With bagpipers playing, William Lindsay, presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, was laid to rest yesterday after an emotional funeral service in which his children recalled the public man and the father they loved.
About 800 mourners, including a who's who of Suffolk politics, union officials and longtime friends who had worked with Lindsay when he was an electrical worker with IBEW Local 25, filled the Church of the Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Curch in Holbrook. Many dabbed their eyes repeatedly throughout the funeral Mass.
Later, in a light drizzle, his funeral cortege passed under a huge American flag draped in front of St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, where almost 200 people paid their last respects and laid red and white roses at the grave site.
Lindsay died of cancer last week at age 67 on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He had served for a record eight years as leader of the often-fractious county legislature, where he helped narrow the partisan divide. He also served for a decade as leader of IBEW Local 25.
Lindsay said exposure to asbestos as an electrician may have given him mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer.
"In many ways his death is both tragic and ironic," said his son, William, who is running to succeed his father in the 8th Legislative District. "He died a warrior's death battling a disease he fought to protect others against his entire life. It is fitting that he died on the same date as so many other heroes."
Lindsay's daughter, Denise Sullivan, noting her father always thought of others first, recalled that he told her in his final days, "It was such a pleasure to be a part of your life." The words "took my breath away," Sullivan said.
Sullivan, a Hampton Bays assistant principal, then quoted Dr. Seuss: 'Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.' We smile today because our Dad, our Poppy, was Bill Lindsay and we were so blessed to have him in our lives."
Both children said the family has been buoyed by their father's Catholic faith, their mother's strength during his illness and countless stories from well-wishers about how their father helped and changed their lives.
"My father always treated everyone with dignity and respect," said his son.
They described their father as the family's "patriarch" who organized summer barbecues, family football games in subfreezing weather and gatherings on Super Bowl Sunday, which Sullivan said was a "family holiday for the Lindsays." Even after his diagnosis, Lindsay, in a wheelchair, accompanied his 4-year-old grandson, Christopher, to Disney World.
Among the mourners were County Executive Steve Bellone; former county executive Patrick Halpin; Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton); Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer; most of the 18 Suffolk legislators, Republicans and Democrats; Suffolk County Community College president Shaun McKay and John Durso, head of the Long Island Federation of Labor.
"He was a father figure, a mentor to us all," said Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), the legislature's majority leader. "It's is very tough to see someone who had such strength taken away."