Cheryl Bedini with her daughter, Chiara.
Late Saturday morning, vehicles began lining up at Sag Harbor Elementary School, snaking down Hampton and Division streets — a parade nearly 350 strong, with residents from Sag Harbor and beyond bringing food, flowers and messages of love and support to the Ninevah home of the family of Cheryl Bedini, a Sag Harbor resident and longtime owner of Java Nation who died on April 22.
While Ms. Bedini was posthumously tested for COVID-19, her husband, Andres, said the results were negative and that the medical examiner had determined she died of a heart attack after a very brief illness.
Ms. Bedini was born on June 29, 1964, at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, now called New York-Presbyterian Hospital, to Lois James Fairley and Wesley Howard Carrion, both of whom predeceased Ms. Bedini.
“Her mother said if you are going to have a baby, you have a baby in Manhattan,” Mr. Bedini said in an interview on Tuesday. And so, Cheryl and her siblings — Robyn Hagens and Dr. Wesley Carrion — were all born in the Washington Heights hospital.
A student at the United Nations International School — an experience Mr. Bedini said shaped his wife — Ms. Bedini later transferred to Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts for her last two years of high school. She attended New York University for a year, living with her mother at the time on Roosevelt Island, before transferring to George Washington University in Virginia, where she pursued a degree in journalism, graduating in 1985.
It was at GW where she met Mr. Bedini, a Peruvian-born Maryland resident who was introduced to his future wife by his friend, Elliot Levin.
“If Elliot Levin didn’t go to GW, I would have never heard of Sag Harbor and there would never have been a Java Nation,” Mr. Bedini said.
The two were a part of a clique of friends — GW students and Maryland residents — and connected over many things including sports, despite divergent teams in one of Ms. Bedini’s favorite sports: baseball. She was a Yankees fan, he liked the Orioles. “Yeah, that was a little difficult,” laughed Mr. Bedini.
After graduation, both landed jobs at law firms in Washington, D.C. Ms. Bedini was a paralegal at the D.C. branch of the New York firm Kaye Scholer, where storied attorney Kenneth Feinberg — the lawyer who led the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, among many other accomplishments — cut his teeth in litigation. Mr. Bedini, who worked at the D.C. branch of Cleary Gottlieb, was her ringer on the company softball team, his tall stature an asset in center field.
The couple moved to California in 1990, when Ms. Bedini was accepted to law school at Santa Clara University, while Mr. Bedini began a job at British Telecom. It was there that Ms. Bedini had her first freshly roasted coffee from the Mission City Coffee Roasting Co., and a dream was born.
“I picked her up and she told me she had just had the best cup of coffee,” Mr. Bedini remembered. “At the time, I was a diner kind of guy, but I drank that coffee and I could not believe it. She told me they had their own roaster and they ground their own coffee. Cheryl was studying a lot, and I started hanging out at coffee houses after work. Instead of happy hour, we would go to coffee houses.”
In addition to coffee, Sag Harbor was never far from Ms. Bedini’s mind. She never missed spending at least a week at one of her parents’ houses in Sag Harbor during the summer months. Her first visit was in utero, said Mr. Bedini, and the call to Sag Harbor was strong.
In 1992, the couple had just enjoyed a bacon cheeseburger and three 12-ounce mugs of beer at the Main Street Tavern, where Wölffer Kitchen sits today. Craving a cup of coffee, the concept of a Sag Harbor coffee house was born, although the couple could never agree on whose idea it was originally.
“The truth is, I wasn’t completely sure — I had just gotten a promotion, but from that moment she was so focused on it,” Mr. Bedini said. “She was going to do it with or without me.”
Returning to law school, Ms. Bedini graduated in 1993 and the couple got in their car, heading east to Sag Harbor.
“We eloped in Reno on the way here,” he said. “It was early June, and it was our first stop on the road.” The wedding cost $28 with the couple wearing shorts, T-shirts and sneakers. They honeymooned at their next stop — Salt Lake City — in a Motel 6.
The couple met an ecstatic Lois at her Ninevah home on Harding Terrace and began planning for what would become Java Nation.
“She said it should be Java Station, and then I said Java Nation, and I liked Java Station, but she liked Java Nation,” Mr. Bedini said. “We couldn’t agree to disagree even on the name.”
Originally, the couple planned to open their space in the Kimco shopping center in Bridgehampton, but the lease fell through when it was revealed a nearby store was already roasting coffee. Walking down Main Street, Sag Harbor, they discovered what would become Java Nation’s home for 17 years in the Shopping Cove. They opened on September 3, 1994.
“It was a little cool at first,” said Mr. Bedini of the coffee shop opening. “People thought we were a fancy coffee shop from the city. It took awhile, but we got there.”
In 2012, the couple moved the business to Bridgehampton after losing their lease in the Shopping Cove, much to the ire of their devout following, literally changing the scent of the village forever.
“I still have Sag Harbor kids come into my store and tell me it smells like their childhood,” Mr. Bedini said.
Along the way, the Bedini family grew, with Chiara born in 2003, followed a few years later by a second daughter, Ani. Chiara is now in 11th grade and Ani is in seventh grade at Pierson Middle-High School.
Like her mother before her, Ms. Bedini became active in the school community, volunteering wherever she could, also known for being there for parents who needed help getting through to an administrator or a teacher.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have been told, ‘I was too shy to talk to the principal or the teacher, but Cheryl fought for me,’” he said.
A member of the school's PTSA, for a decade, Ms. Bedini was the force behind the district’s popular Multicultural Night. Chiara’s kindergarten year, Mr. Bedini remembers attending Multicultural Night to find people eating Espresso’s pizza and bagels much to the family’s dismay. Attending a similar event at Springs School, Ms. Bedini became inspired.
“She would hunt down parents — if you had an accent, watch out. She was going to get you involved,” laughed Mr. Bedini, who would bring Peruvian and Argentinean cuisine to his family’s table alongside his wife each year.
“That love of diversity really came from her going to the United Nations School,” he said. “She also loved to travel.”
India, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, England, Italy and Venezuela were some of her favorite adventures, he said, although it was the community created in Sag Harbor that rooted the family to the village, along with the beautiful bay beaches Ms. Bedini enjoyed as a child and with her own children, and where, ultimately, her ashes will be spread in a private family service later this year.
“Left Left is what the locals call it,” he said of her favorite bay beach — the same beach she first took him to on his first trip to Sag Harbor when he was just 22 and she was 21.
“It was so beautiful,” he remembered. “The water was crystal clear. There were no big boats — just Mr. Malloy’s yacht. It was the place she wanted to be — she wanted to be at the bay.”
Termed “The Love Drive” by organizers Heidi Humes, Susan Beard, Lara Sweeney and Megan Schmidt, Saturday’s event to honor Ms. Bedini was just one way community members have rallied around the family after her sudden passing. Paul Johnson has organized a GoFundMe page titled “We Love Cheryl” to help support the family during this time. To donate, visit gofundme.com/f/sag-harbor-loves-the-bedinis.
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One fine body…