A long-time resident of Babylon Village has stepped up with a sizable donation to help put the Argyle Falls renovation on the right track.
When Theresa Santmann drives down Main Street, Argyle Falls sticks out like a sore thumb. Instead of the beautiful landmark it should be, Santmann sees a historic part of the village in disrepair.
“It’s been bothering me for a lot of years,” she said. “Every time I drove down Main Street I had to look at that mess of broken tile.”
Like most, she had heard about the renovation plans but she felt something more needed to be done so she approached village officials. The result was a $200,000 donation towards the restoration of Argyle Falls.
Santmann, it seems, is not the type of person to wait around for others to do something. She tends to take matters in her own hands and effect change.
She moved to Babylon Village almost 40 years ago coming from the small upstate town of Ellenburg Center, about 10 miles from the Canadian border. She made her way to Long Island via New Jersey.
“Anytime a woman makes a move that long in miles, there’s going to be a man involved,” Santmann joked.
After settling in Babylon Village, she began carving out a business for herself and breaking barriers at the same time.
When her husband was diagnosed with ALS— a fatal neurological disease with no treatment and no cure, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease— she needed to find a way to care for him and make a living at the same time. She found a property in Babylon Village and turned it into the Little Flower Adult Residence. He husband was her first patient.
Then Santmann opened Little Flower nursing home in East Islip and became the first woman in the state of New York to get an FHA mortgage to build a nursing home with her own name on it. She also opened a second nursing home in Sayville called Petit Fleur.
She has since sold all of her businesses.
“I happen to be fortunate in different parts of my life,” Santmann said, although one gets the impression that hard work and an old-fashioned can-do attitude is also at play in her success.
So when Santmann sees something that bothers her, it’s no wonder she is going to do something about it. Like she did with Argyle Falls.
“I met with the village authorities and talked about doing something,” she said.
Her donation was partly fueled by her love of her hometown and nostalgia for the waterways around her youthful home in upstate New York.
“I think Babylon Village is a lovely spot,” she said. “I had to do something to make the village more attractive.”
Mayor Ralph Scordino said that the donation from Santmann is a great starting point to get the project underway.
“I think it’s going to jumpstart other organizations contributing to the restoration,” he said.
In a Facebook post on its official page, the village thanked Santmann for the generous donation and promised to keep residents informed on the progress of the renovation. The post has since received over 1,200 likes and comments and was shared more than 100 times. Most commentators were enthusiastic in their own personal gratitude to Santmann.
Santmann said that the fact the waterways leading to and from the falls pass through multiple municipalities might cause red tape to slow getting the work done, especially the permits needed to do any construction at the site.
“I think that’s the thing that would be the most problematic with moving it along,” she said. “I’m just anxious to get it done.”
She believes that with enough goodwill and hard work the falls will be restored to their former glory. She said that she was also inspired by her fellow villagers to donate the funds.
“It doesn’t matter where you are,” she said. “What you give out is what you get back.”
Top: Babylon Village Mayor Ralph Scordino with Theresa Santmann at Argyle Falls. (Credit: Angela Sasso)