Four years after Donald T. Sharkey, East Hampton Town’s chief building inspector and an Amagansett firefighter, died of a heart attack at age 46, his legacy continues to grow. The Donald T. Sharkey Memorial Community Fund, to date, has raised $158,000, all of which goes to the community, said Kristine Gaudy, one of four members of the fund’s committee, this week.
“He had a lot of friends,” explained a fellow committeewoman, Tina Piette, who got to know Mr. Sharkey through bartending with him years ago, stressing ‘a lot.’ “And it’s certainly nice to see the real, local response.”
Ten dollars here or $500 there, it is Mr. Sharkey’s big circle of friends who chip in toward the fund, which, on Tuesday, will present a $2,500 scholarship to Ian Lynch, the 2013 East Hampton High School valedictorian, an 18-year-old from Springs, who is bound for Colgate University, and who, like Mr. Sharkey, is an avid golfer.
“I’m just really honored to have won the scholarship,” Mr. Lynch said in a phone interview last week. “With college tuition costs and everything and with the economy being just really slow, it really helps.”
The committee on Tuesday will also award a $500 check to each of six local fire departments: Amagansett, Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Springs and Montauk.
“I just know that every penny in is every penny out,” Ms. Piette said. “It carries his name on, which is what we wanted.”
The fund also sends local children to summer camp.
“He had the biggest heart. If anybody needed anything he would take the shirt off his back and give it to you,” recalled committee member Britton Bistrian. “We just wanted to not have East Hampton lose that asset. It takes four of us to fill his shoes,” she added, with a laugh, referring to the four committee members.
In addition to Ms. Bistrian, a firefighter and an EMT, Ms. Piette, an attorney, and Ms. Gaudy, a steel contractor, the foursome is rounded out by Kathryn Reid, the only woman in the group who did not know Mr. Sharkey personally. The diverse committee sees that as only an asset, however, said Ms. Bistrian, as Ms. Reid helps provide guidance.
The fund relies on memories of Mr. Sharkey’s warm personality to rake in the dough.
Among its big fundraisers are the popular Mr. Amagansett pageant held each February, and, as of this year, a calendar dubbed “The Original Mr. Amagansett Calendar,” which features a grinning, bearded photo of Mr. Sharkey on the cover, and, inside, photos featuring his many friends, sponsored by various groups such as the Montauk Rugby Football Club and The American Hotel.
The calendar is humorously considered a pin-up of sorts featuring only men, although, as Ms. Piette was quick to point out, a few women have managed to sneak into some of the months. April’s photo for example, features a crew of grinning, jeans-wearing men, but in the background, displayed on the walls, are some artistic photos of female nudes.
The 2014 calendar is already half sold out, Ms. Piette said, adding that it will feature a special name for December, though she declined to let the cat out of the bag.
Another fundraising effort comes up in the form of a motorcycle ride on September 15 from Bridgehampton to Montauk Point and ending with a raffle at Cyril’s Fish House.
Mr. Sharkey’s sense of humor is what endeared him to many, the committeewomen explained.
At the time of his death, he was serving as an assistant captain for his fire department, for example. The resulting abbreviation, “Ass. Cap.” became a fond joke nickname for him, Ms. Piette said. When he got his private investigator’s license, some would joke that he was an “ass. cap PI,” she said.
But jokes aside, it was his kindness that touched many.
Ms. Piette teared up when recalling her friend during a Monday interview.
“I think the thing about him was he was he was so kind and complimentary to everyone—and helpful,” she said.
An anonymous note tacked on the Building Department’s door following his death noted that Mr. Sharkey did his job without looking for praise and acknowledged his mistakes without seeking excuses. Ms. Piette said she came across it just recently and that it serves as a testament to him. Ms. Bistrian noted how even just his memory is powerful enough to continue making new friendships, meaning that those who were friends with him have since become friends with each other.
This friendship is precisely what encourages people to contribute to the fund, which, in turn, helps locals like Mr. Lynch attend college.
The scholarship, in the future, may even be awarded to adults, not just recent high school graduates, who plan to further their education.
The committee encourages people to reach out if people know of someone in need, Ms. Bistrian said. “That’s what Don would do. He would sit in a bar somewhere and he would buy someone dinner.”
She continued, “He didn’t care if you picked up garbage or made millions on Wall Street. He would treat you the same.”