Homestead Wed in a Field of Family: An organically grown love story

Due West Photography

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Cookies Take the Cake: Annual amateur cookie competition a sweet treat

Kelly E. Reinhardt hosts an annual cookie cook-off for the holidays at her Sackets Harbor home.

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Navigating The Rumor and Fable of Thousand Islands Dressing

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“Hands, Pans, Flames and Heart”

St. Lawrence Spirits Chateau executive chef Christian Ives poses in the dining room of the restaurant.

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Viewing Life From The Top: Northern New York couple conquer ADK 46, twice


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Rain, Sleet or Snow: Embracing the unpredictable


It’s an autumn day and the tables are set, the party tent is adorn with birch tree branches welcoming the guests to begin in celebration. But there is one guest who wasn’t invited; Mother Nature.

     The landscape and scenery in northern New York is the perfect stage for spring, summer and fall weddings but there is always one element that cannot be controlled and that is the weather.


     On October 22, family and friends gathered together at Lucky Star Ranch in Chaumont to celebrate the love and marriage of Elizabeth Wiley and Michael Netto. Guests arrived to the unique country venue, a 2,000-acre wildlife management facility with whitetail deer, red deer and pere david deer which includes a 100-acre private lake on the property. Staff at Lucky Star prepared the tent next to a pool area, where there is an outdoor bar, two fireplaces and several sitting areas with a lake view. The stage was set, but Mother Nature was ensuring the day would never be forgotten.

     “The Farmer’s Almanac said dry, warm fall. So, I said let’s do it!” said Elizabeth Netto, bride and Cape Vincent native who knew exactly what could happen planning a wedding late in the fall. “People thought we were crazy planning a wedding in only six months, but I didn’t want to wait any longer and I’m happy we did it so quickly.”

     The couple first met at Ives Hill Country Club, very briefly, in 2014. Mrs. Netto was talking with Michael’s parents and soon realized that the two had mutual friends.

     “I thought it was weird we had never met before,” Mrs. Netto recalled. “He found me on Facebook, and we went to Goodfello’s on our first date, and the rest is history.”

     After beginning their relationship in June 2014, Michael proposed in April of 2016 and soon after the couple was married in October- a quick engagement but a wedding they will never forget.

     Both Elizabeth and Michael come from large families, Elizabeth’s from Cape Vincent and Michael’s from Watertown. The couple knew they wanted to have an outdoor wedding, specifically at Lucky Star Ranch which was the only venue they visited.

     “The Wiley’s and Netto’s were wonderful to work with right from the very start, not just Mike and Elizabeth, but both extended families,” said Jenna Kraeger, events and marketing coordinator at Lucky Star Ranch. “We knew from the very beginning that October 22 was late in the season for an outdoor wedding. Mike and Elizabeth were optimistic from the get-go that no matter what the weather, they were going to have a great day.” 

     Leading up to the wedding both families prepared DIY decorations, food stations and goodies for their guests. From the Thursday prior to the wedding to the day of the event, the families decorated in their rain boots not forgetting a single detail from the birch trees that dressed the tent poles to the hot chocolate bar and endless dessert table.

     “It takes a very special bride to be able to dance in their rain boots with a tied up, mud-lined wedding dress in nearly freezing temperatures,” Ms. Kraeger said.

     And that’s exactly what the bride and the guests did. The weather that day was a chilly 42 degrees with northwest winds at approximately 15 mph and it was raining. The wedding party, which stayed at Lucky Star Ranch the night prior, began to get ready at the on-site cabins and remained in high spirits, as northern New Yorkers tend to do knowing that Mother Nature is always unpredictable.

     It poured Thursday and into Friday, but Lucky Star Ranch had prepared the tent ensuring the tables and arrangements would remain dry. Mrs. Netto began to get nervous about the conditions early in the day, but according to Mr. Netto kept a positive attitude the entire time, realizing that there was nothing that could be done about it and that they were going to enjoy their special day no matter what the conditions.

     “We weren’t fazed,” he said. “And Elizabeth didn’t complain once. Weather didn’t play a factor in it for us, it was going to be a great day.”

