Superstorm Sandy: Remembering the 13 who died on LI
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One walked outside at the wrong moment. Another took a final ride down the wrong street. And one chose the wrong patch of woods to set up camp.
The 13 people killed on Long Island as a result of Hurricane Sandy included mothers and fathers, rich and poor, young and old. Some were just entering the prime of their lives -- happily married and raising kids -- while others were struggling to find purpose.
Each touched the lives of family and friends, and left a mark on the Island where their journeys ended.
Here are their stories:
LEWIS BODI, 87, GLEN COVE
He made it through World War II with the Navy in the South Pacific, and endured the first six days without power at his Glen Cove home after Sandy. When the lights came back on Nov. 4, it seemed the worst was over for Lewis Bodi, 87, and his wife.
But two hours later, another blackout plunged the couple into darkness. Bodi lit a kerosene lantern and accidentally knocked it over, setting himself and his home on fire, authorities said.
Sara Lord Bodi, 85, tried desperately to save her husband, throwing glasses of water and wet towels on him. But she could not call 911 -- the phone was dead -- and flames and smoke forced her from the house, now destroyed except for the basement, their daughter said.
Bodi, a former provost at York College, is mourned as a member of the "Greatest Generation."
"He came from humble beginnings and was full of life experiences," said Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi, who was the first official at the scene of the fire and used his police radio to call for help. "He was a joy to be around. . . . If it wasn't for Sandy, he'd still be here."
Bodi raised his family with a sense of humor and adventure, said daughter Sari Bodi, 58, of Westport, Conn. He had nicknames for each member of the family, calling his wife "Googie." The octogenarian would joke that salsa lessons were keeping him busy.
"Up until the end, he kept his wit," Sari Bodi said. "He always had a quip."
He also always had a recipe -- his Depression-era childhood taught the resourceful cook to never throw anything out, and unadvertised ingredients -- jellied pigs' feet, for example -- were sneaked into "mystery meals." Leftovers would then be rolled into the next night's dinner, Sari Bodi said.
Born in Racine, Wis., to Hungarian immigrant parents, he served in the Navy from 1943 to 1945. A chief petty officer, he manned guns on a Liberty cargo ship and later served on the aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Bodi went to DePauw University on the GI bill and earned a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught at Brooklyn College and performed research at General Telephone & Electronics Laboratories. He moved to Glen Cove in 1965, and in 1967 took a position with York College, where the school said he served as dean of natural sciences, dean of faculty and eventually retired as the longest-serving provost and vice president of academic affairs.
"He worked tirelessly . . . for York's survival and success," college president Marcia V. Keizs said in a statement on the school's website.
Bodi also is survived by son Kip Bodi, 60, of Cold Spring Harbor; daughters Betsy Bodi Thomas, 56, of Dallas; and Nancy Bodi-Hurley, 53, of Centerport; 11 grandchildren; and two step-grandchildren.
-- EMILY NGO
MICHELLE BRACCO, 44, OCEANSIDE
Michelle Bracco was an animal lover, an upbeat single mother of two who would "give you the shirt off her back," her family said.
But in the aftermath of Sandy, which swept several inches of floodwaters into her Oceanside home, she was "physically and emotionally exhausted" and "at her wit's end" as she dealt with the wreckage, said neighbor and friend George Oostmeijer.
On Nov. 5, Bracco, 44, became the ninth victim of Sandy when she and her three pets were found dead in her home, the result of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator that was running in the attached garage with the door shut -- a mistake that Bracco wouldn't have made, Oostmeijer said.
Her brother, Bryan Kessler, 41, also of Oceanside, said Bracco worried so much for the safety of her children and her pets -- a labradoodle named Zoey, a cat named Skittles, and a bird named Lila -- that she felt uncomfortable having a generator, Kessler said. She always kept it outside by the mailbox, he said, and rarely ran it.
So Kessler was shocked when the generator was found in the attached garage with the door shut. There were contractors and plumbers at the house throughout the day, and Kessler said it must have been an accident. Nassau County police are investigating.
Days later, as her neighbors gutted their soggy homes and threw out moldy belongings, Oostmeijer remembered how Bracco would walk through the neighborhood with Zoey and chat with people -- she was "awesome" and a "bright spot in the neighborhood," he said.
"She always wanted to know what was going on with everybody and help out in any way she could," he said.
That included using her tiny generator to charge Oostmeijer's and his wife's cellphones and other neighbors' phones because everyone around them had lost power, and not everyone had a generator.
