Point of View: Remembering a life well lived
BY JENNIFER WITTMAN CAHILL
Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” My father, Andrew T. Wittman Jr., lived this quote. He passed away on June 12 of this year.
Born in 1933 to Andrew T. Wittman Sr. and Mildred R. Wittman, he was raised in Brentwood and joined the Brentwood Fire Department at the tender age of 18. He served as an active member for 67 years and 62 of them as an honorary chief. However, at the early stages of his service as a volunteer fireman, he was trapped by a brush fire and severely burned. Luckily, he survived, despite having to undergo a myriad of plastic surgery operations in order to help repair the damage from the fire’s rage. Although it was inevitable that this horrible event would forever change him, he forged a pathway of success as a survivor.
In 1956 he met my mother, Rose Marie Sanguedolce. They were married 10 years later and became forever residents of Bayport. Their three children (Christine, Jennifer and Andrew) were all raised in Bayport and graduated from Bayport-Blue Point High School. He was a proud father and grandfather of seven. My parents were married for 52 years.
Throughout his life, Dad dedicated himself to his family and his professions as a Town of Islip police officer, Suffolk County senior court clerk, a Town of Islip and Suffolk County firearms instructor and a nighttime security guard. Likewise, he offered his time and expertise to numerous volunteer organizations: Brentwood Fire Department (67 years); Bayport-Blue Point Board of Education trustee (15 years); Eastern Suffolk BOCES board member; Islip Town Volunteer Fireman’s Association; and Bayport Heritage Association to name a few. He so desired to serve others and to do good… and that is exactly what he did.
Although it has been already one month since his death, life seems so very unexplainably strange for our family. However, despite the sadness and depth of pain for such a loss, we choose to recall all of the wonders that were Andrew T. Wittman Jr. He was by far the most intelligent person we knew, as he knew something about everything.
Dad’s last six years of life were saddled with illness, yet he maintained his wit and dry sense of humor. He was a true outdoorsman and avid hunter. He loved Maine and if he had anything to say about it, he would have moved his family there a very long time ago. He was always prepared for any and all emergencies (emergency rations, multiple sets of jumper cables and air compressors in his cars; batteries and lanterns; deadbolts on all doors; a home generator). He was a highly knowledgeable firearm enthusiast and took such pride in his expertise. He enjoyed slowly and methodically strolling the aisles at antique gun shows. He loved to eat and was truly known by all as a man who would never pass up any dessert. While lemon meringue pie, Mallomars, lemon doughnuts and Pepsi were among his favorites, he never met any sweet he didn’t fully enjoy.
All who were fortunate enough to have known my father would tell you that he was a great man… and that he was. While his kids think that he knew it all, at the very same time he made everyone in his life feel important and validated. People and their opinions truly mattered to him, and he let them know that in no uncertain terms. He was a man committed to his family, his work, his community, and his passions.
William Shakespeare said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” He did just that… he gave to his family and his community. Andrew T. Wittman Jr… a life well lived.
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