05/11/19 3:00pm

ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTO

American Legion Mitchell Post #281 members, Sergeant-at-Arms Fred Ogar (left) and Finance Officer Richard O’Halloran (right) presented a check to Carrie Wood, new coordinator of the Shelter Island Food Pantry. (more…)

Featured Story
01/09/15 2:00pm
JACK COMER

JACK COMER

Jack Comer
Jack Comer passed away on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2015.

Jack was born on September 1, 1944, was raised in Queens and settled down on Shelter Island, a quiet community he loved very much. He cherished his time between the Island and the Heritage Palm Golf & Country Club in Ft. Myers, Florida. (more…)

09/19/13 10:30am

PETER BOODY PHOTO | Cathy Driscoll at home on Smith Street.

Bronx native Cathy Driscoll is the right-hand woman at the Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corporation and its subsidiary, the North Ferry Company, handling payroll and pop-up staffing problems, taking Heights residents’ questions and complaints, and doing whatever else comes up at the office by the ferry terminal.

She got the job 12 years ago answering a help-wanted ad in the Reporter and still loves it, she said during a recent interview, because “nothing’s ever the same. One day it could be a Beach Club problem — somebody needs a locker — or somebody’s leaves haven’t been picked up or, gee, there’s water running down New York Avenue. You know. Assorted things.”

Mother of two and grandmother of two, Cathy, 68, lost her husband Harold “Buzzy” Driscoll in 1999 to cancer. She’s been working ever since she graduated from high school, except for the years she was raising her kids.

Most of her career was spent in the development offices of two private high schools in New York City run by the Christian Brothers, Power Memorial Academy in Manhattan and Rice High School in Harlem, where she became director of development. She organized reunions and the annual fundraising appeal at the schools and handled anything that required computer skills, from progress reports and report cards to scheduling and getting out the bills.

While at Rice, she started a program called “Adopt a Student,” in which she’d seek out alumni benefactors to contribute to the tuition of a freshman and “hopefully get them to stay until graduation.”

Cathy was the daughter of a roofing contractor and a stay-at-home mom. She went to the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan because she had a talent for drawing. Always interested in biology, she hoped to become a medical illustrator “but for that I discovered you really had to become a doctor so I decided not to.”

She went to work as a telephone operator after graduating in 1962. By then she was dating Buzzy, who lived down the block. They were married in 1963 and moved into their own Bronx apartment in the Wakefield area. Their son Michael was born the next year and their daughter Debbie in 1966. Eventually they moved to a house in Throgs Neck, right on the water in a cozy neighborhood where everyone knew each other.

Right from the start, Shelter Island was important to the family. In the early 1960s, Buzzy’s parents had bought a place on Midway Road after a colleague at Con Edison introduced his father to the place. Buzzy and his father’s work shifts often allowed the two families to have the place to themselves.

“We came out here every chance we’d get,” Cathy said, and the kids grew up fishing and waterskiing from the family boat and going to Crescent Beach and Wades Beach.

Like a lot of second homeowners, the family didn’t have time to get involved in Island life other than its summer pleasures. “But I remember the Chicken Barbecue and the kids went to the terrific summer programs they had at the school,” Cathy said. “Getting more involved than that was not on the horizon. This was a retreat from work.”

After the kids had gone off to school, she worked as a paraprofessional at P.S. 68 in the Bronx, assisting teachers with whatever came up in the classroom. The city fiscal crisis of the 1970s ended that job but a priest told her about the position at Power Memorial. She landed it and remained there until the church closed the school in 1984, moving her to Rice.

Meanwhile, Cathy’s father-in-law had retired and moved out to Shelter Island full-time so she and Buzzy bought their own place, the cozy house she lives in now on Smith Street, complete with an indoor goldfish tank in the sunroom that the uninitiated might mistake for a hot tub. Her son built it for her.

