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Sound Beach Fire Department

Above, Sound Beach Fire Department Chief William Rosasco, left, and 2nd Assistant Chief James McLoughlin Jr. present a memorial wreath. Photo by Raymond Janis

Community members, first responders and veterans groups gathered on Memorial Day, May 29, with services paying tribute to the fallen.

The Sound Beach Fire Department hosted its annual memorial service, recognizing the departed members. James McLoughlin Jr., 2nd assistant chief of the department, shared the meaning of the service and the importance of recognizing first responders who have laid down their lives in the line of duty.

“The death of these fine men and women merits recognition and honor by our department,” he said. “While we are saddened by their deaths, we also testify to their many contributions in making their communities a better place to live, and we pay tribute to their memory.”

In Rocky Point, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 held a service honoring the departed members of the post and recognizing the sacrifices of American service members.

Members of Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 with Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner and New York State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, above. Photo by Raymond Janis

Joe Cognitore, commander of Post 6249, delivered an address to the many in attendance. He expressed his gratitude for those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice, risking their own lives to protect the freedoms of others.

“As we stand together today, we are reminded of the true cost of freedom,” Cognitore said. “While we as a nation mourn the lives lost, we celebrate the lives and are forever grateful.”

He added, “In an attempt to pay back our debt as American citizens, we also must not only remember the fallen, but it is our responsibility to teach our youth that nothing comes without a cost and that sacrifices are meaningless without remembrance.”

Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, during a Memorial Day service on Monday, May 29. Photo by Raymond Janis

Rounding off the ceremonies for the day, the Sound Beach Civic Association hosted a service at the Veterans Memorial Park, recognizing the hamlet’s fallen service members. Musical renditions were performed by members of the Rocky Point High School Music Department, with veterans of the U.S. armed services raising the flags of their chosen branches of service.

SBCA president Bea Ruberto reflected upon the motivations behind the annual service, calling the event a means to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. 

“Each year, we come together on this day and in this place to reflect upon their sacrifice and honor their memory,” she said.

At each of these events, memorial wreaths were placed as a symbolic tribute of thanks to the fallen.

Bill Pellenz (left) with Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Sound Beach Civic Association met on Monday, Feb. 13, at the Sound Beach Firehouse, joined by public officials, first responders and special honoree Bill Pellenz.

A past president and longtime civic member who also accrued over 50 years in the Sound Beach Fire Department, Pellenz was recognized for his contributions to the greater area. Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) presented Pellenz with a town proclamation.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) recognized Pellenz for his commitment to public safety. She recounted the many challenges faced in planning and launching the North Shore Rail Trail, which formally opened last summer. 

Anker said Pellenz was instrumental in bringing attention to key safety needs for the trail. “He understands where to go with issues,” she said. “We were able to make additional safety measures because of you, Bill.”

Bill Pellenz (fifth from right) poses with public officials, civic leaders and first responders during a meeting of the Sound Beach Civic Association on Monday, Feb. 13. Photo by Raymond Janis

Representing U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1) was Peter Ganley, who presented Pellenz with a certificate of congressional recognition, particularly noting his efforts to support veterans throughout the hamlet.

William Rosasco, chief of the Sound Beach Fire Department, chronicled Pellenz’s long service to the department, starting as a probationary firefighter and working his way up the ranks to captain of Engine Company 2. 

“In the 36 years that I’ve been a member of this department, it’s been a pleasure working with Bill and being able to call him a friend,” Rosasco said.

SBCA president Bea Ruberto discussed Pellenz’s several contributions within the civic, notably to Veterans Memorial Park. 

“On behalf of the Sound Beach Civic Association, I want to thank you for all the work that you have done for this organization and the community,” she said. “Also, I want to thank you for all of the work that you will do,” to which Pellenz responded: “I’m not going anywhere.”

General meeting

William Doherty, the Suffolk County Police Department 7th Precinct’s new inspector. Photo by Raymond Janis

Following the ceremony, the civic held a brief meeting. Members were introduced to William Doherty, the 7th Precinct’s new inspector. In a brief statement to the body, he referred to his recent promotion as “the cherry on top of my career.”

“I look forward to working with everyone in this room through your elected officials and through my community liaison officers,” he said. “I tell you in my heart of hearts that this is the assignment that I wanted,” adding, “I don’t think I would have chosen any other precinct but the 7th.”

