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Manorville intersection renamed for college graduate who battled cancer and was 'bright light'

Kim Ragone, center, seen praying, at the intersection

Kim Ragone, center, seen praying, at the intersection renamed in memory of her daughter Rachel Ragone, in Manorville on Wednesday. Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, right, and Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico, far right, also attended, as well as Rachel's friends, left, Kaitlyn Shire and Betsy Spellman,   Credit: James Carbone

Rachel Ragone of Manorville battled cancer through her final two years at Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School.

She continued fighting her illness through four years at Fordham University in the Bronx. When she graduated, too sick to attend ceremonies, she received her diploma at a Commack cancer treatment center.

Through it all, she maintained the plucky, determined demeanor that endeared her to family, friends and the doctors and nurses who treated her.

On Wednesday, two years to the day after Rachel died at age 22 from Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects mainly children and adolescents, Brookhaven Town added a ceremonial name in her honor to the corner where she used to wait for her school bus.

"She cut her own hair," Rachel's mother, Kim Ragone, said, recalling when her then 16-year-old daughter donated locks of hair for cancer victims before her own diagnosis. "And then three months later, we would never imagine that she would need a wig herself."

About 200 people, including Rachel's family, friends, neighbors and classmates, attended the ceremony, her mother said. The intersection of Deer Lane and Shang Lee Drive, across the street from Rachel's family's home, was renamed Rachel Ragone Place.

Early morning snow gave way to bright sunshine just as the ceremony was to start, said Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico, who attended the event.

"Everyone I’ve spoken to said she was a bright light," Panico said. "They said she was a very special person, very positive person. Despite her serious illness, she never felt bad for herself. She stayed upbeat and positive."

Kim Ragone said the street sign, though "bittersweet," will remind her that Rachel made a difference in people's lives.

"I wake up sometimes and I don’t want to get out of bed," she said, "Seeing that street sign, it gives me a sense of comfort that my daughter will be remembered."

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