OCEAN BAY PARK – The Polar Bear Plunge 2023

by Barbara Gaby Placilla

The “official” end of summer 2022 in Ocean Bay Park was the annual community Halloween Party hosted by Brett Brubaker and Jeffrey Clukey at the Seashore Condo Hotel. Steve and I literally rushed home from a trip to the Caribbean that day to don costumes and enjoy one last hurrah with our summer friends. The October weather was perfect, the decorations and food were over the top and it was a wonderful way to usher in autumn. I was sorry to have missed the children trick-or-treating and the Jell-O shots for the adults, but I promise to make up for it this year, and I will never ever schedule a vacation that coincides with Halloween again!

If Halloween is the end of summer in the Park, then the annual Polar Bear Plunge marks the official start of the 2023 season for us “Parkies.” New Year’s Day was sunny and unseasonably warm as 29 of us met at the home of Don and Joanne Madeo dressed in the Lisa Jaffe mandated fuzzy white polar bear jumpsuits. I supplied the Coco Cola Bear fleece beanies via eBay. We all marched up Seneca Street, stripped off our polar bear suits and took the plunge. If anyone’s asking, we all wore bathing suits! Hot spiked cider and Fireball shots took the cold water shock and chill off and the bears trudged back to the Madeo’s for brunch and cocktails in their hot tub.

Sadly, our community lost a number of our long-time and beloved residents who will all be sorely missed as the new season begins. At the end of last summer, OBP FD Auxiliary President MaryAnn Reuther lost her life partner of 46 years, Clem Lagerman, who passed on Sept. 13. A celebration of Clem’s life will be held this summer. In January we said goodbye to both Stanley King and Bob Errico. Janis Hirsch, who spent over 50 years in OBP with her husband, Kenny, passed in February and former OBP FD Chief Terry Horton died in March. Each one of these people lived full and extraordinary lives: Clem was a member of FDNY for 24 years; Stanley King was an accomplished musician and world traveler; Bob Errico, a veteran of both the Korean War and Vietnam, served in the US Army 82nd Airborne; Janis Hirsch was a talented gardener, skier, tennis player and lover of cats; and former Chief Terry Horton was one of the founding members of the Ocean Bay Park Fire Department. In total these people represent over 300 years of memories of life on Fire Island and each could have a whole column devoted to their lives and talents. I know that their memory is truly a blessing to their loved ones.

And so it begins, the summer of 2023! Never in my dreams did I ever think that 37 years after I first stepped foot on Fire Island I would be living here year round much less writing a community column! And just as the ocean ebbs and flows, life on a barrier beach island continues.

I look forward to reporting on what’s happening around the Park as we start yet another summer in the best town on Fire Island. Please don’t hesitate to let me know what’s happening; after all it does take a village.

Happy Memorial Day.

Ocean Bay Park Polar Bear Plunge 2023

Ocean Bay Park Polar Bear Plunge 2023.