By Chris Maffia
I met Meryl Dammer over sixteen years ago when she delivered a bird house and Old Field South directory to our home a few weeks after we moved in. Over the years we have socialized butonly when writing this piece for our website did I learn some interesting facts about her life and life here in Old Field South.
Meryl grew up in Queens , Astoria and Flushing, and spent the first years of her married life in the latter. She met the love of her life, Joe, on a ski trip to Bear Mountain. He was on the bus on the same ski trip but they didn’t date right away. Meeting Joe was one of the most significant moments in her life and they were very happily married for over fifty years. Joe was a cake decorator and was partners in a bakery business with his father.
Meryl and Joe married in 1956 and she continued her college education at that time.” It was a no-no to be pregnant and going to school” recalled Meryl “even though you were married.” “But since I was carrying small” she was able to get away with it. Their first born daughter, Laura, was born in 1958 and Meryl earned her business degree a year later with the help of her mother who lived nearby and babysat Laura while Meryl attended classes. When I asked her how she managed to juggle home, school and a new born, she said, “ I don’t know how I did it, I’m tired just thinking about it!”
Meryl didn’t get to use her business degree for many years. Their family was growing and June was born in 1960. They bought their first home in Commack where they lived for many years. But Meryl grew bored of the area and told Joe she wanted to move. “Ok”, he said, “Tell me what you find” and off she went to search for their new home. A beautiful piece of property on Market Path called to her in the springtime with the mountain laurel in bloom. “Here all the houses are different, but where I came from all the houses looked the same in a development,” she told me. The uniqueness of this area, the privacy, the peacefulness and beauty is what attracted her to move here even though “the home needed work.”. When Joe saw it, he loved the property and knew he would be able to enjoy his gardening on this bigger piece of property. They both loved that their new home was near the beach as both girls loved to swim – one of them was even a lifeguard.
So in 1978 Joe and his father sold the bakery business in Queens, bought another bakery in Mastic, and the Dammersmoved into Old Field South. Meryl’s oldest daughter was starting SUNY Stony Brook and lived on campus so she was unaffected by the move; however June was still in high school so for two years Meryl drove her to school every day on her way to her job in Huntington.
Once June graduated, Meryl finally got to use her business degree working as the Administrative Assistant to Mrs. Cook, director of Emma Clark Library- a position she held for 22 years until her retirement in 2001. When she started at the library the front room with the stained glass windows and upstairs area housed the book collections and the main desk was located where the DVD collection is displayed today. The children’s area was downstairs gaining access by utilizing the staircase from today’s DVD area. The children’s collection was where the CDs are located today. Meryl recalls with such enthusiasm “The Big Renovation” during her time at the library.
Some of the fondest memories Meryl has living in Old Field South are at the beach with Joe and her family. They bought a boat and loved fishing and her daughters would enjoy jumping off the boat to swim. Walking with Joe down the beach was always a wonderful pastime for them and they enjoyed attending the socials that Old Field South organized getting to meet new neighbors and making new friends.
One year Meryl’s sister rented a cottage on Trustees Road and spent time down there with her. It was the second cottage from the end and she recalls how relaxing and enjoyable it was to stay and sleep down there. “Sounds of the water and the seagulls calling was very calming to me”, she said.
One of the comforting things about living in Old Field South is that it has not changed from forty years ago when she moved here – it is still peaceful and private; “ I don’t see any big changes”. Of course the biggest change for Meryl has been the death of her husband to cancer which was devastating to her. She had been the Hospitality Chairperson of the Old Field SouthProperty Owners Association, but had to resign from that position when Joe got sick and his care required her full time attention. She detailed a story of pride when Joe was chosen to decorate the 100th Anniversary Cake for the United States Marine Corp. “He was a true artist”, she said, “very creative”. All Meryl’s happiest memories of living in Old Field South are intricately tied to the love of her life.
Today she spends her days still taking advantage of all the area has to offer, and especially enjoys attending the OLLI, OsherLife-long Learning Institute, at SUNY Stony Brook a few days a week. She keeps her mind sharp by taking classes at OLLI on Cosmology and History. Meryl also enjoys spending time flying out west and to the northeast to be with her grandchildren and married daughters.