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Story - Education

Jun 9, 2010 11:18 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays memorial honors teen DWI victim

Jun 9, 2010 11:18 AM

HAMPTON BAYS—Joseph Marino should have been finishing his junior year at Hampton Bays High School later this month. But this summer, his family will mark a different milestone: the first anniversary of his death at the hands of a drunk driver on August 12, 2009.

At a ceremony last Friday, students and staff dedicated a small patch of earth on the east side of the high school to the 15-year-old, who died a day after he was struck by a drunk driver while riding his bicycle on Ponquogue Avenue last year.

The garden, which sits along Wakeman Road, is adorned with a memorial plaque, a weeping cherry sapling and two benches where students can sit and remember their friend. But its most striking feature is a large sign that reads: “Please Don’t Drink and Drive.”

If the sign helps save a single life, it would bring a glint of purpose to the otherwise senseless tragedy, Joseph’s father, Phil Marino, said.

“I’m so happy the sign is here, but I wish there wasn’t a plaque for my son,” he said.

Mr. Marino and his wife, Dorothy, will be in court next Thursday, June 17, to witness the sentencing of Caroline Goss, the Mattituck woman who faces six months in jail after pleading guilty in April to vehicular manslaughter. The Marinos, along with their older son Anthony, 19, appeared at the afternoon dedication ceremony wearing red T-shirts that read “Justice for Joe.”

“All we ask is that you remember this, and remember this for the rest of your lives, so that nobody else has to be a victim,” Ms. Marino said to the dozens of students, staff and educators who gathered. She also thanked community members for their support over the past year.

Building Joseph’s memorial was a community undertaking, according to physical education teacher Tim Tenaglia, the longtime advisor of the Hampton Bays High School Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) program, which organized the project. The Hampton Bays branch of Allstate Insurance Company donated money, Hampton Graphics donated the sign, and Peconic Bay Fence provided the materials and labor at no cost.

The benches were donated by the Hampton Bays High School National Honor Society chapter and the plaque was donated by High School Principal Chris Richardt, Mr. Tenaglia said. He estimated that the project cost about $3,000 altogether.

“It’s really good for the community,” 16-year-old Matthew Burghardt, a close friend of Joseph, said of the garden. “I’ll definitely be here to pay my respects.”

While the sign will certainly stand as a stark warning, students at last week’s ceremony were more concerned with the boy it memorializes.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Jessica Thayer, 16, another close friend who attended the dedication ceremony. “Joe was the man. He was liked by everyone. He was perfect.”

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