Longtime Southold fireman and local businessman dies

02/17/2014 6:02 PM |
COURTESY PHOTO | Southold volunteer fireman Frank Locrotondo

COURTESY PHOTO | Southold volunteer fireman Frank Locrotondo, who died overnight Sunday.

Frank Locrotondo Jr. filled a lot of roles during his decades of service in the Southold Fire Department.

He was an EMT and a member of the dive team. He became a captain and a mentor to his fellow volunteers. He was even the bass drum player in the department’s band, a fitting job.

“The bass drum is kind of the beat of the band and that’s how he was,” said Fire Chief Bill Byrnes. “He was the heartbeat of the department.”

Mr. Locrotondo, a grandfather, local businessman and award-winning volunteer Southold firefighter who was diagnosed with an early form of dementia in 2011 died overnight Sunday while on an annual family trip to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

He was 56.

Mr. Locrotondo first moved to the area in 1991 and immediately joined the fire department. He earned the Firefighter of the Year award in 1997 and was honored as EMT of the Year in 2003.

He also co-owned Eastern Tire in Cutchogue for 13 years with Southold first assistant chief Peggy Killian.

Mr. Locrotondo became known for his professionalism, whether it was a dangerous fire, a serious EMT call or rescuing a cat from a drain, said ex-chief and friend Bill Witzke.

“He was there to help, but it was not about him,” Mr. Witzke said. “He was there to help people … I cannot say enough good things about the guy.”

It all stemmed from his love for his family, Mr. Witke said.

“The top priority in his life was his family, and he personified that in his calls,” he said.

He was someone his fellow firefighters could count on to diffuse a tense situation, Chief Byrnes said. The two often went out on late night calls together, so much so that Chief Byrnes has memorized Mr. Locrotondo’s EMT log number: 206756.

But friends began to notice something seemed off with the man known for his sense of humor. In October 2011, Mr. Locrotondo was diagnosed with frontal temporal dementia and his condition began to worsen.

“It was difficult to see that happen for a guy who was so full of life,” Chief Byrnes said. Mr. Locrotondo — who would have been in line for a chief’s position had he wanted — was forced to leave the department and his business.

In the years that followed, his neighbors and friends rallied around the man who had always helped others. More than 700 people attended a cook-out fundraiser for his family last August which was packed with gifts and donations.

“You didn’t have to ask anybody to do anything,” Chief Byrnes said. “So many people wanted to help because he touched so many lives.”

Now the flags at the Southold Fire Department are flying at half mast in his honor. Vistiation will be held on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m., according to Defriest-Gratton Funeral Home in Southold.

The Southold Fire Department will hold a firematic service for Mr. Locrotondo at 7:30 p.m. that day, funeral home officials said.

Mass will be held at St. Patrick’s R.C. Church in Southold, with internment to follow in the cemetery.

“We’re going to miss him, but you know, I’m glad I had him as a friend,” Mr. Witzke said. “I was privileged to know him.”

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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated which fire department was honoring Mr. Locrotondo with flags at half mast.