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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

Department headed by former assistant director

The Garden City Public School District is excited to welcome Lynette Abruzzo as its new director of Pupil Personnel Services (PPS). The position was vacated by Catherine Wheeler, who retired this summer. Abruzzo began working in the district earlier this year in January as the assistant director of PPS. 

 

“I look forward to supporting the students here. To support their growth, help prepare them so that they have all the tools they need to be successful when they leave here. To be successful in their life and maximize their potential,” Abruzzo said of her plans for the new position. 

Blakeman and Rice to speak at Chamber Luncheon

On Sept. 24, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Garden City Chamber of Commerce will be hosting its season kick-off luncheon program at the Garden City Hotel, where the keynote speakers will be the Democratic and Republican nominees for the U.S. Congress in New York’s  Fourth Congressional District. Bruce A. Blakeman (R), Conservative and Independence nominee and Kathleen Rice (D), Nassau County District Attorney, will speak separately expressing their respective views on the future of the district and impact upon its business community. This is not to be a debate.


Sports

Fall Children’s Tennis Classes

Registration for the start of the Fall 2014 Indoor Tennis Program for Children has begun at the Community Park Tennis Center. Walkins and non-resident children attending Garden City Public Schools* will be accepted beginning Sept. 11. Please make checks payable to the “Inc. Village of Garden City." Please note—classes are not considered day care and can not be declared for tax exemption.

* Non resident children who would like to register for the tennis program must prove they attend one of the Garden City Public Schools. Proof must accompany registration. An additional $50 fee will pertain to anyone in this category.

10 weeks of classes—classes will begin Thursday, Sept. 18

Locals run for themselves

and a cause in triathalon

At 6 a.m on a blustery Saturday morning, 1600 people arrived at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park to participate in the 27th annual Runner’s Edge Tobay Triathlon and Tri-Relay Race. The participants were drawn from a wide age range. They came from all over Long Island and upstate New York, a few were from out of state, and in some cases, had disabilities. But they all came with one goal in mind — to finish.

Jeffrey Hussey, a 28-year-old Garden City resident, has done this race three times and this was his fifth triathlon this summer.


Calendar

9/11 Memorial Program

Thursday, September 11

Zing Went The Strings

Friday, September 19

Marvelous Movie Matinee

Monday, September 15



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com