04/25/13 3:05pm
04/25/2013 3:05 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Runners trek doen the unnamed road in Riverhead that could soon share a name with either Heidi Behr or James Bissett.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Runners trek doen the unnamed road in Riverhead that could soon share a name with both Heidi Behr and James Bissett.

Councilman John Dunleavy says he has a Solomon-like solution to the debate over whether to name the riverfront drive in downtown Riverhead after Heidi Behr or Jim Bissett.

Do both.

There has been a movement recently to name the road leading along the Peconic River after Heidi Behr, the 23-year-old emergency medical technician from Riverhead who died in a May 2005 accident while she was volunteering with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance. That proposal calls for naming the road that runs perpendicular to the river from Peconic Avenue to McDermott Avenue after Ms. Behr.

[Previous Coverage: Will downtown road be named for Bissett or Behr?]

But the Riverhead Business Improvement District management association and the Parking District advisory committee had both previously voted for resolutions calling for the riverfront road to be named after Jim Bissett, the late co-founder of the Long Island Aquarium and Hyatt Hotel in downtown Riverhead.

Mr. Dunleavy, who could not be reached for comment in an article about this subject on Wednesday, said in an interview on Thursday morning that he has proposed naming only the unnamed road that runs in between the Subway store and the Salvation Army and goes west to McDermott Avenue after Ms. Bissett. That road, which is an entrance to the town’s parking lot by the Peconic River, also runs adjacent to the aquarium property.

The councilman said the section of the riverfront drive from McDermott Avenue west to Peconic Avenue can still be named after Ms. Behr, and then both would have a portion of the roadway named after them.

“There’s no controversy,” he said.

Supervisor Sean Walter said the Town Board will likely discuss the issue at its work session next week.

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04/24/13 5:36pm
04/24/2013 5:36 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Runners trek down the unnamed road in Riverhead that could soon share a name with either Heidi Behr or Jim Bissett.

The unnamed road that runs along the Peconic Riverfront in downtown Riverhead may soon have a name.

But which name?

One proposal calls for the section of road from Peconic Avenue to McDermott Avenue be named after Heidi Behr, the 23-year-old Riverhead woman who died in a May 2005 accident while she was volunteering with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio mentioned the proposal to name the riverfront street after Ms. Behr during an interview with Bruce Tria on WRIV radio Wednesday morning, saying more details would be coming soon.

“She was a volunteer and she lost her life going to save somebody else’s,” she said on the air. “It’s something that needs to be done, sooner than later.”

But another proposal calls for naming it after Jim Bissett, the late co-founder of the Long Island Aquarium and the adjacent Hyatt Hotel in downtown Riverhead. Mr. Bissett died in December 2011 at the age of 48 in an apparent suicide. Mr. Bissett is often credited with helping to revive downtown Riverhead through the aquarium.

Supervisor Sean Walter said on Wednesday that the proposal to name the road after Ms. Behr will likely be discussed by the Town Board next week, but he added that the Business Improvement District Management Association and the Parking District advisory committee have already discussed naming something downtown for Mr. Bissett.

“That’s one of the things we have to look at,” Mr. Walter said. “We have to sort that out.”

Ray Pickersgill, the president of the BID and a member of the Parking District advisory committee, said both boards had voted several months ago in support of naming the road along the river “Jim Bissett Way.”

“Nobody had done more for this town than Jim Bissett,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “We’re the only Main Street in Suffolk County that has a name brand hotel on it, and it’s made a big difference. He brought the aquarium to Riverhead as well. I can’t even tell you how many other things he was involved in, but anytime I would go to Jimmy and ask him to get involved in something, he’d be right on it.”

Mr. Walter said they decided not to put the street naming discussing on Thursday’s work session agenda because there is a state Department of Transportation workshop on the subject of downtown sidewalks scheduled at 10 a.m., and that discussion may take a long time.

Mr. Walter said he didn’t know the specifics of the proposals.

“I haven’t even really been told what it is yet,” Mr. Walter said of the plan to name the street after Heidi Behr. “I remember at one point we were going to name the ambulance barn after her.”

Councilmen Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen said they have no opposition to naming the riverfront drive after Ms. Behr. Mr. Wooten said he is also hoping to name a planned handicap accessible playground at Stotzky Park after her.

Councilman John Dunleavy couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Ms. Behr volunteered with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance for three years but also worked for a paid ambulance company.

She and another emergency medical technician, Bill Stone, 30, of Ridge, who was a paid member of the Riverhead department, died when the ambulance they were in hit a tree in Aquebogue while it was transporting a Jamesport man to a hospital on May 3, 2005.

Ms. Behr left behind her then-13-month-old son, Jared, who has severe disabilities and is being raised by Ms. Behr’s family.

The group planning a Sept. 11 memorial at the recently acquired parkland on the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Riverhead also is likely to have a memorial in honor of Heidi Behr and other emergency service volunteers, according to Bob Kelly, a retired New York City firefighter from the Reeves Park area who made the suggestion.

