My dad was born and raised in the East End of Long Beach and although he moved in 1962, his heart never left its sandy shore. Long Beach locals who remember Park Avenue before the Waldbaums shopping center might recall Mike’s Seafood Market and its crew-cut owner. That was my dad, aka Tony or Tordy. I chose the bench location that was closest to being in line with where the store used to stand, at 81 E. Park Avenue. My dad was a favorite of the ladies and bragged about the day that Eydie Gorme came in to buy fish. The store was located on the sunny side of the block and that certainly described my dad’s disposition. He made a hand-written poster for his front window, “If you can’t stop in, SMILE as you go by”… and people did! My dad loved kids and since all he had was me, he went looking for others. He hired two neighborhood brothers, Calvin and Sterling, and took them under his wing; taught them the business and required that they open bank accounts and save some of their earnings. My dad was a real soft - hearted guy; cried during the Star Spangled Banner, and whenever he heard the Italian song “Mama.” And now we cry for him - our everything - loved by his wife Kathleen, daughter MaryEllen, her husband Jim and 2 grandsons, James and Bryan.
Kenny Marino was a Rescue One firefighter who was tragically lost on September 11th. Although passionate about being a firefighter, he was a family man as well. Husband to Katrina and dad to Kristin and Tyler, Kenny could often be found spending time with his family and taking care of the home he was so proud of. Kenny really had it all - a wife he loved, children he adored, and job he couldn’t wait to go to. He even found time to play Strat-o-Matic baseball, another passion of his, as well as volunteer for his local fire department.
Long Beach always held a special place in Kenny’s heart. Growing up in Oceanside, Long Beach was always a part of Kenny’s life. When he first became a firefighter, he was able t o r e n t an apartment theresomething he had always dreamed of doing. While he definitely lived it up for a time, it w a s i n L o n g Beach where he m e t h i s w i f e Katrina. The rest, as they say, is history. Kenny died a true hero. He was one of the first responders on September 11th who, for sure, never thought twice about running into the World Trade Center ready to save lives. It takes a special kind of person to risk one’s own life in order to save another. This world needs more people like Kenny - people with courage and dedication. Kenny was lost way too soon but his memory will always be cherished.
John Sherry, 34, was a Bond Broker in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center for Eurobrokers. He was such a remarkable, special person. Aside from being a loving and dedicated family man to his wife Missy and his two sons James and Johnny, he was as much a beloved Son, Brother, Uncle and Friend. He made everyone around him feel so important and special. He held those around him in the highest regard and was always there for them. His smile lit up the room and his sense of humor was beyond words. He lived life to the fullest everyday and his absence has left a void so deep in us all, it can never be filled.
Although Johnny was only 34, he was wise beyond his years. He possessed grace and eloquence and was a true gentleman in every sense of the word.
Johnny loved spending time with his family; after all that was the most important thing in his life. He so enjoyed teaching his boys how to play sports because he too was an athlete. His abilities he passed on to them and he would be so proud of the young men they have become.
He is missed dearly everyday. We remember him with heavy hearts and carry the wonderful memories he so generously filled our lives with. We were so very blessed to have him for the short time we did, and I am more blessed to have been his wife.
Forever in our hearts, rest in peace my love.
Ten years ago early in the morning, on a beautiful day (June 12th, 2002), there was a knock on my door. When I opened the door there were two police ofBicers with grim looks on their faces. They asked if I was the mother of Jillian Vinas…. there was a car accident……… my beautiful 21 year old daughter, home for the summer from college, was killed. Life seemed suspended… how can this be true? Nothing would be the same again…how do I survive……?
How do I describe my daughter, Jillian Rose? As the youngest of four children and the only girl, she had to compete with three older brothers. From about the age of two her strong will and ability to attract people to her was evident. She had an infectious smile and playful personality – wherever Jillian went people followed. When I close my eyes and think about Jillian I hear her unmistakable laugh, a laugh that Billed a room and made her presence known. Valley Stream was our hometown and she embraced it with her whole heart. Later she attended Towson University in Maryland and it was not long before her college friends would come to our home at break time to have Jillian introduce them to NYC and Long Beach. I was so moved at her wake to hear the stories of Jillian from so many people; many I never met, who shared a story of Jillian’s kindness, compassion and encouragement. She loved life and lived it to the fullest. It was hard to ever be angry with my daughter, as she made me laugh no matter what. She accomplished more in 21 years than many in a much longer lifetime.
