12/19/13 8:00am

PETER BOODY PHOTO | Heather Reylek at home with her poodles Jezebel and Abbie.

With Christmas just days away, scores of Bass Creek Clarks and some of their closest family friends are thinking not just of sugarplums but the individual omelets that Grandma Lulu — better known to Shelter Island postal patrons as Heather Reylek — will be whipping up for each of them Christmas Day.

Among the company will be Heather’s 90-year-old mother, Barbara Lee “Buzzy” Clark, and her uncle, Albertus “Toots” Clark. “They’ll be bringing him in a wheelchair and I hope the ground stays frozen so they can bring the car right around to the deck and lift him up right there,” Heather said, nodding toward a sliding glass door last week as she sat at the kitchen counter of her North Ferry Road house.

The house was all done up for Christmas, with her nutcracker collection on display through several rooms. Her three finches, raised from hatchlings, chattered happily in a nearby cage while her two poodles — Jezebel and the puppy Abbie Rose — lay in a patch of sun at Heather’s feet.

Her husband Bob, a former president of the Shelter Island School Board, who ran for a Town Board seat in November, has had his own construction firm since the 1970s and was out on a job. He built their house and, over the years, renovated and expanded it so now it’s “just the way we want it,” Heather said.

When you know people only from their public roles, it can be startling to discover how much more there is to them. The former postmaster at the Heights, Sag Harbor and Center post offices and the longtime chair of the town’s Democratic Committee, Heather is a passionate, mostly self-taught musician and vocalist — not unlike her late father, Robert Albert “Bucky” Clark, who as a teenager impressed the girls because he could sing, ice skate, play the button box and the harmonica all at the same time, more or less.

Her Uncle Walt Clark was a local bandleader in the 1930s and 1940s. Her Aunt Hannah played honky-tonk piano. Her mother — a former New York City career woman who still goes to work one day a week or so as a broker for the Amaden Gay insurance agency — brought her piano out from Richmond Hills after she met Bucky at a retreat at what is now Camp Quinipet and married him.

A founder of a local folk group called Homespun, which evolved into today’s Island Folk, Heather and her musical partner Peter Mikochik are spending a lot of time these days working to define a new kind of folk-rock sound with their duo, Catbird Band. Reminiscent of the best and edgiest folk performers of the early 1960s, their sound can be sampled on line at catbirdband.com.

She also keeps busy at the Presbyterian Church, where she sings in the choir, runs the children’s music program and is helping with the search for a permanent pastor. And aside from her birds, dogs and a cat named Bad Louie, she tends 30 chickens and sells their eggs. In spring and summer, there’s her garden and her 18-and-a-half-foot Scout Dorado with the big Yamaha engine. Then there are the their three children, Zach, Tim and Rachel, and three grandkids. She’s in big demand as a babysitter.

Besides her family, though, “My biggest love is my current band,” she said. Generally Heather plays banjo and Pete plays guitar. They’ve been working together for three years, performing at the American Legion and the Volunteer Park gazebo and are hoping for gigs at Canio’s and the Kramoris Gallery in Sag Harbor.

Both sing in voices that are reminiscent of the mid-century glory days of the American folk era. No wonder. Earl Robinson, a colleague of Pete Seeger and the composer of the classic union song, “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night,” was a frequent visitor to the Island and taught her mother guitar.

She’s a Democrat because her father and grandfather were Democrats at a time when the Island’s non-Republican population could fit in the North Ferry waiting room. Bert Clark, an ace boat and auto mechanic on Long Island’s Gold Coast, came here from Centerport in 1924 to take a job managing Otto Kahn’s game preserve, now Mashomack Preserve.

One of his sons, Heather’s father Robert “Bucky” Clark, eventually took over the preserve job. Heather, born in 1952 and known as Lulu until she started school, was one of seven children, almost all of whom live on the Island.

She has fond memories of life “in the woods,” as she refers to it, at a house on property Otto Kahn gave her grandfather “next to Taylor’s Island,” and later at “the Big House,” known today as the Manor House. Teachers and administrators understood the Clark kids might be late for school because of the soggy state of the preserve’s unpaved road, which her father graded and plowed. “They were used to seeing us traipse in late with mud up to our knees because we’d all have to get out and push,” Heather said.

