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Honoring the lives of two Glen Cove fire fighters

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The month of June saw the loss of two Glen Cove Fire Department Engine & Hose Company No.4 ex-captions, with memorials held to honor their lives and service.

Gilbert Tanaka, 78, of Glen Cove died on June 5, with his family at his side after weeks of battling health issues. He is survived by his companion, stepchildren, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Tanaka, according to his obituary from Whitting Funeral Home, was a decorated United States Coast Guard veteran and a proud member of the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department. He was also the first Asian American to join the fire department.

Those who knew Tanaka said he always had a smile on his face as he brought people together. He was devoted to being the best mentor, friend and community leader that he could be. Tanaka also loved the New York Yankees, showing off his car named the “Oldsmobile” at car shows, enjoying breakfast with his friends and sharing Sunday night dinners with family. He was known for his strong, proud and kind nature.

Donald Edward Ellison, 77, of Glen Head, died on June 7. He is survived by his wife Arline Ellison nee Mahon of Glen Cove of 53 years; his children Joy Siragusa (Rich DeLuca), James Ellison (Christine) and Joline Ahrens (Keith); his sister Linea (Suzy) Scovil and brother Harold Ellison; his seven grandchildren Gabrielle, Ryan, Stefania, Christopher, Jaclyn, Jillian, and Zander; his nieces Denise and Emily and nephew Michael. He is preceded in death by his parents Phillip and Vieyra; brother Edwin (Buddy) and niece Lynn. 

With an electrical engineer degree, there wasn’t much he couldn’t fix, from washers, to dryers, to cars and anything in between. According to his obituary from Whitting Funeral Home, he also took to joining the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department and he was appointed to the Engine & Hose Company No.4 in 1969. Those that knew him said that he cherished every friend he made and every moment that he experienced. He also lived to make sure his wife; children and grandchildren were always happy and safe.

On June 9, shortly after the deaths of the two firefighters, a moment of silence was held at a virtual Glen Cove City Council meeting.

“We had lost two of our 50-year plus firefighters this week,” City of Glen Cove Mayor Tim Tenke said. “I really would just like to take a moment of silence to remember them and their families and thank them for their years and years of service to our city.”

After the brief moment of silence, Tenke said; “They will be missed and remembered. You don’t serve a city that long and not be remembered and not leave a mark on your community.”

And the community couldn’t agree more, as multiple memorials were held in memory of the two firefighters.

On June 20, the City of Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department laid to rest the GCFD Engine & Hose Company No.4 Ex-Caption Ellison, who also served as a former assistant chief for the City of Glen Cove EMS and as a past president of the Nassau County Fireman’s Association.

On June 9, the City of Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department laid to rest the Glen Cove Fire Department Engine & Hose Company No.4 Ex-Caption Tanaka, who joined the fire department in 1968 and along with his position as caption, served as the department treasurer for 27 years. With a flag raised, salutes made and firetrucks leading Tanka’s procession, he was laid to rest at Nassau Knolls Cemetery in Port Washington.

As Tanaka spent his last four years at The Regency at Glen Cove, an assisted living facility, a flag was raised there on June 25 to honor him, with the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department, Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, Tenke, City Councilman John Perrone, City Councilman Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews, City Councilwoman Danielle Fugazy Scagliola and Deputy Mayor Maureen Basdavanos on standby.

“We lost two 50-year members within a few days of each other here in Glen Cove,” Tenke said at the ceremony. “We remember ‘Donnie’ Ellison as well as we celebrate Gil Tanaka’s life here today by placing a flag on the place where he spent four years at the wonderful Regency. Thank you all for taking care of Gilbert Tanaka.”

Beth Evans, the administrator at The Regency remarked that Tanaka always had a smile on his face. “You’ll always be a part of the Regency family, now and forever,” Evans said.

Jennifer Corr contributed to this story.