Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘I’m planning on doing a fundraiser in the fall for the ALS Ride for Life, I’ll run a virtual Boston Marathon on the Greenbelt Trail.’

Port Jefferson Station

“I teach the Comsewogue High School choir, direct plays and musicals at the school and I’m the girls’ varsity cross country coach. The mindset required to become skilled at a sport or in music are similar. I was a science major in college, and I changed my major my first year because I was still singing in choirs. There were no music jobs in Massachusetts the year I graduated, not one.

“There were jobs on Long Island, so I moved to teach in East Hampton before I went to Comsewogue. That’s how I met Christine Pendergast. She was a phys-ed teacher there and dean of students, head of the union. She wore many hats. Her husband, Chris, was diagnosed with ALS and he started the Ride for Life, and he ended up raising millions for ALS research. The Ride for Life was going to come to Comsewogue, so I prepared a song for the kids to sing for Chris. Every year, Chris would come, and the kids would sing something they hoped would be meaningful to him like, “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “Fight Song.”

Chris was a big inspiration for that, and I would give him my medals. It was a nice tradition. We had a nice relationship for all those years.

“I ran the Boston Marathon about 20 times, and I would fundraise through the school, we did it for all those years until right before the pandemic. Chris died soon after in October. I’m from Gardner, MA, originally, and I grew up watching my mom running the Boston marathon, so I started running with my husband in 1997. I started doing triathlons, and I did the grandaddy of triathlons in Hawaii. The conditions there are very challenging. It’s very hot, humid and windy but it was really a celebration because I had done so many Ironmans before that. That they gave me an opportunity to compete there was special and to be able to fundraise for Chris.

“Chris was a big inspiration for that, and I would give him my medals. It was a nice tradition. We had a nice relationship for all those years. I’m planning on doing a fundraiser in the fall for the ALS Ride for Life, I’ll run a virtual Boston Marathon on the Greenbelt Trail. I don’t know what’s going to get cancelled because of the pandemic, so I want to plan something that I know that I can do. That way, I can continue to raise money and continue that tradition.”

‘If you work at it, you can accomplish pretty much anything.’

Port Jefferson Station

“I went to the circus and said, ‘Can I be a clown?’ They said, ‘You can be an usher.’ And that’s how I started, at the very bottom. But I had an agenda and a plan. I had things I wanted to accomplish. Within a year I got to be a clown. I was a stunt clown, then I was an audience participation clown. All the while I was working on the Renaldo Joins The Circus storybook and having dreams of creating my own theater so I could take what I learned and put it into a place that was mine.

“All my children have some of my skill, be it artwork or circus skill. My youngest son Renaldo has all my skill. And he’s named after my clown. When I retire, he’ll take the mantle and be the new Renaldo. Everything I’ve learned and done and all that it represents will be passed to him, like an inheritance. I met the wife I have now in England. I was headlining in a show called Zippo’s Circus in England and that’s where we met. She’s really good at what she does. I’ve seen her balance a chair, a wheelbarrow, a 10-foot ladder. If she can pick it up over her head, she can balance it.

I love doing the haunted houses, it helps me do what I love to do which is show people what they can do.

“I helped to create Open Stage Works, it’s a little theater on Long Island. I lend my expertise and experience of 30 years to help with the theatrics and aesthetic, kind of like an artistic director. I love doing the haunted houses, it helps me do what I love to do which is show people what they can do. There’s a fine line between scaring people and making them laugh. And I love jumping over that line, depending on where I’m at. If I’m in the haunted house I can scare you with the best of them. If I’m in a circus show I can make you laugh with the best of them.

“You have to work for it. And I hope to show that through what I’m doing with my kids and the theater and all the stuff I’m working on. To help people understand they can do so much, if they work at it. If you work at it, you can accomplish pretty much anything.”