Virginia (Ginny) Jones, CSJ
West Babylon Class of 1961
The words of our Alma Mater “ The Eagle is the symbol of the high school we hold dear” describes my gratitude for the wonderful, holistic education I received at West Babylon. Science taught by Mr. Olsen, Math by Mr. Payne, French by Dr. Tarrent (I can still remember Christmas songs in French), English and year book with Mrs. Foley , and all that I learned from Mrs. Shelfo about leadership, teamwork and integrity have been foundational to my life and ministry. Even more important was the caring , encouragement and personal support by faculty and principal (Mr. Van Brunt) that was so freely given.
During my senior year the Springfield College gymnastic team visited us and impressed me so much that I chose Springfield (a YMCA training school with a motto “ Mind, Spirit, and Body”) as my college choice. While there I encountered a professor who was one of the last of the old time Harvard naturalist who became my mentor. His influence expanded my concept of “ biology teacher “ to include appreciation and celebration of the natural world – this led to what has been my lifelong ministry- what I call “Earth Ministry”- for, with and on behalf of the earth community.On to graduate school at Michigan State University for a masters in Botany and a Ph.D in Environmental Education… and the next step was entering the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth (Kalamazo) Michigan. While at Nazareth College I was able to create the area’s first weekend college program and begin development of a 60 acre natural area on our campus . While there I was able to host the area’s first Earth day celebration. Then on, to become a Vice-President at our 474 bed hospital where I was able to develop a fitness center (in 1980) in a local mall and chair the bio-medical ethics committee- a real learning experience. I also served on the boards of Lee Memorial Hospital (term as President), Catholic Family Services (term as president), Otsego Senior Apartments (vice-president). Then back to educational ministry – this time creating an eco-spirituality center and offering programs for adults as well as providing spiritual direction. I was also able to return to college teaching at Western Michigan University and Sienna Heights University. During this time I was on the founding board of Michigan Interfaith Power and Light and Michigan Catholic Rural Life commission.
Now that I am retired, I continue my Earth Ministry working with area churches on climate change and faith and with area farmers exploring farm incubator programs.
My West Babylon education took me in many directions I could not have dreamed of in 1961 ! My hope and prayer is that current West Babylon students are also experiencing this type of education that will enable them to become all they are capable of being.
Olga K. Pastuchiv
West Babylon Class of 1970
Olga K. Pastuchiv is a noted author, artist and illustrator. Her family moved to West Babylon in 1956. At an early age, Olga enjoyed reading, writing and illustrating her stories. She was very positively influenced by two English teachers at West Babylon Senior High School, Miss Vederosa and Mr. Engeldrum and by three Mathematics teachers, Mr. Mercandetti, who taught Algebra; Mr. Pyle who taught Geometry and Mr. Smith, who taught Advanced Math. Olga sang in the high school chorus “and by the kindness of Mr. Alessi, occasionally accompanied the chorus on the piano.” Her guidance counselor, Mr. McCarthy, was instrumental in her applying and receiving a full academic scholarship to prestigious Vassar College, where she majored in Russian Language. After graduating from Vassar, Olga studied Art at the Massachusetts College of Art but is in many ways a self-taught artist.
Olga Pastuchiv’s “colorful and imaginative” art is “primarily in woodcut, acrylics and oils.” Her subject matter “is often water-related, including water lilies, birds and fish, and the tricks and moods of light.” Her art work has been exhibited and positively received in art galleries in Maine and at Harvard and Cornell and many other venues in the U.S., and Europe, such as in the Ukraine, Crete and Greece.
She wrote and illustrated the highly regarded Minas and the Fish children’s book. Olga was inspired to write Minas and the Fish “by a little boy I met while working one summer hauling nets on a fishing boat in Lefkos, on Karpathos Island in Greece.” She has illustrated Riparia’s River, which was written by Michael J. Caduto; An Illustrated Flora of the Boston Harbor Islands by Dale Levy; Fe-Lines by Norman Shapiro and Fables in a Modern Key by Pierre Coran and Fables in a Modern Key, English translations by Norman R. Shapiro.
A musician, Olga Pastuchiv, has taught the bandura, “a complicated 54-string traditional Ukrainian musical instrument” at Harvard University and other locations.
Benedict Peter Reyes
West Babylon Class of 1964
The following article appeared in the Native Hoop Magazine, Issue 14, published 2/1/14
Benedict Peter Reyes, known as “Ben” was ahead of his time, yet espoused the ancient values of Native culture. An Oklahoma Creek with family stories of the Trail of Tears, he grew up on New York’s Long Island with his grandmother. In high school, he was a stellar athlete and popular with everyone. Ben was known for his indomitable spirit, engaging gargantuan smile, brilliant business sense, and generosity and kindness to worthy causes and needy individuals. Everyone loved Ben.
