As he stood at the altar at St. Raymond’s Roman Catholic Church in East Rockaway on Monday and tried to convey what his late father, Lynbrook Mayor William Hendrick, meant to him and many others, John Hendrick fought back tears and revealed the meaning behind a painting he created for his father in 2005.
“I made a painting called ‘Unsung Hero’ because, at the time, I believed that all of his goodness, his compassion and hard work was relatively unseen,” John said. “I was wrong. These past few days, more than ever, have shown me how truly, truly loved my father was.”
Hendrick died on the evening of Oct. 11 at South Nassau Communities Hospital, in Oceanside, of complications of a heart attack that he had suffered the day before. He was 64. Witnesses said he was leaving a Chamber of Commerce board of directors meeting at Atria Tanglewood, on Ocean Avenue, when he collapsed in the lobby.
On Monday, firefighters, police officers, elected officials, the Lynbrook board of trustees, local business owners and hundreds of residents filled St. Raymond’s, on Atlantic Avenue, for Hendrick’s funeral Mass. In honor of his 19 years of service as an associate member of Lynbrook Engine Co. No. 1, his casket was taken to the church from Perry Funeral Home in a vintage fire truck lent by the Elmont Fire Department.
Before its arrival, members of the Lynbrook Fire Department lined the street outside the church. One firefighter held an American flag, while two others raised the village and Fire Department flags. At the foot of the church’s steps, Lynbrook police officers stood at attention in a line as a motorcade made its way to the church. When the fire truck arrived, Lynbrook Fire Chief Carl Lengel led six police officers, as they carried the casket into the church, while Dan Noonan, of the Pipes & Drums of the Emerald Society of the NYPD, played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.
Down the block, a large American flag was suspended over the intersection of Atlantic and Carman avenues, affixed to the ladders of two fire trucks on each side of the street. At the end of the ceremony, Hendrick’s casket was carried out of the church as Noonan played “Going Home.” Hendrick was buried at Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale.
Hendrick was born on Dec. 9, 1952, in Jackson Heights, Queens, and grew up in Franklin Square. He moved to Lynbrook in 1976, and lived on Scranton Avenue. He earned a degree in political science from Hofstra University, a master’s in marketing and management from St. John’s University and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School.
Hendrick had been the mayor of Lynbrook since Brian Curran appointed him in January 2011, when Curran left the position to become a state assemblyman. Hendrick was re-elected to the seat that March. Before becoming mayor, he served as a trustee in the village from 1989 to 1993 and again from 1995 to 2010. He also worked as a Town of Hempstead attorney.
John Hendrick explained that while most people knew his father as the mayor, he also was many other things. He was a scoutmaster and a firefighter. But most of all, John said, he was a great person who was always willing to go the extra mile for anyone in need.
“Dad worked tirelessly — you all know this,” John said. “He always had something to do. Meetings, court, events and ceremonies. And he loved doing it. He would go at things full throttle. He would be loud. He would be boisterous. He would be charming and funny and usually off-color. And he would enjoy every second.”
Hendrick wore many hats — including that of Santa Claus. He was also a prankster, frequently cracking jokes at village board meetings. According to John, his father’s sense of humor was apparent when he and his brother, William, were growing up.
John recounted a time when he drove the two boys to drop garbage off at a local dump. When they returned to the car, he drove away, laughing, before they could get inside. “He would eventually stop, and we’d catch up, but he’d just do it again,” John said, drawing a roar of laughter from those gathered at the church.
“If people asked if his boys were twins,” John continued, “he would always say with a smile, ‘Yeah, the moron twins.’ To which me and Billy responded, ‘Hey, we’re not twins!’”
Despite his penchant for jokes, John said, his father was also compassionate and giving. He would lend money to those who needed it and help find jobs for the unemployed.
Village Trustee Hilary Becker told the Herald that Hendrick’s caring side was evident to him when his father, Francis Becker, died in May 2016, because the mayor was so helpful to him in the following days. He also lauded Hendrick for his service.
“Mayor Bill was an amazing asset to the village for many years,” Becker said. “His guidance and insight [were] invaluable to the village board over the years as he helped us navigate through some very tough times, and helped to make Lynbrook the great place that it is today. He was a great friend to so many, and gave so much to so many. We will miss him greatly, and we pray that his family and friends will find the strength to get through this very sad and difficult time.”
Alan Beach, who served alongside Hendrick as deputy mayor and is now acting mayor, said Hendrick was the longest-tenured official in Lynbrook, with 25 years of service in Village Hall. “[He was] very dedicated to our village,” Beach said. “I will miss his friendship, his wit and his knowledge of our village.”
In addition to his political career, Hendrick was a founding member and chairman of the Lynbrook Expo Committee and an honorary member of Lynbrook Emergency Medical Co. No. 1. He was also a former cub master for Pack 84, a former assistant scout master for Boy Scout Troop 332, and a member of the Lynbrook Elks Club, the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He was a past president of the Lynbrook Republican Club.
Along with John (Samantha) and William (Anna), Hendrick is survived by his brother, Robert; his sister, Barbara; and his grandchildren, Logan and Skylar.
John said that speaking to people whose lives his father touched over the past few days helped put a new perspective on that old painting of his. “I realized that he isn’t an unsung hero,” he said, “but a hero. Period.”