Bench, tree dedicated to memory of Ray Pickersgill, who spearheaded downtown Riverhead’s revitalization

The resurgence of downtown Riverhead began with a vision more than a decade ago when Ray Pickersgill pitched taking over the Riverhead Business Improvement District. And it began with the first chair Mr. Pickersgill placed in the large downtown parking lot for an event he organized.

“If you look to the east or you look to the west of right where you stand, the buildings that have been built over the past 10 years started with that first chair Ray Pickersgill put in this very parking lot where there wasn’t even a car,” said former Town Supervisor Sean Walter. “That man came here before every event, set the chairs up; after every event, took the chairs down.”

Mr. Walter spoke at a memorial ceremony along the Peconic Riverfront Sunday morning. About 70 friends and family of Mr. Pickersgill, who died in April due to complications from COVID-19, gathered for the ceremony to dedicate a new bench on the riverfront in his memory.

“Even though he didn’t live in Riverhead, he was dedicated to this town like nobody that I’ve ever known,” said Mr. Walter, who is now a Riverhead Town Justice.

Mr. Pickersgill was 71.

In addition to the bench, the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association planted a Crepe Myrtle tree near the riverfront, where a plaque honors Mr. Pickersgill “for his dedication to the Riverhead Business Improvement District, his vision of downtown revitalization, and his enormous heart shared with the Riverhead community.”

Steve Shauger, who followed in Mr. Pickersgill’s footsteps as BID president, said it wasn’t just the popular events like the Cardboard Boat Race that Mr. Pickersgill brought to downtown, but it was also the behind-the-scenes work such as obtaining grants for lights downtown.

“These are all things Ray had an impact on,” Mr. Shauger said. “I think that without understanding that, it’s kind of hard to realize the scope of the effect Ray had on our downtown.”

Mr. Pickersgill’s widow, Margaret, and daughter, Lisa, both thanked the those in attendance for remembering him.

“I would just like to say thank you to everyone who took the time to come out today,” Lisa said. “We really appreciate it.”

“Thank you all,” Margaret added.

On the bench, which is located at the west end of the riverfront, a plaque dedicates it to Mr. Pickersgill “for his infinite love and devotion to making the Town of Riverhead beautiful and successful.”

Several other speakers also shared memories. Andrew Copertino called Mr. Pickersgill, whom he grew up with in Lindenhurst, his first mentor.

“He took me under his wing,” he said. “He taught me honesty, integrity, responsibility and mostly, how to be a man.”

He said Mr. Pickersgill was always there for him and his family when they needed him.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar thanked the BID members for “allowing his memory to live.” She said the Town Board would also like to honor him in the future.

“He’s a hero, he’s a legend, he’s a pillar,” she said. “He will never be forgotten.”