11/22/14 8:00am
11/22/2014 8:00 AM
St. Anthony's High School rowers during the annual Snowflake Regatta, which this year made national headlines for all the wrong reasons. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)

St. Anthony’s High School rowers during the annual Snowflake Regatta, which this year made national headlines for all the wrong reasons. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

My wife and I were at a local restaurant the other night. The family of four sitting next to us was finishing dessert when a busgirl, who appeared to be around 14 or 15, let a glass of water slip from her hand. It didn’t splash anybody and no one appeared to be hurt, but it was an inconvenience for a few of the surrounding tables as the water spread across the floor and needed to be cleaned up.

What surprised me most about the incident was how the mother at the table, who appeared to be in her 40s or 50s, reacted to the spill.  (more…)

11/15/14 8:00am
11/15/2014 8:00 AM
Tim Bishop addressed the crowd on Election Day Nov. 4 after losing to Republican Lee Zeldin. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)

Tim Bishop addresses the crowd on Election Day Nov. 4 after losing to Republican Lee Zeldin. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

When I began reporting on Suffolk County politics back in February 2006, the Democratic party here was on the rise.

In Brookhaven Town, where I was assigned at the time, Democrats were one month into their first majority in more than 25 years. The party controlled the Legislature, the 1st District Assemblyman was a Democrat and so was our local congressman. Suffolk also had just as many Democratic town supervisors as Republicans in office and the county executive was a Democrat.  (more…)

10/19/14 8:00am
10/19/2014 8:00 AM
Riverhead football coach Leif Shay addressing his players following their win over Newfield Oct. 11. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Riverhead football coach Leif Shay addressing his players following their win over Newfield Oct. 11. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

At 6-foot-4 and the Arby’s side of 300 pounds, I get asked a lot about my past life as a football player.

The truth is, I didn’t play much growing up.

I played youth football the summer going into fifth grade until my parents gave me the option of quitting after my coach was arrested on — of all things — a domestic violence charge.  (more…)

09/20/14 10:00am
09/20/2014 10:00 AM
The Riverhead Project in downtown Riverhead. (Credit: File Photo)

The Riverhead Project in downtown Riverhead. (Credit: File Photo)

Some of the reaction to the news that The Riverhead Project has closed its doors has really bothered me these past couple of weeks.

I can’t say I’m exactly shocked by the closure. Nor was I surprised at all by the quasi-celebratory reaction from some of our readers.  (more…)

07/04/14 2:00pm
07/04/2014 2:00 PM
TR0703_Column_BE_C.jpg

Jen Becker making hats for newborns and preemies at her home in Southold this week.

At 4 a.m. the morning after my son was born, a nurse ducked into the room as my wife and I were falling asleep and gave him his first bath. When she was done, she swaddled him up tight and placed a red, green and white knit cap on his tiny bald head.

It was two days before Christmas and baby Jackson had his first hat. Even with a dresser drawer full of infant caps, the hospital freebie kept his skull warm long after the holidays.

Perhaps it’s because it was made by hand, or maybe just because it was sturdier than the others, but we loved that darn hat. While we realize he’ll never wear it again, there’s no way we’re tossing it in the garbage any time soon.

It turns out we’re not alone. (more…)

01/11/14 8:00am
01/11/2014 8:00 AM

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Times/Review babies Jackson Parpan (left) and Abigail White with moms Vera and Suzanne were both recently delivered into the world with help from Mattituck nurse and loyal Suffolk Times reader Douglas Massey.

When you’re an editor of a local newspaper, you expect to meet readers in all sorts of places; the grocery store, schools and libraries are the most common among them.

The hospital delivery room is not the sort of place you’d expect to make that connection — especially at a hospital more than a half-hour outside your coverage area.

But Stony Brook University Medical Center is exactly where I — and Times/Review editor Michael White three months before me — recently met Douglas Massey.

Yes, Mr. Massey, a nurse from Mattituck who happens to be a loyal Suffolk Times reader, coincidentally played a role in the delivery of the two most recent Times/Review babies.

In dealing with patients, Doug, a 52-year-old father of three, is quick to acknowledge that he’s a man in a field traditionally associated with females. It’s all part of a bedside routine he uses to put patients at ease during stressful times. It’s no secret that there’s usually anxiety in a hospital room and it helps if the professionals there treat the patient with compassion and know how to turn a tense moment into a positive experience.

Mr. Massey’s bedside manner was so natural, he gave both Mike and me the initial impression he’d been working as a nurse for decades. That’s not the case.

A laid-off construction project manager, he graduated from nursing school in May 2011, which is when The Suffolk Times first shared his story. While his journey sounds like it could have been a ’90s TV sitcom starring Tim Allen, Doug doesn’t exactly play it for laughs. He’s serious about his calling and it’s clear he cares deeply about helping others.

“If a person is caring, has the intellectual capacity to make it through nursing school and can apply that knowledge on the job, then that is what really matters,” he told the paper in 2011. “If you are empathetic and not afraid to show it, then nursing is the right profession for you.