The park already has a small memorial in honor of Ms. Kelly’s brother, Thomas, a New York City firefighter who died while fighting the World Trade Center fires on Sept. 11, 2001. Park Road also is named in honor of Thomas Kelly.

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10/27/12 8:00am
10/27/2012 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Reeves Park residents place candles at a small memorial for Tom Kelly near Sound Avenue earlier this month on Sept. 11.

Riverhead Town Board members discussed Thursday the prospects of naming the Riverhead Ambulance barn after Heidi Behr, the Riverhead volunteer who was killed when the ambulance she was in crashed in May 2005.

Another volunteer, Bill Stone of Ridge, also died in that crash. Both were in the back of the ambulance caring for a cardiac patient when the ambulance hit a tree on Route 25 in Aquebogue.

And Councilman Jim Wooten said the town recreation department has been planning to create a new handicapped accessible playground at Stotzky Park and name that after Heidi, who’s son Jared is disabled. The recreation department doesn’t have the money to do that park yet, Mr. Wooten said.

Recently, there have been a number of proposals to name things in honor of Ms. Behr and other volunteers in town.

Bob Kelly of Riverhead recently suggested that the 9/11 Memorial Park slated for a four-acre site on Park Road and Sound Avenue have an area honoring emergency services volunteers like Ms. Behr and Mr. Stone.

The Park Road park already has a small monument in honor of Bob Kelly’s brother, Tom, a New York City firefighter who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Heidi Behr’s mother, June, said she and her husband, John, discussed that offer and she said they would accept it.

June Behr originally said she didn’t want to take away from the monument to Tom Kelly and that she wanted to discuss it with her husband. She said her husband had the same concerns, but both agreed when told it was Bob Kelly suggesting that an area at the proposed park be named for Heidi.

Supervisor Sean Walter said he has heard people like former Supervisor Jim Stark and Bruce Tria of WRIV 1390 radio criticize the town for not doing anything to honor Ms. Behr.

“I would like to have seen the ambulance corps come to us and say we’d like you to do something in memory of Heidi Behr, and they haven’t done that,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Wooten said “there is something afoot.”

Officials from the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance corps could not be immediately be reached for comment.

“That’s what I was thinking about, naming the ambulance barn after Heidi Behr,” Councilman John Dunleavy said. “The easiest thing for us to do right now is name the ambulance barn after Heidi Behr. It would only cost us a sign and the dedication of it and we can do it immediately.”

Mr. Wooten said that when he first took office, he wanted to establish a handicapped accessible playground at Stotzky Park for Jared, because there are currently no handicapped accessible playgrounds in the town.

Mr. Walter said he supports the idea of naming the ambulance barn after Ms. Behr but that he wanted to first get feedback from the ambulance corps.

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09/14/12 8:00am
09/14/2012 8:00 AM
Heidi Behr, Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The future Heidi Behr Memorial Park & Boardwalk?

It’s heroes week in the United States, as it is every year around the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

TV, newspapers and Facebook abound with images and remembrances of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, with a spotlight on the men and women who ran to their deaths to save others.

Sept. 11 has become a sort of de facto memorial day for the country’s much-deserving emergency responders.

So there may be no better time than now to remark on one of Riverhead’s greatest fallen heroes — volunteer EMT Heidi Behr — and how we could best honor her memory.

Heidi was killed in an ambulance crash while responding to a call in May 2005. William Stone, a paramedic from Rocky Point, was also killed in the crash.

They were part of a crew rushing a heart attack victim to the hospital when their ambulance struck a tree on Main Road in Aquebogue.

Heidi, only 23 at the time, left behind a 13-month-old son, Jared, who is blind and suffers from epilepsy, cerebral palsy and brain damage. Ever since the crash, he’s been raised by Heidi’s parents, John and June, with the help of their other daughter, Dana.

The outpouring of support this family has received from fellow ambulance and fire volunteers and others since Heidi’s death has been awe-inspiring.

When it was becoming nearly impossible for the Behrs to continue raising Jared, who cannot walk, in their modest 800-square-foot house on Riverside Drive, a group of local people and businesses donated time and money to rebuild the Cutchogue home of June Behr’s late parents and make it fully handicapped accessible.

It’s now a place where Jared can grow — with plenty of room for his necessary support equipment — as his grandparents age.

And through the effort to rebuild that house, the Heidi’s Helping Angels community support group was born.

Volunteers with Heidi’s Helping Angels are at work every year now, mostly raising money for scholarships for Riverhead and Mercy high school students in Heidi’s name. In fact, next Thursday night is the group’s annual steak dinner fundraiser at Polish Hall. At last year’s event, Peconic Bay Medical Center pledged an annual $5,000 donation to the Heidi Behr Memorial Scholarship Fund.

These examples of one community’s outpouring of support are why I always tell people that if they ever, God forbid, found themselves facing some life-threatening injury or otherwise in need of help after a tragedy, they would be so lucky to live in Riverhead.

This is a community that rallies like no other I’ve witnessed on Long Island.

