber, over how much like Sag Harbor Greenport ought to be. I took the position that a little Sag Harbor glitz — you know, a few more luxury cars, a few more good restaurants, a few more beautiful people — would be welcomed, but Joel wanted none of it, and as time goes by I’m starting to identify with his point of view.

And that’s because we just may have reached the so-called tipping point. In the intervening years since this debate first surfaced, I think Greenport and the entire North Fork have developed just the right proportion of that aforementioned “glitz.” Now, in the year of our Lord 2013, we have just enough of those cars, those restaurants and those beautiful people.

(In fact, in one of the categories, good restaurants, I think we’re kicking The Other Fork’s (TOF) butt. But that, in itself, is fodder for a future column.)

Today, if you were to walk into any trendy bar in any trendy neighborhood of Brooklyn and randomly ask customers where they’d most like to spend the summer on Long Island, seven out of 10 would choose us. Quietly, and ever so surely, the North Fork has become the Long Island destination of choice for an increasing number of young families, established artists, influential journalists and published writers.

And the great thing about it is that nobody here — including the “newcomers” — has made a big deal about this latest “discovery.” Nor are there any plans, I’m relieved to report, to organize an annual writers and artists softball game like they do down on TOF.

This ho-hum attitude toward celebrity is best represented by the grief I personally took a while back for writing a column about the time Sonia Sotomayor spent on the North Fork in the days prior to her confirmation as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. It (the column) was slammed as an invasion of privacy even though neither I, nor this newspaper, attempted to contact her during her visit.

Another example: Two of this nation’s most celebrated (and highly compensated) artists — sculptor Richard Serra and painter Elizabeth Peyton — have homes in Orient, and yet I defy you to pick them out of a lineup of neighbors at the post office or the Orient Country Store. One of the primary reasons they chose to settle here, I would argue, is because they will not end up on the cover of Hamptons Magazine.

Of course, the corresponding downside of this “discovery” includes escalating real estate prices, declining school enrollments and added volume on our sometimes overburdened road system. But, I would argue, a workable and acceptable equilibrium has been struck, and thus must be vigorously defended from this point forth.

As long as there’s a place in Orient village for the likes of art world superstars like Serra and Peyton amid old-timers like Eddie Wysocki, whose overflowing mechanical repair shop on Platt Road is a work of art in itself, the North Fork will remain a unique and highly desirable place to live, work and play.

[email protected]

07/06/13 8:00am
07/06/2013 8:00 AM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Republican Town Justice William Price addressing Southold’s Democrats, including party Chairman Art Tillman (left) and Deputy Chairman Bob Meguin.

On my seventh birthday, my family took a vacation to Florida.

For most kids the time we spent at Disney World would have been the highlight of that vacation. For me, it was the day we saw the Mets play a spring training game in St. Petersburg.

I remember how up close we could get to the players and all the optimism on the field that spring. Of course, it was 1986.

One other detail I can recall was being overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar faces playing for the Mets that day. Many players I’d never heard of before subbed into the game, wearing uniform numbers like 84 and 92.

Over the years, I’ve grown to root for this type of young prospect, holding out hope that one day I’ll see one of them wearing a single-digit number in a regular-season game and I’ll know they’ve made it.

My affinity for the underdog carried into my earlier career as a sportswriter, as I’d sometimes find myself pulling for the team nobody would expect to win.

I felt the same way when I moved back home and began covering local politics in Brookhaven Town. I’m as apolitical as they come, but every so often I’d meet an emerging candidate with a good story and an inspiring vision. It would be hard not to root a little for that candidate on election night.

Maybe I’ve felt this way in my career because I know the underdog tale makes for a better story. Or maybe it’s just a natural human instinct to pull for the little guy. It’s so seldom anyone beats the odds in this life.

This past week I met some of the biggest underdogs around — the Southold Town Democrats — after the committee invited myself and Town Hall reporter Cyndi Murray to the committee’s meeting last Thursday. I’m told there were some concerns about having us there — some strategy and other issues were discussed — but in the end they felt our presence would do more good than harm for their campaign.

The event, which was held at First Universalist Church on Main Road in Southold, was an opportunity for the slate of Democratic town candidates to discuss their platforms with committee members and campaign volunteers.

Southold Democratic Committee chairman Art Tillman kicked off the evening by saying this year’s slate featured an eclectic arrangement of candidates he’s feeling very optimistic about.

But with Town Justice Bill Price, a longtime Republican spurned by his party this year, representing the only incumbent on the ballot, the Democrats sure do have their work cut out for them.

The candidates are a mix of longtime local residents like Town Board hopeful Ron Rothman or highway superintendent candidate Tobie Wesnofske and transplants from other countries like Town Board nominee Mary Eisenstein or Trustee candidate Geoffrey Wells.

The common theme of all the Democratic hopefuls was a love of Southold Town. They spoke in general terms of preserving the way of life here, as opposed to any specific political issues.

In fact, save maybe a comment Mr. Tillman made about a growing number of successful tax grievances pointing to possible complacency in the assessor’s office, the candidates pretty much steered clear of taking any shots at the local GOP. That was surprising to me.

In a year in which local Democrats lost their one Town Board member, Al Krupski, to the county Legislature, and their highway superintendent, Pete Harris, who decided at the 11th hour to not seek re-election, it seems the party will need to dial up the volume in order to get any members of its slate elected. Ms. Eisenstein, whose tone came in stark contrast to the subdued nature of the rest of the candidates, seemed the most likely to command attention. And given the knock on the assessor’s office it seems Democrats are most optimistic to land an assessor’s seat, with Marie Domenici of Southold perhaps having the best shot of their three candidates, which also includes Teri Hoffer and Jason Petrucci.

Mr. Tillman said Thursday he was pleased to still have Mr. Krupski’s name on the ballot as he seeks re-election to the Legislature post he won in a landslide this January, something he believes will help to get town residents to vote Democrat.

The party could certainly use the help after no Southold Democrat secured more than 38 percent of the vote in the 2011 general election.

Thursday’s committee meeting was a lot like a spring training game, as the candidates practiced their pitches and all remained hopeful for the coming season. The slate was certainly an energized group of long-shot candidates hoping to earn your vote.

Who knows, maybe one day we’ll see one of them wearing one of those single-digit uniform numbers.

The author is the executive editor for Times/Review Newsgroup. He can be reached at [email protected] or 631-354-8046.