Long Island veterans, historians and railroad officials gathered at the Islip LIRR station Monday to pay tribute to a fallen war hero, and the Islip High School wood shop project that became a memorial to him.
A ceremony at the station honored Bernardino Genchi and the locomotive-shaped weather vane he created and stuck on the roof of the building during its formal opening on Dec. 7, 1963.
Six years later, the helicopter that Genchi was piloting as an Army warrant officer in Vietnam was shot down, killing him. The weather vane stood on the station house roof as a memorial to the late soldier for more than 30 years, before being removed because it was damaged.
Fifty-eight years that the weather vane went up, local historians, including from the Long Island Sunrise Trail Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, sought to commemorate the event. They purchased a replica locomotive weather vane and created a plaque honoring Genchi — a "fun loving" guy who liked dancing to the "Monster Mash" and working on cars, LIRR historian David Morrison said.
With a crowd of veterans, historians and Genchi’s relatives watching on, railroad workers mounted the replica weather vane Monday afternoon. The blustery winds quickly spun the instrument round and round as the audience cheered.
Genchi’s daughter, Dina Soriano, who was just 13 months old when her father died, said she had long known the story of her father’s connection to the Islip LIRR station, and was touched that people wanted to honor him.
"I really did not picture this," Soriano of Sayville said as she watched the group of dignitaries gather for the event. "This is just very overwhelming and very special."
LIRR president Phillip Eng said the new weather vane "preserves Islip history, and reminds all of us of the courage demonstrated by veterans and those serving today."