05/04/15 7:00am
05/04/2015 7:00 AM

Eastern Long Island Hospital will hold its 23rd annual golf tournament in memory of John Romanelli, the late Town of Southold board member. Participation in the John Romanelli Memorial Golf Classic, which will be played on Wednesday, May 13, at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club in Shelter Island, directly supports patient care, specifically the Emergency Department. (more…)

12/23/12 8:00am
12/23/2012 8:00 AM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Family members carry out Mr. Romanelli’s casket after his funeral service.

In Southold, the New Year was anything but happy following the death of businessman and former town councilman John Romanelli, who died four days after Christmas from burns suffered during a fuel loading accident at his company, Burt’s Reliable, in Southold.

He was only 47.

A native of Farmingdale along the heavily developed Nassau-Suffolk border, Mr. Romanelli, who ran unsuccessfully for supervisor in 2003,  championed a radical open space preservation that many in his own party opposed and likely doomed his chances for victory.

A Suffolk Times editorial printed following his  death said, “Anyone spending just a few minutes with John would quickly conclude that he was, to use the vernacular, the real deal. Honest, energetic, sympathetic, engaging, dedicated, concerned, caring.”

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell recalled that he was just 17 when he met Mr. Romanelli.

“He gave his heart and soul to Southold Town,” Mr. Russell said. “Even when you disagreed with him it was impossible to be mad at him.”

The Suffolk Times named Mr. Romanelli its business person of the year for 2008. He earned praise for stepping forward to help provide new heating and air conditioning at the now restored Brecknock Hall mansion at Peconic Landing in Greenport.

In July Cross Sound Ferry dedicated its annual fund-raising fireworks cruise in memory of Mr. Romanelli. Some of the proceeds were donated in Mr. Romanelli’s name to Eastern Long Island Hospital.


08/03/12 1:59pm
08/03/2012 1:59 PM

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Paul Connor talks with Heather Romanelli during Friday’s donation ceremony

Cross Sound Ferry raised a record $17,000 during this year’s annual fireworks benefit cruise and has donated almost all of that to Eastern Long Island Hospital in memory of John Romanelli, the businessman and former town councilman who died in January.

Mr. Romanelli’s family — his wife Heather; children Ethan and Tara and brother Paul — where on hand Friday when Cross Sound made the donation.

“Together with other donations received in memory of John, and this generous donation by Cross Sound Ferry, ELIH  has half the funds needed to secure a lifesaving system called—Arctic Sun, a new Emergency Medical protocol endorsed by the American Hospital Association (AHA), which calls for lowering the core temperature of certain cardiac patients,” said Paul Connor, the hospital’s president and CEO. “ELIH is committed to raising the balance of the funds and dedicating the equipment in memory of John Romanelli.”

In addition to his service as a member of the Town Board, Mr. Romanelli was president of Burt’s Reliable fuel oil company in Southold. He died following an accident at the business in late December.

Mr. Romanelli was well known for his generous support of local organizations and causes.

The hospital is receiving $14,000 from the July 7 fireworks cruise. Each summer Cross Sound brings a boat full of people to watch a major fireworks show in New London and donates the proceeds to local charities.

The other $3,000 raised from this year’s event will go to scholarships for one graduating senior from each of the Mattituck, Southold and Greenport high schools.

07/07/12 9:02am
07/07/2012 9:02 AM

John Romanelli

Cross Sound Ferry is holding its 23rd annual fireworks benefit cruise Saturday night, but this year the usually festive affair will carry a tinge of sadness.

This year’s event is being held in memory of John Romanelli, the former Southold councilman who died Jan. 3 after being badly burned in a fire days earlier at his Southold company, Burt’s Reliable fuel oil service. Some of the funds raised will be donated in his name to Eastern Long Island Hospital.

“It’s almost sold out,” Stan Mikus, Cross Sound’s marketing director.  “It’s a popular East End community event and we’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.”

He said this year’s cruise could raise close to $14,000. Most of the money will go toward scholarships for graduating seniors from Mattituck, Greenport and Southold High Schools.

The ferry John H. will leave Orient at 7 p.m. Saturday and sail to New London for what is advertised as “one of the largest fireworks displays in the country.”

Tickets are $35 each and can be purchased from the ferry’s Orient ticket office, the Mattituck and Cutchogue branches of the Suffolk County National Bank, Harbourfront Deli in Greenport and The Candyman  in Orient.

