A ceremony unveiling a memorial wall and bronze firefighter statue was held last Thursday at the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Central Boulevard in New Hyde Park, dedicated to the New Hyde Park Fire Department and 38 members for 50 years of service.
The event drew 20 of the 50-year members along with their friends and family as well as friends and relatives of the 17 deceased members. One member, Robert Carlin, attended the event virtually from Kentucky.
It was Carlin’s idea to hold this ceremony in a conversation with New Hyde Park Mayor Christopher Devane nearly 20 years ago.
Each firefighter stood up as their names were called out by Neil Brogan Jr., a member of the New Hyde Park Fire Department and the emcee for the evening, followed by a listing of their accomplishments. Family members of the late members stood up in their place.
The family of the late George Sakowich, a 58-year member, which counted four generations of firefighters, unveiled the statue while the 20 members exposed the memorial wall.
“Learn from these individuals, listen to their stories, celebrate their histories, and celebrate their lives, because that’s what this is about,” said Devane. “I honor you [the firefighters] tonight, the village honors you tonight, your names will go down tonight on these plaques, as an honor to all that you have done.”
Each of the members was also surprised with gifted street signs with their names.
The 38 members include Walter Kiesling Sr., Milton Baer, Stanley Moculeski, Lazlo Kun, Leon Korrell, Alfonso P. Rubano, Richard Nowak, George Sakowich, Frank Nowakowski, John Jaronczyk, John P. Melinski, Ralph Cappiello, Henry Kuczinski, John Fuerst, Thomas Gentile, Leon Lubowiecki, Robert Picciano Sr., Henry J. Harden, Patrick C. Murphy, Robert E. Carlin, Edgar J. Teepe III, Dennis J. Finnegan, Victor L. Sowinski Sr., Albert R. Neu, Michael J. Dolan, William B. Titterton, Michael B. Levy Sr., Fred Bencivenga, Edward F. Waldron, Ronald L. Sakowich, Robert A. Farina, John F. Tassiello, Vincent J. Kelly Jr., Harold W. Hugli, Joseph M. Choinski, John W. Pignetti, Paul Gerner, and Roger W. Sakowich.
“The ceremony was extremely nice,” said John Pignetti, one of the 50-year members honored at the ceremony. “Mayor Devane did an excellent job in putting it together. He included everybody that was there and had something to say about everyone. Nobody was left out or given more time than the other. He really surprised everyone with having the streets named after them. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Official remarks were given by Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, Town of Hempstead Councilman Thomas Muscarella, Nassau County Fire Commissioner Frank Wakely, Nassau County Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, New Hyde Park Fire Department Chief Robert Gallagher, Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Reid Sakowich, and New Hyde Park Mayor Christopher Devane. The memorial blessing was given by Chaplain Joshua Jong.
“It was beautiful,” said Joseph Choinski, another one of the 50-year members. “I don’t think it could’ve been any nicer. Everyone did a great job.”
Officials in attendance at the unveiling ceremony included Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, Town of North Hempstead Councilman Dennis Walsh, Town of North Hempstead Councilman Thomas Muscarella, Nassau County Comptroller Elaine Phillips, Nassau County Fire Commissioner Frank Wakely Jr., Nassau County Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello, Floral Park Trustee Mike Longobardi, Floral Park Trustee Jennifer Stewart, Nassau County Inspector Mark Vitelli, New Hyde Park Fire Department Chief Robert Gallagher, Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Reid Sakowich, New Hyde Park Deputy Mayor Madhvi Nijjar, New Hyde Park Trustee Arthur Savarese, New Hyde Park Trustee Donna Squicciarino, and New Hyde Park Mayor Christopher Devane.