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David Cherkes, retired Suffolk police sergeant, dies at 52

Suffolk police Sgt. David J. Cherkes in an

Suffolk police Sgt. David J. Cherkes in an undated photo. Credit: SCPD

They filled the street outside St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church with a sea of blue Wednesday in Center Moriches.

Fellow officers were there, a canine unit, a crane with a flag; Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart were there.

They had all come to pay their respects, to honor the dedication and devotion of Suffolk Police Sgt. David J. Cherkes, to honor his life.

Cherkes, 52, died Oct. 23 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Though Russell Cherkes said his brother had a dozen rounds of chemotherapy, Cherkes continued to work as a Suffolk Marine Bureau officer until illness forced him to retire on July 12. Even then, despite rapidly declining health, just about a month before his death Cherkes participated in a best-ball golf tournament, his brother said — helping his foursome win the tournament.

"The last few days have been amazing, all the outpouring," Russell Cherkes of Hauppauge said, adding: "But my brother was amazing. Everything he did, he gave it his all."

David Cherkes was born at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore on July 29, 1968, the youngest of three sons of parents Mitch and Florence Cherkes.

He grew up in Deer Park, graduated Deer Park High School, attended class at Suffolk Community College and SUNY Farmingdale and became an NYPD officer in 1989, sworn in by then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch.

After a handful of years with the NYPD, Cherkes joined Suffolk County police and worked as an officer in the Third Precinct and Fourth Precinct and then served with the Highway Patrol Section and Expressway Enforcement Section. He became a sergeant in 2000, later assigned to the Second, Fifth and Seventh precincts — all before joining the Marine Bureau in 2004.

All of which seems a woefully inadequate explanation of who he was, his brother and those who knew him said.

Cherkes was married and on Oct. 13 celebrated his 25th anniversary with wife Kristine. He leaves behind two daughters — Sydney, 23, and Riley, 18 — as well as his mother and brothers, Russell and Steven.

It was Cherkes who rescued a neighbor's 14-month-old child from a near-drowning incident in a backyard pool, resuscitating the little girl and saving her life, Russell Cherkes said.

"He didn't want it in the papers, when it happened," Russell said. "That wasn't what it was about. But of all the things he did, that was amazing."

Police officials said that on April 28, 1997, it was Cherkes who, on patrol with two fellow Fourth Precinct officers, helped pull a crash victim from a car that had struck a utility pole and burst into flames, braving the fire to free the trapped victim — and saving his life.

As a result, Cherkes was honored with a Meritorious Police Service Award.

During his 29-year career with the SCPD, Cherkes received four department recognitions, two command recognitions and was named officer of the month on two occasions. That Cherkes continued to work even after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer earned him posthumous recognition at the Suffolk County Police Academy in Brentwood on Oct. 27, awarded with the Police Commissioner's Extraordinary Service Award, police officials said.

It was Cherkes who took a Newsday reporter on a drunken boater crackdown patrol on the Great South Bay in July 2012. And Cherkes who took a Fire Island News reporter on an explanatory patrol of his Marine Bureau beat in 2008.A deposition from Cherkes in court records from an appeal filed by a man convicted of rape also showed his sensitivities when first interviewing the victim in the case, a woman he'd questioned after answering a 911 call at a gas station in Islandia in 1995. That account explained that Cherkes not only had calmed the victim, but had managed to get a partial license plate and other vital information from her — eventually leading to an arrest in the case.

Records show the appeal to overturn the conviction was denied.

Russell Cherkes said his brother not only loved police work, but also was a dedicated family man loved by all who knew him. He also loved sports and was a fan of the Islanders, Mets and Jets, who also loved to play golf, his brother said.

"It's just so heartbreaking, because he was so young," Russell Cherkes said. "He did so many good things, things many people didn't know about, and he always had a lot of friends. He's my younger brother and a lot of people always said we look alike, talk alike, sound alike. But he was very funny, super funny, and he also was always very modest. He was always just good to be around."

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