Frank Locotondo, a 20-year veteran of the Southold Fire Department, died Sunday after battling the greatest challenge of his life.
"We've lost a very good man, and a very good friend," said Southold Fire Department Captain Joe McCarthy.
Locrotondo was faced with frontal lobe dementia, Southold Fire Department First Assistant Chief Peggy Killian said in an interview with Patch last year.
Locrotondo was Killian's long-time business partner at Eastern Tire in Cutchogue, as well as in the fire department; his illness has rendered him unable to work or to serve with his comrades fighting fires.
Of her close friend's struggle, Killian said last year. "I've spent so much time crying," Killian said.
Over 800 turned out for a fundraiser held in August to help Locrotondo and his family, as scores reached out to a dear friend in need.
"Frank has always been the most cheery, nicest guy," Killian remembered. "He would drop everything to do something for anyone who needed anything. If he was called to a rescue at 3 a.m., he was there."
Locrotondo was beloved by his family, Killian said, including his wife Cindy — the couple, who moved to Southold in 1991, were teen sweethearts and started dating right after high school — four children and six grandchildren. "He would do anything for his kids," Killian said. "They did everything together as a family," including trips to Florida, she said.
Reflecting on the longtime friendship she shared with Locrotondo, Killian's voice filled with tears, leaving her speechless with sadness.
Locrotondo was a longtime training officer with the Southold Fire Department, had served as captain and had been through the ranks. He was also an EMS instructor for Suffolk County for 15 years. He was close to a well-deserved stint as chief when illness overtook him, Killian said.
"The fire department is his whole life. He's an awesome fireman, probably the best," she said last year.
Perhaps Locrotondo's most notable rescue, Killian said, was when he responded to a maternity call, where the baby was born before he arrived. "They were afraid; the baby wasn't breathing," Killian said. "The father handed the baby to Frank, who started CPR — and saved the baby's life."
Later, grateful family members went to the garage and gave Locrotondo a photo of the baby.
"He never backed down, no matter what kind of call," Killian said.
Community member Susan Tyler remembered fondly how Locrotondo was one of those who showed up at 4:30 a.m. after she delivered her baby at home.
Locrotondo, who was born in Smithtown, was a history buff. "He swore in his former life he was in Gettysburg," Killian said, smiling through her tears. "He knew more about the fire department than people who've been there for nearly 100 years," she said. "He has always been so happy and upbeat. He'd do anything for anyone."
In a public service message last year, Southold Fire Captain Joe McCarthy announced the fundraiser.
"Frank could always be counted on to render exceptional assistance," whether fighting fires, treating the sick or injured, or in training, McCarthy said. "He spent a good part of his life helping others in need."
Visitation for Frank Locrotondo will be held Sunday at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Homes, located at 51400 Main Road in Southold, on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Firematic services will take place at 7:30 p.m. A funeral mass will be held at St. Patrick's Church, located at 52125 Main Road in Southold, on Monday at 10 a.m., with interment to follow at St. Patrick's Cemetery on Main Bayview.