Roughly 100 residents gathered Westwood Park in Malverne as village officials and local politicians honored longtime members of the community on Arbor Day. Two trees were planted last Saturday, one in memory of Peter Zullo, and the other for Denis O’Brien.
“The two individuals who are being honored this morning were just two very exceptional, extraordinary men that gave so much to this village,” said Malverne Mayor Patti Ann McDonald. “These individuals left such an indelible mark here in the village of Malverne.”
Zullo was a former village attorney, past Commander of American Legion Post 44 and a volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes. He served as an organizer and master of ceremony for village events such as the Memorial Day Parade, Flag Day and Veterans Day observances.
O’Brien was the chairman of the Village Traffic Commission, a board member of the Malverne Civic Association, and an active member of the Holiday Lighting committee who took the responsibility of coordinating the annual Breakfast with Santa event at Grace Lutheran Church for the last 15 years. He also served on many committees at Our Lady of Lourdes parish.
“Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘Character is like a tree and reputation is like a shadow,’” said Zullo’s daughter, Deanna. “‘The shadow is what we think of it and the tree is the real thing.’ Character, reputation and the real thing; this is what sums up my father, Peter Zullo. He gave his all in everything he did, both in his personal and professional life.”
Denis’s niece, Katie, holding back tears said, “My uncle’s life is a reminder that we all need to enjoy the time that we have, the experiences we’re offered, and the people we get to share it with. I cannot express how much my family and I miss him, but as he would say, ‘Take it one day at a time,’ and that’s exactly what we do.”
JoAnn O’Brien, chairwoman of the village’s Tree and Beautification Committee said that while trees serve an important job of purifying our air and water, they could also symbolize much more than that.
“As future generations enjoy the shade and appreciate the beauty of the trees we plant today, perhaps they will pause to remember those . . . like Peter and Denis, who make us all proud to call Malverne home,” O’Brien said.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky shared similar thoughts on this sentiment as he stated, “Arbor Day and Earth Day are about leaving our planet a little bit better than we found it, and that’s also true of what these two men meant to the community.”
State Assemblyman Brian Curran, who has taken part in the village’s annual Arbor Day ceremony for several years, also said that Zullo and O’Brien represent the values of Malverne. “It’s about family and community and you couldn’t find two better people to recognize here today,” Curran said. “I know that I speak on behalf of everybody here that they are going to be missed but they made Malverne a great place to live and raise a family.”
Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito said that coming from a small community like Island Park, he understands what it means to be part of a close-knit community. He said that people like Zullo and O’Brien deserve to be remembered for years to come.
“It’s sort of fitting that we’re planting trees here today in their honor because just as they made their roots here in Malverne,” he said, “these trees will also plant roots here and their legacies will continue on.”
Family members of both honorees got together around each tree after the ceremony in remembrance of Zullo and O’Brien’s contributions to the village.