Hundreds of mourners gathered at Wading River Fire Department headquarters Monday to remember former Riverhead Town councilman and police officer Tim Buckley, who disappeared in September and was found dead last week in South Carolina.
The longtime Wading River resident was remembered for his service to his community and country and for his sense of humor.
“He was the funniest guy you’ll ever find,” said police officer Dennis Cavanaugh, who was Mr. Buckley’s training officer when he joined the force in 1989 and had been his friend ever since. “We hit it off right from the beginning. For something like this to happen, it’s nothing less than a tragedy.”
An Amityville native, Mr. Buckley moved to Wading River at the age of four and graduated from Bishop-McGann Mercy High School in 1983. He received a full ROTC scholarship from Long Island University at C.W. Post, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a commission as an Army second lieutenant.
Mr. Buckley served one year in Kuwait during the first Gulf War. After working as a New York City police officer for two years, he joined the Riverhead force in 1989. He was named the department’s Officer of the Year in 2005, a year in which he helped deliver a baby while on duty.
“Although he was a funny guy and that’s what people remember about him, he really was a great police officer,” said Riverhead Town Police Capt. Richard Smith. “I learned a lot from him when I was first hired. He was an excellent officer and a family man, and he really did a service for the town.”
As a town officer, Mr. Buckley also served as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, encouraging children to avoid drugs. In addition, he was a recruitment officer and an instructor at the Civilian Police Academy, where community leaders take a multi-week course about what it’s like to be a police officer. He also served as port security specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.
In 2007, Mr. Buckley retired from the police department and successfully ran for a seat on the Riverhead Town Board as a registered Conservative with Republican backing. He served just under two years before stepping down in 2009 to help care for his wife, Ruth, who suffers from a debilitating condition called Ataxia. The family later moved to South Carolina.
Capt. Smith said he remains in “disbelief” over his friend’s passing. The two men were hired in the same class of officers and they worked in adjoining sectors.
“He’s the godfather of one of my daughters,” the captain said.
Another officer hired in 1989, retired Sgt. Pat Mulcahy, said he grew up in the same neighborhood as Mr. Buckley and had been friends with him since childhood.
“When we both got hired at the same time, we reconnected,” said Mr. Mulcahy, who had been in South Carolina assisting the Buckley family at the time his friend’s remains were found. “When I heard he was missing, I went down to help out, see what I could do.”
Mr. Mulcahy described his friend’s death in the simplest of terms: a tragedy.
“Even being in the police business and being around this type of stuff your entire career, you never can imagine someone you know would be a victim of something like this, someone you’re friends with,” he said. “It’s tragic for the whole family: his wife and three girls.”
But Mr. Mulcahy, like many of the family, friends and fellow officers in attendance Monday, will choose to remember Mr. Buckley a different way.
“He was a funny guy,” he said. “He always had a sense of humor.”