Letters: Readers remember Howard Meinke

Missing Howard

I first met Howard Meinke about 80 years ago, when his parents were building a summer place right next door to where my grandfather was building on Nassau Point. Not long ago I gave Howard a picture of the two of us, his cousin Martha Jane and my sister Betty taken where his dad was working on their house. 

Howard and his dad later built a square-ended boat in their cellar and I enjoyed many sails around the creek with him in that boat. In later years Howard and my husband, Paul, both sailed with the Old Cove Yacht Club in New Suffolk. I myself was not to meet Paul until many years later, when he returned from the service.

Before Howard moved out here to live full-time, Paul worked with Howard’s dad on the Meadow Beach Preserve project, getting members of the Nassau Point Association to sign off on lots they owned. That area had been destined for a development of what I believe was to be 50 building lots. Lucky for all of us, it was preserved in its natural state for all to enjoy.

Once here permanently, Howard dug in and did all he could to preserve the area. He belonged to and worked hard with the North Fork Environmental Council, at one time as its president. He wrote letters to the editor to try to get people to do the right thing when it came to protecting our beautiful North Fork.

What a great loss to his wonderful family and to the community he so loved. We’ll miss you, Howie, and thank you for all you did to save the North Fork not only for our generation but for all generations to come.

Barbara Stoutenburgh, Cutchogue

A leader lost

There is an uneasy quiet on the North Fork today. No letter to The Suffolk Times will appear in your inbox or in this week’s paper. There will be no call to the North Fork Environmental Council asking if Suffolk and Southold have made any progress on the water quality issue. There will be no shadow in the door of the planning department asking for details on the latest development project that threatens our waters, our traffic, our safety and our way of life.

All the time, for all the right reasons, Howard Meinke was everywhere asking questions, raising concerns, prodding people to get involved. You may not have always agreed with him, but you had to admire and appreciate his drive, his energy, his concerns and his willingness to take the time to speak out so others would have to think and reply.

In his passing we lost a leader, an environmentalist, an activist, a role model and a dear friend. During his life, he helped to prevent the loss of open space, working farmland, critical wetlands, rural roads and our sense of community. Howard Meinke will be deeply missed. And while our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, to Howard we say, “Thank you for who you were and for all that you did for us, your beloved North Fork and Peconic Bay.”

William Toedter, Mattituck

president, North Fork Environmental Council

He never gave in

Most of us know Howard Meinke. For as long as we can remember, he has always spoken out for the environment, for our community and for progressive issues.

Howard always said what needed to be said in a firm voice and from a position of knowledge. Well into his 80s, Howard was slowed by severe arthritis but he always showed up. He never cut himself any slack.

The night he died he was at a fund-raiser for Eastern Long Island Hospital. The night before he was at our house making phone calls for the candidate of his choice. After two hours of work that evening, I walked him out to his car. It was a struggle for him to walk up the driveway and he cursed the arthritis. He lowered himself into the driver’s seat and said, “I’ll see you next week.”

Howard knew we all owe something to this beautiful place and, most importantly, to each other.

Whether we knew Howard or not, we will all dearly miss him and what he did for us.

Our deepest sympathy to his wife, Peg, and family, who bear the weight of this tragedy most.

Morton Cogen, Cutchogue

Rest in peace

It’s with sadness that I reflect on the passing of environmentalist Howard Meinke. While we didn’t always agree, we always had a mutual respect for each other. Our common ground was that we both want to see something done to better our water quality, especially changing the way we design our septic systems to reduce nitrogen loading in the bays, etc.

Howard never missed the opportunity to admonish me, as an elected official, to do more for the environment, but always did it in a lighthearted way that got the message across without seeking to embarrass me. I always appreciated that approach because I would always walk away thinking about what he said rather than how he said it. In that regard, he was a master at presenting his point of view.

Outside of politics and the environmental realm, Howard and I did do business together. I found him to be a caring and charming man who cared a great deal about his family. The North Fork has lost one of its biggest advocates for the environment and he will be sorely missed.

RIP, Howard.

Bob Ghosio Jr., Greenport

Let Howard Meinke inspire you

With the tragic death of Howard Meinke last Thursday, the North Fork lost a revered defender of the environment. Although Mr. Meinke was not schooled in a particular discipline or science related to the environment, he was keenly aware of dramatic changes in the local environment from the time he spent here as a youth. One of his greatest passions was the negative effects population growth has had on the water quality of our surrounding bays and creeks.

Two days prior to Howard’s death, he sat next to me at a meeting at the Mattituck-Laurel Library that had been scheduled by the North Fork Environmental Council. The topic of the meeting was basically a discussion of the politics of environmental protection and was led by Daniel Gulizio, who is serving as interim baykeeper. The basic premise of the discussion was that deterioration of the environment has resulted, in large part, due to the mixing of money with politics and the lack of involvement or concern by the general public. There were probably a dozen people in attendance.

Following the meeting with Mr. Gulizio, we reconvened for a brief discussion in the office of the NFEC about what could be done to get people involved. Naturally, Howard was there, being a former president of the NFEC. Perhaps folks just think that people like Howard Meinke or Paul Stoutenburgh will always be there to represent them. This is obviously a mistaken premise. If you do care about the quality of the water surrounding Long Island or the groundwater or preservation of wildlife or open space and farm land preservation, consider joining a local environmental organization to help “Save What’s Left” of the North Fork.

George Bartunek, Calverton

vice president, North Fork Environmental Council

Very much involved

I should realize there is no point in arguing with a fanatic of any kind, but Marilyn Flynn, whose name I did not mention in my previous letter, certainly is misguided to personalize her diatribe against me (“Don’t you tell me,” Sept. 18). By the way, I have participated in many philanthropic activities, including benefits for animals, such as the North Fork Animal Welfare League.

I have also supported, over the years, although not so much these days, the efforts of the North Fork Environmental Council to preserve open space and totally agree with Howard Meinke’s final letter, regarding the proposed “Heritage” complex in Cutchogue (“A call to arms,” Sept. 18).

Mr. Meinke, may he rest in peace, was a tireless defender of the need to preserve open space on the North Fork, and one hopes that the community will follow up on his letter to curtail the project under review. This is a project conceived not to meet the needs of people, but those of a speculator.

Harry Katz, Southold