02/08/14 11:00am
02/08/2014 11:00 AM

‘The Simpsons go Hollywood’ collage by Arnie Hansen.


The Town of Brookhaven announced its first state of emergency last week as a result of 12 inches of snow and frigid temperatures in the single digits. Such are the perils of winter. Once one arctic blast is finished another is on the way.

Arnie Hansen, a former contributing columnist for the North Shore Sun, has set his sights on a different artistic direction lately: art. He is now featured in an exhibition, “Piecing It All Together: Collages,” with Laura Benjamin, in the board room at St. Joseph’s College, 155 West Roe Blvd., Patchogue. These original works by Arnie and Laura are exclusively on loan from the artists for a limited time. The exhibition will be open to the public Saturdays during February only, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A meet-the-artists reception most likely was held already, so I’m sure Arnie will chime in with some news on how that went. For more information on the exhibition, email bigarnie1@optonline.net, visit arniehansen.com or call 631-744-8233. Arnie, I hope the public sees you for the great creative artist you are.

On the sign outside of C.K. Auto on Wading River Road are the words, “Happy 14th Birthday, Jason Guevara.” I remember being 14 and how special that age is — just two years away from 16. Happy birthday, Jason. We hope it was a pleasant one.

Another familiar sign, at North Shore United Methodist Church on Route 25A in Wading River, asks: “What Are You Doing For Others?” Such a great barometer for a life well-lived. Thanks for the reminder, NSUMC!

Reminder: NSUMC’s thrift shop will re-open Feb. 8. By purchasing quality merchandise for pennies on the dollar you’ll be supporting the church.

The following is the latest definition of faith by NSUMC and something to contemplate: “Take the first step even though you don’t see the whole staircase. Faith is really a mystery, yet to those who have it, it’s an absolute secret of the universe.”

I entertained my brother Nelson, years ago. Our family had gone to Truffles Restaurant and had a really nice dinner. He passed away recently. Nelson, you were a great brother and a wonderful guide and mentor. Thank you for telling my husband that you appreciated him taking such good care of me. Rest in peace, Nelson.

If you have any information or announcements to share with the community, that is why I’m here. Please send it along to my email address and have a good two weeks, until we meet again.

Contact Elizabeth Taggart at Etag5@optonline.net or 929-5933

02/08/14 7:00am
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTOS | Maryann's in Wading River is closed while its owner waits for the restaurant to receive its liquor license.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Maryann’s in Wading River is closed while its owner waits for the restaurant to receive its liquor license.

Maryann’s in Wading River is temporarily closed while its owner waits for the restaurant to receive its liquor license — and for the region’s recent deluge of blustery winter weather to ease up. (more…)

02/07/14 12:01pm
02/07/2014 12:01 PM
WADING RIVER FIRE DEPARTMENT COURTESY PHOTO | Firefighters combat the fire that destroyed the Dalecki family's home on Michael Lane.

WADING RIVER FIRE DEPARTMENT COURTESY PHOTO | Firefighters combat the fire that destroyed the Dalecki family’s home on Michael Lane.

Neighbors and friends of a Wading River family have raised over $10,000 to help them get back on their feet after their Michaels Lane home was gutted in a fire earlier this week.

The home of George and Jean Dalecki caught fire just after midnight Tuesday while the couple were inside, Wading River Fire Chief Mark Donnelly said. Their house, cars and personal belongings were all destroyed.


02/07/14 11:32am
Tim Gannon photo | Clearing at Knightland started this week

Tim Gannon photo | Clearing at Knightland started this week

Clearing has begun on the controversial Knightland project in Wading River, where 32,500 square feet of retail space and a 4,900 square foot restaurant are planned in 24 buildings. It will replace the former Village Beverage store at the corner of Sound Avenue and Route 25A.


02/04/2014 9:27 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO  |  Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen.


The Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education unanimously approved the new contract for superintendent Steven Cohen.


Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen is expected to be appointed to a new three-year term at tonight’s Board of Education meeting.  (more…)

12/31/13 10:30am
12/31/2013 10:30 AM
JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | In September, The Grind Cafe had a sign on its front door saying it would reopen soon. Four months later, it's reopening as Maryann's, a sit-down restaurant.

JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | In September, The Grind Cafe had a sign on its front door saying it would reopen soon. Four months later, it’s reopening as Maryann’s, a sit-down restaurant.

Wading River’s popular Grind Café has been reinvented as a sit-down American restaurant called Maryann’s, owner Maryann Iacono said Monday. A soft opening is planned for Jan. 2.

“My two daughters and I opened the Grind together,” said Ms. Iacono, a real estate agent who lives in Wading River. “My oldest daughter now has an 8-month-old baby and my youngest daughter just went back to school, so I’m doing what I always wanted to do, which is open up a real, grown-up restaurant.”

When it opens Thursday, Maryann’s will only serve lunch, Ms. Iacono said. Dinner service will be added at some point in the future and she’d like to eventually offer weekend brunch. Menu offerings will include a “little bit of everything,” Ms. Iacono said, including burgers, chops, fish and sandwiches.

The Grind Café, which opened on North Country Road in August 2011, sold specialty breakfast sandwiches, gourmet coffee and catering. Located in the site of the former Wading River Post Office, The Grind Café sits a few doors down from Amarelle, an upscale restaurant that closed in January 2012.

Over Labor Day weekend, The Grind Café suddenly closed its doors, leading some to speculate it was going out of business. At the time, multiple attempts to reach Ms. Iacono by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful.

But while The Grind Café did halt activity at the front of its storefront this fall, business at the eatery didn’t cease completely.

“The Grind never closed,” Ms. Iacono said. “We were always doing catering out of the back [of the building]. I just didn’t like the way the front of the building looked, so we painted and refinished the floors completely.”

The refurbishment took around four months to complete, Ms. Iacono said.

“We’re ready to roll now,” she said.

The re-opening isn’t the only new commercial activity going on in the area, as North Fork Bacon & Smokehouse is in the process of renovating the space formerly occupied by The Pizza Pie. Co-owner Patrick Gaeta said he is shooting for a March 1 opening.


12/10/13 12:00pm

The Shoreham-Wading River Central School District is releasing its students from class 90 minutes earlier today due to inclement weather, Superintendent Steven Cohen said Tuesday.

Both Shoreham-Wading River Central School District and Riverhead Central School District have cancelled all after-school activities today due to the dangerous conditions.

The Riverhead School Board is still scheduled to meet tonight at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.

12/06/13 7:00am
12/06/2013 7:00 AM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Saline Otieno (left), 13, plays a hand game with Heather Tepper, 11, during a recent visit to the Tepper home in Wading River. Heather is the grandaughter of Linda Nugent, a Rocky Point woman who volunteered this summer to be one of Saline’s host parents.

The moment she and her host mother, Linda Nugent, set foot in the King Kullen supermarket in Wading River, 13-year-old Saline Otieno made her desire for junk food abundantly clear.

“Oh! Chips?” the girl asked excitedly.

“No,” Ms. Nugent said, gently diverting the girl’s attention to the store’s produce section, where she paused her shopping cart in front of a display of shiny Red Delicious apples. “What else do we need?”

It’s an ordinary scene that plays out along Route 25A every day: family members deciding what groceries they’ll buy for the week.

But Saline, for all her youthful spirit, has had anything but an ordinary existence.

Born in a remote village in southwestern Kenya, Saline shared a mud hut with her mother and sister. Her father died of complications from AIDS last year, and she had another sibling who also died.

At some point in Saline’s life, probably during toddlerhood, her face became severely deformed by noma, a rare type of flesh-eating bacteria caused by malnutrition and unsanitary living conditions. In Saline’s case, the noma ate away the tissue surrounding her mouth and jawbone, creating a hole in her face that made eating and speaking difficult.

JEANNE NEVILLE PHOTO | Plastic surgeon Dr. Alex Dagum (left) of Stony Brook University Medical Center, with Dr. Leon Klempner, an East Setauket orthodontist, before one of Saline Otieno’s surgeries this summer. The two are donating their services to rectify a severe deformity Saline suffered as a child.

