Sgt. Keith Allison of Brentwood spent his life giving back to the community.
Allison spent 25 years in uniform with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, served on the Brentwood school board and volunteered with the Islip Branch of the NAACP.
But above all else, Allison, who died in December after a 17-day battle with COVID-19, was a devoted father and doting grandfather.
On Monday — one year after the first coronavirus case was confirmed in New York State — Keith Allison became the first name added to Suffolk County’s new COVID-19 memorial.
“He has not been forgotten,” said his wife, Brenda Allison, shortly after she tied a blue ribbon to a wooden memorial outside the County Legislative Building in Hauppauge.
“This is very touching for us,” she said. “I miss his smile every single day.”
Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. called Keith Allison a friend who was devoted to public service.
“He was a person who was always smiling; always helpful and always energetic and passionate about his job,” Toulon said.
The memorial will be on display through the month giving family members an opportunity to add ribbons with their loved ones’ names.
Names can also be added to a similar memorial at the Evans K. Griffing building in Riverhead. Loved ones can submit names for both memorials online at www.https://www.scnylegislature.us/1260/COVID-19-Memorial. The website provides the option to share a photo and memory about the person.
After Suffolk receives the submission, county staff will write the loved one’s name on a ribbon and affix it to one of the wood and rope memorials.
The two memorials, which were built by Boy Scout Troop 888 in Smithtown, will eventually be combined into one and put on display permanently in Hauppauge.
“Not only can we go to a grave … but we can go here to remember him at Suffolk County because he did a very good job there and he was a very good man,” said nine-year-old Avaleigh McCoy, Allison’s granddaughter.
Since the pandemic began, more than 155,0000 Suffolk residents have contracted the virus and 3,086 have succumbed to COVID-19, according to data from the New York State Health Department.
“That is a tremendous number of people to lose in a single year and it has left many of us mourning and in loss,” said Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), presiding officer of the Suffolk Legislature. “We are heading the memorial today in a way to honor these families, their neighbors and the heroes, because many of them probably contracted this virus doing their jobs.”
Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), who has lost four friends to COVID-19, said the memorial should “serve as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life; the fragility of our human condition. But let each ribbon also serve as a beautiful reminder of the lives that we lost.”
Among those in attendance Monday were the family of Robert Van Zeyl, a veteran Suffolk police lieutenant; colleagues of Parks Department Supervisor Russell Shive, and Stacy DeNoyior of Deer Park, whose husband, Anthony DeNoyior, was a Suffolk auxiliary police captain for two decades. Van Zeyl, Shive and Anthony DeNoyior all died from COVID-19.
“I wish I didn’t have to be here but I am here to support Anthony and to be part of something very special,” Stacy DeNoyior said. “Anthony was the ultimate giver. He was a man of faith. Anthony truly was humble.”
Earlier Monday, Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino presented hero pins to Northwell Health workers from Plainview and Syosset hospitals, who together treated thousands of COVID patients during the past year.
“Words cannot adequately express the sense of pride we have in the outstanding dedication and professionalism that you all continue to display throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Saladino said at a ceremony outside Syosset Hospital.
Djimmitry Jeanlouis, a nurse manager at Plainview Hospital’s COVID-19 unit, recalled treating a married couple who each had the virus. After the husband died, nurses were able to transport the woman from her bed to hold his hand. She died two days later.
“That was one of the moments that almost broke me down,” Jeanlouis said. “She just wanted to hold his hand.”