05/23/15 3:00pm
05/23/2015 3:00 PM
The Old Burying Ground in Southold — which features some creepy headstones — is in need of some fixing. (Credit: Michael White)

The Old Burying Ground in Southold — which features some creepy headstones — is in need of some fixing. (Credit: Michael White)

The bodies of the 17th- and early 18th-century Puritans and others in Southold’s Old Burying Ground stretch east from the tombstones, even though the inscriptions face west.

“The idea was that on judgement day they could sit up and greet Christ, whom they believed would be coming from the east,” explained Jane Andrews, a First Presbyterian Church member.

While not exactly Christ, a team of redeemers will soon descend on the graveyard to kick off a five-year effort to restore the Main Road site — originally called “God’s Acre” in 1640 — to its former glory.

The church’s cemetery committee has already approved spending $45,000 this summer and fall on repairs and preservation efforts, and hopes to address 50 to 70 of the old stones. The church will also be seeking grants to fund the project.

But the biggest challenge, those involved say, is recruiting and training that team of volunteers to repair cracks, remove unsightly caulking and shore up felled stones, among other tasks that need to be performed at what is considered New York’s oldest colonial cemetery.

“We need volunteers of all levels of ability,” Ms. Andrews stressed. “And it all depends on how much help we get.”

To that end, the first of a planned 10 training workshops for volunteers will be held at the site Saturday, June 6, at 9 a.m.

This all follows a survey of 754 grave markers that was conducted last year from church committee members. The Old Burying Ground is part of the cemetery owned by the church and dates to the town’s founding. Today, the cemetery spans about eight acres and is still active for town residents who wish to be interred there.

Among the grave markers that can be found at the site is the box tomb of Barnabas Horton (1680), who helped found the town; Helena Underhill (1658), who is buried under the oldest marked grave on the property; and Ezra L’Hommedieu (1811), a descendent of French Huguenots who is considered to be the most influential man in the town’s history.

According to a cemetery pamphlet and other resources, Mr. L’Hommedieu was taught by Native Americans how to make quality fertilizer (a skill he later passed on to fellow European settlers), delivered ammunition and supplies to the eastern Suffolk County militia and served as a state senator and representative from New York to the Continental Congress.

At the cemetery, there are also three stones marking the graves of slaves, such as that along the property line near Main Road for woman named Bloom.

As the story goes, Bloom was found deaf and mute on a Southold beach in 1808 soon after a British ship fired a cannon into a shorefront house. Abrahama Mulford took her into his home and cared for her until she died two years later.

Also of great interest to visitors of the Old Burying Ground in Southold — not to be confused with the Old Burying Ground in Cutchogue, where restoration began last year — are the carved death’s head — typically skulls with wings — and, later, cheerier soul effigies that mark the tops of many of the stones.

“The death’s heads, frightening skulls with sunken eyes and sometimes bared teeth, symbolize life’s impermanence — its insignificance compared to life and death,” the pamphlet reads.

“With Puritans, everything was about death,” said Melissa Andruski of Southold Free Library, who runs tours of the graveyard. “Death was central to their way of living. Everything was about preparing for death, which is kind of gloomy, I suppose. They believed your fate, whatever that was, is already determined and there was nothing you could do to change it. Hence, the winged death’s heads. Then over time, the soul effigies come into being, so we’re kind of letting go here and being a bit optimistic.”

Ms. Andrews’ favorite headstones at the Old Burying Ground mark the graves of a brother and sister who both died in 1717. Samuel Hutchinson was 16 and Martha Hutchinson was just 9. Death’s head symbols are carved toward the top of each stone, though the wings of the death’s head above Samuel’s marker forms a heart, which Ms. Andrews said is a “juxtaposition of life and death.”

Ms. Andrews has a theory about the mood of the carver who etched the stones for the siblings, who might have died from the same disease. “Maybe the carver was of mixed minds,” she said. “And he just couldn’t bear to use the traditional, grim imagery.”