    The rain caused the entrance of the tent to be muddy but still nothing the wedding party couldn’t handle. “Luckily, the guys put their heads together and built a bridge type entrance to the dance floor and everything worked out,” Mrs. Netto said.

     The couple placed calls to their guests prior to the ceremony encouraging them to not wear their best dress shoes, but instead to bring their rain boots and warm jackets.



     The Netto-Wiley wedding was nothing short of a spectacularly planned country wedding, with attention to details from the custom laser cut wooden coasters featuring the date and families’ names, to the embroidered blankets and gloves that would ensure the comfort of their guests.

     “It all came together better than I had expected. Things were last minute, as they would be planning a wedding in six months, and we turned to Pinterest. We called family members for tree branches and all the little signs throughout the grounds were done by a local friend,” Mrs. Netto said.

     Another thoughtfully planned custom addition to the weddings décor was a hot chocolate bar, ensuring guests were warm and toasty throughout the day. The bride’s mother came up with the idea, gathering supplies and the grandmother’s old cabinet to use as the table for the hot chocolate bar.

     “My mom was all about the hot chocolate bar,” Mrs. Netto said. “I wasn’t convinced, saying it was a wedding and that it wouldn’t fit, but with the weather being cold and rainy it was one of the biggest hits among guests.”

     The grandmother’s cabinet added yet another personal touch to the wedding and lent perfectly to the set up by allowing space for the custom embroidered blankets for their guests.

     While much of the wedding was DIY, Mrs. Netto said it was the thoughtfulness of Lucky Star Ranch’s staff that eased their minds leading up to the event.

     “We offer on-site accommodations for the weekend of the wedding,” said Ms. Kraeger. “We have two lodges overlooking our private lake that are great to accommodate the wedding party or guests of the bride and groom’s choice. The Boar’s Head Lodge is complete with three bedrooms and accompanying bathrooms. We also have a room in the main Lodge to host smaller gatherings including the rehearsal dinner.”

     With the cold weather nipping outside the tent Lucky Star Ranch worked diligently to keep guests not only cozy during their stay at the lodge, but also provided outdoor heaters, maintained the fire place throughout the evening and kept the hot water filled for the hot chocolate bar.

     “Unfortunately weather is one thing we cannot control,” Ms. Kraeger said. “all you can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst, which is exactly what we did.”


     It’s no secret that while you’re planning a wedding the photography is a major component to long-lasting memories and moments shared by guests and family members, captured and kept by the bride and groom to treasure their big day.

     Many people, when they first start planning their wedding, research pricing and packages, but for Mr. and Mrs. Netto they knew who they had in mind from the start, Mary Madison Studios from Cape Vincent.

     The local photography pair knew the Wiley family which added a level of calm to the couple. David Bonnie and Kathleen Trottier are experienced photographers and knew that the weather may play a  big factor in the photography that day.

     “It was fun for this one. It wasn’t the nicest day, it was rainy so we did a lot of prep work for this one,” Ms. Trottier said. “We prefer a much more candid approach, we don’t do a lot of planning – we usually show up shoot and capture the event as it’s happening.”

     So the photographers turned to Pintrest according to Ms. Trottier. They looked up their favorite photographers and made plans to brave the elements and how to use Mother Nature’s uncertainty to their advantage.

     “The willingness of our clients to get outside and brave the elements was astonishing, really,” Mr. Bonnie said. “A lot of times people will shun away from adverse weather like that, but the foliage blowing at the same time as the rain was a contrast to what we usually do. You wish for great weather but this was a bit different.” 

     As the bridesmaids began to get ready Ms. Trottier focused on shooting the intimate moments shared by the women as they prepared Mrs. Netto for her walk down the aisle and Mr. Bonnie focused on the men.

     As the ceremony reached its conclusion it was time for family photos, and with two large families there was one specific shot that Mrs. Netto wanted to make sure they got, her grandparents at the family farm house in Cape Vincent.

     “We talked with the photographers and decided that no matter what the weather we wanted to be at the family farm and I am so happy we did. It was cold, it was rainy but we went up there and the photos came out perfect,” Mrs. Netto said. “Having my grandparents be able to be in the photos was very special to me.”

