In Mexico, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a day for people to pray for and honor their friends and relatives who have died, helping them on their spiritual journey.
Not intended to be scary or spooky like Halloween, the day is celebratory, associated with the colorful sugar skulls that have become so iconic over the last few years beyond its original setting.
The people celebrate their loved ones who have passed.
When you remember the dead, you remember your own past, the history of the place you grew up, and the culture that your ancestors handed down to you through their sacrifice and creative spirits.
Similarly, this act of honoring the dead by restoring their final resting places so others can appreciate their lives is the central mission of the Cemetery Restoration Committee of Patchogue.
Since 2006, this group of volunteers have been championing the village’s Lakeview Cemetery, located on Main Street just west of the new home of Blue Point Brewery, through clean-up efforts and documenting and recording the names and histories of those interned there.
The cemetery site is actually made up of five separate cemeteries adjacent to each other. All are generally known at Lakeview Cemetery.
According to the organization’s Facebook page, Lakeview Cemetery includes graves of a feminist from the turn of the last century and dozens of war veterans from the American Revolution to the Civil War to Vietnam, generating interest in the site by local historical societies.
For veterans buried at the cemetery, the volunteers apply for a special free plaque from the U.S. government, and then the committee uses donations to have the plaque affixed to a stone.
New plaques are unveiled annually during Veterans Day.
On Nov. 16, the committee will be hosting its 4th annual Dia de los Muertos fundraiser to support their work restoring the historic Lakeview Cemetery. A limited number of tickets to the event are open to the public for purchase.
There will be two parts to the event with seperate tickets and a combo ticket that will be discounted if you want to attend both.
The first event is an open house for $26 that includes wine, cheese, traditional face-painting, and living history performances by five different actors, including Patchogue Deputy Mayor Jack Krieger who will be playing the role of Smith Lawrence Newins.
That pre-party will take place 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16.
“It’s always been a celebration,” said Laura Feitner Calarco, a volunteer and chairwoman of the fundraiser. “Our events will be focused on honoring the founding families of the Greater Patchogue community.”
The organization will bring local history to life by focusing on cemetery residents who have given their names to the streets of Patchogue (Baker, Newins, and Edwards), as well as telling the story of Dr. James Rice, one of the area’s longest standing physicians, and of Captain “Father” Ezra Tuttle, for whom the rose window in the United Methodist Church was installed to honor.
The main event ticket will get you into Gallo restaurant at 3 E Main Street from 7-10pm for dinner, drinks, classical Flamenco guitar by Vito Genna, and the entire room will feature exhibits designed to be a “virtual” tour of the cemetery. Dinner tickets are $75 each.
Main event goers will also get a special treat.
“We’ll be revealing which Patchogue resident of local fame is related to one of our featured families,” said Calarco.
Their goal is to raise $3,000 for improvements and preservation of the cemetery.
The Cemetery Restoration Committee has already done a significant amount of work. Their volunteers have cleaned the property of overgrowth and litter, planted flowers and shrubs, installed monument lighting, repaired and replaced headstones, and raised funds through grants and fundraisers, according to their Facebook page.
The idea is to create another cultural attraction to draw people to Patchogue and provide a tranquil space for walking while contemplating local history, and the historical figures who contributed to the story.
For more information on the Dia de los Muertos fundraiser, the Cemetery Restoration Committee, and to purchase tickets online visit the Greater Chamber of Commerce website or go to the Chamber office in person at 15 North Ocean Avenue.
If you want to read about the historical figures who will be featured at the event, see below.
Captain Reverend Ezra Tuttle (1764/5 -1859) – Born in Massachusetts, he shipwrecked on Long Island, and decided to remain in Patchogue. His house, which was formerly located near the present-day corner of Weeks and Atlantic in Blue Point, was built either from the remains of or proceeds of selling his ship. He was inspired by the circuit rider Benjamin Abbot to devote his life to the ministry, and was the first established pastor of the Methodist Congregation is Patchogue, and is associated with the establishment of the Patchogue Union Church, and hence the cemeteries. The “rose window” in the current Methodist Church was originally installed in his honor.
Edward Edwards (1831-1897) – Born in the Barbados and raised in Bayport, Edwards began his career in Patchogue working as a clerk in Roe’s General Store, which had formerly been the old Hammond Mills Store on the southeast corner of the Four Corners. He eventually built up to his own dry goods and grocery store and began investing in real estate. Edwards owned much of the land east of Rider Avenue, which led to the name of Edwards Street, as well as his donation of land and the buildin gof the present-day St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. He was a senior warden at the church for 30 years, and is buried in the only mausoleum in the cemeteries.
