Tom Kelly’s brother: Honor Heidi Behr’s memory at planned 9/11 park

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

While Suffolk County is still trying to buy a four-acre lot in Baiting Hollow for use as a Sept. 11 memorial park, the brother of a New York City firefighter killed on 9/11 is suggesting the park also honor emergency response volunteers who lost their lives in the line of duty, such as Heidi Behr of Riverhead.

Heidi Behr was a Riverhead ambulance volunteer who, along with paid paramedic William Stone of Ridge, died when the ambulance they were in crashed into a tree on Route 25 in Aquebogue in May 2005.

Ms. Behr, 23 at the time, and Mr. Stone, 30, were both in the back of the ambulance attending to a cardiac patient.

Bob Kelly of Riverhead, whose brother Tom was an FDNY member killed while responding to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, had suggested the idea of a Sept. 11 memorial park at Park Road and Sound Avenue several years ago, and now officials are working toward that goal.

A stone at that site already bears a small plaque in Tom Kelly’s memory, and Riverhead Town has renamed Park Road as Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive, although it’s still also called Park Road.

The property was originally proposed for commercial development, but that plan ran into stiff opposition from residents of the nearby Reeves Park community and others, and officials began efforts to acquire it as a park.

Bob Kelly said he and Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association, were on a fishing trip recently and talking about the memorial park when the subject of Heidi Behr came up.

“We were kicking it around,” Mr. Kelly said. “We heard them talking about it on WRIV, how the town has never really named anything for her, and we figured, we could honor her at that park. Maybe they could dedicate a piece of that park to volunteer emergency first responders that passed away.”

He suggested that a memorial plaque at the park “like Tommy has” could be dedicated in Heidi Behr’s name.

“It would be a way of honoring her,” he said, adding that Mr. Stone could also be honored at the park.

Ms. Behr left behind a son, Jared, about 14 months old at the time, who has severe disabilities. He’s being raised by her family.

When a reporter told Heidi’s mother, June Behr, about the proposal, she initially said she wouldn’t want to take away from Tom Kelly’s memorial. But when told that Tom Kelly’s brother had suggested the memorial for her daughter, she said, “That’s very generous of him. I’ll talk to my husband about that. That would be nice.”

County park trustees approved the Sept. 11 park proposal last month, but the actual acquisition of the land has yet to be finalized, although officials are hoping that will happen soon.

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