HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco, alongside his colleagues and county officials, stood with families on March 1 to mark the opening of a memorial project dedicated to Suffolk County residents who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
The Suffolk County COVID-19 Memorial is currently located outside the legislature’s William H. Rogers Building in Hauppauge. Ribbons with the names of Suffolk County residents who have died of COVID-19 will be tied to the memorial. Those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 are encouraged to visit www.scnylegislature.us/CovidMemorial for information on how to include their loved one’s name and tie a ribbon in that person’s honor.
“Nearly a year ago when the first case of COVID-19 was detected here in Suffolk County, we could not imagine how much life would change, how deep our collective sacrifice would have to go, and how much loss we would have to endure,” said Presiding Officer Rob Calarco. “The Suffolk County COVID-19 Memorial is our way of honoring the loved ones we have lost and offering grieving families a way to find comfort in community at a time when we have been unable to mourn in the ways we are used to. Each ribbon placed on this memorial represents a Suffolk County resident who tragically lost their fight to COVID-19. We will never forget those we lost and hope that their memory will serve to remind us how precious life and community truly is.”
County officials and families marked the start of the project by tying the first few ribbons onto the memorial in honor of four county employees who lost their lives to COVID-19: Investigator Sergeant Keith Allison from the Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Auxiliary Police Captain Anthony DeNoyior, Parks Supervisor II Russell E. Shive and Suffolk County Police Lieutenant Robert Van Zeyl.
As of March 2, 3,095 Suffolk County residents had died of COVID-19.
Those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 may add their loved one to the Suffolk County COVID-19 Memorial by filling out the form at www.scnylegislature.us/CovidMemorial. The website offers an option to share a photo and a story about the person. After the county receives a submission, staff members will write the loved one’s name on a ribbon and tie it to the memorial. If family members prefer to write their loved one’s name on a ribbon and tie it themselves, they can fill out the online form and then visit the memorial in Hauppauge. Residents on the East End may tie ribbons on a structure set up in the lobby of the Evans K. Griffing building, located at 300 Center Drive in Riverside.
Ribbons and markers will be available at both locations Monday through Friday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for the entire month of March. The two structures will ultimately be combined into one and put on permanent display in Hauppauge.
Joining Presiding Officer Calarco, legislators and families were Suffolk County Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, Jr. and representatives from the Sheriff’s office, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, Suffolk County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Commissioner Jason Smagin, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy, Suffolk Association of Municipal Employees (AME) Executive Vice President Thomas P. Moran and Government Relations Specialist Ryan McGarry, and Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association President Noel DiGerolamo and 1st Vice President Lou Tutone.
“The last year has been filled with an incredible amount of loss, grief and tragedy,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Our frontline heroes and essential workers are the ones who carried us through this pandemic and this memorial is a way to honor every life lost to COVID-19 and lets their family, friends and loved ones know they will not be forgotten.”
Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon spoke about his own experience with loss and offered comfort to the families in attendance, saying, “Through all your darkest hours and days, there will come a time when despair turns to acceptance, when feelings of hopelessness are replaced by optimism, and when the memories of your loved ones more often lead to smiles than tears.”
“COVID-19 will forever be imprinted in our lives and while this virus claimed too many lives it also highlighted the dedication of our essential workers, including Lieutenant Robert Van Zeyl and Auxiliary Police Captain Anthony DeNoyior, who both died of complications of COVID-19,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “I hope this memorial will provide solace to those who lost loved ones to the pandemic and let it serve as a reminder of the sacrifices individuals made to help others.”
Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association President Noel DiGerolamo added, “The Suffolk County PBA offers our deepest condolences to all of those who have been affected by and lost loved ones to this disease. It is with unity and compassion for each other we will prevail as a stronger society together.”
Suffolk County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Commissioner Jason Smagin said, “This county has seen devastating loss of lives from the pandemic. It is important for the families and friends of loved ones that were lost to COVID-19 to know that their memories will live on in the hearts and minds of all residents here in Suffolk. I know those individuals who lost their lives in the parks department will always be remembered.”
Suffolk AME President Daniel C. Levler said, “While we remember and mourn the lives of our Suffolk County residents lost to COVID-19, including our own AME members like Russell Shive, we know this crisis is still far from over. We continue to fight to protect our frontline essential workers and remain committed to their health and safety, just as they remain committed to serving our greater community. Our hearts are extended to the families impacted by this devastating pandemic. We thank Presiding Officer Calarco for organizing today’s memorial event and for his ongoing efforts to protect Suffolk’s workers and residents.”
The memorial in Hauppauge and the structure in Riverside were built by Boy Scout Troop 888, who designed the structures, donated the supplies, and spent a weekend building them. Perino’s Canvas & Awning in Bay Shore donated the paracord that hangs between the structures’ stanchions.
Visit www.scnylegislature.us/CovidMemorial for more information.
First District Legislator Al Krupski added, “Today marks an anniversary we never could have never imagined; nearly a year ago the first case of COVID 19 was diagnosed in Suffolk County. We mourn the loss of our family members, friends and neighbors, and our hearts go out to those they left behind. But the best of Suffolk County was also on display, and we thank our first responders, medial professions and all essential workers who stepped up and helped get us through the pandemic. We are forever grateful for your service and sacrifice.”
“We’ve all had to face the realization of what this deadly coronavirus is capable of,” said 4th District Legislator Nick Caracappa. “Whether directly or indirectly impacted, we as a community grieve the many lives lost due to COVID-19 and should commit to keeping the memories of our loved ones alive. As we take the necessary steps to reduce and eliminate this deadly virus, it’s also important to continually acknowledge and appreciate the frontline workers for their tireless efforts this past year. However, today’s ceremony is in tribute of those we’ve lost, and showing our support for the love ones they’ve left behind.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with all the families who lost a loved one from this horrible disease. This year has been incredibly difficult, and I am glad we can erect this small memorial to honor the memory of all the lives we lost,” said 8th District Legislator Anthony Piccirillo.
Tenth District Legislator Tom Cilmi added, “Let these ribbons be a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and of the vulnerability of our human condition, but let them also serve as a reminder of the beauty of each and every one of the residents they represent. May they rest in peace and may their loved ones feel some comfort in our prayers.”
“We all have been touched in some way by this pandemic. I believe we will find comfort through the support of family and friends as we move towards regaining a sense of normalcy in our loved ones’ memory,” said 11th District Legislator Steven Flotteron.
18th District Legislator William Spencer said, “It is with a humble heart and great sadness that I join the grieving families here today along with my colleagues to remember the more than 3,000 Suffolk County residents whose lives were tragically cut short by the coronavirus. Each person lost represents a family, a network of friends and neighbors, and a surrounding community that has been immeasurably changed forever. In this difficult time, it is my hope that we can encourage, support, and lift up our fellow community members as they mourn, heal, and find peace.”