"She and her son were the mayor and mayorette of this little area," Oostmeijer said. Before the storm hit and turned the lives of Bracco and neighbors upside down, she was lively, he added.
He said he and his wife and neighbors thought of her as a benefit to the neighborhood. "We'll absolutely miss her."
Kessler said Bracco's 22-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter are now living with him and his family.
-- CANDICE RUUD
AUGUSTINA DIAZDE, 59, HEMPSTEAD
Augustina Diazde, 59, of Hempstead was killed while crossing Linden Street in Valley Stream more than a week after the storm.
The traffic light and streetlights at the intersection with Franklin Avenue were still out of order when she was struck by a 2007 Nissan about 6 p.m. on Nov. 8, police said.
She worked at a nearby medical facility, her husband, Ruben, said. He declined to say where she worked, but said she had been employed there about two years.
He said the family was not ready to talk to the media yet because they are in a state of shock, and were leaving with her body to the Dominican Republic.
He said they had no children together, but she had children from a previous relationship. He said he had to seek their permission to release any information about her.
-- WILLIAM MURPHY
ANNE MARIE DOLAN, 55, COMMACK
She walked everywhere. To Sports Authority and Target, where employees let her wash up in their bathrooms. To the library to browse books and use the Internet.
Some days, however, her friend Karen Metcalf would drive her to Sunken Meadow beach so she could feel the sand and ocean on her feet.
"It wasn't an easy life, but it was what she preferred," Metcalf, 28, said of Dolan's homelessness. "And she had the strength to pursue the life that made her happy."
Jesse Emery, 55, who once lived across the street from Dolan in Smithtown, said she had started living in the woods near Veteran's Memorial Highway after a falling out with her family.
"She was a free spirit," Emery said. "She loved politics. She loved art. She loved music. I don't know why she left her home and her family to go out there, but she lived on her own terms."
Dolan, 55, died when a tree fell on her tent. Metcalf found her body Nov. 5.
"I saw her backpack sitting there and I just knew," a tearful Metcalf said. "I don't think she suffered, because it looked like she went to sleep that night . . . and never woke up."
Metcalf and Dolan, her mentor and "very best friend," were formerly neighbors in Levittown. They lost touch for several years and when they reconnected, Dolan was without work, family or home.
Metcalf said she had long pleaded with Dolan to come live at her Lindenhurst home, begging more profusely as Sandy approached. Red Cross workers, too, urged her to seek shelter that night. She refused, wanting to stay with her belongings.
"I made her promise to call me the next day," Metcalf said, "but she didn't call."
Dolan's life before her homelessness revolved around her two sons and teaching career, Metcalf and Dolan's estranged son, Brendan Spano, 28, said. She was a single mother who performed all the handiwork around the house and took her boys camping, to museums and to Mets games.
Dolan graduated with a bachelor's degree from Hofstra University in 1979, the school said, and was a Delta Chi Delta sorority member.
Spano and his older brother, Sean Spano, 30, of Hurst, Texas, said they hadn't spoken to their mother since 2001. They did not detail their estrangement.
Brendan Spano said that in their childhood, "Mom was really good about shielding us from anything going on in her life that she didn't want us to know about." He has been contacting Dolan's friends to learn more about her, "putting together a puzzle," he said.
Metcalf and Spano said they are planning Dolan's memorial services. She will be cremated.
Some of Dolan's ashes will be spread at the Sunken Meadow beach she loved to walk on, Metcalf said.
-- EMILY NGO AND KEVIN DEUTSCH
MICHAEL FLEMING, 80, BAY SHORE
He always said he was well organized, and Michael Fleming's family believed him to some extent.
But it wasn't until after his death that it really sank in. His family discovered that Fleming, a retired superintendent in the power department of the New York City subway system, had set aside the payments for bills due this month in addressed stamped envelopes and an "in case of an emergency" list with information on his insurance policies and pension.
"He had a very thorough list of what to do in case of a crisis," said his son, Michael Jr., 52, of Holtsville. "He had always said that he was that way and it turns out he was telling the truth."
He had even cast an absentee ballot in the election for President Barack Obama.
Fleming, 80, would never get to see the election results. On the night Sandy hit, the power went out in his Bay Shore home. His wife, Mary, 72, was inside, and for some reason Fleming decided to open the storm door during the height of the storm.
