12/16/12 5:00pm

Andy Steinmuller’s heart has always been with his family, his friends and with the volunteer firemen he’s served with wherever he’s found himself, from Queens to Nassau to Shelter Island.

Active with the Island department almost from the first moment he began vacationing here, he continues his service as an Island fire commissioner. He even wrote a book about the men he admires so much — “The Unpaid Professional: the Volunteer Firefighter.”

But to begin at the beginning …

Born in Ridgewood, Queens in 1927 Andy’s mother died when he was a toddler. His grandmother raised him until he was seven, when his father remarried and took the family to Floral Park. He graduated from Sewanica High School there in 1945, but because he was too young to enlist on his own, his father signed the permission papers for Andy to join the Navy, where he became a cook.

“I watched the cooks and got interested and they said, ‘Come on, we’ll teach you.’” He stayed and cooked for his full two-year hitch and then “banged around for a while” before settling down.

His first job was with Bond Bread, working in the home office in New York City, where he stayed for about three years. He was assigned by Bond to its plant in Richmond Hill, Queens, and began delivering bread. “That’s where I met Charlie and Ceil Kraus and we became very good friends. Charlie was one of the drivers. We went out together and then in 1953 I got married and Charlie was one of the ushers at the wedding.” Andy’s wife, Jean, came from Bethpage, and she and Andy moved there, eventually building a home, and starting a family, which grew to two boys and two girls. Andy joined the Bethpage Fire Department, and in the course of time became the chief.

When Andy began to think about a change, Jean’s father, a supervisor at the dairy Sheffield Farm, said there was an opening. Andy went to work delivering milk. When Sheffield sold out to another dairy, Andy stayed for a while, and then took the civil service test to work in the fire marshal’s office of Nassau County. When he passed he was appointed to work for the fire marshal, doing building inspections throughout the county before being transferred to fire investigation.

“I went to Rutgers for two weeks to learn more about investigation and then after a while I decided I would like to teach more on fire safety. So they made me head of fire prevention. I was the supervisor, going out and giving talks and lectures on fire safety. I became a guest speaker at conventions and went to schools, senior citizen meetings. Whoever wanted a talk, I would go out to do it.”

THE ROAD TO SHELTER ISLAND 

In 1973, Andy got an interesting phone call. His old pal, Charlie Kraus, told Andy he was planning on buying “a little restaurant,” and wondered if Andy might like to partner with him. It was something to think about, he remembered. Andy had taken his job in the fire marshal’s office and felt that was where his economic security was, but he didn’t want to let his friend down completely. He volunteered to help out and then remembered to ask Charlie where the restaurant was.

“He said, ‘Shelter Island’ and I said. ‘Shelter Island? Where’s that?’ So he told me you had to take a ferry and I said, ‘Gee, I don’t know but I’ll help you out any time I can. I’ll come when I get vacation.’ When I took my vacation, I came out.”

Charlie had also bought a little miniature golf course. “But it was all run down and everything and he asked me if I wanted to help out because he had to have that open at least once a year to keep the zoning. So I fixed it all up and Jean would run that while I helped Charlie in the little restaurant.”

That “little restaurant” is now known as Sunset Beach.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

The family loved it here. Jean found a piece of property and they built their own home and then some A-frame houses (the ones you see off Manwaring Road) as rental units. Initially they rented them out on a weekly basis in the summer, but quickly turned them into year-round rentals. They’re now fully occupied. Until he retired, Andy commuted to his Nassau job, and of course, was active in the fire department here.

Jean died two years ago. Their four children are all nearby, as well as lots of grandchildren. His son Andrew, the eldest, and his family live next door. Arlene Rasmusen, his oldest daughter, lives in one of the A-frames, Michael lives in Orient and Lynda lives at home with her dad.

“I’m the smart one of the family, I stayed single, no kids,” Lynda said, laughing.

Andy remains actively involved with the fire department, elected as a commissioner for the past 15 years. He was a member of the group that brought about the merging of the two departments, continuing to believe that the decision to consolidate was a good thing.

