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.

Synchronicity Picks: The Heath Brothers

We’ve got to be honest, we haven’t had the heart to crack open “Upstream” yet, mostly because it’s all about solving problems before they get out of hand and we happened to receive it just as we felt the current situation had already been left to get out of hand… Grateful to all who are working together honestly and earnestly to get things under control!

Meanwhile, the book on the right “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” remains among our favorites. It’s filled with wonderful, evidence based, real-life examples of folks who identified what was working and did more or that.

It gets to a basic concept Kate learned a long time ago when she was a Psychology Major at SUNY Stony Brook: If you want to get animals to behave certain ways, the thing that works is Positive Reinforcement.

“Catch ’em being good!” as Professor Daniel O’Leary probably still says.

We were struck by the use of this at the Guide Dog Foundation not too long ago, too. As long as they were behaving, the dogs could have praise lavished. If they weren’t they simply got ignored. It was the quietest kennel filled with the happiest dogs we’d ever visited!

Still, this book takes that concept and goes a little bit beyond, adding a major focus on something those who teach sales often hit upon: No matter how cool we think we are, humans are essentially emotional beings. Our rational mind is like a rider on elephant of feelings. Any attempt by that rider to drive, or another to lead him had best take that into consideration…

The Heath Brothers do, and they do it well. The book is well worth reading and re-reading, especially by any who want to make a healthier, more sustainable world!!

Spencer’s Picks: What? Why? How Can I? COVID Considerations…

Dr. Spencer Thomas atop the Uffizi in Florence, Italy

Photo of Dr. Spencer Thomas atop the Uffizi in Florence, Italy. Photo by Katheryn Laible

Dr. Thomas is back, sharing bits of the Internet that intrigue him. Here are some he’s recently found helpful. Hope you appreciate them, too!

I have long appreciated XKCD, A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math & language. This particular cartoon “Pathogen Resistance” offers a nice sorta positive outlook on things. It echoes my gratitude that so many people have elected to take this situation seriously and have helped us flatten the curve as much as we have.

Please keep it up!

I’ve mentioned “Smarter Every Day” before. I found this really inspiring: “How to Help Your Hospital Fight COVID-19 Locally”

The YouTube Channel: “Health Care Triage” offers great videos, including many on the current crisis such as “How Can I Grocery Shop Safely? When Is Someone Sick Enough for the ER?”“Should I Disinfect My Amazon Deliveries?”“Can I Buy Stuff From China? What About Screen Time? and something we all want to know: “When Can We Get Back to Normal?”

Lately there’s been a lot of discussion and accusations levied against China, from people believing that this virus is a biological weapon or that it came from a lab mishap in Wuhan. Personally, I think this is a distraction – what matters right now is beating the infection.

However, there is already a lot of research on where these kinds of viruses come from and scientists around the world are concluding that it’s extremely likely that COVID-19 came from a chance encounter with a wild bat. FiveThirtyEight has a good summary on “Why Scientists Think the Novel Coronavirus Developed Naturally – Not in a Chinese Lab”

Humans interact with animals all the time and there’s always a tiny chance of something like this happening – it’s inevitable and nobody’s fault. If we learn anything from this, it’s that this was always going to happen eventually and it will happen again in the future.

There is no way to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. That’s not something we can control. What we can control is our response to it.

It didn’t need to get this bad or go on this long, but it’s too late to fix our past mistakes. What we can do right now is everything in our power to stop the spread, while supporting those for whom these sacrifices are a bigger ask. What we can do in the future is build a society that can better weather storms like this.

In terms of getting back to normal, here’s a Roadmap to Resilience, an expert-driven, muti-disciplinary, muli-political-leaning plan to get the world open again.

Meanwhile, on a more personal level, here’s a good quarantine survival guide: Lockdown Productivity: Spaceship You from CGP Grey.

Spencer Thomas recently received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He is now doing his Postdoc at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He also happens to be Katie’s brother. Spencer studies metals at the atomic level; the way atoms are arranged in a material can change its properties; one can take ordinary metals make them stronger, more flexible, corrosion resistant, even radiation resistant.

Spencer believes that no matter who you are, good communication can put scientific concepts within reach. The modern world demands scientific literacy and it is the responsibility of scientists to make that possible.


