‘We will never forget’ 

Among the many who gathered to commemorate ‘Lt. Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Way’ were (from left) Frances Kestler, Nick Kestler, State Senator Ken LaValle, Frank Kestler, Chrystyna Kestler, Jimbo Theinert, James Theinert, Assemblyman Marc Alessi, Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Patricia Theinert, Cathy Theinert and Assemblyman Fred Thiele.

A section of the only highway in Joey Theinert’s hometown of Shelter Island, State Route 114, is now officially named after him.

At Cartwright Circle on Thursday afternoon, October 14, the East End’s state representatives presented the Theinert and Kestler families with a ceremonial New York State road sign that read “Lt. Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Way.”

Lt. Theinert, a Shelter Island High School graduate, lost his life while leading his men of the 10th Mountain Division on a mission in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in June. He was 24, and the first Island soldier to be killed in action since the Vietnam War.

State Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblymen Marc Alessi and Fred Thiele spoke briefly of Lt. Theinert’s bravery and sacrifice. “This community is very special,” Mr. LaValle began. “We always say ‘We shall not forget one of our own.’ And with today’s ceremony we are doing exactly that.” He then displayed the ceremonial road sign. Permanent signs will be erected at South Ferry and near Cartwright Circle to mark the 1.4 miles of Route 114 renamed in honor of Lt. Theinert.

Mr. Alessi recalled the story of how he kept finding the memorial card from Joey’s funeral service in his pocket while working in Albany to push through the legislation to rename the road. He called it “divine intervention” that helped to shepherd through the most important bill he had ever sponsored.

Echoing the words written in memory of soldiers who fell at Normandy, Mr. Thiele delivered this message to Joey Theinert and his family: “Thank you” and “God bless you.”

Father Peter DeSanctis offered a blessing to the country and to those gathered. The entire Town Board as well as county legislators Ed Romaine and Jay Schneiderman attended. Members of the American Legion Mitchell Post 281 served as a color guard for the event and were joined by Legionnaires from Sag Harbor as well as American Legion Auxiliary members. Rows of the veterans stood in uniform within the Route 114 roadway — traffic was rerouted along Heritage Road and Smith Street during the ceremony.

Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty presided over the event, praising the fallen soldier and the “courage, nobility and dignity” of his family.

“We will truly soon forget whatever is said here today,” Supervisor Dougherty said. “However, we will never, never forget … the unhesitating courage of Lt. Joseph Theinert and the sacrifice he showed June 4 in Kandahar province. Joey Theinert truly laid down his life for his comrades and friends.”

The only family member to speak at the podium was Joey’s father, Jim Theinert, who said, “Thank you Shelter Island for all your love.”