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A Bench of Love: Farmingdale Memorializes Kaitlyn Krokowski

Even the rain could not stop the outpouring of love that was felt during the bench memorial ceremony on Monday, Sept. 27 for 19-year-old Kaitlyn Krokowski, who died in a tragic car accident on January 19, 2009. Her car slid on black ice and hit a pole on the corner of Grant Avenue and Main Street in Farmingdale.

Many of Kaitlyn’s closest friends surrounded her family with their sympathy, their tears, their hugs and their kisses. Their love for Kaitlyn was previously on display through placement of letters, photographs and stuffed animals on the pole that Kaitlyn’s car hit last year, a way of keeping her memory alive. Kaitlyn’s mother, Tina, indicated that no matter how tattered and worn these items became, she could not remove a single one.

Some residents and community members were unhappy with the display of articles on the pole because they felt it was a distraction. Many suggestions were made about ways to honor the memory of Kaitlyn. Phil Fortuna, president of Long Island Checker Cab Company, heard about the idea to raise money for a memorial bench. Fortuna gave the entire $2,000 donation when he heard about the controversy surrounding the increasing tributes being placed on the pole.

“I wanted to help; I like to give back to the community, so I contacted Mayor Starkie and asked how much was needed and donated the total cost for the bench,” said Fortuna. “I like to help people in need.”

Mayor George Starkie joined the ceremony along with about 25 friends and family members who attended in support of the Krokowskis.

The bench was ready to be dedicated six weeks ago, however, Kaitlyn’s grandmother fell ill and was hospitalized shortly before the dedication ceremony was to take place. Tina knew her mother wished to be at the ceremony and wanted to wait until she was well enough to attend the ceremony.

“I could feel Kaitlyn’s presence in the hospital room with my mother and me; it was like she was there trying to help her grandmother get better,” said Tina. When it appeared that her grandmother was almost well, Tina said she and her mom no longer felt Kaitlyn’s presence. Unfortunately, Kaitlyn’s grandmother passed away a week before the dedication ceremony was scheduled, a double loss for the Krokowski family.  

“Remember to cherish your life,” said Tina, “I am fortunate to have been very close to all of my family however, it doesn’t mean you won’t hurt when they are gone.”

Tina said, “I am jealous in a way because Kaitlyn and my mom are now having a glorious reunion.” Through it all, Tina has turned to her faith in God, although she didn’t feel that way when Kaitlyn first died.

Kaitlyn’s brother Giovanni and sister Angela were in attendance to honor their sister’s life. Giovanni played Going Home on a piano during the bench memorial ceremony. Tina thought it was the most appropriate song to play for this occasion. She also brought a box to use as a time capsule for the items removed from the pole. Kaitlyn’s friends and family will open the time capsule at a later date. Tina invited all of Kaitlyn’s friends to sit on the bench.

She said, “I am forever grateful for all of Kaitlyn’s friends who helped me through this and kept my daughter’s memory alive.”