Spencer Thomas received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. After some time at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, we are DELIGHTED to welcome him back to Long Island as a researcher at Stony Brook University. He also happens to be Katie’s brother. For a time, Spencer studied metals at the atomic level; the way atoms are arranged in a material can change its properties; one can take ordinary metals make them stronger, more flexible, corrosion resistant, even radiation resistant. We’re still endeavoring to understand what he’s doing now well enough to explain it so simply.

Spencer believes that no matter who you are, good communication can put scientific concepts within reach. The modern world demands scientific literacy and it is the responsibility of scientists to make that possible.

Sending Our Love in a Letter…

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” ~Phyllis Theroux

Truthfully, ever since Sandy we have had a special fondness for the mailman. At that time, we weren’t sure how ANYTHING could EVER get down a road blocked on both sides with trees. STILL the US Mail came, exceeding expectations of the old credo, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Still, we must admit it: Holiday time is overwhelming. We struggle to send traditional cards. We just about gave up this year.

Then, an amazing local artist made us realize we were letting something really valuable go. We are committed to starting earlier next year.

Now, even more, we are remembering the deep joy of the U. S. Postal service — How special is it that we can send our handwritten love just by putting a stickered envelope in the box outside our door?

Ordering online, we remember the beauty and meaning of stamps. We’re thinking of adding to old collections!

as our children send cards of love and little treats

dear friends mail us beautiful, handmade masks

care packages come from a Mom

and beautiful, locally crafted cards fly home.

In Praise of Local Crafters and their Kind Consideration

Mask crafted by Firefly Michele Miroff

While it is totally not cool that ANYONE has. had to scrounge for PPE – especially essential workers, ESPECIALLY healthcare folks! – We have decided to be grateful that out of that challenge has come a beautiful, thoughtful, heartfelt art form. 

We can hardly get close enough to look each other in the eye and yet now so many crafty people have found a way to lovingly hug our faces.

And…because, on balance, masks themselves really are more courtesy than personal protection, we immediately get to pay the care forward. 

And…it’s not a bad business. They’re fairly simple to make and yet imagination is the limit. People need lots of them….

So…talk about socially conscious fashion that is form and function!

Trudy has been busily making them for family and neighbors. In our Firefly Lights, you can read about Kirk Larsen and his #maskforce #teachersgettingitdone

Did you see this article about the Luchador in Mexico?

How about this much more local bit in The Observer about The Engeman Theater?

CBSN New York shows a 95-year old Floral Park seamstress who’s part of a volunteer corp founded in Huntington “Stitched Together Long Island” that has made more than 20,000 masks for essential workers.

The Mask Mavens of Huntington is a small team of volunteers that are sewing and giving away homemade masks for free to any and all who need them.

This article in the LIBN by Bernadette Starzee is about three entrepreneurial firms who created 5,000 masks a day to sell at cost to hospitals and first responders.

This News12 Article covers a Bellmore Fashion Designer who, with her remotely-working staff, churned out 1,000 masks in one week to donate to medical personnel.

Here’s a North Fork Patch article “Iconic Sail Makers, Brewery Make Face Masks for Hospital Heroes”

To make them yourself, and get good advice on using them, here’s a good article in Popular Mechanics.

Firefly Lights!

The Firefly Artists Logo

First, Long Island’s Best: Share these amazing High School artists far and wide, would you? These kids are amazing. We at The Firefly Artists in Northport were honored to be among those giving a few of them scholarships. These kids should have gallery receptions and award ceremonies. At the very least, we can plaster them all over the internet. Follow the Heckscher Museum to see the awards ceremony and find more great stuff to share.

Meanwhile, as a Managing Partner of the Firefly, Katie has crafted a “Firefly Lights newsletter to send our love and care, assist our dear fellow Fireflies in marketing their wares, and share some of the ways our amazing artists have been lighting up our lives lately….Please enjoy and let us know what you think!

If you wish to receive these, please let us know – folks on our regular newsletter list are NOT automatically receiving them!

We look forward to crafting another soon — can’t fit all our amazing artists into just one!!! Do check out our page: The Firefly Artists and our brand new group, The Firefly Artists Gallery & Community Square, where our artists can speak for themselves and post art for sale!

It’s not the same as getting to gather in our beautiful gallery, but it’s something we hope continues to grow!

It’s Giving Tuesday. Please Give Today, Tomorrow, Whenever You Can.

