BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office unveiled a historic monument to all the sheriffs and correction officers who have died in the line of service since 1887.
The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office on Friday unveiled a historic monument to all the sheriffs and correction officers who have died in service since 1887, helping to give closure to friends and family members still grieving the loss of loved ones.
The new monument, which was unveiled during a ceremony in front of the Suffolk County Correctional Facility, offers family members a more permanent means to commemorate the sacrifice of their loved ones. Until now, the annual memorial service offered only flowers and wreathes to commemorate the deceased.
“Dying for your country isn’t the worst thing in the world,” New York State Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Brooklyn) said during a ceremony Friday. “Being forgotten is. These men and women have sacrificed their lives for our safety, and we will not let them be forgotten.”
Lining the memorial walkway are ten granite stones taken from the remains of Riverhead’s old Griffing Avenue Jail and placed strategically beneath an American flag at the facility’s entrance. Family members can find the names of their loved ones engraved on a mounted plaque set vertically into one of the stones, each of which are surrounded by red perennials.
“My goal was to try to utilize the stones to their greatest potential,” said Riverhead landscaper Frank Esposito, who designed the memorial site. “I wanted a funnel, a visual link from the sheriff’s building to the flag.”
Eight of the ten stones are placed horizontally at a 45-degree angle to the walkway, strengthening the “visual link” Mr. Esposito envisioned and providing family members with a place to sit and reflect.
“I’ve tried to come every year since my husband died,” said Riverhead resident Francis Alec, whose husband passed away from a heart attack in 1981. “This is just one of the nicest, most gracious things they could do.”
At the end of the ceremony, a representative from each family was invited to place a rose at the center of the memorial site. Mrs. Alec, who still grieves even 29 years after her husband’s death, refrained from participating.
“I wanted to, but my legs wouldn’t move,” she said. “I froze. You just don’t ever get over it.”
Jean Vuolo, another attendee at the ceremony whose husband also died from a heart attack last year, sent her two youngest sons to place the family’s rose at the memorial site.
“When he passed away, I was 44, and he was only 47,” she said. “I never realized that I was going to take this journey by myself for the rest of my life. My worst nightmare came true, but I tell the boys that he’s with us all the time.”
The monument, eight months in the making, was completed entirely by volunteers at no cost to the town. Local businesses donated the materials necessary to complete the site, and facility inmates helped with the construction. County Undersheriff John Meyerricks oversaw the project’s completion with the help of county correction officers.
“It was something of Meyerricks’ career long goal to have a more formal memorial site,” said Sheriff’s office chief of staff Michael Sharkey. “This is a much more respectful setting to honor these people