Rahmi Yazici, in front of Brightwaters Village Hall on Wednesday,...

Rahmi Yazici, in front of Brightwaters Village Hall on Wednesday, retired after 31 years of serving village residents. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Starting this spring, Brightwaters residents will no longer hear the familiar ring of Rahmi Yazici's ice cream truck as he drives through the village.

Yazici, 60, of Bay Shore, who has been the only ice cream man with a permit to operate in Brightwaters for more than 30 years, confirmed he'd served his last popsicles to the village at the end of April.

Yazici, called Ray by his customers, was “an institution” in the village, said Brightwaters Mayor John Valdini. “You knew spring was coming when Ray would come in March to get his permit." 

A Mister Softee ice cream vendor has already applied to take his place in the village, which has a population of around 3,300, Valdini said.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The Village of Brightwaters will have a new ice cream man this spring, with the retirement of Rahmi Yazici. A Mister Softee vendor has already applied to take his place.

  • Called Ray by his customers, Yazici has been the only ice cream man with a permit to operate in Brightwaters for more than 30 years. 

  • The ice cream man was “an institution” in the village, said Brightwaters Mayor John Valdini. 

A beloved community fixture known for remembering his customers' names and orders, Yazici said he plans to look for an “easy” job, possibly something online, now that he’s moved on from the ice cream industry. 

He started his Brightwaters route in 1992 after launching his career as an independent ice cream seller in Nassau County a year earlier, on the advice of a friend. 

Yazici, who also drove his truck through parts of Bay Shore and West Islip, sold more than 50 different flavors of pre-packaged ice cream from the first week of April through Columbus Day weekend.

Talking to the children buying ice cream was his favorite part of the job, he said.

“I have a lot of good memories here,” he said.

The Village of Brightwaters announced Yazici’s retirement with an email blast and on village social media channels last week. 

Dozens of current and former Bay Shore and Brightwaters residents responded to the village Facebook post, sending Yazici well-wishes and sharing favorite memories of the ice cream man.

Lori Finizio, 35, of North Babylon, was among those who commented on social media. She's known Ray since she was around 5 years old, she said in an interview.

“Growing up, he was always the guy,” said Finizio, who grew up in Bay Shore. She and other children playing outside in the summer would scream for him to stop when they heard the bell from his truck. He always waited.

One of her favorite memories of Yazici, she recalled, happened after she moved a few blocks away when she was around 10. When Yazici saw her outside her new house, Finizio remembers him saying: “Oh, Lori, you moved here?”

“I just remember it sticking out in my brain. Like, wow, he remembered me,” she said.

Sarah Burke, 27, of Bay Shore, grew up with Yazici too.

“He was my childhood ice cream man,” she said. “When I was 5, me and my little sister used to steal change out of our father’s change drawer and this man would count pennies just for us to get a dollar ice cream.”

And at the end of the ice cream-selling season, she recalled, he used to knock on their door and give her family everything he had left in the truck.

More recently, she said she'd visit Yazici with her now-12-year-old nephew while the ice cream seller was stationed near Bay Shore High School. Her nephew has also known Yazici his entire life.

Yazici said his “first generation” has started to marry and have children of their own. To see them as adults feels “crazy,” he said.

Mary Del Vecchio, a Brightwaters trustee, with her husband, Nick...

Mary Del Vecchio, a Brightwaters trustee, with her husband, Nick Del Vecchio, asked Rahmi Yazici to serve ice cream from his truck at their 2014 wedding. Credit: Mary Del Vecchio

One couple even asked him to serve ice cream from his truck at their wedding, a moment that stands out for Yazici, even as he worked at birthday parties and other events. 

“I'll never, ever forget that,” he said.

The wedding was that of Mary Del Vecchio, a village trustee who grew up in Brightwaters to her now-husband, Nick Del Vecchio.

“He just seemed to be at all of our big events,” Mary Del Vecchio said. "He was at our prom pictures. It just made sense that we ask him to come to our wedding.”

She said he pulled up at the end of the reception and guests — many of whom recognized him — grabbed ice cream as they left. 

“He's a mini celebrity for us,” Del Vecchio said. “I work at an elementary school in Bay Shore, and it's always fun that my students have him as their ice cream man, too.”

Everyone has grown up with him,” she added. "It's going be hard to find someone to fill his place in our community.”

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