Former Alert Fire Company chief Raymond A. Plakstis Jr. had his name added to the New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Albany last week.
Several of Plakstis’ brothers from Alert were on hand for the memorial ceremony in the state capitol, where Governor Andrew Cuomo and other officials commended the work of the fallen on the fifth annual Firefighters Appreciation Day.
“The Fallen Firefighters Memorial honors the legacy of men and women who faced unthinkable danger with incredible courage,” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said. “This year, 23 names are being added to the monument, including the names of 10 firefighters who were taken by the injuries and illnesses that arose in the aftermath of 9/11. Each of their stories is a testament to the heroism that is part of everyday life for those who answer the call and put on their uniform. We honor their bravery, and the bravery and sacrifice of their families and loved ones.”
After 33 years of service to the Great Neck community as a firefighter with Alert, Plakstis succumbed to cancer on Nov. 30, 2018 that he developed as a result of working as a first responder at Ground Zero. In addition to his work as a firefighter, Plakstis served as a trustee and deputy mayor for the Village of Great Neck, and ran Doray Enterprises on Steamboat Road like his father and grandfather before him. He helped build and maintain the 9/11 memorial that adorns Saddle Rock’s bridge, and for years helped decorate Village Green Park around Christmas time, buying gifts for Santa to give out to children on his own dime.
Alert member John Motchkavitz, who joined the company just a few months before Plakstis, remembered how his friend and colleague always gave of himself to help others without expecting anything in return.
“In Ray’s mind, giving wasn’t just helping, it wasn’t just doing something for you,” Motchkavitz said. “It might be giving somebody a job, or finding something for somebody. He just did it for the sake of doing what’s right.”
This past August, Plakstis was honored with memorial plaques at both Jonathan Ielpi Firefighters Park and Alert’s headquarters on Middle Neck Road. Alert’s rescue truck #824 now bears his member number as well.
Motchkavitz found himself wondering how his humble friend would respond to the sort of praise he never sought to receive.
“It’s so fitting that Ray is honored, he so well deserved to have his name on that wall forever.” Motchkavitz said. “But being as humble as he was, it’s something he would be a little shocked at.”
Joining Plakstis on the memorial were 22 other firefighters from departments around the state, including eight from Long Island, two of whom served in Nassau County: Richard Kaplan, a firefighter in Jericho who continued responding to calls at the department until the day before he passed on Jan. 23 at age 80 and Robert J. Langer, a Westbury firefighter who served as a volunteer for 28 years.
In total, the Fallen Firefighters Memorial has taken on 2,575 names since its 1998 dedication.