Family, friends and colleagues of Ray Pickersgill gathered in the riverfront parking lot this morning to remember a man who dedicated himself to revitalizing downtown Riverhead.
Pickersgill, 71, former Riverhead BID president, died of COVID-19 on April 20 at Stony Brook University Hospital. With his daughter Lisa and his wife Margaret, he was an owner of Robert James Salon on Main Street since 2005.
Colleagues remembered Pickersgill as a man with a can-do attitude who rolled up his sleeves and got the job done.
Town Justice Sean Walter, who was town supervisor during Pickersgill’s tenure at the BID, spoke of his enthusiasm for downtown Riverhead and the work he did to help bring it back to life.
“Ray was the first one in this parking lot setting up the folding chairs before an event and the last one to leave when it was over, after folding the chairs up and putting them away,” Walter said.
Current BID president Steve Shauger said Pickersgill was responsible for many of programs and projects that helped boost the downtown business district, from popular events to improvements like better lighting and security cameras.
Pickersgill initiated many of the downtown events that have drawn thousands of visitors to the waterfront — the weekly classic car cruise nights, concerts on the riverfront, the indoor farmers market and the cardboard boat races among them.
“What he did for downtown Riverhead came at the expense of his health, his family and his own business,” Walter said.
Pickersgill was a mentor to many, said Shauger, who said he was fortunate to follow in his footsteps and benefit from his counsel.
Andy Copertino, who grew up in Lindenhurst where Pickersgill lived, said the older man was a mentor who took him under his wing “and taught me what it means to be a man.” Copertino said Pickersgill also taught him many skills in the construction trades. Though he pursued a career in law enforcement, Copertino said, thanks to Pickersgill, he can handle all types of repairs and projects around his house.
Pickersgill’s nephew, Robert Robilotta, spoke of the impact his uncle had on his life — how he was always there for him, supporting him and his family.
Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said Pickersgill was “a hero, a legend and a pillar” who will never be forgotten.
Pickersgill’s widow Margaret and daughter Lisa both thanked all who attended the ceremony, held eight months to the day of his passing.
A crepe myrtle tree has been planted in memory of Pickersgill in the riverfront park. It was donated by lifelong friends of Pickersgill’s daughter Lisa: Lisa and John Berhardt, Lisa Rodriguez and John Interrante, Maria and Rich Policastro, Sophia Anastassiou and Mike Oliviero, and Nancy and Dan Timoney.
A nearby bench has also been refurbished and dedicated to Pickersgill’s memory.
The Riverhead BID, downtown property owner Michael Butler and Wedel Signs collaborated on the brass plaques, Lisa Pickersgill said.
Support local journalism.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.