On Tuesday, August 9th, surrounded by numerous pieces of vintage fire apparatus and 70 of the most senior volunteer firefighters from the 71 county fire departments and five ambulance corps representing a total of almost 3,000 years of service, Mrs. Mary Jane Pendl, widow of 50-year Bethpage firefighter and museum visionary Frank Pendl, led the groundbreaking festivities for the state-of-the art Francis X. Pendl Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center. The ceremony was held adjacent to the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Charles Lindbergh Blvd. in Garden City, in front of Hangar No. 2, the future home to the 5,000 square foot historical and educational facility. Over 700 volunteer firefighters, emergency medical personnel and members of the county ladies auxiliary representing the County’s 76 Fire Departments and Volunteer Ambulance Corps. were in attendance.
“Frank Pendl is smiling in heaven tonight, as he looks down on the first step in the construction of the museum and education center that was his dream for over a decade,” said Angelo Catalano of the North Bellmore F.D. and President of the Board of the Firefighters Museum and Education Center. “We are so pleased to be able to share this special night with Mary Jane and the entire Pendl family. This is just one more of so many reasons they have to be proud of Frank’s half-century of contributions to the fire service in Nassau County. Through this facility, Frank Pend’s legacy will be transmitted to both future firefighters and members of the general public for years to come.”
For almost a decade, Francis X. “Frank” Pendl was at the center of efforts to preserve the rich history and tradition of Nassau County’s volunteer firefighters, while also creating a top-notch fire safety education facility for the general public. As a 50-year active member and Ex-Chief of the Bethpage Fire Department, an Assistant Chief Instructor at the Fire Service Academy in Old Bethpage and a Nassau County Fire Marshal, Frank Pendl embodied the fire service in Nassau. Sadly, Frank passed away on April 1, 2004; just a few months shy of seeing his dream become a reality. In his honor, the Museum’s leadership has dedicated the new facility in his name as a reminder of his important contributions to both the development of this facility and the fire service on Long Island.
Frank loved the old saying, ‘the past belongs to the future and only the present can preserve it'”, said Mrs. Mary Jane Pendl, Frank’s wife of 54 years. “I’m very proud to be present here today as we take the first official step in preserving the rich history of our County’s fire service for generations of future firefighters and Nassau residents. It is truly an honor to have this museum and education center named in Frank’s memory. While his spirit is entwined in every aspect of this project, my only wish is that Frank could have been here with us to see it himself.”
The groundbreaking ceremony comes just weeks after the Museum announced the receipt of $1.3 million dollar grant from the County of Nassau. The funds will be applied to initial construction costs of the 5,000 square-foot Museum and Education Center in a former aircraft hangar on the grounds of Museum Row in Garden City. The space will include educational and historic displays of vintage and current firefighting apparatus and equipment, as well as a state-of-the-art fire safety education center, designed to teach Nassau residents of all ages how to prevent fires and fire related injuries and deaths. The funding was approved by two committees and the floor of the entire County Legislature without opposition during their sessions on Monday, July 25th, 2005.
According to Edwin Rahilly of the Oyster Bay F.D and Vice President of the Firefighters Museum and Education Center, the $1.3 million dollar grant, combined with over $700,000 previously raised over the last several years, will provide the means necessary to prepare the former aircraft hangar for public assembly and to construct eight unique sections within the new Museum space, each dedicated to different fire safety and educational theme. The Museum will also feature several pieces of antique fire apparatus, which will be restored to their original splendor. Current plans call for the Museum to potentially open to the public in early 2006.
For more information about the Francis X. Pendl Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center, visit: http://www.ncfiremuseum.org