"Helpless" is the word Patricia Callahan said many have used to describe their feelings toward the passing of her husband, Jim, a father of four and a leader to Malverne and Nassau County.
When they first learned of Jim's at the age of 42 in late May, numerous friends, neighbors, colleagues and others whose lives he had touched showered his family with love and support.
"We really are overwhelmed with the amount of people," said Patricia, who added that she was "very touched" by the letters she has received and the stories people have shared with her about how her husband helped them during his life.
"Those things are really comforting and I relay them to our kids," she added. "It helps to keep his memory alive."
While serving as deputy mayor of Malverne and commissioner of the county's Office of Emergency Management, Jim wrote laws and established disaster plans that will protect the lives of many local residents long after his passing, but he was most proud of his children: Thomas, 12, Katherine, 9, Elizabeth, who turns 7 this weekend, and Christina, 4.
Despite the demands of his jobs, Jim was extremely involved in their lives, tucking them into bed on most nights and leaving notes around the house for them if work took him away.
"We definitely feel a void," Patricia said. "Father's Day was very difficult for all of us. We're trying to carry on with our life as we know he would have wanted us to."
One desire that Jim had always shared with Patricia was that their children attend Catholic schools. They are currently enrolled at St. Thomas the Apostle School in West Hempstead, and soon their oldest, Thomas, a seventh grader, will start looking at high schools. (The avid lacrosse player currently has his eye on Chaminade and his younger sister, a fifth grader, has her mind set on Sacred Heart Academy already.)
To help pay those private school tuition bills, friends of the Callahan family are hosting a fundraiser tonight at Mulcahy's in Wantagh. The donations they collect (a minimum of $50 per person) will go toward the trust fund the family established for the children.
The event, which runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., will include food, drinks, raffles and live music performed by Mid-Life Crisis, a local band that includes two Malverne men. (We hear they'll even be playing some songs from Callahan's favorite musician, Jimmy Buffet.)
It will also be a chance for residents to show their support for Jim's family, as Patricia, their kids, both of their parents and other kin will be attending.
"We're all so very close," said Joseph Canzoneri, Patricia's brother, who hopes the support for his sister does not wane as time passes.
Patricia continues to receive gifts of food and offers from other parents to take her kids to different activities, but Canzoneri reminds everyone that the help will still be needed months and even years from now.
"Please keep us, keep Patricia in mind," he said. "Keep up the support and friendship."
For more information about tonight's fundraiser,
Those who can not attend but wish to contribute to the cause can send donations to: James J. Callahan III Family Trust, 725 Colonade Rd., West Hempstead, N.Y. 11552
The family plans to organize its own benefit in memory of Jim in the fall - perhaps a run/walk or pancake breakfast, they say - but nothing has been set yet. Patch will update you with details when they become available.