05/23/15 12:00pm
JOHN NEEELY FILE PHOTO | Calverton National Cemetery will host its annual Memorial Day service at 1 p.m. Monday.

JOHN NEEELY FILE PHOTO | Calverton National Cemetery will host its annual Memorial Day service at 1 p.m. Monday.

In keeping with tradition, Memorial Day will be observed Monday with a series of parades and ceremonies across the North Fork and Riverhead Town.

The following is Monday’s schedule of events: (more…)

05/23/15 7:00am

Shoreham resident Marcia Slatkin invites all to a poetry/prose reading, which she will share with Celine Keating, a novelist who’s about to publish her second book. The event will be held Sunday, May 31, at 5 p.m. at the Tivoli Artists Gallery, 60 Broadway, in New York City. Marcia will read from her two books, “A Woman Milking,” Barnyard poems; and “Not Yet: A Care-Giving Collage.” (more…)

05/22/15 5:30am
05/22/2015 5:30 AM

It feels so good to be warm again, doesn’t it? Leaving the bedroom window open at night and not having a frozen nose when you wake up in the morning is such a joy. The strawberries, however, are going to be a little late this year due to the cooler spring temps but they’re looking good. In the meantime, eat your spinach, asparagus and lettuce. (more…)

05/22/15 5:00am

Rusty Kransky (from left), Kelsey Cheslock and Brett Chizever play Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot in ‘Camelot,’ running through May 31 at the North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck.

Proposition: “Camelot” has always been one of my favorite musicals; it had been quite some time since I’d seen it on stage, so I was looking forward to seeing North Fork Community Theatre’s current presentation. Resolved: I was not disappointed.

“Camelot,” with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, is based on the novel “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White. It is the story of King Arthur who, when he meets his intended bride, Guenevere, is inspired to be the most wonderful king who ever sat on a throne. In an era when the rules support the concept of “might is right,” with knights fighting and pillaging, he conceives the idea of a civilized world of “might for right” and chivalry, with knights protecting honor and justice.

Arthur creates the legendary Round Table, which becomes renowned across the land. This attracts the radically religious Lancelot, who travels from France to devote his life and soul to serve Arthur. Most of us know what happens to Camelot when Guenevere and Lancelot fall in love. If you don’t, well, you will just have to see the play.

Richard Gardini plays Arthur’s teacher, Merlyn, with much more youthful vigor than you would expect from his ancient appearance. But then again, Merlyn is growing backwards — “youthening” — and can “remember the future.”

Peter Peterson portrays Mordred, the bastard son who arrives to stir up trouble in the court, with swagger and sneer, and he offers his wickedly twisted take on life in his solo “The Seven Deadly Virtues.”

King Pellinore is an old friend of Arthur’s who wanders into the realm lost and homeless, and Rick Peters provides depth to this robust but daft “Pelly.”

Marilee Scheer brings a comical touch to the traditionally evil Morgan LeFey, who is easily led by Mordred with his lure of tasty treats. Young Ben Eager, as both a page and Tom of Warick, is adorable and earnestly focused.

Three key knights are portrayed perfectly by Matt Tuthill (Sir Dinadan), Kyle Breitenbach (Lionel) and Patrick O’Brien (Sagramore) and provide excellent choral support, as do Kelly Cassidy, as Lady Anne, and Jen Eager, Joyce Stevens, Aria Saltini and Victoria Carroll as ladies in waiting.

See more photos here.

The ultimate success or failure of any production of “Camelot” ultimately falls to the triad of leads, and those here are more than up to the task.

Kelsey Cheslock is lovely as Guenevere. Her voice is angelic and she imbues the queen with a playful, youthful energy. Brett Chizever brings is own sublime voice to the table as he always does, but plays Lancelot as a bit more of a clown. He does, however, still offer the intensity and polish we have come to expect in all his work. Singing together, they bring on the goosebumps.