“I love doing this,” he added. “I love helping people. There’s nothing better. Helping people get back to full function is as good as it can get. I’m a lucky guy to have fallen into it,” he said.

For Mike and me, having someone like him hold our wives’ hands during the most important day of our lives was a blessing.

What made the editor-reader connection even more unusual was that Mr. Massey does not typically work in the maternity ward. While his regular shifts are scheduled in an intensive care unit, he happened to be picking up overtime hours when he found himself in our delivery rooms.

One regret Mike and I both had after the deliveries was that shift changes prevented Doug from seeing our children enter the world. When my son was born at 11:35 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22, Mr. Massey had left the room 45 minutes earlier for an overnight ICU shift. I felt disappointed when it was time for him to leave, and sad I hadn’t gotten the chance to properly thank him for all the help he — and all the other great nurses — gave us on the big day.

But reflecting on the delivery experience this past week, I imagined the great care Doug was able to give the ICU patients, who I’m sure needed him more that night than we did. They were lucky to have such a pro at their side.

Mr. Parpan is the executive editor of Times/Review Newsgroup. He can be reached at gparpan@timesreview.com or 631-354-8046.

01/01/14 2:30pm
01/01/2014 2:30 PM
AMC COURTESY PHOTO  |  The cast of Breaking Bad.

AMC COURTESY PHOTO | The cast of Breaking Bad.

Editor’s note: Due to space constraints, this list was chopped down to just nine things the author liked about 2013. We also eliminated any reference to Sean Walter, weather events, EPCAL, Common Core and any of the other things we’ve written about on a dozen pages in this issue.

No. 2,013 — Finishing this list. It took me 11 days and I poured my heart and soul into this. I hope nobody chops it down to fill a small hole on page 8 or flips it upside down to make it one of those lame year-in-review countdowns.

Grant Parpan

Grant Parpan

No. 1,841 — The $20.13 Thursday night prix fixe at ALure Restaurant in Southold. As a chubby fella who likes seafood and great restaurants with affordable prices, this was the best thing that ever happened to my digestive system. And I have a good outside-the-box suggestion for chef Tom Schaudel and restaurateur Adam Lovett that’s so cutting edge they probably haven’t thought of it yet: Do the same thing next year, but charge $20.14.

No. 1,611 — Purchasing a Prius C from Riverhead Toyota. At 6-foot-4, I look ridiculous in it, but I’m the only one laughing when the gas meter reads 52 miles per gallon.

No. 1,202 — The moment when I realized shortly after Primary Day that I may never hear the name Anthony Weiner again.

No. 1,057 — Seeing “Gravity” in IMAX 3D. Two hours of floating through space with Sandra Bullock in spandex shorts was nothing short of an amazing experience. When I try to figure out which film deserves best picture each year, originality is among the biggest factors for me. I’ve never seen a movie that looks and sounds anything like “Gravity.” It’s easily my choice for Best Picture of the Year.

No. 729 — Completing my 34th year on Earth without playing Monopoly. About a dozen years ago I realized I’d never played the game. Now I do everything I can to avoid it. It’s a stubborn Irish guy thing.

No. 434 — Great friends. I read all the time about the brain drain on Long Island and particularly the East End. I’ve been fortunate to have most of my friends stay close by. It’s the biggest reason I’ll never leave Long Island.

No. 216 — Two words: “Breaking Bad.” One more word: Wow.

No. 1 — The moment I realized I was going to be a dad and that my son will top each list moving forward. It wasn’t until that first sonogram that it set in as reality. Hearing his heart beat a million times per minute made me realize he was not only healthy, but as hyperactive as his mom. My favorite thing about him is that he’ll always be half her.

Happy New Year, everyone. Looking forward to another year of bringing you the news when 2014 finally begins.

Mr. Parpan is the executive editor of Times/Review Newsgroup. He can be reached at gparpan@timesreview.com or 631-354-8046.

12/08/13 8:00am
12/08/2013 8:00 AM

Town of Riverhead sign

Riverhead certainly has its share of quirky news items.

From silly police blotters to the colorful characters who make headlines, sometimes the news here just makes you laugh or cry or both.

Sure, that can be said for most places, but sometimes in Riverhead it seems like there’s something in the river.

In the past few months alone, there’s been a handful of zany stories, from the multi-million dollar pot operation in a house on Osborn Avenue to the Calverton teen who said he and his friends brought a deer home to “clean it up and give it water,” but admitted they took a break to drink some Natty Ice and pose for Instagram photos before releasing the animal back to the wild.

Certainly, these are not the stories that define Riverhead — a spirited community with more heart than a Hallmark store on Valentine’s Day and more soul than a James Brown record — but there’s something to be said for the volume of unusual news items that pops up in this town of 33,500.

It turns out, that’s always been the case, even back in the days when everyone’s name was Reeve or Tuthill or Wells or Howell or Hallock or Young. (No, seriously, it was even worse back then.)

