Column: Tragic deaths provide a reason to help

06/02/2018 6:00 AM |

On Saturday, Dec. 1, 1979, Allan Glover was working in a potato barn in Mattituck when his former wife, Nancy, came to find him. He could see something was very wrong.

Their 13-year-old son, Allan Wayne Glover, and Nancy’s husband, Stanley Victoria, 37, were missing. They had left early that morning from a dock in New Suffolk in a 16-foot boat to hunt ducks off Robins Island.

“It was a cold and windy day; it was blowing hard,” recalled Mr. Glover, now 73. “Nancy came to get me. I remember her saying, ‘They didn’t come back.’ ”

At the time, Mr. Glover was an assistant chief with the Cutchogue Fire Department. He and dozens of fellow firefighters went to the New Suffolk waterfront and found as many boats as they could to transport them to Robins Island. A photograph that appeared in the Dec. 6 edition of The Suffolk Times shows a crowd of volunteers combing a meadow on Robins Island.

“The thought was maybe they were stranded somewhere on the island,” Mr. Glover said. “We walked all along the shoreline and into the woods thinking they were in there somewhere to get away from the cold. We walked and walked.

“It was dark and still blowing, but we kept looking,” he said. “We searched two or three days. I had a friend who had a plane and we flew over the bay trying to find them.”

Over that long winter, neither Mr. Victoria, nor Allan and Nancy’s handsome, blond-haired boy were found. On April 15, 1980, four and a half months after the pair disappeared, Walter Ryba, a caretaker working at an estate at the end of Vanston Road on Nassau Point, saw a body on the beach below the estate, on the west side of the point. It was the boy. Several hours later, Mr. Victoria’s body was spotted on the beach on the southwest corner of Robins Island.

“It was a relief to at least know,” Mr. Glover said as he sat in the firehouse waiting room on a warm Tuesday afternoon.

This Sunday, June 3, from 8 a.m. to noon, the Cutchogue Fire Department will host its annual scholarship breakfast honoring Mr. Victoria, who was second assistant chief at the time of his death, and Allan Wayne Glover.

The fundraiser for local students heading to college started in 1981, the year after the bodies were discovered. The breakfast has changed lives; some 150 students have received more than $100,000 in scholarships since it began.

As usual Mr. Glover will man the stove Sunday, making pancakes and French toast.

“That’s where I will be,” he said. “I really like doing that. You know, when something horrible happens, people can give up. I wanted to keep going, and to do something good for the community. We thought helping kids get an education, that something good could come out of this.”

Members of the Cutchogue Fire Department comb Robins Island in December 1979. (Suffolk Times archives)

For 50 or so years, Mr. Glover has run a trucking business, hauling produce and nursery stock up and down the East Coast. He isn’t giving that up, either.

Nancy will be at the breakfast, too, with her husband, William Dermody. Both are fire department members and helpers at the annual chicken barbecue in August, which attracts crowds of more than 2,000.

In recent years, the scholarship breakfast has drawn upwards of 250 guests; last year it dropped to about 180. Fire department members are hoping more people will come this year to enjoy the food and support the cause. Tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for children.

This year, five students will receive scholarships of $1,500 each. One is an ROTC scholarship in honor of the Cooper family. Four other recipients from either Southold or Mattituck high schools were chosen from a large pool based on a point system that considers grades, community service and other factors, according to Chief Larry Behr.

“The breakfast is our biggest fundraiser for the scholarship fund,” the chief said. “We also do a 5K run in December, too. With the point system, it allows us to reward kids who do community services and school activities.”

William Brewer, an ex-chief of the department who chairs the scholarship committee, was helping with planning Tuesday afternoon.

“We want to help these kids get on with their dreams,” he said.

The department’s 109 members are devoted to their community. They have responded to house fires and horrific car wrecks, even to accidents and tragedies involving their own family members, including Chief Behr, who once responded to a serious accident in Aquebogue only to learn it had claimed the life of his niece, an ambulance driver.

For Nancy Dermody and Allan Glover, their thoughts will be with their lost son — and the daughter they lost just a few years later in another horrific tragedy. Each has lived with seemingly insurmountable sadness, yet each has found ways to continue to serve Cutchogue and to go on with their lives. Their courage to face life has inspired everyone who knows them.

Nothing has deterred them — or any of their fellow CFD members — from serving, or from their love of the department and the community. A small community without a great fire department would be a poor place to live, raise a family and retire. These men and women have made it a better, safer place to live.

On Sunday, 37 years after the fundraiser began, members will cook pancakes for anyone who can come by to help the cause.

“I am glad we are doing it,” said Mr. Glover.

Photo caption: Allan Glover, a longtime member of Cutchogue Fire Department, will cook pancakes for Sunday’s scholarship breakfast at the firehouse. (Credit: Steve Wick)

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