In the early 1980s, after his own retirement as a New York City Police officer, Buzzy moved out full-time to care for his ailing father while Cathy and the kids remained in Throgs Neck except on weekends and vacations. Buzzy eventually got a job working full-time as Shelter Island’s bay constable.

In 1999, Buzzy was diagnosed with lung cancer. Cathy gave up her job, sold the house in Throgs Neck, enrolled the kids at Shelter Island High School and moved out with them to care for her husband. He died within a year.

Her first job here was managing classifieds for the Reporter, where she got to know Community News Editor Archer Brown and Office Manager Ethel Michalak, who recruited her for the ladies bowling team Ethel had organized, the Guttersnipes. Cathy is now captain of the team. Ethel gave all the players nicknames: Cathy is known as Chatty. She is now the only original player still on the team.

Cathy’s reputation as a highly organized, detail-oriented, no-nonsense, can-do person prompted Shelter Island 10K co-founder Cliff Clark to ask her this year to help Mary Ellen Adipietro and Jackie Tuttle organize the run. There are so many details to stay on top of, Cathy said she couldn’t believe how those two and the other volunteers pulled it off.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to work with these wonderful people,” she said.

She’s also chairman of the Finance Council at Our Lady of the Isle Catholic Church and a member of the church’s “Caring Council.”

After they graduated from Shelter Island High School, Cathy’s son went on to become a New York City police officer like his dad, and is now retired, living with his wife Lisa near Oneonta, an area his in-laws, Bill and Pat Barton (formerly of St. Mary’s Road) introduced him to. Debbie went on to nursing school in Albany, worked at St. Margaret’s School there and now works for San Simeon on the Sound near Greenport. She has two boys, Shane, 17, and Christopher, 13, and lives on the Island.

Amazingly, Cathy finds time to travel a lot — something she’s loved ever since she and Buzzy took the kids places including Colorado and the Caribbean. More recently, she’s taken the grandkids on a rafting trip to the Grand Canyon, an “ice hotel” in Quebec and to Yellowstone in the winter.

She’s been all over Europe, including bike tours of the Rhine and Danube valleys; set foot on Antarctica on the eve of the Millennium  in 1999; and recently took a river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel with Charlotte Hannabury as her cabin mate. Last year she and Charlotte sailed through the fjords of Norway.

This year they’ll be spending New Year’s Eve in Prague. “It doesn’t get better than that if you’ve got Mozart and fireworks,” said Cathy.

07/03/13 5:00pm

JO ANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | Flags marking ‘Joey’s Mile,’ the last stretch of the Shelter Island 10K, placed by Island school children in memory of Lt. Joseph J. Theinert

Jimbo Theinert was working on the South Ferry when he got the call.

His father told him to get off the boat on the North Haven side, he needed to talk to him. Walking the short distance from the ferry to the car, his first thoughts were that his grandmother had died. But soon his father was telling him the news that had to be delivered in person. His brother was dead.

Lt. Joseph J. Theinert, 24, had been killed by an improvised explosive device in Kandahar, Afghanistan on June 4, 2010, while protecting his men.

The days following were a flurry of preparations. But after the somber procession in the rain during Joey’s final return to the Island, after the wake at Our Lady of the Isle Catholic Church, where people stood in line for hours to pay their respects to the Theinert and Kestler families, after the funeral and the burial at OLOI cemetery, Jimbo had to find his way in life without his brother.

What the Theinert and Kestler families went through here has happened more than 2,200 times in big cities and small towns across the country, with that figure representing the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan.

Last week Jimbo (James) talked about his big brother and what he was doing to keep his memory alive.

“He was my best friend,” he said of Joey, a year ahead of him in school, “We shared a bedroom for most of my childhood. Every night after the lights went out, we talked. I told him everything.”

For a year after his death,  “the bubble of Shelter Island propped me up,” he said. But then it “was time to take off the training wheels.” He and his girlfriend, Mary Larsen, traveled cross-country for 10 months.

June 4, he said, will always be a “blacked out date” for his family. They dreaded the first anniversary of his death but they got through it with a big family dinner.

