Daniel “Danny” Jenkins, 47, of Seaford, lived alone in an apartment on Jackson Avenue, but he was far from a loner. In fact, he was so well-known around Seaford that many locals considered him part of their extended family, and expressed deep sorrow after his death on Feb. 16.
Jenkins died in his apartment. For the past 15 years, he had been coping with complications of ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disease that usually affects joints and can affect the spine. The exact cause of Jenkins’s death had not been determined at press time.
In addition to his parents, Tom and Gale Jenkins, Danny had five siblings — Cindy McCaffrey, Timmy Jenkins, Alisa Fournier, and Brian and Kerry Jenkins — and 11 nieces and nephews. His funeral was held at St. Frances de Chantal Church in Wantagh on Feb. 22.
Jenkins was a staple of his community, family members and friends said. He was a constant example of selflessness, and was almost always seen wearing a bright smile.
“If he saw you or met you, he would talk to you, and he was just super genuine,” Fournier said. “He had this big, bright smile. That was just Danny. We just didn’t realize the reach that he had.”
Jenkins grew up in neighboring Wantagh. He was the second-oldest of six siblings and the oldest boy. As a child, he attended St. Frances de Chantal Elementary School. After graduating in 1986, he attended Wantagh High School. After his sophomore year, Jenkins’s parents moved to Manorville, and he finished 11th and 12th grades at Westhampton Beach High School. “He really didn’t want to leave Wantagh High School. It was his home, and he wanted to stay,” McCaffrey said. “You know, people call him the ‘mayor of Seaford.’ Well, he was the same thing for Silverton Avenue, too” — the site of his childhood home.
McCaffrey added that her brother would talk to all of the children on the block and their families. “He was a motor-mouth,” she joked. “His friends’ moms on the block considered him a son.”
After high school, Jenkins earned an associate’s degree in hotel and restaurant management from the now-shuttered Katharine Gibbs College.
“He went on to work at the Marriott Hotel next to Nassau Coliseum for a few years,” McCaffrey said. “He then worked at Runyon’s in Seaford.” Runyon’s is a restaurant and bar on Merrick Road.
Then, in the mid-1990s, Jenkins was looking for another job. He walked into Tarallo’s Pizzeria in Seaford, looking for a position, and what he found was a family. He also found a job.
“He started as a one- to two-day-a-week delivery boy,” said Jamie Tarallo Sorrentino, who met Jenkins when she was a child working in her father, Tommy’s, pizzeria. “We would joke with him because he was the only pizza delivery boy to drive a red Cadillac. He loved his car. But it smelled like pizza within a week.”
Jenkins started to build a relationship with owner Tommy Tarallo. “He was like my dad’s best friend,” Tarallo Sorrentino said. “He was his right-hand man. They did everything together. We did everything together. He was really a part of our family.”
At the time, Jenkins’s closest sibling was McCaffrey, who lived in Islip Terrace. The rest of his family members were out of state. Although he was still close to them, he was embraced by the Tarallo family in Seaford.
“We are so appreciative of the Tarallo family,” Fournier said.
Tarallo Sorrentino said that her family did not think of having to “take care” of Jenkins. In fact, she said, Jenkins was the one taking care of them.
Over the years, many students from Seaford Middle School, less than a half-mile away, frequented the pizzeria.
“My daughter would tell me that she went to Tarallo’s after school, and Jenkins would give her and her friends a quarter for the gumball machine,” longtime friend Tricia Cella said. “He would look after the kids from the neighborhood.”
“When my son was young, Danny would set him up at the pizza dough station and have him throw the uncooked dough on his head,” Tarallo Sorrentino said. “Anything he could do to make my son happy and laugh, that’s the kind of guy he was.”
Although Jenkins didn’t see his birth family often, his sisters said that all of the siblings gathered in Savannah, Ga., in recent years. “We all went down to Savannah when our mother’s health started deteriorating,” Fournier said. “Just us, no spouses. We just had fun with each other. I’m grateful we had that.”
When Jenkins’s health worsened, and he had to have fusions of his joints and spine, he never complained. Cella noted that she saw him soon after a major operation, walking to the pizzeria. She was shocked that he didn’t ask for help. McCaffrey and Fournier said he tried as hard as he could not to walk with a cane, and he never wanted to talk about himself.
Instead, his focus was on brightening the days of anyone whom he met, and that’s what he did, Fournier said. Since his death, dozens of people have posted tributes to Jenkins on his Facebook wall, including college students like Elise Weber, who worked the pizza counter at Tarallo’s in high school. She offered condolences and spoke of how much Jenkins meant to her.
“Although [he’s] gone, we are all better people for having known him,” Tarallo Sorrentino said. “Even for the short amount of time we were allowed to, we were lucky to have him.”