Ruberto reported that the civic would soon welcome a student volunteer from the Rocky Point school district, who will attend meetings. 

“That’s one of the things that we really try to do,” she said. “We try to work with young people in our community.”

Following adjournment, the attendees enjoyed cake in Pellenz’s honor.

Photo by Stefanie Handshaw

On Friday, Oct. 22, the Sound Beach Fire Department welcomed the community for a Fire Prevention Open House for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the open house, members of the community were given tours of the vehicles and equipment, got to use a real fire hose, and sat for a viewing of “Surviving the Fire,” a fire safety video produced by the SBFD that tells the story of a local family who barely escaped their house fire in 2015. 

The open house concluded with a live burn demo to demonstrate the importance of keeping your door shut when you sleep to keep the smoke and fire out.

Commissioner Jeff Vlack, Chairman John Romonoski, Vice Chairman Richard McKay, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, Commissioner James McLoughlin, Chief Darran Handshaw, Ex-Chief Michael Rosaco, First Asstistant Chief William Rosasco, and Second Asstistant Chief Alex Riley. Photo from Sarah Anker

On Saturday, Sept. 4, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) attended the Sound Beach Fire Department’s Annual Fire District Inspection and Installation Dinner at East Wind Long Island in Wading River. 

Anker joined the Sound Beach Fire Department members in honoring the newly installed incoming officers as well as other department members for their many years of dedicated service, including Erica Elisseou and Cheyenne Enlund for five years; Dede Zenz, Kevin Creedon, Ex-Captain James Hudson, Captain James McLoughlin and Chief Darran Handshaw for 10 years; Ex-Captain Joseph Luise for 15 years; Ex-Chief Thomas Sternberg and Ex-Chief Michael Rosasco for 20 years; John Marino and Ex-Captain Daryl Blasberg for 25 years; John Hoffmann, Joseph Russo and Anthony Russo for 30 years; Ex-Captain John Curtin and Ex-Chief Edward Sullivan for 35 years; and Philip Alaimo III for 50 years. 

Members of the Auxiliary Company were also recognized for their years of dedicated service, including Maureen Strauch for 25 years; Ann Moran for 30 years; Denise Hellberg for 40 years; and Patty Pulick for 50 years. 

 “It was an honor to attend this year’s annual inspection and installation dinner and to have the opportunity to recognize members of the department and the Auxiliary Company for their many years and decades of dedicated service,” Anker said. “I want to thank the all the members of the Sound Beach Fire Department and the Auxiliary Company for their continued and courageous service to the community during a challenging and unprecedented year.”

The Sound Beach Fire Department has been providing emergency services to the residents of Sound Beach for 91 years.

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Photo by Stefanie Handshaw

Dozens of people came together to remember September 11, 2001 last week at the Sound Beach Fire Department’s annual 9/11 memorial.

On Saturday morning, 20 years to the day of the attacks, local first responders lined up to pay their respects to victims and their families.

A bell was rung 13 times in memory of those lost.

This article was updated to resolve previously published mistakes.

Photo by Nicole Waldemar

Zebra Tech employees, who are also first responders, gathered on Friday, Sept. 10 at 9:45 a.m. to remember their fellow service members who lost their lives during September 11, 2001.

During the event, Zebra Emergency Response Team members came in uniform, including Scout Master Jeff Weissman, Sound Beach Fire Department Chief Darran Handshaw, Terryville Fire Department Ex-Captain Martin Sebel, Rocky Point Fire Department firefighter David Singer, Middle Island Fire Department Ex-Chief Craig Tunjian, and Sayville Community Ambulance 2nd Assistant Chief Liz White.

Weissman spoke about how his scout troop worked with Symbol (now part of Zebra Tech) employees at the building to gather 180,000 bottles of water that were trucked into Ground Zero to support the rescue and recovery efforts.

Photo by Sabrina Artusa

By Sabrina Artusa

Sound Beach Civic Association dedicates itself to the betterment of the locality and the well-being of its citizens. So, as the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, members knew they needed to find a way to thank the frontline and essential workers who were risking their own health to keep others safe.

The civic initiated a fundraiser by collecting recipes and creating a cookbook, “Signature Dishes of Sound Beach and Beyond.” The cookbook was sold in order to fund this tribute.

