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.

‘When my brother passed, I just kept making art to cope.’


“My oldest brother, Marc, was 41. He was a surfer. He’d surf all the time, through the winter and the storms. He was really healthy. He was surfing one day. Two days, later, he thought he had a cold. It was right at the beginning of COVID. He went to a walk-in, and it turned out to be stage four cancer. It was really aggressive. Within a week, he was paralyzed and then hospitalized. Less than two months later, he passed.

“My husband was working as a Critical Care RN at that time, treating COVID patients. It was wild. I think my brain went into survival mode and I just started drawing. I would FaceTime Marc when he was in the hospital, we listened to music and I drew a portrait of my husband in full PPE. That portrait led me back to creating art, really as a coping skill. I didn’t realize it would become something so great from there to now.

“When my brother passed, I just kept making art to cope. We were at the beach a lot. We were doing paddle-outs and memorials. I’ve always been a beach girl. I’ve never walked past a good shell. I was making memory jars for everyone with sand and shells.

“A few months later, it was my friend’s birthday, and I got her a necklace. I was opening the package, and it landed in a shell on my counter. I thought, ‘Oh, wow, I can make her a dish to put her necklace in.’

“After that, someone asked if they could order one as a gift. So I painted the shell and was able to create this process that I’ve perfected over the years.

“I go where my brother surfed in Long Beach and Rockaway and Tobay/Gilgo and I get the shells. I feel really connected to him at the beach. He has 100 percent sent me these shells. I’m not a big sign person, but you can’t deny it. How am I a full-time shell painter? I don’t buy shells; I only get them here on Long Island. My brother did all of this for me.

“About two years ago, I got worried that I would run out of shells because it’s completely out of my control. Sometimes I’ll go, and there will be so many shells the size of my head. I have to leave bags on my path and walk back and grab them. I’ve brought backpacks and wagons. Other times, I just find garbage and clean the beach.”

Interviewed by Tracey Cheek