Ben’s radiance had a positive effect on all who knew him, yet he had faced many obstacles that could have shaken his confidence and paralyzed his will. A Vietnam Vet, he was a ground member of the Air Force mobile communications unit, coordinating air guidance systems during the 1968 Tet Offensive, labeled the worst battle of the Vietnam War. Not only did he lose friends, but Ben’s health was severely affected by his exposure to Agent Orange. He empathized with Vets and was an active member of his local veteran’s associations. Ben made sure Native Vets had traditional medicine and helped create safe and supportive housing for those affected by service related issues.
Working his way up to an operations engineer, Ben got his Riggers union card and then became a US Navy Seabee, working with heavy construction equipment as well as an instructor. He credited those years with giving him the foundation to open his own business. In 1993, Ben founded Iron Eagle, a company engaged in every part of the construction industry with a focus on innovative environmental services like asbestos removal and resolving other environmental hazards. Eventually he changed the name to Iron Eagle Environmental Services, to reflect the company’s focus.
Ben found time for a myriad of causes from Down’s Syndrome to Native economic development. He was a cherished advisor to Carroll Cocchia, President of the Native American Chamber of Commerce. “Ben Reyes knew EVERYONE and everyone knew him. No matter what you needed – a business connection - a friendly shoulder to cry on – an answer to a perplexing problem – Ben was always there to help. He had revolutionary ideas for the preservation of the environment that were well before his time. The major strategies and concepts that are cutting edge today were his ideas and concepts years ago. Ben knew how to develop business opportunities and assistance for Native People – he wanted so much to help them succeed. Ben had the biggest caring heart of anyone it has been my privilege to know – he has always been there for me – he was easily my best and most trusted friend.”
Marsha Vander Heyden (Mohawk), owner of Vander Heyden Woodworking, Inc. and a NYC community activist recruited Ben to help develop a youth project aimed at exploring careers in the building industry including architects, engineers and trades people. “When Ben called, he’d ask if I had been in jail yet and offered to bail me out. We shared endless laughs, trade talk and conversations about what was happening in Indian country. He must have had a double to meet all his obligations. Not only was he a busy business man: but he took great pleasure training his union’s new recruits, played the flugelhorn and was involved in numerous charitable activities. Couldn’t find a better buddy anywhere!!”
Mike Amato of Iron Eagle will never forget his partner. “I spent the last 16 years with Benny, we traveled the business world together. We had great times; he told me everything he did in his life. Every day was a different story, and the stories kept coming. He had an unbelievable life and I am blessed to be part of it.”
Hundred of mourners attended Ben Reyes’ funeral: dozens shared their thoughts.
“Ben was a gentle giant, who touched many lives. His kindness and work brought the vision of the Native American Medicine Wheel to the VA.”
“The world would be a much better place with more people like Ben..no drama, peaceful, giving and forgiving.”
“No finer human has ever walked the face of this earth and the world is a sadder place without him. Heaven has gained an archangel.”
“His smile was infectious, his laugh unmistakable, his attitude remarkable and his will unbreakable”.
“Benny was a true friend and completely unique individual. He was giving, laughing, teasing and tough all rolled into one.”
“Ben touched all of our lives. He was such a kind giving person and lit up the room when he entered.”
“His big heart, talented hands and mind are known all over this country.”
“He is missed and treasured by so many”
Benedict Peter Reyes is survived by his wife, Rose, daughter, Erin, cousins and many other friends and community members.
West Babylon Class of 1989
Noel DiGerolamo is currently the President of the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association, representing all Police Officers in the Suffolk County Police Department. In his current capacity as President of the organization, he oversees all management and budget aspects of this multi-million dollar corporation and is responsible for negotiating the P.B.A.’s collective bargaining agreements, also insuring that terms of the contract are enforced. As Chairman of the Board of the PBA Benefit Fund, he is directly responsible for the management and oversight of the Fund, which services over 5,000 active and retired members.He also serves as direct liaison to the Suffolk County Legislature and the Executive Branch of Suffolk County.
In September of the same year, Noel became the first police union president in 23 years to negotiate and ratify a collective bargaining agreement in Suffolk County. Simultaneously, he organized all of the municipal unions in Suffolk County to create SCOPE, the Suffolk Coalition of Public Employees, as a legal entity charged with representing all County employees and retirees for healthcare benefits. Noel sits as the President of SCOPE as well as the labor Co-Chair on the Employee Medical Health Plan, working collaboratively with management representatives to administer the existing health benefit plan in Suffolk County. His responsibilities include negotiating health insurance benefits for over 47,000 County employees, retirees and dependents. During his first year as President, he was able to negotiate the longest healthcare agreement in Suffolk County history, securing benefits through the end of 2020. In November of 2012, he was elected to serve an additional four-year term in his current position as PBA President. Noel studied Criminal Justice and Business at Suffolk Community College and SUNY Empire State College and is a graduate of The Energeia Partnership at Molloy College, a regional leadership academy. He married his wife Nancy in 1993, and they currently reside in Mount Sinai with their three children, Noel, Jr., Elena and Jacqueline.
