Chris Pendergast, a Miller Place resident and founder of ALS Ride for Life, died Oct. 14. He survived 28 years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis when most only live for five. In that time, he created an organization that has raised millions for ALS research and awareness.
He was renowned in the community for his annual rides, originally from Yankee Stadium to Washington D.C. and later from Riverhead to the Bronx to help fundraise for his organization.
When Pendergast’s funeral Mass ended around 11:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19, police escorted a line of Pendergast’s loved ones and his casket down Route 25A to Washington Memorial Park Cemetery in Mount Sinai, something friends and family designated “his last ride.”
People who had been touched by the late ALS activist lined the street cheering him on and saying their last goodbye.
Some people knew Pendergast for decades, some knew him for only a year. But nonetheless, even in a short amount of time he made his mark. Several lined up on Route 25A in Miller Place to pay their respects.
“He’d be touched to see everyone here,” Miller Place local Patricia Poggio said. “He was also humble, but he would be really touched.”
Nancy Murray, another Miller Place resident, agreed, saying Pendergast was “a warrior” for ALS and for her friend who was also diagnosed with the disease.
“What a wonderful man,” Murray said. “What an amazing, wonderful man.”
Jack Soldano, a 16-year-old Miller Place student, said he met Pendergast in one of the Ride for Life founder’s visits to his school. Soldano had created a fundraiser, Comics for a Cause, in 2017 to help support ALS Ride for Life after being moved by Pendergast’s story. His fundraiser also supported the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.
“I’ve had my nose in a comic book since I was little,” he said. “So I know a superhero when I see one.”
Kathy Sweeney, who knew Pendergast through St. Louis De Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach, agreed that he made his mark.
“He encouraged people all over the world,” she said. “God left him on this Earth for all these years to help people. He was such a role model.”