Obituaries

Jane Agnes Reilly Minerva

Jane Agnes Reilly Minerva, 86, died early Thursday, June 3, 2021, at her home in Easley, S.C. 

She was born to Edward Joseph and Agnes Mayer Reilly on April 5, 1935, in Baldwin, N.Y. Jane was raised in Lynbrook, N.Y., where she met the love of her life, Giovanni “John” Minerva. As Jane always was very certain of what she wanted, they married young. After he returned from the Korean War, during which he wrote her numerous letters, she had them bound into a book and published. They lived in Levittown and Wantagh with their growing family until the mid-1960s, when they came to the East End for a vacation and Jane and family never left.

Jane was active in the Sacred Heart Parish and school, was the organist at Sacred Heart Church for a period and volunteered everywhere. When her youngest son was near school age, she volunteered at Cut­ch­ogue Free Library, became a staff member and two years later the director, a position she continued to hold for over 35 years.

It was important to Jane to attain her master’s degree in library science and achieve her 4.0. She took the library from a single church building — where movies were shown Saturday afternoons for the kids and adults were given flashlights to find their books in the darkened building — and encouraged, planned and fundraised to build the addition on the back to more than double the space. She was adored and inspired her employees with her encouragement for education and her modeled work ethic. Jane was never one to hold back her opinion in her relentless desire to make the Cut­ch­ogue library the best. After retiring from the library, Jane continued her work in both the library community and the local towns. 

Jane was full of personality (particularly mischief), never backed down from a challenge, was honest to a fault and incredibly loyal to her friends and family. A talented musician, she sang in the North Fork Chorale for many years and always had music playing in her home that was often indicative of her mood. 

She was a lover of family, community and country! She loved the red, white and blue and always had a flag flying. Jane strongly believed that saltwater heals everything and spent countless days swimming, sailing, boating and fishing the Great South Peconic Bay. She would frequently make jams, jellies and quick breads and distribute them to family and friends around town. At this point, Jane would be telling us, “Time is short and the water’s rising.”

Jane and her husband, John, retired five years ago to a senior community in South Carolina near their younger son. Jane is survived by her husband, John; her sister, Monica Koszela; her brother, Edward (Susan) Reilly; her sons, John (Laura), of Naples, Fla., and Paul (Ann Marie), of Easley, S.C.; and her daughter Carol Badgley (Glenn Lawson) of Owls Head, N.Y. Her legacy of grandchildren includes Jeremiah Ryan, John Minerva, Jennifer DiPietro, David Minerva, Jason Badgley, Gregory Minerva, Rachel Badgley, Benjamin Badgley, Daniel Badgley, Paul Minerva and Anthony Minerva. Jane is also survived by her great-grandchildren, Jack DiPietro, John Robert Minerva, Julia DiPietro, Tyler Minerva, Alice Minerva, Giovannah Badgley, Ellanor Minerva, Joseph DiPietro, Aliyah Gorrow, Amelia Minerva, Dec­lan Ryan, Keiarah Gorrow and Ava Minerva. Jane was predeceased by her daughter Jeanne Minerva (Marland Henderson) of Cut­ch­ogue, N.Y. 

Visiting hours are Sunday, June 13, from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Coster-Heppner Funeral Home in Cut­ch­ogue. A funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. Monday, June 14, at Our Lady of Good Counsel R.C. Church in Mattituck. Burial will follow at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Cut­ch­ogue.

Memorial donations may be made to Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library or to any hospice.

‘Sunday Story: A Conversation’ 

The following is a speech Jane gave on April 19, 2015, at Cut­ch­ogue New Suffolk Free Library:

Not sure why I’m here — I feel like Hillary Clinton, trying to resurrect a life. Indeed … no need! Times is short and the water’s rising.

I asked that I not be recorded for this talk, and was denied — “IT’S HISTORY,” so I’ll be careful in what I say and do — just for the record.

 Early on — in my personal history — I was always ‘Onward-Obsessive-Compulsive.”

I grew up in Lynbrook — a German-Irish family — lots of good food, noise, competition, loyalty in parades — God Bless America.

Music was a big part of our lives — my dad in military bands, mom playing classical piano, all singing in church and school choirs, etc.

In high school I was in variety shows, “Annie” — when I didn’t sing, I accompanied … also played clarinet in the band. (Which allowed me to play in Patsy Rogers’ recorder group … )

I also played sports, was a cheerleader (Della), president of Leaders’ Club, HiY, married very early — happy beginnings!

Hubby drafted to Korea — our new babe, a gal, born and we lived with my parents until her daddy’s return in two years. Then:

Settled in Levittown (with Bill O’Reilly, etc.) for five years, had a baby son and another daughter there.

Moved then to Wantagh — required for Catholic school — had final fourth baby, another son. Amen.