“We saved a lot of money for the taxpayers,” he said, “because now we only had one insurance [policy] instead of two, having just one of everything. It made a big difference.” He was also instrumental in the installation of the water tanks, placed in various locations around the Island, where “running for the bay” for water to pump is not really a realistic option when fighting a fire.

Life is quieter now. But during golf season, Andy writes “a little something” every week for the Shelter Island Reporter, to keep folks up to date on the happenings at Goat Hill. “The good thing is, people read it and they know there’s a golf course here, it keeps it in front of people. People read the paper, know what’s going on, when there’s tournaments and things.”

He doesn’t play anymore, unless, of course, the fire department has a tournament.

11/18/12 7:54am

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | Paige and Nick Moorehad with 3-year-old son, Cayman.

Paige Clark Morehead, who is in her 30s, married to Nick Morehead and the mother of three-year-old Cayman, was born and grew up on Shelter Island in her family’s home just up the road from the South Ferry terminal. She and her younger sister, Michelle, are the daughters of Cliff Clark, an owner of South Ferry and the company’s president, and his wife, Tish.

Growing up here and going to Shelter Island School, she found it was “no big deal” to her friends that her family owned the ferry. The business was a presence in her life, residing there almost like another person.

“It played a role because that’s what we knew. The ferry was right there. We lived right by it. We had ship-to-shore radios going off at all hours and phone calls for emergency runs, for pregnant women and people who were sick,” she remembered. But what stands out for her as she thinks about her childhood is not the ferry but the closeness of her family and the closeness of her friends.

In the Shelter Island School, there were 23 other kids in her graduating class, 17 in her sister’s, and they almost all started preschool together. Many of them are still here on the Island, raising their children, who are in preschool now with her son.

“These kids are all going to be in the same class, too, growing up as kids together and we’re growing up as parents together and it’s just nice, seeing it almost come full circle.”

In addition, she’s surrounded by cousins and their children, the dads are “all captains on the ferry, so it’s the next generation, kind of moving in and making their own lives here.” Cayman, she thinks, will end up working there, too. “He already thinks he works there. If you ask him, that’s what he’ll tell you.”

After graduation from high school in 1993, Paige left for Harding College in Arkansas, which both her parents and grandparents had attended. It was a “Christian school,” faith-based, with chapel every morning and an emphasis on Bible study. But it “wasn’t a good match,” she said, and after a year she returned home and worked on the ferry, both on deck and in the office for a few years while she figured out what she wanted to do. She went back to school at Suffolk Community College for two years and then transferred to New York University, earning a degree in speech therapy in 2002. She loved living in Manhattan.

“It was a nice change of pace, going there from living on Shelter Island. You didn’t know everyone when you went into a deli, as opposed to Fedi’s, where everyone knows what you’re going to order. It was nice having the anonymity there and I made great friends. I really enjoyed the fact that I was able to be competent there, because I know it can be intimidating for a lot of people. I felt good about that. It was fun, I enjoyed it.”

But in 2003, she took a job filling in for a speech therapist on maternity leave at the Sag Harbor Elementary School and came back to live on the Island. Her next job was at the Child Development Center in East Hampton, providing speech therapy for children at the preschool level. It was a preschool that integrated normally developing kids with children who had special needs, placing them together in one class, “So I got a lot of good experience there,” Paige said. After that, a job offer at Springs Elementary School came along. She accepted and she’s been there for the past seven years.

In 2005, she met Nick Morehead, then a reporter for the Shelter Island Reporter. “Our paths had just crossed by being out and seeing each other around town,” she recalled. When they started dating, he had already met her dad and her uncle, having driven with them up-island for a legislative hearing on a ferry rate increase he had to cover for the paper.

“At some point, when we knew we were going to get married, he expressed an interest in working on the ferry and my first reaction was, ‘Oh, no, no. I had a boyfriend once who wanted that, and it doesn’t work, the whole thing, it’s a little too close to home.’ But we mulled it over and finally decided maybe it would be a good career path, especially if we definitely wanted to stay here and we do.”

So they decided to “give it a dry run” and see how they liked it. He started as a deck hand and then went on to get his captain’s license and now he is playing a managerial role as well.

