Written by Kyle Bluth Friday, 08 October 2010 00:00
Homecoming came to Island Trees this past Saturday, offering a celebration that began with a parade of floats, students, and many local organizations. Members of the military were there too. It was apropos for Island Trees High School to kick off their annual homecoming by paying homage to one of their own. This year’s celebration was also the first annual football alumni day. William “Billy” Henaghan, a former Island Trees alumnus, excelled in football and wrestling. He was indelibly etched into the memory of the community during a very special rededication ceremony in his honor.
“Few towns are known more for honoring America’s service men and women than Levittown. Today I hope this rededication ceremony reminds us not only of the sacrifice Billy Henaghan made, but to many of our Island Trees and Levittown residents who bravely gave their lives to their country,” announced Island Trees School Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy.
With elected officials, teachers, parents and loyal high school football fans coming out to show their support, 25 members of Henaghan’s family took part in unveiling the William Henaghan Memorial site. The Island Trees Football Alumni Association gave the site a complete makeover, replacing sod, installing sprinkler systems, and adding fencing around the memorial. The new sign, which now hangs above the plaque, was provided with the generous support of Nassau County legislators Dennis Dunne, Sr. and Joe Belesi.
William Henaghan’s life was cut short when he died in a helicopter crash in Vietnam in 1972, but he is better remembered in the evident ways that his life touched a great number of people. Henaghan’s brother, Peter, spoke with the Tribune about what he remembers best.
“The main thing about Bill was that everything he did, he did with total commitment. Whether it was with different athletics that he was involved in, or with family to share and care and love, or his service time with those he served with, he did everything he could to the fullest. That’s the way he was and it was a beautiful thing,” said Peter Henaghan.
Many fallen military service men and women who attended Island Trees High School were also honored in a recital of names during the ceremony. Claude Daniel Richards after 15 years of loyal service, sadly lost his life on 9/11. Detective Brian Hearn, who knew Richards well and entered the Twin Towers with him before they collapsed, described Richards in one word, “devoted.” Though Richards could have worked in an assigned post of safety on the morning of 9/11, he unselfishly chose to act bravely to help his fellow officers. As he talked about the member of his bomb squad family with tears welling up in his eyes, Hearn re-told the story of the hero to the Tribune.
“He could’ve been in the office and he was down there in the jumpsuit in that blue helmet and he was there with a smile on his face saying let’s go…he was brave.”
Dedication and devotion are two words that seemed to come up quite a bit during the day’s events. Nick Tonno, president of Island Trees Football Alumni Association, was one of the key people who made the rededication happen. Tonno remembered Henaghan from personal experiences, playing with him on the football team in high school, recalling he was a “tough guy who always gave his all.” He also emphasized the importance of giving back to his former school and the memory of someone special.
“I graduated from Island Trees, my wife did, my children did, so my roots are here and it’s a special place. I’ve wanted to do this for many years and now the day is here.” His wife, Linda, summed it up the best when she said, “This is really an affair of the heart.”
During the pre-game festivities, 1971 graduate and football alum, Pat Seminario, teamed up with the renowned band, Ready in 10, to give a musical performance of Freedom’s Cry, his personal song dedicated to American Troops.
Island Trees won their football game by a score of 20 to 10, thanks to the standout performance of senior David Grecsek, who rushed for 104 yards and two touchdown runs while adding a third with a 45-yard punt return for a score.