     And it is those photos that distinctly showcased the couples day, embracing the unpredictable autumn weather and beaming with love through the entire event. The images captured Mrs. Netto’s mud covered dress, while the women were in rain boots and winter coats.

     Mr. and Mrs. Netto’s day could have been ruined by the unforeseen weather conditions, they could have spent the day under the tent staying warm, but instead as any Northern New York native couple would, they seized the day and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

     “Keep an open mind,” Mrs. Netto said. “If rain is going to ruin your day don’t plan an outdoor wedding because chances are it will rain.”

Holiday fashion across the decades

Decmeber 1945

Decmeber 1945

Northern New York women dressing for the holidays in the 1940s focused heavily on accessories. At the annual Christmas Teas held by the College Women’s Club of Jefferson County, the women in these photos showed off popular fashion trends of the decade. These women finished off their looks with festive hats, broaches, and belts to celebrate the season.

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A season of caring: Opportunities to help others abound during holidays

Garrett Bush, Adams, selects a stuffed animal to be packed in a gift box for Operation Christmas Child in Pierrepont Manor. Volunteers at the church last month prepares more than 1,600 gift boxes for the program.

Garrett Bush, Adams, selects a stuffed animal to be packed in a gift box for Operation Christmas Child in Pierrepont Manor. Volunteers at the church last month prepares more than 1,600 gift boxes for the program.

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Garry T. McGivney remembered as humble, giving millionaire

Multimillionaire philanthropist Garry T. McGivney, pictured in the lounge of the Watertown American Legion in 2006, died Sunday at 75. WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES FILE PHOTO

Multimillionaire philanthropist Garry T. McGivney, pictured in the lounge of the Watertown American Legion in 2006, died Sunday at 75. WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES FILE PHOTO

Garry T. McGivney is being remembered as a humble, giving millionaire.

The $20.2 million lump-sum Lotto payment he won in 2005 didn’t change the person he was, according to the Rev. Steven M. Murray, priest at Holy Family Church. In fact, it was a catalyst for teaching others to give when they can, when others are in need.

“Before he even won the lottery, he was a very generous man,” Father Murray said. “He also was generous after that. He was a very quiet man and didn’t want a lot of notoriety. He hoped his generosity would spur others to be generous and to realize money is not the end-all and be-all.”

Mr. McGivney, 75, died Sunday. Father Murray said if there is one message Mr. McGivney could have spread, it would have been to give to others when you have the means. [Read more…]

Gabriel the service dog fighting to get back home to his disabled veteran owner

Jake Murphy says Gabriel is ‘a great friend.’ ANDREW CUNNINGHAM • TUFTS UNIVERSITY

Jake Murphy says Gabriel is ‘a great friend.’ ANDREW CUNNINGHAM • TUFTS UNIVERSITY

Gabriel the German shepherd has a fighting spirit just like that of the soldiers he was born to serve.

His kidneys are diseased, threatening his life. But it was his heart that captivated the staff of North Country Animal Health Center, 16760 state Route 3, Watertown, when he was brought in by his concerned out-of-state owners in May.

Now, Gabriel is battling to recover at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Boston. A drive has been started to fund his expensive kidney treatment so he can return to his master in Texas, retired Army 1st Lt. Jake Murphy, a former Fort Drum soldier who lost his legs while fighting for his country in Afghanistan.

“Everybody at our clinic has been touched to see these two come in and to know how much they’ve gone through and what this dog really means,” said Dr. Shannon M. Vicario at the Animal Health Center. “It’s been very difficult.”

“The unconditional love of a dog is incredible,” said Lisa M. (Morgan) Murphy, Jake’s wife and a 2004 graduate of Sackets Harbor Central School. “They bonded really quickly.”

Gabriel was born three years ago at 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit organization in Ohio whose mission is to place service dogs with veterans who have lost use of their limbs or hearing and with disabled children.

Gabriel was in training to be placed with another Fort Drum soldier, Sgt. Derek T. McConnell of New Jersey. He died on March 18, 2013, at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., 20 months after suffering injuries in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device that threw him onto a second IED.

Karen A. Shirk, 4 Paws founder, then began looking for another soldier for Gabriel to serve. Mrs. Murphy heard about 4 Paws through the Maryland-based Yellow Ribbon Fund, dedicated to helping injured soldiers with the recovery process, and contacted Ms. Shirk.

