Town of Hempstead honors 'pathfinders'

Supervisor Laura Gillen honors leaders of East Meadow


In a ceremony to cap off Women’s History Month, three members of the East Meadow community were recognized by the Town of Hempstead for their dedication.  

Vera Fludd, the new sheriff at the Nassau County Correctional Center; Millie Jones, a past East Meadow Chamber of Commerce president; and Kristi Detor, the director of physical education, health and athletics at the East Meadow School District, along with eight others, received the 2018 Pathfinder Award on March 29 at the Merrick Golf Course Clubhouse in Merrick.

“We happen to have in East Meadow right now a lot of strong women,” said Dolores Rome, a chamber member who nominated Jones for the award in the community service category.

Jones has been involved with the chamber and the Kiwanis Club in East Meadow for a number of years. She was named a Nassau County Woman of Distinction in 2013, and received the Silver Fox Award for her community service that year from the chamber.

Her colleagues call her “Wonder Woman” because of her dedication to philanthropy and the East Meadow community, even through her battle with pancreatic cancer, with which she was diagnosed last March.

“I was completely surprised,” Jones said of the recognition, adding that her illness has reduced her volunteer work, but she still tries to help out at community events when she can.

Jones told the Herald after the ceremony that she had to miss it because she was being treated at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. She has undergone dozens of rounds of chemotherapy to attack a metastasized tumor on her pancreas and lesions on her liver, but the fight is paying off: Her tumor has shrunk to half its original size, and the lesions have cleared. She just finished three weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, and on April 12 she will undergo a CT scan to determine her progress.

Fludd also received the Pathfinder Award in its community service category. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran appointed her the county’s acting sheriff on Jan. 1, and made the appointment permanent on March 9. She is the first African-American and the first woman to hold the position.

According to Curran, the morale of the correctional center’s employees has improved as Fludd has established an atmosphere of mutual trust.

Joan Hugues, a Baldwin paralegal who fought for choking prevention education in the state, was the third honoree in the community service category.

Detor was honored in the category of education. She took on her position in the East Meadow district in 2014, before which she was the assistant principle at East Meadow High School. She has redefined the district’s athletic curriculum to support the needs of the students, Gillen said.

Also recognized in the education category was Allison Ruffrano, of Garden City, who teaches at Nassau Community College and has a summer workshop in Italy for aspiring photographers.

Patricia Ann Norris-McDonald, the mayor of Malverne, earned the 2018 Pathfinder of the Year Award. Norris-McDonald spent much of her life caring for her husband, Steven McDonald, who was shot and paralyzed while on duty for the New York City Police Department. She helped him tell his story of forgiveness — even after his death in January 2017.

“I accept this for all women out there — for all women who have to take care of their husbands and their families,” McDonald told the crowd.

Lynbrook High School Senior Ashley Cegelski won the High School Senior Pathfinder Award for her volunteer work at Camp ANCHOR, a Hempstead program for the disabled, where she has worked since ninth grade.

Rene Klein, of East Rockaway, won the Humanitarian Pathfinder Award for her volunteer efforts with the visually impaired and charity contributions to organizations such as Camp ANCHOR.

Eileen Mahler, of Oceanside, won the Health Services Pathfinder Award. Mahler, the director of nursing at South Nassau Communities Hospital, was recognized for taking over and improving the graduate nursing training program.

Heidi Felix, of Wantagh, won the Volunteer Pathfinder Award for her leadership roles in the hamlet’s Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club, as well as other community projects.

Town of Hempstead Public Safety Officer Joan Cusumano, of Floral Park, rounded out the honorees, receiving the Town of Hempstead Employee Pathfinder Award.