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, #GivingTuesdayNow has been launched as a global day of unity TODAY, May 5th 2020.

Before this all happened, Long Island was already suffering increasing holes in the fabric of philanthropy that makes our local nonprofit organizations possible.

Special events had become hugely important stopgaps for organizations. They’ve all been cancelled. These groups now REQUIRE our direct support. You can check our newsletter archives to find 100s of great local organizations that could REALLY use our help right now!!!

Some Guidance on Giving Wisely

A few months ago, we sat down with Marian Conway of the New York Community Bank Foundation. She offered her highly educated, deeply experienced view on better ways to evaluate non-profit effectiveness and the problems inherent in simplistic, hard line methods focused on budget percentages, especially for human service organizations and local organizations that are run by neighbors who know and care about the unique needs of our communities.

“Foundations for the Common Good — A Call to Action” written with Executive Director David Okorn touches on similar themes, while explaining how the LI Community Foundation that he serves helps givers make the best use of their philanthropic dollars.

A Few Good Places to Give

Recently, The Long Island Community Foundation launched a COVID-19 Philanthropic response fund to aid nonprofit service providers meeting emergent and critical needs affecting our local region. Thanks to their generous donors, as of yesterday they had granted out $777,000 to struggling nonprofits.

The United Way of LI is collaborating with Long Island Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (LIVOAD) and their network of nonprofit organizations in the region on a Response Fund For COVID-19. This fund helps financially-strained LI families during the current health and economic crisis.

Housing Help is providing a wealth of information for folks in financial crisis and with other human service needs — as well as some inspiring stories of folks stepping up to help!

Regarding major local food banks, Long Island Cares has information about mobile food services. Here’s news from The INN, which does a lot for hunger and homelessness. Here’s Island Harvest.

The Safe Center website and Facebook Page offers free, confidential resources for those suffering abuse.

The Family & Children’s Association serves those in need of human services in Nassau County. The Family Service League similarly serves Suffolk. Many smaller organizations, like the Tri-CYA do incredible work on a very local level, while the Health & Welfare Council of LI is busting it’s butt to get LI Counted AND deal with the massive human services crisis!

Of course, human service organizations get a lot of attention right now — rightfully so! Still, if you are passionate about the environment, the arts, science, animal rescue, preservation, good governance, anything else — including your favorite mom & pop shop! — PLEASE FOCUS YOUR GIVING THERE, especially on LOCAL organizations that are focused right here on Long Island.

Like Veterans: We are grateful to all the VSOs who are giving it their best to stay connected and keep serving both fellow veterans and the broader community. We continue to follow Patchogue VFW Commander Dave Rogers, who is providing all sorts of information. Here’s a great interview with him on USA Warrior Stories, talking about local community work, their COVID-free, fun, online “Coffee with a Veteran” program and more. Thank you for all you do, Dave. We appreciate it..

This interview includes a note that organizations like these are often terrible at asking for money at times like now because they are worried about taking from other groups. DON’T WAIT FOR A GROUP YOU VALUE TO ASK, ESPECIALLY IF YOU VALUE THEIR HUMILITY.

Case in point that will hate us for saying this: Vision Long Island (which, in full-disclosure, Trudy is proud to serve as a Co-Chair of). These guys have been working day and night. We doubt they’ve spent much, if any, time soliciting sponsors to do so, and they usually have a highly-educational 1000-person event in June.

In fact, if you reach out to them, they’ll probably be the first to tell you who else to give to!

Main Street News is a Must-Read

We’ve said it before, we’re going to keep saying it:


Vision Long Island and the Long Island Main Street Alliance continue to release daily issues of their new Main Street News.

This is a grounded, productive, community-oriented force for those who care about the economic aspects of this crisis. It’s sobering, comprehensive and helpful.

There’s news about what’s happening, what’s open, resources, proposed legislation and whatever else they can find to help folks weather the storm. They have also added a “Good News” component that highlights folks doing the right thing.

Check out their website. Follow their Facebook.

Vision is one of our strongest advocates for Long Island downtowns, and has been generally connecting diverse local stakeholders to learn and work together for the betterment of our communities for over 20 years. We strongly believe they are a huge reason why there’s as much healthy communication and collaboration in the name of true public service and community development on Long Island as there is today. We are grateful.