With the news of the passing of George Rehn April 3, at the age of 71, community members have reached out to share their condolences.
The certified public accountant worked out of his East Setauket office located on Route 25A across the street from Se-Port Delicatessen for decades.
“He spoke the truth, was fair to all, sought to build goodwill and tried to benefit all in what he did.”
— Dan Berger
Dan Berger, director of public relations for the Rotary Club of Stony Brook, said Rehn was a member of the rotary for nearly 40 years. Rehn served as president of the club for several years and was a district governor as well.
“Embodying the principles of rotary, he was a role model of how to be a rotarian,” Berger said. “He spoke the truth, was fair to all, sought to build goodwill and tried to benefit all in what he did. He was one of the fairest and honest people I knew. He would often reach out to people in need helping them out financially and otherwise.”
Berger also described his fellow rotarian as generous.
“He generously invited the club to use his vacation home on Fire Island,” Berger said. “One of our rotary rituals is to give happy dollars at each meeting. George often gave happy dollars for his family events especially the birth and birthdays of his grandchildren. He loved to tell jokes and always had one to tell at the beginning of our meetings. George Rehn was a rotary institution and will be missed terribly.”
Berger said to honor the deceased, 40 of his fellow rotarians gathered in front of the office on 25A wearing red April 8, the day of his funeral, as his family drove by.
State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) remembered Rehn, especially for his work with the Rotary Club of Stony Brook.
“George Rehn contributed greatly to the Three Village community in a productive and positive way that is worthy of remark,” Englebright said. “His commitment to rotary, for example, brought him widespread recognition for his good work through this organization’s wholesome mission. George was a good man and will be missed.”
Charlie Lefkowitz, president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, informed the board members of Rehn’s passing during a chamber phone conference April 6.
“As we all know, George was a pillar in our communities for almost 50 years,” he said, adding that he was a beautiful person.
“He was always helping others by donating services, giving money and even ringing a bell for the Salvation Army.”
— Carmine Inserra
Carmine Inserra, vice president of the chamber, echoed Lefkowitz’s sentiments in an email.
“Most people are unaware of the many charitable and benevolent organizations he gave to and helped with professional services at no cost,” Inserra said. “He was always helping others by donating services, giving money and even ringing a bell for the Salvation Army. He was always doing things for others.”
Michael Ardolino, assistant secretary of the chamber and founder and owner-broker of Realty Connect USA, said he remembers Rehn being involved in the chamber of commerce from the organization’s early days.
He said whenever he told Rehn that someone needed help, the CPA was ready and willing to assist. When it came to establishing Character Counts, a youth program created in the school district after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, Ardolino sat in on a meeting and found out an accountant was needed to set it up. He said when he told Rehn, his friend immediately said yes when he asked him to help.
“That was George,” Ardolino said.
He added when Rehn heard that Laura Ahern needed help establishing the nonprofit Parents for Megan’s Law, which is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse and rape, Rehn was immediately on board.
“The community is going to miss him a lot,” Ardolino said.
Ron LaVita, a fellow chamber member who works down the street from Rehn’s office, worked with the CPA on multiple projects, including Parents for Megan’s Law, and was also a client of his.
LaVita said he remembers Rehn being involved not only in the chamber, but also the Three Village Historical Society and being treasurer of many election campaigns, which included one for Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R).
“He always volunteered to do all the IRS filings for the not-for-profits,” LaVita said. “He has quite a legacy.”
George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said Rehn was helpful when it came to his organization.
“George Rehn was one of those special people who stitch together the fabric that makes a community, and he quietly helped a lot of local organizations with his many skills and talents,” Hoffman said. “He gladly donated his time and expertise in helping Setauket Harbor Task Force obtain its tax exempt status and was generous in support of our work. He will be missed.”
“George Rehn was one of those special people who stitch together the fabric that makes a community, and he quietly helped a lot of local organizations with his many skills and talents.”
— George Hoffman
Elizabeth Kane, who worked for Rehn cleaning his office, said she had known him for more than 20 years. She described him as a lovely man who was always willing to help people. She said, one time when she was doing gardening at his home, her son was helping her unload the mulch off the truck. Rehn said to give her son an extra job, and he gave him some money so he could save for college. She said the accountant was always finding work for people so they could earn money if they needed it.
“He was very generous, very thoughtful,” she said. “Any time you had a problem with anything, he would always find something for you to do.”
Fred Peritore, financial secretary of Setauket’s Mother Teresa Council of the Knights of Columbus, said Rehn was always willing to chip in with the organization, calling donors to set up appointments for blood drives, donating blood himself, supporting his fellow Knights at charitable events, including veterans fundraisers.
“George was a mountain of a man, in so many ways, larger than life as a member of Mother Teresa Council, Knights of Columbus,” Peritore said. “As a man of faith, he truly lived the principles of the Knights, the first of which is charity.”
Peritore said Rehn will be missed.
“He was always there to offer advice and his smile lit up a room,” he said. “His corny jokes never ceased.”
Rehn is survived by his wife, Liz; his daughter Jennifer (John); his son Scott (Janay); his two grandchildren and his stepsons Joseph and Andrew.
Funeral arrangements were entrusted to Moloney Funeral Homes. A private burial ceremony was held April 8 at St. James R.C. Church in East Setauket. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
The Rotary Club of Stony Brook has established a fund in his name. Proceeds will be donated to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital as well as a plaque in his name at the Rotary Memorial Garden in downtown Stony Brook. Donations may be sent to Rotary Club of Stony Brook, P.O. Box 1091, Stony Brook, NY 11790. Checks should be made out to The George Rehn Rotary Memorial Fund. For more information go to www.RotaryClubofStonyBrook.com.