Eddie "Ed" Monroe, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, college administrator, businessman, Freeport village official, pilot and community activist, died early Wednesday morning of an apparent heart attack at South Nassau Communities Hospital. He was 80.
His wife of 52 years, Betty, said Monroe was diabetic and had been suffering from congestive heart problems.
Monroe, who was raised in Laurinburg, N.C., earned his bachelor's degree from West Virginia State College in Institute, W.Va., in 1954, the same year he left for the Army. He would fly combat missions in Korea and Vietnam before retiring as a master combat pilot.
"Ed was a true hero, from his military service to his community action. He lived a life of courage and integrity," Hempstead community leader Mel Jackson said.
"We honor him and appreciate him and his service to the nation. The light he brought to us will never be diminished," Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) said.
"He was a pillar of the community," said Superintendent Kishore Kuncham, noting that he saw Monroe receive the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations' Ellis Island Medal of Honor just two weeks ago.
Former Hempstead Mayor Jim Garner, with whom Monroe was a 100 Black Men member, called him "a great Rotarian and a great leader."
Ex-Freeport Mayor Bill Glacken said Monroe was "a good neighbor, a loyal friend and an outstanding Freeporter."
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said: "I was honored to present Ed Monroe with the Town's Veterans Service Medal in 2007, recognizing his contributions to the causes of peace, freedom and racial equality."He earned a master's degree in science education from Hofstra University in 1974 and a master's in education from Columbia University in 1988.
A licensed commercial pilot for both airplanes and helicopters, Monroe served as a vice president at Nassau Community College for about 10 years after his Army service, then another six years as a vice president at Columbia University, Teachers College. He then took over the full-time management of his businesses, Ed's Plumbing Services and Environmental Engineering Associates, until 2008.
He was past chairman of the Freeport United Methodist Church Board of Trustees, president of a local chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen and the Meroke District Boy Scouts. He was a parade marshal for this weekend's Freeport Memorial Day Parade. He was president of the Freeport Rotary Club and governor of Rotary International District 7250 and a Rotary International representative to the United Nations.
Besides his wife, he is survived by daughters Pamela Young of Silver Spring, Md., and Marilyn Monroe of Freeport; a son, Eddie Jr. of Atlantic City; two brothers, former Army major general James Monroe of Parkland, Fla., and Carl Monroe of Atlanta; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Wednesday.