West Babylon Class of 2013
Meet Samantha Bifulco!
West Babylon’s Samantha Bifulco is a recent graduate of the Class of 2013. Currently a freshman in college, studying Entrepreneurship and International Business, Samm (as her friends call her), has been a budding entrepreneur since the young age of 17!
Samm is very excited to share her business with you. What started out as a high school project for her DECA Chapter’s national competition, ended up becoming a growing business! Terranut, Inc. is a 100% natural organic company that produces an earth-derived raw snack, “NutPunch”. NutPunch is a nutrition bar made with the finest nuts and seeds and does NOT contain additives, chemicals or preservatives. Not only is it a 100% natural and healthy snack – it tastes delicious! As a bi-lingual, young entrepreneur, Samm is very excited to take NutPunch to the global level!
“Having been involved in many clubs and activities throughout high school, I am pleased to have the honor of being a part of the Alumni Foundation. I am very excited at the idea of giving back to the community that nurtured me, and gave me the inspiration that I take forth with me each day.”
West Babylon Class of 1970
In 2010, after a 35-year career in Suffolk County government with service in the Social Services, Parks and Labor departments, and for the Legislature, Lance retired as Assistant Director of the Legislature’s Budget Review Office.
In February 2011, he accepted the appointment as Executive Director of the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport, NY. During his 21-year tenure in the Budget Review Office, he was responsible for overseeing the Vanderbilt Museum’s operating and capital budgets. William J. Lindsay, presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, stated at the time of the appointment, “My long experience with Lance during his years with the Budget Review Office gives me the greatest confidence that he can continue the ongoing process of putting the museum on the right track. Lance was for years the man who kept track of the Vanderbilt’s struggles, both financial and as an institution in general. His familiarity with the operations of the Vanderbilt is vitally important.” Legislator Jon Cooper called Reinheimer’s appointment “brilliant.” “Lance has worked closely with the Vanderbilt Board of Trustees and administration through some difficult years,” he said. “He is the perfect person to transition the museum into this new phase of renovation, rejuvenation and rehabilitation.”
The Museum is the 43-acre estate of William K. Vanderbilt II, a naturalist and global explorer who circumnavigated the world in his yachts collecting artifacts for his personal museum on the estate. Vanderbilt’s estate transferred the property to Suffolk County upon his death. In 1950, the County opened the grounds, mansion and museum to the public as Suffolk County’s first park.
During his two and half year tenure at the museum his most exciting accomplishment was the renovation and technological upgrade of the museum’s 41-year old planetarium. This project included the installation of the $3 million Konica Minolta GeminiStar III projection system with full-dome video and surround sound systems.
Other accomplishments include:
· The sale of the museum’s highly valuable, one-of-a-kind 1937 Chrysler Imperial Town Car, designed and custom-built for Walter P. Chrysler. The $275,000 generated from the sale was used to create an endowment for the preservation and maintenance of the museum’s artifacts.
· The 2011 Restoration Design Show House at Normandy Manor. The 1917 house served as the living quarters for superintendent of the Vanderbilt Estate. Eighteen Long Island designers, artisans and landscape architects invested their talents and labor to renovate and restore this historic building. After the six-week design show, the house was leased as a private residence to generate operating revenue.
· Acquisition of a 37-foot recreational vehicle – converted to a high-tech mobile classroom – from the American Museum of Natural History. Traveling Classroom: Discovering the Universe will “roll out” in fall 2013, visiting schools and community groups in the Suffolk and Nassau County area. This vehicle includes five stations that offer hands-on interactive exhibits and is designed to provide unique educational experiences beyond our Planetarium programs.
· Rising more than $2 million in private donations to provide financial stability for the museum.
Lance resides in North Babylon and has three grown children; Evan, Emily and Kyle. He is active in the community, serving as the treasurer for the Babylon United Methodist Church and for the Babylon Cemetery Association. For 15 years, he has volunteered in the soup kitchen at the First Presbyterian Church of Babylon. Lance graduated from Lynchburg College in Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.
Mandi Lavine Kowalik
West Babylon Class of 1993
Author of Children's Book Titled "Stella, Our Star - Coping with a Loss during Pregnancy"
Mandi Kowalik is an elementary school teacher on Long Island. She lives with her husband, Guy and their two dogs: Jagger, a Great Dane, and Coda, a Labrador mix. Mandi has a great love for animals and nature and enjoys spending time outdoors. She was inspired to write this book after her daughter's umbilical cord accident during week thirty-six of her pregnancy. This is Mandi's first published book.
For more information about Mandi, please visit her website, www.mandikowalikbooks.com