Nick had been a “second home kid” here on the Island since he was three or four. His mother, Bliss Morehead and his stepfather, Mike Zisser, bought a home here after years of renting on the South Fork. Growing up with them in Manhattan, Nick attended Friends Seminary there, a Quaker school, where, “If you were into sports, you ‘played to tie.’” He was into tennis and when he visited a friend at Hotchkiss, the Connecticut prep school and saw their campus, he begged to go. He was a kid who actually sought out going to boarding school: “I wasn’t ‘sent,’” he said. He went on to Trinity College in Hartford, graduated in 1997, spent some time in California and then went back to school at American University in Washington, D.C., studying journalism. After several jobs, he came back to the Island and worked for the Shelter Island Reporter from 2003 to 2005.

In 2007, he began work at the ferry. “That the ferry was a more active lifestyle was intriguing to me, certainly a whole new skill set to be learned plus being able to bring what skill sets I had to the ferry.” He said he knows he still has a lot to learn and that there are a lot of challenges, but Hurricane Sandy underscored for him that he had made the right move.

“Being a part of the critical infrastructure during a time like that? There’s nothing more amazing than that. It was great. We had our most senior guys down there during the most intense part of the storm and I could be a part of what was going on and learn from them, be out of the way when I had to be, but be right there, tying lines and lifting and helping. I could learn from our senior pilot as he drove the boat across, in 80-mile winds, sitting right behind him, looking for pilings and docks floating in the water that we didn’t want to hit.”

His memories of that day will last a long time. “It’s real and we’re doing it and it’s cool,” he said.

Paige agreed. “You have some pride when your husband’s down there and your father’s down there and whoever is helping out is down there. It does make you feel proud. And it is something to be proud of, I think, to come together, problem solve and make it work. I love that.”

10/26/12 8:00am

When Bob DeStefano Sr. retired in 2011 as golf pro at the Gardiner’s Bay Country Club after more than 50 years, that retirement set events in motion that were significant both for him and for his son, Bob Jr.

Bob Sr. decided to run for town supervisor on the Republican line. Bob Jr., always interested in politics but not active since college, entered the fray, managing his dad’s campaign. That led to frequent meetings with the Republican Committee.

After the campaign, he accepted an invitation to join. When Amber Williams, chair of the group, wanted to “step back some” and continue as a member rather than an officer, the committee offered the post to Bob Jr. He became chairman early this year.

He’s happy to be on the Island, at least half of his time, with his wife, Elena, after a decade or more in Manhattan. The Island has always been where his heart is.

Years ago, the older DeStefanos had a home in Red Bank, New Jersey where they used to return after the golfing season on Shelter Island. That was before Bob joined the family in 1969. Both Bob and his sister, Nancy, 20 months younger, now married and living in Springs, were adopted. Bob has never had an interest in seeking out his birth parents. “I simply look at it as I’ve been very lucky,” he said. “I had somebody who was smart enough to know they weren’t ready to take care of children and then people that were good enough to take me in. I’m sort of happy with the status quo.”

He graduated from the Shelter Island School in 1987 and went to St. Michael’s College near Burlington, Vermont, where two important things happened: he met his future wife on the first day of college; and he first got involved in politics, volunteering for the elder Bush’s presidential campaign in 1988. He became youth director for the state and went on to a summer job in the White House promoting volunteerism through public-private sector partnerships.

He met the president and the vice president and a number of “behind the scenes political people.” He did a lot of work with Lee Atwater, Bush’s campaign manager in 1988, and Roger Ailes, who went on to found FOX news.

Returning to Vermont in September, he became a member of the Vermont Republican Committee and worked on some congressional races. But in time, he said, “I realized I hated the cold and didn’t ski,” so he asked himself, “What was I doing in Vermont?” He “rectified the situation” by transferring to Rollins College in Orlando, Florida. There he did some work for Jeb Bush and for the Republican National Committee. He was in a recruitment group that reached out to people in organizations that generally are Democratic.

“We’d make overtures to them, a lot of phone calls. Every group has people that are not really going along with the mainstream, and we’d contact them, try to have them reach out to their friends” to join the Republicans.

