When the Collettis of East Williston saw the article in the Roslyn News, about the Marine Education Program run by Dr. John Loret of the Science Museum of Long Island in Manhasset they decided it was the perfect way to remember their son Marc who died in a tragic fishing accident four years ago. Through their donation to the program six young members of the Boys & Girls Club of Oyster Bay-East Norwich had a week of fun and learning in a unique marine education program on Oyster Bay Harbor.
On Sept. 26, 1995 26-year-old Marc Colletti was surfcasting in Wading River when rough conditions and strong currents combined to fill his chest waders with water and pulled him underwater. A marine biologist and avid sport fisherman, Marc had graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a bachelor of science degree in marine fisheries biology. He applied his love of the water and his educational experience as a marine resource technician for New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and as an aquaculturist at the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery.
Each year since his death Joseph and Lorenza Colletti have remembered their son in a special way. The two visited the program last week, as the morning and afternoon marine education classes came together at the Christeen oyster sloop location at the former Jakobson Shipyard site. The children were cleaning up wood shavings that had accumulated as the planking was smoothed down by the workers.
"It's like super extremely fun," said Shane Collery of Oyster Bay. "I've learned that oysters have markings and they filter water," said Kevin Collery, his brother.
How has the marine program changed their view of the harbor? "I will never throw a piece of garbage in the bay - ever," said Kevin.
"If I see something, I'll pick it up," said Shane.
Jeffrey Matson of Floral Park said he joined the program because, "I wanted to learn how to sail sailboats and drive motor boats and I learned that and a lot more!" Jeffrey is 12 and attends the Covert Avenue School.
There was a lot to learn. From the deck of a fully-equipped research vessel students collected marine organisms using dredges, lobster pots and fish nets. They tested the physical, chemical and biological properties of the water. The program, which ran from Aug. 16-19, is an extension of The Science Museum of Long Island's Young Mariners Program and was co-sponsored by Friends of the Bay.
Students also learned about the science of aqua culture at the Frank M. Flower and Sons Shellfish Company Hatchery in Bayville and get a tour of the national historic landmark oyster sloop Christeen being rebuilt on the former Jakobson Shipyard site.
"This program will impart Marc's love for the water to young children. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the marine environment this may instill the importance of protecting our beautiful waterways to the next generation," said Mrs. Colletti.
The loss of Marc Colletti deeply impacted the environmental and sport fishing community. In his memory the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation dedicated the fishing access location in center Moriches which was a favorite spot for Marc to launch his boat for work-related research or to fish for pleasure.
The Collettis' generous contribution, which they hope to make an annual gift near the September anniversary of Marc's death, supports the ongoing effort to involve students and the community in environmental education and to develop a permanent home for marine education at the former Jakobson Shipyard site in Oyster Bay.
"The Collettis' gift will provide children with the chance to expand their knowledge and appreciation of Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor. It is quite possible that one of these students will follow in Marc's footsteps and develop a deep appreciation for the marine environment," said Denise Woodin, executive director of Friends of the Bay. "We are very grateful to the Colletti's for remembering their son in this way."
To learn more about how you can support marine education in Oyster Bay please contact Friends of the Bay at 922-6666 or the Christeen Oyster Sloop Preservation Corporation at 922-1098.