Friends, neighbors and colleagues of the late James Callahan rallied around his family Wednesday night to honor his life and ensure his children have a bright future.
Callahan, who served as Malverne's deputy mayor and Nassau County's emergency management commissioner, touched many lives before his ended much too soon on May 26. at the age of 42, only weeks after doctors diagnosed him with cancer.
He left behind a wife, Patricia, and four children - Thomas, 12, Katerine, 9, Elizabeth, 7 and Christina, 4.
"I've gotten strength from knowing he would want me to carry on and would want us all to keep taking one step at a time," Patricia told those gathered at Mulcahy's in Wantagh on June 29 for a fundraiser.
"Ofcourse, my four beautiful children are the reason I keep going," she added. "Jim and I had great plans for our family…but unfortunately his time was shortened."
Among those plans was a desire to provide their children with Catholic education, which Patricia pointed out is "not inexpensive."
To assist Patricia in paying the tuition for St. Thomas the Apostle, the school all four kids currently attend, and the high schools and colleges they will move on to in the future, the family set up the James Callahan III Trust.
All the money raised from ticket sales, auctions and donations collected through Wednesday's benefit will go to the fund. Patricia expressed her gratitude to the friends who organized the event and all those who attended.
"By being here you're helping us carry out what we planned," Patricia said. "You're allowing me to keep the dream of our family going, so our children can go to schools they wanted to and still do the things that we wanted them to do together."
She added, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for remembering Jim, and keep us in your prayers."
Several politicians turned out for the benefit, including some who worked closely with Callahan, such as former County Executive Tom Suozzi and his successor Ed Mangano.
Mangano addressed the audience, reflecting on Callahan's "enthusiasm for his work" and "his love of his family."
"Jim was just an all-around great guy," he said.
On a professional level, Mangano explained that Callahan was "an authority" in the field of emergency management and his influence stretched far beyond the borders of Nassau County. He shaped policies and implemented technologies that will continue to protect many.
"What he has contributed is not only affecting our county, but also our state and our nation," said Mangano, who will soon dedicate the county's emergency management center to Callahan.
"Jim's legacy will always live on in Nassau County. I will make sure of that," he added.
Former Sen. Michael Balboni, who came to know Callahan very well while serving as New York's deputy secretary for Public Safety, also spoke.
"The best thing I ever was was a friend to Jim Callahan," he said. "When it's all said and done it's the people we choose to live our life with that define us and I couldn't think of a better definition for Jim Callahan than Patricia Callahan."
After the speeches were made and all the raffle and auction prizes were doled out, the night ended fittingly as local band Mid-Life Crisis played some of Callahan's favorite Jimmy Buffet songs.
To view photos from the fundraiser click on the gallery to the right.