Here’s what real stars are made of

COURTESY PHOTO | Five of six ‘stars’ ­— Margaret Vitale (from left), Fran Cobb, Carl James, Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Patrick Harris — recognized at the Kiwanis Club of Greater Riverhead’s annual Breakfast of Stars event Saturday at Calverton Links. Not pictured: John Skabry. They now join 26 others stars recognized by the service organization over the years.

The Kiwanis Club of Greater Riverhead recognized the efforts of six more local “stars” of the community at its Eighth Annual Breakfast of Stars Saturday at Calverton Links.

Those selected now join 26 other “Stars” recognized by the service organization over the years.

The recipients “not only have been role models for the children of our community, giving back and setting standards for community service, but they consider children of the utmost importance,” Kiwanis president Harry Wilkinson said. “Each of them is helping to insure all of our futures by caring for and about the people who will be caring for us.”

The 2011 Stars, and some of the comments made about them Saturday, are as follows:

Ms. Cobb has been active in the Flanders community for many years, having been involved in the Flanders Little League, where she has served as president and treasurer; the Friends of the Big Duck, the non-profit organization managing use of the Big Duck Ranch, of which she is a co-founder and currently president; and the Bay View Pines Civic Association, of which she also has served as president.
“She’s better known as the mayor of Flanders,” said her friend, Dhonna Goodale. “If you need to know anything in Flanders all you’ve got to do is call Fran.”
Southampton Councilman Chris Nuzzi had similar sentiments.
“When I took office, I quickly learned who to go to in Flanders,” he said.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, a teacher in the Riverhead School District for 32 years, served as president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association from 1992 to 1997. She was elected to the school board three years ago and currently serves as its president. In addition, she and her husband, Antonio DeGrasse, co-founded the North Fork Breast Health Coalition, an organization that provides support for people suffering from breast cancer.
“Ann has so much energy,” said teacher and cancer survivor Joanne Niebergall. “I wish I could bottle it. I’d be rich.”
“She changes her community for the better because she stood up and got involved,” said Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine.

Mr. Harris, a former marine and former standout Riverhead High School football player, served as president of the Riverhead Raiders youth athletic clubs for 13 years, just recently stepping down. He has also coached football for the Raiders, winning eight championships, his brother, John, said. Since 2007, he’s been working in an Urban League college preparation program in Riverhead High School, where he mentors kids and has helped students get a total of $2.5 million worth of scholarship offers. He started a basketball boot camp for youngsters in 2005; is a deacon in his church; runs a Christian Disc Jockey service; and owns his own company, Copier Doctor. And in 2003, he was the Suffolk County Police Athletic League “Man of the Year,” his brother said.
“It sounds like we’re talking about someone who’s about 60 years old, but he’s only 45,” John said of his brother.
“His mantra is, ‘My students are my life,’” John said. “He is my hero.”

Mr. James is the head custodian at the Pulaski Street School, where he’s worked for 51 years. He’s a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead and friends say he’s a mentor to kids at the school.
“The work ethic that Carl has is unheard of,” said one longtime pal, Robert “Bubbie” Brown.
“He’s just incredible on a daily basis,” said Pulaski Street Principal Dave Densieski. “Whenever something needs to be done, he just jumps on it. Sometimes I have to tell him to slow down.”
Mr. Densieski recalled one Sunday the principal stopped at the school and found Mr. James, in his Sunday suit, still working. He said he had to check on the boiler, which was acting up, so he stopped in the school after church, Mr. Densieski said.
The much-younger principal joked that he and Mr. James have an agreement to both retire at the same time, but others at Saturday’s breakfast said they believe Mr. James will probably outlast Mr. Densieski.
“I’m humbled to stand here and talk about such a great man,” Mr. Densieski said.

Mr. Skabry, from Southold, wasn’t present Saturday. The Greater Riverhead Kiwanis Club represents an area that stretches from Orient Point to Rocky Point because there are no other Kiwanis Clubs in that area, Mr. Wilkinson said.
“Mr. Skabry has organized a car show in Southold for the past 24 years that raises money for a Boy Scout Troop in Southold,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “Over $5,000 per year is raised by this show, and over $100,000 has been raised over the years to send these kids to camp.”

Ms. Vitale is a member of the Three Village Kiwanis Club and a former Lt. Governor of the Kiwanis’ Suffolk East Division. In 2002, she was instrumental in helping re-organize the Greater Riverhead chapter, which had existed many years ago but had lost its charter, Mr Wilkinson said.

Past recipients of the Star award are the Rev. Charles Coverdale, the Rev. Jerry Hill, the Rev. Ken Nelson, Laura LaSita, Leif Shay, Nancy Gassert, Jeff Greenberger, Dorothy Roberson, Elizabeth Chandler, Caren Heacock, Kathleen Berezny, Csonnie and Jim Lull, Mary Lundberg, Curtis Highsmith, Fredricka Miles, Vincent Nasta, Bernice Mack, Dhonna Goodale, John McCormick, Gwen Branch, Keith Romaine, Hilly and Thelma Booker, the Rev. William Fields, Robert Jester and Liz Stokes.

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.