Deborah Petroski never met her great-grandfather -- Nassau police Lt. John P. Dowd, who died at 37 in a car crash while on patrol in 1929.
But Petroski said she was filled with deep pride Wednesday when Dowd was one of 34 Nassau officers honored by the department at a dedication ceremony for its new police memorial.
"When they first called me up, I thought it was a dream," said Petroski, 44, of Glen Cove, who brought her two children, Kaitlynn Waas, 11, and William Waas, 9, her boyfriend and her cousin. "I said, 'Wow, they're really going back all this time to honor these fallen officers.' It's a privilege to be here. I'm just overwhelmed by the turnout of people. I'm also glad that my kids are here. They have the blood in them -- that's their great-great-grandfather."
The two-hour ceremony outside Nassau police headquarters in Mineola began with the sounds of the Nassau County Police Emerald Society Bagpipe Band and ended with a flyover of three police helicopters.
Nassau's police memorial to honor officers killed in the line of duty -- a piece of bedrock adorned with a plaque -- was first dedicated on May 12, 1982, said Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki. The new memorial incorporates the original rock, which is now at the center of six tall slabs of black concrete, affixed with bronze facial etchings of the fallen officers.
Construction of the new memorial, which began earlier this year, cost $250,000 and was paid for with funds from the Police Benevolent Association, said its president, James Carver.
The memorial, he said, fulfills the promise made to families of fallen officers, Carver said, "that we would never forget."
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, who attended the ceremony, thanked union officials -- Carver; Glenn Ciccone, president of the detectives union; and Brian Hoesl, president of the superior officers union -- for their work on the project.
Nassau Police Officer Peter Martino may soon be added to the wall. Martino, whose name was read during the ceremony, died of pancreatic cancer Feb. 5 at 45 -- a disease his family said is linked to his work at Ground Zero after 9/11. They are awaiting official "line of duty" designation for his death, said Martino's brother-in-law Anthony Napoli, 47, of North Patchogue.
Napoli said it was a "great honor" to hear Martino's name read. "He would have thought it was funny," Napoli said. "He would have been making fun of all the legislators and dignitaries. He would have been laughing. His mother would have been yelling at him to stop it."