By Kate Berube
Long before she’d become BBP’s beloved Nana, Connie Haab was born Constance Laidlaw in the Fall of 1932 where she lived on the corner of South Snedecor and Middle Rd. Connie’s grandfather had settled in Bayport in 1905, bringing his young son George who would become the first of many in their family to grow up on the Great South Bay’s sandy shores. George Laidlaw, with his wife Elsie, went on to run a Fish Market in Bayport before owning Laidlaw Tavern, located on the same, though vastly changed, Montauk Highway––the same Highway their only daughter will march down later this month as the Grand Marshal of the 2023 Bayport-Blue Point St. Patrick’s Day parade. With the exception of a year hiatus to Florida as a child, Connie Laidlaw Haab has lived her entire life here, where her active commitment to Bayport-Blue Point has continued to enrich her hometown for over 70 years.
Connie is a living legend in these parts, whose name is almost synonymous with fire services, and for good reason! She served a record 50 years as Secretary of the Bayport Fire District, the municipality that handles emergency communications and vehicle maintenance for both the Bayport and Blue Point Fire Departments and Community Ambulance Company, while simultaneously serving 10 of those years as a Fire Commissioner. She is the first, and only, female fire commissioner in the district's 97-year history. Before and during that time, Connie also held every elected position available within the Bayport Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary, some more than once. It’s a civic tradition she was raised in and has since passed on. Her father was an active member of the Bayport Fire Department for 40 years before his death in 1961, and while acting as Fire Commissioner, Connie had the unique honor of swearing in her own grandson, Ryan Tomassone, as the new Department Chief.
Outside of emergency services, Connie has led numerous community organizations, including the BBP Little League, where she served as vice president, and the Bayport-Blue Point Booster Club. “I consider Connie to have been the penultimate Soccer Mom for all of our community’s children long before such a term even existed,” said former Bayport-Blue Point School Board President Jim March. “She rooted for every participant as if they were her own child.” Together they joined forces to improve the youth little league for everyone. “I’m proud to say that we drafted many policies together that benefited the ball players and assured fair play, and watched the enrollment dramatically increase because of it.” March would later enlist Connie’s help to revive the Booster Club, where again they worked to secure the funds for additional athletic supplies for sports across the district.
When the athletic department was looking to form a committee tasked with choosing the newly formed Phantom Hall of Fame’s first nominees, they knew just who to turn to. “They only asked because I’m the only person still around who remembers when the Phantoms became the Phantoms,” Connie jokes. But the fact of the matter is, irrespective of age, few others wield the kind of generational reach Connie has cultivated first as a Phantom herself, and then through her children, her grandchildren, and now her great-grandchildren and all their friends and teammates. That’s because with each new addition to her family, she’s stepped wholeheartedly back into the fray, a constant force behind the scenes of nearly every part of life in our hamlet.
It’s that consistent support that has won her the love and admiration of countless BBP kids who affectionately refer to her as Nana. “Nana has fed every kid south of Montauk Highway in BBP for the better part of a century and then driven them all home,” laughed Blue Point’s Nora Garvey.
“How many people get to say their grandmother currently has more friends than them or is up for more awards?” added Connie’s actual granddaughter Lisa Davis, whose own daughter started school in Bayport this fall. “She’s so inspirational.”
Connie is a founding member of the local Bayport-Blue Point Heritage Association as well as the Bayport Memorial Park Association, made up of a small group of her classmates that came together in the years immediately following World War II to acknowledge and honor the sacrifice of those servicemen who left Bayport to never return home. The Association dedicated the small park with the gazebo located on Middle Road, maintaining the property and caring for the monument.
“Connie leads by example,” said Bayport Civic President Bob Draffin, who grew up in Bayport with Connie’s son and witnessed her impact on the town throughout his life. Each year Draffin acts as Master of Ceremony for the Memorial Day Remembrance which takes place in Bayport Memorial Park and each year Connie carries the Ladies Auxiliary wreath to be placed by the Memorial she helped build. “She really taught us what it meant to build your community up just by being a conscientious friend and neighbor.''
Hand in hand with lifelong friend and fellow Grand Marshal Flo Ollson, she chaired the BBP Alumni Luncheon, fostering those very connections for years. “I want to be Connie when I grow up,” said Parade Director Lenore Ringer Prezioso, who forever references Flo and Connie's innate ability to make any task look fun as a life goal. “Look what she’s accomplished here. She’s tireless!”
Speaking of tireless…Did I mention that Connie managed to accomplish everything listed above, and all the things I was forced to leave out for the sake of space, while working full time in the Islip Town Parks Department for 32 years, and simultaneously caring for her own two children, six grandchildren, and sixteen great-grandchildren? When asked, Connie chalks her gumption up to being indicative of the generation in which she came of age, where you were raised to make the most out of what you had. She does what needs to be done, time and again, because it’s the right thing to do for everyone. And in that process, she’s made great friends with whom she’s built a good life.
Reflecting on the advances that have occurred since her childhood, like town-wide mail delivery instead of having to trek to the post office, life in Bayport doesn’t seem to have gotten easier for kids today. “We live busier, not better lives,” she recently told me.
So what’s Connie’s advice to future generations of Phantoms, gleaned through nearly 100 years of locally lived experience? “Run through the woods up near Camp Eddy. Go fishing. Play cards with your neighbors. Bike through the streets. We spent long summer days on the beach right here barbecuing and sharing with friends. Slow down. Everything you need is already right here.”
Congratulations Connie! We can't wait to watch you lead the way on March 12!