“The tradition continues,” said Gloria Rocchio of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization in Stony Brook. She spoke Monday of the recently planted Norway spruce on the Stony Brook Village green.
The original Norway spruce, approximately 100 years old and 48 feet tall, had served as the village’s Christmas tree for over 50 years. Stony Brook benefactor Ward Melville himself began the annual tree lighting as a community event. But age finally got to the beautiful evergreen and it had to be taken down, a sad happening on April 19. “It took so long for it to grow,” said Rocchio, “and it came down so fast,” adding “it was a very cloudy day, but we all had sunglasses on.”
The wood from the old tree has been saved. Rocchio contacted Michael Daum of the Long Island Wood Carvers Association. Carvings will be created from the wood of the downed tree. Some will be on display at the WMHO Educational and Cultural Center and some will be available for purchase for a donation.
A fund had been set up to pay for the new tree. Specimens of the size and quality needed for the site are very expensive, as is shipping and installation. “We did get scores of people who donated toward the new tree,” said Rocchio. “Then Virginia Damianos passed away somewhat suddenly and the Damianos family wanted to have this as a memorial to her… People donated toward that fund [in her memory]. Then [the Damianos family] made up the difference to make it happen.”
“Mom loved and adored Stony Brook Village,” said Bonnie Rampone. “She was well known among the shopkeepers and faithfully supported them. Our family lived next to the duck pond on Main Street. When we first moved to Stony Brook, Dad’s medical practice was located in the house. … My brothers and sisters and I all share fond memories of growing up in the village.”
When the family moved to Crane Neck, Virginia Damianos maintained her connection with the area. “Mom insisted on maintaining their post office box in Stony Brook,” Rampone said. “The village was her meeting place, a very special part of her daily routine. ”
From left: Pelly, Marilyn and Nicholas Damianos, Bonnie Rampone, Dimitri, Beth, Chris and John Damianos, with Chuck Rampone in the rear.
Rampone remembered her mother participating in many activities in the village. “Some of her favorites were the Concerts on the Green, the Halloween Scarecrow contests, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and attending the plays and luncheons at the Educational and Cultural Center.”
“Mom instilled in us the importance of giving back to the community where we were raised,” she added. “We are pleased to plant this beautiful Norway spruce in memory of our mother.”
Selecting the new tree, about 15,000 pounds and 34 feet tall, required quite a bit of traveling, Rocchio said. Members of the Damianos family and the Rocchios “traveled to New Jersey — it was a six-hour trip — to pick out the tree. … Today we just came back from picking out a boulder [that] will have a bronze plaque on it.”
“This is a new legacy for new generations of people,” said Rocchio. Bringing the story full circle, there will be a dedication ceremony in several months. “Everyone who donated will be invited,” Rocchio said.
Original article written by Ellen Barcell, of the Village Times Herald on April 28th, 2010.