Army Lt. Joseph Theinert's coffin is carried at Our Lady...

Army Lt. Joseph Theinert's coffin is carried at Our Lady of the Isle Church on Shelter Island. (June 9, 2010) Credit: Randee Daddona

Aboard a ferryboat renamed in his honor just hours before, with his parents standing at the bow and his ferry-captain brother at the helm, the body of 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert crossed Peconic Bay and arrived at Shelter Island yesterday.

A kilted piper played from the pilot house in a light rain. Scores of the island's 2,500 residents awaited his arrival as the ferry edged toward the island's south terminal. Hundreds more lined the streets that lay between the terminal and Our Lady of the Isle Roman Catholic Church, where Theinert's coffin was taken for a wake planned for Thursday.

As his hearse passed them by, some saluted, some looked on glumly, a few sobbed openly, clasping their hands over mouths contorted with grief. They had come to mourn the first of Shelter Island's sons to be killed in war since 1967.

Nina Speece, 24, stood with her former husband, Matt Speece. Their daughter, Mackenzie, 3, was among dozens there who held American flags.

"Hold it very still, just hold it baby," Nina Speece said to Mackenzie, who had let her flag drop to the ground. "This is a big responsibility."

Nina Speece, who had graduated from Shelter Island High School with Theinert in 2004, said she came out of respect and concern.

Her brother, Tom Spotteck, a 20-year-old Marine, had left for Afghanistan the week before Christmas.

"He's 20 miles from where Joey was killed," she said grimly. "I'm worried, very worried."

Theinert, 24, who lived on Shelter Island until he went away to college in 2004, was killed by an improvised explosive device last Friday in Afghanistan.

Nearby, Maggie Reilly, 22, hugged her friend, Mallory Wissemann, 22. Reilly said Shelter Island's isolation has created a micro-culture in which its young people are particularly close. Cut off from the rest of Long Island by a ferry system that stops at midnight, she said, people grow up learning to depend on each other.

"You find something to love about everyone," she said. "And that's a quality Joey had. He would find something to love about you and would help you strengthen it."

Also in the crowd was Joan Vescey, 55. She said she was one of the few people waiting at the terminal who did not know Theinert.

But, she said, she came to thank him for his sacrifice.

"I have a 22-year-old son whose name is also Joseph," she said. "I feel another mother has sacrificed her son for mine."

Funeral services will be held Friday at the Shelter Island School.

New contractor hired for Bethpage drums ... Blue Angels on LI ... What's Up on LI Credit: Newsday

Updated 32 minutes ago Newsday/Sienna College poll ... Avalon Bay apartments in Amityville ... JFK travel this weekend ... Summer concert preview

New contractor hired for Bethpage drums ... Blue Angels on LI ... What's Up on LI Credit: Newsday

Updated 32 minutes ago Newsday/Sienna College poll ... Avalon Bay apartments in Amityville ... JFK travel this weekend ... Summer concert preview

Latest videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME