The Spirit Endures: The Jarrett Engelhardt Pagano Scholarship Fund

Photo of Jarrett Engelhardt Pagano provided by Nancy Engelhardt

Photo of Jarrett Engelhardt Pagano provided by Nancy Engelhardt

I recently shared how lovely the Pal-O-Mine Winter Wonderland was. It was one of those days that most would call miserable, but there, it was just fine. Warm and cozy if not outright sunny. 

I was glad to run into dear Nancy Engelhardt. She’s the reason I know what Pal-O-Mine is. We were all connected through Leadership Huntington and she introduced me. She’s been a board member herself there for 12 years now. 

I wrote a long, beautiful story about Nancy, herself, years ago for The Corridor: Long Island’s Journal for Strategic Alliances. It seemed like a full and accomplished life then. What she’s done since is remarkable. That’s for another day, tho. In this moment, I hugged and told her I loved her.

Her son, Jarrett, recently passed. As her eyes held volumes more, Nancy smiled, speaking of the faith that is never far from her lips and how she is grateful to feel him still, especially here. She asked if I’d seen the video of Pal-O-Mine Founder Lisa Gatti at his services. 

There, Lisa shared her story of the handsome, charming young man who came to volunteer at 17 and became a fundamental part of this healing place. She smiled, recounting his passion for the horses and the day a boy with autism whom he worked with spoke for the first time.

I told her I had.

The Jarrett Engelhardt Pagano Scholarship Fund

Lisa had emphasized the indelible mark Jarrett Engelhardt Pagano had left on the farm and how his spirit would live on through all he’d touched there. Nancy was grateful to say that friends had come together to establish a Pal-o-Mine scholarship fund in his honor as a way he might keep serving all he loved there.

If you’d like to join them in keeping his spirit alive and give the gift of equine healing, you may do so here.

It’s a deeply meaningful, uplifting way to give.

Photo of Jarrett and a young Pal-O-Mine student many years ago. Image provided by Pal-O-Mine Equestrian
Photo of Jarrett and a young Pal-O-Mine student many years ago. Image provided by Pal-O-Mine Equestrian

In Memoriam: Dolores Thompson, Kevin Thorbourne, Robert DeSimone

Photo of Dolores Thompson in 2008 by Katheryn Laible

Photo of Dolores Thompson taken in 2008 by Katheryn Laible

Three extraordinary souls that I happened to know passed on these last few months. I think part of why I’ve been slow to send a newsletter is because I’ve wanted to pay each one their proper respects. Unfortunately, I still haven’t processed enough to do that for Bill Bohn and another dear soul the world lost over a year ago. There’s so much to say about each of these folks. It’s going to take a while. I’ll tell you a little now and endeavor to properly memorialize each of these “Legends of LI” here soon.

Dolores Thompson

Dolores Thompson – What a force! She was introduced to me as “Queen Dee.” You didn’t have to squint too hard to see her crown. She was regal if she was anything. Tough as they come, she could bring you down with a look. Still, as one dear soul said, “If you didn’t love and respect her, you just didn’t know her that well.”

I’ve never had anyone so point-blank command that folks give a damn and love, breaking it all down as simply as possible for anyone who would listen.

Soon after Dee’s passing about a month ago, Cheryl Blum dug up roughly 30 years of news clippings charting Dee’s adventures as a committed advocate.  A true community Matriarch, Dee was a big reason why there’s a library in Huntington Station, and why the Dolan Family Health Center exists. I can’t even begin to fathom how many kids she impacted for the better as a champion of the Huntington Station Enrichment Center and the local Boys and Girl’s Club, as well as the local NAACP. Among the most ardent advocates Huntington Station has likely ever had, she was also a driving force and deep conscience for its BID (Business Improvement District). There was more…so much more…

Dee did things her own way, that’s for sure, even as she collaborated closely with any and everyone. Naming 2nd Avenue “Dee Thompson Way in her honor was simply putting a formal label on a street many had already long seen as hers. When the Huntington Awareness Day and its Unity in the Community parade were rained out, it felt like the heavens were joining the town in mourning, and knew folks weren’t quite ready to hold that event without her.

The last time I saw Dee, I got to give her a hug over a relatively simple yet deep request she’d had of the powers that be which seemed to take way too long to accomplish…a supermarket. She’d have loved to see it sooner, but was happy at least that it was finally done.

It was so good to see her. She was pure Dee that day, loaded with three more things she wanted accomplished: Improving a difficult corner, beautifying a major train station, and establishing a museum. She admonished me to go see the extraordinary collection of the Reverend Bernadette Watkins which was then on view at the Tri-CYA in Huntington Station for Black History Month. She hoped it would soon find a prominent home.

