Walter ‘Sonny’ O’Kula

Walter J. O’Kula of Riverhead died April 2, 2020, at the Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Westhampton Beach. He was 73 years old.

He was born in Greenport, N.Y., Jan. 2, 1947, the son of Rose (Danowski) and Zygmunt O’Kula. He served in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division from 1968 to 1972. He and his father owned and operated locally known O’Kula’s Welding. He then worked as an equipment operator for the Riverhead landfill and retired from the town Highway Department.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara; his children, Christopher, Jeffrey and Laura; sisters, Dorothy Lukaszcyk and Roseanne Tyska; and nieces and nephews.

“Sonny” gained celebrity status that reached beyond town limits in September 1994. When working alone at the Riverhead garbage transfer station, he looked down and found nearly $16,000 in cash and checks wrapped in rubber bands that had been accidentally thrown out by the bookstore at the eastern campus of Suffolk County Community College. He turned in the money because it was the right thing to do. He was honored by the Town of Riverhead and the community college and was a recipient of the National Enquirer’s Honest Person Award. It was quoted: “But for his honesty, he’s surely won a place in Heaven and in the hearts of many whose faith he has restored.”

Cremation was private. McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead assisted the family.

This is a paid notice.