Smithtown Library officials renamed the playground at the Kings Park branch after Otis Thornhill, who died in December 2016. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

The work of a former Smithtown Library trustee will forever be remembered by the laughter of children playing.

The Smithtown Library rededicated the playground outside its Kings Park branch Oct. 7 to the late Otis Thornhill. A former library trustee he also served as president of The Friends of the Smithtown
Library for seven years.

“He saw the value of the library and the need for us to continue to improve the buildings; he worked tirelessly toward that end,” Anthony Monteleone, representing The Friends of the Smithtown Library, said. “Otis was a true person of the community. It’s people like him that make Smithtown what it is today.”

Thornhill and his family first moved to Commack in 2001. That same year the library playground was constructed as a joint effort between Kings Park Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Smithtown, according to chamber president Tony Tanzi, in an attempt to draw residents to spend more time in the downtown area and shops.

“Come down here any day in the summer and you’ll see just that,” Tanzi said. “Moms and dads, and their kids, sitting downtown in Kings Park. That’s what it is all about.”

Smithtown Library officials renamed the playground at the Kings Park branch after Otis Thornhill, who died in December 2016. Photo from Facebook

In 2011, Thornhill was encouraged to run for a library trustee seat by Monteleone. He served until his death in December 2016.

“As a library trustee, he offered his support and guidance to make sure the library served the reading and educational needs of this community,” Robert Lusak, library director, said. “If I could say it to him, I would say I sorely, sorely miss the safe advice and guidance he provided to me as the director of The Smithtown Library. I will miss him very much.”

Thornhill and his wife, Elaine, were familiar faces around the community as they often worked together to sell 50/50 raffle tickets to raise funds for The Friends of the Smithtown Library during the summer concerts.

In addition to his service to the library, Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) remembered Thornhill as a member of the Rotary Club of Smithtown Sunrise, which regularly meets at the Millennium Diner in Smithtown. Wehrheim said his fellow Rotarian focused his efforts on his community, improving education and veterans. Thornhill served in the U.S. military reserves.

“I know that Otis is here looking down on us, looking down at his playground and his sign, and seeing those three things — education, veterans representation and a wonderful playground for the community,” Wehrheim said.

Dawn Bent, owner of Signarama in Huntington Station, made a memorial sign declaring the playground as The Otis M. Thornhill Memorial Playground. The sign also bears the names of those individuals and business who gave donations to offset the sign’s cost.

Eric Thornhill, Otis’ son, spoke on behalf of the family who said they were deeply touched by the tribute.

“It was a comfort to [Otis] to have this connection to you as he was progressing through his life,” he said of his father. “It meant everything. It kept him strong to the very end, and that meant everything to him. We are so appreciative that you also thought something of him.”

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