Ken Budny, an Army veteran and passionate environmentalist who spent 30 years clamming on the Great South Bay, died at his Bellport home March 16 after a seven-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 69.
Budny served on a host of boards and as a trustee in the Village of Bellport before losing re-election in 2013.
Born and raised in Bellport, he graduated from Bellport High School and Bowling Green State University in Ohio with a degree in business administration.
He joined the Peace Corps and taught locals in Guatemala how to grow food. He joined the Army in 1968 and was stationed in Korea. When he returned home in 1970, Budny followed his passion for working on the water.
He became a bayman, catching clams, oysters and blue claw crabs, first in the Great South Bay and later in Port Jefferson. Budny harvested for clams using tongs, customized rakes and "treading," a strategy where he used his feet to dig.
"Ken wanted to be his own boss," said Helen Budny, 70, his wife of 37 years. "He loved nature and being outdoors."
The couple met through a mutual friend on Ken Budny's boat, a 24-foot Volker. They had a son, Scott, 37, who lives with his mother in Bellport. Ken Budny also raised his wife's two children from a previous marriage: John Strano, 50, of Selden, and Tina Strano, 47, of Medford.
Ken Budny sat on the South Shore Estuary Reserve Council, was a member of the Brookhaven Baymen's Association, served on the Bellport Waterfront Commission and spoke at area high schools on environmental issues.
"He was a bit of a throwback and committed to carrying on the traditions of the baymen," said Nancy Solomon, a friend and executive director of Long Island Traditions, a Port Washington organization that documents local architecture.
In 2011, Budny was elected Bellport Village trustee, where he focused on issues related to the bay, beaches and the waterfront. "He was extremely dedicated to the community," said Bellport trustee and Deputy Mayor Leslie O'Connor.
Budny was also an expert decoy carver, creating sculptures of birds and fish from recycled wood. His work has been included in exhibits at the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society and the South Bay Arts Association in Bellport.
From 2000 through February 2015, Budny worked as a facilities manager caring for donated properties at the Post Morrow Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the culture and history of the hamlet of Brookhaven and its surrounding areas.
A memorial service for Budny, who was cremated earlier this month, will be held June 6 at Christ Episcopal Church in Bellport. Along with his wife and children, Budny is survived by four grandchildren; his mother, Betty Budny, 90, of Bellport; and a sister, Christine Baumbauer, 67, of Florida.