As the pain of grief turned from days into weeks, which turned into months, a friend told me about the memorial benches being constructed on the boardwalk. The same Long Beach I took my four children to; the same Long Beach my daughter fell in love with and would eventually claim as her own.
So how to celebrate her life? The bench has become a place of remembrance and ritual. Every Christmas Eve I travel to Long Beach with family members to decorate her bench. Wreathes, garland, rose petals and photos helps us to recall that she is still with us on this most special of nights. Each year on the day of her anniversary in heaven I invite all those who knew Jillian to come down to the bench and bring a memory, a story, a piece of their history with her. Each occasion brings different friends and family who come to sit and remember. Some travel for the Birst time, others have attended every year. After breathing in Jillian’s spirit at the bench we all go to Peter’s Clam Bar, a favorite of Jillian’s, to continue our remembrance and celebration. There are quiet, reflective moments, too. Times when I sit on the bench alone and think of Jillian in solitude. This is why a simple bench on the Long Beach Boardwalk means so much to a mother who lost her daughter. Truly, this has become sacred space. I will end with the words her step-father, John, had inscribed on her plaque, "For as long as we live, so you too shall live, for you will always be with us."
Stephen Siller’s early childhood was the typical version of the suburban American Dream. By the time he was 11 years old, however, he had lost both of his parents. He spent the rest of his childhood living with his older brother’s family in Rockville Centre. Although he went through difficult times in his teens, the values instilled in him by his parents and the love of his siblings ultimately made him an extraordinary individual. More than most, he knew that time was precious and he was able to accomplish much in his 34 years on earth.
Stephen was first and foremost a loving husband to his wife, Sally, and father to his five young children. He was also a dedicated fireman, devoted brother, loyal friend and committed neighbor.
All that changed on September 11 for Stephen Siller. He had finished the late shift as a Squad 1 fire fighter and he was on his way to play golf that morning with his brothers when his scanner told of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. He called his wife to tell her he would be late getting home because he had to help those in need. He returned to his fire station to get his gear. Then he headed for the World Trade Center. When he drove to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, it was already closed to traffic. He abandoned his car and with 60 pounds of gear in tow, he ran through the tunnel to get to Manhattan. He was able to meet up with the others from his squad. They rushed into Tower One to try and do what they were trained to do..save lives. Unfortunately, Stephen and 10 others from his squad never made it out.
As a result of his heroic efforts, a memorial foundation was set up in his honor. The T2T (Tunnel to Towers) Foundation honors his life by having an annual run from The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the site of the Twin Towers, following his footsteps of selflessness and love by “doing good” in his memory.
The Run attracts tens of thousands, especially firefighters from all over the world. Proceeds help make a lasting and positive difference in the lives of children who have lost one or both parents. Since Hurricane Sandy, funds are also being used to help victims in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Long Beach.
Stephen’s life and heroic sacrifice will serve as a reminder for us all to live life to the fullest and to spend our time here on earth doing good deeds to others. This is Stephen Siller’s most enduring legacy.
Irwin "Miami" Shane
“Miami” was one of my husband’s nicknames. “I Can See Clearly Now” was his beach sun song to chase away the clouds. He won a big cash prize in his 20’s for singing “Lucky Old Sun.” He always carried a paper folding fan and a whistle. He called our nephews, Joey and Matt, the Monkey Boys.. 831…8 letters, three words,one meaning…I LOVE YOU. Also his mother’s birthday and the building number where he grew up in Brooklyn. He loved tennis.
My husband Ir and I moved from Manhattan to LB in 1992. For us the beach was the next best thing to the city.
Ir was a very friendly, outgoing person, a real one-of-a-kind character, who loved people. He loved a party and was usually the life of the party. He was a free spirit and got along well with kids and teenagers and adults. He loved sports, especially tennis. Most people called him Shane or Miami. Only I called him Ir. He really knew how to have fun and always tried to make things fun for everyone.
I started decorating Ir’s bench for Halloween and Christmas in 2002. I wanted to continue his spirit of fun. One day in December 2002, I was going up to check on the decorations and I saw a man and 2 young boys standing at the bench. The man said these were his sons and they called this “the Christmas bench.” They asked every day to come visit the Christmas bench so he brought them here whenever he could.
It really touched my heart. After that I started decorating for every holiday and birthday. The benches on our boardwalk are a testament to love from family and friends for their loved ones and to the spirit of friendship, community and love. We are very blessed. May his moon always cast a loving glow.