The portion of Nicolls Road between Fox Hunt Road and Route 347 will now be known as "Lt. Joseph DiBernardo Memorial Road," and was dedicated at a ceremony on Monday led by Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn.
Hahn, D-Setauket, introduced a measure in the county legislature over the summer to rename a 1.27-mile stretch of the road in honor of Joseph "Joey D" DiBernardo Jr., a FDNY lieutenant and former Setauket Fire Department volunteer who died last November from an accidental medication overdose.
Hahn, who met Joey D at the Setauket Fire Department's 9/11 memorial ceremony in 2011, said she hopes the dedication of "Lt. Joseph DiBernardo Memorial Road" will help the community remember him.
"I can't think of a better way to honor his memory and legacy than for each passerby to think not just of his sacrifice but of the sacrifice of every brave man and woman who selflessly protect our lives and property every day," she said.
His family, including parents Barbara and Joseph DiBernardo Sr. and sister Carolyn DiBernardo Ingoglia, thanked Hahn for making the tribute happen.
"He spent his adult life in the service of the citizens of Setauket, Brookhaven, and Suffolk County, responding to all their emergencies and teaching them," DiBernardo Sr. said. "He gave his life in the fire service, and now maybe a lot of people will see his name and think of him and remember him and all the great things he did."
Barbara DiBernardo said it means so much to their family.
"We feel very, very privileged, lucky, and honored that they saw fit to do this," she said. "But he deserved it, he really did serve this area."
Joey D sustained critical injuries from the Black Sunday fire in January of 2005, a fire which killed two firefighters and critically injured him and three others. He has been credited with helping another firefighter safely escape the Black Sunday fire using an escape rope. But when he tried to escape himself, the rope broke and he fell 40 feet to the ground. He broke nearly every bone below his waist, needing reconstructive surgery, screws, and plates.
Joey D, who also spent months working on Ground Zero cleanup efforts following 9/11, retired from the FDNY in 2006. Last November, Joey D died at the age of 40 at his home in Miller Place from an accidental overdose of painkillers and antidepressants, the use of which has been attributed to the Black Sunday fire and his injuries.
DiBernardo Sr., a retired FDNY deputy chief, appealed to the FDNY in May to have his son's name added as a line-of-duty death alongside the other firefighters who died as a result of the Black Sunday fire.
Joey D's death was which means his name is now on the FDNY's Wall of Honor.
His close friend Bill Rohr, a Setauket volunteer firefighter with whom he attended the city's fire academy, said Monday that Joey D "lived and breathed the fire department."
"When he was a little kid, he'd come to work with his dad and ride around in the fire chief's car with his dad," Rohr said. "Not a day goes by I don't think about him. It's sad, but his memory is not lost."