Tide honors two community women

Miriam Gillies and Gerry Sapanaro


This year, the Tide of Moriches and Manorville solicited nominations for our Inspiration Award winner. During this time, we sought people who take it upon themselves to make a difference in their community—not simply someone who has a job to do, or who happens to be a member of a well-established organization.

We had trouble deciding between two very notable women in the community, Miriam Gillies and Gerry Sapanaro. So, instead of debating, we decided to name them co-winners.

Longtime resident of Center Moriches, Miriam Gillies was nominated by local Janice Graf, and Gerry Sapanaro, a Center Moriches business owner and civic leader, was nominated by Brookhaven Town councilman Dan Panico.

“There are so many things Miriam has done and continues to do for others that even this recognition cannot begin to thank her for her unwavering volunteerism throughout the years,” Graf said in her nomination. “If anyone is in need of anything, all they need do is call Miriam. Whether she knows you or not, she knows someone who could help. When Miriam is not volunteering, she’s on the phone reaching out to her many contacts in order to find a solution with the help of others.”

Miriam brought the Relay for Life to Center Moriches, which raised thousands of dollars in order to help cancer research. She also spent tireless hours for many years organizing, planning, and reaching out to survivors.

As a charter member of the Passport Rotary Club, she’s participated in educating people about organ donation, food drives, and delivering food and basic necessities to the working homeless that live in Suffolk County.

Gillies has also been a member of the Moriches Chamber of Commerce for many years as an integral participant in almost every event.

She started her community volunteerism during the annual Blessing of the Fleet in the late ‘70s and started the first Offshore Women’s Fishing Tournament. She also participated in Camp Paquatuck’s Bike-A-Thon for years and the chamber’s annual Duck Race. She is also known for taking cancer patients back and forth to treatment.

During the years, she has also volunteered for the Moriches Bay Unit of ACS and participated in Daffodil Days, Jail and Bail, Help Soccer Kick Cancer, and the Amazing Kite Fly.

But the most rewarding event, she said, is the Relay for Life and being an active volunteer at East End Hospice.

Additionally, she has been on different programs/committees at the local school, judge for the fire department’s holiday parade, and presently, she is on the Board of Directors of Chamber of Commerce of the Moriches, Moriches Community Center, and Our Lady Queen of the Apostles. She is also a parishioner at St Johns R.C. Church.

Several years ago, she also restarted the chamber’s Halloween window painting, and chaired the Student of the Month, menorah and tree lighting, and the Veterans Day parade. The chamber also honored her as the first female grand marshal for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2011.

“The Veterans Day parade wouldn’t be the same without her recruiting the veterans to be honored,” Graf explained.

Gillies moved to Center Moriches in 1965, purchasing an abandoned duck farm and turning it into a marina. She and her husband had one daughter and one son. She was a registered nurse-turned-nursing-teacher and her husband an electrician. Her husband passed in 2000.

This past year, she also said that she has been “living on the phone,” helping people find vaccine sights and reaching out to many who are home alone.

“I am truly honored,” she said of the award. “But remember, it takes everyone to make us who we are. I truly enjoy helping/volunteering others and guess that’s why God keeps me going.”

While equally impressive, Sapanaro devotes countless hours of her time to improve the community in which she lives and works.

Sapanaro owns Moriches Bay Realty on Main Street. She is also an officer of the Chamber of Commerce of the Moriches and Downtown Beautification Committee.

“She works tirelessly to attract businesses to the area to help create a thriving Main Street,” Panico said in his nomination letter. “From organizing annual street fairs, to spearheading seasonal beautification initiatives along Main Street, Gerry is constantly involved in efforts to make the Center Moriches downtown business district better for businesses, residents and visitors.”

Geraldine “Gerry” Sapanaro was born in Manhattan and has been in the real estate business since 1957. When Sapanaro was 21, she moved out to Long Island with her parents. She privately taught piano for 25 years, helped run a deli and then owned her own deli in Shirley, and eventually became a salesperson at Moriches Bay Realty. In 1991, Sapanaro purchased and became the broker owner of Moriches Bay Realty and continues to actively participate in real estate on a daily basis.

Sapanaro is a former president of the chamber, currently serves on the board as the treasurer, and is an active member in the chamber’s committees for the St Patrick’s Day parade, spring and fall fairs, and holiday events.

She has also served on the board or Eastern Suffolk Chapter of Libor and helps run the Downtown Beautification Organization, which helps keep Main Street in the Moriches areas looking beautiful with lampposts decorated with flowers and decorations, and helps with the general upkeep of Main Street itself. 

Additionally, she is an active Rotarian of The Rotary Club of the Moriches and participates in many of their fundraising events all year long to help support Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, The Moriches Rotary Health Camp.

Sapanaro and her late husband, John Sapanaro, have two sons (Scott and John) and she has two grandsons (Johnny and Joey).

“I have and will always serve on many committees, organizations, and activities for my community, whether it be educational, local fundraising, or just to help someone in need,” she said, happy to be honored.


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