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Famine hero honored in Hempstead

Nassau County residents of Irish descent will pay tribute Friday to George Coleman De Kay, considered to be a hero of the Irish Potato Famine.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 7, based in East Islip, will hold a ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday at the grave site of De Kay, a commodore, at the cemetery of St. George’s Episcopal Church, across from Hempstead Town Hall.

Nassau County Legis. Dennis Dunne Sr. (R-Levittown), who is part of the Irish group, will speak at the event, and Hibernian bagpipers will play during the ceremony to honor De Kay, who was of Irish descent.

“The De Kay family plot is perhaps the most significant in the churchyard,” said Robert L. Harrison, 65, of East Meadow, who researches Long Island history and convinced Dunne to recognize De Kay’s accomplishment. “They were heroes of the Irish famine, Civil War soldiers, writers, diplomats and poets, founders of institutions and scientists and historians.”

De Kay was born in New York City in 1802 and was the only person in 1847 to be granted, by an act of Congress, the use of two warships. He piloted the Macedonian from New York to Ireland and Scotland with food and supplies for the relief of the famine. He died in 1849 in Washington, D.C., and was buried at the Hempstead church, Harrison said.

In memory of De Kay, food and clothing donations will be made to the pantry of the church, Harrison said.

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