Lifelong Glen Cove resident and retired firefighter Francis Uhlendorf, 92, can vividly remember fishing with J.P. Morgan’s son John Pierpont Morgan Jr. “He used to land his sea plane here,” he said last Saturday, pointing out to the Long Island Sound beyond Dosoris Island. “He’d fly over from New York to here, and that’s why he built the bridges to hold the water back, so he could fly in here.”
“We have one of the best views in this country,” Uhlendorf said, adding that the land where there are houses was once empty and covered by trees. “We used to come out here and chop a hole in the ice, and we had a spear to catch eels.”
Overlooking West Pond, Dosoris Pond and the island where he played as a young boy, Uhlendorf shared his stories with Boy Scouts who presented him with a knot board, which added to the collection of memories Uhlendorf has accumulated over the years at the Matinecock Rod & Gun Club, which he helped form in 1945.
“They are our future,” Uhlendorf, an Eagle Scout himself, said of the children who gathered to honor him.
Uhlendorf first connected with Glen Cove’s youth by way of a chance interaction with retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Fred Nielsen, also a long time Glen Cove resident. “When we do have actual Memorial Day parades, the canon that’s fired is loaned that day by the [Rod & Gun] club, so we have a longstanding connection with them,” Nielsen explained. “I went by to chat and stay connected while we’re not having our parades.”
While Nielsen was there, he took a seat at a table with four or five men, one of whom was Uhlendorf. “He was lively . . .,” Nielsen recalled. “I was very impressed with the gentleman.”
Nielsen found out that, long ago, Uhlendorf had wanted to serve in the Army, but couldn’t because of a medical condition. “But he said that he has to serve in some way, so he became a volunteer fireman here in Glen Cove for 30 years,” Nielsen said. “He’s gentle. He’s articulate. He has wonderful outlooks.”
Nielsen was also struck by the pain and dismay Uhlendorf, an avid hunter, still has about the country’s hunting of buffalo in the 19th century as part of an effort to starve and resettle Native Americans. “He talks about that abuse of hunting, and how we didn’t use buffalo for food, but the Native Americans always did,” Nielsen said. “They used everything. They didn’t waste anything.”
Because Nielsen was impressed by Uhlendorf, he spoke to two local Boy Scouts, 11-year-old twins Matthew and Jack McCormack, about putting together a knot board — a creative display of knots and other aquatic trinkets — for him. “They were astounded,” Nielsen said of the boys. “He ties his own flies for fly fishing and he carves his own duck decoys.”
“The point is, by the characteristics of his life, the principles of his life, he excited and inspired these 11-year-old boys and they made a knot board for him,” Nielsen said.
Glen Cove Mayor Tim Tenke, joined by other city officials, members of the Rod & Gun Club and their families, and local Boy Scouts, gathered at the club on Saturday to help the McCormack brothers honor Uhlendorf for his community service. Matthew McCormack said he enjoyed Uhlendorf’s stories of his years in the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department and his outlook on historical events.
Jack added, “When we interviewed him over the summer, we learned a lot about how he loves the animals, and he helped a lot with the scouts. And I thought it was very good that he did that, along with helping out the community.”