11/28/13 7:00am
11/28/2013 7:00 AM
The Kelly Family at the 2011 Memorial Golf tournament held at Cherry Creek Links in Riverhead: (from left) Mom and Dad (seated) Sue and Emmet Kelly and children (standing)  Jim (left), Bob (center) and Suzanne.

The Kelly Family at the 2011 Memorial Golf tournament held at Cherry Creek Links in Riverhead: (from left) Mom and Dad (seated) Sue and Emmet Kelly and children (standing) Jim (left), Bob (center) and Suzanne.

It took years. And for Emmet and Sue Kelly, seeing a Sept. 11, 2001 memorial park built near their home wasn’t just about their son Thomas, a NYC firefighter who was killed responding to the terror attacks.

It was also about preserving the Reeves Park neighborhood their son loved so much.

Tom Kelly, Sept. 11, WTC, FDNY

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Emmet and Sue Kelly (center) and family at the Sept. 11 vigil in 2012.

The park — built on what’s now county-owned land on the spot of a once-planned shopping center — was finally completed and unveiled this past Sept. 11.

Within nine weeks, both Emmet and Sue Kelly died.

“That was huge that they got to see the memorial park,” said Bob Kelly, who helped lead efforts, along with civic, town and county leaders, to preserve the property as parkland. ”It meant a lot to them. They both had said the same thing, ‘At least we got to see it completed.”

Thomas Kelly, who died trying to rescue people from the World Trade Center, had a home in Reeves Park, where his parents owned a second home.

At the vigil this Sept. 11, both Bob, a retired city firefighter, and Jim, a retired New York City police officer, pushed their parents in wheelchairs down to the park at Sound Avenue and Park Road —  which has also been named in honor of Thomas Kelly — for what has become an annual memorial service. (The vigil was being held at the spot even before the land was purchased by Suffolk County last year.)

Emmet Kelly died on Oct. 15 at the age of 82, following a lengthy illness, and Sue, whose full name was Marie Suzanne Kelly, died on Nov. 18 at the age of 79. They both had been ill for much of the year.

Emmet was a career FDNY member, having been in the department for 36 years, Bob Kelly said. Sue Kelly was a dietician at Peck Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn and later was a manager at an A&S department store in Queens.

“She died of a broken heart,” Bob Kelly said of his mom, who, like his dad, died in their Reeves Park home.

The shopping center was first proposed for the four-acre land in 2003. The development ran into widespread community opposition from Reeves Park residents, but the courts had sided with the developer in a lawsuit challenging a town rezoning of the property.

Then in 2010, former county Legislature Ed Romaine put in a bill to have the county buy the property for a memorial park. The property owner, EMB Enterprises, led by Kenney Barrey, eventually agreed to the sale and the county Legislature approved the purchase in Nov. 2012.

Bob Kelly said his parents seeing the park probably eased their remaining days on earth.

“Now, they are all together,” he said of his brother and his parents. “They are not in pain. They are all happy.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/11/13 8:57pm
09/11/2013 8:57 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The procession walks along Park Road in Reeves Park toward the new 9/11 Memorial at the corner of Park and Sound Avenue Wednesday night.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The procession walks along Park Road in Reeves Park toward the new 9/11 Memorial at the corner of Park and Sound Avenue Wednesday night.

Hundreds marched down Park Road in Reeves Park Wednesday night, joined by uniformed members of the Riverhead Fire Department, the Wading River Boy Scouts troop and other groups, to pay their respects to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The procession ended at the northeast corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road, at the new 9/11 Memorial Park dedicated to the first responders who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, as well as all those who’ve been killed in the line of duty in Riverhead Town.

While residents of Reeves Park have held the memorial walk annually, led by the surviving relatives of fallen FDNY firefighter Thomas Kelly,  this year marked the first for the newly completed memorial.

The park was built on land that had been slated for development in 2003. Reeves Park residents had fought for years to convince town and county officials to acquire the property and preserve it as a memorial park, with the final acquisition only happening in late 2012.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park, served as the master of ceremonies for the event.

He later marveled at the work done by Riverhead Town employees in getting the new park ready for the 9/11 march.

“There’s love in what they did here,” he told a reporter. “Once they got up here and started working and people stopped by and patted them on the back, or gave them the thumbs up as they drove by, they just put their hearts into it.”

“I don’t recall ever seeing this tree before,” said Chris Kelly, a retired New York Police officer, as he admired the work that was done in clearing the site, moving the already placed large rock with a Sept. 11 Memorial on it, and installing benches, a flag pole and landscaping.

Chris Kelly is a cousin of Thomas Kelly, who died in the World Trade Center.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Mr. Kelly said of the park and the ceremony, at which he read a poem he had written about his cousin.

Chris Kelly spent time himself at Ground Zero and was working on Sept. 11, 2001, as was Thomas Kelly’s brothers Jim, also a retired city police officer, and Bob, who was a city firefighter at the time and is now retired.

Monday evening, Jim and Bob pushed the wheelchairs of their elderly parents, Emmett and Sue, to the ceremony. The procession started on Marine Street in Reeves Park and progressed south along Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive to the park.

“It was great to see the whole community come out,” Bob Kelly said after the event. “I think they get it. It’s still hard for me to believe this is physically here. It’s part of the whole town now.

“It’s going to be here for everybody, for generations to come.”


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11/24/12 5:00pm
11/24/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Reeves Park residents placed candles at a small memorial for Tom Kelly near Sound Avenue earlier this month on Sept. 11. A new park would be dedicated to his memory.

