A crowd of about 250 people gathered Sunday in East Northport to remember NYPD Officer Charles A. Oddo by renaming Verleye Park in his honor.
Oddo, who was killed in the line of duty Feb. 17, 1996, at the age of 33, was an East Northport native and volunteer firefighter, paramedic and mechanic with the Commack Fire Department. He was serving on a Brooklyn Highway Unit, placing flares around an overturned gas truck on the Gowanus Expressway, when a motorist fatally hit him.
Otto joined the NYPD in 1990 as a beat cop in Manhattan’s First Precinct. In 1995 he joined Brooklyn’s Highway Unit No. 2.
“He shared that extraordinary quality that is the essence of firefighters and police officers,” Oddo’s sister, Maria Forger, of Merrimack, New Hampshire, said Sunday. “That quality that seeks not material, nor monetary gain, nor accolades, nor admiration, but recognizes the inestimable value of every person, and places itself at the service of humanity — with its highest priority being to serve, preserve, protect and save life indiscriminately.”
Oddo’s mother, Rose, and father, Joseph, a retired sergeant from the Suffolk County Police Department’s highway patrol and emergency services, also attended Sunday’s ceremony. He also had a brother, Louis, who now lives in California.
Forger said she and her brother used to cut through Verleye Park — now Charles A. Oddo Verleye Park — each day to catch the bus to school, and spent countless hours playing on the stretch of land. The park is on Verleye Avenue, about a third of a mile north of Jericho Turnpike, midway between Larkfield and Elwood roads.
The effort to honor Oddo two decades after his death was driven by the Commack Fire Department and its current president, John Bicocchi, who was chief when Oddo died.
Bicocchi said he was moved to tears hearing Forger speak about how her brother had been her protector throughout their childhood.
“I’m glad I was wearing sunglasses,” he said, adding that now Oddo will “be there to protect the future generations of children playing in the park.”
About 60 Commack firefighters attended the ceremony, as did eight NYPD motorcycle officers, a Suffolk County Police Department detachment of eight motorcycles, and about a dozen retired NYPD officers who had served with Oddo, fire department Commissioner Tom McFadzen said.
Bicocchi contacted the Huntington Town Board in February about honoring Oddo. Board members in May approved renaming the park.
In June 2000, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani renamed the Belt Parkway 65th to 67th Street Interchange in Brooklyn Police Officer Charles Oddo Interchange.
Forger thanked the police officers and firefighters for their loyalty to her brother.
“Today you show us this loyalty again, by your loyalty to his memory, that you are indeed family,” she said. “For you have not forgotten him, nor cease to honor his memory.”