Call Cross Sound Ferry at 323-2525 or visit www.longislandferry.com

01/07/12 1:52pm
01/07/2012 1:52 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Family members carry out Mr. Romanelli's casket after the Saturday morning service.

Continuing an outpouring of love and concern one local clergyman said he’s never before seen, Southold friends and family said goodbye to businessman and former councilman John Romanelli during a Saturday morning service at the filled-to-overflowing First Presbyterian Church in Southold.

Mr. Romanelli died early Tuesday morning, four days after suffering extensive burns in a flash fire that sparked while a truck was delivering a load of heating oil to his business, Burt’s Reliable in Southold on Friday, Dec. 30. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center and treated in the facility’s burn unit , where he passed away early Tuesday morning.

He was 47.

Mr. Romanelli was remembered Saturday for his love of family, driving work ethic and infectious grin.  His brother, Paul, added that the family has been overwhelmed by community’s reaction to John’s death.

About 700 people paid their respects at the Costner-Heppner Funeral Home in Cutchogue Friday afternoon, and on Thursday the line of those waiting to get in stretched out the door and down the block.

“Strangers waited in line in the cold for 90 minutes just to say good-bye,” Paul Romanelli said. “We will never forget how the community came together.”

Rev. Peter Kelley of the First Presbyterian Church, who was joined in the service by Father Peter Gary of St. Patrick’s R.C. Church of Southold, said he’s never before witnessed such community support.

“It’s an amazing outpouring that began this week,” Rev. Kelley said.

Speaking to the sudden end of Mr. Romanelli’s life, he told those in mourning that “questions are many. Anger is allowed.”

The community’s coming together following the tragedy is a gift and a blessing, Rev. Kelley added. “And I think it is a partial answer to your questions.”

[email protected]

01/06/12 12:30pm
01/06/2012 12:30 PM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | John Romanelli in a photo from Election Day in 2003.

Tuesday’s Town Board meeting agenda was full of the usual first-meeting-of-the-year business, with one exception.

Like others throughout the community, town officials were in shock over the death of former councilman John Romanelli, who died early Tuesday morning four days after suffering extensive burns during an accident at his Southold fuel oil business. He was 47.

“I’m shocked and sad. John’s an old friend,” said Supervisor Scott Russell, who was only 17 when he first met Mr. Romanelli. “We’d heard that he was doing better.”

He added, “He gave his heart and soul to Southold Town. Even when you disagreed with him it was impossible to be mad at him. I mourn his loss.”

Councilman Bill Ruland pondered how quickly an ordinary day in someone’s life can take a tragic turn.

“Life hangs by a thread,” he said. “It really does.”

Mr. Romanelli was using a torch to thaw a frozen pipe at his business, Burt’s Reliable on Youngs Avenue in Southold, as a truckload of biofuel, a mixture of petroleum and plant-based oil, was being pumped into a tank. When a crack opened in the line, about 20 gallons of fuel sprayed out and were ignited by the torch. Mr. Romanelli was engulfed in a flash fire and suffered extensive burns to the front of his body.

He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center and placed in intensive care in its burn unit, where he died at about 3:20 a.m. Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, John’s injuries were far too extensive despite the incredible efforts of the doctors and nurses of Stony Brook University Hospital and John’s fearless battle to survive,” his brother, Paul Romanelli, said in a statement Tuesday morning.
“People will ask why for a long time,” Mr. Ruland added. “Sometimes there’s no answer.”

Mr. Romanelli is survived by his wife, Heather; his two children, Ethan and Tara; his parents; and brothers Paul, of Cutchogue, the owner of Suffolk Security, and Martin.

Visiting hours were held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday and will continue from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at Coster-Heppner Funeral Home on Main Road in Cutchogue. A service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Southold, with Pastor Peter Kelley officiating. Interment will be private.

The family asks that donations be made to Eastern Long Island Hospital or the Stony Brook University Medical Center burn unit.
A native of Farmingdale, Mr. Romanelli graduated from high school there in 1982. While in high school he earned Eagle Scout honors, the Boy Scouts’ highest rank.

He attended York College in Pennsylvania but left to work for his family’s plumbing and heating business. After years of summering in Mattituck, he became a full-time Southold resident in 1988. That year he became the owner of Burt’s Reliable.

The Suffolk Times named Mr. Romanelli its business person of the year for 2008. He earned praise for stepping forward to help provide new heating and air conditioning at the now restored Brecknock Hall mansion at Peconic Landing in Greenport.