The next year, 2012, the anniversary was the first day of the 7th grade schooner trip. Jimbo decided to chaperone because he remembered how much his brother had liked it. He said it was “an eye-opening” experience for Joey, sailing with kids from Fishers and Block islands; he “stepped out of his shell,” exposed to a world bigger than the Island.

This past June 4, Jimbo, a high school math teacher here, wanted to honor his brother in a different way by combining part of his own healing process with a memorial.

He took time out from his classes to talk to his students about Joey. These kids already knew the story of the hometown hero; they wore “We Remember Joey” T-shirts, saw the pictures of him in the school lobby and the gym, and helped place the small flags marking “Joey’s Mile,” the last stretch of the 10K.

But that was only part of the picture. Jimbo wanted to tell them about Joey not as a hero, but as a kid, and how much he was like them. “His death was the last chapter, but you can’t read a book and just read the last chapter,” he said.

And so the stories came, like playing soldiers as kids, crawling through the grass and his brother yelling at him to keep his butt down or he’d get shot.

He mentioned that history was Joey’s favorite subject, how he instinctively understood what each war was fought for. Their grandfather was at Pearl Harbor and had seven brothers in the service, one of whom served at the Battle of the Bulge; his uncle talked about his experiences more than his grandfather and Joey always paid close attention.

Jimbo told his students about Joey’s three-sport athletic career in high school, that he played basketball for Shelter Island; ran cross-country with Pierson and played lacrosse with the Ross School because the Island didn’t have teams. He was lead runner on the cross-country team and qualified for “states” in his senior year. He was unanimously voted team captain, but was “kind of a grump” when he ran the team, working them hard. Because the Island team bus had several different groups on it and usually ran late, Joey drove with Jimbo in his own car, arriving earlier than the home team. He was also Student Council representative junior year and president senior year, always working hard, getting things done. He was prom king senior year.

Joey was the self-appointed chauffeur for Jimbo and his friends before they were old enough to drive: tooling around the Island, “hundreds of laps, listening to music, talking about life and just messing around.” He said Joey made sure he got them home safely, even driving them to their prom in their father’s spiffed-up pickup truck. Joey was “always a good voice of reason, watching over us younger idiots.”

A couple of weeks after his talk, Jimbo interviewed graduating seniors for the Lt. Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Scholarship. He was impressed by how much they related Joey’s experiences to their own lives. Since Joey had gone to school here from K through 12, graduating in 2004, he told them that Joey had the same love/hate relationship with the Island that they probably did.

A student asked what advice he thought Joey would give and Jimbo answered, “Be proud of being from here. Keep it with you. Be true to yourself, hold onto your beliefs.”

11/05/12 10:21am

The Shelter Island community was saddened to learn of the death of Nancy Byrne, 41, who passed away Thursday, November 1, in Florida. She was the wife of Kevin Byrne and the daughter of Robert and Anne DeStefano.

Visitation will be Wednesday November 7,  from 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the Shelter Island Funeral Home, 23 West Neck Road.

A Funeral Mass will be held Thursday, November 8, at 10:30 AM at Our Lady of The Isle Catholic Church, 12 Prospect Avenue.

Ms. Byrne’s brother, Robert DeStefano, Jr.,  said the family requests in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Nancy Byrne Memorial Fund for Junior Golf, “in recognition that Nancy’s greatest joy was working with these young people.”

Ms. Byrne came from a golfing family, with her father retiring in 2011 as golf pro at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club after more than 50 years.

Checks can be made payable to Gardiner’s Bay Country Club “Nancy Byrne Fund” in the memo line. They should be sent to Anne and Bob DeStefano, PO Box 126, Shelter Island, New York 11964.

“My family thanks you all for your continuing comfort and support,” Robert Jr. said.

Pastor of Our Lady of the Isle, Father Peter DeSanctis, remembered Ms. Byrne  Monday  as “a cheerful and optimistic person, who always wanted you to be cheerful and optimistic.”