Rupert W. Behan was a quintessential “local guy” in Blue Point: He lived nearly his entire life there, and as a beat cop got to know just about everyone in the hamlet.
“He’s the classic guy from Blue Point who really enjoyed what the area offered, worked hard and made a great career as a cop,” said one of his sons, Ed Behan of Blue Point.
Rupert Behan engaged in many of the particularly local activities: ice boating on the Great South Bay off Bellport, trapping muskrats, duck hunting off “The Point” in Blue Point on the bay.
Behan died Wednesday at 83. He had fallen recently and broken his back, leading to more health complications, his family said.
Behan spent 25 years as a Suffolk County police officer, most of it as a detective. One of the highlights of his career was playing a key role in breaking a case in which a local man allegedly set fire to three churches in 1967: Our Lady of the Snow Roman Catholic Church and St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church in Blue Point, and St. Lawrence the Martyr Roman Catholic Church in Sayville.
Some 700 children were attending classes in the St. Lawrence parochial school when flames engulfed the adjacent church. The actions of a quick-thinking rookie policeman helped all the students escape unharmed. The church was destroyed and eventually rebuilt across the street on Handsome Avenue.
An 18-year-old probationary firefighter from Blue Point was arrested as he was helping to put out the fire at the Orthodox church. Behan was one of the key officers who figured out the teenager was actually responsible for setting the blazes, said Joseph Monteith, who grew up with Behan and later served as his partner in the Suffolk County Police Department.
“He was a great cop, a great detective, a great teacher and just a wonderful guy,” Monteith said.
While Behan was a sharp detective, he also had the makings of a small-town cop of another era. When local youths sometimes got into trouble, getting drunk and causing disturbances, Behan had a solution other than arresting them and giving them records: He would handcuff them to the bridge traversing Corey Creek, leave the key nearby and call their parents to tell them where they were, his son said.
“He really kept an eye on the town and knew people,” his son said, calling him “one of those local guys who knew the town inside and out.”
After graduating from Bayport Blue Point High School, Behan served in the Army from 1956 to 1959, working in the motor pool at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
He returned to Blue Point and joined the Brookhaven Police Department, which later was absorbed by the Suffolk County Police Department. He started as a patrolman and soon worked his way up to detective.
He retired in 1983 and devoted himself full time to a business he had begun to cultivate: excavation. He handled many major and smaller jobs in the area, including the demolition of the old Lace Mill on Montauk Highway in Patchogue.
He was a lifelong parishioner at Our Lady of the Snow, for years a regular at the 7:30 a.m. Sunday Mass in the Mother Church. “He was a man of few words, but when he spoke, people really listened to him,” said Dennis McCarthy, a community and church leader who also knew Behan since their childhoods.
Behan is also survived by his children Mark Behan, Steven Behan and Kathy Behan, all of Blue Point, Tina Stephani of East Patchogue; and 12 grandchildren.
A wake will be held Friday at Robertaccio Funeral Home in Patchogue, with a funeral Mass at 8 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of the Snow. He will be buried at Woodland Cemetery in Bellport.