Grace Okon, a 15-year-old from Yaphank who attends Longwood High School, has planted U.S. flags at the graves of veterans at Calverton National Cemetery for Memorial since she was a toddler.
For Okon, a Girl Scout and photography enthusiast, it was a particularly poignant experience this year, since her grandfather — a U.S. Navy veteran and a former captain of New York City Fire Department Rescue Co. 1 — was buried there in January.
A photo Okon took this year with her iPhone of the flags planted at Calverton was included in an art display on the second floor of Town Hall in Farmingville as part of the inaugural “Brookhaven’s Got Talent Summer Art Challenge” sponsored by the town’s Youth Bureau.
The display, which should be up for at least a few weeks, includes 19 works of art, including photos, paintings and drawings, from students in seventh to 12th grade.
Okon had a separate photo set in Greece overlooking the sea, with horses in the foreground and mountains to the side.
In total, five people from the GreaterMoriches area were recognized for their work in the art show. They included students from William Floyd Middle School, William Floyd High School and Center Moriches High School.
The art show brought out 70 people on its opening night.
“The goal behind this initiative was to recognize and encourage young, talented artists in Brookhaven Town,” Supervisor Ed Romaine said in a statement. “We ended up having an intergenerational event where students were engaging with their peers, adults and seniors, sharing details about their art. It is gratifying to see so many residents coming out on a cold, rainy October night to view the students’ exceptional work and encourage their artistic talents.”
Anthony Fritz, who attends John F. Kennedy Middle School in Port Jefferson Station, had a photo of a sunset on display. He said he’s always taken photos, but now he’s really into it.
“It’s really satisfying, and then I post it for people to see” on Instagram (@photography.fritz) and Reddit.
“I think it’s wonderful they are showcasing the teens. Hopefully, this is the first of many. And I’m very proud of Grace, said Okon’s mother, Susan, whose father, John Cerato, of Nesconset, died earlier this year. Her eyes welled up as she looked at Grace: “Your grandfather was a hero.”