Friday, 14 August 2009 00:00
When word spread Saturday night, Aug. 1, of the sudden death of David Dangerfield, Sr., the sense of loss was profound and cut deep to many. Dangerfield was an Elmont and Royal Palm Beach community leader, firefighter, father, grandfather and surrogate parent. He passed away at the age of 51 and is survived by his wife Erica and children TJ, David “Deuce,” Jordan, Jared, Davina, Chaanelle, Charrise.
The outpouring of grief spilled onto the pages of Facebook, where group sites were started where children and adults throughout Elmont posted their reflections about a man who was called “Papa D” to so many.
Scott Cushing, a longtime family friend from Elmont who led the memorial service at Riverside Chapel in Manhattan, said, “This is heartbreaking and tragic. David loved his family and everyone who knows the Dangerfield’s knows what a deep, cutting loss this is. The incredible outpouring of sympathy and prayers for the family has been a godsend. David’s boys are like my own children. David was so proud of all of them and their achievements. I will never forget that kind and gentle man who was a brother to me.”
Walter Aksionoff, principal of Dutch Broadway School and family friend added, “I can simply say that the Dangerfield family worked so hard for all the children of Elmont. They were always involved in the school and greater community. Whenever they were called upon, they were always there for Dutch. This is like losing a family member of the Dutch family. When David shook your hand, he engulfed you and embraced you as a friend.”
Aksionoff added that Dangerfield’s memory will be intertwined with Hofstra’s Pride as his son Jordan is going off to Hofstra for his freshman season on Hofstra’s football team.
David Carl Dangerfield was born in the Bronx to Marilyn Imogene Isaacs on January 5, 1959. He attended R.T. Hudson School, Rhodes High School and Dewitt Clinton High School before attending a junior college in Fairbury, Nebraska, where he also played football.
During his youth, he worked as an apprentice at a local butcher shop and in the Levish Animal Hospital. He also volunteered as a fireman in the community firehouse, aspiring and fulfilling his dream, to be a firefighter.
On October 24, 1983, Dangerfield was sworn in as one of New York’s bravest, where he proudly served at Ladder 45 with the New York City Fire Department. He then went on to Rescue 3, finishing his career at Squad 270, along side his sister-in law, retired firefighter Celia Thompson.
Dangerfield loved being a firefighter and was truly devoted to the job. He bravely served over 18 years with true dedication and valor. He was part of the team that responded to the 9-11 World Trade Center terrorist attack as he served in the ground operations team with the New York City Fire Department. His wife Erica served at the site with the New York City Police Department.
Dangerfield was honored along with all 9-11 first responders throughout Elmont and North Valley Stream during a special ceremony hosted by Lieutenant Governor Mary Donahue, Assemblyman Tom Alfano, then-Elmont Superintendent of Schools Dr. Maria Palandra and then School Board President Deanna Doreson at Dutch Broadway School. Thereafter, both David and Erica Dangerfield were honored in the New York State Assembly for their service during legislative session.
Dr. Palandra, a friend to the Dangerfield family, and co-host for the 9-11 honorary ceremony said, “We were honored to have him as a member of the Elmont School District community. He meant so much to the young people. He was a role model and a man of strength, values, courage and intelligence. He was a hero to many of our young people and he was a friend.”
Assemblyman Alfano offered his reflection of Dangerfield, saying, “This is such a loss. He and Erica were friends and confidants that I counted on in so many ways. I had just spoken to him the day before where we were making plans to go to dinner and celebrate Jordan’s success at going to Hofstra. All of David’s children are part of my extended family and my heart goes out to them right now.”
Still wanting to serve and share his knowledge after his retirement, Dangerfield was appointed by Governor George Pataki to the position of coordinator of bioterrorism for New York State Department of Health and Emergency Management. In that capacity, he coordinated drills and protocols for disasters for vulnerable sites and communities throughout New York State.
In Elmont, Dangerfield was very active in the Elmont South Little League helping coach his sons David, Jordan, Jared and TJ. In addition, he served as a coach and president of the Elmont Cardinals Football Club. He was active in the Dutch Broadway and Elmont Memorial High School PTA with his wife Erica. He also took particular pride in his work with the extended Elmont Memorial High School family through after-school programs and the varsity football program.
Dangerfield also served as a campaign coordinator for Assemblyman Alfano’s re-election campaigns.
In January 2005, Dangerfield relocated with his wife and four sons to Royal Palm Beach, FL, where he immediately began serving and giving back to his community, becoming involved in numerous organizations and running for a local seat on the village council.
He instantly became involved in Royal Palm Beach High School, where you could see him on the sidelines holding the chains and cheering on his sons and their teammates. He volunteered his time at the high school, serving as school advisory council president. He affected the students’ lives becoming a substitute teacher and a mentor as students earned the right to call him “Papa D.”
David belonged to the Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Harlem, where he worshiped for many years with his mother and family and where his sons where offered up to the Torah. He was a spiritual man, led a spiritual life, and was committed to his faith.
He liked the saying, “out of one came many.” He was an only child who is leaving a legacy that he called “his tribe.” Besides his loving wife of 23 years, Erica, and his seven children, Dangerfield is survived by his seven grandchildren — Deja, Cheyanne, Javon, Jaden, Taylor, Jayden and AJ — his mother-in-law, Mernel Spellman and sister and brother-in-law, Celia and Fred Thompson.
He will be remembered as a role model, father and someone everyone looked up to, admired and aspired to be like.