Flag flies for Thomas Gately

Flag flies for Thomas Gately photo

In its mission to bring history to life, the Hampton Bays School District honors a local veteran every month of the school year by flying an American flag in their honor. Throughout the month of February, the district paid such tribute to Navy veteran Thomas Gately.

“The district is proud to honor Mr. Gately for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen. 

The February honoree was recognized with a ceremony at Hampton Bays Elementary School on Feb. 16. Highlights of the event included a performance by the Hampton Bays High School Select Choir and high school senior Jennifer Reyes’ reading of her winning Voice of Democracy essay. The ceremony culminated with Chris Ramos, commander of American Legion Hand-Aldrich Post 924, presenting Clemensen with a certificate and plaque to thank the district for its dedication to local veterans, followed by the raising of the flag in Gately’s honor. 

Gately was born in the South Bronx in 1941 and began his education at St. Raymond Grammar School. He moved to the East Bronx at the age of 13 and graduated from St. Nicholas of Tolentine High School in 1959. 

One month after high school graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and commenced 14 weeks of boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes, just north of Chicago, Illinois. After boot camp, he requested destroyer duty and was assigned to the USS Charles Roan DD853. On March 31, 1960, the Roan participated in a key Middle East Force, cruising the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and Persian Gulf. After that, it became an engineering school ship until July 1961, when it underwent a year of modernization at the New York Naval Shipyard.

After refit and sea training in Guantanamo Bay, the Roan was assigned to the Cuban Quarantine in response to the United States’ first nuclear crisis. A Soviet nuclear weapon facility had been discovered in Cuba in October 1962, and President John F. Kennedy ordered the quarantine in retaliation.

Gately was a boatswain’s mate on the Roan and had a high-level security clearance. On board, his primary responsibility was to supervise deck maintenance activities such as painting, the upkeep of rigging and deck equipment. He ensured the Roan’s boats were operational and in good condition. He served his time honorably and was discharged in 1963.

For Gately, the Navy was only the beginning. After his discharge, he attended welding school for two years and joined Ironworkers Local 15. With them, he worked on foundations and tunnels for bridges and buildings. Major projects with Local 15 included the 4,260-foot-long Verrazano Bridge, the World Trade Center – Gately worked on the North Tower for three years – and the Welfare Island Tunnel, during which he worked side by side with urban miners doing welding and burning on the tunnel-digging machines. In total, he spent 33 years as an ironworker and operating engineer for New York City.

Gately married Rosie Doyle in 1975, moved to Hampton Bays, and in 1983, built the house he still lives in today. He joined the American Legion in 1988 and is also an active member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Knights of Columbus.