Strong communities like Middle Village and Maspeth owe much of their identity to the businesses and associations that cater to the specific and unique needs of the people. Community is where the owner of a local deli remembers your favorite sandwich or the corner hardware store owner knows more about the nuances of the surrounding homes than any large home improvement outlet.
The richness of our history is forever blended together with the life and times of the people who routinely walked its tree lined streets. Such a neighborhood like ours where generations attend the same schools and where a daughter can be married in the same church as her mother does not evolve overnight and although it is inevitable that the important faces and names must change with time, they can never truly be replaced.
Dan Austin is one of those individuals; a former New York City detective who in 1979 embarked on a career at All Faiths Cemetery as Director of Security while still an active member of the NYPD. In 1990 Austin accepted the position of Superintendent of the cemetery and was later promoted to CEO, elected President and in 2004 was named Chairman of the Board.
His term heading the 225 acre spot having 540,600 total interments and 19 miles of roadway, ushered in many improvements that usually began with one of his ideas such as the creation of two handsome mausoleums, “Eternal Light” and “Light of Hope”, which allowed the cemetery to continue to grow as well as the current senior transportation program where the cemetery arranges transportation for the elderly who have no means of traveling to All Faiths to visit loved ones. Austin also took great pride in remembering the lives lost in the Slocum disaster of 1904 and held a special service each year at the cemetery’s monument on the anniversary of the tragedy. He was also instrumental in having a beautiful 911 memorial stone personally cut on the premises by close friend Stanley Barany.
On May 1st of 2014, Dan Austin retired as President and CEO of All Faiths Cemetery, a place he invested his time and dedicated his efforts for thirty-four years. A place that is known for its fine cut lawns and picturesque shrubs and trees that offer shade to guests visiting the final resting place of their loved ones.
To Austin, taking responsibility to care for the individual memorials and private spaces that allow family and friends to say a private prayer and reflect went beyond merely a job but rather an important vocation. Austin knew he needed to ensure not only the upkeep but also the financial security of the cemetery and so he took a hands on approach in seeking out the best kinds of investments.
Active in the Community
A plaque at the main office displays the words “empathy and compassion” for all employees to see. These are the words Austin says he lives by when dealing with people at the most vulnerable time in their lives. An inductee into Christ The King High School’s Hall of Fame and an attending member of the JPCA, Austin says that cooperative involvement in the community has always been an essential part of his responsibilities. Part of that involvement has included having All Faiths contribute to annual plantings inside Juniper Valley Park, the constructing of stone planters at Christ the King Regional and the renovation of the Pullis Farm Cemetery.
The torch has been passed by Austin as he handed the reigns of acting President to his son Dan Jr., who has worked at the cemetery for many years while the responsibilities of CEO has been given to Anthony Mordente. But Austin won’t be completely out of the picture, as he will remain Chairman of the Board. Still Austin says he holds a permanent special place for the people he has served.
So on some pleasant evening, with the sun just beginning to set, you just may see the silhouette of a big man with a big heart overlooking the grounds of All Faiths Cemetery and keeping watch that the history of our neighborhood remains and the dignity of so many cherished individuals that have given so much of themselves to our community is kept.