"I'm not sure exactly why he chose to open the door at that moment," said Michael Jr. "He had his hand on the door and a gust of wind just tore it open and pulled him off balance."
He said Fleming toppled headfirst, struck the concrete landing at the bottom of the stoop and never awakened.
Mary heard a yell and found her husband on the ground. With no power, neighbors rallied with her to get Fleming an ambulance, she said. The next day, Mary's husband of 54 years was pronounced dead at Southside Hospital.
She called her husband a "good Irishman" known for a sense of humor that produced a joke for every occasion.
"He certainly kept me on my toes," said Mary Fleming. "He was unpredictable on so many times. Especially when he went through that front door."
Fleming also is survived by daughters Colleen Columbia, 53, of Kings Park, and Mary Cronin, 49, of Waccabuc, N.Y.; and six grandchildren.
-- TANIA LOPEZ
DAVID FREBERG, 36, SOUTH CAROLINA
When David Freberg heard about the devastation Sandy caused on Long Island, he knew he had to help those in need. So the married father of three traveled 730 miles from his home in South Carolina to clear scores of downed trees in Suffolk County.
The professional tree trimmer promised his wife and kids -- a daughter, age 9 months, and two sons, 2 and 8 -- that he'd return home in time for Thanksgiving.
"When he heard about the damage, he packed up and left to go help, because that's just the kind of person he was," said Freberg's wife, Dawn, 34.
But as Freberg, 36, worked to cut a massive limb from a fallen tree in a wooded area behind 42 James Neck Rd. in Nissequogue just after noon on Nov. 12, the limb fell on him, police said. The impact was fatal for the York, S.C., resident.
"It hurts," Dawn Freberg said.
David Freberg, who ran his own small tree service, came to Long Island with his father-in-law and several neighbors. He was moved to help storm victims because of his connection to New York: He spent much of his life upstate before moving to South Carolina in 1990, his wife said.
"He was a good man," she said. "He had very high values and morals, he worked hard, he believed in God and he loved his family. He didn't go for just 100 percent, he would go for more."
She said the former truck driver and electrician was the most generous person she had ever known.
"At the truck stop, he would take people in and give them a meal and sit and talk to them and read the Bible to them," she said. "He came home once with no clothes because he gave his clothes to a man who needed them.
"We were hoping to see David for Thanksgiving," she said.
-- KEVIN DEUTSCH
JUAN GRANADOS, 22, MINEOLA
Hours before the full force of Sandy reached Long Island, Juan Granados was showing off his 2001 Kawasaki on a Garden City street corner to a group of fellow motorcycle enthusiasts, telling them how much he loved the bike.
"She's old, but she looks great," Granados, 22, told the men, friend Francisco Jimenez, 26, said. "She flies."
Granados rode off with a smile, agreeing to meet up with his fellow riders the next day -- once Sandy had cleared out, Jimenez said.
But Granados never saw the men again.
The Mineola resident was killed Oct. 30 and his 18-year-old girlfriend injured when the Kawasaki collided with a 2003 Ford Econoline van at a Garden City intersection where traffic signals had failed due to Sandy, Nassau police said.
Granados, who was driving the motorcycle, was taken to Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, where he was pronounced dead. Granados' passenger was taken to a nearby hospital with two broken arms, police said. Her name was not released.
Police said the crash happened at 8:25 p.m. at Stewart Avenue and Washington Avenue. The van driver was not injured. No criminality is suspected, police said.
"Juan was a good kid," said Jimenez, of Garden City. "He loved his friends and family. He loved to ride. To die that way . . . it's not right. He's too young."
-- KEVIN DEUTSCH
NICHOLAS LOURIKAS, 66, CENTEREACH
As the go-to handyman for many of Long Island's Greek diners, Nicholas Lourikas rushed to the Hauppauge Palace Diner the morning of Oct. 30 when its manager, an old pal named Jimmy Gonias, asked him to cut down a tree that Sandy had damaged, causing it to lean precariously near the restaurant.
Lourikas, 66, a former professional soccer player in Greece, was a strong man who had cut down hundreds of trees. But as he sawed into the wood, the hulking tree shifted and toppled unexpectedly, Suffolk police said.
Gonias and a diner waitress trained as a paramedic heard the crackle of splintering wood and rushed out to find their friend pinned beneath the tree. They performed CPR but could not breathe life back into Lourikas.
He was taken to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, where he was pronounced dead.
