When Chris Cosich of Amagansett learned of an Ohio organization that honors World War II veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial dedicated to them, he told his then-wife he wanted to do the same thing here.
They founded Honor Flight Long Island, which since 2006 has escorted about 1,000 veterans to war memorials in and around the nation's capital, many of them making the trip for the first time.
Cosich, 47, died at his home Monday, according to Bill Jones, the organization's vice president. Cosich's family declined to provide details of his death.
Jones said Cosich, who was not himself a veteran, was inspired by stories told by uncles who served in the war.
"That motivated him to do whatever he could to honor those men and women from that war and from that era," Jones said.
Frank Milano, 92, of Flushing, Queens, was on the last flight Cosich organized in September.
"It meant a lot to me to see the memorials and to be with the other veterans," said Milano, an Army veteran who arrived at Normandy a week after D-Day in 1944, and served in Europe for the rest of the war. "We shared a lot of stories. I'd want to go again."
Anke Cosich, married to Cosich from 2005 to 2013, said he was acutely aware that aging World War II veterans wouldn't be around for long. She said he treated them with the respect they deserved.
"He would just bloom like a flower," Anke Cosich said. "He was just excited to listen to their stories. And they would tell him stories that they had never even told their families."
At the national World War II Memorial, he knew they would see tangible evidence that society appreciated their sacrifice, she said.
Born in Huntington, Cosich grew up in Lake Ronkonkoma and attended Saint Michael's College in Burlington, Vt., where he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1988.
An accomplished bodybuilder, he earned a living as a personal trainer, operating a studio in his home.
He is survived by his mother, B. Augusta Cosich of Manhattan. His father, John, died in 1995.
A visitation is scheduled Thursday from 2-6 p.m. at Yardley & Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton. A memorial service is planned for June 1 at Southampton High School.