Starting in 1959 and continuing to now, Al Kopcienski has spent 60 years in the Port Jefferson Rotary, and in a meeting Sept. 26 members described the man as the epitome of the rotary motto: “Service above self.”
Back in the day, joining the rotary wasn’t as simple as asking to join. Kopcienski said he remembered being “put through the ringer,” before being inducted, having been sponsored by his father-in-law Stuart Gracey. Meetings back then were hosted at Teddy’s Hotel, located at the corner of Main Street and East Broadway before later moving over to the Elks Lodge.
In decades past, the rotary raised much of its money through concerts and minstrel shows, though the biggest fundraiser for years was the annual event held on the grounds of Mather Hospital, which in the early years included a horse show. Then, rotary members said Kopcienski would spend hours collecting rocks from the horse show grounds in case a horse would get injured on one. He would be a part of those fundraising efforts, joining other members in building giant cement fire pits and helping in square dances and barbecues.
Other than rotary fundraising, he has been particularly active in service projects to Camp PaQuaTuck, a summer camp for children with special needs, and the nonprofit marrow registry Gift of Life. He has built and maintained bus shelters in the Village of Port Jefferson, said Rotarian Ed DiNunzio, and has shopped for Christmas gifts for children who would not otherwise get them.
As an active member of the Miller Place Fire Department, he spent hours in 2012 on the east end of Long Island battling wildfires. His service in the face of disaster has traveled even further. He and his wife Honor have a home on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean. In 2017 the category 5 Hurricane Irma followed by Hurricane Maria decimated the island. He has traveled there several times a year to aid in the cleanup and rebuilding.
“For the past thirty-seven years, I have consistently witnessed Al using his knowledge and expertise, and devoting his time and effort, to help the Club achieve its goals of service both to the local community, the larger community of Suffolk County and the world,” DiNunzio said.