12/30/11 12:01pm
12/30/2011 12:01 PM

FILE IMAGE | Who will be our 2011 Civic Person of the Year?

The Riverhead News-Review will announced its Civic Person of the Year in its Jan. 5, 2012 issue.

Here is a list of people that have won the award in the past decade:

• 2010 — Rich Podlas and Chuck Thomas

• 2009 — Tom Gahan

• 2008 — Keith Lewin

• 2007 — Open Arms and Bread & More Inn

• 2006 — Mike Brewer

• 2005 — Sid Bail

• 2004 — Kathy Berezny

• 2003 — Jill Lewis

• 2002 — Chrissy Prete

• 2001 — Joe and Gloria Ingegno

• 2000 — George Klopfer and Lt. Col. Anthony Cristiano

12/29/11 12:01pm
12/29/2011 12:01 PM

FILE IMAGE | Who will be our 2011 Educator of the Year?

The Riverhead News-Review will announced its Educator of the Year in its Jan. 5, 2012 issue.

Here is a list of people that have won the award in the past decade:

• 2010 — Stacy Tuohy

• 2009 — Laura Grable

• 2008 — Vincent Nasta

• 2007 — Marion Dorman

• 2006 — Theresa Drozd

• 2005 — Frank Rotenberg

• 2004 — Kevin McAllister

• 2003 — Leif Shay

• 2002 — Bob Jester

• 2001 — Jean Lapinski

• 2000 — Pat Rose

12/28/11 12:01pm
12/28/2011 12:01 PM

ILLUSTRATION FILE IMAGE | Who will be our 2011 Public Servant of the Year?

The Riverhead News-Review will announced its Public Servant of the Year in its Jan. 5, 2012 issue.

Here is a list of people that have won the award in the past decade:

• 2010 — Robert Brown

• 2009 — Barbara Grattan

• 2008 — Liz Strokes

• 2007 — Michael Reichel

• 2006 — Gary Pendzick

• 2005 — The Riverhead Ambulance Corps

• 2004 — Richard Wines

• 2003 — Ken Testa

• 2002 — “KeySpan Coalition”

• 2001 — Ed Densieski

• 2000 — Judge Richard Ehlers

01/06/11 12:01am
01/06/2011 12:01 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Linda Hobson in the kitchen of her Horton Avenue home which she remodeled several years ago. She has no hope of ever living in her house again because of mold.

Even though her home and possessions had been destroyed by a flood just days before, lifelong Horton Avenue resident Linda Hobson began Easter morning last year picking up churchgoers who had fallen on hard times and driving them to Mass. She spent the afternoon washing the linens and clothes of her fellow flood victims at a laundromat.

During the next few weeks, Ms. Hobson set up tables of donated clothes, shoes and household items outside her home for anyone who had lost their possessions to the monster rainstorm that devastated her beloved corner of Riverhead Town. She also helped families get new water heaters, found temporary housing for the displaced and even assisted one young woman in acquiring a car after her vehicle was destroyed in the flood.

While aiding her neighbors, Mr. Hobson always had a smile on her face, and no one could claim they ever heard her say a discouraging word.

“In the midst of her own major issues, she was still functioning, reaching out trying to assist other people,” said Shirley Coverdale, who along with Ms. Hobson is a board member of the Long Island Organizing Network nonprofit advocacy group. “She’s just an overall positive person with a lot of energy, very good-hearted.”

Those are just some of the reasons why the News-Review has selected Ms. Hobson as our Person of the Year for 2010.
The severe flooding in the low-lying Horton Avenue area was caused by a late-March storm that dumped about eight inches of rain on an already rain soaked eastern Long Island. With water rushing onto Horton Avenue from the surrounding areas, which include much farmland, at least half a dozen houses were ruined, including Ms. Hobson’s, and many more families suffered devastating financial losses from flood waters that reached the first-floor windows of some Horton Avenue houses. Since then, Ms. Hobson, a social worker by profession, has worked to help the people of her predominately black and Latino neighborhood get the help they need.

Ms. Hobson, who is single and has no children, has met repeatedly with elected officials to ensure that government has been doing its part. And she has always kept her neighbors informed about her efforts and progress.

Most recently, she met with Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy to discuss building low-cost houses on county land for people who lost their homes in the flood. County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who has met with Ms. Hobson many times since the flood, has also introduced a bill that would give flood victims priority in the county’s affordable housing program.
“She is a tremendous community organizer and someone who cares deeply about Riverhead and the people that live in it,” said

Mr. Romaine, whose district spans the North Fork.

