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Shelter Island Reporter obituaries: Tiernan, Van Vranken, Zavatto

Christine L. Tiernan
Christine L. Tiernan, 66, daughter of Charles Wallace and Louise D. Tiernan, died peacefully at home in Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico on February 19, 2017 of an apparent heart attack.

She is survived by her son, Maxwell Tiernan Muller and her stepdaughter, Sherah Muller, as well as her five siblings: Charles Wallace Jr., Richard and Timothy Tiernan all of Shelter Island, Carroll Tiernan of Scarborough, Maine and Susan Madrigan of Brattleboro, Vermont.

Born on December 10, 1950 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey,  Christine grew up in Essex Fells, New Jersey and spent all her summers on Ram Island where the Tiernan family had a home. She graduated from the Kimberley High School in Montclair, New Jersey in 1969 and went on to college at the University of Denver, graduating with a B.A. in Fine Arts.

Christine spent a year studying art in Switzerland and then continued her studies in art and psychology, earning an M.A. in Art Therapy/Counseling from Southwestern College. She later became a board certified art therapist, and a licensed, professional art therapist. .

From an early age, Christine was a talented artist. In the 1970s she studied sacred art traditions in South Asia and always pursued her own painting. Nevertheless, her passion was always to use creativity to heal the suffering of others. She worked with homeless children in California, India and Nepal.

For 30 years, she practiced  art therapy and counseling specializing in troubled family systems, bereavement, medical art therapy and what’s known as “art as prayer.” This led to her founding of Art Seva in 2004 — an international arts program for orphans, refugees and children affected by AIDS in India and worldwide

She expanded her service to include working with the underprivileged in Northern New Mexico, offering an after school Art Seva program with children at the Taos Pueblo. Christine continued to pursue her academic interests as a faculty member at the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Hospice Program at Northern New Mexico College; as a member of the Faculty at Southwestern College; and as an art therapy consultant with the California Pacific Medical Center.

Most recently, Christine was in the process of putting together an Art Seva program for the Community Against Violence, supporting their work with battered women and their children.
Christine felt at peace surrounded by nature. She spent the last six years of her life living in Arroyo Hondo  —working in her studio and taking long walks in the Sangre De Christo Mountains with her dog Rishi.

She loved to collect beautiful stones and  other objects for endless creative projects. Prayer and meditation were also an important part of her life as a devotee of Neem Karoli Baba and she was an active member of the ashram in Taos, New Mexico. A friend remarked of Christine, “She was a rascal in the most playful, loving sense of the word. She was whimsical with wise, yet young eyes.”

Christine’s large circle of friends and family will greatly miss her easy laugh, warmth and kind personality.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Christine’s name can be sent to: The Neem Karoli Baba Ashram Mandir Fund, 416 Geronimo Lane, Taos, NM, 87571; or, the Taos Community Against Violence (CAV), 945 Salazar, Taos, NM, 87571. Donations to the Taos CAV can also be made online at TaosCAV.org.

Memorial services will be held in Taos, and on Shelter Island during the summer months. The Taos memorial, open to the public, is scheduled for Saturday, July 8, 2017 at 2 p.m. For more information about this service, please visit NKBAshram.org.

Gordon Van Vranken
Gordon Van Vranken

Gordon Van Vranken

Gordon Sheffield Van Vranken, dearly loved husband of Paulette de Fere Van Vranken, died on November 10, 2016.

Gordon was born on April 18, 1942, the third son of Jean and Robert E. Van Vranken, Sr. of Sayville, Princeton, New Jersey, and New York City.

He attended The Harvey School in Tacoma, New York and graduated from St. Paul’s School in Garden City. He graduated from New York University, Washington Square College of Art’s and Sciences, and New York University Graduate School of Business, where he received an MBA in Finance. He then served two years in the United States Army as a first lieutenant.

After his military service, Gordon worked as a senior vice president at Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Company, a large financial institution located in Baltimore, Maryland. At Mercantile, Gordon established one of the first separate and distinct fixed income departments to manage performance debt instruments for high profile clients such as The National Football League.

