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Dennis Reichardt dies; retired Suffolk County police sergeant was 64

Dennis Reichardt in an undated photo. He died

Dennis Reichardt in an undated photo. He died Thursday from 9/11-related cancer. Credit: SCPD

Whether it was a gunman firing at him or cancer causing him pain, Dennis Reichardt, a retired Suffolk County police sergeant, always kept his cool, family and friends said.

"He could show up at the most chaotic situation, but he had this calm about him and it was contagious," said Inspector Michael Shanahan, who was with Reichardt in the 1982 class of recruits. "It was reassuring and it would help us get to the resolution of whatever was going on."

Reichardt died Thursday in his Suffolk home of 9/11-related pancreatic cancer. He was 64.

He had a 29-year career during which he received the Police Combat Gold Medal, a top department honor, for leading a tactical unit into a home after a shootout and tear gas battle with a barricaded gunman. He retired seven years ago from the Emergency Service Section, an elite unit that handles jobs from bomb disposal to confined space rescues.

As an emergency service bomb technician, he was dispatched on 9/11 to the rubble of the World Trade Center, where he spent several days. He worked until the end of that year at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, sorting debris from Ground Zero.

"He was a really kind, gentle soul," said Chief of Department Stuart Cameron, who had spent the last seconds of 1999 on alert with Reichardt in case there was a Y2K disaster.

"In his passing we are unfortunately reminded of the dangers that still surround 9/11 for first responders," Cameron said. "I have no doubt even if Reichardt knew of the risks involved, he would still have responded to serve his country."

Reichardt was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer last year but told his friends he was grateful to be alive.

"He served his country in its greatest hour of need and his sacrifice will never be forgotten," Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said.

Reichardt kept himself going by setting goal after goal, said his wife, Jean Reichardt.

He attended his daughter Autumn's high school graduation. Then he saw her off to college. He got to see his first grandchild. And, his widow believes, he held on for their 25th anniversary Wednesday and for his daughter to fly home from college that day, opening his eyes as the two women latched onto his hands in his last hours.

"Thank you for all the wonderful years," Reichardt said she told her husband.

His sense of organization made Reichardt successful as an officer and a family man, those who knew him said.

At work, it helped him craft tactical plans for emergencies, keeping his officers safe, colleagues said. In another barricade situation in which a man had fired a weapon at a Suffolk detective, Reichardt led his team into the house and disarmed the man without anyone getting hurt, Cameron said.

At home, he'd often say something like, "Don't worry, it'll get done," an optimism that his family dubbed "Dennis-isms." He would set his skills to researching vacations, his wife said. Even in changing the oil in her car, she said, he would diligently record the date and type of oil and line up the wrench, oil, filter and tools the night before.

The two met as Second Precinct officers. He offered to leave his map and flashlight in his cruiser for her when she was a nervous rookie assigned to his car one night.

"His kindness was what stood out," she said.

After his patrol stint, Reichardt trained police academy recruits and worked in the applicant investigations section before being promoted to sergeant in 1993.

As he explained to his daughter in high school, he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a police officer. He told her about his time stopping popular high school kids from bullying a student, Jean Reichardt said.

"He wanted to protect and serve," his wife said. "He was a person who made you feel respected and who did the right thing."

In addition to his wife and daughter, Reichardt is survived by sons Kristopher and Adam and grandson Jack Henry. The wake and burial are private. Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.

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