The unexpected free services, such as the delivery of the tribute stone and the stone itself, resulted in extra money from the fundraiser, money which the civic decided to donate to the Yaphank veterans home.

On Saturday, July 31, in perfect weather, Sound Beach residents and others gathered on the lawn outside Hartlin Inn. The area was packed with firefighters, police officers, grocery store attendants, delivery workers, health care workers, school board members, government workers, Girl Scouts and  citizens who wanted to express their gratitude. Also in attendance were county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Stuart Vincent, Mather Hospital public relations director.

Bea Ruberto, president of the civic association, stood at the stand in the center of the lawn to explain the tribute, but not before residents and friends pointed out it was her birthday. After the group sang “happy birthday” and the laughs had stopped, Ruberto explained the purpose of the tribute, which was inscribed on the stone: “Honoring the heroes all around us.”

After thanking her board, she commended government — “our public servants” — who have “been critical in getting us to where we are today.” New York state has one the lowest coronavirus positivity rates in the country, a feat Ruberto said could not have happened without their persistence and sacrifice.

She continued by honoring law enforcement, health care workers and educators. “Educators had to work harder to provide quality education,” she said. Susan Sullivan, president of the Rocky Point school board, confirmed that “nothing was business as usual.”

Sound Beach Fire Department chief, Darran Handshaw, talked of his experience from the past year and a half. “We were in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the likes of which we hadn’t seen in a century,” he said.

Just as citizens struggled to adjust to life in a pandemic, firefighters had to adjust their protocols to combat the virus threat. “Our emergency response protocols were never designed to deal with it,” Handshaw said. “It was a very nerve-racking time.”

Chad Lennon, special assistant/veteran affairs with state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), said “there was no time out, no pause in life.” He expressed his gratitude for health care workers and recognized their continuous efforts. “The new [Delta] variant that is spreading in 2021 continues to pose new challenges for them,” he said.

Handshaw said of the tribute, “I think it’s great.  … It’s very nice that the community decided to recognize us.”

The stone, framed by blooming flowers, American flags and a new tree, displayed its message toward the road. “We wanted as many people as possible to see it,” Ruberto said.

Commanding officer of the 7th Precinct, Inspector Matthew McCormick, started in his post just as the pandemic raged in March 2020. “It was a tough time for law enforcement,” he said, and went on to tell of how 17 officers had to quarantine for two weeks. Law enforcement coped well with the pandemic, but McCormick gave credit to Sound Beach residents. “We are only as good as our community,” he said.

This sentiment was echoed in the handout the civic had prepared with the meaningful words, “Working together we accomplish more.”

Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown

Whether it is nurses taking care of COVID-19 patients, or Stop & Shop supermarket employees providing food for their community, the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce felt it was only appropriate to gather residents to salute frontline heroes and essential workers last Saturday.

“To all of our essential workers, and to all who have helped our community in the midst of this difficult time, thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Gary Pollakusky, president of RPSB chamber. “You’ve helped keep things together, and now life is returning back to normal.”

A leader in the pandemic has been Stony Brook University Hospital. The doctors, nurses and physicians have spent countless hours volunteering their time, playing a pivotal role to help stop the spread. 

Carol Gomes, chief executive officer and chief operating officer at SBU Hospital, credits her team as the overall backbone in response to COVID-19 in Suffolk County — which has had the lowest mortality rate across the downstate region. 

“We have weathered an incredibly difficult storm, but our health care heroes rose to the occasion, not once, but twice during surges and continue to do so every day as the pandemic still does continue,” Gomes said.

Photo by Kimberly Brown

According to the hospital, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 200,000 Suffolk County residents have tested positive for coronavirus and more than 3,000 have lost their lives. 

“We grieve with the families that have experienced loss but, as more people become fully vaccinated, we remain hopeful for brighter tomorrows,” she added.

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) also made an appearance at the event to express his gratitude toward the frontline heroes and essential workers. 

According to Palumbo, during the pandemic, government officials were able to continue working using Zoom. However, firefighters and police officers did not have that same option, making them true frontline heroes.

“You had to suit up and go into the belly of the beast, so when we use the phrase ‘frontlines,’ a military phrase, you were all absolutely the tip of the spear,” he said.

