The Westhampton Beach School District honored three of its most distinguished alumni on Friday by inducting them into its Wall of Fame.
Sister Judith Zoebelein, a researcher and digital producer for the Vatican, Edwin Cartoski, a former Marine pilot, and the late Robert Resling, a former Air Force pilot, are now among the two dozen individuals—a list that includes authors, musicians, professional athletes, a legal scholar, government employees and distinguished doctors—who have received the same honor.
Schools Superintendent Michael Radday congratulated the inductees for their achievements during the Friday’s ceremony, held in the auditorium of the high school. Individual plaques featuring photos and brief biographies of the inductees were unveiled at the high school the same day.
“Induction to the Wall of Fame is indeed the highest honor that the Westhampton Beach School District can bestow,” he said. “And these three inductees have truly earned this recognition.
“They have achieved greatness in their chosen fields, and should be seen as role models by all of us here today,” he continued.
Robert Resling, who lived in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife, Karen, was a 1963 graduate and dedicated his entire career to aviation, according to classmate Jim Markowsky, a former primary policy advisor to the U.S. Energy Secretary who was previously inducted into the Wall of Fame. Mr. Resling died of a heart attack in 2010 at age 65.
He entered the Air Force Academy after high school and flew C-130s throughout his active duty career. During the Vietnam War, Mr. Resling carried out tactical airlift and combat support missions in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, rescuing downed American pilots and breaking up enemy supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh trail.
He received numerous awards in his lifetime, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, four Air Medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with seven Battle Stars, and the President Unit Citation.
Mr. Resling also served as the Board of Directors of the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, the board of the Lafayette Foundation, president of the Lao-Hmong Memorial Foundation Board, and was inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame. He retired from the Air Force in 1995 as a lieutenant colonel, and served as vice president of operations for Asia Pacific Airlines.
Mr. Markowsky remembered his classmate as an outgoing student and a good friend. John Bandrowski, also a 1963 graduate who spoke on Mr. Resling’s behalf during Friday’s ceremony, described Mr. Resling as a wonderful guy, with a talent for pen and ink drawings.
Sister Judith Zoebelein, who graduated from Westhampton Beach in 1967, went on to serve in the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching English in Thailand and later Iran. She also taught English as a Second Language to high school students in the United States before entering the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Connecticut in 1979. She worked as an administrative assistant in Jerusalem for about 10 years.
More recently, she worked as a computer services coordinator for the Vatican, developing the first Vatican website and conducting research. She is fluent in Italian, and also speaks Spanish, French, Arabic, Thai and Farsi.
“It is a tremendous honor to receive this,” she said during the ceremony. “Also, to be acknowledged by your hometown carries a double value, because these are the people who knew you when you were young, when you hadn’t become quite the person you were destined to be.”
Sister Zoebelein recalled growing up in the warm, close-knit Westhampton community. “It is here that our families helped us enter life with a support system of love; not perfect, not without a few scars here and there, but love that created a home that we could return to with the joy and pain of each day,” she said.
Joined on stage by classmate and friend Arlene Bingham, Sister Zoebelein said she wanted to give thanks for the gifts she received growing up in Westhampton—family, faith and community—and noted that she has spent her life trying to help others experience and be enriched by those gifts.
“The gift of family, faith and community, which Westhampton Beach still offers in its unique way in 2013, is a gift that never stops giving to each of us throughout out lives,” she said. “So, recognize the gift you have of being here, and living here and being part of each other’s lives.”
Edwin “Ed” Cartoski graduated from Westhampton Beach in 1942, a year early so he could enlist in the Marine Corps and join the war effort. The son of Polish immigrants, Mr. Cartoski went through extensive flight training at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant Marine pilot. He was on his way to China when World War II ended. He then attended the University of Alabama to study aeronautical engineering on the GI bill until the Korean War began. He was recalled to active duty and provided air support to combat troops during that conflict.
After the war, he became a flight instructor at the Pensacola Naval Air Station for about two years. In 1955, he left active duty and accepted a job with the Grumman Aerospace Corporation as a test pilot in order to be closer to his family, but remained in the Marine reserves. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1974 with the rank of colonel, and retired from Grumman in 1983.
His honors include the Distinguished Flying Cross with one Gold Star, the Air Medal with five Gold Stars, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Army Distinguished Citation, the Organized Marine Corps Reserve Medal, the Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal and the Victory Medal World War II, among other honors.
He and his wife, Althea, have five children and 10 grandchildren, and currently live in Riverhead. He is active in the Riverhead Polish Independent Club, the Riverhead Loyal Order of Moose, the Southampton Elks Club and Quogue Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5350.
Pete Cuthbert, a former Westhampton Beach teacher and a friend of Mr. Cartoski, described him as a leader.
“He is a very humble man,” he said. “He is a real human. A quiet human. He serves his community. He’s a family man. He serves God, and he is a wonderful human being.”
Mr. Cartoski, who turns 90 on October 18, recalled fond memories of growing up on Quiogue. “It was the best place in the world, believe me,” he said during a phone interview last week since he was still laid up in the hospital while recovering from hip surgery. “We didn’t realize how lucky we were.”
He explained that he became addicted to flying at a young age, and enjoyed the camaraderie of the Marine Corps. Still, he remains humble about his achievements.
‘I’m very, very honored,” he said, of his induction into the Wall of Fame, though he also lamented the fact that he could not attend the ceremony. “I wanted to be there in the worst way to see all these people who I haven’t seen in a long time,” Mr. Cartoski said.
Mr. Radday encouraged those high school students sitting in the audience to also aspire to achieve greatness in their careers, no matter what field they choose to pursue. “I look forward to the time that one of you will be sitting here as one of the inductees,” he said.