In North Fork County Legislator Ed Romaine’s final meeting, the Legislature voted last week to acquire a four-acre site on Sound Avenue and Park Road for use as a memorial park honoring first responders and victims of September 11.

The acquisition came more than a year after property owner Kenney Barra signed a contract to sell the land to Suffolk County and several months later than expected, Mr. Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said.

Mr. Barra had previously proposed building a shopping center at the site, which  ran into stiff opposition from locals and government officials alike.

The county paid $1,277,645, or a bit less than $305,000 per acre, for the 4.2 acre site on the northeast corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road (also known as Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive). The vote was almost unanimous, but Legislator Tom Barraga (R-West Islip) voted against the acquisition and Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) was not in the room when the vote was taken.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Civic Association in the Reeves Park area, and Bob Kelly, a Reeves Park and retired New York City firefighter whose brother Tom was killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, had urged the Legislature to approve the acquisition, as had Riverhead Town deputy supervisor Jill Lewis and Riverhead deputy town attorney Ann Marie Prudenti.

The town has committed $50,000 toward maintenance of the park, which will also have a reflecting pool, benches and a walking trail, according to Ms. Lewis. The $50,000 is not included in the acquisition cost, Mr. Romaine said.

“Riverhead has [little funds] available for acquisition because they were very aggressive in trying to prevent overdevelopment,” Mr. Romaine said.

The county will pay for the land through voter-approved drinking water protection money.

Mr. Biegler told the legislators last Tuesday that the value of maintaining open space farmland on the East End benefits the entire county.

“People come from all over Suffolk County to pick strawberries on the North Fork or to take tours at wineries,” he said, “This property is unique,” he said.

“This land acquisition means so much more than just the purchase of open space,” Bob Kelly told the legislators. In addition to helping maintain the area’s rural character, “it would also serve as a true hamlet park and memorial to all those who perished in Sept. 11.”

Mr. Kelly said he lost many friends that day, as well as his brother Tom, who was a firefighter in Brooklyn and responded to the Twin Towers.

“If you spoke to the families of these people, they would acknowledge that this is a special place, and they would like for this memorial park to see the light of day, in honor of my brother and all those we lost that day,” he said.

Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) questioned the price per acre, which he thought was “an awful lot of money.”

But he ended up voting for the acquisition.

“While I’m somewhat offended by the price of this, I’m humbled by your description of the purpose and the meaning behind this proposal,” he said.

He and others thanked Mr. Romaine, who sponsored the bill to buy the land and was in his last meeting as a county legislator. He was elected Brookhaven Town supervisor earlier this month and will be sworn in Monday afternoon.

“I’ll miss this body,” Mr. Romaine said.

“And we will miss you,” Bill Lindsay, the presiding officer of the Legislature, told Mr. Romaine.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/12/12 12:00pm
09/12/2012 12:00 PM
Tom Kelly, Sept. 11, WTC, FDNY

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Reeves Park residents, including Thomas Kelly’s parents (center), brothers and sister at Tuesday night’s vigil.

Residents of the tight-knit Reeves Park community came together as the sun set Tuesday evening to remember fallen New York City firefighter Tommy Kelly as a neighbor, friend, brother and son.

A Brooklyn firefighter, he was killed responding to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers.

The group gathered with candles lit at the corner of Marine Street and Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive/Park Road, where Tommy lived at the time of his death. He died in the south tower of the World Trade Center.

As the vigil proceeded with an escort of Riverhead volunteer firefighters the Reliable Engine firetruck, Tom Kelly’s parents, Emmet, a retired member of the FDNY, and Sue sat side by side in wheelchairs, with blankets across their laps to guard against the evening chill.

They were waiting for the procession next to the memorial to their son at the corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.

The Kelly family started the day attending a mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Park Slope Brooklyn, where Tom Kelly’s Engine Co. 219 and Ladder Co. 105 firehouse is located.

Before the vigil, Tom’s brother, Bob Kelly, told a reporter it was “good to see that the community comes together for this and that they haven’t forgotten.”

Sound Park Heights president Eric Biegler addressed the community: “It was a monumental event that has shaped a generation; 11 years is a long time. Some of us have forgotten as life goes on. We forget to take time to sit and reflect.”

He reminded all that “coming together as a community, friends and family, we have not forgotten the heroes. We will never forget.”

Bob Kelly said he hopes a planned 9/11 memorial park to honor his brother’s memory will happen within the next year, and that it will become a memorial for all those who died on that day, as well as the families, loved ones and those who got sick and died.

The memorial is planned for property at the corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive that has been slated for development. Suffolk County government has taken steps to purchase the land for preservation.

“It is going to be something really special,” he said. “Hopefully next year.”

Tom’s sister, Jeanne Farrell of Rockville Center, also spoke at the event.

“On behalf of our family thank you all for coming out and helping us remember this 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks,” she said. “We traditionally end our day here in Reeves Park. It is fitting to us because this is where Tommy began and ended each of his days.

“We are all very lucky to have this place, this paradise to come to.”

She then read this prayer:

May all of us remember with compassion this  day.
Mat we grieve with those who still continue to grieve
And morn with those who still morn.
And continue to share memories with those who will never forget
And draw strength from the brave men and women who were the heroes of that day. And who gave their lives for others.
May we stand together with our strangers who that day became our friends.
May we remember always their love,kindness , and compassion and generosity.
Above all may we stand together as one and Never Forget!

photo@timesreview.com

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