Over the past 20 years many people caught a glimpse of Southold Fire Department volunteer Frank Locrotondo.
It might have been as he marched down Main Road playing the bass drum during a parade. Or perhaps when he was helping someone involved in a motor vehicle accident. Or responding to one of many other emergencies or fires.
Mr. Locrotondo has served as a firefighter and EMT since moving to Southold with his wife, Cindy, in 1991.
But in October 2011, at age 54, he was diagnosed with frontal temporal dementia, forcing the man whose passion was helping others and his community to hang up his uniform. The disease has progressed quickly since then. He’s also had to give up from his work at Eastern Tire in Cutchogue, which he co-owned for 13 years with Southold first assistant chief Peggy Killian.
Known for his “larger than life” personality, Mr. Locrotondo had become a fixture around the department’s firehouse, said Ms. Killian. He received an advanced level of EMT training for critical care situations, making him the guy others looked to in emergency situations.
Former fire chief Bill Witzke said one such instance stands out in his mind.
About five years ago he and Mr. Locrotondo were called to a home on Town Harbor Lane. A woman was going into labor.
By the time the two arrived, she had given birth to a boy, but the baby wasn’t breathing.
A panicked father handed the infant to Mr. Locrotondo, who started CPR, Mr. Witzke said. He helped save the boy’s life.
“He’s the guy you turn around and say, ‘Thank God Frank’s here,’ ” he said. But now, he added, “There is a void; he was a good part of this organization.”
Katherine Meehan, an EMT, said Mr. Locrotondo was a mentor to all of the department’s emergency medical response volunteers. He trained beginner EMTs as an instructor though Suffolk County Emergency Medical Services.
“It was beyond training,” she said. “When we used to see Frank, a sense of relief would come over us.”
When assessing a person in need of emergency medical care, she and fellow EMTs would follow the commonly known ABCs – checking the patient’s airway, breathing and circulation. “Then we had step D – pray that Frank would come,” Ms. Meehan said. She had been learning from him for the last eight years, she said.
Mr. Locrotondo was named Firefighter of the Year in 1997 and EMT of the Year 2003, and both Ms. Killian and Mr. Witzke said he would likely have become the department’s chief one day.
He has been married for 33 years, having met his wife when he was 15. Both attended Kings Park High School and used to travel to the East End as teenagers. The couple has four children.
The family hopes to care for Mr. Locrotondo at home as long as possible; one of his daughters and her husband have moved in to help.
To raise much needed financial support, the fire department will host an “old-fashioned cookout” with live entertainment by Just Groovin’ on Saturday Aug. 10, from 6 to 11 p.m. at the main firehouse. All profits going to the Locrotondo family.
Tickets are $50 apiece and include a full barbecue of chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers with corn and side salads. Beer and wine will be served, and are included in the price, and there will be a chinese auction.
For tickets or more information, stop by the firehouse at 55135 Main Road in Southold. Those who would like to make a cash donation or donate items for the auction can drop them at the department or call Ms. Killian at 631-734-7395.