Growing Up Right
Maybe there was something in the water.
For some reason, perhaps a dozen men who came of age during the 1970's and 80's in Deer Park, N.Y., developed an appetite for civic duty. They became New York City police officers and firefighters in their professional lives, and volunteer firefighters with Engine Company No. 2 in Deer Park in their personal ones. They called it the Deer Park Connection, and Firefighter John Vigiano and Detective Joseph Vigiano, two of the tightest brothers you could ever find, were among the best-liked and most accomplished members.
Both followed the unwritten manual on growing up right in Deer Park, said their father, John Vigiano, a retired captain in the New York City Fire Department. They were active in sports. They became Eagle Scouts. They hatched pranks that were wicked in their creativity but gentle in their impact. "They never embarrassed me," said Captain Vigiano. "They were good fathers, good husbands and they were good men.
John Vigiano, at 36, was older by two years, though his brother never let him forget that he was also four inches shorter and maybe 30 pounds lighter, too. John was the quieter of the two, and spent as much time as possible with his two young daughters, his father said. He was a terrific hockey player (and rabid Rangers fan) and he would occasionally rent out an entire rink for his family, his brother's family and a few other friends.
Joseph Vigiano, who was known as Joey, loved to mug for the cameras and played lacrosse on the Police Department team, said his wife, Kathy, a fellow police officer. On the job, he was commended for his bravery: he survived being shot on three different occasions. At home, he taught his two boys how to build derby cars of pine. Eventually, he was going to do the same with his youngest son, now 6 months old.
For now, the Vigianos are collecting anecdotes and tributes from friends and relatives on a new Web site, www.vigiano.com. Here, presumably, is one of the last stories: On the Sunday before Sept. 11, Kathy Vigiano returned home after the first game of the season in her soccer league, bruised and tired. She was prepared to make dinner, but instead, she saw that her husband had fixed prime rib, Caesar salad, mashed potatoes, and broccoli with cheese — while watching their baby, too. All this from a guy who had previously insisted that he only knew how to make spaghetti sauce.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 29, 2001.