The ceremony concluded with a car caravan past the honorees through Rocky Point to Rocky Point Funeral Home.

Members from the Sound Beach Fire Department held their annual Memorial Day service. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Gone, but never forgotten.

In light of Memorial Day Monday, May 31, the Sound Beach Fire Department held their annual service to remember and mourn the losses of all the men and women who died in the name of freedom. 

Chief Darran Handshaw said the department also uses the day to remember their brothers and sisters who are no longer here.  

“Over the years, many organizations use this day, as we do, to remember and honor their own deceased members,” he said, addressing the crowd. “So today, the members of the Sound Beach Fire Department and our families, in our own way, observe Memorial Day.”

Handshaw added that this is the department’s 91st year. They wanted to remember and pay homage the members who helped build the foundation of the department that has been around for almost a century.

During the hour-long event, a dozen people sat inside the firehouse, as they listened to members read the names of nearly 50 people who impacted the department in one way or another. 

Eight-year-old Rocky Point Cub Scout Mason Ulscheimer kicked off the event with the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Family members of the deceased people came up to the podium to say the names of their loved ones, and tears were shed as the department’s honor roll was recited. 

“We all should reflect on the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and on those who die for those freedoms,” said Second Assistant Chief Alex Riley. “To any families of our fallen heroes who are here today, we say, ‘Thank you.’ We owe them and their loved ones our heartfelt gratitude and so much more.”

The event ended with Handshaw, Riley and First Assistant Chief Bill Rosasco placing a wreath at the department’s 9/11 memorial.

Members of the Sound Beach Fire Department, like Captain Greg Ferraro, give blood in memory of one of their own. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Almost five years after his death, an ex-captain of the Sound Beach Fire Department’s memory is still helping to save others. 

Jim Ford passed away on June 2016 after serving in the department for more than two decades. A beloved member of not only the department, but also within the Sound Beach community, Ford always was there to help. His wife, Nancy, still participates and volunteers with the auxiliary.

“Jim filled many shoes out of the office and in the office,” said Bill Rosasco, first assistant chief. “He loved it. He loved doing it. He loved being here at the firehouse.”

On top of his many roles, he founded and ran the department’s January blood drive, so it was only fitting to name it after him in 2018 — the first drive after his passing.

And on Saturday, Jan. 16, his memory was brought back at the firehouse at 152 Sound Beach Blvd., getting people together for something good. 

Ever since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, blood donations have been at an all-time low, according to the New York Blood Center. Schools, businesses and community centers halted blood drives early on, in fear of too many gatherings and the uneasiness of the virus. 

Sound Beach Fire Departmen’ts ex-captain, Jim Ford, who passed away nearly five years ago, is still making an impact at the fire house with an annual blood drive in his name. Photo from Stefanie Handshaw

The Sound Beach Fire Department usually hosts two blood drives in honor of their own. January is dedicated to Ford, while July memorializes Ex-Capt. John Drews Jr. But because of the pandemic, the July drive was canceled. 

The drive this past weekend was the first since the pandemic began.

“We wanted to still run this blood drive,” said Chief Darran Handshaw. “Even though we shut the department down for all the other meetings, we still wanted to do this because we know how important it is.”

Handshaw said that everyone on the board wanted to make sure the January drive went on, despite the department shutdown. 

“This is an emergency,” he added. “We need to get blood out there.”

He said that to make this month’s blood drive work, they took precautions including temperature monitoring, social distancing and a fogger machine that can decontaminate the room before the event and after. 

But the drive wouldn’t be happening without Ford’s spirit. 

“This would be something that Captain Ford would be here helping out with, even during [the pandemic],” Handshaw said. “It’s an honorable effort for an honorable man, so we’re going to do something honorable that serves the community for him and his death.”

Saturday’s event had more than 20 appointments, a dozen walk-ins and 31 pints of blood were collected, according to Margaret DeTurris, president of the department. Each pint of blood can help up to three people — so these 31 pints will impact 93 lives. 

“Jim was a great example  of wisdom and honor,” Handshaw said. “In my eyes, that inspired a lot of us to behave well and do the right thing for the community. He’s missed every day.” 

The Sound Beach Fire Department is actively seeking volunteers to serve as firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The department provides free training for those positions. To join contact the chief’s office at 631-744-2294.