Kathleen (Kay) Corso.
Pines pioneer Kathleen (Kay) Corso was a long-time leader of FIPPOA, is believed to have been one of the last survivor of the original homeowners in the Pines. She and her husband Charles constructed the eighth house in the Pines in 1953. They raised their four children in that house on Beach Hill Walk, eventually sharing it with nine grandchildren.
Kay loved the Pines and gave back to the community through her many volunteer efforts. In the early, pre-national seashore days, she ran fundraisers in the battle against Robert Moses’ attempt to build a highway on Fire Island.
In the mid-1980s she became involved in the early fundraising activities for AIDS research. Kay was a member of the Fire Island Pines Fire Department in its early years.
For close to two decades she was a member of the FIPPOA Board of Directors and served as our association’s Secretary for a period. She was instrumental in bringing Catholic Mass to the community house and played a role in the first renovation of the Lone Hill Coast Guard Station into the Pines Community Center in the late 1970s.
Perhaps Kay’s most lasting impact on our community was during the long period when she served as Co-Chairman of FIPPOA’s Special Events Committee along with Laura Eastman. Together they tapped into the artistic talent in the Pines and brought entertainment to the community house, along with activities ranging from cakewalks to art shows. A theatrical production of “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown” with Pines residents in 1980 led to “Anything Goes” a year later. Those shows spawned the eventual series of original “Pines Needles” musicals written by David Baker in the 1980s, featuring community residents in songs about the Pines.
These FIPPOA activities led to the creation of the Fire Island Pines Arts Project (FIPAP) .Kay and Charles were delighted to be featured in the film “Where Ocean
Meets Sky” where their unique perspective on Pines history was preserved.
The Fire Island Pines has certainly changed since Charles and Kay Corso first came to the East End hamlet in 1956. The ferry from Sayville cost $1.38, a then 15-year-old Jane Fonda taught dance classes and their home was the eighth dwelling the Home Guardian Company built on the isolated stretch of beach. Kay was quick to note others soon discovered the new hamlet’s many attractions. “Gay people were very bright,” she said. “All of a sudden they developed aunties. The aunties came out. The aunties bought houses. The aunties rented the houses. The aunties went home. The gay people came out.”
Kay Corso related this story as she and her husband accepted the Doris Taussig Award, named in honor of the former Pines real estate agent who cared for people with AIDS at her beachside home during the height of the epidemic in the 1980s, at the 16th annual SAGE [Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders] ceremony and fundraiser at Whyte Hall. A number of Corso children and grandchildren, many of whom have also summered on the beach, joined their parents and grandparents on stage.