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Miller Place man's will leaves gift to senior center

(L-R) Helen Gaughran, Carmela Costanzo, Jean Sparks, Linda

(L-R) Helen Gaughran, Carmela Costanzo, Jean Sparks, Linda Gobbi and Marcia Kaye sit in recently donated new chairs that have more padding and are easier to get up from at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. (Dec. 2, 2013) Credit: Heather Walsh

Even in death, a little-known Miller Place man has found a way to contribute to life in town.

Herbert E. Haussmann, 83, left $138,597.17 in his will to buy nearly 90 chairs for Brookhaven's North Shore Nutrition Program. The donation is one of a few the town is using this year for improvements and other items, officials said.

"He used to go there [the nutrition center], and he loved it," said Diana Weir, Brookhaven commissioner of Housing and Human Services, who did not know Haussmann. "He had a social life, and he was very well cared for" at the center.

The metal chairs with padded seats and arms are expected to cost as much as $12,000, with the remaining funds going toward equipment and other facility needs, town officials said.

The gift, the acceptance of which was approved at a recent town board meeting, was among the more generous the town has taken in this year.

Members of the Ocean Beach Park Civic organization gave $20,000 to the town for beach scraping and leveling. And supporters contributed roughly $19,000 to the Brookhaven Animal Shelter for blankets, pillows and food, town officials said.

"Any donations submitted to the shelter from the general public [are] always welcome and we encourage them to do so," said Peter O'Leary, Brookhaven Town commissioner of public safety.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said the town appreciates the contributions. "This is a way for residents . . . to come forward," Romaine said. "They allow us to go above and beyond, and do things on our wish list."

It is not known why Haussmann specified the purchase of 88 chairs for the program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, New York State and Suffolk County Office for the Aging.

Not much is known about Haussmann, a widower for whom no immediate survivors could be found. He died in 2002. Town officials said that years ago he ate free lunches offered through what was known as the Coram Nutrition Program.

The program, which serves residents older than 60 and provides roughly 3,000 meals to homes each month, relocated to the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai and is now the North Shore Nutrition Program.

Weir said the chairs will replace aging ones seniors have worn out by leaning on the arms when trying to stand. The chairs have been ordered and could be in use by year's end, officials said.

Some of the seniors participating in the nutrition program don't have families, so they find enjoyment by eating the free food, playing Bingo and watching television at the center.

New chairs can also boost the morale of the more than 100 seniors who use the facility, officials said.

"It was a very generous gift to leave in his will," said town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, who represents Mount Sinai. "It takes a special person to think of others in that way. That gift will impact the lives of many. That's a very, very busy nutrition center. There's a lot of programs there."

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