By Carl Corry and Katherine Hoey
GreaterMoriches set out Friday to ask some people at random in Moriches and Center Moriches about their experiences with their fathers and father figures. We got lucky and talked to a group of parents, teachers and educators at the East Moriches Field Day — not to mention Center Moriches’ own Ed Romaine, the Town of Brookhaven‘s supervisor.
Here’s what they had to say:
Sanjeev Chopra, 40
Chopra, of Manorville, said his father is “reserved, quiet, but very supportive. He’s not one of those overly affectionate people, but when it comes down to it, he’s always been there and he’s always been very loving. But growing up, he was never one of those dads hugging and saying, ‘I love you.’ I feel like my wife and I are the exact opposites now. That’s all we ever say now.
It’s a little different, because our parents didn’t do that as much. But they are very nurturing. They provided for us if we needed babysitters. Whatever they needed they dropped whatever they were doing — leave work, even as adults, and come and help us whatever our needs were. So they always put their kids first.”
Lizzie McCormick, 44
McCormick, an associate English professor at Suffolk County Community College, looked on as her son, Jack, 7, played in Field Day games at East Moriches Elementary School.
“I come from a long line of track stars, although I most certainly am not one but my son loves running and is really into Field Day and gym …. And he’s a lot like my dad,” said McCormick, of East Moriches, who is originally from New Hampshire, where her father continues to reside.
“My dad was an elementary school teacher and was a track coach. He was not my track coach when I was older, but he was my coach when I was a kid, and now he has Parkinson’s and has a difficult time moving around. He’s doing better these days, but we had a really rough long 10 years. I’m crying under here,” said McCormick, who was wearing sunglasses.
“We’re so happy to kind of have him back in action, back enjoying time with his grandson. He calls Jack and gives him track advice, like how much to run and what shoes to buy.”
Don Nezavdal, 67
Nezavdal, of East Moriches, is a retired fisherman who spends hours at Kaler’s Pond in Center Moriches with his two grandsons, PJ, 4, and Julian, 3.
Nezavdal lends a hand, he said, because his son, Jeremy, 35, is very busy. But Nezavdal enjoys spending time with the boys.
“Everyday is fun one way or another,” said Nezavdal, who grew up in Center Moriches. “They never surprise me …. Between them fist-fighting and throwing stuff at each other and swimming in the pool, and we come down here for hours. Julian looks exactly like my son at that age.”
Edward P. Romaine
As a “child of the Depression” Romaine and a World War II veteran who was severely injured in battle, Romaine said his father, Edward Theodore Romaine, viewed life as “a struggle.”
“He worked hard all of his life. And I only began to appreciate that as I got older. I didn’t appreciate that as a kid because he would work six days a week.” Romaine’s father started as a butcher, but as supermarkets changed the business, he later became a real estate broker. “He learned to invest in real estate, made some decent money, and live a good life, a comfortable life, from, say 50 on. He died in 2010 at 94 years old.
“My father gave me my work ethic. He was not one to let anyone sit around. At all. He did not have patience for people wasting time.” And with his Depression-era roots, “ he was very thrifty. He counted every penny, and he hated to waste food.”
Andrew Plastrik, 57
Plastrik, of Center Moriches, is a speech therapist at East Moriches Schools. He was drenched when he spoke with us after getting doused with water balloons when kids hit a Field Day throwing game target. The father of two, Joshua, 22, and Matthew, 18, said this was a particularly meaningful year that marked how precious time is because he passed the age that his father, Harvey, died of a heart attack in 1985.
“He did special effects for movies. He made Superman fly in the first ‘Superman’ movie, so that was cool. He modeled for me hard work, commitment to family, and as Father’s Day comes, it’s a time I miss him and I appreciate my wonderful boys and a chance to be a dad myself.”
Michael Scott Zullo, 37
Zullo, of East Moriches, is superintendent of a small air terminal at the Air National Guard’s 106 Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach and previously served in the Marines.
His father, Michael Archangelo Zullo, worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, served in the Army and was an air traffic controller for a while. He died last year at 71 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
“He always loved gunsmithing. He would fix guns and then sell them. That was his side gig. That and planting sunflowers. He got three to grow in his entire life,” Zullo laughed.
“He was definitely a momma’s boy, but he had the biggest heart in the world. He’d give you anything, and he was all about me and my two sisters. I remember one year he dressed up like Santa, he [went] down the block and then walk in the snow storm to deliver gifts to us. I was like 5, my sisters were 7 and 9. But I will never forget that. Because I found Santa’s costume like three years later. I was like, ‘How do you explain it now?’ That’s the type of guy he was. He’d give you the shirt off his back, too.”