Leonard Llewellyn was doing what he had done for 53 years that Tuesday afternoon. The only thing different about this response as a member of the Mattituck Fire Department was that he left his home on Deep Hole Drive on a tricycle instead of driving his car.
At 82, Mr. Llewellyn did not have great eyesight due to cataracts. He’d given up driving his car, but he still wanted to serve his fire department when the need arose. And it did that afternoon.
He jumped on his tricycle from his home, headed down New Suffolk Avenue, cut over to Main Road, and in front of the Mattituck-Laurel Library, attempted to cross to the other side. The firehouse was a half-block away. He was almost there.
“He got the alarm at home,” said Mr. Llewellyn’s brother Douglas. “He was riding on his way to the firehouse and he was crossing the road, in the crosswalk, and a car going eastbound hit him.
“He had massive injuries,” he added. “Two cracked pelvises, injuries to his lower spine, a cracked sternum, a broken left leg, a lot of internal bleeding and a perforated bladder. The ambulance took him to Peconic Bay [Medical Center] in Riverhead. They did an observation and transferred him by helicopter to a hospital in Bay Shore. He had so much internal bleeding.
“I got there on Thursday morning,” Douglas said. “He died that night, Aug. 24.”
On Monday night, an estimated 200 uniformed firefighters — some from as far away as New York City — came to DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Mattituck for Mr. Llewellyn’s wake. A hook and ladder truck, from which hung a giant American flag, filled the parking lot.
The next morning, an estimated 30 fire trucks escorted Mr. Llewellyn’s casket — first around the firehouse, and then to Sacred Heart R.C. Cemetery on Depot Lane in Cutchogue.
“It was the most spectacular thing I’d ever seen,” Douglas said. “It was so impressive, so wonderful for my brother. Growing up together in Mattituck, he was Len. That’s what I always called him. Just Len. So many people came up to me to talk about Lenny. That’s who he was here — Lenny. I learned so much about him.”
Leonard, Douglas and their brother Richard all grew up in Mattituck. Leonard graduated from Mattituck High School in 1961 and later found work on Plum Island. One morning on the ferry to Plum Island he met a fellow worker, Marge Hiddick. They later married and moved into the house on Deep Hole Drive. They had no children. She predeceased him.
He also opened a business in Mattituck that sold and serviced fire extinguishers. And 53 years ago, he joined the fire department. He was a founding father of the department’s Junior Bulldog Program in 1985 and a pillar of the fire prevention program, according to a statement from the department.
Leonard Llewellyn stopped driving several months ago, according to his brother, because of cataracts in both eyes. “I arranged for him to get one removed in September and the other one in October,” Douglas said. “If that had happened, he’d have been back driving.”
Douglas lives in Rochester, N.Y., and the phone rang in his house last Tuesday night, Aug. 22. He packed a bag and left Rochester the next morning and arrived in Bay Shore last Thursday morning.
“He was on a ventilator,” he said. “He was heavily sedated. They did a full scan and the results were not good at all. At that point, it was determined he would not make it. He died that night.”
Since Leonard’s death, his fire department and dozens of others have paid tribute to him. A firefighter’s death is a loss for all firefighters. After the death, the body was taken to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office in Hauppauge, and from there various departments escorted the casket to the funeral home in Mattituck.
“When we passed through Jamesport, dozens of uniformed people were there to salute him going by,” Douglas said.
“So many people have come up to me to talk about Lenny,” he said. “So many had stories to tell about him. The community knew him as Lenny, the man who spent a half century as a firefighter. He taught boating safety; he was active in the historical society. He did so much I didn’t know about. But I knew Len; I didn’t know Lenny.
“He was compassionate,” he said. “He was committed to his community. He had a sense of humor. I will never again refer to him as Len.”