My mom wanted us to vacation, so she booked a cottage for a month in Jamesport near the bay. Us, our four kids, Mom and Dad, dogs, visitors, etc. Amen again.

I had never been to eastern Long Island. I learned a lot about farming, fishing, beautiful landscapes — everything!

Wonderful … and when the time came, I refused to go home. Daddy John went. My orders to him: “GO HOME AND SELL IT.” He wasn’t happy. I was aged 27.

I rented a bayfront house for the winter, put kids in schools, bought newly available Cut­ch­ogue property in Fleets Neck, I hired an architect, builder, etc. — all locals from the neighborhood — part of our growing team.

A year later, in 1967, we finally moved into our partially constructed house and became lovers of the community.

We became very involved in everything possible. 

I was Brownie and Girl Scout leader, CYO Coach (Peg Dickerson), committee renovator of the Sacred Heart Parish Hall (I designed the kitchen, made curtains, etc. Hubby John replaced the roof, bathrooms, etc.) He was also the Boy Scout leader and CYO Coach, president of the Sacred Heart school board, also president of the FNPO — did everything while commuting daily to Hicksville to his business in Rheingold. There was no LIE at that time. A long ride! His pickup grossed over 600,000 miles. But he was also a boat and auto mechanic. Thus the variety of boats we have owned.

Hey — guess what? Always in need of a few bucks, daily I packed his travel vehicle with loads of stuff from the local farm stands. Plus my jellies, pickles, etc. We had a new business. The guys he worked with in Nassau loved the tomatoes, corn, beans, peaches, etc. We just doubled the price. (Imagine what we could have done with wine! — in the beer trucks!) Actually, I worked for Louisa Hargrave (in my spare time), picking their first crop — in Cut­ch­ogue — all part of our team.

Our little business did well and we put the coins in a big jar and bought our first color TV. 

Then he absolutely refused to continue — said he couldn’t take any more fruit flies in his trip to Nassau daily.

Well, OK, we found other things to keep us busy. We volunteered everywhere. And I got a custodial job at the park district. (Subbing for my son!) (Narrative!)

Father Henry knew I could play piano — asked if I would try organ! Of course, I could do that, too. I had lessons as a 12-year-old in Lynbrook.

So I bought a Hammond on Swap and Shop from Jim Homan (local Braun’s seafood specialist) and renewed my abilities.

I took over the 10:30 Mass on Sundays plus holidays, rehearsals, etc. No pay. About 10 years. 

I also worked with the choir and teen guitar choir and loved working and performing in Mattituck with the North Fork Community Theatre and, in southold, with the North Fork Chorale. 

Loved public meetings: school, fire department, park district, town, property owners, Homemakers, Red Hats, etc. Had to get serious. And it certainly beat watching TV.

With our last child almost ready for school, I volunteered in the Sacred Heart school library and, a bit later, across the street in the Cut­ch­ogue Free Library.

Take it from there. I was soon hired and took over as director after about two years, for a 15-hour week — with my kids in Sacred Heart across the street and others beginning in Mercy High School in Riverhead.

Life was busy but challenging and I loved it all. Now I was in charge. Complete devotion. I never counted hours, just wanted excellence. I learned from my experiences.

I gave up most of my other volunteer positions (still organed at some friend’s weddings and played for special holidays) and focused completely on the library — the beginning of my long run until my ending 40 years later. Fifteen library hours soon became 30 and staff increased to a dozen, very slowly over the years! But I insisted that all staff all be local (a payback from their taxes) and dedicated. They were! I never had to advertise — just stuck a sign on the door — if need be.

In the meantime — my mom and dad moved in with us — she with Parkinson’s, he just retiring and closing the Bell Laboratories in NYC. Wow, what a gifted dad. He taught me! Example, when I was little, he bought me a camera and taught me how to develop the film and print the pictures. Also how to save coins, stamps, etc.

I still continued doing other things besides knitting, sewing, rug making, etc., like writing the Cut­ch­ogue column in the Mattituck Traveler, running the Sacred Heart Church annual three-day weekend fundraising auction/BBQ, etc. I was chairman of the Cut­ch­ogue Hamlet Committee for the town — appointed by Scott Russell, a former friend with my kids and eventually a library board president — having many Cut­ch­ogue hamlet meetings to ascertain zoning, lot sizes, etc. I terminated when I finally ended up in our local hospital under stress, etc. I then was totally dedicated to the library, and began, at age 40, a 10-year program to go to college and get a master’s in library and info science from Post. I was so embarrassed to be at the bottom of the professional scale. Nada.

I got my associate degree at Suffolk and my literature degree at St. Joe’s in Pat­ch­ogue. Became good friends with the nuns/faculty there — traveled to Europe, etc. Did fundraising.

