Flag Flies for Donald O’Flaherty

Flag Flies for Donald O’Flaherty Photo

In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to Mr. Donald O’Flaherty by flying an American flag in his honor throughout the month of June.

“The Hampton Bays School District is proud to honor Mr. O’Flaherty for his service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.

The American flag was raised during a Flag Day ceremony held at the Hampton Bays Elementary School on June 14. During the event, second-graders read Mr. O’Flaherty’s biography and celebrated the American flag by singing several traditional, patriotic songs.

Mr. Donald “Don” O’Flaherty was born in New York City and attended high school at Power Memorial Academy in lower Manhattan. After his graduation in 1954, Mr. O’Flaherty worked various jobs until he received his draft notice. Instead of waiting to be formally drafted, he called the Armed Services Induction Center located at 39 Whitehall St. to ask if he could volunteer and report early. That choice resulted in him being assigned to the U.S. Navy instead of the U.S. Army.

Mr. O’Flaherty attended boot camp at the U.S. Naval Training Center Bainbridge, in Port Deposit, Maryland, where he received training as a Navy airman. After he completed training, he was assigned to Naval Air Station Memphis in Tennessee and was assigned to the Naval electronics officer school. His duties were to prepare coffee and iced tea for the Naval officers in training when they took their breaks from classes. The job was not too demanding and Mr. O’Flaherty found he had a lot of free time on his hands. He found work right in the officers’ break room: the walls, cups and windows were pretty dirty. To keep himself occupied, he cleaned the area despite the miserably hot weather. When the officers saw how clean everything was, they were impressed. So was Mr. O’Flaherty’s supervisor, a Naval chief. The chief spoke to the commanding officer about Mr. O’Flaherty’s work. The CO called Mr. O’Flaherty into his nice, air-conditioned office and asked him why he had cleaned the area. Mr. O’Flaherty said he was bored and needed something to do. The CO asked him if he could type, and said he could (thanks to his mother who encouraged him to take a typing class in high school); the CO assigned him to the office as a clerk typist, assisting the secretary in that nice, air-conditioned office. No more hot, miserable weather for Mr. O’Flaherty.

Mr. O’Flaherty also had a buddy from Brooklyn who had gone through training with him at Bainbridge. This friend drove the mail truck and delivered mail to the personnel office. He told Mr. O’Flaherty the personnel office was looking for five volunteers for a 30-day assignment to Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey. Mr. O’Flaherty thought it was a good idea to volunteer; his buddy didn’t think so, saying it would probably be kitchen duty for 30 days straight. Mr. O’Flaherty ignored his buddy and volunteered anyway.  A gruff Navy chief said the positions were filled; Mr. O’Flaherty asked if there were a waiting list or if one could be made. The Navy chief asked him his name, and when he said “O’Flaherty,” the Navy chief said a position had just opened. The chief was from New York and Irish – lucky for Mr. O’Flaherty.

When Mr. O’Flaherty finished his Naval service, he returned to New York City and got a job at Idlewild Airport, which is now John F. Kennedy International Airport. He attended the State University of New York - Farmingdale and studied art and design, earning an associate’s degree. At about the same time, he met his wife, Pat, at a dance at the Polish Hall in New Hyde Park. When they became engaged, Pat’s father said, “You gotta get a better job.” Mr. O’Flaherty took the New York City Police Department test and scored 43rd out of 1,000 and attended the police academy in 1961. His entire career was in Manhattan. He took the sergeant’s test and passed, but had to wait eight years before his promotion because of a hiring freeze.

Mr. O’Flaherty attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice, from which he earned his degree in criminal science. While still working for the NYPD, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard reserve. A Coast Guard chief took him on a tour of the U.S. Coast Guard Eagle, a coast guard training ship. He spent 20 years in the Coast Guard Reserve, retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer W0-3. He volunteered for Desert Storm, but was told the Coast Guard had enough port security officers.

While a member of the NYPD, Mr. O’Flaherty and Pat bought a house in Hampton Bays in 1984. They moved to Hampton Bays in the early 1990s. Pat and Mr. O’Flaherty had five children; unfortunately, their oldest daughter died when she was sixteen. They have five grandchildren.