Riverhead Town and Suffolk County also have an application pending with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a competitive grant that, if awarded, would be used to pay owners for their flood-damaged properties and let the area revert to swampland. The town and county are expecting to hear from FEMA sometime this spring.

The Rev. Charles Coverdale, pastor of First Baptist Church of Riverhead and Shirley Coverdale’s husband, said he has known Ms. Hobson since she returned home from college in the mid-1980s. He noted that Ms. Hobson, who is an evangelist with the church, works hard as an advocate for the elderly and the needy.

He said he had encouraged her to earn a master’s degree in social work from Stony Brook University.

“I think it is a marvelous testimony as to what some of our young people can do for their community when they return from school,” he said of her example. “I think if anyone is fully deserving” of Person of the Year honors, “it would be Evangelist Linda Hobson.”

Despite the hardships she has faced this past year, Ms. Hobson recently told the News-Review she had taken the flood as an opportunity to grow. She said she has stayed strong through her faith and never wavers from her main goal — finding a long-term solution for the residents of the flood-prone area.

“I think on a personal level, this incident has caused me to grow, certainly to become a better community advocate. It has caused me to embrace my neighbors,” she said. “We do have hopes that people will return to something they can call a home. We have to continue to press forward.”

[email protected]

01/05/11 11:59pm
01/05/2011 11:59 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Dee Muma in one of the tiled hallways in her building One East Main Street.

Riverhead officials have spent much of the past few years waiting for big development companies from the city to revitalize downtown with huge projects that encompass most of Main Street and involve tearing down old structures to replace them with new, modern buildings.

But one of the projects that actually is revitalizing the downtown was built by a local resident who’s been here for years. It occupies a building that’s been here for 82 years and had sat largely vacant over much of the last decade. Now, the place started jumping.

The News-Review’s Business Person of the Year award goes to Dee Muma, who opened the Dark Horse Restaurant on the corner of Main Street and Peconic Avenue in 2010.

Ms. Muma purchased the three-story building in 2009 and renovated it, creating five live-work duplexes on the upper floors and the restaurant on the ground floor. Ms. Muma and her husband, Ed Tuccio, also own the adjacent Tweed’s Restaurant, and Ms. Muma has run her Dark Horse Catering business out of Tweed’s for many years. The couple also raises bison on their farm on Roanoke Avenue.

So far, the Dark Horse Restaurant has gotten rave reviews as one of downtown’s newest additions.

“We fund projects throughout the state and I can honestly say that the work you’ve done here is comparable with any other project we’ve done in the state, and that includes the city,” Chris Leo, director of the New York State Main Street Program, told Ms. Muma at the restaurant’s grand-opening ceremony. Mr. Leo’s agency had provided a $150,000 matching grant for the project.

“The quality of work that you did is obvious and I can tell you really put your heart and soul into this,” Mr. Leo said.
Local officials were equally impressed.

“I think Dee Muma has done a fantastic job with the Dark Horse,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. “I’ve eaten there two or three times and it’s among the best food that I’ve ever eaten. The Art Deco feel for the building is just fantastic. Now I feel it’s even more incumbent upon me to make Main Street happen because she has put her heart and soul into that building, and it’s a testament to her love of Riverhead that she’s done that. This award couldn’t go to a nicer person.”

Ms. Muma said recently that the new restaurant was made out of many reused items and features a lot of green technology. An old bowling alley from the former Club 91 fraternal hall on Peconic Avenue was turned into the bar, the tables were made from recycled pine beams from remnants of the historic building, and the roof has plants that absorb water so polluted rainwater doesn’t find its way into the nearby Peconic River.

And Ms. Muma isn’t stopping with Dark Horse. She also has purchased the adjacent building on Peconic Avenue, which used to house a church, and plans to create about 10 efficiency apartments on the upper floors, as well as stores on the ground floor.

If and when downtown Riverhead does make that long-anticipated turnaround, Ms. Muma will have played a major role.

[email protected]

01/05/11 11:58pm

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Rich Podlas (left) and Chuck Thomas

They say it takes a village to raise a child. But 6-year-old Jared Behr isn’t just any child. He is blind and suffers from epilepsy, cerebral palsy and brain damage. And his mom, Heidi, was a Riverhead volunteer EMT who died in an ambulance crash at age 23 in May 2005, when Jared was 14 months old.

Ever since, Riverhead and its people have pulled together for Jared and his grandparents, June and John Behr of Riverside Drive, who have cared for him since their daughter was killed in the crash, which also took the life of paramedic Bill Stone of Rocky Point.

