The lives we've lost

Ray Pickersgill

Longtime Riverhead Business Improvement District president Ray Pickersgill died Monday at Stony Brook University Hospital of complications related to COVID-19. He was 71. 

Mr. Pickersgill, who lived in Nes-conset, had owned the Robert James Salon in downtown Riverhead with his daughter, Lisa, and wife, Margaret, since 2004.

He was the News-Review’s Businessperson of the Year in 2008 for his role in building up downtown Riverhead.

“This is the best location you can have,” Mr. Pickersgill told the News-Review in 2008. “Riverhead is a destination location.”

He was a member of the Business Improvement District’s Management Association from 2007 to 2016 and was its president from 2010 to 2016.

The BID position is voluntary, as are positions with the Riverhead Parking District Advisory Board and the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Committee, on which he also served.

“Ray was a great guy and he really was the impetus to the downtown revitalization,” said former Riverhead supervisor Sean Walter.

“Prior to his taking over, the BID was sitting on some $300,000 in funds that they weren’t really using, for a variety of reasons,” Mr. Walter said. “We tasked Ray to basically get the BID moving or we would get rid of it.

“And he really grabbed the bull by the horns. He would be the first guy putting out the chairs and the last guy taking them in.”

Mr. Walter said he credits Mr. Pickersgill with founding numerous events that took place in downtown Riverhead, including many that are ongoing.

These include the Cardboard Boat Race, the indoor farmers market, Alive on 25, the Fourth of July fireworks show and concerts, the antique car show and the Edgar Allan Poe Festival, now called the Halloween Fest. 

“I credit Ray because he created an excitement and buzz downtown that led other people to the downtown area,” Mr. Walter said.“Ray was the spark that ignited downtown Riverhead. It’s a big loss to the people downtown.”

Bill Allan, who served with Mr. Pickersgill on the BID for many years, said he always worked for the town’s best interest.

“He was one of the hardest-working volunteers that I believe the town has had in a long time,” Mr. Allan said. “He pretty much gave of his time from his business to work on town events, and he was one of the most concerned individuals as far as the direction of the town.”

Lisa Pickersgill wrote on Facebook Monday afternoon: “My father was a kind, amazing man that I was lucky enough to say he was my father.”

She said he was proud to be involved with town and county and that “the friends he made and the fun he had were some of his fondest memories.”

She said a memorial service to honor him will be held in the future.

“The world is a better place because he was in it,” Ms. Pickersgill wrote.

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