Deer Park resident and New York Fire Department Deputy Chief of Special Operations Ray Downey, 62, gave his life trying to save civilians during the devastating events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Downey was not only a hero, but a man of the Deer Park community -- giving lectures at the Deer Park Fire Department and lending a hand at many Deer Park High School events.
“He was very humble, my husband -- he never really talked about his accomplishments or made them a big deal,” wife Rosalie Downey, 75, said. “He just loved what he did, and woke up every morning happy to go to work.”
On Saturday, Deer Park High School celebrated Downey by naming Rosalie grand marshal of the homecoming parade. Downey and her family were awarded a certificate of honor from the Babylon Town Council during a special ceremony held before the homecoming game.
“I was so shocked, and honored when they asked me to do it,” Downey said. “And I know that he’s up there looking down on me and smiling today.”
In 2012, Downey and her family established the Deputy Chief Raymond Downey Scholarship Charity Fund, which raises money for students in the Deer Park School District, as well as other community organizations in need.
The fund has raised more than $500,000 over the past 13 years, and hosts an annual “Forever Running” 5K in Deer Park on Father’s Day every year.
“He was a big runner, you’d see him running down Deer Park Avenue all of the time,” Marie Tortorici, daughter of Downey and a teacher at JFK Intermediate School in Deer Park, said. “We decided that holding a 5K would be the best way to honor him.”
For Deer Park High School principal James Cummings, the decision to honor Downey and his family during homecoming was a natural choice.
“This is a family that has been in the community for generations, and have given so much. They have donated thousands of dollars to help children with their college educations,” Cummings said. “9/11 changed our country, and I don’t think we could have a more fitting honoree.”