04/19/14 7:00am
04/19/2014 7:00 AM
(Credit: Times/Review stock art)

(Credit: Times/Review stock art)

His audience was a group of Cub Scouts. Their motto: Do your best.

And the children did their best to give Riverhead highway patrol officer Dennis Cavanaugh honest answers.

“How many mommies and daddies were on the cellphone as they were driving here today?” asked Officer Cavanaugh, who had volunteered to talk to the kids that day about law enforcement.  (more…)

12/22/13 8:00am
12/22/2013 8:00 AM
This Don Duga painting, 'Memories of Frosty' has been on exhibit at the Dark Horse restaurant in Riverhead.

This Don Duga painting, ‘Memories of Frosty’ has been on exhibit at the Dark Horse restaurant.

Ever notice how nasty the adults are in Christmas specials?

Michael White, editor

Michael White

Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve curled up with a cup of hot chocolate and a stop-motion animated classic. If so, here are some reminders. (more…)

12/12/13 3:30pm
12/12/2013 3:30 PM
FLICKR PHOTO/cogdogblog

FLICKR PHOTO/cogdogblog

Personality. There used to be a lot of it in local radio. It wasn’t just about the music, but the jocks, the people between the tracks. They shopped at the same stores we did. Went to the same clubs. We drove by their offices. They were like pals. The “people” were what differentiated the stations from the mix tapes.

Michael White, editor

Michael White

There was plenty of news to be had as well. WGBB, for instance, was one of the biggest players in the Long Island news game, I’m told. Based in Merrick, the AM station had a packed newsroom in the 1970s, long before Channel 12 or the Internet.

“Election night was always a long haul,” recalled former WGBB newsman Gary Lewi. “We were logging 23-hour days but for us we were at the center of the action. The station only had 1,000 watts, but with the population density the way it was, you had an audience.”

Gary has fond memories of working with guys like Ed Grilli and Larry Barr. The three called their little news crew “Lewi’s Barr & Grilli.”

But something happened in the early 1980s that changed the landscape. Those in broadcasting know it as deregulation. (more…)

12/05/13 2:30pm
12/05/2013 2:30 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO  |  Educators packed a forum at Eastport-South Manor High School last week to express their displeasure over Common Core.

Our local teachers and administrators are sounding an alarm.

They’re the “canaries in the coal mine,” says Terry Kalb, a recently retired Eastern Suffolk BOCES special education teacher. And they’re sensing something toxic.

Michael White, editor

Michael White

While nonprofits such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and political lobbyists like Students First flood statehouses with cash and bombard the Internet with buzz-word-laden propaganda in pushing for the Common Core State Standards, Long Island teachers are appalled by what they’re experiencing in classrooms.

Related: Numbers-driven Common Core initiative ignores life’s realities (more…)

11/24/13 8:00am
11/24/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The entrance to Long Island Science Center on West Main Street.

I couldn’t believe 60 first-graders could stay so captivated for so long. Every kid’s eyes were glued to the center of the room, heads tilted, little mouths agape. They were spellbound. But this wasn’t “Fantasia” or a more modern Disney movie. This was science.

Michael White, editor

Michael White

Material science, of all things. This particular lesson was called States of Matter. And when it came time for the children to retreat to individual work stations for some hands-on lab work, the room and the other children around them seized to exist. They had a task to complete, after all, and that was to apply a special solution to the dozen or so pebbles waiting for them in petri dishes.

They were then told by the instructor that, in a few days, they would begin to notice crystals forming on those little rocks. Soon, they’d have their own crystal gardens. Of course, they’re still kids; delayed gratification isn’t exactly their thing. And so began the second part of the lesson, which ended with the Sachem School District students making ice cream. Ice cream!

This is the type of pure magic that goes on almost every day at the Long Island Science Center in downtown Riverhead, and for an adult like myself, who had never stepped inside the center, it was a lesson on how a properly managed and sustainable nonprofit group with a purely altruistic mission can offer a huge public benefit to children and parents alike, not to mention the local school systems.

“A lot of the elementary schools don’t have science teachers, especially with all the recent cutbacks,” said the center’s executive director, Michelle Pelletier. So the schools use the science center for “enrichment” alternatives, she said. While that’s good for business, Ms. Pelletier can’t help but feel opportunities are being missed in the schools, as the younger kids seem to be the most engaged when learning how things work. That enthusiasm is plain to see during any day at the center.

