2013 – John McKenna

Posted January 16, 2014 by Dan under Irishman of the Year

Chief John McKenna began his fire service career 1986 as a volunteer firefighter with Northport Fire Department Hook & Ladder Company 1. In 1989 he was hired by the Inc. Village of Northport as a Firehouse Attendant/Dispatcher and in 1992 was hired as Fire Marshal for the Inc. Village of Northport. He is a 27 year firefighter and 25 year Emergency Medical Technician.

Having been raised in a large Irish household (his father’s side from Co. Derry, and his mother’s from Co. Donegal) John was well used to all things Irish and with good ceol & craic (music & fun), it was life as usual within the McKenna Clan. Chief McKenna is as proud of his Irish heritage as he is of his American Nationality.

In 1988, Northport’s Fire Commissioner Roger Hennessey said to John, “They’re starting a Firefighters’ Emerald Society in Suffolk County. Tonight’s the first meeting, I’m going and you should too.” John told the Commissioner he wasn’t able to make the meeting and the Commissioner said, “I’ll sign you up, you repay me the dues. You’ll be a ‘Charter Member’.” To this day, John will tell you it was one of his better investments. He proudly marches with the Suffolk County Firefighters’ Emerald Society up Fifth Avenue. He’s missed only one St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City, and that was only when a back surgery did not allow.

Chief McKenna introduced St Baldrick’s Foundation and its signature head shaving events to Long Island. He supports the efforts of St Baldrick’s Foundation and their quest to conquer childhood cancers. John was asked to serve on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and he was honored to accept. Over the past eleven years, he and his team of volunteers have locally raised more than 4 million dollars for childhood cancer research, and the St Baldrick’s Foundation has raised more than 130 million dollars. Suffolk County Firefighters’ Emerald Society members proudly participate, and greatly support, St Baldrick’s Foundation.

Seven years ago Chief McKenna resurrected the longtime dormant Sons of the American Legion, an affiliate of Northport American Legion Post 694. John and then Northport Police Sergeant Bill Ricca were able to build a 36 member strong group dedicated to supporting the aging Veterans of Northport and Suffolk County. John and the Sons have taken special interest in caring for and supporting homeless veterans sheltered on the grounds of the Veterans Administration Hospital. These men and women range in service from the Korean War to the current Iraq/Afghanistan War. John will tell you these men and women carry tremendous burdens on their shoulders. He believes we enjoy our liberties because these men and women have enabled us those freedoms. They knew nothing of us and expected nothing of us, yet they set off to assure we would not fall to tyranny or oppression. Chief McKenna would ask you, “How can we not support them now in their time of need?” He does not like the term homeless and prefers use of the word displaced. He’s led volunteer efforts to remodel and rebuild, to provide dignity and show appreciation for, and an admiration of, their sacrifices and their efforts for we the people of the United States of America.

Today, he is an Ex-Chief of his department, 1st Vice President of the Town of Huntington Chiefs’ Council, a Board Member Emeritus of St Baldrick’s Foundation and Past Commander of Sons of the American Legion Squadron 694. On his off time he enjoys all things outdoors and most importantly time with his family.