Former Alert fire chief and Village of Great Neck deputy mayor is the third resident to lose a battle to 9/11-related cancer
Former Alert Fire Chief and Village of Great Neck Deputy Mayor Raymond Plakstis Jr. passed away due to a 9/11-related illness while in Florida on Friday, Nov. 30. He was 57.
“It is with deepest regret that the officers and members of the Alert Fire Company announce the line-of-duty passing of ex-chief and 33-year member, Raymond Plakstis Jr.,” the fire department announced. “For 33 years, Ray’s devotion to duty and dedication to the Great Neck community was evident in every aspect of his life.”
Residents agreed, “It’s a sad day. He was a gift to the community.”
Plakstis was the third generation owner of Doray Enterprises on Steamboat Road, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.
He joined the fire company in 1985. Plakstis was elected second lieutenant in 1991, rose through the ranks and was elected chief of department in 2002. In 2014, he was elected to a second term as chief, serving for another three years.
As first assistant chief on September 11, 2001, Plakstis responded to the World Trade Center and worked at Ground Zero for days. In the following months, he returned many times.
In July 2016, he was diagnosed with cancer related to his exposure.
“With his wife [Donna] and family at his side, he fought like a warrior, finally succumbing after 28 months of struggle,” reported the Alert Fire Company.
“During his long service to the department, Ray was particularly dedicated to training and was always on the cutting edge of innovation and new technology for the department,” said the Alerts. “He helped countless young firefighters learn the skills needed to thrive in our profession. Truly, to know Ray was to be a better person and firefighter.”
Plakstis was elected to the Village of Great Neck Board of Trustees in 2015 and was appointed deputy mayor later that year. He served with distinction on the village board until health reasons forced his resignation.
According to Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar, who ran the Village of Great Neck write-in campaign in 2013 and the 2015 mayoral and trustee campaign, Plakstis was the original choice for mayor for both races. She explained that the third-generation Great Neck resident possessed the qualifications necessary for a village mayor. Unfortunately, he had too many business obligations to consider taking on the position, but agreed to run for trustee in the 2015 election.
“Ray Plakstis had a grand and generous spirit,” said Rosenblatt Gilliar. “He cared about his community as few people ever do. He suffered fools without censure or comment. He did not back bite. He had strong opinions but allowed for everyone else’s and ruminated even after his view seemed unwavering. He was not credentialed yet he was powerfully self-educated with knowledge of the mechanical, electrical, financial…you name it. What I found most interesting about him is the manner in which he meshed with people of all breeds. We liked him. We called him our friend. We will keep him always in our memory.”
After 9/11, Plakstis worked with the late Saddle Rock Mayor Leonard Samansky to establish a memorial to the victims on the Saddle Rock Bridge. For many years, he personally maintained the memorial.
“My brother has been taking care of it since the beginning,” said Thomas P. McDonough, former chief of the Port Washington Fire Department. “He put up the red, white and blue lights and replaced them whenever they need it.”
When the Mashadi synagogue was being built, Plakstis brought spotlights to the parking lot to make sure the worshipers could safely enter and exit the sanctuary.
“He helped the Mashadi community during the High Holidays by providing huge sidewalks and portable streetlights free of charge,” said Kings Point Trustee Hooshang Nematzadeh.
For many years during the winter holidays, Plakstis was instrumental in hanging up Santa and his sleigh, and decorating the Christmas tree in the Village Green. He and his family also purchased gifts for Santa to distribute to neighborhood children.
“He already ordered this year’s stockings that Santa will hand out to the kids,” said McDonough.
“The Great Neck community and the Alert Fire Company have lost an irreplaceable presence in Chief Plakstis,” expressed the Alerts. “His passing will be felt by all who had the honor of knowing him.”
Members of the community expressed the same sentiment.
“I absolutely admired Ray Plakstis,” said Great Neck attorney Michael Weinstock, who was a 9/11 first responder. “He helped more people than anybody I’ve ever met. In addition to fighting fires and providing emergency medical care to thousands of people, he went out of his way to hire guys who were struggling to get back on their feet—and he treated all of them like family.”
Plakstis’s older brother by two years couldn’t agree more.
“My brother’s presence made Great Neck a better community,” said McDonough. He was probably the most unselfish person that you could ever meet. He believed in giving people second chances and would give you the dinner off his plate if you needed it. As a businessman, he helped anyone he could.”
Plakstis was predeceased by his father Raymond Sr. in 2013 and his mother, Doris Groene, one of the first women to volunteer with the Vigilant Fire Company ambulance in 1986 and eventually became president. She passed away in 2017, after a long battle with cancer related to her service on 9/11 under the command of First Corporal Kenneth Bleck, who passed away from World Trade Center–related cancer in 2016. On Dec. 16, her name will be added to the 9/11 memorial at Jonathan Ielpi Firefighters Park.
Plakstis is survived by his wife, Donna, and their sons, Tyler and Ryan, graduates of Great Neck North, who will all be assuming operation of Doray Enterprises. The boys will represent the fourth generation involved in the business.
He is also survived by his brother, Tom; sisters-in-law, Carla and Paula; brother-in-law, Steve; and nieces and nephews, Daniel, Tom Jr., Colleen, Kelly, Erin, Victoria and Marcella.
The wake will be held at Alert headquarters, 555 Middle Neck Rd., on Wednesday, Dec. 5, from 7 to 9 p.m. and Thursday, Dec. 6, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. A Firematic service will be held at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
The funeral mass will be held on Friday, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m. at St. Aloysius Church, 592 Middle Neck Rd. Interment will follow at Holy Rood Cemetery, 111 Old Country Rd. in Westbury.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to your local fire department or animal shelter.
Read about the funeral here.