Rusty Kransky has played Arthur before in other local productions, so I expected a fine performance from him. I found his take on Arthur this time around more subtle, moving and satisfying than ever. It doesn’t really need saying, but I will anyway — his singing is as much a pleasure as always.

The combined efforts of director Caroline Ciochetto, Mr. Kransky as assistant director, rehearsal music director Nancy Deegan and production music director Jeff Wentz have contributed to this most enjoyable production, with its fine acting and singing across the board, and producer Babette Cornine has put together a terrific theatrical team. The orchestra is skilled and complements the singers nicely. Diane Peterson outdoes herself with the costume design, which is beautiful and realistic. The set by Dee Martin and lighting design by David Scheer also enhance the illusion.

Proposition: You enjoy theater that combines quality performances and beautiful music with humor, action and romance. Resolved: You make sure you don’t miss NFCT’s production of “Camelot”!

North Fork Community Theatre
12700 Old Sound Ave., Mattituck
Performances continue Thursdays-Sundays through May 31. Show times: Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 298-NFCT (6328) or visit nfct.com.

05/19/15 8:00am
05/19/2015 8:00 AM
(L-R) United Healthcare’s Juliette Serrano and Robert McBrien; Pat Celli, United Healthcare Community Plan of New York president; Riverhead Councilman James Wooten; Sister Margaret Smyth; Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy. (Credit: courtesy)

(L-R) United Healthcare’s Juliette Serrano and Robert McBrien; Pat Celli, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of New York president; Riverhead Councilman James Wooten; Sister Margaret Smyth, North Fork Spanish Apostolate executive director; Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter; and Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy. (Credit: courtesy)

Sister Margaret Smyth had no idea thousands of dollars of private grant money was up for grabs.

She only found out when she got a call a couple of weeks ago announcing that the sister’s organization, the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, had just won $25,000.

“You didn’t have to apply for it; they just called me up and told me we got it,” Sister Margaret said. “I was like, ‘Wow!’ ”

The United Healthcare Community Grant will be used to expand health care offerings from the Apostolate — which serves Hispanic and poor communities from Riverhead to Greenport.

The money will also be used to send children to summer camps, as well as pilot a Spanish literacy program for undereducated immigrants, Sister Margaret said. The funding matches nearly a quarter of the organization’s usual budget.

“[United Healthcare] appreciate all that goes on, so they selected us to get this,” she said. “It’s a huge amount.”

Sister Margaret’s organization was one of four chosen in New York State, said United Healthcare spokesperson Maria Gordon Shydlo.

“When I was doing research I couldn’t believe how much work she does in the community,” Ms. Shydlo said. “She’s just like a rock star.”

The North Fork Spanish Apostolate was the only local organization to be awarded a grant.

The funds set aside for health care programs will help cover co-pays for needy residents, as well as prescription medication that may otherwise be too expensive, she said. The Apostolate’s program is open to all, she added.

“Not just the Spanish community, but the [whole] community,” Sister Margaret said.

The Apostolate also sends needy children to summer camps like the 4-H camp in Baiting Hollow or to sleepaway camps. Last year, about 50 kids were given the opportunity.

“We’re looking for kids who can really use a week [at camp],” Sister Margaret said. “[We] try to expose them to more than just being home in the house all the time. And the kids love it.”

The Spanish literacy program, which would yield a certification that can help those seeking employment, will be organized through the Mexican consulate and offered in Riverhead.

“We have many people who don’t read and write their language,” she said. “They never had the opportunity to really go to school.”

Though many immigrants on the North Fork are not Mexican — most are Guatemalan or Salvadoran — a certification from the program will be recognized in countries outside of Mexico.

The Spanish Apostolate’s new grant comes after the organization moved last year to new offices at St. John the Evangelist’s Church. More than 60 volunteers help with the program, Sister Margaret said.

“I can always use more,” she said. “We continue to grow and grow and grow.”