Idea for Homeland Security Center was born in Southold

When Ken Morrelly walked into his Southold kitchen on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and saw the images on television of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, an idea was born. Last month that idea became reality with the opening of the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage.

“That was the day the concept came that we had to be safer here,” Catherine Morrelly said about 9/11.

The Center, launched with state and federal funds at the site of a former Grumman plant, is operated by Mr. Morrelly’s nonprofit Long Island Forum for Technology (LIFT). Its purpose is to bring together public and private agencies and industries in order to integrate, and accelerate, the development of high-tech security systems and hardware.

In October 2009, at age 64, Mr. Morrelly suffered a fatal heart attack, just as his dream was nearing completion. At last month’s commissioning of the center, former Homeland Securities director Tom Ridge officially named the center for Mr. Morrelly, praising his leadership and foresight in developing the only facility of its kind in the United States.

Among the groups housed in the center in addition to LIFT are the New York State Office of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Transit Security Administration, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police and the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management. There’s also space for The Applied Science Foundation for Homeland Security, Resident Research Partners and various manufacturers and academicians who work together to translate theory into practical products.

“This was the greatest of all his projects,” said Ms. Morrelly, talking about the center at her Southold home Monday morning.

Trained as an electrical engineer as an undergraduate, with a master’s degree in marine science and an MBA earned through an executive program at Columbia University, Mr. Morrelly had a long career in designing systems for the Department of Defense. His work took him around the world, giving advice on technology thorughout the United States and in the Mideast, the Far East, Southeast Asia, South and Central America and Canada. He was an advisor to state and federal governments on national defense and job development. He secured funding for the center through State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

Surrounded by newspaper clippings about the center, a Navy League Award for Mr. Morrelly’s long service on the board of the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., and a letter from the commander of the USS New York praising his contributions to Homeland Security, Ms. Morrelly said she found comfort in knowing her husband’s goal had been achieved.

“To keep up with Kenny, boy did I learn a lot,” Ms. Morrelly said. Married for 40 years, the couple were childhood sweethearts who met when she was 14 and he was 17.

“His way of relaxing was working,” Ms. Morrelly said. Even on the home front, he was regularly on the telephone. Otherwise, he could be found in his workshop engaging in his woodworking hobby. They lived in western Long Island moved to Southold in the 1990s. They have a grown daughter.

While Ms. Morrelly doesn’t have the technical expertise her husband possessed, she plans to remain involved with the center.

“They want me there,” she said. His former associates told her, “You bring Ken’s spirit back to us.”

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