I am so glad to see this happening, and am sure there are others carrying a torch for the other two items. Grateful thanks and all the best to Melisa Rousseau and everyone involved now in establishing the Huntington African American Museum, and to all who collect and curate to preserve and better understand this important part of our heritage. I’m sure Dee’s watching over you.

Thank you, Ms Thompson, for all you did to serve your community. I’m sure I’m far from the only one who feels they’re a better person because of you. May those that follow make you proud.

Photo of Kevin W. Thorbourne helping spruce up the Coltrane Home.
Kevin in one of his fine hats helping to spruce up the Coltrane Home in 2021.

Kevin Thorbourne

Kevin Thorbourne passed suddenly last summer. It’s still hard to believe he’s really gone. He was not the kind of guy to toot his own horn. However, the first time I encountered him he did explain that he had recently written a tell-all about himself and invited me to read it if I would. Harlem Son is a beautiful, raw, thoughtful, incredibly honest story of life in the city and LI suburbs, starting in the 1950s. It includes observations on local and national events as an African American man, as well as reflections on his personal journey: Triumphs, challenges, missteps, love, appreciation and redemption. 

It’s an inspiring and thought provoking read.

Kevin was the first new friend I made when Ron Stein and others got me involved in the effort to save the Coltrane home in Dix Hills. He was passionate about his church, fine men’s clothing, the political scene, and his personal mission to honor and document Jazz musicians wherever he could find them, sometimes pulling them straight out of obscurity.

I was apparently not alone in finding Kevin to be the most Coltrane of all the Coltrane volunteers, even though I never heard him play an instrument. It was his open heart and mind that reminded us of that legend, his very human commitment to being a “force for good,” and his earnest desire to learn everything he could, especially regarding jazz musicians.

Kevin’s capacity for self-reflection and improvement was only outdone by his indefatigable care for things beyond himself. A professional mediator for many years, he was a natural at being “the oil in troubled water.”  As a Coltrane volunteer, Kevin was known for being the perfect person to consult with when things got stressful. Never dull, it was amazing to listen to him talk to others about whatever they happened to be an expert in. Kevin asked great questions and always seemed to have something profound, grounding, or just plain thoughtful to say.

I think maybe what I’ll miss most is that smile he had that instantly warmed the soul. 

It was a great honor and pleasure to work with Kevin, and to get to call him friend.  He is deeply missed and appreciated.

Photo of Robert DeSimone on an balcony in a tuxedo with a cigar.

Robert DeSimone

Robert DeSimone was my classmate in the Leadership Huntington Class of 2001. A lion of a man, we were never quite sure he got the whole “leading from behind” thing that was really the thrust of this community leadership organization. Still, he was an enthusiastic participant. He definitely made a deep contribution, reminding us that there are people in this world who are simply natural born leaders. Ones with good hearts and minds to match their powerful charismas at that.

Robert’s good-natured advocacy of this fact led him ultimately to be dressed in a toga with a makeshift wreath of laurel on his head as he took on the role of Julius Caesar in a series of skits that were part of the class. I hope to someday locate and transcribe the video of them. Until then, I’ll treasure the memory.

Last I spoke to Robert was maybe ten years ago. He was thinking about his girls, who’d been adopted from Ukraine. He was ardently searching the world for their sister, whom he eventually found. He was also excited about work he was doing to get major corporate leaders to understand their enlightened self-interest and thus adjust their business practices to help save us all.

Trudy and I wanted to get him to do something with Leadership…to talk about these and other things he was passionate about. He was enthusiastic, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. I always hoped I’d catch him around again sometime, but I guess that wasn’t in the cards, either. He is dearly missed.

 

To all out there who also knew and loved these folks, thank you for appreciating them. I’d love to hear your memories.

In Memoriam: Ken Christensen

From Left: Ken Christensen, Libby Hubbard, Craig Riger, Dianne Parker, Lou Giordano at a Leadership Huntignton Founders Dinner in 2014

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” ~Google tells me this quote is attributed to Nelson Henderson but to me it belongs to Ken Christensen, who spoke those words often and took them deeply to heart.

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Never Forget: Costantino “Gus” Scutari

Photo of Gus with Eagle Scouts from Syosset Troop 205 by Katheryn Laible

Speaking of Veteran Testimonials…we remain eternally grateful for getting to document this one. Over and again we read it, realizing something new each time. We miss you, Gus.

There will be more about Gus when the website launches. We also look forward to being able to once again share a timeless and invaluable piece by another favorite veteran, Dave Vollmer, Lt Col USAF (ret,), PhD, on what it means to be a good leader.

