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Taste O’ The West

“I didn’t know I needed my own Teddy Bear,” said a woman after the first annual Teddy’s Taste of the West dinner and fundraiser at Canterbury Ales on March 19.

Members were given an authentic Teddy Bear as a surprise gift at the end of the evening. As they say, membership has its privileges and that includes a June 11 event when Ken Burns will come to share a preview of his new film on three Roosevelts. Burns’ film explores the political and family ties between President Theodore Roosevelt, President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a Roosevelt in her own right.  

Mark Fox and Chef Danny of Canterbury Ales served up a robust dinner of wild meats that Theodore Roosevelt might have eaten as he worked on his ranch in the Badlands, the place where TR turned his life around from being a New York socialite to an outdoorsman. After the deaths of his wife and mother on Valentine’s Day 1884, he traveled to the west for R&R.

Chef Danny served a dinner of venison, elk, bison, and root vegetables. There were three desserts offered and everyone declared their choice as the best. The evening started with passed hors d’oeuvres, including bison burger sliders.

Friends of Sagamore Hill President Brother Lawrence Syrac, S.M. of Chaminade High School, invited 15 friends, including two students and their parents, four teachers and graduates: members of the alumni association. The event, planned as a fundraiser had to be limited to 45 guests because of space. Brother Lawrence had been aiming at almost twice that number and will go for that at next year’s event, in Oyster Bay.

Canterbury’s was a great choice as owner Mark Fox has served wild meats before and has the contacts for those special meats that are known for having less fat. A favorite was the boar ribs that were succulent but without the fat. The duck was crispy on the outside and tasty on the inside. The venison was a few taste buds ahead of fillet mignon: the same texture with an added flavor.

Brother Larry was a gracious host, checking on his guests and greeting new arrivals. One of the guests was his longtime friend John, an alumni of Chaminade and a member of their hiking club. They have walked the 35 miles to the annual Boy Scout Pilgrimage at Youngs Cemetery many times.

Two other luminaries were introduced: Kelly Fuhrman, the new superintendent of Sagamore Hill National Historic site, and Toby Selda, a retired teacher who volunteered at the hill for 17 years.   

Fuhrman said he has been with the National Park Service for more than 17 years working east of the Mississippi. When the opportunity came to work at Sagamore Hill, he and his wife, and their two blonde daughters, a 2-year old and a baby, took the opportunity. He said the house restoration is having great progress and there will be a lot to celebrate in the spring of 2015 when the mansion opens again. “I hope to make sure that everything is moving along in the park and the house, the treasure that it is.”

Selda said among her duties was to take the Traveling Trunk with artifacts to schools. “It shows Long Island kids that a president actually lived on Long Island. I would ask if they had been to Sagamore Hill and no one had, except for the Boy Scouts.”  

Ginny Perrell, FOSH member, said she was “Blown away, by the work done by Selda over the 17 years we have known each other, and to that her amazingly generous monetary gift to the FOSH. Wow!” She prepared the framed gift presented to Selda by Brother Larry.

Selda said she was hooked after hearing curator Amy Verone speak about volunteering at Sagamore Hill, in 1995. “I began volunteering weekly after retiring from teaching in 2003 and ‘roped in’ (sorry, couldn’t resist) six other retired teacher friends to volunteer as well.”

They created programs including the Museum Scavenger Hunt; and art projects, puzzles and creative writing activities for classroom teachers for use after visits to the Old Orchard Museum; the Traveling Trunk program; as well as working on an Elderhostel Day of Discovery at SH, and outreach to libraries.

Selda is also the author of the book, Simply Father, available at the visitor’s center. Written with the help of staff members, it contains historical photos and drawings from TR’s “picture letters” to his children. “The book was my attempt to make TR more real for children.” It was printed by Eastern National publishing which prints educational books for the NPS and other public trusts.  

Selda has a love of organizing and it has benefited her in that when organizing closets, bookshelves and parts of the attic at the Old Orchard Museum she came across newspaper clippings from the 1950s and 1960s that inspired her to write articles for the Rough Writer, the newsletter of the Sagamore Hill volunteers. “I am now in the process of writing a series of six articles about the non-hunting aspects of the Roosevelt safari to Africa. This idea came to me while working with Betsy on Kermit’s photo collection of that expedition,” she said.

The grandmother of three, she said of her volunteer life at SH, “It’s all been a joy!”

Congratulations to FOSH member Bob Rule for being the event chair, added Brother Larry. The next FOSH event is the third of the John A. Gable Memorial Lecture Series, on April 29 as Chip Bishop talks about his new book Quentin & Flora, about a Roosevelt and a Vanderbilt in love during the Great War. The lecture is in the Christ Church Parrish Hall and starts at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served. The event is free but donations to FOSH are welcome. For more information please call 922-5032.

The Friends of Sagamore Hill operates as a chapter of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, with the preservation of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site as its primary purpose. Those interested in joining and supporting the mission of the Friends should visit or contact the Friends at 516-997-5346, or email foshobny.