On June 5, friends and family of longtime Valley Stream resident Paul Brown gathered at Hendrickson Park for a bench and tree dedication ceremony in his memory. Brown, a former village trustee, had passed away in October due to complications from Covid-19. Those who knew him well believed a bench in the park he loved spending time would be a fitting memorial for the man who touched so many lives in the community.
“Paul and his wife loved Valley Stream and they loved the park,” Diane Panzarino, who organized the memorial with Maureen Smyth, said. “When Paul passed, it was decided it would be a wonderful memorial to purchase a bench in his honor. So that’s what we did.”
Panzarino, a friend of Brown’s for more than 30 years, said when the community heard about the bench dedication, there was an outpouring of generosity. Enough funds were raised to purchase a plaque for the bench and a tree that will flower and bloom each year.
“Like Paul, the tree has its roots in Valley Stream. It’s branches, which reach to heaven, represent the many aspects of Paul’s involvement in the community,” Panzarino said the tree and bench at Hendrickson are a symbolic celebration of life, adding that Brown’s memory will live on as the tree grows.
The ceremony was attended by nearly 60 people whom Brown had known through his many roles in the community, including members of the Grace United Methodist church congregation, people he had worked with, Elks club members, former village trustees, and many others. Panzarino made remarks about the many ways Brown had touched the lives of those in the community, along with Joanne Antun, with whom he served on the village board of trustees.
Panzarino said the ceremony was beautiful, noting that Heather McKnight Eggermann sang Brown’s favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.” In addition, Lisa Moldovan, Exalted Ruler of the local Elks Lodge to which Brown belonged and was once Exalted Ruler, draped the bench with ivy — a symbolic gesture of Elks brotherhood.
“That memorial service was . . . for people to remember who the man was and where he intersected with their lives. I do think it’s important to remember that we each are shaped by our experience. And for many of us, Paul was always there,” Antun said of Brown’s impact on the community. She had been a neighbor of Brown’s for more than three decades and had served with Brown as a fellow village board trustee, as well as on the board of Monica Senior Village.
“Paul taught us the value of finding your moral compass and living with integrity,” Antun said.
George Donley, former village mayor who served the same term as Brown from 1991 to 1995 also attended the ceremony and reflected on their friendship, as well as Brown’s many contributions to the village.
“He was a good man on the board. He was a guiding force. He always had his ethics in front of him and he was mindful of them,” Donley said Brown worked hard for the village, not only as a trustee but for Little League, his church, and various organizations. “The community is better off because Paul Brown lived here.”
Panzarino said the bench dedicated in Brown’s memory offers those who enjoy walking around the park a place to relax and reflect. Most of all, though, she noted that the bench allows those who rest there to “remember a gentleman with a big smile who gave so much of himself to his friends, his family, and Valley Stream.”