Which is why it’s beyond my understanding that more than seven years after her death, no government property has been named in Heidi Behr’s honor. I can’t think of a more deserving person to have a highway or bridge named after her.

In town and in the schools we have dozens of places and structures, big and small, named for people. Think of all the parks named after politicians, including Stotzky Memorial Park, Milton L. Burns Park and Lombardi Park.

Yet nothing for Heidi Behr.

Here was a volunteer, a 23-year-old single mother, who died in the line of duty trying to save another person’s life. And she wasn’t just an ambulance member; she was one of the best. Heidi had received “Top Responder” and “Corpsman of the Year” awards with the ambulance corps.

She may be the town’s greatest fallen hero outside of Medal of Honor recipient Garfield Langhorn.

While we live in a world full of complainers, young and old alike, dwelling on what they haven’t got, this young women gave herself — not only to her son and her family, but to her community.

Imagine just a playground named for Heidi. Children across Riverhead might then be asking who she was.

She was one of the best our community has ever produced, parents would answer. She was a true role model.

I’ll float one bold idea right here. The riverfront boardwalk park downtown is in need of a namesake. It should be named the Heidi Behr Memorial Park & Boardwalk. Throughout most of the year, the park is a quiet, tranquil place, with the placid Peconic River as its centerpiece. It’s a place many of us stop to sit and reflect. It would be fitting.

Heidi Behr grew up just a short walk from the Peconic River as a kid. A young hero in the making.

Michael White is the editor of the News-Review. He can be reached at [email protected] or 631-298-3200, ext. 152.

07/17/12 3:00pm
07/17/2012 3:00 PM
BARBARELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corp board president Kim Porkorny (center) and vice president Joe Sokoloski (far left) accepted donation s from 'Heidi's Helping Angels' honoree members (from left) June and John Behr and president Jim Stark Tuesday afternoon.

BARBARELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corp board president Kim Porkorny (center) and vice president Joe Sokoloski (far left) accepted donation s from ‘Heidi’s Helping Angels’ honoree members (from left) June and John Behr and president Jim Stark Tuesday afternoon.

Former Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps chief Ron Rowe is back home recovering after being airlifted from the scene of a car accident earlier this month.

But while the 47-year-old faces a long road to recovery, ambulance volunteers, fire departments, neighbors and friends have rallied to help his family through the tough times, raising more than $2,000 since the crash.

The fundraiser just received its largest donation yet from a foundation set up in memory of a Riverhead volunteer who was killed in an ambulance accident seven years ago. Heidi’s Helping Angels Inc. donated $500 Tuesday afternoon to the effort to help Mr. Rowe and his 22-year-old daughter, Alyssa, who was also injured in the crash.

The Rowes were hospitalized after their pickup truck smashed into the back of a delivery truck on Middle Country Road on July 6.

According to police, the two were driving westbound in a black Chevrolet Silverado about 5 p.m. when they crashed into a Peter’s Fruit Company truck driven by Edward Eastman of Mastic, which was stopped in the road trying to make a left turn.

Mr. Eastman was not hurt.

Riverhead firefighters had to cut away the truck’s roof and door to remove the victims, said police Sgt. Tim Palmer.

Mr. Rowe, a volunteer with the corps for more than 20 years who had also served as board president, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center, while his daughter was taken by ambulance to the same hospital.

Ms. Rowe, a lieutenant in the corps, was released from the hospital and is still on crutches.

She marched, albeit on a medical bed, with her fellow ambulance volunteers during the Jamesport Fire Department parade last week.

It is unknown how long Mr. Rowe will be recovering from his injuries, said current corps board president Kim Pokorny, adding that he must eat through a syringe after he underwent surgery to repair his face.

Heidi’s Helping Angels was founded in memory of Heidi Behr, a 23-year-old single mother and ambulance volunteer who was killed on the job when the ambulance she was in struck a tree in Aquebogue during a call in 2005.

Another ambulance worker, William Stone, also died in the crash.

The organization normally gives thousands of dollars in scholarships to graduating seniors who volunteer for community service, said president and former Riverhead supervisor Jim Stark. But the group quickly decided that donating to the Rowes fund was the right thing to do.

“It spread very quickly among our board of directors,” Mr. Stark said. “I got responses within five minutes from all seven of them: ‘No problem.’

“Everyone felt so strongly about giving back to those who gave back to us.”

Mr. Stark said it’s moments like the Behr tragedy or the Rowes’ accident that remind the community just how much volunteers in the ambulance corps and fire department sacrifice for others.

“I think we take a lot of things for granted,” he said. “The fire department, the ambulance corps, they’ll always be there for us.”

It’s not just Heidi’s Helping Angels who have donated. According to the fundraiser’s website, Riverhead Fire Department dispatchers, Jamesport Fire Department volunteers and others have donated hundreds of dollars to the cause.

Visit http://www.gofundme.com/Rally-For-Ronnie to donate.

Friends will also holding a car wash to benefit the family this Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Chase Bank near Walmart on Route 58.
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