Street named for 9/11 hero
Mark W. Gajewski’s legacy will live on with a memorial in his honor in East Patchogue
Not many give themselves in service to the military, as a first responder, or to disaster relief efforts all in one lifetime, but that was just who Mark “Ski” Gajewski was. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and died on Dec. 17, 2011 at the age of 52.
Gajewski was honored by his family, town, state and county officials, first responders and fellow bikers as the intersection of the street where he lived, Martha Avenue, was renamed. He grew up in an adopted family outside Detroit, Mich. He developed testicular cancer at a young age, and when the doctors said he would have six months to live, he went on for another 25 years.
He joined the United States Marine Corps right after graduation, where he met his wife, Debbie, to whom he was married for 32 years. They had two children, Sean and Crystal. His family described him as someone who was always there to help, and that was no different on Sept. 11, 2001. He didn’t respond as a firefighter or police officer, but as a concerned citizen. After helping in person, he rallied his biker community to do fundraisers for the victims of the attack. And in 2005, he packed his truck with supplies and drove to New Orleans to help with the relief efforts of Hurricane Katrina. Those who knew Gajewski said this was not for recognition or publicity, but just a genuine desire to help others.
“He was a true American hero,” said councilman Michael Loguercio, who worked to secure the street dedication. He added that Aug. 17 would be known as Mark W. Gajewski Day in the Town of Brookhaven.
“Without the people who serve our community, we would be nothing,” said Assemb. Joe DeStefano, adding that Gajewski was someone who was always there for his community.
Scores of people came out to celebrate Gajewski’s life and witness the unveiling of his sign. The project was actually a surprise for Debbie, and it was revealed to her by Crystal earlier that morning.
Sean said that he had started to notice his dad’s health change a few years after 9/11. There were many doctor visits, more limits while working, and other complications. Sean and Mark had many conversations, where they discussed what happened in the recovery efforts — events that often made Mark emotional.
“It was at those conversations where I learned about the things he did on the pile that make me, honestly, proud to call him my father,” Sean Gajewski said.
The sign is displayed at the corner of Americus and Martha avenues in East Patchogue.
“[Residents and guests] will be able to look up who that gentleman is ... and they’re going to be able to see what he accomplished in life,” said Legis. Rudy Sunderman. “And that’s going to be something that’s going to live on as a legacy.”
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