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Smithtown Fire Department Chaplain Daniel Bitsko passes at 82

Posted 9/4/2019

Smithtown Fire Department PhotoSmithtown Fire Department Photo 

Rev. Daniel J. Bitsko, 82, of New Britain, PA, entered into eternal rest on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in ManorCare Health Services in Montgomeryville PA. Born in Coaldale PA, he was a son of the late Frank and Helen (Zelinka) Bitsko. He was a graduate of the former Coaldale High School and Duquesne University. He then joined the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh, where he fulfilled his vocation of becoming a Byzantine Catholic priest.

Father Dan was very active in Smithtown, joining and becoming the chaplain of the Smithtown Fire Department in 1969. Father Dan was assigned to the Hook and Ladder Company. He is a four time recipient of his company’s Firefighter of the Year Award and a 2005 recipient of the Department Firefighter of the Year award. Father Dan would respond to calls in his vehicle as "4-2-29". He was always available for firefighters and their families regardless of their faith. Father Dan was honored this past May for his 50 years of service to the department. He was also the Chaplain for the Smithtown Fire Chiefs Council, the Suffolk County Fire Chiefs Council, the Suffolk County Volunteer Fireman's Association, as well as the Southern New York Fireman's Association. Father Dan was a member of the NYS Association of Fire Chaplains, serving as their Chief from 2002-2004. Father Dan was also a member of the Smithtown Rotary Club and the Smithtown Historical Society. 

Father Dan served as the pastor at St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church in New York City, N.Y., St. Andrew's Byzantine Catholic Church, Westbury, N.Y., and last served at the Byzantine Catholic Church of the Resurrection in Smithtown, N.Y. He was a member of the New York State Chaplains Association and also served as the chaplain for the New York Islanders hockey team, as well as at NASCAR races at the Pocono Raceway.

 Father Dan was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, Father Henry Baker Council No. 2711.

Surviving are a sister, Helen, wife of John Kochaba of Camden, DE; a brother Nicholas, and his wife, Ruth, of New Britain; and many nieces and nephews. He was also preceded in death by a sister, Mary Cortese; and five brothers, Michael, Frank, Andrew, John and Stephen. 

On Monday, September 9th 2019, approximately 50 Members of the Smithtown Fire Department and Smithtown Chief’s Council traveled to St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Lansford for the funeral. Firefighters assembled outside the ornate church as early as 8am, posted the colors out front and stood honor guard at the entrance while many loved ones came to say their final farewell.

Following the funeral liturgy, members stood in formation behind Father Dan’s fire gear and saluted as he was led out of the church by his fellow priests, and carried by fellow firefighters. A testament to the fraternal brotherhood he had with each. Following a short ride to the Summit Hill Cemetery, a peacful graveside service was held where a final salute was offered by each member in attendance, and his Chaplain’s helmet was presented to Father Dan’s brother, Nick, by Chief Kevin Fitzpatrick. As all those from the many facets of Father Dan’s life connected and exchanged wonderful stories about the man, one common theme kept arising; Peace. We know Father Dan is at peace and smiling down on us all.

Parts of this story were written by the Smithtown Fire Department.


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