Amid the quiet backdrop of a bright evening last Thursday, a crowd of residents, village officials and community dignitaries gathered next to the bleachers at Fireman’s Field in Valley Stream. The prevailing mood of attendees was lively and informal, less like a ceremonial assembly and more like a reunion of old friends. People milled about, talking, excited to see one another. Many had come on short notice, leaving work and canceling plans, brought together to celebrate the life of one man: Jack Sharkey.
Sharkey, who was the announcer for the Green Hornets youth football and cheerleading organization, which he served for several decades, was there for a very special occasion. The press box at the field was named in his honor Nov. 18.
Sharkey, 91, wearing a slim-fitting red coat, sat modestly in repose, with his walking cane in one hand and a serene look on his face. He greeted people as they approached him, drawing them in with a tender smile and a gentle, tugging grasp of the arm. He seemed bent on embracing everyone who came his way.
Those unfamiliar with Sharkey’s long list of contributions to the village may better recognize him as the announcer during the previous year’s Memorial Day parades in the village. For nearly 40 years, Sharkey was a mainstay on the reviewing stand, electrifying the crowd on Rockaway Avenue in anticipation of each veteran group and naming each one that marched by. A distinguished Korean War Air Force veteran, and member of the American Legion Post 845, Sharkey felt more at home spotlighting his fellow veterans for their valor than singing his own praises. From his early beginnings in the village, Sharkey had a penchant for making people feel acknowledged.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, members from the Recreation and Public Works departments helped Sharkey into the village’s John Deere Gator truck. With the window drawn open, he gave a fatherly kiss on the cheek to Recreation Department Director Jimmy Fitzano, who helped close the door for him, thanking Fitzano and his crew, before the motor escort took Sharkey to the ceremonial grounds. A procession of eager, flag-waving residents marched close behind him.