“The price we paid him — it’s almost embarrassing,” said former councilwoman Alice Hussie, who served on the Town Board with Mr. Romanelli. She took on the Brecknock Hall project as she left office. “He was always a giver, never a taker,” Ms. Hussie added.

He also came to the aid of Greenport’s American Legion post in 2001 when the building’s boiler went and he kept the heat going at far below market price.

Bob Ghosio, a town Trustee and manager of Burt’s Reliable, called Mr. Romanelli “my best friend and confidant. He was a brilliant businessman and a visionary in our industry. John’s million-dollar smile and caring nature is renowned in our community, and his charity and love for all people will be missed more than words can portray.”

Mr. Romanelli was elected to the Town Board in 1997 and served two four-year terms. His political career came to an end with his 2003 loss to then-incumbent supervisor Josh Horton.

Before running for supervisor, Mr. Romanelli became an outspoken proponent of moving to five-acre zoning. Most of Southold’s open lands, including much of the agricultural core, is covered by two-acre zoning.

During a 2003 campaign debate shortly before Election Day, Mr. Romanelli pointed to the changes along Riverhead’s Route 58 as evidence of the continuing eastward push of suburbia.

“The overdevelopment that has taken over Long Island is now at our doorsteps and we must act now,” he said.

But Mr. Romanelli’s plan enjoyed little if any support within the agricultural community and divided his Republican Party. Leading the Democratic ticket, Mr. Horton easily won a second term.

Mr. Horton remembered Mr. Romanelli as possessing “a pioneer’s spirit that was rich with compassion, kindness, guts and character. He had an open mind, an enormous heart and he saw the world through his own colorful lens.”

Mr. Horton added, “He viewed challenges as opportunities to grow, the needs of others as his own to take on and happiness as not something to strive for but rather a way of consistently being through good times and bad. I am proud to have served in public office with him, but more importantly I am blessed to have had John as a friend.”

Leslie Weisman, chair of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, described Mr. Romanelli as a generous, community-spirited man with a great sense of humor.

“His death is a great loss to community,” she said. Mr. Romanelli was equally generous with his public service, she added, serving with her on the Southold Hamlet Stakeholders committee. He was also caring of his customers, to whom he often extended credit, she said.

[email protected]

01/05/12 6:00am
01/05/2012 6:00 AM

The word is tossed about so carelessly and so often, and used when it really doesn’t apply. But there’s no disputing that the sudden loss of John Romanelli, former councilman, businessman, family man, friend and neighbor, is in every sense of the word a tragedy.

In looking over our past coverage of John’s years of service in town government and his role as a leading member of the North Fork’s business community, we were not at all surprised that friend and (political) foe alike offered glowing comments about him. Anyone spending just a few minutes with John would quickly conclude that he was, to use the vernacular, the real deal. Honest, energetic, sympathetic, engaging, dedicated, concerned, caring — the  praise heaped on him goes on and on. We’re glad John got to hear it. While it may seem a minor point, we were also struck that every photograph we’ve printed of John, from his quirky business advertisements to the news story of his conceding the 2003 supervisor’s election, he’s smiling that trademark smile of his. Anyone spending just a few minutes with him would realize that he wasn’t playing to the camera.

That was John, cheerful as always.

But perhaps the most impressive aspects of John’s character were his unflinching courage and integrity, both of which were put to the test during his unsuccessful bid for supervisor. Perhaps because he grew up near the Nassau-Suffolk border, John had more than an abstract view of the need to preserve Southold’s open spaces. Like many, he grew up in a congested area and moved east for a better quality of life for himself and his family. Also like many, he knew that conversation doesn’t bring about conservation. He went up against powerful forces in his own party to offer a new, and perhaps radical, preservation program. He stood his ground, spoke his piece and took his lumps. He never lost his cool, he took his defeat gracefully and continued to be a model citizen, all the while smiling that big John Romanelli smile.

We have lost someone truly special.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Romanelli family and we hope they find solace in the knowledge that John was more than just admired, he was loved.

01/05/12 5:00am


Requiescat in pace

Mercy, mercy, mercy. An angel amongst us is now an angel above us.
Rest in peace, John Romanelli. You will be missed but not forgotten.

Joann Tamin


Give credit to Anne

I am responding to Mr. Ed Blesch’s very nice letter about classical music concerts here on the East End. I thank him for his words of appreciation and his love of music.

I certainly agree with him about drawing in the young people of the community and giving them the opportunity to hear really fine live music.

One correction: I am not the director of Orient Community Activities. The honor of serving as president goes to Linton Duell, acting president in the absence of Anne Mackay, who has recently stepped down for health reasons.

