Even 40 years after his death, Harry Chapin’s legacy still lives on across Long Island — not only through his music, but he will now be forever memorialized at the Long Island Cares Harry Chapin Food Bank he founded in Hauppauge.
The Chapin family joined with Long Island Cares officials and Nassau County and Suffolk County representatives unveiled a bronze bust of the singer who dedicated his final years to ending hunger on Long Island.
Chapin’s wife and children revealed the bust as part of a Suffolk proclamation of Harry Chapin Day on Saturday, marking the anniversary of July 16, 1981, the day he was killed in a crash on the Long Island Expressway while driving to Eisenhower Park in East Meadow where he was to perform in a benefit concert.
Long Island Cares director Paule Pachter said he remembers planning to meet Chapin for his soundcheck but he didn’t arrive.
“That morning Harry Chapin was gone. All I wanted to do was ask how can I help” Pachter recalled Friday. “Harry Chapin’s voice may have been silenced by his death, but his legacy for 42 years continues to the amazement of so many people.”
He said if Chapin were alive today, he would still be a fierce advocate for Long Island Cares and to bridge the void of hunger and poverty.
“The music might have been quieter, but nobody was going to silence Harry Chapin,” Pachter said.
The new bust sits in the plaza at the food bank’s headquarters, soon to be surrounded by a legacy walkway of 127 engraved bricks purchased by donors.
The bust includes a dedication to the late musician and Long Island Cares board member Janet D’Addario, and an inscription of a Chapin quote that reads, “Our lives are to be used and lived as fully as possible and we are never so alive as when we concern ourselves with others.”
Four of Chapin’s children spoke about their father’s dedication to fight hunger on Long Island.
Jason Chapin said his father inspired others to collect food, such as the Run Against Hunger in Huntington and other food drives to support Long Island Cares.
“My family couldn’t be more proud of everything Long Island Cares continues to do,” he said. “If our father was here today, he’d say, ‘Thanks a million,’ and break out his guitar and start singing and then invite everyone to our house in Huntington for a backyard fundraiser.”
Josh Chapin said his father lived his life with pragmatic self-interest, by living to feel good, but always focused on being proud of himself by helping others.
“Everything about his legacy was driven by hard work and relentless spirit,” he said. “He was the blueprint for a great American citizen.”
The bust was created by Chapin’s former neighbor in Huntington Bay, artist Susan Bahary. She said she wanted to capture Chapin’s spirit in her sculpture and bring it to life in his eyes. She said she depicted him as looking upward because she felt he wanted humanity to go to a better place.
“This was a healing process to honor him and his beautiful kindness and hopes for humanity,” Bahary said. “He really loved his community and his community loved him.”