Gene Vandermosten, known around Island Park for his unwavering service to the community — including his longtime commitment to Boy Scouts and various fire departments in the area — died on April 3 at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Queens from a heart condition. He was 80.
“It’s a great blow to the community,” Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty said. “Losing Gene Vandermosten is losing a cornerstone of Island Park, a tremendous man, a great volunteer. There’s just no finer man. The scouts in particular are going to miss him terribly, and the fire department as well.”
Vandermosten, who was named the Oceanside/Island Park Herald’s 2016 Person of the Year, grew up in Island Park and later moved to Baldwin before returning to his hometown, where he lived for nearly four decades with his wife, Carol, of 39 years.
He served as a firefighter in Rockville Centre and Baldwin for decades, and helped out with various duties at the Island Park Fire Department for the last 13 years. He was involved in local Boy Scouts for nearly 60 years, according to Carol, and was president of the Island Park Kiwanis Club for seven years.
Carol said she would most remember her husband’s love of life, sense of humor, kindness and laughter. “I made a good choice,” she said with a tearful laugh.
Vandermosten was also a board member and the property chairman of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baldwin for 19 years, and appeared as Santa Claus at Village Hall and for the Baldwin and Island Park fire departments’ various holiday events. He would donate his time to soup kitchens in Long Beach and Freeport, and would prepare food for the Island Park community at a variety of functions.
The Island Park Boy Scouts made Vandermosten an Eagle Scout during a ceremony on April 7, a feat that he helped many scouts achieve but had never reached himself, according to Jeanne Simmonds, one of his daughters. The Island Park and Baldwin fire departments also joined in making him an honorary chief, she added.
“Everybody said that he’s just going to be so missed,” Simmonds said. “He was just a great, caring and loving guy who did things for everybody and always had time for his family.”
Philip Treglia, unit commissioner of Cub Scout Pack 312, met Vandermosten in 2001, a year after moving to Island Park. Vandermosten, the cub scouts’ committee chairman at the time, interviewed Treglia, whose oldest son was involved in the pack, for the position of cubmaster. The two became friends.
“It’s a really tough time; just to say that it’s a loss is an understatement,” Treglia said. “The amount of people that you would need to replace a Gene Vandermosten is close to about 10 to 15 people in each of the different jobs that he was in.”
Treglia said Vandermosten’s volunteer efforts were “immeasurable and incalculable,” comparing the amount of time he spent helping others to the number of games Cy Young won as a pitcher in the major leagues. The baseball legend’s legacy lives on with an award — in his name — given every year to the best pitcher in each league.
“Baseball enthusiasts will tell you that 511 [wins] will never be broken,” Treglia said. “Well, if there was an award for volunteerism, they would name it after Gene Vandermosten, because the amount of hours that he volunteered can not be duplicated.
“You’d have to say right now that the good Lord above is saying, ‘OK, now that I’ve got you home, come and rest, because you worked enough down there,” Treglia added.
A funeral service for Vandermosten was held last Saturday at St. Peter’s Church in Baldwin, and he was laid to rest at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale. Baldwin and Island Park firemen marched as a group to where he was buried.
“The community support could not have been better; it was beautiful,” Carol said. “Everybody was so good and so kind.”
In addition to Carol and Jeanne, Vandermosten is survived by children Patricia and Tommy Vandermosten, both of Florida; Teresa Kuck, of Aquebogue; Kathleen DeSano, of Baldwin; Edith Troici, of Oceanside; and Carol Anne Doyle of West Babylon. He is also survived by grandchildren Francesca, George, Katherine, Jennifer, Joseph, Kaitlyn, John, Brian, Michael, Lorraine, Taylor, Kayla, Trevor, Johnny and Katie, as well as five great-grandchildren.