By Joe Macellaro
A friend traveled with me to open the house for the season today and got his first taste of Fire Island. I explained that I intended to photograph work done around the ferry basin over the winter, among other things.
“Do you find that the town changes much year to year?” he asked as we transported supplies down Ocean Breeze.
“Not really,” I replied. Little things change here and there: a new dock, a renovated home or storefront, freshly paved walks. The cottage we were passing dates to 1912 and it probably looks about the same as it did then. Change is steady here, but slow.
As I lift sheets off furniture, hook up the barbecue, install air conditioners, and begin stocking the fridge, the opening scene of the film “On Golden Pond” comes to mind. Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn’s Norman and Ethel Thayer return to the lake house where they had spent decades of summers with family and friends. The beautiful waterside setting had remained unchanged year after year, but the characters have aged and situations evolved.
When I took a position as soloist for the Free Union Church here in Ocean Beach, I could not have guessed that years later I would have grown so fond of our island. As a relative newcomer, I feel humbled to have assumed authorship of the Ocean Beach column for the News, and hope to provide on this page a freely flowing stream of news and information relevant to all those who call the village home — or are just passing through.
As this paper goes to print, the last of our old friends in the shops and restaurants on the main walk will be opening their doors for the first time this season. Year rounders would like to express their thanks to CJ’s Restaurant and the Mermaid Market for once again braving it out over the break, but we are glad to see many more familiar faces returning and setting up shop.
If you’re a snowbird, you will notice some improvements around town. The loading and unloading areas around the ferry basin have been refurbished with new wood decking and steel and concrete bulkheads. The project will be about 90 percent complete as the season opens. To the west, Windswept, home of the Ocean Beach Youth Group, has been raised and moved south from its new bulkhead, with renovations 45 percent complete. The Youth Group continues to maintain temporary offices in the community house, and begins its first summer session June 26. Call the office at 583-5300 to register children aged 3 to 13 years; a counselor-in-training program is also offered for 14-year-olds.
Plans continue to be reviewed to replace the most noticeable structure lost as a result of Superstorm Sandy: Our ferry terminal building. A $4 million FEMA grant will assist in construction of the new structure, in addition to grants that have led to a more natural appearance this year for the dunes along the beach.
Susan Cafuoco in the village office wishes to pass along that the annual Memorial Day parade will be held on Sunday, May 28, with veterans mustering at the firehouse at 10:30 a.m. and the parade marching at 11 a.m. Also of note, for a second year the Village is requiring all those owning a propane tank of 100 pounds of more to file a propane use permit. Those residents with a small barbecue tanks need only file a Homeowner Barbecue Permit.
There are a number of other non-profits already at work for the season. The Ocean Beach Quality of Life Committee is holding a workshop for residents on Saturday, June 3, at 1 p.m. in the Community House to present the committee’s recent work and gain input on what can be done to maintain and improve our Village.
Our Lady of the Magnificat Roman Catholic Church at Ocean Road and Midway held its first mass on April 22, and will hold masses Memorial Day weekend on Saturday, at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, at 8 and 10 a.m. Masses the following weekend will be Saturday, at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, at 10 a.m. Father Rich notes that the parish’s capital campaign was a success, and Doug Meyer has begun refurbishment work on the building’s exterior. He also said that “open porch” gatherings will be held at the parish house again this year for the community to meet and speak with priests and learn about the church.
The Free Union Church, an interdenominational Christian church at Ocean Breeze and Midway, wrapped up the celebration of its 100th anniversary last season. In addition to continuing work on a new community garden on the east side of the property, the church is planning on hosting Fire Island’s first Vacation Bible School program for children in preschool through sixth-grade in July and August, contingent on the number of volunteer applications received. Visit www.facebook.com/freeunionchurch for a volunteer application. Sunday services begin June 18, at 10:45 a.m.
It is with sadness that we must report the death of longtime resident and friend Joan Maguire on Easter Sunday, April 16, at the age of 87. Mrs. Maguire spent the off-season in Falls Church, Virginia, and is survived by her brother, John Jahries, her son, John, and two grandchildren.
While we are thankful newspapers like Fire Island News continue to grow and thrive, many folks are increasingly turning to the internet for additional news and content — including Instagram accounts posting beautiful Fire Island photography. One such account, at www.instagram.com/fireisland_ny, is maintained by Olivia Booth of Amityville and boasts nearly 5,000 followers. We took a few moments to speak with Olivia, who explained that her family has spent summers in Ocean Bay Park for 20 years and has amassed hundreds of photos of the various communities, which she posts to the account several times per week. She would like to encourage readers to tag @fireisland_ny in their own photos for a chance to have their work featured.
Welcome home, friends. Let’s talk soon.