On Saturday, Nov. 14, the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce and elected officials, including Islip supervisor Angie Carpenter and Legis. Anthony Piccirillo, gathered to honor Chris Bodkin, Bill Venegas and Karl Auwaerter of Bayport Flower Houses for their work and donations to the Chris Bodkin Garden.
The boutique garden, found along the perimeter of the parking lot on the southeast side of the intersection of Candee Avenue and Main Street, is one that has been a prime example of the extra care the community has taken to beautify all aspects of the downtown area.
As Bodkin reminisced, he said that the area was originally unkempt with leaves and littered with trash of passersby. As a former councilman, he felt compelled to do something to improve its appearance and worked with Venegas to take care of the section. “I was a councilman at the time and I thought I had some power. I had ordered [the] highway department to clean it up, but they never did, so I decided I had to do something about it,” said Bodkin.
Thirty years ago, the garden had what Bodkin described as “a terrible chain-link fence” and took two days to pull out “awful” shrubs.
Perfectly manicured with colorful mums for autumn, the Chris Bodkin Garden today, albeit small, is a testament to community revival and steadfastness. Each season, it is lovingly tended to and appropriate flowers are planted.
Bodkin recalled a member of Sayville Garden Club remarking to him that zinnias would do better in the heat. Taking her advice, he went to Bayport Flower Houses and met with Auwaerter (“who was just a kid back then,” he added). After hearing of the efforts to beautify Sayville, Auwaerter gave Bodkin five free flats of zinnias. “It looked like I knew what I was doing, but it was really Karl,” remarked Bodkin, adding, “Bayport Flower Houses is just wonderful for this town. They are wonderful people with good advice.”
Throughout the year, Bayport Flower Houses donates various seasonal blooms, including tulip bulbs and chrysanthemums.
Jackie Gustafson, from the Sayville General Store, allows Bodkin to water the garden from her own water line.
Prior to this, Bodkin had to “drive very slowly” as he cradled two five-gallon buckets of water in his car to the garden.
“It was a sight to behold, the five-gallon buckets splashing around in the back,” he said.
Eileen Tyznar, president of the Sayville Chamber of Commerce, worked with Kay Cameron, who initiated the ceremony to honor the three keepers of the Chris Bodkin Garden. “We walked by this garden thousands of times and never realized only three people kept this beautiful,” said Tyznar. She went on to quote Mahatma Gandhi: “‘To find oneself you have to lose yourself in the service of others’… all three of you have proved that to be a point. We are so grateful for the three of you providing this bright spot.”