The Newins Family – The earliest Newins reputed to be buried in the Lakeview Cemeteries is William Lawrence Newins (circa 1750-1843), a refugee to Long Island who was given sanctuary by Benjamin Smith of Setauket. He went on to marry Benjamin’s daughter, Martha Jayne Smith, move to Patchogue, and became one of the original Trustees of the Patchogue Congregational Church. His son, William Hiram Newins (1787-1867), was a seaman who married Catherine Smith and settled in south Patchogue. One of his sons, also William Hiram (1828-1899), followed him into the family business, and, either due to success or a favorable marriage to Nancy Elizabeth Smith (granddaughter of Ananais) – or a bit of both – became a farmer in 1860 and according the 1880 Agricultural Census, owned one of the largest and most profitable farms in Patchogue.Newins Street is most likely named after him as his land encompassed the present-day roadway. Some accounts, however, claim the street was named after his son, Wilfred “Fred” Bolton Newins (1871-1951), who along with Arthur M. Swezey, founded the famous Swezey and Newins store at the Four Corners in 1894. Interestingly enough, the business partners actually purchased the store from A. Fischel, who had built the original building, including the first clock tower in Patchogue, which at one point afforded the best view of the community. Two other interesting members of the Newins family include Smith Lawrence Newins and Aaron Newins.
Dr. James Rice (1804-1891) – Dr. Rice was one of the earliest physicians and surgeons in Patchogue. Born in upstate New York, he began his education in Philadelphia, but then transferred to New York City to train under Dr. Valentine Mott. Circa 1857, he owned a pharmacy in Roe’s Central Hotel. From 1839-1840, he served as an elected “Inspector of Common Schools” for the Town of Brookhaven. Two of his brothers, Charles and Oliver, also became physicians. He and his siblings were likely drawn to the profession as their grandmother, known to many as “Granny Rice,” was a well-known and widely reputed healer. His sister Rachel founded Rice Cemetery in 1871, shortly after Oliver’s untimely death at the age of 36, and subsequently donated it to the Episcopal Church. The Town of Brookhaven’s cemetery inventory taken circa 1938 indicates there were many unmarked and unknown stones at the time. As many of the Rice siblings did not marry or have descendants, it leads one to wonder if their philanthropy included providing for the burial of patients with limited means. The Rice cemetery is located to the south and east of the original Patchogue Union Church Yard, and west of Lake View Cemetery.
The Baker family and Patchogue
William Baker (1767-1834) – William Baker was the son of Jonathan Baker (1734-1786), and grandson of Lieutenant Jonathan Baker (1704-1777), of the Amagansett, East Hampton Baker family. William was likely born, raised, and died in Patchogue. His first cousin Jonathan Baker (1776-1837), also buried in the Lakeview cemeteries, is the father of Davis Baker, who the present-day Baker Street is supposedly named after. The Bakers made their fame and wealth in Patchogue by holding the power, vested in them by the Town of Brookhaven, to determine who could harvest shellfish, charge fees, and limit quantities. At a time (circa 1770s), the Bakers owned land extending from the vicinity of the present-day Baker Street south along Ocean Avenue for quite a way. According to a Mr. Overton quoted in a 1943 LI Advance article, Lt. Jonathan Baker (1704) was the first settler of Patchogue, and his remains moved between several cemeteries before finding a final resting place in Cedar Grove Cemetery. Said article was written to document the festivities and historical exhibits associated with the 150th anniversary of the Congregational Church in Patchogue. Coincidentally, one of the events associated with this celebration featured women dressed in the historic costumes of their ancestors, paying homage to their past.
As is human nature, disputes would arise amongst those vying for a livelihood, and several lawsuits have been documented between members of the Baker family and various Patchogue residents arose relating to the Bakers’ administration of their responsibilities. Perhaps the ill feeling surrounding some of these disputes led to the eventual accusations against Captain Jonathan Baker (1734-1786) of being a Loyalist, despite his service to the Patriot cause. While he was eventually cleared, a number of prominent Patchogue residents, including Ananais Smith, testified to his treachery. The outcome of the affair led to civil suits resulting in much of the ancestral Baker land being transferred to Ananais Smith.