Benjamin J. Moleno Sr. lived in Hewlett for all of his 92 years, and for 75 of those years, as a member of the Hewlett Bay Fire Department, his priority was helping to improve the lives of firefighters.
“He was a very hardworking and caring individual,” said his son Benjamin Jr. “He would go out of his way to help anybody he could.”
Moleno died on Dec. 31 of congestive heart failure at South Nassau Communities Hospital.
Born in Hewlett on May 20, 1920, Moleno graduated from what was then called Woodmere High School — now George W. Hewlett High School — in 1938, and joined the Hewlett Bay Fire Department that year.
Just four years after becoming a firefighter, Moleno, 22, was elected a commissioner, and was subsequently re-elected to 10 five-year terms. He also served for 15 years as the department’s treasurer, and helped develop the junior volunteer fire department in the late 1950s to motivate youngsters to become
involved in fire service.
Otto Kohlmier, a Valley Stream resident and a 42-year member of the Hewlett Bay Fire Department, said that if anyone had a question about fire services, Moleno was the go-to person. “He always knew the answer,” Kohlmier said. “He was very well known throughout the whole state, and worked hard and long for the betterment of fire services and for firefighters as well.”
In the late 1950s, Moleno became a charter member of the Nassau County Association of Fire Districts, and later served as its president. He actively promoted the passage of the Length of Service Award Program, which provides tax-deferred income to active volunteer members of emergency service organizations.
“Although I didn’t know him personally,” said Nick Paolucci, president of the Nassau County Association of Fire Districts, “of everything I’ve heard about him, he was a very active person in firematic organizations and was instrumental in getting laws passed.”
In addition to his extensive involvement in fire services, Moleno owned Jack and Jill Laundry and Cleaners on Broadway in Hewlett, before he moved the business to Roosevelt. After operating it for 40 years, he sold it in 1985. He also owned and operated Franklin Taxi, now Ollie’s Taxi, in Hewlett for 10 years before selling that business. “He started with three cars and wound up with 12 before he sold the business,” said his son Richard.
Richard described his father as a patient, warm and caring man who cherished his wife, Jean. “He loved my mom immensely; they were together for 68 years before she passed away two years ago,” Richard said. “He’s going to be missed, and there’s no replacing him.”
Services were held at Meserole Funeral Home in Inwood on Jan. 4, and a funeral mass was celebrated the following day at St. Joseph R.C. Church in Hewlett. Moleno was interred at Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farming-dale.
He is survived by his sons, Benjamin Jr. (Ellen), of Rockville Centre, and Richard (Robin), of Tampa, Fla.; a daughter, Peggy Neldner, of Danville, Calif.; grandchildren Susan Desarno, Michael Neldner, R.B. Moleno, Chris Moleno, Marianne Moleno and Kristine Frank; and great-grandchildren Madison, Jake, Kate and Lauren Desarno, Jack Neldner and Hannah Frank.