He graduated from Rollins in 1991 and went on to St. John’s Law School in Queens, a possibility he had been considering all through college. While there, he had little time for politics. He did not get very involved again until his dad’s run for supervisor.

After law school, he worked for several small law firms in the city, dealing mostly with real estate and commercial litigation. He was a part-time volunteer with Rudy Giuliani’s campaign, making phone calls and “whatever volunteers do,” but being a Republican in Manhattan was not really a winning proposition. He always felt like a transient there, too, returning to the Island every weekend because to him, that was home.

He and Elena continued dating and eventually, after times of geographic separations, she began work with the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities on Long Island. They didn’t marry until 2001. “It took me a while to convince her,” he joked. They took an apartment in Mineola and he was glad to be out of the city, although in time found the commute tiresome.

In 2010, he made a major move, working for himself as a solo practitioner. He now splits his time evenly between Shelter Island and Mineola and Elena joins him here weekends. He works from both locations, depending on the client of the moment. Without formal offices, he simply goes to where the client is and works from home in Mineola and from his parents’ home on Dinah Rock Road.

Bob’s glad to be back in politics again, especially on the Island, “a place where a single person can make a difference. It’s small enough that your vote matters. You’re not talking about a two-million vote difference the way you do in national elections. A close race in Florida is 100,000 votes but here you get the feeling that your vote counts.” He thinks elections here are “in play,” the number of registered voters in each party being almost even, with “a relatively large number of blanks.”

He’s looking forward to Election Day, when he thinks Romney will do well on Long Island. “The national polls are meaningless. It’ll come down to a few key states and how that state happens to go will depend on who shows up that day, what the weather is like in certain places and minor factors.”

In other words, we won’t know what happens until it happens.

With Island politics quiet these days, it’s a good time for Bob to learn the local ropes. Next year, of course, when the supervisor’s job and two Town Board seats will be in play, it will be a very different story.

10/14/12 8:32am

Did Lois Morris ever imagine, when she first bought a house here in 1984 — divorced, just past 40, barely employed, and knowing no one — that in 2012 she would be married, making a good living as a writer, serving as a trustee of the Shelter Island Association and the new president of the League of Women Voters?

The answer is most certainly in the negative but she’s more than pleased with the turn of events.

Born in Chicago, she grew up in Glen Cove, Illinois, a Chicago suburb on the shore of Lake Michigan, with an older sister and a younger brother. After high school, “My greatest desire was to get at least 1,000 miles away from home,” she said, but she had to settle for 900, attending the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Her sister had gone East, “So I was allowed to do whatever she had done. The West was still considered wild and woolly, nobody went there. Of course, my brother, a year and a half younger, went to Stanford, but he was a boy.”

She majored in English and journalism, chosen not because she wanted to become a writer but “because the course requirements were better.” And to her surprise, she loved it. “So I became a journalist. Since it’s the only thing I’ve ever known how to do, I’ve resigned myself to life as a writer.”

After graduation, in 1965, for several years she worked in the only jobs she could find, first at “Modern Screen” magazine and then editing “Movie Stars Magazine.” But then she landed a position with Arthur Frommer, already well known for his travel books and stayed there for the next 10 years. She married during that time, in 1968. “It was the ‘60s and I was going on 25, which was really old,” she said. Both her siblings were married, “So I knew I’d better do this. I now know that is not the way to get married. I think it was the last moment when women felt there was no life without marriage.” She stayed married for eight years.

Although she had “one of the best jobs in the world,” she was bored. “When travel is a business it takes the fun out of travel — and it was budget travel. How many ways are there to describe the same bland room in a cheap hotel?”

But no one was sympathetic to her being bored when she had such a great job. Then when the company was bought by Simon and Schuster and her position became “a real publishing job, and very corporate,” she was even more bored but didn’t know what she wanted to do. Her mother offered to cover her rent for a year so she could find out and died soon after, leaving “a little money,” so she made the break.

