Sal Prato didn’t know the word “no” and it’s not a word he wanted to hear from anyone else’s lips when he set his mind to do something. If there was a single word to describe Mr. Prato, it was “persistence,” said Eastern Long Island Hospital president and CEO Paul Connor III.
Eleven years ago Mr. Prato was determined to raise funds for an emergency dock at Eastern Long Island Hospital so that injured or sick patients could access the facility by boat. With a nor’easter blowing on the May 2003 day when the dock was dedicated, Mr. Prato stood tall, knowing the job had been well done.
On Thursday, under perfectly sunny skies, that dock was rededicated in Mr. Prato’s memory, as he lost his battle with cancer in November 2009. He likely would have been thrilled by the crowd of more than 100 people, the beautiful weather and mostly by the large flotilla of boats — including the Coast Guard, fire and rescue craft from Greenport, Shelter Island, and Orient, and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Patrol — in the harbor to pay homage to him, hospital president and CEO Paul Connor III said.
“Sal succeeded where others have failed,” Mr. Connor said, describing him as “a force of nature” like the wind and rain that swept the area the day of the original dedication.
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Dr. Frank Adipietro, hospital board member and president of the medical staff, remembered that while people at the original dedication had to huddle under a tent for the speeches, “the clouds parted and the sun came out” in time for Mr. Prato to lead people to the dock for a ribbon cutting.
“We’ve saved countless lives and made many boaters’ lives more convenient [because of the dock],” Dr. Adipietro said.
“If it wasn’t here, we’d need it,” Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer of Sea-Tow said.
What perhaps no one knew until Thursday was that the dream to build an emergency dock didn’t start in the late 1990s, but rather sometime around 1980.
Elena Prato Victoria, Mr. Prato’s daughter, said after an accident involving a young boy who needed to be brought to the hospital by boat back in 1980, Mr. Prato started thinking how an emergency dock could have facilitiated what was a difficult process of transporting the youth to the emergency room.
“My father was passionate about Greenport, “ Ms. Victoria said. “He was an idea guy and some of his ideas were better than others,” she said, eliciting laughs from those who remember Mr. Prato so fondly.
All of his ideas had to do with making something better for others, she said.
There were also tributes to Times/Review Newsgroup owner Troy Gustavson, who kept the fundraising drive alive with regular coverage in The Suffolk Times; George and John Costello, who built the dock at cost, simply because Mr. Prato asked them to do so; Fred Schoenstein, whose North Fork Welding Company produced the iron gatework for the dock; and the many contributors to the project.
Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine was on hand with a proclamation declaring Thursday Sal Prato Day throughout Suffolk County. And Greenport Mayor David Nyce read from a proclamation still being prepared to honor Mr. Prato. Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russll said the dock serves as a bridge between “that wonderful bay and this magnificent hospital.”