Anyhow, I was age 50 for my final graduation. The audience contained a number of my cheering grandchildren. 

Looking forward to my next decade, I then continued my hiking, biking, tennis, swimming — whenever possible. And a total, now, of 17 grand- and great-grands. Never dull. Like running a full time B&B at home.

But at that time I was president of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System Directors’ Association — 57 librarians, all college professionals, except me! Six of our staff also obtained professional degrees over the years. Hallelujah. I then took on some lecturing, gave workshops, etc. Arranged meetings/luncheons. Countywide.

Here in our library we did very, very well, with tremendous support from our community, leading to super increases in everything, eventually becoming number one in New York State and the nation in “support/capita” and circulation/capita. Dollars were necessary in order to maintain good service in a district with a small tax population. Yes! and those No. 1 numbers still hold, according to current ALA and NYS publications. (I still check everything!) I’m sure we outnumber all in volunteers! 

My husband and I continued to give all we could — like, to shovel snow to keep the library available, whenever. We took the window blinds in the church home annually for bathtub cleanings and washed the church windows. We took care of special gardens and I built a brick walkway around the rear of the church — adding a property line hedge, etc. We helped in every way possible. Biggest thing was bringing down the Tiffany steeple “weathervane.” (There’s a picture of me on the church roof when it was taken down.) It broke loose and fell over on the roof in 1993 and I had it brought down into the lobby for a year of touching and feeling by us all. Now I am warned that these valuable “vanes” are being stolen by helicopters! Kind of like the old church beams suddenly disappearing during construction.

Before I left the library, not knowing what would be happening, I photocopied and put into book form all formal documents from my 40 years. Just as insurance. I was going to give them to Southold (Geoff Fleming’s professional history library) — but that’s a question! Now, at home, from my attic, I’m going through a huge carton load of “personal” letters, studies and paperwork. Wow, some great stuff, some nasty. Mostly handwritten or poorly typed on faded carbons. All handwritten stuff (thank you notes, etc.) I keep and reread — often around the New Year season. Some sad stuff, eventually, becomes fireplace material, but most remains in my basket of favorites, especially those from those deceased.

When I left the Cut­ch­ogue library, I spent the next eight years straightening out problems in other local libraries and finally putting together, professionally, the Suffolk County Library Association’s Last Copy Center/Library. So many filthy, old books. That was an adventure — for several years.

ONWARD! Now I’m doing my own family history paper collections — including transcribing 550 letters home from Korea, to be combined with photos in hardcover book format. AMEN.

Finally:

Community interaction is never-ending in the library. The library is a one-to-one with the Historical Council — sharing some expenses and professional help. We interact with our large number of hamlet volunteers and our facilities. Best is our library’s dedication to local history/proper professional organization and storage of paper materials. Yes, the taxpayers pay that bill, but the council paid a substantial amount for the renovation of the historical room in the loft. (After the raccoons were evicted and the squirrels shot.) The council keeps their “larger” antiques.

The library is interactive with local schools, churches, property associations, the fire department, park district, art displays, commercial enterprises and more — the Country Club — cemeteries!

The community is so helpful back to the library, reinforcing needs, being most rewarding to staff who so appreciate their faith and support. It’s a one-on-one deal — unending.

Regarding building repairs and renovations (the church) and the new structures — those projects were unbelievable, requiring such dedication from our wonderful board members and other serious, experienced residents. So many professionals came forward to make plans and do fund-raising. I’d be a loser if I started to list names. It would be impossible to complete.

But, my loving thanks could not be more sincere. You know who you are! The community lives, daily, with these massive improvements. 

I mean, think about that toilet in the old church closet. Thank gosh for the hole in the floor! It all froze for months during winter — so we went home for lunch!

Essentially, we were all a team, the more the better. Teams belong to a community — but there is no community without teams. 

Recently, I’ve been rereading our books about local history. Unbelievable: We were a British colony for centuries, expanding when the Irish and Polish immigrants came over to work the land. Here was the most fertile land and abundant fish known. The local natives were a part of the support team — and good negotiators. Churches were meeting rooms where most political decisions were made — thus the variety of churches. Now they are becoming museums, art centers, etc. Such beautiful architecture is being saved. 

Seriously, add local history to your reading lists. I have personal copies of all local stuff. All are available for purchase (I give them to family as holiday gifts) to live on.

I read this presentation to my husband last night, and he referred to it as an extensive obituary. Well, yes, I had my 80th birthday on Easter, so it’s good to have it ready for publication, but I’ll try to keep my dream teams going and support them for as long as possible, and … 

As per Kate Smith — this is only a beginning of another seventh inning stretch: 

God Bless Yankee Stadium and God Bless America — especially the continuing teams in Cut­ch­ogue and New Suffolk.

This is a paid notice.

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