By Peter Sloggatt
Dominick P. Feeney Sr., 85, of Huntington Station, died Oct. 15 at the Long Island State Veterans Home following a long battle with cancer. The patriarch of a family with deep roots in Huntington, Feeney was a proud Irish-American who once led the St. Patrick’s Parade as grand marshal, and a Democratic Party supporter since the Kennedy era.
Born in Rockaway, Queens, Feeney joined the U.S. Army right out of high school, serving during the Korean War. Wounded by mortar fire, Feeney was told by doctors he would never walk again without braces, said his son Dominick Jr., of Melville.
“He proved them wrong, which was typical of him,” Feeney Jr. said.
When he returned stateside, he married his wife Mary, who he had met in high school. He landed a job with the Town of Huntington, working his way up to director of general services, and later, director of operations for the highway department under William Naughton.
Following his career with the town, Feeney served as chairman of the board of the Suffolk Off Track Betting Corp. leading efforts to open a video betting parlor at Jakes 58 in Hauppauge, and also as a commissioner for the South Huntington Water District.
Feeney was active on many fronts throughout his lifetime. As a veteran, he joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars and was active in the organization for many years. He later served on the town’s veterans advisory board.
Politically, Feeney was proud to be “a good Irish Democrat,” Feeney Jr. said. He recalled one of his father’s favorite stories from when John F. Kennedy, campaigning for president, needed a ride to the airport.
“He drove Kennedy from a rally at Commack Arena back to the airport,” Feeney Jr. said. “He needed a ride and dad said, ‘I’ll take him.’”
Feeney remained active in Democratic politics throughout his life, serving its leadership as a committeeman, strategist and fundraiser.
“He was probably active through his entire adult life,” said Jim Gaughran, a former councilman and county legislator. “He had a sharp political mind. He always had an opinion and he was usually right.”
While his loyalty was to the Democrats, party lines dissolved when he got together with friends, many of whom were prominent Republicans. “Friday nights at Finley’s he practically held court. He had friends on both sides of the aisle; they would fight politically and were best friends afterwards.”
Many of those friendships were forged through the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish-American fraternal organization that sponsors the St. Patrick’s parade in Huntington.
Feeney Sr. was president of the organization after Judge Harry Brown, with whom he organized the annual parade for years. Feeney ran the parade until 1979 – the year he led it as grand marshal. Dominick Jr. took over his father’s parade tasks and continues them today.
Feeney was particularly proud when his son followed in his steps to serve as grand marshal in 2014, the third member of their extended family to lead the parade.
“The Feeney family for years were the guys who made us relevant,” said AOH president Greg Kennedy, adding that this year he was to be recognized as a 50-year member.
“He was a tough guy: Golden Gloves champ, war hero, he was the real deal. And he was a true Hibernian. He was so happy he lived to see his son Dominic Jr become Grand Marshal – you could tell there was so much fatherly pride when they marched that year.”
In addition to his wife of 65 years, Mary, and son Dominick P. Jr.; Feeney Sr. is survived by children Michael, Patricia Vella and David; grandchildren Kristy, Kerry, Tara, Michael, Patrick, Shannon, Madalyn, Thomas, and Daniel; and great-grandchildren Shane, Patrick, Lucy, Dahlia, Violet, Dylan and Sasha. His grandson David pre-deceased him.
Visitation will be held 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. today at M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station. A funeral Mass will be held Friday, 9:45 a.m. at St. Patrick Church in Huntington. Interment will follow at Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn.