A van marked with the logo of the Disabled American Veterans organization stood parked in the chilly rain outside a Massapequa funeral home Monday.
Inside, friends and relatives marked the memory of Dennis Krulder, a national leader with the veterans group who organized a fleet of such vans and scores of volunteers to ferry as many as 1,000 veterans per week to treatment programs at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport.
Krulder, a Vietnam vet who lived in West Babylon, died Thursday at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn.
Diagnosed with cancer on Jan. 2, Krulder was 68.
Described by his three sons as gentle and forgiving, Krulder was known as the prime mover behind a volunteer program providing free transportation to those needing to reach a veterans medical facility.
Since he took leadership of the program in 2003, the Northport VA's volunteer transportation network grew into the largest in the VA system, said Northport VA spokesman Joe Sledge. Last year, its 30 vans and more than 135 volunteers logged some 800,000 miles driving veterans with "travel hardships" to appointments.
He was named the national disabled veterans group's top volunteer in 2013, and last year was elected its third national junior vice commander.
"He was very dedicated to the motto that one generation of vet would not forget another," said Richard Kitson, Northport's director of volunteer services.
"He was a veteran's veteran," said Kitson, himself a Vietnam veteran. "He understood what it meant to be a combat veteran because of what he went through."
Northport's transportation network is considered an indispensable bridge for older veterans living in Long Island's more remote reaches.
The program's success persuaded officials at other VA centers to model similar transportation efforts after Krulder's, Northport officials said.
Born in Brooklyn, Krulder grew up in Wantagh, and graduated from Wantagh High School in 1965.
He served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967, including as a helicopter door gunner with the Army's Delta Troop, 3rd Squadron, 5th U.S. Cavalry -- a position that made him a target and from which he could see the worst of battle. The experience marked him gravely, family members said, and he never talked about his time overseas.
He married Geraldine Coyle shortly after returning in 1967, and settled in Lindenhurst. He worked as a salesman for Nabisco -- from which he retired in 1998 -- and moonlighted as a Waldbaum's produce clerk.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by sons Danny, of West Islip, Brian, of Deer Park, and James, of Seaford; brothers Richard, of Lindenhurst, John, of Medford, and Thomas, of Holbrook; and a sister, Kathy, of Bellport.
Visiting hours are Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Massapequa Funeral Home South Chapel, in Massapequa Park. Krulder's funeral will begin at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Lindenhurst, followed by interment with military honors at Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton.
About two years ago, Krulder told a veterans newsletter that helping disabled veterans was enormously satisfying.
"When (veterans) say 'Thank you' for what you did," Krulder said in the article, "it's worth a million dollars for those two words."