Two men have stood out in those efforts to help: Riverhead architect Chuck Thomas and town building inspector Rich Podlas, who have been named the News-Review’s Civic People of the Year for 2010. Mr. Podlas, who is also a contractor, and Mr. Thomas have given their all to help Jared and his grandparents.

Mr. Podlas and Mr. Thomas stepped in after the Behrs — who needed more room and a house better suited to Jared’s needs ­— and their many supporters couldn’t convince the producers of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” to feature them and remake their 800-square-foot house. The two men, with the help of family and friends, including Riverhead and Jamesport firefighters, are undertaking their own home makeover, restoring an old farmhouse in Cutchogue that belonged to June Behr’s late parents, the McBrides.

“June’s parents passed away within the last couple of years, and through the family estate, she got the house,” explained John Behr’s brother, Larry, of Cutchogue. “But it’s a very old farmhouse and it needed a lot of renovation.”

Mr. Podlas, a longtime family friend, and Mr. Thomas, who got to know Heidi when the two took karate lessons together, have spent most of their free time at the Cutchogue house, according to the Behrs and others involved in the project.

“They really stepped up to the plate, and the family is very proud of them,” Larry Behr said. “The unselfishness and dedication of both of them is unmeasurable.”

Before the project got started in June, the Behrs, whose other daughter, Dana, 26, lived with them for a time, spent their days filled with uncertainty. They knew they could not continue to care for Jared properly.

The restoration had to include provisions for a handicapped resident, “and these two gentlemen undertook this task,” Larry Behr added. “They’ve coordinated so many people to help either through donations or time. It’s really a miracle.”

Not only did the two men recruit a contractor to volunteer his time to build a rear deck, they and their helpers also designed and rebuilt an aging kitchen, widened doorways and thresholds throughout the house and made all the hallways and bathrooms handicapped accessible. They’ve also added an elevator so the Behrs wouldn’t have to carry their growing grandson to his upstairs bedroom, as they’ve been doing in their Riverhead home.

“They’re just two good guys who went off and did a job, and I give them all the credit in the world,” said former Riverhead Town supervisor Jim Stark, who helps run Heidi’s Helping Angels, a nonprofit group that organizes scholarship fundraisers and other events in Heidi Behr’s memory.

Donations are helping provide and pay for renovation materials, as will the sale of the Behrs’ old house once they move to Cutchogue, probably in two or three months.

“It’s just amazing when you think about that farmhouse,” Mr. Stark said. “It had small rooms, a small kitchen. Now everything’s open. It’s a whole process that absolutely brings tears to your eyes sometimes to see it happen.” It will make “the life of young Jared so much more comfortable, and with that the possibility of a real future,” he said.

Back when the TV show’s producers chose an East Setauket family for their Long Island area home makeover, the disappointed Behrs considered moving off the pricey island.

“We were really stuck between a rock and a hard place. My parents had just died. My sister has also just died,” said June Behr, choking back tears. “Everybody’s buried here, and I didn’t want to leave them. And the way the economy is, at least John has a job and we couldn’t leave Heidi behind and move away.

“We were thinking of selling both houses, none of which fit our needs,” she added, but then Mr. Podlas and Mr. Thomas “took the bull by the horns. Chuck drew up the plans and they were perfect.”

[email protected]

01/05/11 11:57pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Bubbie Brown recited an original poem at the annual East End Voters coalition Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

Some people retire to take it easy. And some people end up being just as busy after they retire as before.
Robert “Bubbie” Brown of Riverside falls into the latter category.

And for his efforts, Mr. Brown is the News-Review’s Public Servant of the Year for 2010.

Retired from Brookhaven National Lab in 2001 after a 37-year career, Mr. Brown now can be seen at Riverhead school board meetings, where he attends as a representative of First Baptist Church of Riverhead, keeping the church apprised of school issues.

He’s also one of the judges of the annual Garfield Langhorn Essay Contest at Pulaski Street Elementary School, where sixth-graders learn and write about Riverhead’s only Medal of Honor recipient, Garfield M. Langhorn. And Mr. Brown is one of the organizers of the annual “Juneteenth” celebration in Stotzky Park, which commemorates the end of slavery and honors African-American education and achievement.

Mr. Brown is a board member on the Long Island Organizing Network, a grassroots organization that in 2010 was instrumental in assisting victims of flooding in Riverhead. He volunteers with the Open Arms Care Center, which collects food for the needy. He’s also active in the choir at First Baptist Church.

