by Charles Tekula
14 March 1985
Forward: According to Kathy and Michael Ince, in whose barn the late Stanley Negvesky, 77 , was living comfortable the past winter months, Stanley was born in the Scranton, Pa., area where his father was a coal miner.
He owned and operated a fish market on the upper east side of Manhattan before moving to Brookhaven Hamlet—some say as many as 45 years ago.
Stanley’s death last week has been attributed to a stroke. His body was taken by the county for routine autopsy—but his spirit lives on, as testified to by the following story.)
Last Friday night more than 60 Hamlet residents gathered near a bonfire at Squassux Landing where they celebrated the memory of Stanley over vodka and smoked eel.
According to the Inces, Stanley consumed books with nearly the same enthusiasm he applied to whiskey, and among those that came to the Inces’ barn this past week to pay their respects was the chairman of the philosophy department of Columbia University.
Stanley died this past Wednesday night. It happened on a full moon. He always said he would die on a full moon. He was close to 80 years old.
Anyone who has lived and moved about the Hamlet of Brookhaven knows who Stanley is. To some he was known as the “Mayor of Brookhaven,” a distinction he was most fond of, and most probably originated. To others he was “Stinky,” or “that filthy bum” or something else to that effect.
In socio-economic terms he was a homeless alcoholic beggar for most of his life. For as long as anyone here had known, he was always always put up by others—in their homes or sheds—until they could put up with him no longer, or until they died and the property was disposed of in one way or another.
Stanley rarely bathed. And often he slept with dogs that rarely bathed. At one time he had as many as three dozen dogs. The stories of how he fed his dogs have ruined many an appetite, but anyone who could eat with Stanley knows how to eat under any circumstances.
One of the tamer examples of Stanley-dog stories is that if you mentioned to him you had seen a dead possum lying in the road, he would become irate if you had not brought it with you for “the dogs.” One was never quite sure, I might add, that if one obliged his demands, that the dogs ever got any more than left-over’s.
People who live in Brookhaven are, for the most part, highly educated, upwardly-mobile, and of the middle class. There are accomplished artists, famous photographers, authors, sociologists, elected officials, along with the usual fishermen, construction workers, teachers, and laborers that make up Long Island South Shore communities. But not many towns on Long Island have a Stanley.
How did such a man fare so well for so long in such a place? Some might say that the people of the Hamlet, out of kindness of their hearts, adopted him. Why then, and I’m sure that the others that were close to him share this feeling, did it feel as though he adopted us? How did this man, whose only occupation seemed to be avoiding and counteracting the effects that civilization might inflict on him, gain so many friends and acquaintances among some of the most highly civilized and sophisticated people in the world, while still maintaining full relations with those from the other side of the tracks?
HAMLET LEGEND – This photograph of Stanley Joseph Negvesky was taken from a painting by David Olander, Brookhaven painter and New York model. Many other paintings of him have been done by Hamlet artist-residents. Kathi Ince, who also has painted him, said “He was wise and gentle—he even fed the mice that lived in the barn.” His dog Raisin, has been adopted by the Inces.
I have not lived here long. I’ve only known of Stanley for five or six years, and had been close to him for maybe three. He’d been in the area for over 40 years. I am a commercial fisherman, and have fished and clammed out of Squassix Landing on the Carmans River since my family and I moved to Brookhaven (pronounced Brook-ha’-ven by the locals). Stanley had made this private boat basin his spring to autumn abode (strictly against civic association rules) since he was evicted from the shack on the old Wertheim Estate after it was willed to the federal government and became a wildlife preserve.
I spent a lot of time with him, so I guess I can say as well as anyone what was so special about him. It was really nothing special at all. It was just that he treated everybody equally. To everyone that crossed his path, no matter who it was, or how long he had known him or her, he gave a measure of love and respect. He made you feel comfortable and at home, which for most people was truly miraculous, considering his lifestyle. What was special is that this kind of evenhanded hospitality has become so rare around here these days (I’m no exception, I admit), that people just felt drawn to him.
Some will say that he was just a kind of community social project, a way for people to get rid of their guilt for living so well in a world full of poverty. This argument cannot hold water, however, for in recent years, Stanley had more than enough money to support his lifestyle, and everyone knew it. But they still kept coming, bring leftovers, garden surplus, and whatever they thought he could use that they couldn’t. People who had long ago ago moved away would make a point of visiting Stanley whenever they were in the area. People don’t usually have such fond memories of bums and beggars.
Stanley was no saint or savior. I had the feeling that if he wasn’t a bonafide witch, he’l like to think he was one. He looked like the Mr. Hyde side of Santa Clause, and he had the uncanny ability of getting what he wanted out of you. His left hand always knew, in fact was supremely aware of of what his right hand was doing. His hospitality had an ulterior motive. He wanted you to go to Jim’s Deli (the absolute center of the Hamlet’s commercial district, Squassax being the social center on the other side of town) to get him coffee and a corn muffin. He wanted some clams, some ice, leftovers from your dinner table. His entourage had most recently been boiled down (literally, some say) to one little black mutt he called Raisin, so he was no longer vehement about your passing up dead roadside fauna, although he would gladly take it if you happened to have some with you.
He had a flair with the ladies, a fact which could send shivers down the spines of those who make their living promoting the manly attraction off sweet smelling toiletries. Some of the most beautiful young women of the area were among his closest friends and confidantes.
Stanley will be remembered around here for a long time. Every time the dumpster at Squassux fills up with household trash (also against the rules) even his most ardent detractors will remember and wish he were still around to pick out the “good stuff” and burn the combustibles.
I will remember him each time I see the empty structure known as the gazebo that Stanley eased into each spring and filled piece by piece with “good stuff.”
I will miss inquiries into the success of the morning catch, and his enthusiastic response and the zip that spontaneously entered his arms and feeble legs when I asked if he wanted a couple of blackfish or whatever other odds-and-ends might have come up with the major catch of the morning.
Thank you, Lord, for Stanley. No one will ever replace him (thank God for that, too). Those who knew him and loved him have learned a great lesson, and should pray they never forget it. They have learned to stare into the eyes of, and live with, this enigmatic, paradoxical existence we all share. And without understanding why, love it anyway.
Information provided by Marty Van Lith