Growing up here “was great. It was wonderful. Everyone wanted to come down and stay with us. There was no electricity. We had a generator when we could afford to buy gas. We were quite poor but could eat fish and game … There was no TV unless we had the generator running. My father watched Jackie Gleason and ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’”

“We cooked on a wood stove,” Heather added, remembering how they’d take “chunks of bread smothered in butter and put them right on top of stove and press them down. It was just incredibly delicious. No one was too concerned with cleaning up; it was chaos, with our mother and father always busy doing something else. We had free run of 2,000 acres.”

Heather’s mother pushed her kids to get scholarships and go to college. Heather went to SUNY New Paltz to study anthropology, working at first in the library for minimum wage but finding a better job as a letter carrier for a post office just outside Newburgh.

By then, she and Bob were a couple. A close friend of the White family, he had come out to the Island from Centereach after both his parents had died within a couple of years of each other while he was a student at NYU. They were married in 1972. He worked in construction upstate until he and Heather returned to the Island, where she started her 35-year East End postal career at the Riverhead post office.

“It really bothered me that I never got my degree,” she said, so after her retirement she enrolled at Southampton College. “I love going to school. I wouldn’t mind going back for my master’s,” she said.

Her postal career is what led her into politics as she got involved in NAPUS, the National Association of Postmasters United States, which lobbies Congress to protect services for postal consumers. “I’m a political advocate,” she said. “I started going down to Washington with prior legislative chairs and got to see what a difference you can make by making personal contact with congressmen.”

But the issues ultimately are all local. “That’s where it’s all at,” said the veteran strategist of many a town campaign.

03/11/13 10:31am

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Shelter Island School

The Shelter Island School Board approved the following coaches for the season: Kimberly Clark, junior varsity girls softball, at $4,419; Hope Kanarvogel, junior high boys volleyball, at $2,653 retroactive to January 22; Ian Kanarvogel, junior varsity boys baseball at $4,319; and Peter Miedema, varsity boys baseball at $5,302.

Substitute teachers who are certified or have a four-year college degree and are paid $110 per day are Catherine Brigham, Elizabeth Eklund, Margaret Larsen and Perter Waldner. The appointments of Ms. Larsen and Mr. Waldner are subject to results of fingerprinting required of all school personnel who come in contact with students.

Mentors, who each receive a $1,500 stipend are Ann Marie Galasso, mentoring James Theinert; Janine Mahoney, mentoring Debra Sears; Devon Treharne, mentoring James Bocca; and Cheryl Wood, menotiring Michael Cox.

The board also heard from Cori Cass, general manager of the fledgling Shelter Island Bucks Collegiate Baseball Team, who said he’s working on getting a good location for a new scoreboard purchased last fall with contributions from the community. Mr. Cass said he needs information on the height of the scoreboard so it can be located in such a way that it doesn’t block neighbors’ views.

The team also anticipates adding dugouts for the home and visiting teams this spring.

Since the Bucks initial season last summer, the school district has benefitted from an upgraded playing field, courtesy of the Bucks. Similarly, the scoreboard and dugouts won’t cost taxpayer money.

03/05/13 10:00am

JULIE LANE PHOTO | High School student Richard Ruscica explained a project he’s involved with through the school’s Intel scientific research program during last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting.

How well has Shelter Island School prepared students for the rigors of college and the job market? Not well enough in some ways, according to a new survey.

Conducted by guidance counselor Mark Palios of students who graduated between 2008 and 2012, the survey results were shared with the Board of Education at last Thursday’s meeting.

The survey included questions about how the students ranked with their counterparts from other high schools in reading, writing, mathematics and research. Graduates were also asked about how well prepared they were in terms of social adjustment when they left the school.

The good news: Many thought they were well prepared socially to make transitions from high school and also found their math studies had prepared them to do well. But they were less prepared when it came to critical reading and writing, according to the survey.

What would they change about their high school education? The grads — 24 percent of 98 students surveyed responded — said they would have liked more advanced placement classes with longer class time; a more professional classroom environment; more opportunities for research and formal papers; more course options; and more focus on business and personal finance.

One former student described his writing skills as weak and said he would have liked more emphasis on grammar and writing organization.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Hynes said the results correlated well with what he and academic administrator Jennifer Rylott had concluded in stepping up programs to help local students be better critical readers and writers.

