Community Mourns Barry Dennis

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Longtime resident was Carle Place’s longest serving BOE member

The Carle Place community mourned the loss of a selfless public servant last week, with the passing of Barry Dennis on Sunday, July 16. Dennis passed at age 67 after a battle with a lengthy illness.

Dennis served on the Carle Place School Board since 1993, serving as a trustee, vice president and president for five years. He was reelected to the board during this year’s May election, taking a trustee seat. With 24 years of service, Dennis was the longest serving school board member on the Carle Place School Board (as per records which go back to 1954).

Dennis’ fellow school board members remembered him as devoted to the district and community.

“What stood out to me about him was his dedication to the school and community in terms of his service,” said current board president Joseph LoCurto. “That type of dedication is rare. To be a board member for over 20 years requires a significant amount of time, it’s a lot of work. Anybody who does it that long is really dedicated to the school district, students and the community. And it says a lot that he was reelected for that many years. The community had a lot of faith in him.”

Trustee Lawrence Zaino said Dennis loved the business of educating children.

“He had two basic and primary concerns; the first was providing the best possible education to the students and second managing an acceptable tax rate for the residents,” Zaino said. “Barry very much wanted to work on bringing the school district to its next level of higher achievement. He gave so much time and effort to the school and community and will be missed by all, because at the end of the day he was a wonderful man and always a gentleman.”

Dennis served on the board as the district saw several of its school receive nationwide designations, including Rushmore being named a “School of Excellence” and the high school being recognized as one of the “Best High Schools” in America. Along with his fellow board members, he helped keep the school tax rate among the lowest in the Nassau K-12 districts and helped approve major capital projects to improve buildings and fields.

LoCurto said Dennis brought valuable legal expertise to the board, acting as an additional layer of protection for the district. He also understood the need for compromise during contract negotiations.

“Barry had his point of view but he was always open to compromise. He tried to position things in terms of a win-win for both sides,” LoCurto said. “He was steadfast in his convictions and beliefs, but understood when you’re negotiating, there’s compromise and compromise will bring about resolution.”

Carle Place Superintendent Dave Flatley said the passing of Dennis turned the “last page of an important chapter in the history of our school district.”

“Barry was a passionate supporter of our nation and our school community and shared a bright vision of our future. An expert negotiator, Barry’s wit and wisdom made the sometimes long nights we might spend in executive session easier to bear,” Flatley said. “As an advocate or an adversary, on one position or another, Barry was always a friend who could be counted on to support those most in need and give a second chance to any student who needed one. I am proud to say that Barry and I had the opportunity to work together for 14 years and I am grateful to have called him my friend.”

In 2014, when asked by The Westbury Times why he loved Carle Place so much, Dennis said, “Carle Place is a great place to live. While it has all the warmth of a small hometown community, it also offers access to the entire metropolitan area. Carle Place is truly a ‘family town,’ which has a strong sense of tradition. We always have many wonderful neighbors who volunteer to help in many different ways. As a result, we have a great school system, a strong civic association, a dedicated fire department and a wonderful senior citizens organization. Because of this, we enjoy a strong feeling of community identity, which enables all of us to have a great sense of ‘Carle Place Pride.’”

Dennis graduated Roslyn High School in 1967 and with honors from New York University in 1971, going on to earn his Juris Doctor degree at Rutgers School of Law in 1974. A member of the ROTC while in college, Dennis continued his service in the United States Air Force Reserve until he retired as Lieutenant Colonel in 2000.

He began his legal career as an assistant district attorney with Nassau County, before serving as a county attorney for more than 30 years.

Dennis was actively involved in numerous facets of public life, serving as membership chairman of the Carle Place Civic Association, chairman of the Town of North Hempstead’s Master Plan committee and a member of the North Hempstead Ecological Commission. He was also a member of the Nassau County Republican Club and Nassau County Bar Association. In his free time, Dennis enjoyed collecting and restoring antique player pianos.
Dennis was born Oct. 5, 1949 to the late Michael F. and Eleanor S. Dennis, and was brother of the late Priscilla V. Dennis. He is survived by his loving sons, Gregory Scott Dennis and Jeremy Brett Dennis, his brother, Bruce M. Dennis, and his life-partner, Sharon Kelly, as well as his innumerable loving cousins, friends and colleagues. He is also survived by a sister, Patricia Dennis, and her husband Emmett Brown, of California.

Services were held last week. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the International Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation, www.iwmf.com, or The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, www.lls.org.

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Betsy Abraham is senior managing editor at Anton Media Group and editor of The Westbury Times. She also writes for Long Island Weekly.

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