By Fanchette Grunblatt
A crowd of over 250 people gathered Sunday to remember Charles Oddo, an East Northport native and police officer who was killed while on duty 20 years ago, by renaming Verleye Park in his honor.
Oddo, an officer with the New York Police Department, was killed on Feb. 17, 1996 after he was fatally struck by an SUV while re-routing traffic at an accident scene in Brooklyn. He was 33.
As a child, Oddo lived within walking distance of, and often played at, the park on Verleye Avenue, which has been renamed to Charles A. Oddo Verleye Park by the Huntington Town Board following unanimous approval of a resolution sponsored by Councilman Eugene Cook.
“Now, when a child walks into Verleye Park and asks, ‘Who is Charles Oddo?’ we can tell them the story of a brave, generous man who gave so much to his community and was taken from us far too young,” Cook said.
Family, friends, neighbors, and former colleagues on the police force and at the fire department were present for the ceremony, including Oddo’s sister, Maria Oddo Forger.
“Today, we gather together once more in the town he and I grew up in, in our neighborhood park, and celebrate his memory, his fervent heart and selfless love which sent itself out daily in helping others, never blowing a trumpet before him and never seeing his actions as being noble, no, just necessary to ensure a better outcome for someone in need,” Forger said. “Today, you show us by your loyalty to him and his memory that you are indeed, family, for you have not forgotten him nor ceased to honor his memory.”
In 1981, Oddo graduated from Elwood-John Glenn High School, and the next year he joined up with the Commack Fire Department, serving as a firefighter, paramedic and mechanic.
Oddo became an officer in the footsteps of his father, who was a highway cop in Suffolk. In 1990, he joined the NYPD. He became a highway cop in 1995 when he was transferred to Brooklyn’s Highway Unit #2.
Those who knew Oddo called him “chuckles” for his good nature and perpetual smile.
John Bicocchi, president of the Commack Fire Department, and fellow firefighters pushed for the park to be renamed in line with the 20-year anniversary of Oddo’s death.
Bicocchi, who is also a retired NYPD sergeant, said Oddo has long been an example of what the Commack Fire Department hopes its members can be. In an interview, he said his breath was taken away when he heard the news of Oddo’s death. He said members of the Commack Fire Department were shocked and devastated by the loss.
“He lived by a code of conduct, a work ethic instilled by his parents. He was a dedicated public servant, both at work and at home,” Bicocchi said. “We will be will be especially proud to pass this park and continue his legacy as best we can, bringing public safety and service to the community we serve.”
Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone called Oddo a hero, a person of inspiration and a “person everyone liked.”
“When he was lost, people came by. They came in droves because people recognized who he really was and today, we want to put that memory here, in his home town, and we want to make sure it is everlasting,” Petrone said. “We want to mark today as a day of memory, a day of celebration.”