"He had been doing that kind of work with trees for years, but he got caught by surprise," Gonias said. "It snapped a different way than he was expecting. Nick was so happy, such a good person, such a good man. Anything his hand touched he figured out a way to fix it."
Lourikas' best friend, Jerry Constantatos, the owner of the Main Event restaurant in Plainview, said the Centereach resident endeared himself to Long lsland's tight-knit group of Greek diner owners with his tireless work ethic and way with a joke.
"I'm going to miss my friend," Constantatos said. "He was funny, and such a good heart."
Constantatos recalled how the two would drink wine together as young men, and laugh late into the night.
"You can't find better people than Nick," the restaurateur said. "Whenever you needed him, he was right there."
Lourikas is survived by his girlfriend of 22 years, Eileen Diorio, as well as a son, Constantatos said.
-- KEVIN DEUTSCH
JACK MILLER, 39, LLOYD HARBOR
Before Sandy began blowing hurricane-force winds outside Jack Miller's Lloyd Harbor home Oct. 29, he decided to evacuate with his wife and two young daughters to a neighbor's home, believing they would be safer there.
Miller, 39, ushered them into the driveway of their Oak Hill Road house around 7:25 p.m., then guided them into his car. Just then, a wind gust toppled a tree in the yard. It fell on the doting father and husband, killing him almost instantly, police said.
Miller's wife Linda, and their daughters Riley, 5, and Kelsey, 3, were not hurt.
"There are just no words to describe how much that sweet, wonderful man will be missed," said Linda Miller. "He poured his heart and his goodness into everything he did and showed everyone around him what it looked like to be a perfect husband and father."
Miller, a managing director at asset management company Brean Capital in Manhattan, was remembered by friends as a jovial, self-deprecating jokester with a great mind for finance. He had previously worked at HSBC Holdings and Bear Stearns.
"He used to say he felt like he won the lottery because he got to spend every day with his wife and kids," said Miller's friend, Mike McKean, 39, also of Lloyd Harbor.
Miller was a talented athlete who played baseball at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and a die-hard New York Rangers fan who played recreational adult league hockey for the Long Island WASPS.
His hockey league teammate, former NFL quarterback and sports broadcaster Boomer Esiason, discussed the tragedy on his WFAN radio morning show, describing how Miller always worked to perfect his game.
"I'm stunned and saddened by the news," Esiason told listeners.
Joe Spillane, 39, who has been friends with Miller since they were 14, said he was a selfless, thoughtful pal who could never be replaced.
"He was always more interested in making someone else feel good than he was himself," said Spillane, of Westchester County.-- KEVIN DEUTSCH
VISHWAJA MUPPA, 21, EDISON, N.J.
Five students from Stony Brook University, including Vishwaja Muppa, 21, who dreamed of becoming a medical doctor someday, drove together during the early morning hours of Oct. 30 as Sandy was pounding the North Shore. Muppa sat in the backseat.
Their SUV was struck by a Suffolk police car at a darkened intersection at Route 347 and Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, where the traffic lights were out. Muppa, a biology student, died at the scene about 1:30 a.m., authorities said. One of her other friends was still hospitalized in critical condition yesterday.
For those around campus who knew Muppa -- a hardworking scholar who always seemed to embrace life with a broad smile -- her death seemed unbelievable.
"I was shocked," recalled friend Tiffany Ramgolam, 20, a health science major, echoing the emotions of other friends. She said Muppa often studied at the library with her and that Muppa intended to become a physician. "She was a very good student who managed to keep a strong balance between her academic life and being very social."
In a physics class they took together last year, Ramgolam recalled, Muppa was renowned for her dedicated study habits.
"I remember one day, she went into the library at noon and didn't leave for hours -- not until its 2 a.m. closing," Ramgolam said.
When she wasn't studying, Muppa worked part-time in the office of Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., president of Stony Brook University. On campus, she was also involved in a new community service club called Thaakat.
"Vishwaja was a charming young lady with a bright and promising future," Stanley said. "She was a pleasure to have in our office as a student assistant for over two years, and will be greatly missed by all of us."
Published reports said Muppa's mother and father live in Edison, N.J., where he is a private contractor. Her parents could not be reached for comment. According to the Times of India, Muppa's family originally lived in the Hyderabad, India.
Like other friends of Muppa, Ramgolam said it was very difficult to witness the death of someone so young and vibrant. "I always thought she would go far in life," she said, "and this is a reminder not to take life for granted."
