The Rev. Reginald Tuggle, center, in white, former pastor of...

The Rev. Reginald Tuggle, center, in white, former pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt, is honored with a street sign in his name. He is joined by his wife, Evette, to his right, and several local politicians and friends. (Aug. 13, 2011) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Nearly 300 people rejoiced at Gormley Avenue and Babylon Turnpike in Roosevelt Saturday as Gormley was dedicated to the Rev. Reginald Tuggle, a longtime local pastor.

"I want to thank God for this day," said Tuggle, who began preaching at the age of 16, as he wiped away tears with a handkerchief. "This is such an honor to me, but I share this honor with the community."

Tuggle, 64, was the pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt for nearly 40 years until he retired March 31. The church has the state's largest African-American Presbyterian congregation.

Church elder Rembert H. Brown, 89, whom Tuggle considers a mentor and a father, convinced Hempstead Town officials to dedicate the street to Tuggle.

Before the dedication, a ceremony with dancing, singing and praying was held in the church to celebrate Tuggle's ministry.

Tuggle was received with standing ovations from his former congregation, government officials, church leaders and administrators from Nassau Community College.

"Reverend Tuggle, you have been a soldier fighting for the souls of your followers, and you have helped enhance our entire community and the world," Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said at the ceremony. "It is truly a privilege to have this opportunity to recognize your accomplishments."

Under his leadership, the church's congregation grew from just fewer than 50 members in 1973 to more than 1,000 members now. The new leader is former associate pastor the Rev. Dr. Yvonne Collie Pendelton.

Tuggle, who has three daughters, founded the Memorial Youth Outreach Corp., which matches mentors with at-risk teens and provides college scholarships for those who complete the program.

He also created the Memorial Economic Development Corp., which assists in the renovation of blighted homes in the community.

Tuggle, a Denver native, is executive assistant to the president and director of college relations at Nassau Community College. He was also involved with bringing a state-of-the-art community health clinic to Roosevelt.

"I am honored this is being done while you are still alive," said his wife, Evette Beckett-Tuggle, before Tuggle was presented with a duplicate street sign.

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