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Community Center

Jul 14, 2009 3:49 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Montauk community notes

Jul 14, 2009 3:49 PM

We recently had a delightful conversation with Henry Osmer, a tour guide at the Montauk Lighthouse and the author of two books of certain interest to both Montaukers as well as visitors. They are: “On Eagle’s Beak” and the newly published “Living On the Edge.”

Montauk is a far cry from Brooklyn, where Henry was born in 1949. He now commutes 60 miles each way from Shirley, where he lives with his wife Terri and their daughters Karyn and Jennifer. “My wife and I always had a special affection for Montauk,” Henry says. “In the summer of 1970 we came out with four close friends and picnicked at the Point. That became an annual event for about 40 years. The memories of Montauk were always very strong.”

In the spring of 2001 Henry learned that the lighthouse museum was looking for tour guides. With a master’s degree in history and a teaching background, he was “a natural” for the job and started at the museum in June 2001. He was soon asked to give oral history presentations, and estimates he gave more than 600 of them. Becoming “tired” of the same generic history, Henry started to do some digging to find “juicy” in-depth stories about the keepers’ experiences. He was helped by library archivist Robin Strong, Coast Guard archives and encouraged by many including Dick White Jr. of the Montauk Historical Society and site manager Trish Wood. He finished “On Eagle’s Beak” in 2006. The name derives from a poem by Walt Whitman, who Henry reports “loved Montauk,” and is believed to have written the poem gazing out from Montauk Point.

Henry claims he had more fun doing his second book, “Living on the Edge,” because it is based on interviews he had with three people who either lived or worked at the lighthouse in the 1930s through 1940s. They are all about 90 years old now. “Two people interviewed were the children of keepers: Margaret Buckridge Bock will be 90 in September; Jonathan Miller is a Florida resident. The third interviewee, Art Dunne, is 93, lives in Amagansett, and was stationed here with the army, helping to build the radar tower. His stories were of his Montauk experiences during World War II. Henry found the interview with Mr. Dunne to supply a missing piece to these personal stories. They reflected the arrival of the modern age in Montauk with electricity to supplant kerosene and the effect of the war on the area. “Living on the Edge” was published in 2008.

Henry is currently working on his third book, which concerns the shipwreck of the John Milton. If you are curious about this interesting man who is chock full of Montauk information and talks “lighthouse language,” you have an opportunity this Saturday, July 18. Sponsored by the Third House Nature Center, Henry will speak at the Montauk Library at 7:30 p.m. Don’t miss it!


Congratulations to Patricia (Trish) Byrne, Montauk School’s ESL teacher who received tenure from the School Board recently. She is the daughter of neighbor Jim Rice, and there was a gathering this past week of some of the Rice clan including Trish, Tom and their children, Joanne Rice in from Seattle, Peter and his two daughters and son, in from Albuquerque, and Terry Rice. Though some Rices were missing, the deck was well occupied and the cousins had great fun.

More congratulations for the beautifully written piece by Geraldine (Jerry) Pluenneke on chef Jennifer Meadows and partner fisherman Daniel Grimm of Fishbar, which appears in the current edition of “Edible East End.” According to Jerry, their emphasis is on freshness and “Slow Food principles.”

Good things are coming up for children at the library. A free “Summer for Spanish” experience will be held Saturdays between 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. throughout the summer for children ages 6 to 11. Mrs. Anderson will support the learning of basic Spanish through storytelling, songs and games. No sign-up is required.

On Monday at 7 p.m., the Friends of the Montauk Library will present Liz Joyce of the “Goat on a Boat Puppet Theater” with a show called “Vegetables’ Destiny.” Kids can still sign up for the summer reading program with special weekly prizes.

Adults will not be culturally deprived. The library book discussion group on Sunday at 12:30, will be on “The Inheritance of Loss.” All are welcome.

Prepare your calendars for Wednesday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. for a unique offering—“The Best of BeFilm: The International Underground Festival of Short Films.” BeFilm founder Laurence Asseraf will introduce this screening of 15 short films. The festival mission is to showcase the best national and international short films in several categories. This sounds very innovative and exciting.

Another Montauk Observatory program at the Montauk School is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 with lecturer Tom Madigan, a planetarium for kids and a Star Party to follow at Third House.

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Nice photo, Joan. I was hit by homesickness as soon as I got on the train. The cars used to rattle and rock so slowly through Hither Woods and the Hamptons- and you could ride between the cars, sitting on the metal steps in the sun. This time I went from the windows on one side of an airconditioned car to the other trying to stock up on visual memories--only to catch blurred glimpses of paths, farms, vineyards, houses. It does not behoove us to speed. I read your columns whenever I want to wiggle ...more
By Montaukette (46), Waterland on Jul 20, 09 8:02 PM