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Robert Knight, 64, firefighters' champion and volunteer, dies

Robert Knight, 64, of Medford, died May 1

Robert Knight, 64, of Medford, died May 1 in Washington, D.C., where he was attending a Congressional Fire Services Institute event.

A longtime volunteer firefighter and legislative force for the fire service, Robert A. Knight was also the father of four and a devoted friend who possessed a gift for finding humor even at the hardest of times.

Vice chairman of the legislative committee at the Firemen's Association of the State of New York, Knight "was on top of every bill . . . that had the word 'fire' in it," said longtime friend Donald Corkery, first vice president of New York State Association of Fire Chiefs. "That's it in a nutshell. That's Bobby Knight. That's what he did."

Knight, 64, of Medford, died May 1 in Washington, D.C., where he was attending a Congressional Fire Services Institute event. The cause of death is yet to be determined, said his daughter, Meghan Knight of Winston-Salem, N.C.

A memorial service will be held Saturday at the Sayville Fire Department, where he served for 35 years, and was its chief from 1994 to 1996.

On Wednesday, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) read a statement in the House of Representatives on behalf of the Long Island delegation. Of Knight he said: "His tireless service to the firefighter community has been invaluable, and his counsel was always sought by lawmakers."

Knight "passed in the Line of Duty doing what he loved -- advocating for the needs of our first responders," said King, who had met with Knight just hours before his death.

A "champion of the legislative fire agenda," Knight was "an easy guy to talk to," having "the gift that logically leads you to politics," Corkery said. One of his proudest achievements, he said, was his role in getting a Malverne firefighter's name added to the firefighter memorial wall in Albany.

Born June 28, 1949, in Port Jefferson, Knight attended Patchogue-Medford High School before going to work for the U.S. Postal Service, first walking a mail route, then driving a delivery truck, his daughter said. After more than 30 years as a postal worker, he joined the office of the late William J. Lindsay, the longtime presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, as a legislative assistant, Corkery said.

"Bobby was a dedicated public servant to the county, in the legislature and in his home community Sayville . . . It's a great loss," said Lindsay's son, Legis. William J. Lindsay III (D-Bohemia).

Knight's wife of close to 33 years, the former Patricia Gilmartin, died in February 2013, his daughter said.

She recalled an instance of her father's jocular side back when he was teaching her to drive. After pulling into a local cemetery, she said, they switched seats and he told her to go ahead and figure out what to do. That and "don't hit a tombstone or you're going to hell."

Knight also had a passion for scanner radios, having three or four in his car, and knowing frequencies for just about anywhere in the state, Corkery said. Knight also was a good friend who would drop everything to make a call when trouble struck, Corkery said.

Besides his daughter, Knight is survived by three sons, Mark of Brooklyn and Rory and Sean, both of East Hampton; two grandchildren; and a brother, Bill Knight of upstate Jamestown.

Visitation will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Sayville Fire Department, with a memorial service at 3 p.m.

With Rick Brand

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