Field of honor
The Sayville Golden Flashes won their first home game of the season on the new field.

Photo by Linda Mittiga

Field of honor


SAYVILLE—On Saturday, Sept. 9, the Sayville High School athletic turf field, located on the corner of Greeley Avenue and Depot Road, was dedicated in the name of an alumnus, Timothy J. Henck, a member of the Suffolk County Police Department Fifth Precinct. Sgt. Henck was killed in the line of duty in 1995. Though a memorial plaque had been previously placed at the corner of the field several years ago, the completed reconstructed field now holds a scoreboard bearing the name of the fallen hero. 

The Henck family and friends joined school administrators and representatives from the Suffolk County Police Department for the moving ceremony. A procession of police bagpipers from the Emerald Society Pipe Band entered the field, where the Sayville Golden Flashes varsity football team that was set to play their first home game of the season, were practicing.

Dr. John E. Stimmel, superintendent of the school district, provided the opening statements. “We are gathered here to proudly dedicate the field to a native son,” he noted as an honorary police helicopter flew low overhead.

Dr. Stimmel acknowledged the support of the community for making the new field possible with the work of a bond committee, resulting in the passing of a bond to fund the work in September 2015. And he thanked the many others that worked hard through the previous night to make sure the field was ready for the event. A donation from the Fifth Precinct Alliance made the scoreboard possible.

However, aside from the field, the focus of the day was the work of Sgt. Henck, who Stimmel called “a rare individual…and made the supreme sacrifice.”

“There are no words that can be said to add to this noble act. We can all honor his memory when we all make a sacrifice so [others] can thrive.”

Several other speakers provided insight into the life of Sgt. Henck, using words such as integrity, respect and courtesy. Police Commissioner Timothy Sini provided a brief overview of the short life of Sgt. Henck, who began his career at age 21. On that fateful day in 1995, the 30-year-old Henck, who was married and the father of an infant daughter, pursued a suspect in his car after a burglary had taken place. Sini said in doing so, he was “considering the safety of others,” before the suspect intentionally rammed his vehicle into the side of his police car. Sgt. Henck suffered severe injuries and died several days later in a hospital.

Sini acknowledged the presence of Henck’s widow, Kathy, and his daughter, Jennifer, who is now a law student. “Today is a day to say ‘thank you’ for sharing him with us.

“The SCPD never forgets our fallen officers,” nor the sacrifices made by their families, he said.

SCPD Chief Stuart Cameron noted that Sgt. Henck was the 20th officer of 22 that has been killed in the line of duty.

“His actions were motivated to protect the public and his subordinate [police officers]. He led from the front,” Cameron said.

Fifth Precinct commanding officer William Silva said he spoke to many individuals who had known Sgt. Henck and most said he was a quiet, unassuming person. He also learned he was an intelligent, driven person who had a dry sense of humor and loved to photograph the natural beauty found in national parks.

However, Tim Cooley, now a college student who graduated from Sayville High School in 2015, said his family had a deeper understanding of the fallen officer and still feels that loss. His father, school board member Tom Cooley, was his friend since childhood.

“This [dedication] means the world to all of us,” he said. “There used to be a plaque here, but no one knew this was [Henck’s] field. Now it’s in large letters [on a scoreboard].

“It’s nice that 22 years later, Sayville still remembers him,” he added.