Depot Road Park Renamed after Fallen Firefighter
Supervisor Frank P. Petrone, members of the Town Council and Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia joined with the Huntington Manor Fire Department September 9 in renaming Depot Road Park after Richard Wm. Holst, who suffered a fatal heart attack while responding to a fire near the park exactly eight years ago.
The Board and the Fire Department unveiled a plaque in Holst’s memory, mounted to a rock, and a sign with the park’s new name.
Holst, 60, was an honorary chief and longtime chaplain for the department, lived near the park and the shopping center at Depot Road and East 17th Street, across the street from the park. On September 9, 2009, he saw smoke coming from the shopping center and reported the fire. He went to the scene and helped do the building walk-around with the chiefs to locate the fire. While engaged in that task, he collapsed, suffering a heart attack that proved to be fatal.
“It’s our honor today to rededicate this park in his name, for his heroic efforts and for his giving to the community continuously,” Supervisor Petrone said in his remarks delivered to an audience of about 100 firefighters and members of Holst’s family, including his widow, Noreen. “He has been involved with this park, and the shopping center he responded to is right nearby. What an appropriate opportunity for us to rename a park.”
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson said, “Depot Road Park is a special place. It is one of those hidden gems. If you drove down Depot Road, you wouldn’t know it was here. A real hidden gem in our park system, much like you firefighters, much like honorary chief Holst. He was a hidden gem in our community. He was here to serve.”
“He was a really special man,” Councilwoman Susan A. Berland said. “Every time I would see him, he would just have something nice to say…He was The Rev, he was everybody’s chaplain, who would make you feel better. This is a place that makes people feel better. It is a beautiful venue, a beautiful space. People come, they are happy here…Rich would like nothing less than that.”
Councilwoman Tracey A. Edwards said, “Thank you, Huntington Manor, for allowing us to do this. This is about something that ended in a tragedy, but what he is about and what you are all about is what is good about Huntington Station. Any time all of us are with any of you, it is comforting to know that you are there serving our community. It is comforting to know that you will be there to save us.”
Town Clerk Raia spoke of seeing Holst at functions involving the fire police and how he sought her out to make sure she did not feel alone. “He always looked out for everyone,” she said. Speaking to his widow, she added, “Noreen, you will always, always be in the hearts of the Huntington Manor Fire Department, as well as us.”
Born in Rockville Centre, Holst was educated in the Uniondale school system. After graduating high school, he attended Nassau Community College. He served in the U.S. Navy, on the U.S.S. Saratoga, an aircraft carrier assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. His job was on the flight deck, directing fighter jets in for safe landings on the desk. He spent four years in the Navy.
Returning home, he married his high school sweetheart, Noreen, and began what would be a 36-year career with the Long Island Lighting Co. (and with LILCO’s successor, National Grid). He and Noreen bought a home in Huntington Station in 1976, and two years later, in 1978, he joined the Huntington Manor Fire Department. In doing so, he followed in the footsteps of his father, who was a former chief of the Uniondale department.
He was a member of the Huntington Manor Department for 31 years. For 26 of those years, he served as the department chaplain and was the Captain of the Fire Police. Members of the department, his co-workers and his friends called him “The Rev.” His license plate reflected that: HMFD REV.
Speaking for the fire department, First Assistant Chief Jon Hoffmann said, “Those who knew Rich knew an extremely kind and caring person as our chaplain.” Referring to the plaque noting the park dedication that is mounted on a large stone, he added, “The stone will stay and watch over people in this park as he did us for many years.”