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Lions to honor Donald D’Amato as Club’s Citizen of the Year

Donald D’Amato has been named Shelter Island Lions Club Citizen of the Year.

Mr. D’Amato argued with Dr. Frank Adipietro who delivered the news on behalf of the Club’s Board of Directors, not to name him. “Donald D’Amato represents volunteerism and selflessness,” Dr. Adipietro said about the man he described as “exceptionally modest.”

Lions are all about volunteerism — service to their communities, Dr. Adipietro said, reminding Mr. D’Amato that in honoring him, part of the aim is to encourage others to serve the community.

Mr. D’Amato first encountered the Lions Club when, as a nuclear physicist, he was an assistant professor in the Division of Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, Conn., working with a team on a research project involving glaucoma.

He was the only non-medical member of the team needed for his knowledge of nuclear physics. The project involved studying the eye’s drainage system to determine how it can become clogged with aqueous fluid. If it becomes clogged, it damages sensitive nerve fibers in the eye and can result in blindness.

Lions have a long history of contributing funding for vision-related projects — such as the one in Connecticut — and Mr. D’Amato remembered the organization’s work when he moved to Rockville, Md., where he became a Lions Club member. That was close to 40 years ago, Mr. D’Amato said.

When he and his wife Janet came to Shelter Island to build a vacation home in the early 1980s, they soon decided they’d spend their retirement years here. Ms. D’Amato retired in 2006 and her husband followed suit in 2011.

Both became active with the Shelter Island Lions. Mr. D’Amato said his wife has given more service than he has to the community.

He created the Lions Club website and continues to keep it updated, including email blasts when needed.

When COVID struck in 2020, Mr. D’Amato set up a donation page and another for people to use to request help, which are still available. It has been translated into Spanish, making it accessible to many from Spanish-speaking countries living and/or working on the Island.

Many businesses were lost and many people lost jobs, Mr. D’Amato said. A lot of people were hurting and he was among those who reached out to help where he could.

He’s among those who created The Great Peconic Race, a 19-mile paddle race around Shelter Island that starts and ends at Wades Beach. The event has raised $25,000 to benefit the town, Mr. D’Amato said.

It attracts kayakers, paddle boarders, surf skiers, and OC1-OC6, coastal rowers and prone boarders from around the region. Mr. D’Amato hopes to see the group sponsor two events this year — the traditional race around the Island and an event in Coecles Harbor.

He also is amember of the Senior Citizens Foundation of Shelter Island.

Passionate about photography, he describes himself as an amateur, but many of his stunning photos have graced the pages of the Reporter through the years.

An astronomy buff, he helped promote the dark skies initiative on the Island.

The Lions will be celebrating Mr. D’Amato at a dinner in May, with an exact date to be decided, Dr. Adipietro said.