Anne, president of OCA for many years, really should be recognized for her vision and leadership in restoring Poquatuck Hall to its rightful place as a community center for music, theater, meetings and parties.

Janes Smith

secretary, Orient Community Activities


Thanks much, elves

I would like to thank all the North Fork “elves” who helped with the East End Pajama Drive, which collected and distributed more than 200 pairs of new, warm pajamas to children in need in eastern Suffolk.
Our special thanks to everyone who donated and especially to the staff at King Kullen in Cutchogue, Rosemary Martilotta and her “yogies’ and the Mattituck, Cutchogue New Suffolk and Southold libraries.

Donna Giancontieri


We miss you, Skip

In my Dec. 1 column I touched on Orient’s loss with the passing of Skip Wachsberger. I mentioned that I would continue my thoughts in a letter to the editor. Well, that never happened.

My reason for not writing it at the time was indecision on just what to say and do justice to this special man. Everyone who spoke about Skip had a different vision of this very talented, gifted, colorful member of our Oysterponds family. However, the consensus expressed in hushed tones was just that — his hushed tones, his gentleness, his courage and the belief that he was tucked in, at peace and rest tending to the heavenly gardens.
It’s rare indeed, but no one said one cross word about Skip.

Just prior to Christmas I was at a party and we were telling Skip stories. I reluctantly told my favorite, which I said I couldn’t share in print. That attempt at self-censorship was voted down by all in the room, so here goes.
About 20 years ago a friend of mine who was my date for one of my high school soirées mentioned that he had since dated Skip. The next time I saw Skip I told him of our mutual friend. I followed that with, “Every guy I had a crush on in high school was gay.” Skip quickly responded, “Every guy I had a crush on in high school was straight.” That was said in monotone and he didn’t miss a beat or blink an eye. That was so Skip, who was anything but monotone.

When my mom died after a lengthy struggle with her health, I remember saying to Pat Cavanaugh, wife of Pastor Jim of Orient Congregational Church, that I’m not sure why I feel so sad since I knew this was coming. Pat, a licensed therapist, said death is like getting hit by a bus you see coming at you as opposed to one you don’t. Oysterponds was hit by a bus in November, but it was one we’ll all hop on eventually and meet again.
God speed, Skip.

Carol Gillooly


No one could go?

Southold Trustee John Bredemeyer recently wrote that the Trustees were working the day of the Rivera-Calabro trial. The charge of trespassing against Mr. Calabro carried implications regarding the Public Trust Doctrine and the public’s use of the beach below the mean high water mark. Therefore, the trial had implications for owners of beachfront property and the public.

The trial lasted not one day, but over a three-day period. Further, Mr. Bredemeyer wrote, “Had our schedule been otherwise, I am sure we would have been at the trial.” It seems a stretch to say five Trustees were working three consecutive days in a row on Trustee business and unable to send at least one Trustee to this important trial and report back.

Three Democrat candidates defeated in the last election found time and attended the trial. Not one of the Republican winners attended, nor did any office holder, nor did the town attorney.
Yes, the state, the town and the Trustees have not provided guidelines as to the location of the mean high water mark and we Democrats support a clarification, as I’m sure most do.

Art Tillman

chairman, Southold Democratic Party


Recognize the rights

As the author of “Long Island Sound: Its People, Places and Environment” published by New York University Press in 2004, and a contributor to a forthcoming book on the management of the Sound sponsored by the EPA’s Long Island Sound Study, I have read with interest your publication’s coverage of the Mattituck beachfront controversy and have delved further into similar, though not necessarily analogous, situations elsewhere, particularly the Destin, Fla., case.

In Destin after sand was brought in to replenish eroded beachfront, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the newly created beach was public property rather than the property of landowners, whose parcels had previously stretched to the water’s edge.

In contrast with the nature of the beach replenishment in Destin, in Mattituck natural forces deposited sand on Sound Beach Drive properties west of Mattituck Inlet, thereby increasing the size of these properties. Given the fact that the property owners are paying taxes on the accreted land, it does not seem unreasonable that they wish to reserve this property for the use of their families and guests.

The public still has the right to access the beach below the mean high tide line, but public access to the accreted beach, which the town recognizes by virtue of its taxing authority as private property, is a violation of the rights of the property owners.

Along the same lines, one cannot help but wonder how our local public authorities would react if the state were to claim the accreted beachfront at the Mattituck Park District beach to the west of Mattituck Inlet. If that were to occur, the town would presumably sue the state with the cost of such legal action borne by the taxpayers of our town.

