Robert “Tom” Riordan of North Merrick, a former commander of North Bellmore American Legion Post No. 1749, Merrick American Legion Post No. 1282 and the Nassau County American Legion, who was known throughout the Bellmore-Merrick community for his volunteerism, died on April 19 after a long illness. He was 82.
Riordan served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1951 to 1953, achieving the rank of private first class. Afterward he was self-employed in the insurance industry. He joined the American Legion in 1988, becoming a member of Post 1749 the following year and eventually rising to post commander. During his three-year tenure, he spearheaded renovation of the North Bellmore post’s building.
In 1997, Riordan transferred to Post 1282, where he actively recruited new members to counteract the Merrick post’s dwindling membership. Soon the post was counted among Nassau’s largest, with 160 members, and Riordan again became post commander, and then the county commander from 2005 to 2006.
He was a familiar figure at Post 1282 events, such as Merrick’s annual Memorial Day parade, for which he served as grand marshal one year, as well as the Veterans Day service at Veterans Memorial Park, just north of Camp Avenue.
It was Riordan’s behind-the-scenes volunteerism on behalf of disabled veterans, however, that he will be most remembered for, family members and friends say. He often traveled to the Northport Veterans Administration Hospital to quietly deliver handmade blankets and home-baked goodies to veterans who were too ill or injured to leave their beds.
Riordan was also mindful of the sacrifices that today’s military personnel have made in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at Merrick Avenue Middle School he organized cellphone and care-package drives for American troops serving overseas. In addition, he lobbied Nassau County to offer a property-tax exemption for veterans who served during the Cold War. With help from Nassau County Legislator David Denenberg, the exemption passed.
For his service to veterans, Riordan, a one-time Merrick Herald Person of the Year, received the Town of Hempstead’s Veterans Medal in 2002 and the Nassau County Distinguished Service to Veterans Award in 2007.