Spelling bee raises more than $4,000

The Jamesport Meeting House was packed Friday night for a spelling bee that raised more than $4,000. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)
The Jamesport Meeting House was packed Friday night for a spelling bee that raised more than $4,000. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

A total of $4,250 was raised to help with restoration efforts at the Jamesport Meeting House Friday night through, of all things, a spelling bee. 

The event packed more than 140 people into the 243-year-old Meeting House to watch 24 local residents try to spell words like pourboire (“He left a pourboire for the chambermaid”), kinkajou (it’s some kind of animal) and proselyte (a person converted from one faith to another).

The $4,250 was raised through sponsorships gathered by the participants, who were required to have raised at least $50 to compete. The amount raised by the event could have been even higher had their been an admission charge for spectators, but the Meeting House board members decided to make it free, according to board member Richard Wines.

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Among the competitors were former Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale, veterinarian Charles Timpone, Roanoke Avenue school teacher and civic leader Georgette Keller, attorney Harvey Arnoff and a few competitors who are still in school.

In the end, it was Sarah Bowe of Riverhead who won, clinching victory by spelling “bibelot” correctly. That’s another word for trinket.

“I had no intention of winning,” she said afterward.

Ms. Bowe, who was a French major in college and likes crossword puzzles, said she’s not sure how she won.

“I’m a tax preparer now and a mother. I do nothing with words,” she said, adding that she used to be a horticulturist, too.

“I really just entered on a lark. I wanted to show my kids that you can do something that scares the heck out of you once in a while.”

Beth Motschenbacher of Southold and Carol Cryzwinski of Jamesport, who joked that their last names could have been spelling bee words, finished second and third, respectively.

And Joe McKay of Peconic Landing in Greenport got an award for raising the most money through sponsorships. He raised $890.

Jeff Greenberger, the longtime Riverhead High School Latin teacher, was the moderator and picked the words from a list of words used by the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The first round, however, was done in what he called “innings” style. That allowed all the contestants to spell a few words and then those with the most points advanced to the second round. The contestants also had one pass each, which could only be used in the first round.

In the second round and beyond, one misspelled word equaled elimination.

“It was quite a success and if was a lot of fun,” said Meeting House board member John Stefans. “The amount raised and the number of people there was far more than anticipated.”

Mr. Wines said he hopes the spelling bee, which was organized by Mattituck-Laurel Library director Kay Zegel, will become an annual event at the Meeting House.

He noted the irony of having a spelling bee at the Meeting House.

“Our Puritan forefathers who built this place were terrible spellers,” he said, noting that on the deed for the cemetery next door, they even spelled “the” wrong.

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