After each lesson, the students — usually on a field trip or a weekend birthday party — are invited to roam the Exploratory Enrichment Center, an interactive, educational display play area. The rules for the kids are simple, and just the opposite of what they’re told to do at home: Touch everything. (Oh, and no running.) So the children will fan out to the interactive weather station or the dino-dig, to look for fossils. They’ll check out the snakes and Madagascar hissing cockroaches or just play with the magnets or building blocks. On Saturdays, this museum side of the center is open to the public, with admission just $5 a head.

Among Ms. Pelletier’s favorite and oft-repeated quotes from the children who visit the center are:

“I didn’t know that!”

“You guys like dinosaurs too?”

“Are you a scientist?”

“I’ve never been to a museum before.”

She’s hoping to hear more of these types of adorable phrases, as the center is planning a big move from its aging West Main Street building to the vacated West Marine storefront on East Main, closer to the Long Island Aquarium. The new space is planned to be much bigger, allowing the center to remain open to the public throughout the week, even when lessons are going on in the classrooms.

You’d be hard pressed to find a more worthy — yet often overlooked — organization in the town or county. Not only does the science center offer programs for children but high school interns build most of the hands-on exhibits. Teenagers from Riverhead, Mercy and other high schools also sit on its Board of Youth Trustees, charged with keeping the exhibits fresh and, presently, improving community outreach through social media.

The museum is in contract to purchase its new space, with real estate developers in contract to buy the current museum building. When the move is complete, the new center will feature more professionally built displays, including a state-of-the-art Leonardo da Vinci exhibit currently mothballed in the science center’s storage room for lack of space. The Board of Trustees, which includes two Brookhaven National Laboratory scientists, also envisions placing an emphasis on technological breakthroughs that are happening, and have happened, right here on Long Island.

It could even be a place where Intel Science Talent Search participants show off their work, I’m told.

By far the most popular exhibit in the museum right now is the dino-dig. Ms. Pelletier said, pointing to a square table covered in sand. The kids brush the sand away to unearth planted fossils that are explained on a chart nearby.

“I would love to have a big dino-dig that the kids could step into,” she said. “But this is our space. I wish it were bigger. But we’re working on it.”

To learn more about supporting the Long Island Science Center, visit 11 West Main St. in Riverhead or lisciencecenter.org.

Michael White is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at mwhite@timesreview.com or (631) 298-3200, ext. 152.

11/11/13 7:00am
11/11/2013 7:00 AM

T

When I was a boy and my grandmother was still alive, I can recall how no one in my family was allowed to play “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” around her. Her brother was killed during World War II, my mom would explain, and he had promised in his last letter home after two years overseas that — like Bing Crosby had sung in that hit 1943 tune — he, too, would be home for Christmas.

He was supposed  to get leave that December. Decades upon decades later, my grandmother would still break down in tears whenever she heard the song.

That’s all I ever really knew about my great uncle — until I was much older, and a relative uncovered some forgotten paperwork. What I learned was the story of a great American hero, and of love and sacrifice in a time of utter darkness and desperation.

Charles “Chic” Quinn, a Long Island Rail Road machinist from St. Albans, Queens, was 19 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. A week later, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

According to military records, Corporal Charles D. Quinn was 5 feet, 7 3/4 inches tall with blue eyes, brown hair and a ruddy complexion.

During his almost two years overseas, he took part in several military campaigns against the Japanese in the Pacific, including a 1944 reconnaissance mission in Peleliu, in the island nation of Palau.

THe completed his last mission but suffered wounds at the hands of the Japanese along the way. Five days later, he died on a Navy hospital ship in the arms of a Catholic chaplain. Cpl. Quinn, a baby brother who in battle wore the Presidential Unit Citation, was later posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award for valor in the face of the enemy.

His citation reads: “While carrying out an extremely hazardous reconnaissance mission to obtain vital information, Cpl. Quinn observed a marine officer pinned down by intense enemy rifle and machine-gun fire and imperiled by snipers. Disregarding his own personal safety, he courageously advanced in the face of the hostile fi re and killed the most threatening sniper, thereby saving the officer’s life.

“Although he received wounds during this action which later proved fatal, he steadfastly refused medical attention and completed his reconnaissance, subsequently dispatching a written report to the regimental command post before he was evacuated.”

Yes, Cpl. Quinn never made it home for Christmas. He received a military funeral at sea, according to records. He left behind three sisters; his parents had both already died. Some four months after his death, the priest who held “Chic” as he passed away sent two letters to his surviving family in the U.S. He mailed one letter to my grandmother’s home in St. Albans. The other he sent to my great-aunt Winifred, a Catholic nun then known as Sister Mary Coronata, who lived in Toledo at the time.