When Ms. Shirk talked to Lt. Murphy, she discovered that he and Sgt. McConnell had served in the same unit and were injured on the same July day in 2011, but at different times. Sgt. McConnell was injured only hours after assisting with Lt. Murphy’s medical evacuation. Lt. Murphy also was a victim of an IED.

The pair had done physical therapy together at Walter Reed. Gabriel, coincidentally, had become a special bond.

Mr. Murphy, a native of Wellesley, Mass., left the service several months after being wounded and moved to Flower Mound, Texas, with his wife after accepting a job at Verizon in Houston. He received Gabriel about a year ago. He said the dog has helped him physically and emotionally.

“He’s a great animal, has a great personality and is a great friend,” he said. “He was always willing to help me out whenever I needed it.”

It’s a relationship that hasn’t been the same since Mr. and Mrs. Murphy took a vacation in May to visit his family in Massachusetts and her family in Sackets Harbor.

the diagnosis

While the couple was in Massachusetts and preparing to drive to New York state, they noticed that Gabriel didn’t seem to be feeling right.

“He started throwing up and wasn’t eating much,” Mrs. Murphy said.

They took him to a clinic in Massachusetts, near Mr. Murphy’s hometown, where tests were done. One was for leptospirosis, an infection caused by the leptospira bacteria, which Gabriel had been vaccinated against.

After the tests, the Murphys, with Gabriel, drove to Sackets Harbor to visit Lisa’s mom, Donna Finch. They had made an appointment at North Country Animal Health Center.

The center’s staff knew Gabriel. He had come in during the summer of 2013 in high spirits for a routine checkup. Everything checked out fine then.

“Gabriel is a very nice shepherd,” Dr. Vicario said.

But when he arrived at the center on May 14, it was a different situation. He was a patient at the center for five days, during which the positive test results came back. Gabriel had leptospirosis. The bacteria was attacking his kidneys and shutting them down.

“His values were slowly getting worse,” said Dr. Vicario. “Nothing was getting better.”

Despite his sickness, Gabriel showed strength and loyalty to his owners and the center’s staff, Dr. Vicario said.

“He was very interested in going for walks, and wanting to play with his tennis ball,” she said.

But as Gabriel’s kidney function declined further, there was nothing more they could do.

“We all still get a little teary-eyed thinking about it,” Dr. Vicario said. “I had a hard time. I was relieved when they decided to go to Tufts. If I would have been faced with euthanizing that dog myself, that would have been very difficult to do.”

The Murphys informed Ms. Shirk about Gabriel’s condition. She said Gabriel’s leptospirosis was a form not covered by his vaccination for the bacteria, which is a common situation. The vaccine does not cover all strains of the disease.

Dr. Vicario said the disease is carried by a bacteria carried by wild animals like deer, raccoons and rats.

“They spread it in their urine that can end up in the water,” Dr. Vicario said. “So, if your dog swims in the lake or drinks out of any puddles, streams or whatever, they can be exposed to this bacteria.”

Ms. Shirk said she and the Murphys did some research and found that Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University has a high success rate in treating Gabriel’s type of leptospirosis, which typically is fatal.

The treatment at Tufts involves kidney hemodialysis, in which a machine takes over the function of the kidneys and cleans the animal’s blood by circulating it through the machine.

“Unfortunately, it’s extremely expensive,” Ms. Shirk said. “I told Lisa, ‘Don’t worry about the funds. We’ll find the money. Take him to the best hospital. Give him a chance. If you don’t, he’s going to die.”

When Gabriel arrived at Tufts on May 19, his creatine (a chemical waste molecule) level was 17. The level for a healthy dog is 1.

The cost of hemodialysis is $1,500 a day. To cover it, Ms. Shirk and 4 Paws for Ability launched a “Help Save Gabriel” campaign on crowd-funding site Razoo. On May 19, the day the drive began, $20,000 was raised before midnight. As of Wednesday, $31,700 had been raised toward the goal of $45,000.

After Gabriel was admitted to Tufts, the Murphys stayed in Wellesley, about 50 miles away. They visited Gabriel daily. Mr. Murphy was able to stay for 3½ weeks, while Mrs. Murphy stayed for just over a month.

