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Shelter Island Reporter obituary: David F. Klenawicus

Born in 1956, the son of aviator Joseph Klenawicus and Martha Brower Lockwood Klenawicus, David F. Klenawicus died peacefully at home surrounded by family.

Dave Klenawicus on his front porch. (Reporter file)

Dave grew up in one of the oldest homes on the Island on West Neck Road, farming and landscaping with his father Joe Klenawicus Sr. on a red Farmall tractor. He first accompanied his father when he was just 5 years old and his feet couldn’t quite reach the pedals, mowing the airfield.

He flew a Kitty Hawk biplane with his father from the Klenawicus Airfield and volunteered for every Shelter Island Fire Department Chicken Barbecue, which was started by his Uncle Frank Klenawicus and Bill Springer in the 1960s. He did everything with his beloved father in his childhood — scalloping, hunting, farming — and was known as an extremely hard worker.

A Shelter Island firefighter for 50 years and an Our Lady of the Isle usher for 40 years, Dave was a successful businessman, bayman, Shelter Island Town employee, and community volunteer at the Shelter Island American Legion, Shelter Island Library, South Fork Fire Police, North Fork Volunteers/Vice President, North Fork Exempts, to name a few.

Coached by the legendary Cliff Clark at Shelter Island High School, Dave was a track and field champion (long jump, distance running) and a left-handed basketball star for the JV and varsity.

Dave survived a catastrophic car accident in his 20s, yet never complained and pushed through incredible pain and adversity. Facing life in a wheelchair, Dave was determined to walk out of Southampton Hospital himself — and he did just that. When asked if he was ready, Dave would reply: “I was born ready.”

He did everything with great positivity, silliness, fun, and enthusiasm. Known as “Disco Dave” in his youth, he was an incredible dancer. Dave loved travel and adventure, and most of all, he loved everything about Shelter Island.

There is a Klenawicus “limousine service” of friends and neighbors and firefighters that regularly gave Dave lifts around the Island for many years. He found love at age 55, buying breakfast for his future partner at the Shelter Island Pharmacy.

In later years he would say the $3.50 he placed on the counter was his life’s best investments, since it bought him a great love, a home, and within a year, the sweetest and most unexpected surprise of his life, a little boy, named David Jr.

He is survived by his wife, Kathryn, his son David Jr., his mother-in-law Carol, and endless cousins in the Shepherd, Rowland, Sanwald, Davis, Ryder, Satkowski, McGayhey, and Zebrowski families. He was pre-deceased by his beloved Aunt Frances Klenawicus Johnson, Aunt Adelaide Klenawicus, Uncle Frank Klenawicus, Grandparents Dame and Alexander Klenawicus and his step-brother Kenneth Lockwood.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Shelter Island Fire Department, 49 North Ferry Road, Shelter Island, NY 11964.

His family said Dave was a spectacular father, partner, friend, firefighter and community service volunteer. An Island icon, no day shall erase him from the memory of time. Please share a memory of Dave with us. Email [email protected].

A joyous celebration of life is planned for the fall. As Dave would say — “I hope you bring your dancing shoes!”