By Victoria Espinoza
Commack volunteer firefighter Charles A. Oddo was memorialized last month after a park in East Northport was named after him.
The late East Northport native and New York City police officer was killed in the line of duty in February 1996, after being fatally struck by a car while placing flares around an overturned gas truck on the Gowanus Expressway. He was 33.
More than 250 people — family, friends, neighbors and former colleagues in the police force and fire department — attended the ceremony, which included a color guard from the New York City Police Department and the Commack Fire Department, and an emotional address from Oddo’s sister, Maria Oddo Forger.
“Today, we gather together once more in the town he and I grew up in, in our neighborhood park, and celebrate his memory, his fervent heart and selfless love which sent itself out daily in helping others, never blowing a trumpet before him and never seeing his actions as being noble, no, just necessary to ensure a better outcome for someone in need,” Forger said at the park. “Today, you show us by your loyalty to him and his memory that you are indeed, family.”
Oddo grew up walking distance from Verleye Park and played there as a child. He graduated from John Glenn High School in 1981. In 1982, he joined the Commack Fire Department, where he served as a volunteer firefighter, paramedic and mechanic.
“Standing here brings back happy memories for me of a carefree time when life was simple, innocent, fun, filled with love and laughter under the protection of my brother,” Forger said.
The Commack firefighter joined the New York City Police Department in 1990. Five years later, he was transferred to Brooklyn’s Highway Unit #2, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a Suffolk County Police Department Highway Patrol sergeant.
Members of the Huntington Town Board and leaders from first responder agencies were also in attendance for the official rename of Verleye Park to the “Charles A. Oddo Verleye Park.”
Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said that park renaming is not very common in Huntington, so this was a special case.
“Charles was an inspirational person, as a family member and as a person everyone liked,” Petrone said. And when he was lost, people came by. They came in droves because people recognized who he really was and today, we want to put that memory here, in his home town, and make sure it is everlasting.”
Councilman Gene Cook (R) said recent events like the mass shooting in Orlando “are a sobering reminder of the courageous, selfless contributions that police officers, firefighters and first responders make every single day across the country.” Cook sponsored the resolution to rename the park that was unanimously passed by the town board in May.
The Commack Fire Department had asked Cook about creating a memorial. After a discussion with Petrone, it was decided that renaming the park would be most appropriate.
Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) said how this park will ensure Oddo’s legacy will never fade.
“For generations to come, children are going to come here and ask, ‘Who was Charles, what did he do, why is the park named for him?’” she said. “What they will hear is the story of a selfless man, who gave of himself to the fire department, to the police department, who helped his community. The best legacy he could leave would be to encourage youngsters to pursue the same goals.”