In 1980, she took a share in a summer house in Bridgehampton, spent a lot of time playing softball and jogging and met a number of writers and magazine editors. A friend asked her to run the 10K here on the Island. “What’s Shelter Island?” she wanted to know. “I’d never heard of it. I remember running through Dering Harbor. I could not get over it. Someone was having a wedding and it was all just too good to be true.”

The following year, she took a share in a house here, with other people, all in publishing or the media. With her combined contacts, she managed to pick up enough work to make ends meet, and then met a physician, John M. Oldham M.D., who was putting a book together on psychoactive drugs and asked her for help.

She went on to coauthor seven books on mental health with him and also collaborated on the award-winning “Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons Complete Home Guide to Mental Health.” Another collaboration followed: “The Complete Book of Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery,” now in its second edition, which she coauthored with Harmon Eyre, M.D.

In 1984, she made her move and bought “this sweet little three-bedroom house” on West Neck Road. “I thought, I’ll stay here until I get bored and then I’ll rent this and go back to the city but I haven’t been bored yet. It’s amazing, this is a tiny little island but I was not bored.”

She did buy dozens of ferry tickets, though, because she expected to go off “every day.” She hardly ever did. “The first year was exciting because I didn’t know anybody and it was a new life and solitude and all that.” Her friends all advised against the move, warning, “You’ll never meet anybody.”

“But I thought, who cares? I want to live the way I want to live and I wasn’t sure I wanted to get married again anyway.”

Fascinated by the health issues she’d researched and written about, she began a monthly column for Allure magazine, “Mood News,” and found herself established as a health writer, “but mostly from the neck up, writing about psychology and psychiatry and I really loved it.” That’s what she’s been doing ever since.

She met Bob Lipsyte, the New York Times sportswriter and journalist, on the Island in 1998 and they married in 2004. They both work at home. “We’re in the house all day together but we’re very good at it, good at working together, respectful of work time and odd hours,” she said. In time, they began collaborating.

They did a series of articles for the New York Times, in 2002, on the Perlman Music Program, traveling to China to report on the Perlman program there.They met the Chinese operatic bass Hao Jiang Tian and later worked with him on a memoir about his extraordinary life and times, “Along the Roaring River: My Wild Ride from Mao to the Met.” This led to another series of articles for the Times about the composer Tan Dun and the development of his opera, “The First Emperor,” commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera.

Lois had never been active in community affairs but six years ago, when Phyllis Gates, an officer at the Shelter Island branch of the League of Women Voters, asked her to become a board member, she was reluctant. “She assured me I wouldn’t have to do much,” but she was assigned to Voters Services, which required a lot of time. “But I did it and got to meet such wonderful people,” she said. When Cathy Kenny stepped down from the presidency this year, Lois took her place.

“The League is always active,” she said, “but November is the moment,” when Election Day comes around. “Our mission is to get people to vote, here or anywhere, just vote. I don’t know why, but people, even those with strong opinions, don’t think their vote matters. Shelter Island taught me that your vote matters. If everybody who says, ‘Oh, my vote doesn’t count,’ if they all voted, their votes would count. Especially in local elections, a few votes can be very important.” The League will be out and around the Island over the next few weeks and Lois will be there with them. Busy — but certainly not bored.

09/21/12 12:00pm

Carrie Mitchum has traveled a very long and winding road. Beginning life in Los Angeles, with stops along the way in Spain, North Africa, Asia, Paris and also Alabama during Hurricane Katrina, this young woman, who is now the head chef at SALT, the restaurant at the Island Boatyard, hopes to make Shelter Island a permanent home.

She was born in Los Angeles into a theatrical family. Her mother’s uncle was Harold Lloyd, the silent film star who was famous for his comedic antics. Her grandfather was actor Robert Mitchum and she has many fond memories of him as not at all the hard-hitting tough guy he so often portrayed.

“He was very poetic and loved horses and took me to the race track. He used to pretend he was a monster and chase me and my brothers and my sister all over the house. He was very playful and very fun. When we’d go out, we couldn’t figure out why people were coming up to him and tugging at him and asking for his autograph. It didn’t really register. To me he was just my family.”