“For both of us, it was very difficult to leave and come back to a house without Gabriel,” said Mrs. Murphy, who is pregnant with a baby boy, who is scheduled to join the household in late summer.

Gabriel’s condition has improved from his dire original prognosis.

“Right when we were talking about having to make some hard decisions, all of a sudden, he started eating and his demeanor changed,” Ms. Shirk said.

She said that leptospirosis damages kidneys, but they could still potentially function with some damage.

“With leptospirosis, the kidneys go into failure, but they are not necessarily permanently damaged,” Ms. Shirk said. “So if you can take over with dialysis, and give the body time to heal, the kidney can often rebound.”

“An antibiotic will kill the bacteria, but the question is: Can you reverse the damage that’s been done to the kidney?” Dr. Vicario said. “That’s still sort of unknown.”

“Gabriel is fighting like there’s no tomorrow,” Ms. Shirk said. “And at this point, we’re not ready to stop. We are continuing to raise funds for treatment until we know that he’s better and can go back to Texas, or he’s not going to be able to ever come off of dialysis. That’s where we are right now. All we know is that Gabriel has turned a corner and Gabriel is fighting.”

A trip and hope

A little over a week ago, Gabriel was taken off dialysis for a few days. With his creatine level around 2.5, he spent some overnights at Mr. Murphy’s parents’ house in Wellesley.

“He’s eating, which is good,” Mrs. Murphy said. “But his kidneys are not where they need to be.”

She said the trips to Mr. Murphy’s parents’ home last week were an exercise in how Gabriel would do as an outpatient.

“Our goal, if all goes well, is to try to get him back to Texas next week and continue outpatient care here,” Mrs. Murphy said Wednesday. “Once he gets back here, we’re going to try to maintain his fluids with injections a couple times a day and see how he does with that.”

She holds out hope Gabriel’s kidneys will be able to work enough for him to survive on his own.

“At this point, we’re not really sure what his future looks like, but we want to give him as long and as good of a life as possible,” Mrs. Murphy said.

Gabriel is special to her because of the difference she has seen him make in her husband’s life.

“When we got Gabriel, it was such a crucial time of transitioning out of the military,” she said. “Jake was saying goodbye to a chapter of his life that he didn’t really say goodbye to on his own terms. He could have stayed in.”

But Mrs. Murphy said she and her husband decided it was time to move on to the civilian world.

“I think Gabriel helped him with that transition,” she said. “It gave him a focus, and just to have emotional support. … I don’t know for sure what it would have been like without Gabriel, but I think it made that transition a positive one.”

Ms. Shirk, who last year was named a CNN Hero for her work, said she has seen her share of heartbreak and diseases related to dogs. But she said it will be especially heartbreaking for her if Gabriel doesn’t pull through and go home to Texas.

“Normally, I can say, ‘Well, OK — You know, things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ But in this case, it’s just not right,” she said, her voice breaking. “I just can’t wrap my head around it. This man already lost so much … I caught that dog when he was born. I handed him to that man, and to have Gabriel only work for him for a year … it’s just not right.”

Mrs. Murphy said she and her husband will know better after this weekend about Gabriel’s future. If things look good, the plan is for her husband to fly to Massachusetts and fly back home to Texas with Gabriel. On Wednesday, she said Gabriel would have at least one more dialysis treatment at Tufts.

Gabriel appears on the right track to get him and his fighting spirit back to Texas. But sometimes, a good fight isn’t good enough. Hopeful plans can crumble. Mr. Murphy was asked about the possibility of a future without Gabriel.

“I’m optimistic it will all work out, but at the same time, I’ll accept that it may not,” he said.

He realizes that sometimes, sadly, not all can make it home.

“Just like in war,” he said.


How to help Gabriel:

An online fund drive has been created by 4 Paws for Ability to assist in Gabriel’s treatment at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. The drive is through Razoo, a crowd-funding website for nonprofits.

TO DONATE: Visit or mail donations for Gabriel’s treatment to 4 Paws for Ability, 253 Dayton Ave., Xenia, OH 45385


By Chris Brock, Times Staff Writer