-- THOMAS MAIER AND TANIA LOPEZ
ABIGALO PIEDRAHETA, 79, NEW CASSEL
Abigalo Piedraheta, 79, of New Cassel was found dead on her kitchen floor next to a burning grill on Nov. 2.
Piedraheta's home had no power at the time and its windows and doors were closed.
Police said her husband found her and it is believed she died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Her husband could not be reached for comment.
A medical examiner's report is pending.
-- WILLIAM MURPHY
SAFAR SHAFINOORI, 84, GLEN HEAD
As the winds of Sandy gusted to full ferocity on the evening of Oct. 29, Safar Shafinoori, 84, of Glen Head, emerged from his daughter's home in Roslyn Harbor to enter his car.
It was at that moment, his family recounted, that the retired agricultural engineer was struck and killed by a falling tree.
Unable to get an ambulance quickly enough through 911, he was driven by his two grandchildren and wife toward St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill.
They sought the help of police on Bryant Avenue on the way. He was transferred to a Nassau County police ambulance and pronounced dead shortly after at St. Francis.
Shafinoori, who had three daughters and five grandchildren, was a professional gymnast in his native Iran, his family said. They also described him as an "artist, dedicated family man, true friend, and lifelong philanthropist," a man who loved nature and would be remembered for his courage, loyalty and kindness.
-- CAROL POLSKY
EDITH WRIGHT, 52, MONTAUK
The bumper stickers on Edith Wright's car and bicycle basket said "Keeping Montauk Montauk." She loved her adopted hometown and wanted to keep it the way she loved it, as a down-to-earth community with people who cared about it and each other.
When she died at 52, taken by a surging ocean as she walked on the beach with her daughter's dog Oct. 29, the community she loved grieved. Then, hundreds of people celebrated her life, just as she'd wished.
"I don't want an open casket, I want an open bar," Wright had told her daughters Kiah, now 23, and Laini, now 18, a few years ago, thinking about her own mortality after her husband, Norvel Wright, died in 2006 at 51.
So there was an open bar at The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett after her wake at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home Nov. 3 -- and on the following Thursday, a laughter-filled memorial at The Dock Bar and Grill. She'd waitressed there, and at Dave's Grill, for many summers, and for the last seven years worked as a teacher's aide at the Montauk School.
Her nickname was Dee to some, Dee-Dee to others, but she was best known as Deet, said Alex Stipanov, 23, Kiah's longtime boyfriend, who said she "was loving and accepting of everybody and everything . . . she was the cool mom."
She grew up in Yonkers, one of nine children of a Portuguese father and mother of German-Colombian heritage. They summered in a mobile home in Montauk's Ditch Plains, and as soon as she could, in 1977, she came out to live in Montauk full time.
There, the young woman with the dark wavy hair, olive skin and ready smile met her husband, "her soul mate," and raised her daughters.
Her daughters, Stipanov said, "were her life," but she also took her school job seriously, working hard to develop her skills. And then, he said, "there was her happy hour life."
She relaxed at The Dock at the end of the day, visiting with friends and co-workers. At the memorial, her boss George Watson, owner of The Dock, recounted how she was often the only woman at the bar, completely comfortable among a crowd of fishermen, making them laugh. She always left a big tip. He'd ask why she was leaving so much, and she'd say as she left, "It's only money."
She didn't think much of new things either: She dressed in clothes from the '80s that still fit and wore the same bathing suit for many years. Her daughter, Stipanov said, would urge her to get a new one, but she'd say, "Why? It works."
Same thing with the collection of vinyl albums she loved to listen to, enjoying their crackle and pop. Now, Stipanov said, her daughters are finding comfort in listening to them, too. And they are finding the poems she wrote, but didn't share, over the years.
They chose this one for her prayer card: "I carry a torch/ of sinew and blood/ up and down/ the empty halls/ through the valleys/ and cities too/ nowhere do I find/ the image of you/ It's not because you aren't there/ You are in fact/ everywhere/ It's that my torch/ you cannot see/ nor feel/ though it's part of me."
Wright's body was found on Georgica Beach in East Hampton, 16 miles away, the day after she was seen walking by the Surf Club. The body of the dog, a Jack Russell terrier named Lucy, belonging to Kiah Wright and Stipanov, was found days later.
"We have a very strong community behind us, and they're taking care of us," said Kiah, "but every morning is hard. We're taking it hour by hour."
-- CAROL POLSKY