Teacher Daniel Williams and students from the school’s Intel program demonstrated experiences they are having in doing scientific research that is innovative and involves learning by trial and error. Three students — Tommy Card, Richard Ruscica and Olivia Garrison — have been involved in the program dealing with scientific research into cancer causes. Mr. Card and Mr. Ruscica were at the meeting to explain their experiences with the program while Mr. Williams told the board the students are so enthusiastic about the program that they are putting in more hours than required.

All is not well with the district’s efforts to beef up security, according to one mother who said her 7-year-old child ran out a door he wasn’t supposed to use and was told he would have to walk all around the outside of the school in 23-degree weather to come back in through the lobby entrance. She acknowledged the boy wasn’t supposed to go out the door, but said the child was attracted by snow on the playground.

Another of her sons told board members that a child having to walk alone all the way around the outside of the building could be in danger of being kidnapped.

Dr. Hynes acknowledged the mother’s concerns and said he would take it up with a committee organized to tighten security.

Junior Quinn Hundgen told the board the prom committee has made plans to hold this year’s event at Dering Harbor Inn on June 7 from 7 to 11 p.m. The cost for the space is $500 that will be raised by the students.

The board approved the following coaches for the season: Kimberly Clark, junior varsity girls softball, at $4,419; Hope Kanarvogel, junior high boys volleyball, at $2,653 retroactive to January 22; Ian Kanarvogel, junior varsity boys baseball at $4,319; and Peter Miedema, varsity boys baseball at $5,302.
Substitute teachers who are certified or have a four-year college degree and are paid $110 per day are Catherine Brigham, Elizabeth Eklund, Margaret Larsen and Perter Waldner. The appointments of Ms. Larsen and Mr. Waldner are subject to results of fingerprinting required of all school personnel who come in contact with students.

Mentors, who each receive a $1,500 stipend are Ann Marie Galasso, mentoring James Theinert; Janine Mahoney, mentoring Debra Sears; Devon Treharne, mentoring James Bocca; and Cheryl Wood, mentoring Michael Cox.

02/04/13 11:32am

PETER BOODY PHOTO | Rebecca Mundy once dreamed of a life off “the rock”
and now can’t imagine it elsewhere.

“My parents raised me to give back to the community, to be active in the community. If something isn’t being handled right, you need to stand up and speak for yourself,” said Rebecca Mundy, 47, mother of five, member of the deep-rooted Kilb and Beckwith clans, philanthropy coordinator at the Mashomack Preserve and president of the Shelter Island School Board from 2008 to 2011.

“We all have our responsibility,” she said. “This is the United States of America. We’re supposed to be part of the process.”

That’s why she always has told friends she just might run for Town Board or town supervisor one day, when life settles down. She is well-seasoned for either job, having guided the School Board through decisions that kept her up nights, including finding a new superintendent and meeting the state’s 2-percent cap on tax increases the first year it was imposed.

She left after a three-year term because a family member was undergoing medical treatment and her son Zach, a Marine like his father before him, was headed to Afghanistan.

“I knew I could not be sitting there at a public meeting,” trying to stay focused “on all the details and have the thought that he was abroad. I had to be with my family, my kids in agony … I had to be a mom.”

Mentioning Zack’s return last summer brings tears to her eyes. “He came home,” she explained simply — the point being that others did not, including the sons of her friends Chrys Kestler and Joann Lyles.

As School Board president, Rebecca weighed her words carefully. As the daughter of a former town supervisor, councilman and highway superintendent who loves tracking returns on election nights, she’s a natural politician. And yet she speaks from the heart and manages to hit nails on the head every time.

“I live very simply,” she said. “I’m not a fancy person. But when it comes to family, it is the greatest thing. Michael and I as a couple are so blessed, so lucky; we are so rich, our kids are amazing.”

There are five, even though Rebecca vowed after graduating from Bentley College with a degree in marketing in 1987 that she didn’t want any. “I had baby sat kids forever when I was young,” she said, “and I thought, ‘How do people sleep at night?’”

In addition to Michael Zacharia, 20, still in the Corps, there’s Melissa, 25, a full-time staffer at Sylvester Manor, who was born in North Carolina when Rebecca and Mike lived near Camp Lejuene; Sara, 21, an aspiring actress pounding the pavement in Manhattan; Megan, 19, a nursing student at Southern Connecticut State University; and Nathan, a tall 11th-grader who plays on the basketball team, which his Dad coaches and which — to the family’s delight — beat the Bridgehampton Killer Bees last Friday night for the first time since 1969, when Mike’s brother Jerry was on the team.