“Noma is usually fatal,” said Dr. Leon Klempner, the East Setauket orthodontist who learned of Saline’s case two years ago through his work with Smile Rescue Fund for Kids, a nonprofit that raises money to provide surgery for children afflicted with facial deformities. “She happened to survive.”

In late 2011, Smile Rescue Fund for Kids raised money for Saline to undergo two surgeries in Kenya. A skin graft was made to cover the hole in her face, but the graft, which lacked an adequate blood supply, failed.

To donate to the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids through PayPal, visit smilerescuefund.org.

This summer, Dr. Klempner, who is also a Doctor of Dental Surgery and assistant clinical professor in the Department of Children’s Dentistry at Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine, received the approval of the Kenyan government to bring Saline to Long Island for medical care. She arrived in June with her tutor and translator, a Kenyan government employee named Duncan.

Saline has undergone one reconstructive surgery at Stony Brook University Medical Center to close the hole in her face, Dr. Klempner said. She will need at least two more surgeries to shape her nose.

Dr. Alex Dagum, Stony Brook’s chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, is donating his medical services to Saline.

“Her case was pretty severe,” Dr. Dagum said. “Reconstruction is usually complex because [noma patients] are missing a lot of tissue, skin and bone.”

In addition to his role at the hospital, Dr. Dagum frequently travels overseas to donate medical services to other children in need. He treated his first noma patient in China about nine years ago.

“I always wanted to travel the world and help people,” he said. “That was the main reason I went into medicine — I felt I could help people and do good in every corner of the globe.”

While she recovers from her multiple surgeries, Saline divides her time between three local host families: the Nugents, who live in Rocky Point; Mike and Kerri Tame of Selden; and Doug and Diane Muller, also of Rocky Point. Saline’s tutor, Duncan, recently returned to Kenya to care for his family.

Despite a language barrier — Saline’s native language is Dholuo, one of several dialects of Luo, a widespread language of east central Africa — she understands a fair amount of English and is learning more words every day, Ms. Nugent said.

“She wants to be a regular American teenager,” she said. “She wants to watch TV, play on the iPad and eat junk food.”

A shy, bright girl, Saline is skilled at crafts and delights in playing with Ms. Nugent’s grandchildren, especially 11-year-old Heather Tepper.

Heather, who lives in Wading River with her parents, Steve and Michelle Tepper, raised $900 in donations to help bring Saline to the U.S. in 2011 after learning about her story at Dr. Klempner’s orthodontic office.

“There was a jar [for donations] and I said, ‘Mom, I want to do this,’ ” Heather said.

On a recent afternoon, Saline visited the Tepper home with Ms. Nugent, Michelle Tepper’s mother. Saline’s affection for Heather was immediately apparent from their interactions.

At one point during the visit, Saline, dressed in stylishly patterned peach pants and a cozy-looking pullover, positioned herself behind Heather on the family’s living room couch and began braiding the 11-year-old girl’s long, dirty-blonde hair.

The serenity of the moment changed several minutes later, however, when, during a discussion about Saline’s medical condition, Ms. Tepper logged on to Smile Rescue Fund’s website and brought up a photo of the girl taken before she had any corrective surgeries.

Curious to see what was going on, Saline turned from her spot on the couch and glanced at the computer screen.

When she saw the photo, she covered her mouth with both hands and gasped.

Back when that photo was taken, Dr. Klempner said, Saline used to veil her face in public to avoid being socially ostracized. She was a recluse.

Not anymore: In the six months she’s been in the United States, he said, Saline’s self-confidence has markedly increased.

“She holds her head up higher,” he said. “She’s not ashamed of her face. There are almost four million children in the world that could benefit from surgery at any given time. We were just happy to be able to help one.”

Dr. Dagum, who said Saline will return to Kenya once she has recovered from her remaining surgeries, is optimistic about how her life there will significantly improve.

He plans to keep in touch with the girl via email exchanges with her translator, Duncan.

“Hopefully she’ll go back and be able to live a normal life and not be embarrassed about going out because she looks so different,” Dr. Dagum said. “That is my primary goal — to restore her face and sense of self.”