Former NYPD Officer Michael Antonucci was the unofficial “mayor” of his Seminole Drive block in Commack, friends and family said Friday morning at the unveiling of the new street sign bearing his name.
“My husband is the mayor. He’s the leader of all the parties we do,” said his wife, Debbra Antonucci, 52. “He’s just a fun, fun person.”
Before he died in November 2015 of ALS — a neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — Antonucci brought his neighbors together, taking vacations and helping each other raise their children, family and friends said.
Antonucci, who is survived by his wife and two sons, was remembered by about 50 friends, relatives, NYPD officers and politicians Friday at a ceremony held outside his house to honor his life with prayers, patriotic songs and the renaming of Seminole Drive to Michael Antonucci Way.
“It’s nice because we go out of the house, we just look out the window, and then we see the name,” said son Joseph Antonucci, 18.
Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy noted Antonucci’s NYPD service at the ceremony held just hours after a gunman killed five Dallas police officers. “We see today what the consequences of that can be at any time for anyone of these men that you see in uniform.”
Antonucci served the NYPD for about 20 years, responding to such threats as 9/11. He began feeling ill some months after retiring in August 2013. Over the course of two years, he gradually began to lose control of certain muscles and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
The disease “hit him like a ton of bricks” because of his active life as a police officer, construction worker and full-time father trying to ensure a secure future for his wife and sons, Debbra Antonucci said.
“It was hard and I know he was miserable because he couldn’t do what he wanted to do,” said Joseph Antonucci. “It was tough.”
Still, neighbors and family say they remember him as a fun and hilarious man whose traditions will live on. Antonucci started a block party that will happen again July 23. Though Antonucci won’t be physically there, his spirit will probably be at the party, Suffolk County Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said.
“I really feel like he is with us all. He has a very special place in everybody’s heart,” Debbra Antonucci said.