Updated: May. 18, 2021, 5:41 p.m. | Published: May. 16, 2021, 12:22 p.m.

By Dr. Gracelyn Santos | gsantos@siadvance.com

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — More than 150 people gathered Saturday on Deserre Avenue in Huguenot to honor a Sergeant Leif Eikeseth, a fallen hero who succumbed to complications from the terrorist events of Sept. 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center, where he worked as a first responder.

Eikeseth lost his battle with cancer in 2019, when he was just 62. The original 2020 renaming ceremony was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eikeseth’s widow, Mary, a registered nurse, and their three daughters, Krystina Eysel, Eryka Donahue, and Dayna Parker and their families, including two granddaughters with another one on the way, welcomed family members and friends to the event on Saturday morning to honor their patriarch, who Mary described as “the love of my life.”

“I am so deeply appreciative of everyone showing their respects to my husband, although it is so difficult for me because he is not here,” she said. “He is not here to see it and embrace it. My daughters and granddaughters are here to honor the man who truly is my hero. He was everybody’s hero from all walks of life.”

Attending the renaming ceremony were Councilman Joe Borelli (R-South Shore), Councilman Steve Matteo (R-Mid-Island), and Assemblyman Michael Reilly (R-South Shore). Tatiana Mroczek, a former Miss Richmond County Outstanding Teen, sang the national anthem, and Joseph Borelli, Jr. led the crowd with his “Pledge of Allegiance.”

“If you had told me 20 years ago that we would me memorializing people in 2021 impacted and made sick by the tragic events of Sept. 11th, I would not have believed you,” said Borelli. “But we are here because we remember. The street naming reminds everyone of who he was, that he was a veteran, that he raised three daughters here— all those things we cannot convey in a sign.

“A renaming is more than a sign, it’s about the people in the neighborhood, like you, who are tasked with the interpretation of the sign. We are here to share his stories, about his life, and his family. It falls on us to continue to honor the legacy of Lee Eikeseth, who we lost and loved.”

“Thank you to the City Council for honoring my husband’s Leif, and for everyone here today,” Mary Eikeseth said to the audience. “Leif was an army veteran and a 36 year career with the Transit Authority. He was so proud to serve our country and was proud to wear his green beret.

“My husband’s death was attributed to the work he did at Ground Zero. He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, father, uncle, friend, and ‘dog dad’ to Louie and Charlie.”

Mary Eikeseth added that Leif’s life was remarkable and his death has left a void that no memorial could ever fill. “Even in his final days, in his hospital bed, he offered my daughter and me his only pillow, so that we can be comfortable. He was always putting everyone before himself,” she said.

“Now everyone passes the street can honor his legacy and remember that he exepmlified the best of the city. My husband sacrificed his life so that he can help others.”


Leif “Lee” Eikeseth had a 36 year career with the Transit Authority and was a former maintenance chairman of TA Surface. TA Surface vice president J.P. Patatio and Maintenance Division chair Danny Ascona remember Lee as a well-liked advocate for the membership and an excellent maintainer. “My husband was always very proud of his job with New York City Transit,” said his widow, Mary Eiketh.”

Before being elected as Division Chair, he was the Maintenance Shop Steward at Ulmer Park. Before beginning his career with NYCT, Lee served with the Army Special Forces from 1974 to 1980 and wore the green beret. He held the rank of Sergeant.

Within months of his retirement from transit, Lee came down with an aggressive metastatic cancer that quickly took his life. He was 63. Doctors linked his illness to his service on the pile at the World Trade Center site where he volunteered after 9/11.