Members of the Riverhead community, and people from well beyond it, mourned the loss of NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen in February, remembering him as hero who had a lasting impact on many. In the days, weeks and months following his death, numerous groups and organizations paid tribute to the Calverton man’s memory.
To those who knew him best, Det. Simonsen, 42, was simply “Smiles,” a nickname he’d earned years earlier at Riverhead High School.
“He was just the most generous, heartwarming person who always had a smile on his face,” longtime friend Karen Skop said in February.
On Feb. 20, thousands of mourners filled the streets around the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays to pay their respects to the detective, who was killed by friendly fire while responding to a robbery in Queens. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and former NYPD commissioner James O’Neil both delivered heartfelt remarks to Det. Simonsen’s surviving family: his wife, Leanne; mother, Linda; and grandfather Vern.
“Our hearts go out to the Simonsen family,” Mr. de Blasio said at the funeral service.
In June, Riverhead Town formally renamed South Jamesport Avenue in memory of Det. Simonsen. Dozens of police officers attended that ceremony as well as local officials and residents. The road is now also known as Det. Brian Simonsen Way.
Riverhead High School teams also honored the Simonsen family. The Riverhead softball team paid tribute to Det. Simonsen in April, as did Riverhead’s baseball team in May. His No. 21 baseball jersey was retired during a ceremony before a game. In May, a fundraiser at East Wind Long Island in Wading River raised more than $25,000 for scholarships in his memory. The event drew close to 700 people.
Photo caption: Det. Simonsen’s wife Leanne and mother Linda at street renaming this past summer. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister/file)