Mike Agurkis, of East Atlantic Beach, was the kind of man who was always doing something for other people, his daughter, Amanda Agurkis, said last week.
He helped neighbors during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. He helped his ex-wife and his former mother-in-law by chopping wood, even while he was in a wheelchair.
On Jan. 29, he died helping someone else — a stranded motorist on Route 878, the Nassau Expressway, just south of Kennedy Airport.
According to his daughter and New York City police, Agurkis, 51, was on his way home at about 8:30 p.m. when he spotted a stalled minivan. True to form, he stopped and asked the driver if he could help. Agurkis hooked jumper cables to the minivan’s battery, and while the van took the charge, he chatted with its driver.
Suddenly, a blue van slammed into the minivan, which struck Agurkis. Amanda Agurkis said she learned that her father lay on the ground, and that the driver of the van walked over and asked what had happened. The minivan driver told him to call the police. Instead, the van driver ran off.
An NYPD spokesman said earlier this week that the incident was still under investigation, and that no arrest has been made.
That Agurkis stopped to help a stranger on the road was no surprise to his daughter. “My dad was so, so selfless,” she said. “He would text me and my brothers every day. He would even text his ex-wife, my mother.”
During and after Sandy, she said, her father spent much of his time helping neighbors bail out basements and rebuild destroyed homes. “He knew everything about houses and cars,” his daughter, a middle-school teacher in Lynbrook, said.
A few years ago, Agurkis underwent double hip surgery, and spent time recovering at the home of his former mother-in-law, Susan Belluardo, of Valley Stream. She needed help chopping apart a tree. Although he was confined to a wheelchair at the time, Agurkis chopped the wood with an ax and then loaded it up. “My grandmother still has firewood,” his daughter said.
Amanda Agurkis said her father’s texts arrived every morning without fail. “My dad truly cared about his relationships with other people,” she said. “I go through my day-to-day motions, but it’s the little things I miss, like the texts,” she added, her voice straining with emotion.
The texts, she said, would start with “DW,” for “Do Work.” They would include the numbers 1, 4, 3, for “I Love You.”
Robert Del Prete, of Long Beach, a lifelong friend, said that a few days after the accident, he received a note from a man who said he had seen Agurkis’s picture on television and recognized him as the good Samaritan who had helped him with a flat tire a few years ago. The man wrote that he had offered Agurkis money, but he refused it.
“He had the biggest heart in the world,” Del Prete said.
Agurkis was born in Freeport and grew up in Long Beach. He did sanitation work on Long Island for about 20 years before becoming a gas technician. He had worked for Local 1049 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He and other members of the union had been working for Haugland Energy Group in Melville.
Amanda Agurkis had seen her father earlier on the night that he died. “He dropped me off at my friend’s house,” she said. “. . . We chatted the whole way there. He was coming over [the next day] to help fix a cabinet. He honked twice, and he was gone.”
Along with his daughter, Agurkis is survived by his ex-wife, Suzzane Agurkis, and two sons, Michael and Thomas, all of Valley Stream.
Amanda said that the man her father had stopped to help on the Nassau Expressway attended the funeral to express his sorrow. The Agurkis family invited him to dinner that night.
Del Prete said that a GoFundMe site had been set up to help the family.