Although she speaks with reverence of her parents and all her aunts, uncles, in-laws and grandparents, Rebecca holds up her late maternal grandmother, Mabel Beckwith, as a hero whose shoes she strives to fill.

“She taught us all that you don’t have to have money, cars, fancy houses or things, as long as you have family … She had five kids and raised them on her own” after she and her husband separated. “She’s why I have five children and I think nothing of it, why I have 53 people, every cousin, aunt and uncle and in-law in my house on Christmas Eve, why there are 200 and 300 people when I have a party. She was the kind of person kids always bringing people home … they all showed up at her house and she fed everybody.”

Rebecca was born in Brooklyn, back when her Bronx-born dad worked as a mechanic for Pan Am and before he moved the family to the Island, where both he and his wife, Diane, had roots.

She has been a high school cheerleader, short-order cook at Carol’s luncheonette, front desk person at the Pridwin, waitress at Nettie’s Kitchen and raspberry picker for her father. She has two siblings on the Island, twins Sharon Gibbs and Karen Kilb, and a sister, Theresa, who works in New York.

She told her story sitting at the kitchen table in the two-story shingled house at the end of a dirt road next to O’s market. Her dad was the general contractor and she can still see her grandfather, Alfred Kilb Sr., straddling the wooden beam now hidden beneath the kitchen floor, directing all hands as they set the joists.

She was a college freshman when Mike, still in high school, asked her on a date. He promised “to show her the sights of Shelter Island” and stood her up, prompting her father to ask, “Who is this guy?”

Mike pulled up in his pick-up at Nettie’s Kitchen soon after, apologized, and drove her to Wades Beach, where they talked for hours. “I kept waiting for a move,” she said, but there wasn’t “even a peck on the cheek.” They met again for the weekly barbecue at the Pridwin and this time there was “a kiss out by the dock under the moonlight and the rest is history.”

After Mike’s years in the Marine Corps, they came back to the Island just to make money and plan their next move. He went to work for South Ferry, where he is a captain and co-foreman at the shop. She gob a part-time job at Mashomack as a secretary, later as a clerk in Town Hall, and later as an assistant to the supervisor. Along the way, she also ran a day care center out of her home.

They saved up the money to buy their 3.6-acre lot and build their house by staying far longer than Rebecca expected — more than eight years — with Mike’s parents, Shirley and Jerry. The kids slept in one room. When their own place was finished in 2002, Melissa got her own quarters downstairs and the others shared two rooms upstairs. At first they hated it, huddling back together in one room like refugees.

They got over it but, as they grew up, they made a tradition of spending the night before all big holidays back together in one room.
At the end of a long chat, thinking back, Rebecca said, “When I was a kid, as everybody says even to this day, I thought I was going to get off this rock and I was never coming back. But you do come back because you find out this is a beautiful place, it’s a special place.”

11/27/12 10:34am

PETER BOODY PHOTO | U.S sailing champion Amanda Clark on her way home from the London Olympics, will likely be a first ballot shoo-in to the coming Shelter Island’s Sports Hall of Fame.

By mid April 2013, expect to see the initial step in a Shelter Island Sports Hall of Fame take shape as individual athletes, teams, coaches and others with significant contributions to sports programs are honored.

Jim Colligan, who is among a group of special Shelter Island School Board committee members spearheading the effort, described the process and objective to the Board board members on Monday, November 19, explaining that those who are honored must have completed high school at least 10 years before becoming eligible.

In addition to their achievements in high school, a nine-member selection committee will consider candidates’ post-graduate achievements; the character of those chosen so that they represent role models; and outside activities that may reflect on the merit of a candidate. Mr. Colligan expects the initial inductees will be a highly acclaimed group the community will all agree merit the honor of being the initial inductees. Not only will selection committee members choose the inductees, but they will accepting nominations from the community.

There will also be honorary members whose selection as deserving athletes in the community may not have been manifested during their high school years. He pointed to two-time Olympian Amanda Clark, noting that when she was in high school, Shelter Island didn’t have a sailing team.

Pictures of the athletes, teams, coaches and others will be on display outside the Shelter High School gymnasium and each picture will include information about the specific achievements that merited Hall of Fame selection, Mr. Colligan said.

Students won’t be involved in the selection process, except as community members with the right to nominate candidates, because it’s likely to be difficult for them to bring a 10-year prospective to the table, Superintendent Michael Hynes said. But they can contribute by helping to design the display, he said.