In the past, Mr. Brown has mentored kids and still is sometimes called upon to do so, according to the Rev. Charles Coverdale of First Baptist Church.

“Whenever we spot a young person who needs someone to stand up for them, I call Bubbie and he will go and investigate and sit down with the parents and the school system,” the Rev. Coverdale said.

“He is a wonderful person and worthy of any consideration you might give him,” the Rev. Coverdale had said when told of Mr. Brown’s having been chosen Public Servant of the Year. “You can’t take anything away from him for his initiative, his fortitude and love of children and of helping people.”

Former Riverhead supervisor Vinny Villella said he remembered Mr. Brown, a 1958 Riverhead High School graduate, from his school days.

“He was a great, great ballplayer then, and now he’s really one of the pillars of this town because he’s really helping out the children,” Mr. Villella said.

Mr. Brown is also a poet whose work has been published.

“He’s a great poet,” the Rev. Coverdale said. “Every year at our Gift to the Community Christmas concert, he provides a special poem.”

Riverhead School District officials have good things to say about Mr. Brown, too, and nominated him for an award presented by the Suffolk County Organization for the Promotion of Education a few years ago.

“He’s a real advocate for kids and for our students,” said Riverhead School Superintendent Nancy Carney.

[email protected]

01/05/11 11:56pm

COURTESY PHOTO | Roanoke Avenue Elementary School teacher Stacy Tuohy.

Focus and dedication, the willingness to go above and beyond for students and parents alike and the ability to work that all-too-elusive classroom magic.

Stacy Tuohy, the News-Review 2010 Educator of the Year, has it all.

The second-grade teacher at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School not only engages her students and helps instill in them that eagerness to learn, she also helps make her fellow teachers better at their craft and so extends her magic to children who aren’t even in her classroom, said a colleague, Debra Spinelli.

“Stacy Tuohy is a master teacher,” said Ms. Spinelli, who also teaches second-graders at Roanoke Avenue. “She is a thinker. She never stops wondering, ‘What else can I do to help my students?’ She loves to collaborate and have discussions about what we will teach and how we will teach it. And she’s a doer. She’ll make a suggestion one minute and follow through with it the next.
“I am a better teacher because of her,” she said.

Ms. Tuohy’s dedication and teaching skills resonate with parents as well.

Dawn Bozuhoski, whose three children all were lucky enough to have been in Ms. Tuohy’s class, said she had been planning to nominate her as Educator of the Year ever since her firstborn, who has Asperger’s syndrome and is now in sixth grade, graduated from her classroom.

“My son is extremely intelligent … but, especially in the second grade, he needed a lot of extra help; he needed someone who was understanding and someone who could see through the Asperger’s syndrome and see the brilliant, wonderful person he is. And she always saw that. And he really thrived in her class.

“I feel that without her help, we may have not been able to accomplish what we did as far as getting support services and putting him on the right path,” Ms. Bozuhoski said.

Her youngest is now in Ms. Tuohy’s class and speaks constantly of her beloved teacher, Ms. Bozuhoski said. She wants to become a teacher herself when she grows up.

“She even calls me Mrs. Tuohy sometimes,” Ms. Bozuhoski said. “There aren’t adequate words to describe the effort, concern, empathy, love and genuine interest Mrs. Tuohy gives to each student in her class.”

She pointed as examples to a fall semester “realistic fiction” segment in which the children write pieces and read them aloud to their parents and other classes. In the spring, Ms. Tuohy runs a poetry jam in which students read works to an auditorium audience. Ms. Tuohy submits all the poems to publishing houses. “My son’s poem was chosen for publication,” Ms. Bozuhoski said, which she described as “remarkable” because reading and writing skills had not come easily to him. “She is always available to parents and never leaves a situation unresolved or without reply,” she added.

Hired in 1991, Ms. Tuohy, who lives in Port Jefferson Station, taught kindergarten at Roanoke for more than a decade before switching to second grade, according to Barbara Barosa, who heads the district’s teachers union and whose husband taught Ms. Tuohy in elementary school decades ago.

“I’ve known Stacy for quite some time, and she is just a wonderful teacher and a wonderful choice for Educator of the Year,” Ms. Barosa said. “Stacy is truly a dedicated, hardworking, giving teacher who has addressed the needs of her students in a wide variety of ways. She would never look for an award like this, she just does her job and does it well.”

Roanoke Avenue Principal Thomas Payton applauded the selection of Ms. Tuohy. He called her a “consummate professional.”
“Her sole focus is her students,” he said, “meeting their needs and ensuring they are successful learners socially and academically.”

[email protected]