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Reporter Letters to the Editor: Remembering Clarissa

Clarissa Williams
Clarissa Williams

Cheers, Clarissa
To the Editor:
I took note of the unfortunate death of Clarissa Williams and wanted to tell a short story. Clarissa was one of the great personalities on Shelter Island. I knew her well before she went to work at Pat and Steve’s and there is little doubt that she was a very important part of their great success.

I found there are three kinds of people who love Shelter Island. There are those who have always been there and whose families have always been there. They are the true Shelter Islanders. There are people who love Shelter Island because they spend weekends and summers there. Those people seem to have come to dominate things in recent years. Then there are people like Clarissa, and like myself, who left wherever it was we were and decided that we would live our lives on Shelter Island. I did that in 1987, Clarissa a few years later.

We loved Shelter Island in a very special way because we decided it was a place for which we would give up everything else. I never regretted that and I am sure it was the same for Clarissa. The thing that powers Shelter Island is the confluence and sometimes the conflict between those three elements. It can make life interesting and it can make things very trying at times. It was that way for dentists and it was really that way for waitresses. I am not sure how she came to it, but Clarissa was, in every way, a classic “Awright waddle yez have?” New York waitress.

One day, something happened that was to my mind a perfect demonstration of life on Shelter Island. It happened at lunchtime on a summer Saturday at Pat and Steve’s. It was an absolute chaos of hungry, impatient people, many willing to stand in line to be fed.

Karen and I were sitting in a booth beside a rather large and populated table of weekend people, parents in their weekend-in-the-country outfits, kids in their horseback riding outfits or beachwear, and all operating on high voltage electricity. Clarissa walked to the table to take their order amid all the noisy disorder. The mother, who seemed to be in charge, looked at the menu and asked Clarissa, “Does your salad feature locally grown tomatoes?”

Clarissa smiled and asked, “Do you want them to be locally grown?”

The woman answered, “Yes.”

Clarissa said, “Then they are locally grown.”

I could not have laughed harder. But I really wished I had stood up to cheer.

Cheers Clarissa!
Webster, New Hampshire

To the Editor:
When I read the final wish from Clarissa Williams last week (see Your Letters, February 19), it was right up there among the saddest moments of my life. All I could think about was what kind of guts a person has to have to know they were going to die soon and yet care about the people she was leaving.

She not only cared about them but wanted to make sure she thanked them for letting her into their lives.

It wasn’t about her, it was about the people she loved, her friends, customers, co-workers and neighbors.

She made sure that she wished them health, prosperity and happiness.

Clarissa was the real deal. She was a classy lady who died the way she lived. To me, Pat and Steve’s and the Islander were as much about seeing Clarissa as they were about eating the food. She knew how to make you feel comfortable without ever getting you mad.

I will miss going into the Islander and not seeing Clarissa. After all, who will greet me with a lovable wisecrack and then say, “Have you heard this one?” and then go on to tell me her latest off-color joke.

It was obvious to me that she always wanted to make me happy and off-color jokes were her specialty. Her personality did not change when I arrived with guests and I don’t ever remember a guest being offended. I don’t know where she learned it but she somehow knew how to do it. Clarissa could say anything she wanted and it always came off as delightful.

It wasn’t just about me; all the children loved Clarissa because you could bet that somehow a little gift or toy would suddenly appear. My wife and I will never forget the time, in the restaurant, when she said that she would be right back. We watched as she ran across the street to Card’s flower stand, bought a bouquet of flowers and gave them to a couple sitting next to us. You see, the couple was celebrating their 30th anniversary and she said that it had to be special.

Clarissa was the one who was special and we have all lost an extraordinary person and we will all miss her.
Shelter Island

Political grandstanding
To the Editor:
I got $4 less than Supervisor Jim Dougherty got from the State of New York (see “Dougherty calls out governor,” February 19).

Some state employees had to first determine that town tax increases were within the magic 2 percent and, secondly, go through the town taxes of each individual to decide how much each person got back on the basis of his, her or their town taxes.

Then the information on each individual was forwarded to another department to cut the $30 (or $34) check, and a third set of employees handled the mailing itself. The cost of these administrative details, per check, was probably somewhere between 10 and 100 times the amount of each check.

The real joke is that, of course, all these charges, were, in fact, paid for by ourselves, through our state taxes.

Boy, that makes me mad, for it is nothing but a spectacular piece of political grandstanding — and all at our expense.
Shelter Island