Our Town: The Honorable Mayor Roger Fay

Dr Tom Ferraro

I got an email from the Historical Committee last week  asking if I might be interested in doing a piece on Roger Fay.   

I am not focused on politics and so I decided to do some background research. I discovered that he was mayor of Williston Park from 1957 to 1967 and he was instrumental in keeping Williston Park the quaint and safe place it remains today.  

I read that he was the man who built the pool and fought so hard to prevent the LIRR from building a huge overhead station in Williston Park.  All this peaked my interest and so off I went to his home on Broad Street to interview the man himself. 

We met for two hours on a Saturday afternoon in his living room and our conversation started at the beginning of his life back in 1917. That makes him 98. Impressive. 

As I wrote last week the last century has endured many changes some of which have been traumatic.    

The 20th Century has produced the electronic revolution, the sexual revolution and the information revolution. I was soon to learn that as a politician Mayor Roger Fay has faced, witnessed and valiantly fought off some of these changes and is still standing to talk about it. 

As I approached his home on Broad Street I could see that this was one of the original Happiness Homes built by William Chatlos.  And just like the original leaflet promised his home was ‘quaint, cozy, intimate and simple.’

Roger Fay was raised in Manhattan with both parents being from Ireland.  

The family moved to Queens and he attended Catholic schools and later went to NYU. His first job was working in government and was drafted into the army in 1943. 

He worked in the Signal Corps out of Ft. Totten and helped establish the top secret animal research lab on Plum Island.  I am especially fond of Plum Island because when I was in graduate school at SUNY Stony Brook I earned extra money in the summers escorting gifted high school students to various high interest destinations one of which was Plum Island. 

I recall that while we were taken around Plum Island I saw a mother duck walking along on the beach with a group of maybe twenty little ducklings trailing behind her.   I remarked to our guide that this mother duck was quite fertile and strong to give birth to and rear so many little ducklings. 

Our guide the informed our group that “no, the little ducklings instinctively know which is the best mother to follow and all get in line behind the best one.” 

I share this story with you because of course this is exactly what we do when we vote and when we elect our officials. 

We choose our leaders because we know instinctively who is the best, wisest and most honorable one to put our trust in. 

And this is exactly why the Honorable Mayor Roger Fay was chosen to lead Williston Park for 10 years.   

He is most certainly a kind, honorable and hardworking soul.  He reminded me of my friend who was the former mayor of Garden City John Watras who has the same character structure. 

We call this the altruistic personality.  These are the folks who give tirelessly to their towns and receive little in the way of gratitude or thanks. 

And if you want further proof of this just go visit Roger Fay some time and ask him to show you his scrapbook. There we see letters of commendation and photos from President George H. Bush and President W. Bush, County Executive Ralph Caso, J. Edgar Hoover and most impressive of all a letter of thanks from Jacqueline Kennedy. 

I am a person who thinks that the town in which you live or work is essential to one’s happiness.     

The character of each town is established by the builders and town planners and this character is then maintained by the leaders who watch over it.    

I think one reason that Williston  Park has been able to remain ‘quaint, cozy, intimate and simple’ is because we have had people like Roger Fay who have spent countless hours watching over the town and caring for it. 

So I give many thanks to the Honorable Mayor Roger Fay for all his efforts and all his wisdom. 

Williston Park is lucky to have had him as its leader.

About the author

Dr Tom Ferraro

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