He also served on Mercantile’s Trust Investment Committee of Safe Deposit for many years.

Gordon and Paulette both grew-up on the South Shore of Long Island and retired to Shelter Island, building a home here in 1998. Gordon loved the Island and enjoyed serving on various community and town committees.

He is survived by Paulette and his brothers Robert E. Jr., F. James and Barkley E. and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service is to take place this summer at the De Fere mausoleum at Oakwood Cemetery in Bay Shore.

Those wishing to make a memorial donation in Gordon’s name are urged to make donations to animal rescue organizations.

Michael John Zavatto
Michael John Zavatto

Michael John Zavatto
Michael John Zavatto, proprietor of the former West Neck Market and long-time Island resident, died at his Shelter Island home on Monday, March 13, 2017. He was 88.

Born in Inwood, Long Island to John and Theresa Zavatto, Michael was the third of four children: older sisters Iris and Phyllis, and brother, Frank. He spent his formative years in Cedarhurst, where, his family said, he developed an intensely strong work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit and deep commitment to family and community.

Michael played trumpet in the Lawrence High School band and formed his own trio, the Mickey Zavatt Combo. He played football with an off-campus team, where he earned the nickname “Rock of Gibraltar” for his ability to block all opponents.

He worked part-time in summer for his uncle at Al’s Fruit Market in Far Rockaway and it was here and through his own father’s work at Bohack supermarket, that he began to dream of owning a business, his family said.

In 1946, a few months before high school graduation, he opened John’s Market in East Rockaway selling fresh fruit, vegetables and canned goods. Michael also learned trade of butchering, apprenticing after work at night and via a correspondence course.

In 1950, during the Korean War, he entered the U.S. Army serving as a cook, training at Fort Dix and working the line at Fort Monmouth, with the rank of corporal. He was transferred to reserve status in November 1952 and honorably discharged in December 1956.

On May 25, 1954, Michael married Hempstead native Virginia “Ginny” Matthews. The couple settled in East Rockaway, where they raised their four daughters. In addition to working alongside his father and creating a successful business, Michael served for 16 years as a volunteer firefighter with Liberty Hose Company No. 2. He also began the East Rockaway Rifle and Pistol Club and acted as a firearms instructor.

A chance invitation to get away for the weekend brought Michael to Shelter Island. His family recalled he felt a special draw to its quiet beauty and knew it would be the place he would call home.

He purchased an acre of land on Baldwin Road in 1962 and moved to the Island permanently in 1970, working as a purser and captain on the North Ferry.

For Michael, being busy and of service to others was a vital part of living a full life, his family recalled.

He served with the Shelter Island Heights Fire Department, as a bay constable and as a volunteer police officer. A member of the American Legion Mitchell Post 281, he became a Free Mason, was a member of the Lions Club, and was an early graduate of Shelter Island’s emergency medical technician program and served as an EMT.

In 1974, Michael opened the West Neck Market. Part grocery, part delicatessen, part prime-meat butcher shop, the market, with its signature golden eagle hanging outside, became a resource for Islanders and visitors alike and was well-known for the care and craft Michael put into the business.
Virginia died of cancer in 1989.

Michael ran the market until he retired in 2000. He spent retirement in his two “Island Paradises,” as he called them: His beloved home on the Island, where every summer his vegetable garden was a great source of pleasure and pride, and his winter spot in Key West, which he shared with his companion, Wilma Runyon, who passed away in March 2011.

Michael is survived by his daughters, Linda of Shelter Island, Janet of the Bronx, Laura (Paul Dewsnap) of Port Jefferson and Amy (Daniel Marotta) of Staten Island; grandchildren Sean Serrano and Justin Hill; great-grandchild, James Atticus Hill; stepson, Park Davis, a sister, Phyllis Vilardi  of East Rockaway, and his brother, Frank, of Mountain View, California.

A private burial is planned for the Emily French Cemetery with a celebration of his life to follow this summer for Michael’s close friends and family. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Shelter Island EMS, P.O. Box 970, Shelter Island, NY 11964.