For North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System chief Michael Dowling, it's his childhood home. For Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, it's the time he met Joe Namath as a young boy.
Dowling and Mangano are among a group of Long Islanders who shared with us the treasures they keep close by as reminders of cherished memories that offer a deeper look at how their pasts have helped to define who they are today.
If you have a prized possession, a treasured keepsake, or a piece of memorabilia that is close to your heart that you'd like to have as part of this project, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Home, and humble beginnings
Michael Dowling, president of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, started from humble beginnings -- spending his childhood living in a mud shack in Limerick, Ireland. He moved to America at 18, and now lives with his family in Northport. Dowling said his childhood home was washed away in a flood many years ago, but he has handcrafted a wooden replica to memorialize it. For Dowling, it is not just a testament to old times, but a reminder of his accomplishments. “I think you should never forget your past, remember the circumstance of where you came from and how you got to where you are now,” Dowling said. “It’s important to not let things get to your head.”
A girl's best friend
Jewelry designer and Huntington resident Paola Giordano's first dog was a yellow lab mix named Jopie, who was 12 years old when he died of cancer in 2013. When Jopie was sick, Giordano refused to leave his side and often worked on her jewelry while sitting with Jopie on his dog bed. This was the last piece of jewelry Giordano completed before Jopie died. “When he died, it was the most devastating thing for me,” Giordano said. “It’s always that first pet that does so much for you, you go through so much change together.”
A white retired Fender bass
Craig Shay, a Commack native and bassist for the punk/ska band Eli Whitney & The Sound Machine, picked up this white Fender bass for $400 from another Long Island bassist and role model, Tom Kelly of the Homecoming Queens.
According to Shay, the bass isn’t pretty. If you look closely, it’s covered in scrapes and scratches from when Kelly would fling it around and throw it during shows. Although that type of showmanship really isn’t Shay’s style, he does plan on playing the bass in future performances.
“I switch off between this one and my two other basses when I play,” Shay said. "This one is definitely the lightest to hold, but it’s a little more special than the others, too.”
A bird's eye view
When she is not leading environmental walks and coordinating programs at Brookhaven Town's West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook, Eileen Gerle spends her free time bird-watching. She has owned her pair of binoculars for 14 years, and takes them with her everywhere she goes. “They’re my most prized possession,” Gerle said. “Even though I’m not a material girl, I do love my binoculars.”
Childhood books from overseas
When professional photographer Marzena Grabczynska Lorenc came to America from Poland in 1989, she came with a suitcase full of her favorite childhood books in tow and her then 2-year-old-daughter wrapped in her arms. The books were a part of the now Glen Cove resident’s childhood, part of her native culture, and a piece of her she wanted to share with her child. “I wanted my daughter to grow up reading these books, too,” Grabczynska said. “I can’t live without my music and my poetry books by the Polish authors I love.”
Mangano met his childhood hero
One of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's most treasured memories is when he got to meet his football hero, former Jets quarterback Joe Namath, at a Jets practice. On the bottom right is a picture of the Bethpage native with Namath reunited decades later.
From the ballpark to the runway
Fashion designer and founder of apparel line KAS New York Kirat Anand's first passion was found on the baseball field.
A Port Washington native, Anand spent most of childhood playing youth baseball, and came back to coach his younger brother in his free time after graduating from New York University.
Now immersed in the fast-paced world of New York City fashion, Anand doesn't have much time to play ball, but the baseball mitt he's had since he was a child brings him back to simpler times.
“Long Island brings back happy memories of my childhood, particularly the sport I loved so much -- playing, watching umpiring and coaching baseball,” Anand said. “Throughout all this time, the one constant has been my precious baseball mitt.”
Artifacts of another kind
This photo may seem like just a bunch of old bottles, but for Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council president Kevin Dahill, they represent a job well done, and a rather obscure compromise.
In the late 1980s, Dahill was overseeing the development of a new hospital extension in Westchester. The project was heavily protested by the community, because part of the proposal site was on sacred Native American burial grounds.
As a compromise, Dahill and his team hired an archaeologist to excavate and preserve any material found during the ongoing construction.
When the construction was completed, the crew presented Dahill with a photo of all the objects -- albeit, a collection of bottles -- found during the excavation. Now the photo hangs in Dahill’s office for all to see.
“When people come into the office, they ask me, ‘Why do you have a picture of empty bottles hanging on the wall?’” Dahill said. “It’s always funny to hear their reaction.”
A frosty bite of nostalgia
Mike Mejer launched his independent apparel line Livin' Good Clothing from his home in Babylon in 2014.
As a child, one of Mejer's favorite memories was eating ice cream on hot summer days spent at Anthony Sanchez Pool in Babylon. His love of ice cream continued into his young adult life; he now works part-time job serving ice cream to kids and their families at Scoops in Ocean Beach.
"A lot of the time, when you hear people talk about getting older, they say, 'Man, you know I wish I could be just as happy as I was when I was a kid," Mejer said. "For me, nothing made me happier than seeing the ice cream man pull up, and running over to get a cone."
Israel's old family photos
U.S. congressman and Wantagh native Steve Israel keeps photos of his late grandparents, along with their American naturalization certificates, hanging on the wall in his office in Washington, D.C. Both grandparents, Rae Volovitz and Myron Kuznitsky, fled from Russia to escape religious persecution and find refuge in the United States. Israel says he often turns to those photos before making a difficult vote. "I look at those certificates and their pictures and I say to them: “What would you want me to do? What would make you proud?”
A game to remember
The Long Island Ducks welcomed their six millionth fan into their stadium on May 30, 2014, making it the first team in the Atlantic League to reach this landmark.
"This was a very proud moment in our franchise history," said Ducks co-owner and former New York Mets manager Bud Harrelson. "To reach six million fans and to do so in our 15th anniversary season is something that I will never forget."
The team has played at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip since 2000.
A board game gone abroad
In 2011, Joesph Balcuk, of Moriches, left his job teaching mathematics to start RoosterFin Inc., a company that makes education games for kids. Balcuk’s interest in games started when he first picked up the board game Risk. It has become a tradition for Balcuk to have players, from potential customers to friends and family, sign his original board. Signatures on the board date back to 1996, and Balcuk brings the board with him whenever he travels to promote his own board games. “The game Risk has always intrigued me,” Balcuk said. “This board has traveled all over North America.”
Zeldin's prized paper napkin
"Character is truly the critical ingredient that represents our individuality, and must present more than any other trait if you are to succeed in the 21st century."
That statement, by former William Floyd High School principal Bob Feeney, was scribbled on a napkin by state senator to-be Lee Zeldin after his high school graduation in 1998. The napkin has since become one of Zeldin's most prized possessions, and he frequently refers to it in times of personal reflection.
“This quote serves as a reminder to me that in order to succeed you must always remain true to yourself and your beliefs,” Zeldin said. “A person's character is what makes that person unique. Out of the 7 billion people in this world, character defines you, setting you apart from everyone else.”
34 years of family history
Eddie Jacobian and his wife, Lee Ann, started their pickle business, The Pickle People, 34 years ago at a flea market in West Hempstead, after being inspired by Eddie's Armenian heritage and their own culinary interests. When Eddie died in 2004 at the age of 49 from multiple sclerosis, Lee Ann continued the business with the help of their son, Eddie. Lee Ann and her son still work every day of the week. Here, Lee Ann collected pictures of her husband and son throughout the years, and put them together to create a timeline of their business, and a family portrait all their own. "He had a very vivacious personality," Jacobian said. "People always remembered him."