Going back to the time of the Founding Fathers, private property rights have been enshrined in this country. It’s time for the Town of Southold to reaffirm these rights. Doing so will be in the town’s best interest and will in no way conflict with the public trust doctrine’s recognition of the public’s right to access beachfront up to the mean high water mark.

Marilyn Weigold


Put the rock back

People, don’t you think it is enough already? Chris and Richard Rivera have been singled out long enough. Any homeowner would do at least as much to protect their own property.

But to have the Town of Southold come in and remove a large rock from within a private property line simply because the town thinks “it’s in the way” is ridiculous. Put it back and let this vendetta against the Riveras go.
Probably your readers do not know, but Mr. and Mrs. Rivera are very philanthropic. They donate to charities all year long. They participate in fundraisers for the less fortunate in our area and are a kindhearted couple. They constantly put others before themselves. Their goodness goes unnoticed by most.

Chris and Richard are fair and strong businesspeople. The Town of Southold would be wise to follow their example and just leave them alone.

Please stay off their property and beach area, and for goodness sake put the rock back.

Donna Schmitt


This is the year

Happy New Year, North Fork! Here we are again, another year older and deeper in debt.

Say, are you still waiting for that hope and change to kick in? Oops, bet I hit a nerve with that one.

You have to admit, we got the change and after busting your butt all week I’ll bet that’s about all you have in your pocket. Wouldn’t it be great to keep more of what you worked so hard for instead of giving it to some Washington bureaucrat to spend on some frivolous entitlement or pork project?

When it comes to hope, my only hope is that more people woke up New Year’s Day and realized that this is the year we can put our great nation back on track.

In just a little over 10 months we will go to the polls to right the injustices perpetrated on us by the social progressives in the Democrat Party.

A progressive is a socialist and a socialist is a communist and it’s not my fault that the communists hijacked the Democrat Party. The problem is that there a large number of good and loyal Democrats who are oblivious of this fact.

My parents and grandparents wouldn’t recognize their party. This may come as a shock, but I was a devout Democrat until Jimmy Carter came along. I used to think that no one could be as bad a president as he was. Sadly, I stand corrected. Mr. Carter was and still is a jerk, but Mr. Obama and his ideology are dangerous.

Think I’m wrong? Think again. You’ll know that what I have stated is true when you see the squealing rebuttal letters against me. It’s not my intention to insult or defame the office of the president of the United States, just the ideology of the man that holds the office.

Wake up, America. It’s not who we are voting for, it’s what we are voting against.

George Dengel

01/03/12 3:37pm
01/03/2012 3:37 PM

John Michael Romanelli of Southold died Jan. 3 at Stony Brook University Medical Center at the age of 47. He suffered extensive burns Dec. 30, when he was caught in a fireball after a fuel line ruptured and biofuel being offloaded from a tanker truck sprayed out and ignited.

He was born Aug. 13, 1964, in Plainview to Pat and Loda (Pizzo) Romanelli. He earned an associate degree in 1984 from York College in York, Pa., and married his fiancée, Heather, on March 28, 1987, in Huntington.

A former Southold Town councilman, Mr. Romanelli was president of Burt’s Reliable Inc. in Southold. He had been an Eagle Scout, was named Suffolk Times Business Person of the Year in 2008 and belonged to the North Fork Chamber of Commerce.

He enjoyed swimming, skiing and spending time at his beachfront home with family and friends, they said.

Mr. Romanelli is survived by his wife; his son, Ethan; his daughter, Tara; his parents; and his brothers, Martin and Paul, and their families.

Visiting hours will take place Thursday, Jan. 5, from 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday, Jan. 6, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at Coster-Heppner Funeral Home in Cutchogue. A service will be held Saturday, Jan. 7, at 11 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Southold, Pastor Peter Kelley officiating. Interment will be private.

Memorial donations may be made to Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport or Stony Brook University Medical Center’s Burn Center.

01/03/12 2:23pm

Visiting hours will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5 and from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Coster-Heppner Funeral Home on Main Road in Cutchogue for former councilman John Romanelli, who died early Tuesday morning from burns suffered during a Dec. 30 fire at his Southold fuel oil business.

A service will be held Saturday morning, Jan. 7, at 11 at the First Presbyterian Church of Southold with Pastor Peter Kelley officiating. Internment will be private.

The family asks that any donations go to Eastern Long Island Hospital or the Stony Brook University Medical Center’s burn unit.