Her father is Christopher Mitchum, one of Robert’s two sons, a martial arts action star specializing in karate. “My family moved to Spain when I was five,” she remembered, “and we lived there until I was 12. We traveled all over eastern Europe and Asia and northern Africa because that’s where the work was. It was interesting. It was the family business, really, and growing up on movie sets with my dad was really fun.”

But going to 18 schools before she had turned 13 wasn’t so much fun. Finally she was sent back to the States for boarding school. She attended Stoneleigh-Burnham in Greenfield, Massachusetts and loved it. After graduation in 1986, she went on to Dartmouth College, which, she says, “was a mistake. It didn’t really prepare me for the things I like in life.” Her two passions were acting and cooking. She left after a year, moved back to Los Angeles and landed a role in a new daytime series, “The Bold and the Beautiful,” continuing there for five years through 1993 and then making films through 1997. “I tried acting first,” she said of her career choice, because it was the family craft.

But after 10 years at it, she turned her sights on her second passion: cooking. Although she thought of herself as a “good home cook,” she knew she wanted more. She left Los Angeles, moved to Paris and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu and loved it. After graduation, she traveled for a time, taking cooking jobs as she went, before returning to the States in 2005 when she began work cooking for film catering companies.

She was with one of these companies, working on a film in coastal Alabama, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The caterers were asked to stay and cater for the relief effort. “We were in a men’s camp with 2,000 men, 15 of us doing three meals a day after Katrina hit. Then Rita hit” in western Louisiana and eastern Texas.

Rita, another 2005 storm, was the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. The crew was sent to Beaumont, Texas, again catering in a camp, again living in tents, again cooking seven days a week, three meals a day.

In the years that followed, Carrie returned to Los Angeles to complete the academic part of her Cordon Bleu degree in the school’s branch there. When she finally finished the class work and obtained her associate’s degree, she went back to catering. In 2007, while working a film in Louisiana, she met another caterer, liked him a lot and moved back with him to his home in Memphis, Tennessee, where they opened a restaurant. Things went well until last year, when they had a falling out.

She moved back to Los Angeles. “I wasn’t sure where to go, or what to do. Then Jack Kiffer, who was a family friend, said I should come here and cook for the summer.” But she found working at the Dory not “a good fit.” She was planning to go back to Los Angeles when she heard that Keith Bavaro and Allie Bevilacqua, owners of SALT, were looking for a chef. “I sat down with them, we talked, said let’s see if it’s a good fit. It’s worked.”

The summer went really well for her, she said. The restaurant has been crowded all season and they hope to stay open until December. “Allie and Keith have a lot of friends here on the Island, a really good local following. Allie was at Planet Bliss and Keith was at Sweet Tomato’s, so people know them and it’s really more like family.”

Carrie said she was excited now about fall, developing a new bar menu and preparing for a number of big parties that are planned — including a wedding rehearsal dinner for 140 people that took place last weekend. “As for the fall menu, she said she was thinking “a little spice instead of bland, a little African influence that comes from having traveled there. I like curry and using almonds, nuts, a little heat in the food. I like garlic a lot and braised foods. You can integrate fresh herbs nicely when you’re braising something.” She’s also excited about new things. Her sous chef, Darren Boyle from Montauk, has taught her a lot about local fish and she’s just learned how to shuck oysters.

She said she also was looking forward to the winter, here on her own. She loves the cold, having gone to school in “New England weather.” She isn’t worried about finances. Working in films, she pointed out, teaches you how to budget because work and no work are always intersecting. She did write and sell a screenplay, which is “still sitting on Billy Crystal’s shelf somewhere” and thinks a Shelter Island winter would be the ideal time to try her hand at that again.

As for acting and Los Angeles, “I don’t miss it at all,” she said. “I think being away from it is really nice. It’s kind of  a bittersweet memory but actually being there is kind of weird. Especially after living in Memphis and being part of a smaller community and making my own path, which no one else in my family has done. It’s really nice. I can go into the Eagle Deli in the morning and they know me and they know I like coconut drinks and they know my name and I like the feeling of community.”

It sounds like she’s here to stay.