In Memoriam: Gus Scutari

Photo of Gus Scutari at 2019 Memorial Day Parade by Katheryn Laible

We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Costantino “Gus” Scutari, shortly after his 99th birthday.

Gus dedicated his life to promoting good, thoughtful citizenship, love for our country and properly honoring our nation’s fallen military service folk. The proud Americanism Chairman of Nassau County, Gus is perhaps best known in Syosset for his dedication to the Memorial Day Parade. Among our Scouts, he was also well known for faithfully attending every Eagle Ceremony, where he would honor all those who achieved that high rank with an American Flag pin.

It was an honor and a privilege to have this gentleman as a fundamental part of our community. Here are stories of his life, things that mattered to him, and bits of his wisdom that he shared with us a few years ago.

Here’s a little video from the 2019 Syosset Memorial Day Parade, which, with a little help from his friends, he organized from his room at the Cold Spring Hills Nursing Home last year. Here are some photos from that day.

Here is Gus, in his own words, telling the story of when his destroyer, the U.S.S. Haynsworth was hit by a Kamikaze during World War II. He always counted himself very lucky that he didn’t have to see the worst of that, and was ever mindful of so many – during that conflict and others – who did.

We feel we are better people for having known Gus. Our hearts are with all who love him. He will be dearly missed.

Thank you, Gus.

A Tribute to John Kominicki

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of one of our local heroes: Journalist, publisher, wellspring of ideas and ever entertaining and insightful master of many ceremonies, among other things: John Kominicki.

As publisher of the Long Island Business News – the position that first brought him to grace our Island — John not only practiced excellent business journalism but served as a great force for the dissemination of broader ideas and the advancement of the common good. Highly intelligent, exceptionally well rounded, and deeply influential, he had a knack for recognizing and convening great people. His sense of humor made everything he did fun…and real.

Our personal experience of John relates to our involvement with Vision Long Island. As a founding board member in the early 2000s John offered full page ads in LIBN to help our motley little crew of community oriented folks advance Smart Growth; a complicated, interest-bridging idea that few understood, much less supported. That was huge, but really the least of what he did for us. When we think about all those who helped build the momentum that effected the amazing Smart Growth Summit we got to marvel at a few weeks ago, John figures prominently. Really, though, that was among the least of his contributions to this funny Island he chose to make his home.

In addition to his major contributions to journalism on Long Island, we believe John’s various efforts to advance the innovation economy and broader economic development were deeply significant. We were very excited to see how his qualities would manifest as the new head of the LI Press. Now, we are hopeful that he is on to some greater assignment.

Here are a few of the many tributes, each worth reading in their own right:

Remembering John Kominicki, by Jaci Clement in the Garden City Patch

John Kominicki, LI journalism icon, dies, by David Winzelberg in the Long Island Business News:

Remembering Publisher, Editor, Writer John Kominicki of Stony Brook, by Warren Strugatch in TBR Newsmedia

Icon, Journalist, Husband, Father, Friend, by Gregory Zeller in InnovateLI: Inside the New Economy

John Kominicki: Advancing Unconventional Wisdom on LI, by Nancy Douzinas Rauch in the Long Island Index

Remembering John Kominicki, written by LISTNET’s Peter Goldsmith for the Long Island Press

John, In his own words, and here accepting an award for being an Outstanding LI Journalist.

Said Vision Long Island in their Smart Talk Newsletter, “There are very few people as unique and dynamic as Mr. Kominicki. Certainly someone who made his mark in almost any area and group of people he put his focus into. We were honored to have worked with him and prayers go out to his family, colleagues and loved ones.”

Said Jed Morey of Morey Creative Studios, “John was a journalistic giant on Long Island without exaggeration. Yet LI was only one part of his long, glorious career and we were lucky to have him for as long as we did. He balanced journalistic integrity with keen business sense better than anyone in the game. Period. He was sharp. Clever. Funny as hell. Going toe-to-toe with him on a panel was an exercise in futility because he simply had more literary, cultural and political references immediately available in his back pocket. When he took the helm of the Long Island Press it was a triumphant moment of validation for our work all those years. A seal of approval from the best of us. There are so many people that will be hurting from this news. Prayers and love to his family. John, you could have taken your talent anywhere but you chose Long Island and for that we are forever grateful.”

In honor of John and his endeavors to help us recognize so many notable Long Islanders, we will be making space here to remember people whose lifetime contributions to the Long Island community continue to inspire us. As we formalize plans for precisely how to do this, we invite you to submit nominations of folks you find worthy of enduring remembrance..

Wherever you are now, John, please accept our great thanks. Our hearts are with all who love you.