It was the kind of day firefighter James Bohan would have loved.
Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village was jumping with kids, clowns, face painting, food and, of course, a hockey game
But the festivities were to honor Bohan, a then 25-year-old firefighter and Middle Village native who died in December 1998 battling a Brooklyn blaze.
"He was a person who loved sports, children, and Middle Village," said City Councilman Thomas Ognibene (R-Middle Village).
About 400 people gathered on an unseasonably warm October Saturday for a ceremony renaming the park's roller hockey rink the James Bohan Rink.
"He made a sacrifice we are all proud of," said Ognibene as the sun reflected off the rink's tile and made it feel like the middle of summer.
On Dec. 18, 1998 Bohan and two other firefighters were killed in a Starrett City building looking for a woman they believed was still trapped inside.
Friends, relatives, firefighters and a host of public officials sat inside the rink and jammed the stands to pay tribute to a man who grew up in Middle Village and would often play ball in Juniper Valley Park. Fire Department Commissioner Thomas Von Essen was on hand along with U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills.) state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) state Assemblyman Michael Cohen (D-Forest Hills), and Parks Commissioner Henry Stern.
Bohan's parents, Margaret and John, and his brother Maurice took part in the rink's plaque unveiling and wreath laying ceremony.
Jil Vic, a family friend, recounted a story about how her younger brother Roger and Bohan went to an Irish festival in the Catskill Mountains.
"James saw a balloon vendor. He snuck off and bought hundreds of balloons," said Vic.
She said he then told her brother Roger it was their job to give a balloon to every single child at the festival.
Dozens of green and white helium balloons were then released into the air, the white representing children and the green representing Bohan's favorite sports team, the New York Jets.
"This is a great honor," said firefighter Glenn Radrmach, who said he used to go on snow boarding trips and attend New York Yankee games with Bohan.
Following the ceremony an exhibition hockey game was played between members of the Middle Village Roller Hockey League and a team comprised of firefighters.
"This was a spectacular day," said Weiner.
The day's events, which included music, games, food, and raffles, were organized by the Parks Department and Fire Department.
Reach reporter Bryan Schwartzman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.