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Obituary: Gerard L. DeFina

Gerard L. DeFina, a longtime educator in the Garden City schools, passed away at age 73 on April 12, 2012 in Delaware. A beloved teacher for the 34 years he worked here, Jerry was constantly involved in creative projects: he was a pioneer in open education and helped design and teach in the “Mod Quad” at Stewart School, which was modeled on the schools he had studied about while in England in conjunction with Oxford University. Later, he helped found the Gifted and Talented program at Stewart, which he taught in for many years, with both programs emphasizing independent as well as group study. He and Frank DeMonaco were also known for their annual musical productions involving the entire graduating class of Stewart School. After an 11-year tenure at Stewart, he moved to the middle school, where he taught collaboratively in various units, finally returning to Stewart in his last year, where a retirement tribute was held in his honor. Many former students returned to surprise him with reprises from Stewart shows they had performed in under his direction. (Since his shows had become such a long-standing tradition, after his retirement he was invited back to continue his yearly productions at both Stewart and Stratford schools).

A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in education, he was also very involved in the theater program there, performing alongside Madeline Kahn, Lainie Kazan and Francis Ford Coppola who called him “one of the most talented people I ever met.” After graduation, Jerry continued to act in many Hofstra productions, his last performance there being a starring role in the play Next. For many years he also directed regional theater, as well as being involved in other aspects of stagecraft.

Jerry’s graduate degree was in educational administration at Queens College and he did post-graduate work at the University of Connecticut in gifted education; working with children, however, was always his first love. He had a huge capacity to reach every student on an individual basis, to empathize with the child having difficulties adjusting, and he strove to protect every child from bullying before it became fashionable to do so. A master teacher, he was able to nurture the creativity in every one of his students, to see their potential and help them fulfill it. His sense of humor and booming laughter filled the classroom, while he also demonstrated an integrity and work ethic that were his hallmark.

Jerry is survived by his long-time companion Frank DeMonaco of Newark, Delaware, and his brother, George DeFina of Woodstock, VT. A celebration of Jerry’s life will be held on Friday, May 4 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Donohue-Cecere Funeral Parlor, Post Avenue, Westbury. In lieu of flowers, donations may be contributed in his name to City Meals on Wheels, 355 Lexington Ave., NY, NY 10017.

News

In an earlier column, Mayor John Watras shared some helpful tips on how to secure your property in preparation for a hurricane. The following are additional recommendations on what you can do now to be prepared in the event that a major storm hits Long Island.

As the storm approaches, customers should take the following steps to prepare for the arrival of either a hurricane or tropical storm:

New online company debuts

Two Long Island childhood friends, Scott Reich and Michael Winik, recently left their respective careers as an attorney and investment banker to pursue their dream of starting a business together, online food market OurHarvest.

“When Mike and I decided to start a business, we knew it had to reflect our shared love of food, address the lifestyles of our fellow Long Islanders, and be socially responsible,” said Reich.


Sports

Stretching tips for the high school athlete

Prior to the start of high school running season, Garden City’s Physical Therapy Options (PTO) had an opportunity to provide a presentation to members of Sacred Heart Academy’s cross country team. Team members gathered at Garden City’s New York Running Company to learn strategies and tips for a successful fall season.

PTO staff members Dr. Meghan Goetz, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and PTO Aide Mike Murphy discussed the importance of stretching to prevent injury and provided strategies and tips for success for the high school runner.

The league started on Saturday, Sept. 13 at Garden City’s Tullamore Park. It runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. A uniform shirt and soccer balls are provided. Cleats and soccer shorts are recommended and players must wear shin guards. Age groups range from pre-k through 12th grade. Garden City residents and non-Garden City residents are welcome. Middle school and high school age volunteers are needed. No soccer experience is necessary. If you have any other questions, please contact Andy Garger at ajgarger@verizon.net or 516-775-8058.

— Submitted by the Challenger Soccer League


Calendar

Financial Options For Students

Thursday, October 16

Kids In The Kitchen

Friday, October 17

Marvelous Movie Matinée

Monday, October 20



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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