Both letters were typed on letterhead from the U.S.S. Samaritan, the ship on which my great-uncle died, but they are devoid of the buttoned-up military speak of the telegrams and citations.

The letter to Toledo, dated Jan. 4, 1945, reads as follows:

My dear Sister Coronata: May our dearest Lord bless you and your work abundantly during this New Year.

I was very pleased to receive your letter concerning our dear little “CHIC.” This is just what he was. During the few days that he was with us I visited him often. He was always so pleased to see a priest. He was such an innocent child and his faith so deeply rooted that I really loved him. When he first came aboard I told him that someone’s good prayers had been heard. I meant that he had not been called on the field, as so many other poor boys. He immediately responded, “Yes Father, my sister, she is a nun.” Having a sister of my own a Dominican, we had something more in common. I could not help but feel for you; for I know how my good sister would feel.

Chic was conscious till the very last moment. He was so attentive to the prayers for the dying; which was the greatest edification to me. When he breathed his last, I actually broke down myself before the doctor and nurse, as I continued to say prayers. Our dearest Lord wanted another little angel for His heavenly choir.

Please continue to pray for me, Sister; and may I ask that you have the children pray for me also. We priests of the service have so much need for prayers than before.

Sincerely in Christ,

Joseph S. McCauley

Catholic Chaplain

Not just on Veterans Day but throughout the year, let us all take time to remember our brave men and women in arms — especially those who never made it home for Christmas.

Michael White, editor

Michael White

Michael White is the editor of The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at mwhite@timesreview.com  or at (631) 298-3200, Ext. 152. A similar version of this column first appeared in this publication in November 2008.

10/05/13 8:00am
10/05/2013 8:00 AM

Things to do: Add baby sticker to wife’s car.

My wife and I entertain a lot. We have a good house for visitors. It’s got an open floor plan, unfinished basement replete with table games and, during the summer months, an ice-cold pool. (The thing just won’t warm up.)

We often joke that the frequent visitors help the house not fall into total disarray. When there’s company coming, you’ve got to clean up. So before we entertain, we scramble. There’s the vacuuming. The tidying up. The toilets.

Michael White, editor

MICHAEL WHITE

Lately, we’ve been scrambling a lot, because permanent disarray is on the way in the form of a little girl named Abigail Serafina White.

The baby’s middle name is that of my wife Suzanne’s beloved late grandmother, Serafina (Sophie) Bonomo. The baby’s first name, well, we just liked it. We’ll call her Abby. As a bonus, the name is also that of one of the country’s most revered women in history, Abigail Adams. That Abigail was born Nov. 11, 1744. Our Abigail is due here Oct. 9, 2013.

Now, I can handle deadlines; it’s what I do for a living. But this particular deadline has had me and Suzanne running frantically. I guess that’s because we’re now anticipating a different type of company — the kind that’s expected to stay around for a while. We’ve been using our firstborn’s arrival to take on every chore and project that’s ever needed attention in our house, all in just a few short months and weeks.

It’s been a slog. Finally, on Saturday afternoon, we found ourselves lamenting — no, panicking — because I likely wouldn’t have time over the weekend to install the bathroom towel rack, a chore I had put on my list a few months back but had never gotten to. Voices were raised, and then it dawned on us, eventually: What the heck does an extra towel rack have to do with a little baby? Come to think of it, why did I put “organize workbench” on the list at all? For one, I barely even work down there. Why would I suddenly need it nice and tidy?

We might have gone a bit overboard, we realized. So, instead of tackling any more projects in the house before the baby’s arrival — a psychological process called nesting, say the experts — we went out to dinner. It was someplace real fancy, too. I had the duck and she had the lamb shank.

Sure, a baby on the way is a nice excuse to get work done around the house. But there’s no reason for added stress over the last few weeks of pregnancy. What we should be doing is R-E-L-A-X-I-N-G. (It feels good to say it nice and slow like that.) No more madness, we decided. The essentials are done. Our bags for the hospital are packed. The baby’s room is near completion and the side-sleeper — which I just found out is like a bassinet, whatever that is — is all set up.

I’ll still try to get that towel rack installed some time between now and Abby’s delivery day, but no pressure. It’s just a towel rack and the baby’s towels will probably be about the size of napkins for a while. And I suspect that, one day, when children are driving me a bit mad, I may just get around to organizing that basement workbench after all.

Michael White is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at mwhite@timesreview.com or (631) 298-3200, ext. 152. Follow him on Twitter @mikewhite31