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Harold Henry Malkmes, 17-term Brookhaven Highway, superintendent and namesake of the Harold H. Malkmes Wildlife Education and Ecology Center in Holtsville, died May 19 at his daughter's home in Morganton, N.C. He was 87.
Harold was born September 23, 1923, in Medford and grew up in Port Jefferson Station, his wife, Joyce, said. The couple met in high school during eighth period study hall. Both were in the class of 1941—and married on May 22, 1943.
Her husband enlisted with the Air Corps shortly before his 20th birthday and was a tail gunner on a B-24 with the 459th Bombardment Group in Italy.
When Harold returned home, the couple settled in Stony Brook and had three children: Wendy Hammerstone, who now lives in Morganton, N.C., Jon, in Water Mill, and Michael, in Miller Place.
Harold worked at a flower shop—a "lifelong florist", Joyce Malkmes said—that had been in the family since his mother's father owned it. His wife said he was "practically born in the greenhouse" and studied horticulture at Farmingdale State College. The shop, on Oakland Avenue in Port Jeff Station, is still in the family and is now called Malkmes Florist and Greenhouses.
Harold Malkmes at the ecology center in Holtsville. Photo from Patrick Malkmes (click for larger version)
Malkmes served as a volunteer firefighter with the Stony Brook Fire Department, including two years as its chief, and was elected Brookhaven highway superintendent 17 times, after serving in an appointed position as parks commissioner, his wife said.
Tom Owens, Brookhaven's chief deputy commissioner in the department of parks, recreation and sports and cultural resources, began working for Harold in 1979 in the highway department and continued until the superintendent retired 25 years later.
"Whether it was a school, fire department or religious organization, Harold was always there to help," Owens said. "He knew the true meaning of public service. I will miss him dearly."
State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said Malkmes was "the kind of guy who was very responsive to the people that he represented." He added the highway superintendent was a "great humanitarian and a person who was a true public servant. And public service for him was a joy."
Malkmes established the Wildlife Education and Ecology Center in Holtsville during his run as highway superintendent "because that was his interest," Joyce Malkmes said, adding the ecology site and zoo used to be the site of a garbage dump.
Former Superintendent of Highways Harold Malkmes, right, with the current superintendent, John Rouse. Photo from the Stony Brook Fire Department. (click for larger version)
Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he met the highway superintendent when he was a county legislator beginning in 1983 and although the two were from different political parties, Malkmes "was a gentleman, always. He was someone who I was able to approach and talk to." He added, "Right from the very beginning, I had a sense that he really cared about the people and he cared about the issues."
Englebright said the bridge next to Se-Port Deli in East Setauket was made possible by Harold Malkmes, and that the superintendent was responsible for the extensive lawn at North Country Road and Ridgeway Avenue in front of a historical district. The assemblyman said many of the years Malkmes was in office were years of "explosive growth," when many areas of the town were going from rural to suburban. "A whole chapter of the town basically closes with his passing." Englebright added, "It was fun to work with him and he will be sorely missed."
Malkmes' younger son, Michael, said his father was "someone to look up to" and was always there for his family. He and his dad played gin rummy and sports together, including tennis, boating—Michael said his father was once a commodore for the Stony Brook Yacht Club—and snowmobiling. Michael Malkmes recalled winning a father-son tennis tournament at the Three Village Tennis Club two or three years in a row in the early 1960s. Joyce Malkmes said her husband used to play tennis at 6 am in Setauket before going to work in the morning.
According to Joyce, her husband had heart problems for a while. She said 11 years ago, she was told he was "not gonna make it" and all his relatives visited him, but he was "here 11 years later." The former superintendent had a quadruple bypass surgery and a pacemaker implanted.
Ten years ago, the couple moved from their longtime home in Stony Brook to Vero Beach, Fla., during the winters and in a town near Cooperstown in upstate New York during the summers.
Joyce said her husband "died very peacefully" in his daughter's home in North Carolina and "he was ready."
For Harold Malkmes' obituary and information about services, click here.
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