Recently, while combing the archives of the New York Times, studying local history, I was overwhelmed by the number of weird-but-true news items pertaining to Riverhead. Perhaps the bizarre was the only way city folks paid any attention to this tiny farming community around the turn of the past century, but it sure seems they had plenty of items to choose from. The archives leave you with the impression that when The Gray Lady — a nickname for the Times — wasn’t poking around Tammany Hall, it was poking fun at Polish Hall.

Here’s five of my favorite tales of mostly silly Riverhead news, all courtesy of the Times, and all more than 100 years old.

School children use tobacco

Jan. 7, 1901

If you went to school in Riverhead in the first week of the last millennium it was probably not a good idea to smoke cigarettes.

Sure the addictive nature of nicotine and the many health issues associated with smoking weren’t so well known back then, but there was a whole other reason not to smoke in those days: principal George Brown.

When Mr. Brown learned that many of the boys in the school had developed the habit of smoking, he sent a letter home to parents. He warned the parents that smoking on public property could lead to a $2 fine and that “tobacco has a bad effect on the mind and body of a growing boy.”

But what really makes this Times story stand out is the final paragraph:

“[The letter] is said to be the first intimation many fathers had that their boys smoked, and during the last couple of days many of the lads have preferred to stand when they might sit. It is also said that although there is usually a falling off in attendance at Sunday school after the Christmas tree exercises, many new faces appeared in the classes today, and the circular is believed to have started a moral wave in the young.”

$10,000 if he won’t preach

Dec. 15, 1910

When Helen C.H. Stone of Riverhead died at the age of 80 in 1910, she left in her will a hefty sum of money to her great nephew, Thomas Gilbert Osborne.

But the inheritance came with a string attached.

You see, Ms. Osborne’s brother Thomas, for whom the boy was named, had been a Reverend. The lifestyle of the clergy, as Ms. Stone saw it, didn’t require hefty sums of money.

She believed a clergyman of the Methodist faith had no fixed residence and didn’t need money for “settling down.”

So when she left $10,000 for 17-year-old Thomas, Ms. Stone added a stipulation that the teen not get the money if he opted for life as a minister. The boy’s father told the Times he saw no indication his son would join the clergy.

As for her house, Ms. Stone left that to someone else, but upon that person’s death, young Thomas was to inherit the house as well. Again, provided he was “not then a clergyman.”

The family poisoned: a farm hand whose appetite was a subject of joke accused

Dec. 13, 1892

Middle Road farmer Benjamin Fanning liked to have a little fun at the expense of one of his farm hands, Charles Ryder.

Mr. Ryder was said to have a voracious appetite and Mr. Fanning couldn’t help but joke about it at the dinner table.

One day, Mr. Ryder had enough. I’ll let the Times tell this part of the story:

“Fanning was in the habit of commenting jocularly upon the rapid disappearance of food when Ryder was feeling well, and Ryder eventually grew bitter in his resentment of the remarks. At dinner Friday night Fanning remarked. ‘Well, Ryder, a man who is hungry and continues to eat after I am full to the brim ought to quit eating.’

An angry Mr. Ryder stormed out of the house. The next morning he refused his usual cocoa.

Later that day Mr. Fanning and his wife and daughter all fell ill. Analysis of the cocoa showed it contained plaster of Paris and Paris green.

Mr. Fanning secured a warrant, but when he returned home with a police officer, Mr. Ryder had departed with his belongings in an attempt to leave town. He didn’t get far, as he was soon located at the Calverton Station and arrested.

Eels made Riverhead dark

Nov. 28, 1895

We’ve all experienced a power outage or 20 in Riverhead. Usually, it’s during a rain or snow storm or a big heat weave.

It’s never because of eels. But what happened in Riverhead on Nov. 27, 1895, was.

There’s not too much to say about this one, but the Times reported that Riverhead was in darkness after more than 300 pounds of eels that had clogged the water wheel at the Hallet electric light plant.

It took more than an hour to clear the eels from the machinery.

Prayed and the rain came

August 4, 1894

Riverhead was experiencing serious drought in the summer of 1894. So much so the only place the community’s many farmers felt they could turn to was to the church. As the Times put it:

“Great damage had been done and it began to look as if total destruction was to be the fate of Suffolk County earth products.”

The congregations of Northville, Jamesport and Aquebogue decided to have a traditional day of fasting and they joined together for prayer at the Old Steeple Church in Aquebogue.

Even as they prayed, the skies opened up.

“For more than an hour the rain fell,” the Times wrote. “And for more than an hour the grateful farmers sang their songs of gladness.”

Even the younger farmers in attendance, who laughed at the old-time method of fasting in an effort to have God hear their prayers, were now believers in the custom of their ancestors.

Among the names of the local farmers there that day: Wells, Howell, Hallock, Young and Tuthill. Yes, some things never change.

Mr. Parpan is the executive editor of The Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at gparpan@timesreview.com or by phone at 631-354-8046.